Agent secrets, possibly.

GhostWalk

According to a few query rejections from literary agents (helpful ones, with comments, the rarest kind), and according to my copy editor, and what I’ve since learned is common wisdom, you never start a novel you hope to sell with a character waking up in bed. A silly shibboleth, because there must be instances where waking is the best possible start to a story, but the game of literary agency has rules that players ignore at their peril. 
Here’s my try at a fix, a new top for Chapter One of Ghost Walk, the 3rd story in the Ellen and Geoffrey Fletcher Mystery Series, the one set in Charleston. You can follow the home-page link to the rest of the chapter.
The question is, does this insertion undo the auto-rejection curse, or just postpone it for a couple of pages?

 

Chapter One

     Ellen watches Geoff bump down the gravel drive, ‘the roughest part of the trip,’ he’d said, last night. Thirty yards out, he disappears entirely into the trees. If she waits a minute longer she’ll see a last quick flash of his diminishing figure where the drive crosses the power-line cut. Okay. There he goes, going, gone. Bon voyage, husband.

     His gear is state-of-the-art, self-built, idiosyncratic, but top-grade. From his helmet, his slick reflective lycra top, padded patent spandex shorts, to his custom fitted biker shoes—all well worn in—he should be okay. His franken-bike, heavy-duty components, way too hefty for a racer, is solid and comfortable for touring. Stuffed into his saddle-bags, panniers, are expertly rolled civilian clothes, repair tools, travel food, weapons. He’ll be fine.

     She turns back into the house. It’s 7:15, time for a second cup of coffee. The day will be soft and lovely. But the damp chill of the morning hasn’t yet burned off. When she ran her loop, an hour ago, it had been a struggle to breathe through the blanketing mist. It’s better now; it will be all gone by the time Geoff gets to the city limits. That will be the real ‘roughest part,’ crossing Roanoke through early traffic until he gets to the trail. US Bike Route One, from Roanoke to the coast at Charleston is almost 400 miles; it’s supposed to take 35 hours. Geoff plans to make it in 25, in two days of riding. He probably can, if he avoids accidents and injuries. Which he probably will. He rides to work every day, 14 miles down the mountain, 14 miles back up, often 5-10 miles across town. Just like commuting, he said, except you keep going. Charleston is not his longest nor his first solo ride. He’ll be fine. She wishes she could summon a force field to repel chasing dogs and aggressive angry drivers.

     She will join him at Riverrun next week, as soon as she wraps up her current TravelAmerica assignment; not in time for the bridal shower, but a couple of days before the wedding. She’ll drive the car, to spare him having to bicycle back. It’s nearly eight hours of highway driving. He’s flat out crazy, Geoff is, every once in a while.

     Riverrun is Savion Gage’s plantation, half reconstruction, half new-built. It’s perched on uncommonly solid ground, at a confluence of rivers, in the coastal swamp. She spent two days there, several years ago. Geoff gets down every year, pretty much, except he’s missed two in a row. Outsize people engaged in a strange and outsize enterprise. Geoff will enjoy a long stay, probably she will, too. Nah, for sure she will. Savion’s a bit of a blowhard, but his three-quarter brother, Gordon is gold. Lottie’s awesome capability keeps it all together. The boys, the older one gorgeous and bad, the younger one sweet and shy. And the lovely Alicia. Two girl children now, besides Carrie, the one who’s getting married. All the kids were kidnapped into adoption, according to Geoff. The names will come back to her. Lots of blanks to fill in, and fantastical tales to deconstruct.

     She’ll be happy to see the family. She’s not so sure about dealing with dozens of hangers-on and hundreds of strangers. Carrie’s wedding will be the social event of the year in Charleston—Gage is Low Country royalty—a media circus will jumble up the family sacrament. The groom, not a local guy, a rap star, is no doubt hauling down an entourage of his own.

     The coffee helps. Her head is clearing, like the vanishing tendrils of mist down the valley. Geoff will be fine. Probably make his time. Probably walk funny for a week. She does like what the stretchy shorts do for his butt. Worry be gone!

