Monthly Archives: May 2019

Criminal Mischief: Episode #20: Elements Of A Thriller

Criminal Mischief: Episode #20: Elements Of A Thriller

AOTA Graphic




Elements of a Thriller

Open with a Bang or a Chill or a Compelling Question

Establish the 4 Ws Early——-Who, What, When, and Where

Inciting Incident—Sets the protagonist’s story in motion

Establish the Story Question—What does the Protagonist want/need?

Rising Tension

Who/What opposes the Protagonist and Why?

What does the antagonist want/need?

Establish a Time or Situation Endpoint

Scenes advance or obstruct the protagonist’s attaining goal

Each power scene poses a question and ends with:



Yes, but————————Strong

No, and furthermore——-Strongest

Convergence of Space and Time—“Life in a Trash Compactor”

Epiphany—Protagonist grasps the solution

Personal Jeopardy—Protagonist must fear for personal safety

Mano a’ Mano—Protagonist must confront antagonist “face to face”

Resolution—all major story questions are resolved

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Posted by on May 28, 2019 in Writing




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SUNSHINE STATE RELEASE DAY is next Tuesday May 21, 2019

Previous Posts include:

A Reading of the first 2 chapters:

Who The Heck Is Jake Longly?:


Join me for these events:

MJ Magazine Interview with Fran Lewis
Discussion of SUNSHINE STATE
Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 7 a.m. Pacific

Authors On The air with Pam Stack
Discussion of SUNSHINE STATE
Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 2 p.m. PDT

Lit Up! OC: Reading from SUNSHINE STATE
Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 7 p.m.
Bardot Bars & Coffee
662 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA

SUNSHINE STATE Launch Party Signing
Mystery Ink, Huntington Beach, CA
Saturday, May 25, 2019, 3 p.m.
Mystery Ink Bookstore
8907 Warner Ave. #135
Huntington Beach, CA

Sisters in Crime, Orange County
“Meeting Mysterious Characters For The First Time”
Sunday, May 26th, 2019, 2 p.m.
Irvine Water District
15500 Sand Canyon Ave
Irvine, CA

Suspense Radio Interview
Discussion of SUNSHINE STATE
Saturday, June 1, 2019, 9 a.m. Pacific

Book Carnival, Orange, CA
SUNSHINE STATE Signing and Interview by Maddie Margarita
(And it’s Maddie’s Birthday!!!!)
Saturday, June 1, 2019, 2 p.m.
348 S. Tustin Street
Orange, CA

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Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Uncategorized


Criminal Mischief: Episode #19: SUNSHINE STATE Is Coming

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Criminal Mischief: Episode #19: SUNSHINE STATE Is Coming





From Publishers Weekly: 

In Lyle’s ingenious third mystery featuring retired major league pitcher Jake Longly (after 2017’s A-List), Jake, who runs a restaurant in Gulf Shores, Ala., is again roped into working for his father Ray’s PI firm. An attorney has contacted Ray on behalf of Billy Wayne Baker, a convicted serial killer. Though Baker pleaded guilty to strangling seven women, he insists that he killed only five of them, and wants that assertion validated. When Jake meets Baker in prison, the murderer refuses to name the other killer, claiming that doing so would lead to accusations that Jake’s inquiries were biased. The investigator’s task is made even harder by Baker’s not even identifying which of the dead women were killed by someone else . (To his credit, Lyle makes this complicated scenario credible.) Along with his girlfriend, Jake travels to Pine Key, Fla., the scene of three of the strangulations, where the couple pretend to be researching a documentary examining the impact of the killings on the small community. The clever plot twists will surprise even genre veterans. This entry is the best in the series so far.


Here’s the deal. Ray thinks I’m a wimp. Has for years. The best I can remember it began around the time I left major league baseball. For several years, I pitched for the Texas Rangers. Could really bring the heat. A hundred miles an hour. Zip, pop. Loved that sound. Loved that the catcher would often shake his hand out after snagging one of my fastballs. That was me. Jake Longly, baseball stud. Everybody said so. Even the ESPN folks. 

Not so Ray. He never actually used the word wimp. Pussy. That’s the one he preferred. Four weeks ago being his most recent assessment. 

