Ready, aim, Kindle Fire!

Amazon.com says it sold more than 4 million Kindle e-readers in December, and I was one of the lucky ones who received a Kindle Fire from Santa.

I've played around with my new Kindle so much, I gave myself a pain -- aching neck and shoulders from hunching over the full-color screen. I've learned to look up occasionally and swivel my head around to keep from freezing up.

Already, I've downloaded mystery novels by Anthony Neil Smith, Paul Bishop, Ray Banks, Mark Terry, John Galligan and Reed Farrel Coleman. Most of those I got for free or at bargain prices.

(Blatant Self-Promotion: All my books are available on Kindle, most for $2.99 or less. Click here: http://amzn.to/cvTTMv. The Bubba Mabry mysteries remain 99 cents each, though the price is going up soon.)

My Kindle mania goes beyond reading e-books. I've got apps for Facebook and Twitter and Gmail, a slew of newspapers and magazines as well as The Associated Press and ESPN, music via Pandora, The Weather Channel, MapQuest, chess and Scrabble and Spider Solitaire. All in the palm of my hand.

I'd be interested in hearing what other apps are tops among Kindle owners. I'm sure I've only scratched the surface so far.

It's a beautiful day here in Albuquerque, and it's time to get outside and enjoy the non-virtual world. But I'll have my Kindle in my pocket.


Happy holidays!

May you all be with your loved ones this Christmas season, and may the new year bring you everything you desire.

We're delighted to be back in New Mexico this year, and to have both of our sons (who still live on the West Coast) here for the holidays.

I've taken the week off from work after finishing the first draft of a new Bubba Mabry novella. Rewrites to come after Christmas, as well as planning, reading, etc., for the class I'll be teaching at the University of New Mexico, which starts Jan. 18.

This week's strange career news: Got contacted by a young filmmaker in India who's interested in making one or more of my books into movies in Hindi. Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

My bestseller for December comes as no surprise: SANITY CLAUSE, a funny Bubba Mabry mystery set at a mall at Christmas. The e-book is only 99 cents from Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, etc. It's not too late to give yourself a little gift!


New shorts for Christmas

If you're a fan of short stories (or if you have such folks on your Christmas list), I've got some great recommendations for you.

Daniel Woodrell's "The Outlaw Album" continues the great work he's done in such novels as "Winter's Bone" and "Tomato Red." These are hard-boiled stories about hard-bitten people in the Ozarks and they're not for the faint of heart, but, dang, they're good.

The same goes for Frank Bill's debut, "Crimes in Southern Indiana," which is making a lot of "best of" lists for its unflinching look at small-town druggies and desperadoes. Donald Ray Pollock covers similar territory in "Knockemstiff," stories set in the "hollers" of rural Ohio. Pollock also has a new novel, "The Devil All the Time," which is dark and twisty and wonderful.

An older collection, but one of the best I've ever read, is "Welding With Children" by Tim Gautreaux. Bittersweet stories set in the South, often with little touches of laugh-out-loud humor.

Starting next month, I'm teaching "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" in the University of New Mexico's Honors Program. We'll read a terrific anthology called "Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories," edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian, as well as Eddie Muller's splendid "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir."

I just received in the mail a new collection called "The Best American Noir of the Century," edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. That collection will be the main text for a "New Noir" class next fall, along with selections from the Woodrell, Bill and Pollock collections mentioned above.

One reason I've focused on short stories lately is I'm trying to get better at writing them. E-books offer a market for short stories and novellas unlike any we've enjoyed before.

My current best-seller on Kindle is "Sanity Clause," a 25,000-word Christmas novella, which I can sell for only 99 cents.

I'm almost done with the first draft of my current project, a Bubba Mabry adventure called "Party Doll," and it's turning out to be a 40,000-word novella rather than an 80,000-word novel. And that, I've come to realize, is okay. No reason to pad a story to meet some editor's idea of what a private eye story should be. Instead, I'll self-publish it as a cheap e-book.

After all, lots of crime writers are doing brilliant work with fewer words than that.


Ho-ho-ho for the holidays

Holiday shopping is upon us again, and there's no better remedy than my Christmas novella, "Sanity Clause."

Bumbling private eye Bubba Mabry is hired to keep an eye on the Santas at an Albuquerque mall. This is harder than it sounds because Santa Claus has always given Bubba the creeps. Plus, he must suffer through mobs of greedy shoppers, shrieking children and Christmas Muzak.

When one of the mall Santas is killed, Bubba must solve the murder to salvage his shaky reputation.

"Sanity Clause" is one of Bubba's funniest adventures. I originally wrote it for an anthology of Christmas mysteries called "The Last Noel," but it's now available as an e-book for only 99 cents. How's that for an electronic stocking stuffer?


Cannabis, crime and THE BIG WINK

My crime novel THE BIG WINK is looking more and more like a snapshot of history. On Tuesday, the City Council in Redding, CA, voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, effective Dec. 1.

I wrote THE BIG WINK while we were living in Redding in 2009. It was a wild time in Northern California, with everyone jumping on the medical marijuana bandwagon while the feds looked the other way. Thirty dispensaries opened in the city, and thousands of people got medical recommendations that allowed them to legally smoke pot. Everyone, it seemed, was scrambling around, trying to find a way to cash in on the Green Wave.

Perfect setting for a crime novel. Into this mix, I introduced a crew of robbers led by hardened local criminal Ray Bunch. My fictional gang knocked over half a dozen dispensaries, stealing cash and weed that could be resold on the street. But during one hold-up, a prominent banker gets shot. Suddenly, the news media, the cops and advocates on all sides of the cannabis issue are focused on Redding and the robberies.

I'm very proud of THE BIG WINK. I think it's one of my best novels, and it's garnered five-star reviews. But soon it may no longer reflect the real world. If the City Council's ban holds up against the lawsuits to come, the dispensaries will disappear and potheads (and legitimate medical users) will go back to buying off the street.

Read the news story here. And, please, read The BIG WINK. Only $2.99 on Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book platforms.


Whoa, it's NaNoWriMo

Good luck to all of you who are participating in National Novel-Writing Month, and keep on cranking out those words. Remember, you can always fix them later. When is National Novel-Editing Month?

I've never done NaNoWriMo, though I'm coincidentally working on a new novel as it gets under way. I started writing a new Bubba Mabry novel, PARTY DOLL, on Oct. 13 and, after some stops and starts, I'm up to 12,500 words. NaNoWriMo participants try to do 50,000 words during the month of November. That would be a good goal for me, too, but we'll see how it goes.

