Shut Up and Rub Me

An excerpt from my current work-in-progress, Jeanne Dark.

Dark CoverThe bathroom door opened and steam roiled out, bathing the room in warm, damp air. From its dark midst emerged Jeanne, lit by the flickering light from the living area as if she were a chimera, or perhaps a wounded angel, defrocked and sent limping to Earth. She was dressed in a flowing, white robe with her hair wrapped in a towel. It was ordinary hotel attire, yet she wore it as if she were an ancient Persian Princess and I her faithful servant. I’d doused the lights in the hotel room and substituted them with candles that were bright enough for her to see her way to the bed, but little else. I’d just turned off the lamps, and my eyes were still adjusting to the darkness when she approached. I regained my vision in time to see the creamy outline of her flesh through the sheer robe. I swept her up with my eyes, and for a moment, she met my gaze and the fog was no longer in the room, but in my mind, clouding out the thoughts I’d had of our case, our agreed professionalism, my reason. I realized, too late, that I’d not thought the setting in the room through. Behind me, Coltrane and Ellington conspired in playing “My Little Brown Book,” which added just enough heat that I feared the room might melt. That woman and her jazz were going to be the death of me.

“Merci pour l’éclairage,” Dark said, taking my hand so I could help ease her onto the bed. “It was very thoughtful.” My elementary French told me she was thanking me for dimming the lights. I breathed a sigh of relief that she didn’t think the setting was as full of romance as my thumping heart was telling me that it was. Dark removed her sunglasses once again. Even in the dim light, the gloriously large olive orbs were breathtaking. She lay on her side, briefly looking me in the eyes, and smiled. “You are full of compliments tonight,” she said.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Oui. You said plenty.” She turned on her stomach, reached underneath and undid her robe. My brain reminded me for the second time I hadn’t thought the scenario through. It was, however, way too late to turn on the lights and the television to break the mood. She pulled the robe over her shoulders and lifted her chin to me. “You can help, you know.” I gingerly eased the garment off her shoulders, to her mid-back, stopping at her hips. I could see a strap across her back that looked like a … “Do you like my bikini?” she asked.

The question startled me, because for a moment I thought the woman could see me out the back of her head. It would have been a natural evolution from her current set of gifts. I managed to stutter out a query as to why she had a bikini in London.

“I bought it the day we met, when you promised me a massage. I was beginning to think I’d never wear it.”

I settled in over her and began at her shoulders. Her fragrance stopped me. “Why do you smell like oranges and vanilla?”

She gave a throaty laugh. “Do I make you hungry?”

I muttered my answer under my breath. “You have no idea.”

I resumed work on her shoulders, but she turned, looking at me. “Is the rest of me too damaged for you to massage?”

“What? No, of course not.”

“Then, if you don’t mind, I’d rather you start with the bottom and work up. All the pain is from below the waist.”

“Should I pull your robe back up?”

“If I am ugly, oui.”

I pulled the damned thing the rest of the way off, revealing her slender frame, delicate skin, and slim legs. From head to toe, she smelled of the attar of orange petals. “Yeah, my pain is from below the waist too,” I said.

“Shut up and rub me,” she said. I could hear the smile in her voice.

Excerpt from Awakening

Here’s a quick excerpt from Awakening, in Chapter 22, “Henchen Henceforth Penchen.” The chapter’s title is the name of a pet rooster, named after my mom’s own pet rooster from her childhood. Fortunately, her childhood was different from my characters’.


The family stopped at a dingy, little shop off the main highway to pick up supplies they needed, while her dad talked to the locals and enjoyed a smoke outside. When he had finished smoking, he went inside, leaving the girls alone in the barren parking lot. They stopped on every weekend trip at Dusty’s Rhodeside Supplies, where Jimmy LeBeaux had become something of a regular. The two girls paced back and forth, idling in the desert heat, until their father had finished his business, along with his usual two more cigarettes and as many “cold ones with the boys” from the small fridge that Dusty kept hidden behind the counter next to a loaded shotgun. The girls were alone except for the occasional tumbleweed or roadrunner that eyed them warily from a distance. After twenty minutes, Jimmy called in Reyna to show off how pretty his daughter was. Robin followed her in, although she wasn’t certain her dad remembered he had a second daughter.

