Part-time assassin, full-time dad

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CJ West is the author of the Marking Time series, the Randy Black series, and numerous standalones and short stories
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One More Degree
Some coincidences are too perfect to happen by chance.
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A Moment for Apples

A few years ago I spent some time learning about minimalism and mindfulness. I worked out. Wrote a lot. And thoroughly enjoyed the life I was living in spite of some really difficult circumstances.

Lately I have realized that my life is full to bursting and not in a good way.

So many of us these days live in two income families. With kids. And houses. And chores. Life’s treadmill keeps running faster and faster. Our employers want more and more work for the same pay. The kids have a never-ending list of wants. Eventually we wake up and realize there is no time for ourselves and even worse, we spend our days stressed to the max as we rush around solving other people’s problems.

About three months ago I decided to make a change.

The problem as I saw it was:
• Problems at my day job were causing me to spend too much time regretting my situation and too little time enjoying myself
• I worked far too many hours and needed more time at home with my fiancée

I was an avid reader of Zen Habits by Leo Babauta (highly recommended) and I had read a few books on mindfulness. Somewhere along the line I learned that the only moment in which we can act is now. My situation was difficult for sure. I couldn’t reduce my hours and I couldn’t make my problems at work go away, but I could change the way I reacted to life’s stresses.


What I did has made a huge change in my enjoyment of life and I want to share it with you. I printed a bracelet for myself that says “Master This Moment.”

The bracelet is a constant reminder to live in this moment and not to let worry for the future or regrets about the past drain precious time.

Every morning I put on the bracelet and whenever I face a difficult situation, I ask myself the following question, “What does mastery of this moment require?” Sometimes the answer is quite surprising.

There are times when we are stressed, but can do nothing about the situation. In those times I try to use my time productively for something that is important. Sometimes mastery of a particular moment means taking a nap. Or going for a walk. Or spending time with Tina.

Sometimes mastery of a particular moment is planning for the future.

The bracelet has made significant changes for me. Before I started wearing the bracelet, I spent a lot of time being frustrated and angry about my situation. In the months since, I have pushed those emotions aside and focused on what is important to the situation at hand.

A good illustration of this was my selection of apple trees. Four months ago, I would have been so focused on what was going on at work that I would have made the decision about which apple trees to buy on the spur of the moment, planted the trees, and moved on to the next task. Keep in mind that it takes about five years for a new apple tree to fruit, so the decision is fairly important.

By pausing a moment to think about mastering this decision, I went to the store and bought several different kinds of apples. Turns out they cost about the same per pound, so buying different varieties was no big deal. Who knew?

Then I sliced the apples and put them on similar plates in the kitchen with a label underneath. I invited the children down one at a time to sample each apple and tell me what they thought. This was a great family activity. The kids felt included in the decision. I learned that the kids and I all like the same type of apples (which I now buy regularly) and to my surprise, I learned that Tina likes apples that no one else really cares for.

The point is that by slowing down and thinking about the best way to master a situation, I am much happier with who I am. When a stressful situation comes along, I reach for the bracelet as I pause and think about how to respond. My impact on others has changed dramatically and I am much happier with myself.

You don’t need a bracelet to make this change. But if you would like one, I purchased 100 of them and I’m giving them away to anyone who buys a signed copy of One More Degree. I hope you give this idea a try and I hope it works as well for you as it has for me.

Thanks for sharing this moment with me.


Dressed To Kill

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Truth is I’ve been very busy working through some issues at home and haven’t been able to write for quite some time.

It’s time to get back to work and I’m starting with a live murder mystery show at the Proctor Mansion Inn. If you’ve never been, the mansion is the perfect place for a murder mystery show. The building was built in 1861. The woodwork is amazing and every room seems to have two entrances (and exits) so it’s perfect for characters to slink around and do their evil business.

Our story this time is a fashion show. We have eight lovely ladies and one hunky guy modeling three lines of clothing for our buyer. When things don’t go as planned, it will be up to the audience to figure out what happened and claim the prize for Super Sleuth.

