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.
There’s a lot of injustice in the world. All you have to do is turn on the news and here about someone being victimized. As we all know, sometimes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. How many times have we seen someone get a slap on the wrist for some heinous crime that’s left someone badly hurt, emotionally scarred or even dead?
I once read a book that started out promising. It was a good read, up until the end when the antagonist got away with his misdeeds. The two main characters were coerced into letting him get away with a slap on the wrist. I still hold a grudge against that author for that ending. Although it may not realistic when it comes to the real world, people want to see justice rendered, especially when they’re invested in a story.
As a writer, it’s something I take into consideration. Maybe it’s some form of vigilantism, but I personally want the bad guy to suffer and I know our readers feel the same way. Even though the antagonist is nothing but a combination of ones and zeroes in my computer, I want them to get what’s coming to them. Sometimes getting carted off to jail won’t do it, sometimes the punishment has to be extreme to satisfy the reader. Sometimes for punishment you have to think outside the box. It’s Raven Newcastle’s world and she can do what she wants.
If only things in real life were so simple.
The term passive-aggressive is defined as the “unassertive” expression of negative sentiments, feelings of anger and resentfulness. So instead of verbally or physically expressing frustration or anger — or even simply saying “no” when asked to complete a task — someone described as passive-aggressive might simply act agreeable but then not follow through with completing the task.
I am a classic passive aggressive. My entry into this world was filled with drama having been born early and with the umbilical cord around my throat. I joke and say I was trying to leave before I even arrived. Ok, not really funny but that kind of humor is what has gotten me by all these umpteen yrs. I was supposed to be dead and if it weren’t for 1 pediatrician that had refused to give up I would have been. My drama doesn’t end there. My mother for reasons speculated but ultimately unknown killed herself in a most dramatic fashion 1 month before my 1st birthday. my brothers witnessed all the drama and aftermath that shaped their lives forever. My father could only mentioned it when he was drunk. In all my baby pictures and there are not a lot of them, she is never pictured holding me.
Now before you get out a tissue and give me a bunch of ‘awws’ please don’t. My aim in telling you all this was not for pity. I’m over it in a lot of ways except the eternal questions that will haunt me forever and even that’s ok, it’s supposed too. No, I told you this so you know how my passive aggressiveness started and why it is I think it makes for my love of writing drama.
My co-author Joi recently decided to write the drama of a 4 way argument of our characters in book 4 of our series we are writing now. She told me by the end of the day she was utterly exhausted having the arguments in her head and having it with each character telling her what they wanted to say. If you’re a drama writer I dare say you’ll understand that statement.
Now I am the one who usually handles this and even though, yes it is exhausting , it is also where I live. It gives me the ability to take out the hidden aggression buried deep in my psyche and release it on an unsuspecting audience. I want to tap into anger? I only have to look no farther than into a ready stream of memories of my childhood.
Here’s the weird part. I love to write drama, I want you to feel the thrill of the roller coaster ride of emotions that ensues when you know something big is going to take place. I want you talking back to the characters, yelling at them how mad you are at their actions and words. I want you to believe they and all their problems and triumphs really exist, but I can’t watch it neither on television or in the movies. I watch Scandal on the edge of my seat eating Tums. I recently saw an ad for a new movie with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney where they are in deep shit in deep space. I have to change the channel till it’s over. The ad also has the nerve to say you can enjoy the movie in 3D. Are they serious? I would have a heart attack!
Now if anyone reading this is a psychoanalyst or just psycho, please feel free to comment on the weirdness of that. Just keep it clean. I would also like comments on your feelings on writing drama. What do you tap into? Where do you go to bring it out and bring it to life on paper? How do you feel after writing a scene that is argumentative drama and what do you do to get yourself back to a normal emotional state?
Looking forward to your comments and here’s wishing you good mental health.
Here is another short story featuring our herione, Danielle Labouleaux, from The Body Hunters. In this story she’s sixteen again and she gets into a little trouble when she heads down to Mardi Gras. Enjoy!
