Monday, January 30, 2012

Kaki Warner-Naturally I Had To Look It Up!

It's our pleasure to welcome former Texas native Kaki Warner to our blog. In between her years as a mother, teacher, commercial artist, reluctant collection agent and surly secretary, Kaki fooled around with writing. Then, in 2008, after twenty-five years of procrastination, she sent her first (and only) manuscript out into world. That book, PIECES OF SKY, was published by Berkley in January 2010. Today, she has five books in print, a RITA on her mantle, and two RITA Finalist pins on her collar. But here’s the thing; all this wonderfulness happened AFTER she went on Social Security. (Some of us are just late bloomers, apparently). So take a note from her. Never give up. Ever.
Today, although they’ll always be Texans at heart (and proud graduates of UT), she and her husband are happily retired on a mountaintop in Washington doing whatever they feel like doing—which in her case is writing, enjoying the wildlife, and watching her husband do the cooking for a change. Kaki is very generously giving a copy of COLORADA DAWN to one lucky commenter. So sorry but this is for US residents only.

Thanks, Ruby, for inviting me to share with you the exciting world of research.

Actually, it can be a pain. Especially if you’re up against a deadline and are easily distracted.
There I was, doing research for the Blood Rose Trilogy (about 3 brothers struggling to save their ranch in New Mexico during the 1870s), reading up on pepperbox pistols versus double derringers when an odd word caught my eye. Epizootic. Hmmm…

I remembered my grandmother used that word to scare us kids away from something we were about to touch, eat, drink, poke at with a stick, or whatever. “Ya’ll quit that,” she’d yell out the screen door. “That thing’ll give you the epizootic.” At the time, I thought it was some sort of digestive disturbance—the word just has that kind of sound, doesn’t it?

Naturally, I had to look it up.

Not only is there such a word (any rapidly spreading ailment that strikes a single species), there was also something called The Great Epizootic of 1872, which struck only horses. Ga-zillions of them. So many that the entire transportation system of the US was brought to a standstill. Cargo ships went unloaded, deliveries stopped, locomotives ran out of coal, fires when unchecked without horses to pull the water wagons, and out West, Indian wars were fought on foot. By the time the epidemic ended, four million horses were dead, with urban areas being the hardest hit because of overcrowding in downtown horse hotels. Wait. Horse hotels? Hmmm…

Naturally, I had to look it up.

Four stories or more, with an outside ramp up to each level, where open stalls stood side by side. Having raised horses, I can promise they’re the most inefficient food processors on the planet. Feed a flake of hay, shovel twice that in residuals. I won’t even mention the flies or stink. I’d think they’d have to build a slaughterhouse next door just to sweeten the air. And did they stall mares next to stallions? If so, how did they keep unwanted fraternization from taking place after lights out? It isn’t like they had floor monitors passing out horse condoms. Or did they? Hmmm…

Naturally, I had to look that up, too.

No, they didn’t have floor monitors or horse condoms. But they did have human condoms, patented in 1844 by Charles Goodyear and marketed a few years later as Dr. Power’s French Preventatives. And they were actually made of vulcanized rubber. Which is probably where that expression “laying rubber” originated. Or did it? Hmmm…

You see why I struggle with deadlines.

Mostly, I bring it on myself. Remember PIECES OF SKY? Book 1 of the Blood Rose Trilogy? 2011 Rita winner? No? Well, read it. You’ll like it, I promise. Anyway, I decided for authenticity and since it’s set in New Mexico, I should include some Spanish-speaking characters. So I dredged up the few Spanish words I know (mostly food items), augmented that with a Spanish-English dictionary, had a friend supply a substantial dirty word list, and typed away.

Book 2, OPEN COUNTRY. Same characters, fewer dirty Spanish words, but then this crabby Scotsman shows up with an entirely different accent and speech pattern and some weird phrases of his own. Yet that wasn’t as hard as studying up on medical procedures back then without nauseating myself. But I persevered, because I’m that kind of person.

Book 3, CHASING THE SUN. Some Spanish, a little Scots Gaelic, and just for the helluvit, national monetary problems and Catholic nun stuff. (Those folks have a lot of rules. Just so you know). But I was learning.

Or so I thought.

Then I start the next trilogy—The Runaway Brides—about four women heading West in 1870 to start new lives but get more than they bargained for when they’re stranded in a dying Colorado mining town. Four women. How hard could that be? But for variety, I decided to give each of them different backgrounds, voices, and speech patterns.

Enter the cast from Book 1, HEARTBREAK CREEK: a Southern princess and her half-black half-sister (not too hard, since I’m sorta from Louisiana), an Englishwoman (I’d done an Englishwoman before, so that wasn’t too hard, either), a Yankee (not bad, since they’re all over the place), and…wait for it…a Cheyenne Dog Soldier! YEA! So now I have to study up on them (a tough group for sure), the Sun Dance Ceremony (Gads!) and the language itself (do you know how many vowels those guys use? In a six letter word there might be three in a row: Haaahe (hello). Try saying that three times without laughing).

But then in Book2, COLORADO DAWN, I entered a whole new realm of insanity by adding photography (really dangerous back then—as in blow off your fingers and set your hair on fire), issues with Colorado statehood, railroads, PLUS a Scottish cavalryman, which necessitated research on the British peerage, military stuff, Scotch-Irish-Gaelic dialects and creating an entire new dirty word list. I could be a sailor, I swear. Heck, I should just write gibberish and call it a whole new language.

Research. A pain, but still fascinating stuff. Unless you’re in a rush, or are easily distracted.

As readers, do you enjoy all the little research tidbits, or do you find them distracting?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a copy of my latest release, COLORADO DAWN. And for summaries and excerpts of all my books, visit me at

Adios, Ta-ta, Slan, nestaevavoomatse, and bye ya’ll. Thanks for having me visit today.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Darynda Jones Shares Third Grave Dead Ahead

About Darynda Jones...

Winner of the 2009 Golden Heart® for Best Paranormal Romance for her manuscript FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, Darynda was born spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike. After the Golden Heart final, she landed an amazing agent and sold to St. Martin's Press in a three-book deal.THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD is the third book in the series and will be released  January 31, 2012. Darynda lives in New Mexico, with her husband of more than 25 years and two beautiful sons, aka the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. She can be found at

Back Cover Blurb....

Charley Davidson—grim reaper extraordinaire, private investigator . . . meh—is practicing her profession under the influence, caffeine and copious amounts of it, due to an extreme desire to induce insomnia. Every time she closes her eyes, Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan, is there. Only thing is, he’s a tad peeved. She did bind for all eternity, so it’s hard blame him. But 13 days without a wink is bound to bring out the crazy in a girl. So when she accepts a missing persons case, she discovers that her focus is sketchy at best. But a woman’s life hangs in the balance, and Charley fights her ADD tendencies to find her. In the meantime, Reyes is back in prison and none too happy about Charley thinks, until she is carjacked by the dark-haired rake, who swears the very man he went to prison for killing is not only alive, but close by. And he wants Charley to find him. Together with the help of her fashion-impaired receptionist, Charley sets out to bring the bad guys to justice and to single-handedly make bloodshot, sleep deprived eyes the newest fashion trend. Too bad she has to deal with a narcissistic doctor, a curmudgeonly father, and a motorcycle gang hell-bent on murder, all while searching for the deadliest, most violent man she’s ever met. Unfortunately, he finds Charley first.


Chapter One
Death comes to those who wait.

And to those who don’t. So either way…

—Charlotte Jean Davidson, Grim Reaper

There was a dead clown sitting in my living room. Since I wasn’t particularly fond of clowns, and it was way too early for anything coherent to come out of my mouth, I pretended not to notice him. Instead, I let a loud yawn overtake me and was headed toward my kitchen when I was hit by a jolt of panic. Since nothing screamed awkward like greeting the dead in my birthday suit, I glanced down to make sure my girl parts hadn’t been compromised. Fortunately, I had on a white tank and pair of plaid bottoms. My girls, also known as Danger and Will Robinson, were safe.

