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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.

New Song: Every Happy Love Song

Every 3 months, I set aside time to write 3 songs. I wrote this one last Sunday.

joel_guitarseems like every happy love song sounds the same
them country singers are the ones I blame
I hear those pretty tunes of moons and junes and pretty soon
I’m hoping for a minor key and just a little misery

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I think those britpop singers are to blame
you know those tears will start so they can rhyme with broken heart
and I’m hoping for a minor key so they’ll politely disagree

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I’ll bet all those old jazz singers are to blame
you can bet their sorrow will still be around tomorrow
and I’m hoping for a minor key and maybe epic tragedy

why does every dance
involve taking a chance?
amazing that a light
can brighten up the night
and that star
down at the bar
is gonna go far

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
maybe those folky popsters are to blame
do they really think that girl will ever rhyme with world?
and I’m hoping for a minor key and lovers who are absentee

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I think I know exactly who to blame
I hear those pretty tunes of moons and junes and pretty soon
I’m hoping for a minor key and just a little misery
seems like every happy love song sounds the same

9 Ways You Can Help Support My Husband the Author

Sue L Canfield
Sue L Canfield
Because I’m not only Joel’s biggest fan but also his social media marketing manager, he asked me to share a few ways that you, his other fans, can support him as an author.

  1. Connect with Joel on the following social media platforms.
  1. Share Joel’s social media posts.
  1. Sign up for Joel’s monthly newsletter. Joel sends out a monthly newsletter about his mysteries the middle of each month. It’s the first place you’ll hear about his new books, even before they are published. It always includes links to his previous blog posts which are often short book excerpts. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter gets two free books. One is the first Phil Brennan book, A Long, Hard Look, (which, though each book stands alone, you might want to read before the second Phil Brennan book, A Still, Small Voice, comes out in December.) The other free book, since Joel forgot to remove the download for it and he’ll probably never get around to it, is Through the Fog, an Irish Mystery.
  1. Share the link to sign up for the newsletter. Remember, if you recommend the newsletter to a friend, you’re essentially giving them two free books!
  1. Subscribe to Joel’s blog. You’ll see at the blog in the left sidebar where to subscribe – it says Get new posts by email. Just put in your email address and never miss another blog post. Don’t forget to comment at the blog as well.
  1. Buy Joel’s books. You can find them at his website here and on Amazon.
  1. Buy a copy of one of Joel’s books for a friend who you think will enjoy it but hasn’t yet discovered his books.
  1. Review Joel’s books on Amazon. If you’ve read any of Joel’s books, please provide an honest review at Amazon.
  1. Send Joel an email. He loves to hear from his fans. Whether you want to provide feedback, ask a question, share how you supported him, or anything else, Joel would love to hear from you! His email is Joel@JoelDCanfield.com

Because authors are emotional creatures, and I know from experience this is especially true of Joel, supportive things like reviews at Amazon, comments at the blog, enthusiastic shares on social media and even personal emails help make an author enthusiastic about continuing to write. [And easier to live with.—jdc]

The Precise Location of Milford House, Iddington

Since you’re unlikely to consult a map, nor to find it if you did, I’ll waste a bit of ink placing Milford House properly.

While not precisely in the village, it had long been given resident status due to the enormous donations by its builder to the church. Tradition being what it is ’round here, it’s hardly surprising that, more than two centuries later, privileged status persists, despite the fact that the original benefactor died within a decade of building his grotesquerie, and the church long ago sold off the organ, expensive paneling, and gilt whatchamacallits. Since it no longer functioned as a place of spiritual enlightenment (though some in the village argued that it never had) the trappings seemed irrelevant, except financially.

That’s not especially helpful, geographically, is it? Perhaps this will help: head south from the village square, such as it is (apparently the founding fathers felt inadequate for a full square and opted for the three-sided version known elsewhere as a triangle) until you pass the last house on the left, and the last pub on the right. (Just watch for traffic from the former to the latter. It can be sudden and inconsiderate of the casual passerby.)

Now, passing the copse of birch, you’ll come to an enormous iron gate. An enormous ugly iron gate. Unless you’re better traveled than I, you will never have seen wrought iron so horrifically misshapen. Its designer had clearly asked its builder for something expressive of the modern era, which 250 years ago wasn’t a pleasant sight when translated to wrought iron. I could draw you a sketch, but I’ll save us both the weeping and ask you to trust my eyes: it is ugliness, captured for all eternity.

gate at Milford HouseNot just ugly, but useless. The gate is the only portion of the fence ever completed. My guess is that the iron-worker had a reputation to think of and packed his things off to a job which wouldn’t sully his artistic vision further.

