Love Is a Racket – Finally, Formally on My Shelf!

So yesterday I finally acquired the hardcover edition of one of my all-time favorite crime novels, Love Is a Racket (1998) by novelist/graphic novelist, showrunner and Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley (you probably know of him or his work — Google him). I originally discovered and read this book in the Summer of 1999 and was addicted to it from the first page. I had checked it out in hardcover form from my public library. Already over a year past its initial release by the time I came to know it, the chances of acquiring it in hardcover at Barnes and Noble or Borders were slim-to-none, and used booksellers like Half-Price Books were an unlikely longshot (I’d never seen it on used shelves). So I just kept checking the damn thing out at various library branches every few years when I had the itch to read it (and wanted to recharge my own crime-noir prose batteries). I practically took ownership of this precious tome, hoarding it to myself for the full checkout duration multiple times and, yes, paying who knows how much in late fees on the thing per occasion. Eventually I came around to stalking Amazon, only finding a couple of different paperback versions and maybe one of those listings for the hardcover that had some astronomical price tag due to the scarcity of the edition or some such. Well, upon chance a week ago I found that rare “Only 1 left in stock – order soon.” offering from an Amazon third-party bookseller for a very low price ($4.99) and I eagerly pulled the trigger. And so now, at long last, after nearly two decades of our first acquaintance, this book and I are now together forever! #BookwormRuckus #MyPrecious




In Joe Hill’s most recent newsletter (subscribe here) he shared the cover and some information about his next book, a collection of four short novels called STRANGE WEATHER. There’s even generous preview over at Entertainment Weekly’s website.

From his newsletter, Joe Hill writes:

My next book, STRANGE WEATHER, a collection of four short novels, is out this October (early November in the U.K.). It opens with “Snapshot,” the story of a man known as the Phoenician, who carries a modified Polaroid camera that can steal memories. An earlier draft of that novella appeared in Cemetery Dance 74/75, although the version in the book includes a few new chapters.

“Loaded” tells the story of a mall security guard who becomes an overnight hero to the gun rights movement after he single handedly takes on a mass shooter. But as his story of bravery begins to crack, so does his sanity, and on a breathlessly hot Florida afternoon, he reaches for the gun again, and embarks on a day of reckoning.

The third novella, “Aloft,” strands a young skydiver on an unaccountably solid cloud, leaving him a desperate castaway on an island in the sky. And in the finale, “Rain,” deadly storms of nails begin to shower down all across the United States in a glittering, lethal hail.

If you’re in the market for a signed book, Water Street Books in Exeter, New Hampshire has you covered. As they did with THE FIREMAN, they’re offering signed copies of STRANGE WEATHER to those who preorder. They ship worldwide. If you are kind enough to pre-order, you have my thanks. All the information is right here.


The Road to Alexander – 3rd Excerpt | Jennifer Macaire

51wt6yp3qhl~ The Road to Alexander ~

Excerpt Three: Travel

by Jennifer Macaire

Alexander loved when I sang. He adored rock and roll songs, soft ballads, and opera arias. The music they played in Alexander’s time was heavy on percussion, strings, woodwinds and brass. Choruses were popular, and the music would give me shivers. It could be amazing, especially when all the trumpets blew together. I loved the sweet music of the harps and flutes and there were reed instruments, like oboes, included in every banquet. However, music was also an everyday thing, with the soldiers singing as they marched or worked. People sang as they went about their everyday business. And children were taught with songs, as I found out when Callisthenes came for my first lesson.

We had stopped for the night on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The wind was making the tent lean in a way that frightened me, but Alexander assured me there was no danger. I expected to be blown away any second, but the tent held. Callisthenes came by after dinner. I was lying on the bed, and Alexander was at his table going over the day’s journal with Ptolemy Lagos and Nearchus. Plexis was being treated by Usse – his collarbone still hurt – and I was playing a game of checkers with Axiom.