 

Gratuitous flower shot;
sometimes the first amarylis of the season goes all out.

Currently showing off at the Earth Guild store.

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Upcountry, Madison.

Half a foot of fresh powder fell here last night,

my Colorado siblings would say;

unless the goal is to entice skiers up from Denver,

then it’s “nearly two feet, hurry, before it collapses in the sun.”

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And, it’s a wrap. But wait, there’s more…

Ho. No.

Smile!

Santa’s folded in half, tucked in a box,
and gets the next eleven months off.

 The nonseasonal human staff,
we’ll be working every day,
till he pops out again.

But since it is a new quarter,
the quadannual offer engages
at the start of this fresh year.

¡EBOOKS FREE — RED HOT & READY!

from the Ellen and Geoffrey Fletcher Mystery series

five January days in 2017, the 5th to the 9th, Thursday through Monday

free from Amazon.com (the cover pictures below are direct links)
available only in Kindle format

If you haven’t got Kindle capability, you are on the list.
Amazon will drop a drone from their nearest warehouse blimp,
find your home, and upgrade your toaster with a Kindle-reader app;
also your computers, tablets, mobile phones (free of charge).
An actual Kindle device will cost you:
have your credit card ready,
the drones do not make change.
Thenceforward, you shall have access to hundreds of thousands of titles,
classic and modern, as well as to my two. for five days free.

Kindle encourages authors to trade income for exposure.
It’s a simultaneous worldwide deal in all Amazon stores  —
US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy,
Netherlands, India, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Brazil.
People everywhere like free stuff.

Give either or both of these titles a try; and let me know what you think.
Comment here, or email me at mystery@budcrawford.com.

FitToCurve

The Asheville Story

Heart Attack

The Williamsburg Story

A few clips from readers,
carefully culled from
favorable reviews on Amazon.
.

    Fit to Curve is a skillfully written mystery with complex characters and such a fascinating plot that I’m way behind on my chores.

    This series is a favorite with interesting plots and wonderfully drawn characters. Wish the author would write more of them. The type of book you don’t want to end.

    A bed and breakfast mystery. Super characters, well developed. You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. A mouth-watering, good read. Love the old lady with the sharp wit. I’d like the recipes, too.

    The plot builds very slowly. But once I got into it, I was hooked. I liked the characters, and you get a lot of insight into them.

    This is too fine a novel to be mired in the mystery/suspense ghetto. It’s a good mystery, with a complex plot, all the mystery trappings, but the characters are rounded and attractive. The theme seems to me to be a consideration of morality – not just sexual morality (or immorality), though there’s some of that too, for those who like to read such descriptions, but all kinds of morality: for how high a price might you sell your soul?

    Heart Attack is a great read!

    This couple are a great addition to the mystery genre. Sharp and interesting with a bit of humor and spice.

    Snappy dialog. Geoff and Ellen are a great team. He has a definite intuitive method of assessing info and arriving at conclusions that baffle and irk his cohorts. Ellen is more conventional and together are a great team. Unusual mystery not easily solved.

 

COMING SOON:

 
The Charleston Story: seeking agent.
The Atlanta Story, final edit.

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Some assembly required.

The truck is coming in the morning,
we’ll put it all together tomorrow.
Tech Tuesday, dress Wednesday, school show Thursday morning,
Friday evening, Saturday both matinee and evening, Sunday matinee
2:30 and 7:30 at the Diana Wortham Theatre.

New idea for this year, first step,
12 foot tall chocolate sundaes.

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Not shown: 70 dancers
from 4 years old to 70-some
performing around 180 parts

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180 costumes, averaging 7 pieces each
1300 items, more or less,
plus a few hundred props.

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In the corner, left alone,
the tutus pause for calming breaths.

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Yeah, it’s Nutcracker 2016
from the Asheville Ballet
December 9th, 10th, 11th.

We’re not going to miss it,
you shouldn’t either.

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Out of house, out of mind.

When I see an outhouse lean
across the line of straight white trees
I like to think some birches pull it,
birches too far from town to know
of septic tanks or perforated pipes
whose only game is what they make and play alone.

