Friday, September 28, 2012

Writer's Police Academy

I’ve had a lot of highlights in my life. Getting married. Having babies. Adopting my sons. Landing a literary agent. Getting my first publishing contract…

Attending WPA definitely made the list.

Thursday night was my ride along with Greensboro PD and I had the good fortune to be assigned to Officer Henley. It was a quiet night. Not one traffic stop. Not one call. I won’t lie, I was a bit disappointed, but he was such a great guy—very patient and easy to talk to. He answered my questions and even apologized a few times that there wasn’t more to show me. I told him that a quiet night was a good thing for him and I was just happy to be there.

And I was.

Friday brought FATs training. It looks like a video game, but the gun they give you is real (just fit with a compressed air cartridge so if feels and sounds close to the real thing). They put us through two training scenarios… scenario #1 had me chasing an armed prison escapee. I shot him in the throat. #2 had me trying to deescalate an armed man who took his co-worker hostage. He got it in the head. Good times!

The rest of my day was filled with great, informative talks on such light-hearted topics as human trafficking, analyzing blood evidence and learning how to lift fingerprints.
Every single one of my instructors was an expert in their field, and they really seemed to want to help make my writing better. The day ended in the auditorium of GTCC, with two hundred other writers, listening to a very fascinating talk given by Dr. Beth Murray, a forensic anthropologist.

Back at the hotel, we had the privilege of listening to Dr. Kathrine Ramsland give a night-owl talk on observation and how to sharpen your skills and apply them to your writing… and Lee Child was there, sitting at the table next to mine. We chatted briefly before the talk—he is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. No joke.

Saturday started with a bang! Literally. As soon as we got off the bus, we were herded over to the side parking lot where a trained sniper started giving us a demonstration… but before he could get the good part—like shooting—a SUV ripped past us, followed by three squad cars, light flashing and sirens blaring! We watched as the SUV spun through the parking lot, police cruisers close behind, before it came to a sudden stop. Police piled out and began shouting commands at the driver and his passenger… it was an felony stop re-enactment.
And it was awesome.

The rest of the day brought me lectures on suicides, hanging and auto-erotic deaths (already got ideas for this one… go figure), police gun fights, handcuffing and arrest procedures and the highlight of my weekend (along with my ride along) … the shallow grave exercise.

About thirty of us were turned loose in the woods to find a body—like some sort of gruesome Easter egg hunt, and who’s the lucky girl that found him?? That’s right—me!
Photo: Tony and me.

The day ended with another fabulous talk about the judicial system, led by Marcia Clark—yes, that Marcia Clark. She was funny and engaging—and she’s a writer herself. Sometimes other writers are a bit selfish with sharing ideas and techniques. Not Marcia Clark—she gave ‘til it hurt!

Saturday night was the big night. A silent auction, followed by a banquet and then the keynote speech given by Lee Child himself. He’s a wonderful speaker, very relatable—you can tell that he has a passion, not only for writing, but for other writers as well. It was a wonderful thing to see in someone so well-known.

Afterward, he signed books. When it was my turn, I had one signed for my mom and when asked if I wanted my picture taken with him, I declined (because I’m an idiot, that’s why.) and then shook his hand like I’d just interviewed him for a job (I’m not only an idiot, I’m a socially awkward idiot, to boot). He looked a bit confused but played along… my plans to ask him for a book blurb flew out the window.

Sunday brought me home. Close to 20 hours spent between airports and planes before I was able to crawl into my own bed in over four days…. And the last thing I remember thinking before drifting off to sleep was—

I wonder what Lee Lofland will have cooked up for next year…

Got a plot problem? Hit me up:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Contract Update & Fiction Friday

Well... I did it!

Two years ago, I set myself the goal of publication and yesterday, I reached it!
I just recieved word that my contract with Llewellyn Publication has been finalized and approved.
2 books with the option for the third... how crazy is that??
I'll post more as I learn more... to celebrate, here's the first chapter of my soon to be published thriller, THE FIRST--


            Yuma, Arizona

December 22, 1999


            Waiting was the worst part. The sporadic stretches of time between his visits—when he came and hurt her—were the hardest torture to bear. She had no idea how long she'd been in the dark. No longer trusted herself to count the days. It’d been October first when he took her. What month it was now was impossible to figure out but if every time he raped her marked the passing of a day, every time he cut her, the passing of an hour then she'd been locked away for centuries and everyone she loved was dead and gone.

