Forever is a long time to wait for you, but if that’s what it takes then that is what I must do.
You are buried deep in my heart, longing for you I know is only the start.
I would gladly stare into the sun to find you, even if it blinded me from what I know is true.
You have moved on and have gone away, but I know someday you will come home to stay.
For your reading pleasure, here’s an excerpt from the fourth book in our series, The Body Hunters. Titled, The Body Hunters: The Lazurus Effect, this is the opening chapter. You can expect it to hit Amazon within the next few months. As always we’ll keep you posted. Enjoy!
”Well, if you’re not willing to send us a payment, Mrs. Avery, we will have no choice than to pursue further legal action; up to and including garnishment of your wages.” Swiveling in her office chair, Jesse faced the backdrop of downtown Savannah. Still talking on her headset, she turned, watching the denizens of the city scurry about like ants.
“But I told you.” The woman on the other end of the phone wailed. “I’ve been out of work for a year and I just started another job two weeks ago. I haven’t received a child support payment from my ex-husband in months. My kids need food. Just work with me.”
Jesse smiled as she soaked in the euphoria of having dominion over her clients. “I truly sympathize with you, Mrs. Avery, but I have a job to do just like you. My hands are tied.”
The desperate woman on the other end unleashed a ragged breath. “I-I guess I could send something. I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’ll be expecting a payment in the next two days or we’ll be forced to proceed legally.”
“There’s a special place in hell for people like you, you heartless bitch.” The woman told Jesse before clicking off the line.
Smiling contentedly, she pulled the headset off, tousling her long mane of vibrant red hair. She’d rose above the common call center agents several months ago. Jesse’s debt negotiation skills had afforded her several promotions and a corner office at ACS Collections. Her supervisor had once boasted to his colleagues that she could draw blood from a stone and gave her the moniker of the grim reaper, because she was good at closing accounts.
Her fairly new appointment had also scored her leagues of haters. Most of the catty women at the office couldn’t stand her, though she could care less about what they thought of her. She hurled a scowl at one of the office tramps who strolled by looking at her like she was on display at the zoo.
“Can I help you?” Jesse’s voice confronted the woman.
The tramp kept walking on those stilts she called legs, squinting at Jesse as if the sun was in her eyes.
“You’d better keep walking.” She muttered under her breath.
That distraction out of her face, she returned to the Avery case, leaving detailed notes that the client had promised to pay in two days. There were several avenues Jesse could have taken, other than threatening to garnish the woman’s check, but she didn’t care. The woman accumulated the debt so she had to pay it, besides, the other avenues wouldn’t have helped Jesse’s numbers. This job was about revenue, not coddling customers who couldn’t pay their bills.
Typing up her notes, Jesse glanced down at the framed photo on her desk. The man who was the subject of the photo had no idea the snapshot of him even existed. She’d caught him unawares on the street in the downtown area and took advantage of the photographic opportunity. She sighed, reflecting on his gorgeousness.
“That bitch has a lot of nerve taking my man!” Jessie fumed under her breath.
Earlier that day, Jesse had been following, not stalking like her friends so often pointed out, the man she cherished, Aiden Stone.
She and Aiden’s whirlwind courtship had begun several years ago in Washington D.C. at a nightclub. Sitting at a table with her girlfriends, she’d seen him the moment he walked in.
To say the man was fine wouldn’t do him justice. He was six foot four of raw masculinity and muscle, with stunning blue eyes that could make even the strongest woman swoon. His features were exotic, with traces of Polynesian, African American, and Irish, ancestry blending together in perfect harmony. A native of Hawaii, his skin tone was the soft brown of damp sand on a Hawaiian beach.
Once she saw him, she knew she had to have him. And have him she did. They spent one night together in reckless abandon and it was the best lay of her life. When her eyes opened the next morning, he was gone without leaving any way to contact him. He just seemed to vanish from the face of the earth.
Fate intervened a year ago, when she found him licking his wounds in a bar in Savannah, Georgia, over his ex-girlfriend, Danny. The fact that she went by a boy’s name was a clue that the witch was wrong in the head. Seeing her man in distress, Jesse fed him and provided him shelter in his hour of need.
Her friends told her she was a fool, that he was on the rebound and would go back to his girlfriend given the chance, but they were just jealous. They wanted him for themselves and that wasn’t going to happen. She and Aiden were soul mates.
Things between her and were Aiden fine for a few months, though he couldn’t get him to stop talking about his ex. No matter what she did for him, everything that came out of his mouth was ‘Danny this’ or ‘Danny that’. Jesse’s friends of course had to stick their noses in saying that he wasn’t over his ex, and he was just using her to make the woman jealous, but she wasn’t interested in what they had to say.