I mentally made the sign of the cross as I padded through my humble abode. Trying not to draw attention. Wondering if the dead clown, with his gaze following my every move, had noticed me. My apartment was a comfy cross between a storage room full of pillows and a broom closet, so it wasn’t a long journey. Nor an especially enlightening one. Though I did come to a rather morbid conclusion in those few fleeting seconds. Better a dead clown in my apartment than a live one.

My name is Charlotte Davidson. Charley to some, Charlotte the Harlot to others, but that was mostly in middle school. I was born with a decent set of curves, a healthy respect for the male anatomy, and a slightly disturbing addiction to brown edibles. Other than that—and the fact that I’d also been born the grim reaper—I was about as normal as a surly girl with a private investigator’s license could be.

I strode toward Mr. Coffee with lust in my eyes. We’d had a thing for quite some time now, Mr. Coffee and I, and there was just enough of him left for one more cup. No need to make a fresh pot, to get him all hot and bothered. I popped the cup into the microwave, set it to nuke anything unfortunate enough to be caught within its grasp for 30 seconds, then raided my fridge for sustenance. Eating would keep me awake for at least another five minutes, and my one goal in life for the past couple of weeks was to stay awake at all costs. The alternative was exhausting.

After an epic search, I finally found something neither green nor fuzzy. It was a hotlink. I named it Peter, mostly because I liked naming things and partly because it seemed like the right thing to do. As soon as my java was piping hot popped him into the microwave. Hopefully the radioactive environment would sterilize Peter. No need to have little Peters running around, wreaking havoc.

As I stood contemplating world peace, the exorbitant price of designer underwear and what life would be like without guacamole, Peter beeped. I wrapped him in stale bread and ate him whilst loading my coffee up with enough imitation product to make it a health hazard. After a long draw, I plodded to my overstuffed sofa, sank into it and looked at the dead clown. He was sitting in the club chair that cattycornered my sofa, waiting patiently for me to acknowledge him.

“You know, I’m not really fond of clowns,” I said after taking another sip.

Seeing a dead person in my living room was hardly a surprise. Apparently, I was super duper bright, like the glowing lens of a lighthouse in a storm. The departed who didn’t cross when they died could see me from anywhere on Earth and, if they so chose, could cross through me to get to the other side. That was pretty much the grim reaper gig in a nutshell. No scythes. No collecting souls. No ferrying the departed across a lake day in and day out, which would probably get old.

“I get that a lot,” the clown said. He seemed younger than I’d originally suspected, perhaps 25, but his voice was rough from too many cigarettes and late nights. The image conflicted with the bright mural on his face and curly red hair on his head. His saving grace was the lack of a big red nose. I seriously hated those, especially the squeaky kind. The rest I could handle.

“So, you got a story?”

“Not really.” He shrugged. “Just wanted to cross.”

I blinked in surprise, absorbed his statement, then asked, “You just want to cross?”

“If that’s okay.”

“That’s more than okay,” I said with a snort. No messages to love ones left behind. No solving his murder. No hunting down some memento he’d left for his children in a place where no one in his right mind would ever think to look. These situations had all the creamy goodness of piece-of-cake without the added calories.

He started toward me then. I didn’t get up, didn’t think I could manage it—the coffee had yet to kick in—but he didn’t seem to mind. I noticed as he stepped forward that he wore a ragged pair of jeans and his sneakers had been painted with magic marker.

“Wait,” he said, pausing midstride.


He scratched his head, a completely unconscious act from his previous life. “Can you get messages to people?”

Damn. The bane of my existence. “Um, no. Sorry. Have you tried Western Union?”

“Seriously?” he asked, not buying it for a minute. And it was on sale, even.

I dragged in a long, deep breath and tossed an arm over my forehead to show how much I didn’t want to be his messenger then peeked out from under my lashes. He stood there, waiting, clearly unimpressed.

“Fine,” I said, giving in. “I’ll type a note or something.”

“You don’t have to do that. Just go to Super Dog right down the street and talk to a girl named Jenny. Tell her Ronald said to bite me.”

I scanned his clown getup, the reds and yellows of his hoodie. “Your name is Ronald?”

With a grin, he said, “The irony is not lost on me, I promise.” He stepped through before I could question him on the bite me part of his comment.

When people crossed, I could see their lives. I could tell if they’d been happy, what their favorite color was, the names of their pets growing up. I let my lids drift shut and waited. He smelled like grease paint and iodine and coconut shampoo. He’d been in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. While there, he decided to make himself useful, so he dressed up like a different clown everyday and visited the kids in pediatrics. Each day he’d have a new name, something funny like Rodeo Ron or Captain Boxer Shorts, and each day they had to guess what it was from his voiceless clues. He couldn’t talk well near the end, and while gesturing was difficult and left him exhausted, he felt it was better than freaking out the kids with his gravelly voice. He died just hours before a heart had been found. Despite my original assumption, he’d never smoked a day in his life.

And he loved a girl named Jenny who smelled like baby oil and sold hot dogs to put herself through college. Jenny would be the part of this whole grim reaper gig I hated most. The people-left-behind part. I could feel their hearts contract with grief. I could feel their lungs fight for air. I could feel the sting of tears behind their eyes at losing someone they loved, someone they were sure they couldn’t live without.

I sucked in a sharp breath and pulled myself back to the present. Ronald was a cool guy. I’d have to look him up when my time was up, see how his eternity was going. I sank further into the sofa cushions and took a long draw of coffee, absorbing the caffeine, letting it spark and reawaken my brain cells.

Glancing at my Looney Tunes wall clock, I bit back the despair I felt at finding it was only 3:35. I had hours to go before dawn. It was easier to stay awake during the day. Night was so calm and relaxing. But I couldn’t let myself fall under. I’d managed to dodge sleep like it was an ex-boyfriend with herpes for almost two weeks straight. And when I didn’t, I paid the price.

The mere thought of that price gave me unwanted butterflies in my nether regions. I pushed it from my mind as heat from the sultry night wafted around me like a heavy vapor, seeping into my skin, suffocating any thoughts of comfort. Utterly annoyed, I sat up, pushed a dampened strand of hair out of my face, and made my way to the bathroom, hoping a splash of cool water would help, and wondering how the heck the night got so sultry. It was freaking November. Maybe global warming had amped up its game. Or a solar flare had pushed its way through the magnetosphere and was cooking us all alive. That would suck.

Just as I reached for the light switch, wondering if I should buy sunscreen, a sharp stab of arousal sparked in my lower abdomen. I gasped in surprise and grabbed the doorjamb for balance.

This was so not happening. Not again.

I glanced at the faucet longingly. Water would set things right. Couple of splashes and I’d be back to my normal curmudgeonly self in no time. I flipped the switch, but the overhead just flickered as though gasping for air then died out. I flipped again. And again, before giving up. Mostly because the definition of insanity came to mind.

The wiring in my apartment demoted the term code violation to an understatement. Thankfully, I had a nightlight. It cast a soft glow in the bathroom, allowing just enough illumination for me to maneuver my way to the sink without stubbing anything vital. I stepped to the mirror and squinted, trying to syphon every last atom of light the universe had to offer out of the atmosphere. It didn’t help. My image was nothing more than a shadow, a ghost-like apparition, barely existing.

I stood there contemplating that fact when a ripple of desire gripped me again, seizing me with fierce, delicious claws, trembling through me so hard I had to clamp my jaw shut. I clutched onto the vanity as the fervor bathed me in a sensuous heat I couldn’t fend off. It seeped inside me, lured me to the edge, led me to the dark side. Hungrily, I parted my lips and parted my legs and gave it room to grow. And grow it did. It built up strength and power, its tendrils pushing into me, swirling and pulsing in my abdomen.

My knees buckled, and I shifted my weight to my palms as the pressure grew more intense, forcing me to fight for every breath I took. Then the sound of another’s breath mingled with my own, and I glanced up into the mirror.