Nicole Jamison, my current girlfriend, love interest, whatever she was, I wasn’t sure yet, had laughed. Rude, but she does love getting her shots in. Besides, she just might’ve agreed with him. Mostly. Not in bed, mind you. I’m freaking Godzilla in the sack. Really, I am. I think she would agree. In fact, just last night, if I remember correctly, there was tequila involved, she invoked God a couple of times. Or it could’ve been my echo. Lord knows I called on Him a couple of times. 

Okay, I added the zilla part. So, sue me. No, wait, don’t. The best attorney in town, Walter Horton, is married to my ex-wife, Tammy the Insane. He’d already done a colonoscopy on my wallet. Probably wouldn’t hesitate to encore that performance. pastedGraphic.png 

So, let’s just say Nicole and I have fun. 

Regardless, she and Ray conspired to enroll us in martial arts classes. Actually, some craziness based on Krav Maga and several other disciplines mixed into a soup of pain, mayhem, and considerable bodily harm. Taught by an ex-Mossad guy that Ray knew from back in the day. Ben Levitsky. Six-two, lean and muscular, the body fat of a distance runner, and no nonsense. No wonder he and Ray got along. 

Ray Longly. My father. Owner of Longly Investigations. An outfit that, depending on your definition, employs Nicole. Speaking of employing, Ray has used every trick in his considerable bag of mischief to drag me into his business. But, I prefer Captain Rocky’s, my just dive-y enough bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores. I’d much rather hang out there with Pancake, who really does work for Ray. He also thinks I should sign on with Ray. Not going to happen. At least, not officially. 

Seems like despite this resolve, I repeatedly get dragged into Ray’s world. And end up throwing baseballs at hitmen, or whacking alligators with baseball bats, stuff like that. 

Captain Rocky’s is much safer.

Back to Krav Maga. It’s a system of combat that is aggressive and can be lethal in the right hands—and feet—or whatever might be handy. Ben Levitsky ended his career with Mossad nearly ten years ago. I suspected he had done things that weren’t nice, or legal, or even Kosher. Now, he owned a studio in Orange Beach where he dispensed his knowledge to folks of all ages and skill levels. Nicole and I had already taken a gazillion lessons. Actually, three a week for four weeks, but my hands felt like a gazillion. They ached and making a fist was a process not an event. No way this was a healthy pursuit. I mean, I could hardly wrap my fist around a beer. 

Nicole felt otherwise. She loved it. Her hands were fine. Fact is, all of her was fine. But that’s another story. 

We had completed our morning session of bag punching and kicking and spinning and thrusting and had downed a couple of breakfast burritos my cooks had whipped up for us, when I sat down at an umbrella-shaded table on the deck at Captain Rocky’s with Carla Martinez, my manager. The one who really ran the joint. She had a stack of stuff for me to go over, checks and papers to sign, invoices and orders to review, inventory lists that blurred my vision. Paper work is not my thing. 

It was August and the daily temp, which was projected to reach well into the nineties, had begun to climb. I had already downed two glasses of sweet tea and was working on a third. 

Nicole opted for a walk on the beach. In a red string bikini. Not enough material to wad a shotgun. An exhibitionist’s dream. Which was another of her outstanding qualities. All that exposed flesh garnered a lot of attention. As she disappeared up the beach, every male head turned in her direction. Most of the women, too. She even brought a touch football game to a halt. Now, as she walked back our way, I saw she had attracted a couple of followers. Two old dudes with metal detectors. I don’t think their focus was on finding coins any longer. Pervs. 

Speaking of focus.

“Are you listening to me?” Carla asked.


“What did I just say?”

“That we needed to order more ribs and chicken.”

She smiled. “And here I thought you were daydreaming again. 

Glad to know you can multitask.”

“I can. I’m a multitasking freak.” 

“You’re a freak, all right.” She smiled. 

Like Nicole, Carla enjoyed giving me a ration. Come to think if it, so did Ray and Pancake. 

She twisted in her chair and looked up the beach. The direction of my gaze. Where Nicole was leaving a trail of footprints near the waterline. “I should’ve known.” 

I smiled. “Never get tired of that view.”

“You’re obsessed.”

“Sort of.”

