Meg Brown Mysteries

My very own work. Updates on all things Meg-ish.

Meg Brown #6 – Sampler

She spit a stream of bright blood onto a ragged porno mag. The girl on the page leered up at her in spite of the bloody film masking her faux ecstacy. Nasty, naked, and contorted for the camera, her grin was the classic textbook example of someone who didn’t actually feel what they expressed. Meg thought – or maybe just imagined – a glint in the girls eye that suggested approval so she saluted the girl with a full military snap that felt like it might take her arm off. She heard radio crackle coming from underneath the magazine: desperate voices through static, begging for her location. She pushed the magazine aside with her boot and bent to pick up the radio handset. Her ribs screamed in pain and almost stopped her short but her fingers kept brushing the antenna until she could snag it.

Somewhere off to her left, underneath what remained of a once sturdy coffee table, the injured whale let out a cetacean groan. He wasn’t going to be getting up any time soon, but she wanted to be ready if he rallied. Nothing in her body or head suggested weakness even though the pain was starting to build in bruised bones, rib, jaw, forearm, leg, pretty much every moveable part. She found a leg of a table – she wasn’t sure which table as they’d broken several and figured it would do the trick pretty well if the whale decided to move. Her pistol, taser and most of the steel bars of her new Sock Monkey Mittens of Wrath lay somewhere in the shipwreck flotsam of the cramped and destroyed living room. She didn’t feel like she could find them if she wanted to but that was alright. She had the table leg. If he moved it might be the end of him. Just the thought was enough to send a new burst of warm anger up through her neck and into her throbbing face.

She used the table leg as a crutch to lower herself onto the mangled couch. It was just about the only thing that was still intact but even that was debatable. The springs had given up ages ago. She sank onto it, weary beyond words, and spat another stream into the overflowing ashtray still sitting on the remarkably intact end table. She wondered if the tooth, which now seemed to fill her whole mouth, was actually coming loose or if it was just the jaw swelling up.

“You want to get up, big boy?” She said to the whale. He moaned again. She used to think whale song was sadly gorgeous. Right now it just made her want to club him to death with the table leg. “You want to try for round three?”

It groaned again.

“You are under arrest. You have the right to remain in pain. You have the right to an attorney and if he’s any good I will club him to death too. Do you understand these rights as I’ve explained them to you?”

Groan.

“Good. Now shut up or I’m going to tase you in the mouth.”

The radio crackled with an urgent nonsensical request for her location from the other members of the entry team. This time she managed enough strength to answer it.

“Brown here. Three doors south of target location. 10-20. Need assistance.”

She wiggled her bloody, broken fingers in what remained of the Sock Monkeys of Wrath. Elliot was missing one of his reinforced button eyes and one steel bar jutted through the stitching like a broken tooth or a dislocated vertebrae. Melvin was worse. He was her right hand and was missing both eyes and all the bars, his bright red mouth was a ragged mess of sweat and blackening blood, thankfully none of it was hers.

“Sorry guys. But good job.” She waved at herself. Her nails were shot. It would take all the kings horses and all the kings men to find a manicurist that could make them look like she hadn’t tried to claw a dragon to death.

“You too, Meg.” She made Elliot say. Somehow Elliot always sounded like a helium sucking duck with a head cold.

Her arms now felt like they weighed a ton, even so if he moved again she would find the strength. She didn’t know where – maybe a back pocket if she still had one. Just knowing that was good and it made her smile. The heat, and pain was made of nice, cleansing, rage that was slowly burning off and leaving her with exhaustion. She could already hear the team moving up the walk, radio chatter. In a second or more they would come crashing through the door just like she had a few minutes ago.

She grinned wide, bearing bloody awful teeth and felt better than she had all week.

This work is still in progress.

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Meg Brown #5: The Ice Cage (sampler)

“Come on. You know you’ve thought about it.” Meg said, as if speaking to the corpse at her feet.

“What’s that?”

She made a sharp gesture at the corpse with her forehead, bobbing her hair out of shape and forcing her to pull her already frozen fingers out of the pockets of her parka. Her partner, Albert Riggins, blinked stupidly at her as she swept it back into place, behind one ear and under the tight wool knit hat. He blinked stupidly at her, then blinked stupidly at the corpse and then blinked once more to hammer his idiotic point home.

Not getting the enthusiastic reaction she’d been expecting, she blew out a steady stream of crystalline steam at him then crunched her eyebrows together in childish frustration and tried the head gesture again.

Another dumb blink. It was as if he was silently saying ‘not only do I not know what you’re talking about but I’m not even sure what language you’re speaking.’

She made her famous look of somewhat feigned disgust (widely mimicked but never equalled in the Minneapolis Police department) and gradually sank down onto her haunches near the corpse. It lay on a gleaming sheet of ice inside a room made of polished transparent ice. Through the frozen translucent walls she could see the strobes from the patrol cars swimming weirdly through the competing densities of the ice. Brilliantly lit tents and the grounds of the nearby winter festival rode the surreal walls as if on a rollercoaster designed by a dedicated shroom addict.

She looked at the ruined face of the corpse.

“I’ll bet… that you were all of 7 years old the first time you thought of stabbing your brother with a sharpened candy cane. And don’t lie. I’ve met your brother,” She said.

“What if I told you I actually did stab my brother with a sharpened candy cane?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.” She shrugged. “What happened?”

“The tip snapped off.”

“A common problem with men.”

“It drew blood, though. I was satisfied. Until dad got home.”

“Guess that means a steady and cool hand must have done this.”

Blood pooled out from under the victim. It looked like he’d slipped on the ice with a bottle of merlot in his pocket, except for the very obvious fact that there was a candy cane jutting from his right eyeball. The remains of his cornea, if they saw anything, would see the striped crook hooking over his nose at an angle that was much much too close for comfort.