Our shows are more like a game than a sit-down show. Action takes place in multiple rooms simultaneously, just like it would in real life. The characters don’t stop for set changes, and the guests can interact with the actors anytime because the show is written with the guests included as part of the action.



Last year’s cast

We have 6 actors returning from the show last year. In addition we have a clothing line by Erin Kaufman, owner of Paxton 1345, Jewelry from The Snobby Starfish, and we are very fortunate to have author Gina Fava and Actor Graham King, who has been in several films and television shows.

The thing that sets my shows apart from others is that we kill our victim within the bounds of the show. We do it every time. And we almost never get caught. Sometimes a guest is two feet from the murder victim and still comes away unsure how the person died or who the killer was.

Yes, we are very sneaky.

Think you can outsmart us? Check us out:

September 13, 2014  6:30 pm
Proctor Mansion Inn, 36 Common Street, Wrentham, MA
Cash bar
Rooms are available
Tickets $40 per person


The Power of Thanks

Many of you know I’m in the process of moving. Today I was digging through old files and office supplies and I discovered two letters from twenty years ago. Both were from company presidents. One was a single sentence. The other a paragraph.

The letters thanked me for a computer project I did a very long time ago. A friend of mine and I worked the morning in Boston, flew to New Jersey, worked all night, and stayed up the next morning to make sure everything went smoothly with the computer network we had just installed.

Most people would say working 25 hours straight and then flying home is above and beyond the call. Some people might be annoyed by a task like this, but I never saw these challenges that way. I wanted to help people and one of the biggest motivators for me was that people appreciated what I did. My work made their lives better and so working hard for them felt good.

When I read the letters twenty years later, I don’t groan at the thought of staying up all night to do the work. I remember how happy everyone was to have their problems fixed.

Remember that the next time you consider sending a thank you email. Those words might inspire someone to do something great.







I’m Going To Kill Someone. Can You Catch Me?

Right now I’m preparing an interactive Murder Mystery show to be held at the Proctor Mansion Inn in Wrentham, MA. I love visiting the mansion. It’s 150 years old with high ceilings, intricate molding and woodwork, and rooms that all seem to have two ways in and out. The layout allows the actors to appear and disappear almost at will.

I discovered my love for these shows accidentally when I was invited to take part in one about five years ago. That first show featured a narrator and clues hidden all around the building. What I discovered is that people really enjoy watching the actors in action, but a scripted show feels a little too stiff.

What I eventually came up with is a show that is entirely ad-libbed. The actors have a general script to follow, but none of the dialog is scripted. The actors know their roles and what they are trying to accomplish during the show, but how it is done is completely up to them. The fluidity of this format really seems to draw the crowd in. They can interrupt a scene and become part of it and there is no consequence to the actors. They can’t lose their place, because they haven’t memorized lines. Everyone is reacting to the situation, guests and actors alike.

My favorite part of the shows is the high I get when we kill someone in a room full of people and no one in the audience sees the deed. I love it when guests have that frustrated, someone-died-three-feet-from-me-and-I-didn’t-see-it look on their face. Believe it or not, I have repeatedly killed (or planned the murder of) someone in rooms full of 200 people and I’ve never been caught in the act. One of my favorites was when we killed a woman at a round banquet table. One of the guests was seated at that same table (facing the other way) when the murder occurred. She couldn’t believe the murder victim was dead at her own table when she turned around.

Think you can do better than she did? Come try to catch me in the act.

My next show will be:
September 14th 6:30 pm
Proctor Mansion Inn, 36 Common Street, Wrentham, MA
Cash bar
Rooms are available
Tickets $45.00
(877) 384-1861


Welcome Home!

Welcome to my new website.

I’ve had the same old clunky design since 2010 and it was time I finally ditched the webpages I coded by hand and moved up to something a little sleeker. This page also gives me a home for my blog, so the old one will be coming down shortly.

I hope you find it easier to navigate this new slimmed down page.

If you are missing some of the features of the old page, let me know and I’ll get them added in.

Two things that will come back soon: signed books and Cat Bagger stickers.

I’m just not sure where to put those yet.

Take a look around, let me know what you think of the new design.