The Inspiration for THE STALKER

Stalker Front CoverI get ideas for my novels from my own life events, or from other people’s stories. The inspiration for The Stalker came from a little bit of both.

It started when an online feud erupted on my Facebook newsfeed. Two artists, who’d once worked together, had a falling out. They’d blocked each other on Facebook, but that didn’t stop the feud. One would post something about the other. Someone else would take a screenshot and send it to the other, and then the mudfest would begin. About the time it settled down the other one would start in, and the cycle would repeat itself. The rest of us got a ringside seat, whether we wanted it or not.

Of course the writer in me saw this as a good premise for novel. I especially liked the idea of the lead character being harassed by someone she’d once worked with, instead of a former lover. (The former lover will be the premise for my next novel, The Letter.)

In The Stalker, Craig, the antagonist, stalks and harasses Rachel, the leading lady. The two are former coworkers. Rachel had once considered Craig a mentor, but he turned on her when she got a promotion he felt she didn’t deserve. Like my other novels, The Stalker twists and turns as the story progresses, taking you, the reader, on yet another roller coaster ride.

The following excerpt is a sneak preview from The Stalker.

Enjoy,

MM

***

Rachel waited until Shane was gone before turning her attention back to the deputy. His nametag identified him as Joseph Gonzalez.

“And so another wonderful evening gets ruined, thanks to Craig Walker.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “I first met Shane, the man who just left, back in high school, but I never really talked to him until tonight, and I could tell something wonderful was about to happen. Then you showed up.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m just doing my job.”

Her tone softened. “I know you are, and I’m sorry for being rude. This really isn’t your fault. You got duped by Craig Walker, just like I did.”

He motioned for her to take a seat in the corner of the lounge. As she settled into her chair, he took a small notepad from his pocket and sat down across from her.

“Okay, Ms. Bennett, can you please tell how you know Mr. Walker?”

“Craig Walker is an ex co-worker who I first met in Reno, Nevada, where we both worked for a magazine.”

“Were you ever romantically involved with him?”

“No.” Her head shook as she spoke. “Mr. Walker and I have never been romantically involved. It was strictly a business relationship.” She went on to describe their talks in the break room, and how he had turned on her after she was promoted to the new art director.

“So,” said Gonzalez, “you said he was reprimanded after this incident. Did the harassment stop after that?”

“He never actually spoke to me after that, but he still gave me the evil eye whenever he saw me. And he always made a point of contradicting me at staff meetings, even when everyone else agreed with me. I probably could have said the sky was blue, and he would have said no, it was green. And then things started getting really scary.”

“What do you mean by scary?”

“I started getting some really nasty emails in my personal account. They came from different senders, but they all had pretty much the same verbiage. I was a hack who didn’t know how to do my job, and the only reason I got my job was because I’d slept with the boss. Changing my password and blocking the senders didn’t seem to help. So, I finally went back to my supervisor, but I was told that unless I could prove Craig was the sender they couldn’t do anything about it. They suggested I open a new email account.”

“Did you?”

“Yes. And after that I made a point of not checking my personal email from my work computer. Later on, I found out someone was using the contact form on the magazine website to complain about me, but management simply ignored it. They knew what was going on; they just didn’t want to get involved. It was about the same time we learned the magazine would be going out of business.”

The deputy went over his notes. “You mentioned something about this not being the first time you had an evening ruined by Mr. Walker. Could you please explain what you meant by that?”

“Back in Reno, it seemed like every time I went out with friends, Craig would be there. If we went to a bar or restaurant, he’d be at another table. If we went to a movie or show, he’d be seated in the auditorium; always giving me a cold, hard stare. It was as if he knew my every move, even though I’d made a point of keeping my private life private. I never discussed any of my plans with co-workers. Then there was Eric.”

“Who was Eric?”

“Eric Hawthorne was someone I was seeing while I was in Reno. It wasn’t anything overly serious, but we enjoyed each other’s company. So one night while we were out having dinner, Craig was brazen enough to approach Eric in the men’s room. He told him what a lying, two-faced bitch I was, and that I was sleeping with the boss, and why was he wasting his time with someone like me when there were so many other women out there who were better? The confrontation apparently didn’t last long, maybe a minute or so at best, but it really made Eric mad, not to mention how embarrassing it was for me.” She sighed. “Eric sent me an email a few days later. He said he was sorry about the problems I was having with Craig, but he wanted to end the relationship. He wished me luck and hoped there’d be no hard feelings. After that, I never heard from him again.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Once again, I went to my supervisor. She said she was sorry, but since it happened after hours and away from the office, they weren’t going to get involved.”

