My Summer Reads (so far)

Thanks for all of the great summer reading recommendations! Feel free to send more. Here are the books I’ve read this summer (so far anyway) and what’s on deck for the rest of the summer.

Use of Force, by Brad Thor
Part of the Scot Halvarth series.  Halvarth is a former navy seal, transformed into a spy.  Action packed, interesting insights into the biz of espionage and all the things we think are happening behind the scenes, but don’t want to ask.  4 stars.

Code Name Camelot, by David Archer
Part of the Noah Wolf series.  Noah is a tough dude, with no emotions.  This special characteristic allows him to act violently with no remorse.  But it’s a two edged sword.  3 stars.

Testimony, by Scott Turow
A legal thriller with interesting twists.  Bill ten Boom changes his life and takes a position as a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.  His first case is the investigation of into the disappearance of a refugee camp.  5 stars

Camino Island, by John Grisham
A gang of thieves steal irreplaceable and priceless items from Princeton University.  An novelist, Mercer Mann, is pulled into the intrigue. 4.5 Stars.

The Stranger, by Albert Camus
An ordinary man, is drawn into a murder on an Algerian beach.  3.5 stars

On my  “To Read” stack:

The Tender Bar by JR Moerhinger – Thanks to Jake Brand PI subscriber Stephanie who suggested this book.


The Keys to Writing a Novel


Key number 1 – Read! A lot. Read other authors to see how they style things. How do they set up a scene?  How do they create characters?  How do they create an emotional response; any response – love, hate, fear, joy, humor, bad humor, a desire to go to a book burning.

Read different genres. If you’re writing a detective book read sci fi.  If you’re writing romance read about zombies. Actually those two are pretty close to the same. In romance two people try to consume each other emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Zombies want to eat brains. See? The same.

Key number B -Write every day. The easiest way to start a book is to write something. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be a shopping list, a recollection of a past event, or anything that hits your brain. Just write. If you don’t shop, there are exercises on line to help you think out side the box (ie your skull).  Eventually something will click. You’ll create a character you love. Or you’ll come up with a unique phrase. I mean pretty much every country song starts with a hook phrase.

And do it every day. It isn’t important how long you sit and write. It is important that you do it every day. Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Pen up, pen down, pen up…

Key number III – Bring in the most talented team you can find. I was a terrible writer (maybe still am but for my great team) but I have a very visual brain. I can see scenes and think I can convert them into black and white marks on a piece of paper. It doesn’t always translate. A team that gets to know you helps interprut your mush and helps to convert it into a fine dining.

Oh and trust your team. They can do lots of good stuff like help create something that will be read by a customer, or keep you from being sued for libel, or protect you from embarrassing yourself. That’s been my biggest fear. Writing something so offensive that I become the target of a social media hate campaign.

Of course letting others in means you have to be willing to delete chunks of work or witty (to you only) phrases. It gets harder the farther you go into the process. You’ll start to see your characters as real people. Changing the color of their eyes can be emotionally challenging.

Key number four – Invest yourself. I mean if you can’t feel it, a reader definitely isn’t going to. If you’re writing a scene about a first kiss think about yours. Describe what you saw, felt, smelled, heard. Involve all of the senses.   This means puting on paper for the world to read how you really feel about things. It’s like running naked on a really dark night. People know you’re exposing yourself, but they can’t quite pick out the real you. You’ve disguised you with half truths and things that have nothing to do with the real you.
Key number Z –  Don’t sweat it. Don’t worry about how many copies you’ll sell. If it’s one it’s a blessing. Everybody has different goals when they write. My original goal was to finish a book so I could say I had. With that accomplished I set a new goal, sell a copy. Nailed it.  Next, sell one in a foreign market. Been there done that. Next, make money. Workin on that one. And my next one?  An appearance on the Ellen show. Why not?  Why not me?  Got to always have a dream.


M. Louis is the author of the Jake Brand PI series.  Sign up and get a free copy of book 1, Angel’s Devil rated 4.6 stars on Amazon.   Secondhand Smoke (Book 2) is now available. It’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers / 2.99 for ebook.


