Novels

The Joe Mayfield/Louise Napolitani series currently includes three novels. Fatal Score and Skins and Bone are complete.  Fail Deadly is in rewrite, to be complete in April, 2020. A fourth novel, Fatal Cure, is in development.

Fatal Score:  Joe Mayfield’s happy, ordinary life comes apart when his wife is denied cancer treatment. It’s a few years from now.  All critical data is stored behind a national firewall called the Yak.  Genetic research has created HealthScore, which determines medical treatment.  When Joe’s wife’s HealthScore is slashed, it becomes a death sentence.  Frantic to save her, Joe hacks into the Yak and becomes the target of Phoenix, one man’s plot to skim billions in medical payments at the cost of thousands of lives.  Joe’s wife dies, and Phoenix sends a pair of toughs to erase Joe.  He goes off the grid, living on cash in out-of-the-way places. But his hack attempts pique the interest of a brilliant Yak tracker called Weezy.  She runs him down, skeptical of his good intentions, but becomes an ally.  Finally, in a single wide trailer in Panacea, Florida, Joe and Weezy work to destroy Phoenix before Phoenix destroys them.  Read Chapter One

In Skins and Bone, Joe Mayfield lands his dream job:  Move from Florida to New York, go to work for the respected investment bank ZCG, fly with the finance eagles—and be a train ride away from Weezy, his lover, who is chief tracker for the national data base called the Yak.  ZCG uses complex financial derivatives called ‘Skins’ to craft protection for firms working in politically unstable regions.  Strangely, disaster seems to follow creation of Skins, and someone is raking in millions.  Joe, curious, begins to dig. Murders follow. Undaunted, Joe and Weezy dig deeper.  A financial conference in Vienna and a sumptuous cruise down the Danube to Budapest provide the opportunity for the man making the millions to eliminate Joe and Weezy.

Skins and Bone is a thriller with an eye to international finance, European elegance, and simple greed.

Fail Deadly:  HelioCorp’s public offering is going to be the tech finance deal of the decade—cheap and easy solar power for all.  Joe Mayfield has engineered the deal and is on his way to a weekend with Weezy, hacker extraordinaire and his too-long-distance lover.  The HelioCorp project crashes.  The lights go out in Maine, then Georgia, and a ransom note demands one billion dollars. As Weezy, Joe, and the government struggle to find out what’s going on, Weezy gets a cryptic note from a hacker friend, HoHumJr.  He has been kidnapped by a Russian mafia group called Sobaki, but has managed to send the address of a file that will destroy them, wrapped up in an internet hand grenade with the pin pulled—a Fail Deadly. Sobaki captures Weezy. Her disappearance makes her the NSA’s prime suspect. Joe is soon a Sobaki prisoner, too, the better to force Weezy to keep the hand grenade from going off. Weezy is tortured but stands firm. Weezy’s hacker friends zero in on her location, and the NSA rescues her. She is freed, but not from the cruel agony of her torture and her fear of losing Joe.

Fail Deadly is a thriller that speaks to a current threat to our country and to the strength of  two lovers’ bond.

Fatal Cure:  Gene therapy is a wonderful thing.  But even wonderful things can be turned to evil purpose. Joe and Weezy, now operating as a cyber consultancy, are asked to find a man who has stolen intellectual property. The simple task becomes a nightmare when they stumble onto a plan that started as an altruistic effort to eliminate just a few climate change deniers for the greater good of humanity. Except the project has been co-opted, and Joe and Weezy become targets to protect a much, much darker purpose.

Background: The Mayfield/Napolitani novels take place a few years from now. Technology has marched forward, rolling computers, pads and phones into a device called an e-pad; replacing earbuds with bluetooth mastoid bone implants; building semi-self-driving cars … nothing too surprising.  Except the Yak and HealthScores.

The Yak:  Election tampering in the United States and Europe has been followed by a tidal wave of misinformation and infrastructure attacks building across cyberspace.  In the wake of fires, dam breaches, power-grid failures and a small nuclear episode, the United States has rushed to develop a national firewall. Called the Interagency Channel, or IAC, it has become the Yak in popular speech. Critical information about infrastructure, the financial system, the military, and medical files for all citizens has been pulled inside its protective shell.  The designers recognized that algorithms can’t always deter hackers; thus, the Yak includes a cadre of anti-hackers called Trackers.  Louise Napolitani – Weezy – is the best of the Trackers.

HealthScores: Advancing genetic research has provided markers for many fatal diseases. The private sector has used these advances to calculate probabilities of successful treatment called HealthScores.  Treatments have become ever more successful but ever more expensive. Congress has seen the opportunity to “rationalize” health care cost using HealthScores.  A high HealthScore for a disease means cutting-edge care; a low score, painkillers and prayers at the end.

Recent Posts

The Insecurity Tell

Excerpt from a book I’m reviewing (names changed to protect the not-so-innocent from social media onslaught):

“I need a drink,” Irene thought to herself. She longed for something to dull the events of the night. “But after Sandra.” She had to ensure her prized heir was alright.

Irene needs a drink after the bad things she’s done. At this point in the story, the reader knows that Sandra is Irene’s young daughter, and Irene did these bad things to protect Sandra. So the line “But after Sandra” says all the reader needs to know. Motherlove comes before the drink.

Then comes the dread Insecurity Tell.

The Tell sticks out like a sore thumb to me because I’ve done it so often myself. I think most writers do it when they’re starting out—at least, I’ve seen it a lot in critique groups.

Let’s chew on the psychology.

One reason for the Tell is the writer is insecure, so goes belt-and-suspenders: Just in case I didn’t make it clear, let me just tell reader what I hoped they’d get out of my prose.

The other reason is, I think, the need for control. The writer has not yet integrated the idea that the words on the page are a passageway from the writer’s mind to the reader’s mind. The scent of a spring breeze is different for each person. Unless the writer wants to digress for a paragraph on the subject of organic esters, he has to leave the exact combination of air-wafted odors to the mind of the reader. Obvious, right?

Not so obvious with complex emotions, though. I suspect the implied motherlove in the quote above is different to each reader, too, for the same reason as the spring breeze: experience.

When I was first writing, I often wanted to exercise ironclad control over the passageway between me and the reader. Trouble is, the Insecurity Tell is mildly insulting. says, “I knew that!” It’s not a big issue, but it is a speed bump in the stream of attention the reader gives the prose. The greater problem: it adds unnecessary words.

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