I was winning, for once, so I was cross when Alexander ordered Axiom to fold up the game, and told me to go sit in the corner with Callisthenes for my first lesson. I made a face, but obeyed. Besides, I was curious. What would I learn?

Callisthenes took a small harp out of his robes and proceeded to sing a very cute song about nine women called “muses” who lived on an island somewhere, and did all sorts of artistic things. Their names were lovely in themselves, and the song had three verses, with a chorus that went like this:

We are the muses, all standing in line,

Nine sisters, nine inspirations divine,

We sing, dance, tell stories and give you stimulation

For all your artistic inspiration.

Well, it loses something in the translation. However, it was the first little song a child learned. It told him about the nine subjects he would study: epic poetry, history, lyric poetry and hymns, music, tragedy, mime, dance, comedy and astronomy. Those would be my lessons, and since each subject belonged to a muse, that’s where we started.

I went around humming about Clio and Calliope, Urania and all the other sisters until my next lesson.

The evenings were spent learning, but the days were spent walking. We marched around the shore, passing through many modest villages, all of which swore allegiance to Alexander. In each village he sacrificed a goat to the local gods, and met with the chieftain. It took us three days to reach the largest village on the shores of the sea, where we met the high chief of the Tapures, the tribe living in that region. The high chief laid down his arms without fighting, and Alexander rewarded him with the title of Satrap.

We traveled through his territory and then penetrated into the Hyrcania region, where we spent two weeks in Zadracarta, the capital. The people there, called the Madrians, submitted themselves to Alexander without a fight, and we were received with many banquets and feasts.

We stayed long for several reasons. Alexander was heading toward hostile territories. Bessus was still in front of us and was rallying the Bactrians against us. Alexander wanted to make sure of his allegiances, so he would never have to worry about being attacked from behind. It was his worst nightmare, the thing he worked the hardest to avoid. He would spend sleepless nights with his generals, working out the various things that could go wrong. He approached fighting exactly as if he were playing a gigantic chess game. He had to make sure he could plan every one of his opponent’s moves before he himself decided what to do. Afterwards, he would often sleep twenty hours to recuperate. He used up more energy planning than he did fighting.

He told me fighting was a relief to him. Planning was torture.

I’m sure that most of the cities’ names have been changed since I was in Iran. My journalist instincts made me ask for names and explanations everywhere we went. Sometimes they were hard to understand. A place could be named after a tribe or the tribe’s chief, or it could be the name of the river it was on, or a landmark, or even something that had happened there, as the place called, “Orian’s Big Trip”. I inquired after that name. Orian was a man who’d stumbled on a rock, and fallen off the cliff overlooking the village. Nearly all the villages we passed were named after the Caspian Sea. We passed through (rough translations) three “Lake-views,” five “Lake-sides,” one “Saltwater Town,” a “Lots of Fish Place,” (I liked that one) and a “Deep Water, No Wading”. It seemed the smaller the village, the more picturesque the name.

Plexis was bucked off his new horse, and his arm got worse. I was worried, but Usse wasn’t. He told me that two weeks’ rest would help put things right, and so when we got to Zadracarta I made Alexander forbid Plexis to ride.

Plexis took a great interest in my education, and he would often sit with Callisthenes while he gave me my lessons. He and Callisthenes would usually end up in a lively discussion about philosophy, literature or science. Alexander would join in if he had finished working, and I would take Callisthenes’s harp and try to play a few of the songs I knew on it.

They were all impressed by rock music; it sounded like great incantations to them, and they thought I was talking directly to the gods.

Callisthenes had a remarkable voice, so I taught him some of the songs I knew, and we would sing harmony for Alexander. He loved music; it brought tears to his eyes. He would insist on singing along, which brought tears to our eyes; I have never heard anyone with a worse singing voice.

~ ~ ~

Autumn was coming, the autumn of 330 BC. We headed due east and arrived in Arie, a large country in what is known now as Turkmenistan. Here Alexander founded another great city, Alexandria Arian, or Alexandropolis, as it was also called.