“I see.” Gonzalez scribbled down more notes. “Is there anything else?”

“Other than the fact that he harassed me via the company email account at my next job, and through social media, I can’t think of a thing.”

“How did he do that?”

“I was working for an advertising agency which, for a time, had the company email directory posted on its website. They eventually took it down, but by then it was too late. Craig had my email address. The harassment started once again, so I had to set up a new email account. He’d also set up social media accounts under different names and send me friendship requests, as well as friendship requests to some of my other online friends. Then, after I’d unknowingly accept the request, he’d post some pretty inflammatory rants about me. I’d report it, but they never seem to do much about it. They just tell you to block them if you find them offensive, as if I hadn’t done that already. I even tried going to the police, but they just don’t seem to take these things too seriously either.”

“Well, Ms. Bennett, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Unfortunately, what you’ve told me would be considered a civil matter, so unless he were to actually harm you, or damage your property, there really isn’t much we can do either, other than take a report. You may want to consider going to court and filing an injunction against harassment.”

She rolled her eyes. “I know. I’ve heard it all before, but I’m afraid taking him to court is much easier said than done. All l can tell you is I’m really losing faith in the system.”

 

It Was Certainly Well Worth the Wait

clock
Photo by CanStockPhoto.com

I finally have The Betrayal back from the editor, and it was certainly worth the wait, as this time I had to do a revision.

The Betrayal is a story of lies, deceit and infidelity that climaxes when a potentially deadly conspiracy is launched against Emily, the leading lady. However, I was facing some real-life challenges of my own as I was writing the story, which resulted in my having to set the manuscript aside for weeks at a time. When I finally finished it there were a few continuity errors that I couldn’t see, but Cynthia, my editor, sure caught them. She told me the last few chapters would need to be revised, and by the time I was done both of us were delighted at how much those changes improved the storyline. Now, I can’t divulge too much, as I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I can, however, give you a sneak peek, so here you go. And enjoy.

MM

* * *

 

Emily glanced at the dashboard clock as she waited for traffic light to change. It was nearly one o’clock. In the hour since she left Dr. Lerner’s office, her entire world had collapsed around her, and she wasn’t sure where to go next. Should she get a hotel room? Or would she be better off staying with her father? Granted, he’d never been fond of Jesse, but he wasn’t one to say I told you so either. The light turned green. She sighed and pointed her car toward her father’s house. Ten minutes later she pulled into the driveway.

The house looked quiet. Her father didn’t get off work until five o’clock, and Susan worked until seven, assuming today wasn’t her day off. With any luck, Emily would have the place to herself for a few hours. She still had the house key her parents had given her when she was a teenager. Hopefully, Susan hadn’t changed the locks. She put her key in the lock. It turned. As she stepped into the foyer, she got an enthusiastic greeting from Lurch. Lurch was part sheepdog, part collie, and part something else though no one knew exactly what, but whatever he lacked in pedigree, he more than made up for in love and affection. He put his big paws on Emily’s chest and she wrapped her arms around him.

“I know, buddy. It’s good to see you too.”

She gave the dog a pat on the head and stepped into the kitchen. To her relief, Susan was nowhere to be found. She fixed herself a glass of ice water and headed into the family room. A number of family photos stood on top of the mantle. She picked one up and gave it a closer look. It had been taken at the University of Arizona, shortly after the commencement ceremony had ended. Jesse stood in his cap and gown, his face beaming as he held up his diploma. Emily stood at his side, her face glowing as she showed off her engagement ring. She let out a sigh.

“I think we can safely throw this one away now.”

 She took the photo from its frame and ripped it in half, taking its remains back to the kitchen and dropping them into the wastebasket underneath the sink. She refilled her water glass and took it down the hallway to her old room. Her posters had all been taken down and replaced with other artwork, but it still had the furniture she grew up with. A framed photo sat on the nightstand. It had been taken shortly after the family had moved into the house. A fourteen-year-old Emily sat next to her mother on a chaise lounge by the pool. She picked it up and caressed the glass over her mother’s face with her finger.

“I miss you, Mom. Everyday. And most especially today.”

She set the photo down and plopped down on top of the bed. Lurch came up and joined her. She wrapped her arms around him and burst into tears.

