Maggie’s Back in Town!

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Pennington’s Hoax is available at Amazon or directly from W&B Publishers

About a year ago I had the pleasure of introducing Maggie Lyon to readers who picked up a copy of Murdered Justice and learned how this food-writing sleuth stumbled across a famous dead body after an exclusive Los Angeles dinner party.

Since Maggie revealed United States Supreme Court Justice Scarpia’s murderer, she’s been busy. We meet her again in Pennington’s Hoax just after the promotional tour for her book about Scarpia comes to an end. Finally recognized as an investigative journalist, she’s now a regular on cable news, and she’s found a new mystery to solve.

There were a few weeks she spent alone in her apartment with nothing to do, but a long lunch with her literary agent provides an unusual opportunity. Maggie learns from the loose-lipped Rina Akin about a new client. It’s none other than reclusive author Ely Pennington who wrote Rebel’s Last Yell about 50 years ago, and is about to come out of retirement with a sequel. This is the biggest literary event in decades, and would Maggie do Rina the favor of reading the manuscript and perhaps writing a review?

Every high school student or college freshman has been assigned Rebel’s Last Yell to read (and if not, there’s a chapter in Pennington’s Hoax to refresh your memory), and everyone who’s read it knows that it was Pennington’s only novel. Actually, it was her only known literary work. She never published short stories, poems, or even a letter to the editor after going into seclusion around 1965.

That’s about the time she split up with childhood friend Garvin Canfield who authored Before the Gallows. Fewer people have read Garvin’s famous book—a fictionalized version of real events made into a movie by the same name. Garvin loved celebrity, but he made a few enemies while rising in the literary world. Cranking out novels and short stories was evidently much easier for him than it was for Ely. Some even speculated that he wrote her famous novel and let her take all the credit (and the money), but neither of them ever spoke publicly if that were the case.

Maggie tells her friend Andrew Campton about how terrible Ely’s new book is, and at a dinner party she first hears the rumors that Ely was a fraud. Andrew, who is always looking for interesting subject matter for his CNN show, sends Maggie to New Orleans to interview Ely and find out the truth about her writing career. Strangely enough, the ninety-something Ely passes away in her sleep before Maggie can confront her on national television. Ely’s death, however, doesn’t prevent Maggie from wanting to solve Pennington’s Hoax, but it seems there aren’t many people left from those days to talk about it.

Maggie gets conflicting information from her various sources, and ends up with more questions than answers. While trying to get to the bottom of Pennington’s Hoax, Maggie realizes that there was a murder and ends up fleeing New Orleans in the middle of the night, but coming home to New York doesn’t keep her out of harm’s way. Readers may recall the ominous threats made at the end of Murdered Justice, but Maggie hasn’t forgotten—the threats and the man who made them!

© 2018 by Patrick Brown

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“Murdered Justice” from W&B Publishers is available at Amazon

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

Comment In the Space Provided

Someone recently texted me, asking if I were free to talk. Without awaiting my response, that individual rang my phone and wouldn’t accept an excuse that I was too busy. Among the problems in the modern age, we can’t pretend we’re not home or otherwise involved when there’s a strong probability that we actually have a phone in our hands. Worse, someone sees you post a longer than usual response under someone’s social media comment when you’ve led the world to believe that you were otherwise engaged in nobler pursuits. Seconds later you’ve been cornered!

It’s the 21st Century version of that nosy neighbor I used to have who would phone me up on Saturday mornings from her breakfast nook and say, “I can see your car in the drive and I just saw you open your curtains. Pick up your phone!”

Nowadays, the flutter of curtains is seeing me online and sensing an opportunity to talk. I can’t pretend that I’ve left my phone lying somewhere because the person next to me is also texting the same person and writes, “Yeah! He’s right here!”

I had no choice, but to take the call, which began with the accusation: “You’re very negative lately, and this has to stop!”

Good lord! That’s not beyond the realm of possibility, but could I have a specific example? “In your writing! You are so negative!”

Specifically, to what are you referring? I have been involved with my forthcoming book Pennington’s Hoax, and because of that I’ve neglected this blog One More Thing to Read. I’ve also not texted this person or exchanged e-mail since last fall, which could have been seen as neglect rather than negativity, so what, pray tell, have I written recently and so often that you find so undesirable?

Could I have been insensitive online? I like to think that I’m restrained with my social media comments. They’re certainly milder than I might offer in the privacy of my own home. I also limit my expletives to private use unless I attribute them to one of my characters. I don’t want to give the impression that the air is blue around me, but I’ve lived long enough to become familiar with profanity. After all, a good number of my friends are gold medal contenders at cursing.

As the caller was berating me, I was trying to recall all the things I’d said and written in the past few months that would have been offensive. Some days I write thousands of words, and would never begin to recall a fraction of them. Perhaps the person standing next to me exchanging texts and giving away my location had related something that I thought was funny. My comment perhaps got lost in translation because this mad texter had misquoted me or hadn’t typed my words with the correct inflection, but please tell me what it is that has you so upset.

No specific examples were provided, but I kept hearing “Lately, you have been…” “In everything you write…” and “It comes across to me very clearly that…”

I should have hung up, but that would’ve certainly been considered negative. I also wanted to know the answers, but kept feeling like the parent of a teenager who keeps hearing, “Everybody’s doing it,” “You’re so mean!” and “You’re not listening to me!”

By this time I really wanted to get negative, but I let the whole conversation play out. I still have no idea to this day what set off the caller. I’ve not been called back to receive more feedback, which has been a relief. The situation is likely that I expressed an opinion the caller didn’t expect, and my tumbling from some pedestal had resulted in this big to-do.