Reyes Alexander Farrow—the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan—materialized behind me, his powerful shoulders glistening as steam rose around him, giving the impression he’d just come from hell. He hadn’t, of course. He’d escaped from hell centuries ago and was currently pissed as hell at me for binding his incorporeal body to his physical one. But that knowledge did little to lessen the effect.

I blinked to see him more clearly. “What are you doing here?”

He lowered his head, his dark eyes piercing me with an angry glare. The butthead. It was my bathroom.

But I’d bound him. I’d bound his incorporeal body to his physical one. How was he even there? How could he be?

“You summoned me,” he said, his deep voice tight with animosity.

I shook my head. “That’s impossible.”

He reached an arm over my shoulder and braced his hand against the wall in front of me. To tower. To dominate. To make sure I knew I was trapped. His lean body pressed against my backside as he braced the other hand against the wall to my right, completely imprisoning me.

His hard gaze locked onto mine. “Is it impossible because you bound me like a dog to a chain?”

Oh, yeah. He was definitely pissed. “You left me no choice,” I said, my voice quivering, not nearly as confident as I’d hoped.

He lowered his head until his mouth was at my ear. “And you leave me none.” His features darkened. His eyes narrowed as he stared at me in the mirror from underneath his thick lashes, hooded with passion.

I couldn’t tear my gaze away. He was so beautiful, so masculine. When he wrapped an arm around me, slid his hand down the front of my panties, I grabbed his wrist. “Wait,” I said between ragged breaths. “I still don’t understand how you’re here.”

“I told you, you summoned me.” His fingers worked their way between my legs despite my best efforts, and I gasped aloud when they dipped inside. “You always summon me. You’ve always had the power to call me whenever you want or need me, Dutch. Or haven’t you figured that out yet?”

I fought the delicious sensations spiking in my abdomen with each stroke of his fingers. Fought to grasp the meaning of his airy words. “No, you’ve always come to me when I needed you. When I was in danger.” And he had. Growing up, he’d always been there any time my life was threatened.

His breath fanned across my cheek, the heat emanating off him scorching as his mouth sought the pulse point at my throat. “It’s always been you.”

He was wrong. He had to be. The idea that I could summon him, that I’d always summoned him, was unfathomable. I didn’t even know what he was until very recently. I was afraid of him, in fact. He was a dark being made of smoke and shadows, and the last thing I wanted was to be in his presence. How could I have summoned him? What he proposed was impossible.

“But as long as I’m here….” He let that statement linger as he locked me against him and pushed down my bottoms and underwear in one smooth movement. Then he let the slightest grin lift one corner of his beautiful mouth, nudged my legs apart, and entered me in one long thrust. I gasped aloud, and the swirling that had begun only moments before grew to hurricane strength in an instant. I clamped one hand around his wrist at my throat, the other onto his steely buttocks, pulling him deeper, clawing for release.

I kept my eyes open, watching him in the mirror, studying his reaction. The slight parting of his lips. The furrowing of his brow. The fall of his lashes.

“Dutch,” he said in his smooth, deep voice, as though helpless against what he was about to do. His jaw locked together as his climax neared. He lifted one of my legs onto the vanity and pushed into me, burying himself over and over, the act almost violent, coaxing me with each thrust, with each powerful stroke.

And with each stroke, the current inside me surged with more potency, his erection filling a need so deep, so visceral, it consumed every inch of my being. The raw yearning that lingered in the distance rushed forward to pool between my legs. It swelled like a tide, milking me, coaxing me ever closer.

My fingernails dug into his wrist, suddenly remembering he didn’t want to be there. Not with me. Not after what I’d done. “Reyes, wait.”

I felt it the moment it seized him, felt it quake and convulse through his body, and in an instant an explosion burst and shot through me, sending a sharp sting of pleasure ricocheting against my bones, coursing through my veins, searing my flesh with a scalding ecstasy.

And then the world came crashing in as the violence of an orgasm splitting me in two jolted me from a fitful sleep. The dying remnants of a scream echoed in the room, and I knew instantly it was my own reaction to the climax. I forced myself to pause, to catch my breath, to unclench my fists from around the coffee cup that had emptied its contents in my lap. Luckily, there wasn’t much left. I put the cup on a side table then I fell back onto the sofa and threw an arm over my forehead to wait out the familiar storm trembling through my body.

Three times in one week. Within seconds of closing my eyes, he’d be there, waiting, watching, angry and seductive.

I glanced at the clock again. The last time I’d looked, it really did say 3:35. Now it said 3:38. Three minutes. I’d closed my eyes three minutes ago.

With an exhausted sigh, I realized it was my own fault. I’d let myself drift.

Maybe this was Reyes’s way of making me pay for what I’d done. He’d always been able to leave his body, to become incorporeal and wreak all kinds of havoc on humanity. Not that he actually wreaked havoc, but he could’ve had he wanted to. Now, he was stuck in his body. A minor indiscretion if you asked me, and when I bound him, a necessary one.

But now he was back to haunting my dreams. At least when he’d entered my dreams before, I actually got some sleep between rounds of hide and seek and tug of war. Now, I close my eyes for a second and he’s there in the most intense way possible. As long as I’m asleep, we’re going at it like rabbits on a bunny farm.

And the worst part of the whole thing lay in the fact that he really was pissed as hell at me. As a result, he had no desire to be there. He was angry, consumed with rage, and yet oh, so passionate, like he couldn’t help himself. Like he couldn’t control the heat coursing through him, the hunger in his veins. I couldn’t exactly control myself either, so I knew how he felt.

But I’d summoned him? Impossible. How could I have summoned him growing up? Like that time I was four and I was almost kidnapped by a convicted child molester? I didn’t even know what he was. I’d been scared of him.

Just then I heard my front door crash open and decided it was time to clean up anyway. Coffee never felt as good on the outside.

“What? Where are you?” I heard my neighbor who moonlighted as my receptionist and best friend say as she stumbled into my apartment. Cookie’s short black hair stuck out in all kinds of socially unacceptable directions. And she wore wrinkled pajamas, striped in alternating blues and yellows that fit tight around her robust middle half with long red socks that bunched around her ankles. She was such a challenge.

“I’m here,” I said, hoisting myself off the sofa. “Everything’s okay.”

“But you screamed.” Alarmed, she scanned the area.

“We really need to sound proof these walls.” She lived right across the hall and could apparently hear a feather drop in my kitchen.

After taking a moment to catch her breath, she leveled a cold stare on me. “Charley, damn it.”

“You know, I get called that a lot,” I said, padding toward the bathroom, “but Charley Damn It’s not really my name.”

She stepped toward my bookcase and braced herself with one hand while the other tried to still her beating heart. Then she glared. It was funny. Just as she opened her mouth to say something, she noticed the plethora of empty coffee cups scattered about the place. Then she glared again. It was still funny.

“Have you been drinking all night?”

I disappeared into the bathroom, came back with a toothbrush in my mouth, then pointed toward the front door with raised brows. “Break and enter much?”

She stepped around me and closed the door. “We need to talk.”

Uh-oh. Scolding time. She’d been scolding me everyday for a week. At first, I could lie about my lack of sleep and she’d fall for it, but she started suspecting insomnia when I began seeing purple elephants in the air vents at the office. I knew I shouldn’t have asked her about them. I thought maybe she’d redecorated.

I went to my bedroom and changed into a fresh pair of PJs, then asked, “Want coffee?” as I headed that way.

“It’s three thirty in the morning.”

“Okay. Want coffee?”

“No. Sit down.” When I paused mid-stride and raised my brows in questions, she set a stubborn tilt to her jaw. “I told you, we need to talk.”

“Does this have anything to do with that mustache I drew on you while you were sleeping the other night?” I eased back onto the sofa, keeping a wary eye on her, just in case.

“No. This has to do with drugs.”

My jaw fell open. I almost lost my toothbrush. “You’re on drugs?”

She pressed her mouth together. “No. You are.”

