Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two new pieces

Both of these pieces were inspired by a dear friend Karyn. I thought I'd share them, for those of you who like poetry.

Unrequited love, at 5:53am

Shivers down my spine,
And I start giggling,
When I'm unguarded
And I hear people say her name.

I feel like there's this snow globe
Of my love for her
And a happy place inside
That once I shake it,
To get the snow going,
Will all shatter

But I know when she walks in a room,
Even when my back is turned.
I know when she leaves a room.
And I know when she's happy,
I know when someone's making her
I can hear her laugh in a loud room;
Pick hers out in a crowd.

I have not been dishonest.
I am a friend to her.

But if I'm completely honest,
I may no longer be allowed
To have even that piece of her.


…and some really good things
came out of the deaths.

My aunt was a woman that taught literature,
And was cool as hell,
Seemed like she was proper
Most of the time.
Seemed like my secret.

Her memorial service
Coworkers, friends,
And former students spoke,
And I realized
She was a secret
I shared with the world.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Excerpt From Untitled Zombie WIP

Even though my mind is fading I can still taste her lip-gloss. It’s a little thing, I know; one of the many things about Anya that always sticks in my mind. The way she twirls her hair when she’s nervous, or how that hair smalls falling around my face when she’s above me in bed. All these are the things I know are gone forever, but I just can’t forget.

I pull the trigger, releasing her - Putting an end to the jerks and twitches of her body.

Nothing could have ever prepared me for this. We’ve been together since our second year of college. Fourteen years over, quite literally with a bang, not a whimper.

Outside the steel double doors I can hear them scraping and pushing, trying to get in. The painful groans from their vacant mindless bodies are the worst. I couldn’t let her become like that; let her suffer that way. I had to do it.

My vision is growing dimmer and the dull rush in my ears is almost as bad as the silence when the band on stage stops playing, before the crowd has time to roar. I don’t know how long I have left until I’m like them, but I have to do something to make her death – our death – worthwhile.

This building was an auction house a few decades ago. It’s been sitting, mostly vacant, for more time than I even knew Anya. We’d even talked about buying it once, to turn into an independent community theatre. I hate to think about destroying it now, but maybe I can take enough of them with me that Billy and the kids across the street at the dealership can get out of here safely.

(Thoughts, opinions, and feedback welcome)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Question of Character

To paraphrase something I read recently: “A full-time writer gets seven day weekends every week. They also have to work weekends, no exceptions.”

I never stop writing, because I can’t help it. I put down at least 10 pages a day, of something. It’s a habit I’ve gotten into over the last few years. It has served me well, and I couldn’t stop now, even if I wanted to.

I read more than I write, but lately I’ve been exploring different genres that I otherwise wouldn’t normally pick up. My reading has also ranged from “New/Self-Published/Indie Authors” to ‘Professional/Big Publishing House/Big Name”. I’ve noticed something in my recent reading that I think is worth discussing, only because I keep seeing it, and I’d like to hear what others think about it.

My favorite books have always been the ones with the most vivid characters; the real ones. They have depth, emotions, desires, and flaws. There are reasons for what they do, and they are capable of acting outside their normal motivations – with internal consequences for those actions.

I’ve got a problem with “Paladins”, and “Bad guys”, who seem to act only on what they are not who they are. A good guy, riding a white horse, who is good because he’s good, and always does the right thing because it’s right? Boring. A bad guy, riding a dark horse, who is bad because he’s bad, and always does the most evil thing because it’s evil? Equally boring.

People, humans and otherwise (depending on the genre and story), should all have personalities they reflect all the different shades between black and white. Selfishness can lead to “evil” actions, but so can fear, so can a desire to protect someone or something outside themselves. “Good” can be only skin deep, due to a need to be praised (selfishness), or to hide a deeper flaw or emotional wrong buried in the character.

