Saturday, March 29, 2014


Today I planned on having my normal visit to the hairdresser. It didn't quite work out that way.
Things took a turn for the worse when the girl who works next to my beautician got the news that she'd be having a six year old client who needed a press and curl. The little girl who's cute as a button and her grandmother get situated. Granny mentions that her granddaughter is going to be a flower girl in a wedding on Saturday. As she walks past me, I notice that the child looks almost panicked, not the way you'd expect a happy child with no worries to look. Their beautician gets started and I'm whisked away to the shampoo bowl.
Over the sound of the water, I hear wailing on the other side of the wall. My beautician says the the girl is having a fit. We get back from the and the child is in tears. These weren't the 'I don't want to get my hair washed' but the 'you're trying to kill me' variety. Since this is also a cosmetology school, an instructor is called over and she takes charge of the situation.
When they bring her back from shampooing, that's when the real show starts. The girl starts bucking out of the seat as her hair is being blow dried and combed. Grandma or as I later find out Great Grandma explains that she just had braids taken out, which had been in the child's head for several months. With the situation being too much for just one beautician, three hover over this child's head with combs and a blow dryer, trying to make sense of her chaotic mane of curls. You see, the braids were in her head so long, they started to turn into dreadlocks. Clumps of matted hair are combed out of her hair all the while she's screaming bloody murder.
Oh great granny attempts to help in her own demented way. She repeatedly reminds the child that she's not going to be in the wedding, which causes the kid to scream even louder. She shrugs off responsibility for the tangled mess, blaming it on the child's mother and swearing it will never happen again.
For an hour, I'm listening as a poor child is being tormented. A few hair stylists wander into the area and watch the circus before walking away and shaking their heads. Granny isn't concerned with her great grand who's been so obviously neglected, her primary concern is the wedding tomorrow and what they're going to do without a flower girl. The old woman even suggests bringing the girl in the morning and having her hair relaxed, which the instructor politely tells her is not possible since it was just washed.
After all remedies are exhausted, the instructor leaves and returns with a partial refund. There's no way they can do anything with this child's head because she can't keep still. Grandma calls 'grandpa' who starts yelling at her over the phone demanding an explanation as to why the girl's hair can't be done. Obviously brow beaten for years, she meekly explains the situation, and leaves to wait for him in the lobby.
I feel bad for the girl. It's bad enough that her mother is neglectful, but she's surrounded by elders who have their priorities in the wrong place. I have a feeling that there are probably chapters and chapters of dysfunction in this child's life. Sure she'll probably walk down the aisle tomorrow in her pretty dress, but what about the next day? What about the day after that? At what point will someone say enough is enough and pull her out of that dysfunction?

Friday, March 7, 2014


 For your reading pleasure, here's an excerpt from the fourth book in our series, The Body Hunters.  Titled, The Body Hunters: The Lazurus Effect, this is the opening chapter. You can expect it to hit Amazon within the next few months. As always we'll keep you posted. Enjoy!

”Well, if you’re not willing to send us a payment, Mrs. Avery, we will have no choice than to pursue further legal action; up to and including garnishment of your wages.” Swiveling in her office chair, Jesse faced the backdrop of downtown Savannah. Still talking on her headset, she turned, watching the denizens of the city scurry about like ants.
“But I told you.” The woman on the other end of the phone wailed. “I’ve been out of work for a year and I just started another job two weeks ago. I haven’t received a child support payment from my ex-husband in months. My kids need food. Just work with me.”
Jesse smiled as she soaked in the euphoria of having dominion over her clients. “I truly sympathize with you, Mrs. Avery, but I have a job to do just like you. My hands are tied.”
The desperate woman on the other end unleashed a ragged breath. “I-I guess I could send something. I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’ll be expecting a payment in the next two days or we’ll be forced to proceed legally.”
“There’s a special place in hell for people like you, you heartless bitch.” The woman told Jesse before clicking off the line.
Smiling contentedly, she pulled the headset off, tousling her long mane of vibrant red hair. She’d rose above the common call center agents several months ago.  Jesse’s debt negotiation skills had afforded her several promotions and a corner office at ACS Collections. Her supervisor had once boasted to his colleagues that she could draw blood from a stone and gave her the moniker of the grim reaper, because she was good at closing accounts.
Her fairly new appointment had also scored her leagues of haters. Most of the catty women at the office couldn’t stand her, though she could care less about what they thought of her. She hurled a scowl at one of the office tramps who strolled by looking at her like she was on display at the zoo.
“Can I help you?” Jesse’s voice confronted the woman.
The tramp kept walking on those stilts she called legs, squinting at Jesse as if the sun was in her eyes.
“You’d better keep walking.” She muttered under her breath.
That distraction out of her face, she returned to the Avery case, leaving detailed notes that the client had promised to pay in two days. There were several avenues Jesse could have taken, other than threatening to garnish the woman’s check, but she didn’t care. The woman accumulated the debt so she had to pay it, besides, the other avenues wouldn’t have helped Jesse’s numbers. This job was about revenue, not coddling customers who couldn’t pay their bills.
Typing up her notes, Jesse glanced down at the framed photo on her desk. The man who was the subject of the photo had no idea the snapshot of him even existed. She’d caught him unawares on the street in the downtown area and took advantage of the photographic opportunity. She sighed, reflecting on his gorgeousness.

