Writing in the 4th novel has been dragging slowly lately. Writing With Arthritis is fun (for some perverse values of the word). In the meantime, the upcoming US elections will again act as a referendum on women’s ability to have agency over their lives.

And Now… Excerpt from The Property of Blood

Finally, the upcoming novel! I made my last edits while on an Alaska cruise, “enjoying” COVID symptoms as I finished with the last scenes. Caught a lot of interesting glaciers, all in retreat or dissolution, helped in part by the ship’s massively polluting engines. I wasn’t going to walk from Texas to see it, so…it was the way to go.

A shout-out to Grammarly for giving my editor a run for his money on the ticklish grammar. (Robin comes out way ahead, given the tricky “Shmuley-speak” of the narrator’s sentence construction.) The last piece in the way is the dust jacket. For some reason, this one’s harder to get down than the first two. But I Shall Prevail. Still looking for a publish date in early October.

Buy A Day at the Zoo

Buy A Question of Allegiance

Without further ado, here’s the excerpt:

The scene, from where I stood on the steps of the Followers of Faith Christian Church, looked like the petting zoo of a serial killer. As a Haredi—ultra-Orthodox Jew raised in a Yiddish-speaking neighborhood—this was like watching aliens land. But for an APD homicide detective, the overtime pay was enough to buy a whole week of food. So, keeping peace at a church event was something I would suffer. Hopefully, no one would give me work for mine real job: homicide detective.

On top of the church, at mine back, flew a flag, green and gold in four quarters on a shield, with three purple lambs going across it at a diagonal. Didn’t see this before in the church. You should have it on a flag or something. Like an American flag at a used car dealership it waved, so big it was. Like the church building itself big.

Families disgorged from cars at the far side of a long oval driveway, which circled a bright green grass lawn, each in clothing fancy, as if for services. Not Subsid clothing could I see in the mass.

People walked from there to a fenced pen. Dozens of baby sheep inside it wandered in a broken chorus, crying for their mothers. When not eating the lawn. Their last supper. The smell of manure came and went on the breeze. Already there must have been five thousand people. The event, as listed, said they expected ten. Where outside all those people would fit I wasn’t sure. Certainly not on the grass, which into quarters was split, with clear spaces between for ambulances or police vehicles to quickly get inside the crowd.

A main street ran beyond the driveway. All around the church were low, sooty cement Subsid apartments. All alike, except only with different graffiti on them. The bright spring morning only showed the buildings off with more squalor. Mine grandparents told us stories of before the Amendment, when the president was Nixon. When families could be as small as they wanted. Before being pregnant and not having a baby was murder. Before, when people had things to take or use so as not more babies to bring into the world. Before Subsid became living a life when not enough for people there were jobs. Before the Preborn Investigation Bureau—the PIB—and its investigations of what was in sewers to tell of pregnancy. Before GodMother inquisitions for miscarriage. PIBniks, fech.

The church was like an egg in a nest of sticks. A colossal bubble rising, with columns like Greek temple columns all around it. Below the flag, a cross bloomed at the dome’s crown. Fancier by far than the State Capitol building. Almost exactly like a British royal orb it looked. Only greenish, from the copper roof. And tinged with the soot that covered everything, eventually.

Many of the men in the in the crowded swirl were dressed in white, thin robes with a fabric strip to tie it shut. Exactly like our Jewish kittels. Only on some holidays we wore them—and were in them buried, instead of in a coffin.

I adjusted mine police hat, then tugged at mine service belt. A little tight on me it was. Tight enough to keep mine equipment from falling down. As a detective sergeant in APD’s homicide squad, this for me wasn’t mine usual dress.

“Bored, Shmuley?”

Lieutenant JJ Dawson above me towered by a foot. Mine uniform was just tight; his was custom for him fit. On his face a smile flickered. Dawson was for us detectives the mother hen. Also, our slave driver—and the backup we needed sometimes against the Austin Police Department’s bureaucracy.

“This uniform makes me itch,” I said. Thanks to the Religious Freedom Act, mine usual “uniform” was more traditional: black felt hat with a hatband (no feather, please), black jacket, pants, and shoes. And a white shirt, collar open. Under mine hat a black fabric yarmulke. And under mine shirt a fringed undershirt. Both reminders that we were, from other religions different and held to a high standard. “The penguin suit,” mine mostly charming squad mates called it.

“Welcome to my world.” Lieutenants wore mostly dress uniforms. For all their important meetings to go to. After a moment, down the steps he went to make a circuit. He, like me, was for overtime pay working, so it wasn’t like now he was mine boss.