When he founded a city, he made the city completely independent; that is to say, it had its own government and didn’t have anything to do with the surrounding kingdoms. Alexander left Macedonians in charge most of the time, promoting them to governor, and giving them the freedom to control the city and the immediate countryside. The result of this maneuver was threefold. First, it meant that the cities would not be swallowed up in the local customs; on the contrary, they would be islands of pure Greek culture, where schools were set up and artists and poets would express themselves in what would be known as Hellenistic art. Secondly, these cities would be democracies, able to decide their own governments, separating them from the satraps who ruled the great expanses of land around them. Thirdly, this meant that after Alexander’s death, when his kingdom splintered into many different parts, these cities stayed exactly as he’d planned. They continued to be landmarks of Greek culture, inspirational landmarks that would continue to thrive centuries later. They would carry forward the legend of Alexander.

Book One in the series, The Road to Alexander is the first to be remastered and reissued digitally worldwide is OUT TODAY, via Accent Press. Available for order NOW: (US) (UK)


~ About the Author ~

Jennifer Macaire is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories. Her short stories have been published by Three Rivers Press, Nothing But Red, The Bear Deluxe, and The Vestal Review, among others. One of her short stories was nominated for the Push Cart Prize (Honey on Your Skin) and is now being made into a film. Her short story ‘There be Gheckos’ won the Harper Collins /3 AM flash fiction prize.

The Road to Alexander – 2nd Excerpt | Jennifer Macaire

51wt6yp3qhl~ The Road to Alexander ~

Excerpt Two: Love

by Jennifer Macaire

“Ashley.” Alexander took my hand and held it gingerly. “Everyone learns about nymphs and dryads from their parents in our world. Everyone knows about the naiads, sprites, sylphs, oreads, undines, fauns, and fates. Do you know who Lachesis is?” I shook my head. “Clotho? No? Atropos? The Muses? Do you know anything?” He sounded as if he were in real pain.

I looked at Plexis. He was staring at me, and on his face was the strangest expression. I tried to laugh but the sound stuck in my throat. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, “I didn’t learn about any of that.”

“But you said you went to school. You had teachers, you knew about Plato and Homer, you even spoke to Aristotle about the world being round. And that’s a new idea.” He shook his head. “I just don’t understand.”

“I’m sorry.” I blinked. I wasn’t used to anyone paying so much attention to me. It was unnerving. “I don’t know what to say.”

“But where were you educated?” Alexander asked me. “Even the barbarians know about dryads!”

“I can’t tell you,” I said, shaking my head.

“Why not? I just don’t understand you, Ashley.” There was such pain in his voice that I felt awful.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, “but I can’t.”

“Perhaps it’s just as well you don’t say anything,” said Plexis. “This is what the oracle meant, wasn’t it? I’ll find out on my deathbed, after we’ve reached the sacred river and after I’ve seen the twelve pillars.”

“What’s that?” Alexander said, attentive.

“An oracle’s riddle.” Plexis shrugged. “I don’t know where the sacred river is, perhaps in Indus, I heard of one that flowed there. But I know not where the twelve pillars are.”

I stared at Plexis, he looked at me and then his face softened. He smiled. “Don’t cry. Why, thanks to you I’m probably the only person in the whole world to look forward to my own death.”

“Don’t say that.” Shivering, Alexander put his hand across Plexis’s mouth.

Plexis took it and kissed it, drawing it across his cheek. He looked at it a moment, turned it over, and traced a faint scar on the thumb. Their fingers entwined. Then Plexis placed Alexander’s hand on my leg. “You’re going to have your hands full teaching your wife everything she needs to know before we get back to civilization,” he said in a light voice.

Alexander didn’t say anything, but I felt his sorrow keenly.

“Is it because of me?” I asked Plexis.

He shook his head, mute.