What’s harder than writing a book?


How are big important decisions made at Team Jake Brand HQ? Rock, paper, scissors naturally.

After losing a 2 out of 3 match with Hallie, Team Jake Brand member Julienne was tasked with cajoling author M. Louis into writing more blog posts.  To make it a little less tortuous for him, she started with an interview style piece. Below are the hilarious results.

Team Jake Brand:  What’s harder than writing a book?

M. Louis:  Writing a blog. Ugh.

Team Jake Brand:  Quit whining. I’m just trying to help, so let’s start at the beginning. Why did you start writing?  Had you always wanted to write?  Are you one of those people who always felt he had a book in him?  Are you in fact, a masochist?

M. Louis:  I started writing as a result of the occurrence of several events at the same time. First, I was trying to tweet for my day job….and hated it. Second, I read two books by two best selling authors that were so flawed that I spent more time critiquing then intriguing. Third, I was interested in a new intellectual challenge, and writing is nothing if not intellectually challenging. In fact here’s the recipe; blank paper, pen poised, no name for the book, no plot, no protagonist, antagonist, location, conflict, and best of all no clue about how to write a book.  But I made up for it by having bad grammatical skills. What the hell, it was kismet!

Team Jake Brand:  Yeah, your grammar does kinda suck, but you hired some great editors so no one but us will know.  Oh oops – sorry I guess the cat is out of the bag now huh?

M Louis:  Yeah well, moving on… I did write stuff occasionally; technical papers for my work as a tax geek, Christmas letters bragging on my fake family (the truth was just too average or brag-a-docious), and filthy dirty birthday limericks for friends (lots of fun, but not shareable).  Also my friends and family didn’t give me grief over my poor grammatical skills.

I never thought there was a book in me, but I’m a passionate reader. Reading has taught me everything I don’t know about writing. Seriously, read, read, read.

Team Jake Brand:  Well, I must say you do read quite a lot. Kudos for posting your book reviews.  Think we can get you to post some real blogs?  This having to trap you in your office and forcing you to answer questions could seriously become a drag for good ole Team Jake Brand.

M. Louis:  Ok, ok.  Masochist is my middle name.  Hmmmm, I think I’ll share some of me, mixed in with some fiction, and throw it out there for complete strangers to critique or praise.


Team Jake Brand:  Good on you M! I’ll tell Hallie to put away the thumbscrews.

M. Louis is the author of the Jake Brand PI series.  Sign up and get a free copy of book 1, Angel’s Devil rated 4.6 stars on Amazon.   Secondhand Smoke (Book 2) is now available. It’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers / 2.99 for ebook.


Michelle Part 2

I felt trapped between my table and the wall behind me, my level of discomfort almost as high as the drama that had just unfolded.

She picked her purse up off of the floor and began riffling through it, sniffing back her emotion. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. I looked up at her just as she looked at the handkerchief in my hand, and then she shifted her gaze to my eyes.

“I apologize. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”

She smiled sadly and said, “It isn’t as if we gave you a choice. No, I should be apologizing to you. Here you are trying to enjoy a meal and you have to endure my…I don’t even know how to describe…”

“No need. Here.” I handed her my handkerchief, she smiled a thank-you.

She dabbed at her eyes and gently blew her nose into the square of cloth. “I must admit, this is the first time anyone has ever shared a handkerchief with me. What is the protocol now that it’s been used? Do I hand it back? Do I wash it and mail it back to you? Or should I just give you cash?”

“None of the above, actually. I have a drawer full, just for moments like this[KT1] . I think the sensible thing would be that you just keep it.” I smiled and hoped that her day had warmed a bit. I found myself attracted to her, not just her beauty, but her sadness, her vulnerability. What is it about pain that we humans seem to take pleasure in? Is it that someone else’s hurt reminds us that ours isn’t so bad?

She dabbed a couple of times and asked, “How did you ever decide to hoard handkerchiefs?”