“Yeah, she’s a looker, Jimmy,” Dusty Rhodes—his actual name—said, giving the thirteen year old Reyna an inappropriate leer. Reyna drew in her body tensely, as if his eyes could actually touch her skin, and made a sour face. “You’re gonna be chasing the boys off’n her with a shotgun in a couple years.”

“Hell no I ain’t,” Jimmy said. “Ain’t nobody gonna mess with my baby girl. Ain’t nobody that stupid.” He laughed and placed his hand on Reyna’s shoulder. Reyna stiffened, but did not otherwise react.

Robin stood in a corner of the cramped store, pretending to be interested in the merchandise on the shelves, but, in actuality, was just enjoying the limited cooling ability of the big swamp coolers nearby. Her dad’s truck had air conditioning, but he refused to use it, claiming it burned too much gas and overtaxed his diesel engine. As she watched her sister looking as if she were caught in a poacher’s trap, she realized how obviously Reyna hated being there, and wondered why her dad never seemed to notice. Then again, she figured, noticing his daughters’ needs was never one of her father’s strong suits.

Finally, when the beer ran out, Jimmy LeBeaux wrapped his bony arm around Reyna’s waist, and announced they had to get to work.

“Why don’tchu brang that pretty wife of your’n down sometime, Jimmy?” Dusty asked. “Me and the wife would love to have y’all over. The wife makes a mean pot roast, and I know for a fact you’re sick of all that damn Mexican food.”

“That’s for damn sure,” Jimmy said, his tobacco-stained teeth showing.

“We’ll cook you up some good ole Texas chili—get you some American food for a change.”

Robin glared at Dusty and considered telling him that she was pretty sure that Albuquerque, her mom’s birthplace, was still in America, but caught Reyna’s cautionary look, and held her tongue. She expected her father to come to her mom’s defense—after all, she and Reyna were part Mexican themselves—but Jimmy only laughed.

“We might do just that some time,” Jimmy said laughing. “I’ll bring you some green chiles so you can spice that Texas chili up New Mexico style, he said. Me and the girls are gonna be harvesting real soon—looks like no more’n a couple of weeks.” He walked to the door, and gestured for Robin and Reyna to go out to the truck. As Reyna turned, Jimmy playfully patted her on her round butt and said, “See, she gets that from her mom. Being Mexican does have some usefulness you know. I sure have me some fun with her mom, if you get my drift.” He and the men all laughed as Jimmy joined his daughters in the dusty parking lot and loaded the rest of the supplies in the bed of the large truck.

As they started on their way, Robin offered from the back seat, “Tio Carlos always says that if you’re part Mexican, you’re all Mexican. He says that once you’re part of a Mexican family you belong 100 percent. So, that means that me and Reyna are Mexican too. Even you, Daddy.” Robin hoped that her logic would persuade her father to not associate with men who seemed to dislike her people.

To her disappointment, but not surprise, he said, “Your ‘Tio’ Carlos is an idiot.” As he said “Tio,” he made quotation marks with his fingers, two of which held another cigarette. The gesture made Robin nervous, as he took both hands off the steering wheel to do so.

“Tio Carlos has a law firm, Dad, and he makes more money than, like, all the LeBeauxes put together,” Reyna said in his defense.

Barely looking, Jimmy LeBeaux reached over and slapped Reyna on the side of her face. “Don’t smart mouth me, little girl,” he said, exhaling acrid smoke in her direction. Robin jerked back in her seat with a start and began crying. Reyna however, kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead and neither moved a muscle nor made a sound.

“You shut the hell up back there, little girl, or I swear to God we will be eating roast rooster for dinner tonight.”

Robin began to weep harder, but had enough experience to do so silently. She wished to herself that she could be as strong as her big sister, who was surreptitiously soothing her younger sister by reaching back and stroking her leg.

Excerpt from Jeanne Dark

Dark Hat

For the first time, I’m getting the feeling this book could be something. The main characters have formed, stormed, and normed, and now, they begin to perform.


