Monday, December 30, 2013

Technology In Lieu of Common Sense

"Uh-I don't know what happened. I left the keys in the car and I shut the door and it locked.  The car's not supposed to do that."

In my secret non-author identity as a call center advisor, this is my most common call. Be it a dealer or customer, they're always shocked that the car would have the sheer audacity to lock them out. After decades of human evolution when it comes to automobiles and locking the keys inside, you would think that we would have learned, but such is not the case. These so-called smart keys that are supposed to prevent such a situation have spoiled us.

Shockingly, most times they never blame themselves for locking the keys in the car or in the trunk. They're angry and disgruntled, the victim of some form of trickery that the car has played on them. I even had one admit to pulling off on the highway to take a smoke and getting locked out.

Sometimes I just want to ask: What were you doing to get your keys locked in the car? Having a car that doesn't have a smart key, I'm paranoid about getting locked out. I'm always aware of where my keys are when I get out of the car. And if it ever happens, I have a family member with an extra set, just in case. Maybe I'm crazy, but even with technology, I wouldn't want to rely on a machine to save my butt in a jam.

Are we being dumbed down by technology, leaving common sense and our brains by the wayside?
 Are we getting too lazy to think, instead relying on Apps and computers to do it for us?

My grandmother used to carry an address book the size of a Yellow Pages in her purse, which she kept with her until the day she had her final stroke. Everyone from distant relative to close neighbor was listed in that book and she even kept a backup at home. Nowadays all our contacts are stored in our handy dandy smartphones. If your smartphone crashed, would you be able to remember your emergency contacts?

The same goes for driving. I've seen people pitch a fit because their GPS isn't working. I know of people who get directions everyday for their commute. What happens when you can't get directions?
What about something as simple as shopping? Do I really need to whip out my smartphone's calculator to figure out what my discount at Macy's will be?

I'm definitely not against technology, obviously it's there for a reason. But every so often, maybe you might want to warm up those brain cells just to make sure they're working right. It may save you a long wait for roadside because you locked your keys in your car.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bursting the Bubble

One of our readers asked if we ever considered the possibility of hiring models to pose as our main characters for the cover of our books, The Body Hunters. We politely said no, it wasn't something we would consider.

Reading is about imagination and fantasy. My vision of what Danielle Labouleaux and that fine hunk of a man, Aiden Stone look like may be different from my co-author's vision of them, which is different from our reader's vision of what the couple looks like.  Putting two models on the cover could be disruptive to the reader's experience and may turn them off if the model's appearance is not what they had in mind.

I confess that the same thing happened to me with a series of novels I read. The series was briefly turned into a TV series. Now the male protagonist got a pass, he looked like I would imagine his character to be. His female partner was not. The actress was blond while the character was a brunette. She looked Hollywood glamorous while in the books the character was a bit of a tomboy and an athlete. For whatever reason I just couldn't fall in love with the show like I wanted and the changes in appearance may have been why. Now I'm afraid to pick up the next book in the series because I think the show may have ruined it for me.

It's something to consider as an author when the time comes around to design your book covers. Sometimes letting your audience use their own imagination is the best policy. Besides, the actor I envision as Aiden Stone is a little too busy making movies to worry about a book cover shoot. : )

First Impressions

Last week my job ordered lunch for our team from an upscale pizzeria, Buddy's. Another location of the same chain opened about two weeks on my street and I was wondering how the food would taste. Needless to say I was disappointed. Other than the lasagna, which was delicious, the rest of the pasta was flat and tasteless and the salad looked like someone just opened one of those instant salads you can buy at the grocery store. The restaurant which could have gained me as a customer failed to impress me, so I'll be spending my money elsewhere.

The same is true for me and my relationship with Sonic restaurants. I tried them at first three years ago when one opened around the corner from me. I ordered a chili dog and got home to discovered a bun with nothing but chili in it which completely turned me off the restaurant chain. I haven't visited since.

These restaurant's loss of my business is the reason first impressions are important, no matter what type of business you run.  So go all out. Don't be shy. Dare to impress your potential clientele. If you don't wow your customer or your reader from the start, chances are you've lost them for good.

Friday, December 20, 2013

If You Don't Like What I Have to Say, Get Off My Blog!

I'm going to make some people mad, I know I am. Too bad and if you don't like it there's the door.
As a black woman, I have an issue with black radio. About a month ago, I was in my car listening to one of the syndicated, drive time radio shows. The day before a white woman had called in to complain that the show was basically racially charged. Everything she heard was 'White people this' and 'White people that' which I agreed with and she compared him to the last radio show which did the exact same thing. The host got flippant with her and since it was a replay from the day before I'm not sure where the conversation went after that.

The next day I had a discussion with my mother about it and she shared my viewpoint since it's something she deals with everyday. As much as she loves the Tom Joyner Morning Show or the Steve Harvey Morning Show, she can't listen to it in her office. She works with two white women and who wants an awkward situation when one of the radio hosts launches into a white people tirade or joke? The office radio is set to a pop channel, a predominantly white channel by the way, with no fear of a racially charged topic or someone feeling uncomfortable. The only side effect is that my mother knows more pop songs than what I'm used to.

As a people we want people to open the door and accept us, yet we put our own dividers up. Now we have our situations from time to time where we have to get organized and involved, I know that, but it's not every single day.I even like the little known Black facts segment on the Tom Joyner show but the jokes concerning other races really have to go.  If a white radio station ranted about black people the way we talk about them, we'd be outside the building picketing with our pitchforks and torches with Al Sharpton and the Rainbow Coalition being flown in. So why do we feel we have the right to do that to other races?

If you want people to change, you have to start with yourself. If we're not willing to take change seriously, why would any one else?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What is Twitter Etiquette?

As indie author's one of the most powerful tools for getting our name and product out there is social media. It's been a learning process over the past year, but we've finally got it down. I'm not sure about Von, but my favorite social media tool is Twitter. It's short and sweet, no need for extraneous content, 140 characters and you're done. If I happen to find an interesting article or picture, I just click on the blue bird, it's miniaturized to Shrinky Dink size and posted to our Twitter page, easy enough.

As our Twitter followers have grown over the past few months, so have our interactions, or Retweets. At first, we would send a Thank You tweet, thanking them for thinking of us, but we soon discovered that retweeting the retweeters content was even better to return the favor.  If an author happens to follow us then we make it a point to follow them back. It's a good way to grow your network and interact with other people trying to do the same thing you're doing.

I got quite a shock, one day while trying to thank one of our retweeters. I clicked on that author's name to find a profile page full of nudity, whips, chains, and handcuffs. Okay, if we're not comfortable even looking at this person's page, do we have to retweet their material because they retweeted ours?

Another question concerns serial retweeters. If we know they retweet our stuff almost automatically, sometimes several times a day, do we retweet their stuff multiple time also?

What about Followers who speak an entirely different language? Do I follow someone even though I don't have a clue what they're saying?

It's not like someone wrote a handbook on proper Twitter etiquette. I hate being rude and don't want our Followers to think we're trying to snub them. So we had to make up our own rules.
If a Follower is into something risque that we're not quite comfortable sharing on our page, we'll send a thank you Tweet or retweet something safe they've retweeted from someone else.

For the serial retweeters, we retweet them once or twice. Anything more and you're caught in a vicious, repeating loop.

