Brown River Queen cover art

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Endings

Not every book has a happy ending.

Good books have satisfying endings, whether they're happy ones or not.  If the hero or heroine dies a good death, if you close the book saddened but satisfied, then it's still a good ending, even if everyone fails to live by the happily ever after rule.

I've not been brave enough to kill off any of my major characters.  Well, I did once, but after my editor explained why that was a Bad Move, I repented and rewrote.  Which is a good thing, because had I not the series would truly have suffered.

But that doesn't mean every character lives, or meets a good end.  You can't write about detectives, even fantasy ones, without the odd bit of murder here and there.

But of all the many hapless characters I have dispatched over the years, one stands out.  He was called Stick, and he makes his first and final appearance in a Markhat novella, The Cadaver Client.

In the story, Stick is a weed addict.  Weed in Markhat's world is a powerfully addictive drug, easily obtained, rather like ice and meth in our own world.  And like meth, from the first time a user tries the drug, his or her whole life is centered around getting more weed.  Nothing else matters but the next puff.  Weedheads quickly forget who they were, and pay no mind to what they have become.  For a weedhead, there is no future. They just want more weed, and they want it now.

Markhat hopes enough of Stick is left to remember something from his past.  So Markhat seeks him out, and finds him, and -- well, read for yourself.  The whole scene is below.  It's always been one of my favorites, and I hope you enjoy it too.


The bathhouse attendant, a blind old man named Waters, gathered up Stick’s clothes with the end of his cane and without a word hurled them into the furnace.

“That there man stinks,” offered Waters. “Use all that soap. I’ll go fetch more.”

And off he went grimacing and muttering.

I gave Stick a couple of good hard slaps, which roused him to mutter but not open his eyes.

So I hauled him up by the scruff of his neck and simply tossed his ugly naked butt into the big hot copper bathtub.

 Three-leg Cat couldn’t have put on a better show of flailing and howling and sputtering. I put my right hand on his head and pushed him back under briefly.

“Good morning, Mr. Stick.” I had him by the hair, and though he punched and struggled all he did was splash. “It’s bath day. If you behave yourself, it’ll also be breakfast day. If you keep making a ruckus, well…”

I put him under again. The water, I noted, was turning muddy.

But at least it was cutting down the smell. Waters arrived as I let Stick back up for air and dumped a bowl of something fragrant into the tub.

“Gonna need more of that,” he opined, before shuffling off again.

Stick was furious, but beginning to wake up. He quit trying to punch me, and a ghost of recognition flashed across his face.


“Me,” I agreed. “The finder? The one with the coin? The one who wants to know all about Cawling Street and a woman named Marris Sellway? Ring any bells, Stick?”

“You said you pay.”

“I did. And I will. But first you’re going to get yourself clean. And then you’re going to eat. And then you and I are going to sit and talk about the Bloods and Cawling and Marris. Got it?”

Stick closed his eyes and brought up his hands to run water over his face.

“Got it.”

I let go of his head and tossed him a bar of soap. “Waters here did your clothes a favor and burned them. I’m going to go back to my place and get you some of mine. If you want the coin you’ll be here when I get back. You do want the coin, don’t you, Stick?”

The weed-lust in his eyes was the only reply I needed.

“Don’t make trouble for Waters, you hear?”

“I hear.”

I told Waters what I was doing on my way out. My place is just a short walk away, and I swear I could still smell Stick in the still early morning air all the way back to my door.

I found an old shirt and an old pair of brown trousers and a pair of socks with holes in the toes under my bed. They bore the faint aroma of Three-Leg, who had apparently been using them as a bed, but even so they were a vast improvement on anything Stick was likely to ever own again.

A pair of old black shoes, soles worn paper thin, completed Stick’s new ensemble. I gathered them all and headed back, more worried about Waters and the possible application of his cane to Stick’s head than I was about anything Stick might decide to do.

Mama popped out of her door as I neared.

“No time now, Mama,” I said. “Bath emergency.”

Mama eyed my bundle wrinkled her nose at me. “Something stinks. Come back around when ye finish your doings. Got some things to say.”

Don’t you always, I thought. But I just nodded and kept that to myself.

Stick was still in the bathtub when I got back. Waters had near-empty bottles of bath salts lined up by the tub, and he was emptying the dregs from each one onto Stick.

He had at least managed to knock the smell down.

