The Blog In Review

An annual tradition (which I skipped last year) wherein I recap the first line of the month on the blog.

January – “Yes, a new year has begun.”

February – “Back in November, Nita and I tossed a coin on whether the replace our roof or service the furnace first.”

March – “This year, the Ohio River spilled out of its banks, the result of an unusually snowy winter this year.”

April – “Every year for the past five years, I’ve embarked on a trek to walk or ride the entire Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail.”

May – “I’m typing this just before the President addresses the nation.”

June – “It’s summer (if you go with the hype that summer begins on Memorial Day), and as such, time to think about summer things – like mowing the lawn (a challenge here in water-logged Ohio) and SPF 30.”

July – “Stephen King points to this short novel as one of three novels that define modern horror, the other two being Dracula and Frankenstein.”

August – “Queen City Square is complete.”

September – “Yes, it has returned.”

October – “The Fall Issue of Mysterical-e is now live, including stories by John M. Ford, MG Allen, Anita Page, Sylvia Nash.”

November – “Another in a series of looking West Coast Crime Wave, which features my story “Bad History.” For the next couple of weeks, I will be looking the other stories in this collection from bstsllr.com.

December – “Google is the unlikeliest 800-pound gorilla in technology.”

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My Reading List For 2011

I started late. In January, when I was spending most of my time job hunting and arguing with Job and Family Services for my check, I was both too busy and too apathetic to read. Then, as the promising interviews began coming fast and furious, I began with a troika of three James Bond continuations. This year, I plan to reread the Fleming originals.

Here now – All 91 books I’ve read in 2011:

Colonel Sun                                                                 Kingsley Amis

Devil May Care                                                           Sebastian Faulks

License Renewed                                                         John Gardner

Choke on Your Lies                                                     Anthony Neil Smith

Ender’s Game                                                             Orson Scott Card

Calibre                                                                        Ken Bruen

Zachary Taylor: Our Twelfth President                      Carol Brunelli

Valley of Bones                                                           Michael Gruber

The Grapes of Wrath                                                   John Steinbeck

The Dead Zone                                                           Stephen King

Biography of Millard Fillmore                                    Ivory Chamberlain

The Amateurs                                                              Marcus Sakey

King’s Ransom                                                            Ed McBain

Give the Boys a Great Big Hand                                Ed McBain

The Heckler                                                                 Ed McBain

Truckstop                                                                    JA Konrath

Moby Dick                                                                   Herman Melville

Franklin Pierce                                                           Michael F. Holt

Firestarter                                                                   Stephen King

Another Thing to Fall                                                  Laura Lippman

Officer Down                                                              Theresa Schwegel

A Load of Quertermous                                              Bryon Quertermous

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde            Robert Louis Stevenson

Danse Macabre                                                           Stephen King

101 Things You Didn’t Know About Lincoln              Brian Thornton

James Buchanan                                                         Jean H. Baker

The Glass Key                                                             Dashiel Hammet

The Ass Is a Poor Receptacle for the Head                 Barry Eisler

The Forever War                                                         Joe Haldeman

Sex, Lies, and Half A Million Dollars                         Michael Bracken

A Tale of Two Cities                                                    Charles Dickens

Night Shift                                                                   Stephen King

A. Lincoln                                                                    Ronald C. White, Jr.

In This Rain                                                                 SJ Rozan

Screams & Whispers                                                   Randall Peffer

Dune Messiah                                                             Frank Herbert

Witness to Death                                                         Dave White

Treasure Island                                                           Robert Louis Stevenson

Cujo                                                                            Stephen King

The Avenger Takes His Place                                     Howard Means

No Good Deeds                                                          Laura Lippman

Something Wicked This Way Comes                           Ray Bradbury

Speed Loader                                                              Edited by Sandra Ruttan

The Kite Runner                                                          Khalid Hosseini

Freakonomics                                                             Steven D. Levitt with Stephen J. Dubner

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger                               Stephen King

The World Is Flat                                                        Thomas L. Friedman

Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero                          Michael Korda

Drunk on the Moon, Book 1                                        Paul D. Brazill

Fuzzy Nation                                                               John Scalzi

See Them Die                                                              Ed McBain

Lady, Lady, I Did It!                                                   Ed McBain

The Caretaker of Lorne Field                                     Dave Zeltserman

The Physics of the Future                                            Michio Kaku

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea                                   Jules Verne

Different Seasons                                                        Stephen King

Packing for Mars                                                        Mary Roach

How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months                  John Locke