The rest is just play it by ear and stick with our own judgment.  If we're not comfortable with something, than the best course of action is to leave it alone. Over time you'll gain Followers and you'll lose Followers, that's just the way Twitter goes.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Whatever Happens to You, You Deserve It

The other night there was an especially upsetting episode of Sons of Anarchy. A person close to the main character, Jax, was killed off in an extremely brutal fashion. If you’re not familiar with the show, it centers around an outlaw biker gang and all the devious deeds they do. The show is supposedly an adaptation of Hamlet, where the biker club stands in for the kingdom.

Though in any other story he would be the villain, Jax’s character could be described as an antihero; a popular term for a bad guy we want to root for. During the six years the series has been running, we’ve seen Jax commit multiple murders, hurt people and even inject his son’s mother with drugs so she would have no hope in getting custody of him. Even though he commits these crimes, he claims to be a devoted husband and father to his two young sons who may be destined to repeat his mistakes. The viewer is supposed to sympathize with Jax, despite the heinous things he does because he is the center of the show.

Early in the episode he was warned by one of his friends that the troubles he may be having in his personal life, may be the result of his evil deeds in the past. Jax is shocked by this revelation. Why would his past deeds reflect on his current situation? Needless to say, the death of his loved one is the direct result of seeds he'd sown earlier in the season. What he did in the past eventually caught up to him, costing a woman her life.

Though it may be just a tv show, this is actually a situation I've seen over and over in real life. How many times have we seen the news story about the husband who kills the wife so he could be with his mistress and thinks he should get away with murder? Or the nutcase who makes it her point to go after another woman's husband? How many people do we hear of lying, cheating, and stealing to get what they want no matter the cost? They have the attitude that they're entitled to the happily ever after.

The thing that surprises me is their genuine shock  when God comes to collect or karma comes back to slap them in the face. Did you really think you could do all this damage and you wouldn't pay for it? Even people who do everything right and treat everyone kindly have trials in their lives.

Be careful what you do because it just might come back to bite you.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Hate Rom-Com's

I hate romantic comedies. Other than a select few most of them are predictable.
The couple meets in some cute way, most times with the desperate and single woman doing something to look like a complete idiot. Maybe she knocks over an entire table of food at a restaurant and he helps her clean up the mess. Or she gets her dress caught in the door of a cab and has to run along the side of it until the hero swoops in and saves the day.

After the cute meet the couple starts to date and all the woman’s flaws and insecurities come to the surface while most times the hero remains as clever and attractive as ever. Everything is fine until some conflict either internal or external threatens to break them up for good. One of the two has an epiphany and realizes they can’t live without their soul mate and by the end of the story everything is neatly tied in a pretty little pink bow and the happy couple lives happily ever after.

No wonder audiences have been staying away from romantic comedies in droves. Who wants to watch a story that’s that predictable? As a reader, it’s a tired formula I’ve seen repeated over and over again in a number of romance novels and it’s the reason I don’t read those types of books anymore.
As a writer, especially with a series, making things unpredictable is something you have to consider, especially when your story has romantic elements. Though the reader may say they want the heroine and her love interest to be happily married with kids, don’t believe them.

I can testify that I’ve thought the same thing with the TV series Castle. As soon as Detective Beckett and Richard Castle got together I was done. That was last season and I haven’t watched it since. After watching two characters who have been pining for each other for years finally get together, it’s boring now that we have what we wanted.

What keeps your reader interested is the tension between the couple. Move their relationship forward slowly.  If you put them together as a couple, tear them apart soon after and have them find their way back to each other all over again. Introduce that best friend who’s been yearning after the hero since they were kids. Maybe one of them has an unforgivable secret? What if her jealous best friend is a liar and spreads a nasty lie that breaks them apart. Unbeknownst to the hero, maybe his lady love has been replaced with her crazed, long thought dead twin sister. The longer you can keep your couple from that happily ever after the more the reader is pulled in. Make them wait!

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013


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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Building Your Mythology

Readers, myself included don't like cookie cutter, cardboard cutouts as characters.  If a character is boring or not dysfunctional enough, I'm putting the book down.

As a writer I learned that the more layers a character has, the better your audience receives the character. That character's bio doesn't have to be explained in detail in the book, but it may be something you want to keep in the back of you head as you're writing.

What's their favorite food? What are their hobbies? What was their relationship with their parents? Do they have tattoos? Did they serve in the military? What type of movies do they like? Who's their best friend? Where did they grow up? Do they have money? If so how much?

The answers to all those questions and everything else you can dream up for your character will influence every challenge they have to face, just like what you faced in the past affects who you are today.

For example, our main character in The Body Hunters, Danielle Labouleaux or Danny as she prefers to be called is biracial and grew up in New Orleans where she had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with her parents in her teens and early twenties. She was bullied as a child, not only for being biracial and also for a zipper scar that bisects her chest from heart surgery when she was six. She has a penchant for hot rods, especially her candy apple red Camaro, named Lucille. She loves to cook, which she learned from her Grandmere and she hangs on to friends for dear life because they were few and far between during her childhood. She also has a thing for buff, tattooed bad boys, who are really diamonds in the rough.

This is how we started our main characters and as Danielle's story progressed, we added layers and layers of back story, fleshing her out as a character. Before long we knew what she'd say and how she'd react in any given situation.

The same technique can be used for the universe your characters exist in. It's your universe, you make it up and mold it any way you want to.

Is it post apocalyptic? If so how did it get that way? Who's the President? Is this the future? What happened twenty years ago?

The more believable your story and character are, the more invested your readers become in your story.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Villain Must Pay

There's a lot of injustice in the world. All you have to do is turn on the news and here about someone being victimized. As we all know, sometimes the punishment doesn't fit the crime. How many times have we seen someone get a slap on the wrist for some heinous crime that's left someone badly hurt, emotionally scarred or even dead?

I once read a book that started out promising. It was a good read, up until the end when the antagonist got away with his misdeeds. The two main characters were coerced into letting him get away with a slap on the wrist. I still hold a grudge against that author for that ending. Although it may not realistic when it comes to the real world, people want to see justice rendered, especially when they're invested in a story.

As a writer, it's something I take into consideration. Maybe it's some form of vigilantism, but I personally want the bad guy to suffer and I know our readers feel the same way. Even though the antagonist is nothing but a combination of ones and zeroes in my computer, I want them to get what's coming to them. Sometimes getting carted off to jail won't do it, sometimes the punishment has to be extreme to satisfy the reader. Sometimes for the punishment you have to think outside the box. It's Raven Newcastle's world and she can do what she wants.

If only things in real life were so simple.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Superheroes Aren't Just for Geeks

Last weekend, I went to the theater to see Thor. I grew up with my father reading his Silver Surfer and Spiderman comics, which got me somewhat interested in the genre. Its been decades since I've picked up a comic, probably around the last time I picked up a She-ra doll, but I'm very familiar with the characters. I may not read the comics anymore, but I like to watch them on the big screen.

It being the first week of release of this particular movie, I decided to get my seat early. Sitting there I had a ringside seat as the other film goers found their seat. I was quite surprised to find that probably half or over half of the patrons were women. True, some of them may have randomly picked Thor, but for the most part I think Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba were the big draw. That would explain the gratuitous shirtless scene in the movie with Thor. That scene definitely wasn't for the fan boys, it was a shout out for the ladies.

Going back over the super hero movies that have been released recently, the common factor is that most of them are attractive men. You've got Chris Evans, Hugh Jackman, and Henry Cavill as leading men. All of them good looking actors playing superheroes, all of them with a female fan base.

I for one have watched just about anything Chris Evans was in, years before he ever played Captain America. I happen to think he's good eye candy. Anyone remember Cellular?