“That bitch has a lot of nerve taking my man!” Jessie fumed under her breath.
Earlier that day, Jesse had been following, not stalking like her friends so often pointed out, the man she cherished, Aiden Stone.
She and Aiden’s whirlwind courtship had begun several years ago in Washington D.C. at a nightclub. Sitting at a table with her girlfriends, she’d seen him the moment he walked in.
To say the man was fine wouldn’t do him justice. He was six foot four of raw masculinity and muscle, with stunning blue eyes that could make even the strongest woman swoon. His features were exotic, with traces of Polynesian, African American, and Irish, ancestry blending together in perfect harmony. A native of Hawaii, his skin tone was the soft brown of damp sand on a Hawaiian beach.
Once she saw him, she knew she had to have him. And have him she did. They spent one night together in reckless abandon and it was the best lay of her life. When her eyes opened the next morning, he was gone without leaving any way to contact him. He just seemed to vanish from the face of the earth.
Fate intervened a year ago, when she found him licking his wounds in a bar in Savannah, Georgia, over his ex-girlfriend, Danny. The fact that she went by a boy’s name was a clue that the witch was wrong in the head. Seeing her man in distress, Jesse fed him and provided him shelter in his hour of need.
Her friends told her she was a fool, that he was on the rebound and would go back to his girlfriend given the chance, but they were just jealous. They wanted him for themselves and that wasn’t going to happen. She and Aiden were soul mates.
Things between her and were Aiden fine for a few months, though he couldn’t get him to stop talking about his ex. No matter what she did for him, everything that came out of his mouth was ‘Danny this’ or ‘Danny that’. Jesse’s friends of course had to stick their noses in saying that he wasn’t over his ex, and he was just using her to make the woman jealous, but she wasn’t interested in what they had to say.
Just as her friends had forecast, the day did come when the witch decided that she wanted him back.
Try as she might, Jesse couldn’t break the spell the voodoo witch put on him. Things escalated out of control when Jesse confronted Danny at the wedding of one of her snooty friends. The skank couldn’t even fight her own battles, siccing her blond bimbo of a friend on her while she watched from the sidelines. Two months later Jesse was still sore from that brawl. Worse yet, Danny had gotten the police involved.
After a couple months of laying low and staying away from her beloved, Jesse was back to her previous routine. She made a point of driving by their house at random every day, just hoping to get a glimpse of him. Last night, she got an eyeful.
He and that tramp were apparently just coming back from a date. That viper slithered up to him and practically had her forked tongue down his throat. Seeming for some reason to enjoy it, he swept her into his arms and carried her into the house.
Thankfully, her job as a call center debt collector was there to take her mind off things. There was nothing like a customer begging for mercy to get her out of a funk.
A full day of work behind her, Jesse was ready to call it a night. With a bucket of ice cream to drown her sorrows and some trashy reality TV to take her mind off her man problems, she’d be just fine.
“Jody!” A concerned Jesse called for her roommate as she entered the apartment. Jody was supposed to report to work that afternoon, but never made it. It was out of character for her friend, since she hadn’t even bothered to call in.
Mostly a solitary creature, Jesse had let a down on her luck coworker move in a month ago. She and Jody got along harmoniously since she was quiet and tended not to judge Jesse’s personal life.
Jesse slipped out of her heels at the door, flexing her exhausted feet on the plush carpeting. With only the light from the adjacent living room to guide her, she headed toward the kitchen.
“Jody! Are you okay? Why didn’t you call into work? They were looking for….”
Her bare heel slid on something warm on the linoleum and she smacked her butt on the floor. “Damn it, Jody! Why didn’t you clean up this mess you made?”
Still yelling at her roommate, she washed her hands in the sink.
“What did you drip meat all over the kitchen?” She asked, watching the red swirl down the drain.
Huffing, she swung open the refrigerator door, perusing the shelves. In the center of the fridge was a large glass jar filled to the brim with cloudy red fluid. In the bottom of the container was a large chunk of red meat the size of a fist.
“Jody what the hell did you put in my…”
The door was slammed on the back of her head, knocking her out cold.
Pinpricks of light in a starburst pattern formed behind Jesse’s eyelids as she awakened. The back of her head was aching like it wanted to detach itself from her body and crawl away. Her limbs were heavy for some reason and she wasn’t able to move anything but her neck.
“What the hell are you looking at?” Jesse slurred, drool dribbling down the corner of her jaw. “Stop looking at me.”