Four years at war, two walking a beat, two more in SWAT and approaching her first anniversary in Homicide had given Detective Megan Brown a complicated relationship with horror and gore. More than anything else, what bothered her about it all was how little she was bothered by it. Intellectually, she knew that the constant litany of grotesquerie would – and should – send the average citizen screaming helplessly into the night. But she’d been fairly young when she saw her first horror and she’d kept up a steady inoculation against it since. But it wasn’t just seeing, of course. The thing with awful things was that they were easy to frame in a box and take in by the eyes. TV was full of that stuff, which made her infinitely more horrified by Television than anything in real life. It was the everything else that got to you: the zero degree air stinging your cheek, the smell of the victim’s rancid aftershave, the vivid slickness of the minty green candy cane, the slight skew to the man’s heart printed, fire engine red bow tie. It was the way her hands were going numb from absorbing the cold ice as she tried to support her weight on it to get a closer look. It was the way she could hear the sounds from the festival dimly through the ice walls like something coming from underwater (and the thought that in one strange and somewhat silly way that’s exactly what it was).

Real people, the people she swore to protect and serve, had a right to freak out about the truly horrible. She made jokes. It didn’t bother her. Not much anyway. Sure, there was the occasional body mauled beyond anything recognizable that would have her angry on some level – knowing the type of person who would have to do something like that. But what really really bothered her was waking up alone in the middle of the night with the realization that she’d just seen something no human being should ever see and walked away from it clean, happy and – for the most part – well balanced.

Normal people could debate the ‘well balanced’ part amongst themselves.

He was somewhere in his mid forties, she guessed. He had an average complexion which had blanched a little in the frigid air of the winter festival but which also meant that he was tanning somewhere in the Minneapolis winter. It was the only way to keep a complexion looking average, particularly if you descended from the cities large scandinavian population – which the victim clearly had. He was somewhere between athletic and not, somewhere between tall and not with a 24 hour shadow on his mediocre chin down which some of the viscera from his eye ran like runny egg white before friction from his stubble impeded it. Just beyond the stubble were the still red, unmistakable traces of a recent razor shave. And yet the soft almost feminine quality of his bluing lips suggested a ridiculous averaging of gender along with the rest of his averages. A quick check of his finger nails showed they had been professionally polished and manicured.

“Another stabbing, Brown?”

She pivoted from her vulture like perch over the body and failed to shoot laser beams from her eyes at the speaker – an aging flatfoot who had taken, and failed, the detectives test so many times that parts of it had to be permanently imprinted on the insides of his drooping eyelids. The parts that were wrong, of course.

“Another stabbing, Zep?” She mimicked testily.

“What is that, four for you this year? You oughtta be an expert by now. So whodunnit?”

“Yer mom. In an elf costume. Go get her.”

She turned back to the body and resumed looking at the mans immaculate fingers and shortish fingers.

Officer Zeperelli hummed tonelessly in the doorway. One long note of dull impatience.

“Stabbed with a Candy Cane,” he opined in the same dull tone. “That’s gotta be a first.”

Meg picked up the stiffened fingers in her glove. They were hard to move without breaking. They hadn’t turned purple but bluish.

“Still,” Zep continued. “You should be able to get some DNA off the stem. Isn’t that right, Rig?”

Riggins shuffled around to the other side of the body.

“You been reading again Zep?” She said to the bluish fingers. “Didn’t that not work out too well last time? Stick with Juicy Lucy’s. That’s more your speed… And girth.”

A Juicy Lucy, in case the dear reader is not yet savvy, is a fairly large burger filled with molten cheese.

“I’m just trying to be helpful.”

“It would be helpful if you vacated my crime scene and make sure the guy who found the body doesn’t get the bright idea to go home or get baked or both.”

Meg was well known to be a little overprotective of her crime scenes. Even driving up to them she shuddered at the sight of the squad cars and frequently counted them, multiplying them by two to get a rough estimate of how many ‘helpful’ idiots had been at it before she showed up. Anybody who wasn’t a detective, and even some who were, was just another insufferable soul with the potential of making a disaster of things. A few months back she’d hit on a well chewed toothpick at a close range gunshot victim and followed that lead around for three days asking witnesses, acquaintances, relatives of the victim if they knew anyone who habitually chewed on toothpicks. She’d even subjected herself to godawful pickup lines at one of the victims favorite bars, looking for signs of the toothpick chewer. When she finally discovered that it was nothing more than a twenty five year old officer with a chip on his shoulder and a flair for the overdramatic she gave him a serious empathy for his well worn fetish in chewing him out.

“The next time you get a call about a body somewhere what are you going to do?” She’d said to him. He had a ‘pick in his hand and wriggled it around in his fingers the whole time. Every time he even shifted his hand to put it in his mouth she looked at it.

“Check the body.”

“Then what?”

“Stay away.”

“Right. And the next time you see me where will you be?”

“Not within eyesight, ma’am.”

“How far away is not within eyesight?”

“Fifty yards at least, Ma’am.”

“Fifty yards. And if you’re not the first responder what do you do?”

“Stay away.”

“Right. Stay away. If your sergeant asks why are you staying away what are you going to say?”

“By the orders of the primary detective, sir.”

“I don’t want to see you within fifty yards of a body unless you are that body, you get me Officer? If I come up on a scene and you aren’t riding the rail you’ll be riding a little jeep in circles around the university until you’re old and gray. You’ll be using those fucking toothpicks in a pyre to keep you warm in the winter. You’ll be working your autograph hand and flatfooting all of Dinkytown until you know when a goddamned leaf has blown out of place. If I come up on a scene and you happen to be hovering around a recently departed soul with that fucking pick sticking out of your teeth I guaran-goddamn-tee you I will use said toothpick to send you off to join the recently departed and you can personally explain it to them why the detective was not able to close their case. Are we clear?”