Excerpt from Chapter 13

We checked out of the hotel the next morning before the sun had even illuminated the fog that hung over the city’s busy West End. Fortunately for me, instead of feeling rejected, Dark was grateful that I’d allowed her into my bed without “taking advantage.” We were both nude when the alarm went off, and I still don’t know how my shorts got removed. However it happened, my phone’s alarm awoke us in the tangle of bodies, morning breath, and stiffness that I’d spent most of my bachelor days trying to avoid. Dark was soft and smelled of flowers. For five full minutes, I tried to create scenarios in my mind wherein I could say the hell with clearing her name, make stupid-long love to the woman and grab her for on a one-way flight to anywhere else. Jeanne opened her eyes just then and said, “You couldn’t live with that.” I didn’t bother to ask her what she meant. She’d moved permanently into my head just she had my home and my life. Two hours later, we hopped on a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh, which I purposely kept pronouncing Edenburg just to get on her nerves.

It wasn’t idle silliness. I was falling for the woman hard enough to fear there’d be no floor, and at that point would have done anything to create sufficient tension to keep us out of bed. After being the imperfect gentleman the night before, I almost made love to her twice that morning—first, in bed, when she’d refused to unscramble our human jigsaw puzzle, and then again in my shower to which she’d invited herself with a smile and a jazz tune on her lips. It was that she could sing like an angel that scrambled me the second time. We touched down at Edinburgh Airport at ten o’clock sharp and hadn’t so much as unstrapped our seat belts when I got a called from Hardesty. “Don’t bother to hire a cab,” he said. “Local police got a warrant to pick up Rudenko, but his housekeeper told us he’s already skipped. They have her in for questioning, but she seems to be clean of this.”


Who’s Rudenko? You gotta read the book. I suppose that means I’ve gotta write it.

Writing in Layers

Probably the most significant thing I’ve learned about the process of writing fiction is to learn how to paint. No, I’m not talking about painting with oils or acrylics–I’m referring to painting with lyrical brushstrokes.

Getting the story down is much like laying the foundation layers of a painting. It doesn’t matter if you do a detailed sketch or simply start by washing in the background with broad brush strokes. What matters is that in the initial layer, you get the main idea across. In writing, it means painting the story. If you are anything like me, conveying a story intelligently and simply is hard enough. Even with an outline, taking the story in your head and bringing it to life is hard. Refining the work into a piece akin to literature takes editing.

Now, I know writers and teachers advocate not editing until you’ve finished writing. Not only do I disagree, I think that’s the dumbest damned advice I could give you. Of course you should edit, every time you read it, until it’s done. It’s never done. I read the previous day’s work and edit as I go, ensuring the new work has the feel of the previous, and keeping the right smooth and even. Once the story’s skeleton is written, I can replace the stolid writing of my initial layer with something more like the jazz I hear in my head. Layers, layers, layers.

Here’s a piece I published before I recognized there were layers left to paint. I’ve started “finishing” the work today. Hopefully when I finish, the book will feel like a work of art instead of just … a book.

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Here’s what I started with:

Charlie Patterson was dreaming with his best friend, Robin. Most teenage boys were limited to dreaming about beautiful girls, but not Charlie. His dreams were vivid, tactile, powerful, and emotional. In a word, they were real. Better than that, when Charlie dreamed of Robin, it was usually because she was right there, with him, in the dream.

They stumbled across the Stream, the limitless world of dreams and fantasy, during the summer prior to his twelfth birthday. In so doing, they had found each other, and created a bond that went beyond friendship. They were the One, a pair of dream travelers who, it was foretold, would restore the balance of good and evil, of light and darkness in the Stream. One day. For now, however, they were just two kids playing around in a world where one’s brightest imagination or deepest fears could come to light.

It was twilight in the part of the Stream in which they found themselves. Charlie was seated in a long, narrow boat on a still lagoon. The landscape was serene, comprising forested lands that bordered the wide lake, with mountains that rose behind them. It was spring here too, Charlie noted, as the trees that dotted the mountainsides were populated with new foliage. The air was thick and humid, though not unpleasant. Low clouds hung in the air, close enough that the tops of the mountains were obscured. The sun had descended behind the mountain toward which they drifted, and its light painted the sky a muted pink that was reflected in the mirror-like lake.

