New Sneak Peak!!!!!!

Compared to the house and room, John Fleming was small and relatively unimpressive. He turned from the window behind the desk and strode forward to greet us. As I watched him walk toward us, the fear and anxiety I’d felt for the last hour, the worry over Doc, and the apprehension about approaching this rich, powerful man shifted and coalesced into a large lump of ice, sitting right below my heart. I had promised myself that I could be reasonable and handle this situation rationally, in the name of getting the information I needed. I had told myself that I’d be confident and persuasive, eloquent even, in explaining to him why I needed answers to my questions. By the time John Fleming had crossed the carpet to stand in front of me, I wasn’t sure I could do any of that. I was coldly angry.

“Jason, it’s nice to see you again. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting your friends,” he said, his eyes hooded.

I almost laughed. This wasn’t the same friendly, doddering old man I’d met the other night. This man was suspicious of us. And he was lying. A small part of my fear fell away at his words, and I shook my head.

“Mr. Fleming, this is my friend Paul Merrell. I believe you already know Reis Slayton. He is, after all, your employee,” I answered softly.
Paul squirmed and coughed at my unpleasant reply, and Reis grunted in agreement. John Fleming’s expression didn’t change, though I could see his eyes narrow in displeasure.

“Please have a seat,” he answered quietly. He motioned to a large leather sofa, and sat opposite the sofa in a plush leather chair. Once he was comfortably situated, he turned a false smile on me again.

“What can I help you with, son?”

I pulled air in through my teeth and gathered myself. I needed this to go quickly, and as smoothly as possible, so I started with the polite version. “Mr. Fleming, my grandfather is missing. I know that you know where he is, and how I can get to him. I came here to get answers. And I don’t have a lot of time.” I glanced at my watch meaningfully.

Fleming sat back in his seat but said nothing, so I charged on.

“I know about the stones, sir. I know that Doc’s used them to go to Medieval England. What I don’t know is why. That’s what I’m here to find out.”

That got Fleming’s attention, and I sat back myself, satisfied. His expression of serene condescension turned to shock, then to crafty denial.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, son,” he replied quietly.

I paused. I’d expected denial, but I hadn’t exactly come up with a plan to deal with it. My confidence waivered, and the silence drew out.

“Oh come on!” Paul muttered, surprising everyone in the room. He glanced at me, raised his eyebrows, and nodded toward Fleming. “Tell him, Jay,” he murmured. “We don’t have time, right?”

I nodded, speaking quickly at Paul’s goading. “Paul’s right. I’ve only got a few hours to figure out what’s going on, and that’s it. I need to know what I’m looking at. Specifically.”

Fleming held his hands up. “Boys, perhaps you’d better –”

Paul cut in before he could finish. “Listen, buddy, perhaps you’d better,” he snapped. “My friend here heard the conversation between you and Doc the other night. He heard everything! We know about the stone, and we know what it does. We know about your nut job son, and his war with Doc.” He paused and glanced at me, questioning. I shrugged back, willing to let him do the dirty work, and he continued. “I think you believe in your son more than you believe in Doc, and that it’s put him in terrible danger. You may not care about saving him, but we do. We need to know what you know. Now.”

Fleming shook his head and looked angrily from Paul to me. “I’m afraid you misunderstood our conversation, son.” His voice shook with emotion, and his cheeks turned a bright red. This man didn’t like being questioned, and he was losing his temper.

Paul laughed. “Misunderstood? Really? Is that why armed men just happened to run us down and blow up Reis’ car and half of Jason’s driveway? Or why they broke into their house last week? Why exactly did you hire Reis Slayton to protect Jason, Mr. Fleming? Afraid he was getting bullied in school? Come on! What’s going on here?”
Instead of answering, Fleming turned to gaze at me for a moment, then moved his eyes to Reis. Reis took a deep breath, nodded, and spoke.

“The boy’s right. I don’t like being screwed around with, Mr. Fleming, no matter how much I’m making. You obviously know a lot more than you’re letting on. I suggest you tell us what we’re dealing with.”

Fleming shook his head and stood abruptly. “Boys, Mr. Slayton, I’m afraid I have other business to attend to this morning. This conversation is over. I assume you can show yourselves out?”

