Archives for December 2015

The last elf chart

Justin's Elf Chart

Justin’s Elf Chart

When I was little, in the 1970’s, my family started a tradition we call elf charts. I know my mom got the idea from someone else, but it’s basically a home made advent calendar. If you’re nice, the elves visit while you’re sleeping and give you a sticker. If your naughty, no sticker.

When my kids were old enough we started the elf chart tradition in our house. Some years go better than others and there have been plenty of mornings (like after a Christmas party) when the elf wished there was no chart or that the kids would some how forget to check for their sticker.

Now that my youngest is a suspicious eleven year old and the older two are world wise eleven and twelve year olds I think we are in the midst of our last elf chart. Like so many things, it’s finally easy, just before we stop.

I know others have gone through it but it’s an interesting change for me. Going from the magic of christmas and all the potential to ask Santa for ANYTHING to a season where time off from commitments and schedules or spending time at home as a family are the real gifts, even in the kids eyes.

I’m going to miss the commitment of the elf and the daily surprise of finding a sticker when they knew it was probably a close call.


Weekly lesson & quote – 12/7/2015

It’s funny, writing novels takes time. You work every single day on a story and there never seems to be enough time to write, research or rewrite. Like most authors I’ve talked to, the next story is fighting to come out as well. Every day feels like it goes by in a mad dash but then your book feels like it takes forever to come out.

What I re-learned this week was patience.

Lesson: Patience is as important as hard work. If you give up because success hasn’t come as fast as you would like, all your hard work was for nothing. Relax and keep working, your success is on it’s way.

Quote: “When you are tempted to give up, your breakthrough is probably just around the corner.” ~ Joyce Meyer


Cover Reveal ~ American Lease

I’m excited to reveal the cover for my new book American Lease the first book in the Dylan Cold series of thrillers. Below is the teaser and cover. Underneath is the first Chapter. American Lease will be released before the end of the year, if you want a special heads up and early notice of freebies and giveaways sign up for my mailing list.

American Lease

American Lease – Dylan Cold Book 1


While walking on the path through the disbanded town of Monson, New Hampshire Dylan Cold and his dog Montana come across a dead cop, and his killer. At gun point Dylan is forced to help the killer and is drawn into the search for an historic document that could give the holder legal ownership of the land covered by the original thirteen colonies.


Chapter 1

The air was crisp and the foliage in southern New Hampshire was stunning, a perfect day for football. Dylan Cold didn’t notice, that life was history. It had been almost eight years since he played football on Saturday. It had been six years four months and twenty-three days since he had ingested a substance that gave him a buzz.

Football had been his identity. From his very first snap at quarterback people were telling him he was born to play football. Pop Warner was like a video game for him. He wasn’t always the biggest kid on the field, but he was consistently the fastest and the smartest.

Before drugs, the only adversity he faced was freshmen year in high school. Even after an exceptional summer workout with the varsity team it took him three regular season games to take the starting job from the incumbent senior.

Dylan’s father had guided him through that time with a firm hand and compassionate support. His dad told him that it was not about being the best individual athlete; it was about doing the most to help the team get better.

Unfortunately his father was no longer with him when he discovered Oxycodone. Even superior athletes develop bumps and bruises after years of playing football at a high level. For Dylan those injuries started effecting his life in the summer before junior year in college.

In Spring ball he had taken a shot on the hip. He was able to ‘walk it off’ during practice but for two days after the pain was intense. Barely able to walk, Dylan missed a lifting session in the weight room.

A teammate came to find him and offered a couple of pills to take the edge off of what was probably ‘just a stinger’. The pills didn’t just take the edge off, they smoothed everything over and he was sure they made him faster and stronger.

It was a fall day, much like today, when the graduate assistant came and brought him to the head coach’s office. Dylan could actually remember thinking that this was it, the day that he would be formally anointed starter and not just the replacement. Instead his quarterbacks coach poured an assortment of bottles, baggies, envelopes and pills out of a shoe box and onto the coaches desk.

“You’re done.” The coach said before getting up and leaving the office.

The quarterbacks coach and the grad assistant helped him clean out his locker and escorted him out of the field house. There were several other users in the program but Dylan had been cavalier and gotten caught, the worst offense of all.