The Body Hunters by Raven Newcastle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009X971ME/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_N6xQrb13R6TGQ … …
The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied by Raven Newcastle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CODG81Q/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_r7xQrb0RWBN1N … … the fun continues in the sequel.
As usual the people who call themselves my mother and father are gone leaving me in this big empty house alone. Of course they’re off to save the world yet again, all the while forgetting about their only child. Dad is an FBI agent and he’s heading up a big investigation, so I expect him to be gone; it’s just part of his job. Mommy dearest on the other hand is off trying to impress her blue blood cronies by helping them with some charity dinner nonsense.
Those rich, high society bitches never did forgive my mom for marrying a black man, well Haitian Creole man to be exact. Mom comes from a long line of New Orleans nobility, going all the way back to caveman times probably. The snobs aren’t exactly the most understanding and accepting group in the world. Before the ink was dry on their marriage certificate they excommunicated mom from their little clique. Over the years I’ve watched mom bust her ass trying to get back in the good graces of those good Christian women, for what I don’t know.
She’s even tried to use me in her ploy, expecting me to be a little brown copy of herself. Other than my caramel complexion and my gold-brown eyes I got from Dad, we sorta do look alike. I’ve got mom’s straight black hair, which half the time I’m tempted to chop off just to piss her off and her facial features. Except for my boobs and my butt, which I’m assuming I got from Dad’s side of the family, me and mom share the same petite and thin body structure, though I do think I’ve got a couple inches on her.
She’s always trying to get me to go to this ball and that extravaganza. She forces me to wear these gaudy dresses showing me off to her so called friends like her personal life size Barbie. I drew the line when she tried to force me into befriending their equally bitchy and uptight daughters. That’s definitely not gonna work. Danielle Labouleaux is not going to be caught dead hanging around those backstabbing, stuck up, highfalutin’, snotty heifers. I’ve seen them in action and I need friends like that like I need a hole in the middle of my head.
With my issues with my parents, I’m so grateful for my grand mere. My parents were always too busy for me, wrapped up in their own worlds, so my grandmother has been my one constant. She lives just across the street which is totally convenient for those times when my ‘birth units’ piss me off or when I come home from school to an empty house. No topic is off limits and I can always count on her to be my Yoda with the good advice.
The connection between me and grand mere also runs a bit deeper than most. Unbeknownst to my parents and like my grand mere, I’m psychic. I can communicate with the dead. Yep, I see dead people! Grand mere says that it runs in the family through the female members of the Labouleaux family. Due to a childhood illness that nearly killed me, Grand mere says I have a stronger connection to what she calls ‘the spirit realm’ and that one day my abilities will surpass even her own.
Even though I’ve had this ability since childhood, I’ve put off telling my parents. I’ve seen the way they look at grand mere when she starts talking about spirits and the dead. They treat her like a senile old lady with one foot in the nursing home, which I know is far from the truth. Not wanting them to fit me for my own personal straight jacket, I decided long ago to keep my supernatural skills to myself.
Tonight is the Mardi Gras parade, and like my alien pods called parents, Grand mere is away, spending the evening at a church function. Without her to talk me out of any mischief, I’m left to my own devices. Oh well, it serves Marcel and Juliana right for leaving me alone. I surmise any trouble I get into is their fault.
Right now I’m in the garage, paying dear Lucille a visit. Lucille is my dad’s classic ’70 Z28 Camaro. He bought her before I was born from some old dude and he spent a nice chunk of change getting her in tip top shape over the years. Last year he had a new engine and transmission put in and the year before that he went for the candy apple or as I like to say ‘hooker red’ paint job. He refuses to let me drive her, but what dear old Dad doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
Lucille and I have an understanding. I take her out every now and then and she doesn’t tell Dad. Seriously, it should be a sin to keep this car locked up the way he does like a giant paperweight. It’s like locking a lioness up in a cage without letting her go out and hunt. Lucille is a bad ass ride and doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. I smile to myself as I run a finger along the smooth lines of the hood. Yeah, me and Lucille are gonna have a girl’s night out.