She’d done it during roll call. In front of the entire assembled shift. She guessed the officer nursed a fine hatred of her for that, but she’d been hated before. It wasn’t much once you got used to it and just a little more worrisome once the shooting started.

“Hey, Zep.” She said, throwing the old man a bone. “Who found the body?”

Zep sighed and eased behind her.

“Funny you should mention that. An elf. One of Santa’s own. Was sneaking off. She says for a cigarette I says to chief up but who’s counting?”

“She’s still around, yeah? I mean you got her somewhere where we can get to her?”

“Yeah. She’s cozy in the little bar tent.”

“Any word on when we can expect the M.E.?”

She was beginning to suspect something about the man’s injuries but was hoping to confirm time of death or at least nail it down a little. That, of course, would be no small feat given the temperature and the fact that the guy was – quite literally – on ice. Liver temperature wouldn’t mean much. Rigor and lividity would be a bit off too. But there would be something. An estimate at least.

Zep miked his radio and got an answer for her, happy to be helpful and glad that her venomous protection had lifted a little.

“Fifteen minutes Brown. He had another body over in St. Louis Park.”

“Homicide?”

“Exposure.”

“Elf, you say? Ooh. Wait till I tell Spike. She’s got a thing for elves. She’s been trying to put the moves on one in that new video game her girlfriend got her for Christmas. You know the one, Rig? Dragons and all?”

Riggins looked at her like a confused aging hound from his side of the corpse.

“Seriously. No fun at all. And Santa? Where’s he at?”

“You think he had something to do with this?”

“Don’t know yet but I’ve got a list for him. Naughty and nice – you know. That’s my job and all. Thank’s, Zep. Could you get the Evidence Tech’s in here? We’ve got to roll this guy and I think that might be a chore.” She finished over her shoulder and waited until he shuffled out.

“What are you thinking?” Riggins said when he left.

“I’m thinking the cane didn’t kill him.”

“I’m thinking you’re right. There’s no way anyone could stand still long enough to have a candy cane go through their eyeball.”

“‘Zactly. I’m thinking we need to talk to the guy’s ex. He hasn’t been divorced long by the looks of it. Either that or it’s been a long time and he just didn’t take the ring off until recently, which tells me there was some anger to it.”

“How do you figure he was even married?”

“Come on, Rig. You’ve been a detective how long again? Ring finger. Combine that with the tanning and the fact that he’s been tanned at least once after taking it off that says it’s been a week or so. So something pissed him off in the past week enough to take it off. But there’s something else wrong here.”

“What’s that?”

“Does he look like the bow tie type to you?”

“How am I supposed to tell what type he is?”

“Well. For starters it’s December. Not February. And if I’m not mistaken that’s a Valentines day tie. People who wear bow ties are generally very specific with their fucked up little seasonal bow tie neurosis. Makes me ill just to think about it.”

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Meg Brown #4: And Worms Have Eaten Them (sampler)

“So who do you have in there, Brown?” rasped her captain as he swept past her desk. He was in his late fifties with a friendly, crinkly face that was predisposed and prearranged for smiles and laughing. If he’d been much much larger he might remind someone of Santa Claus. Many long years ago he’d defined himself as a hippie and had followed around a long defunct semi-legendary 60s band whose members had lost a war of attrition against drug abuse. Eventually, his own unwashed nomadic stench got the better of him and he found himself married, living in the Cities and pursuing his liberal crusade for universal justice on a smaller scale. He made it hard not to like him, even if he did make you think he was one granola kernel away from being a high school history teacher.

“Mad Marjie.” She said, tucking Marjies casefile under her arm and standing up.

“You guys took a beating today, didn’t you?” He said through his history teachers mustache. Captain Bourke had a way of manipulating his facial muscles to convey a range of emotion that would have been enviable by any soap opera star. This time he had a mixture of kindness, sympathy and outrage that made sense only on the extraordinary canvas of his particular face.

Meg shrugged at him and threw an escaped strand of her blondish unruly hair out of her eyes. As far as a myriad of expressions were concerned, hers were less myriad and much more monochromatic.

“It’s the breaks, Cap. Fucking juries. What are you going to do?” She thrilled briefly with delight when he winced at her swear. “You could use them as target practice, though.”

Bourke patted her on the arm like a slightly uncomfortable little league coach after the star player struck out.

“Good attitude, Brown.” He said. “Shrug it off. We’ll get him next time.”

Meg had a sneaking suspicion that Jayson “J Rock” Barton would be gotten by someone else next time but she knew she didn’t have to say it.

Bourke gestured a thumb at the closed interview room door and opened the door next to it with his other hand. Meg took the hint and ducked into the observation room behind him. He dropped himself onto the bare looking bar stool in front of the closed circuit monitors and poked another thumb at the monitor for the neighboring interview room. Meg took a seat in the recently pilfered plastic chair next to his.

“So what do we have on her?”

Meg opened the case file even though they both knew she could recite most of it from memory.

“We’ve got damned near everything. Everything points in her direction.”

She laid out the case to him so far as they watched the camera.

They had four interview rooms in the Homicide office, though it was rare for more than one to be used at a time. They were all designed with the sort of comfort Soviet Gulag Prisoners would have thought luxurious. One chair per room in front of a bare table, the underside of which was a moonscape of discarded gum remains. The walls were carefully maintained to contain nothing even remotely interesting to look at. Each chair had had a stopper removed from one leg so that they were always slightly off balance. None of the rooms had windows and, in spite of a state wide ban on smoking in public spaces, evidence of repeated violation showed up regularly in small turds of ash on the floor, stubbed burns on the fake formica tabletop and the soaked in stink of generations of smokers getting a fix.

