First Excerpt: "Kingdom Come"

KingdomComeCoverLarger "Kingdom Come" is a murder mystery set in Amish country with a romance subplot (m/f).  It's being published by Penguin/Berkley in the Berkely "Prime Crime" line.  It will be published under my 'other author name' Jane Jensen since it's more mystery than romance.

Here's the link to the Amazon page.

And here's the first excerpt -- the first scene in the book.

The Dead Girl

“It’s . . . sensitive,” Grady had said on the phone, his voice tight.

Now I understood why. My car crawled down a rural road thick with new snow. It was still dark and way too damn early on a Wednesday morning. The address he’d given me was on Grimlace Lane. Turned out the place was an Amish farm in the middle of a whole lot of other Amish farms in the borough of Paradise, Pennsylvania.

Sensitive like a broken tooth. Murders didn’t happen here, not here. The last dregs of sleep and yet another nightmare in which I’d been holding my husband’s cold, dead hand in the rain evaporated under a surge of adrenaline. Oh yes, I was wide-awake now.

I spotted cars—Grady’s and two black-and-whites—in the driveway of a farm and pulled in. The CSI team and the coroner had not yet arrived. I didn’t live far from the murder site and I was glad for the head start and the quiet.

Even before I parked, my mind started generating theories and scenarios. Dead girl, Grady had said. If it’d been natural causes or an accident, like falling down the stairs, he wouldn’t have called me in. It had to be murder or at least a suspicious death. A father disciplining his daughter a little too hard? Doddering Grandma dipping into the rat poison rather than the flour?

I got out and stood quietly in the frigid air to get a sense of place. The interior of the barn glowed in the dark of winter morning. I took in the classic white shape of a two-story bank barn, the snowy fields behind, and the glow of lanterns coming from the huge, barely open barn door. . . . It looked like one of those quaint paintings you see hanging in the local tourist shops, something with a title like Winter Dawn. I’d only moved back to Pennsylvania eight months ago after spending ten years in Manhattan. I still felt a pang at the quiet beauty of it.

Until I opened the door and stepped inside.

It wasn’t what I expected. It was like some bizarre and horrific game of mixed-up pictures. The warmth of the rough barn wood was lit by a half dozen oil lanterns. Add in the scattered straw, two Jersey cows, and twice as many horses, all watching the proceedings with bland interest from various stalls, and it felt like a cozy step back in time. That vibe did not compute with the dead girl on the floor. She was most definitely not Amish, which was the first surprise. She was young and beautiful, like something out of a ’50s pulp magazine. She had long, honey-blonde hair and a face that still had the blush of life thanks to the heavy makeup she wore. She had on a candy-pink sweater that molded over taut breasts and a short gray wool skirt that was pushed up to her hips. She still wore pink underwear, though it looked roughly twisted. Her nails were the same shade as her sweater. Her bare feet, thighs, and hands were blue-white with death, and her neck too, at the line below her jaw where the makeup stopped.

The whole scene felt unreal, like some pretentious performance art, the kind in those Soho galleries Terry had dragged me to. But then, death always looked unreal.

“Coat? Shoes?” I asked, already taking inventory. Maybe knee-high boots, I thought, reconstructing it in my mind. And thick tights to go with that wool skirt. I’d been a teenage girl living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I knew what it meant to care more about looks than the weather. But even at the height of my girlish vanity, I wouldn’t have gone bare-legged in January.

“They’re not here. We looked.” Grady’s voice was tense. I finally spared him a glance. His face was drawn in a way I’d never seen before, like he was digesting a meal of ground glass.

In that instant, I saw the media attention this could get, the politics of it. I remembered that Amish school shooting a few years back. I hadn’t lived here then, but I’d seen the press. Who hadn’t?

“You sure you want me on this?” I asked him quietly.

“You’re the most experienced homicide detective I’ve got,” Grady said. “I need you, Harris. And I need this wrapped up quickly.”

“Yeah.” I wasn’t agreeing that it could be. My gut said this wasn’t going to be a cut-and-dried case, but I agreed it would be nice. “Who found her? Do we know who she is?”

“Jacob Miller, eleven years old. He’s the son of the Amish farmer who lives here. Poor kid. Came out to milk the cows this morning and found her just like that. The family says they’ve got no idea who she is or how she got here.”

“How many people live on the property?”

“Amos Miller, his wife, and their six children. The oldest, a boy, is fifteen. The youngest is three.”

More vehicles pulled up outside. The forensics team, no doubt. I was gratified that Grady had called me in first. It was good to see the scene before it turned into a lab.

“Can you hold them outside for five minutes?” I asked Grady.

He nodded and went out.

I pulled on some latex gloves, then looked at the body, bending down to get as close to it as I could without touching it. The left side of her head, toward the back, was matted with blood and had the look of a compromised skull. The death blow? I tried to imagine what had happened. The killer—he or she——had probably come up behind the victim, struck her with something heavy. The autopsy would tell us more. I didn’t think it had happened here. There were no signs of a disturbance or the blood you’d expect from a head wound. I carefully pulled up her leg a bit and looked at the underside of her thigh. Very minor lividity. She hadn’t been in this position long. And I noticed something else—her clothes were wet. I rubbed a bit of her wool skirt and sweater between my fingers to be sure—and came away with dampness on the latex. She wasn’t soaked now, and her skin was dry, so she’d been here long enough to dry out, but she’d been very wet at some point. I could see now that her hair wasn’t just styled in a casual damp-dry curl, it had been recently wet, probably postmortem along with her clothes.

I straightened, frowning. It was odd. We’d had two inches of snow the previous afternoon, but it was too cold for rain. If the body had been left outside in the snow, would it have gotten this wet? Maybe the ME could tell me.