 

In Search of St. Eligius Ranch

Steamboat Sprigs 1
Photo by Marina Martindale

New Year’s has a way of making people feel nostalgic and I guess I’m no exception. The high point of my 2014 was a road trip I took to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in July with Geneva, my good friend and beta reader.

I passed through Steamboat Springs for the first time back in the 90s, while traveling with my (now ex) husband, and I was struck by how beautiful it was. Famous for its ski resort, ranching is still a part of the area around Steamboat Springs, so when I wrote The Reunion, I decided to set the fictitious St. Eligius Ranch about twenty miles away from the town. It’s a former cattle ranch turned horse sanctuary, and it’s the home of Laura Palmer, ex-wife of leading man Ian Palmer. A number of key scenes in the novel take place at St. Eligius Ranch, including the story’s final climax. Later on, when I wrote The Journey, I also set a number of scenes at St. Eligius Ranch.

Steamboat Sprngs 2
Photo by Marina Martindale

Photography, like writing, is one of my life’s passions, so while I was there I photographed scenery that closely matched some of the descriptions of St. Eligius Ranch. It was a wonderful trip. One I’ll remember fondly for many years to come, and it’s a place I hope to revisit someday. In the meantime, please enjoy this scene from The Reunion, as Gillian, the leading lady, visits St. Eligius for the first time.

Happy New Year

MM

***

Stesamboat Springs 3
Photo by Marina Martindale

Before long the horses were saddled and they mounted up. Will stayed behind, explaining he had work to do. Laura rode a young buckskin gelding she called Fred.

“He’s Miss Mollie’s son,” she explained. “He was a young foal at her side when we adopted them two years ago. I think he’ll turn out to be a fine horse, but he still has some rough edges to work out.”

Laura led them away from the barn and onto a narrow trail leading through a lush meadow. Gillian couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of it. The aspen trees were turning gold.

“When I first came here, I was an ex-housewife who didn’t know one end of a horse from the other,” explained Laura. “I was originally hired as a bookkeeper for Will’s veterinary practice. The next thing I knew I was writing grants, planning fund-raisers, and doing everything else I could think of to keep money flowing in the door for the foundation to help care for these animals. Back then, I was living in the cottage, that’s what we call the fifth-wheel trailer, and I soon became friends with Will. He taught me, and both of my boys, how to ride. He also taught me how to help take care of the horses. Along the way I’ve been kicked, bitten, and occasionally stepped on, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Horses are easy. Two sons aren’t.”

Steamboat Springs 4
Photo by Marina Martindale

“Thanks, Mom,” said Jeremy.

“Anytime,” she replied. “Some of the ones we get are simply neglected or have owners who, 

for whatever reason, are no longer able to care for them. Those are the easy cases, and we can usually get them to new owners right away. Others arrive abandoned, injured or starving. They need some TLC, and we’re often pretty successful with them as well. But we also get the occasional hard-luck cases. Those are the ones that have suffered some serious abuse, and it never ceases to amaze me just how cruel some human beings can be. They usually need complete rehabilitation, but we’re not always successful. There’ve also been a few that we’ve had to put down as soon as they arrived. Those are the ones that really break your heart.” 

They continued across the meadow and began working their way toward the ridge. Laura went on with her story.

“This ranch used to be called The Flying M, and it’s been in Will’s family for over a century. When Will’s father inherited it from his great-uncle, it was still a working cattle ranch. Will’s dad was also a veterinarian. He started up the veterinary clinic, and he started taking in injured and abandoned horses. By the time Will finished veterinary school, they decided to stop raising cattle and add a horse sanctuary to the clinic. They sold about half the acreage, and the name, to that big dude ranch resort next door. Will renamed the place St. Eligius, since he’s the patron saint of horses and those who work with them. That pretty much sums it up. The foundation survives mostly on grant money and donor support. We also do a number of fundraisers throughout the year. One is coming up soon, and that’s the haunted hayride that we do every year with the Flying M. It’s the last Saturday in October and we always have a lot of fun while we’re at it. We have volunteers of all ages who come and participate, and the boys always come to help out as well.”

“Isn’t it snowing up here by then?” asked Gillian.

“A little bit, sometimes, but the snow doesn’t really start accumulating until around Thanksgiving. Our big event, however, is our gala and auction in Denver, in February.”

