I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the “Death & Damages” box set anthology with a stable of talented bestselling authors like the one you are about to meet.
These amazing writers have graciously agreed to let my blog readers share in an exclusive interview AND get a sneak peek at the book they have contributed to the Death & Damages box set – 25 stories for 99 cents!
Today, we sit down with Patricia Loofbourrow, author of “Drawing Thin”
DAN: Tell my readers briefly about the story you are contributing to the Death & Damages anthology. What inspired your story?
PATRICIA LOOFBOURROW: Drawing Thin is a 48,000 word companion story to my Red Dog Conspiracy steampunk crime fiction series. When I wrote the first in the series, The Jacq of Spades, back in 2015, I thought it would be interesting to see the another side of the story. Drawing Thin covers much the same time frame as The Jacq of Spades, but from the point of view of the constable helping to investigate the caae.
Tell me a little bit about you. Where do you do your writing?
I write on a Windows 7 HP desktop at my desk in our computer room, which is one large room upstairs. My husband and daughter share the space.
What does writing success look like to you?
Writing really excellent stories which touch the people who “get” what I do. I want to give all the feels. Getting lots of money is good, too. 😉
Do you ever collaborate with others?
Putting out audiobooks is a collaboration of sorts, but if you mean on the story itself, not too often. The last collaboration I did was on the Army of Brass novel which came out in April.
Tell me a little bit about your process. What is the path from idea to finished story? Do you use critique partners? Do you have a favorite editor?
When I get an idea I think about it for a while to tease out the plot and likely consequences of the idea. I do the majority of my writing during National Novel Writing Month, which is where I got started writing novels in 2005. Then I revise until I feel it’s pretty good, then I send it to my alpha reader, who picks it apart and then I revise some more. Then it’s off to the beta readers, I edit and format it for print, then it’s off to my proofreader/editor Erin Hartshorn, who catches what I missed. I was a freelance editor for many years before I began writing novels, so there’s not usually much for her to do. Then I go over it again and format it for ebooks. Then it goes out to the world!
I’ve pretty much gotten this down to a science. 🙂
What do you do for your cover? It’s always hard to find a good cover. How do you find yours, or the artwork?
I have a cover designer for my main series, but for this one I did the cover myself. I get the images through iStock.
What about your blurb and tagline? What is your process for arriving at a really killer tagline and then a blurb that makes readers want to buy the book?
I’m really still learning how to do those, but if it makes me want to buy it, then I go with it until I figure out something better. 🙂
Best book to movie you’ve seen?
Jurassic Park. I think the movie was better than the book.
Where in the process do you create the story’s title? Do start with it? Do you know it before you begin? Before you end? Elsewhere?
I’m one of those people who need to know the title before I can really write the book.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
I suppose a little of both. I love science fiction, and have always thought of myself as a science fiction writer. I never would have thought I’d be writing crime fiction. But its far future steampunk crime fiction, so go figure. 🙂
What is the best part about being an author for you?
When you get someone who’s literally jumping up and down because they love the premise of your book so much. I get at least one at every live event I do, and it’s an amazing feeling.
How many unpublished or half finished manuscripts do you have?
A lot. A lot of them will stay that way. But I plan to publish some of them in the future.
About The Author
Patricia Loofbourrow, MD is a NY Times and USA Today best-selling science fiction writer, PC gamer, ornamental food gardener, fiber artist, and wildcrafter who loves power tools, dancing, genetics and anything to do with outer space. She was born in southern California and has lived in Chicago and Tokyo. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three grown children.
Contact Patricia :
Visit her website
* * * EXCLUSIVE * * *
Constable Paix Hanger had attended many crime scenes, yet something about this one unnerved him.
No blood splattered the empty alley, no bodies adorned the back rooms of this sad little fabric shop.
That was the problem, he decided.
The boy was just – gone.
He closed his notebook, putting it and his pencil into his pocket. The room was odd. He’d seen similar rooms before, this close to the Pot – minimal battered furnishings, nothing on the walls – but this room held an emptiness which pulled at his heart. No smell of food. No personal items lying about. Not even a toy or doll on the boy’s thin mattress.
Paix considered himself at that age. The boy was twelve, even if he looked ten: perhaps too old for dolls. But not even a book?
