Click here to read the first chapter of: Borrowed Trouble
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Ray Ward spends nights thinking about his brother’s death and the blood-soaked days that followed.
Dean Fokoli is off the force, disgraced by his dirty dealings, left to scrape for pennies as a private eye.
When Ray receives a mysterious package from his sister containing a plea for help and a reel of 8mm film, there’s a problem – Ray doesn’t have a sister.
Now two former enemies must team up, travel halfway across the country to search the dark shadow of Hollywood’s spotlight. In for more than they bargained for, Ray and Fokoli plunge behind the silver screen to unearth tinsel town’s dirty secrets. And two men with nothing left to lose can stir up some serious trouble.
“Hello, Cindy. You’re out late.” A man’s voice. I spun to see where it came from. At first I missed him sitting in the chair beside the bed. My eyes ran back to him as he stood. A tall sandy blond with a thin mustache and a light tan suit, a great tie surely one of a hundred in his closet.
“Relax, Robert. I brought a friend.”
Suddenly the room seemed exactly the size of a boxing ring. I kept my back to the ropes, my hands went up on their own, defending against an unknown threat.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“This is my brother, Robert. Robert this is Ray. He’s looking for his sister.”
“And where did you two meet?” He seemed uninterested in knowing me.
“A diner just east of L.A. He needed a ride.”
“So no car, no bags. A guy with no suit on looking like a bum out of the gutter?”
I opened my mouth to protest but she beat me to it. “Hey, knock it off. It was slim pickings.”
“Oh well. Let’s see what he’s got.” Robert brought his hand out of the pocket of his linen suit and flicked open a switchblade. I didn’t know what to think other than it was a joke. I turned to Cindy who looked away.
“Cough it up, pal,” Robert said.
“Your wallet, bub. Let’s have it.”
I stood still, stunned. This was a shakedown. Cindy was acting. She should get a contract with Louis B. Mayer; this girl’s got the stuff. Fooled me like Houdini on a good day.
She stepped up behind me and reached into my pocket to remove my wallet. I let her, not wanting to provoke the switchblade before I knew more about the man holding it. She tossed my billfold to Robert then stepped quickly away from me. She still wouldn’t meet my eye. She turned to the dresser where a whiskey bottle stood, open and half gone. She splashed some into a short glass, no ice, and took it in one shot.
Robert had my cash in his hand. “Two hundred and some. Nice take.”
Guess he was lousy at math, it was over three hundred. My whole bankroll for the trip. “Give that back,” I said.
“What for? So you can blow it all on a dame you meet in a diner? Did he even buy your coffee, Cin?”
“What’s with the bum’s clothes, pal? You steal this wad? A guy with this much dough usually has on something made in New York. Nice work, Cin. Grifting a grifter.” He tossed my wallet on the bed and stuffed the cash into his front pocket.
“Can we wrap this up?” Cindy was obviously afraid of him. As solid as her acting was with me she let her guard down around Robert and her fear showed through. She turned to the bottle again and refilled the glass.
“At least he knows the game. Okay, pal, you and me are gonna take a ride. I’ll let you off a few miles down the road. Don’t give me any guff and no one gets hurt. I bet you’ll have your pockets filled again in no time, smart kid like you. Say goodnight to your dream girl.”
Gesturing with the point of the knife he pointed to the door, expecting me to obey. He must have been used to suckers who were husbands, traveling salesmen, middle aged doughboys who didn’t know how to fight back.
I’m not that sucker.
Beetner and Kohl’s partnership is a unique one in that they live on opposite coasts (he in LA and she in Virginia) and they have never met. They’ve never even spoken on the phone. Their collaboration is done entirely by email. At this point they have become superstitious about it and have no plans to meet.
When JB wrote Eric in his capacity working with the Film Noir Foundation a friendship was born. When he read her debut novel The Deputy’s Widow, he wrote to tell her how much he enjoyed it and sent along a sample of his own writing that had been circulating the crime fiction webzines. She was hooked and asked if he would ever consider collaborating on anything. They took the first few tentative steps with nothing to lose and it all came so easily that before long an entire novel was finished and soon after, a sequel.
They each continue to write solo novels.
JB Kohl lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. In addition to writing fiction she works as a freelance medical and technical writer/editor. Her first novel The Deputy’s Widow, was released in 2008.
