Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Caroline Clemmons, you are the winner of an ebook copy of Nearly Departed In Deadwood by Ann Charles. She will be in touch with you soon. Thank you for commenting on our blog.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rachel Lynne Presents Paige Stewart's Tea Party At The House On Julian Street

It's our pleasure to welcome Rachel Lynne to our blog.
Rachel is a transplanted northerner who now makes Savannah, Georgia  her home. But it hasn't taken her long to get caught up in the Southern lore of Savannah.Pretty soon, she'll lose her accent. If you like Rachel's post leave a comment when you finish reading for a chance to win a pdf copy of Ring of Lies.

Hamilton Lilibridge House

 Paige Stewart sipped tea from a delicate china cup and wondered what sadistic demon had co-opted her body and brought her to what surely must be the eighth circle of hell. For the third time in under an hour, she glanced around the cheerful parlor and wondered how a room the color of lemon sorbet could feel so oppressive. She tugged at the collar of her blouse and let her gaze wander to the pinched lip smile of her grandmother holding court across the room. That explains it.

She shivered. The presence of her disapproving and domineering grandmother always made her feel like a schoolgirl caught with her hand in the cookie jar but this, this was something else entirely. Despite the sunny room and comfy furnishings, Paige continued to feel unsettled; depressed and anxious, like a shadow of doom had fallen across her soul. She was not happy to be attending the meeting but her mood didn’t extend to the dejection she seemed to be slipping into.

A twinge of uneasiness began to creep up her spine, and for a minute Paige had the strangest sensation that someone was hovering over her shoulder. She gulped and resisted the urge to look behind her. Get a grip, Paige!

She shook away the feeling and tried to feign interest in the animated discussion flowing around the room. The sight of their earnest faces made Paige grin; one would think they were facing an imminent invasion from Sherman himself rather than a simple upheaval in the Annual Tour of Homes.

A frown from her grandmother sent Paige hiding behind her tea cup. The assembly of Grande Dames of Savannah would fail to see the reason for levity and would be horrified that she was not giving her most solemn attention to the crisis. She screwed her face into a proper look of concern and waited for her grandmother to announce the solution to their dilemma.


All eyes turned toward Olivia Stewart. Paige smirked at the expectant hush that fell across the room; the Queen was about to speak.

The silver haired matriarch bestowed a regal smile. “Ladies, thank you for coming on such short notice.”

Paige cocked an eyebrow. Like they had any choice!

“Despite Millicent Arthur’s poor sense of timing, The Hampton Lilibridge House will remain on the tour schedule,”

Paige rolled her eyes. Only Olivia Stewart could describe a heart attack as bad timing.

Olivia’s dark eyed gaze swung toward Paige. “My granddaughter will be acting as docent.”

Paige gulped. No backing out now.

“But mother, I thought –that is, I told you this morning that I would take over Millie’s schedule and, well, Paige doesn’t know anything about this house, or any other for that matter.”

Olivia Stewart smiled at her daughter, though no warmth was detected in her eyes. “Thank you for sharing your opinion, Lavinia.”

Paige smirked. Her grandmother’s tone left no doubt as to her feelings concerning Aunt Lavinia’s sharing.

“However I have decided it won’t suit. You will continue your duties at the Stewart townhouse and as hostess of the afternoon tea. Paige is quite capable of presiding over this house.”

Paige squirmed as all heads turned in her direction. Despite the pronouncement from the Queen Bee, she saw doubt and skepticism on several faces. She couldn’t blame them. She had no business conducting tours of historic houses, famed last name of Stewart or not. Her Aunt Lavinia, God bless her for standing up to the old dragon, was absolutely correct. She knew nothing about the Hampton Lilibridge House; except that it gave her the creeps.

Lavinia’s token protest notwithstanding, there’d never been any doubt that the members of the Loyal Order of Colonial Dames would accede to their president’s wishes. Paige’s mind began to whirl as the ladies began to cluck over everything she’d need to know in order to do their organization proud.

She listened to enraptured descriptions of intricate moldings and the relative merits of Georgia Heart Pine but her ability to focus was becoming increasingly difficult. She squirmed and fidgeted with the buttons on her shirt. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary and none of the ladies showed any sign that they perceived something was wrong, and yet Paige felt … menaced. It seemed silly to even use the word but there it was. She sensed that someone in the room didn’t like her; that they didn’t even want her in the house! She stared at a tapestry hanging above the fireplace and fought back the irrational fear rising within her.

Paige’s attention was diverted by the movements of a frail looking woman in a shell pink suit hovering by the door. Thin, bony fingers absently twisted the perfectly matched strand of pearls at her neck, drawing the strand tight against the crepe like skin of her throat. Paige swallowed hard and ran a finger around her collar; that had to be uncomfortable …

The dainty hand released the pearls and directed a timid wave at Olivia Stewart. All conversation ceased as Her Royal Highness rose from her chair and inclined her head. “Ladies, luncheon is served. You may continue your discussion in the dining room.” Assuming her decree would be obeyed, the matriarch swept from the room without a backwards glance.

Paige shot from her chair and nearly ran from the room. Normally, she’d of taken her own sweet time but today her need to escape was stronger than her desire to thwart her imperialistic grandmother. She made her way through the throng of woman and began to fill her plate.

Loaded down with the ubiquitous Southern staple of chicken salad canapés, fruit, and cheese straws, Paige found a quiet corner and started to eat. The creamy salad with its hint of dill filled her empty stomach and the act of eating helped to settle her jangled nerves but after two bites an icy draft ruffled the hair at the base of her skull and made the salad taste like saw dust. She swallowed hard and ignored it. Logic said there was no one breathing on her neck, and she was making a conscious choice to stick with logic, though another blast made that harder to believe by the minute.

Paige set the plate on her lap and took several deep breaths, repeating a silent mantra of ‘there is nothing to fear’. Whether the chant worked or her common sense prevailed, Paige’s anxiety lessened and she resumed eating. She popped a ripe strawberry into her mouth, savoring the tart juice gliding over her tongue.

Her eyes went wide as she swallowed. Cold fingers closed around her neck. She clawed at her throat but found nothing but air. Her lungs burned and spots formed before her eyes. She sagged in her chair, staring at the backs of the ladies clustered around the table.

A sharp rap fell between her shoulder blades. The berry dislodged and shot across the table. Paige sputtered and gasped for breath as a gaggle of alarmed old ladies gathered around her. She ignored their anxious questions and turned to thank her rescuer.

Her eyes locked with the worried gaze of the old lady in the shell pink suit. Paige’s eyes fell to the old woman’s neck and the bony fingers that nervously twisted the strand of pearls. The gleaming balls pulled away from the crepe like skin, revealing the outline of ten fingertips encircling the woman’s throat.

Paige bolted from her chair and raced to a mirror; the same red welts marred her skin. Paige raised a trembling hand to her throat and met the old woman’s eyes in the mirror.

“I … did you …”

The old woman’s lips trembled. “In the kitchen, before lunch. I nearly faint—“

Paige rushed from the house without a backward glance.