Away from the westward sky, the landscape had turned violet, with the thick fog drifting over the treetops. It gave the lagoon an odd duality, with half the landscape bright and cheery, and half dark and ominous.

Fine, but a little dry, no? Okay, it kind of sucks.

Here’s how it reads now (so far):

Most teenage boys were limited to dreaming about beautiful girls, but not Charlie Patterson. His dreams were vivid, tactile, and emotional. More importantly, these forays into the chimeric world of reimagined pasts and dragon presents were as tangible as his morning rides to school. One wrong move, a bad twist, an unconquered fear and Charlie knew he wouldn’t be waking up again. It was glorious. Better still, in most of his dreams, he was accompanied by his best friend, Robin, the literal girl of his dreams.

They’d stumbled across the Stream—the limitless world of dreams and fantasy—during the summer prior to his twelfth birthday. In so doing, they found each other and created a bond that went beyond friendship. They were the One, a pair of dream travelers who, it was foretold, would one day restore the balance of light and darkness in the Stream. For now, however, they were just two kids playing around in a world where one’s brightest imagination or deepest fears could come to pass.

Charlie was seated in a long boat on a still lagoon, wishing Robin would sit still for once. The long shadows of trees stretched across the broad lake interspersed by bright stars of sunlight that danced through the wind-blown leaves. Beyond the lake in a long arc, snow-capped mountains scraped the underbellies of low-hanging clouds until the clouds surrendered, fell as fog, and began to obscure the mountains’ peaks. It was spring here too, Charlie noted, as the trees that dotted the mountainsides were populated with the bright lavender of new foliage. The air was thick and humid, though not unpleasant. It was nearing dusk and the waning sunlight painted the sky a muted pink that was reflected in the mirror-like lake. Away from the westward sky, the landscape had already changed to midnight purple with thick fog roiling down the mountains and drifting over the treetops. It gave the lagoon an odd duality, with half the countryside bright and cheery and half dark and ominous.

Still needs work, but at least I don’t need a glass of water to wash it down. Layer, layer, layer. Even better, with layering comes clarity. The first two paragraphs will almost certainly just be deleted. Start in the middle and make it sing; that’s the goal.

Gone Rogue

I have time for 3 things in my life: work, Maria, and work. After that, I work. Here’s some rough 1st draft work. The final piece will be substantially more lyrical. Substance first, style second, always.

Coming Soon Jeanne Dark Promo 2

I woke up in the hotel room with the sun already low on the horizon. A groggy check of the time told me it was three-thirty, nearing sunset. The maid hadn’t been in the room, judging by the clutter, but Dark’s bed was made. I was certain she’d not slept it in. We were both exhausted when we’d hit the room, and I was torpid even before she even managed to help me get off my suit. The other pillows had faint traces of her perfume, but that was understandable since I remembered her lying next to me, watching me drift to sleep. Nonetheless, given our situation and the recent tension between us, it was inconceivable that she would have slept next to me.

I got up, emptied my bladder, and decided I’d been wrong about the severity of my concussion. Forgoing room service, I grabbed some snacks we’d brought to the room and downed a half-liter of water before climbing back into bed. As lay there on the Dark-scented pillows, I wondered if she had, in fact, slipped under the covers next to me the night before. I didn’t have to wonder long. I slipped my hand under the pillow, ready to grab a bit more sleep, and got it tangled in one of Jeanne’s bras. Not only had she joined me in my bed, apparently she’d stripped off in the process. It probably meant nothing, I reasoned. I’d been out like a light and she was probably too tired herself to move. She knew I wouldn’t awaken and I was in no shape to do damage even if I had. Besides, the woman trusted me more than I trusted me. Sleep took me then, as I lay in bed watching the room slowly dim, all the while imagining my nude little Jeanne breathing next to me in bed. The dreams I had were wondrous things that night. Ah, to be a man with a vivid imagination and a woman worth envisioning.