There it sits, a gate, partly ajar, where it stuck so long ago no one alive recalls ever seeing it fully open, or fully closed.

The worn dirt path around the near gate post eloquently describes how locals have dealt with the gate from time immemorial. Or at least since the gate stuck, which might be the same thing.

Having done all these things; that is, started at the square, walked past the last house and pub, eyes sharp to avoid a trampling, and skirted the hapless gate, I thought I’d finish the journey, being only a dozen yards from the front door.

It seemed the perfect opportunity to finally test the head of my brass walking stick on the dense brass plate installed beside the door. I’d often thought of it, walking past the old pile, but felt one shade too silly at the thought of knocking on what I knew to be an empty home.

The solid rap and slight rebound were satisfying. Worth the wait, that was. Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

When you’ve lived in Iddington a while you’ll see what I mean.

The door opened in what I can only call a perfectly reasonable manner. No lurching. No timid peek-and-open. No fumbling with locks or latches. It just opened, as so few people seem to be able to arrange with their own front doors.

“Yes?” He proved himself as capable of standing as of door-opening. Just standing, without intent, subterfuge, or agenda.

I looked for an expression and felt as if I were looking at myself. It the ping-pong of conversation it was clearly my shot, and I took it.

“Yesterday in the post, I thought I saw a glimmer of sanity in your actions.”

“And you’ve come to stamp it out?”

Apparently my explosive laugh startled him. He stepped back, then regained his position at the door.

“No, not at all. I’ve come with a bellows to inflame the village with the stuff. There’s been precious little sanity here for decades.”

He eyed me. I can’t say how, precisely, he eyed me. It took me years to read the tiny signs even his face couldn’t hide.

“Best come in, then. Obviously no point standing on ceremony in these parts.”

“Excellent. No point standing, period, if you can sit.”

He stiffened slightly. Not that his face changed, but the swing of his hand to open the door hitched ust a little; the twist of one foot to step away paused ever so slightly before continuing.

“Yes. Well. Perhaps. This way.”

He stepped back from the door, and I stepped into a room full of packing crates, boxes, and the natural detritus of movers and moving.

“Go straight on through.”

Straight on through meant, as far as I could tell, toward the bright light coming from an open door between uncurtained windows, two rooms away.

I could feel him behind me and didn’t pause to look at the labels and scribbles on the boxes. Head down, I marched straight on through like an obedient school child.

Outside the door, it took a moment for my eyes to readjust from crossing the darkened rooms. A table was obvious. Chairs were not.

He stepped around me and walked toward the steps leading down to the garden from the stone porch we stood on. Spinning as he’d done at the post, he stuck out a hand in what I can only describe as a childishly nervous manner.

“Pearce. Kenyon. That is to say, family name Pearce pee ee aye arr cee ee, given name Kenyon, which I shan’t spell.”

Taking his hand I opened my mouth but he cut me off. “No need, no need. I asked around after your performance in the post. My acquaintences in the city were quite clear who you are.”

“Ah. And yet you invite me into your home. How gracious.”

And for the first time, he actually smiled.

“Stuffing. Nonsensical. Writers aren’t all fools. You may yet prove to be in the minority.” And, after the briefest pause, “Perhaps.”

His handshake switched from tentative to firm, resolved.

Without letting go of my hand, he stood for a moment, face wrinkling around the eyes and nose, and then he laughed, a bright, hearty, right from the boots laugh.

Releasing his hand, it was my turn to step back, startled. Laughs are infectious things, though, and I couldn’t help myself but to laugh as well, even without yet knowing the punch line of the joke.

Despite the lifetimes of water under bridges, I can clearly pinpoint that as the moment the greatest friendship of my life began.

And just in time, I might add. Iddington was about to drive me nuts until Kenny dropped in.

Chapter 2 of a book I hope to finish next year, with the working title The Village Id.

Thanks for the fish, Mr. American Tourist

I had the urge to leave. So far Siobhan had done nothing but avoid my questions, drag me cross country, and rebuff my advances. What kind of relationship was that?

guinness-is-good-for-youI stood up. Checked my pockets. Yup, still had 45 Euro. Thanks for the fish, Mr. American Tourist, but I’m moving on. Time to be proactive.

I was so close. So close to finally being smart. Or, close to smart finally doing me some good.

I hadn’t even seen them come in; I was getting comfortable in my environs and not paying attention, or maybe I was so focused on deciding whether Siobhan was dangerous or not that I didn’t have the mental energy to watch for other enemies, if they were enemies.

“Dr. Martin, please, don’t go yet. We should talk.”