And the buzz with the Man of Steel from the ladies over the summer wasn't about the action scenes, but how well Mr. Cavill looked in that Superman suit. I for one enjoyed the shirtless scenes with the manly facial scruff. ; )

My own mother practically swoons every time The Dark Knight Rises is on TV and she hears Bane's distinctive voice. She was so crushed when I told her he wouldn't be in the next Batman reboot.

The trend even spreads outside of the superhero movie genre. I wasn't interested in The Fast and the Furious until they announced that The Rock would be appearing in Fast Five. As long as he's in the franchise I'll park my butt in the seat for every installment. Though Fast Six should be called The Fast and the Furious: Sexy, Sweaty Bald Men in Tank Tops.

I'm glad to see that film makers are paying attention to what women want when it comes to movies. We don't all want the same predictable rom-com's and period pieces. Sometimes we just want mindless action and a good looking man saving the day. And speaking of the Rock, he was also the only reason I went to see that awful GI Joe sequel and if he's in the next one they can go ahead and take my money right now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Don't Waste Your Gift!

This week, we're preparing to release the third book in our drama/romance/mystery/paranormal series The Body Hunters. Our book release goes hand in hand with the giddy Christmas Day feeling you get with any great accomplishment. The road has been paved with challenges, both personal and book related for myself, Von and our editor, but this is the payoff.

Writing is what we love. Conjuring up drama and putting our characters through hell is what we were born to do. It took us a while to discover our gifts, but when we found it, it flourished. Sometimes the writing process can be the most frustrating thing in the word, but I wouldn't trade my gift for anything.

If you have a gift or that special talent, use it. No more procrastinating, lying to yourself that you'll get started eventually. If you're a runner, go do that marathon you've always put of running. If you're a chef, what's stopping you from submitting that recipe? Writers, stop killing time going over the same material over and over again. Get that book published.

Don't let anything stop you from fulfilling your dream.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kids Grow Up

I am an adult child of divorce. I was about sixteen when my parents decided to end things. To make a long story short, my father wanted to do what he wanted and my mother wasn't having it.

I watched as my mother, a housewife for eighteen years, pulled out the newspaper the day after he left and went to work the next day. She worked jobs she shouldn't trying to put food on the table.  Recycling plant, cleaning toilets, construction; it didn't matter, if the money was green she took the job. We may have had utilities off from time to time, but there was always food on the table, even though it may not be the gourmet cuisine you wanted. We learned how to make food last on a limited budget and we were never on any public assistance. The struggle bonded us deeply.

Now my father on the other hand was living the life he wanted with no responsibilities to tie him down. He went and married the woman he was seeing while he was married to my mother, about two months after the divorce was final. He went and bought that brand new red Mustang, not the type of car you would expect from someone with three kids. He wouldn't call to check on us, but to brag about where he'd been on his vacation. He couldn't come for his scheduled visits but he made sure we saw his shiny new sports car. He could care less that his kids were hurt, scarred and traumatized, it was all about him.

The same could be said for his parents. We were their only grand children, so on Christmas they doted on us with the huge gift boxes from Hudson's. My grandmother would go all out with the beautiful hand knit sweaters and name brand items for kids. After my parents split, that was it. No Christmas gifts, no birthday wishes, nothing. As we struggled, no one called to see if the kids had shoes, coats, or even food. We were cut off completely, even though they only lived eight minutes away from us.

Now, the time in the hour glass is in our favor. We're stable adults now, no drug use, no illegitimate children, my brother had his growing pains as a young black male growing up in Detroit, but these days he's a workaholic and he's fine. We're as close to Mom as we've ever been.

Mr. Sherman on the other hand is another story. Having worked for Ford since he was eighteen, he makes a nice salary, but you can never tell. His life is a never ending spiral of dysfunction. The divorce from wife number three was final a couple months ago, so I know he's looking for his next flavor of the month. He has no choice but to flit from woman to woman because he has no bond with his children and has to assimilate himself into their family. He's the type who likes to rewrite history, like he was Cliff Huxtable; I have no problem reminding him what a terrible father he was.
Our relationship with him is awkward, like we're operating at two different frequencies. When we talk he makes juvenile jokes, like he doesn't realize we're grown adults now. He doesn't know me. He can't tell you my favorite food or color. He's even clueless about me being a writer, which I plan on keeping that way. Whatever he is, I'm stuck with him.

The 'accessories' are optional. We eventually reconnected with my grandparents a when we learned after about fifteen years when we learned my grandmother was dying of cancer. We visited the hospital a couple times, but I felt the coldness, like I'd wandered into some random stranger's hospital room. How pathetic is it when your own grandparents have to ask if you have any children? After a knockdown drag out debate with my brother and sister, we attended the funeral and started visiting with my widowed grandfather again.

Every week or every other week, we'd visit, go out to dinner or a movie. We even invited him over to dinner a couple times and my sister called him every day. A couple years later, a few of her daily calls went unanswered and he called back when he felt like it. He had a new woman in his life and little by little we could feel that chasm opening up again. My sister trying to be nice tried to give him another shot, but the writing was on the wall for me. Dear old sweet granddad used us as placeholders to keep from being lonely until he found another wife. After that I was done with the Sherman family completely. It's been about two and a half years and I haven't looked back.

Which brings us to the very reason I'm so pissed today. Sunday my father calls with his normal chit chat which results in him holding the phone in silence and me trying to come up with conversation because he doesn't know what to say. Before he ends the call, he tells me to call my grandfather on Tuesday, cause it's his birthday. Huh?

Today I had a missed call from my father and I know what he wants. If I didn't know what he wanted, the text with my grandfather's phone number is a clue.

I'm not calling him. Call me cold, callous, heartless, whatever, I'm done with these people. I'm not a toy you can take out of the box and play with whenever some one feels the need. My grandfather has kicked us to the curb twice; once as children and once again as adults, after we gave him a second chance. This isn't the Oprah show where the long lost relative is hiding behind the curtain. Fake isn't in me, so I'm not doing the loving granddaughter routine, pretending every thing is fine and make him feel better. I don't think so.

People need to know that kids aren't stupid. They may be little and defenseless and can't do anything when you break promises or break their hearts. But they grow up. Be careful what you throw away.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Femme Fatale

Enjoy this short story!

The leggy blond sauntered down the long staircase one carefully measured step at a time. Angelique Leone the iconic bombshell with the curvaceous silhouette and come hither pout that adorned many soldiers walls, was in her third day of shooting.  She was headlining in her second motion picture for Sandstone pictures of a four movie deal contract. The studio had pumped a ton of money into the flick and even more money into her glamorization makeover.  Angelique Leone’s name on her birth certificate which was stashed discreetly away in her father’s safe in Texas, was Jane Lenny; not exactly a top billing box office name.

She arrived in Hollywood at twenty years of age with ten dollars in her pocket and a prayer to land any kind of studio contract until a friend in the business revealed to her the real game. It was a hard lesson and one Jane wasn’t happy to learn. Crying alone in her small rundown apartment after losing her virginity to a fat balding casting director on the proverbial casting couch, she contemplated suicide. Returning home would only garner her shame for her actions.

The call came that evening just moments before she was ready to swallow a handful of pills with the joyous news of a studio contract. Apparently the casting director liked her ‘audition’ and recommended her for a small role in a new movie. If the camera agreed with her she would be considered for a larger role in the next one.  The meeting she had with the movie’s director the next morning would change her life forever, 1940 was going to be her year.  The first thing he did was give her a new name, a name that would soon be synonymous with sultry sensuality and unbridled sex, a name that went before a team of studio execs to be decided upon and a name she was not allowed to have a choice in deciding.

