As American as Apple Pie

White terrorism is as American as apple pie.

Apple pie is an icon of the USA. So is white terrorism.

I’m white, I’m in my sixties, I’m female. I was raised solidly lower middle class. (A middle class still existed when I was growing up.)

I faced sexism. I watched white males be favored over me, or other more qualified women (although the last few decades of my career, that dwindled dramatically). What I took away from that, for years, was that I understood about the -isms: sexism and, by extension, racism. It is only in the last ten years that I started to realize I had truly no idea. I was always second in line behind the white male, yes… but I was on the “good” side of the velvet rope of White Privilege and that velvet rope, most of my life, was invisible to me.

I never learned in school, for instance, about the consistent, persistent presence of white terrorism waged against Black Americans, except for lynchings. I thought most acts of violence against Black people were carried out by “lone wolves” or groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which, again I thought (wrongly) was mostly southern and mostly gone. I didn’t read about the Greenwood neighborhood massacre in Tulsa Oklahoma until the 2010s. Seriously. I knew “something bad” had happened in a town called Rosewood, Florida, because John Singleton made a film about it, but I thought Rosewood was a horrifying one-off.

On January 6, 2021, domestic white terrorists committed an act of insurrection and invaded the Capitol. As more information comes out, it is clear they were aided and abetted by elected officials and/or law enforcement. There’s evidence today that there were goals, if not actual plans, to murder elected representatives they didn’t like. And there is evidence that a failed President incited and encouraged the insurrectionists.

Many white people were shocked by the violence, the lawlessness and the sheer attitude of entitlement the insurrectionists displayed during their attack on the nation’s capital, and after… demanding “organic food” be delivered to their jail cells, whining that they got pepper-sprayed–“We were storming the Capitol! It was a revolution!” And many of us said, or wanted to say, “This isn’t who we are.”

I have to ask, have you met us?

January 6, largely, “wasn’t who we are” for two reasons; 1) the people being attacked were mostly white and, 2) it was covered in real time, with little chance to edit or hide it away. In terms of its purpose and organization, it is much like the nasty history of organized massacres of Black individuals and families. It isn’t a one-off. The “Black Wall Street” of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was an example; Rosewood was another. They were not one-offs either. They were part of a tradition.

I didn’t even look that hard to find a pattern. This article lists five white racial massacres, and its links took me to many more. I was reminded that I had heard of the Red Summer of 1919, but never in school–on PBS. The Red Summer was the summer that Black American men, who had returned home from World War I, began to fight back when they were attacked and threatened, when the Ku Klux Klan organized mass, widespread violence and murder against them. “The war is over, negroes, know your place.”

Before and after 1919:

Colfax, Louisiana, 1873; At least 150 Black people were murdered. Exact numbers are hard to find since scores of bodies were thrown into the river and never recovered.

Wilmington, North Carolina, 1898: After a small number of Black men achieved elected office, white terrorists killed over 300 Black people and leveled the town.

Atlanta, Georgia, 1906: After an unfounded report that “four white women were assaulted by black men” (more on this later), white terrorists murdered over 100 black people and destroyed a community, devastating its economic stability (and more on this later).

Springfield Illinois, 1908: White attackers started at the house of a Black man who had drawn disapproval because of his long marriage to a white woman. They ended up shooting six Black people, hanging 2, and razing entire neighborhoods, but most importantly, they drove over 2,000 Black people out of Springfield. Scholars theorize that Springfield became a template for later acts of terror.

Elaine, Arkansas, 1919: In Elaine, Blacks outnumbered whites. White terrorists murdered over 200 people including children. They arrested and tortured many more, later reporting that the tortured people “confessed” to starting the massacre.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921: The neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, called the Black Wall Street, was destroyed by white terrorism that included use of airplanes to drop firebombs on houses and buildings. While the official count of fatalities of Black people is 29, there is strong evidence for more than 300 deaths. At the time of the massacre, the Red Cross reported that 1,256 houses were burned.

Rosewood, Florida, 1923: Over 150 people were killed and the community destroyed. Later, a white grand jury and white prosecutor concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the white ringleaders.

All of these massacres and acts of terror have some things in common. In all of them, the Black people in the attacked community were achieving some kind of parity. They were organizing, or they were financially successful, or someone had been elected to political office.