It was nine o’clock the next morning when I finally awoke, more clear-headed than I’d been since Danni clocked me in her flat. Sleep turned out to be the only medicine I needed. The first thing I did was turn to check the other bed. It looked the same, with the covers tucked underneath in the way the maids always prepared the room. Every time we returned to our hotel room, Dark would yank out the covers along the side and roll down the bedspread, muttering about the filth on hotel linens. It was the only part of sharing a hotel room we’d agreed upon. I was sure she’d never make it up that way herself. This time, sans the fog I’d been floating through, I jumped out of bed and began to take inventory. All my things were there, and none of Dark’s were. It’d been thirty-two hours since I’d seen her last, smiling at me and caressing my forehead as I drifted off to sleep. She had been gone when I awoke the evening before, and I’d had no idea.

I was less concerned with her safety at that point than I was about my job security. My mission wasn’t only to help Dark solve a mystery. Hardesty wanted the two of us joined at the hip. He was worried about something, despite his assurances to the contrary. I needed to know what. Protocol said I was to call him if we ever got separated for an extended period. This certainly qualified.

I found my phone still tucked in my pants pocket. The battery was deader than I felt. Cursing, I plugged it in and jumped into the shower to make myself presentable. By the time I’d showered, shaved, and gotten dressed, the phone was charged and was buzzing up a swarm of messages. Most were from Hardesty. A couple were from Samuels. None was from my partner. The most recent message, with a timestamp of seven o’clock that morning, was from Hardesty. It read, I’m in London. Contact me via Monica. We think Dark’s gone rogue.

Edit, Write, Edit

©Elnur Fotolia.com
Note: This dork is NOT my Eddie, nor is this the cover.

So, I’ve been busier than usual. I wouldn’t have thought that possible, to be honest. First, my wonderful editor has completed work on my completed draft, The Brooklyn Trace, which some of you may remember began as “Skip Tracer” here on this blog. I’ve posted a sample below because … reasons.

The morning of our flight to New York, well before sunrise, a perfumed, naked Mina woke me up by slipping into the small bed with me. I remember being in a dream wherein I was an antelope being chased by a herd of cougars, and the next thing I knew I was completely naked and this gorgeous woman was kissing my neck and telling me to wake up because I’d somehow made her horny. In between kisses and being submerged in her oceanic expanse of passion I probed, trying to discover what I’d done to trigger her arousal.

Her answer was, “You can be so dumb sometimes,” followed by, “Hush. You’re spoiling the mood.”

Now, the way I see it, when a pretty girl wants to be in control and you are both nude, you yield. So I did. She was a tidal wave, this woman, lashing my shores until I feared that by the time she ebbed there would be nothing left of me but a driftwood shell. Afterward she rolled sweetly into my arms, smiled up at me, and fell into sleep. Even a hard case like me has to admit that was the best part.

Next on the agenda is to write a blurb, summary, and query letter. I think I’m going to try my hand at traditional publishing with this one because the plot is more mainstream and indie publication is just more work than I care to put into book selling. I have time to a) write or b) sell. I don’t have time for both. If I don’t get the type of response I’m looking for, then I’ll revert to doing it myself. We shall see.

I made my editor cry on this one, so I’m hopeful. (No, not because I failed to pay on time, smart ass.) It’s because of all the “feels” in the book. (I adore this editor, btw.) The book is funny, sexy, touching, full of action, and at times, sad. I like it, and think you will to.

Next up is my new girl.

Dark Cover
Jeanne Dark – coming soon! Look for her.

I’ve been in love with her for over a year, but she’s still playing hard to get. To break the tedium of all those seconds in between working at my day job, sleeping, and missing my angel, I’ve been slowly working on her book, which is named after my lead, Jeanne Dark. I’ve completely finished the plot outline, so it’s just a matter of writing the book. I’m 40,000 words in. You can find excerpts here, here, and here if you’re interested.

Technically, you can find them there even if you’re not interested. It’s like the tree falling in the woods question — it makes a sound whether you’re there or not.

But I digress.

Since writing Jeanne and Foss’s book is much, much harder than the previous books (there seems to be an inverse relationship between how hard it is to write and how proficient one is at it) I’ve begun editing Discovery.

Now, some of you may be wondering why, since it’s in its 2nd edition already. The answer is simple: I’m not happy with sales. My conscience has been telling me I’ve been marketing The Stream series all wrong. I must admit she’s right.