I recall the days leading up to Moral Ambiguity’s release. It was the first time that a large collection of my words was going to be read by people beyond my world. Once the genie is out of the bottle, as they say, but I eventually got used to the idea that someone might read what I’ve written. I still haven’t gotten comfortable with the idea that someone might become outraged, but I can’t control that. Just don’t call me up on the phone and get onto me about it. It’s best to leave a comment in the space provided.

© 2018 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

At Least February is Short

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Snowy mornings in the  the woods are beautiful, but only if they don’t last forever.

One of my favorite things about February is that it’s a short month. 75% of the time, it’s 28 days, and since it falls in the middle of winter, the loss of the 29th, 30th, and 31st means that spring will be upon us before we know it. Most of March is still winter, but the stores have put out their Easter merchandise by then. I finally get a sense that spring is just beyond our grasp.

Not that this winter is nearly as cold here as last, and it’s certainly not been as bad as elsewhere, but there is a heap of snow on the ground as I type this. I’m reminded that those sunny days in the 50s, quite unusual for winters in the Pacific Northwest, aren’t coming back right away. Even the bulbs had begun to believe it was time to come up, and how sad to see their young greenness barely poking above the heavy, wet snow. In most cases, they’re completely buried.

Nature provided a white Christmas, which is always magical, but I don’t want anything to linger if it’s going to keep me trapped inside. I’ve been lucky compared to the weeks of accumulation last year. At least I’ve been able to get to the movie theater a few times, have the chance to eat someone’s cooking besides my own, and get a few glimpses of the area peaks covered in snow. That’s all gone for the time being.

I now regret not taking advantage of the warmer sunny days when I could have been working outside to clear more land or haul broken branches from the earlier windstorms. These ongoing projects are especially time consuming in the spring, and I’ll kick myself in March and April for not having gotten a head start. However, I told myself that the bug I caught right after New Year’s had not completely gone away. There is still a lingering cough when I say (or type) the word “cough.” I didn’t want to get overheated and have a relapse and, oh, aren’t those more dark clouds heading this way?

At least the snow covers the messes I haven’t cleaned up, and that allows me some time to pretend they don’t exist.

© 2018 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

Stiletto Prints in the Sand

IMG_4225I was going to attempt a clever article about the holidays, perhaps reminiscing about Christmases past, but then I remembered I’ve already shared anecdotes about my childhood at Christmas, which you can read here.

I have touched on my role as a singing Martian, fictionalized in A Final Folly, and my crushing disappointment upon learning of the nonexistent special effects budget when called upon to vanish during a live stage production.

I have a few other stories yet to be told about smoke alarms as gifts, a church Christmas pageant that was overtaken by an evil soprano who should’ve been cast in The Exorcist, and the year a towering drag queen lip-synching Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree stole the show (she exceeded seven feet while wearing a red and green double feather boa that arched from the crown of her head). I also get a smile on my face when remembering the year when five cousins returned from a ride around the lake in a 1965 Mustang unusually famished less than two hours after a big lunch.

Before you get too excited, I’m saving those stories until you’re a little older. Until then, just picture me as one of the beatific child shepherds outfitted with one of my mother’s plush Royal Velvet guest towels tied on my head. Someone tied it so tightly that I developed an unbearable headache before they killed the spotlight on that year’s production.

When all those moments were taking place, I didn’t find them as funny as I do now. Holidays are hard on so many people, and I’m one of those who doesn’t spend Labor Day weekend diagraming my lighted yard display. Even before my years in church music and a few spent in retail, I have been a person who steels myself for the holiday season as if December is a big wave heading for shore. I sympathize with those who feel the pressure to consume, whether it’s commercialism or what we stuff into our bodies. I’m one of those who strives for cheerfulness even when I don’t know where it’s going to come from, and I understand the feelings that this Christmas isn’t going to be nearly as great as the one way back when.

Disappointment affects each of us to varying degrees. People experience loss, and devastating events don’t schedule themselves with our personal calendars in mind. Add layers of advertisements, nostalgic shows, and sentimental music to bring home the fact that this holiday season isn’t going to be as good as that year when we thought everything finally fell into place. It’s no wonder we set ourselves up for disappointment.

A large part of my holiday expectation problem has been perspective. Much like photographs that I hated at the moment they were taken, I realize twenty years later that I didn’t look as bad as I thought. And so it is with Christmas. At the time, I might have been sad that a favorite family member or best friend couldn’t make it. Perhaps we couldn’t be together one year or maybe we never were again. There have been years when I’ve worried there wasn’t enough money to pay for presents, special meals, or parties, or there was the time a significant other decided to break up the day after the gifts went under the tree. All of those terrible moments seemed to occur while Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas played over and over.

All of our worst holiday experiences affix themselves to our psyches. I’ve had some terrible years, and I’ve heard stories of even worse experiences. As I dug deep into my memory to find a heart-warming story to share this December, I quickly passed over the more difficult years, which seemed to remind me why I am not always immediately filled with hope. After pondering the holidays I consider to be some of my best, I realized that those really terrible Christmases had mellowed with age. At the time, I was very unhappy, but each year contained at least a morsel of joy that continues to make me smile.

You might say that when I looked back to see one set of footprints and thought I’d faced a particularly sad Christmas on my own, I’d never been truly alone for an extremely tall drag queen wearing a double feather boa had been carrying me all along.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

IMG_7899To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1