Who Smokes in Heaven?

The Next Ex, the second novel in the Madeline Carter series, becomes available in all e-book formats today. As I’ve said in this space a couple of times over the last few weeks, for various reasons, this is my favorite of my published novels. (The book I finished last week is now my actual favorite, but that tends to be the case with the youngest child, does it not?) For me, though, The Next Ex is just the right blend of a lot of things. There’s humor, but some darkness, as well. There’s some thoughtful explorations of the human condition… but not too much. Most of all, as I rediscovered when I edited it for this re-birthing in electronic formats, it’s twisty and surprising. It’s very sharp and, oddly enough, I don’t remember how that happened, it just is.

The passage below is from deep in the book. Madeline has been up to misadventures, off sleuthing on her own and nearly dying in the process. For a moment, we actually do think she has died. And then she comes to...
The first thing I became aware of was the scent of jasmine blossoms, a warm and delicate scent that always moves me. I was perhaps less surprised to find that heaven was jasmine-scented than I was to discover that there was a heaven at all. I’ve never bothered with religion very much, nor has it bothered much with me. Religion is not very useful to a stockbroker, to tell the truth. The brokers I’ve known who were devout all seemed to worship for the wrong reasons.
If I expected to see cherubs when I opened my eyes, I was in for a surprise. Basset hound eyes stared intently into mine. “Brown,” I croaked, surprised when my voice came out less strong than expected. “What are you doing in heaven?”
He smiled then and the relieved expression transformed him so utterly that all signs of the basset hound disappeared for the moment. “Jesus, Madeline, you had us worried.”
Us? I swiveled my head around, lifting it only slightly, surprised when a wave of nausea followed the movement.
Usinger was nearby, smoking a cigarette. He probably had matches. I didn’t know why matches felt so important, but they did.
“So I take it I’m not dead,” I said to Brian, indicating Usinger with my head.
“Because I’m sure smoking is pretty much verboten is heaven.” To my surprise, this teeny speech tired me out and I collapsed back with a grunt.
“No. Not dead. Not this time.” He held his fingers above my head, within sight. Two fingers, two inches apart. “About this close, though. And I’m pretty relieved to hear you sounding like yourself. The paramedics are taking their time about getting here and, you know, a deal like this -- no air -- you could have ended up with a head full of cheese.”
“Really?” I said.
“Not really cheese. Just -- you know -- some cheese-like substance. But I can see you’re pretty much your usual ornery self.”
“Ornery?” I’d never been described as ornery before. At least, not to my face.
“Well, maybe not ornery. But adamant, for sure.”
We were in the garden: away from the hedge maze, but not very far. “How’d you find me?” I wanted to know. My head was still blazing, my stomach gave the occasional heave, and my voice wasn’t coming as easily as usual, but otherwise I felt all right.
“How do you think? You left pretty clear instructions on my voicemail.”
I shrugged. Nodded. What could I say? He was right. I tried a weak smile. “I may be crazy,” I said. “But I’m not stupid.”
With a new edit that brings the book to the honed edge it was before it was first published and a wonderful cover by David Middleton, I'm excited to share the book with new readers. You can order The Next Ex for Kindle on Amazon or, in all other formats, from Smashwords.

Next on the publication list is Dearborn 9-1-1, a much shorter journey than The Next Ex’s 104,000-plus words. And one you'll have to wait a few months for.


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