A half-penny candy becomes Enron

Never believed in situational ethics. While I sympathize with Jean Valjean, he was still a thief. There are plenty of grey areas in life. Honesty isn’t one of them. Honesty is binary: anything you do is honest, or it’s not.

People make mistakes, sure, but if someone steals, and then all they do about it afterward is feel badly, they’re a thief. It’s a fundamental character defect.

A half-penny candy becomes Enron. I’m not kidding and I’m not exaggerating. Bend the twig and get a crooked tree.

Someone who’ll steal is bent. Bent is bent. Thieves aren’t known for veracity.

Bent is bent.

So when I say “it’s been bothering me,” what I really mean is that you can directly attribute some of this blathering and confusion to the severely disrupted emotional condition I’ve been in since I discovered that someone I feel strongly about, and could feel more strongly about with only a hint of a nudge, didn’t share my rigid moral character.

If that doesn’t make sense to you I suggest you don’t waste any more time on this tale than you already have.

If it does, you’ll know what it costs me to admit I stole something once, and why I’ve locked the memory away.

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Her eyes slid over me like I was a boring patch of wallpaper

Standing where I’d been instructed, I scanned the room. There was too much room at my back for my liking, but no one was expecting me, personally, just someone standing right there. Other than to tell me to look where all the other red-blooded men were looking, Rose had been silent on anything more about Heather. Apparently it was important for me not to show any sign of recognition. I’d be contacted, Rose had said.

boring-patch-of-wallpaperIt all felt rather foolishly like a cheap spy novel, except for the part where Rosie made it clear lives (ours included) hung in the balance if I messed up.

Since it was the only job I had, I tried not to mess up standing in that spot.

Yeah, there wouldn’t be much story here if I’d been able to conquer that monumental task.

When she came around the far corner of the bar I almost shouted. Her eyes slid over me like I was a boring patch of wallpaper. Over twenty years, I’d know her anywhere, even in a dimly lit club.

So, of course, I blew everything, and shouted her name.

“Maddie!”

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Phil Brennan, Web Martin, and Jesse Donovan Walk Into A Bar

Joel D CanfieldYou’d think I’d know what to expect considering who I was meeting in the cheap dive downtown.

One at a time, sure.

I’d never sat down with the three of them, not all at once.

It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Or for those with other proclivities, to write.

Or maybe both.

The vandals who’ve been stealing my grapes

security-camera“The library says they sent you. What do you want?”

Couldn’t she have asked them? Ah, maybe she did. Slick operator, this one. Nobody was catching her unawares.

“I’m checking on the surveillance equipment you checked out. It’s overdue.”

“Well, as I told you young man, they haven’t come yet.”

At this point, I expected a blue police box to land in the yard so David Tennant could take me somewhere, which made even less sense than this. After two heartbeats, I gave up on the Tenth Doctor and returned to Ms. or Mrs. Millhone.

“Who hasn’t come yet?” I almost added “ma’am” but fewer words felt safer.

“The vandals who’ve been stealing my grapes.”

She was now perilously close to making sense.

“You borrowed the equipment to watch for vandals stealing your grapes.”

“Certainly. Isn’t that what it’s for?”

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

You want me to lean on kids who didn’t return “A Tale of Two Cities” on time?

being-a-bad-sport“You want me to lean on kids who didn’t return A Tale of Two Cities on time? Twist their arms for the nickel fine?”

She laughed. Out front, her underlings jumped at the sound. From the wary looks, it wasn’t a sound they heard often.

“Oh, no, not at all, though should we ever need such services I cannot imagine anyone better than you to provide them. I could imagine better with a name, I suppose.”

I told her. She introduced herself as Edie. It wasn’t what the nameplate on her desk said. I went with Edie.

“So Dickens is safe. Who’s not? Rare books?”

“Any book that couldn’t be replaced for a few dollars isn’t allowed out of the building. Unfortunately, electronic devices don’t fall under the same umbrella.”

“Nintendo decks, things like that?”

“No, we only loan the games for those things. What we’re losing control of is some expensive audiovisual equipment.”

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Getting stopped by a cop would be just fine with me

help on the marinaI glanced toward the Thug brothers. No movement, still just black blots on the otherwise nearly white rocks.

“Time to swim and scramble. At the marina gate, you go right, and I’ll go straight. Find a computer and email me. Easier than dealing with phones.”