With a plan in my head, I go up to my room and get dressed. I pull on a black knit tunic that ends right above my knees, with a pair of skin tight denim leggings. A black leather belt goes around my waist and I slip my feet into a pair of black biker boots that mom finds absolutely atrocious. Just in case it’s a little chilly out, I grab a beat up leather jacket that I stole from Mom’s closet a few months back. I don’t know what the hell she was doing with a leather jacket in the first place. I check myself out at the mirror and like always my eyes gravitate toward the faint scar that runs between my breasts, a souvenir of my childhood illness. Satisfied with my perfectly punk look, I go downstairs. I reach into the cookie jar where dad thinks he keeps the keys hidden and head to the garage where Lucille is patiently waiting.
I’m sixteen years old and I can now drive without an adult being present. When I’m allowed to drive, it’s always the grandpa mobile my parents have designated as my car, you know the kind of car you don’t back out of the drive way, you launch it, so driving Lucille is a treat. I start her up and Lucille roars at me. But any drive wouldn’t be complete without driving music. One of the upgrades dad made to the Camaro is a CD player, so I check the visor where he keeps his CD’s stashed. Sade, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Led Zeppelin are all waiting to be played like albums lined up in a juke box, but I grab Dad’s AC/DC CD that mom refuses to let him play in the house.
With the bass cranked up way too loud, I head to my friend Amy’s house, letting Lucille stretch her legs and pick up some speed. I called Amy before leaving and she was up for hanging out tonight. Maybe we could check out the Mardi Gras parade after all.
One of my pet peeves is people who like to mess over other people. When I was in sixth grade, I came to Amy’s defense when Tammy and her blue blood crew started picking on her at school. I’d been watching from the sidelines as Amy, who joined the school in the middle of the year, was singled out by Tammy and her flunkies. They’d call her names, talk about her mom, that sorta thing, and me rooting for the underdog, was waiting for Amy to tell them to take the express elevator straight to hell. She never did and the bullying got worse and worse as Amy walked with her head down and never said a word in her own defense.
The terrorizing escalated one day in the girl’s locker room when one of the gang tripped Amy and Tammy shoved her to the ground. Not able to mind my own business anymore, I intervened. I helped Amy off the tile floor and told Tammy if I caught her or any of her friends messing with Amy again, I’d put my boot to her ass like she owed me money. I could see the fear in Tammy’s eyes. You see me and that bitch went way back.
When I came back to school after my heart surgery when I was six, Tammy was the ringleader of my torment, calling me Frankenstein because of my scar. After not being able to take the teasing anymore, I beat the dog shit out of her. She cried running home to mama and I was put on punishment. She never so much as farted around me even after all those years. She knew I wasn’t bluffing.
Since the moment I came to her rescue, Amy and I have been best friends. She skips to the car as I pull up to her house, in her jeans, black tank top and sneakers, her blonde curls bouncing along the way.
“Sweet ride, Danny.” She said as she hops into the car.
I turn around the corner a little too fast probably, because I immediately see the blue and red lights flashing in my rear view mirror.
Oh shit. I mutter as the cop slow walks to my door, my hands shaking like a leaf. Dad is gonna skin me alive if he finds out! I hand him my license and registration and he gives me that fatherly look. As easily as he wields that look, I can tell that he has kids at home. He lets me off with a ticket and a stern warning not to get into trouble.
Crisis averted, I head to the Mardi Gras parade and because of the crowd gathered on Bourbon Street, I am forced to park the car over a few blocks.
Amy and I are engrossed in the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras. Even though I grew up in New Orleans, I was never allowed to visit the festivities because as my parents said ‘Mardi Gras is not for kids’. I immediately know exactly what they meant and as I’m quickly learning, It’s like a place for adults to behave badly, nothing and I mean nothing is too taboo.
As the parade floats pass, young women lift up their tops and show off their boobs for a handful of cheap plastic beads. The smell of liquor and puke hangs in the air and I roughly grab Amy’s arm as she’s about to step into a suspicious puddle on the sidewalk. Drunks stagger up and down the block while couples engage in PDA not caring who’s watching. Drag queens make their way through the street, flirting with the men in the crowd. With all the adult activity going on around me, I start to feel a little uncomfortable and know exactly why I was forbidden from attending Mardi Gras in the first place. Gee go figure the dynamic duo of Marcel and Juliana got it right for once!