Mad Marjie had shoved the lone chair against the far wall, near the camera whose view they were seeing. She lay in a misshapen lump partially concealed underneath the table. One blazingly white and tattooed arm was tucked underneath her head as she slept and they could hear her loud snoring even through the usually terrible audio of the closed circuit TV monitor.

“Well she seems awfully comfortable.” Bourke said as Meg finished her summary of the case so far. “Is Rig coming?”

“On his way. Had to blow off some steam first.”

“Alright then. How do you want to play this?”

“I think I’ll be soft and kitten like. When Rig shows up we can switch off and he’ll be all ‘Grrr!’ and bear-like.”

“He does do that well.” Bourke agreed.

“And when none of that works we’ll just kick her till she coughs it up.”

Bourke didn’t react. He was a great guy but he didn’t always get her brand of humor. For him, every homicide was vaguely personal. His personal abhorrence of violence made each testament of it’s use an object of grave respect and determination. Meg didn’t care to think where he put all the emotional stuff when things didn’t quite work out right, but then again his unit had a stellar conviction rate so she didn’t have to worry too much.

Meg pushed herself out of the chair and made for the door but he stopped her with a hand on the shoulder.

“Brown. You know the J – Rock thing.” He started cautiously. “I really couldn’t be more pleased with the work you and Rig did on it. As far as I’m concerned you did everything right.”

“I know, Boss.” She said with a crooked grin.

“Well. When this is all done we’re heading over to the club. First rounds on me. That’s not a request.”

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Meg Brown #3: The Angry Birds (sampler)

Meg contemplated the mirror one last time. Or at least she hoped it was the last time.

She’d tried to do something with her sullen, limp blond hair but regardless of products or tools it refused to be anything but shapeless. She’d even consulted Spike, for reasons she’d never be able to fully explain to herself. But Spike’s idea of fashion was a flowery flowy sun dress over her old beaten desert combat boots with mangled and chopped hair that looked like it had been cut by a dull lawnmower or a woodchuck.

In the end her own sense of personal aesthetics battled to an exhausted draw with her desultory psyche and her natural inclinations took over. This meant the formal engagement she was to attend would see her attired in her usual battered Justin cowboy boots, jeans, and a pretty purple summery blousy thing she’d bought specifically for the purpose. With her WWII musette bag acting as a purse she looked not a little like some hippies idealized version of a cowgirl.

She let out a long resigned sigh at her image in the mirror.

Spike sidled in behind her in the cramped bathroom. As always, she stood far too close.

“Mmm…” She said, appraising the same image. “Like a lollipop. Good enough to lick.”

“Knock it off, Spike.” She said, swatting her back a step. “None for you.”

“Can’t I just have one taste?”

“Not now. Not ever. But keep the commentary coming. I seem to have hit a dry spell in my love life.”

“I could fix that right up for you.” Spike said archly in her customary southern drawl.

Meg turned and wrinkled her nose at her.

“Too much?”

Meg nodded.

“Sorry. Sometimes I get a little carried away.”

Spike was one of Meg’s oldest friends. They’d been together through the war – literally – and two years ago Spike had traded her Georgia magnolias and spanish moss for icy Minnesota winters and a snow shovel. She was a devout lesbian. Since their early days in the Marines the particular object of her adoration had been Meg’s body, which flattered the mind that inhabited it but not enough to sway it’s innate sense of sexuality. Their friendship blossomed in the hothouse of Spikes always forthright expression of affection and it’s corresponding rebuffing, but it’s foundation was built of jokes shared in moments of sheer terror where jokes hadn’t been at all appropriate but desperately needed nonetheless.

“Why are you going to this thing, anyway?”

Meg slung the musette bag/purse over her shoulder.

“Masochism, remember? The same reason we joined the Marines.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I joined the Marines to meet girls. It was that or hang out at college cheerleading camp and they ain’t really my type.” Spike pretended to help her adjust the strap of the bag. “Isn’t there a case you could work on instead? A mystery to solve? We could get drunk over the file and see where it leads.”

As usual the pretense of help with the strap turned salacious quickly, but not that salacious. Spike wasn’t good at being girly or flirty, though she had heart and doggedly stuck at it in spite of physical handicaps that made such flirting look ridiculous. She was an inch over six foot, and had a gawky body that seemed to be all wrong proportionally. From a distance she looked like a tall woman, but the closer you got to her the thicker she seemed till she seemed like a sculpture made unskillfully by someone concerned with architectural soundness rather than proportionality. Add to that, the broad, board level shoulders capped off by her USMC tattoo and you had the perfect picture of feminine solidity.

“You could go with me, you know.” Meg said. “I could use someone to drink and make fun of people with. Almost everybody there thinks I’m gay anyway.”

“To your 20th reunion? Dude. I love you but you couldn’t pay me. Besides who’d take care of Dutch?”

As if on cue the giant curious head of Meg’s rottweiler peered curiously from around the corner of the bedroom. He swiveled his confused face at both of them and then trotted over to Spike as if she belonged there. Once at her side Dutch gazed at Meg as if confused as to who she was. Meg scowled back.

“Traitor.” She spat at the dog. The dog looked nonplussed and was rewarded by a healthy ear scratch. “I might consider sleeping with you if you came with me.”

“That desperate huh? In that case I’ll get my coat.” But Spike didn’t move. Instead, she took a seat in one of the kitchen chairs by the table where she sipped the preparatory pint of white wine Meg had poured for herself. Meg slid past the table and into the little passageway that led to the living room. She opened the closet opposite her bedroom, flicked on the bare overhead light and stepped onto the shoebox sized step stool.

“What do you think?” Meg said over her shoulder. “Glock, Baretta or Sig?”

