The bitter hail had thrown his pall.
Heavens colored in painting grays,
The trav’ller ducked the crooning squall,
Merely to find folks locked in frays.
This time when the lamp flickered I thought it was going to be the last glimmer of light. I had not paid the bill in sixty days. The notice for its discontinuance had come twice. If only the electric company would understand that I would pay them as soon as there was work. No one had called the office in almost a month. At least it was summer and I did not have to worry about the heat.
I rattled my fingers against the too-fine shined desktop, staring at the reverse lettering on the door. The fan in the window oscillated, buzzing endlessly. I willed for someone to walk through and save me from financial decay. At the very minimum, they could save me from the cramped office.
I jumped when the phone rang. Scrambling to pick up the receiver, I looked to my own door to remember my name. “Jon Cole, Private Investigations.”
“The Jon Cole?”
The question was delivered softly. “I suppose.”
Do you catch bad guys?” The voice was meek, barely audible through the receiver.
“I – I do.” I swallowed, thinking of how long it had been since I had talked about my own business. There was something I usually said about supporting the clients, having integrity, and upholding justice. I cleared my dry throat while trying to remember my spiel.
“Can you help me? I am at the food court in the Berksley Shopping Center and there is a bad guy here somewhere.” The voice had a bit more confidence.
“What is your name?”
“Jackson … Holster.”
“Okay, Jackson,” I said, “what exactly is the issue?”
There was a pause on the phone, and then Jackson said, “Somebody took the sandwich I got from Hoagie Heaven and I want to know who did it.”
I sighed. The first phone call in forever and it was somebody prank calling me. I was firm. “This is a serious busine-”
Jackson continued, “It is more than that. They also took my chips and soda. The entire combo was just snatched away when I was getting napkins.”
“Jesus,” I muttered. “Listen, I only take serious cases. This is the office of a private investigator.”
“But you are Jon Cole?”
“I am,” I grimaced. “Thanks for calling and have a nice day.”
“No wait!” Jackson shouted. “This is serious. I have money. I will pay you. I need you.”
“My retainer is $250. For that amount of money, you can go buy a whole slew of combos from Hoagie Heaven. You don’t need me; you need to go get another sandwich and keep a closer eye on it. Goodbye.” I slammed the phone down and cursed my luck.
Crime rates were supposed to be elevated in the summer. I could not believe that the only case offered to me had to do with a stolen sandwich.
The phone rang again. I hesitated before picking it up.
I did not even get any words out of my mouth before Jackson’s familiar tone was heard. “I will pay you. It is not about the cost, but this is the third sandwich I have had taken this week. Money is not a concern.”
“You have had three sandwiches stolen in a week,” I swallowed hard.
“Please, call me Mr. Cole.”
“Mr. Cole, you have to help me.”
“You are going to pay me two-hundred and fifty dollars to find your missing sandwich? That sounds a bit unbelievable.”
Jackson breathed heavy, “Believe it. It was a cold cut combo on whole wheat. No condiments except for a spot of vinegar. Tomatoes, spinach, and olives. Six inches and unheated.”
I was speechless. This guy was either serious or prepared for the scam of the century. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
The phone clicked on the other side. I took a moment to process what I was doing before gently laying the phone against the base. In the grand scheme of things, it would not hurt to get some fresh air. I grabbed my keys and headed for the Berksley Shopping Center.
The food court was bustling when I walked up. In seconds, a young kid with a lip ring and raggedy hair, hanging over his eyes, strolled up. His red skater shoes matched his bouncing backpack with the shimmering skateboard strung across its back. In his hand was a bulging yellow envelope. “Mr. Cole. Here is your retainer fee.”
“Jackson,” I said, tensing my jaw. My stomach churned and turned, still thinking this was too good to be true. “How did you get this money so quickly?”
I popped open the top of the yellow envelope and sure enough, the top was lined with green.
My detective mind was going nuts. How did he get the yellow envelope? How did he immediately know who I was? Where are his parents?
