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Fall into the Cistern (guest post from Lorne Oliver)

Hi everyone!

I’ve got a special treat for you this week. A little while ago, I was privileged to receive an advance reader’s copy of The Cistern by Lorne Oliver. Lorne is also two-deep into a series starring Sgt. Reid of the RMCP.

The official book release was yesterday, and you can read my review here. Lorne was also kind enough to stop by and do a guest post for us, so without further ado, here’s Lorne . . . .


Based on Actual Events, sorta


I can honestly say that my new novel, THE CISTERN, is based on actual events.  Okay, not the actual crime but other events.  In the novel Chrys gets a side job where she has to go to houses which had been foreclosed on to take pictures and possibly clean them out.  In the autumn of 2012 my wife had the same side job.  She went one day with a locksmith to change the locks and take the photographs, however, they couldn’t find the light switch for the basement.  She asked me to go with her on the weekend with flashlights in hand and finish the job.  My wife as so excited about it.  The family that had lived there just seemed to have taken off leaving behind a lot of their belongings and furniture.  Being fans of TV shows like Canadian and American Pickers and things like Pawn Stars she thought we might be able to cash in.  This is pretty much how Chrys in THE CISTERN feels and why she takes along her brother Spencer.  We saw the same thing when we pulled into the driveway as the brother and sister do…


Giant evergreens made a square around the house and yard blocking most of the wind coming across the fields.  There were ghosts hanging from those trees.  They dangled from strings tied around the grey paper to create a head.  The grass over the entire yard had grown untouched until it was too heavy to stand up and fell over on itself.  On one side the grass was only broken by a small kids’ swimming pool deflated and discarded.  There was filthy water inside it from rain with piles of dead and rotting leaves turning the water dark.  The house itself had an attached two-car garage, the roof shingles had seen better days, and over in front of a glass door was a deck with plants growing up from underneath poking through the floorboards.  A vine had climbed halfway up one of the posts around the outside of the deck.  It looked as though it had once been screened in, but that was long ago.  A storm door stood open beside the garage with the door behind it closed.  How long would it take for nature to take over the house?

“This is it?”  Nervous energy ran through Spencer’s body as he looked around.  On the side of the house what looked like discarded furniture and garbage had become a living mound with grass and plants growing over it.  He bet snakes and mice and other nasties found a home in there during different times of the year.

Chrys said, “This is it,” and slipped from the truck with the camera hanging from around her neck and flashlight in hand. 

Even though the wind couldn’t get through the trees the chill still made him button up his coat as he got out.  A large trampoline stood in one corner of the yard.  Dead leaves painted the bouncing surface.  Branches from the nearest trees had expanded outward blocking some of the air above it.  Those trees creaked and scraped against each other as if in some evil chanting.  Witches standing over a bouncing cauldron.

“Where did you say the family went?”


I, of course, started imagining all that could have happened to the family.  As we went in things got more confusing.  Just like in the book belongings were scattered all over.  There was a dining table and chairs, a China set, family photos, a wine rack, tons of kitchen gadgets, clothes, kids drawings, Justin Bieber pictures on one of the kids bedroom walls (okay, I understand leaving those)  It was really strange.  Then we went down into the basement…


Spencer walked around the furnace and hot water tank, both looked relatively new.  Behind them was a wall of cinderblocks that was just taller than his almost six-foot frame, but didn’t reach the ceiling.  It didn’t extend to the side wall of the basement either and left a thin path between them.  He looked around expecting to see just the one wall, a barrier for the furnace maybe.  Another wall extended from the corner of the smaller one and stopped just before the far wall.  This didn’t make sense.  He pushed up onto his toes.  There was a top.  It was a room.  A room made of thick cinderblock walls and mortar with a plywood top.

“Ah, Chrys.”

The hairs on her arms felt electrified at just the way her brother said her name.  He was already moving forward.