Shot straight up,
the november sky,
clean as a pantone chip.

Sky bisected by a phone line
under a power line
beside the tree line.

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Winter is coming
but not today.

 

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Fallen.

The Ginko hangs on to the last.

Lavender leaf,

and red.

Some saplings hold on in protected pockets.

But, it’s over, really.

Except for the oaks,

last to emerge, last to drop.

It is all the leaves on the ground

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that feed our surround of forest fires.

Depending on which way the wind blows,

the sun cuts through the drifting smoke in streaks
and we get warnings not to breathe.

 

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The season flows.

Now, after the first hard freezes,
and the leaves all come to ground,
we move to the next things.

A tidy traditional cranberry sauce kit,

just add to the berries and cook.

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Meanwhile, shall we repurpose the

Sleeping Beauty columns for the Land of Sweets?

Perhaps.

 

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A flit of piques peaks peeks.

 

We’d come to the compost heap to harvest a poke of genetically dubious
volunteer squash and melons.

Shot a shaggy shadow self.

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Lifting eyes to the hills,
the compost enjoys a 360° sweep,
when the hay’s cut,

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of all our ring of mountains.

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Everywhere, first signs of the retarded deployment of fall colors.

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October 15th used to be middle of the range for peak color
in the middle elevations,

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but in this ever-warming century it’s past Halloween,
sliding towards Thanksgiving.

While, beside the monitor, the last of the color
drains from compost-ready cut flowers,
in splendid decadence.

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The Monarch and the Black Snake.

We had a visitor, for the first time in many years,

we stalked her for an hour, just the one.

A decade ago, we’d have hundreds flock through.

If the snake can’t see you, you can’t see the snake,
brunching on burrowing mammals.

Over the south ridge, also mostly hidden,

up at ravens’ croft, a pillowy agent of change
assesses the coming of the colors
in the cerulean October sky.

The Monarch even made a movie, too big to post here.

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Clockwork.

 They play their signature tunes,
the audience goes wild,
as only a terra cotta crowd can.

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But you can soar, instead,
1/4 of the way around the world.

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Join the migration today.

¡EBOOKS FREE, RED HOT & READY!

from the Ellen and Geoffrey Fletcher Mystery series

for five October days in 2016, the 6th to the 10th, Thursday through Monday

free from Amazon.com (the cover pictures below are links), available only in Kindle format

If you haven’t got a Kindle Device, one shall be prepared for you.
Amazon sends a drone to your home (they know when you are sleeping)
that upgrades your refrigerator with a Kindle-reader app,
also for your computers, tablets, mobile phones (free of charge).
This modest incursion opens access to hundreds of thousands of free titles,
classic and modern, not just to mine.

Kindle Direct Publishing invites authors on their platform to trade income for exposure, tooffer their books for free every few months. It’s a simultaneous worldwide deal on all the Amazon stores (US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, India, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Brazil). People will take a chance on free stuff who’d hesitate to pay for a book from an author unknown to them.

Give either or both of these a try and let me know what you think.
Comment here, or email me at mystery@budcrawford.com.

FitToCurve

The Asheville Story.

Heart Attack

The Williamsburg Story.

A few clips from readers,
carefully culled from
from favorable reviews on Amazon
.

    Fit to Curve is a skillfully written mystery with complex characters and such a fascinating plot that I’m way behind on my chores.

    This series is a favorite with interesting plots and wonderfully drawn characters. Wish the author would write more of them. The type of book you don’t want to end.

    A bed and breakfast mystery. Super characters, well developed. You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. A mouth-watering, good read. Love the old lady with the sharp wit. I’d like the recipes, too.

    The plot builds very slowly. But once I got into it, I was hooked. I liked the characters, and you get a lot of insight into them.

    This is too fine a novel to be mired in the mystery/suspense ghetto. It’s a good mystery, with a complex plot, all the mystery trappings, but the characters are rounded and attractive. The theme seems to me to be a consideration of morality – not just sexual morality (or immorality), though there’s some of that too, for those who like to read such descriptions, but all kinds of morality: for how high a price might you sell your soul?

    Heart Attack is a great read!