Forensics men dusted the open back door frame and back stair railing for fingerprints while others photographed the barren room and the child’s portrait. The family peered in from the doorway to their storefront, following their every move. The mother – in her middle forties with dark eyes and hair – and a young man – perhaps sixteen – who looked like her. Their clothes were well-made, too fine for a 2nd Street address.
Probationary Constable Leone Briscola stood in front of them, arms on the door-posts, blocking the way. “You think he ran off?”
Paix flinched at the outrage which flashed through the mother’s eyes. This would make things more difficult. He gave Briscola a sharp stare. “We don’t have enough evidence to say anything yet.”
Briscola’s swarthy cheeks reddened, his dark eyes dropping at the rebuke.
Paix strode to the open back door. Clouds covered the late December sky, yet Lady Luck had smiled upon them – it was mid-morning, with little chance of rain. Cases like these at night in a thunderstorm were much more difficult.
A team photographed the alley, while another collected every item in it – trash, half-eaten rats, bits of wood – each placed into its own brown paper sack, the top folded and sealed. Labelled. Catalogued.
If this were any other precinct, a detective or three would be ordering them around. But Precinct 1 was stretched too thin for that luxury. Their job was to do the preliminaries. Whatever detective was assigned would follow up on the case tomorrow.
The alley wall across the way looked like any other. Paix moved close to inspect it: graffiti, but no hairs, no fibers, nothing to speak of what happened here.
We should have cordoned off the entire alley, he thought, and examined the back stair first. Dozens of officers had walked these stairs, and others had trailed through the alley while they spoke with the family inside. “Photograph every shoe-print of every man here. And the family’s.”
It was routine, but he didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Those eyes in the boy’s tintype portrait haunted him.
Paix pointed to a fresh mark – a dog, stamped in red on the grimy brick wall. “Did you photograph this?”
“Yes, sir, but it won’t help much.” The photographer, a curly-haired man dark as a Diamond, shook his head regretfully. “Colors don’t show with this film. I called for an artist.”
Paix continued down the alleyway. No signs of a struggle suggested the boy knew his kidnapper – or was lured away. He turned to face his team.
Briscola stood facing him. “They’re done with the room.”
“Don’t ever make a determination in front of the family.”
Briscola’s cheeks reddened, and he stared past. “Sorry, Constable.”
Paix kept his voice low. “Sorry won’t mend this. It’s bad enough most of the force is on the take, or shaking down people for crossing the street wrong, or playing target practice in the Pot. You know how rare it is for someone to actually call us the day of a crime?” He turned away, trying to keep his anger under control. Then he faced his partner. “You’re a good cop. But you have to keep your mouth shut. Understand?”
Briscola’s head drooped. “Yes, sir.”
Paix clapped Briscola’s shoulder. “What do you see?”
The young man’s face steadied, his shoulders straightened.
It was encouraging. He hoped Briscola would survive.
“No signs of a struggle, sir. Nothing of his left at the scene. The family heard no noise – ” Briscola turned to Paix, astonished. “The boy didn’t cry out.”
“You’re right. Notice anything else?”
“Last night was Yuletide Center. Where are the decorations? The food? The gifts?”
Paix nodded. And the rest of her family. Where were they?
Good thing I was assigned this case, he thought. This woman was barely surviving. To have to choose between bribes and food …. “What else?”
He watched as Briscola struggled to find something, anything to say. Finally, Briscola shook his head.
“The mother. She’s hasn’t given her children a Yuletide, yet still wears a wedding ring.” Briscola’s eyes unfocused, blinked several times. Then he frowned, his mouth twisting. “She loves her children. It’s not that.” He hesitated. “Recently widowed?”
She took off her mourning garb, yet she kept her ring. “Yes, and by the look of things, newly arrived to Bridges.” Realization dawned as the pieces all fit together. “They’re running from something.”
The two officers returned to the house, and Mrs. Bryce offered them tea. As there were only three stools, the young man – Herbert was his name – lounged on his bed, watching them in silence.
That they were offered tea seemed encouraging. Perhaps she’d speak more of her troubles.
Paix said, “Was this your first voyage on the zeppelin?”