Rachel Lynne
 Thank you so much for having  Paige and me here today! I hope your readers enjoyed Paige’s experience. The Hamilton Lilibridge House is the only house to have had an exorcism performed on it. Jim Williams, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, bought and restored the house. Workmen reported hearing footsteps when no one was there and several refused to complete the work after unsettling experiences. When Jim took possession of the home he is said to have heard the noises and felt an oppressive spirit hovering near him. He became so alarmed that he called in a priest to exorcize it. The Episcopal priest performed the rite and pronounced it a success. Jim left on a buying trip for antiques in Europe. While gone, his neighbor called to say someone was in his house; that they had seen a man walking around upstairs and glowering at the windows though no one could be found inside. When Jim came home he called the priest and said the exorcism hadn’t worked. The priest replied that he couldn’t help him since it appeared his demon wasn’t Episcopalian!

You can find me, and my books, at my website

If you missed Paige’s earlier adventures stop by my Blog; the links and dates of all adventures are posted in the News column.

And, if you can’t wait for another suspenseful tale set amidst the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, may I suggest my romantic suspense novel Ring of Lies  at  The Wild Rose Press
Secrets, Lies, and Murder surround Ivy Michaels amidst the backdrop of Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
Book Trailer for Ring of Lies
A café owner and an ex-cop must solve the mystery of a hot blue diamond to catch a stone cold killer!
Excerpt )

One lucky commenter will win a pdf of Ring of Lies. Want to increase your odds of winning? You’ll get an extra entry in the prize drawing if you indicate in your comment that you’ve joined my newsletter and/or Facebook Page.

Newsletter Subscription and Facebook page.

Monday, March 28, 2011


After reading contest entries for the past month, there are a few things I've picked up about first chapters. The following are some of the mistakes you might avoid if you're submitting to a contest or an agent/editor.
  • Beginning the story  too early. Yes, you need to start the story just before the pie hits the fan, but not two years before. Try the same day as the inciting incident. That gives the reader time to become invested in the characters. Drop the reader into the middle of what's happening to the character.
  • Vagueness caused by lengthy exposition and dialogue. Establish time, a sense of place and conflict right away.
  • Non-stop action with no down time to get the character's reaction. Character reaction gives the reader time to catch their breath. 
  • Uninteresting characters. Main characters who are doing things that don't endear them to the reader, i.e. stealing, snooping, or stalking a handsome or beautiful neighbor they want to get to know. You need a "save the baby moment" early on with the hero/heroine to make them sympathetic to the reader.
  • Bad first lines. For instance, starting with a funny first line then leading into a sad death scene. The first line is the story promise. There is nothing funny about death.
  • Paragraph after paragraph of backstory. Prolonged backstory at the beginning doesn't give the reader time to get to know the character. Ever met someone new at a party who unloaded a lot of personal information on you? You couldn't get away fast enough, could you? But with friends and loved ones you will listen.Terry O'dell says that "back story should be trickled in like an IV drip, not poured in through a tube feeding." This is the way it is with characters. If readers get to know them, they will want to read some backstory but little bits sprinkled throughout the story.  You need to know your character's backstory so you can decide what their goals, motivations, conflicts (GMC) are. But the reader doesn't need to know this: they only need to know the GMC's. Providing backstory too early stops the story and removes the mystery about the characters.
  • Chapter ending with no question, foreshadowing, hook, or any reason to turn the page. If the chapter has resolved the story problem then there's no reason to read further.
What are your tips for writing good first chapters?

Friday, March 25, 2011


Angi Morgan
If you like this post, please leave a comment for Angi when you finish reading.

Angi Morgan writes “Intrigues where honor and danger collide with love.” She combines actual Texas settings with characters who are in realistic and dangerous situations. Hill Country Holdup went on sale the very night it won the RWA Golden Heart® award and is a Romantic Times Best First Series Book 2010 Nominee. Her second Harlequin Intrigue®, .38 Caliber Cover-Up, hit shelves in February. Catch Angi on her website blog, at area book signings in April, or as a regular on Facebook,, and Intrigue Authors Blog.


Undercover DEA agent Erren Rhodes was used to working alone. So the very idea of teaming up with Officer Darby O’Malley to ferret out a killer wasn’t exactly how he thought this critical mission would go. But thanks to information only the beautiful cop possessed, finding whoever was responsible for shooting Erren’s friend made Darby a valuable—and irresistible—partner. Digging into the case, though, revealed a far-reaching conspiracy…and angered all the wrong people. Now, trying to bring a killer to justice while keeping Darby safe was making Erren remember why he was better off on his own. Especially when Darby made him long to hole up together in the safe house and never let her out of his sight.


Chapter One

Alley. Lexus. Two drug dealers.

The situation read like a bad book: The Auto-frickin-biography of Erren Rhodes. He was pathetic. He would dread going through the motions of this meeting, but he was numb. Numb to the filth he dealt with on a daily basis. Numb to the filth he’d portrayed for the last six years. Numb to his filthy shell of a life.

Pike was dead and in the ground. Ambushed. Executed.

No witnesses.

Rhodes was certain no one had seen him at the funeral of his mentor, the man who had kicked his teenage years into shape. He’d stayed out of sight. He’d hung around the edges of the cemetery just like the edges of his fictional existence.

It was a dark and stormy night...blah, blah, blah. He’d laugh if it weren’t playing out in front of him like a colorized black and white film. It was time to get out of deep cover work, but not before he found Pike’s murderer. He wouldn’t let the bastard go without justice.

Unfolding his legs, he climbed from the POS rental he’d taken for the op. His first mistake. He should have insisted on something flashy like the sweet SUV at the end of the alley. Second mistake? This dark real estate. Drug deals went down at steak restaurants. Always in public places. So why was this meet for information set like a bad flick?

Backlit by the car’s headlights, two men came at him, arms extended, guns aimed at his chest. This was not the plan.

“You dudes have been watchin’ too many movies.” Yeah, he was mouthing off like a street thug--something he shouldn’t do but couldn’t help. He knew the drill and placed his hands at the back of his neck when Beavis and Butthead stepped closer. “Holdin’ the barrel sideways like that, empty casings can hit--”

“Shut up, fool.” The gold-toothed, eyebrow-pierced Butthead took another confident step closer.

Six years ago adrenaline shoved him to recklessness. Now it didn’t register. All these guys acted the same. Digging in with pond scum required a dedication he no longer had. His Dallas handler waited around the corner. Like he needed backup for this two-bit op? He could do this in his sleep.

Butthead shoved the barrel of a Magnum .357 under Rhodes' chin while patting him down.

“You don’t talk ‘til we says you talk,” the bleach-blond Beavis barked, nervously shifting from one foot to the other in front of the rental.

Nodding, despite the barrel rammed into his Adam’s apple, Rhodes let them think they were in charge. Two bad-ass-wannabes who didn’t know him from Jack. Butthead lifted Rhodes’ .38 from its shoulder harness under his Ed Hardy jacket and dropped it into his pocket. His eyes never met Rhodes’ straight on.