After getting more than an eyeful of the festivities, I tell Amy that I’m ready to go. We take our time as we head down Bourbon Street, window shopping the various store fronts. Amy Oohs and Aahs over the display of a voodoo shop and I am reluctantly pulled inside.
“Oh, this is so cool!” Amy says as inside my head all my supernatural warning bells are going off like a car alarm.
This shop is obviously a tourist trap, filled with all the stereotypical things you’d expect in a voodoo shop, from voodoo dolls, incantation books, and a smoking cauldron. It’s to sucker the visitors in so they can buy ‘authentic’ voodoo paraphernalia.
“What you doin’ here children?” An old woman startles us as she emerges from the beaded doorway at the back of the shop. Her voice heavily accented like someone from the Islands.
She’s wearing a floor length caftan, small clouds of curly white hair peeking from under her turban, crowning her dark face. Her eyes are locked on me and I can see that one of her eyes is grey and the other hazel.
“Ah, you have the sight child?” She says to me and I know exactly what she’s talking about. She knows about my abilities.
She turns to Amy and dismisses her with a wave of her hand. “You wait outside.”
Like she’s watching a tennis match, Amy looks between me and the woman for a few seconds before finally obeying.
Now alone the woman reaches for me. The first thing I think of when I see her hand is the gnarled roots of a tree. Her skin is baby smooth though, her hands warm as she takes mine.
“You are strong, child.” She says to me. “Your grand mere teach you? Yes?”
With my grand mere’s training, I’m not at all skeptical about this woman knowing about me. It just goes with the territory. I feebly shake my head yes.
“You will suffer a great loss of something you never knew you had.” She predicts, her voice is raspy like she needs to clear her throat. “Three loves you will have.”
Okay, she is really freaking me out with these predictions! She must have read my mind because she releases my hand, but not before pointing her knobby finger into my chest.
“Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” She says as I just nod my head like an idiot. She smiles and waves her hand at me to leave.
I’m practically running back out to Bourbon Street where Amy is waiting wide eyed. “What happened?”
“Um..She just wanted to tell my fortune.” I say. Amy doesn’t know I’m psychic and I have no plans to share it with her either.
I am totally rattled by the old woman’s predictions, so I’m not in a talkative mood as I drop Amy back at home. I know it’s harsh since she’s my best friend, but I need some time to think to myself. I pull Lucille back into the garage without incident, remembering to leave things as I found them. I’m pacing in front of our big picture window, until I see grand mere pull up into her driveway.
Before she’s out of the car, I’m across the street rambling on about what happened at Mardi Gras. Calm as ever she wraps her arm around me and sits me at her kitchen table, asking me to go over what I said slowly. With a freshly brewed cup of her special tea in front of me, I tell her the whole story between sips.
Grand mere doesn’t seem the least bit troubled. She takes my hands and tells me that my future is what I make it. No one can know my future except for me. Feeling a little better, I nod and she wraps me in a hug and kisses my cheek. She points her finger at me and lightly scolds me about taking Lucille out without permission. It’s funny how just a little chastising from her feels worse than any hollering my parents do when they’re mad at me. I tell her I’ll try and do better, but I’m careful not to make any promises.
Two weeks later the old woman’s premonitions are just a faded memory. I walk into our house, slinging my backpack onto the loveseat. For some strange reason Dad is home, sitting in his favorite living room chair. There’s a small stack of mail on the wooden coffee table.
I look at him and he looks at me. I know something is wrong but I don’t know what.
“Hey.” I said, putting my toe in to test the waters.
“Hey.” He answers back.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“Oh, nothing.” He says, flipping through the envelopes. “Just sorting through mail, you know: catalogues, bills, traffic tickets.”
I am so busted. I’d planned on paying that ticket, but I’d forgotten all about it. My mouth opens to speak, but I can’t make anything come out.