“No, sir,” Mrs. Bryce said stiffly. “We’ve traveled before.” Her accent seemed familiar but he couldn’t place it.
“Did you enjoy your trip here?”
They both flinched.
He decided to try a different approach. “Mrs. Bryce, what brought you to Bridges?”
She glanced away. “I had opportunity to own a business.”
He peered at her. She hid something. Why? “Anything you can tell us might help.”
The woman glanced at her son. “We owed money. Back in Dickens. We – I thought we’d be safe here.”
Paix nodded. Now he recognized the accent.
Financial refugees from Dickens were not unheard of. A dollar from Dickens was a small fortune in the slums of Bridges. “But why come here?” Fees from the local crime family, outrageous rents with little in return – this wasn’t the best play for a gentlewoman in financial distress.
She glanced away. “This was where opportunity lay.” She faced him, then set her teacup down, her manner formal. “Will there be anything else?”
Something wasn’t right here. He handed her his card. “Madam, I’m here neither for your money nor your favors. We want to be of service. But I don’t want to impose on you any further. If you think of anything which might be helpful, or if anyone contacts you about the boy, or if your son returns, please let us know.”
Her cheeks reddened, but she stood: it was time for them to leave.
The men in the alleyway were packing their gear away, but gave Paix their attention when he emerged.
“I want a door-to-door search in a six-block radius,” Paix said. “Four of you come with me: we’ll take the Pot. The rest finish packing then split into teams.” He counted quickly, then pointed to one of them. “You stay here and watch the house in case the boy returns.” He raised his voice to encompass them all. “Each team take search bags. Play it straight, men. The boy is here somewhere, and the clock is ticking.” If this were a kidnapping, as the mother seemed to think, every minute which passed without finding the child left less hope of him being found alive.
And he’d been gone several hours already.
Paix and his group strode to the corner, then turned towards the Hedge. David Bryce might have gone to some neighbor’s house, invited in with warm food and gifts. But the Bryce family had been in Bridges only a short time; his mother insisted she knew of no friends here.
Paix peered up and down the intersection before crossing 1st Boulevard. This didn’t feel right. If his hunch were true – the family was indeed running from someone – the boy would feel anxious, wary of strangers. He wouldn’t have left home without telling his mother.
Yet he didn’t cry out when taken. Why?
They crossed the wide, broken-down boulevard to one of the gaps in the Hedge, then the group slipped through.
Paix shuddered, the hair on his arms rising. They had crossed into the Pot.
“You two,” he pointed to his right. “up three. You two,” he pointed to his left, “up five. Six blocks to each side. Meet back at the wagons when you’re done.”
The men shifted a bit with sour faces, especially the ones asked to go six blocks into the Pot. But Paix had no qualms they would follow. He waited until they deduced his reasoning: he was senior, and had a new Probationary with him. They nodded, and he set off.
Paix was within his rights to order, to bluster, to demand. But he never liked to work that way. Men who understood and agreed meant men who’d follow orders – and come back alive.
The six men crept straight across the empty wide street paralleling the Hedge. Then they moved forward, one silent step at a time, nightsticks drawn, keeping to the center of the street. Broken glass lined the gutters, in places ground fine as sand. On either side, the bombed-out ruins stood eerily quiet.
At the first intersection Paix and Briscola stopped, while the other men pressed on. Paix whispered to Briscola, “Have you been in the Pot before?”
Briscola shook his head, face pale. The paper sack in his hand made a crinkling noise.
“They will try to kill you if they can.”
A whistle rang out, high and to the left. Briscola jumped at the sound. The rest, several yards ahead, didn’t even flinch.
Paix stopped, shouted with full force. “A boy’s gone missing. We need your help.”
Silence lay heavy in the air. Then across the street to their left, a boy emerged from a battered yet elaborately carved corner door. The boy was seven years old and blond, wearing the bright red jacket of his trade.
Two older boys, twelve or so with light brown hair, followed, the familiar bulge of a weapon at each boy’s side.
Briscola let out a loud breath. Paix relaxed, yet kept watchful. “Greetings, Memory Boy.”
“Good morning, Constables.”
Memory Boys remembered everything: heard, seen, or written. Paix thought this might be a curse rather than a blessing, although the families of these children lacked for nothing. “What have you heard of a boy missing?”