Just as her friends had forecast, the day did come when the witch decided that she wanted him back.
Try as she might, Jesse couldn’t break the spell the voodoo witch put on him. Things escalated out of control when Jesse confronted Danny at the wedding of one of her snooty friends. The skank couldn’t even fight her own battles, siccing her blond bimbo of a friend on her while she watched from the sidelines. Two months later Jesse was still sore from that brawl. Worse yet, Danny had gotten the police involved.
After a couple months of laying low and staying away from her beloved, Jesse was back to her previous routine. She made a point of driving by their house at random every day, just hoping to get a glimpse of him. Last night, she got an eyeful.
He and that tramp were apparently just coming back from a date. That viper slithered up to him and practically had her forked tongue down his throat. Seeming for some reason to enjoy it, he swept her into his arms and carried her into the house.
Thankfully, her job as a call center debt collector was there to take her mind off things. There was nothing like a customer begging for mercy to get her out of a funk.
A full day of work behind her, Jesse was ready to call it a night. With a bucket of ice cream to drown her sorrows and some trashy reality TV to take her mind off her man problems, she’d be just fine.
“Jody!” A concerned Jesse called for her roommate as she entered the apartment. Jody was supposed to report to work that afternoon, but never made it. It was out of character for her friend, since she hadn’t even bothered to call in.
Mostly a solitary creature, Jesse had let a down on her luck coworker move in a month ago. She and Jody got along harmoniously since she was quiet and tended not to judge Jesse’s personal life.
Jesse slipped out of her heels at the door, flexing her exhausted feet on the plush carpeting. With only the light from the adjacent living room to guide her, she headed toward the kitchen.
“Jody! Are you okay? Why didn’t you call into work? They were looking for….”
Her bare heel slid on something warm on the linoleum and she smacked her butt on the floor. “Damn it, Jody! Why didn’t you clean up this mess you made?”
Still yelling at her roommate, she washed her hands in the sink.
“What did you drip meat all over the kitchen?” She asked, watching the red swirl down the drain.
Huffing, she swung open the refrigerator door, perusing the shelves. In the center of the fridge was a large glass jar filled to the brim with cloudy red fluid. In the bottom of the container was a large chunk of red meat the size of a fist.
“Jody what the hell did you put in my…”
The door was slammed on the back of her head, knocking her out cold.
Pinpricks of light in a starburst pattern formed behind Jesse’s eyelids as she awakened. The back of her head was aching like it wanted to detach itself from her body and crawl away. Her limbs were heavy for some reason and she wasn’t able to move anything but her neck.
“What the hell are you looking at?” Jesse slurred, drool dribbling down the corner of her jaw. “Stop looking at me.”
Attempting to move, Jessie found that her hands and feet were bound to the bed. Her arms were almost painfully stretched above her head.
Her head listed to the side, Jesse’s focus was on the woman with the dark eyes who was blatantly ogling her. For some odd reason the woman was in Jesse’s room, hiding in a corner that was filled with shadows.
“I wouldn’t worry about her.” A man’s voice entered the room.
Dressed in black, he grabbed the staring woman by the hair and brought her face out to the light. Her brown eyes were lifeless, a jagged red streak across her pale throat. The young woman was devoid of a shirt or bra a gaping black hole had been opened below her ribcage.
“J-Jody! What did you do to Jody?”
He threw her back into the corner like an old rag doll. “If it’s any consolation, I regret having to dispatch your roommate. You were the intended target after all.”
Jesse’s anger bubbled to the surface. “You’d better get me out of here you sick son of a ….”
The man continued talking as if she hadn’t uttered a word. “But your roommate did give me a chance to perfect my method.”
He proudly held up the jar that had been in her fridge and thumped a finger against it like it was an aquarium. Sitting in the bottom of the jar was Jody’s heart.
Jessie’s eyes registered pure horror. “Oh my God! Help somebody help me! This psycho is going to kill me!”
Irritably shaking his head, the man covered her mouth with duct tape.
“As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted; when I tried to remove the heart from my first victims, it took more time than I was comfortable with and of course the noise from the saw attracted too much attention. I finally realized what I was doing wrong; the secret is to make an incision here.”
The man pointed to where his diaphragm would be. “And reach upward. That way you avoid the ribcage and you retrieve an undamaged specimen in mere seconds.”
Mascara streamed down Jessie’s face as she begged for mercy behind the tape.