In many cases, “protecting the flower of white womanhood” was the pretext for the assault. In Wilmington, the local white newspaper published a speech given by Rebecca Felton which included this passage, “If it requires lynching to protect a woman’s dearest possession from ravening, drunken beasts, then I say lynch a thousand negroes a week… if it is necessary.”

Many of the pretexts involved unfounded stories rapes or murders of white women by Black men, stories that were amplified in local white newspapers and nearly always retracted for lack of evidence once the massacre was completed.

That’s another thing the massacres have in common; the consistent covering up or revising by local white news sources, and/or the consistent assistance of white newspapers, writing inflammatory editorials and so on, only to retract them once the damage was done.

Finally, something else they have in common; they’re hard to find in history books, and when they’re in there they are depicted more like fistfights in a bar; they’re called “race riots” and the Black victims are often if not always depicted as starting it or generally being the problem.

White terrorism against Black Americans didn’t magically end in 1923. It may have changed a bit. Did it just go professional, as law enforcement, now being used to break up peaceful strikes and union demonstrations, got into the act? From the 1960s through the present, lethal attacks on Black churches persist. According to Wikipedia, from 1991 thru 2000,there were 36 attacks on Black churches. Often, people are killed. Attacking places of worship is a well-established terror tactic.

In the 21st century, the continued “lone wolf” terrorism of murdering black people with no provocation continues, but speaking of acts of terror, it’s impossible to ignore Algiers Point in New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, white residents in Algiers Point got out their guns and prepared to shoot Black people who were purposefully being evacuated through the neighborhood to a nearby ferry landing. Not content with shooting American refugees who were fleeing the rising flood waters, white residents took their guns and trespassed onto Black neighbors’ porches and houses, threatening them–committing, in fact, the very crime that they said they were scared Black people were going to do. (One terrorist was tried, and faced some consequences.) Law enforcement, far from protecting the people of New Orleans and stopping the acts of terror, took part in it, in at least one situation.

I remember the coverage of post-Katrina New Orleans. I remember thinking there was a lot of black looting, especially of things like electronics stores. And after a while I realized that while my mind told me I’d seen lots of footage of young Black men wheeling shopping carts full of TVs out of stores, I’d actually seen one piece of footage of young Black men wheeling a shopping cart full of TVs, over and over. Once again, white media chose to publish the cover-up, not the facts.

It’s going to be harder to do that with the terrorism at the Capitol, due partly to social media and the sheer white arrogance of the terrorists themselves. Already, though, you’re heard it; the Chicago, Illinois Police Union leader who insisted no one had died, there was no property damage, and that it was a “peaceful demonstration;” the people who say “Oh, it was Antifa in disguise!” and so on. They can’t bury it completely, but they’re going to try.

And white male politicians are mad. They were scared. Their lives were threatened; their existence disrupted. They aren’t mad because terrorism runs unchallenged in this country. They’re mad because it happened to them.

The insurrection on the Capitol isn’t a volcanic cinder cone sprouting out of the ground spontaneously. It’s part of a mountain range that stretches back to the founding of this country. We don’t see that, because the range has been submerged, but it’s right there.

I’m hardly the person to be writing about this. Far better writers and researchers than me already have. For instance, Carol Anderson. Go read her book White Rage. Black Americans and other people of color have way more personal authority about this topic than I do. All I did here was include the links. They’ve done the work.

But, that’s partly why I am writing about it. I’m a white woman in my sixties, my life lived comfortably behind the velvet rope, and even I can see it. Even I can. You might think I used the word “terrorism” a lot here. You might think, “Geez, okay, yeah, we get it, we get it.”

Do we? Do we get it? Because we really need to.

We need to stop saying, “This is not who we are.” We need to be saying, “This part of us? We will no longer indulge it. We will no longer empower, encourage and protect it. We will no longer rationalize it away. We will drag it out, squirming and squeaking, into the light. We will hold it accountable. We will give it consequences. And we will no longer pretend that we don’t see it.”

It’s long past time to shut our eyes and say, “Nope nope nope,” when we don’t like what’s in front of it. It’s time for us to face it, and it’s time for us to make “Who we are” better.

