Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Good Old Fashioned Books!

It's no secret that cozy mystery lovers love ebooks, but there is something so lovely and, well, cozy about a big shelf full of dusty old books. In my dreams, I still think maybe I'll get to live in a house with a library like The Beast's someday.

In my prepublished days, when I was scribbling in notebooks and blogging and day dreaming about being a "real writer"  I had kinda low ambitions. I didn't want to get rich, I didn't want to be famous (not that I would turn those down) I just wanted to have a shelf full of my own stories, somewhere in my house. Proof that I really could write books.
Some of these books are actually  mine!

In the movie A House in Umbria the lady who owns the house has a shelf full of the bodice rippers she has written. The characters disparaged her work, but I thought, "Awesome! Look at all she achieved!"

So, though I adore my kindle and the ease of carrying lots of books on it, buying lots of books for it, and of course, reading books on it, and though I love that the cozy ebook audience is out there, reading away, I keep making paperbacks. I never expect them to tear up the market, or hit the best seller lists, but I love them, and I want them on my own shelves.

I put off creating most of the hard copy Plain Jane titles, just because it is time consuming. But, at long last, all of the current Plain Jane Mysteries are available in paperback! And even better, they are all under ten dollars! (I had to work hard to make that happen, but I am really excited about it.)

You can nab them all at Amazon, or pop in to your local bookstore and order them.

Speaking of Plain Jane...I know a lot of you guys really love Isaac Daniels. Well, I do too! And I want great things for him. I also want to torture him more, in the way that we authors get to torture our favorite characters, so I gave him his own series.

The Tillgiven Romantic Mystery Series, to be exact.

Tillgiven Bible School is a (fictional) small, private Bible College in the (fictional) little farming community of Brunn Vatten, Sweden. In an effort to escape a string of bad romantic choices, Isaac finds himself teaching Bible at Tillgiven, and trying hard not to fall in love again.

