Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Skies of Ash - Release Day

It's here!

It's queer!

It's not going away!

SKIES OF ASH is alive in book stores near you!

What's it about?

Los Angeles homicide detective Elouise "Lou" Norton and her partner, Colin Taggert, arrive at the scene of a tragic house fire. Juliet Chatman perished in the blaze, along with her two children. Left behind is grieving husband and father Christopher Chatman, hospitalized after trying to rescue his family. Chatman is devastated that he couldn't save them.

Unless, of course, he's the one who killed them.

Neighbors and family friends insist the Chatmans were living the dream. But Lou quickly discovers the reality was very different. The flames of adultery, jealousy, scandal, fraud, and disease had all but consumed the Chatmans' marriage before it went up in smoke.

Lou's own marriage hangs by a thread. Soured by the men in her life, Lou is convinced that Chatman started the fire. Her colleagues worry that her personal issues are obscuring her judgment. With very little evidence regarding the fire—and rising doubts about her husband's commitment to monogamy—Lou feels played by all sides.

Was the fire sparked by a serial arsonist known as The Burning Man? Or by the Chatmans' son, who regularly burned his father's property?

Searching for justice through the ashes of a picture-perfect family, Lou doesn't know if she will catch an arsonist or be burned in the process.

Here's an excerpt:

I trudged toward the wreck, its death scent assaulting my nostrils. Colin met me halfway with the coffee cup extended.

I took the drink and glanced at his crisp blue jeans. The creases were as sharp as thousand- year- old cheddar. “You just take the dry cleaner’s plastic off?” I asked.

He held up a leg. “Can you tell?”

“Not at all.”

“Bodies are still in the house,” he said, “and the firefighters need to get some debris out of the way so we can see ’em. They’re thinkin’ we can go in, in about an hour.”

I checked my watch— that would take us to eleven.

“So the next- door neighbor,” Colin said, “an old lady named Virginia Oliver.” He pivoted and pointed at the house with the animal- shaped hedges. “She lives right there. She called it in around three- forty this mornin’. Mrs. Oliver says she started not to call cuz the smoke detectors in that house were always goin’ off. Seemed like the Chatmans—”

“That the family name?” I asked.

He nodded. “The son was always settin’ shit on fi re. So the old lady thought nothin’ of it ’til she heard the fi re. She said, and I quote, ‘Sounded like God was frying bacon.’ According to another neighbor, Eli Moss”— he pointed to the green bungalow with the baby grand piano—“a patrol unit got here before the fi re trucks. I’m guessin’ because of the ‘kill me’ part of Mrs. Chatman’s 911 call.”

“You talk to the R/O?”

Colin nodded. “His name is Bridges. He says when he got here, the fire was mostly in the center of the house, second story. He tried to get in, but that”— he pointed to the wrought- iron security door propped against the house’s side—“kept him out. The fire trucks got here a few minutes later. The neighbor says that once the trucks got here, it took them some time to find the hydrant, which is at the end of the block and too far for the one- hundred- foot hose.”

I shook my head. “Ticktock.”

“Almost an hour into the fire— that would be close to five o’clock— the man of the house, Christopher Chatman, pulled up in his car.” He pointed to the dark blue Jaguar sedan now covered in LA snow and abandoned near a sawhorse.

I frowned. “It’s five in the morning and Christopher Chatman ain’t home?”

Colin smirked. “Yep.”

“Why the wonky hours? He a doctor or an astronaut or something?” “He’s a commodities broker. Don’t know what the hell that is, but there you go. Anyway, he pulls up, runs to the house, makes it a few feet away from the front porch, where he’s tackled by a few of the heroes. Seems he was tryin’ to save his wife and kids. Her name is Juliet and the kids are Chloe and Cody.”

“Are all three dead?”


Lieutenant Rodriguez had warned me that there would be blood, but I still wanted to make him a liar.

“And where the hell was Mr. Chatman?” I asked.

Colin peered at me. “Pissed already?”

“No time like the present. Where was he?”

“At work.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Let's Meet and Talk Books!

The hills are alive...

With the sound of fire...

Skies of Ash
A Detective Elouise Norton Novel
Readings & Signing

Please Join me!

Tuesday, May 19, 7:00 p.m., Launch Party at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin St., Orange, CA

Wednesday, May 20, 7:00 p.m., The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles

Thursday, May 21, 7:00 p.m., Eso Won Books, 4327 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles

Wednesday, May 27, 7:30 p.m., Mysterious Galaxy San Diego, 5943 Balboa Ave #100, San Diego with M.P. Cooley, author of FLAME OUT

Saturday, May 30, 2:00 p.m., Poisoned Pen, 4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101, Scottsdale, AZ

Sunday, May 31, 6:30 p.m., A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 La Salle Ave, Oakland

Available in bookstores and on-line on May 19.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Colored and Invisible

Last week, Sara Paretsky wrote a great article about the lack of diversity in mystery. I shared my thoughts on this issue (surprise, surprise) with The Life Sentence. In the essay, I say so many things, including:

"If you’re a writer of color and you attend Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, or any of the writing conferences, you already know that there are more robots on Mars than there are colored folks in the banquet room."