Eric Beetner is an award-winning short story and screenwriter. His short work has been anthologized in Discount Noir (Untreed Reads), Needle magazine, Crimefactory, Murder in the Wind (Second Wind publishing) as well as all the major online crime fiction outlets. He was selected in the top 3 for Storysouth’s Million Writers award for 2010.
Click here to read the first chapter of: Borrowed Trouble
I hope everyone enjoyed a fabulous holiday season. 2011 is upon us, which means it’s time to get ready to submit books and short stories for award consideration.
My novels are released by Second Wind Publishing, therefore my latest title, SNARE, qualifies for the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY), and the Glyph Awards, sponsored by the Arizona Book Publishing Association. I plan to submit SNARE to the Suspense/Thriller and Multi-Cultural categories.
The award possibility I’m most excited about takes place during the upcoming Left Coast Crime Conference (LCC) which will be held March 24-27 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is one of the most prestigious fan/writer conventions. I networked and mingled with readers from around the globe and some of the finest crime novelists in the publishing world at last year’s conference.
One of the locations of my latest thriller is set in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. The female lead is Native American and the other location takes place on New Mexico’s Taos Pueblo Indian reservation, therefore SNARE qualifies for The Hillerman Sky Award.
Since this pop/rock music-based thriller was only officially released 12.21.10 I’ve been doing all I can to spread the word about book two of the Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela series. I unveiled the visual of the cover on the Second Wind Publishing blog titled: “Snare – Uncovered” and have received a fantastic response to the cover.
Writers and readers I’ve met since the release of book one of the series, STACCATO, have been very generous with their thumbs up based upon the first pages of SNARE. You can download this sneak peek from my website before the printed version of the book becomes available.
If you plan to attend LCC 2011, I hope you find SNARE to be worthy of a nomination to The Hillerman Sky Award.
Another Second Wind author, Eric Beetner, will be at LCC Santa Fe as well. He and J.B. Kohl co-wrote the fantastic 1940s noir novel Borrowed Trouble, worthy of the Bruce Alexander Award. I hope you will also consider this book for nomination.
Am I missing any other awards you’d like to share information about?
Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.
I have this dog. He’s an odd mixture of things—Doberman, Labrador, and maybe part horse. We’re not entirely sure.
Now, I also live in a house that is somewhat of a “fixer-upper”.
It happened that one day my husband was replacing the back door, which opens from the kitchen onto our small back porch. Trim was removed, the old door was taken off, and the new door was set into place. Shims were tapped in to square the door and when—sixteen hours later the door was set—my husband stood back and admired his handiwork. It was a beautiful door.
He had a rapt audience throughout the day. Apollo (the dog I mentioned above) grunted and snorted and watched with avid curiosity, occasionally putting his big, wet nose into the small piles of sawdust that collected on the floor. He’d look up at me, his eyes wide, flecks of white dotting his black face. Sometimes, he’d sneeze in great growling bursts that left him disoriented, wondering where he was afterward.
After the sawdust was cleaned up and the tools were put away, the foaming insulation was brought out to seal the cracks. Once it was dry we could replace the trim and be done with it for good. Apollo was fascinated by the tube of insulation. He sniffed and poked at it and, once he deemed it was safe for us to use, he backed off.
“You know,” my husband said, shaking his head, “that dog is going to stick his nose in this stuff as soon as I fill these cracks.”
So Apollo and I had a talk. We discussed foaming insulation and the havoc it could wreak on the nostrils if inhaled. We talked about looking and not touching. And when he looked depressed I reminded him of the fun he had with the sawdust. That cheered him a little.
In the end I decided to put him in another room just to be safe, but his crying was so pathetic he was allowed to return to the kitchen.
I’ve heard people say, when talking about their children –I’ve said it a few times myself in fact—“I only turned my back for a second.” The words are uttered from disbelieving mouths of people surveying things like ketchup squirted all over the bathtub or baby powder in the toilet or nails in the coffee table.
In our case, it was a pair of giant black nostrils stuffed with bright white foaming insulation. Even now, a year later, I don’t know how he did it. I never left the kitchen, never wandered out of view of that great animal sleeping with one eye open, waiting for his chance. He’s not one to do anything silently. He grunts when he gets into a standing position or when he lays down. His footsteps send off small vibrations through the house.