Montana, Dylans seven-year-old Golden Retriever, pushed his nose under a pile of leaves just off the trail. He pawed and nosed and played while Dylan kept walking. After about fifty more feet, Dylan stopped and called to the dog.

“Montana.” He said firmly.

Montana dutifully left his claim and trotted down the path to catch up with his master.

Dylan loved walking in the woods of New Hampshire. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for or if he would ever find it among the trees, but it allowed him to hold life at bay for just a little bit longer. This path through old Monson was one of his favorites. The abandoned town felt significant, there was an important air to it, but there was never anyone here.

Where he had grown up in Western Pennsylvania there was some history, but New England was rich with history. It amazed him that more people weren’t walking around and exploring this pre-revolutionary war site. Mostly though he was grateful to be so alone in such a beautiful place.

Montana stopped, frozen. He heard or smelled something interesting, likely a deer. Dylan scanned the edges of the woods but didn’t notice anything.

“Easy boy. Stay with me.” He commanded his best friend.

Montana wanted to run, but he didn’t. The dog stood stone still until Dylan walked past him and then he fell in step about one pace behind. His ears were up and he was still alert but Dylan was in charge.

As they rounded the bend and emerged from the forest, rolling fields spread out before them. The path had turned into a full-fledged road and there were several noticeable breaks in the stonewalls. In the fields behind these breaks were cellar holes that were approaching three hundred years old.

Standing roughly in the center of the field was a replica of the Gould house. There was a house standing in that spot until 1909 but it had been salvaged and updated so many times that it was not a true representation of the original. What was there now was close to the original in size and layout but there was not enough original material to call it genuine.

The early morning light was soft and gave the vast open space a serene feeling. Dylan could imagine farmers coming out to tend to the animals before a long day spent in the fields. Sometimes he thought that the solitude and reward of farming would have been perfect for him. Other times he realized that he wasn’t emotionally tough enough to handle the inevitable losses that farmers contend with.

A distinct ting of steel on steel shattered the serenity and caused Dylan to inhale quickly. The sound was not natural; someone was in the area though it was an odd time to be working here. Dylan had walked to the trail from his apartment and there had been no vehicles at the head of the trail. Whoever was here must have come in from the trail on other side. It was odd that a contractor would be asked to do work but not given permission to open the gates and drive his tools closer to the job site.


Montana could wait no more. He rushed forward towards the curious noise and was twenty yards away before Dylan could even call out.

“Montana, stay with me!” He yelled after his running friend.

The dog disappeared around the corner of the house and Dylan picked up his pace. He wasn’t worried about the golden retriever, but he knew that some people were not dog fans and he didn’t want any trouble.

A loud, ferocious bark came out from behind the house. Montana never barked, except when he was at the door waiting to come in. Then it wasn’t really a bark so much as a polite dog noise used to alert the owner to his presence. Dylans’ walk turned into a jog.

“Yelp!” Montana howled in pain.

Dylan was at a full sprint before he even thought about what could have caused his dog pain.

The golden retriever met him at the corner of the house. His big fluffy tail was tucked between his legs and a noticeable limp favored the left rear leg.

Dropping to a knee Dylan directed all of his attention to his dog. There was no blood and no open wound visible, which was a good thing. As he ran his hands along the dogs back and down his legs nothing felt out of place. Hitting or kicking his dog was not acceptable but hopefully that was the extent of the maltreatment.

“Hey.” He called out as he walked towards the back of the building.

As he turned the corner Montana cowered sheepishly behind him.

On the ground he could see several clapboards haphazardly strewn about. Even though they weren’t original, one would think that anyone who works on a historic building would have more care for the pieces they remove. He looked up from the ground expecting to find the person who had done this, and injured his dog.


Looking left across the open field revealed only emptiness, no humans or animals to be seen. A few more steps forward and he was able to inspect the hole that had been opened in the back of the building.

A rough opening had been made in the outside wall. The wood was splintered with discarded pieces littering the ground under foot. Whoever had done this possessed zero knowledge of woodworking or construction. They had actually made the work more difficult for themselves by attacking the spaces between nails.

It didn’t look like senseless school kid vandalism. There was no point and no message left behind. Besides, teenagers are lazy. If they wanted to vandalize the building they would have thrown rocks through the windows, or painted something stupid.