“I’m on drugs?” I asked, stunned. I had no idea.

“Charley,” Cookie said, her voice sympathetic, “how long has it been since you’ve slept?”

With a loud sigh that bordered on a whine, I counted on my fingers. “Around thirteen days, give or take.”

Her eyes widened with shock. After she let that sink in, she asked, “And you’re not on anything?”

I took the toothbrush out of my mouth. “Besides Crest?”

“Then how are you doing it?” She leaned forward, her brows glued together in concern. “How are you not sleeping for days at a time?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t close my eyes.”

“Charley, that’s impossible. And probably dangerous.”

“Not at all,” I assured her. “I’m drinking lots of coffee. And I hardly ever fall asleep while driving.”

“Oh, my gosh.” She let her head drop into her palm.

I popped the toothbrush back into my mouth with a smile. People like Cookie were hard to come by. Stalwart. Loyal. Easy to punk. “Hon, I’m not like you, remember?”

She focused on me again. “You’re still human. Just because you heal really fast and can see the departed and you have this uncanny ability to convince the most mundane of persons to try to kill you—”

“But he’s so mad at me, Cook.” I lowered my head, the sadness of my situation creeping up on me.

She stopped and absorbed my statement before commenting. “Tell me exactly what’s going on.”

“Kay. Need coffee first.”

“It’s three thirty in the morning.”

Ten minutes later we both had a cup of coffee a la fresco, and I was in the middle of describing my dreams—if one could call them that—to a starry-eyed divorcee with lust in her loins. She already knew about my binding Reyes to his physical body, but she didn’t know about the dreams. Not entirely. I’d just told her about my most recent encounter with god Reyes, a being forged in the fires of hell, created from beauty and sin and fused together with the blistering heat of sensuality.

I fanned myself and refocused on her.

“He was actually—”

“Yep,” I said.

“And he put your leg—?”

“Yep. I think for ease of access.”

“Oh, my.” A hand floated up to cover her heart.

“Yep again. But that’s the cool part. The orgasmic part. The part where he touches me and kisses me and strokes me in the most amazing places.”

“He kissed you?”

“Well, no, not this morning,” I said, shaking my head. “But sometimes he does. Strange thing is, he doesn’t want to be there. He doesn’t want to be with me. And yet, the minute I close my eyes, there he is. Fierce. Sexy. Pissed as hell.”

“But he actually lifted your leg—”

“Cookie,” I said, grabbing her arm and forcing her back to me, “you have to get past that part.”

“Right.” She blinked and shook her head. “Right, sorry. Well, I can certainly see why you don’t want to experience that kind of trauma night after night.”

“But I don’t get any actual rest. I swear I’m more exhausted when I wake up, like, three minutes later. And he’s just so mad at me.”

“Well, you did bind him for all eternity.”

I sighed. “Surely it’s not for all eternity. I mean, I can fix this.” I decided to leave out the part where I’d already tried to unbind him and failed miserably. “I’ll figure out how to unbind him, don’t you think?”

“Me?” she asked, balking at the very idea. “This is your world, hon. I’m just an innocent bystander.” She looked at my Looney Tunes clock.

As usual, my selfless concern for my fellow man amazed me. “You need to get back to bed,” I said, taking her cup and heading for the kitchen. “You can get in a good two hours before you have to get Amber up for school.” Amber was Cookie’s twelve-going-on-thirty-year-old daughter.

“I just drank a cup of coffee.”

“Like that ever stopped you,” I said with a snort.

“True.” She stood and headed for the door. “Oh, I meant to tell you, Garrett called. He might have a case for you. Said he’d get in touch this morning.”

Garrett Swopes was a bond enforcement agent whose dark skin made the silver in his eyes glisten every time he smiled, a feature most women found attractive. I just found him annoying. We’d weathered some rough times, he and I, like when he accidently found out about my otherworldly status and decided to have me committed.

For the most part, he was okay. For the rest, he could bite me. But as a skip tracer, he was phenomenal and came in super duper handy at times.

“A case, huh?” That sounded intriguing. And slightly more profitable than sitting around twiddling my thumbs. “Maybe I’ll just run over there and talk to him about it in person.”

She stopped halfway out the door and looked back at me. “It’s a quarter past four.”

A huge smile slid across my face.

Her own expression turned dreamy again. “Can I come?”

“No.” I pushed her out the door. “You have to get some sleep. Somebody has to be sane during regular office hours, and it’s not going to be me, missy.”

A little over 15 minutes later, as I stood knocking on Garrett Swopes’s door in my Juicy Coutuer pajamas and pink bunny slippers, I realized I may have died on the way over. I was so tired I could no longer feel life flowing through me. My fingers were numb. My lips were swollen. And my eyelids had dried to the consistency of sandpaper, their sole purpose to irritate and drive the will to survive right out of me.

Yep, I was most likely dead.

I knocked again as a shiver rippled down my spine, hoping somewhere in the back of my mind that my probable deadness wouldn’t keep me from performing my supernatural duty, which was basically to stand there while dead people who didn’t cross immediately after their deaths crossed through me. But as the only grim reaper this side of forever, I provided an invaluable service for society. For humanity. For the world!

The door swung open and a grumpy skip tracer named Garrett stood glowering at me with a fury I found difficult to describe, which meant I probably hadn’t died after all. He looked like he had a hangover. When hung over, Garrett could barely see elephants, much less the departed. He managed to growl a question from between his clenched teeth. “What?”

“I need ibuprofen,” I said, my voice distant and unattractive.

“You need therapy.” It was amazing how easily I could understand him considering he had yet to unclench his teeth.

“I need ibuprofen,” I said with a frown, in case he didn’t hear me the first time. “I’m not kidding.”

“I’m not either.”

“But I wasn’t kidding first.”

With a loud sigh, he stood back and motioned me inside the bat cave. I looked down at my bunny slippers, silently begging them to hop forward, when Garrett curled his fingers into my Juicies and eased me inside.

It helped. With the momentum I’d gained, I padded across his carpet straight to his kitchen cabinets, flipping light switches along the way.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” he asked.

“Not especially. Where are your over-the-counter drugs?” I’d recently developed a headache. Possibly when I hit that telephone pole on the way over.

Garrett’s bachelor pad was much tidier than I’d expected. Lots of tans and blacks. I rummaged through cabinet after cabinet in search of his drug stash. Instead I found glasses. Plates. Bowls. Okay.

He stopped short behind me. “What are you looking for again?”

I paused long enough to glare. “You can’t be this slow.”

He did that thing where he pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. It gave me a chance to size him up. Mussed dark hair in need of a trim. Thick stubble along his jaw also in need of a trim. Manly chest hair also in need—

“Oh, my god!” I said, throwing my hands over my eyes and hurtling my body against the counter.


“You’re naked.”

“I’m not naked.”

“I’m blind.”

“You’re not blind. I’m wearing pants.”

“Oh.” That was embarrassing.

He shifted his stance in impatience. “Would you like me to put on a shirt?”

“Too late. Scarred for life.” I had to tease him a little. He was so grouchy at 4:30 in the morning. I went back to scouring his cabinets.

“Seriously, what are you looking for?”

“Painkillers,” I said, feeling my way past a military issue canteen and a package of Oreos. Oreos just happen to fall under the category of brown edibles. I popped one in my mouth and continued my noble quest.

“You came all the way over here for painkillers?”

I gave him a second once over while crunching. Other than the bullet wounds he now sported on his chest and shoulder from when I almost got him killed a couple weeks ago, he had good skin, healthy eyelashes, six-pack abs. Cookie may have been onto something. “No, I came over here to talk to you,” I said, swallowing hard. “I just happen to need painkillers at this moment in time. They in the bathroom?” I headed that way.

“I ran out,” he said, blocking my path, clearly hiding something.

“But you’re a bond enforcement agent.”

His brows snapped together. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Come on, Swopes,” I said, my voice sharp with accusation, “I know you track down drug dealers when you’re not watching Debbie Does Dallas. You have access to all kinds of drugs. You can’t tell me you don’t pocket a little crack here, a few prescription-strength Motrin there.”