“Cut!” the grumpy red faced director Ronald Sizemore yelled. “Damn it! Who’s to dumb fuck that put this stupid plant at the bottom of the stairs? Get it out of here.” He kicked the fake potted plants over. “Everybody take five!”

Angelique threw her hands up in the air and marched down the stairs. “How many times are we going to do this? My feet are tired!” She flipped her long platinum blond hair from her shoulders.

The 6’2” stoutly director glared at her. “You’ll do it as many times as I want you to. Don’t forget your place!”

Her place was becoming one of more influence thanks to her overnight meteoric rise in celebrity and he knew it. He hated the idea that this shy little Texan girl was learning how to wrestle control in a male dominated industry.

“I’m going to lie down. I’ll be in my dressing room alone.” She emphasized loudly.

“Lay off the pills today.” He barked back. His brown eyes angrily dared her to disobey.

She turned on her heel sashaying off the set and into the early afternoon sun. Donning her sunglasses she made her way across the studio lot and hopped on a golf cart heading to her private oasis, the dressing room she demanded without hesitation as her star power started to shine. It was a dangerous game of wills and she knew it. The studio machine had the power to make or break her if she didn’t play her cards right, a heady position for a twenty two year old who gained a lifetime of wisdom in the eighteen months since that fateful audition.

Her dressing room was decorated in all pinks, every shade available was represented. From the deep pink special ordered carpeting to the bubblegum lampshades. She hated pink. Angelique was simply sticking it to the studio for what she considered rape by the fat, nasty smelling casting director. The temporary dressing room cost about as much as a new car to redecorate. Ironically the more she misbehaved the more her star power grew.

The public loved her. Young ladies longed to be her. Men self fulfilled their sexual fantasies against the backdrop of her half naked pinups. The attention her small role in that first movie garnered her was a Hollywood dream.  A well placed one liner catch phrase with fantastic lighting of her pouty full lips and she became America’s new sweetheart. It had even taken the studio execs by surprise. No one was more surprised than the demanding narcissistic director Ronald Sizemore who had hoped she would be another young girl in his stable of bevy beauties he could call upon for licentious scenery and behind the scenes sex. He assumed she was an innocent kitten he could use and abuse till she was washed up.

Angelique proved to be tougher than she looked given in part to her hard scrabble upbringing in the vast expanse of her father’s Texas ranch.  Not to mention his liberal use of a belt for discipline. Her brothers fared worse under his tutelage of hard farm work and beatings, both boys leaving his tyranny as soon as they came of age. She was the only one left at home when his second wife also made an escape. Frightened to stay knowing she would be an easy target for his drunken anger, she boarded a bus and headed to L.A. with a promise of fame and easy fortune.

Frantic knocking on her dressing room door woke her from her slumber. Wrapping her silk dressing gown around her she opened the door to reveal two LAPD officers.

“Sorry to disturb you ma’am.  We need you to come with us.” The tall uniformed officer said.

“What is the meaning of this?” She demanded.
Officer Brady responded. “Ronald Sizemore is dead. Please get dressed and come with us or we will be forced to take you like this.” The officer looked her up and down lecherously grinning.
She stumbled back and fell into her lounge chair. “Dead? But how?”
“That’s what we want you to tell us.”

The squad car pulled up in front of the station with its siren blaring, someone had already tipped off the newspapers and fan rags as light bulbs flashed incessantly blinding her even with her sunglasses on.  Officer Brady roughly grabbed her arm from the back of the black and white dragging her away from the throng of cameras and reporters calling out her name.

She was seated in a hard wooden chair in a lonely room, her silk scarf still wrapped around her head and neck. She pulled a cigarette and holder from her purse. “Can I please get a light?” She yelled, aware that they were watching her from behind the two way mirror. Detective Jarden entered with his lighter in hand. Sitting himself across from her he lit her cigarette as she crossed her legs allowing her skirt to rise up enough to tantalize him. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Am I under arrest?” she asked.
“No.” he replied.
“Do I need a lawyer?”
“Depends, did you shoot him?” He licked his lips as she adjusted the hem on her knee.
She raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow at him. “Up until now I didn’t even know how he died, how could have I shot him?”
Detective Jarden snickered pushing an ashtray her way. “You were seen having words with Mr. Sizemore before he died and it’s been rumored you had a beef with him. Do you own a gun Ms. Leone?”
“Of course, a single girl has to protect herself in this big bad city, but that doesn’t make me a killer.”
“You’re right, but what about the argument? You had words with him and then disappeared.” He lit his own cigarette and placed his fedora on the table next to his notebook.
“Ronald was a hard man to work for detective. He made many questionable demands and berated the staff constantly, doesn’t mean I wanted him dead. He had enough enemies for that.”
“But he is dead. Can you account for your whereabouts after one o’clock?”
Angelique sighed. She knew where this was headed. She had verbally threatened to shoot Ronald if he ever touched her again several weeks before. He didn’t like to be told no so he had punched her in the face daring her to complain, promising to ruin her if she didn’t comply with his demands. The bruises took days to disappear putting the movie shoot seriously behind schedule. The studio attributed it to the press as Ms. Leone’s ongoing bought with the flu.
“I was in my dressing room napping.” She advised curtly.
Sitting back in his chair unbuttoning his suit coat, Detective Jarden gave her a sly smile. “Napping? Was there anyone with you?”
She glowered in contempt. “No, I was alone the whole time.”
“Too bad, no one to corroborate your story.”  He said tapping his ash in the tray.

“You also have no proof it was me. I know my rights detective, I demand you let me leave.”

Detective Jarden snapped his fingers and the two officers who brought her in appeared. “Take Ms. Leone home please.” He told them. “I’ll be in touch.” He said as she walked away.

Angelique took her constantly ringing phone off the hook, dressed herself in a silk floral nightgown and poured herself a drink. It had gone as planned. That jackass would never force himself on her again. The back alley abortion he had forced her to have that nearly killed her was listed as another bout of illness by the studio. Her son had laid in pieces on a crude table next to the coat hanger used to destroy him and she vowed then to kill the man who did this to her.  She held the evening’s paper in her hands reading the headline. ANGELIQUE LEONE QUESTIONED IN DIRECTORS DEATH! Even bad publicity was good publicity.

She closed her eyes reliving her day. He had appeared in her dressing room ready for another romp. The whole scene on the set of overturned flowers and anger at the staff to call a break was planned by him so he could get her alone. They had done this dance before and she knew her steps well, he had seen to that with his repeated threats and punishments. He showed up to her dressing room fifteen minutes after her departure as to not arouse suspicion. Three knocks on the door was his signal it was him. She opened the door holding a handkerchief as a sign to the unseen men hovering around the corner hallway. George and John Lenny, her older brothers, gagged and bound Ronald dragging him to a waiting car behind her dressing room taking him back to the empty set. The always punctual catering truck took care of any set crew that lingered behind. The studio paid free food was always a sure fire guarantee to draw a crowd.

Her brothers had slipped him in the back entrance unnoticed amid the props and various scenery's. Unbinding their victim and removing his gag, she gave him only one command. “Run.” She said as she raised her hand pulling the trigger.  No one would have paid attention to the shot thanks to the noisy western they were filming in the next sound stage. Her aim was as good as any man’s her father had made sure of that. It was after all a necessary skill if you lived on a Texas ranch.