In the line of parishioners, the men in the families passed money or Subsid vouchers to a man in a white robe with on his head a flat, round, white hat, like a tambourine. A priest, maybe? The priest to the husband or oldest boy gave a small white box.

From the top of the steps I took a break and walked down to the front, near the animals. Nearby was Michael Midas, another Austin homicide detective. Aka, the Golden Boy. With blond hair, too.

He nodded at the zoo. “Do you have this ceremony at Jewish churches too, Myers?”

“We call them synagogues, actually,” I, with a smile, took the sting off the correction. “We ultra-Orthodox Jews, I mean. But no. This is new for me. Is this something your church does?”

His head he shook. “Nah, we just have prayer services a couple of times a week, and a big one on Sunday. Easter’s a longer service, at dawn. This is one of those churches that tries to do things the old biblical way, but for rich folks. Kind of fundamentalists.”

I didn’t know. Not mine biblical way, for sure.

“Although,” he continued, “I’m thinking maybe we won’t have lamb chops this year.”

A bleat came from the large, fenced pen. Three baby sheep got somehow their heads together and tangled in the fencing. A couple of the teenagers, their boots shmeared with animal dung, trotted over to save them from themselves.

Excerpt: A Question of Allegiance

Today, I’m showcasing “A Question of Allegiance.” A Day at the Zoo laid out all the characters and backstory. The trick with follow-on novels in the series was to make each novel standalone. Cue lists of key moments to be explained, biographies, and, due to the language, ensuring that each term is spelled and used consistently.

This is also where I started using the calendar of Jewish holidays to anchor the story. While AD@tZ was merely sometime in February, AQoA and The Property of Blood were closely following the first in the time line.

Okay, maybe this is TMI from author to reader. But the Jewish holidays each represent concepts of the book itself, adding a layer of texture. I hope you enjoy the book!

Oh, and remember, there’s a sale on both books throughout the month of July! The @Smashwords sale is part of their Annual Summer/Winter Sale. Be sure to follow me for more updates and links to the promotion for my books and many more! #SWSale2023 #Smashwords.

Buy A Day at the Zoo

Buy A Question of Allegiance

Here’s an excerpt from the novel, A Question of Allegiance:

Donuts. The curse of cops the fashtunkeneh—awful—things were. Chocolate. Chocolate and some fruit thing. Jam. And maybe a little vanilla I smelled, too. Chocolate was expensive so much almost no one had it to give away.
My mouth watered. I glanced over mine left shoulder behind me what to see who was there. A crowd of hungry cops is what was there. Lieutenant Dawson was by them in the middle, glaring at two uniformed officers who maybe should have been bloodhounds. Or maybe Intel.
I got up, then in mine chair sat back down. Today was Ta’anis Ester—the Fast of Queen Esther. So, no breakfast. Also, not at all eating today until the Purim holiday celebration tonight. Cake, cookies, and booze for me awaited. And no donuts. Chaya, mine wife five years to me married, being pregnant, today could eat anything. Jealousy is for between a couple a bad thing to feel.
At the Austin Police Department, I’ve been a detective for three years. Haredi—what we call ourselves, and what others call ultra-Orthodox, usually didn’t work outside of cities with big Jewish communities. But when they a detective badge waved at me, I took it, even if our little shtetl community was smaller than even Skokie was.
“Hey, Myers, want a donut? Dawson brought them in from one of your bakeries, for the squad.”
He meant a kosher one. I wasn’t enough hungry that into sin it would tempt me. Dawson above his head waved one. Almost I could see others getting ready to jump up for it. He over six feet stood, big and muscled and like a fallen oak leaf black. He polished his kopf like a radar dome instead of growing out hair to cut.
“Thanks, but I can’t today,” I said, standing up again. “I gift it to you.” At him I made a little bow.
He snorted and back to the group of cops turned. “What am I bid for Shmuley’s donut?”
A funny man. I sat back down. Just another slow afternoon in the APD homicide squad room.
Mine desk, what I named Shmendrick, meaning idiot, had electronic clutter on its top windows and objects. And that was on the screen part only. On the desk itself was the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, in print.
It I opened first, and over to the classified section went. Mine eyes went to one tiny ad, just a line. “Stocker Needed.” A phone number, and an extension. A message for me, from Upline. A when and where, and to where, like a secret taxi ride.
Upline helped women escape the Preborn Investigation Bureau, “PIBniks,” or “GodForce” as most called them. Women who were by accident pregnant and needed the whole United States to escape to get an abortion. Or to help rescue helpers who the PIB were looking for. I, from before even I moved to Austin, worked for them, moving people. Hiding people. Like the enslaved people from the South up North being smuggled. Not something mine police department would like for a homicide sergeant to be doing, for sure.
I closed the paper and into a drawer put it. The stack of folders next I looked at. Audits, the commander had decreed. Audits of a certain former Detective Simmons, who turned out not to be one of the good people. A murderer, almost, of me, mine wife Chaya, and the little fetus that in her was growing.
That last piece into such trouble he got him daylight he would never see. Sure, trying to bomb your partner and his wife was bad. But a preborn trying to murder brought on him down the wrath of the GodForce—Preborn Investigation Bureau—with their lawyers and prosecutors and special powers.
Fine, so auditing I had to do. Mine punishment for surviving him trying to blow us up. The stack of papers setting on fire with mine eyes I tried. Not enough strong a glare. I sighed and pulled the next folder open, to read what five years ago he did that might have been wrong.
yemach shemo—may his name be erased—was maybe inside APD part of a terror group. Fighting crime wasn’t for them good enough. Killing people they thought were guilty was what they wanted. For them I was looking—because mine other job was as a Mogen Dovid for the Jewish Sanhedrin. A defender of our people—the Jewish people. To APD and GodForce, though, the Sanhedrin was a terrorist organization. If they even knew it existed. And on mine hands already I had blood.
This folder was from eight years ago. A murder, no fetuses involved. Religion not involved either. On the “maybe” pile I put it. The “no” pile an ant could see over. For “yes,” there was no pile. Later that would pile up, for after I reread each folder in the “maybe” pile.
Mine electronic clutter swept to one side of mine desk, and a picture of a phone in its place appeared. I tapped mine earbud. “Detective Myers.”
“How’s it going, pahdnah?” Most Blessed Jethro Waters, mine liaison to the Preborn Investigation Bureau, like on a horse, a cowboy he sounded. Also, loopy a little.
“I don’t have a partner,” I said. “I’m a—ah—alone ranger.”
“Lone Ranger. Lone Ranger, Shmuley. You’ve got to work on your idioms.”
“We didn’t have Lone Rangers where I grew up.” Because where I grew up, we only had the Torah, and the Gemara—Talmud—and books by rabbis about things only to be more Jewish to know. Vids only of religious topics, for kids even too there was only ‘kosher’ programming.
“Whatever. You’ve got me, like it or not. Pahdnah.”
“Oh, did you apply to APD? I hear there’s an opening for a homicide detective.”
“Ha,” Jethro said. “Yeah, Simmons. That’s the reason for my call. “Clear, his voice got, the Abilene from his accent disappearing. But still to me he looked like on drugs.
“Nu? You done interrogating him?” To the PIBniks Simmons, from the hospital being discharged got transferred. Federal, they said, trumping our local jurisdiction. Because of a fetus he tried to hurt, not for two real humans almost at his hands dying.
“Yes,” Jethro said. On screen his face sagged like when too close beeswax got to a candle. From firm to loose. Medications, I hoped. “We’re done interrogating him.”
“And he was found dead in his cell about twenty minutes ago.”

On fiction, reality, and fantasy

The Shmuley Myers books are in an alternate reality, where a constitutional amendment in America means that citizenship is awarded at the time of conception. Those folks of the XX chromosomal variety can see how this turns every non-term or non-live pregnancy into a murder investigation. And that follow-on legislation broke the separation of church and state concept in public and government.

When I started writing the series back in 2017, these were solidly fictional ideas. By April of 2022, fiction was clearly trending into a horrific reality. I’d gotten the cover down to draft form, and my editor returned comments on A Question of Allegiance, but… I couldn’t. I was depressed, anxious, and returning PTSD symptoms. Work stopped. My stress on the novel stopped me up entirely. And, for the record, when the writer’s unhappy, ain’t nobody happy.

This past weekend I got back into the saddle, if only on a different horse. YA fantasy, draft already complete, and spend a couple of days doing light editing, buoyed by how good a shape it was in. Once I got AQoA out the door, I think this is my next “polish and publish” project.

So that’s while I’ve been absent these past two months. But I still want to have the next installment of the series out in the fall of 2022.

Release, oh sweet (pre-)release! [edited]

While I’m currently wrestling on getting the paperback edition up, the kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon. It’ll be on KDP for the first 90 days at least. Gudrun did a great job on the inside — much slicker than I’d expected, and I did have expectations, thankyouverymuch.