“Definitely. But she is beautiful. If I swung that way, I’d do her.” I shook my head. She laughed and turned back toward me. 

“No worry there though. I do like my dudes.”

“That you do.”

“Well,” Carla said, “you can put all your awesome multitasking talent away, because that’s all I have.” She stood and gathered up the papers, stuffing them into a folder. “What’s on your agenda today?” 

“This. I think I’m done.”

“It’s ten o’clock in the morning.”

“Long day.” I smiled.

She gave me a look I’d seen all too often. The one that said I was incorrigible.

“Don’t strain anything,” she said. “I’ve got work to do.”

Like I said, she really runs the place.

She started to walk away but stopped. “Oh, I forgot. Pancake called a little while ago. Wanted to know if you guys were here. Said he’d drop by.” 

“Any idea what’s on his mind?”

“No one knows what’s on his mind. What little he has.”

That was true. Not that Pancake was dumb. Far from it. One of the smartest people I’ve ever known. But, for lack of a better word, he’s quirky. And that’s being kind.

Carla continued. “I asked but he said he wanted to see your face when he told you.” 

That didn’t sound good.

“Guess you’ll know soon.” She laughed and headed toward the bar.

Nicole climbed the stairs to the deck and walked my way. And what a walk. Runway perfect. The murmuring of the late breakfast crowd dropped to near silence and gazes followed every stride and sway. 

She slipped on the flimsy coverlet she had left hanging over one of the chairs and sat. “Did you get your homework done?”

“I did.”

“Good boy.”

Boy? I expected her to pull out some treats and pat my head. A reward for a job well done. She didn’t.

That’s when Pancake arrived. All six feet-five and 280 lumbering pounds of him. His red hair looked wind blown. His left cheek sported what looked like road rash. 

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“Three Wild Turkeys and a bicycle.”

No further explanation offered. I tried to picture him on a bicycle. 

Sure, he and I had terrorized the neighborhood on our bikes as kids, but he outgrew the tensile strength of a Schwinn before we reached high school. The only thing that could safely transport him now was his massive dually pick-up. Apparently, a bicycle couldn’t. 

“Did you smear on any antibiotic ointment?” Nicole asked. 

“Rubbed some dirt on it.” He smiled. “That’ll do.” Worked when we were kids, so why not?

“Ray’s headed this way,” he said. 

“Really?” I asked. “Why?” 

Ray avoided Captain Rocky’s like it was a toxic waste site. Something must be up. 

“He has a job for you guys,” Pancake said.

“I don’t work for Ray.”

“I do,” Nicole said. “What is it?”

Pancake laughed. “You’re gonna love it.”

“What?” I asked, not really wanting to know, even as a niggle of curiosity rose. Or was it dread? Whenever Pancake said something like “you’re going to love it” or “wait till you hear this” or “here, hold my beer and watch this,” what followed was never predictable, and often led to chaos and mayhem. 

“I think I’ll let Ray handle it. Wouldn’t want to spoil it for him.” 

“That bad?” Nicole asked.

Pancake nodded. “Oh yeah. We’ve done a bunch of crazy shit, but this’ll beat all.”

“Cool,” Nicole said.

No, probably not close to cool.



Fifteen minutes later, Ray arrived. He took a seat. Didn’t say a word. Carla plopped down a cold can of Mountain Dew in front of him. Ray and Mountain Dew had a close relationship. Almost pathological. I think he drank a dozen a day.

“Anything else?” Carla asked.

“This’ll do,” Ray finally spoke. “Thanks.”

“Give me a wave if you change your mind.” She headed back inside. 

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Got something I want you two to check out.”

“I don’t work for you,” I said.

He shrugged. “Nicole does. And you’ll pretty much follow her wherever she goes.”

I had no response for that. Mainly because it was true.

“So, what do you have for us, boss?” Nicole asked.


“Damnedest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Ray said.

Pancake laughed. “All that and a passel of howler monkeys.” 

“The suspense is killing me,” I said.

“Me, too,” added Nicole.

I guess I neglected to add enough sarcasm to my question. For her. Not for Ray. He gave me a look before continuing. 

“I got a call from an attorney over in Jacksonville,” Ray said. “He wants us to sit down with his client and see if we can help.”