Spencer felt drawn to walk around these inside walls.  There had to be a door or something.  There had to be a reason for them to be there.  He said, “This is a concrete room.  The walls don’t go up.”


“They don’t go all the way to the ceiling.”

“What?  Why?”

“There’s a ladder.”  Spencer stood at the far corner.  The short wall made a ninety degree turn.  It was indeed a square room right underneath the kitchen.

“Spence, come back.”  Chrys watched him disappear around the corner.  She looked out to the family room again.  Her head spun to look at the tiny window high on the wall and covered on the outside by the tall grass.  Could someone be watching?  She knew her thoughts and fears were irrational.

“I’m just going to see what’s on top.”

“Forget it.  I have enough pictures.”  She wanted to get out of there.

The closer he got to the ladder, made of rough-cut two by fours, the more Spencer smelled something foul.  It wasn’t that bad from where he stood.  Was this a compost thing?  Something in his head said he had to continue.  He grabbed the top of the ladder and pulled himself up with his phone leading the way.  The dark shadows covered everything behind him.  The phone sent light over the top.  All that was up there was a small skimming net with a metal handle.  There was also a square block nailed to a larger square on the top just a foot in front of him.

He took another step up.  Spencer said, “There’s a trap door up here.”


All pretty much true.  There was a foreclosed abandoned house full of belongings.  There was a cinderblock room in the basement with only a trap door on top.  I was terrified to look into it.  Thankfully, I did not find what Spencer does.  The story started to work its way into my brain.  What if there was something in that “room.”  We found out later that it was a cistern, something to hold rainwater to be used for watering the garden, watering animals, washing clothes, etc.  We returned to what we called, The Creepy House, a few times more and every time it terrified me.  The what ifs took over my brain and became THE CISTERN.    


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and from the Department of Things Long Overdue . . .

First off, a big shout-out to Christine Rice, who undertook the intensely meticulous task of formatting Bloody Murder at Smashwords. She actually did this quite some time ago, but Things Happened that I’m not going to get into, but I am pleased to say the book is available as of this morning. It made it through Smashwords’ aptly-named Meat Grinder on the first try, it has its own ISBN an because of the distribution plan, will shortly be available on iTunes and in pretty much any e-book format out there.

Meanwhile, work continues on Snow Job. I have the first sixteen chapters revised, though there will be at least one more total revision before I consider it ready for publishing. 

In other nifty news around the Interwebs, a dear friend of mine in Tampa recently founded, If you’re a teacher, have one in your life, or have been inspired by one (or more!) I encourage you to check this page out. 

You may not know this, but both myself and Bloody Murder Books have G+ pages, and you can find me on Facebook as well. Just let me know you’ve seen this post, so I know where to add you.

Thank you for reading, I hope to have more fun things for you soon!

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Making Ingredients

No, I didn’t accidentally put a post from my food blog here, but today’s post ties them together a bit.

One of the things I have in common with Zo is a love of cooking. I got mine from watching a lot of people, including my father (who occasionally permitted me to stir things), my Nana, and various people on TV. I really had a hard time understanding Julia Child through her accent. I know I’m not the only one, otherwise a very popular Muppet never would have been born.

I’ve been told that the reason I could be considered more a chef than a cook is that I occasionally make ingredients. Rosemary-spiced olive oil, preserved lemons. A month or so ago, I candied lemon peel, which is not something I picture Zo doing. The bookstore and her social life keep her pretty busy and she’s a lot more likely to throw things in a slo cooker at seven a.m. I only see seven a.m. because I try to be at work around 8:30 and my commute is a bit long.

If you look at writing, there is a lot in common with cooking. You have your concepts like “I’m going to make. Fancy French Dinner” or “I’m going to write a mystery where the sleuth owns a bookstore.” You often have a recipe, or in the writer’s case, an out qline or a timeline. Characters would be protein, the the events in their lives the cooking process, and the supporting characters the smaller side dishes. The theme of the meal and its presentation the setting.