What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 20, 2015

If You Were Eavesdropping..,

Back in May at Perch, high above Los Angeles, you would've heard Attica Locke and I talking about books and writing books in Los Angeles and writing books in Los Angeles as moms. It was fun! Wanna read about it?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Date with Destinee - A Lou Norton Short

Originally posted on Dru's Book Musings June 2014

The walls of Interview Room 1 closed in on us, the gray soundproofing foam torn and gouged by the nails and fists of angry men. I shifted in my seat, then winced—my bra strap and leather holster were both biting into the fleshy part of my shoulder. Glanced at my wristwatch—almost an hour had passed—then gazed at the mountain of an eighteen-year old hunched in the chair across from me.

Brown splotches and splatters had dried on Kobe McAvoy’s gray sweatshirt and tan Dickies. Blood, now the color of chocolate pudding, had stained the toes of his used-to-be white Air Jordans. Aggravated assault, burglary, concealed weapon… So ambitious, this kid.

Kobe folded his arms and chewed the inside of his cheek. Just… sat there as though he was waiting for the rinse cycle to start. Definitely not acting as though he was seated across from a homicide detective liking him for the murders of Destinee and Cayman Andrews, his girlfriend’s parents.

I looked at my watch again: seven minutes until six. “It’s getting’ late, Kobe.”

“Where Dee at?” he uttered, his voice a mix of molasses and hardening lava.

“Down the hall.”

The last time I’d seen Destinee Junior, she was collapsed on the carpet in the conference room. A mess of tears, wails and calls to Jesus. The sixteen-year old had refused to shed the filthy pink tank top and jeans she wore, stiffened now from her parents’ blood.

My gaze landed on Kobe’s fingernails.



Destinee and Cayman Andrews had been discovered dead in their bedroom, stabbed sometime between six in the morning and noon. A knife with the six-inch, serrated blade had been found in the kitchen sink. I had stood over the thirty-year old woman, murdered in her bed, and had stopped counting her stab wounds after reaching ’21.’

And now, hours later, I sat with Kobe McAvoy, the boyfriend. Blood everywhere… except for his nails. With all that stabbing, no blood.

“So what happened?” I asked him for the eighth time.

He glared at the tabletop and said nothing.

“Why did you kill them?”

At eighteen, I didn’t need his parents’ permission to question him. And he hadn’t lawyered up… yet.

Kobe sighed, then sank in his seat.

The aromas of fried turkey, sweet potatoes and mac ‘n cheese wafted from the detective’s bureau to this room where Kobe and I sat. Thanksgiving Day. While the city feasted on cranberry sauce and watched the Cowboys lose to the Raiders, here I was, interviewing a felon who wouldn’t deny, wouldn’t confirm, wouldn’t do jack.

But Kobe’s stomach growled.

In response, my stomach growled louder. “Hungry?”

He gave a one-shouldered shrug.

“I am, too.” I offered the maybe-murderer a smile. “I’ll get us something to eat.”

Five minutes later, I returned to Interview Room 1 holding two plates filled with food, plastic forks and cans of orange soda. I slipped a plate in front of him.

Kobe’s eyes shone, and his shoulders drooped as the smells of a hot, holiday meal enveloped him. He stuck his fork into the mound of collard greens, and quickly shoveled the wilted veggies into his mouth.

I also took a bite of greens, but kept one eye on the big boy seated across from me. “Good, huh?”

“Ummhmmm.” He stuffed his mouth with more greens. “She don’t use pork, huh?”

I shook my head. “Diabetes.”

“Smoked turkey?”


“Good, but it don’t taste the same.”

“Try the macaroni,” I said. “She uses, like, 603 kinds of cheese.”

He dug his fork into the cheesy noodles, then shoved a clump into his mouth. “That’s the bomb-diggity.”

I smiled. “Told you.”

He wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Destinee hated her moms and pops.”

I paused, then said, “Yeah?”

“What she say to y’all?”

With my fork I made crosshatches in the sweet potatoes. “She’s not talking much. She keeps saying, ‘They’re gone, they’re gone.’”

He sucked his teeth, then used them to tear through the turkey leg. He grunted and shook his head.

I squinted at him. “Is that headshake cuz it’s the best turkey leg you’ve ever had, or…?”

He met my eyes. “She’s the one who did it.”

I canted my head. “Can you prove that?”

A small smile. “Detective Norton, I got all the proof in the world.” He pointed to his plate. “Can I finish this, though? Cuz what I got to tell you… We gon’ be here for a while.”

Check out Dru's Book Musings for other 'Day in the Life' of your favorite characters!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Alum-Slug

So, I don't know if you know this but...

I'm a Slug. A Banana Slug.

A UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug.

My first year up there, in the woods, at the clothing-optional campus (back then), was... hard. Coming from South Los Angeles, where people dressed and shaved and smelled of Polo cologne or hair grease or anything except patchouli oil, it was quite an adjustment for me.


I held on and stayed. And I'm so glad I did. Made wonderful, life-long friends. Read great books. Saw deer and cicadas and redwoods.

And now, I'm in the UCSC Review Magazine!

Never thought that would've ever happened. So honored and thrilled.

Would you like to read the profile? It's on-line now. Yeah?

Well, here you go!

And Happy 50 Year Anniversary, UC Santa Cruz!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Giving It Away!!


You thought I meant...?

No, silly.

Land of Shadows, that's what I'm talking about!

My publisher just opened a Goodreads giveaway and they're giving away 20 copies of Land of Shadows!

Click on over and enter now for a chance to win!