“With what?” I asked, immediately regretting it. I had no idea why I was engaging in this. Better to stay in the foxhole and hope Ray blows over.

“Prove he only killed five people instead of seven.”

“What?” Nicole said.

Ray took a big slug of Dew. “You know the name Billy Wayne Baker?”

Nicole looked at him, then me.

“Sounds familiar,” I said.

“A convicted serial killer,” Ray said.

I nodded, his history starting to take root in my head. “I do remember him. Vaguely. Murdered some folks over in Florida.”

“That’s him. Seven victims. Doing multiple life sentences.”

“Not the death penalty?” I asked.

“Part of the bargain. He confessed to all the killings. Saved the state a bunch of money. Got seven life sentences. No parole, of course.” 

“He’s the client?” Nicole asked.

“Sure is.”

“How does a lifer have the money to pay you?” I asked.

“He doesn’t. But according to his attorney—guy named Winston McCracken—there’s a benefactor who’s paying the freight.”

Nothing about that sounded right. “Serial killers now have benefactors?”

Another slug of Dew. “Apparently Billy Wayne does.”

“Who is it?” Nicole asked. “The money man?”

“Don’t know. That’s part of the deal. He stays completely anonymous.”

I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that. A serial killer, who confessed, now wants to back track, and he found someone to pony up the cash to re-open the investigation. Who the hell would do that? And why?

“That makes no sense,” I said. “He wants us to prove he didn’t kill two of the people he confessed to killing? What? Five life sentences is better than seven?”

Ray balled one fist and then opened it, spreading his fingers, examining them. “All I know is what McCracken said. That’s why I want you to check it out.”

The situations Ray had dragged me into in the past were quirkily weird. Or was it weirdly quirky? Same difference, I suspect. Ray had roped me into things like staking out the adulterous Barbara Plummer. Who, of course, did get murdered right under my nose. Okay, maybe not my best day. Or trying to figure out how Hollywood, A-List actor Kirk Ford woke up with the co-ed niece of a New Orleans mobster dead in his bed. Those were indeed quirky and odd, but I had to admit this was something else entirely.

“I am intrigued,” I said.

“I see a screenplay in there somewhere,” Nicole added.

I shook my head. “Of course, you do.”

She slugged my arm. My already sore arm from all that Krav 

Maga crap. Not to mention that my hands were too tender to hit anything. Apparently, not so for Nicole.

“Besides keeping Jake in line, what’s the plan?” she asked.

“Me? In line?”

“No small task.” She ruffled my hair.

“I can’t help you with that,” Ray said. “Lord knows I’ve tried. But on the case, the first order of business would be a sit down with McCracken. See what’s what. He said he could get you in to see Billy Wayne.”

“Who is where?” I asked.

“Union Correctional Institute. Over near Raiford.”

“We’re on it,” Nicole said.

Of course, we are.

“When?” I asked.

“Tomorrow afternoon. His office in Jacksonville.” 

“Short notice,” I said.

“What? You got something else to do?”

I was sure I did but I couldn’t think of a single thing.

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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Writing


Who the Heck is Jake Longly?

Two weeks from today Jake Longly #3, SUNSHINE STATE, comes out. So, who the heck is Jake Longly?

Jake is the protagonist of my series of comedic thrillers. DEEP SIX and A-LIST will be followed by SUNSHINE STATE, coming May 21, 2019, and RIGGED in April 2020. Jake’s an ex-professional baseball player. Pitcher for the Texas Rangers with an overpowering fastball. Until his rotator cuff injury ended his career. Then he purchased Captain Rocky’s, a bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

His major life goals now are running his bar and chasing bikinis. Worthy goals for Jake. His father Ray feels otherwise. Ray has some murky background in the US military world of black ops and now runs a P.I. firm in Gulf Shores. He can’t understand why Jake won’t work for him and is constantly trying to drag Jake into his world. Jake’s refusal creates tension, to say the least.


Here’s the deal. Ray thinks I’m a wimp. Has for years. The best I can remember it began around the time I left major league baseball. For several years, I pitched for the Texas Rangers. Could really bring the heat. A hundred miles an hour. Zip, pop. Loved that sound. Loved that the catcher would often shake his hand out after snagging one of my fastballs. That was me. Jake Longly, baseball stud. Everybody said so. Even the ESPN folks.