I laughed, “Well’ hoard’ may be a bit strong. Unusual, that’s certainly the case. Have you ever noticed that when you’re meeting with someone, they’ll occasionally touch their nose? I do, and I can never tell if they have an itch or are hinting that I’m displaying too much. So, I decided I needed to carry something. I found that tissues were to messy, so I decided to try cloth. And I’ve never looked back.”

“Very reasonable of you. I think I’ll try that myself.” She wiped below her eyes and said, “I know I look a wreck, do you mind watching my coat? I need to go clean up, and I’ll be right back.”

“Not a problem.”

She smiled, rose from her seat, and walked toward the ladies room. Not only did she have a pretty face, but she was slender, and from the look of her legs, physically fit.

Michelle Part 1

I often eat lunch at Stanford’s in Lake Oswego. I always order the same thing: grilled salmon, well done, no sauce. Everyone at the restaurant knows my order. You know you’re predictable when even the other regulars know your order.

The other day, I inadvertently overheard the conversation of a couple sitting at the table next to me. They seemed to be in their early forties; they wore stylish clothes and sad faces. She was lovely: shoulder-length reddish-brown hair, long lashes, and nails done to perfection, all offsetting brilliant blue eyes that wanted desperately to sparkle. He was handsome: full head of hair, strong chin, intense brown eyes, and long slender fingers.

“Then you’re saying it’s over,” she softly said. She stared directly at him.

He, on the other hand, couldn’t make eye contact, examining his hands, picking at his meal with his fork. “I suppose.” He hesitated for a moment as she sniffled, quietly, once only. He looked at her, pain in his expression. “It isn’t what I want. But you have to understand—I can’t leave her. It wouldn’t be right.”

I could tell by her reaction, a hardening of her lips and a steeling of her eyes, that he had stepped even deeper into it. “Really, Sam, you can’t leave her? Six months ago, you met with your attorney. Two months ago, you told me papers were being drafted. And now you can’t leave her? Were you ever going to leave her? Have you ever told the truth?”

He turned away from her withering glare. “That’s not fair. You know I love you and want to be with you. But…”

“But nothing. You’ve led me on. Admit it, you’re a user. Even now you’re manipulating me. If you were a man, a man of honor, you’d just say it. Say it now, Sam. Say it’s over.”

He paused before he spoke, choosing now to consider his next step, perhaps finally realizing his path couldn’t be retraced. “Honor? You want to talk about honor? You’ve known all along that I’m married. Didn’t stop you, though, did it. You’re right. I don’t have any honor. But don’t sit there wrapped in a coat of righteous indignation. You’re a cheat just as much as me.” He looked around the room, stopping to examine me for a moment. He knew I’d heard all of their conversation. I couldn’t not hear it. He looked back at her and said, “Fair enough, you want me to do the honorable thing. It’s over, Michelle. Over.” He reached into his back pocket for his wallet, pulled money out, and tossed several bills onto the table. He stood and looked at her. She couldn’t look back at him. Her head was bowed, with one hand covering her eyes. “Keep the change,” he said, and he walked out of the restaurant.


Every journey begins with a first step.  I began writing two years ago and published my first book last week.  It’s called Angel’s Devil and is a fictional detective mystery/romance novella set in Portland, Oregon.  The main character is Jake Brand.  Jake is former special forces and currently operates a private detective business.  Much of the book is about Jake coming to grips with the end of one relationship, and the rekindling of an old one.

I started writing so that I could one day say that I had written a novel.  I had no expectations of anyone else reading it or ever selling it.  Angel’s Devil is actually the second Jake Brand book I’ve written, but the first I’ve published.  It’s a shorter book, a novella technically.  The first as yet unpublished first book is a full novel.  As I was finishing up the first book, I decided to write the second shorter version of Jake Brand to drum up interest.  So the first book published is the second book written.

As of today, 14 copies of Angel’s Devil have sold.  It’s only available on Amazon as an ebook, but should be available as a paperback in the next week or so.

There were a lot people who have helped with this book, including early readers (Naomi, Paige and Dr. Ray), my editor Kristin Thiel (she’s amazing), my production guru Vinnie Kinsella, and my technical wiz Marie.  Thanks to all of you.