Flashy guns and jewelry, designer-label clothes and a Lexus. Not the ordinary run-of-the-mill street crap he’d been led to believe he’d be dealing with. Rhodes’ nostrils flared at the cloying scent of heavy French cologne floating through the smell of old garbage. Did he have the right guys? They sure seemed to know him since two barrels pointed straight toward unprotected parts he’d like to keep.

Shake it off. Nothing was wrong. He’d done this before. First-meet jitters. That was it. Yeah, that crappy feeling in the pit of his stomach had nothing to do with Beavis or Butthead and everything to do with the drive-through burritos for dinner.

“Get in the car,” Butthead demanded.

Rhodes stiffened. “No one said anything about a ride. I have the money in my backseat.” He came to conduct a small exchange of money for information. These punks were somehow connected to Pike’s murder and he was close to finding a serious lead to seal the coffin on the creep they had in custody. But that slippery grin behind the gun wasn’t the normal evil he faced every day.

These guys looked nervous, high and pre-paid...


“Do what you’re told,” Beavis yelled in a crazy-high voice.

“What’s wrong man? I got the cash.” Rhodes searched his right, hunting Dumpster locations. Butthead shoved the pistol barrel in his back again, pushing him toward the Lexus. No way was he getting in that SUV.

“Get your ass in the car.” Butthead circled the barrel of the gun in the air. “Get in!”

This op might get his blood pumping after all.

Rhodes shook his head. “What’s up, man? I’m only pickin’ up a package.” Getting in that car would be the last thing he ever did.

“You got that wrong, dipwad. You’re deliverin’ tonight,” Butthead said, hissing a laugh between clenched teeth.

Cryptic messages were not a good sign. With one step, Butthead had cut him off from his car. That sealed it. He’d been set up. What would they want with him? Or was someone trying to push him out of the picture? These guys had answers and he had lots of questions. A different dread took over his body. His mind released its hold on his tensed muscles. Everything automated, ready for a fight.

Patrol lights flashed at the end of the alley. Butthead froze. Wrong move. Spinning, Rhodes lifted his leg and let his worn-out Air Jordan knock Butthead’s gun behind the strip mall’s Dumpster.

Butthead wasn’t going down without a fight. Rhodes didn’t want to go mano-a-mano, but he threw a punch to Butthead’s chin. The man dodged, dipped his shoulder and gave a blocking tackle to make any football coach proud. Right into Rhodes’ gut.

Air whooshed from his lungs as they crashed to the ground splashing water from a pothole. Bright bits of light flashed across his briefly closed eyes. Thrusting the big goon off, he kicked out, catching the perp’s face. His shoe should have knocked the living daylights out of the goon.

Butthead sat up, spit out his gold cap and grinned.

Rhodes caught sight of Beavis’s weapon waving around, attempting to follow their rushed movements. A bullet pinged off the rental car behind him. Then Beavis dove behind the Lexus’ car door and fired a couple of rounds toward the lights.

Rhodes squinted into the blinding floodlights expecting his backup. Who was shooting? Why weren’t the cops demanding they drop their weapons?

Ricochets sent him scrambling for cover as a sudden surge of bullets peppered the broken asphalt. Beavis crawled into the Lexus, kept his head down and backed up leaving rubber in the potholes. One of the patrol cars quickly pursued him around the corner.

Rhodes couldn’t make it to his car and turned toward his alternate exit, but Butthead jumped him from behind. Even with the unknown gunmen firing shot after shot, this stupid dog wouldn’t let go of his bone--which just happened to be Rhodes’ neck.

He recoiled from Butthead’s blood-speckled face and fetid breath, but the solid pressure against his throat was making things fuzzy. With no other choice, he pushed his fingers into Butthead’s eyes. There was a growl in his ear and a rush of air into his lungs. The rapid fire around their heads had him wincing. He wanted this guy alive and talking. He wanted to stop the cops from shooting, but had little chance to catch his breath as he stumbled backwards.

“Give it up, man. It ain’t worth losing our lives,” Rhodes shouted. It really wasn’t. And right now those cops didn’t know he was one of the good guys.

Butthead pulled a switchblade, popped it open and charged. Rhodes grabbed the giant’s wrists, keeping the blade inches away. They went down a second time. Rolling over. Then back. Every rock jabbed into Rhodes’ bruised, sore body. The knife was between them. Then somehow pointing under Rhodes’ chin.

Desperate, he pushed Butthead’s hands further south. Butthead outweighed him by fifty pounds and the searing pain along his side proved that the bigger man had gained the upper hand.

“Aarrgg!” God, he was on fire. The expectation of the blade tearing his flesh again was worse than knowing he’d been double-crossed. His hands shook while he kept Butthead from twisting the handle and slicing his insides to shreds.

The blade slowly and painfully slid away.

A car window exploded above him. Butthead’s body blocked most but not all of the glass. He cringed, giving Rhodes the split-second he needed. He threw Butthead off and rolled to a crouch.

Butthead leapt to his feet. A bullet whizzed by Rhodes and hit his adversary straight where his heart should have been. A flower of blood blossomed over Butthead’s shirt and he fell to his back.

“Don’t shoot!” Rhodes threw up his hands and faced the flashing lights. He quickly brought his left arm back down to his injured side.

Another round whistled past. Son of a...who was shooting from above and behind him? The cops returned fire, leaving him caught in the dead zone. Any rookie could tell a man was down and his hands were empty. What more did they need?

He’d sort through the explanations later. Rhodes ran to Butthead and searched for his gun. He found an envelope. Maybe this was the evidence he needed.

The rented Honda hatchback was perforated with holes and lacked a passenger window, but he didn’t need to drive it far. He punched the gas, heading through the alley onto the deserted street.

Completely deserted. No Drug Enforcement Agency back-up in sight. Maybe he was the lone shooter? Just what he needed, confirmation he was on his own. But his priority was to stay alive.

He pressed the pedal to the floor, turning several corners to evade anyone following. The only thing he’d done right was stash his Suzuki four blocks away. He ditched the rental in a parking garage and avoided cameras on his way out of the building.

Up to his neck in alligators. Totally on his own. His gut told him not to follow protocol, ditch everything familiar. Someone wanted him to lay off Pike’s case. His stomach rolled and his side throbbed. He reached down and a warm stickiness oozed through a jagged hole.

“Man, he ruined my favorite Ozzy shirt.”

Pulling the lock from the wheel of his cycle, he straddled the bike and tore open the envelope. Inside was a photo of Pike with an unknown man. On the reverse was a hand-drawn map, some scribbles and instructions from his mentor for a meeting that should have happened three days ago.
Things were getting more dangerous by the minute.

