Author, Fiction, Indie Author, mystery, Paranormal, Romance, villains, women

Heartless

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.

Advertisements
Standard
Fiction, Indie Author, starting anew, Uncategorized, writing

This is Gonna Hurt!

My co-author Von is teaching one of our coworkers how to crochet. Wanting nothing to do with crafts whatsoever, I can’t help but watch in fascination whenever Erica visits Von’s desk. I may not want to be bothered with it, but I respect the art.

With much patience, Von instructs her on how to hold the crochet needle and what stitches to use. Since they’ve started Erica’s lessons, she’s made much progress on the pot holder or whatever she’s attempting to make. Much to my horror, the last time Erica visited for a lesson, Von cruelly laughed and ripped the stitches apart, destroying her work. Well, maybe she didn’t laugh, but all that hard work was unraveled back into a ball of yarn. It may seem mean, but Von says taking it apart is the best way for Erica to learn.

The same lesson can be applies to our writing. About two months ago, we were working on our fourth project when things just didn’t feel right. I hadn’t told her, but I felt bored and the writing felt stale. Chalking it up to exhaustion, I’d leave the project alone for a couple days, come back and feel the same way. I talked to her about what I was feeling and much to my surprise, she felt the same way. We’re both under the philosophy that if it isn’t right, we’re not going to publish it. Though it was painful, we went back over what we thought was complete, ripped it apart at the seams and started from scratch.

Our main problem was that we were dumbing down two very intelligent supporting characters. Knowing that these two important people would already know what was going on, we took it from there. The stone that we thought things were set in was shattered and we started back from the beginning. Starting from scratch was exactly what we needed. Along the way we’ve stitched in material that makes for a more interesting read. Now we’re both happy with the nearly finished product.

Though it may hurt, sometimes taking things apart and starting fresh is exactly what you need.

Standard
Author, Chicklit, Drama, fans, Fiction, Romance, writing

In the Interest of Drama

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.

 

Standard
audience, Author, Drama, Fiction, Indie Author, writing

Reel Them Back In

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.

 

 

 

Standard
audience, Author, Fiction, Indie Author, writing

Bursting the Bubble

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. : )

Standard
Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, Romance, women, writing

I Hate Rom-Com’s

I hate romantic comedies. Other than a select few most of them are predictable.

The couple meets in some cute way, most times with the desperate and single woman doing something to look like a complete idiot. Maybe she knocks over an entire table of food at a restaurant and he helps her clean up the mess. Or she gets her dress caught in the door of a cab and has to run along the side of it until the hero swoops in and saves the day.
After the cute meet the couple starts to date and all the woman’s flaws and insecurities come to the surface while most times the hero remains as clever and attractive as ever. Everything is fine until some conflict either internal or external threatens to break them up for good. One of the two has an epiphany and realizes they can’t live without their soul mate and by the end of the story everything is neatly tied in a pretty little pink bow and the happy couple lives happily ever after.

No wonder audiences have been staying away from romantic comedies in droves. Who wants to watch a story that’s that predictable? As a reader, it’s a tired formula I’ve seen repeated over and over again in a number of romance novels and it’s the reason I don’t read those types of books anymore.

As a writer, especially with a series, making things unpredictable is something you have to consider, especially when your story has romantic elements. Though the reader may say they want the heroine and her love interest to be happily married with kids, don’t believe them.

I can testify that I’ve thought the same thing with the TV series Castle. As soon as Detective Beckett and Richard Castle got together I was done. That was last season and I haven’t watched it since. After watching two characters who have been pining for each other for years finally get together, it’s boring now that we have what we wanted.
What keeps your reader interested is the tension between the couple. Move their relationship forward slowly. If you put them together as a couple, tear them apart soon after and have them find their way back to each other all over again. Introduce that best friend who’s been yearning after the hero since they were kids. Maybe one of them has an unforgiveable secret? What if her jealous best friend is a liar and spreads a nasty lie that breaks them apart. Unbeknownst to the hero, maybe his lady love has been replaced with her crazed, long thought dead twin sister. The longer you can keep your couple from that happily ever after the more the reader is pulled in. Make them wait!

Just because you’re following the romance formula doesn’t mean you have to play it by the book.

