He pulled out the soiled handkerchief again and smeared germs across his forehead

sweatingHe pulled out the soiled handkerchief again and smeared germs across his forehead. Then he sat.

“I should say, that is, I meant to say, I removed something and I would like you to put it back.”

He hadn’t added up from minute one. It was only getting worse.

“And the reason you can’t return it yourself is what? They don’t know you took it and you’d like to keep it that way?”

He blushed. Actual pink-in-the-face blushing.

“While it’s more, well, complicated, yes, complicated than that, you could put it that way.”

His predilection for circuitous expression was annoying. And apparently catching.

“Why?”

It pushed him back against the chair.

“What do you mean, why?”

“I get the broad strokes. Give me the details. You said there were details. Share them.”

The sweating and blushing continued. The predilection didn’t.

“No.”

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Coming from the giant moth in my dream it sounded strange

moth“How did you get in here?”

Coming from the giant moth in my dream, it sounded strange.

Once I got my eyes open and saw it was coming from a thirty-something woman standing a safe distance away from me, looking very proprietary and possessive, it made more sense.

“The gate.” Yeah, my mouth can even do that with total strangers. I wasn’t awake yet.

“Very funny. Who are you and what are you doing in my yard, on my beach, in my chair?”

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

It’s not courage when you’re not afraid

brave-face“It’s not courage when you’re not afraid. Courage is when you’re afraid, and you do it anyway.”

Millie turned enough to touch Darcy’s face with the back of her hand. “I know, dear. I don’t think you’re in any real danger or I wouldn’t ask you to do this.”

Darcy nodded. “I’ll be okay. I just had to wind up for it.” She smiled a big fake smile at me in the mirror, mussed up the back of my hair, and got out.

Millie and I went off to do battle with the rest of the family.

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

The hammering felt like a hangover

hammering-anvilThe hammering felt like a hangover. Since I hadn’t had a drink in years, it wasn’t a hangover.

It wouldn’t stop, though. There was yelling. And a scraping noise.

When my eyes had the strength to open, some of the noises started to make sense.

“Hang on.” I didn’t know if they could hear me over their own yelling. I got my thick fluffy robe, which is far more luxurious than most single guys would have but since I sleep in the same clothes I shower in I keep something posh handy in case of emergency.

The hammering and shoving at the door sounded like an emergency.

I froze.

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Maybe you can help me with a little something

coffee-and-darknessShe scrunched her lips and her eyebrows. I liked the lips better, but the scrunched eyebrows worked, too.

“Well, now. I’m not here about what Gil wanted. You’ve clearly already taken care of that, according to the papers. I’m here on my own. He seemed confident you could help him, so I thought, if Gil trusts you, maybe you can help me with a little something.”

It was thin as the decaf in an office coffee pot, but I figured I might as well let her run with it.

“Well, that’s different. Tell me all about it.”

She sure was good at that smile. I kept almost believing it.

“Since Gil is dead he can’t finish the job.”

That settled that.

“I need you to kill someone for me.”

And that, my dears, unsettled that.

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

No point buying something expensive when you can’t be sure any of it is going to stay down

whiskey burns“You knew.”

I’d given up saving the situation. Yes, I knew, and I hadn’t told her. Yes, this Gertrude and Sam thing was my idea, and we’d blown it sky high. Yes, Darcy, I love you, and you hate me, and once again I’ve managed to destroy the best hope I had for any kind of salvation through a relationship.

She didn’t spit on me. She didn’t slap me. She didn’t even look at me. Or anyone else.

She just walked out, leaving the door swinging open as she went.

Sam started to follow her, but Millie held her hand and stopped her.

I don’t know how long I stood there, but after a few years of it, I left, alone, and took a cab home.

Made a stop on the way there and bought a bottle of Old Overholt.

No point buying something expensive when you can’t be sure any of it is going to stay down.

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Knee-deep in these folks and their shenanigans

“Could she have put Gil up to hiring me?”

“Why would she do that?”

I hadn’t thought about it. I was still slapping pieces into the puzzle to see what fit where. Would have been nice if I could see the picture on the cover so I knew what we were trying to piece together.

“No idea. But if she’d wanted him to do it, would he?”

She nodded. “Oh, yes. Absolutely. He believed every word she said, even if she’d said the exact opposite the day before.”

“And does she have reason to wish your father harm?”

That got a shrug. “Who knows? Like I said, we’re not close. She’s not close to father by any means. And it might have cost her a job.”

“Revenge doesn’t always calculate the risks first.”

But then, I hadn’t either, or I wouldn’t be knee-deep in these folks and their shenanigans.

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

So, Who Knifed You?

dagger“Come over here and lie down on the bench.” She pulled my arm and the rest of me back to the little corner spot where some folks drank their coffee instead of buying it and going home to make their own.

“There. On your back. These straight edges will keep tearing apart if it’s not taped well, and I can’t do that if you’re standing up.”

I eased down on the bench and put my hands behind my head so everything was out of her way. She did things with wet stuff, cleaning and moisturizing or something like that, then rolled out three hundred yards of gauze and an entire roll of tape. Somehow it all fit on my chest. Somehow, it made me feel a whole lot better. I might even get out of here without too many awkward questions.

Yeah, right.

“So who knifed you? And why?”

This is an excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

That Buxom Blonde Phil Was Looking For

A Long, Hard LookAn excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. Watch for the second Phil Brennan mystery, A Still, Small Voice, this summer.