And yet—and yet – it happened. I saw the dog sitting and watching me. I turned to fill the coffee pot a mere ten feet from where he lay.
I have to give him credit—he tried really hard to look casual and innocent. He tried to look as if it didn’t bother him that great white clouds of foam were growing from his nose, getting larger even as I watched.
He just opened his mouth and began to pant. I could hear his thoughts. “Wow, is it hot in here or is it just me?”
He refused to look guilty, even when we questioned him. He simply looked around, wondering if we were actually speaking to him. “Who me? I don’t know anything.”
We cleaned out his nose. It required a dremel and sculpting tools but we got it done. I think the important thing here is that Apollo learned something. That day Apollo learned that foaming insulation clings to all surfaces.
So why am I telling you this?
Because sometimes inspiration comes from strange places. Weird things happen every day and as writers sometimes we are so busy staring at a screen full of words we neglect to pay attention to what is happening around us. Characters are everywhere. Stories are everywhere.
Inspiration is everywhere—even up a dog’s nose.
For the last eighteen years of married life I’ve flaunted my unknown English ancestry in front of my husband. “One great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was a foundling.”
I’d explain how more than likely the child was the Princess of Britain, next in line for the throne, no doubt sought after by ruffians and pirates and spirited away to safety by her devoted nursemaids, who probably were really fairies and flew, clutching tightly the corners of the blanket cradling the infant, in order to outrun the evil marauders.
Not only was my husband completely convinced of my royal heritage, but also his parents, his brother, his sister, and their respective families believed I was royalty. Oh, no one really treated me any differently: I still had to make the sweet potatoes at Christmas, I’ve had to raise my own children from birth, I’ve always had to pass the butter when someone asks for it, and don’t even get me started on laundry (those dirty rings!).
So, as you can imagine, it was quite a shock to find out this year at the tender age of 39 that I descend from carnival folk . . . taffy pullers to be exact. My great grandparents were carnies. Every year they would fix up their “joint” — a trailer they hauled behind an old pick up truck from Nebraska to Texas, where the carnival season started, for them anyway–and tour around the country selling homemade taffy (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, or black walnut) and candied apples. My dad went with them sometimes when he was old enough. He thought it was grand.
I learned about my great grandparents when I was home this summer. My father is sick. Pancreatic Cancer. I went home to see him–and to learn from him about my family, my ancestors, myself really. We talked with the urgency that sometimes comes when you know time is short, when there is so much to say and do and you wonder why you’ve waited your whole life to do it. “Someone’s got to remember this stuff,” he said as he drove me from tiny town to tiny town, showing me where it all happened, where my people came from.
He told me about my other great grandmother . . . she climbed up on her own roof at age 80 to make repairs because she’d be damned if she was going to let someone else do it. At Halloween she and a friend climbed into a woman’s house through an upstairs window to pretend they were ghosts. They thought that was pretty funny. The pair called themselves the “galloping girls” and when one called, the other had to drop everything because it was time to gallop. No one really knew what they did when they went galloping, but it sure sounded neat to Dad. Great Grandma’s friend could cure warts by tying knots in string while wearing a fur coat. She was pretty popular with the teen aged girls.
Somewhere out there, lying in some relative’s garage among the junk, is Great Grandpa’s taffy hook. I don’t think it’s been used in decades. Dad sent me the taffy recipe after I returned home. It is written in the scrawling hand of my great grandmother and contains no measurements or cooking times. It is simply just a few paragraphs about making taffy. “Don’t cook too long or you’ll have a sticky mess.” Dad also sent me some pictures of Great Grandpa pulling the taffy . . . an impossibly long rope of candy he is swinging in front of him, folding, and flinging over the hook to pull and twist and fold again.
I’m not a princess. I come from a line of fortune tellers, taffy pullers, roadies, drifters, and carnies.
Shocked? Sure. But I’m proud. I’m writing a book about them . . . all of them. It won’t be non-fiction because I could never describe them truthfully in a way that would do them justice or convey the awkward pride (awkward because it comes so late for me) I feel about them all. So I’ll pay tribute in the only way I know how. . . by making charicatures of them and moving them into my own imaginary world. I hope that wherever they are it makes them (and my dad) proud. And I hope it maybe makes my dad a little proud of me too.