After scrubbing his face with his fingers, he strolled to a small dining room table, pulled out a chair and sat down. “Isn’t your sister a psychiatrist?”

I stepped into his bedroom and switched on the light. Besides the rumpled bed and clothes strewn about the room, it wasn’t bad. I hit the dresser first.

“Actually, I’m glad you’re here,” Garrett called out. “I might have a case for you.”

That was exactly why I’d gone over, but he didn’t need to know that. “I’m not cleaning out your truck in search of some mysteriously lost object again, Swopes. I caught on.”

“No, a real case,” he said, a smile in his voice, “through a friend of a friend. Seems this guy’s wife went missing about a week ago and he’s looking for a good PI.”

“So why send him to me?” I asked, stumped.

“Are you finished in there?”

I’d just gone through his nightstands and was headed for the medicine cabinet in his bathroom. “Just about. Your choice of porn is more eclectic than I thought it would be.”

“He’s a doctor.”

“Who’s a doctor?” Nothing of use in his medicine cabinet. Absolutely nothing. Unless non-drowsy allergy medication could be considered a painkiller.

“The guy whose wife is missing.”

“Oh, right.”

Who on planet Earth didn’t have aspirin in the house? My head ached, for heaven’s sake. I’d nodded off on the way over to Garrett’s place and veered into oncoming traffic. The honking horns and flashing lights had me believing I’d been abducted by aliens. Thank goodness a well-placed telephone pole put a stop to that nonsense. I needed stronger coffee to keep me awake. Or maybe something else entirely. Something industrial.

I peeked around the door and asked, “Do you keep syringes of adrenaline on hand?”

“There are special programs for people like you.”

In a moment of sheer terror, I realized I couldn’t feel my brain. It was just there a minute ago. Maybe I really was dead. “Do I look dead to you?”

“Does your sister have an afterhours emergency number?”

“You’re not helping,” I said, making sure the disgust in my voice was unmistakable. “You would suck as a customer service representative.”

He unfolded himself from the chair and headed for the fridge. “Want a beer?”

I shuffled to the table and stole his seat. “Seriously?”

A brow arched into a shrug as he twisted the cap off a bottle.

“No, thank you. Alcohol is a depressant. I need these lids to stay open for days.” I pointed to them for visual confirmation.

“Why?” he asked after a long swig.

“Because when they’re closed, he’s there.”

“God?” Garrett guessed.


Garrett’s jaw pressed shut. Probably because he wasn’t horridly fond of Reyes or our unconventional relationship. Then again, nobody ever said consorting with the son of Satan would be easy. He set the beer on the counter and strode to his room, his movements suddenly sharp, exact. I watched him disappear—he had a nice tapering thing going on—and reappear almost instantly with shirt and boots in hand. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”

“I came in Misery.”

“Exactly, and I think you’ve caused enough.”

“No, my Jeep. Misery? Remember her?” Sometimes people found it odd that I’d named my cherry red Jeep Wrangler Misery, but Gertie just didn’t seem to fit. “She’ll be upset if I just leave her here on a strange side street. Alone. Injured.”

He looked back at me, startled. “You wrecked your Jeep?”

I had to think about that one. “I can’t be entirely certain. There was a telephone pole, screeching tires, the strong possibility of alien life. It all happened so fast.”

“Seriously. I need your sister’s number.” He shrugged into the shirt as he hunted down his keys.

“Desperate much? Besides, you’re not my sister’s type.”

After Garrett escorted me to his truck none-too-gently, he climbed into the driver’s side and brought the vehicle to life with a roar. The engine sounded pretty good, too. I gazed out the window as we swam through Albuquerque, the night thick with an almost impenetrable darkness. The tranquil serenity didn’t help my current predicament. My scratchy lids were like lead and grew heavier and heavier with every minute that passed. Every second. Despite the discomfort, I fought with all my strength to keep them open, because this was better than the alternative: Reyes Farrow being drawn into my dreams against either of our wills, like an invisible force pulled him toward me every time I closed my eyes. And once inside my head, all of our anger and inhibitions washed away into a sea of sensuality where mouths scorched and hands explored. Which sucked because we were both quite annoyed with each other.

But for him to say that I’d summoned him just didn’t make sense. I’d have to look into that one.

“How long have you been awake?”

I blinked back to Garrett and looked at my watch. Or, well, my wrist where my watch would have been had I remembered it. “Um, about thirteen days.”

He seemed to still beside me. I couldn’t be sure though. I was drifting in and out of reality, if the little girl with the kitchen knife on his hood was any indication. I suppose she could have been a departed, but they rarely rode on hoods.

“Look, I realize you’re different than the average human,” Garrett said, his tone guarded, “but thirteen days without sleep can’t be good for anyone, not even you.”

“Probably not. Did you buy a new hood ornament?”

He glanced at his hood. “No.”

“This doctor have a name?”

He reached across my lap into the glove box and pulled out a card. “Here’s his info. He’s supposed to go to your office this morning if you make it in.”

Dr. Nathan Yost. “I’ll make it in. Is he a friend of yours?”

“Nope. He’s an asshole. But everyone else on planet Earth seems to worship him.”

“Alrighty, then.” I tried to stuff the card into a pocket then realized I didn’t have any. “Hey, I left my bag in Misery.”

Garrett shook his head. “The things you say, Charles. Oh, I keep meaning to tell you, I’ve been working on a special list of things one should never say to the grim reaper.”

I chuckled. “I have so many comebacks to that, I don’t think I can pick just one.”

“I’ll start at the bottom,” he said with a grin. “Are you ready?”

I drew in a deep breath. “As I’ll ever be.”

“Okay, number five, I’m dead tired.”

“So, it’s not a particularly long list.”

“Do you want to hear the list or not?” he asked as we pulled into the parking lot of my apartment building.

“I’m weighing my options. This list could either be a revelation of apocalyptic proportions or a complete waste of my limited brain fuel. I’m leaning toward the latter.”

“Fine, I’ll tell you the rest when you’re in a better mood. It’ll make it more suspenseful.”

“Good idea,” I said with a thumbs up. Suspenseful my ass. More like annoying.

“Nobody recognizes true talent anymore.” He escorted me upstairs. “Are you going to get some sleep?” he asked as I inched the door closed between us, leaving him in the hallway.

“Not if I can help it.” At least he’d been of some use to me. I’d made it through another hour without sleep.

Just as I closed the door and turned toward the coffee pot, he reopened it, muttered, “Lock this,” then closed it again.

I trudged back and locked the door to my humble abode only to hear keys jiggling in the lock about two seconds later. Either that, or I’d fallen asleep standing up again. Since Reyes hadn’t appeared to offer me an earth-shattering climax, probably not.

Cookie burst in, strode right past me and headed straight for the coffee pot. “Did you talk to Garrett?”

I followed her. “Yep. I think there was a clown in my apartment this morning.”

“Are my pajamas that bad?” she asked, surveying the PJs she still wore. “So, what’d he say?”

“No.” I blinked back to her. “A dead clown.”

“Oh. Like a departed?”


“Is he gone?” she asked, glancing around in concern.

“Yes. He crossed.”

“Well, that explains the clown comment. I just thought you were being a smart ass.”

That trip made me super sleepy. Maybe I really did need a shot of adrenaline. “Hey, I thought you were going back to bed.”

“I was, but visions of sugar plums kept dancing through my head. Sugar plums of the male variety, if you know what I mean. Speaking of which,” she said, taking a long draw on her java, “was Garrett naked?”

“Why would Garrett be naked?” I asked, carefully placing a frown on my face to camouflage the giggle bubbling up inside.

“I was just wondering if he sleeps naked.”

“I have no idea if he sleeps naked. He would hardly answer the door that way.”

She nodded in thought. “That’s a good point. Oh, crap, I have to get Amber up for school.”