“Alright, so I was sitting over there against the fence and had my sandwich on the far table, then I walked over there and was getting a napkin when it was snatched.”
I followed Jackson’s finger with my eyes as he explained the scenario. “I guess we can go look at the table any clues.”
I led the way to the table, weaving in and out between tables and other people enjoying their meals. Older couples, young families, and loners munching on their lunch caught my eye. Anyone could be a suspect, but no one had the specified sandwich in their hands. The culprit was likely long gone.
“Jackson,” I asked, “this is where you were sitting?”
I turned around but the kid was gone. Instead, standing in his place were three men in fancy suits with matching ties. I stepped back, nearly falling onto the table.
The tallest of the three had a scratchy voice, “Mr. Cole, I am Agent Johnson of the FBI. You are under arrest for racketeering, including extortion, bribery, and obstruction of justice.” He continued with the reading of his rights that I knew all too well.
“What?” I twisted to look for Jackson. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t be coy, Mr. Cole,” another said. “You are holding the very monies that were borrowed from Valdez this morning out of the gambling ring in Terrance Junction. Your son passed it off to you before he high-tailed it out of here, but we have you now.”
“I don’t have a son!”
“Sure, you don’t.” The first agent snickered. “We will all be interested in when you two reunited.”
“It was probably after Nancy’s death,” said the third.
“Nancy?” I raised my eyebrows. “Nancy McCleer. That was fifteen years ago.”
The first nodded his head, knowing more about my life than I did. “The real question is how long your business has been a front, but we will talk about that when you get down to the station. You better be thinking of a lawyer.”
“What?” I shouted. The entire food court was staring at me. “I was paid this money for a job. This is just a retainer fee.”
The words sounded stupid coming out of my mouth, but I said them anyway. “I was investigating a stolen sandwich!”
Tyler and I met through a Facebook community for writers called the Den of Quills, and recently has been published in Grey Matter, a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories by Meizius Publishing. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to learn more about what got him into writing. Enjoy!
* * *
What got you into writing?
This is the question that Joshua posed to me. It’s a tricky one, because I don’t really remember. Somewhere on my bookshelf I have the first “book” I ever wrote. It was about elves using a snowmobile to save Christmas. There was some heavy Deus ex machina at the end, but it was stapled together to form a short fifteen page illustrated children’s novel. Obviously, I never secured distribution rights for it.
For years after that I would start short stories, novels, and other things. Usually they would just be abandoned. I was published half a dozen times in High School in literary magazines for that level, but most things would be started then abandoned. There are probably hard drives out there, somewhere in the world with thoughts and chunks of stories on them. I know that there are some other short stories and poems, most of them terrible, that are published on different websites and stuff.
Then, there were years where I didn’t write anything. I went to law school, which I actually really enjoyed, and things were going well. I just didn’t really have time to write. I did, looking back, I just thought I didn’t.
Eventually, I found myself working. At a job, like an adult. Then after a little bit I wasn’t. A visit to the hospital eventually ended up with me being at home most of the days and looking fro work that I could do while I recovered for a bit. Writing was something I could do. I started to grab contracts writing for RPG companies, and some copywriting, and some other small things here and there. I was mostly just trying to recover though and still hadn’t give much thought to going back to the writing that I had really enjoyed and considered. At one point a person I had done some work with and had been in talks with about working for posted a call for a novella for an anthology that, if I’m remembering correctly, someone had dropped out of at the last minute. It had to be within the universe that had been created, and the rest is history. I wrote Wild Bloodlines and it was accepted for publication.
I love the feeling, so I decided to look into actually trying to have some success as a writer. Now that’s what I’m doing. I’m still looking at finding daily work, and I’m still doing copy writing and similar work. The result has been reading about how to be at least somewhat successful as a writer and I’ve started working my way up that way. I have a few short stories and other things that have been or are going to be published this year, more work for RPG companies and the like. I like being able to be entrepreneurial and seeing my work out there.