He paid her no mind. “Now your friend’s heart, I’ll be adding to my collection. Your heart on the other hand I’m going to give as a gift.”
Reaching into a duffel bag, he extracted a syringe filled with a clear fluid and a pair of scissors.
“I’m giving you a local anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing.” He told her before stabbing the needle into her abdomen.
Her howl was muffled, sobs wracking her body.
“Now, now. It will all be over soon.” He soothed. “You should be honored. I think your heart will be the perfect present for her.”
While the pain killer snaked its way through her veins, the man used the scissors to cut through Jessie’s blouse and bra at the same time. Once he made his symmetrical cut through the material, he ripped it apart, exposing her naked ribcage. Going back to his duffel bag, he brought a sinister looking blade to the bed.
“This isn’t really personal.” He said over Jessie’s weeping as he made his first incision. “I’m just a man who believes in symbolism.”
Not satisfied with the way the blade was cutting he dipped his blood soaked hands into the bag and pulled out a knife with a serrated edge.
He got back into his gruesome work, sawing through her torso. “The girls I killed. They’re symbols of what she did to me. Oh, she hurt me, she really did; the pain was excruciating. She practically ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Now I wouldn’t stomp on a perfectly good heart, but you get what I’m saying. Giving her your heart is my way of showing her how I really feel.”
After carving a hole big enough for his hand to slip through, the man reached into the cavity. Jessie thrashed on the bed as he reached upward.
“Ah, here we are.” He whispered, biting his lip.
He grabbed the still beating organ and twisted. Her brain still functioning, the last thing Jessie saw was her heart beating in his hand. Whether from delirium or her approaching death, she found it humorous that she really was a heartless bitch after all.
Whether it’s an argument or a stunning revelation, people especially women, love drama. It’s the reason the Housewives franchise of reality TV shows is ongoing and it’s the reason viewers flock to watch Scandal every Thursday. People love sitting safely on the other side of their TV’s or their books, watching the drama explode around them.
With out books, we can have all the paranormal activity, romance, and mystery you can think of, but what really makes a difference with our readers is the human drama. The best advice I’ve ever seen from a fellow writer was if you want to create drama, throw a character who has nothing to do with a particular situation, right smack dab in the middle of it.
As writers, it’s something we take into account with every project. Over the past couple months we’ve adopted the philosophy of making story decisions in the interest of drama. Say a character has an announcement to make, how would that announcement make the bigger impact? Who can we throw in the mix to shake things up? What if someone has a secret? Who would be the worst possible person to learn that secret? How can we make the biggest shock waves across our book?
When it comes down to it, people want the arguing, the fighting, and the conflict, with none of the real life stress. Give them what they want and you’ll be rewarded.
Von was just minding her own business, going to the break room at our job when she was accosted by one of our readers. She’d just finished reading our third book and demanded to know what would happen next. She begged and begged, promising to buy our next book, she just had to have the answer. Like we always do, Von told her she would have to wait until the next book is out.
We’ve been bribed, extorted and threatened by readers/coworkers who after reading the ending of one book, wants to know how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved in the next. I think it’s one thing as authors we’ve gotten right. Every one of our books end with bait to get the reader to buy the next one.
If you’re an author with one off books with unconnected stories it won’t work. But if you’re planning a series you may want to give your readers extra incentive to come back. A cliffhanger doesn’t have to be the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. It could be as simple as will they or won’t they get together, which of the characters is hiding a pregnancy, or what’s in the briefcase the villain has been carrying around.
Whatever you decide, don’t be shocked if your readers get confrontational and want to know what happens next.
One of our readers asked if we ever considered the possibility of hiring models to pose as our main characters for the cover of our books, The Body Hunters. We politely said no, it wasn’t something we would consider.
Reading is about imagination and fantasy. My vision of what Danielle Labouleaux and that fine hunk of a man, Aiden Stone look like may be different from my co-author’s vision of them, which is different from our reader’s vision of what the couple looks like. Putting two models on the cover could be disruptive to the reader’s experience and may turn them off if the model’s appearance is not what they had in mind.
I confess that the same thing happened to me with a series of novels I read. The series was briefly turned into a TV series. Now the male protagonist got a pass, he looked like I would imagine his character to be. His female partner was not. The actress was blond while the character was a brunette. She looked Hollywood glamorous while in the books the character was a bit of a tomboy and an athlete. For whatever reason I just couldn’t fall in love with the show like I wanted and the changes in appearance may have been why. Now I’m afraid to pick up the next book in the series because I think the show may have ruined it for me.
