Thank you so much for allowing me to be here today to talk a little bit about my latest book, Gumption & Gumshoes. It’s a story that I’ve fallen for with characters I had a great deal of fun writing, and I always enjoy getting a chance to introduce people to them.
The idea behind Gumption & Gumshoes came from a friend, who suggested that she’d love to read a book about a chinchilla shifter. And that thought took hold until I had the character of August Mendez, an overweight, under-motivated, under-employed guy who really just wants to spend his free time in his boxers, eating mac and cheese and watching Sam Spade do his thing.
But when August gets a chance to follow his dream and open his own detective agency, he finally seems to find his calling in life. At least, he thinks at first. But a troublesome case and his own self-esteem issues make for a bumpy road forward.
Sam Ewing is the older, bitterly divorced landlord who rents August office space. He has given up on most of life after his marriage went south. Now he’d just be happy to sit through a football game in peace.
I have a lot of fun writing characters who don’t seem to go together. There’s something really great about getting to see their relationship unfold, in how one person’s weakness can match with the other’s strength. G&G has a slow burn that erupts into a very definite flame.
The other side of it is August’s ability. Chincas – chinchilla shifters – I decided would be a bit different than a normal shifter mythology. After all, as August asks, if you could turn into a small furry rodent, how much would your everyday life change? Not much. Although you could dust in those hard to reach corners. So August, and most of his herd, spend their lives not using their ability. But in the course of his case, August discovers how to use all of his strengths. Including his shifting.
In the excerpt I’d like to share, this is the reader’s first glimpse at August shifting while investigating.
It was dark outside, starting to spit rain. The cars sloshed through the streets, lights reflecting in puddles like melted crayons. Sighing, I tugged on my fedora and power-walked the two blocks to my car. The spot I’d managed to find that morning wasn’t the greatest. And now I was blocked in by an oversized truck and a stupid sporty car that looked like a penis replacement. Fan-friggin-tastic.
Two inches forward. Stop. Reverse three inches. Stop. Crank the wheel left. Forward two inches. Over and over again, while I muttered curses and tried to remember how much my insurance deductible was. Finally I eked out of the spot, pulling out onto the main road and making my way back toward the dry cleaners.
By then I was later than I’d wanted to be, and I barely got parked in a good spot out front when the outside lights were turned off. I could see Jake and a woman who must be Tina moving around inside the shop, doing their closing duties, I imagined. The car engine pinged softly as it cooled, the rain spattered the windshield, and I slouched down in my seat, watching.
Just like a real detective.
Sometimes my life got cool all at once.
And sometimes it was forty-five minutes of sitting in my car, staring at two people mopping a floor. No one was twirling a mustache or tying anyone to train tracks. No obvious signs of chicanery. Just two employees trying to close up shop after a long day.
Just when I was about to call it a night, there was a flare of light from the alley beside the dry cleaners. I caught sight of Tina taking out two large trash bags to toss them into the bins. When she walked back inside, though, I could still see the faint outline of the door; she hadn’t closed it properly behind her. On purpose? Or maybe the stolen money was leaving with the garbage.
Either way, I knew I had to get in that alley. I could see Tina and Jake turning off lights, moving toward the exit. I took my chance to duck out of my car, cursing quietly when it dinged at me for leaving the keys in the ignition. I darted into the alley, my eyes taking far too long to adjust to the dark. Tripping over my feet, I almost slammed my head into a wall, barely getting my hand up in time to save my nose. There was a flare of pain on my palm, and I hissed in a breath, looking down to barely make out the shimmer of blood. I’d scraped the skin off. Fantastic.
Shaking the sleeve of my hoodie down to cover it, I kept going. I wanted to take a look in those trash bags. The dumpster was sitting open, and I grabbed the closest garbage sack. There was the distinct sour scent of rotting things all mixed together with the pervasive piss smell all alleys seemed to have. Choking a little, eyes watering, I hauled the bag out and ripped it open. It was a lot of paper, huge clumps of lint like basketball-sized tumbleweeds, and I dragged it a little closer to the seam of light creeping out from the ajar door.
I dug through the garbage. There seemed to be a lot of receipts, huge handfuls of them, like they’d been ripped from a book and stuffed in here. I frowned, uncrumpling one, tipping it toward the light so I could read it better. It was just tallying up an order, although I had a momentary thought that it seemed like Petros was charging an awful lot for laundry.
“Hey!” The sharp voice broke my concentration, and I dropped the receipts I was holding, scrambling back. Jake was in the doorway, scowling at me. “What the fuck are you doing?”
So I took off running. I didn’t run a lot. Or ever. But now the not-so-jolly giant was chasing me, so it seemed like a really good time to start. Heaving in panicked breaths, my sneakers skidding on the wet pavement, I darted out across the street. Horns blared but I didn’t dare stop. I could hear him on my heels, cursing, the sound of his footsteps pounding behind me.
I was going to die. Holy fuck, that giant-ass man was going to kill me.
And that was when I realized I didn’t have my keys. I couldn’t get into the building.
Changing direction at the last second, I dodged into the alley that ran alongside my building. If I could double around, maybe get lost in the foot traffic the next street over, I could shake him. My heartbeat was throbbing in my ears, a stabbing pain in my side with every heaving breath I took. The fear slamming through me with every step, though, kept me desperately throwing myself forward.
The alley wasn’t very long. There were dumpsters and closed doors that I staggered my way past, no help in sight. It was pitch-black; I didn’t see the fence until I slammed into it full force. “No, no, no,” I muttered, frantically grabbing at the chain link, pulling it like I was suddenly going to Hulk out and be able to yank it out of my way.
I was trapped.
There were seconds until Jake came around the corner. There was no way I could face him like I was. So I did the only thing I could think of.
It started as an itch in my nose, a prickle along my skin. The world got very big very quickly as I shrank down, the ground rushing up to meet me. The night world flared to life, scents and sounds filling my senses. And then I wasn’t human anymore. My nose twitched, ears pricking at the sound of footsteps. Two sets. I could smell one sweaty human; he stank like cigarettes and jerky. Jake appeared at the end of the alley, searching for me. But there was another man there, the tang of soap and beer, but more importantly behind him was an open doorway.
I zoomed off, nails skidding on the cement, hurtling myself toward the escape. There was the thunder of boots in my way, and I squeaked aloud in terror as I tried to correct course. Before I was stepped on, though, a hand reached down, wrapping around me. There wasn’t time for me to react before I was pushed gently into a huge pocket and left there to tremble. I had no fucking clue what had just happened.
Well, I did. I was a chinchilla in someone’s pocket.
Thank you again for letting me stop by! And of course, if there are any questions or comments, I’m happy to chat more.