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 Angi's books may be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and eHarlequin .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


John Vorhaus
We're welcoming back John Vorhaus. You may remember he was one of the first guests on our blog.
John Vorhaus  is the man who brought Radar Hoverlander – con artist extraordinaire – to life in the “sunshine noir” mystery novel, The California Roll, and its  sequel, The Albuquerque Turkey.
Author of a dozen books including Creatitvity Rules! A Writer's Notebook, he is also well known for The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You're Not. This seminal book on writing comedy for television and film is now in its fifth printing, and continues to be a definitive source of information and inspiration for writers from Santa Monica to Scandinavia.An international consultant in television and film script development, John has worked for television networks, film schools, production companies and film funding bodies in 26 countries on four continents. He recently worked in Moscow, running the writing staff of the Russian version of Married… with Children, and in Tel Aviv, consulting on the Israeli version of The Golden Girls. He travels regularly to Nicaragua, where he builds social-action comedy/dramas to provide positive role modeling for the poor, young and disenfranchised of that embattled country.
A graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University and a member of the Writers Guild of America, he has been a consultant to Walt Disney Feature Animation and taught at such institutions as Northwestern University, the American Film Institute and the Writers Program of the UCLA Extension.  He is giving us a full chapter of his newest book  which is being launched this week.

The Albuquerque Turkey

By John Vorhaus.

Chapter One
It all started with a dog, a biggish one loping down the sidewalk with that weird canter that some dogs have, the front legs syncopating and the rear legs slewing sidewise in tandem. He must’ve been running from something specific, because even while scampering forward he looked back, which resulted in him not seeing, and therefore barreling into, me. He hit me square in the knees and knocked me to the ground. This startled us equally, and for a second we both sat still, locked eye to eye down there at dog level.

I vibe dogs. I do. Or let’s say that I prize them: their unconditional love is a love you can trust. I’d rolled with one or two in my time, but the highly migratory life of a con artist didn’t really lend itself to long-term canine commitments, so I mostly just admired dogs from afar. Up close, this one was tough to admire, a mixed bag of black Lab and unknown provenance. One ear stood up like a German shepherd’s. The other… wasn’t there. Looking at the bitten-off stub, I couldn’t help wondering how a dog’s ear tastes to another dog. He bore other wounds as well, evidence of many fights – maybe not fair fights, for I thought I detected a human hand in some of his scars and mars. I saw it also in his eyes. He feared me. That made me sad. I reached out a hand to comfort him, and he flipped over in submission position, manifesting what every dog dreads and hopes when it submits: dread that it will be kicked; hope it’ll be scratched. I opted to scratch, and immediately made a (man’s best) friend.

“Get up, boy,” I said as I stood. “I’m not the boss of you.” The dog – in my mind I was already calling him Boy – obediently rose to his feet. I didn’t know if he was that well trained or just felt like following my lead. He wore no collar, only a weathered, knotted rope that trailed away to a frayed end. Something told me this was a dog in transition, and that whoever had been the boss of him was boss no more. Probably if I wanted to I could keep him, the thought of which tickled me. I pictured me presenting him to my girlfriend, Allie, who had lately shown such determination that we be normal. “Look what followed me home,” I’d tell her. “Can we keep it?” If that didn’t say normal, I don’t know what would.

First, though, there was the matter of making sure I was right. I mean, I couldn’t just kidnap him – dognap him – so I started back in the direction he’d come, determined to take a stab, at least, at finding his owner. The dog cowered, reluctant to follow. “It’s okay,” I said, “I got your back.” He still wouldn’t budge, so I knelt, rubbed his grizzled muzzle for a moment, then took the scraggly end of the rope and walked him down the street. I could tell he still wasn’t too keen on the idea, but now he was a dog on a leash, and they have no free will.

I had just turned the corner when I heard the first shouts.

I thought they came from the courtyard of some garden apartments just down the street, but with the way the sound bounced around off those Santa Fe adobe walls, I couldn’t be sure. There was a pickup truck parked in front of the courtyard, and its whole grungy aspect seemed linked to the courtyard noises. Bald tires, primer spots and dents, cracked windshield; a trailer trash ride, or I’m no judge of trucks. The tailgate was missing, and I could see in the cargo bed a litter of empty cans, both beer and oil, plus fast food wrappers and crumpled cigarette packs.

And, tethered to a tie-down, a severed rope, mate to the noose around Boy’s neck.

Boy recognized the truck. He whimpered fearfully as we approached, causing a picture to form in my mind: Enraged driver pulls up to the curb, anger burning so hot that he upsets his dog, who strains against his restraint – and snaps the tired line! Dog is off and running, but driver doesn’t care. All his anger’s focused on whoever’s in that courtyard.

More shouts now, and I could hear two voices, no, three: a man and a woman exchanging heated words, and a little girl playing hapless and ineffectual peacemaker. To me it added up to domestic dispute.

Boy wanted to leave and, boy, so did I. After all, there’s two kinds of problems in this world, right? My problem and not my problem. But there was a lot going on in my head. There was Allie’s need for the two of us to be citizens (and did not, in some sense, citizen equal Samaritan?) and also Boy, for if I left things like they were, he’d likely end up tied back up in that truck, the thought of which grieved me deeply. The kicker was the little girl’s voice. I could see the black hole of human trauma forming in the center of her universe. I knew that Allie came from such a troubled vortex, where mom and dad never got along and routinely inflicted horrible damage on anyone within range. I couldn’t go back in time and salve Allie’s pain. It was likewise probably too late to save the little girl from hers – these things start young – but maybe I could douse the present blaze.

And just perhaps talk my way into a dog.

I moved toward the courtyard.

 Boy resisted, but I patted his head in reassurance, trying to communicate that whatever I planned to sell, it wasn’t him out. I guess I got my point across, for he fell more comfortably in step beside me. I paused to gather myself before entering the courtyard. I didn’t know what, specifically, I was about to walk into, but it didn’t much matter. A top grifter gets good at improvising successfully across a wide variety of situations.

Even ones with guns.

I didn’t see the gun at first, just the man at the base of a short set of steps, looking dirty as his pickup truck in tired jeans and sneakers, a stained tank top, and a polyester cap with some kind of racing logo. The woman stood on the top step with the girl tucked in behind her. They wore matching mother/daughter flower print shifts. In other circumstances you’d say they looked cute. Now they just looked scared, but the mother was playing the defiance card hard – a card I could tell she didn’t really hold, but that’s what they call bluffing.

“Andy, now, clear out,” she said. “You know you’re not allowed here. The judge – ”

“Screw the judge,” said Andy. “I want Sophie. I want my little girl.”

“No, Andy. Not when you’ve been drinking and God knows what else.”

“Oh, and you’re such a saint?” Andy practically vibrated with rage.

“That’s not the point. I have custody.” The way she said custody damn near broke my heart. Like it had magic power, but I knew it would cast the opposite spell.

It did. It brought the gun up, a Browning MK II Hi Power. Some of them have hair triggers. Andy leveled it at – as I gathered from context – his ex-wife and child. “Sophie,” Andy told the girl, his voice gone cold, “go get in the truck. I swear if you don’t, I’ll shoot you both right now.”