“What about a SAW?” she replied. “Maybe a Desert Eagle? Maybe you should just go in your dress blues with all your ribbons and bells and whistles?”

“Well shit. I didn’t even think of that. Come on, Spike this is important.”

Spike came up behind her. She was tall enough that she had no need to use the step stool.

“Sweetie, It’s important if you’re getting coffee in Sadr. Besides those are all ugly. You should have one of those pretty guns. A nice pink Taurus or the North American Mini.”

“I hate pink and I hate revolvers.”

“Or wait. Maybe you should figure somethin’ a little less lethal…”

Meg grabbed the Sig and dropped it in her purse along with an extra clip of ammunition. The ensemble was complete. Spike backed out of the closet and into the kitchen to retrieve her pilfered drink.

Meg stood in the hallway and spun out her outfit for show. The dog snored on the rug by the old fashioned kitchen sink.

“How do I look?”

Spike took a long deliberate sip from the frosty pint glass, licking her lips when she was finished. Her large sad eyes poured over her friends outfit and the person inside of it. They lingered over her, nearly expressionless and distant as though Spike was looking beyond her into a past or a future that was just a breeze on her fingertips.

“Delicious.” She said. Meg stopped spinning and shot her the look – a darting glance from the corner of her eyes in an angled head, like she was taking aim with disapproval. Spike quickly revised her appraisal to ‘deliciously anachronistic.’

“So what are you going to do?” Meg asked looking at the rapidly emptying bottle of wine on the table. Spike filled her glass with the rest of it.

“Me an’ Dutch are going to drink ourselves stupid while blowing away zombies.”

Meg started to head for the door through the living room and past the chaotic wreckage of her valued but neglected video game system. It felt like pulling herself from something vaguely tragic, like a missed chance for sympathy. She stuffed the feeling inside of her like it was another piece of her outfit.

“Well don’t fuck up my high score or I might have to use the Sig.” She tried to say lightly.

“And I might have to tase you.”

Like all good Minnesotans she hung on the doorway for a moment and turned around.

“Are you going to be here when I get back?”

Spike cocked her wickedly wry grin at her.

“Naked in your bed, of course.”

“Right then. I’ll take the couch.”

 

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Meg Brown #2: Too Much Peace of Mind (sampler)

Something about the interior of the plane to Phoenix reminded her of images she once saw of abus in India clinging precariously to the thinnest possible ribbon of road above a beautiful river chasm. It made for a lovely view, particularly when it was destined to be your last.

Meg had never felt right about planes. She’d never been able to get over the feeling that they were little more than distended Campbell’s Soup Cans with creatively dissembled labels that made up the wings. She couldn’t get over the speed of them, skipping rapidly over millions of sedentary ordinary lives. In the time it took to listen to a fragment of a song on an ipod you’d skipped blissfully over the commutes that those below would be bitching about hours later. In the time it took to type a quick message on twitter you’d blasted past thousands of people heading in the same direction.

And yet she’d done worse. She’d flown to Iraq and back twice. She’d ridden in Armored Personnel carriers under fire with small arms fire pinging against the side. She’d clung to sandbags as artillery rounds stole the air from her chest. She’d taken a shotgun blast in her vest at close range. But in the end it was planes she feared. Planes which horrified her straight down to some untapped icy core under her ribs.

As the plane lurched again she raised a hand at the stewardess. She was pretty in the way that make men brutal, stupid, and dangerous and women much the same but for different reasons. She had blond hair capping a gorgeous but severe face that was perched atop long legs whose aesthetic structure was casually appraised by most of the male coach passengers. She was also a sadist. You could tell by the the way her eyes grazed vapidly over Meg’s desperate, outstretched arm. Meg wished she could say she’d shot people for less, but it wouldn’t have been true. Every person she’d shot, and there really hadn’t been that many, had completely deserved it.

“Have you looked over the case file yet?” her partner, Albert Riggins, nudged with his elbow. It made her jump a little which made her feel foolish. She brought her arm down quickly with a curse that settled gently over the entire situation.

“What’s to look at?” She snapped as she shoved the proffered file back at him with her elbow. “We’re not going to crack it. It’s already cracked. Just like this stewardesses head is going to be if she doesn’t take my drink order.”

The stewardess turned again in her direction toting a minuscule pillow that she seemed to have pulled from the stale air. She handed the pillow to a man in the second row who fought to get it adequately behind his neck. Meg’s arm shot up again. The plane lurched again, taking a portion of her stomach with it. The stewardesses long, fluttering lashes fell on Meg’s outstretched hand and fluttered away again just as quickly.

“Flight Attendant.” Riggin’s corrected. He had no excuse to correct her – being twenty years her elder and of an age where stewardesses still wore skirts.

“Can I shoot her?” She snatched the file from him.

“No.”

“What if I said I thought she was a terrorist?”

“I don’t think you’re even allowed to say terrorist much less call her a stewardess.”

Meg blew her hair from her face in disgust which only made it settle more completely in her eye.

“It was just the once.” She said, opening the file. “I didn’t know they were so touchy. I hope her boyfriend dismembered her cabbage patch kid before he was locked up. And what’s more I bet I could make a drug bust out of her. She’s clearly carrying some coke somewhere.”

“How do you figure her boyfriends in jail?”

“Well covered bruise on her wrist and another older one above her right temple. Tattoo on her left arm.”

“You can’t even see her tattoos. If she has any.”

“She raised her arm to get the pillow. I just caught a little glimpse of it. Bad quality. Looked homemade – prison ink style. She’s a tagged woman.”