Not so Ray. He never actually used the word wimp. Pussy. That’s the one he preferred. Four weeks ago being his most recent assessment.

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Jake has an ex-wife. who he affectionately calls Tammy The Insane. 


It was precisely 12:12 a.m. when the window shattered. A crack-crunch, an eardrum concussing pop, and a spray of glass shards. It didn’t explode by itself, mind you, but rather courtesy of a cavity-backed, perimeter-weighted two-hundred-dollar five iron. A Callaway. I recognized it because it was mine. Or at least it had been.

I knew the exact time because the flying glass yanked me from sleep, my forward-slumped head aligned squarely with the dashboard clock. Took a couple of seconds to gain any sort of perspective on what had happened. 

Of course, sleep wasn’t part of the job. Watching the house two doors down and across the street was. In my defense, nothing had moved in the house, or even along the street that snaked through the high-dollar neighborhood, for at least a couple of hours. But sitting in the dark, behind the wheel of my car, boredom did what boredom does. Knocking back the better portion of the bottle of Knob Creek hadn’t helped either. Stakeouts were mind numbing and a little more numbing of the mind couldn’t be all bad. Right?

“Jake, what the hell are you doing?” the reason for the glass explosion screeched through the jagged hole. 

This wasn’t just any window. It was vintage, the reason it shattered rather than simply spider-webbing. The original passenger window of my otherwise spotless 1965 Mustang. Burgundy with black pony interior, now littered with glass shards. Going to be a bitch to find a replacement.

Speaking of bitches, I recognized the grating voice even before I looked up into the face of my ex. Tammy’s the name; crazy’s the game. I’d lost four good years listening to it. Mostly whining and complaining, sometimes, like now, in a full-on rage. She had a knack for anger. Seemed to need it to get through the day. 

She gripped the five iron with both hands, knuckles paled, cocked up above her shoulder, ready to smash something else. If history offered any lesson it was that she might graduate from the side window to the windshield and so on until she got to me. Tammy didn’t have brakes. Or a reverse gear.

Cute according to everyone, except maybe me, she was a beach-blond with bright blue eyes, a magic smile, and a perfect nose. Some plastic surgeons were gifted. Expensive, but gifted. I knew. I’d paid for the nose.

But cute Tammy had a short fuse. She could go from zero to C4 in a nanosecond.

Like now.


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Jake has a girlfriend. Nicole Jamison. Insanely beautiful, but no bubble-headed bleach blonde. Not even close. Smart, clever, tough, and she doesn’t suffer fools well. They met the same night Tammy The Insane shattered Jake’s Mustang window.


After the ever-pleasant Tammy and the all-business Officer Blake Cooper vacated the premises, I surveyed the damage to my car. The shattered windows were essentially irreplaceable. Seems Ford doesn’t make windows for fifty-year-old cars. The nerve of them. I began knocking away the toothy window remnants from the frames and picking up the larger pieces from the seats, dropping them on the floorboard. The floor mats were expendable, the Pony interior not. 

As if to prove that any situation could go from bad to worse, the wind kicked up, dragging with it the smell of rain. Out over the Gulf a bank of dark clouds, tops silvered by the moonlight, innards flashing bright white with lightning, marched toward shore.

Just great. Twenty miles from home, no right-side windows. Didn’t bode well for my Pony interior.

Headlights washed over me, and I looked up the street. Now what? Did Cooper have more to say? Maybe he called it in and his boss gave him the green light to haul my ass down town. To tweak Ray if nothing else.

I raised one hand to shield my eyes from the headlamp glare. The car, a shiny new red SL Mercedes, rolled to a stop. The deeply-tinted window slid down, revealing a young woman. Her straight blond hair hung like silk curtains to her shoulders and framed a face that could grace the cover of Vogue. Definitely not what I expected.

“That was interesting,” she said.

“You saw that, huh?”

She laughed. Soft, almost musical. “Hard to miss a woman beating the hell out of a classic Mustang with a golf club.”

I looked back up the street, from where she had come. “You live around here I take it?”