“Gonna have to charge you double, Markhat. Can’t use this water for nothin’ but fertilizing flowers.”
“Not a problem.” I put the clothes down where Stick could see them. I think he muttered a toothless thank you.
Beneath the grime and the filth, Stick looked thin and pale and weary. And no amount of bath salts was going to wash that yellow skin away, or heal those open sores.

I paid Waters and got Stick dried off and dressed. The man had to have help getting shoes on. He simply couldn’t operate more than two fingers at a time.

We left the bathhouse to the sound of Waters draining the tub and burning the towels.

 “You’re bathed. You’re fed. Now let’s talk about Cawling Street and Marris Sellway.”

Stick swallowed the last bite of biscuit and washed it down with water. I’d never seen a toothless man eat a slice of baked ham before. I hoped I never did again.

“She lived in old Number Six. Up top. Nice lady. Baked us bread when she had extra.”

I nodded. Number Six hadn’t been on the waybill either.

“What did she do for a living, Stick?

He looked confused by the very concept.

“Did she have a job? Did she take in laundry or sewing?”

“She sewed some,” said Stick. “I remember. She sewed some.”

“That’s good, Stick. That’s very good.” I shoved another biscuit his way. “Now tell me about her husband. Did you know him too?”

Stick had half a dry biscuit in his mouth and he nearly choked trying to reply.

“No husband,” he finally choked out. “Dead. Dead and gone.”

I frowned. But maybe that’s what she told people, when he didn’t come home.

“Died in the War?”

Stick shook his head no. Biscuit crumbs went flying.

“Kilt in a bread riot. Stabbed in the street. We brung him home. She cried and cried.”

Something in the back of my mind said, softly but plain, I told you so.

“What? Tell me again. And tell me who died, and who you brought home.”

Stick rubbed his chin. “Mr. Sellway. Got hisself stabbed dead in a bread riot down on Forge. We found him, brought him home. Me and Eggs and Lark and Stubby. Mrs. Sellway. Marris. She cried and cried.”

Bread riot. The last one had been on Midsummer Eve, a year before the War ended.

Which meant my dead client—or Granny Knot—was lying through his metaphorical teeth.

“Army wouldn’t take him. Mr. Sellway. He had a bad leg. Bad hand, too, all twisted up.” Stick curled his right hand into a claw and held it limp at his side. “We didn’t know what to do. She just stood there crying and screamin’. Eggs started cryin’ too. Lark took off. Me and Stubby wound up sitting with her ’til the dead wagons came. She had to let him burn. Couldn’t afford no burial. Can I have another biscuit?”

“Are you telling me the truth, Stick?”

Stick tilted his head, genuinely confused. “I think so. Is that not what happened?”

I looked into his yellowed, rheumy eyes, and I realized he no longer had the capacity to create such an elaborate lie.

“I’m sure it is, Stick. Here, have two.”

I sat back and watched him gobble down a week’s worth of food. Tears ran down his cheeks, from what I couldn’t discern.

“What happened to the lady after that, Stick? What did she do? Where did she go?”

Stick gobbled and nodded. “Heard she took up with some other fella,” he said. “Or something. Moved after the second fire. Up and took off, left her door wide open. Don’t know about that.” His face clouded. “War ended, them soldiers came. Lark dead. Eggs dead. Stubby…”

He teared up again. I tossed him my last biscuit. He gummed it and gobbled like he’d not just eaten six of its kin.

“So let me get this straight. Her husband died in a bread riot a year before the War ended. She was seeing another man shortly after. Then came the fires, and she left in a hurry. Is that about right?”


“Any idea who this second man was? A name?”

Stick shook his head. “Don’t know,” he said. Worry creased his brow. “Sorry. Don’t know.”

“Doesn’t matter. You’ve told me what I needed to know.”

“I get the coin? The twenty crowns?”

“That was the deal. You did your part. I’ll do mine.”

I flipped him a single Old Kingdom gold crown. He could buy a decent place to sleep with that, for a month, and food, and clothes, and maybe even a middling good set of carved oak false teeth.

Or he could blow it all on weed and vein and whatever other drugs were in vogue, and wind up encrusted in his own wastes and drooling before the Curfew bell rang again.

It took Stick a long time to count the single coin he gripped in his skeletal hand and realize that one coin was, just possibly, fewer than twenty.

His face darkened.

“You said twenty.”

“I didn’t say all at once.” I pulled my Army knife out and stuck it point-first in my desk. Weedheads don’t respond to subtlety.

“We both know what’ll happen to you if you walk out of here with twenty gold crowns in your pocket, Stick. You got a place? You got a bank? Have you got so much as a sack to keep your money in?”