Suddenly a soft, husky voice joined the conversation from the other side of the room. “If you don’t tell them, John, I will. They certainly have a right to know.”

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New contests!

So we have some new contests up and running for Keeper, which releases in 2 1/2 short months! Contests include…
1. Go to Goodreads and put Keeper on your TBR list! When we get to 100 people, we’re giving away two signed and personalized bookplates for Keeper of the Black Stones.
2. Paste your pre-order receipt for Keeper of the Black Stones on the Keeper FB page! The first ten people to do so win signed, personalized bookplates.
3. Get those FB likes up for Keeper! When we get to 500 likes on the Keeper FB page, we’re giving away TWO SIGNED GALLEYS!

Get out there and give the pages some likes so I can give away some of this good stuff!

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Sneak Peek #2!!!

I made my way through the living room and den to reach the kitchen. Doc was brilliant, but he was also a creature of habit. And it made him easy to track. He always left his book bag in the kitchen beside the mudroom door, right next to the refrigerator. Unfortunately, I too was a creature of habit; my bag always sat right next to Doc’s. Today hadn’t been the first time that I’d grabbed the wrong bag or set of books in the morning. I had planned for this tonight though, and my book bag was sitting safely up- stairs, in my room. Doc’s bag was here, all alone. And what I sought was still inside. I’d checked on that earlier, when I came to get my bag.

I took a knee on the floor beside the book bag and glanced over my shoulder to make sure that I was alone. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. Trust was a virtue that Doc valued above all others, but this was important. I absolutely had to know what was inside the journal.

I took a deep breath and reached into the bag. There was the journal – right where it had been earlier. I let my breath out again, with both relief and fear, and pulled out the leather-bound volume. Reading this journal may or may not answer my questions about Doc’s sanity. The bigger question, though, was whether I actually wanted to know those answers. Either way, something told me that I needed to read the book. Something was going on, and Doc knew at least part of it. I eased down to sit against the wall and stilled, listening. Just the groaning and creaking of our old home, though there was a deep thrumming coming from somewhere … a thumping in the ground, almost as though someone was playing heavy drums a few houses down. I paused, listening, and felt the beat enter my bones, and then my heart. Something was there, I could feel it, though I shook the feeling off. I thought I heard footsteps from upstairs, then, but decided that it was my overactive, guilt-ridden imagination playing tricks on me. I wasn’t used to sneaking around like this, and my nerves weren’t taking to it like I’d hoped they would.

For a second I thought about returning the journal and walking back upstairs. But only for a second. I was in too deep to back out now, and my curiosity would never let me sleep. Besides, now that I was here, there was no reason to let the opportunity go to waste. Nowhere to go but forward. I opened the journal to the beginning, resolute on reading it cover-to-cover instead of skipping around like I had earlier, and tilted it toward the light from the street lamp. Bending down, I began to read. Slowly at first, and then more quickly as the story caught me and held.

For over an hour and a half, time stood still. I read every word of the journal as it unfolded. I read many of the entries two and even three times, to make sure that I had it right. My heart raced the entire time. Not from fear of being caught, but from the story itself. I knew without a doubt that the journal was real, at least in my grandfather’s mind. These were not the words or emotions of some creative writing assignment. Whether that meant he was losing his mind was a different question altogether. I still had my doubts about his sanity, but as I read, I began to believe, despite myself. What if he had found a way to do it? What if these happenings were real? But if it was actually going on … if the journal entries were recorded as fact, and not as the incomprehensible raving of an old man, then everything I thought I knew – everything I thought important in my life – had been turned upside down and inside out. This would rip apart the fabric of reality as we knew it, and the basic bindings of my everyday existence. I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes. What in the world was Doc hiding? And did the break-in mean that other people knew about it too?

I felt rather than saw the presence of someone walking into the kitchen, directly across from where I sat in the mudroom. I gulped and opened my eyes, my thoughts frozen. My sixth sense hadn’t lied to me. He was standing in the kitchen doorway, staring back at me.

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New Contest!!!

Just announced! The first 20 people to post their pre-order receipts on the Glass House or Keeper of the Black Stones FB pages on Friday, November 9 will win signed bookmarks AND signed and personalized bookplates! Get over there and get it done!

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Text Reveal!!

Keeper Sample #1

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Cover Reveall Time!