She brushed a wayward strand of her from her face. “Just back around the bend.”

“You on a beer run or something?”

Another soft laugh. “Heading out to see a friend.”

“A little late, isn’t it?”

“He’s a bartender. Doesn’t close up until one. But he’s not nearly as interesting as this.”

“Bet he’d be happy to hear that.”

She shrugged. “He’d get over it.”

I reeled in my first response—that a woman as beautiful as her probably didn’t have to worry too much about pissing him off. No one would put her on the road for being late. Instead, I smiled.

“So what was that about?” she asked.

“My ex. She’s insane.”


“I’m Jake,”


She extended a hand out the window, and I shook it. Soft skin, firm grip. The first drops of rain peppered my face.

“You better get that beauty under cover.”

“My thoughts exactly. Problem is, cover is about twenty miles away.”

She hesitated, examining me as if trying to decide something. “Or just up the road. My place. You can stick it in the garage until this blows over.” 

“What about your friend?”

“Sean the bartender? Like I said, this is much more interesting.” 

She smiled. Perfect teeth. Perfect smile. Just perfect. Down boy.

“Glad I could brighten your evening,” I said,

“A girl’s got to find fun where she can.”

“You have an odd definition of fun.”

“I hear that a lot.”

Jake has a best friend—-Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. Big doesn’t cover it. His hair is red and his ability to take in massive amounts of food legendary. Most people think he got his nickname from his ability to demolish a stack of pancakes, which of course he could, but as a star offensive lineman in his youth, he was famous for pancake blocks—-those that flatten the opponent. Pancake works for Ray. He possesses crazy computer skills but also knows how to handle almost any confrontation.

From A-LIST:

Jimmy Walker, aka Rag Man, was a piece of work. A piece of something anyway. The alley he did business from, as Doucet had said, was wedged between the fire station and an industrial-looking building that had seen better days. The sidewalk was veined with cracks and the alley narrow and littered with refuse. As we reached the alley entrance, we saw him. Thin, black, baggy pants, a New Orleans Saints jersey, three-sizes too large, almost reaching his knees, cigarette hanging from his lips, slouching against the building. He looked up from the phone he was working with his thumbs and came off the wall, moving toward us. He didn’t seem alarmed. Probably thought we were customers.

“Good day gentlemen,” he said, smiling. A true salesman. Probably would do well with aluminum siding. Or as a midway barker.

We introduced ourselves, Ray saying we were P.I.s and needed to ask a few questions to which Rag Man said, ““I don’t got to talk to you.” His head swiveled up and down the street. Like he didn’t want to be seen talking to us. 

“No, you don’t,” I said. “But we’d appreciate it.”

“Go appreciate something else,” he said. 

“It’s about your business,” Ray said.

“I ain’t got no business.” Another glance up the street. “I suggest you move along. Get out of my face. Might not be healthy for you white boys to hang around here. Know what I’m saying?”

I love watching Pancake work. It’s a true work of art. Mostly he’s a gentle giant, wouldn’t hurt anyone. Even go out of his way to avoid trouble. Then there were times he did stuff that made you stare in disbelief. Even if you’d seen it before.

This time, he simply grabbed Rag Man’s arm and tossed him into the alley. Just like that. Like a kid having a tantrum and tossing a doll across the room. Rag Man rolled and bounced a couple of times but to his credit quickly scrambled to his feet. Pancake was on him. He poked his chest with a finger. “No, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Hey dude, you can’t do that.”

“I’m just getting started.” Pancake palmed his chest, pressing him against the wall.

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Despite Jake’s resolve, he is repeatedly dragged into Ray’s world. Mostly by Nicole, who. like Pancake, works for Ray. Jake was never sure exactly how that happened but she even has a laminated card to prove it. 

Jump on board and enter Jake’s world. Lot’s of crime, craziness, and fun. DEEP SIX and A-LIST are out and available in all the usual formats. Get caught up with Jake, Nicole, Ray, and Pancake before SUNSHINE STATE is released in two weeks,  May 21, 2019.

DEEP SIX Details:

A-LIST Details:


Jake #4 RIGGED will be available next April

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Posted by on May 7, 2019 in Writing

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