The bullet landed squarely in the back of Ronald’s head and exited out the front taking half his skull with it. Her brothers stealthily slipped her back to her dressing room and in mere minutes were driving out of town with the fired pistol. 

“Ms. Leone, Ms. Leone, how does it feel to be cleared of all murder charges?” the hapless reporter pestered her on her way to the red carpet premiere of her new movie ‘Femme Fatale’.
She stopped and turned in her red dress designed just for her movie premiere placing her hand on her ample hip with a big toothy smile. “Darlings, was there ever any doubt!”

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Happened to the Holidays?

When I think back to the family holiday celebrations when I was a child growing up in the 80's, I remember the family gathering at my grandmother's house. The food would be set around the dining room table and the desserts on her buffet. Mom and Aunt Pat would see what needed to be done in the kitchen. It wasn't yet known if Aunt Pam would be making a guest appearance, even though she literally lived right around the corner. My grandmother would have every thing covered in that cheap plastic wrap she used to buy, the food barely covered. We'd hold hands to bless the food, one random adult selected to say the prayer. Everyone would say Amen and we'd commence to making plates.

It was a guessing game as far as the meats, pick one at your own risk. Grandpa was a hunter, so you were subject to get raccoon, rabbit, or even goat on your plate. I remember the Christmas where my Uncle Phillip, jockeying for position to get closer to the bowl of chitlin's knocks over several of my Grandmother's house plants, spilling dirt every where. It's thirty years later and he still can't live that one down.

Now we wouldn't eat at the dining room table, so everyone would take their paper plates out to the living room. God forbid if you spilled any of the red pop on the carpet. After everyone was stuffed, we'd either see what was on the TV or the rest of the evening would be spent catching up on family events. Aunt Pam would show up with her family, right after the dishes were washed and all the clean up work was done. ; )

These holiday celebrations from years past live on only in old photographs. The kids are adults now, some with kids of their own. Uncle Junior, my mother's baby brother has been sleeping in his grave since 1999, Grandpa followed a few years later, and this year Grandma joined them in eternity. My parents have been divorced for years, Aunt Pat is still up in Grand Rapids, and Aunt Pam and one of her daughters are hours away in St. Louis. Life happened between then and now, which is why those holidays spent together are so precious.

Those are times that we can never get, which is why I don't understand people nowadays. Instead of spending the holidays with their loved ones, they'd rather spend it in a tent outside a store, waiting to buy some item they don't really need. When did Thanksgiving or the other holidays become so twisted? With today's society and everybody focused on me, me, me, and what I need, they forget the real meaning. Worse yet, their shopping habits affect the poor people who work at these stores.

My mother works for a retail giant, the head of her office which is vital to the running of the store. We can't spend the holiday together because she works Thanksgiving morning and then has to report to work at midnight the same evening to be ready for Black Friday. Now our holiday dinner has to scheduled before or after the actual holiday because some executive who's having his holiday meal catered by the help decides they can make a lot of money on Thanksgiving. All so somebody's kid can have that nice new tablet or laptop, which truth be told is last year's model anyway. It's something you might want to consider if  you decide to venture out on Thanksgiving to shop.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Body Hunters: Dirty Secrets, Naked Truth Excerpt- Alistair Brogan's Murder

Enjoy a sneak peek at the first chapter in the third book in The Body Hunters series.

Alistair Brogan’s eyelids cracked open a little after one in the morning. Through sheer stubbornness he continued to lay there, willing himself to fall back to sleep. After nearly an hour of watching the digital digits on his alarm clock mark the passing time, Alistair gave it up. At the moment sleep wasn’t going to allow him to escape the mess of his creation.

He forced himself to sit up. He ran a hand through his tousled grey hair, which stood straight up like muddy icicles.  The space in the king size bed beside him was empty; a few blond hairs on the pillow the only trace of the high priced call girl with whom he’d spent part of the evening.  Obviously his meter had run out and she’d gone off in pursuit of the next paying client.

Alistair winced as the soles of his feet touched the frigid bedroom floor, the wood cut from some rare tree from the Amazon.  He slipped into a pair of handcrafted silk slippers, monogrammed with his initials.  He was considering not even bothering with a shower, until his own body funk assailed him. 

Alistair shuffled to the bathroom with its heated tile floors, his worries heavy on his shoulders.  He gazed at his nude form in the bathroom mirror.  He didn’t look too bad for a chap well beyond the half century mark.  His eye sight had been corrected with laser surgery so he no longer required the grandfatherly glasses he used to wear.  His hair was expertly cut by a stylist known to have clipped the hairs of U.S. Presidents and heads of state.  His fingers pinched his waist, finding no trace of the love handles that had plagued him for years, his belly flat and taut like a fashion model half his age.  His unforgiving personal trainer had seen to that and the man’s exorbitant fee had been money well spent. 

A personal shopper made sure that his walk in closet was overflowing with fine garments and shoes that befitted a man of his wealth and stature.  A fleet of fine automobiles filled the garage of his mansion, while a handful of servants waited on his every beck and call.  When Alistair talked, people paid attention.  Everywhere he went people knew him and wanted to be around him.  To the outside world Alistair Brogan was the picture of power and influence, but why did he feel so hollow inside?

When Alistair looked at himself in the mirror all he saw was staring back at him was the face of a con man and a thief.  Alistair Brogan, CEO of Capital Securities Associates or C.S.A. was guilty of running a Ponzi scheme.  He’d duped corporations, charities, middle class workers, and little old ladies out of billions of dollars.  Over the years, he kept telling himself that he’d go on the straight and narrow and clean up the mess he’d started, but as the years went by he only got deeper and deeper in the tar pit of his own making. 

Just a few months ago, Alistair had developed a plan that would allow him to pay off all his investors back in full. The plan would take time to pay off, precious time he no longer had. Unfortunately, there was no more sand in his hour glass and two weeks ago the whole house of cards came crashing down.

A legion of FBI agents in their windbreakers descended on C.S.A.’s headquarters in Savannah in search of a paper trail.  The SEC had been investigating him for years and finally had gathered enough evidence for a warrant.  Like buzzards swooping down on a carcass, the media was all over the story.  Cameras and microphones were shoved into the faces of clueless C.S.A. employees and Alistair’s equally clueless friends and family.

Alistair was exiled from his circle of friends as soon as the news broke.  He’d gone from a VIP to the most hated man in America in mere days.  His victims now paraded outside the gate of his mansion with their torches and pitchforks, calling for the head of the monster.  His former friends treated him like he was poisonous, avoiding any contact with him.  Alistair felt like he didn’t have an ally in the world.

The arraignment was mercifully quick and his hot shot lawyer was able to get Alistair released on bond and put on house arrest.  Thankfully he was able to avoid wearing one of those awful tethers, since the lawyer negotiated the surrender of his passports.  Alistair was now confined to his luxurious seven bed room, Savannah, Georgia mansion.  With the house empty since he fired his staff, the mansion was even more like a prison.  Save for the occasional call girl, Alistair was in solitary confinement with no other human contact.

As he stood in the shower letting the steaming jets of nearly scalding water work over his exhausted muscles, Alistair reminisced over his past transgressions and his pitiful existence. 

He’d never been much of a husband or father. He knew now that he was never worthy of his first wife, his one true love, Cindy Good.  She was truly a saint who’d put up with his lying and cheating for years, but even saints have their limitations.  She’d taken their children and had been living happily ever after for years.