“Okay. Ready?”

I nodded.

We swam.

Once we committed there was no point looking back. When we hit the end of the dock we barely slowed. As we hit the gate Rosie went right without a word. I glanced left.

They were at the end of the jetty, but still half a block away. I sloshed my way to the right, around the block, but my car was parked at the end closest to them.

Hoping they’d follow, I ran flat out around the block to where my car was parked.

I was soaking the seat in a second-gear slide around the corner in front when they rounded the corner behind.

I drove. Fast. Getting stopped by a cop would be just fine with me.

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

You usually match numbers to other numbers

“Uh, okay. You usually match numbers to other numbers.” It wasn’t like she didn’t know almost as much about bookkeeping as I do. She just liked the game of prime-and-pump and I’d learned to keep nudging her or she’d grind to a halt.

“There are numbers in the stories, silly. They should match the numbers in the spreadsheets. If so, you can bill me your hourly.”

“And if they don’t?”

Rosies-numbers

Silence wasn’t Rosie’s thing. She was usually starting her next sentence before you’d finished yours. After plenty of time for the ticking and clacking of gears, she answered.

“Then we’ll talk about a weekly rate.”

She should have sounded smug. She loved having the upper hand and made no secret about it when she had you in her palm.

She didn’t sound smug. She sounded scared.

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

I never meant to get you fired, Jesse

endless-officeShe’d made it clear that I was working on her stories now, taking food from her imaginary future children’s mouths. She’d also volunteered that she was seeing someone so I needn’t bother asking her out. If that was supposed to pique my interest, it hadn’t. We’d gotten off on all the wrong feet.

Before I could open my mouth she spun around in her swivel chair.

“I never meant to get you fired, Jesse. I just told Greg that stuff so he’d move you back to accounting. Not fired.” Her hands waved like she was washing them. How delightfully symbolic.

“Dunno what you’re talking about. Greg never mentioned whatever it was. It’s about money, and I’ve seen it coming since I made the switch. Accounting, remember? We know where the money is. And, uh, isn’t.”

She washed a little more. “Okay.” Her chair forced her around to face her computer. “Greg didn’t say anything?”

What a hatchet job she’d tried to pull, if she was this worried. Let her worry.

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

I’m from the library

it's in here somewhere“I’m from the library.”

“Here to strong-arm me about some overdue Dickens?”

Okay, she didn’t really say that. It was so stuck in my head I was almost willing her to say it just so we could get it over with.

What she said wasn’t much better.

“Prove it.”

This was already going well.

“Excuse me?”

She switched eyes. The door opened another eighth-inch and I caught a glimpse of a polyester floral print, and a cast-iron permanent. There were probably scratches on the inside of the door where her hair ravaged it.

“Anybody could say they’re from the library. How do I know? Got any ID?”

What was she looking for, a library card? I tried to keep my mouth shut, since looking like a landed carp wouldn’t help my professional appearance any.

“Um, no, nothing officially from the library. I’m here to ask about the, er—” I scrambled in my inside coat pocket for the list. “It says Marjorie Millhone, eight low-light cameras with DVR.”

“It’s mill hone.”

Pieces of my brain broke loose and floated off into space.

“Excuse me?” Now you’re repeating yourself, fool.

“The name is pronounced ‘MILL-hone,’ not ‘mull-OWN.’”

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Coffee is a wonderfully emotional smell

That She is Made of TruthCoffee is a wonderfully emotional smell. It’s no wonder so many people won’t go a day without it. I love it, but I keep it in its place. A cup when I want the taste, not because I need the caffeine. An espresso when I’m doing something creative. Not that can’t-get-out-of-bed-without-it relationship most people have. Watching everyone I know acting like addicts hunting a fix in the morning concerned me. Maybe I like to be different.

Maybe I used to drink a pot a day and I’m trying not to go back there.

Spending time in coffee shops was my version of an alcoholic in a bar. Usually I met in a real restaurant or even the park. I’d been known to bring a spare sandwich in order to have a quiet conversation away from flapping ears in the next booth.

This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth. To read the whole story, get your copy here: That She is Made of Truth.

Barry, You’re Hurting Me

An excerpt from the first Jesse Donovan mystery That She Is Made of Truth which you really should read.