“Okay, I need a shower anyway. I still smell like coffee. And I need to run by Super Dog sometime today. Don’t let me forget.” I headed for the bathroom.

“You got it. Oh,” Cookie said, pausing at the door, “I meant to tell you, I borrowed a can of coffee from the office.”

I stopped and hit her with my best glower of astonished disappointment. “You stole a can of coffee from the office?”

“I borrowed a can of coffee from the office. I’ll buy another with my next paycheck.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Charley . . . ”

“Just kidding. Don’t worry about it,” I said with a wave of my hand. “It’s not like I pay for the stuff.”

She had started out the door but stopped again. “What?”

“The coffee. I don’t actually pay for it.”

“Where do you get it?”

“I swipe it from Dad’s storeroom.” When she flashed me a look of shock and disapproval, mostly disapproval, I held up my hands and did the timeout gesture. “Hold up there, missy. I solved cases for that man for years. The least he can do is provide me with cup o’ Joe every now and then.”

My dad had been a detective with the Albuquerque Police Department and I’d been helping him solve crimes since I was five. For some reason, it’s a lot easier to solve crimes when you can ask the victim who did it. While my dad retired a few years ago, I still did the same for my Uncle Bob, also a detective with APD.

“You steal our coffee from your dad?”


“I drink stolen coffee?”

“On a daily basis. Do you remember that morning about a month ago when we were out of coffee and then that guy came in with a gun and tried to kill me, and Reyes materialized out of nowhere and sliced his spine in half with that ginormous sword he keeps tucked under his robe, and Uncle Bob came with all those cops, and my dad started questioning the whole spinal cord thing?”

After a long moment, she said, “Barely,” her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Well, I needed a cup of coffee after that near-death experience like you would not believe, and we didn’t have any. So I took a can out of Dad’s storeroom.”

“Charley,” she said, looking around as if someone were listening, “you can’t just steal your dad’s coffee.”

“Cook, at that moment in time I would have sold my body for a mocha latte.”

She nodded in understanding. “I can certainly see why you did it that one time, but you can’t keep doing it.”

“Oh, so it’s okay for you to steal, but not me?”

“I wasn’t stealing. I was borrowing.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Bonnie. Say hey to Clyde for me.”

With a loud sigh, she headed out the door again. Just before I closed the bathroom door, I called out to her, “By the way, he answered the door shirtless.”

After a loud gasp, she said, “Thank you.”

Thank you for stopping by today. Have a comment for Darynda? Join in the conversation.
You can purchase Darynda Jones books at Barnes and Noble and anywhere books are sold.
You can visit her at, tweet her @Darynda, and friend her on http ://

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GFW Writers Do The Round Robin February 7th

Image: iStockphoto
GFW Writers is sponsoring a round robin short story.
In order to get the creative mojos flowing (and who doesn't need more practice at creativity), and to give you the readers the opportunity to critique and tell the writer how he's doing, let the fun begin!

Here's how it works:
Jeff Bacot, the 'creator' of the idea will write the first 2 pages of our short story and will  post on February 7th. The readers comment on and critique the two pages then the next writer will post  1-2 pages, readers comment and critique, the next writer goes, and so on until we reach a full length short story (roughly 12,000 words).
As readers, your critique and  suggestions for each posting  are vital to the writers and for making this fun and a success.
The title of this Round Robin Short Story is:
"A Delicious Dalliance"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Time's A Funny Thing by Jeff Turner

Time’s A Funny Thing
This  will be the final chapter in my third book “Notes To My Kids”. It closes the story and repeats some of the themes I write about in the book. I did something similar in “Days Remembered” with “Do You Remember?”. The notes in this book are written to my kids “Roger” and “Jane” – I use these names for them in my other books.
Photo courtesy of
To Roger and Jane…
When you two were small children the movie “Always” came out. It still is one of my personal favorites. In it Pete, an air tanker pilot, played by Richard Dreyfus , gets killed in an accident. In the afterlife the guardian angel “Hap”, played by Audrey Hepburn, tries to guide him to final peace and acceptance of his fate.
In one scene he and Hap travel back and forth in time where he sees his past. While they sit in a forest Hap tells the temporally confused Pete “…time’s a funny thing…”.

Indeed it is. I think you’ll see.

Jane, Roger came over to see me the day you went back to Galveston. On New Year’s Eve day we went to eat at a Russian restaurant in Arlington. On the way we went through east Fort Worth where we used to live. And in a short time we went back and forth in time like Pete did in the movie.

After going down Loop 820, we exited at Brentwood Stair Road and drove down  past the Kolache Shop, Little Tykes day care, and the bank building where your mom once worked. As we moved down Brentwood, we talked about Best Mart, the convenience store. We always stopped there for gas, beer, and snacks before we went to the New Park a little north of there. We spent a lot of time at the playground or looking at the horses in the pasture next to it. The horses are no longer there; the pasture that they once grazed in is now a field of houses.

We turned down Sandy Lane and around us were 1960’s era brick veneer homes surrounded by oak trees which looked much like they did when we lived there. We took a left onto Monterrey Drive. Similar to what we saw on Sandy, the houses seemed to be the same. Memories surfaced as we drove past the homes of our former neighbors like the Simpsons, the Jeffries – whose kids you played with, or Mrs. Shaw who was always in a bad mood.

 Then we were in front of our old home. The big trees were still there, bigger than before, but the house was mostly the same. . The dormers still faced the front yard from your old rooms upstairs and the big tree in the middle of the back yard still cast its branches over the yard. The big bay window by the front door also looked the same. How many times did we peer through its glass to see what was outside? The owners had painted the red brick a medium gray but that was the only obvious change. And next to it there was Jess and Madge’s old house which really did look unchanged. At that moment I could see us there with Jess on a warm summer day. A grandfather, he would smile at you two and ask what you had been doing at school. While these things happened over 20 years ago  it seemed we were still there, as if time had stood still.

Coming back to the present we turned around and drove further down Sandy finding the Old Park. The playground   equipment that you two once scurried over was new.  The trees remained along with the ball field and at the north end of the park was our old backyard fence. The second story of the house and the big tree on the back property line still looked above its top. The year could have been 1985 or 1995 and it would have looked the same.

Next, we continued south on Sandy and drove past the cemetery, where Lee Harvey Oswald lies in his unmarked grave. Nothing much had changed, the same houses, buildings, and trees still stood guard along the street where they had always been.

We drove on to Arlington and turned on to Lancaster to the east beside the railroad tracks, past unchanged areas of trees and pastures.. About the only new things were the gas wells in the fields. The leafless but timeless post oaks were still there, reaching quietly upward around the new well heads and tanks.

When we arrived in Arlington we drove past the Campo Verde restaurant where we used to eat. I wondered if the food was as good as it was in the past. On the outside it looked the same as if nearly twenty years hadn’t passed. And as we neared the Russian place I saw another restaurant we’d frequented: Jo-Ed’s Bomber which made northeastern style sub sandwiches. It, too, was seemingly unchanged. All enhanced our love of togetherness and good food. We laughed a lot back then.

After we ate at the Russian place, we went by a house on Bowen Road that your mom and I considered buying. We didn’t because it had a foundation leak in the garage. The neighborhood around it, like the old east side, hadn’t changed much. Time had passed but you could not tell that just by driving through the area. That day was a trip down the Memory Lane seeing what once was the fabric of our lives. On the way to eat lunch we saw a big slice of our past in a couple of hours. Just as Pete saw his life go back and forth before his eyes in that short scene in “Always”, we saw a big part of our lives go by as we drove down those once frequently travelled roads.

So Hap was right you see, time is a funny thing. Things and places change and sometimes they don’t, even though decades have flown past. Though the world and time has moved on, at least it still is in our memories. Hence, they should not be forgotten, but should be tucked away in our hearts and minds to be revisited from time to time. When we go back to see our old haunts, we see where we came from and recall important events from our lives one more time.