Wife number two was a conniving temptress who was only after his money.  She’d abandoned him as soon as she’d gotten word of the charges against him and the possibility of losing everything of which she’d grown accustomed.

The disappointment in his eldest son’s face whenever he looked at him was enough to kill him. It was a wonder that Alistair Jr. didn’t change his name to avoid all association with his fallen father. Luckily he was spared the judgment of his daughter who lived in Europe with her husband and children. It was one thing to be a bad father, another to be publicly branded a crook.

How ironic that the one child he could truly lean on at this time was his problem child, his youngest son Carl, by his second wife.  It was Carl, the former drug addict, who comforted Alistair with words of wisdom and encouragement. While he was never charged with anything as serious as running a Ponzi scheme, Carl had seen the inside of a jail cell on several occasions in his relatively short life and knew what they were up against.

Ceasing the ruminations on his children and turning off the punishing spray of water using the digital touch screen panel, Alistair stepped out of the glass enclosed shower.  The scent of his musky imported body wash and shampoo lingered on his skin.  Donning just his silk bathrobe, he headed downstairs, taking in the things he’d accumulated over the years.

As he passed the baby grand piano in the living room, he reminisced on the items he’d acquired.  There was the antique Persian rug he’d acquired in Morocco, the antique vase from Malaysia, a collection of hand blown glass ornaments from Italy.  These items he cherished would soon be auctioned to the highest bidder to cover the losses that his clientele had suffered because of his schemes.  His bank accounts were already frozen and it was only a matter of time before his property was seized.

His breath caught in his throat as if he could feel the walls of justice closing in on him.  His lawyer insisted on pleading not guilty, but Alistair knew that his days were numbered.  He was guilty as sin and he was going to spend the rest of his earthly existence and part of the afterlife in a federal prison.

Trying to shake off the stress, Alistair arrived at the room containing his indoor pool.  The combination of the chlorine and the heated water made the room hot and the air hard to breathe.  Shrugging out of his robe, he stepped into the warm waters.  He swam laps around the pool until his arms and legs felt like they’d been injected with lead.  The dull pain helped to lower his anxiety level.

“Nice day for a swim, huh?”  A masked figure dressed in black emerged from the shadows, a gun gleaming in its hand.

“Wh-who are you?”  In near panic, Alistair quickly cinched the robe around his waist.

The intruder never answered, letting the sound of the gunshot speak for him. A jet of red black blood sprayed like a fountain from Alistair’s perfectly tanned neck.  He fell to his knees, his hands around his own throat, desperately attempting to stop the bleeding as his life flowed through his fingers.  Alistair’s voice was replaced by thick garbled static, the blood in his throat nearly gagging him. 

The dark figure stood less than a foot from Alistair’s crouching form and pulled the trigger again.  Grey matter and blood spatter made a mess of the white tile.   Alistair collapsed in a heap.   Death overrode any modesty as his robe fell open, leaving his naked body fully exposed.  The intruder fired two more rounds into Alistair’s skull before kicking the dead man into the pool.

A murky red cloud surrounded Alistair as he floated on top of the water like an overfed goldfish.  Satisfied with their handiwork, the intruder fled the room, carefully avoiding the blood on the floor.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Susan Tepes-Ghost Therapist

Susan Tepes arrived home after a long day of shooting her reality show ‘The Ghost Therapist’.  She hated the name, but for the money they were paying her she could have cared less what they called it.  Flicking on the lights to her spacious L.A. apartment, she realized she was not alone. From the corner of the room a vase flew past her, aimed at her head. It ricocheted off the wall behind her. After having just about all her dishes and vases broken by angry spirits, she only used plastic ones  “Missed me!” She yelled.
A large roar filled the empty space and her body was slammed into the living room wall. His body pinned her with his icy breath chilling her neck sending shivers down her spine. Sometimes being a contact psychic was a harrowing. She could touch the spirits and they could touch her, a fact that many deceased male predators relished and sought out those like her for that reason. The chose not to show himself to her, but she could feel his hands sliding down her body and his engorged ethereal member press into her hips.
“Not today” She said out loud. His growling rang in her ears as he punched her in the stomach.  “Stop it!” She commanded as he knocked to her knees. Reaching blindly at the space in front of her she felt his energy and pulled. A thud reverberated throughout her apartment. “Show yourself now!”
“You don’t tell me what to do! I tell you!” His voice distorted with each word.
Placing her hands on her temples she pushed back on his energy force causing shock waves to reveal his teenaged form to her. He was barely sixteen from the looks of him. “You’re just a kid!” 
“I’m man enough!” He roared back. “Just ask my many girlfriends.” 
Susan walked to her kitchen grabbing a stick of sage from the counter. “You mean the women you raped?”
“They asked for it.”
She continued her questioning, lighting the sage. “How did you die?”
Still leering at her he lifted off the ground and flew forward stopping in mid air as the smoke from the sage hit his ghostly form. “What the fuck is that?” 
She smiled, continuing to wave the smoke in circles around him. “Sage. It will make you tell me the truth and keep you from harming me.”
“Bitch!” He barked.
She ignored the insult. “Tell me your name.”
“Joseph what?”
“Joseph Kirby.” He spat on her.
“That’s gross!” She said wiped the ectoplasm off her face with a towel. She shoved his form over to a chair at her dining table.
“Ghosts don’t need to sit stupid.”
“That’s true but I do. I see you acknowledge you’re a ghost so we are halfway there.”
“Halfway to what?”
“Moving you on Joseph. So first things first, tell me how you died.” She said placing herself across from him at the table.
He materialized fully in front of her. “I shot myself, you wanna see?” He turned and parted his hair to show her the massive exit wound in the back of his head where his skull should have been, bloody brain matter hung out of the hole. “I stuck the pistol right in my mouth and pulled. My brains splattered everywhere, I can imagine my bitch mother having to pick pieces of my skull and brain out of the rug.” He laughed with an evil twinkle in his ghostly eye.
“Hmm. That’s a pretty violent ending, Suicide actually tells me you must have felt guilt over what you’ve done.” She commented.”That will work in your favor.”
His angry stare failed to move her. He waved his hand, slamming her cabinet doors in a telekinetic fit. “Why aren’t you scared?”
“Don’t make me relight this sage.” She said. “Don’t you think I’ve seen this for years? You’re not the first one to come to me. Ask yourself Joseph, why were you drawn to me?”
“I…I don’t know I just found myself here.” His eyes downcast he stopped the door slamming.
“You found yourself here because today is November 1st,  The Day of the Dead and even though you can’t see them, there are five others in this apartment waiting patiently for me to attend to them.”
“There are?” He looked around not seeing any other specters. “You’re lying I don’t see anyone else.”
“You don’t because of your guilt and how you died. Joseph, the loneliness that you feel is part of your punishment to get you to repent. You have to accept your guilt, show remorse and move on.”
“Move on to hell you mean? No!”
Susan removed herself from the table walking towards her bedroom with Joseph following close behind.
“Yeah this is more like it! Time to get busy.” He tried to grab her but felt a shock that sent pain through his energy making him kneel to the floor.
“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you the sage acts as positive energy to your negative energy, it also puts a shield around me. You can’t touch me till it wears off and by then you’ll be long gone.” She smiled and grabbed a large antique book from her nightstand.
“It’s a little late to save me.” He said meekly.
“It’s not for you it’s for your victims. I have to forgive you in their stead then you can move on to the next plane. Joseph don’t you wonder why you didn’t immediately go to hell? Why you are still here?” She returned to the kitchen table opening the large book.
“I guess I didn’t think about it.” He peered over her shoulder. “I thought this was a bible?” 
“It’s a different type of book that’s been in my family for centuries. I have our family bible too don’t worry. ”
“What language is that?”
Susan swatted him away. “Romanian, now sit down.”
He did as he was told. She ran her fingers down the old text page after page until she found the words she was looking for. Reading aloud she recited the foreign words, once she finished they sat in silence for a second.
“What did you say?” He asked.
Susan sighed taking on a pensive look. “I asked the elders to search your victim’s heart to see if they are open to forgiving you.”
“Well? What happens now?”
“We wait, if the answer is yes then you are forgiven, in the meantime I want to read to you from the book of Matthew  passage 6: 14-15 and 1 John 1:9,  the last one I’ll read is Acts 3:19 about repenting which even though your actions say different I can tell you want to. Open your heart to it Joseph and accept the words.”
As she read the passages his ethereal form started to disappear. “What’s happening to me?” His frightened face started to fade.
“It’s okay Joseph, just accept the embrace.”
“Am I going to hell?” He asked in a child like voice.
Smiling sweetly she answered. “No, you’re going to the next plane where you have to finish the lessons you needed to learn here before you cut your life short and accept what you have done. It’s a good place don’t worry, once you finish your lessons you’ll move on to what we call heaven and be ready to accept God’s love and forgiveness.”
“I’m scared.” He whispered as his form was now almost a wisp of smoke.
“I know Joseph, Look in front of you do you see a man?”
“He is an elder and will lead you on your path, trust him he is there to assist you till your ready for heaven. Goodbye Joseph.”
“Thank you.” She faintly heard from afar.
Loud banging rattled her doors jolting her from her chair.
“I know you’re in there you hippie freak, open up!”
Rolling her eyes Susan adjusted her tie dyed bohemian skirt and for fun wrapped a matching scarf around her head in a turban. “Yes Mr. Armstrong” She addressed her heavyset, balding neighbor. “Come for a reading? Let me get my crystal ball.”
“Listen I don’t care if you are the Ghost Doctor….”
“Ghost Therapist.” She corrected.
“I don’t care if you’re the fucking ghost proctologist! I’m warning you for the last time to stop burning that damned weed, it’s stinking up the building!” He yelled, veins road mapping on his forehead.
Susan looked beyond him and nodded. “Your grandmother wants me to tell you to lay off the potato chips and soda. You’re heading for a heart attack.”
He huffed as he walked away. “Tell the old bat to mind her own fucking business.”
Susan rolled her eyes at him and shut her door. Turning to the ethereal crowd in her living room she sighed. “Next.”