The moment froze. I was afraid to speak. I didn’t want to spook Andy, not while he had the gun up. I guess Boy felt the same way. I could sense him repressing a growl. Then… the girl moved. She disengaged herself from her mother’s clutching hands and edged warily down the stairs. I knew what she was walking into, could foresee it in an instant. Let’s say she survived the next hour, day, week, month, year. Let’s say she made it all the way into womanhood. Where would that find her? Turning tricks at a truck stop? Up in some spike house with a needle in her arm? Living with a man who beat her just like daddy did? Talk about your human sacrifice. It may have been the bravest thing I’d ever seen in my life.

I couldn’t let it stand.

“Hey, mister,” I piped up, applying my most innocent bystander gloss, “do you know whose dog this is?” Three heads swiveled toward me. The gun swiveled, too, but I ignored it, for part of running a good con is shaping the reality around you. Or denying it, as the case may be. By disregarding the gun, I momentarily neutralized it, for what kind of fool doesn’t see the obvious? It’s destabilizing to people. They don’t know how to react, so mostly they just do nothing, which buys you some time to make your next move. At that point I don’t know if I felt supremely courageous or just dumb-ass dumb. Both, probably. But one thing you learn on the razzle is that once a con starts, the worst thing you can do is break it off. Then you’re just twisting in the wind. “Because, um, I found her down the street and she seems to be lost.”

“Ain’t a she,” said Andy.

“No? I didn’t look.” I bent down to check out Boy’s underside. “Hey, you’re right, it’s a boy. Anyway, used to be.” I smiled broadly and started walking Boy forward.

Andy aimed the gun. “Stop,” he said.

“Oh, look, I’m not trying to get in the middle of a thing here. I’m just trying to return this dog. Is he yours?”

“Just let him go.”

Well, I thought I knew what would happen if I did that. Boy would take off running, and probably none of us would ever see him again. I weighed my own selfishness – I wanted that dog – against his need and safety, and dropped the rope. Boy surprised me. He plopped down at my feet, content, apparently, to let me run the show to whatever outcome I could achieve. You gotta love that about dogs. When they trust you, they trust you all the way.

“Now clear out,” said Andy.

Here’s where my play got dicey. Make or break time. “Hang on,” I said, bleeding avid enthusiasm into my voice. “What kind of gun is that?”


“Because it looks like a 1980s Hi Power. Is it?”

“The hell should I know?”

I squinted at the gun, straining to see detail, which I didn’t really need to do, since one of the many things you learn about in my line of work is guns, in detail. “Ambidextrous thumb safeties, nylon grip, three-dot sights. Yep, that’s a Mark II. Bet it’s got the throated barrel and everything.”

“Get the hell out of here.”

“The thing is,” I said, “I’m kind of a collector. Any chance I could buy it off you?” This was the heart of my play, based explicitly on what the mother had said about drinking and God knows what else. I knew what else. Crank. Crystal meth. I could see it in Andy’s dilated pupils, his scrunge-brown teeth, and his generally tweaky demeanor. A guy like that’s not likely to be long on cash, and addiction is a voice that never shuts up. He might could want to quell it for a while. Very slowly, again not to spook him, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my bankroll.

Funny. For someone complicit with Allie in getting off the razzle, I still kept my cash in a grifter’s roll, big bills out the outside, small bills within. I held the roll lengthwise, between my thumb and first finger, so that Andy could see its Ben Franklin veneer. “I think I have a grand here,” I lied easily. “If that’s not enough, we could hit my ATM.”

Andy licked his lips, imperfectly processing my offer. “Maybe I’ll just take it,” he said.

Oops. I hadn’t considered that. “Sure, yeah, whatever,” I vamped. “You could do that. But what kind of example does that set for your little girl?” This was pure bafflegab – nonsense – and I knew it, but that didn’t halt my improv. “Look,” I continued, “like I said, I’m not trying to get in the middle of a thing, but it looks like you guys have a problem. If you take my money by force, the problem gets worse. If you start shooting, it gets way worse, right?” I looked at the mother for confirmation, silently encouraging her to nod, which she did. “On the other hand, you sell me your gun, you’ve got a little scratch, you can take your girl out for ice cream, come back later, everybody’s calm, you can all work out your business.” I knew he’d take "take your girl out for ice cream" to mean "go score," and hoped his need was such that he’d opt for the line of least resistance.

He seemed to be leaning that way. I could see him mentally converting a thousand dollars into chunks of scud. “What’s in it for you?” he asked.

“I told you, I’m a collector. I’ve got the Mark I and the Mark III, but the Mark II, boy, those are rare.” (Well, measured in millions.) I dared a step forward, arm outstretched, dangling my bankroll like bait.

“What do you say? Deal?”

The ladies and I held our breath. Maybe Boy did, too.

“I’m keeping the bullets,” said Andy at last.

“That’s fine,” I said. “Who collects bullets?”

Then, so slowly it made my teeth ache, Andy lowered the gun, pressed the slide release, and dropped the magazine into his hand. Still manifesting my goofy enthusiasm, I strode over and made the exchange, then stepped back quickly before he could change his mind. “Oh, man,” I said, “wait’ll the guys in the gun club see this.”

The next sound you hear will be Andy saying, “What the fuck?” when he finds out what a grifter’s roll is.

“What the fuck?” said Andy. He threw down the roll and took a menacing step toward me.

“Funny thing, though,” I said, raising the gun, “didn’t you chamber a round?” Andy stopped. I let my voice go hard. “Go on, get out of here.” He turned back to grab Sophie, but, “Oh, no,” I said. “No.” Then he looked at his dog. “Not him, either,” I said. “Get.”

Andy got.

Was there a round in the chamber? Did it matter? You can bluff with the best hand, too.

The truck rumbled off. I’d memorized the license plate, and would soon be dropping a dime, for there’s no way that guy wasn’t holding. Meantime, I encouraged Sophie and her mother to clear out to a shelter somewhere, which they thought was a pretty damn good idea. We agreed that Boy would stay with me.

So happy ending, right? Sure, except for one thing. Completely unbeknownst to us, someone in one of the adjacent apartments had cell-phone videoed the whole thing through a window. It was on YouTube by dusk.

It didn’t really matter that thousands of people saw Radar Hoverlander in action.

But it sure as hell mattered that one person did.

Okay, folks, there you go. You know what they say, "The first taste is free." I sure hope you like it enough to want to read the rest, and I'd love to hear from you if you do.

The Albuquerque Turkey Official Video

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Monday, March 21, 2011


Anne Gracie
Anne Gracie is an Australian author of twelve Regency Historical Romance Novels, so she knows  a few things about the period. She is a world traveler,and a teacher. She says while she teaches various subjects, the most rewarding aspect is teaching adults to read and write. She has been doing this most of her life, in a voluntary capacity as well as in her job. She blogs regularly for the Word Wenches. Anne and the other wenches have graciously agreed to share the following post with this audience. If you like this post, please let us know by leaving a comment when you finish reading.

Ask A Wench: Writing a Series

by Anne Gracie

This question for Ask A Wench  came from Cynthia Owens. Cynthia said:
I'm wondering about authors who write a series of books. Do they have all the stories and characters mapped out in advance? What about the characters' back stories? I would think it would be very difficult sometimes to keep all the potential heroes straight.