Maybe that is why I write my books. Recording the past helps me make drives like we did that day. In that way, the memory of our time together as a family will go down time’s own long road and be remembered by you, and hopefully one day by your own family and kids. Then you can tell them time’s a funny thing just like Hap told Pete.
Jeff has published two books, the story of a marriage before divorce and another after divorce, Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters and life Stories and Notes To Stephanie, Days Remembered. His current WIP is titled Notes To My Kids: Little Stories About Grown Up Kids. When he is not writing he is involved in I-T Projects and loves cooking.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Joya Fields Shares Beneath The Surface

About Joya Fields...
Joya Fields has had over 100 stories and articles published in local and national magazines and her debut novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE, a romantic suspense, released in January, 2012. LOVE DELIVERED, a romantic comedy is now available.

Over the years, Joya has taught arts and crafts, worked in public relations, owned a daycare center, helped her children raise prize-winning 4-H livestock, competed in three marathons, and even spent a year as a Baltimore Colts cheerleader. Joya loves spending time with her high school sweetheart/husband of over twenty years, two very supportive children, and a pug who follows her everywhere.

Back Cover Copy...
She’s fighting to stay independent—he’s determined to protect her no matter what…

Brooke Richards survived the earthquake that took her parents and most of her leg, but she needs time to regroup. A trip to Florida for a state-of-the art prosthesis and to visit her best friend Linda seems ideal. But the trip turns traumatic when Brooke witnesses Linda’s boat disintegrating in a fiery explosion.

Police Officer Garrett Ciavello believes the blast was intentionally set to hide something Linda found on a dive. When Brooke offers her expertise in underwater archaeology, Garrett accepts her help with the investigation. But since his fiancĂ©e’s death years ago, Garrett has become overprotective, and as they are drawn to each other, Garrett realizes he will risk anything to keep Brooke safe.

Brooke is fiercely independent. Garrett is fiercely protective. Will they heal each other’s wounds and find a killer…before it’s too late?


For the first time since the accident, Brooke forgot about her leg. Forgot about all she’d lost and focused on the way Logan made her feel.

She knew she needed to stop him. She should find a way to resist the temptation to be with him. But for a few minutes, she could enjoy the taste of him, the feel of him, couldn’t she?

He dropped his hands to her waist and softened the kiss before trailing a line of kisses down her neck. A weak cry slipped from her mouth. “Garrett,” she whispered.

She should stop this now before it got any more intense.

He cupped her chin and forced her to meet his brown eyes, smoky with desire. Heat spiraled to her middle and she caught a whiff of his sawdust scent.

“I…I can walk you back to your own room before I head to mine.” His voice broke as he whispered.

She swallowed hard. She couldn’t do this right now with him. Too many obstacles stood in their way. But as she looked in his somber eyes, she realized none of those complications were bigger than her need for Garrett.

“Let’s go to your room,” she said, her voice shaking. She moved her hands inside his shirt and ran them over his tight abs and chest. Heat soared through her body at the feel of him. “Together…”


Available from:
Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Garage Sale Find-A Short Story by J.A. Bennett

JA Bennett

Please welcome JA Bennett to our blog. JA is a member of GFW Writers, studies creative writing  at UNT and is a full time mom of four. After spending 15 years in the Human Resources field she realized that life was too short to ignore what she'd always wanted to do, so after finishing school for the second time around she hopes to teach English as well as pursue a home for her own stories and novels. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading and, of course, writing. If you like her story, please let her know by leaving a comment and sharing the post with your friends.

Mother twisted in her seat and pressed her fingertips against the passenger side window like a child ogling the passing primary colors of an amusement park roller coaster.  All I could see of her was the cap of coppery hair teased to a transparent pouf that sprouted from the back of her head, sticky with hair spray and the scent of Chanel. The ideal trap for catching things like tiny fluttering leaves, amorous insects, and truths.
“Mom, I’m exhausted.  Let’s just go and eat.”
“Oh, come on Katie, just one more. That looked like a good street. Come on now, turn around.”
I sighed and gave in.  Pulling into some poor soul’s conveniently located driveway, I winced my apology at the house’s lifeless windows and headed back the other way.  Back towards the unimposing side street sporting a hastily scrawled “Garage Sale” sign on its corner.

Someone had stuck a ragged piece of cardboard on a wooden spike then impaled the result firmly into a clump of thick summer grass. It certainly didn’t look promising, but Mother clapped gleefully as we crawled into the cul-de-sac and parked.
“Look at all that,” she gushed.

 If the act of salivation were audible I would have reached out to turn down her volume. I rolled my eyes.
“It must be a moving sale. I see Christmas decorations too.” She kicked open the door and let in a wave of stifling air.
“It’s August. And you don’t need more Christmas decorations, the attic’s already overflowing.”
“You can never have enough Christmas decorations. Besides, you’ll need your own collection soon.”
“You’re picking again, Mom. I told you. I’m never getting married. I refuse to give any man that kind of control over my life.”
“Don’t spout feminist propaganda to me, chickie. I was burning my bras before you were even a gleam in your father’s horny eye.”
“Too much information, Mom. Highly inappropriate.”
“Oh lighten up.”
The house was set close to the road, one of a series of identical boxes distinguishable only by variation of colored brick and landscaping.  The subdivision was fairly new, planted over what was probably used a few years prior as a cattle grazing field.  Last night’s rain had coaxed a few brave, pale pink primroses to bloom; they drooped over the curb, eying us as we strolled up the driveway and into the maze of makeshift tables covered in, well, everything imaginable.
“Hey there!”
A bouncy blond skipped out of the shade of the open garage to greet us.  She looked like she was nearing 30, but she dressed more like an unfettered college student, with short denim cut-offs, a hot-pink Dallas Cowboys t-shirt that showed more than it covered and a pair of bedazzeled flip flops.
“Take a look around,” she encouraged.  “Everything’s gotta go-I’m leavin’ town in the morning and I can’t take all this crap with me.”
Mother gave her a distracted wave and dove on in.
“I’m Tracy,” the woman called after her.  “Let me know if you have any questions!”
“Don’t mind her,” I explained. “She’s a garage sale addict.  She’s lost in the rush, but she’ll surface eventually, after she finds her quota of treasures.”
“What? In all that trash?” Tracy giggled.  “But whatever, right?  It’s all gotta go-I need the cash.”
We stood for an awkward moment, watching as my mother swam circuitous laps through the heap, searching for her starting point.
“Whew, it’s hot out today,” Tracy fanned her face with one acrylic nail tipped hand.  Little beads of sweat glistened on her forehead.  She wiggled inside her clingy t-shirt and shifted her weight from hip to hip, looking for a non-existent breeze.
“So you’re moving?” I asked.
“That’s right.  To Florida.  I’m driving first thing in the morning.  I recently reconnected with my first love on Facebook.  Can you believe that?  The internet is an amazing thing, don’t you think? We decided to get back together and so I’m moving to be with him. Romantic, right?”
She beamed and fanned herself some more, frantically trying to force air across the exposed expanse of flesh along her neckline. “Good Lord, its hot out. I’m gonna go grab a beer.”  She bounced off, a child housed in the shell of a womanly body.
Truthfully, I was a little jealous.  Girls like this Tracy had always made me feel inferior and dull in comparison, like a dusty moth next to a vibrant butterfly.  I spent my high school and college years glaring at them disdainfully from behind my hardback copy of Jane Eyre and thick lensed glasses.  It wasn’t that I wanted to be exactly like them, I’d rather die than be forced to go through life with a personality as deep as a watermark, but I couldn’t help but be envious of the comfort Tracy seemed to have with herself, with her body.  She flaunted her skin proudly and shamelessly, while I kept my starched white polo buttoned up to the top.  Consciously, I was proud of the woman I’d become, successful, independent…respected.  But despite all of that, I still felt out of place in my own skin, compelled to cover up, to be safe beneath the armor of my clothing.
As she disappeared inside the house, I reached up and popped open the top two buttons of my shirt, baring a hint of pale cleavage to the raging summer sun.  What the heck, maybe I needed to learn something from Tracy and, as Mother said, “loosen up.”  Besides, it was August after all.  And August in Texas is, frankly, hell.
My mother was elbow deep in empty picture frames.  I wandered, perusing the things a person collects over the years, collects then discards when new and better things come along.  Paperback sci-fi novels, power cords, a leather recliner, stacks of DVDs and CDs, an unused camping tent, a rotary saw and ancient ratchet set.
On a table set off to one side, Tracy had laid out a collection of elaborate Victorian dollhouses. Their miniature pieces of perfect furniture had been moved out and strewn across the table’s surface, as if the dollhouse’s porcelain inhabitants were also vacating the premises. The tiny inside walls were barren, unfinished. The lady of the dollhouses hadn’t bothered to hang wallpaper or curtains and the rough wooden floors were badly in need of a bit of carpet. I picked up a carefully carved wooden spindle chair.  It was handmade, lovingly sanded and stained by some unknown craftsman.  I realized then that all of it had been handmade. The outer walls were painted in beautiful soft pastels, the window shutters fixed with tiny perfect hinges, and the pitched roofs were sturdy shields of miniature wooden shingles ready to weather the elements. Each was a home fit for a queen and her family. It was a shame Tracy was selling it all.  Wasn’t this the kind of thing people kept?
A sharp clucking sound came from across the table.  I glanced up to meet the bitter scowl of an elderly woman, a neighbor, who stood with her arms crossed like an angry sergeant as she eyed the open garage.“That girl is something else,” she tisked.  “Selling all this stuff like that.  It’s shameful!”
“That Tracy is selling all this so she can run off and leave her husband.  Why he’s letting her get away with it is beyond me.  If it was me, I’d just tell her to go on and go, but she’d not get one nickel, not one stick of furniture from me.”
“Look there, you see him standing there in the garage?  Poor man.  Poor Jason.  It’s shameful. So shameful.”
I turned to look.It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, but eventually I made out the dim outline of a figure leaning against the garage wall.  A stocky figure dressed in loose khaki shorts and a navy city fire department t-shirt.  He held a beer bottle in one hand, bringing it up periodically to his lips as he stared out across the driveway, watching it all with a sad stillness.
“Poor man.  So shameful,” the neighbor repeated before turning and making her way back into her house.
Tracy came bouncing back outside.  A minivan had pulled up, and an eager looking family poured out.  She hurried to greet them.
I’m not sure why I approached.  It definitely wasn’t in my nature to be nosey.  But something about that man compelled me and I moved forward, stepping across the line of harsh summer light and into the shadowy cavern of that garage.
“Hello,” I said to him.He nodded but didn’t look at me.
“The dollhouse and the furniture.  Did you make that?”