Fred decided to start acting up. Miss Mollie got agitated as well, but Gillian pulled the rein tight and got her under control.

“You okay, Mom?”

“Yeah. He’s just being the equine adolescent that he is. I’m going to run him back in to let him get it out of his system. I’ve got some work to do as well. You two take your time.”

Laura turned Fred around and he took off in a dead gallop. Gillian and Jeremy watched as she raced across the meadow.

“You know, she’s really not so bad,” said Gillian

“Well, I would certainly hope not.”

“Our first meeting didn’t go so well.” Gillian turned Miss Mollie toward the ridge. “She meant well, but she showed up, unexpectedly, at the gallery one day and really threw me for a loop. Maybe having Ian out of the picture makes a difference.”

“You and I didn’t get off to the best start either, if you recall.”

“Yeah, but you were just looking out for your dad. You wanted to make sure I wasn’t some manipulating tramp.”

They rode for another couple of hours, stopping occasionally for Gillian to snap a few photos. By the time they were ready to head back, she decided that not only would she be happy to donate a painting, she would create one exclusively for their auction. Jeremy was pleased. He couldn’t wait to give his mother, and Will, the news. They rode back down the hillside and into the meadow.

“Sometimes, on the way back in, we like to run the horses through the meadow,” explained Jeremy, “but I think maybe we’ll skip it this time. I don’t know if you’re up to it or not.”

Gillian turned to face Jeremy. “You’re right.”

She spurred Miss Mollie forward and the mare took off like a rocket. Just like her son, Fred, Miss Mollie was a good runner.

“Well, how ’bout that?” A big smile broke across Jeremy’s face. “You’re going to need that head start, Missy.”

He spurred Pretty Boy forward and raced after her. His mount was a bigger, faster horse, and he soon caught up to her. They were in a virtual tie by the time they reached the barn.

“Okay, Miss Smarty-Pants, I stand corrected,” shouted Jeremy as they slowed their mounts down.

Photo Shoot Shoot

Photo Shoot Set
Photo by Marina Martindale

We are still hard at work for the new book trailer for The Deception. Today videographer Rob Resetar shot two more scenes–a love scene between Carrie, the leading lady, and Scott, one of the antagonists, and the photo shoot scene. The photo shoot happens early in the novel. It’s the watershed event that shapes the rest of the story.

We still have a few more scenes to film. With any luck, the book trailer will be complete right after the first of the year. In the meantime please enjoy this except from The Deception about the photo shoot.

MM

* * *

Carrie woke up to her ringing cellphone. She rolled over and scooped it up from the floor.

“Hello.” Her voice sounded groggy.

“So what the heck is going on with you?” asked the woman on the other end of the line.

“Louise?”

“Yes, Sweetness, it’s Louise. Karl and I ran into Steve and Allison last night at Hernando’s. Allison said Doug dumped you at the state fair, and that for the past few weeks you’ve been camping out in your photography studio, even though they’ve offered you their guest room. So what the hell happened?”

“I got dumped. Doug found himself some bimbo who he’s decided he’s in love with. I really didn’t have a choice. I had to move out.”

“What about the house?”

“It’s deeded solely in Doug’s name, but even if I were to make a claim on it, my mother’s creditors would end up with the money.”

“So why haven’t you found an apartment?”

“I’ve been looking, Louise. The problem is they all want to collect some hefty deposits up front, along with the first month’s rent. Unfortunately, because of Mama, I just don’t have the cash to do it. Once I pay off my monthly expenses, the rest has to go to help pay her bills. Nursing homes aren’t cheap, you know.”

“I know that, but you need to find a decent place to live. Your studio isn’t in the best part of town, and you’re probably violating some city code by staying there. Not to mention the fact that Christmas is only three weeks away. I’ll bet you don’t even have a tree.”

 “Actually, all things considered, I’m doing just fine.” Carrie tried to sound upbeat. “Yes, I’m renting warehouse space in an industrial area, and no, I won’t be putting up a Christmas tree this year, but you needn’t worry. I’m okay, really. The tent city jail is nearby so there’s plenty of police and sheriff’s deputies around. My break room has a mini kitchen, and I’m sleeping on an air mattress in the back room where it’s surprisingly quiet. And back when I signed my lease I had the landlord put in a shower for the models to use. So you see, I’m okay. I have all the amenities I need to live comfortably. It’s not like I’m living in a cardboard box underneath a bridge.”