“Nothing,” the boy said. “What’s he like?”
Paix peered around. They were much too exposed. “Let’s get out of the street.” The older boys nodded; the group moved back against a wall. Far off ahead, two of his men turned right, their motions wary.
“Briscola, watch the windows.” Paix crouched to the Memory Boy’s height. The boy’s companions – from the look if it, his brothers – stood watching everywhere but them. “His name is David Bryce. He’s twelve, but small: he looks ten. Just arrived from Dickens. Dark hair and eyes, but light of skin.”
“I haven’t heard of him,” the boy said, “but I’ll listen.”
“Thanks,” Paix said. “And ask the Clubbs to watch as well.”
The boy smiled brightly. “However would I do that?”
“This is no game. Someone’s after the family, and I don’t want this boy taken from the city.”
The Memory Boy’s face reddened. “I’ll take care of it.”
The Clubb crime syndicate owned the only way out of this dome: the zeppelin station and by extension, the Aperture. If the boy was taken out of Bridges, the police would need to involve the Feds for permission to pursue him, and no one – least of all the Clubbs – wanted that.
And everyone knew Memory Boys reported the better information straight to the Clubbs. “Good lad.” He straightened. “Safe journey.”
“You too,” the boy said, and the three boys left.
Briscola said, “What now?”
Running across a Memory Boy had been incredibly fortunate. But they still had a lot of work to do. “Have you done a search before?”
“Then you know what to do.”
Briscola took one of the search bags from the paper sack, a fist-sized muslin bag filled with colored chalk dust then tied shut with twine. He tossed it into the middle of the intersection, leaving a bright pink bloom on the grimy cobblestones. “You always go right,” Briscola said, as if reminding himself.
Bemused, Paix followed him.
The two men searched the bombed-out buildings, looking under fallen boards, behind broken walls, down fetid basements. Eventually they reached the six blocks, then circled around to search the other side of the street.
No one interfered, for which Paix was grateful.
When they returned to the pink spot, the bag was gone. Stolen, most likely, perhaps to use as a toy or to color one of their filthy hovels. They two men moved on.
Once they’d searched the six blocks on the other side of this street, they moved to the next. Briscola marked it with a yellow bag this time.
By the time they were finished searching the second street it was well past midday. They returned to Mrs. Bryce’s home. The wagons – and the rest of his men – stood waiting.
No one had found anything. No one would talk with them.
It was business as usual.
Gang, please join me in thanking Patricia for sharing these authorly insights with us.
Click HERE to order your copy of Death & Damages TODAY and read the rest of this great story when it is released in the Death & Damages boxed set!
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Danger lurks around every corner as these courageous cops, adventurous agents, and daring detectives hunt for the answers to stop the crimes by vicious killers.
But what if the damage is already done?
Inside these pages, you’ll find 25 adventures full of captivating conundrums, hair-raising homicides, and suspenseful secrets from today’s USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning authors.
Become a private investigator yourself when you inspect plots of deadly assassins, cold-blooded killers, and bone-chilling suspense inside the pages of DEATH AND DAMAGES, an enthralling mystery and thriller boxed set.
Fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and John Grisham will devour these puzzling mysteries and gripping thrillers.
Including Stories From…
- New York Times bestselling author Patricia Loofbourrow
- USA Today bestselling author Pauline Creeden
- USA Today bestselling author John Ling
- Award-Winning author Alexa Padgett
- Siera London
- USA Today bestselling author Shereen Vedam
- Multi-Award-Winning author, Deborah Shlian
- USA Today bestselling author Kelly Hashway
- USA Today bestselling author JB Michaels
- Maggie Carpenter
- USA Today bestselling author Tiana Laveen
- Angela Sanders
- Award-Winning author Karen M. Bryson
- Aime Austin
- Lisa B. Thomas
- USA Today bestselling author Fiona Quinn
- Kerry J Donovan
- Jane Blythe
- Bestselling author Dan Alatorre
- USA Today bestselling authors Muffy Wilson and Dariel Raye
- Ja’Nese Dixon
- USA Today bestselling author Terry Keys
- Bill Hargenrader
- Wall Street Journal bestselling author Judith Lucci
- Award-Winning author Maria Grazia Swan