 Patricia Rice said: See me laughing hysterically! Map out? Moi?
I started the Magic series with two strong characters I knew intimately. I knew they had families with similar idiosyncrasies--the women had psychic gifts and the men were logical. Does that constitute mapping out?

Personalities developed as I wrote. Back story wove itself from their personalities. And at some point I had to start keep tracking of what I'd said about whom and when. Each hero developed full-fledged characters and stories when I wrote their books, using the pieces I'd hinted at earlier. That's about all the planning my pea brain allows!

Cara Elliott said: Map out characters and stories in advance? The very thought sends shivers of horror quaking down my fingertips. The pencil slips . . . the keyboard slides . . . the page and screen ripple with an ominous blankness . . .
In all seriousness, I am one of those authors who writes in what I call the “magpie” style-that is, I see these lovely, shiny little bits of ideas and madly gather them up. Then once I have them lined up in my nest, I have to decide how to turn them into more than gaudy little baubles!

I usually have a very specific opening scene in mind (the bauble) And then work out a vague concept of the whole story and what motivates the hero and heroine. From there . . . well, things just happen. And for me that's part of the magic of creating stories. The plot and the characters take shape as I go along. When I do a series, (and I've only done trilogies) I will decide on the three main characters and the hero/heroine's “match” for the first story. The second and third story is usually not even an idea yet, as I need to wait and see how the secondary characters grow, and what personalities they develop.

Seriously, I really don't know who they are until they start doing things on the page. They often surprise me. I've had a very minor character step up and turn out to be the hero of a future book when I never imagined he would play more than a bit part. But as I said, that's the fun for me. My brain simply doesn't work in a way where I can carefully draft out a whole book or-heaven forbid-a whole series. My editor knows by now that my rough outlines are done more for mirth than for any useful information.

Mary Jo Putney said this:

There may be writers who have everything mapped out in advance, but I'm not one of them.  Generally I start with a defined group, but interesting characters wonder on the stage and I don't want to let them go.
For example, in my last book (Never Less Than a Lady) I wanted my heroine to meet a man she'd met before, Will Masterson, but Will was an army officer in Spain and she wasn't likely to run into him in Edinburgh. So I invented a much less respectable and far less legitimate half-brother to startle Julia. I liked him so much that he's the hero of my next book, Nowhere Near Respectable.

This happens to me regularly. So far, I haven't had much trouble keeping my characters straight since to me, they're very real and very distinct. But someday I might hit the tipping point and have to start some more organized way of keeping track!

Nicola Cornick said:I'm getting better at planning a series in advance but I'm still not exactly organised! When I first started writing it wasn't unknown that I would write a stand alone book and only when it was finished would I decide I'd like to write a story for the secondary characters. My editor got pretty fed up with that.

These days I do at least start off with a group of characters and a theme that binds them all together. For my Scandalous Women of the Ton series I knew who the first three heroines would be and I knew that the series was all about women who did not fit the mores of the time, whether it was because they travelled or worked for a living or had five husbands! But I'm never going to be the sort of writer who has it all planned in advance, and to be honest I enjoy it when characters develop and demand their own story, and when new ideas come along and I go off at a tangent!

Jo Beverley said: Like Mary Jo, I don't plot out a series. Heck, I barely plot out a book! I've done series from the beginning, however. I adored Georgette Heyer and re-read her books all the time, and it frustrated me that there are so few links between the books. These people were moving in a small world and should know one another.

So, in my first books, the traditional Regencies, I wove from story to story with fairly loose connections.
This instinct (or is it an addiction?) goes back, because when writing my first Company of Rogues book in 1977 I created a group of friends for Nicholas because he needed them. But almost immediately realized I could write stories about the rest. That took another decade because of kids and life stuff like that, and completing the main series took another 15 years or more. Those original guys are some of my oldest friends.

A few years after publishing the first Rogues book, my Georgian family series came to live in my head, based on a more traditional form -- a family. Having a perverse streak, I kicked the norm by starting with the youngest and saving the oldest, Rothgar, for last.

As for keeping track, Heyer had more sense than me. It's hard work, especially with so many books in each World. I'm going to write more about this whole subject in my Friday blog.

Joanna Bourne said: What's written in the pages of any book is only part of the whole story. There's worlds of delving and spinning, working and loving going on outside the scenes that land in Chapters One to Thirty-two. I think we all feel these stories buzzing and nudging at the edges of books, begging to be told.

It happens like this . . . I'll be writing along and I get interested in a minor character. What shapes him? What's his family? What happens to him after the Happily Ever After?

Before you can say 'sequel bait', I start seeing the secondary character doing absolutely fascinating stuff. And it's pop goes the weasel and there's the next manuscript.
I didn't actually plan to write a series. I sort of fell into it.

Anne here again. Fascinating how similar we are, isn't it? However, there is no one way to approach a series; some writers I know of do plot out a series with spreadsheets and all manner of tracking devices. We just aren't them.
My first editor at Mills and Boon wasn't interested in me writing series, even though some minor characters called to me, but when I sold The Perfect Rake to Berkley, my editor there simply assumed it was the first book in a series. That hadn't even occurred to me, so like Joanna, I fell into it.
However even though I now try to plan out a series, I'm not good at keeping to the plan— so far I've written a four book trilogy, and a five book quartet, which (fingers crossed) might even run to six books.
The Accidental Wedding wasn't supposed to be part of the series I'm currently writing. The story just came to me, and it wasn't about the hero I'd planned to write about next, but a brother of one of the four, who was supposed to be a minor character. Luckily my editor liked the sound of it and gave me the go-ahead to write it.

It's not hard to keep the heroes straight because they all have different characters and different stories when they first come to me. For me, a harder thing is finding them the right heroine. And to have the heroes-in-waiting not upstaging the hero of the current book.

As for backstory, etc, a character springs to life in my mind (often quite insistently) and a story starts spinning, and I find myself asking questions about who s/he is and why does s/he think like that. Asking myself the right questions reveals more and more about them. It's a bit like archeology — it's all there, somewhere in my brain, but I discover it in the writing.

So there you are, probably more than you wanted to know about how we wenches approach the writing of a series. Thanks to all who contributed their thoughts.

My question to you is, what do you like best (or least) about series, and do you have any special favorites? What's a series book that hasn't been written that you would love to see written? (I want Eric's story from Elizabeth Lowell - and yes I know she wrote about his descendant but it's not the same!)

To read an excerpt of  Anne Gracie's book go to The Accidental Wedding

For more information about the Word Wenches and their books go to You can click through to each author's website.


Friday, March 18, 2011


Ann Charles
If you like this excerpt, leave a comment when you finish with your email address for a chance to win a copy of the e-book.

 It is our pleasure to feature Ann Charles and her new book to our blog.
Ann, a graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in English resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, children, and a sassy cat. She has written six mystery novels as well as literary and non-fiction.