            Shifting, she felt the pull of dried blood and unhealed wounds across her skin. She couldn't see them—the only kindness the darkness granted her—but she could feel them. Smell them. They were everywhere. Cuts, long and thin, ran the length of her spine. The inside of her thighs. Along the swell of her breasts. The soft flesh under her arms. The soles of her feet. The stench of old blood and infection mingled with the warm, revolting smell of the bucket she was forced to use as a toilet. She tried not to think about it. About what had been done to her body. About what she’d been forced to do to survive…

            Sounds penetrated the dense folds of black that surrounded her.

          Footsteps. Slow and measured.

            Terror gripped her, forced movement into limbs no longer totally under her control. Lurching to her feet, she swayed beneath the almost impossible heaviness of her own body weight. She took a few shuffling steps, kept one hand braced against the wall, while the other hovered out in front of her.

            He wanted to play.

            Her hands closed on the knob and grappled with it. Her hands were encased in duct tape—wrapped round and round until her fingers were fused together and rendered useless. Without working fingers, getting the door open was difficult, but not impossible. Using both hands, she gripped the knob and turned. The door unlatched and swung inward.

            Step by step, she forced her legs and feet forward until she slammed into the wall opposite the door. Pressing her battered cheek against it, she dragged cleaner air into her lungs in ragged gulps.

            Light glowed a dull, muted red against her lids. Instinct seized her, her brain sent the signal, tried to open her eyes even though she knew she couldn’t. Her lids wouldn’t budge—hadn’t since she woke in the dark.

            Experience told her that going right was wrong. There were stairs to the right but they led to nothing more than a locked door. He wanted to chase her. It was his favorite game. She could feel him, standing at the base of the stairs.

            Staring at her.

            Her heart started its frantic kicking. It bounced around her chest, tried to claw its way up her throat. Turning left, she moved legs as fast as they'd go, her shoulder hugging the wall to keep herself upright.

            Footsteps echoed after her, slow at first but then faster and faster.

            He was coming.


            He reached the bottom of the stairs and smiled when the door flew open. Watched her stumble across the hall and slam into the wall in front of her. He took a deep breath—pulled the sweet smell of her blood into his chest and held it.

Even at a distance, he could feel the heat of it. The way it tingled across his skin. His mouth began to water. The need to taste her was a fire in his blood. He'd fought against the burn for years. Not because he felt like what he wanted to do to her was wrong but because he knew.

            Eventually he'd go too far and end up killing her. Killing wasn’t the problem. The problem was the more he had of her, the more he tasted her, the less he was able to control himself. Every time he drew his knife across her skin, the urge to push the blade in just a little deeper grew stronger and stronger. Sooner or later, he was gonna snap. Wouldn't be able to stop himself. The thought worried him. He could feel it, circling closer and closer. Not that he didn't like killing—no, killing was fun. He’d killed lots of times. Animals—cats and rabbits mostly. A dog here and there.

            Some people said animals didn’t have souls but he knew that wasn’t true. Felt them plenty as they wriggled free of the meat and bone that trapped them. Sometimes he had to force it out and sometimes that slippery thing seemed almost grateful to be set free. He liked it better when they put up a fight. Liked to peel back the skin—layer by layer—until the screaming thing beneath him simply... stopped.

            But his Melissa was different.

            There was fight in her. More than he'd bargained for—it thrilled him beyond measure. He’d had her for eighty-two days—eighty-three, if he counted today—and she hadn't given in. Hadn't wriggled free.

            Not yet, anyway.

            She lurched forward, her gait made slow and uneven by the drugs he kept her on. Her naked body smeared with blood he'd drawn. Covered in wounds he'd inflicted.

            Beautiful. Almost too beautiful to be real. He swept his gaze over her face before they settled on her eyes and the neat row of stitches that kept them closed. He was sorry for it—not being able to see her eyes. He wanted to rip those stitches out of her lids and force her eyes open, make her look at him. Make her see him—but he couldn't. Seeing him would ruin everything.

            His eyes traveled downward. The blood was freshest between her thighs. Thick and dark. Moist and warm. Seeing it killed his amusement, dried it up. The thought of nesting there—pumping himself into that slippery hole between her legs, cutting her while he did, over and over—moved him forward. He could see it. Her blood-slicked skin, marbled with his semen. His hands and cock covered in both.

            Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the KA-BAR he always carried. The knife had been a gift from his father for his twelfth birthday. If he knew what he’d been using it for, his daddy wouldn’t be too happy. Thinking about it made him smile. He flicked the blade open and gripped it tight.

            Looking at her always made him hungry.

            He started after her, took the distance slow at first, but every inch forward pushed him harder and faster until he was nearly running. Fell on her, dragged her under and she went down swinging and screaming.

            Just how he liked it.


            She hit the floor, her skull bouncing off the unforgiving pad of concrete that had only seconds before been under her feet. Her arms swung wildly, hitting him again and again.

            The sound of his laughter told her he found her efforts amusing. Anger roiled around with the terror. The scream forced its way out, nothing more than a dry croak that burned her throat as she drove the flat of her foot into something soft. He grunted in pain and let go.

            Suddenly free, she rolled over, tried to crawl but couldn't. Digging her fingers into the rough floor, she pulled—dragged herself until she had nowhere to go.

Dead end.

            Pressing herself against the wall, she drew her legs to a chest that heaved and wracked with dry, wordless sobs.

He'd recovered from whatever minor damage she'd managed to inflict, was standing over

her. He wasn’t laughing anymore.

She heard the jerk and snap of his belt as he yanked it off. Felt the bite and hiss of his zipper as he drew it down.

            Battered knees forced themselves harder into her chest. Her swollen face buried itself  against her thighs.

Please... please let me die this time. Let me go. Please—

            His hand fell on her head, gripped her hair and flung her to the floor. He crouched beside her, his warm breath excited and hurried against her face and neck. Grabbing her arms, he looped his belt around her wrists, yanked them above her head. Bent them back until they felt like they’d snap in two. Her eyes rolled in her sockets. The red burn of light behind her lids went black.

            Hands fell on her thighs and yanked them wide. A fierce burn, accompanied by the horrible pressure of him inside her as he rammed his hips against her—faster and faster—his grunts and moans a dull roar inside her head.

            "Mine. Mine. Mine..." He muttered it over and over, each thrust accompanied by the only word she'd ever heard him say. She knew him, but every time she tried to focus on the voice behind the guttural tone, she got lost. Let herself drift away from what was happening to her until the pain and horror faded away into nothing more than shadow.

            The tip of his knife sank in, dragged along her breast, skirted around the rapid, uneven rhythm of her heart but she hardly felt it. His tongue came next, flat and wet against her breast, lapping at the blood his knife had drawn. The feel of it turned her stomach—she was almost glad when he pushed the blade in further and she prayed  this time he'd force it deep enough to kill her. It bumped along her ribcage, its journey made jagged and broken by each brutal thrust of his hips. The blade skated along her belly, his muttering became frenzied, almost enraged. The pounding between her thighs came even faster, even more violent.

            Over. It was almost over—

            The blade at her belly sank in deep, a vertical breach that stole her breath and answered her prayers.

            The lift and drag of the knife being yanked from her torso set her on fire, followed by another thrust of both hips and knife. “Mine.” This time he sank the blade in at a diagonal angle.

            Lift. Drag. Thrust. “Mine.” Diagonal.

Lift. Drag. Thrust. “Mine.” Vertical.

It was the letter M.

            Something inside her broke free and floated away. The legs she'd tried so desperately to close, even with him between them, went lax. A sudden warmth stole over her and she smiled.

            She was dying. She was finally free.


            He felt for a pulse. Nothing.

Watched her gore splattered chest for the rise and fall of breathing. It was still.

He bathed her and put her in the trunk before driving toward the place he’d picked out a few weeks before. It was far from where he’d kept her, even farther from where he’d taken her. A small building appeared to the left of the road and he turned. It was a Catholic church—St. Rose of Lima. The structure was squat and brown, hunkered in the dirt it sat in, as if afraid of the wide night sky and endless desert that surrounded it.

St. Rose served a transient congregation. Mostly migrant workers that labored in the cotton and melon fields that dotted the landscape. He drove around the back of the building and killed the engine. He watched the back of the building for a few minutes to ensure  it was empty.

The first time he’d ever seen her was in a church—one much different from St. Rose. It’d been a Baptist church. Tall and proud. Surrounded by trees. He’d seen her sitting in the front pew with her grandmother—her stunning face so serious, her Sunday dress clean but faded and nearly too small for her growing frame—and knew she was meant to be his. She belonged to him. Looking at her, one word pounded through his brain, over and over.