It's Secret Santa Time Again!

It happens once a year. You and your coworkers draw names for Secret Santa. Here's a word of advice, be mindful of the person who'll be purchasing that gift for you.

For example, last year Von had the sheer luck of drawing one of our coworkers. Now this young lady didn't ask for a nice fluffy Snuggie or a pair of comfortable slippers. She wanted a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. If you want the book, that's fine, that's your business, your personal business. My question is why would you want to put someone you work with in the awkward position of purchasing a book that's has the stigma of being 'Mommy Porn'? Now you're leaving a coworker with the decision of whether to gift wrap it or just throw it in a paper bag.

Being a Secret Santa is all about the spreading the Christmas Spirit. There's nothing like the joy of picking out the perfect gift for someone you work with and the look of glee as they open their gift. I shouldn't have to be embarrassed going to the store and purchasing an item on your list.  Gift buying shouldn't be a life altering decision. So if the thing on your list requires batteries or has three speeds, unless it's a blender, take it off. Yes, that even includes that paperback copy of Taken by the T-Rex ; ) Please refrain from putting personal items on you wish list. Happy Holiday Season y'all!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Danielle's Halloween

Here's a fun treat. This is a prequel of sorts to the yet unpublished third book in The Body Hunters series. Call it a Halloween treat! Enjoy!
 “I promise honey, this is going to be the best Halloween/Slumber/Birthday party ever.” Danny’s mother, Julianna happily announced as she hung the Happy Birthday banner.
The Labouleaux family’s living room had been set up as party central with everything a six year old little girl could want at their party; every six year old girl except Danielle Labouleaux. Danielle or Danny as she preferred did not understand the need for all the hoopla surrounding her birthday. She’d practically begged her mother not to invite any of girls in Danny’s first grade class other than her two best friends.
“Not it’s not!” Danny protested. “The other girls in my class hate me.”
Julianna beamed a smile down on the daughter who was her spitting image, except for her golden eyes and golden complexion which was inherited from her father. “Honey, they don’t hate you. They just haven’t taken the time to get to know you. That’s what this party is about; getting to know your classmates and making friends.”
“Whatever.” Seeing that her mother still wasn’t listening to her, Danny stalked off in search of the candy she’d been forbidden to eat.
Danny was different, she knew that. First and foremost, she was psychic, able to communicate with ‘ghosties’ as her Grandmere called them. That fact was a secret that only she and Grandmere shared. Her grandmother warned that Danny would become a powerful psychic, because she was chosen to be born on November 1st, or what was called The Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead was when the veil being the living world and the spirit realm was lifted. On that day, Danny would be a beacon for those ghosts who craved attention and wanted to pester her with their selfish requests. As she got older, the ghosts’ would be more and more demanding for her attention.
Danny also had a stronger connection to the spirit realm than most psychics, even those born on November 1st. Just a few months ago, she underwent emergency surgery to correct a heart defect. While she was on the operating table, the doctors lost Danny for several minutes before they were able to revive her. This phenomenon deepened her connection to the spirit plane.
Unlike the kids at the school whose parents were either both white or both black, Danny’s father was black and her mother was white.  She first noticed that her parents were different during Open House when the school year first started. Though her parents didn’t seem to be aware of it, Danny saw the stares and the whispers from the other parents. She put it in the back of her mind, until the kids in her class started to tease her about her parents, calling her an Oreo.
After punching her classmate Jasmine’s lights out on the playground, Danny went home with the question of why they would call her a cookie. Her father, Marcel Labouleaux lovingly pulled her into his lap as he and her mother told her the fairy tale of how she came into being.
They explained how her mother, the beautiful, violet eyed princess, defied the wishes of her rich family and eloped with the handsome Creole man she’d fallen in love with. Much to the young couple’s delight, Julianna had a bun in the oven. When Danny asked how her mother got the bun in the oven, Marcel quickly changed the subject, recommending that she not get into any more fights.
“It’s getting late, Danny. Go upstairs and put on your costume.” Her mother advised. “Your guests will be arriving soon.”
“But mom!” Danny protested.
“Do what your mom said.” Marcel commanded in his booming voice, just walking in from the market with refreshments for their overnight guests.
Rolling her eyes, Danny made a point of stomping up the stairs as loudly as possible. She’d be glad when this night was over.
The costume she’d picked out was draped across her bed. It’d been a knockdown drag out brawl, but Julianna finally relented and let Danny pick out her own costume.
No frilly pink princess costume for Danielle Labouleaux. She knew that she wanted to be a superhero, but not Wonder Woman or Supergirl like the girls in her class. Danny wanted to be a superhero that looked like her, so she showed her mother of picture of Storm from the X-men cartoon.
Proud of her selection, Danny put the white wig over her dark hair and hopped into the black jumpsuit with the matching cape. Liking what she saw in the mirror, she started hopping on her bed, the black cape billowing around her.
“Danielle! Your guests are starting to arrive!” Julianna called from downstairs.
Exhaling sharply, Danny slowly descended the staircase, meeting the familiar and friendly faces of her friends, Emma and Felicia. Emma was a white girl with dark brown hair pulled into pigtails. Felicia was a black girl with freckles and braids. Emma’s costume was a bloody zombie princess, while Felicia was disguised as a glamour girl, with a tiara and feather boa.
They squealed and giggled like little girls do, frolicking through the house. The three best friends played to their heart’s content, until the five invited girls from their class started to file in with their blankets and sleeping bags. Fresh from an evening of trick or treating, they were still in costume.
Julianna, ever the gracious hostess whether the guest were young or old, had plenty of Halloween treats and activities planned for the girls. The party went well, with Danny’s classmates enthusiastic about the Halloween games. The girls’ nastiness toward Danny was temporarily forgotten as they stuffed their faces, danced to silly songs and competed for Halloween themed prizes.
