Tidings of Comfort & Joy

“God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,” I hummed to myself Sunday night. “Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray — Oh! Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy …”

I don’t have any problem with Christmas carols before Thanksgiving. Heck, like Scrooge I wish we all would keep Christmas in our hearts year-round.

But my mind took a different turn while my mind was on the phrase — Comfort & Joy is the name of the detective agency I stumbled across while trying to conceive a novel a few years back. In fact the first chapter was one of the more well-received bits of fiction I’ve splashed onto the blog pages in recent years.

I made a go at doing a Comfort & Joy novel during my one serious attempt at NaNoWriMo back then, but the train crashed about seven chapters in. But I still think now and then about Adam Comfort, underachieving son of the famous detective team of Adam and Inara Comfort, and Adam’s partner, Joy Emerson, a six-and-a-half-foot-tall pookha in the form of a skunk.

My mind drifted back to the story Steven Pressfield tells of finishing his first novel, running excitedly to his mentor to proclaim his victory, and having the mentor grunt and say, “Good job, kid. Now start on the next one.”

And my mind’s turn completed the connection with a new resolve — Not only will I finish my long-delayed novel Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus by the end of this year, but I’m going to start in on the next one. And as long as I’m seven chapters into it already, I may as well make the next one that Comfort & Joy murder mystery.

Jeep by New Year’s Eve and Comfort & Joy by the first day of spring? I’ve heard crazier goals.

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P.S. Did I mention that you can now pre-order Ebenezer: A sequel of sorts to A Christmas Carol as an ebook, paperback or hardcover? No? Well, I should have. Click here for details.


If I added up all the words I have spent through the years bemoaning my seeming pathological inability to finish fiction projects, I would probably have enough words for several novels.

Shall I pledge to never voice this frustration again? I’m sure that would be a relief to my friends and my handful of followers.

Better: I pledge that, whenever I am tempted to write about how frustrated I am with myself, I will instead open an unfinished manuscript and write, and write, and keep writing until I am no longer frustrated.

I would continue, but I think instead I’ll open an unfinished manuscript.

Ready to get to work

I see wide stone stairs leading up from a plaza to a vast silver building held up by columns all around. The building is the seat of a mighty government that plans to stop at nothing until it dominates more than a half-dozen universes.

Or is the real source of villainy a secret cabal that meets at a log cabin secluded int the woods somewhere, its machinations more subtle than outright tyranny and sapping liberty patiently and by increments until the chains fit snugly but invisibly around us all?

I see a young woman whose best friend is a vampire, and a large man who teaches her how to wield an elegant weapon that appears to be nothing more than a walking stick, and a reluctant prince and his loyal aide, and I see a strange creature called a snoggle who is far more than he seems.

And over in the corner is a private detective working in the shadow of his far more famous private detective father, but the son has a secret ally — a six and a half foot pookha who manifests as a humanoid skunk-like apparition.

And finally, a man and the very attractive young woman who befriends him and asks for his help against what appears to be an alien invasion of the strangest kind.

The young woman who befriended a vampire holds the key to turning back the tyranny or the secret cabal, but the key to her success may very well be the other new friends she meets along the way.

How is it all connected? Is it connected at all? I step back from the canvas to examine those questions, as they percolate in my addled brain. 

Someday I’ll look back at these words and marvel that I paused so long before taking the next step. Or, worse, I’ll look back and wonder how the story could still remain untold. I lift my foot to take that next step, and universes hold their breath.

Jeep is here

As you might have guessed by the last five days, it’s time to start telling the story of Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus. I am giving away the first third of the novel, Episode 1: Journey to the Second Planet, to people who have subscribed to my author’s newsletter, the Astor City Beacon. (It’s named after the online newspaper in Myke Phoenix’s hometown.)

Fair warning, it ends with a cliffhanger. What else do you expect from something I just described as “the first third of the novel”? But Episode 2 is coming in a few weeks, and Episode 3 a few weeks after that  — my newsletter subscribers will be the first to know exactly when. 

After that the completed novel will be available as an ebook, paperback, hardcover and audiobook. This is my first completely new fiction project in almost a decade, so I may as well go all-out.