Having discovered the WordPress app, you might see more posts as i ponder things while riding on the train.

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I’d like to thank . . . you know who you are

I have, on occasion, borrowed the name of a real person, and the character I make with the name has absolutely no relation to what the person is or does.

Y’all are welcome to out yourselves, but even if you don’t, I’d like to thank the people who have donated their names for what I consider a good cause.

The characters include a performer, a judge, and a bookie, so far.

Someone asked me last week if I had a title for my books before I started writing them or if I gave them a working title and finalized it later on. With me, I will make notes until a title and the first line occur to me. Then things seem to fall together. Once I decided that the name of Zo’s bookstore was Bloody Murder, much of the story was on a mental road map. A friend who is my Official New Orleans Authenticity Monitor gave me the title for Post Parcel, Snow Job suggested itself.

The title of #4 will be revealed a little later. Thanks for staying with me.

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Hello, everyone and welcome to 2014!

First and foremost, thank you all for your patience in waiting for Snow Job. Some things happened with editor #2, so it’s on hold at the moment, but she’ll be back in track soon. As soon as I have a publication date, you’ll know.

Meanwhile, this month, I will get Bloody Murder up on Smashwords. Christine Rice did a fabulous job with the very particular Smashwords formatting, and it’s just a question of time to upload, this means a few more outlets–like iTunes!

Back in December, I had a rare treat. I got to see a friend for the first time in over twenty years. We met when I was finishing my last year at Hofstra and we worked for (wait for it) the same bookstore. We hit it off instantly and spent many a night over rich Italian food with plans to save the world. Or drinking too much and being damn silly. I think bowling was involved one night.

Anyway, she’s also the woman I partially based Feliz on. When we got together we not only had a great time catching up, it felt like no time had passed. A few weeks later, she started reading Bloody Murder and not only did she love the book, she congratulated me in such a touching fashion it brought tears to my eyes.

I do unabashedly borrow bits of appearance or character traits from people, both friends and stranger. The sum-total of a character is typically a composite wrapped up in my imagination. Bloody Murder #4 will introduce a new character who is, with permission, based on a real person, but to be honest, I’m not sure if you’re going to believe me.

Michael, believe it or not, is purely from my imagination. His looks are based on an actor I enjoyed watching at the time I was putting the original draft together. I had found myself wondering who I’d like to play him in a movie (hey, I can dream). I get a lot of assumption that he is based on my boyfriend, who happens to be tall, handsome and Asian. Japanese to be specific, I wrote Bloody Murder three years before I met Nexx (his favorite online alias) in person, though we were acquainted online before that. I didn’t lay eyes on him until 2005, but that’s a story for another day.

There’s a fair amount of me in Zofia, I’ll never deny that. Like a lot of female authors, I get accused of pulling a Mary Sue. This rarely happens to men, I’ve noticed, though author (and dear friend) JD Rhoades did point out on his blog that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is an excellent example of a male author doing just that.

I also borrow names, heavily. I think my next post will acknowledge some of those fine people. Cheers!

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Okay, that was a little weird, please let me make it right

I just had two people tell me they downloaded a preview or bought a copy of Bloody Murder and ended up with  Post Parcel. I’m not sure how it happened or how long this has been going on. Amazon has been of limited help. Okay, that’s a bit unfair. Their answer made no sense to me and seemed impossible so I’m just not happy with it. But in the interest of being fair they’ve done the best they can with the information they have. Regardless, the problem has been fixed going forward.

That isn’t quite good enough for me, however. If you purchased Bloody Murder on Amazon and ended up with Post Parcel, I hope you will please first, accept my apology. From now until the end of the year 2013, if you respond to this post with your email address, I will personally provide you with a free copy of Bloody Murder courtesy of yours truly.

In other news, the editing and revising of Snow Job continues in earnest. Since everyone involved is, like me, and independent, we have to be understanding that (inconveniently) these people have lives, so if we want a good job done, we must be patient. I’m looking forward to its launch and I will continue to keep you updated.