“I understand,” said Louise. “However, the reason I’m calling is because I think I may have a solution for you, that is, if you don’t mind doing another modeling gig.”

“I haven’t done a modeling job in years. You know that. Besides, I’ve just turned thirty. In the world of print modeling, I’m ancient.”

“It’s not a print modeling job. I need an art model. I’ve just picked up a private commission. Some well-to-do couple in Berkeley just bought themselves a big house. Apparently, they’re serious practitioners of tantric yoga, or some such thing, and they want a serious of black and white photos of a female nude, with some curves on her, to display in their new home. You’d be perfect for the job.”

Carrie let out a sigh. She desperately needed the extra cash, but she wasn’t sure if this would be the best way to get it.

“I’ve done some nude work, Louise, but I was always behind the camera, not in front of it. All the photos were done for advertisements. Even though the models were nude, you didn’t see anyone’s privates.”

“I understand if you feel a little shy about doing this, Sweetness, but you’d be working with me. They want something erotic so yes, they’ll want to see all the goods in the photos, but they won’t know your name or anything else about you. You’ll be completely anonymous and I promise you the photos will be tastefully done. It’s fine art, not pornography.”

“Who would see the photos?”

“They’d be for the client’s personal, private use only. That’s what’s written in the contract. They can only be displayed in their home. The only people who would ever see them would be the couple themselves and whoever visits them. They’re not allowed to publish them anywhere, not even on their personal blogs or websites.”

Carrie let out a sigh as she thought it over.

“How much does it pay?”

“Enough to put you into a decent apartment in a good neighborhood. It should cover all the deposits plus your first month’s rent.”

“All right. So when and where do you want to do the shoot?”

“Next Saturday, at my home. Karl has an early-morning tee time and will be spending the entire day on the golf course. It’ll be just you and me.”

“What time?”

“It’ll be a fairly long shoot, so let’s have you here early, about eight o’clock in the morning. Bring a curling iron and some nice barrettes along with your makeup kit. We’ll be doing some different hairstyles, so we’ll have to spend some time working on your hair and makeup throughout the day. And do you by chance have a pair of strappy, opened-toed shoes? Preferably in black.”

“Yes. They’re black patent leather.”

“They’d be perfect, so bring them along.” The excitement was building in Louise’s voice. “The shoes, barrettes, and some costume jewelry are the only things you’ll be wearing. You’ll also need bathrobe that you can slip on in between shoots.”

Carrie still wasn’t sure. Louise must have sensed it.

“Look, Carrie, you don’t have to do this. I can call the agency and have them send another model. I just figured that right now you needed the money.”

“I know, Louise, and you’re right. If the city were to find out I’m living here, they’d probably fine the heck out of me before my landlord kicked me out on the street.”

“Good. We’ll have you living in a decent apartment before you know it. We might even be able to get you a Christmas tree too. But I need to let you know one other thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I have a show coming up at Hanson Sisters Fine Art in February. I’d like to include five prints from our shoot as a series of hand-signed limited editions. They’d be sold with the same restrictions as the ones going to the couple in Berkeley. You’d remain anonymous, and the photos cannot be published or displayed anywhere in public, except of course for the gallery, but that would be the only time.”

Carrie let out a sigh. There had to be a better way for her to get into an apartment. She glanced at the calendar hanging on the wall. It was the first week of December, the time of year when business normally slowed down. This year would certainly be no exception and things wouldn’t start to pick up again until late January. If she didn’t act now, she’d be living in her studio until March or April, and the longer she stayed, the greater the chances of someone finding out and reporting her to the city. She let out another sigh, knowing she had no other choice.

“Okay, Louise, I’m your girl. I’ll be there, Saturday morning, eight o’clock.”

“Good. You really won’t regret this, Carrie. You’ll be proud of these photos, I guarantee it. I’ll email a contract and release form for you to sign. Make some copies for yourself and bring them with you on Saturday.”

Carrie couldn’t shake the bad feeling she started getting after she ended the call. She thought it over and realized she was probably just nervous. She’d never been photographed in the nude before, and the idea of total strangers looking at her naked body made her feel uneasy. Then again, she’d be doing it for Louise, and she owed her success to Louise’s hard work. She looked at the clock. It was time to get up. She had work to do and she’d be better off focusing her thoughts on the nice apartment she’d soon be living in.