“I won’t stand in your way,” I said to Alexander. “If you love him I won’t stand in your way.”

“There’s nothing in our way,” said Alexander quietly, “except ourselves.” His fey eyes were filled with something like joy.

Plexis shook his head. “Ah, Iskander. There was never anything between us except friendship. Cxious tried to change all that, but you were right all along. Sometimes the difference between love and need is as thin and transparent as spring ice.”

“And the difference between love and need is like the difference between ice and water.” Alexander spoke automatically.

“I see you haven’t forgotten your lessons.” Plexis smiled. “Aristotle should be proud.”

“No, I never forget my lessons,” he said.

“May the gods hear you.” Plexis winced as he levered himself from the ground. “I think I’ll go find Usse and beg some of his sleeping draught. My shoulder pains me. Perhaps I was hasty, moving about so soon.” He turned and left, but not before I saw something shine on his cheeks.

“Oh Alex,” I said, laying my head on his chest. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.” His heartbeat was slow and regular. “I have all I need.”

“And what about what you want?” I asked.

“You asked me that question long ago, if I remember well. It’s easy to answer. I want to find my son. I want to avenge Darius. And I want to make Alexandria the most beautiful city on earth. I want to grow old with you by my side, our children playing at our feet. I want the stars and the moon.” He paused and kissed my nose. “I want to rule the world and the heavens. So, tell me. Tell me, my oracle, my love. Will I get what I want?”

I gave him the sweetest smile I could muster, and I said, “Alex, you’re standing on thin ice.”

He sputtered, then laughed. “I would be married to the only oracle in the world with a sense of humor.”

We sat in the fragrant grass watching as the horses came down the mountainside. The breeze was redolent of freshly cut hay and summer flowers. Dust sparkled in the air and butterflies darted about. White clouds looked like fat sheep grazing on an endless blue plain above us. The campsite was set up on the flank of the mountain, amongst the trees. Men came and went, fetching wood, forage, water, and meat. All around us there was bustle and the sound of men laughing, arguing, and singing.

We sat on the mossy bank of a silvery stream in a grove of white birch trees, surrounded by a sort of quiet grace.

I looked at the man I had read about three thousand years in the future, the man who would be known as Alexander the Great, and he smiled at me.

Book One in the series, The Road to Alexander is the first to be remastered and reissued digitally worldwide on March 9th, via Accent Press. Available for pre-order now. (US) (UK)


~ About the Author ~

Jennifer Macaire is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories. Her short stories have been published by Three Rivers Press, Nothing But Red, The Bear Deluxe, and The Vestal Review, among others. One of her short stories was nominated for the Push Cart Prize (Honey on Your Skin) and is now being made into a film. Her short story ‘There be Gheckos’ won the Harper Collins /3 AM flash fiction prize.

The Road to Alexander – 1st Excerpt | Jennifer Macaire

51wt6yp3qhl~ The Road to Alexander ~

Excerpt One: War

by Jennifer Macaire

I stood in front of the tent and watched the men file by. They were grim, holding their long spears and shields, wearing bronze helmets with white plumes. They had sandals and shin-guards made of stiff leather. Otherwise they were nude. This was the phalanx, their thirty-foot spears forming a nightmare porcupine. Following them were the infantry, armed with short swords and wearing skirts of leather to protect their thighs. Their arms were wrapped with leather thongs. After them trotted the cavalry. Their horses rolled wild eyes and snorted, anxious to gallop. I saw my gray mare and hoped she would be all right. The cavalrymen had long, bronze-tipped spears and short swords. Their legs were sheathed in leather, and they carried small, round shields. Their horses had wide leather bands across their chests and under their stomachs for protection. The Hipparchie, mounted archers with bows slung over their shoulders and clusters of sharp arrows in their quivers, came last.

Alexander paused in front of me. For a moment he didn’t speak, and then he said in a low voice, “Fear not for the child. I will get him back.”