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Birthday Parties Nowadays

Is it me, or have children’s birthday parties become miniature debutant balls? I know I sound old when I start off a conversation by saying, “when I was a kid,” but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

When I was a kid, a birthday party consisted of three things. The first one being cake and ice cream – usually a Dunkin Hines cake baked by mom and store-bought chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Two, your friends, who arrived and left within a two-hour span because that was your mom’s capacity for tolerance. Last but not least, presents, for lack of a better word, were cheap. We’re talking GI Joe knock-off figurines, you can’t call them dolls, and perhaps a matchbox car or two. Certainly nothing over $4 dollars.

Of course that was last century. I must have missed the memo that instructed all of today’s parents to hold “coming out parties” once every 365 days. In fact, my daughters don’t have birthdays; they have birth weeks (“Come on Dad, it’s my birthday next Thursday … can I have a new computer?”). Since when did the friends of the birthday boy/girl receive gift bags? Have you seen these gift bags lately? Watches, toys, candy, jewelry, gift certificates …. Are you kidding me? Whose party is it anyway? We have to bribe the kids to show up?

And these parties aren’t at the house or in the back yard. Not unless you’ve brought in your own jump house and juggling clown. We’re talking amusement parks, cooking school parties (complete with five-course meal), theme parties, and classical dance instruction, among others. I’m waiting for Selena Gomez to drive up in a limousine, prance out, and hand out gift bags, all in order to get the party started.

It used to be that you needed to save for your kids’ college fund or marriage (why the parents of girls get stuck with this bill is a whole different blog). Now, you have to save up for your kid’s eighth birthday! “Sorry honey, we can’t go on vacation this year, you’re turning seven.”

I say enough!! Can’t we just go back to mom’s homemade cake and semi frozen cheap store bought ice cream before we all lose our minds? Seriously?

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About Those Cartoons …

This weekend, something occurred to me … namely, how much different the world is now than when I was a kid. My girls, for example, have no idea what Saturday mornings meant to me when I was young. They don’t have any concept about the reverence I had for that few hours of the week, or how I spent the ENTIRE WEEK waiting for it to arrive. And before you ask, no I’m not talking about sleeping in late.

I’m talking about what used to really matter to me – cartoons!

When I was young, I would’ve given anything to have cartoons available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A generation later, my children have been granted my wish, and guess what? They don’t care!

I don’t blame them; in fact, I have no doubt I would have felt the same they do if I’d actually be granted that wish when I was young. After all, it’s like having Christmas every day. Sure it sounds good, but how much is too much? After a few weeks of continual Christmas, we’d be bored with it. The beauty of Saturday mornings in the past was that it was our only time we – as children – were important to the networks. They were catering to us, and forgetting about all the adults out there.

And while I’m at it, here’s another thing – when I was a kid, the cartoons were COMPLETELY different. We had Scooby Doo, the Justice League, Bugs Bunny, Fog Horn Leg Horn, Grape Ape, Jabber Jaw, and of course the generation before me had the greatest cartoon of all time (unfortunately for only one season) – Johnny Quest. Now I can’t even follow the animation. It’s all anime, which is probably great for some people, but just doesn’t catch my imagination.

In the old days (I can’t believe I just said that), the Friday night before school started for the year, the networks actually had programs on prime time to announce and preview the new cartoons for the year. It was awesome! It was like the super bowl for kids. Of course you had to wait through the entire week for it to get there. But then on Saturday you got up before seven, poured a bowl of cereal that contained chemicals and four cups of sugar, opened up your TV tray, and sucked it all in. It was AWESOME. But now … well, cartoons twenty-four hours a day, but I can’t stand them. And my cereal just doesn’t taste as good as it used to. Moral of the story is … be careful what you wish for, because when it gets here it might not be what you expected!

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The Question of Writing and Editing

An awful lot of people have asked me what it’s like to get a book published, and my editor is on me to blog about it, so I’ve finally given in. Here we go. Patrick’s best instructions for how to write (or revise and publish) a novel (in case you’re of a mind to do something like that)…

First, let’s throw away the romantic notion that you’re sitting in a log cabin somewhere in the winter time with a wood fire and a glass of wine, typing the last page of your “finished” manuscript, to send it to the publisher and be done with it. That’s just something they made up for the movies.