She’d been young, too young to be alarmed when she caught him staring at her. She’d looked at him from across the aisle with the bluest eyes he’d ever seen—and smiled. Just remembering it took his breath away.

He popped the trunk and got out of the car. This time he cradled her in his arms like he was crossing the threshold with his bride. Hunkered down, he freed one of his gloved hands from his bundle and unlatched the gate to step into the tiny prayer garden behind the church.

It was nothing more than a few trees and some rosebushes planted next to a marble bench but he imagined it was paradise as he stretched his Melissa out over the bench. Kneeling beside her, he pulled a pair of cuticle scissors from his front pocket and used them to snip the sutures from her lids. As careful as he was, each pass of the scissors tore the delicate flesh. Blood leaked from the corners of her eyes and he swept it away, smearing it across her temple with his gloved thumb. After the stitches were removed he peeled them open, eager to see her beautiful blue eyes. Anticipation soured in his belly as soon as his eyes locked onto hers.

They were empty.

The blanket fell open, gave him a glimpse of naked flesh. Distracted, he moved it aside completely to give himself some more. He cupped her breast, still warm from the blanket, and fondled it—felt himself go hard at the sight and feel of her. His eyes travel downward until they found her stomach and the collection of stab wounds he’d left there. His groin began to throb and his free hand fell to it, began to stroke it through the rough fabric of his jeans.

He considered having sex with her, one last time, but the thought was fleeting, chased away by a flutter—weak and sporadic—beneath his hand. The hand on his crotch went still and he flattened the other against her chest and pressed down. Searching for the heartbeat he was sure he’d just felt, but there was nothing there. A minute passed, then two. He dropped his hand. She was gone.

He was unsure of how much time had passed but when the lone howl of a coyote cut across the desert he took it as a warning.

It was time to leave.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blurb-a-palooza 2012

Book blurbs.
You know, those snappy little quotes you see on the front cover of most paperbacks—

“I couldn’t put it down!”
                                    “My new favorite author!”

We’ve all seen them… and if you’re like me, then you’ve daydreamed about seeing one, or three, splashed across the front of your novel—hopefully attached to the name of a few big-time authors.
There are conflicting reports on how important they are. How well they help sell books. How easy or hard they are to get. Who you should ask and how…
I’d like to focus on the who and the how.
Who you ask to blurb your book is important. If you wrote a paranormal romance, you wouldn’t ask Tom Clancy to give you a blurb, would you? Probably not… because it’s best to focus on authors that are readily identifiable to the readers of your genre.
Paranormal romance = J.R. Ward. Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon
Spy Thrillers = Tom Clancy, Brad Thor…

            well, you get the idea.

This raises a bit of a moral dilemma: is it important to be familiar with the author’s work that you ask for a blurb?
I happen to think it’s very important. I’m not sure I could personally approach an author whose work I didn’t know and admire… maybe that’s foolish of me, but there it is. I’ve thought about asking authors I'm unfamiliar with for a blurb and I couldn’t do it.
So, I started my search for the perfect blurb on my bookshelf. I write thrillers—makes sense since that’s what I read, right?
 I was immediately overloaded (I have A LOT of books…) but then I remembered the last book I bought from an unknown (to me) author and what drove me to buy it:
1)     The covergreat use of color, intriguing title…
2)     The blurbs. Both Lee Child and Harlan Coben gave Alison Gaylin’s and she was a great blurb.
           Great writers in the genre = a sense of trust about what lies beneath the cover. Child and Coben told me this book was good… so, I bought the book. And I liked it. I think people will like my book but no one is going to take my word from it… so it’s up to me create that sense of trust within the reader. The way I do that it to secure a great blurb by an equally great writer.
            I chose three from my shelf. Tess Gerritsen, Sandra Ruttan and Anne Frasier (Theresa Weir). I know, I know… my aim is pretty high but when I think about women who write thrillers, these are the women that immediately popped into my head. If I saw a book blurbed by them, I’d probably buy it.
            So… how do you ask for a blurb?
            I wrote them a short (all writers, published or not, are busy, so the shorter, the better), polite note, letting them know how much I admired their work and just… asked.
            I received a very polite rejection from Ms. Weir today. It stung a little, but she was very sweet in her reply. She’s busy, and if I understand anything, it’s busy. I wrote back, telling her I understood and thanked her for her time. The lesson here: if you get rejected—don’t be a jackass about it.
            I’m still waiting to hear back from Ms. Ruttan and Ms. Gerritsen. Who knows… maybe one of them will say yes.