But Would a Guy Really Say That?

tag graphicI was reading a forum thread discussing the differences between men and women, and how they’re more than just physical. A woman’s psyche is very different than a man’s. It got me thinking about a challenge I face as a romance writer–writing a male character’s dialog. I’m always having to stop and ask myself, would a guy really say that?

Back in the 90s I read, Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus, and while I can’t recall all the details from the book, I remember it talked extensively about how men are more analytical, and women are more emotional. This doesn’t mean one sex is superior to the other. It simply means that we think differently, so I’ve modeled my male characters accordingly. The female characters will talk openly about their relationships, while the men are more prone to retreat to their man caves. Jeremy, from The Reunion, and The Journey is particularly known to do this. The challenge for me is when I have to have a male character discuss his relationship. I am, after all, writing romance. The main focus of the story is interpersonal relationships, and do men really talk about things like this?

One way I’ve handled it by having a male character confide in a female character. In The Deception, Steve, a supporting character, talks to his fiancee about his concerns over Alex’s relationship with Carrie.

* * *

“Is something wrong, Steve?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“What is it?”

“Alex and Carrie. C’mon, you saw it. They’ve become much too emotionally attached to one another.”

“They go way back,” she reminded him.

“No, there’s more to it than that. He’s fallen for her. Hard. Really, really hard.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“In itself, no. They’re two of my favorite people and under normal circumstances I’d be happy for both of them, but their situation isn’t normal. He’s representing her in a civil case and he’s losing his objectivity.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he replied, matter-of-factly. “A few days ago I walked into Alex’s office. He’d just happened to have gotten off the phone with our old buddy, Scott Andrews. Apparently Scott had made some crack about his prior involvement with Carrie and Alex went into a screaming rage. I’ve never known him to ever do anything like that before. It was like listening to a jealous lover. That’s what has me worried.”

“How so?”

“Alex has always been unflappable. That’s why he has such a good track record. He stays calm and collected, just like a lion stalking its prey, while he waits patiently for the other side to make a mistake, and then he goes for the kill. He’s always been able to do that because he never allows himself to become emotionally wrapped up. But now he’s crossed that line, and even though it appears to be an open and shut case, this time he could, very easily, be the one who makes a mistake. If that happens, he could lose, and this is the one case, Allie, the one case that he can’t afford to lose.”

“Damn,” she said. “You can’t let that happen, Steve. It could destroy both of them.”

“I know that, so I’m going to have to keep close watch on him and I’m going try to persuade him to bring Reggie on board.”

* * *

Steve, being a guy, of course has a solution to the problem. Later, after things have gone “too far,” he and Alex have a serious talk.

* * *

Steve looked up when he heard the sound of someone tapping at his door.

“Hey, Alex. What’s up?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“Of course. Come on in.”

Alex stepped inside, closed the door behind him, and pulled up a chair. He let out a sigh as he sat down.

“Are you all right, Alex? You look pretty serious.”

“I’m afraid your boy wonder has turned himself into boy blunder.”

Steve looked closer at Alex’s face. “You’ve slept with her, haven’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Well now, that explains the happy glow.”

“Oh very funny.” There was a hint of sarcasm in Alex’s voice.

“Well, buddy, I can’t say I’m surprised. I saw this coming the day we all drove up to Flagstaff for her mother’s funeral. So, you know what happens next, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do. I’ll have to recuse myself from her case.”

“It’s for the best for everyone involved, Alex. Even if you hadn’t taken it to that level, I’ve been concerned about your objectivity ever since the day you flipped out after speaking to Scott Andrews on the phone. That’s not like you. You never lose your cool. If something like that had happened in a courtroom—”

“It’ll never see the inside of a courtroom, Steve. Louise doesn’t have a case. She never did.”

“I know she doesn’t. Hopefully you’re right and it’ll never make it to court. However, our immediate concern is the here and now, which means we need to talk to Reggie.”

Before Alex could respond, Steve picked up his phone and dialed Reggie’s extension. As soon as she answered Steve asked her to come to his office. A minute later they heard a knock at the door. Steve opened it and she stepped inside, bringing a folder with her.

* * *

This time, since the conversation is between two men, I let them get to the point, as quickly as possible, and they then discuss a solution. Had this scene been between two female characters more time would have been spent discussing their feelings.

I don’t know if this is how men really talk to one another behind closed doors or not. But if what I’m told by male friends, and by the John Gray book, is true, then I’m probably close. So far I’ve not heard any complaints from male readers.