“You mind telling me what you were doing out in Lucille?” He growls, holding up the ticket reminder postcard.
“Uh, yeah, uh. See what had happened was…..”
This is a short story featuring one of our, supporting characters, Lucius Johnson, from The Body Hunters. In this story he’s 16 years old and not quite the uptight g-man he is in the book. Enjoy!
“Lucian Tepes, the headmaster will see you now.” The pretty blonde secretary sitting politely at her desk is waving me into his office. I know I’m in trouble, I have once again pissed off the headmaster and now I’m apprehensively walking into his office where my uncle Miroslav waits.
He goes by Mike now since living in America. I am surprised to see him and I know that I must be in real trouble for him to fly all the way to England. He is pissed. I have broken curfew and disappeared for 3 days. I’m not telling them I was on a bender in Paris. My parents are dead and it falls to Uncle Mike to look after me. He has wasted no time squirreling me away to boarding schools all over Europe. Every time I get kicked out of one school he puts me in another. He has the money to do so having made his fortune in paper products in America. I don’t care about him or his money. He really doesn’t want me around and I don’t want to be around him.
A few minutes later and I am packing my things under the watchful eye of the headmaster and Uncle Mike. Kicked out of yet another boarding school. I must be setting some type of world record. With my shoulder bag and suitcase I am led out the door to the waiting oversized Black English taxi. This is not going to be a fun ride to Heathrow.
Uncle Mike is staring me down, he starts to yell in Romanian at me, I yell back at him to speak English; I refuse to speak my native language. He gives me a stern look “OK.” he says. “If you want English then we will speak English, but you boy, will listen and listen well if you know what is good for you.”
The cabbie seems to be snickering at my predicament. I nod my agreement to my uncle and wait to hear what heavy handed sentence he plans to lay down on me this time. Another boarding school? Perhaps Switzerland this time? Maybe Germany? I have been to one in Italy and two in England already. Why doesn’t he just take me to the States? I am sure he is afraid I will really act out like the American teenagers he sees on television. My uncle is glaring at me, daring me to say something stupid. “You are going to get your wish.” He says to me. “I’m taking you to the U.S.” I am ecstatic. Finally!
“Military school?” I yell out and the whole plane turns to look at me. Uncle Mike is hushing me. “You can’t be serious!” I ignore his hushing and yell. In my imagination of what my American life will be, military school was not in the picture.
“You need the discipline.” Uncle Mike says ignoring his own voice level. The female flight attendant sidles up to our chairs and squats down asking us to please lower our voices. I see several people staring at us. Her smile is false and she is giving us a tone reserved for unruly children. I look away from her. Uncle Mike reassures her we will be quiet and she leaves us alone. He doesn’t speak to me much after that and when he does, it’s in Romanian. I put the headphones into the armrest jack and listen to music to ignore him. It’s going to be a long flight.
We arrive at LaGuardia, where my Aunt Helen and their young seven year old daughter Susan are waiting for us. Auntie as I call her is far happier to see me as she kisses me hello and hugs me tightly. Susan eyes me warily as if I have antennas on my head as she hides behind her mother trying not to make eye contact with me. Auntie does most of the talking on the way to their home in upstate New York. They live in a gated community surrounded by wooded lands. I’m secretly planning my escape till I see my uncle reading my mind. He mentions something about my visa and something called the I.N.S. I see it’s not going to be as easy as I thought. My little cousin is in the back seat with me playing with some of her dolls she calls Barbie. Her sweet blue eyes look at me suddenly as she asks “Are you going to be my new brother?” My uncle practically runs the car off the road.
I smile sweetly at her and take hold of her hand. “We are cousins.” I tell her. “Would you like me to be your big brother?” She nods yes and fingers the ring on my right hand.
“I know this ring. Daddy has one just like it, but he doesn’t wear it.” Her little fingers are running over the small ruby eyes of the dragon head in the ring.
“Yes, I know, I got this from my father, your Uncle Josef. Do you know what the dragon means?” I am talking really low to her, but not low enough it seems.
“That will be enough!” Uncle Mike barks out.