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Indeed, even the name of the series and the books will likely change in the new edition. Something distinctly more dragonish and fantasy evoking, I imagine. I’ll also probably seek out publishers in the UK. When the 1st two books were finished (2009 – 2011) the Fantasy Fiction world was ensconced with vampires, werewolves, and zombies. That’s all that sold (other than Harry You-know-who) and all people were interested in. Perhaps the time is ripe.

The Stream

The Stream is probably more Visionary Fiction than Fantasy Fiction, and I’ll try to make that clearer. It’s pretty obvious by the 3rd book. It was obvious to Maria right away, but less so to others. I’m thinking I might bring the dragons out sooner. They don’t appear until midway through the 1st book now. Of course, that would mean making it longer, which I don’t want to do.

The difficulty is that I’ve changed and my writing has changed. While I’ve always gotten good reviews for Discovery, I’m finding myself doing a lot of rewrites early on. Frankly, I don’t know who this Bill Jones guy is, but I don’t like his style much. (Well, I do, it’s just different than my more-evolved style.) It’ll be a line to touch up the rough bits without chucking it all in the rubbish bin. We’ll see how I make out.

Anyway, that’s me. What’s up with you?

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Good Morning Is an Oxymoron

I awoke this morning in the midst of one of my many dreams wherein I need to use a bathroom and cannot find them. Unlike most such mornings, I didn’t actually have to go. It was my subconscious’ idea of a joke.

However, it did remind me of the opening to my 1st book, Discovery, which was, in turn, based on a dream I once had. Recursive serendipity, I’d say. Anyway, here is the opening of the book, which I hope you’ll read, because it’s silly, emotional, and fun.

Plus, they give me money when you buy one. Heh. (A brotha’s gotta retire someday.)

discovery_cover_web.jpg

Charlie hated mornings. This was due, in no small part, to his having the sleep habits of a caffeine-addicted owl. Often, he was just falling asleep as the neighborhood’s early birds were awakening. For Charlie, getting up was a thing to be savored over the course of an hour or so. He always started his day the same way: by hammering his alarm clock with a closed fist, falling back asleep, arguing with his sister who had been sent to get him up, and then stumbling out of bed, eyes closed, into the bathroom, to empty his bladder.

Those were the good old days.

Recent mornings meant a surreptitious sprint to the bathroom. As if starting the day shortly after falling asleep were not bad enough, lately, he woke up … like that. Once, his dad had caught him before he could pee, stopped, saluted, and said, “Ten Hut!” Charlie had no idea what he meant at the time, but when everyone else laughed, he knew it could not be good. His mom had chastised the family, and consoled him by stating it was a perfectly normal thing for an eleven-year-old boy. Still, the damage had been done, as his red cheeks attested.

Though he had inherited his mother’s caramel color, Charlie’s skin seemed to flush at the slightest embarrassment. It was a gift, he reckoned, from his father, along with curly brown hair, deep dimples, broad shoulders, and spectacularly average height. It was one thing to be humiliated by virtue of a joke he didn’t understand. It was worse to have his entire family be able to read his embarrassment.

Charlie staggered into the bathroom, and after completing his mission, opened his eyes for the first time.

What’s the refrigerator doing in the bathroom?

He had the right to be confused. Charlie, as it turned out, was in the middle of an excellent nightmare. It took him a full ten seconds to realize he was standing in the kitchen, dressed, facing the open refrigerator. He was certain there was a toilet there moments ago. He hoped he had not just peed into the open vegetable crisper; however, he decided against looking down to check. He was certain his mom would let him know if he had.

Breakfast consisted of a single kernel of oat cereal in a big bowl of water. Even in his dream, Charlie thought his breakfast a bit odd, but apparently, not odd enough to awaken him from his deep slumber. His hunger sated, he walked the quarter mile to his bus stop, and stood there, alone, waiting. After eternity passed, after the sun grew to a great orange ball of sputtering hydrogen, after the first two planets melted in admiration, and all the stars in heaven were visibly moved, the bus finally showed up. It was a Greyhound with “Middul Skool” on the front panel.

Middle school is going to rock.