New Book, New Series

Hello friends and readers!

This blog is long overdue, but I finally have a new book out! Yay! A BITTER DYING (Detective Jackson #12) is now available in print and ebook from Amazon. The reviews, so far, are terrific, and I hope you’ll check it out. I had a lot fun writing this one, especially the ending.

Here’s the back cover copy:
When a frustrated ex-con takes a young family and their home hostage, the only officer he’ll speak with is Detective Wade Jackson. But Jackson already has his hands full running the Eugene Violent Crimes Unit and overseeing the investigation of a series of seemingly random assaults.

While Jackson juggles the hostage negotiations with his chaotic single-parent home life, the assaults point toward a troubled company that recycles industrial oil. With several lawsuits pending, the CEO of WestPac emerges as a likely suspect in the latest attack of a trial lawyer.

As Jackson tries to meet the hostage taker’s demands, a powerful politician interferes for personal reasons, and the standoff turns bloody. Meanwhile, the latest assault victim dies, and Jackson’s team must scramble to identify the assailant. Can they piece together the connections in time to prevent another murder and save the family?


I also have a new  series I’m working on. It features Rox MacFarlane, an ex-CIA agent who works as a private extractor, rescuing people from oppressive situations. The first book, GUILT GAME, will be released in early June (and is available for preorder now). I’m writing the second book in the story, and having a blast with the premise. I hope you’ll give the series a try!

Here’s the description for Guilt Game:
Roxanne MacFarlane is the Extractor—a former CIA agent who specializes in rescuing people from dangerous situations. She lives on the edge and works outside the law, but desperate families know she’s the only operative who can bring their missing loved ones home. Driven by guilt over the loss of her sister to a polygamous cult, she will stop at nothing to save her clients.

When Dave and Jenny Carson ask her to find their daughter, Emma, and extract her from a charismatic cult leader who preys on young women with guilt issues, Rox is eager to help them. But the experimental treatment she just started in order to improve her atypical brain patterns forces her to face conflicting newfound emotions while working feverishly to find the secret compound and craft a strategy to get Emma out.

When the bodies of young women who match Emma’s description turn up, Rox must fast-forward her plans. But the situation is more complicated and dangerous than she realizes, and her own life is soon in jeopardy. Can Rox save Emma and bring down a ruthless predator before more young women fall victim?



High-Intensity Scenario Training

“We handcuff dead people.” That was the takeaway message after an afternoon spent participating in an active-shooter training. Of course, I wasn’t one of the law enforcement officers doing the actual training (darn!), but I did play a role that helped make the scenario as realistic as possible.

My job for the afternoon was to run screaming across the top floor of an abandoned office building—which served in the scenario as a federal courthouse. The trainers wanted the sessions to be high intensity with lots of noise and distractions. So first, a loud siren came on. That started my adrenaline pumping. Then it was time to pull on my facemask and get into place. The mask was for protection against the paint-like pellets in case someone shot me.

Moments later, a man in green fatigues came running straight at us—across the long, cement floor—with an AK-47 in hand. Then our instructor signaled the three of us to go. And we would run, yelling something like, “Help! They killed Dave. They’re shooting everyone.” And screaming too. He wanted us to be loud and distracting.

Participants in a high-intensity scenario trainingIt was weird at first, because I’m not a screamer, but I quickly got into character. Between the assault weapons and the siren and the sudden barrage of uniformed officers pointing more guns—it was easy to feel alarmed. (Picture: The other two “screamers” wait between training sessions)

We ran the scenario seven or eight times, with different groups of law enforcement personnel getting their turn. People from Homeland Security, Lane County Sheriff’s Office, and Eugene and Springfield Police all participated.

After the first few times, my adrenaline settled down a little, and my observational journalist side kicked. I began to notice that each team of officers did things a little differently. For example, another participant played a wounded Federal Marshal. Some officers checked him briefly and moved on. Others patted him down and took his weapon. Still others instructed him to crawl out of the room.

And then there was the armed bad guy at the top of the stairs. He got shot every time. And in each debriefing following the scenario, the instructor would at some point say, “We cuff dead people.” Meaning, you don’t just walk away from the bad guy, even if he looks dead and you have his gun. You cuff him to be sure.

The afternoon is one of those vivid memories that will not likely fade. And that phrase will always stay with me. Don’t be surprised if you see it in one of my novels someday.

New Blog, New Website, Same Me

October and November were makeover months for me. I took a new publicity photo, rebranded my series, and created a new website and blog. I had a lot of help with the website from a charming man named Chris, but the design decisions are mine, so I hope you like it. If you were subscribed to my old blog, please resubscribe here. If you had my blog bookmarked, please note my new address. It hasn’t changed much, but the new url will be more friendly to search engines. ( Read more

Retraining My Brain

Like all writers (and humans!), I have moments of jealousy. Sometimes when I see someone post a glowing review of their book from Publisher’s Weekly, I think: I wish I could get reviewed by PW. I want my first thought to be: That’s terrific. I’m so happy for you. I don’t want to be jealous or ungrateful or negative. Those kind of thoughts can end up in a spiral, so I’m currently trying to retrain my brain, especially for how I think and feel about a certain family member. Read more

Helping a Family in Joplin

As I watched families pick through the rubble of their homes, looking for shoes for their kids, I felt sickened and helpless. I tried to imagine what it would feel to have lost everything and not have enough money to rent a motel room for the week. So I decided to do what I could. Together with my blog partners at Crime Fiction Collective, we’re raising money to help a family in Joplin. Read more

Looking for Logic? Not in Book Sales

Watching your digital book sales climb is exhilarating. Seeing them fall is heartbreaking and confusing. “What changed?” you ask yourself, feeling panicked. Did I slack off too much on blogging? Or forget to post in the forums? Did I take this success for granted for 24 hours? Frantically, you try to recreate the right combination of effort and luck that made it happen. Read more

Standalone Thrillers

Readers are most familiar with my Detective Jackson books, but I also have two standalone thrillers that I wrote before I started the series. I worked for a pharmaceutical magazine for years, so the books have subtle medical themes.  I rewrote them last year to update the stories and give Jackson a small cameo in each.

The seed of an idea that would become The Baby Thief sprouted one Read more

Conferences Are in Flux Too

Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe was great this year. I got to meet in person people I’ve come to know and like online: Peg Brantley, Jodie Renner, Marlyn Beebe, and more. I participated in two panels, Research: Getting It Right, and Publishing: Today and in the Future.

Both were well attended, and I got terrific feedback from the audience. Read more

Write What You Feel

Every time you read a novel, you get a peek into the writer’s soul. Some authors are good at separating themselves from the story, especially if they write about a character unlike themselves (Jack Reacher, for example, who is not like Lee Child). Yet I believe that circumstances in each writer’s life affect what they write in at least small ways.

For example, if I have a headache when I’m writing, one of my characters Read more

Police Procedural Vs. Thriller

I’m trying to decide what to write next—another Detective Jackson story or a futuristic thriller I’ve outline and started. My creative side really wants to write the thriller, but my inner accountant wants me to write another Jackson story first.

Money considerations aside, police procedurals and thrillers are different, and each has its own challenges. A procedural tends to be more structured Read more