“She will find out eventually.” I snap back. My Auntie gives me a pleading look as my Uncle glares at me from the rear view mirror.
“She may find out later, but not by you and not today! Do you understand?”
Susan has a confused look across her face. I tell her it’s just a dragon and that’s all. My uncle is satisfied with my answer and my Auntie breathes a sigh of relief. I pat little Susan on the cheek and she continues playing with her dolls.
We reach the gated community and pull into the drive. The two story house overpowers my sight as I try to take in its enormity. We enter into the great hall and my Auntie ushers me into a room she has set up for me. I am surprised to see how little furniture there is in such a big room; just a dresser and a single bed. She shows me the closet that could almost sleep a few more people and she puts my shoulder bag in it. She sits at the edge of the bed and pats her hand on the mattress beckoning me to sit next to her.
“Lucian, please while you are here, try not to anger your uncle.” She pleads. “He is not a patient man, you know this.”
“He hates me.” I say dryly. “And I really don’t know why.”
My auntie takes my hand. “Lucian, you know your father and he didn’t get along and with all that mess in Romania, he just never expected to have to take care of you. He blames your father for not looking out for his family and leaving when he had the opportunity, choosing instead to ignore his duties as a father and husband. He pushed his limits for what he felt was his own righteous indignation with no thought to you or your mother. He sees in you the defiance your father had. You just haven’t learned to channel it into something productive.” Her eyes look weary and tired. “Please Lucian I can’t fight for you if you will not meet me half way.”
“He is sending me away again isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is, I tried to stop it. I begged him to just be a father to you. He says it will end with you two killing each other. I’m not so sure he is wrong.” She is now patting the back of my head. “You need a haircut.” She laughs as she tugs at my locks. “Dinner will be soon, you may want to freshen up. Lucian?”
“Please remove that ring while you are here.” She touches my dragon ring.
“Why, is he ashamed of our family history?” I voice out angrily.
“Lucian, please for me.” I can’t say no to her kind eyes. I take it off and put it in my jeans pocket.
“Thank you.” She kisses me on the forehead before leaving my room.
After dinner Uncle Mike and I are in the living room by ourselves. On the coffee table he has placed three brochures of military schools. “Pick one.” He says. “I don’t care which one, just pick one.”
“What if I don’t choose?” I am pushing my luck and I know it. “What then?”
“I will pick for you, no matter what your aunt tells you, you are going to one of them. If you straighten out then maybe we will reevaluate your situation, but you are sixteen Lucian. You need to learn discipline and to be a man.”
“I am a man!” I scream out.
He is screaming back. “You think you are a man, running away to Paris with some girl and being on a drunk for a few days?”
I am totally stunned. How could he have possibly known? I ask myself. “What if I run away?” I try to ask more calmly.
“You only have a student visa. I will have it revoked and I will see to it you are deported. So the choice is up to you.” His threat works. “You can take the brochures to your room and give me your answer in the morning. Go now!” He waves me off with his hand and I decide I am too tired to fight with him.
I am trying to let this new reality sink in as I walk past my little cousin’s room on the way to mine. The difference is stark. Hers is all pink and purples, with stuffed animals everywhere. She is seated at a small child’s table pouring imaginary tea into small cups talking to an empty chair next to her. She catches my eye and invites me in.
“Lucian!” She joyfully leads me by the hand to the table. “Come meet Mr. Vandermarliere, he lets me call him Mr. Van for short.”
I am staring at air. “Susan there is no one here. Is he your imaginary friend?” A tea cup flies off the table and lands against the wall, luckily it was plastic.
“You’ve made him mad Lucian.” She gets up and stamps her foot at me. “He is getting angry.”
I feel a chilling breeze pass by me. “I’m sorry, Susan, tell Mr. Van I meant no disrespect.”
She is talking to her friend and then looks back at me. “He says he wants to know why you can’t see him; he knows you have a gift. What gift? I didn’t see you bring in a present!” Susan is very confused now.
“It’s not that kind of gift.” I explain to her. “It’s like the same gift you have to be able to see him and I don’t. Do your mom and dad know he is here?”