MM

 

Halloween Excerpt from THE REUNION

Reunion Loew CoverWebIn honor of Halloween, I am sharing a Halloween excerpt from the pages of The Reunion.  Gillian, the leading lady, has been invited to participate in a haunted hayride. While she is there, she will confide something in a stranger. Please enjoy this sample from The Reunion and have a safe, and happy, Halloween.

MM

* * *

Gillian was warming herself at the heater when she heard someone walking up behind her. She turned around to discover she’d been joined by someone in a Grim Reaper costume. Whoever it was seemed to be staring at her.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said. Gillian noticed he had a raspy voice. “I was told I’d be working with a blonde lady.”

“Well, I was a blonde until a few weeks ago. Now I’m a redhead. The name’s Gillian, by the way.” She extended her hand.

“John. Pleased to meet you.”

They shook hands. John explained that he was one of the locals, and he seemed to be curious about her. The sound of clopping hooves, nervous laughter and chatter told them the first wagon was approaching. Gillian pulled up her hood. At John’s cue she ran up to the wagon, calling for help, while he chased after her. Their brief performance brought startled screams from the passengers. The wagon rolled on and they returned to the heater.

“So why would a blonde lady want to become a redhead?”

“It’s a long story. Let’s just say I’m celebrating a new lease on life. The old me was the blonde, the new me is a redhead.”

As they were talking she caught a whiff of something familiar. It was the cologne that Ian always wore. The scent was a distraction. She had reminded herself that it was a popular brand and other men used it too. John became quiet. A short time later another hay wagon came by and they repeated their scary performance in the dark maze. After the wagon left, Jeremy came by to check on her.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“So far, so good. Wait a minute, Jer. It looks like you’ve got a little smudge. Let me fix it for you.”

He leaned down as she removed one of her gloves and gave him a quick touch up.

“There, that’s better,” she said.

“Thanks.” Jeremy wrapped the reins around the saddle horn and reached down with both hands to pull her hood up. “You need to keep this on so you can stay warm. I don’t want you catching cold.”

“Got it. Thanks, Jer.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll come back a little later to check on you again.”

Jeremy rode away. Gillian turned back and noticed John watching her intently. It was starting to make her feel uncomfortable.

“I take it he’s your significant other,” he finally said.

“Actually, he’s my best friend. Probably the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“How so?”

Despite her growing discomfort with his questions, something deep inside told her John was trustworthy. She decided to follow her instincts.

“It’s a long, complicated story. I’ll just sum it up by saying I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now if it wasn’t for him. That man literally saved my life not too long ago. I don’t remember it, but I’m told I fell into some water and nearly drowned. He’s the one who rescued me.”

“I see.”

“You know, it’s kind of ironic. Here I am talking to you, dressed up as The Grim Reaper, when I’ve met the real thing.”

“Was it scary?”

“To tell you the truth, it really wasn’t, and it’s the only part of the entire incident that I can remember clearly. I was heading toward a light and I wasn’t planning on coming back.”

“Why not?”

Gillian sighed.

“I’d just lost the love of my life. I had no reason to remain here and I wanted to cross over. Then I thought I heard my friend, Jeremy, calling me. The next thing I knew I was back at my backyard pool, only I wasn’t in the water. Somehow, I was suspended over it. Jeremy was in the pool and he was holding a body in his arms, which I knew had to be mine. I saw his face. He had a look of shock, guilt and sorrow. He was shouting at me to stay with him. I knew, right then and there, that if I didn’t come back it would destroy his life, so I had no choice. I had to come back, even though I didn’t want to. I watched him lay my body out on the deck, and then I felt something like a tug. The next thing I knew he was rushing me to the hospital. That’s why I’m still here.”

She started smelling the cologne again and she looked at him more closely. The costume he wore didn’t reveal much about him. He was wearing a full mask, with a robe and hood, and he appeared to be bundled up underneath it. A strange thought crossed her mind, but it couldn’t be. Larry said his father was spending the day in Fort Collins with friends. John remained silent for several minutes. Finally, he found his voice.

“Well… Gillian, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Gillian, your life is a precious gift. It’s something that you must never, ever take for granted. You may think you came back for your friend, but that’s not the reason why you’re still here. You’re here because your life is far from over, and you’re meant to be here. I’m sure your family and friends, and your true love, are elated that you’re still with them. And who knows, maybe your true love will return to you someday.”