It's been a lot of years since I wrote the last Bubba Mabry adventure, MONKEY MAN, which came out in 2006. But Bubba's "voice" isn't that different from my own, and I've found it pretty easy to slip back into his skin. In PARTY DOLL, he's searching for a missing stripper who goes by the stage name Joy Forever. Because this is a Bubba book, things go horribly wrong. . .

I'm planning to publish PARTY DOLL as an e-book. Look for it sometime early in 2012. In the meantime, the other Bubba Mabry stories are available for 99 cents each on Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, etc. Enjoy!



I'm always delighted to announce the publication of a new short story. I haven't written that many over the years (the novel being my comfortable preference), and usually only produce short fiction when asked.

That was the case with this new one, "Surf City," which I wrote for my pal Brian Thornton, editor of WEST COAST CRIME WAVE, the new anthology from BSTSLLR.com. Brian asked if I had a West Coast mystery to contribute, so I wrote a story set in Santa Cruz, CA, where Kel and I were living at the time. (That's "our" beach in the photo.)

In "Surf City," a body washes up on a Santa Cruz beach with what appears to be shark bite wounds. As panic spreads, police Det. Kevin Brommer suspects a hoax. It's a fun story, and I hope you enjoy it.

The anthology also includes stories by such favorites as Terrill Lee Lankford, Simon Wood, David Corbett and Steve Hockensmith. I look forward to reading them all.

For more info about the other anthologies in which I've appeared, go to http://www.stevebrewer.us.com/.


Check out this Q&A

Author and book blogger Sean Patrick Reardon has discovered my crime novels, and he really likes them. He wrote about them on his blog recently, and today he features a Q&A with me. He asked good questions, and the answers are full of information about my latest books and upcoming projects.

Click here to read it.

Thanks, Sean!


Work, work, work

Now that we're fully relocated in Albuquerque, it's time to catch up on the paying work. Lots to report:

I'm busy promoting the three novels published in the last few months -- CALABAMATHE BIG WINK and LOST VEGAS. Those novels and FIREPOWER, which came out a year ago, are $2.99 each via Kindle and Smashwords. All my other crime novels, including the Bubba Mabry series, have been marked down to 99 cents each. More info here.

Debuting next week is a new online anthology called WEST COAST CRIME WAVE, which includes my short story "Surf City." More about that this weekend.

I've started sketching out a new Bubba Mabry novel (working title: PARTY DOLL. What do you think?), and will begin the first draft soon. Plus, I'm bouncing around some screenplay ideas with a Hollywood friend. Nothing we can talk about yet, but lots of potential.

Now that we have a functioning mailing address, I'm again accepting manuscripts for editing and polishing. Albuquerque is a much bigger market for the one-on-one coaching I prefer, but I also take in manuscripts from afar for $3 a page. For more info, e-mail me at abqbrewer@gmail.com.

Lots of other reading to do, too. I'm teaching "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" at the University of New Mexico in the spring, and I haven't taught that class in nearly a decade. Time for a refresher course. I'm looking forward to being in the classroom again.

All this, and getting reacquainted with our New Mexico pals, too. This autumn promises to be busy and rich.


Resettled in Albuquerque

We will now end radio silence and report that the Brewers' move to New Mexico has been a success. We're unpacked and put away, so it looks and feels as if we've been in our new house much longer than, um, five days.

Our house overlooks Summit Park, in a leafy neighborhood north of the University of New Mexico. Within walking distance of both Nob Hill and UNM, where I resume teaching part-time in January. The place is exactly what we were looking for.

Albuquerque's been hit with some big thunderstorms this week, and it's clear our arrival has ended the drought. You're welcome, New Mexico.

Other truly New Mexican treats: incredible sunrises, green chile chicken enchiladas, a roadrunner bobbing around in our front yard, and the International Balloon Fiesta filling the skies with hot-air balloons. The Land of Entrapment certainly knows how to welcome its own back home.


Another excerpt from LOST VEGAS

Here's another sample from my new crime novel. The start of Chapter 2:

>>Nick Papadopoulos couldn't concentrate on what Lola was saying. A fluorescent light above their corner booth was dying, and the buzzing and flickering drove him crazy.

The whole damned casino was falling apart. The interior hadn't been updated since the Starlite was built forty years earlier, and it still looked like something out of "The Jetsons." Contoured booths and lollipop chairs and light fixtures shaped like Sputnik. All very cool in the days when Rat Packers in sharkskin suits stopped in Fowler, Nevada, for "one night only" shows on their way to Las Vegas, but dated as hell now.

The Starlite already felt like a retirement home for astronauts when Nick took over as managing partner eight years earlier. Since then, he never got far enough ahead to pump any money into renovations. Just limped along, year after year, while his more up-to-date competitors siphoned the traffic off Highway 95.

You'd think any damned fool could make money running a small-town casino, but profits were eaten up by repairs and taxes and payroll and payoffs and the percentage raked off by the Mob. Nick could make more dough (and suffer less indigestion) in some other kind of business, but how would he tell Roberto "Bobby Crabs" Calabrese he no longer wanted to be his front man?

Nick suspected that Bobby had known the Starlite was a dud when he offered the partnership as payment for services rendered. Nick had eliminated several protected rivals for Bobby, so the mob boss could step up. After he was comfortably in place as a capo, Bobby suggested the time had come for Nick to pursue another line of work. The Starlite's manager having recently met his unfortunate demise (thanks to Nick), Fowler seemed the perfect place to start a new life. Bobby had insisted that a share of the Starlite was a better long-term investment than a simple cash payment, and even a tough guy like Nick Papadopoulos had known better than to argue with Bobby Crabs.

Looking around the outdated casino now, though, Nick thought: I should've demanded the fucking cash.

"Nicky!" Lola's voice sliced through his recollections. "You're not even listening to me."

"Sorry, hon. I've got a lot on my mind."

She was moving into a full pout. Christ, she had the lips for it. Nick wondered once again about the transplanted fat pumped into those lips. Every time he kissed her, he had the niggling feeling he was smooching someone's ass.

Lola admitted having "some" work done, but she wouldn't reveal details of her plastic surgeries. In the bedroom, she kept the lights low. Like it mattered. Whenever they were in bed together, Nick wasn't hunting for microscopic scars. That would've been quibbling.

Lola Cantrell had the face of a co-ed (granted, one who was awfully fond of cosmetics) and the curvy body of a stripper, tucked and inflated in all the right places. She was pushing forty, but she remained as firm and ripe as a fresh grape.