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Latest Book Update

Saturday, January 16, I got the proofread version of Copper Road to review and approve. You remember that my editor had been very sick. I was pleased to get the pages because it showed me she was getting better. Plus, I was glad to get the pages because it means the book is one step closer to release.

The proofread version looked like a manuscript, not a “book.” The text looked like it does on my screen, or on paper if I printed it out. Melissa used Track Changes to catch the final things, and there were final things, even though Erin, my developmental editor, and Tuppence, my copyeditor, were both very good and caught 90% of the “it” for “in,” “and” for “an,” inconsistent hyphen use and the occasional double space (which usually occurred where I’d removed a word.) There still were some, though. The most frustrating to find, even with Track Changes, were where the two spaces occurred at the end of a line. I had to turn on the Paragraph Reveal feature to find those.

I sent it back on Monday, and Tuesday I got layout pages.

Now… Layout pages! That’s where your manuscript looks like a book. There are blank pages (end papers), a title page and a copyright page. The spacing is no longer double-spaced, but looks like text on the page of a book. Falstaff uses a special character underneath the number of each chapter, and a feature kind of like a drop cap with each section break. (It’s not as distracting as I just made it sound.) For the first time, I could proofread my Dedication, Acknowledgements and About the Author pages.

Sadly, there were still a few errors (about five) that slipped through the other reviews. I sent them back Tuesday evening. I think this version will form the basis of Advanced Reader Copies or ARCS. And at this point, having sent the book back, I can’t make any further changes.

(I mean, if it were dire, I probably could call it back. Theoretically, you can make changes at any time, even if only in later editions if there are any, but as a practical matter, no.)

Yesterday, I sent an author photo, and approved the same bio for the back cover of the book as the inside cover.

You all, it’s getting real!

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The Way We Live Now: #11

I walked to the neighborhood deli and back Sunday morning. Even though it’s January, it was about 70 degrees, clear and blue. The crows were squawking merrily, and people were out in their yards, taking advantage of the day.

A woman, masked, stepped out of the 7-11 and held the door for the masked people behind her. She did it by gripping the door, extending her arm to its full length behind her, and standing with her back to the opening. She looked like a greyhound straining at a lead. She was clearly doing this to be courteous and hold the door, while coming as close as possible to social distancing.

It was effective.

I’ve held the door a few times lately, and I try to duck behind the door, so that my exhalations, weakened by the mask, hit wood or glass rather than travel toward the people behind me.

I used to pick up things for people when they dropped them. Now I say, “Can I pick that up for you?” Ninety percent of the time, people say, “No, thank you.”

I don’t hand things to people. I either point, or set something down and back away from it. It’s weird, but it works.

We can still be considerate and helpful. It just takes a little imagination.

Posted in Around Town, View from the Road | 1 Comment

And now, a Brief Update

I completed a second draft of Book Three in the Copper Road series. My writers workshop will take a look at it next month, which will give me about a month to revise again and submit it to my publisher by the deadline.

I’m devoting a month to the editorial letter I have on the Project Which Must Not be Named. Since my pub date for that is “sometime in 2022” I feel pretty good about it right now…

…or I did, until my editor at Falstaff popped up yesterday with proofs for Copper Road. This is my final step in the process. After this, ARCS will be prepared and sometime after that, the book will be available. Yaaay! [Tosses virtual confetti and so on.]

The personal good news here is that the developmental editor I worked with, Erin, was excellent, and caught a lot of the things that proofreaders do, so the volume of proofs is really not awful.

The real story isn’t about me or about the release date for Copper Road getting pushed back. It’s about how a case of Covid sidelined my editor, left her frighteningly ill, and disrupted her family for weeks. It’s about how local and state public health systems are overwhelmed, and about how easily this virus can travel. As of this writing, she seems to be on the mend, but I keep her in my thoughts, because we still don’t know what the long-range effects of this disease are.

Please be careful.

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Urban Crow Oracle Cards

I ordered two sets of the Urban Crow Oracle Deck because I was wowed by the artwork and the color palette. (Still waiting on the second deck, which is for a friend.) Anyway, I love these vivid cards, which feature one of my favorite creatures.

MJ Cullinane is the artist.