Get the Full Story Here

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries, Writing Samples | Leave a comment

It’s Here! It’s Here! The NaNo has arrived – Week One

For a few weeks now I’ve been building up to this NaNo thing, right? Telling you all about my prep or lack thereof – in lurid and exaggerated detail and all that stuff. I’m sure it was very amusing and stuff. But all that fun aside it is now upon us. Bam. Just like that. Did i panic? Did i lose my marbles and go screaming into the night? Did I hide under the covers? Nay! I did not. I stood tall and proud and joined the fray like a true damned hero.

Okay. So I may have peed my pants just a little.

NaNo launched at Midnight last thursday. If you were up at that hour you probably felt the furious tapping of hundreds of thousands of keyboards all over the world. It probably sounded like a herd of pygmy goats. I was up. One of those little tappings was my own. Mine. My precious. I did 2000 words that first night which is off to a pretty nifty start if i do say so myself. And yes i did panic just a wee bit in the small hours before kickoff. I got that little nervous jitter in my chest that niggled at me and filled me with self-doubt. But then it started and it was all like “you got this?” and the steely eyed missile man inside glared down and said in his best Clint Eastwood impression: “Yeah. I got this.”Clint

Three days later and I’ve crested the 10,000 mark and things are still going strong. I think. Honestly, I wouldn’t know as I’m terrified of looking back at what I’ve already written. It feels like its working pretty well but almost immediately something popped up in the story that I didn’t expect: Meg sorta fell for the Los Angeles Cop she met in the opening chapter. It had been in my mind that that might happen, but I figured ‘it’s Meg, we’re talking about. The chances of that are fairly slim.’ and then it happened. That’s characters for you. You never can quite tell what they’re going to do until they do it and Meg is particularly that way. I love her a lot but it’s a ride writing her. Most of the time i just feel like I’m following along.

And once again I’m struck with what a weird magical mystery writing is and that’s what NaNo is really all about in my opinion. If there is one thing I want all NaNo participants to find it’s that word count doesn’t matter. Yeah, it’s great to have goals. It’s a moment of great joy when you hit that 50,000 and kick on the Queen and go strutting around your minuscule monastic cell but that’s secondary to all the moments in between. LIke everything else in life the journey is the destination. Don’t forget the little things. Like when you’re just writing along, grinding away and suddenly the giant puzzle pieces drop out of the sky and fill the landscape and you have that first gasp that everything might actually work out. Or that moment when you suddenly see your scene so well that you can hear the seagulls in the air and feel the breeze. You might not be able to write it but you know it and you know it’s there when you need it.

Those are the great moments. That’s why this is a blast and why NaNo is so cool. Not everyone is going to have those moments. You can’t engineer or create them. They just happen. You can read every pro writer tip out there and soak in hundreds of hours worth of boring lectures and never have that moment. But then one day you’ll be writing along – maybe in the middle of a word sprint and BAM! Like you just ran into something with your face and liked it.

I’ve been hearing an awful lot lately about how hard writing is and how you need to respect it and how it’s hard work and it will twist you into knots and no true writer can say they are a true writer until they learn to hate it just a little. Personally I think that’s bullshit. You’ve caught someone trying to make themselves sound more respectable because ‘who doesn’t hate their job a little every now and then? I’d be an asshole if I said the truth – that this is the only damned thing I have ever wanted to do and when it’s working its like angels singing.’ Are there rough times? Sure. But whatever.

Let’s put it this way: I remember the playgrounds of my youth. I remember transforming a pile of old tires into a tank, or a horse out on the open plain, the swings were like flying, that weird collection of splintery beams and chains was a pirate ship, or the back of a dragon. I remember nothing being what it was. Everything changed dramatically with the power of invention and imagination. Writing is the playground. A piece of paper or a blank screen turning into forests, space dragons, the Santa Monica Pier, the bridge of a starship. It’s the place where your own personal memory meets the kid in the adult – your imagination makes alchemy happen and it’s magic. But in order to let that magic happen, in order for NaNo to really live up to its full potential – you need to get that ego out of the way and just learn to surf the resurgent wave that is that resurrected little kid fighting it’s way back into the adult.

Anyway. That’s Day three of Nano. Now i’m heading back at it. Rig and Meg are about to interview an elderly criminal. This is going to be fun.

Post Script – Last week i wrote a teleplay involving Castle working through NaNo while trying to solve a case. As soon as i figure out a way to share it here i will. In the mean time, drop a line and ask about it or share ideas on how i might be able to share it. Cuz i’ve got nothing.

 

 

 

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Regular Thursday Mystery Blog – has been delayed.

IMG_0035Just a quick drop by to the blog this morning. I have been a pretty lazy jerk lately. Welllllll…… Sort of. I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve been trying to write. But I’ve also been trying to do something about those naked book covers I mentioned last week. As it happens, designing and drawing your own book covers can be a time-consuming endeavor. I sit down, twiddle around with it for a bit and WHOOSH! All my time is suddenly gone and I’m left kicking myself for not getting to the writing.

See? It requires a bit of a learning curve, as does damned near everything of course. So I have filled my ipad with wonderful little drawing apps which I tinker with. It’s so much nicer drawing on an ipad than pen and paper. Don’t get me wrong, I am – or was – old school and firmly held to my paper and pens and pencils and charcoals and all that stuff. Until now. The stuff that can be done quickly on an app is so much better and less brutally time-consuming. Even though it takes more time than I would like, it’s still better than sketching, re-sketching and then trying not to make a total wreck of things when attempting to finish.

So that’s what I’ve got. There will be a regular blog about mysteries tonight, of course. I’m not that far behind and I’m really in the mood to do some quality writing. But here, for your viewing pleasure, are the results of my work. Okay. So it isn’t quite finished. But it will be. Soon. What do you think? Do you think there should be some color? Where? Please post questions and comments in the appropriate box if you can find it. And speaking of that – does anyone know how to make the comment box more noticeable and less… tiny? On my own blog I have to hunt down the comment section. I assume (and hope) that others have had the same problem and just go away thinking ‘I see. He doesn’t actually care what I think.’ which is not true at all.