Nick, meanwhile, was speeding through his fifties, going to flab, silver sprinkled through his thinning black hair, his face etched with worry. Sometimes he could hear his own heartbeat thudding in his temples, like he was listening for it to stop. He should be taking it easy, putting together his retirement portfolio, pursuing a mindless hobby. Instead, he's sitting in the Starlite Casino at midnight, smoking Winstons and drinking whiskey, listening to this blow-up doll give him grief.<<

Now available for only $2.99 at Kindle and Smashwords.


Sample my new heist novel

Here's the opening of my crime novel LOST VEGAS:

>>Tony Zinn's attention wandered during the heist.

This was supposed to be the big payoff -- quick-cut scenes of the robbers in action, their plan coming together right before the audience's eyes -- but Tony thought the movie was bullshit. Another improbable thriller in which nobody gets hurt, the crooks have hearts of gold and the crime somehow settles an old score.

In real robbery, there's one motivation: Desire. Somebody has something and somebody else wants it. Wants it so bad, he's willing to take it by force. He pulls a gun and the item changes hands. Simple. Quick. All the clockwork complications with computers and nightscopes and grappling hooks? That's show business.

The bullshit factor was even higher in the theater next door. It was Memorial Day, which meant opening weekend for the annual special-effects blockbuster starring BadgerMan. Damned movie had been so loud, Tony heard the explosions and car crashes through the wall. Huge turnout for BadgerMan, lots of people willing to hand over their hard-earned money for two hours of superhero fantasy.

Only a handful watched the heist movie, which ended predictably with the handsome robbers standing around the loot, showing off their cleft chins and golden hearts as they shipped the money to charity or some damned thing. As the credits rolled, Tony tucked his chin into his leather jacket and sank lower in his chair, trying to be an inkblot of black clothes and dark curly hair.

The sparse audience hustled out and the house lights came up, but Tony watched the credits, wondering for the hundredth time what a "gaffer" was, or a "best boy."

He stayed in his seat until the music stopped and the movie reached the copyright date at the end. Then he stood and stretched and looked at his wristwatch. Nearly midnight. Last late show finally over, the theater would now close for the night.

He ambled over to the fire door, where a green EXIT sign glowed. A taste of cool night air as he swung open the door, then Tony stepped aside to let three men enter. Two were wiry guys of average height – five-nine, five-ten, a few inches shorter than Tony – but the third was a beefy three-hundred-pounder who had to duck to keep from hitting his head on the doorway. All three wore red motorcycle helmets with black face shields, gray coveralls and white rubber gloves. One of the men carried an extra helmet. As he handed it to Tony, Ross Cooper said, "How was the movie?"

"Same as always," Tony said. "The good guys won."

"Aw, you always give away the ending."

Tony slipped the helmet onto his head, the black visor dimming his view like sunglasses.

The other three produced stubby revolvers from the pockets of their coveralls. Tony pulled a fearsome old Browning Hi-Power 9mm from inside his biker jacket. He thumbed off the safety, and said, "Let's do it."<<

Only $2.99 via Kindle and Smashwords.


How I published 3 books in 3 months

My E-book Empire is complete -- for now -- as I've published LOST VEGAS, my latest crime novel, on Kindle and Smashwords.

LOST VEGAS is the story of a casino heist, but with a twist: The casino owner hires the robbers to rip off his establishment. Just when it looks as if he might get away with it, another small-town casino owner and his giant Samoan sidekick jump into the fray. LOST VEGAS is an action-packed thriller with lots of humor mixed in, and I think you'll love it. Only $2.99!

LOST VEGAS is the third original novel I've self-published this summer. Here's how that happened:

My agent had been shopping my manuscripts around New York the past few years, but having no luck in the ever-shrinking market. I optimistically kept writing away, and developed a backlog of unpublished material.

A year ago, I dipped my toe in the e-book waters by publishing a quirky hitman thriller called FIREPOWER. It was well-received, and the process taught me how to load books to Kindle and Smashwords. Soon, I secured the rights to my backlist and re-published all my earlier work as e-books.

This summer, I got tired of waiting on New York, and I asked my agent to reel in the submissions on LOST VEGAS as well as my novels THE BIG WINK and CALABAMA. While Kelly and I have enjoyed our foggy summer in Santa Cruz, we've also been busy publishing these books -- I did the proofing/formatting, and she did the cover art.

Self-publishing allows us to get books to market quickly (THE BIG WINK, with its medical marijuana storyline, is particularly timely), and to charge less for them. These novels are only $2.99. From each purchase, I earn about the same as I'd make on a $24 hardcover. And no trees died.

I haven't given up on New York publishing altogether, though my faith has been shaken. My agent is currently shopping around my latest manuscript, A BOX OF PANDORAS, and I hope some publisher picks it up. But if that doesn't happen, I'll happily publish it myself.



Kelly and I are moving back to Albuquerque, NM, at the end of the month, and look forward to getting reacquainted with our many friends there.

We've found a wonderful house near Summit Park, within easy walking distance of the University of New Mexico, where I'll be teaching part-time, beginning in January. I taught in the Honors Program at UNM for several years before we moved to California in 2003, and they've welcomed me back. I'll teach "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" in the spring semester.

It's difficult to leave our oceanside cottage in Santa Cruz, CA, but we'd come here with the idea of spending a Year at the Beach, and the year is nearly up. I've done lots of work while we've been here (launching the E-book Empire and writing a new novel), but the whole year felt like an extended vacation. Just the break we needed.

Looking forward to New Mexico sunrises (no fog!), and spending time with family and friends.


New site for book news

Over on Facebook, we've created a Steve Brewer author page where you can get my latest book and publishing news. Check it out at www.facebook.com/stevebrewerauthor.

The latest posting there is the cover art of my upcoming crime novel, LOST VEGAS.

All you Facebookers please go "like" my author page. Thanks!


Can't top reality

There's some pretty broad comedy in my new crime novel THE BIG WINK, which explores the medical marijuana industry in far Northern California. But I didn't dare write a scene as outlandish as this:

This weekend, in Oakland, there's a huge marijuana festival scheduled to take place in front of City Hall. It's all legal. Just like the farmers market in your town, except all the products center on the one crop.

How is a comic novelist supposed to keep up with the real world?

Full story here.


Taste this marijuana novel

Here's an excerpt from my latest crime novel, THE BIG WINK, told from the point-of-view of a sleazy character as his gang robs a cannabis dispensary:

>>Sonny Tucker pointed his gun at the black gal's face, but he had to reach up to do it. She must've been six feet tall. The athletic type, wearing sneakers and loose warm-ups. He didn't like the look in her big brown eyes. Lot of thoughts churning behind those eyes. She was a smart gal, he could tell. Sonny didn't like smart gals.