“No.” She says sheepishly as she looks at her feet. “You’re not going to tell are you? Daddy would be mad and send me away like you!”
I reassure her that no, I will not tell and they are not going to send her away. Another tea cup smashes against the wall. “Please tell Mr. Van to stop throwing things or your parents will come up here and find out what’s going on.”
“He says he wants to talk to you and you know how to do it.” She playfully dances around my chair.
“He is right Susan, and if he promises to stop throwing things I will try. Can you describe him to me?”
“He is older than daddy and he wears a black suit with a black hat, he calls it a fedora. That’s a funny name!” She sounds out the word. “feh door a.” She giggles as she continues “He has blood down the side of his face.” I am taken aback by this. I have been taught that children can sometimes see spirits where adults can’t. I wonder if my little cousin will end up with the same gift I have.
“Tell Mr. Van I need something of his, did he live here at one time?”
“He did.” She tells me and runs to a knee wall in her room, she slides open the little door and brings me what I presume is Mr. Vandermarliere’s fedora. “Thank you Susan. Tell Mr. Van that I will try in my room. You must stay here, do you understand?” She nods yes and I leave her.
Back in my stark room, I close the door as I make sure no one else is in earshot of me. I lie on the bed and hold Mr. Van’s fedora on my chest. I’ve done this a few times now and I never know what is going to happen, but I know enough to be alone.
Lights shimmer around me as I start to get pictures, snapshots of Mr. Van. The images are in black and white at first. I am confused by this, but slowly they turn to color. They are spinning faster like on a movie reel until I am in his presence and he is motioning to me follow him. I follow in earnest as I see we are in a dark alley, the smell of garbage and old liquor bottles mixed in with urine assault my nostrils. He points to a body and I kneel on one knee next to it.
“Is it you?” I ask and he mutters what sounds like a yes. He points to the fedora and motions me to remove it. I do. One gunshot to the head and half his skull is gone. I start to feel a little sick and walk over to the dumpster and puke. The maggots have already invaded his head. He is standing next to me and is pointing to the name on the dumpster. Salvatore Rubbish Removal. He is insistent I pay attention to this name. He is now pointing to a balled up piece of newspaper and I go to pick it up. The date shows January 7th 1962. This murder is over 30 yrs old. I feel overwhelmed as I have had only three other experiences and they were nothing like this or even this old. “I’ll see what I can do. I don’t have a lot of time you know that, you know I am being sent away soon.” I explain to my dead companion. He nods yes and puts his hand on my shoulder. I look back at the body and see a card sticking out of the jacket pocket. Van’s Barbershop it reads and the address is visible. I walk to the end of the alley and onto the sidewalk. We are directly across from the barbershop. I look up and my companion is now dressed in all white suit complete with an all white fedora, there is an otherworldly glow about him and he is smiling as he disappears. The scene spins in front of me and I wake up with a start. My head pounding and there is a little blood trail running from my nose.
“Buna dimineata, Lucian. Te-ai dormit bine?” My auntie Helen asks in Romanian.
“Good morning auntie and yes I did sleep well. Thank you.” I give her a kiss on the cheek as I head over to little Susan who is eating her eggs. I kneel down and whisper to her. “Did you see Mr. Van again this morning?” She nods yes and whispers back to me.
“He says thank you.” She kisses me on my nose and I give her a little laugh. My uncle has entered the kitchen and sits at what I presume is his usual seat at the table. He eyes me suspiciously as I get up from my knee and away from little Susan. My auntie places a plate of eggs and sausage in front of him and motions for me to sit opposite her as she puts a plate in front of me as well. It smells delicious but the image of Mr. Van and the maggots is staying with me and I am a bit put off by it.
“Did you decide?” he asks dryly and my aunt holds her breath. I decide to look him straight in the face.
“Yes.” I sit silent. My uncle is staring at me for a few seconds before throwing his hands up in the air.
“Would you like to share your decision with me?” He is getting irritated and my auntie kicks me under the table. For her sake I decide not to continue poking the bear.
“The one in New Mexico.” I say no more to him. I picked that one because according to the map of the United States, it would be the farthest away from him.