    This couple are a great addition to the mystery genre. Sharp and interesting with a bit of humor and spice.

    Snappy dialog. Geoff and Ellen are a great team. He has a definite intuitive method of assessing info and arriving at conclusions that baffle and irk his cohorts. Ellen is more conventional and together are a great team. Unusual mystery not easily solved.

COMING SOON:

 
The Charleston Story: seeking agent.
The Atlanta Story, under edit.

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Autumn weeds.

Colors just happen in the fall.

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Abundance of don’t-forget-to-touch-mes,

 but calming now, no longer explosive.

Truth, beauty, decay.

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Sumac works through orange

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into its final reds.

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Spent and pulling back, residue of bloom.

Quiet all summer, the chimney rose seizes the day.

Still just a scatter, it’s early days.

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Weeds are flowers

you don’t have to cultivate.

Sometimes the best colors

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aren’t hardly colors at all.

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Transition signs.

Through shot.

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Thirteen bales, first cut in June, just three in September
after one of the driest summers on record, our record.
There was areal rain that kept sliding by.

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The garden slows, but is not done.

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A visit from Esmerelda and the twins

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bulking up.

For winter is coming.

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Sidewalk sales.

The day of the recent rally
a couple guys in a big ol’ red pickup
set up their sales station.

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Hundreds of Made-in-China “Make America” hats
in red and white and blue
plus a dozen cases of t-shirts and banners rolled up.

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When they first arrived the wind was perfect,
all four banners pulled out straight south down Haywood Street:

Trump/Pence
Don’t Tread on Me
Old Glory
and the Battle Banner of the Late Failed Secession.

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Then the wind shifted ever which way
and they all went a little twitchy.

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American democracy
in all its grandeur
history itself
at the curb.

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Fallen into dance.

Fall into Dance

The Asheville Ballet’s annual free performance in the park.

3-400 people watched and, if clapping and hooting count,
they enjoyed what they saw.

Photos are from last night’s performance (Friday, 23 Sept 2016).

One more show, tonight, Saturday, at 7:30 pm.

8 dances from 6 choreographers using 15 dancers,
beautiful work with poised and professional dancing.

Well-done tech — lights  and recorded sound and live music
— wonderful venue, perfect weather.

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Don’t miss tonight’s show, bring friends and family, maybe folding chairs.

Performance details at the Asheville Ballet website.

 

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Deadheads.

Four pictures of the same

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heap of discarded flowerheads.

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You have to pull the finished flowers

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so the next generation of buds

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will have nutrients and space enough to bloom.

The jumble of fading stems and petals
like a heap of exhausted partygoers
collapsed after the champaign’s gone
caught by the rising sun.

They’d make a lovely jigsaw puzzle.

 

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Final fruits.

Fewer peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes each time you check,

the last big mess of beans,

the last full tray of romas,

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one perfect unexploded chestnut,

and, after a little rain,

the blooms from below

visit us briefly

in the air up here.

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Working blooms.

The bees are in it for the hive,

they load their knees and carry the pollen home.

Butterflies are voracious

but work alone.

They light upon their dinner

and feast


with no interest or concern

for the ghostly gardener

who set their table months before.

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Table flowers.

They’re not that far from where they grew,

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cut and brought inside,

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gathered into splendor

in a vase,

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perched above the edge

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of my screen

 to watch as I puzzle out my mystery.

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Flower surround.

One quick turn around the house,

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all the usual suspects

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in quiet riot,

swaying in the soft summer afternoon,

having done everything they need to do,

flush with pollen.

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Easy living, flora.

The tall flowers, all at once.

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A rose leaning languorously on the wire.

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Everything is full out.

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The day lilies go

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on

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and on

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in an almost silly abundance.

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Hydrangea row

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shows no signs of slacking off

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in any of the varieties.

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On and on.

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The timid little flowers in the rail pot have filled out.

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The under story is at maximum,
from the ground reaching up among the low branches of the trees,
all the little weeds, all the middle weeds, all the giant weeds.

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And this, of course, is the first sign of the end of summer
the fullness before the finish.

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