The surfer girl behind the counter appeared to be in shock. The others – a scrawny old woman, a poor fucker in a wheelchair – cowered from the robbers, but that black woman stood ramrod straight, only her wide eyes giving away her fear.


Sonny turned to find Jared hard on his heels, blue eyes burning bright in the cutouts of his ski mask.

"What are you doing?" Jared said. "Go with him."

He pointed at Ray Bunch, who stalked across the waiting room, yelling, "Everybody stay calm! This will be over before you know it."

Jared jabbed Sonny's shoulder. "Go on, dude. I've got them covered."

"Then do it, goddammit," Sonny snapped, though Jared was right. Sonny hadn't followed the plan. He hurried across the room, best as he could on his toeless feet, and was right behind Ray as they reached the curtained door.

A tattooed brute erupted through the curtain, wild-eyed and howling and running full-tilt for the exit. Before Sonny could react, Ray threw out a sinewy arm and caught the man in the throat.

The big man lifted off his feet, and his howl died with a squeak. A white wad of gum shot from his mouth and flew through the air. He smacked the tile floor flat on his back.

Ray watched him thrash and cough for a second, then looked up at Sonny.

"The fuck is wrong with him?"

"He saw us on the video." Sonny pointed at a camera near the ceiling. "He panicked."

"What a dumbass."

Sonny kept his pistol pointed at the hacking musclehead as he followed Ray through the curtain into the back room.

The clerk behind the glass counter already had his hands in the air. Sonny looked up and saw the black-and-white video monitor above the door. Fucker had seen the whole thing. He was waiting for them.

The man wore glasses, and Sonny figured him for the kind of egghead who reads books for fun. The clerk kept his face impassive, but there was a trace of impatience, too, as if he wanted to get this robbery finished so he could get back to business.<<

Fun stuff, huh? THE BIG WINK explores the medical marijuana industry in Northern California, packing in plenty of action and laughs along the way. Now available for only $2.99 from Amazon and Smashwords.


You're doing it wrong

Today's tip for aspiring criminals: When fleeing after a bank holdup, it's a good idea to look over your shoulder once in a while and make sure no one is following you.

Two robbers in Brownsville, PA, forgot this important lesson, and were promptly arrested after a motorist followed them home from the robbery, then told police of the robbers' location.

Full story here.


Big e-book sale

Nearly all my published novels now are on sale as 99-cent e-books. Everything I read about e-books says successful self-published authors are the ones who use the 99-cent price point, and I want to catch that wave.

The sale features books published before 2010 -- essentially everything previously printed on paper. (The one exception is BOOST, which is offered as an e-book by a different publisher.) The 99-cent books include all the mysteries in the Bubba Mabry series, the two novels starring sportswriter Drew Gavin and such standalone thrillers as BULLETS, BANK JOB, WHIPSAW and CUTTHROAT.

My latest e-books -- the medical marijuana novel THE BIG WINK, the hillbilly noir CALABAMA and the hitman thriller FIREPOWER -- remain $2.99, as does my hilarious "1000 RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL LIVING."

You can see all my e-books by clicking either of these links: Kindle or Smashwords.

Please tell all your friends. Thanks!


Sample my new marijuana novel

The beginning of my crime novel THE BIG WINK:

>>There once was a woman named Kwanzaa DuPont who went to the store to buy marijuana. It was her first visit to a cannabis dispensary, and she felt fluttery inside as she steered her silver Saab into the tidy parking lot

The dispensary occupied a stucco storefront shaded by two lop-sided oaks. The flat-roofed building was one of those downtown locations that changed hands frequently – a tax office one year, a skateboard shop the next. Only outward difference now was the sign: A green, seven-bladed leaf above the bold red words, "NorCal Herbal Health Collective."

The building faced one of Redding's busiest streets, and the cars zipping past worried her. Last thing Kwanzaa needed was to be recognized at a pot shop by one of her clients.

No matter that what she was doing was perfectly legal, or that thousands of Californians did the same thing every day. No matter that she had a prescription for the marijuana and a more-or-less legitimate reason for its use. Customers didn't want their bankers doing drugs. Banking was all about trust, and that was shaky enough these days.

As manager of the downtown branch, Kwanzaa was one of North State Bank's bright lights. If someone spotted her going into this "herbal health collective," word would get around town. The social stigma could jeopardize her job, her standing in the community, even Mama's legacy.

Was a legal high worth the risk?<<

Kwanzaa's visit to the dispensary goes terribly wrong when robbers burst in a few minutes later.

You can sample more of THE BIG WINK at Kindle and Smashwords. Or get the whole book for only $2.99.


Calling Ryan Gosling

My hillbilly noir novel CALABAMA is featured on the latest posting of "My Book, The Movie," the website where authors speculate about the film versions of their books.

I suggest that the young actor Ryan Gosling, who has done such amazing work in recent years, would be perfect to play Eric Newlin, the slacker antihero of CALABAMA.

Click the link to see more.


Great new blurb for THE BIG WINK

"Steve Brewer is like the evil offspring of Don Winslow and Elmore Leonard. His wit and warped perspective make for a rare and wonderful reading experience. He’s done masterful work before, but Brewer’s outdone himself with THE BIG WINK." --Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of HURT MACHINE

That means a lot coming from my friend Reed, one of the giants of contemporary crime fiction. Check out his website here.

THE BIG WINK goes inside the medical marijuana industry in Northern California. A gang of misfits are having a fine time, knocking over cannabis dispensaries, until a headline-grabbing shooting changes everything. Available now for only $2.99 via Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book formats.


Marijuana heists in fact and fiction

A cannabis collective in Redding, CA, has been robbed twice in the past few weeks by handgun-wielding bandits. I'd say it's a case of life imitating art, but the heists happened before the publication this week of my new crime novel THE BIG WINK.

In THE BIG WINK, handgun-wielding robbers knock over half a dozen marijuana dispensaries in Redding. The story follows the robbers as they go to ground after one of their robberies goes wrong. In my novel, the hunt for the robbers draws national attention, and people on all sides of the medical marijuana debate try to push their own agendas.

I wrote THE BIG WINK a year ago, in case you were wondering. I no longer live in Redding and can account for my whereabouts on the dates of the real-life robberies.

Full story here.


New marijuana novel on sale now

My new crime novel, THE BIG WINK, is now available via Kindle and Smashwords for only $2.99.

THE BIG WINK is my take on the medical marijuana debate. In Northern California, where all-but-legal marijuana has set off an economic Green Rush, a gang of misfits are happily knocking over cannabis dispensaries. But when prominent banker Kwanzaa DuPont gets shot during a holdup, media attention becomes focused on the hunt for the robbers.