Since I was sure she hadn’t been killed in the barn, I checked the floor for drag marks. The floor was of wooden planks kept so clean that there was no straw or dirt in which drag marks would show, but there were traces of wet prints. Then again, the boy who’d found the body had been in the barn and so had Grady and the uniforms, and me too. I carefully examined the girl’s bare feet. There was no broken skin, no sign her feet had been dragged through the snow or across rough boards.

The killer was strong, then. He’d carried her in here and laid her down. Which meant he’d arranged her like this—pulled up her skirt, splayed her thighs. He’d wanted it to look sexual. Why?

The doors opened. Grady and the forensics team stood in the doorway.

“Blacklight this whole area,” I requested. “And this floor—see if you can get any prints or traffic patterns off it. Don’t let anyone in until that’s done. I’m going to check outside.” I looked at Grady. “The coroner?”

“Should be here any minute.”

“Good. Make sure she’s tested for any signs of penetration, consensual or otherwise.”


Grady barked orders. The crime-scene technicians pulled on blue coveralls and booties just outside the door. This was only the sixth homicide needing real investigation I’d been on since moving back to Lancaster. I was still impressed that the department had decent tools and protocol, even though I knew that was just big-city arrogance talking.

I left them to it and went out to find my killer’s tracks in the snow.




Jane Jensen aka Eli Easton


Since I started publishing m/m romance in April 2013, my "Eli Easton" has been a name without a face and without a background.  At times I wanted to be able to talk about the other parts of my life on my blog or twitter or with my goodreads friends. But I kept Eli separate from my 'real life' identity, as many m/m romance authors do.

In my case, it wasn't about my family, employer, or community disapproving. It was simply that I had another professional persona with its own audience and projects in the works. I didn't want assumptions made about my other work, or for it to be colored by m/m romance glasses, or, indeed, for that brand to get garbled or dissed for reasons not associated with the work itself.

But recently I decided to just be open about it all so I could talk about anything anywhere.


In real life, I have been a long-time computer game designer writing under the name of Jane Jensen.  I got my big break in game design in 1989 when I was hired by Sierra Online, a popular maker of adventure games like King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry.  With Sierra I got the chance to create my own game series, a paranormal mystery series called Gabriel Knight.  There were 3 GK games, 2 novelizations, and a host of other work done under Jane Jensen, including two original novels.

Millennium Rising aka Judgement Day came out in 1999 from Del Rey and Dante's Equation from Del Rey in 2003.  My other games include Dying for Daylight (done with Charlaine Harris), three Agatha Christie hidden object games, three Women's Murder Club games (with James Patterson), Gray Matter (my own original story) and, recently, Moebius: Empire Rising.

I've had many wonderful professional experiences working in games, including the joy of casting voice-over actors and listening to them read my dialogue, working on a live film production (for GK2), travelling to research story lines, meeting fans, and working with great artists, engineers, and producers. It was also the ideal place to hone my writing skills, particularly dialogue since there are acres of that in my games.


Why do I write m/m romance?  Because I love reading it. I began reading the m/m genre during a particularly stressful period in 2012, and it was my magic bullet in terms of relaxation and escape.  I love writing books, but I'd given up on it after Dante's Equation in 2003--a hugely ambitious book that took three years to write and was a disappointment to me critically and sales wise.

While I've enjoyed reading m/f romance since I was a teen, I never was very good at writing it.  I'm drawn to the idea of how two people meet and decide to spend their lives together--the give and take of personalities and relationship dynamics.  But I find it challenging to write a typical man/woman relationship. I think it's because I've always rather sucked at writing very feminine characters. My own personality has many traits that would be considered masculine, and I've never been one for pink and lace.  I think we are all a balance of masculine and feminine in our deepest selves in ways that go beyond gender and sexual identity. It's possible to be a woman with masculine personality traits who loves men (that is, not a lesbian), just as you can be a man with 'feminine' qualities who is nonetheless straight. We need a name for  those categories, please!

I dipped my toe back into the water in 2011 writing a few stories for submission to m/m anthologies.  By now, I've published 10+ stories in m/m including the novel The Mating of Michael, which was released in Jun 2014. I've gotten a lot of pleasure from writing in this genre, and encouragement from some very lovely people who enjoy reading it.

One thing is clear: being Eli Easton has given me back my pure fiction writing--my confidence in it and my productivity. And I'm grateful for that.

I also want to say that I have no embarrassment about what I write. I am a full supporter of gay rights, including the right to marry. So to me, romance is romance, no matter what the gender is of the protagonists. And as a life-long reader of romance, I know the pleasure it brings people. Unlike horror and mystery (both of which I've written), at the core romance is about passion and love, not fear. Plus, there's always a happy ending. And sometimes, we just fucking need a happy ending.


I plan to continue to write m/m romance as Eli Easton. I will also likely continue to write for games.  There are also some "Jane Jensen" books in the pipeline. I recently sold an Amish-themed murder mystery called "Kingdom Come" to Berkely and it will be released on the "Prime Crime" line under Jane Jensen.  Now that I'm 'out' I'll be freer to talk about any and all projects as news pops up.

If you like games at all, you might want to check out one of my recent titles. Both of these have a free 1 chapter demo.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary remake -- an all new HD remake of my first big game. This is the first game in a paranormal mystery series with some similarities to Supernatural or X-Files.  Also on Steam and GOG.

Moebius: Empire Rising -- A Dan Brown-ish conspiracy thriller involving a new theory of space and time. Includes a slashy bromance that will develop over the series.


That's it for this confession. I will be at Romantic Times convention next year in Dallas in May and also the Rainbow Con in Tampa in July. Hope to meet some more of you there!