“It’s beautiful.”


“I don’t understand.  It must have taken you ages.  Why are you selling it?”

He paused, then drew a deep breath as if gathering the clarity to respond.

“She’s selling it all.  Everything. It’s all gone.  Nothing left.”  He replied, puzzled by the words, unable to make sense of what was happening.

I stood and waited, an eager tension slowly building somewhere in the center of my chest
“She told me last night.” His voice was a low rumble, a roll of distant thunder.  “She told me she was leaving me to go back to that guy.  Her high school gym coach.  They had an affair when she was sixteen.  He was married.  Now he’s divorced and wants to be with her.  She says she still loves him and wants to be with him too.”
I watched him raise the beer bottle to his lips and drink.  It was the only part of him that moved, but my eyes had adjusted to the dimness and I could make him out more clearly now.  His ashy blond hair was clipped short, military style, and his grey-blue eyes were framed by dark circles, like he hadn’t slept the night before.  He wasn’t exactly tall, but his shoulder was exactly the same height as my cheek.  His waist, the perfect width for wrapping my arms around …
I wrote Tracy a $1,000 check.  She was ecstatic as she helped me load the dollhouses onto the backseat of my car.
“Are you sure you won’t regret it?” I asked her.
She laughed. I buttoned up my top.

Two days later I went back with a pan of homemade lasagna and a plate of cookies.  Tracy was long gone.Jason was still drinking, alone in the empty house.  He was drunk enough to let it happen. For the first time in my life, wide-eyed and shockingly sober, I started things. I peelied off his clothes like I was unwrapping the most important gift I’d ever received and loved him.
Our first child was born the following summer.  And, thanks to my Mother’s uncanny foresight, my precious budding family has its very own collection of Christmas decorations.


Thanks for stopping by. Have you ever discovered a valuable garage sale find?

Monday, January 16, 2012

How To Hook’em And Book’em Without Dialing 9-1-1

 It's our pleasure to welcome Joya Fields to our blog. Please leave a comment or ask a question after you finish reading.

Joya Fields, author
Joya Fields has had over 100 stories and articles published in local and national magazines and her debut novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE, a romantic suspense, released in January, 2012. LOVE DELIVERED, a romantic comedy is now available.
Over the years, Joya has taught arts and crafts, worked in public relations, owned a daycare center, helped her children raise prize-winning 4-H livestock, competed in three marathons, and even spent a year as a Baltimore Colts cheerleader. Joya loves spending time with her high school sweetheart/husband of over twenty years, two very supportive children, and a pug who follows her everywhere.

Thank you so much to the Greater Fort Worth Writers for having me with you today to chat about law enforcement for non-law enforcement writers.
No doubt about it, if you write suspense, you’re going to need to know about law enforcement. I’ve met a few ex-FBI agents, ex-police and ex-CIA at writers’ conferences. Some of them don’t even write suspense. They’ve lived that life in reality, and don’t find it an interesting escape to write about it. However the old adage “write what you know” makes suspense writing a natural fit for those who worked in law enforcement.
What about the rest of us? I started out to write contemporary romance. A nice, sweet story with some conflict and a happy ending. My characters had a different plan. On the very first page of my very first manuscript, someone was hiding in the shadows, watching my heroine.

So much for sweet contemporary.

But I had no idea how to depict a crime scene investigation. I had no idea how cops spoke to one another, or about proper protocol. I raised my hand to ask this very question of a suspense writer at a conference a few years back.

Me: “How can someone who doesn’t have experience with police work write a suspense and make it realistic?”
Famous author: “Walk up to a police officer, punch him in the face, and you’ll find out about our criminal justice system real fast.”

Lucky for me, he went on to explain some resources, web sites and books. After class, a guy tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his card. “Call me anytime,” he said. Then he walked away.

I flipped the card over. A policeman. And that was the beginning of an education in law enforcement. That wonderful man emailed me photos of guns, taught me about local human trafficking laws, and generally kept me on the right track.

My debut romantic suspense novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE, includes a lot of scenes with police and sheriff officials. Thanks to the Florida police departments I spoke with, I even found out what color uniforms these officers wear. I’ve written several romantic suspense novels now, and have learned a lot about how to get the law enforcement part right. Here are some things that have helped me:

1. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask a police department for help. Don’t dial 9-1-1, though. Call public affairs and they’ll likely direct you to someone who can help.

2. If your county allows, sign up for a police ride-along. In my county, anyone over eighteen without a criminal record can go along with an officer for a full shift. Absolutely nothing compares to seeing law enforcement in person. A cool perk is that you also get to run red lights and drive really fast.

3. Take on-line workshops geared to teach writers about law enforcement. These are given by former police personnel, retired FBI agents, and others. offers a wide variety of these courses.

4. Link: crimescenewriter is a terrific yahoo group that features law enforcement professionals and other writers who will answer your questions.

5. Books also make great sources.

Here’s a list of my favorite ones:
Murder and Mayhem: D.P. Lyle, M.D.
Forensics for Dummies: D.P. Lyle, M.D.
Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Dana Kollman
The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide: Martin Roth
Mind Hunter: John Douglas

Thanks for stopping by today. I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with law enforcement (good or bad). Don't forget to come back on Friday for a short excerpt of Beneath The Surface.

Find Joya on the web:

Follow Joya on Twitter: @joyafields

Buy link for Beneath the Surface:

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