The gang goes to ground, hiding out among the growers, dopers and double-crossers of the Emerald Triangle. Meanwhile, others use the shooting to push their own agendas. The cops and the city fathers hope the attention will interrupt the spread of medical marijuana. A pot advocate from Sacramento tries to use the shooting to promote full legalization. The Mexican crime cartel wants Ray's gang silenced. And the lead detective on the case wants to rekindle his childhood romance with Kwanzaa DuPont.

A fun book, which I'm sure you'll enjoy. Give it a try, and let me hear from you!


Please judge this book by its cover

Check out the terrific cover art for my soon-to-be-released crime novel, THE BIG WINK.

THE BIG WINK is my look at the medical marijuana movement. Set on the fringes of the Emerald Triangle in Northern California, the novel features a gang of misfit armed robbers who are knocking over cannabis dispensaries. When a local banker is shot during one of the robberies, the law can't look the other way anymore. The cops turn up the heat.

THE BIG WINK is the third in a trio of standalone novels set in and around Redding, CA; the others are BANK JOB and the recent hit CALABAMA. I poke a lot of fun at the "Ozarks of California," but the community reaction to the medical marijuana boom in my novel reflects what's really been happening across the country.

As for that brilliant cover art, it's designed by my wife Kelly Brewer, who's done several of my e-book covers. I think this one is her best yet.

Expect to see THE BIG WINK on Kindle and Smashwords by the end of the week. Don't worry, I'll let you know as soon as it's available. ;-)


You're doing it wrong

Two geniuses in New Mexico have been arrested for starting an 11,000-acre wildfire, sparked by a burning charcoal grill they were carrying in the back of a pickup truck.

The campers loaded the grill into the truck and drove off after being told to extinguish it by park rangers. Flying embers set the men's camping gear on fire, so they pulled off the road and dumped all the burning material off the shoulder. That started the larger fire.

Full story here.


You're doing it wrong

Case of life imitating art: In my novel Bank Job, which came out in 2005, a loser tries to rob a liquor store near Redding, CA, only to have the clerks chase him away by breaking bottles over his head. This week, a robber at a Redding liquor store was tackled by four citizens and arrested, even though he used a broken bottle to try to fend off the Good Samaritans.

The perp was identified by police as Otto Smalley, and if that's not a name from a Steve Brewer novel, I don't know what the heck is. Officers said the 45-year-old tried to use a knife to rob the liquor store/minimart where he was a familiar customer. Three guys suffered minor injuries from the broken bottle. Full story here. Be sure to check out the cool neck tattoo in the mug shot.

Oh, police say meth use apparently was involved. Surprise!


Bubba book bargains

All the Bubba Mabry mysteries -- seven novels and a novella -- are now on sale as e-books for only 99 cents each.

Bubba is my franchise player. Nearly half my crime stories have featured the bumbling Albuquerque private eye and his love interest, reporter Felicia Quattlebaum. Lonely Street was my first published novel and was later made into a Hollywood comedy starring Robert Patrick, Jay Mohr and Joe Mantegna. The seventh in the series, Monkey Man, was a finalist for the Lefty Award for funniest mystery of the year.

Three different houses published the Bubba series during its 12-year run, so it's been difficult at times to get the complete set in paper. But e-books make it a snap, and the price will never be cheaper.

Click here for the link to my Amazon page, where you can see all my Kindle stuff, including the Bubba books. For all other e-readers, link here for Smashwords. And remember: You don't need an e-reader to enjoy e-books. You can download the Kindle app for free and read books on your computer or smartphone.

Please tell all your friends about this limited-time offer. Thanks!


You're doing it wrong

Police in Albuquerque, NM, say two copper thieves got a big surprise when they cut into a live electric wire with a pair of garden shears.

The shears were scorched by the surge, police said, and whoever was holding them was almost certainly injured. The criminal masterminds were also captured on surveillance video while on the property.

Full story here.


Huge humor collection debuts

My latest e-book -- "1000 Rules for Successful Living" -- debuts today on Kindle and Smashwords. Only $2.99.

A thousand sounds like a lot, and it is (about 66 pages' worth of one-liners and twisted adages), but they accumulated so gradually, I'm as surprised as the rest of you. I didn't set out to write a huge number of Rules for Successful Living. It was something I started on Facebook to entertain my friends, a few little rules that were so obvious ("Don't fall on your mouth") that they were funny.

People responded to the deadpan tone, so I wrote some more. Each morning, over coffee, I'd come up with another one and post it on Facebook. Sometimes, other Rules would come to me during the day and I'd post those, too. Pretty soon, I had hundreds of Rules and no place to put them, so I started publishing collections on Kindle. And the rest, as they say, is hysteria.

A few of my favorites:

A watched pot never boils, and a boiled watch isn't much good, either.

When your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a thumb.

It takes two to tango, but you can pirouette all by yourself.

Treat yourself to some laughs. Get "1000 Rules for Successful Living" today. And please tell all your friends.


The doctor is in

I sometimes work as a writing coach/book doctor, helping new authors polish their manuscripts.

I'm nearly finished with the revisions on my new novel, so I'll have time for new students over the next few months. For more information about how it works and how much it costs, e-mail me at abqbrewer@gmail.com.

Pass the word. Thanks!


E-book bargains build audiences

Authors scrambling to get on top of the fast-growing e-book market try to lure readers by offering books for free or for 99 cents. The hope, of course, is that readers will get hooked and buy more of the author's work.

This bargain baiting is old hat in marketing, but it's new to authors who've never before had such control over their own pricing.

I can't bring myself to toss any of my work out there for free, but I did mark down my humor book TROPHY HUSBAND to 99 cents. It was getting lost in the shuffle on my ever-growing backlist. We'll see if a price adjustment stirs more sales.

TROPHY HUSBAND was originally published in hardcover by a university press. It's a collection of my Home Front newspaper columns, revamped into what appears to be a self-help book for work-at-home dads. It's no help at all, of course, but it is pretty damn funny.

Sales remain brisk for CALABAMA, my new crime novel, which debuted on June 15. I've done lots of social media promotion and Internet guest appearances for the book over the past few weeks, and will be doing more. On Monday, I'm scheduled to be the guest interview on Allan Guthrie's Criminal-E blog.

A hillbilly noir set in the wilds of far Northern California, CALABAMA has gotten two Amazon customer reviews so far. Both five stars! Would love to see more reviews as more of you get a chance to visit CALABAMA.

CALABAMA, my 18th crime novel, is available as an e-book for only $2.99.


CALABAMA now available!

My new crime novel, CALABAMA, hit the Kindle and Smashwords bookstores today!

