Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Deal of the Week - A Bodyguard to Remember

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A Bodyguard to Remember by Alison Bruce

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EXCERPT

Flashing his badge, Merrick managed to get to us shortly after we arrived at the hospital. He made sure Zeke and I were kept together and stayed with us, even after repeatedly being told by the attending nurses to leave. Then, when we were alone, Merrick asked the big question. “What happened?”

I knew what he was really asking.

“Why didn’t I hide in the bathroom with Hope and Boone? You think I didn’t lock the door properly, but I put the security bar on and everything. I called you as soon as I could. What took you so long?”

I took a dive off the edge of rationality into the deep end of guilt and second-guessing. I burst into tears. I hate it when that happens.

“Give her a break, Sarge,” said Zeke, raising himself up on his good elbow. “She saved my life.”

Merrick, who had taken my outburst calmly, raised an eyebrow.

“Well,” Zeke temporised, “she intended to save my life. She couldn’t know that I had moved out of the line of fire.” He tried to sit up. “I know, I never should have been in his line of fire in the first place . . . probably should stick to the backroom stuff . . .”

In the midst of my sobbing and Zeke’s self-flagellation, Merrick told us to calm down.

Big mistake. That might have worked on Zeke. Don’t know. Wasn’t paying attention. For me, it was like waving a red cape in front of a bull. All my fear and guilt transformed into anger directed at him. I grabbed him by the shirt-front and pulled myself up with the strength that comes with hysteria.

“I’m not a cop. I’m a mother,” I shouted, hopping bare footed onto the cold floor. “I didn’t hide with my children because I figured that whoever it was, they were looking for me. If they found me, they wouldn’t go looking for my kids too. I didn’t know if you’d get there in time to stop Hope and Boone from becoming hostages and I wasn’t going to risk it. I wasn’t going to risk Zeke dying either and I would have done the same for you.”

I spoke in a rush, losing volume and air as I went, losing momentum as I realized the attention I was drawing. Not one of my shining moments.

I started to collapse. I tried to steady myself using my handhold on Merrick’s shirt. He grabbed my shoulders to brace me. He didn’t lose his cool for an instant.

“Call a nurse,” he told Zeke. “She’s bleeding.”

I gave a choke of laughter. There were at least two nurses, an orderly, and three men in uniform ranged behind Merrick.

My vision got blurry. I blinked to clear it, refocused, and noticed that Merrick was wearing red and green plaid pyjamas. I let go of his top and smoothed out the soft material.

“Flannel,” I said, and passed out.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No cats were harmed...

Cats! Why did it have to be cats?
By Alison Bruce

First off, I’d like to say that no real cats were harmed in the making of this book. I love cats…even though I’m allergic to them. Only a strong sense of self-preservation stops me from bringing home every stray (cat or dog) I meet.

It’s the cozies that are to blame. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my share of Lillian Jackson Braun and other cozy authors with series that have cats who assist amateur sleuths or at least soothed them on bad days. Most of the cats I know are more likely to compromise evidence than find it, but I’m not dissing the genre. My intention was to put a twist on the modern cozy by making the cats the victims rather than the detectives.

Someone is killing the cats in East Hills and leaving them on the doorsteps of their owners. The police have investigated but they can’t give the case much time. Carmedy & Garrett are called. Specifically, Chief Thorsen calls in his goddaughter and former rookie detective Kate Garrett because he knows she won’t refuse the case.

Excerpt

Violent death was never pleasant. The cold hadn’t diminished the smell of blood, piss and stool—or if it had, I didn’t want to think about it.

A dart, the kind animal control officers use in their rifles, was sticking into the ribs. Instead of delivering a tranquillizer, its payload was poison. The feathery stabilizer at the end was red and green. Very seasonal.

“Do we know what the poison is, Chief?”

“Looks like cyanide. Samples were taken from the last victim. I’ll let you know when the latest batch have been processed and compared.”

Igor Thorsen, Chief of Detectives and my godfather, bent down and offered me his hand. I let him pull me out of the crouch I had been sustaining for several minutes while I examined the body. I didn’t need the help, but it was a warm gesture on a cold night.

“I could use your help on this, Kathleen. People are getting nervous but I can hardly free up a detective for a serial cat-killer. I can authorize support services for a week and the East Hills Neighbourhood Group will pay your fees.”

I stripped off my gloves and ran my fingers through my hair, pushing back the auburn strands that had blown into my face. Time for a cut. Or maybe not. I didn’t have to keep up the uniform code for keeping hair short or worn up.

I looked up at the Chief. Way up. And I’m not short. Or particularly tall.

I nodded.