It’s something to consider as an author when the time comes around to design your book covers. Sometimes letting your audience use their own imagination is the best policy. Besides, the actor I envision as Aiden Stone is a little too busy making movies to worry about a book cover shoot. : )
Last week my job ordered lunch for our team from an upscale pizzeria, Buddy’s. Another location of the same chain opened about two weeks on my street and I was wondering how the food would taste. Needless to say I was disappointed. Other than the lasagna, which was delicious, the rest of the pasta was flat and tasteless and the salad looked like someone just opened one of those instant salads you can buy at the grocery store. The restaurant which could have gained me as a customer failed to impress me, so I’ll be spending my money elsewhere.
The same is true for me and my relationship with Sonic restaurants. I tried them at first three years ago when one opened around the corner from me. I ordered a chili dog and got home to discovered a bun with nothing but chili in it which completely turned me off the restaurant chain. I haven’t visited since.
These restaurant’s loss of my business is the reason first impressions are important, no matter what type of business you run. So go all out. Don’t be shy. Dare to impress your potential clientele. If you don’t wow your customer or your reader from the start, chances are you’ve lost them for good.
As indie author’s one of the most powerful tools for getting our name and product out there is social media. It’s been a learning process over the past year, but we’ve finally got it down. I’m not sure about Von, but my favorite social media tool is Twitter. It’s short and sweet, no need for extraneous content, 140 characters and you’re done. If I happen to find an interesting article or picture, I just click on the blue bird, it’s miniaturized to Shrinky Dink size and posted to our Twitter page, easy enough.
As our Twitter followers have grown over the past few months, so have our interactions, or Retweets. At first, we would send a Thank You tweet, thanking them for thinking of us, but we soon discovered that retweeting the retweeters content was even better to return the favor. If an author happens to follow us then we make it a point to follow them back. It’s a good way to grow your network and interact with other people trying to do the same thing you’re doing.
I got quite a shock, one day while trying to thank one of our retweeters. I clicked on that author’s name to find a profile page full of nudity, whips, chains, and handcuffs. Okay, if we’re not comfortable even looking at this person’s page, do we have to retweet their material because they retweeted ours?
Another question concerns serial retweeters. If we know they retweet our stuff almost automatically, sometimes several times a day, do we retweet their stuff multiple time also?
What about Followers who speak an entirely different language? Do I follow someone even though I don’t have a clue what they’re saying?
It’s not like someone wrote a handbook on proper Twitter etiquette. I hate being rude and don’t want our Followers to think we’re trying to snub them. So we had to make up our own rules.
If a Follower is into something risque that we’re not quite comfortable sharing on our page, we’ll send a thank you Tweet or retweet something safe they’ve retweeted from someone else.
For the serial retweeters, we retweet them once or twice. Anything more and you’re caught in a vicious, repeating loop.
The rest is just play it by ear and stick with our own judgment. If we’re not comfortable with something, than the best course of action is to leave it alone. Over time you’ll gain Followers and you’ll lose Followers, that’s just the way Twitter goes.
Readers, myself included don’t like cookie cutter, cardboard cutouts as characters. If a character is boring or not dysfunctional enough, I’m putting the book down.
As a writer I learned that the more layers a character has, the better your audience receives the character. That character’s bio doesn’t have to be explained in detail in the book, but it may be something you want to keep in the back of you head as you’re writing.
What’s their favorite food? What are their hobbies? What was their relationship with their parents? Do they have tattoos? Did they serve in the military? What type of movies do they like? Who’s their best friend? Where did they grow up? Do they have money? If so how much?
The answers to all those questions and everything else you can dream up for your character will influence every challenge they have to face, just like what you faced in the past affects who you are today.
For example, our main character in The Body Hunters, Danielle Labouleaux or Danny as she prefers to be called is biracial and grew up in New Orleans where she had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with her parents in her teens and early twenties. She was bullied as a child, not only for being biracial and also for a zipper scar that bisects her chest from heart surgery when she was six. She has a penchant for hot rods, especially her candy apple red Camaro, named Lucille. She loves to cook, which she learned from her Grandmere and she hangs on to friends for dear life because they were few and far between during her childhood. She also has a thing for buff, tattooed bad boys, who are really diamonds in the rough.
This is how we started our main characters and as Danielle’s story progressed, we added layers and layers of back story, fleshing her out as a character. Before long we knew what she’d say and how she’d react in any given situation.
The same technique can be used for the universe your characters exist in. It’s your universe, you make it up and mold it any way you want to.
Is it post apocalyptic? If so how did it get that way? Who’s the President? Is this the future? What happened twenty years ago?
The more believable your story and character are, the more invested your readers become in your story.