CALABAMA has an "official" pub date of June 15, and it may be a few days before it's available on Nook and some of the other e-book platforms. But it's already up on Kindle and Smashwords. Only $2.99.

(Remember: You don't need a Kindle to enjoy e-books. The Kindle app is free for computers and most smartphones. It downloads in seconds.)

CALABAMA is the story of Eric Newlin, a slacker whose life is in a rut in Redding, California. Sometimes, a rut is the safest place to be. When Eric pushes against the bounds of day-to-day life, he quickly loses everything. He falls so far that a kidnapping scheme starts to sound like a reasonable way to make the money he needs to escape Calabama.

Award-winning author Bill Fitzhugh says, "CALABAMA is Steve Brewer at his absolute best."

Please check out my new novel, and tell all your friends!


Opening lines with bite

Never argue with a man whose tattoos outnumber his teeth.

One of my Rules for Successful Living, and also the opening line of my new crime novel, CALABAMA. Eric Newlin, the slacker protagonist, has many such rules for surviving life among the hippies and hillbillies of far Northern California, and they're sprinkled throughout. In the course of CALABAMA, Eric manages to break every rule.

CALABAMA debuts June 15 on Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book platforms. Only $2.99. Please tell all your friends.

Here are two more openers I like. From my Bubba Mabry novel DIRTY POOL: Friends come and go, but enemies are forever.

And, from BULLETS: Some people are ridiculously easy to kill.

Got favorites?


New novel on the way

Here's a first look at the cover art for my new crime novel, CALABAMA. Cool, huh?

The cover was designed by Kelly Brewer, who's done several of my e-book covers. She's also an excellent copy editor. I married well.

CALABAMA comes out June 15 via Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book platforms. Only $2.99.

CALABAMA is "hillbilly noir" in the vein of TV's "Justified" or Daniel Woodrell's "Winter's Bone," but it's set in the wilds of Northern California. It's the story of Eric Newlin, a slacker who works for his father-in-law in the remote town of Redding. Eric survives a near-miss in traffic, and decides it's an omen: His life is about to change. And he's right. His life goes right down the toilet. Within days, he's fallen so far that he finds himself mixed up in a kidnapping scheme with a local crimelord named Rydell Vance.

I recently read the manuscript again, getting it ready for publication, and the dark humor still cracks me up. Hope others feel the same way.


New life to older books

My current bestseller on Kindle is a good example of how backlist books get new life as e-books.

"End Run," first of two mysteries featuring Albuquerque sportswriter Drew Gavin, came out in 2000. It's still available in hardcover/paperback, but sales had slowed to a trickle by 2011. Same with the sequel, "Cheap Shot," which was published only in hardcover by Intrigue Press.

But those two books are leading the pack this month on Kindle. "End Run" has sold a couple more copies than "Cheap Shot." Coming in third so far in May is my first novel, 1994's "Lonely Street," which was second to "Cheap Shot" in April.

I've got my entire backlist up on Kindle and Smashwords, along with several humor books and "Firepower," a thriller that was an e-book original. Another new novel is coming soon!


You're doing it wrong

If you're in the middle of a high-speed chase and you're driving a stolen truck, it probably won't help to throw your prosthetic leg at the pursuing officers.

A man in Shasta County, CA, tried that very thing and, as you can read here, the cops still caught him after he ran over several spike bars and crashed the truck.

You can insert your own joke about how he'll do in court.


You're doing it wrong

Today's tip for aspiring criminals: After you've successfully knocked over a convenience store, it's a bad idea to go back to that same store for cigarettes the next day.

As reported here, an 18-year-old man in Florida forgot this important lesson, and was promptly arrested after the store clerk recognized him from the robbery the night before. The robber had worn a mask, but had let it slip and the clerk had seen his face.

Extra weird: The robber stole $500 and several packs of Newports. So why was he buying more cigarettes the next day? A nice, non-smoking jail may save this young man from himself.


E-book sales accelerate

My plunge into e-books is showing signs of success. April sales on Kindle and Smashwords were double those in March, which had been up 50 percent over February.

Much of that increase comes from having more titles available, but the rate of sales is growing as well. It helps that I've been able to price novels at $2.99 and shorter work for 99 cents.

As reported earlier, over the past few months, I've secured the electronic rights to my entire backlist (with one exception), and have published all the books via Kindle and Smashwords. (The exception: My novel "Boost" was put out by the publisher as a $9.99 e-book. I have no control over that.)

My bestseller for April was "Cheap Shot," the second book featuring sportswriter Drew Gavin, who was introduced in "End Run." I think "Cheap Shot" is selling well because it was never issued in paperback. It's a good novel, and I'm glad people are finally getting a chance to read it.

Bestselling 99-cent work was my novella "Sanity Clause," a funny Bubba Mabry tale that's set in a mall at Christmas.

You can see all of my e-books via Kindle here and via Smashwords here. Smashwords also distributes my work for Nook, Kobo, etc., so you should have no problem finding them for your favorite platform.

And, of course, most of my books are still available in printed form. Order them from your local bookseller!



Charlie gets an Edgar

Congrats to Charlie Price, one of my best pals, who won the Edgar last night in the Young Adult novel category. Charlie took the prize for his third novel, "The Interrogation of Gabriel James."

I got a brief e-mail from him, and he was on Cloud Nine, naturally. I look forward to hearing his entire weepy acceptance speech sometime soon. I'm sure it will be on YouTube.

Charlie's still in New York, which is why, I suppose, the news media in his hometown of Redding don't have the story yet, but I hope they make a big splash of it. Charlie's a terrific guy and deserves the attention.

The Best Novel Edgar went to mystery veteran Steve Hamilton for "The Lock Artist," which I just finished reading. Terrific book about a young safecracker.

Congratulations to all the winners (and the finalists, too)!


You're doing it wrong

Tip for aspiring criminals: After you successfully pull off an "inside job" bank robbery, it's better not to boast about being "RICH" on Facebook.

Four young people in Houston, TX, have learned this lesson the hard way. They were arrested after police found Facebook postings saying one of them was "WIPING MY TEETH WITH HUNDREDS" days after the robbery. One of the suspects is a teller at the bank.

Full story here.


'Lost' Bubba story resurfaces

I always speak of my comic Bubba Mabry mysteries as being a seven-book series, but there's an eighth Bubba story that most people have never seen.

"Sanity Clause" is a 23,000-word novella I wrote several years ago for a Christmas mystery anthology. In the story, Bubba is keeping an eye on the Santas at a local mall when one of them turns up dead. Rather than be known forever as the man who let Santa Claus get killed on his watch, Bubba sets out to solve the murder.