Attempting to move, Jessie found that her hands and feet were bound to the bed. Her arms were almost painfully stretched above her head.
Her head listed to the side, Jesse’s focus was on the woman with the dark eyes who was blatantly ogling her. For some odd reason the woman was in Jesse’s room, hiding in a corner that was filled with shadows.
“I wouldn’t worry about her.” A man’s voice entered the room.
Dressed in black, he grabbed the staring woman by the hair and brought her face out to the light. Her brown eyes were lifeless, a jagged red streak across her pale throat. The young woman was devoid of a shirt or bra a gaping black hole had been opened below her ribcage.
“J-Jody! What did you do to Jody?”
He threw her back into the corner like an old rag doll. “If it’s any consolation, I regret having to dispatch your roommate. You were the intended target after all.”
Jesse’s anger bubbled to the surface. “You’d better get me out of here you sick son of a ….”
The man continued talking as if she hadn’t uttered a word. “But your roommate did give me a chance to perfect my method.”
He proudly held up the jar that had been in her fridge and thumped a finger against it like it was an aquarium. Sitting in the bottom of the jar was Jody’s heart.
Jessie’s eyes registered pure horror. “Oh my God! Help somebody help me! This psycho is going to kill me!”
Irritably shaking his head, the man covered her mouth with duct tape.
“As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted; when I tried to remove the heart from my first victims, it took more time than I was comfortable with and of course the noise from the saw attracted too much attention. I finally realized what I was doing wrong; the secret is to make an incision here.”
The man pointed to where his diaphragm would be. “And reach upward. That way you avoid the ribcage and you retrieve an undamaged specimen in mere seconds.”
Mascara streamed down Jessie’s face as she begged for mercy behind the tape.
He paid her no mind. “Now your friend’s heart, I’ll be adding to my collection. Your heart on the other hand I’m going to give as a gift.”
Reaching into a duffel bag, he extracted a syringe filled with a clear fluid and a pair of scissors.

“I’m giving you a local anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing.” He told her before stabbing the needle into her abdomen.
Her howl was muffled, sobs wracking her body.
“Now, now. It will all be over soon.” He soothed. “You should be honored. I think your heart will be the perfect present for her.”
While the pain killer snaked its way through her veins, the man used the scissors to cut through Jessie’s blouse and bra at the same time. Once he made his symmetrical cut through the material, he ripped it apart, exposing her naked ribcage. Going back to his duffel bag, he brought a sinister looking blade to the bed.
“This isn’t really personal.” He said over Jessie’s weeping as he made his first incision. “I’m just a man who believes in symbolism.”
Not satisfied with the way the blade was cutting he dipped his blood soaked hands into the bag and pulled out a knife with a serrated edge.
He got back into his gruesome work, sawing through her torso. “The girls I killed. They’re symbols of what she did to me. Oh, she hurt me, she really did; the pain was excruciating. She practically ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Now I wouldn’t stomp on a perfectly good heart, but you get what I’m saying. Giving her your heart is my way of showing her how I really feel.”
After carving a hole big enough for his hand to slip through, the man reached into the cavity. Jessie thrashed on the bed as he reached upward.
“Ah, here we are.” He whispered, biting his lip.
He grabbed the still beating organ and twisted. Her brain still functioning, the last thing Jessie saw was her heart beating in his hand. Whether from delirium or her approaching death, she found it humorous that she really was a heartless bitch after all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This is Gonna Hurt!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Back to Normal

Last week was especially tiring. There were some changes at work so the number of our calls doubled. I took on some early morning baby sitting duties, while running the gauntlet called buying a car. Von's brother was hospitalized with pneumonia and spent a few days in the ICU. Needless to say work on our latest project went by the wayside.

Thankfully, Von's brother is doing much better. He's recovering in the hospital. Monday starts Winter Break so I don't have to worry about getting my nephew to the bus and I can sleep in until my normal time. Things at work have slowed down to their regular pace and I got the exact car I wanted on the first try.

I hope Monday starts the beginning of a better week. I'm looking forward to getting back into the imaginary drama of our making.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I Don't Know What's Wrong with These Kids!