My front door does not have an annoying habit of failing to stay latched.

It latches just fine. I make sure of it.

So it concerned me not a little that it was ajar when I rounded the top of the stairs.

I froze, then stepped back a bit. I stopped on the top stair and leaned my forehead against the wall, which put my good ear almost in the hallway where it could listen better.

Nothing.

These old wooden floors creak if you look at them. Nobody was moving in my place.

Which meant one of two things: nobody was in my place, or they just weren’t moving.

… more … “That Buxom Blonde Phil Was Looking For”

Another Free Book

I’m changing the reward for signing up for my newsletter. Right now, sign up and you’ll get my very first mystery, Through the Fog.

After the 15th, the free book changes to A Long, Hard Look.

To make it more interesting, sign up now to get one, and in the newsletter of the 15th, get the other. Free. Both of ’em. Because everyone on the newsletter on the 15th will get a free book.

At least one free book . . .

Mysteries About People, Not Puzzles: Introspective Noir

Joel D CanfieldThat’s my genre: mysteries about people, not puzzles. The short and shareable marketing-friendly version: introspective noir.

I love writing about people. I love looking inside our heads, yours and mine, trying to understand why we are the way we are.

Humans are irrational

Sometimes we’re mean to those we love or kind to those we don’t. We know exactly what we want, and then when we get it we discover how wrong we were.

We live in moments, barely able to conceive of the future, let alone plan for our being there. We invest far more effort in changing our perspective of the past than in ensuring that we don’t make it a prologue to our future.

… more … “Mysteries About People, Not Puzzles: Introspective Noir”

Tabloid Thousand Rover

Cold morning. Mist. Garage doors open, close. Lemming boxen off to slave.

Feet stamped awake. Couch cushions put back. Taste of dirt in his mouth.

Unemployment. Self-employment, maybe. Guns and gals and goodness.

Cold tap water. Hands, face, stomach. No breakfast. Coffee. Black.

Out, down, gone. No lemming box. Just feet.

Foot and foot, foot by foot.

Save the world. Save someone.

Save yourself.

Simplicity Itself (Revisited)

It’s been a couple years since I posted my very first short story (vignette, actually) here: Simplicity Itself.

I wrote it on my first computer, which would have been about 1990. Long before the days of the web. (A computer with no hard drive. Just two 5 1/4″ floppies.)

As soon as it was done, another sentence popped into my head:

It was one of those days when breakfast wanted to be cheap whiskey straight from the bottle.

And we know what that led to, don’t we?

Probably time for Simplicity Itself to turn into the book it never was.

Question is, will it be Phil Brennan’s book, or some completely new character?

A Long, Hard Look is All Yours

A Long Hard LookIt’s been almost 6 weeks since that last post; long overdue.

A Long, Hard Look is ready, as you can see from the sidebar on the left.

Get it in paperback from me or Amazon or get the Kindle version or any other digital version. Help yourself.

And Still, the Delays . . .

Waited an extra few days for a cover blurb well worth waiting for.

Then, and only then, discovered (via Smashwords’ Premium catalog feedback) that there were some formatting issues no one caught.

Formatter was on vacation.

All fixed now. Cover updated. Proof ordered.

It was supposed to arrive tomorrow.

UPS just updated the delivery date to Friday.

When I’ll have left for a long weekend.

And when it’s supposed to be a rainy, blustery day, a bit like last night when the top 20′ feet of the pine tree near the house dropped into the field.

So, I’ll come home late Monday and hopefully find an undamaged proof of A Long, Hard Look which I’ll inspect and approve.

And then, finally, we’ll ship those preorders.

Which means you can still preorder an autographed copy, if you like.

Progress Report on ‘A Long, Hard Look’

It’s edited and proofread, and almost ready to be formatted.

James, the world’s greatest proofreader, found some logical inconsistencies in the story.

Tom, the editor, agrees with me that, in his words, “It isn’t an equation, its an ebb and tide of hypotheses.”

So, today I check the proofreading notes, make my final font choices, and send it off to Leigh Anne Aston to be formatted.

She’ll have it back by Monday(ish) and then we upload it to CreateSpace, order and check the printed proof, and then you all order a handful of copies each for your reading groups, friends, family, and others.

Yeah. That’s the plan.

Finishing

Chapter 1 went live on January 31st (because that’s when I wrote it.)

I’d had the first sentence rattling around in my head for decades. I typed it, for something to do, and the rest of the first chapter came out as if I’d already written it.

The way it ended, I knew I had to keep going.

“Going” is right. In 58 days I wrote 56 chapters. During that time we also moved everything we owned into storage in order to move out of the house we rented before we left for a month-long business trip, which we also had to pack and prepare for, while maintaining some semblance of our normal life.

When people tell me they don’t have time to write, I marvel. … more … “Finishing”

A Long, Hard Look (Chapter 50)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1

They didn’t call me a cab, but they didn’t shove me down on the pavement either. I did the former for myself and skipped the latter.

I could have walked. It was a beautiful day. Warm, enough breeze to make the warm comforting instead of oppressive. Sky was blue enough, considering the size of the city and the buildings in it.

I’d had enough of the Mills/Mulligan/Breville/whatever family. There was one person I knew I could talk to without explaining or arguing or thinking too hard. Though I didn’t have anything urgent to say, my need to be with someone unoppressive was reason enough for the cab.

… more … “A Long, Hard Look (Chapter 50)”