The Path to Self-Publishing Success                           Michael R. Hicks

The Game Changer                                                    AG Lafley & Ram Charan

Rutherford B. Hayes                                                   Hans L. Trefousse

Carte Blanche                                                             Jeffery Deaver

Pistol Poets                                                                 Victor Gischler

Bonk                                                                            Mary Roach

Time’s Enemy                                                             Jennette Marie Powell

Scar Tissue                                                                  Anthony Keidis

Heart of Darkness                                                       Joseph Conrad

Christine                                                                      Stephen King

American Creation                                                      Joseph Ellis

West Coast Crime Wave                                              Edited by Brian Thornton

James A. Garfield                                                       Ira Rutkow

Eddie’s World                                                             Charlie Stella

Saturday’s Child                                                         Ray Banks

Superfreakonomics                                                      Steven D. Levitt with Stephen J. Dubner

The Chaos We Know                                                  Keith Rawson

Last Words                                                                  George Carlin and Tony Hendra

Motherless Brooklyn                                                   Jonathan Lethem

Pet Sematary                                                               Stephen King

The Google Story                                                        David Vise and Mark Malseed

Chester Alan Arthur                                                    Zachary Karabell

The Lake House                                                          James Patterson

Father Joe                                                                   Tony Hendra

Gone, Baby, Gone                                                      Dennis Lehane

Adams Vs. Jefferson                                                    John E. Ferling

Barrone Street                                                             Kent Westmoreland

Cycle of the Werewolf                                                 Stephen King

Grover Cleveland                                                        Henry F. Graff

Steve Jobs                                                                    Walter Isaacson

Suicide Squeeze                                                           Victor Gischler

The Lady in the Lake                                                   Raymond Chandler

All the Young Warriors                                               Anthony Neil Smith

The Year In Review

Was 2011 better than 2010? Yes, it was. Quit whining.

January – Protestors in Egypt move Hosni Mubarak’s desk to the basement, ask him to kill the roaches.

February – Perennial whackjob and Gene Simmons look-alike Momar Ghaddafi becomes the latest target in what’s now known as Arab Spring, the Berlin Wall-like wave of politcal upheaval that began with the Egyptian uprisings and eventually spreads to Syria.

Speaking of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak has a very bad meeting with The Bobs and begins applying for jobs at various Cairo fast-food chains and Walmart.

The iPad 2 ships.

March – A tsunami flattens Japan, sets off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Ironically, all the safeties worked until they ran out of power.

Sony decides to stop selling floppy disks. Millions of teenagers born at the height of the 3.5″ floppy drive’s dominance asked, “What are those? Is that like reel-to-reel tape?”

April – William and Kate marry.

The Donald, in his bid to become the Republican nominee, proves that you, too, can be an idiot and succeed in America when he announces that he is a Birther.

May – President Obama says to the nation, “Here’s my birth certificate. And here’s bin-Laden’s head.” George W. Bush finally gets that trophy he always wanted to mount over the mantle since 2001. The Donald stomps off in a huff.

Arnold terminates his marriage to Maria Shriver when it’s learned he fathered an illegitimate child with a woman who was not Sarah Conner.

June – Anthony Weiner shows his weiner.

July – The last Harry Potter movie hits theaters. Truth be known, Lord Voldermort would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

The Tea Party manufactures a crisis. Congress solves it, largely by kicking the can down the road. Democracy works. Just like it did in Revenge of the Sith, only without an Emperor to provide a nightmarish alternative.

August – Momar Ghadafi files for unemployment, skips town without paying his rent.

Steve Jobs dies. iSad.

September – 10 years after 9/11, the 9/11 Memorial opens at the World Trade Center on 9/11/11. It’s an amazing sign of life at the site of so much tragedy.

October – Momar Ghadafi dies in a street brawl. Bin-Laden and Ghadafi in the same year? Can Kim Jong-il be far behind?

November – Apple debuts the iPhone 4S, some of whose functions were eerily predicted in a 1989 Apple Computer ad that featured a device that looked a lot like an iPad.

December – After denying more sex than most hookers have had, Herman Cain drops out of the race for the GOP nomination.

Remember when someone wondered online if Kim Jong-il would follow Osama bin-Laden and Momar Ghadafi into that long, dark night? Wonder no more.

The Year In Jim

2011 was a strange year at Chataeu Nita, though a damn site better than 2010. So what happened in the world of winter?