MJ Cullinane lives in or near Seattle and clearly spends time watching crows, because she gets them absolutely right here.

I love decks of divination cards and I don’t use them for divination; instead they are a resource for inspiration and contemplation. There’s a lot to contemplate here.


The first card I pulled for divination was Community, because it was a concept that I’m interested in, and the card with its symbols was beautiful. I contemplated this card and what it means on Friday, January 8, 2021, two days after a group of seditionists led by a failed President launched a terrorist attack on the US Capitol building. I had a lot to think about.

Another card I chose was Distance. Although simpler, the composition of this card intrigues me. And “distance” carries a lot of meaning right now, too.

As you’ve gathered, I am not picking the contemplation cards at random (although I might in the future). I’m choosing concepts that have meaning for me.

Curiosity is a trait I share with crows. There’s also a delightful kind of innocent arrogance to a crow’s curiosity (contrasting with their periodic, strange fearfulness. They’re quirky birds.). This was a fun one.

You can learn more about Cullinane’s work here. The Roar deck looks inviting!

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Policing: A Worldbuilding Exercise

In our everyday world (sometimes called “the real world”) there is a wide-ranging ongoing discussion of the function of “policing.” It’s a hot topic, a difficult one to discuss in any depth of social media because there is so much emotion (rage and fear) attached to it. There are definitely better ways to do the thing we call “policing” than we are doing it now, but it seems impossible to imagine, because there is so much rage at generations of injustice, and so much fear by the group on whose behalf that injustice was administered, and so much sheer infrastructure you have to deal with to even contemplate what a better way would look like.

With that in mind, let’s do a world-building exercise.

It can be an alternate history world, much like this one except that in the past there were significant changes that redirected social/technological development. It would be a Second World fantasy world with literally unearthly creatures and powers. It can be a colony on a world orbiting another sun; it can be set here, in the near or far future. Take a few minutes to think about it.

This is your made-up world. You don’t have to worry, now, about any of the pesky details, like how to shift funding, provide training, etc. for anything you do with the function that might be covered by what we now call “police.”

Before you start, there are two things you have to decide. Does your society presume innocence, or guilt? And what members of society is your system designed to protect?

Let’s look at some existing models.

The Lawless Model: You can create a libertarian paradise where there is absolutely NO civil force to maintain social order or prevent actions identified as crimes. In fact, they may not have the concept of crime. Strong people take what they want. Weak people might be sneaky and get stuff from strong people via trickery. (In fact, I think I just stole that from the Marquis de Sade.) That’s it, that’s your world. While this might be an interesting milieu in which to set a story, my bias is that you aren’t going to get far building a society with this approach.

There might be a Lawless Adjusted Model, where, because some people do want to build a society, a few codes get built into the essential lawlessness. For example, maybe a dueling culture develops, or a vendetta process. There is still no governmental arm; there are still no real laws, but there is something of a code of conduct for convenience’s sake.

The Capitalist Model: In this model, once again government provides no support. People hire protection if they can afford it. That’s it. Questions for you include; who do those who can’t afford private protection survive? Do they band together? Does something like what we call a “gang culture” develop among those who can’t hire highly trained security folks?

The Civil Solution Model: Every issue goes to some kind of a civil court, where a judge or panel of judges rules and imposes a solution. This feels like it could go hand in hand with the Capitalist Model. My bias here is that this system provides zero protection against bad acts, although it may redress some wrongs.

The Theocratic Model: Perhaps your government is controlled by a religious group, and they manage social order via people within the church or temple. What would that look like? Since most religions contain, or claim to contain, a spiritual component, theocratic cops would have that dimension in their remit. How does that play out in your world? Here, it’s possible that “presumed guilty/presumed innocent” question takes on a lot of importance.

The Democratic Government Model: Whether your government is directly democratic or a representative democracy, perhaps its citizens have voted to pay people to manage social order and provide general public safety and protection. This is what we say we have in our everyday USA. In theory, this force would be responsible—and responsive—to the people it is sworn to protect. What types of actions are you going to put this group in charge of? Should they be handling “civil” disputes? If not, is there a separate arm in your government for contract disputes, landlord/tenant rights issues, feuding neighbors, barking dogs and loud parties? Or do these guys handle all of it? To whom are they accountable, and what does that look like?