In the end I guess, this is just a rant about surface writing. I may sound like a snob but I want to read characters that are each as deep as, or deeper, than then the plots they are involved in. Is that too much to ask for?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Review - Amaretto Flame

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Where do I even begin? Have you ever finished a book and been really pleased with the story, but wanting to immediately read more of those characters and that world? Yeah. It’s like that.

Olivia, the main character of this book, is part of a coven that defends against the evil Venators. Sounds a little cheesy, right? I honestly laughed at this when I read the book description. I’m not ashamed to admit when I’m wrong. I was very, very wrong.

Olivia is sharp, cunning, and deeply emotional. Her life is a wild one, and has left her a little worse for wear, but her soul shows through in so many ways. Not only does she have this massive power within her, she is also delicately feminine.From the second paragraph of this book I was drawn into her as a character. Her voice in this story has a beautiful truth to it even if the story is one of fantasy.

Due to circumstances in her life, Olivia is (like most great characters in fiction) at a kind of crossroads in her life. She’s chosen to go in a direction that is away from what has been her “norm”. She goes to live with regular people, something she knows nothing about.

There is romance of course, in the form of bad-boy Jackson, but I really don’t want to get into that. Girl finds bad-boy, sparks fly, we’ve seen that before. Let’s just say that it’s there, and it’s real. (There’s another guy too, but not really, ya know?) There’s also plenty of fights and action, and truly interesting “bad guys” in this story, and they were handled well. But spoilers are not my thing.

Spencer's writing is both level and almost poetic at times. You can actually feel the scenes as much as you can see them. Well written, is an understatement. I don’t normally do Paranormal Romance. I usually stick to darker stories of the paranormal. This was worth it. There were things about it that I think would be made better by the editing staff of a major publishing house, but Sammie Spencer definitely has the raw talent and brings the goods to the table in this offering.

I recommend Amaretto Flame to anyone who’s looking for a good paranormal story, and a romance that’s not just like everything else in the marketplace.

- Dennis Sharpe

Amaretto Flame on Goodreads.com

Amaretto Flame on Amazon.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Review - Armageddon in Retrospect

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars.

Sorry Kurt.

Wow. Kurt Vonnegut is easily my favorite author. Hands down, bar none. 'Welcome to the Monkey House' is really beyond my ability to explain. I guess it was too much to ask that this book be able to match it, seeing as how it's full of works that were not published while Kurt was alive.


All I really got out of most of this was Kurt's hatred of war, in all forms and at all times. The quality of work here is seriously uneven. All that holds true is the passionate anti-war message as flow through.

I'm really not sure if all the work contained in this anthology was of a quality meriting publication. I love Kurt too much to say that it wasn't, but I can't say this is among my favorite works of his. I guess even Kurt wasn't always on top of his game.

- Dennis Sharpe

Armageddon in Retrospect on Goodreads.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

"They're not going to like it."

Write it anyway.

Over the last month I’ve found myself more and more in the company, both in person and online, of writers trying to make the leap into publication. No matter what kind of book they’re writing, fiction, non-fiction, poetry; they all tend to say some of the same things. After a few dozen times of hearing the same things said, and knowing that I have said most of them myself, I figured I’d use the platform I have here as a way to reach out and send a message, for what it’s worth.

1) “I don’t think my writing is good enough to get published.”

How do you know? Seriously. Are you an expert? If you are a literary agent for a living, or work for one, you might have a leg up here, but almost every writer is their own worst critic. Why don’t you just go ahead and find an unbiased peer group to review your work, and grow a thick skin. After all, they’re not all going to like everything you write, but taking the criticism well (assuming it’s constructive) could make your writing more than good enough for publication.

2) “I write a lot, but I can never seem to finish anything.”

Now that is a hurdle. I know a lot of people who write a lot, but have never finished a book. I really don’t want to think about how many half-novels I have on my computer and in notebooks littering my house.