I smiled then and didn’t try to stop my tears. “I know you will. Take care of yourself,” I told him, my voice shaking.

The men left the camp and rode toward the city. I stayed behind with the slaves and offered to help the doctors prepare for the wounded. I wanted to make myself useful, so I’d proposed my services to Usse, Alexander’s physician. He’d accepted readily. In ancient Greece women were received into the medical corps without any problem.

Afterwards everyone settled down to wait. I hated waiting. The army was out of sight but I thought that if I climbed the hill I could see what was happening. I started up the rocky slope, slipping on the frosty grass and wishing that I had something sturdier than sandals. Blades of grass stuck between my toes. A vulture wheeled overhead in the cloudless sky. I shaded my eyes to peer over the plain.

Persepolis was visible in the distance. An empty city built by Darius the Great for the master races, the Persians and the Medes. They used it for their spring rites and ceremonies. It was immense, with several palaces and temples set out in perfect harmony around a huge central square. From where I was, I could only see the stairs that led to the city’s front gate. They were made of slabs of white marble, seven meters long and shallow enough to ride horses up, and flanked with walls carved with sacred beasts. I couldn’t see the carvings from so far away, but I’d seen them before, in pictures. They had been ruins when I’d first seen them. I’d seen them as crumbling relics, and now they were shining before me in the bright sun. The temples, their roofs covered in gold-colored tiles, were intact, not yet reduced to broken columns. I put my hands over my eyes and sat down, shaking. Living history backwards was a terrifying experience.

A cloud of dust billowed on the far side of the city. Darius had tried to defend the great eastern gate, but I knew that soon the city would fall to Alexander. Already I could see the first of the wounded limping toward the camp. Slaves ran out with stretchers, and I slipped and slithered down the hill. I would try to be useful. I only hoped I could do some good.

Later, I wiped sweat off my face and wished I had paid more attention during first aid class. I had no idea if what I was doing was helping. Usse set broken bones as fast as he could. He also received the wounded, putting them in one of three tents. One tent for those needing urgent help, one tent for those who could wait, and one for those who were dying. In the tent for the dying a brazier had been set up, and Usse put herbs upon the hot coals, making a thick, fragrant smoke. The smoke, Usse told me, helped the men’s souls find the gods. I think it was mostly opium.

I was put to work cleaning and binding the wounds. As a woman, I was supposed to know how to do this. There were no sutures. Wounds were cauterized without anesthesia using white-hot irons. Searing heat killed germs, so although the scars were horrendous, wounds usually healed cleanly.

Slaves held the men down. The screams of the wounded and the smell of scorching flesh permeated the camp.

Usse concocted a drink that he gave to the wounded. They calmed down and went into a trance. Their eyes glazed and they breathed through their mouths, making the ones with broken noses easier to treat. Broken noses were fairly common.

I finished binding up a slashed arm and concentrated on my next victim, a young man with an arrow in his chest. He looked at me hopefully, and I smiled and cursed under my breath in English.

“Are you saying magic words?” he gasped.

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am.”

His face relaxed and he gave a huge sigh. “You’re a goddess, so I know that I will live,” he said confidently.

I studied the arrow and wished I felt as confident. Its feathered end was sticking out at an angle and the arrowhead was hidden by his armor, but judging from the amount of blood pooled his lap it must have struck something major. I undid his shoulder straps and carefully peeled his armor away. The arrow fell to the ground; it had simply been stuck between the leather and the brass plates. The blood was from someone else. There was no wound at all. I closed my eyes and clung to the edge of the table.

The man ran his hands up and down his chest, feeling frantically for the wound. “It’s a miracle,” he cried, “a miracle!”

“No it’s not,” I insisted. “You weren’t even hit, it was deflected by your armor.” However, he didn’t believe me, and neither did anyone else. As a result, all the arrow wounds got sent to me.