That’s my story on why I’m writing. I can’t really remember a time that I didn’t and it has always been a part of me. Now I’m just trying to go pro.
Tyler can be found at Twitter @Tyler_Roi . He is known to write for Roleplayerschronicle.com and ComixIRead.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Goodreads, and his website is found at www.omichinski.com.
Recently, I joined a group on Goodreads called Support for Indie Authors and was pleasantly surprised by the resources, tips, and members. If you haven’t checked it out, I would strongly encourage it. In the interim, please meet the fearless creator, Ann Livi Andrews. She has agreed to tell us a bit more about herself and the forum. I will let Ann take it from here.
* * * * *
I was in first grade and I wrote about a pencil point that gets picked up by an eagle and taken back to her nest. My teacher stared at me either in awe or horror, I’m not sure which. I can’t be certain whether it was the writing process or my teacher’s reaction that drew my attention, but after that I wrote as often as possible.
Regardless of the enjoyment I drew from it and the “talent” that everyone said I had, I was never encouraged to pursue writing. They told me it was too difficult to get an agent or publisher interested and that I’d never make a living doing it; that I should be realistic and pursue a career like teaching. Which I did… and hated.
Still, my writing “hobby” was never a consideration. I wrote for myself and my future children. I thought they might enjoy reading what I had written someday.
And then my whole world turned upside down. I went through a difficult period in my life and everything changed – including me. I stopped doing what others thought I should do and started following what I wanted to do.
It was during this time that I met the man who would become my husband and he introduced me to the world of SELF PUBLISHING. I’d never heard of such a thing! And quite frankly, I thought he was using it as a pick up line. But as we started dating, he grew more serious about the concept and it was shortly after we moved in together that I published my first short story on Amazon Kindle.
After signing up with Goodreads and reading through a few blogs and forums, I realized that self-published authors weren’t exactly a welcome concept. With our lack of professional editing, cover design, and formatting help, many people thought we were watering down the publishing world and were giving writers a bad name. Because of this, I struggled to find the support and help that I needed to tackle the world of self-publishing.
Earlier this year, as I prepared to publish my 7th work, I realized that it just wasn’t fair. I kept thinking that it would have been so much easier and I could have saved myself many headaches and tears if there’d been a resource out there to help me. And I felt bad for other indie authors in the same place that I was.
So, on a Sunday afternoon in January, I made up my mind. Rather than continuing to gripe and complain about the lack of an Indie Author Support Group, I would create one.
Thus began our small group. I began by extending a mere offer to other indie authors: “I will read and review your book and feature you on my blog.” From there it expanded into this beautiful bunker of resources, chat sessions, brainstorming, and became an overall support group for indie authors.
April marked the launch of our Indie Author newsletter and our hashtag #SupportIndieAuthors. Our member count climbs daily and we’ve had to enlist the help of new moderators to assist us in keeping up with the discussion boards and bringing in new and helpful resources.
My main mission through all of this has been to offer an encouraging place for authors to share their frustrations, their plotline complications, and their continuous up-hill climb with publishing and marketing themselves. While we encourage constructive criticism, we refuse to allow arguments, condescending attitudes, or any other criticism that does not help the author.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It appears that the publishing industry is changing. There are more resources out there than ever for authors who choose to manage themselves instead of spending countless hours begging for an agent or traditional publisher. And we want them to have the resources they need to put out their best work possible and be as successful as they want to be.
For more information:
Our Goodreads group can be found here.
You can sign up for our Support Indie Authors Newsletter here.
You can purchase your own Indie Author t-shirt here (at $0.00 profit to us).
Ann Livi Andrews enjoys fine wine and vodka. Though, she will also accept cans of cold Mountain Dew. When she isn’t thinking about her character’s personal dilemmas, she might be putting pen to paper or spending time with her family. You can find her FREE stories here or her published novels here.
I am learning how to use the Goodreads Giveaway and would like to see how effective this type of promotion is for authors. Please check out and enter your chance for a free physical copy of Melkorka! I will send the book to the winner at the end of the promotion.