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Help Meg Plan A Wedding

No. Not Meg. She’s still happily divorced. Which leaves…yep. Spike and Kenzie. Stop by in the comments section (I read them all) and help plan out Spike and Kenzie’s wedding. If you don’t know the stories you’d best familiarize yourself with them before commenting. I can’t guarantee that anything you post will be used in the aforementioned story. I’m not even sure when the wedding will be coming up but I have big plans for the Meg series in the coming books. Big. Huge. And the wedding is just part of it. So wouldn’t you like to be part of it?

Chances are, if I like the ideas they’ll be scattered throughout the coming stories as Meg herself is (of course) going to be helping out with it. Whether she wants to or not.

I need everything, of course. Guest list: Do you want to see Spike’s folks? I’m not even sure they’d show up – maybe at gun point (that can be arranged). What about Angela? What about Emily? Should Riggins actually find a tux? Powder blue with frills? What sort of ring would Spike get her bride to be? Will she hint that Kenzie should get a globe and anchor tattooed on her arm?

What about the venue? Papa Browns horse ranch? The Walker Sculpture Garden? Nicollet Mall? Yep. Just let me know. I’m totally open to ideas.

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries | Tags: , | 4 Comments

A Funny Thing Happened…

As usual I have to start with a little TV thing. I know. I said i wasn’t going to. I said i was done. And then they dragged me back in! But it’s a short one i promise. Did anyone catch Boston’s Finest this week? I know, I know. I’ve been gushing a little bit about it. But here’s why: Did you catch Detective Twitchel searching the car? You should have. They made kind of a big deal about it. Did you see the way he was watching the suspect as he searched? Yeah. There was a lot of editing going on while it was happening, but where did you see that before if you’re a Tv Crime addict like me? Yeah. That’s right. The Mentalist. He does that ALL. THE. TIME. Apparently because the detectives he works with are way to wrapped up in their completely unfounded theories to pay attention to the things Jane does constantly. Or to observe.

I bring it up because we’re constantly bombarded with one-sided characters. Stereotypes. I think I went a bit off the rails with this a few weeks ago when talking about that shiny piece of prime time garbage, Golden Boy. TV Characters, as a rule, are contractually obligated to not grow or really learn anything. Ever. It must be pretty boring being a TV character actor – sticking your face into a cardboard cut out every day. I’m sure the paycheck makes up for it, though. I heard a story once where William Peterson was talking about his struggles with his show – CSI. He mentioned that Grissom is never allowed to smile. That sucks. How do you write that? I mean as writers we can’t have our characters be the same person from story to story, can we? They have to learn something. They have to live. Which is probably why TV writers are swapped out like disks on a CD player. Too bad for the actors though.

Personally I have a LOT to learn. Sometimes so damned much that it’s paralyzing. How do I grow this blog? How do I more effectively market my stories? What’s the brand name of a half way decent stylus so that I can personally design and draw cover art for my naked amazon stories? Yeah. They’re naked. Go look at them. See I’m a one man band here. So was Sisyphus. Well… maybe not a band… though I’m sure we could get a good rhythm going if we strapped some tambourines to his legs.

So I want my people to grow. They have to grow. How do they deal with the things that happen to them? The world doesn’t sit still waiting for the next episode to start. There are baseball games to watch, fight’s to have with your wife or girlfriend, pets dying, computers breaking, the little red-headed girl you see on the bus every day but can’t muster the guts to talk to. What do these things have to do with mystery writing? Well… what do they have to do with anything? Any character? You want to write? Learn how to act. Really act. Pay attention to the parts you already play and how you act in this or that circumstance. How did that little red-headed girl smiling at you make you feel when you were ten? How does it make you feel remembering it at 40?

In my unwashed opinion, understanding your own moments and such brings you deeper into your characters. You’ve already felt everything you need to feel to write. Even if you’re only twelve years old. All you need to do is put that into your characters. You don’t have to make their experience yours and frankly you can’t and shouldn’t. Do that and you become one of those pompous twits hanging out with your goatee and an au lait somethingerother bitching about how no one ‘understands’ your art. My main character, Meg, is an Iraq War veteran. I’ve never been to Iraq. I’ve never been to war. She and I have a nice agreement that I don’t even try to understand what that was for her. I don’t ask and she doesn’t tell me – except when it matters to the story and then it’s still with the understanding that I don’t try to get too deep into it. I don’t try to control it. When it comes to editing, and I can get away with it, that stuff is the first thing cut. In my opinion, your characters should be like that. They should be comfortable enough to lie to you.

Let them lie. Write the lie.

So that’s why this is called A Funny Thing Happened. A standard joke line. A lie. A funny meaningless story. But a story. And that’s exactly what all of this is all about. Telling stories. You can start any story that way. Hamlet: A funny thing happened on my way to murder my uncle. A Moveable Feast: A funny thing happened to me in Paris. Pretty much any mystery you’ve ever read: A funny thing happened to me while I was trying to solve this crime. The little red-headed girl: a funny thing happened to me on the bus ride to school. Vampire stories: a funny thing happened to me as I was trying to die. So it’s a bracket. It’s the plot. It’s the character. Who found it funny? What did they find funny? Was it actually funny?

And that’s the trick of it isn’t it? It isn’t always funny. But we try, don’t we? Even the story itself is making something out of nothing. Like an interrogation or a confession it’s about the end but it’s how you get there that makes it the end. And those moments are a stew of present, past, thoughts, reflections, rumination. It’s how we make those moments funny. It’s how we make the stories we tell ourselves – about ourselves – make us.