The Occupation Model: Maintenance of the social order is provided to/imposed on the civilian populace of a jurisdiction whose government lost a war by the victor’s occupying military force. This doesn’t take much imagination; both history and fiction provide dozens of examples.

The Autocratic Government Model: A government who tightly holds all control has an arm responsible for maintaining social order, that reports directly to it. It is not responsive in any way to the will of the residents, since the government knows what is best for them. What would that look like in your world? What if this autocratic government was actually benign? Would that make any difference?

If you create a “social order maintenance” force, what are they in charge of? In the everyday world, we’ve lumped a lot of things under “police” that quite possibly don’t belong there.

This is your world, and money is no object. How would you slice and dice things?

I thought about the types of calls I know police get, and broke them out into categories:

Acts that Cause Bodily Harm:

  • Terrorism, arson
  • Causing the death of another person
  • Physical battery
  • Sexual Battery
  • Rape–can include drugging someone, etc.
  • Child abuse, child neglect
  • Animal abuse, animal neglect
  • Endangering/posing a threat to public safety (driving while drunk, under the influence, distracted– chainsaw juggling for the first time in a crowd, etc.)

Acts Against Physical Property:

  • Arson (again)
  • Theft, burglary (mugging would be included above.)
  • Vandalism
  • Reckless destruction of another’s property.
  • Damaging public/government property.
  • This whole list assumes your world has a concept of personal property ownership

Economic Acts:

  • Embezzling
  • Fraud
  • Insider Trading
  • Extortion/blackmail

Compliance Failures:

  • Failing to meet health/safety codes
  • Creating a public hazard.

Interpersonal Acts:

  • Neighbor disputes
  • Neighbor disputes
  • Loud Parties
  • Nuisance animal
  • Domestic disputes
  • Disorderly Conduct

Traffic Safety:

  • Speeding, running a stop sign, etc.


It’s not a researched list at all and as you are creating your social order maintenance force you may come up with more, or may collapse several of these into one another.

I’d like to imagine a world where different types of disputes go to differently trained arms of whatever my social order maintenance group is. I’d like to see Disorderly Conduct, Domestic and Neighbor Disputes, and Neglect/Abuse of children approached by a highly trained and experienced cadre of therapists and social workers. If the situation escalates into a hostage situation or assault, they would call for backup. Or maybe they drive around with backup, but they are the lead. Similarly, I’d like the see the noisy party or the barking dog handled at a much lower, civilian level. That would be one way to be build a social order maintenance function in an alternate world.

Then, of course, there would have to be a story that tested the premise of my newly created Social Order Maintenance (SOM!) folks.

We can, and do, imagine “policing” differently, all the time—we just aren’t conscious of it. Could we imagine our everyday world’s police forces differently? Of course we could, and we could enact those changes. All it would take is the political will. In the meantime, use this exercise to study your own assumptions about “policing,” who is helps, how it could be better.

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Two words for Postal Workers in the USA

Thank you.

2020 was a tough year for everybody. It was a tough year for postal workers, all postal workers, for reasons that may be obvious, or not so obvious.

I said 2020 was a tough year for everybody, but that’s not strictly true. It’s been a great year for Jeff Bezos and any other Amazon investors. Amazon’s business has surged as people, stuck at home, ordered online to be safe and avoid spreading the coronavirus. The USPS is Amazon’s “last mile” delivery service, a contract that helps keep the Post Office solvent*, and means they became responsible for hundred of millions of packages in 2020.

In recent years, private shipping companies have stopped guaranteeing delivery for everyone but qualified customers. This has diverted packages to other shippers (like the Post office). According to CNBC, over six million packages were diverted from UPS/FedEx and the like to the USPS in 2020.

In May, 2020, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General of the United States. DeJoy had two major qualifications for this important position; in 2016 he donated $1.2 million to the Trump campaign and over $1 million to the GOP, (Wave to Citizens United, everyone!), and, starting in 1992 the company of which DeJoy was CEO got no-bid contracts for some work with the USPS, a contract which the General Accounting Office determined overcharged US taxpayer by $53 million over a period of years.

