Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Sixth Book, Wild Life, is Now Available!

Wild Life, the first book of the Brass Monkey series, is now available on Smashwords. For those of you who don't know, you can get any e-version you need from them, so you don't need to wait for the book to arrive at Barnes and Noble, Sony, Amazon, etc.

Here's an excerpt:

“Anything in your pockets?” asked the muscular black man who guarded the entrance to Monkey Village like a bouncer at a hot nightclub.

Milo had been through the routine before. “Hello, Zareb. How are the monkeys today?”

He raised an eyebrow, eyeing Milo suspiciously. “Anything in your pockets?” he repeated.

Milo did his best to look innocent and offended. “Zareb, don’t we know each other better than that by now?” He flashed his antique Kodak folding camera and smiled. “I’m just here to try out my new gadget. Only thing in my pocket is some extremely expensive film.”

Zareb gave him a smile. “You really should invest in a digital camera, Milo.”

Milo shrugged. “Photographs mean so much more when it costs something to take them.”

“Maybe,” the baritone man acknowledged, “but when you take a bad shot you don’t have to feel so guilty.”

“So am I cleared for entry?”

“You swear you don’t have any peanuts?”

He held his right hand up. “So help me God.” The dried peas rattled in his pocket as he walked past Zareb; luckily, the man was already talking to the young mother behind him.

The zoo had nearly twenty squirrel monkeys in the exhibit. They ran across ropes and trees with enviable agility, barely noticing the humans who gawked at them from the ground below. Milo knew the zoo had a strict policy against humans hand-feeding the monkeys. Last week, when he had casually poked a few peanuts through the hole in his pocket in an effort to lure a monkey or two down from the trees, the beige woman had reprimanded him before picking up all of the nuts and expelling him from Monkey Village.

The beige woman – he couldn’t help thinking of her like that. She had blonde-gray hair and pale skin without a hint of makeup. In her beige zoo polo shirt and tan khaki pants, she looked like she was all set to hide out in the Sahara.

He opened his camera and focused it on the area just beyond the ropes where he intended to lure the monkeys with the dried peas. After some internet research, Milo had discovered that two-thirds of all female squirrel monkeys see in color, just like humans. He hoped that the sharp-eyed little primates would be attracted to the flash of bright green when he tossed a pea into the area.

He saw the beige woman approaching in his peripheral vision and straightened up, glancing at her badge before meeting her eyes. “Nice to see you again, Claire,” he said genially.

“Mr. Crosby.”

“I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. Milo Crosby. And you are?”

“I’m a zoo volunteer. That’s really all you need to know.” Her expression remained neutral and forbidding.

“My reputation precedes me.”

“I asked around.” She crossed her arms under her ample bosom.

Milo’s eyes dipped involuntarily. He might be fifty-seven, but he wasn’t dead.

“You threw apples to the orangutans.”

“They looked hungry.”

“You taught the macaw to say ‘So’s your old lady.’”

“It seemed appropriate.”

“And, as I recall, the last time you were here you were smuggling peanuts.”

“I didn’t realize there was a hole in my pocket.”

“Look, I understand there’s no way for me to get you banned from the zoo, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch every move you make in this exhibit. You are a menace to the animals and a bad example to every child you encounter.”

His lips twitched as he tried to contain his prideful grin. “Call me Milo.”

She turned on her heel and walked back to the other woman patrolling the exhibit. He couldn’t hear her words, but she was pointing at him, apparently instructing the younger black-haired volunteer to keep her eyes on him. He smiled and gave the girl a friendly thumbs-up, causing her to slide her eyes quickly away.

Another stream of visitors flowed past him, providing ample cover as he slipped a hand into his pea-filled pocket. Waiting until a solid line of people separated him from both Claire and Zareb, he flicked the pea into the foliage a few feet outside the human boundary. One of the monkeys in a nearby tree followed it with her eyes. Milo had her interest; she ran closer to the boundary.

Slipping another pea from his pocket, he flicked it out to land next to the first one. The curious monkey jumped lower in the tree, her eyes moving from the peas to her benefactor and back. She dropped to the ground and moved into the frame Milo had preset with his camera.

“Monkey!” squealed a toddler next to him as she dove under the rope meant to separate the humans from the primates.

The squirrel monkey picked up both peas and paused just a moment, skittering away as Milo took the picture, leaving what Milo knew would be a blur of tail on the negative. “Damn,” he muttered.

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