“Good, I will call and make the arrangements. In the mean time you will be going to work for me and I will hear no argument about it.” He picks up his news paper and hides behind it. The conversation is over.
I am in the study after breakfast with the phone book. I look up Salvatore Rubbish Removal. It’s unbelievable as I see they are still in business. The yellow pages ad says family owned since 1948. Dean Salvatore proprietor and owner. I must sneak out to use a payphone. It’s a Saturday and uncle is home from his business, but he leaves to run errands. My auntie is busy cleaning. I press little Susan into helping me escape for a little while undetected.
She shows me the basement and the large windows that I can climb out of in the back of the house and I do. I have no idea where I am but Susan tells me there is a payphone a few blocks away at a little supermarket she remembered seeing when she goes there with her mother. She says she will pretend she is playing hide and seek with me if her dad returns before I get back. I am beginning to feel real love for this child now. I scramble out the window and run like mad reaching the party store out of breath. I only have minutes and I have re-gain my composure. Drawing a deep breath I dial the 911 number and am patched through to a police detective. I give him the information I know on Mr. Vandermarliere and Dean Salvatore. I refuse to give him my name. I hang up and run back to the basement window as my uncle is pulling into the drive. I am sweating like mad. My sweet little cousin is waiting for me in the basement and leads me up the stairs and to a back staircase in this large house, it empties into the second floor rooms. I hear Uncle Mike talking to my aunt as I quickly dip off into my room and lay on the bed wiping sweat away from my forehead with the sheets. Uncle Mike is at my door.
“Get up off that bed boy! What now you are lazy? I have work for you to do.”
A few weeks later and we are at our usual breakfast seating arrangements, my arms are sore but getting stronger as my uncle now has me loading rolls of paper onto trucks for delivery all over the U.S. I am eating my breakfast as my uncle unfolds his daily newspaper to hide behind and I see the secondary headline. Thirty year old murder solved. Dean Salvatore charged in mob style killing.
Apparently Mr. Salvatore was a mobster before going legit and was demanding protection money from small businesses in the New York neighborhood where Mr. Van’s barbershop was. Mr. Vandermarliere, a Dutch immigrant refused to pay and paid the ultimate price for not cooperating. The mob made an example out of him. The article said the murder investigation was given new life when detectives received an anonymous phone call. I can’t help but smile.
What is it about fictional bad boys that they can do no wrong in women’s eyes? What is it about the Han Solos and the Eric Northman’s in fiction that women can’t get enough of them?
I finally got a chance to sit down and talk with one of our readers, Karen, who’d completed The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied a couple weeks ago. Since I’d been on vacation from work I didn’t get a chance to get her opinion on what she thought. Without revealing too much about the story line, secrets between the two main characters are exposed. Karen goes on to tell me how the main character, Danielle was totally in the wrong for what she kept hidden from the hero, reformed former player Aiden. It surprised me because I thought she would at least take the woman’s side in the argument. The gist I got from my conversation with Karen was that if Danielle couldn’t treat Aiden right, then she would. Yeah, we’re talking about fictional characters, but this is the type of vibe I got and Karen isn’t the only one.
The opinions we’ve received about our good looking, rogue have ranged from an ‘I’d do him!’ to him being called ‘sexy’ and every thing under the moon. He’s the right combination of dangerous and loveable, with a little salty language mixed in. Even though the character is nothing but a compilation of ones and zeroes on a computer screen, women love him.
I think the attraction stems from the idea of the bad boy being able to be reformed, something that isn’t necessarily true in real life. If you meet a bad boy in real life, most of the time your best bet would be to turn around and run because you’re in for nothing but heartbreak. Most people aren’t that easy to change, which is why women love their fictional heroes. They can live vicariously through the pages of the book or on the television. The sexy scoundrel is their fantasy come to life.
I’m all about giving the people what they want and the jury has spoken, but as a writer I have my responsibility to keep the story fresh and unpredictable. So I tell Karen and the rest of our superfans to keep reading, we have some plans for Aiden Stone in the next few months.