My name is Kate Garrett. Up until recently, I had been a rookie detective in the violent crimes unit. The chief was my boss. Almost one month ago my father, the Joe Garrett of Garrett Investigations, was killed in a pedestrian-vehicle incident. Now I was the Garrett of Carmedy and Garrett Investigations.

Last month I was a homicide detective. Now I was a pet P.I.?


An Imajin Qwickies™ Mystery/Crime Novella

DEADLY SEASON
A Carmedy & Garrett Mini-Mystery #1

By Alison Bruce
Imajin Books
November 2015

Last month Kate Garrett was a Police Detective. Now she’s a Pet P.I.?

Kate recently inherited half her father’s private investigation company and a partner who is as irritating as he is attractive. Kate has been avoiding Jake Carmedy for years, but now her life might depend on him.

"This is a gripping, edge of your seat whodunit. The fact that the victims were cats made it all the more intriguing." Amazon Review

"This book had a great mixture of humor, clever quips and mystery." Amazon Review
"Although this book is a Mini-Mystery, which does not take long to read, it leaves one wanting more, to continue with the characters and find out what is going to happen next with Kate and company." - Kobo Review

Available at:
www.amazon.com/Deadly-Season-Carmedy-Garrett-Mini-Mystery-book/dp/B017AFRN02
store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/deadly-season
www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/deadly-season/9781772231533-item.html
play.google.com/store/books/details/Alison_Bruce_Deadly_Season?id=SzvSCgAAQBAJ
www.smashwords.com/books/view/588711



Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Night the Bed Fell on Mother

I don't think I have ever laughed harder than the first time I read The Night the Bed Fell by James Thurber. (You can go read the story yourself by following the link, but wait until you've finished my story first. Thurber is too hard an act to follow.)

Just as an aside, the one part I didn't laugh very hard at was when he described the female relative who was afraid of electricity leaking from open sockets. Given that the poor woman came into a world of kerosene lamps and saw the advent of both gaslight and electrical wiring, her fear was quite reasonable. Besides, I've always suspected she was right.

I should also confess that the title of this post is misleading. I have had a bed fall on me, but I wasn't a mother at the time. Nine months later maybe, but not then.

It started with my son needing a new bed. The bunk bed of his youth no longer fit him. Buying a bed is a huge expense that requires the kind of research usually reserved for picking out a car or gynecologist. Since it was important to get the best value (cheapest mattress) possible, I delegated the task to my oldest son who got all the frugal genes going around, leaving none for his younger brother. He found such a good deal, I decided to replace the grungy futon mattress that I had bought back in my student days and looked like a prop for a CSI episode.

To fit my growing boy's long body, we needed to buy a queen-sized bed. The frame arrived last week and the mattresses arrived yesterday. Naturally, my son didn't start cleaning his room until the day before yesterday and did finish until mid-afternoon after the mattress arrived. While my sons deconstructed the Ikea bunk bed (after opening every box of the new frame to find an Allen key, I put my back out switching my double-sized mattresses. About the time I was settled in my chair with a hot bag, coffee and Naproxen, there was a clatter so loud I was reminded of Thurber's story.

But that's not why I'm writing this.

I inherited an almost new double bed from my father. He and my mother shared a king-sized bed when she was alive. My kids (a toddler and infant at the time) and I shared the bed when we first moved in with my father, shortly after my mother died and immediately after my common-law marriage fell apart with my caesarian-section wound. When we moved to a place where the kids could have their own beds, we replaced Dad's king with a double.

He might have slept on the bed a half-dozen times, tops. One of the reasons we could take over his bedroom, back when, was because he usually slept in his chair. That's how I inherited an almost new bed from my father. I didn't like his mattress, so I put my futon on top. When I got my new mattress, I took off the futon and put the new one on top... bringing me up in the world.

I should have known there would be trouble when I climbed into bed. A step stool would have been helpful. Still, once I finally got settled, the mattress was wonderfully comfortable. I slept like a baby until I woke up at 5 am to pee. As I rolled out of bed, my feet had trouble finding the floor. Then everything hit the floor including my laptop table, laptop, glasses, the all important painkillers and me.

I'm surprised my kids slept through the cacophony. I was pretty loud when I landed on my knee. Now I'm going to take my life in my hands again and try to get back to sleep. First I'll move my bedside desk and little further away...and maybe put on knee pads.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Let it Be Resolved

I'm eating the gummy candy from my stocking. The package says "Made with real fruit juice." I'm not exactly sure what fruit went into one shaped like an ice cream cone, but the pineapple did taste like pineapple. However, if the shapes are any indication, I've also eaten a truck, an alarm clock and a saw--which tasted lemony.