Meanwhile, I need to make the most of a day off from the day job and get back to the creative process. I’ve hit 20K words in the latest manuscript today and I might be able to get 500 more before I pack it in for the evening.

Thank you for reading, and as always, thank you for your support.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year or I’m a real writer, damn it.

No, I don’t mean Christmas, or Thanksgiving (American) or even Hallowe’en. Today is November first and as such is the first day of the worldwide insanity known as Nanowrimo. I am proud to count myself among its participants.

Bloody Murder began as a Nano novel. The first draft was written in November of 2002. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. I’d thought it was a ridiculous thing to try, but then I thought it’s so crazy I have to try. The result was my first novel. Several revisions, edits and years later, a dear friend said, “You can self-publish on Amazon . . .”

There are people out there who think my participation in this event, and/or that I’m an Indie author and publisher means I’m somehow not a “real” writer.  Two examples. There’s this nonsense from several years ago. Then there’s the friend who said, “Well we know if you’re self-published that means you’re not really published.” I smiled, too polite to bite her head off. It would have been an abuse of someone’s hospitality had I done so, but I did not forget this.

Nobody I’ve ever met during Nano is trying to be Robert Louis Stevenson, who put together Jekyll and Hyde in forty-eight hours. Nano participants are from all over the demographic spectrum and the one thing we have in common is we have a story to tell. If we’re taking the time to put this down on paper or in a text file, who the hell is anyone to tell us we’re not writers?

And who is anyone to say an independent publisher isn’t really published? Admittedly, I’m not living off my writing. I don’t have the perks of a traditional publisher like an art department or a marketing guru, but my book is for sale at one of the largest retailers in the world and they have cut me more than one royalty check. 

One last ramble, as it is late and I need to go to bed eventually. The changes in the publishing industry over the last decade or so have been immense. E-books (and yes, Zo will address that in a future novel if she wants the bookstore to stay competitive), the ease of self-publishing, print-on-demand. I hope I see more of a welcoming attitude from people about who is and isn’t a writer or published.


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Home again, for now

I took a quick trip to the Big Easy the last few days of September. Partly to simply soak up atmosphere, partly to see friends and partly to just enjoy myself. I spent a lot more time uptown than I have in the past and I think I’ll be able to delivery a richer experience in future books because of it.

Should you make the trip, I have a few recommendations. First off, the National WW2 Museum, which is on Magazine Street in the Central Business District. Should you go, I strongly suggest you take advantage of their 2-day pass. See the exhibits of the war in Europe one day, and the war in the Pacific another. My friend (hi Gina!) and I were there for over five hours and by the end of it, we were, for lack of a better word, shell-shocked. Besides films and artifacts, there was a metric ton of personal accounts in listening rooms all over the place. We retired to John Besh’s restaurant, The American Sector where I had a drink called the Last Waltz. It was quite delicious and the crab salad and Italian cheese fries were wonderful.

I go on kicks when it comes to food and drink. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Bloody Marys. I think this started when another friend (Hi Liz!) and I went to brunch at Pete’s Tavern in New York City. So, I had one at several locations. The best traditional one was at the Court of Two Sisters, though the one at Pat O’Brien’s came a close second (that was the first place we went, Gina needed to try a Hurricane). A rather nice addition to the concept of the Bloody Mary, which came from the Club Car on Camp Street is bacon-infused vodka. 

We walked a lot. Last time I was in the French Quarter, the address where I have placed Bloody Murder was a very small convenience store. This time, it’s a merchant who sells trendy workout wear. 

There was also a lot of shopping, I have a few of the pictures up on Facebook (friend me! Just let me know how you found my name). One of the current trends is the Water Meter Cover. I bought a pendant, Gina bought earrings and I tried to convince Lindy (my N’Awlins authenticity monitor) to buy one in stone to use in her garden. maybe next time.