My sister, who is in her late twenties just had a three day weekend off of work. Now it's not because it's something she planned or she had vacation days, it's not even because she was sick. She just felt like it. She took off Friday, okay, one day is not a big deal. But since her job gives you one paid sick day for every two you take, she decided to make a 'Buy One Get Two Free' thing out of it. The bad thing about it is that she's a member of management and her shift is basically a skeleton crew, so they really depend on her to be there. She hates her job with a passion, but is too lazy to do anything about it, so she just complains. You would think that having your car in the shop with a repair bill of $800 would be incentive to take your butt to work, but it isn't. She just doesn't care.

Heaven forbid the try to reprimand her for taking off three days. How dare they! She'd better get the schedule that she wants otherwise she's calling corporate because they're not treating her fairly. She fails to think about the people who had to scramble and cover for her when she decided to slack off.  It ain't her problem.

On the other hand, whenever I take a day off, I feel guilty, like I've committed a federal offense. Even when I have to take FMLA time for my mother, I feel like I should really be at work. I can't help it, it's just the way I am.

She's not the only in her age group I've noticed with these type of issues. I work with twenty somethings who share the same trifling streak. They take days off  just because the sun is shining or because it's paycheck Friday. When the company finally decides to fire them they're dumbfounded. There's no sense of responsibility  and I don't understand it. They're selfish and overly entitled. 

My job site bought new furniture for our new break room and it's a struggle because they want to lounge, put their dusty feet up and lie across the sofa like they're at home. The break room that our company created for us is slowly becoming a den for nastiness because they're too lazy to clean up after themselves. They don't respect themselves, therefore they don't respect anyone else.

One day I hope my sister comes to her senses and grows up. When you know better, you're supposed to do better. In the meantime I can rub in my mother's face that I'm the oldest, therefore the original, perfect copy. : )

Friday, January 17, 2014

Reel them back In

Von was just minding her own business, going to the break room at our job when she was accosted by one of our readers. She'd just finished reading our third book and demanded to know what would happen next. She begged and begged, promising to buy our next book, she just had to have the answer. Like we always do, Von told her she would have to wait until the next book is out.

We've been bribed, extorted and threatened by readers/coworkers who after reading the ending of one book, wants to know how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved in the next. I think it's one thing as authors we've gotten right. Every one of our books end with bait to get the reader to buy the next one.

If you're an author with one off books with unconnected stories it won't work. But if you're planning a series you may want to give your readers extra incentive to come back. A cliffhanger doesn't have to be the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. It could be as simple as will they or won't they get together, which of the characters is hiding a pregnancy, or what's in the briefcase the villain has been carrying around.

Whatever you decide, don't be shocked if your readers get confrontational and want to know what happens next.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Be Nice!

Von and I have made it no secret that we work in a call center. Only the name and location have been changed to protect the not so innocent. The company we work for also has a call center in the Philippines to handle things such as billing and tech issues. It's not an unusual thing for American companies to outsource some call center operations to other parts of the world.
On several occasions, I've had customers erroneously call me with complaints about the advisors overseas.

'Thank God, I reached someone who speaks English!'

'Where are you located? I'm tired of talking to foreigners!'

'I hung up on the last person because I didn't want to talk to anyone in China.'

'I want you to get somebody from America on the phone!'

Those are just some of the ugly, nasty things I've heard over the years about the call center employees in the Philippines. It's not that they're incompetent or can't do the job, people are offended because they're not American. They use the excuse of a language barrier, when in truth they speak fluent English, some of them with or without an accent.

Sometimes they try to reel me in to their nastiness chuckling at their own derogatory humor, but I purposely let them hang themselves with awkward silence. If you feel this way about someone who's different from you, what would you think about me, a black woman? You're just letting me know what you're all about.

Call center employees take their share of abuse and I'm pretty sure those from foreign call centers get it worse. That just adds to the widespread belief overseas that Americans are selfish, arrogant, and rude. How many of those call center employees go home with horror stories about the intolerant Americans they've talked to all day?

If you're not happy with outsourcing, that's fine, but it's not the call center advisor's fault. They're trying to earn a living just like you. Write to the company you get your services through. If they refuse to change, take your business elsewhere. Just don't make your grievances a personal attack on someone who's just trying to do their job.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Think I'm Growing Up

I grew up in Detroit, my diet of music a combination of hip hop and R&B. The rise and fall of Tupac and Biggie was the era of music I belonged to.  While the two rappers were great story tellers of their time, like most rappers tend to do, some of their songs took on a negative slant concerning women. Tupac was good at that: uplifting women with one song and degrading us with another. I'd hear the misogynistic lyrics and just give it a pass, using the excuse that I'm not one of the hoochie mamas they're talking about in the songs. I'd focus more on the beat and the music, as opposed to what was being said. For years I listened to rap music, without really listening, until recently. When you know better you do better I guess.