The speaker couldn’t have kept me there if he’d wanted to; he was the second smallest man I’d met in Ireland, after the ex-Mr. O’Quinn. His compatriot was another matter. A giant, in acres of Armani, he had me sitting back down and slid against the far edge of the booth as if I hadn’t existed.

The big hard lump in his pocket had smacked my elbow hard enough to hurt. A big metal lump, not even in a holster. Sloppy, but probably effective.

I decided not to go yet. I didn’t decide whether we should talk.

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon or just sign up for my newsletter and get it free.

asleep fall

a poem

and, overnight, fall
fall the leaves
fall the mercury
fall the crisp carpeting dead to begin the blanket
fall asleep
fall the snow another blanket to hide beneath
to lie beneath
what lies beneath
is falling
asleep

snow-window-sue

I searched for the word mercury to see if I’d posted this poem here before. I didn’t find it, but I found an amusing bit I wrote about the end of the universe, inspired one morning as I tried not to listen to the feed mill 100 yards up the street from our home in Wisconsin.

Hole in His Chest

His habit was to pop out of bed the instant he awoke. Today it felt good to lie there, eyes closed, sun glowing through the window onto the bed.

bedroom-dark-light“Know what I want to do today?”

The room was silent.

She’s still sleeping, he thought. Lazybones.

He rolled over to put his arms around her, knowing she’d open one eye, give him the grumpy face, then snuggle into his chest.

Her side of the bed was empty.

He opened his eyes.

Properly awake now, he threw himself down on her pillow.

His wounded animal cries made no difference. He’d done this every morning since he’d been able to sleep again, and it made no difference.

She was still dead.

Special Opportunity for Newsletter Members (And You)

Jake Calcutta and the Temporal LisleThis month’s newsletter went out two days ago and included a special offer/request for help with my science fiction adventure work in progress, Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle.

If you’d like to hear about that opportunity, sign up for the newsletter before next Wednesday’s blog post (the date will be November 23rd) and I’ll resend the info, just for you.

Waking Up on the Couch I Can Hear Someone Upstairs

shadowy stairsI climb the stairs, avoiding the few creaky ones I’m used to avoiding coming down. Soft-soled shoes help, but I know whoever is up there will hear the slightest noise.

Every time they rummage, stumble, make any noise, I take an extra step. My slow climb is taking minutes that feel like hours.

I miss, or rather, don’t miss, one of the creaks. The noise above stops abruptly and a figure dressed in black appears at the top of the stairs.

My assailant, male I think, rushes me, probably trying to push me backward down the stairs.

I quash the instinct to fight back. Instead, I drop to my stomach, arms flailing above me.

I catch an ankle.

Then I catch a knee in the back as he tumbles over me.

By the time I turn and scamper back down, he’s lying motionless on the floor.

Before I even check for a pulse, I pull the ski mask off his head.

It’s more of a shock than when I first realized someone had broken into my home.

Finding that pulse matters now.

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.

On the Eve of My Daughter’s Wedding

Five weeks ago, I was one of the most important people in her life. Now, a near stranger is the most important person in her life, and I’m barely a part of it.

It feels like death. It feels, inside, exactly the way it felt when my father died.

I know that, one month ago, she left, and she’s never coming back. She’ll go away and be part of someone else’s life, and we’ll see her now and then, but she’ll never really be back.

After all the years of stress and frustration and countless hours of worry and talk and tears, someone else gets to have the almost adult we created, and we get an empty hole.

It’s not fair and it hurts, and all anyone else sees is the angry whining selfish old man. Someone is taking one of my most precious possessions, and doesn’t even seem to care how I feel.

I’m scared and sad and lonely. I’m heart-broken over the projects we’ll never finish because she’ll go away and be part of someone else’s life instead of mine.

It’s not anger. It’s pain. That sound in my voice; the look on my face.

That’s my heart breaking.

bride

Anyone After Audio?

Audiobooks are hugely popular.

I, on the other hand, can’t listen to a book. I have to hold it in my hands. Much prefer print to digital, but even digital is better for me than audio.

microphoneYou might not be me. Yes, I checked. You’re not me.

Are you interested in audio versions of my books?

I have my own recording studio. I have 45 years of training in public speaking and reading just the way an audio book should be read, so I have the wherewithal.

I’d enjoy doing it, and probably will, just for fun.

But is it worth bumping it up on the to-do list, get it done sooner than later?