Following the slightly trampled grass around the building revealed no more damage. On the ground near the corner was a cigarette butt that could be new or old.

Montana stayed behind him until they had both reached the front of the house and began walking back to the road. By the time he reached the center of the road Montana’s tail was back to it’s usual position swaying from side to side as he walked with a less noticeable limp over to a pile of leaves.

Dylan thought about turning around and heading home. It was only half a mile before his normal turning point and he really didn’t want to get involved in anything. Montana left his pile and began trotting off into the forest. The dog was in charge and he said they were going to get this walk back to normal.


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William Martin ~ Influencer

Cape Cod by William Martin

I had to look up the word serendipity just now and I think it fits. This morning I was trying to figure out how to write a post about William Martin and how much I enjoy his stories. When I took a break to go to the transfer station I made my customary stop at the book exchange. Sitting right on top of everything was Cape Cod
by William Martin. I haven’t read it so I grabbed it.

As a kid I lived in Acton Massachusetts, close to Concord and the Old North Bridge where the American Revolution started. One of my favorite times of the year was April 19, Patriots Day. There was a march that left from the high school and followed the path the Minutemen took to Concord in April 1776. At the bridge a reenactment of the Shot Heard ‘Round the world took place and Red Coats and Minutemen made history come alive.

Even after a long walk ten year old boys aren’t much for sitting still. As soon as the reenactment was over we would head off towards the visitor center and explore the grounds. We played tag and hide and seek and generally acted our age. Some of the facts sank in but mostly I remember a sense of fascination and excitement. What those men did that day amazed me even back then.

William Martin brought those feelings back with his stories. The first one I read was The Lost Constitution and I absolutely loved it. Peter Fallon is a great character and I think there are many writers who would love to have a side profession of antique book dealer. More than that was how he took history and a plausible idea and ran with it. It’s the kind of fiction, and writing, that makes me stop and think “Hmm, that might actually be real.”

Most of my writing starts with ‘what if’ and William Martin is a master of ‘what if’ and history. What if there were a different version of the U. S. Constitution? What if Lincoln had written notes that could have changed the narrative about the civil war? There are so many things that could have happened but have simply disappeared over time.

After the The Lost Constitution I read Back Bay and Harvard Yard. Most recently I enjoyed The Lincoln Letterand now I have Cape Cod to look forward to. If you liked the National Treasure Movies or Dan Browns books, pick up a William Martin story and give him a try, you won’t be disappointed.



Writing to market – #genrehopper scope


This is my first real attempt at doing a periscope broadcast. My hope is to make this a regular Wednesday morning feature but it will take some time to develop that habit. I promise that I will keep working on these to make them better, this first one is kind of rough 🙁

If you have questions for me or there is a topic you think I should cover let me know. You can tweet me tag it #genrehopper or email me or even post a comment below.


Plan, schedule, write – What I really won from NaNoWriMo 2015

NaNoWriMo Winner!

It’s December 1 and NaNoWriMo is officially over. I’m a winner this year (yeah me!) and unlike the last time I won, the book I wrote isn’t the prize.

In November I wrote 75,268 words. That averages out to 2508 words per day. There was only one day that I wrote 0 words and that was the day after I finished. Not only that I had a day where I was able to write 6250 words, a personal best for me.

The book that will come out of NaNoWriMo 2015 is called Harbinger Hawk and it is the third book in my new Dylan Cold series. I think it is the best book I have ever written and I believe that people will really enjoy reading it. The other thing that came out of November is a writing habit that I love and that I expect to last for a long time.

My previous books were written out furiously at all times of the day. I would write 200 words any time I had the chance and sit in front of the screen for hours waiting for words to come out. When I was done with a book I would be exhausted and completely confused about how to start the next one. There was no process and no habit just a frantic race to get the words out of my head.

With all the things I had going on  in November I realised I had to plan out my story and my work. I started to schedule writing time, usually between 8:30 and 11:00 in the morning and work only on writing new content during that time. When I’m going to write I sit in the same chair, light the same candle and listen to classical music.

NaNoWriMo helped me develop a better writing habit. I’m excited about the book I produced but I’m more excited about the books to come.