What Others Are Saying About Her Book
"This gem has a bit of everything...mystery, romance, comedy, suspense, and even a bit of the paranormal. Ann Charles has a winner in Violet Parker. I have a new favorite author in the mystery genre! ***** FIVE STARS!" ~Huntress Reviews

"Watch out Stephanie Plum, because Violet Parker is coming your way." ~Deborah Schneider, RWA Librarian of the Year 2009; author of Promise Me.
 "It's no wonder Nearly Departed in Deadwood won the best overall book for the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense!" ~Susan Schreyer, author Death By A Dark Horse

"Nearly Departed in Deadwood is a delightful mix of on the edge suspense and laugh-out-loud humor. Ann Charles is a star in the making!" ~Gerri Russell, award-winning author of Seducing the Knight

* * *
Back Cover Blurb:
The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.--Violet Parker

 Irony is having a big ol' fiesta and Violet Parker is the piñata. Little girls are vanishing from Deadwood, South Dakota, and Violet's daughter could be next. Short on time and long on worry, she's desperate to find the monster behind the abductions. But with her jerkoff co-worker trying to get her fired, a secret admirer sending creepy love poems, and a sexy-as-hell stranger hiding skeletons in his closet, Violet just might end up as one of Deadwood's dearly departed.

Scene set up:
Characters—Violet Parker and her best friend, Natalie

Setting—Violet’s desk at her office, Calamity Jane Realty

I groaned and leaned back in my chair. “I’m so screwed.”

Natalie nudged the sweating coffee toward me. “Have a hit of caffeine. It will make it all better.”

I took a drink. Icy sweet. “Yum, caramel. I owe you one.”

“No, you owe me five.” Natalie stretched out her long, bronzed legs and crossed them at the ankles. Her cutoff jean shorts, tennis shoes, and dirt-smudged tank top were typical for a pavement-sizzling summer day. “I got your message. How can I help?”

There were five people I could lean on when life kept smacking me with a flyswatter. There was Aunt Zoe, but she had already done too much; and Quint, my older brother, but he was somewhere in the Great White North taking pictures of polar bears and snow; and my parents, who were vacationing in Maine until the end of the month. That left Natalie, the sister that my real sister was too busy to be.

“I have a house to flip.” I took another swig of caffeinated courage before diving into my request. “But it needs some serious work. The kind involving the tools that you carry around in the back of your pickup.”

Natalie spent most of the year playing caretaker at a popular resort just south of town.

I leaned forward. “I’ve called every contractor and handyman in the area. Only one guy could fit me in, but I would’ve had to sell some naked pictures to Playboy to afford him, and I know how you feel about your privacy.”

She grinned. “How long do you think this will take?”

“A couple of weeks.” Or more. I crossed my toes since she could see my fingers. “I’ll give you half of my half of the commission.”

Natalie stroked her chin. “Forget the money. Make it one favor owed—no questions asked.”


“When do I start? This afternoon?”

“Sure, but aren’t you going out with Mr. Clean tonight?” Natalie’s current boyfriend was draped with muscles, had a shaved head and a hoop earring.

“No. Mr. Clean cheated on me with some face-pierced whore with a tramp stamp.”

I grimaced. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. He was just another in the long line of losers I keep winding up without. I swear to you, he’s the last one. I’m taking a year sabbatical from men.”

“Me, too.”

“No, your year is over.”

The absolute tone in her statement made me blink. “What do you mean?”

“I found the perfect guy for you.”

“You mean he likes poor, desperate, chubby mothers who mooch off their friends and families?”

“You’re not chubby.”

“Okay, flabby.”

“Either put up the cash for a tummy tuck or shush up.” Natalie’s grin took the sting out of her words. “Anyway, you’ll love him. He collects Star Trek stuff.”

Ever since I wore pigtails on a daily basis, I’d had a crush on James Tiberius Kirk. Natalie had always confused my adoration for Captain Hottie for an all-things-Trekkie passion. Big difference.

I shook my head. “No blind dates. You know what happened last time.”

“How was I to know he had that open sore?”

Just the memory of it made me want to scald my hands clean. “Nat, you know I’m not interested in a relationship right now.”

“Who cares about relationships? I’m talking sex here. You need something to take the edge off.”

“That’s what yoga is for.” Not that I did that anymore. Lately, my morning sun-salute ritual involved a middle finger and several curse words as I fumbled for my sunglasses.

“Yoga is for a different set of muscles.”

“Why are you pushing me on this?”

“I want you to stick around town.”

“You think me going out with this guy will accomplish that?”

“No, but helping you find the one will. We have to start somewhere.”

She didn’t get that there was no “one” in my life, only “two,” and they didn’t leave me much time for sex. “No. Absolutely not.”

“You owe me a favor, remember.”

I could tell by the firm set of her lips that I’d have better luck stapling pudding to a wall than winning this battle. “Fine. Give the guy my cell number and have him call me.”

“I will, but I think he’s leaving soon for some comic book convention, or something along those lines, so don’t expect him to call right away.”

Never would be too soon.

You can purchase Ann's books at the following locations:


Barnes & Noble


It’s also available online at Borders, Diesel eBook Store, Sony Reader eBook store, and others locations. Just type in Nearly Departed in Deadwood, and you’ll find it.
Contact Ann at
Ann is donating an ebook copy of her book to one lucky winner, so don't forget to leave a comment. And thank you for stopping by.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday Around The Web

9 Ways to Find the Time to Write

You know what I’m talking about.

The number of hours a writer can waste on the Internet would make even the most hardened geek’s blood run cold.

Here’s my #1 tip to getting work done, the one that carves out time in my schedule every blessed day so my clients don’t gang up on me and appear at my door waving fistfuls of precious manuscript in righteous indignation over their heads.

You know that little doohicky with the floppy ears that plugs the blogosphere, Facegook, and Twitter into your computer like a cable plugging the Matrix into the back of your neck?

Reach right over and yank that sucker out.

Want More? Go to

Which Jane Austen Character are you?
Take the quiz.
I am Elizabeth Bennet!



Video From Writers League of Texas Workshop- Kirkus media Reviews.

Monday, March 14, 2011


"We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin.

This incredibly important concept is one of the keys to creating authentic characters . Understanding the very different world view of a character's type can make an tremendous difference in defining every thing a character does right down to his dialogue or the road he takes in a story.

A character’s world view is how the character believes the world works, his or her perceived role in the world, the character’s philosophy of life and love and a definition of what constitutes a personal goal worth pursuing.

 But a character's personality  is said to be  composed of a psychological set of three.  These are: the character’s immediate tactics, long-term orientation, and strategic approach. In a recent workshop, John Foxjohn explained Immediate Tactics in this way: "how a character viscerally reacts to an unexpected challenge, opportunity or threat."  Immediate tactics are where the character goes first emotionally. These tactics are a character’s automatic responses when startled or caught off-guard.

A character's long-term orientation is the character's  ordinary actions based on his or her belief system and personal values. This orientation  defines what a character does based on how he or she views the world, and how he believes the world works.