Drive and focus are really all that I can suggest here. Just keep driving. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me about their writer’s block, and to a degree I understand it, but I don’t let it stop me. I’m never writing just one project at a time. I always have 4 or 5 things I’m writing at once, and if I get hung up in one, I’ll put it aside and begin working on another.
The most important thing for me has always been to just keep writing. Everyday. No matter what. My daily writing goal is ten pages. That can be ten, or more, productive pages, or it could be 10 pages about how I can’t figure out what to write. Either way, I’m writing.

3) “I wrote a book (or books) but I don’t know what to do with them.”

This is the easiest question to answer, but it also has the most right answers. Get your work edited. By that, I don’t mean your Aunt Flo who taught English for a year. Get an editor.

Once you have that done, self publish, or begin submitting or writing query letters. It really is just that easy. There are dozens of paths here to choose from though, so find someone who has taken the road you want to take and ask some questions. Don’t be pushy or rude, but what does it hurt you to ask?

Don’t be afraid of rejection either. It’s going to happen. Sometimes a lot. Expect it.

4) “My First book is coming out (with a publishing house or self published) but I’m really nervous and I don’t think anyone is going to like it.”

You’re not Neil Gaiman. You are not Stephen King. Hell, to a degree, they aren’t either. Their names are bigger than they are. They are real people, too. I’m willing to bet that they’ve both had their fair share of flops and rejections before they succeeded big. They also likely have a lot of unfinished works as well. What they have over you primarily, right now though, is that they didn’t quit. They never gave up. Because of that they found success. (And yes, they have boatloads of talent too. But who’s to say you don’t?)

At the core of every writer is someone who has something to say, no matter how important, and they want it to be well received by others. How can you expect people to support, and buy books by you, when you are unproven and unknown? You could suck, right?

This is like the age old conundrum of not getting hired for a job because you don’t have experience, but finding it impossible to get experience without getting hired for a job. You can let yourself get caught up in that, if you’d like. In the end, however, everyone goes through that. If you are ever going to be successful, the first (serious) step comes in letting yourself be.

Assuming you’ve done your homework, and a lot of leg work, and more writing than you ever thought you’d do in one lifetime, you’ll go far. You’ve had good unbiased peer reviews of your work and an editor, and your feedback is positive, then you just have to jump in with both feet and hope.

At the least, you've had a good time putting your story together, and nothing can take that away from you. Nothing else really matters.

You did something most people will never be able to do. You finished a book. That alone is massive. If you had fun doing it, all the better. Remember, it doesn’t matter if it’s published by Penguin, or by you, it’s still out there for the world to enjoy. You’re story has taken flight. How awesome is that, right?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Review - Tangled Threads

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I’ll start this off by saying that I didn’t realize going into this book that it was part of a larger series. I know, I know, it was on the cover. I’m oblivious sometimes. That being said, I think this book works without having read any of the books before it, and it works well. Tangled Threads seems like a novel that has been adapted from a graphic novel, and I love my graphic novels.

Gin Blanco is an epic “anti-hero” (think Wonder Woman crossed the Black Widow, mixed with mutant powers and an MO similar to the Punisher. I’m a dork, live with it) that does so much more than just kick butts and take names, she is a relatable character.

The book has a well crafted, fast paced, stylized plot, but that’s not all. It also boasts wonderfully written action scenes, and emotional grounding elements (serious relationships that actually ring true – like the one with her sister). I will be completely honest here and say that I didn’t really feel the depth of character in Elektra, the gun for hire that stands in opposition to Gin, but even with that the story itself held up marvelously and the cat and mouse/kill or be killed interplay didn’t suffer from it one bit.

I was so impressed with this book that I also had to blog separately about the author, and I fully intend to go back and pick up the rest of the series. I won’t say it’s a “must read”, but I will say you are worse off not having read it. It’s just so damned much fun.