“I want my money.”

“Those pants you're wearing have holes in both pockets. So that coin will do you for today. I’m going to put the rest in a bank, Stick. They’ll keep it safe for you, and you can take all of it out, if you want. I hope you won’t. I hope you’ll clean yourself up and get off the weed and have what’s left of your life. I doubt that’ll happen. I figure you’ll march into whatever bank I choose and take all of it out and you’ll be dead before you spend a tenth of it. But that’s your decision. This is mine.”

He eyed me and eyed the knife and finally his eyes fell on the crown in his palm.

“This is a lot of money,” he said.

“Enough to buy you a brand new life. Come back around before Curfew. I’ll tell you where your bank is, give you the bank chit so you can get to the rest anytime. Deal?”

Maybe, just for an instant, Stick really meant to start over. Maybe he realized what a stroke of rare good fortune had befallen him, and maybe he meant to turn his miserable life around.

He stood. He looked me in the eye. And after I stood, too, he shook my hand.

“Thanks,” he said. “I mean it.”

And then he was gone.

I did all that, by the way. I went to Crowther and Sons. I opened an account in the name of Mr. Stick. I deposited the nineteen gold crowns. I had the bankers make up a chit just for Stick, made them promise not to throw him out even if he stank, and I put Stick’s bank chit in my pocket.

Stick never returned. The chit is in my desk, waiting for him. I suspect it will wait forever.

Even rare good fortune can be too little and too late.


Poor Stick.  I've always felt sorry for him.  There was a decent person in there, under the grime and the weed.

You can get The Cadaver Client in Kindle format from Amazon by clicking here.  You can get it in any other format by clicking here.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't plug my latest book, a light-hearted fantasy entitled All the Paths of Shadow available in any format from the publisher here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Broken Bell

Relax!  I'm not going to talk about my new book, All the Paths of Shadow.

Instead, I'm going to talk about the new Markhat book The Broken Bell, which won't even be published until December 27.  So fear not, gentle reader -- no sales pitch today.

The good people at Samhain Publishing sent me the final digital version of the book.  We're done editing.  The cover is in place.  This is the first time I've seen the book in the form you'll see, and I have to say it looks amazing.

Especially the cover.  I can't post it yet, but when I do, you'll see what I mean.  One of the many things Samhain has done right is cover art.  Every book has been nothing less that beautiful.

Heck, look for yourself -- here are my Samhain covers:

Am I right? And you bet I've got these framed and hung.  Each one of them is a work of art.

Pretty soon, the cover for The Broken Bell will be right beside them.  I think Markhat fans are going to love this new one.  All the old gang is back, with some fresh new faces and a huge twist at the end.

To whet your appetite, I'm going to post a short excerpt from Broken Bell below.  It doesn't contain any spoilers -- it's just a brief sample of Markhat's voice.


There’s a trick to hiding young women in fancy hotels. If you ever need to do so, never mind the reason, there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way.

The wrong way seems the best way to honest folk. They think that by slipping furtively into the hotel and speaking in hushed tones to the desk clerk and paying in cash and calling yourself Mr. Smith you’ll simply sink down into a blessed state of total obscurity.

That’s why honest people are so easy to find.

Taking the sneaky approach just brands you as one of two things, in the minds of hotel staff. You’re either sneaking around on your spouse or you’re hiding from someone. So when inquisitive sorts start asking questions and perhaps handing out coins to the talkative, the hiding place is revealed as surely as if a giant hand reached down and ripped off the roof.

That’s the wrong way.

The right way?

Tamar rushed into the hotel lobby a dozen steps ahead of me. The pillow she’d placed under her blouse did a credible job of simulating the middle stage of pregnancy. She let me get in the door and take a single step before she turned on me and let loose a stream of loud, heartfelt invective that turned the heads of everyone in the lobby.

Once all eyes were upon us, she took off her wedding ring, which was actually a bauble purchased moments ago from a shady street jeweler for a couple of coppers, and flung it at my face.

“I told you if your mother didn’t leave I would,” she screamed, putting just enough screech into it. “I will not spend another hour under the same roof as that mean-spirited old warthog!”

“Honey,” I said, raising my arms in surrender. “It’s just another week—”

“You said that last week. And the week before.”

Right on cue, Flowers rushed in, freshly scrubbed and wearing the first new shirt he’d ever seen, much less worn. I didn’t trust his accent or his diction, so I’d told him to keep his mouth shut, and he did.