As Postmaster General, DeJoy immediately suspended overtime, cancelled late delivery, and began removing mail sorting machines and neighborhood dropboxes. After these actions brought a Congressional and Inspector General investigation, DeJoy stopped them in August, and ultimately reversed them, but those bad choices obviously left the USPS with a backlog of mail.

Then came November, when a record number of people voted, and for safety’s sake, a record number voted by mail. Beginning in September, Donald Trump began bellowing falsehoods about the “safety” of mail-in voting, making up stories about bags of ballots (only ballots, apparently) found “by the river,” slandering and libeling postal workers. In the weeks after the election, Trump supporters appeared in front of state houses and on TV, having signed affidavits saying they saw “bad stuff,” which most turned out to be… mail carriers picking up or delivering mail.

In December, the Post Office’s busiest month, the Postal Service has 19,000 people off work nationally because of the coronavirus. That’s 3% of the workforce.

That’s the year the Post Office had.

In my neighborhood, the carriers were delivering mail well past dark. In the three weeks before Christmas, they were running two deliveries, one for packages and one for first-class mail. It was obvious that some of these carriers were fill-in carriers… which often means you take part of another carrier’s route after you finish your own. At least they were getting overtime as they trudged through unfamiliar neighborhoods in the dark trying to deliver mail.

So, before the year ends, I want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you to drivers, sorters, warehouse people, counter people, supervisors, postmasters, carriers, rural route carriers and fill-ins. Thanks to all of you for delivering our life-saving medicines and our magazines, our catalogues and our bills (and maybe, still our paychecks), our holiday gifts and cards. Thank you. You provide a service I’ve grown up with, and I often took for granted. If 2020 has shown me anything, it’s that I can take nothing for granted, and I won’t take you for granted anymore. Thank you again.

*I won’t use up the space here. See Comments, where I have a link to a good article about why the Post Offices seems to run in the red. There’s a reason [cough]politics[cough]

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Deception, by Selena Montgomery

Selena Montgomery is a successful romance novelist with eight romance novels to her credit. Romance is not my go-to genre, but since Selena Montgomery is the pseudonym of Stacey Abrams, I had to buy one.

I wanted to buy several, but since I embarked on this endeavor shortly after the election, when Georgia went for Biden (again, and again, and then one more time). I was not alone in this idea and many of them were backordered. I ordered some from Amazon and some from Copperfield’s Books, my local independent chain bookstore chain. The first one to arrive was called Deception.

I need to provide a disclaimer here. Until I read Deception, I hadn’t read a romance novel in thirty years—maybe forty. I had stumbled across a couple of paranormal romances because I confused them with urban fantasy, but the tropes for paranormal R are slightly different. While shelving Romance at Second Chances Used Books, and I’d noticed that Nora Roberts in particular had written several romantic series, but I assumed this was something unique to her.

It isn’t. To my disappointment, Deception is the second book of a trilogy, and I probably will go hunt down the first one. (To clarify, I’m not disappointed about that part. I’m disappointed that I came into the middle of a story.) The trilogy follows three friends who grew up in in a very unusual foster home in a small town in Georgia. Now matured into three beautiful, intelligent, highly successful women, they find their foster mom—and by extension, themselves—in the crosshairs of a highly successful crime ring that calls itself Stark.

Findley Borders, who goes by Fin, was the rebel of the three who fled town under a cloud when she was a few weeks shy of eighteen. She is now a rich and successful professional gambler. Poker is her game. Fin’s multiracial beauty is an investment, a distraction for amateur players at the table. Fin is the risk-taker, the one of the three who, while dancing on the thin line of legal/illegal, has slipped more than once.

Kell is a successful criminal lawyer, who was obviously the MC of Book One, since she defended the foster mom, Mrs. Faraday, against a bogus murder charge, and she’s landed her man, local sheriff Luke. Julia is an emergency room doctor, cool under pressure.

Deception is Fin’s love story, and her antagonist/lover is Caleb Matthews, an FBI agent undercover as an assistant district attorney in the small town’s DA office. You might question why a small town has an office for the DA, unless it’s the county seat (which it might, in fact, be), and this is never explained, and it doesn’t matter. The secrecy of Caleb’s assignment with even the DA left in the dark doesn’t matter either, and the nature of Eliza Faraday’s group home, foster home, or whatever-it-is doesn’t matter either.