- Dennis Sharpe

Tangled Threads on Goodreads.com

Tangled Threads on Amazon.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Excerpt - Brother Luther & Mercy

Basement of St. Mark’s Cathedral

The room isn’t packed for the Tuesday night AA meeting. There are more people than usual, but still not a full house. There are a lot of bloodshot eyes with the requisite dark circles under them, and even more nervous twitches. It’s an anxious room, full of forced acceptance. A short, stub of a man is just standing to address all the not so eager faces. He looks as though life has started, only recently, to eat him from the inside.

“Hi. My name is Joseph Tolliver, and I am an alcoholic.”

There’s a moment of silence and then a dull, apathetic chorus returns with, “Hi Joe.”

That’s my little brother Joseph. He hates being called Joe. But we all have those little things we hate. You know, just get under your skin. One of mine is people who act like experts on any subject you happen to be talking about, from ballet to basket weaving. I guess that stems from my hatred of lies and liars in general. Talk about irony, huh?

Sorry. I’m losing focus. That’s my little brother Joseph. He got Dad’s name, poor kid. I got stuck with Luther, but I don’t mind so much in comparison. I remember Dad a lot better that Joseph does. He was only ten when Dad went away. Even at that age he was old enough to want to be Joseph, not Joe. He understood guilt by association.

This little kick of group meetings is something new brought on by Joseph’s girlfriend Amanda. She’s an alcoholic and, God love him, Joseph tries to be as supportive as he can.

“I guess I started drinking as a way to escape. It was just too much for me to handle after Mom died and my three little sisters came to live with me on the farm.”

For the record, Joseph is the youngest of three boys. Our mother is alive, well, and playing bingo in south Florida. He hasn’t had a drink since New Year Two-Thousand, and he’s never, to the best of my knowledge, even been within fifty miles of a farm.

He is a great liar though. If what they say about genetics is true, then Dad’s found immortality through his namesake. Normally I wouldn’t consider working with family. I’ve done it before. It’s always messy. But my best pitchman got pinched three weeks ago and need, or greed, has caused me to be a little more…open-minded.

The sounds of traffic on the street make it difficult to hear, as the members of the AA meeting file out into the brisk night air, but a rather loud voice catches Joseph’s attention.

“Hey Joe, got a second to talk?”

“What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“Junior, you are as hard to find as a fat girl at a buffet.”

“I’m not even going to dignify…”

“Shut up. The deal is a one-time offer. It’s a six digit payday, an even split on a five man job. It’s two weeks work kid, and I’m shopping for a pitchman. You in?”

“No way. Luther, I can’t believe you! Asking this, after last time. You really are amazing. You truly have no soul.”

Last time. Right. Last time was in January of Two-Thousand. It was a sweet deal, but a little risky. Minimal contact, big take. Problem was that Joseph gets a little ‘shaky’ around religious people, and there were these three nuns…Let’s just say that it went poorly.

Joseph got a slap on the wrist, as a first timer, Time served and two years probation. He’s still miffed that I disappeared for a couple of years. Keeping a safe distance and all.

“Look kid, I’ll give you some time to think about it. I’ll be at the Paradise Inn by the Airport. Room two twenty-three. Call me.”

“Nice seeing you, Bro. Have a safe flight. Enjoy your little job, or jail, or whatever happens. Send me a postcard. My answer’s no.”

This is getting tired. He’s staring me down. Time to drop my ace.

“Shame, Jersey will be sorry to hear that you aren’t coming in on this one. Oh well, have a nice night little brother.”

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

With a shake in his voice Joseph replies, “Jersey?”

Got him.

“Jersey’s still working with you Luther?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll tell her that you…”

“Two twenty-three, at the Paradise? I’ll call in the morning.”

One thing about that boy: He’s always been predictable. He’s had a thing for Jersey Fontana since he was sixteen. She’s never even pretended to like being in the same room as him. He’s got determination; I’ll give him that. Poor sap.