I once sat down – like an idiot – to write a vampire story. I pretty much loathe the whole vampire lineage of stories. I tend to think vampires are gradually overtaking pirates as the most over-used romance trope in existence. I blame Bronte’s Heathcliff for this. And Byron. Damn that Byron. Anyway. It’s here to stay, of course, and i wanted to have a go with it. So i started this character and gave him the usual back story and aged him at about 400 years or so and i sat back and looked at this feller and realized he was literally the most incredibly bored, uninspired wreck of a character ever. 400 years and here he was in an age where he couldn’t even be bored without someone thinking it was ‘his curse’. How many fatally colossal mistakes had he made that should have killed him but didn’t? I ended up coming to the conclusion that he wasn’t tortured or dark or anything – he was hysterical. Everything absolutely HAD to be a joke because only laughing it off was sustainable. Anything else was a sure-fire way to watch the sun come up.

A funny thing happened while I watched TV last night – I thought of the characters as they were presented to me – unchanging, cardboard, ignorant, and then I thought about what those actors knew about those characters that we slack-jawed viewers didn’t. And then I thought about what the characters knew about the actors who played them. Then I lost my mind a little bit and wrote a blog about it.

Categories: Deep Thoughts, Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Umm… A Few More Things? – A Review, A Seminar, and the end of the draft is in sight…

Alright. No laborious preamble tonight. Let’s get straight to it.

First – Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn. If you’ve been following this blog (and why aren’t you if you aren’t?) then you should know by now that my tastes in mystery and crime can be a little… random. Much like my taste in music, really. Anyway. Blessed are the Dead is a pretty good one I feel comfortable recommending. Nunn doesn’t go in for flashy sentences or sparkling paragraphs. She just weaves a fascinating little tale about a former WWII Veteran turned detective in South Africa circa 1952. The victim is a beautiful Zulu girl found on a hillside with no apparent injuries, which is really too bad because the Colonel in charge of the homicide was – of course – hoping for a flashy white victim to elevate his status before his big wedding day.

Politics and race play a huge part of this tight little thriller. And when I say politics I mean tribal politics. The way Nunn weaves together Zulu, Africaan and English prejudices is fascinating and vivid. Add to that mixture the desire for status and how to achieve it in various different and competing cultures and you have a fine stew of exotic interests meeting in homicide and intrigue throughout.

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is perfectly serviceable as a lead detective – driven by inner demons – that sort of thing. It’s a pretty standard back story for him really BUT in Nunn’s hands it’s a got a bit more zip than it has most other places mainly due to his mixed background, the accusation of being half black that nearly derailed his career, and the haunting Scottish sergeant who occasionally makes his spectral presence known. The real kick comes from Cooper’s partner, Native Constable Shabalala. Nunn wisely keeps her narrative closely focused on Cooper and his investigation but the presence of Shabalala is enigmatic, flitting here and there, toeing the line of apartheid rules, silently – and distantly – interviewing witnesses we readers will never be privy to except in his wonderful bits of exposition. We never really get to know Shabalala throughout the story but man did I find myself wanting to.

Anyway. If you’re looking for something a bit different with maybe just a tiny hint of fantasy to it I’d recommend Nunn’s work. Not that there really is any fantasy to it but with her sparse yet gorgeous descriptive flair it can feel somewhat fantastical at times and thrown in a ghostly Scottish soldier popping in now and then and… well…

Second order of business and this one is really exciting. I know I’ve gone on about the Writers Homicide School a few times already but that’s just giving credit where credit is due. I tend to do that when something has filled my head with more material than I really know what to do with. Well I got a bit of great news today that I can’t do anything with so I’m hoping one of you readers will be able to do something about it. April 27th and 28th the Writers Homicide School is coming to Knoxville, Tennessee! If you’re anywhere near the area, fancy yourself a mystery writer, or just have a hankering to get the real inside scoop on how it is from a real former homicide detective you can’t miss it. Oh and did I mention it’s discounted? Yep. If you reserve before April 11th it’s only $199. If that sounds like a lot to you… well… cough it up. It was worth it at the ridiculous price I paid – but then I did get a trip to LA out of the deal. And this one appears to come with EVEN MORE audience participation! Sigh. And I’m damned well going to miss it. Why? Because I’m heading back to LA at the beginning of April for another conference involving LAPD. Ah well…

But before I lament my pitiful state any further lemme just give you a little taste of what you’re going to get:

NEW FOR 2013! – By popular request and demand (threats by some even) I am now including practical exercises to the Writers Homicide School. We will be seeing blood fly in motion, doing some basic experiments and for those who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty, we will be doing some latent lifts with black powder too!

I mean seriously. How can you resist? I can only resist due to some fairly poor decision-making and a woefully empty pocketbook.

Anyway – head on over to the Writers Homicide School blog right now and find out more.

And finally, to toot my own little horn just a tad: Meg Brown Mystery #6 is almost finished in its draft form. It has a long way to go to be edited and ready for publication and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it when that happens (do I self publish again? Do I begin the long, arduous and aggravating hunt for representation?) If anyone has any suggestions I will happily take them. The big thing with this one is that I would like to donate the proceeds (whatever they end up being) to charity. I know. You just heard me say I’m not rich but I want to donate the book to charity. Well… there’s a good reason for it. First, I didn’t really write the thing for me to begin with. And second, I’d do the writing anyway. ‘Cuz that’s what I do. Full stop. It’s not like I’ve been paid riches before and work is work. You know you really mean it when you give it away.

If you haven’t read the other Meg’s please do. I’m pretty proud of them. Even if they didn’t have the benefit of a professional editor and all the good cheese that comes with a major publishing house. Here’s a link to all of them: Here. Don’t let the rather dire cover design fool you. I’m working on that.

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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