You know what this means, of course. All the chocolates are gone. It must be New Year. (Or Boxing Day in the case of my kids.) Time for New Year's Resolutions.

I came across and few from The Fussy Librarian Newsletter to get me started
1. Resolve to be grateful that your job encourages the collecting of imaginary friends.
2. Refine your editing skills at the expense of negative reviews. “You’re book sucked”? Really?
3. Use social media and the Internet for marketing, not procrastinating. (Not that we ever struggle with that, boss ... ) People like Fussy want to quote your fans and tag you in posts, after all!
4. Thank those who help you, whether they’re collaborators like editors, designers, or writing group members; supporters, like loved ones and readers; or fuel for your desire to succeed, like naysayers.
Resolutions #1 and #4 are easy. I started writing to keep the imaginary friends straight in my head. Otherwise they tended to go off on tangents, dragging me along with them. If not for my support crew, my stories would still be trapped in notebooks and filling boxes instead of bookshelves. (Okay, bookshelf so far.)

Resolution #2 is a constant work in progress. From the time my sister reduced me to tears of laughter by reading exactly what I wrote on the page, I have resolved to improve my writing and editing skills. Check out my website and you will see that I am a professional copywriter, editor and designer. I've even been a micro-publisher in the past (too much paperwork). I am constantly working on improving my skills for clients and myself.

Resolution #3 is tough, but not as tough for me as some people. My procrastination activities are different.
  • Dishes and other housework. It is perfectly reasonable to want a clean house, right? Well, I only have one when I want a legitimate reason not to work on something else... usually editing my own writing.
  • Driving my kids to stuff. I am more likely to make them walk or take the bus if I'm on a roll. If I'm not, I volunteer my services.
  • Whatever work isn't as urgent as the thing I'm supposed to be doing. I'm very contrary. Whenever I'm editing (my own stuff) I have a burning desire to get ahead on Cool Canadian Crime. Whenever I have a deadline looming for CCC or another client job, I have a burning desire to get back to my WIP. 
"Stop procrastinating" is a resolution I make every year and seem to always put off. (BTW, is this blog considered writing or procrastination?)

Resolutions are great but they have a limited shelf life. It's a bit like buying all your milk on New Year's Day and expecting it to last 12 months. This year I'm going to have TO DO lists.

The TO DO list is essential if, like me, you work for multiple clients including yourself and your publishers. Some items are one-off. They especially need to be there because they are easy to get drowned in the routine tasks otherwise. Other tasks are cyclical. (Once upon a time "that time of the month" meant my period. Now it's when Crime Beat has to go out with all its associated parts.) And there are the ongoing tasks--the ones you really need to keep reminding yourself to work on.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Keep up with the chores like dishes, dusting and marketing my books.
I know I won't totally give up procrastinating but today I'll put it off until later.





Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays to All

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the station,
The passengers were resting from their trek cross the nation.
Meanwhile out on the plains, awaiting the stage,
Was Shamus McGraw, in a terrible rage.

McGraw was an outlaw who lived by a code:
Everything was fair game when met on the road.
But if his quarry escaped, McGraw let him be,
With one small exception, Clayton McGee.

McGee was Ranger. His code was the law.
His job was to bring down the likes of McGraw.
He questioned known friends and McGraw's family
Including his sister, the fair Emily.

"Not fair!" said McGraw. "This isn't right,
To bring a man's family into the fight."
McGee crossed the line, so now McGraw waited
To rescue his sister and see himself sated.

When the stage was halfway betwixt station and town
Shots rang out and the coachman was down.
Then McGraw rode in, his expression grim
For another gang got to the coach before him.

In the twilight he recognized the surly Black Bart
Whose ruthless violence was honed to an art
Though generally not one to shoot for the kill,
McGraw thought of his sister and shot with a will.

Though he was outnumbered, seven to one,
McGraw rode in heedless, firing his gun
He shot down Black Bart and routed his gang
Then rode back to the stage, with barely a pang

McGee might arrest him, or he might be dead
But Emily's safety was the only thought in his head
Imagine the look on the face of McGraw
When McGee hailed him hero and brother-in-law.

"Take the gift," said the coachman, when he was able.
"Talk to the Ranger. Put your cards on the table.
"If not not for you, friend, I might now be dead.
"So put thoughts of a new career into your head."

On the night before Christmas, Shamus McGraw
Was sworn in a Ranger, no more an outlaw.
They toasted his bravery and the new Mrs. McGee.
No one noticed the coachman, no one except me...