That She is Made of Truth

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies
— William Shakespeare

I should have listened to the bard.
— Jesse Donovan

After their 5th anniversary, he smiled less and stopped laughing.

After their 6th anniversary, he started talking less.

After their 7th anniversary, he started drinking.

After their 8th anniversary, he started coming home with lipstick on his collar and perfume that wasn’t hers lingering as he stomped through the living room and up to bed.

On their 9th anniversary, at what had become an annual torture session, he swore at their server and stormed from the restaurant.

She threw a handful of $20 bills on the table and ran after him.

… more … “Barry, You’re Hurting Me”

And the Winner Is . . . (What I’m Writing Next)

ocean-fenceIn my latest newsletter I asked for input about which of these works in progress should get my attention after I finish A Still, Small Voice and Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle. (If you want in on stuff like this, sign up for my newsletter.)

  1. The 3rd Irish adventure — From the Fog (follows Through the Fog and Into the Fog)
  2. A 3rd Phil Brennan mystery — A Short, Sharp Shock (follows A Long, Hard Look and A Still, Small Voice [not yet published])
  3. More scifi/adventure — another Jake Calcutta (follows Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle [not yet published])
  4. More Jesse Donovan (follows That She Is Made of Truth)
  5. The Village Id — a witty cozy mystery set in a small English village filled with quirky characters; very P. G. Wodehouse. Check out the 1st chapter.
  6. Coming of age story — a young teen’s life is disrupted when his family has to move in with relatives; he turns to music for comfort
  7. Anacrusis (a mystery with a female lead) — A woman dumps her unfaithful fiancee and moves to a small town where two men amorously pursue her, while one of them awaits the life insurance payoff from the first wife he murdered.

… more … “And the Winner Is . . . (What I’m Writing Next)”

Look Back, Look Forth

A Look Back (at My Latest Book)

top-hat-arrivesWhen Lia London mentioned her penchant for writing Shakespearean sonnets on demand, after a brief exchange regarding the details she delivered this, the very first sonnet based on That She Is Made of Truth: … more … “Look Back, Look Forth”

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”

That She Is Made of Truth: Buy It Now

That She is Made of TruthIt’s done.

You can get digital preorders for Kindle or other ereaders. The print version will be ready soon and can be preordered here at my site.

Newsletter members will get one more chance to preorder That She Is Made of Truth at an even lower price than those special preorder prices. Sign up if you want in on the fun.

Introduction Excerpt Excised from ‘That She Is Made Of Truth’

This is the original prologue to the first Jesse Donovan mystery, That She is Made of Truth. With all the changes in the book and the character over the past 3 years, it no longer fit. But like any good writer, I can’t bear to just throw words away. Like any good editor, I don’t see anyplace I’ll ever use them, either. So, how about here?

Yost-typewriter-Co-LdYou’ve heard all the stories about love and betrayal before. If you’re looking for a surprising new angle, prepare to be disappointed.

… more … “Introduction Excerpt Excised from ‘That She Is Made Of Truth’”

My Editor Makin’ My Book Better

You’ll want to sing that title to the tune of, um, something that fits. I don’t know what. I just know it’s better if you sing it.

polish-it-upMy editor, Tom Bentley, doesn’t just nudge my words into place. Line editing is important. His polishes my words from workmanlike to well done.

He also asks me hard questions.

… more … “My Editor Makin’ My Book Better”

Off to the Editor (After the Last Delay)

rollin' rollin' rollin'Yes, the book was “done” last Friday.

And yes, I’ve said it before: no art is ever finished, but at some point you have to be done.

Unless you’ve built a car with no brakes or a chair without legs.

My omission was less obvious, but still critical. I always run my manuscripts through a marvelous tool called AutoCrit before throwing them over the transom to Tom’s office.

… more … “Off to the Editor (After the Last Delay)”

Finding the Right Title

That She is Made of TruthWhen I started this book years ago, the title was anodyne (all lower case) and the lead character was Jake Calcutta.

And eleventyleven other things were different.

Everything’s changed; much adjustment to the story, which now features Jesse Donovan, instead of, well, the other guy.

Everything changed, but the title.

Until now.

The old title didn’t fit anymore.

Like renaming a child just before you send them out into the world, this is unsettling, but it’s still the right thing.

And so, the first Jesse Donovan mystery will be called That She is Made of Truth.