The story has all the usual elements of the series -- including appearances by newspaper reporter Felicia Quattlebaum and Homicide Lt. Steve Romero -- plus one of the funniest fight scenes I've ever written.

The anthology is long out of print, but thanks to the miracle of e-books, I've brought this novella back to life. It's now available via Kindle, Smashwords and other retail outlets. Only 99 cents.

I know it's a long time until Christmas, but wouldn't "Sanity Clause" make a nice electronic stocking stuffer?


Flying solo in e-book publishing

As authors and publishers scramble to get on top of the surging e-book market, I've decided to go it alone. I've secured the e-book rights to my books, and have published my entire backlist via Kindle and Smashwords.

For the first time in years, all seven of the comic Bubba Mabry mysteries are available at the same time. Bubba's publishing history is as checkered as my own (the series has been at four different publishers over the years), and the full set has become increasingly hard to find.

E-books allow me to re-issue books that were published only in hardcover. Now you can find novels like "Bank Job" and "Whipsaw" and the two Drew Gavin mysteries in a more affordable format. Same goes for my humor book, "Trophy Husband."

How affordable? I've published these books at $2.99 each. At that price, a self-published e-book author makes about the same royalty per book (two bucks) as he'd make on a $24 hardcover published in the traditional manner. For the price of two new hardcovers, you could own my whole backlist as e-books.

(One exception here: My car thief novel "Boost" was not self-published. The publisher issued an e-book version and is charging $9.99. I have no control over that.)

I've loaded many of these books over the past few days, so some are still getting their final art and cross-links, and it will take Smashwords a few days to post them all to Barnes and Noble and other online stores. But once e-books are up and available, they require little tending. No warehousing, no distribution problems, no paper.

While I still have manuscripts circulating at the New York publishing houses and many titles still available in paper, I've come to believe that e-books are the future. They make books affordable again. And they allow authors to write whatever we like without worrying that publishers/markets will keep the story from ever reaching readers. How liberating is that?

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. You don't need a Kindle or Nook or other e-reader to enjoy e-books. Download the free Kindle app, and you can read books on your computer or smart phone.

Support your favorite authors. Keep them writing. Buy their e-books.


Left Coast was a fanboy's dream

Got home last night from New Mexico, where Kel and I attended Left Coast Crime, the annual mystery conference that this year filled La Fonda in Santa Fe.

Thanks again to the organizers for asking me to be Toastmaster for the event. I still feel bad that TSA confiscated those toasters I packed, and I was unable to supply any toast. But we seemed to make do with booze.

As Toastmaster, I was allowed to get up on stage before 400-plus people and make a complete ass of myself (as usual), and the conference paid my travel and lodging expenses, including a beautiful suite with a balcony and a fruit basket. Also, people kept buying me drinks. I had a very, very good time.

Some highlights:

--At the banquet, I sat with Martin Cruz Smith, one of my favorite authors. We talked about books and mutual friends and his wife was charming and I'm sure I was a drooling idiot the whole time. When I recognized him on stage for his Lifetime Achievement Award, I publicly professed my love for the man. A first for me.

--I shook hands with Brian Garfield, another favorite, and told him that his novel "Hopscotch" was one of the few I kept when we recently gave our personal library to charity and moved to the beach. He liked that.

--Laurie R. King lives here in Santa Cruz County, so I gave her a "howdy neighbor" at a terrific party we attended the first night. Katharine Neville (author of "The Eight") hosted a whole herd of us, including guest of honor Margaret Coel and Watson award winner Craig Johnson. Our pal Joe Badal drove us to the party, which allowed me to pour down all the wine I liked without endangering the general public. Thanks, Joe.

--I interviewed New Mexico author Steven Havill, another GOH, in front of a few hundred people, and we had a good time. Steven is a born storyteller who didn't need much prompting.

--Kel and I dined with one of our favorite people in the world, the ever-hilarious Bill Fitzhugh, who brought along his elegant 84-year-old mother and his wonderful sister (who lives in Albuquerque). Our dinner lasted hours, and I couldn't eat for laughing and telling stories. Fitzhugh did not shoot any spitwads at anyone this time because his mother made him behave.

--I was chatting in the lobby with Gar Anthony Haywood when film director Spike Lee happened by. (This sort of thing happens at La Fonda.) Gar had met Spike before, so he chatted with him briefly while I kept a stupid grin on my face. (I'm not saying Spike is a tiny man, but I'm glad Gar and I were sitting down.)

--Our after-hours poker games at these conferences are the funniest places on Earth, thanks to wisecrackers like Fitzhugh, Parnell Hall, Chris Goff and John Billheimer. I can't disclose specifics, but if any of those people ever again make a noise like a buzzing housefly, I will immediately wet my pants.

Feel free to share your own Left Coast highlights in the "comments" section.


Left Coast!

Leaving shortly for Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe! I am the Toastmaster at this year's conference, which I believe makes me some kind of superhero. I've packed my cape.

Left Coast is my favorite conference for mystery readers and writers. Just the right size (usually 400-500 people) and it's always held somewhere in the West, which makes it closer to home for me. We're delighted that it's in our beloved New Mexico this year, and Kel and I will get a quick visit with her family while we're there.

I'm doing panels on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and I interview Guest of Honor Steven Havill as one of the main events on Friday. And, of course, at the Saturday banquet, I will be the Toastmaster.

Hope to see some of you there. I'll be the one in the cape.


Your favorite child

I often hear other authors say they couldn't name a favorite among their own books. Why, that would be like picking your favorite child, they say, and we love all our children equally (if for different reasons, perhaps).

I don't believe it. We're all trying to write the book we'd like to read, and some come closer than others to hitting the mark. Every novel is a disappointment in some way. The final product never lives up to the expectations we had when we started. But authors know which ones almost hit the bullseye.

Yes, it's a matter of personal taste. I like a rollicking tale full of laughs. One of my fans regularly urges me to stick with suspense and leave out the (eye roll, sigh) "funny stuff."

I'm happy to name a personal favorite among my 17 novels. It's "Bullets," which came out in 2003 to terrific reviews. It's my Vegas book, featuring a contract killer named Lily, a former homicide cop who's chasing her and a cast of hilarious (if deadly) bad guys. I just read it again, getting it ready for publication on Kindle (only $2.99!), and it still cracks me up.

Also freshly published on Kindle (and coming soon to other formats via Smashwords) is the fifth Bubba Mabry adventure, "Dirty Pool." I enjoyed reading this one again, too. Bubba goes up against his arch-nemesis, Texas private eye William Pool, in a race for a ransom. Fun stuff.