Monday, December 21, 2015

A Holiday Short

Twas the week before Christmas
And at the North Pole
Santa's fitness regime
Was taking it's toll

Saint Nicolas was cutting out
Cookies and cake
Ms Claus was down with it
She had less to bake

And all the privations
They put on themselves
Were extended, by Santa,
To all of the elves

But the hard work they put in
Throughout the year
Kept the elves in shape
Without exercise gear.

www.bitrebels.com/design/the-cutest-diy-rudolph-holiday-cookies-ever
They didn't need fitness plans
Or the Atkinson diet
But if Santa kept this up
They'd be starting a riot.

Twas Rudolf that thought
Of a quite clever plot
For getting the goodies
Without getting caught

While Dasher and Dancer put
Santa through his paces
The elves buckled up
And it was off to the races
www.smartkitchen.com

With the rest of the reindeer
They took Santa's sleigh
To buy pepperkaker at a
Bakery in Norway

Then they hit Danish and
Fine French bakers
Made a stop in Pennsylvania
And bought cookies from Quakers

When Santa was panting
Hardly able to speak
They returned with enough bake goods
To last them a week.

Of course Santa knew
But not one bit did he seize
For he knew Christmas Eve
He'd get all the goodies








Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Season of Gifting


"When you stop believing in Santa Claus is when you start getting clothes for Christmas."

 I never stopped believing in Santa. I can remember sitting at the bedroom window (whichever of my cousin's bedrooms my sister and I were sharing that year), after everyone else was fast asleep, looking for Rudolph's flashing nose in the sky. As I write this, I have finally put together why I sometimes saw that light with the proximity of an international airport. 

Later, I was one of Santa's helpers, putting out the stockings that my cousins, sisters and I filled for our parents. After all, why should we (the kids) get all the fun Christmas morning. I knew for years that Santa didn't fill the stockings himself. He delegated that task to Mum, Auntie Yang, Nana and possibly my Dad and Uncle D. It wasn't tough to figure out when the adults kicked us out of the living room and told us that even if we didn't want to go to bed, they did. 

Believing in Santa Claus didn't stop me from getting clothes as presents. My children, by the way, don't believe in Santa and they love clothes as gifts. They especially love gift cards they can take out to buy their own clothes. Santa has smartened up that way. With the exception of hand knitted sweaters, Santa's taste in clothes can be questionable to say the least. That's why I developed an allergy to acrylic and polyester.

My Nana was the biggest culprit. The sweaters she bought me were always a size too small and more often than not sported horizontal stripes. You do not put a teenage girl, who is self-conscious about her weight, in horizontal stripes. Add the itchiness of early acrylic yarns and garish colours, you have a recipe for gift that will never be worn past Christmas day. 

So I told Nana I was allergic to acrylic. Polyester shirts also made me itch. I then quickly pointed out that hand-knit sweaters were different because they were meant to be worn over tops. At the time, 100% cotton tops were either relatively plain or Indian muslin. I was happy with either. My "allergy" later kept me out of stretch polyester uniforms. 

Nana also taught me about re-gifting. All her grandchildren learned the cardinal rule: Never give Nana a gift you wouldn't be able to use yourself. Those presents were like boomerangs, inevitably (and sometimes immediately) returning to the presenter.

My father taught me another important lesson. Don't give magazine subscriptions as gifts unless you are sure the recipients want them.

For decades, my uncle and my father gifted each other National Geographic. This was the perfect gift because they both enjoyed the magazine and it isn't a cheap subscription. Of course, I really appreciated the tradition because I loved stealing the maps and pouring over them, imagining epic trips to places near and far.

No one was nearly as enthusiastic about being given a subscription to Readers Digest. Yet, sure that this would increase his chances of winning the big prize, my father gifted subscriptions to practically everyone. His sister had to tell him to stop... several times. She was the only one to be that direct. Not that Readers Digest is a terrible magazine, but each subscription came with incessant mailings urging readers to buy more because "You could already be a winner."

I told Dad that I'd rather have a subscription to Writer Magazine. For a couple of years he bought me that. But I still got Readers Digest.
“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
 Socks are safe, but some of the best gifts I've given and received have been books. However, like bath products, you do have to know the tastes of your recipient or, as with my Nana, you can expect the present to come back to you.

My mother and father were usually easy. I knew what they liked because I grew up surrounded by their books. I took great delight in introducing my mother to the mysteries of Charlotte McLeod and Sue Grafton. It got a little problematic when she'd buy the latest release before I had a chance to give it to her for Christmas or her birthday.

Giving my father books was like taking coals to Newcastle. He was constantly ordering books for himself and subscribed to two Western Romance book of the month clubs. Fortunately, like Dumbledore, he believed one couldn't have enough socks.