“Come, Reginald,” said Tamar to Flowers. “See? He can’t stand your mother either. Now pay the man, and pay him enough to keep me here until you remove that awful woman from my house!”

And with that, she turned and stormed up the stairs, Flowers in tow.

The room was suddenly filled with barely-suppressed snickering. I made a heavy sigh and approached the desk clerk, a grinning little man in his early hundreds, with my hands in my pockets.

“Trouble to home, is that it, sir?” he asked.

“Guess you could say that.” I leaned on the counter and lowered my voice to a whisper. The room went as silent as a tomb, as two dozen ears strained to hear something that wasn’t a bit of their business.

“How much for a room for the wife and son, for, let’s say, a week?”

“Might be cheaper to just rent one permanent-like for your mother.”

Laughter rippled through the lobby. The old man cackled.

“Have a heart. How much? I can’t move Mother now. She’s taken to her bed. What am I supposed to do?”

He cackled and named a price. It was a quarter again too much, but I didn’t haggle.

I did tell him my name was Smith, which touched off another round of laughter, and that I’d also want to purchase extra meals for the boy and laundry service for the wife. More coins changed hands. My next sigh was very real.

But it had worked. Anyone sniffing around for word of a single young woman who kept to herself and never left her rooms would be greeted with shrugs and shakes of the head. Tamar was an angry pregnant wife with a son in tow and a milksop for a husband.

And that, my friends, is the right way to hide a woman in plain sight.


It's a lot of fun, writing as Markhat.

Oh, and remember when I said I wasn't going to plug my new book?

Yeah.  I lied.  The new book is All the Paths of Shadow, and you can get it through Amazon for your Kindle or through the publisher Cool Well Press for your Nook. It has a great cover too, which is below: 

One last thing today -- I'm on Facebook and Twitter, both as Frank Tuttle.  Look me up!  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Free Kindle E-Reader Contest!

Enter to win your own Kindle e-reader!

Cool Well Press, publisher of my new book All the Paths of Shadow, is giving away a free Amazon Kindle e-reader to celebrate their launch.  Click here to enter.

The winner gets a WiFi Kindle with a custom designed Cool Well Press skin.  The prize Kindle also comes pre-loaded with three new Cool Well Press e-books and the Shadow Street anthology, which includes a never-before-published short story by me.  My entry is The Knocking Man, and it may or may not feature an appearance by zombies.  But I'm not saying.

Is that not a wicked cool skin?  Imagine how cool and erudite you'll appear, waving your new Kindle around in Starbucks.  You won't even need a black turtleneck sweater.

But what are you still doing here, listening to me babble?  Apply thy nimble little clicking fingers to thine own mouse, and enter the contest.

I wish you luck, and good reading!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Behind the Scenes Magic

Every novelist engages in worldbuilding.  Even if the novel is set in present-day New York, even if the novel is about investment bankers (eww), even if nothing even remotely paranormal, magical, or supernatural happens, the writer of the novel of investment bankers in modern-day New York is still worldbuilding.  They have to bring their New York to life.  They have to trick readers into believing the squiggles on the page are telling a story, one that happened just yesterday, in a place everyone knows something about.

It's not so different for me, when I write about Wistril's Castle Kauph or Markhat's rough-and-tumble town of Rannit.  I have to make the place at least seem to be alive.  If the reader doesn't believe he or she has been taken to a strange new place with new sights and new sounds and new smells, then I've failed, and worse I've wasted my reader's time.

I put a lot of work into my latest fantasy setting.  I'm talking of course about Mage Meralda's city Tirlin, which is the setting for my new book All the Paths of Shadow.

Of all the fantasy worlds I've put to paper, Tirlin would be the place I'd choose if I was told I was to be transported to one of my worlds.  Rannit, on the other hand, would be great fun, but only until the sun set.  I'm too old to run from hungry halfdead and, perhaps worse, only Rannit's rich have hot running water or fancy flush toilets.  Tirlin has both, and the streets are safe day and night, and since Meralda accidentally invented electric generators and electric lights, iPods and the Internet can't be far behind.

Since All the Paths of Shadow is a fantasy, magic is a big part of what makes Meralda's world tick.  So I spent a good bit of time trying to create a self-consistent magical system to go along with the new world.  I think I came up with something both fun and unique.

Latching mass, for instance.  Spells in Meralda's world need to be connected -- latched -- to something physical.  The larger and more powerful the spell, or the greater the number of spells, the more massive the latching mass needs to be.