I hate arrows. They usually kill outright, cutting arteries, severing veins, and the victim bleeds to death very quickly. But when nothing vital is hit, the arrow is stuck because of its shape and impossible to pull out. Then one has to either push it through, or cut it out using special clamps and spreaders invented for such occasions. Pushing it through is excruciating. The patient screams and tries to get away. Large slaves sit on them, and Usse gives a double dose of his potion.

I did my best. I had a working knowledge of anatomy and that helped. More importantly, I was reputed to be a goddess and that helped most of all.

That day I discovered that men are both a lot tougher, and at the same time, more fragile than I thought. Wounds that I was sure were fatal were somehow healed because the man had decided he would live. And if a man thought he would die, he usually did, and there was nothing we could do to save him.

Book One in the series, The Road to Alexander is the first to be remastered and reissued digitally worldwide on March 9th, via Accent Press. Available for pre-order now. (US) (UK)


~ About the Author ~

Jennifer Macaire is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories. Her short stories have been published by Three Rivers Press, Nothing But Red, The Bear Deluxe, and The Vestal Review, among others. One of her short stories was nominated for the Push Cart Prize (Honey on Your Skin) and is now being made into a film. Her short story ‘There be Gheckos’ won the Harper Collins /3 AM flash fiction prize.

Now Reading: The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie

I am really enjoying this exceptional debut crime/suspense thriller novel so far. I’m starting Chapter 8 tonight. I’d grabbed this one from the library a week or so ago, having heard nothing about it but was immediately sold by the description on the inside flap.

Description from the Hardcover edition:

Peter Ash came home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with only one souvenir: what he calls his “white static,” the buzzing claustrophobia due to post-traumatic stress that has driven him to spend a year roaming in nature, sleeping under the stars. But when a friend from the Marines commits suicide, Ash returns to civilization to help the man’s widow with some home repairs. Under her dilapidated porch, he finds more than he bargained for: the largest, ugliest, meanest dog he’s ever encountered . . . and a Samsonite suitcase stuffed with cash and explosives. As Ash begins to investigate this unexpected discovery, he finds himself at the center of a plot that is far larger than he could have imagined . . . and it may lead straight back to the world he thought he’d left for good. Suspenseful and thrilling, and featuring a compelling new hero, The Drifter is an exciting debut from a fresh voice in crime fiction.

The Press buzz . . .

“[Peter Ash’s] sharply intelligent, witty voice strikes the right tone for an honest exploration of the challenges returning veterans face, and while this wandering veteran will remind some of Jack Reacher, Peter’s struggle to overcome PTSD sets him apart. An absorbing thriller debut with heart.”—Booklist

“Petrie’s impressive debut thriller is fine tuned, the action gripping, and through Ash offers a well-drawn portrait of a vet who can’t escape his combat experience. Like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Ash’s philosophy of detection is to poke a stick into something and see what happens. His discoveries will keep the reader on edge and whet the appetite for more from this author.”Library Journal

“Superb . . . A tautly written thriller . . . with a convincing plot, mean and nasty and full of real character. Edgy and slowly boiling to a thrilling climax, this book will hold your interest long after a late night of reading.”—

Check it out!

About the Author

Nicholas Petrie received his MFA in fiction from the University of Washington, won a Hopwood Award for short fiction while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, and his story “At the Laundromat” won the 2006 Short Story Contest in the The Seattle Review, a national literary journal. A husband and father, he runs a home-inspection business in Milwaukee. The Drifter is his first novel.

New Book: Lost Storm Rider | A Novel by Jennifer Macaire

Jenny Mac is back!

In April, the sequel to Riders of the Lightning Storm will be out! Get ready to continue the adventure! And here (drumroll….) is the new cover!

“…featuring an intimately detailed plot, Horse Passages is very highly recommended as action/adventure science fiction novel and an altogether entertaining read.” — Midwest Book Review 

You can get Book 1 of this YA digital novel series directly from the publisher Evernight Teen or via your Kindle at Amazon.

Source: New Cover!