Standard
cia, Fiction, mothers, short story, spies

Angel

Her heart thumped a lively beat as she walked casually through the gaudily decorated hotel lobby. Italy was beautiful this time of year but her mission hadn’t allowed any time for sightseeing, she had to hurry to catch her plane home.
American CIA interpreter, Charles Albanese, lay on the floor in his hotel room with a bullet lodged in his forehead. The stunningly beautiful woman he had brought back to his hotel room had a lethal smile that could disarm any man as he had soon learned for himself.
Charles always preferred to face the door when frequenting the club, this vantage point allowed for him to view every woman that entered making it easy for him to assess their romantic situation quickly. He always searched for the one woman who inevitably ended up alone at the table while her friends hit the dance floor. Not his favorite type but an easy target for a night of his brand of fun.
She however was different, the long blond haired beauty waltzed into the club and sat alone at the far end of the bar occasionally passing him glances of interest. Charles watched as she adjusted the hem of her short black dress that showed off her delightfully long legs. Her shiny black stilettos were the icing on the cake. He imagined kneeling at her feet licking those heels satisfying his particular fetish. He sent over a drink and made his move.
“Call me Charlie.” He told her as he leaned in to her body daring to touch her knee.
She touched her hand to his moving it up her thigh. “Thanks for the drink, how long are you in Rome?”
Sensing a fish on a hook he answered. “Long enough to please you.”
He playfully buried his nose in her neck inhaling the intoxicating aroma of her high end perfume.
“I leave tomorrow. Care to help me make one last memory of my trip?” Her words dripped with southern honey.
His hotel was only a few blocks away he told her and he described to her the type of fun he was looking for. To his delight she was game telling him she was a lonely housewife and this trip to Italy was her chance to let loose while her husband made boring financial deals. Her husband she said suggested to her to explore the city while he wined and dined clients. He didn’t have to tell her twice she whispered into Charles’s ear as she discretely palmed his groin.
His passion ignited, he eagerly escorted her to his hotel room. Once she knew they were securely inside and alone she wasted no time pushing him to the floor onto his knees. Charles smiled lecherously, delighted the southern beauty who called herself by the unlikely moniker of Bobby Jo, had agreed to be his dominatrix for the night.
“Strip.” She demanded.
“Yes mistress.” He complied as she took a pair of handcuffs from her purse letting them dangle from her finger in front of him. “Hands behind your back.” Another demand met by her willing submissive.
She blindfolded him leaving his world dark.
“You’ve been very naughty haven’t you?”
“Yes mistress.” He bent over to lick her shoes. She kicked his head back and leaned over him.
“I didn’t ask for you to do that! Sit back and wait Charlie, we have a few business details to discuss before pleasure.”
He dropped his shoulders in disappointment. He berated himself for not having seen this coming she was after all, too good to be true. “Alright how much?”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Charlie let’s not be so hasty I don’t want money what I want is far more important, now give me the disk”
“Wh…what?”
She slipped the belt off his discarded pants and snapped it near his ear. “Don’t insult me by playing stupid. You knew stealing it would be foolish. The information on it is too valuable not to be tracked. Did you really think you could broker a deal?”
His body jerked with uncontrollable shakes struggling to lift himself off his knees. “Who are you?”
She flayed the belt squarely across the chest. “Stay down if you know what’s good for you.” She pushed him back down with her heel. “To answer your question, in some circles I’m known as Angel and if you’re lucky and give me what I want then maybe I will be merciful towards you. I’m only going give you one more chance to chose my mercy, where is the disk?”
Charlie sobbed. His scheme to sell new smart bomb technology to the highest bidder was unraveling faster than a snagged sweater and now he knew there was a slim chance he was getting out of this alive. His only choice now was to hope she would be true to her word if he gave it up.
“It’s in my suitcase.” He whispered.
She took off his blindfold. “Where in the suitcase?”
She was cautious remembering her lessons in training to be aware of traps.
“Zipper right side pocket.” He answered gazing into the angel of death’s eyes. “Please don’t kill me I’ll give you anything you want, I’ll disappear I swear!”
“I hate it when they beg.” She mumbled to herself. “Charlie the time to think about that darling would have been before you betrayed your country. These plans get into the wrong hands millions of innocent people could be killed around the world.”
“But they’re not nuclear just localized smart bombs for precision strikes. Governments will get a hold this stuff sooner or later” He tried to argue. “I just needed the money to pay off some debts.”
She shook her head. “You are just too stupid to live ain’t you darlin’! You either think I’m that dumb or you really have no idea what it is you stole.”  She pulled her revolver out of her purse and attached the silencer.  Removing his cuffs she told him, “Doesn’t matter which, either way you’re in it deep, now open your mouth.” She forced the gun practically to the back of his throat making him gag.  “Retrieve it for me and don’t get smart, if you’re a good boy I might consider letting you live understand?”
Nodding his understanding through his tears he scooted on his knees to his suitcase and handed her the disk.
“Pwease.” He said with a mouth full of cold steel. “Wet mwe go.”
She removed the gun from the crying man’s throat wiping off his tears and spit from the barrel. “I’m sorry darlin’ I lied. My bosses would never allow you to live, in fact they’d never let me breath another day if I didn’t dispense with you, so honey, it’s either you or me and I have a child to think about. If you’re a praying man I’d do it now.”
“You crazy bitch! I gave you what you wanted! Please don’t do this!”
Her cold violet eyes were the last thing he saw as the bullet tore itself through his brain and spattered out the back of his head.
She cleaned the room with precision of any traces of her DNA. Her blond wig now discarded to reveal her natural long raven hair as she exited the hotel with his suitcase in hand. It would be a few days before the smell from the dead body would alert the housekeeping staff that something was amiss, thanks to Charles’s previous demand at the front desk that he not be disturbed for a few days. By then the hotel management will have discovered their security cameras were disabled with a running loop of old footage of vacationers coming and goings.
Charles’s CIA employer will have quietly disavowed any wrong doing on his part avoiding a potential international scandal and he would be forgotten as an unfortunate victim of a robbery gone wrong. She left nothing in his hotel room, not even his underwear. At his funeral his beleaguered wife would be given a folded flag for his service to his country.
She snuck into her daughter’s room late from catching the red eye and kissed the sleeping child. She slid the new plush teddy bear under the five year olds arm smiling softly as her little angel rolled over hugging her new toy without ever waking up.
Her husband waited in the doorway taking her by the hand leading her to their bed. He respected her need for silence when she returned from her trips instead opting to hug her tightly. Nestled in his strong arms she fell asleep draping her body over his.
Another mission completed.

Standard