Lindy took us on a drive through the Garden District, which I especially appreciated because book 4 takes place partly in that neighborhood. The homes are just beautiful. There was also a trip for muffaletta at a small place called Mahony’s, a place I would not have known to look for

I was very happy to see a lot less shuttered and boarded buildings in the city. Even as we wrapped up the off-season, there were plenty of people, and as we left on Monday the 30th, the Saints were in town and people were starting to tailgate outside the Superdome. It was nine-forty-five in the morning.

I love that town.

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Back after a bit of a break and about to take another

My days of being a dungeon master are temporarily on hold. I managed to kill most of the party with a group of bugbears (don’t worry if you don’t know what a bugbear is, Zo isn’t likely to run into one). The day job has been enormously busy, and without having to do game prep, I’ve been enjoying doing a whole lot of nothing while I have down time and I’m waiting for Snow Job to come back from editor #2. I don’t have a publication date yet, but watch this space or the Bloody Murder G+ page and you might get an exclusive notification.

One of the nice things about my early morning work schedule is I now tend to wake up grossly early on Sundays. Early on Sundays means several episodes of Law & Order which is one of my first choices for a writing background, though certainly not for legal research. I’m working on another manuscript which has been in progress the better part of a year. It’s less than halfway through, but I’m very pleased with it so far.

A lot of writers have music in the background. Carrie Vaughn provides a soundtrack in her Kitty Norville books, which I find enjoyable and informative–I’m not exactly up on current music. I’ve always gone for crime shows. Law & Order, Inspector Lewis, Criminal Minds, Cold Case. the Hallmark channel occasionally blesses me with a Perry Mason rerun. Every once in a while, there’s a noir detective movie on as well. I need to enjoy these mornings while I can because Nexx will be claiming the TV in the name of football on Sundays very shortly. Baseball, I love (Go Red Sox!). Football? I find it hard to care about, but I have been known to watch the occasional Saints game. 

If my darling Nexx wasn’t out of town with our suitcase, I would be currently throwing clothing at it in anticipation of my trip to New Orleans on the 25th. I’ll be there for five days with my best girlfriend and we’ll be doing things like the jazz brunch at the Court of Two Sisters, visiting the Trashy Diva, prowling art galleries and drinking daiquiris in colors not found in nature. I think I may also have to introduce her to the Hurricane. I also would like to do some interviewing of people in the French Quarter and just generally soak up atmosphere and take pictures of buildings, ironwork and street artists. I’m quite excited, even if my flight out is at 6 a.m.

So things are brewing like a good beer. Stay tuned!


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Food in the name of research

Yesterday, I got together with a friend from college that I don’t see nearly often enough. Since I live in the wilds of Connecticut and she’s on Lawn Gisland, driving is a bit of a pain and involves tolls. It may also involve trolls, but if there are any under the Throgg’s Neck, they’re quiescent.

So we tend to meet in NYC and a good percentage of the time, it’s raining. I thought it might be fun to do a High Tea (and this is needful for research purposes, you’ll find out in a future book). After perusing the best-rated spots in Manhattan, I settled on Lady Mendl’s a few blocks from Union Square.

I arrived more than thirty minutes early and wandered up and down Irving Place for a bit. I found a lovely cheese shop, stopped myself from buying $30 worth of smoked tuna (I adore smoked fish), and went back to hanging about outside the Inn at Irving, which is really easy to walk past. It’s a somewhat typical NYC brownstone on the outside.

Then the clown cars started arriving. Okay, I exaggerate to make my point, but several cars unloaded a lot of women and children dressed in pastels carrying packages of baby things. 

I called Liz and suggested a change of venue. We ended up at Pete’s Tavern, which was a wonderful experience. If Zo finds herself in New York, I think she will need to go there.

Meanwhile, I do have some afternoon tea scheduled for my upcoming trip to New Orleans at the end of September.

Ah, the things I do in the name of research . . . 

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