Jeep Thompson is the daughter of two astrophysicists who led a team that developed The Traveler, a vehicle loosely based on a 1965 Buick Riviera that travels through time, space, and dimensions. Can she figure out how it works in time to save the worlds?

You may have read the first five chapters here, and now pick up the tale as Jeep and Blaine make a narrow escape in the Traveler and run to Venus — no Venus they ever knew — where they meet, well, you’ll see who they meet.

You’re a few clicks away from having the story — starting with this click.

Chapter 5 – The Traveler

Image generated by Midjourney

Jeep and Blaine took the dusty old tarp off, which was more of a task than it sounds. The tarp was tied in the corners — more like lashed — and they needed to find a pair of scissors, then a sharp knife, before they could cut through the ropes that held the plastic covering to the vehicle.

Once they cleared that off, the gleaming black vehicle did resemble something off the highway from a long time ago.

“It really does kind of look like a 1965 Buick Riviera,” Blaine said.

“I didn’t know you knew anything about old cars,” Jeep said.

Blaine smiled his droll smile. “I Googled it.”

Continue reading “Chapter 5 – The Traveler”

Chapter 4 – The mysterious colleague

Jeep’s eyes widened, and even Blaine looked a little taken aback, and Jeep leaned forward and said in a loud whisper, “Oh my gosh, did you help build The Traveler?!”

Now it was the older woman’s turn to widen her eyes, but she quickly narrowed them back to normal, looked both ways and over her shoulder, and said in a low voice, “Your mother should never have told you about that.”

“Well,” Blaine said drolly, because everything Blaine said came out droll, “the thing is sitting under a tarp in Jeep’s garage, so it’s not like some big classified secret.”

“It’s in your garage? Under a tarp? I was told top people were still working on it at an undisclosed location,” Ms. Jacobus said, and then let out a little laugh. “Well, Bev is ‘top people’ if anyone is.”

“But she hasn’t touched it in years,” Jeep said.

“No,” the woman said, and seemed to be looking at something 1,000 miles away, “she wouldn’t, not after losing Tom like that.”

“Like what? I think she was going to tell me when she had the stroke,” the younger woman said urgently. “What happened to my father?”

Continue reading “Chapter 4 – The mysterious colleague”

Chapter 3 – In mourning

[Chapter 1] [Chapter 2]

The funeral home smelled a little too sweet to be a house of death. And it was quiet — almost too quiet, like some stupid old movie full of ridiculous cliches. 

And it made absolutely no sense to be sitting in an uncomfortable chair as people milled around and chuckled at the bulletin board full of old pictures of Mom. Jeep didn’t know most of these people, although some of Mom’s work colleagues were there and some kids from school. Most of them were people Dad and Mom must have known from a long time ago, or her work friends, so it was like being in a room full of strangers who wanted to tell her they knew how she felt.

Everything about the place felt artificial. What was that sweet smell, anyway? It was like some special air manufactured for funeral homes, some sort of chemically induced fresh air that sucked the sound out of the room. It was furnished like a living room from 30 years ago with couches and tables that looked brand new but hopelessly out of style.

And the urn on the table? Wrong, just wrong. That little container of dust wasn’t substantial enough to hold everything that Beverly Thompson was. 

Jeep Thompson’s mom was dead. There. It’s said. She was sick for a long time, made it a little past her high school graduation, and started to tell her daughter the stuff she had been waiting for the right time to tell her, and died just before she told her the most important part. 

Now it was time to say goodbye and all that, with the pomp and circumstance and the solemn looks and the “I’m so sorry for your loss,” yeah, right. At least being cremated means no one was standing around and saying how peaceful her mom looked and all.

Something warm and fuzzy poked her hand, and she looked down to see a German shepherd with that wide-eyed, open-mouthed look dogs get that feels so much like a smile.

“Oh, Blaine,” she said, kneeling and throwing her arms around the dog, which nuzzled her ear.

She held on until she heard a polite cough behind her.

Continue reading “Chapter 3 – In mourning”