Check 'em out!


I knew it

Scientists find that people who are cheerful and optimistic tend to die younger.

Researchers in the Longevity Project studied 1,500 bright children who were around 10 years old when the study began in 1921. They found, over the subjects' lifetimes, that happy-go-lucky types took more risks with their health, trusting that everything would turn out fine.

Prudent, persistent types tended to live longer and be healthier, the researchers found.

Full story here.

(Thanks to Bill Crider for the link.)



Police in Southern California raided a marijuana-growing operation and discovered a four-foot-long alligator. The 55-pound reptile apparently was a deterrent to thieves.

A drug task force found nearly 2,300 pot plants in the home in Hemet. The gator was turned over to an animal sanctuary.

Full story here.


Split shift

Like many of my fellow authors, I'm busily publishing my backlist on Kindle and other e-book platforms. My workdays are split between writing the new novel and dipping into books I wrote years ago.

The latest novels to become available as e-books are WITCHY WOMAN and SHAKY GROUND, third and fourth in my seven-book Bubba Mabry series. Only $2.99 each. I'll have the fifth one in the series, DIRTY POOL, up on Kindle by the end of the week.

I'm one of those authors who rarely reads his own work after it's published. Typos or mistakes make me crazy; stuff I wrote years ago sometimes makes me cringe. But I actually enjoyed proofreading these Bubba books. Still funny and weird and fast-paced.

I found quirks and allusions that still pop up in my writing. This included one line that I'd used fifteen years ago (something about New Mexico's silvery sunlight and turquoise skies) that I was trying to wedge into my work-in-progress. No memory that I'd used it before. Thought I was being original.

Anyhow, I still love Bubba, after all these years. Now that e-books are shaking up publishing, maybe I'll even write another Bubba Mabry adventure one of these days...

For now, I'm halfway through the first draft of my new standalone, A BOX OF PANDORAS, and I'm having a ball.


You don't tug on Superman's sweater

Police in Watsonville, CA, are searching for several youths who pounced on a man and stole his Superman sweater. The cops caught one of the youths (and retrieved the purloined sweater) after the hoodlums' van crashed into a tree, but the rest ran off.

Full story here. No word on whether the assailants wielded kryptonite.


You bet your halibut

Word here in Santa Cruz, CA, is that the halibut migration that results in hauls of the yummy fish has arrived early this year. I'm no fisherman, but this news did remind me of one of my favorite Home Front columns from a few years ago. Read it here.

Re-reading it made me miss my sons. Hope it makes you laugh.


You're doing it wrong

Note to aspiring criminals: When doing a snatch-and-run robbery at a convenience store, first make sure there aren't FOUR sheriff's deputies inside the store.

Apparently, two thieves in La Mirada, CA, didn't notice the two patrol cars parked beside the store. Once inside, they were too busy grabbing up $18.76 worth of snacks and beer to notice the uniformed deputies, who promptly arrested them.

Sounds like a "munchie run" gone wrong.

Full story here.


You're doing it wrong

Police in Arlington Heights, IL, say three young burglars killed their victims' goldfish because "they didn't want to leave any witnesses."

The youths broke into a house and stole tons of stuff. Before leaving, they poured hot sauce and other toxins into the aquarium to eliminate the witnesses.

Police later caught up to the geniuses through stolen goods sold at local pawn shops.

Full story here.


Back in the saddle

I've started a new novel. Only been writing it for a couple of days now, though I've been sketching it out for a few weeks. A comic crime novel with a female protagonist, set in New Mexico and involving some Hollywood types.

Not the novel I'd been planning to write. I'd planned to make use of our scenic new location, and write a revenge thriller set in Santa Cruz. But I'm in too good a mood these days to write dreary suspense. So it's comedy again. And it's New Mexico again. Surprise, surprise.

Like a lot of authors, I may write about a place better when I'm not there. Don't get me wrong, it helps to really know a place before you use it as a setting, even if it's a place you've made up. But a little distance helps, too, keeps you from getting bogged down in concrete detail when your imagination should be running wild.

I often write about locations after I've physically (or at least mentally) moved on. My most recent novel, "The Big Wink,"(currently being shopped around by my agent) is set mostly in Redding and Northern California, and was written as we were busily leaving there. My most recent Bubba Mabry novel, "Monkey Man," set in Albuquerque, was written while we lived in Redding, as were a couple of suspense novels that were set mostly in San Francisco, where we lived in the '80s. Now that we're happily on the beach in Santa Cruz? I'm writing about small-town New Mexico. Go figure.

Luckily, we visited The Land of Enchantment over the holidays, and Kel and I are going again in late March, when I'm toastmaster at the Left Coast Crime conference in Santa Fe. More tax-deductible research!

To start writing a novel, no matter how many times you've done it before, is a leap of a faith, one that might not pay off for months or years. Funny how often that leap lands someplace you didn't expect.


You're doing it wrong

From Russia comes word of an intended suicide bomber who was blown up by a message from her mobile phone provider.

Suicide bombers sometimes are rigged with cell phones, so their handlers can set off the explosions with a text message. Apparently, a bomber was killed at a safehouse when her phone company sent her a "Happy New Year" text message.

The terrorists had planned to explode the bomb at Red Square during New Year's Eve festivities, officials said.

Full story here.


(Almost) all quiet on the home front

After a busy holiday period and a Scrabble visit from my friend Frank, things have slowed down here at our cottage by the sea. I've got my semi-annual head cold, but aside from the honking and coughing, it's been pretty quiet around here.

Lots of excitement on Wednesday morning, though. We got word that my Redding pal Charlie Price was nominated for an Edgar Award for his YA novel, "The Interrogation of Gabriel James." And I had my second encounter with the neighborhood skunk. While I was certainly excited for Charlie, the skunk did more to get up the old heart rate.

One of the great things about our Santa Cruz place is its wide front porch. I like to step out there at all hours of the day and night to sniff the sea air and listen to the waves crashing on the rocks. But the dawn hour, I have learned, belongs to a skunk that forages through the neighborhood.

In the latest encounter, I had just gone outside to check out the sunrise when I heard a scrambling in some dead leaves. I froze. The skunk saw me anyway. He froze (facing me, which I sensed was better). We stared at each other for 30 seconds, eight feet apart. Then he toddled away, taking his time, sniffing around the cars. As soon as he disappeared around a corner, I disappeared into the house. Unsprayed.

From now on, I'm turning on the porch light before I step outside. Give the skunk time to scram.

I told my neighbor about the skunk, and he said we see them from time to time in this coastal neighborhood. Raccoons and possums, too, he said.

Oh, joy.