After all, giving to you is one reason I write.

blue sky over a white house

blue sky over a white houseblue sky over a white house wind blows waving trees above a green yard where something doesn’t move doesn’t move at all until slowly slowly one arm reaches up to his head it’s a man is he hurt I can’t tell slowly he rolls on one side birds chatter in the tree then fly off to the wire between the telephone poles who has a telephone that needs wires anymore but that’s what we call them isn’t it he’s up on his knees now and I can’t tell if he’s hurt or drunk or decided to sleep under the stars except he’s not under the stars he’s under the tree in the green yard under the waving tree and the wind blows in the blue sky over a white house

There’s no fair law that says I have to let friends die

gardai-barracks-sign“Siobhan, we can control this. We can make sure it doesn’t get out. We’ll make it right.”

She kept her eyes on Fearghal as she answered me. “You can’t make it right, Web. You’re breaking the law to give him that map, conspiring with a criminal like him. I know, I know, it’s not how you mean it. But I’m home again, and I have obligations that go beyond what’s personal.”

I felt like I was going to throw up. She was supposed to be on my side. I know about rules, I follow them all the time. I obey the law, really I do. But I don’t let friends die because of it. There’s no fair law that says I have to let friends die.

This is an excerpt from Into the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

Lunch Note

lunch“What makes you think she’s in trouble?”

“I knew you wouldn’t take me seriously.”

“Not saying that. I need the lay of the land before I take the case.”

“Just because I’m not old enough to drive—”

“Hey, age has no bearing on whether someone needs help.”

“Or tells the truth.”

“That, too. People of all ages lie to me. People of all ages get confused about people they love. People of all ages come in here and tell me all kinds of stories. I pepper them with questions like I’m doing right now, and if I don’t like their story, they can take it somewhere else. So like I said, age has nothing to do with it whether I’ll believe you, or take you seriously, or take the case even if I do. I still need to know what makes you think she’s in trouble.”

“She packs my lunch for school every day. Writes me notes.”

“This is not surprising.”

“Wait, I wasn’t finished. This is the note I found in my lunch today. Read it.”

“He’s going to kill me. Get help.”

Nothing But Stars

The blue-grey clouds squished over the rooftops down the road as I warmed my hands on my mug of darker-than-clouds coffee. A good night’s sleep would have been nice, thank you very much, but no, I got to bed early, tossed like a fish till all hours, then awoke, twitching and wild-eyed, at 3:13am. I’m not superstitious, so twitching awake from a nightmare to my WalMart digital clock displaying the usual number of disasters followed by the unluckiest number didn’t bother me at all. Not one bit.

bluegreyclouds

When it’s black night out here you can’t see the next house, a hundred yards up the road, unless Mort is going fishing and he’s up early. Otherwise, new moon like this, you see nothing but stars until the sun oozes up over the hills behind my cottage. Then, the stars are there one moment, gone in a blue-grey haze the next.

Except that was all in my imagination, of course, what with the thick dark cover of clouds. It would get lighter. It would not get sunny.

Matched my prospects for the day.

I swallowed the last of the lukewarm brew in my mug and went upstairs to shower, shave, and dress for my last day as an outsider.

Big Launch for ‘A Still, Small Voice’

A Still, Small VoicePhil Brennan mystery #2, A Still, Small Voice, will be published before year end. After the 1st of the year I’m going to go on a blog tour, writing short custom pieces for a handful of bloggers who’d be a good fit for my style of writing. There will be lots of free copies of the digital version and as many other surprises as I can muster.

If you are, or know of, a blog that would be a good fit, please let me know either in the comments or by email to joel@joeldcanfield.com if you’d be so kind.

More to Come

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Unglamorous Detecting

toiletsignI’m sure every profession is less glamorous than outsiders think. Except accounting. Accounting can’t possibly be less glamorous than it seems.

Sleazy employee I was keeping an eye on lived in a dump and walked everywhere, which meant I got to drive a piece of junk rental car and sit in a frankly frightening neighborhood so I know all his comings and goings. The dumpiness of the area also meant that popping down the block to grab a quick bite or use a clean bathroom was out. Yes, you can use the bathroom and not miss a guy leaving his apartment, if he walks everywhere.

But if there’s no bathroom, you do what you have to do. It’s not pleasant but it’s the job.

After a few hours of slowly cooling black coffee and nibbles of a lukewarm burrito, nothing happened.

See what I did there? You thought something was going to happen. You’ll need to drop that attitude if you’re going to succeed at this game.

Because most of the time, nothing happens.

If this loser wasn’t lifting vital records during his janitorial shift at a prestigious research facility, prestigious enough to pay loads to get the dirt on the dirtbag, it wouldn’t be worth the waste of time.

As it was, any move he made could be worth millions. Could, in fact, mean lives.

So, I sat. I waited.

Nothing happened.

Nothing except the coffee getting colder and my attitude struggling to keep its head above water.

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.