Simple spells don't require much mass.  Meralda carries a copper tube in her bag to which an elementary radiant spellwork is latched.  She speaks a trigger word, and a beam of light shines from the tube.  It's a flashlight, but instead of dry cell batteries and an incandescent light bulb, you've got a bit of metal as latching mass with a radiant spellwork attached.

That automatically places limits on the nature of the spells and magic Meralda can use.  You can't level a city with a wand, for instance, because a foot or so of oak lacks the mass.  You'd need a monumental object for a monstrously powerful spell -- an ancient tower, for instance, something a thousand feet tall, made of solid granite.  Not that I'm hinting.  Just thinking out loud.

To me, that's the fun part of world building.  You set your own rules, and then you start the game, and see how they play out.

All the Paths of Shadow, in Kindle format.  Or, if you prefer mobi or epub, click here to hit the Cool Well Press site.

Either way, I hope the magic works for you, too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meet the Publisher

I've done a lot of blathering the last week or so about my new book.  I thank all of you who've stuck with me, and I bow down in profound gratitude to those who bought the book!

Today, though, I'd like to invite everyone to meet the publisher of All the Paths of Shadow, which is Cool Well Press.  Go ahead, click on their link and have a look around.  I'm not going anywhere.

The first thing you probably noticed is that Cool Well Press is offering all their e-books in various formats.  You can get epub.  Or Mobi.  Or, in a week or so, you can even get good old print.  So whether you rolll with a Kindle or a Nook or a Sony, Cool Well is there to hook you up.

Cool Well just released two other books as well as mine.  Check out The Trinity Pact by E. M. Shelton and Weirdo World by Cathy Seckman while you're there.

And of course Cool Well Press will soon announce the Win a Kindle contest, in which you, yes you, can win a free Kindle just because you're such a cool person.

I owe Cool Well Press a huge thanks for working so hard to make All the Paths of Shadow such a good-looking book.  And of course for the intense editing.  If there are typos in that book I will gnaw off my own feet, and that's a promise made on the internet which of course I will deny ever making if typos are in fact found.

So please check them out!  Oh, and if you're an author, be sure and click the Calls link.  They're planning several themed anthologies, and the pay is top-notch!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

CONTEST! Epub and Mobi People Rejoice!

I'm not sure half of my audience is old enough to remember 1970s-era car sales commercials, and that's too bad.  Not because the 1970s were that great, but the sight of some balding overweight car salesman dancing atop the hood of a '72 Impala truly captured the spirit of America.

I don't have any Impalas to sell, and I'm not balding, thankyouverymuch, but I am about to engage in the very same sort of antics while I promote my new book.

So allow me to put on a too-tight yellow sports coat and a bright red hat.  Man, polyester really doesn't breathe, does it?

Camera ready.  Mikes on.





Woooooo hooo!  They call me Crazy Frank and I must be crazy, because I'm about to give away ten copies of my new book for FREE, yes people, you heard me, I'm so crazy I'm giving it away!

Be among the first ten people to email me at with the words CRAZY FRANK'S FICTION GIVEAWAY in the subject line and I will email you one of the following:

1) An epub version of my new book, All the Paths of Shadow.  In epub format.  This baby comes fully loaded with cover, working Table of Contents, dedication, copyright notice, and one hundred and twenty thousand words of timeless Tuttle prose!  Works on any epub device.  Ask for epub in your email!


2) The mobi version of my new book, All the Paths of Shadow.  In mobi format.  This baby comes fully loaded with cover, working Table of Contents, dedication, copyright notice, and one hundred and twenty thousand words of timeless Tuttle prose!  Works on any mobi device.  Ask for mobi  in your email!

It's so simple it's CRAZY!  Again, just email me at with the words CRAZY FRANK'S FICTION GIVEAWAY in the email subject line.  Inside your email, tell me which version you want, epub or mobi.  If you're among the first ten to enter, I'll email you the file of your choice, and you can have  All the Paths of Shadow for your very own, at no cost!


Because I'm crazy.  Also because I feel like showing some love to my Nook and Kobi and Sony toting pals.  Note that the Kindle doesn't read epub or mobi files.  So if you're a Kindler, sorry, this contest won't help you.  Unless of course (wink wink nudge nudge) you download a free epub or mobi reader program and read from your PC.  Just thinking out loud here.

So, all you Nookers, you Sony-ers, you Kobikins -- fire up that email now!

Remember, first ten get the free ebooks.  The next ten get a high-resolution JPEG image of me clipping my toenails.  It's not pretty, so hurry and enter!