January – My first experience in years with actual unemployment. After leaving BigHugeCo the previous year, I had a nice big severance check and a willingness to do contract work that kept me funded and employed through the end of the year. Then I had to file for unemployment on Ohio’s antiquated web site. So how did I handle it? I DVR’d a lot of James Bond movies

February – Back to work and with a former manager from BigHugeCo at a small company I’ve since dubbed MediShack. (We do medical billing.) After working for a Fortune 500 company for 11 years, going to a small family-owned company was a breath of fresh air.

March – I finally got to see all those James Bond movies again. Plus Quantum of Solace.

April – I begin my capstone project to complete the degree I should have finished in 1997. Also, “A Walk in the Rain” arrives in online bookstores. And stays there.

May – I turned 45.

June – Yea! I’m halfway there to graduating college!

July – Um… Remember when I said I’d graduate? Yeah… That’s going to have to wait a year.

August –Road Rules debuts as a paid ebook

September – For the first time in three years, I am out of college.

October – AJ completes his final season in marching band. It’s all about college from here out. Why not? Both his parents are in college.

November – Speaking of which, I return to college.

December – Northcoast Shakedown returns as an ebook. I also spend my fourth Christmas with AJ and Nita. Looking forward to many more.

More On Northcoast Shakedown

So how did this book come about?

The first stirrings of what would become Northcoast Shakedown date back to 1988 or so. In the beginning, Nick had a much different back story. He was a struggling writer who supported himself as a PI with a girlfriend named Janine. I still lived in the Cleveland area at the time, and the story that evolved was based on the controversial death of the secretary of a local county commissioner over a decade earlier.

The story fizzled. Why? The writer was not really all that mature, which meant the characters who were supposed to be mature could not be. There were excessive references to Deep Purple and Star Trek and less-than-glamorous cars fawned over the way most people fawn over restored Detroit muscle or Porsches or Corvettes.

So Nick went into the drawer for over a decade while I learned what kind of writer I wanted to be when I grew up.

So twelve years and one city later, I’m waiting for the Great Y2K Meltdown in a corner bar in Dayton, Ohio, owned by Li’l Sis and her husband. During the party, she announced she had just written her first novel, then proceeded to ask when I’d write mine.

Um…

Nick returned shortly thereafter with a short story called “A Walk in the Rain” in the original Plots With Guns. He was different now. He was a part-time musician and full-time insurance investigator. I also had an outline inspired one afternoon as my landlord had some balcony work done on our building. While the contractor was banging away on a balcony across the courtyard, Comedy Central ran a rerun of Saturday Night Live from the lost years, featuring Eddie Murphy reciting his infamous “Kill my landlord, kill my landlord” poem. It’s one of those moments of serendipity when everything going on around you sparks an idea. I soon had a 14-page outline about the seemingly ordinary death of a guy who fell off a ladder.

Then it went into the drawer again while I wrote more stories. In 2001, after the chaos of 9/11, I got the news that my mother was dying and likely would not be around the following Christmas. If ever there was motivation for a boy to finish his first novel, that was it. The ex and I kicked out our antagonistic roommate, reclaimed a room in our apartment as office space, after which I set about writing Northcoast Shakedown.

It underwent multiple drafts, and a title proved elusive. Rejected titles included Three-Way Split (which ended up being the title of Allan Guthrie’s debut) and Coincidental Murder.  I also refused to submit it for publication until I had at least the rough draft of a second one in the can.

But it made it into print. I do wish I’d waited a couple of weeks. I would have been able to give it to my original agent. Alas, hindsight and all. It’s back now. And it’s yours for only $2.99.

Amazon | Nook

Northcoast Shakedown Returns

In 2005, I released my only print novel, Northcoast Shakedown, with a small press in the Greater Baltimore area. (OK, it was eastern West Virginia.) It did well enough for a small press with no distribution or budget. But the press collapsed, and Northcoast and its follow-up fell into limbo.

Now it’s back, this tale of sex, lies, and insurance fraud. Freelance insurance investigator Nick Kepler has a sweet gig. Scoring office space and secretarial help from his former employer, they send him three cases that look like softballs – a dubious life insurance case meant more to save the underwriter than any company money, a worker comp cheat, and a referral to a politician’s wife with suspicions. What he does not expect is how they all tie together.

When the connection becomes apparent, Kepler finds himself suspecting there is more to this than a cheating spouse and an ill-timed heart attack. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of sexual deviance, fraud, and even a decades-old murder, all uncomfortably close to Cleveland’s elite.

Noir master Ken Bruen has written the introduction to this new edition. He describes Northcoast Shakedown in his own unique poetic style:
“Sit back
Relish
Cherish
And be blown to hell and gone in the best way.”

Amazon | Nook