Enjoy this excerpt from Hard to Find: A Tillgiven Romantic Mystery (Just 99 cents at Amazon!)
The first time I was dumped was the hardest, because I really wanted to marry the girl—No, I don’t care to name the one who got away. I’m totally over her.
But whatever. She dumped me, and it really stunk.
The second time I was dumped wasn’t so bad. To be honest, it was kind of a relief. Rebound and all that. But even more, I had slowly come to realize that I hated speaking French. So the whole dream job in Montreal with the rebound French-speaking girlfriend really wasn’t working for me. I wouldn’t have minded being the dumper this time, though (who would?). But I didn’t get the away goal that time. She dumped me while I was still planning my indirect attack.
The third time I was dumped, about a month later, was eye opening.
As I watched the girl walk away from me for the last time, I realized I had some serious changes to make in my life.
The first change: get out of Dodge.
As much as I appreciated snagging a summer job on the fly teaching Bible at Little Camp on the Range in Dodge City, Kansas, I wasn’t a cowboy, and God wasn’t calling me to the ranch life. When that opportunity ended abruptly, I focused on jobs that required international travel. I didn’t want to go back home to Portland, where that girl and her new boyfriend were running around solving crimes and making hamburgers or whatever it was they did, but I also didn’t want to settle down.
You don’t get your PhD in theology at twenty-three just to sit at home and mope about some girl who cleans houses, after all.
The second change: no more getting dumped. After a while it begins to wear on a guy.
The third: quit dating my students.
I hadn’t been looking to date students, but I’m twenty-four (finished my dissertation last year). My students tend to be between nineteen and twenty-two, so basically my age. On the other hand, the other teachers, who I am allowed to fraternize with, are usually older than me, by a lot. So, can you blame me?
Getting out of Dodge wasn’t exactly all my idea. The cowgirl, who dumped me, wasn’t a student. She wasn’t a camper—that much I swear to—but the camp doesn’t have a friendly attitude about the directorial staff dating the counselors.
Good things (and catastrophes) come in threes, so I stopped my “massive life changes” list there, hit the road, and landed in Brunn Vatten, Sweden, at Tillgiven Bible School teaching the Bible, coaching soccer, and helping young Christians grow into leaders. It would have been a pretty sweet gig, even if it hadn’t included the blue skies, forested hillsides, and beautiful Swedes in every direction.
Totally owning life changes one and two.
But for the last two months, the brunette sitting in the back of class, with the shiny hair that had a way of swinging around her face when she whispered to the person sitting next to her, and who stared at me with her huge green eyes, had been making it very hard to stick with change three.
It hardly needs mentioning that this job paid well (for a nonaccredited Bible school), was as far away from Portland as I could get, offered basically unlimited European travel, and had a strict no-fraternizing-between-staff-and-students policy.
Which was why, when my office door swung open to reveal the pretty brunette, cheeks red, eyes shining with tears, full lips ever so slightly parted, and smelling like peaches (how do girls do that?) I groaned inwardly.
My office was way too small for the both of us. “What’s up, Dani?”
“I still haven’t heard from my sister.”
“Sit down.” I indicated the folding chair in the corner of the closet the school had set aside as an “office” for lecturers.
Her skirt fluttered as she took her seat, giving me a glimpse of her tan knees.
“Drew’s not back yet?”
She shook her head and sniffled into her sleeve.
“Travel weekend was technically over yesterday.”
“Exactly.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’ve called, texted, emailed. I’ve tried to call our parents. It’s like she’s just disappeared.”
I grimaced.
It was like she had just disappeared, and seeing as how the last any of us had heard of her was that she was going to hitchhike to Malmo and catch the EuroRail with the goal of seeing how far south she could get in a weekend, it was more or less terrifying.
Dr. Hoffen, the school director, had taken his family to Gothenburg to the amusement park for a long weekend while the students were gone, leaving me, technically, in charge for the next two days.
It wasn’t unheard of for students to come back from travel weekend on their own schedules instead of ours, but I was far from comfortable being the person responsible for the missing girl. “When did you last hear from her?”
Dani took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I got this text on Sunday morning.” She held out her phone so I could read the message.
“‘I found it’?” I read the message aloud. “What did she find?”
“I don’t know!” Dani narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. Her misery seemed to dissipate before me, replaced by a kind of intense interest. “It could be almost anything, couldn’t it? Drew likes this cryptic nonsense, and every message she sends me is more obtuse than the last.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Drew had struck me as trouble from day one, and if she was bent on making us work to find her, she was perfectly capable of it. “Did you go back and read the rest of her messages to see if there were any clues? Or go over previous conversations with her? Things she may have been hoping to do once she got to Europe?” I picked up my mug of strong Gevalia coffee—not the cheap stuff they make in the kitchen, but the stuff the students make for themselves in the lounge. It lived up to my Portland-bred expectations for coffee.
Dani blushed ever so slightly.
I sipped my coffee. Drew had an embarrassing secret, maybe?
Dani pulled her skirt down a little so it fell over her knees again.
“There was only one thing I could think of, but it’s so dumb…”
“To you it’s dumb. It may have seemed incredibly important to her.” Drew was young. I really hoped she had “found” tickets to a One Direction concert.
“I mean, I’d agree it’s important, but it’s dumb to think it was what she was looking for, or what she found.”
“Try me anyway. Think of it as brainstorming.”
“Her last blog post was about finding true love.”
“She doesn’t strike me as someone looking for the one.” Far from it, in fact, much to the happiness of the boys at school.
“Not at first, I agree. But when you get to know her…” Dani smoothed her skirt again. I wished she’d stop doing that. “Drew’s a romantic girl. If she believed she had moved overseas to meet the one, then who knows? Maybe she met someone on the train. Maybe she thinks she found true love.”
I scratched my chin. Maybe she did think that. But finding a teenage girl who had run off with some romantic-seeming European man—with the whole continent to search—was not the problem I wanted to have to solve. Finding a student who had missed her ferry and was sitting on the wrong side of the Baltic Sea for an extra day, or someone who had gotten pickpocketed and was stowed away in some Danish police station with an interpreter trying to help her get back to school, or someone who had stayed a few extra days to catch a boy band concert…that was the kind of problem I could wrap my brain around.
Not eloping.
I did not get paid enough to deal with that.