This new rap music doesn't hold the same sway for me. Whether it was that way all along and I just ignored it, I don't know, but some of the new stuff is atrocious. The other night I heard a song with some troll who probably looks like something found on the bottom of my shoe calling a woman ugly. Or the song where a rapper boasts about some woman who doesn't like women "but a stack will make her kiss her". Even Usher went that route with a song about some weak minded woman in the club seeking another woman so the three of them can have 'fun'.  Most of what I hear from rappers is how they plan to use and abuse women for their enjoyment. They think that having money and fame gives them the right to treat women like objects to be discarded the next morning. Even Blurred Lines sounded a bit on the rapey side.

Maybe it's because I know and work with women who are fools for men and get heartbroken and played all the time, but the music isn't working for me. For the past few years, my taste in music has been evolving. If it sounds good, I'm there. Occasionally I've even strayed to the country channel. I absolutely love Billy Currington by the way.  I may not give up rap entirely, I'm not perfect and there are some good artists out there, but I'm more picky about what I actually take in.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My childhood memories of my mother consist of her constant worrying about whether we're safe, warm, and not hungry. I remember those annoying mitten holders I was forced to wear on the sleeves of my winter coat to make sure I always had my gloves. Or those annoying snow pants I had to fight my way into. When my brother came home from school with his eye practically hanging out the socket from getting beat up by bullies, I remember the way she jumped into her car, tires screeching to confront them. I also remember thinking my mother was going to prison, but it worked out fine. ; ) She put her own health on the line, working constructions jobs to keep food on the table. All these things she did for us. She's the type of mother I want to be one day.

What I don't understand is how someone could just throw their flesh and blood away without a passing glance. For nearly a year, my mother has been raising her niece's, my cousin's baby. The whole saga started last January when she received a call that my cousin was giving birth at the hospital. It came as a surprise to us since we'd just talked to the girl, who's in her early twenties back in October and she hadn't mentioned anything about even being pregnant. Since the girl's mother, my mom's sister had just moved out of state, my mother went to see about her and the baby.
Mom immediately fell in love with the 3 pound preemie and promised to do everything she could for her. Since my cousin was close to getting evicted from her place and the government was in her business because the child was born with drugs in her system, my mother came to the decision to take care of the baby until she could get herself together. I was skeptical at first, fearing that Mom was taking on too much, like she tends to do. With my mother, myself, and my two sisters sharing an apartment, it was a group effort but we all did our part to take care of the baby from the time she left the hospital.

Knowing the mother could barely take care of herself, Mom paid for everything the baby needed out of her pocket, from clothes, to diapers and furniture. Mom provided while all the girl and her family could offer were thank you's. Mom isn't the type to worry about getting paid back for her efforts, she does it because it's the right thing to do and God will see to her having what she needs. The sleepless nights and 3 am feedings belonged to my mother, who's staring down the throat of 60, works 40 hours a week and goes to dialysis 3 times a week.

In the meantime, she coached my cousin on getting support for the baby, including WIC for the formula, and making sure the baby got part of the father's income from the government. My cousin came to get the baby late in the spring and 3 months later we got a call from her saying that she needed us to take the baby again.

The relationship with the baby's father was taking an abusive turn and she was moving out of town to be with my aunt. The baby was returned to us in deplorable conditions. Her eczema was out of control, diaper rash had run rampant, and the clothes my mother sent when she gave her back the first time were filthy with most of them having to be thrown away. Once my mother got her home the poor thing guzzled three bottles of milk until we could go get more formula.  The vouchers for the food and milk that the government gave for free had not been used and the lump sum of money my cousin received for her child, definitely wasn't spent on her.

My cousin left with promises of sending a portion of the baby's money every month for expenses, but that's one promise that hasn't been fulfilled. Since she skipped town we've only seen $100 of the promised money and we haven't heard from her in nearly two months. When she does call it becomes an 'I'm a bad mother' docudrama worthy of Lifetime TV where she wants to rope you into feeling sorry for her. The focus turns to her, not to the baby she left. I see that the longer she's away from her child the more disassociated she becomes, the bond between mother and child broken.

The baby is doing just fine and approaching her first birthday. She's smart, loves to talk, and is happy as she can be. But kids grow up and one day she's going to have questions. How will her mother explain why she abandoned her and took off with the money that was intended for her care? How will she tell her daughter she didn't do all she could to make sure she was taken care of? Isn't that what mothers are supposed to do?