Like thrillers, romance novels don’t depend on authenticity of the real world to work. In this book, Montgomery pays attention to her crime-ring part and keeps the action moving, but she knows her genre and never sacrifices the sizzling arousal or dreamy yearning between Caleb and Fin for something like a stake-out or a record-check or any boring thing that would happen in the real world.

I also read thrillers, and while I found Deception implausible in many ways, it was as plausible as about 95% of the thrillers I’ve read.

Fin and Caleb engage in a lot of what the nuns at my high school would have called “heavy petting,” and Montgomery faces the classic romance writer challenge, with certain words denied to the genre, how do you describe steamy, salacious physical contact and growing sexual tension without getting repetitive? In fact, it did get repetitive, but Montgomery managed to change it up enough that it wasn’t unconscious self-parody.

Halfway through Deception, we learn the identity of the secretive crime boss who runs Stark. I was startled. If think if I’d read the first book, I would be outright shocked. I have no way of knowing how well Montgomery nailed the reveal, but it certainly worked for me. That reveal totally worked for me.

I was glad to see some of my assumptions about romance novels corrected. The idea of a group of women friends, a community, at the heart of the story was new to me, and I like it. The idea that in several cases, Fin is the physical aggressor was good to see; she is no helpless shrinking maiden; she owns her sexuality. By extension, Caleb is not a stalker. Three friends who are spiritual sisters creates the space for the inevitable quizzing and teasing about how late Fin was out with Caleb and so on that creates comic relief and just general relief from all the tension both sexual and criminal.

The story, given a focus on a sexual relationship, was engaging and I liked the three women and Mrs. F, their foster mother, very much. Montgomery’s point of view shifts were a distraction for me, and the word choices sometimes made me roll my eyes. I can’t judge if those are idiosyncratic to the writer or part of the genre.

Romance is still not my go-to, but I enjoyed Deception and I learned a lot. Abrams, as Abrams, is publishing a political thriller tentatively scheduled for May, 2021. I will watch for it. And, I’ll track down book one in my spare time.

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The Books we Got for Christmas, 2020

Bottom Left to Right: American Sphinx, the Sanctuary Seeker, Blue Lightning, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Be Like the Fox, Lawless and the Devil of Eustace Square, The Solace of Open Spaces, The Kingdom of Liars

Books are our usual gifts to each other, and this year was no different. From nonfiction to fantasy, here’s how our gifts ran:

Spouse Got:

American Sphinx, less a biography (or hagiography) of Thomas Jefferson, and more analysis, according to the back cover.

Sanctuary Seeker is a historical mystery set in 12the century Britain.

Blue Lightning is Ann Cleeve’s 4th book in the Shetland series.

Be Like the Fox is a biography of Niccolo Machiavelli.

The Kingdom of Liars is a pretty new fantasy, garnering some positive reviews.

I got:

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, a new fantasy release.

Lawless and the Devil of Eustace Station. This historical mystery, like Sanctuary Seeker, was a stocking stuffer gift.

The Solace of Open Spaces. I bought this on Brandy’s recommendation, mostly for the writer’s gorgeous prose, as she writes about Wyoming.

Serving notice on Spouse: I fully intent to borrow the Machiavelli book and I may even “borrow” it before he reads it!

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Book Three. First Draft. Done

It’s not only waaaay too long, it’s waaaay too long and rambly! Characters behave inconsistently and while I’ve got all the elements in there and most of the beats are right, the climax seems rushed.

And I don’t care. None of that matters because this is the first draft. The structure of the story is on the page. I can work with this.

It gets to rest–or I do, one or the other–until January 6, 2021, which, in case you were wondering, is a completely arbitrary date, just like my personal deadline for completing a first draft was totally arbitrary. Because deadlines work for me, that’s mainly the reason.

Then I read the whole thing through, start to finish. And then I begin revising.

While I am doing that, I will also start revising the Secret Project I Can’t Talk About. This balancing act will be tricky, because while the Secret Project needs less revision, the revisions are what I would call deeper, requiring more thought. I’m thinking I may have to divide up my day, mornings and afternoons, by project.

By the way, not a single word of this is a complaint!

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