“Thank you, John. I appreciate your insight, but as far as my true love goes, I’m sorry to say that some things just aren’t meant to be. Nice thought, though.”

“Never say never.”

The hay wagons returned several more times, but for the remainder of the evening, John said very little. Gillian was relieved when she finally heard the sound of Jeremy’s approaching horse.

“That was the last one,” he said as he rode into her section of the maze. “Are you ready to go, my dear?”

Jeremy extended his hand and helped Gillian get back up behind him. She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist.

“Good night, John. It was nice meeting you.”

John waved goodbye as the horse cantered away. He listened to the sound of the fading hoof beats. Once they were gone, he reached up, pulled down his hood and removed his mask. He heard his cell phone going off in his pocket.

“Is she still there?” asked the woman on the other end of the call.

“Jeremy just picked her up. Thanks, Laura. I owe you one.”

He disconnected his phone and looked down the maze. Gillian and Jeremy were probably already halfway back to St. Eligius.

“My God, Gilly-girl, what have I done to you?”

# # #

You Novel Writers are Evil

Kindle CoverThat’s a fellow author said to me the other day.  Of course, she didn’t mean it literally, (I hope), although she had a point. Some of the things we do to our characters is just plain mean. Then again, some of those characters have it coming.

I was telling her about Scott, one of the antagonists in The Deception. Let’s face it. Scott isn’t the nicest guy on the planet. He’s a married man who’s put himself out as a single guy, and his actions will hurt a lot of people, especially Carrie, my leading lady. Once she and her friends figure out that Scott’s stories aren’t adding up she ditches him, and I’d planned on writing him out of the story at that point. Then another author told me, no, I couldn’t just write him off so quickly. She explained that readers would expect him to be punished for what he did, and they’d be disappointed if he were able to simply walk away.

As I explained to my friend, I decided to take her advice. Later on in the book Scott is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’ll get his comeuppance in the form of a strip search. I told her that I went online and read testimonials by real people who’ve had the experience, and I based Scott’s story on those real-life accounts. That’s when she looked at me and said, “You novel writer’s are evil.” What can I say? She wrote a memoir, and I write fiction. Here’s the except. You be the judge.

MM

* * *

Scott let out a sigh. He was trapped in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. They arrived at the jail and once again he was taken into another small room for questioning. The door opened and a thirty-something blonde woman entered, taking her seat across the table from him.

“Finally, a friendly face.”

“Hello there, Scott. My name is Deputy U.S. Marshall Diane Hall, and I’ll be taking care of your booking. After we’re finished, Billie Hughes, with the Phoenix FBI office, wants to talk with you.”

She handed Scott over to two male deputies. Once again, he was taken away be photographed and fingerprinted. When they finished he was escorted into another room.

“Okay,” said one of the deputies. “I want you to slowly and carefully remove each item of your clothing, one at a time, and hand it over so we can inspect it.”

“Why?”

“It’s routine, sir. Take off the shirt, then your shorts, and your shoes and socks.”

Scott did as he was told. When he was done, he was standing in his underwear.

“Did you not hear me, buddy? Remove your drawers and hand them over.”

“What? Then I’ll be standing here naked.”

“That’s why we call it a strip search.”

Scott removed his underwear and handed it over. As he stood naked, one of the deputies looked inside his mouth, ears, and armpits before looking down to closely inspect his genitals.

“Don’t you dare touch me!” Scott felt both embarrassed and humiliated.

“I’m not going to touch you, however, you’re going to lift it up so I can have a look underneath.”

Scott had no choice but to comply. It was a horrible experience. Once the deputy was finally finished the other picked up a flashlight.

“All right, spread your legs, bend over and grab your ankles. You’ll remain in that position until I tell you that you can move.”

“What! Are you kidding me? Why are you doing this? I’ve been accused of a non-violent crime.”

“Sorry, it’s routine. You’re going into the general jail population. We have to search you for contraband.”

Scott bent over. For the first time in his life, he knew the feeling of being violated. It was the most humiliating experience of his life and the deputy seemed to be taking an unusually long time. When they finally finished, they led him to a shower. They watched him while he showered, and handed him an orange jail suit with a pair of open-toed rubber shoes when he was done. As soon as he was dressed, he was taken to an interview room, where Billie Hughes was waiting. As he took his seat, she opened her folder, removed a photo, and pushed it across the table toward him.

# # #