The aforementioned paperback grappling was, as much of this journey has been, an education. ISBN’s I have, and a different one is necessary for each medium in which the book is produced (e.g., ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook, CD). ISBNs aren’t required for Amazon’s platform, but are for other ebook venues. For print, however, ISBNs are required and, if the author is supplying them, an “imprint” is required. ISBNs are connected to imprints (e.g., Orb Books, an imprint of Tor Books, the publisher).

Not sure about hardcovers, although current wisdom is that the more media a book appears in, the better the sales, at least on the Amazon platform. I’ll burn that bridge once I get the ebook and paperback out.


I’ve also started looking into an audiobook version, and trying to decide on whether to look at single-reader vs. ensemble of characters. Also on how I’d pay said reader or readers. So, mulling it over while marketing, editing, and, oh, right, more writing.

On the marketing side, I’m looking into reviewer sites, many of which require the book to be published. A catch 22 for a first novel under this name

Getting a mailing list put together. Writing these posts. Having a day job. It’s a lot to put into a blender. But don’t worry… just pre-order the book and your troubles will be solved!

Publishing, and no book’s a single person’s work

I’ve decided on a “soft launch” for A Day at the Zoo, now that copyediting and cover and pagesetting are done. Kindle electronic (probably not KDP) and paperback to start with. I’ve been reading up on publishing from a few sites, including ALLI, which I recommend for anyone serious about Indie publishing.

One of the last things I did to button up the book was to list the people that helped. It turned into all manner of folks. I like a well-researched book, that tracks, as closely as possible, science and reality. That included a few groups:

Writing groups. Austin is blessed with a very active writer population. The venerable SlugTribe group meets twice monthly, open to all, for SF/FF/Horror writing. I’ve been a member almost since I moved here to Austin the early 90s. There’s a monthly bar meetup, which is virtual for the pandemic. I’m a member of the White Gold Wielders writing group, with a raft of former and current game industry folks.

Professionals. I’ve got a cousin who’s an ER doc. Good to have professional advice on exactly how wounds damage and heal. This is a police-based murder/mystery, so having a cop on the virtual payroll is totally necessary.

Experts. Although I was raised a religious Jew, it’s been a while, and Shmuley, the protagonist, is much deeper in than I was. A number of friends served to keep me as honest as they could.

At day’s end, of course, this is fiction, and liberties were taken when I thought necessary. Hopefully I won’t hear their teeth-grinding as they find the places where I’ve skewed from their sage advice.

Next post will have release date and ordering info…

Oh, the joys of copyediting

A Day at the Zoo is a thriller, with the added fillip of having a narrator who in inside-out English speaks because any which way you can make a sentence in Yiddish.

Initial versions were so densely twisted that it impacted its readability for some early readers. I made edits, then more edits. And, finally, realized that I needed professional help (aside from the psychological variety). I engaged with Robin, an editor in England, to give the manuscript a crisp shaking out and cleaning.

Robin’s not Jewish, nor someone who’s familiar with, as my readers call it, Shmuley-speak. But he read a snippet, and took it on anyway. The joy of a good editor is how they do when presented with strange words and contexts. Here’s a bit from an email from him:

The word shabbes appears regularly with that spelling, in italics, and not capitalised. (Sometimes it has a capital, but I’m tempted to retain the lower case because that seems to be the majority default rendering.) What, then, is Shabbat, which presumably means the same thing, but has a different ending and a capital? I can’t imagine it’s all that difference as a concept, but what would you prefer? Leave the discrepancy aziz, or render Jewish sabbath and Shabbat consistently as shabbes? (Such things get noticed – Chapter 2/19 is actually called Shabbat, but the first word in the text is Shabbes.

Elsewhere I am trying to make sensible decisions as to what to capitalise and what, not. Generally, if a word is familiar enough to Western ears I leave it in roman (eg bar mitzvah). If it is less part of the mainstream, I retain the foreignness in italics (eg, goyim). BTW, I thoroughly agree with your practice of immediately providing a translation of each new term as it occurs. Our narrator is steeped in his own culture and history, but he doesn’t want to estrange anyone. This is a neat and economical way of indicating that character trait.

Meanwhile the intrigue continues. Who would want to poison a tiger? And why was this particular woman the victim? And what a dangerous game Shmuley is playing with the fugitives. There’s a lot going on and it’s all moving forwards nicely. But do let me know about the shabbes thing.

So… fun times for me. I had final say, and it was quite the process going through all the nits as well as the larger issues. Authors editing their own manuscripts only gets someone so far. Robin’s been awesome, and hopefully he’ll be able to take on the coming manuscripts from the series.