 It is impossible for a character to act inconsistently with how the character sees him or herself. Lori Wilde says in her excellent workshop that a character's world view is exhibited over and over in his or her dialogue.
 Examples are:
  • A Power of Truth character believes the world is full of hidden pitfalls and secret agendas. 
  • A Power of Excitement character sees the world as as a grand playground filled with unlimited opportunities.
  • A Power of Conscience character sees the world as a moral proving ground. 
  • A Power of Ambition character sees the world as a ladder of status, success and achievement.
  • A Power of Idealism character sees the world a canvass on which to make a personal mark, unique statement or work of art. 
  • A Power of Imagination character sees the world as an opportunity to collaborate and build a community with others.
  • A Power of Reason character sees the world as a logical puzzle to be solved with intelligence and factual expertise.
  • A Power of Love character sees the world as an opportunity to love and be loved.
  • A Power of Will character simply sees the world as a battle ground or jungle divided into predators and prey.
Each of these Character Types will react very differently to any challenge, opportunity or threat that comes across their path. which is a character's strategic approach.

This is how a character takes charge to achieve a goal over the long-term. It is how he tackles obstacles and gets what he wants or desires.

Everything the character does, says, and believes is all bound up in who he is inside and how he views the world outside.

If you liked this post,  share your thoughts and add your expertise. We'd like to hear from you.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Hot Lights, Cold Steel--A Dub Walker Thriller

by DP Lyle, MD
When forensic and criminal behavior expert Dub Walker agrees to help his old friend locate her nineteen-year-old daughter, he never imagines the nightmare that will follow.

Along with another young woman’s, the teen’s body is found in a densely wooded area in a shallow grave, excavated by a pack of feral pigs. But that’s not the most disturbing part. Both young ladies were buried after undergoing a series of highly technical surgical procedures.

And that’s just the beginning. Nearly two dozen more bodies are discovered in various rural locations around the city and even in the massive midtown public cemetery.

Now Dub must unravel the questions. Who would do this? Who had the skill and the equipment to perform these procedures without attracting attention? And more importantly, why?

This was going to be totally cool. Dead bodies. Carmelita had never seen one, much less two. Would they be gross? Smell bad? She’d heard that they smelled like rotting eggs. What if she threw up? How embarrassing. Still, she’d have a great story to tell. And a ring to show off.

She had been scheduled to work until 1:00 a.m., but this was definitely worth dumping a couple of hours. Besides, it wasn’t that busy, and the tips had been lousy. Some nights were just that way. Maybe if this had been a payday Friday, she’d have stayed, but a dead Wednesday? No contest.

Before leaving the club, she changed into jeans and a red T-shirt with a yellow Ferrari logo on the front and told her friend Madison where she was going. Tried to recruit her to come along. Do a double. Both make some cash. But, as usual, Madison balked. She never joined Carmelita on her escapades. Madison called them “sexcapades.” Whatever. Of course, she always wanted to hear all the dirty details the next day.

Now Carmelita sat in the cab of a pickup between Eddie and his friend Alejandro, who drove. She had seen Alejandro at the club before. Usually with Eddie. Where Eddie was young and soft, Alejandro looked hard and tough. Didn’t smile, didn’t say a word when Eddie introduced them. Just looked at her with contempt in his eyes.

She wished Madison was here. Maybe she could’ve warmed the dude up.

First stop, a liquor store. She and Eddie picked up two six-packs of beer and a pint of Jack Daniel’s. In the well-lit store, she saw Eddie clearly for the first time. He was even more handsome than he had seemed in the dark club. Dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and a pleasant smile. She’d screwed worse. A lot worse. For a lot less. Best of all, he was naïve, and if she worked it right, she could double the two hundred he had promised.

Back in the truck, Carmelita swigged her beer and giggled as Eddie ran his hand up her thigh, squeezing firmly. “How far is it?” she asked.

“Just a few miles to my place.” He dropped an empty beer bottle in the bag and pulled out a fresh one, twisting off the cap.

“Your place? What about the bodies?” She pushed his hand away. “You promised.”

Eddie smiled. “We’re going. After Alejandro drops us off, we’ll take my truck.”

She stared at Alejandro. His dark eyes and set jaw made her uncomfortable. Vein-roped arms and scarred knuckles gripped the steering wheel. “You’re not coming with us?”

“No.” He gulped a shot from the whiskey bottle.

Eddie laughed. “Alejandro’s seen enough bodies, haven’t you?”

Alejandro didn’t respond. He pulled a Marlboro from the pack in his shirt pocket and lit it with a Zippo. He clicked the lighter closed and tossed it on the dash as he turned off University on to Jeff Road and headed north. They quickly left civilization behind and were now on a country road, passing only an occasional farmhouse.

She looked at Alejandro. “You a hit man, too?”

Alejandro’s eyes narrowed, but his gaze never left the road. “You ask too many questions.”
Carmelita inched toward Eddie, breaking the contact of her leg with Alejandro’s. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to be friendly.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Eddie said. “Alejandro don’t talk much.”

Alejandro offered a faint grunt and took another swig of whiskey. He wedged the open pint between his legs and flicked ashes out the window. They swirled like fireflies before fading into the darkness.

She glanced out the window and then over her shoulder. Nothing. Not a single car light. No sign of anyone.

They turned onto a rutted road, the truck’s headlamps gyrating wildly as they bounced along. They passed a faded sign that read Sunnyvale Trailer Park and wound through a collection of thirty to forty weather-beaten mobile homes that were arrayed along the dusty, serpentine loop. She saw that most had been permanently embedded in the soil while others balanced on dry-rotted tires.

Televisions flickered through the windows of a couple of the trailers near the entrance, but near the rear of the park everything was dark and quiet. As if no one lived back here. Beyond the park? Nothing.

Carmelita been so busy drinking beer and talking with Eddie that she hadn’t noticed just how far into the country they had driven. Or what roads they had taken. She began to feel alone and vulnerable. Her heart thumped harder, and her palms moistened.

“Doesn’t look like anyone lives here,” she said.

“I do,” Eddie said. “Just ahead.”

What have I gotten myself into? These men were killers. Eddie told her so. What was to stop them from raping her, killing her, dumping her out where no one would ever find her? Her throat felt dry. She tried to swallow, couldn’t, and took a drink of beer. It seemed bitter now. “I should go back.”

“What are you talking about?” Eddie asked.

“I’m tired. I don’t feel well.”

She noticed Alejandro cock his head toward her before she looked into Eddie’s face. He smiled. Seemed so innocent. Was he?

“Relax. We’ll have some fun, you’ll see the bodies, and then I’ll take you back.” Eddie squeezed her thigh. “You’ll see.

D. P. Lyle, MD is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar® Award nominated author of the non-fiction books, MURDER & MAYHEM, FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES, FORENSICS & FICTION, and HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS as well as the thrillers, DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, DOUBLE BLIND, and STRESS FRACTURE, the first in his new Dub Walker Series. His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS. His next Dub Walker novel, HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL, and the first of his Royal Pains tie-in novels, ROYAL PAINS: FIRST, DO NO HARM, will be released June, 2011.
He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, and The Glades.



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