“Yeah, we should dismiss it.” Dani stared at her hands. “I mean, even if she did think she had found true love, what’s the worst that could happen?” She lifted her face and stared at me with those eyes, the button nose, the light sprinkling of freckles. The trust.
I immediately pictured what I might want to do if I had met Dani on a train and Dani thought it was love at first sight. The worst that could happen… “We’d better contact the police.”
Dani chewed her bottom lip and nodded. “Okay. You know, she has the GPS on her phone, so maybe they can find her really easily.”
“Or find her phone, if it’s been stolen.” I stared at the phone on my desk. Who do you call in Sweden when you want to find a cell phone that has gone missing somewhere in Europe? “She was due back last night by nine, so technically she’s only been missing for eighteen hours. Let me call the local police and talk about the problem with them.” I looked at my watch. Afternoon classes would start in an hour. I had time to call.
Dani nodded. She fanned herself with her slender, tan hand. “Thank you. I’ll call my parents again and see if I can get through to them yet.”
I stood up, to indicate that maybe she ought to let herself out.
She did.
Before I called the police, I made my way to the office to talk to the admin assistant, a bombshell of a Swede who had caught my eye when I first arrived. She was the kind of woman I ought to be interested in. And I would have been, if she hadn’t been so scary.
I stood a few feet from her desk and cleared my throat.
She looked up, one blonde eyebrow lifted.
“Drew Honeywell hasn’t called, has she?”
“What about her folks? Someone from home?”
Stina looked at her watch. “Drew is rather late, isn’t she?”
“She should have been here last night.”
Stina sucked in a breath. “Too bad.”
“What do we do now?”
She shrugged. She was so icy she could have been the model for that Disney princess.
“Getting back late from travel weekend isn’t abnormal, right?”
“Nej. Happens every year.”
“When do we start worrying?”
“We don’t.”
“Er…” I hated to fall back on the monosyllable. I trust I’m a better communicator than that, generally speaking.
“This is Sweden, Isaac. A very safe country. The kids always come back.”
I pulled a chair up to the desk and sat on it backward. “Dani said Drew took the train to Europe to see how far she could get.”
“In a weekend?  What a waste.”
“But Dani said…”
“Sure, Dani said that. But did Drew really do it? Why would she want to spend the whole weekend on the train?” Stina typed while she dismissed my problem, missing kids being a normal kind of problem, apparently.
“For the adventure, I guess.”
“Ja. She might have. The train from Malmo to Copenhagen only takes half an hour.”
“So how far south do you think she got?”
Stina turned her computer screen to face me. “EuroRail travel planner. If she hitchhiked to Malmo, she could get on the train by, say, Saturday afternoon, and be as far as Venice by Sunday afternoon.” She pointed to the map on the screen.
“Venice?” I leaned back. Young American girl alone on a train. Italian men.
This was bad.
Stina nodded. “Or she could get anywhere else she wanted. And then she’d turn around and come back, but it might take her longer than she thought it would, since there are”—she referred to her screen—“at least seven train changes between Malmo and Venice. And anyway, if she made it to Venice, just for example, she’d only be getting back to Malmo now.”
“If she’s just lost on the train, why isn’t she answering her phone?”
Stina would have rolled her eyes at me if it wasn’t beneath her, I’m sure. “Drew Honeywell is twenty years old, Isaac. If she doesn’t want to answer her phone, meet her curfew, or even come back to school at all, she doesn’t have to. If she wants to disappear completely, she can, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“We can call missing persons.”
“Of course.” She paused. “But if she wants to stay gone, she can. She’s not a child.”
“She’s really twenty?”
Stina didn’t answer.
Drew didn’t seem like a twenty-year-old to me. And I did not agree at all that if she wanted to disappear, it was completely her right. Not while I was the one in charge of the school.
“Do you know how long a person has to be missing before you call it in?”
“I’m sure there’s not a time limit.” Stina’s eyes were trained on her screen, and her fingers were flying across her keyboard. She was clearly done with this conversation.
“All right, then.”
I took myself back to my office and dialed 411, the Swedish emergency number. I explained the situation to the patient (and fairly English fluent) operator.
“Ja, I understand,” she said. “A missing student abroad, this is very terrible.” She clucked in a motherly-hen kind of way. “We will contact INTERPOL. We will find her, don’t worry. Our police are very, very good. And we have a group—a very good group called Missing People Sweden. We find missing people very well. So you don’t worry, okay? Your missing student will be found, surely.” She clucked again.
I had Drew’s school application open on my computer and gave the operator all the vitals. I also gave her my cell number and the line to my office phone.
“Very good, Mr. Daniels. We will be in touch. A missing student…very sad and scary for you, but not for us. We will find her, okay?” She had a singsongy, soothing sort of voice. I wouldn’t worry. Stina seemed to think there wouldn’t be a problem. This nice emergency operator seemed to think it would be fine. Only Dani was freaking out, and what did she know? She was just a kid. “Thanks. Tack sa mycket. I really appreciate your help.”
“Oh, not a problem at all.”
I went to the next lecture ready to rock and roll. What at first had seemed like a terrifying dilemma was no big deal, and Drew Honeywell’s situation was safe in the hands of the experts.
Time to blow the minds of the Bible school kids by telling them that their idea of salvation was a modern construct imposed on the current church by the psychological needs of the postwar world. My favorite lecture.


  1. I love my paperbacks and hard copies - except I'm so busy writing that the pages will be all yellow by the time I get back to reading them again. Sigh. What a conundrum!

    ~Nancy Jill

  2. Lol! That's how I feel, too! And now that we're part of the writing community we know about so many more great books, that the to-be-read pile has just gotten out of control!

  3. This is going to sound weird...oh what else is new from me...but I like the way books smell. Just walk into a book store (if you can find one) or a library and you'll know what I mean. True I use my e-reader for reading these days (I read The Hound of The Baskervilles, and it's great!) but it's just not the same thrill I used to get when going to where books congregate to find new adventures because of that smell.

  4. I love the way books smell too! I also like the way they sound as you turn pages, or, even better, the crinkle of the cellophane covers libraries used to put on them. It was a big, purposeful mental switch to accept that an ebook still delivered the story...and to learn to love the book for the story without the smells and sounds!

  5. I love my kindle, and the ability to carry my library wherever I go, but there is something about a real book ... An avid reader like me shouldn't fill her bookcases with pictures and trinkets, right? I need the weight and feel of the real thing around me.

    Love the covers, BTW, and the beveled edges. Nice.

  6. There's nothing to compare holding a printed book you have created in your hands.


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