After the festivities were over, the living room was set up as the girls’ campsite with an assortment of kid friendly Halloween movies playing on the television. The girls changed out of their costumes and into their pajamas.
Tammy, the alpha dog of Danny’s tormentors at school pointed at her as she buttoned the top of her pajamas.
“Look! The Oreo is about to turn into Frankenstein!” Tammy’s horde of flunkies giggled as Danny hastily finished buttoning her top.
The zipper scar that bisected her chest was what remained after Danny’s life saving surgery. Getting teased about it was almost a daily ritual at school. She’d been following her father and Grandmere’s advice about using her words, not her fists, but she was nearing a breaking point.
“Leave me alone!” Danny shouted back.
“Oh, Frankenstein gonna cry.” Tammy mocked, bringing her balled up fists to her eyes. “Wah, wah, wah. Crybaby! Are the Oreo’s tears made of cream filling?”
The other girls laughed at the amateur comedienne.
“I said knock it off!” The infamous Labouleaux temper was ready to break free.
 “Oreo! Oreo! Oreo!” The girls in Tammy’s clique chanted.
“How about you take your heart out so we can see it, Frankenstein?” Tammy jabbed again with her sharp words and her pointy finger into Danny’s chest.
She pounced on Tammy like a jungle cat. The assault took the bully by surprise as Danny pummeled her from one end of the living room to the other. The pink Barbie play tent Marcel had erected so the girls could pretend they were camping collapsed under the weight of the grappling duo. The other girls screamed trying to get out of the way for fear of being the next victim of Danny’s fury.
Having heard the girls chanting ‘Oreo’, Marcel and Julianna were already on the way to the living room, knowing there was trouble. Expecting to find their daughter outnumbered and in need of a rescue, they were stunned to find her holding her own.
“Take it back.” Danny growled, slapping Tammy’s reddened cheeks.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I called you an Oreo!” Tammy wailed.
Despite his urging his daughter not to fight, Marcel felt a little fatherly pride that she’d given the bully exactly what she was looking for. He pulled Danny off Tammy and into his arms.
“Enough, Danny, enough.”
“I tried to use my words, but I couldn’t help it.” She sobbed, tears falling on his neck. “They wouldn’t stop calling me names.”
“I know, sweetie, Daddy knows.”
Julianna turned her motherly rage on the five instigators. “Is this how your parents taught you to behave? You come to Danny’s house, eat her food, play her games, and you mistreat her? What kind of spoiled brats are you?”
Danny’s enemies flinched under Julianna’s glare, muttering apologies.
Danny was still clinging to Marcel’s neck. “I’m about to start calling their parents because I’m about one minute from whupping their behinds myself.”
One after another, Marcel called the parents, pulling no punches about their children’s racially charged behavior.  Upon their arrival, some of the parents tried to defend their children’s antics, blaming Danny, but Felicia and Emma were there to provide their eyewitness account of events. The parents then went from defensive to super apologetic.
“You know racism is learned in the home. It’s a shame that kids pick that up from their parents.” Marcel remarked dryly to one mortified mother, who hastily dragged her towheaded daughter out the door.
“So I guess the next thing is to wake up with a cross burning on my lawn.” He matter-of-factly stated to a humiliated couple as they whisked their daughter away.
“Give me that candy!” Marcel snatched a bag of treats from one girl on her way out the door with her shame faced mother.
After the antagonists were gone, Marcel left to take Emma and Felicia home. He’d already called their parents, who expressed concern for Danny. Marcel thanked them for their worries and let them know he’d be dropping the girls off shortly. Before leaving, they gave Danny a supportive hug.
“Are you mad at me, mama?” Danny asked as Julianna tucked her into bed.
“Mad at you? Why would I be mad at you?”
“I ruined the party.”
Julianna sighed, sitting beside her on the bed. “I’m not mad at you. Who I’m mad at are those atrocious little snots and their equally atrocious parents!”
Danny giggled at her mother’s version of harsh language.
“I can never be mad at you, my love. Now go to sleep, sweet dreams.” Julianna kissed her on the forehead.
“That’s horrible.” Cassie cried out as Danny continued her tale.
It was over twenty years after that fateful birthday and the two best friends were sitting across the kitchen table from each other. It felt like a lifetime had passed since then, Danny’s parents and her Grandmere lost to her over the years. The now adult Danny went to the coffeemaker for the carafe and refilled their mugs.
“Dad was pissed. He was so aggravated with the situation that he joined the PTA.”
“Why would he join the PTA? What would that have to do with anything?” Cassie flipped her blond hair over her shoulder.
“He joined the PTA so he could have an excuse to see those girls’ parents every few weeks.” She laughed. “My dad was very ornery and he couldn’t resist an opportunity to make those parents feel even worse.”
Cassie joined in the laughter. “What about Tammy and her goons?”
“I never had problems with bullies after that. They didn’t even cause me any problems in high school, so I guess they learned their lesson.”
“I know I learned mine.” Cassie and Danny weren’t always friends in fact they started off as bitter enemies. Having been the recipient of a Danielle Labouleaux beat down, she didn’t blame the bullies for not bothering her again.
“You know I’m still sorry about that.” Danny said remorsefully.
“I don’t know why. I was acting like a stuck up biotch and I deserved it.” Cassie acknowledged. “I still don’t understand why you don’t want to have a birthday party. So what if you had to beat up Tammy?”
“Like I said my birthday being on The Day of the Dead leaves me vulnerable. After that ruckus during the slumber party, I fell asleep and woke up to dozens of ghosts reaching out to me.”
“Exactly. Dealing with my gift is hard sometimes, even as an adult; imagine turning seven years old and having ghosts fighting for your attention. I woke up screaming and luckily Grandmere was there to calm me down. On my birthday, spirits are drawn to my raw emotions, so she taught me a few exercises to keep them at bay.”
“Danny, I’m so sorry your birthday is so traumatic.”
“It’s no big deal. Now you know why I don’t celebrate my birthday. It’s just too much drama and too much of a hassle. So don’t bother planning a birthday party for me. I’ll be just fine.”
“When was the last time you actually celebrated your birthday?” Cassie asked out of curiosity.
Danny shrugged. “It was the year before Grandmere died.”
Cassie was horrified. Danny’s grandmother had been gone for close to ten years.
She watched as her friend dumped the contents of her mug into the sink and left the kitchen. Visions of streamers, balloons, and birthday wishes took root in Cassie’s mind, despite her friend’s protests. She was going to give Danny a birthday extravaganza whether she liked it or not. She just needed a partner in crime and she knew just the man to help her.