There is no dramatic pop of a champaign bottle when you’re through writing, and there’s no signature lighting of the Cuban cigar you’ve been saving for just such an occasion (if you smoke, which you shouldn’t). In fact, you probably won’t even know when you’re through. You’re still in the middle of what you think is a million and one changes, and then you get an email from your editor, telling you that the text is declared. And that’s it, you’re done. Soon you see your book up for pre-order on B&N, and all you can think is that there were still about two thousand changes you could have made.

The fun stuff is what happens in between the first time you ‘finish the manuscript’ and the actual time you finish the manuscript. The fact is, when you hand your manuscript to your editor, you quickly find – to your shock – that your book isn’t done. In fact, even though you’ve written 500-plus pages to this point, you haven’t even started yet. You must add a new character and your “concept” of the story has to change. This needs more development, that needs more description, and your bad guy isn’t actually bad enough yet. You need to figure out where you’re ‘going’ with the book, and even with the series. Your editor quickly becomes your best friend and your worst enemy. You start dreading his or her emails, but if he or she doesn’t email you back quickly, you get obsessed with watching for the response. Treat him or her with respect and a watchful eye, because their job is to make or break you! You’ll probably write your manuscript 30 to 40 times during the process of editing (honestly), and you may learn to hate every word of it by the time you’re done. And then suddenly, just when you think you might scream if you have to revise one more time, it’s over. You get the email that says ‘the text is declared, hope you were done with it,’ and that’s that.

Then it’s time to start all over again, with the second book that’s due to come out next year, and that’s now incomplete because of how much you added to the first book.

It’s a whirlwind, and that doesn’t even start to describe it. But it’s all worth it in the end. When it’s in print, it’s worth every minute of the hell you went through. And that’s the best way I can describe getting a book published … at least the writing part. Next time I’ll talk about the marketing, public appearances, tweeting, Facebooking…

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The Life of a Swim Parent

I’ve encountered many challenges as a parent. Late night visits to the ER, jealousy between siblings, emotional episodes that seem overwhelming to a guy who grew up an only child. All of these have been difficult, but none of them quite compares to living the life of a “swimmer parent.”

The best way to explain what I’m going through is to give you a daily schedule:

6 am: Wake up to find three e-mails pertaining to swim team practice.

6:15 am: Another e-mail explaining how one of the earlier e-mails had an error.

10:00 am: Morning practice. Best to try and find neighbors who don’t actually work so they can shuttle your child to practice, as you’re probably in the office at this time.

12:01 pm: E-mail concerning practice.

4:40 pm: All volunteers (this term is used despite the fact that no one actually volunteers. Your wife signs you up for the meets ahead of time because if you don’t, you’ll face the wrath of the other parents who are also just reluctant ‘volunteers’) are to report to the pool for their job briefing.

5:30 pm: Your lane assignments are given and the “snack bar” opens. On a side note, I’m convinced that the swim meet is nothing more than a place where children are allowed to eat every conceivable type of junk food known to man because they’re all “ energy sources.” Since when is it a good idea to feeds swimmers loaded baked potatoes and pizza ten minutes before their race?

6:00 pm: You’re given a sheet that has the names of the swimmers you are assigned to “watch” for the evening. If you’re lucky, you get the older kids (preferably girls, boys are tough and my wife lets me know daily how lucky we are to only have girls. After swim meets, I whole-heartedly agree with her.)

6:30 pm: The meet is well underway and 3 out of the 28 boys that are on your list are missing. Their race is about to begin and several coaches and judges are looking at you for answers. As if you secretly have the ‘in’on where said boys have gone.

6:36 pm: Missing boys are found eating pizza next to the baked potatoes stand.

7:45 pm: Rain delay

8:15 pm: Renew the race; try to round up 28 boys who are now on a sugar high.

9:45 pm: Rain delay

10:10 pm: Renew race schedule.

11:23 pm: Meet is concluded. Yes, you read that right, 11:23 pm. And one of the ‘collegiate aged’ coaches suggests over the loud speaker that it would be a great idea to meet for ice cream after the meet. Are you serious?

12:07 am: Return home. Child goes to bed. You must clean up bag full of wet clothes.

12:14 am: An e-mail concerning the results of the swim meet.

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