Now the problem is finding Jersey. I haven’t seen her in over a year, but it still shouldn’t be that hard. I know she’s in town. My boy, Jules, said she’s been coming around to fence a few rings over the last few months. It won’t be as easy to track her down as it was ‘boy wonder’, but I think I can manage it.

A Review - Dante's Inferno (A Comedy)

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I have read, and reread, this book. Over and over. It keeps me laughing and engaged every time I read it. On one hand it is very well crafted and lofty for those of you who took the "classics" lit courses at university. On the other hand it is sharp, and barbed, and even quite base in it's wonderful humor (to appeal to all who have a sense of humor).

I can honestly say that as a writer, a reader, and as one who simply appreciates good story craft, and can get lost in the telling... I will be recommending this book to any, and every person I come across for some time to come.

- Dennis Sharpe

Dante's Inferno (A Comedy) on Goodreads.com

Dante's Inferno (A Comedy) on Amazon.com

Sunday, May 15, 2011

HP Mallory Contest!

So there's this awesome author named H.P. Mallory.

H.p. Mallory

If you haven't heard of her you should check out her books. They're good reading, for the urban fantasy fans.

She has this contest going, that is really one of the coolest I've seen in quite a while.

From her Blog:

Become a Character in my next Jolie book Contest!!!!
Become A Character Contest!!!

I'm at it again! Become a character in my next Jolie Wilkins book, Be Witched!

The super fun part of this contest is that Be Witched will be published by Bantam Books which means your character will show up in stores all over the place! Imagine that!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Articles, Guest Blogs, and Self Promotion

So over the course of the upcoming month I've agreed to write a few online articles, and guest blog spot on several book review blogs. I've done this both as a shameless self-promotion bid, and because I really can't do anything else productive in the world besides write, so why not do more of it? Right?

I'll make notes on here and set links to my wild gallivanting around the intra-webz so that any of you interested can follow me in as many text locations as possible (can we say: critical mass).

I've also been on a binge of shameless self promotion lately for Blood & Spirits, as I'm sure many of you have seen. This seems to have had an upside, though. I am currently featured on darkmediacity.com, and I have even started to rapidly pick up twitter followers (one of which even approached me for a publishing deal).

The first week of May 2011 has been a positive and productive one. Now my task is clear: Make the second week just as positive and productive, if not more so.


My friend & fellow vampire author Kate Nevermore & I are having a competition to see who can sell the most books by the end of June! She's got a publisher (Strategic Book Group), but this is her first novel. I do it entirely on my own, and this is my first foray into the vampire genre. I’m going to need a lot of help to win this!

Share this with any, and everyone!

Her Book

My Book

A Review - Empathy/Sympathy

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I must confess that I had very high expectations for this book. I went into reading it with epic hope that contained in this work I would find words like those of the greats of literature meeting a modern day approach. I was not disappointed. I will not say that I cared for all that the book contained. However, what I did enjoy, I enjoyed greatly. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to take an emotional journey. Not alone, but with the author as a guide. It's not always comfortable or pretty, but it is well worth the trip.

- Dennis Sharpe

Empathy/Sympathy on Goodreads.com

Empathy/Sympathy on Amazon.com

Fairy Tale - Intro

Reality seemed to flow down around him. The Canvas of his world had been painted with water-soluble paint, and now it was raining. It was beginning to rain when he left his apartment tonight; a light drizzle that had seemed to give the street in front of his building a taste of Casablanca. Now it was pouring in sheets.

From the awning over his head came a steady drip, drip, dripping falling onto the suitcase in his left hand. He looked like a poorly rendered political cartoon with the oversized case jutting painfully out from under the dry safety of the stoop into the torrent of wind and rain.

All that he owned was in that suitcase. This was what he had been reduced to, in the course of just one night. Today he’d had a job, a car, an apartment, and a life. Tonight he stood without anything, save the suitcase by his side, watching reality ‘melt’.

“Jeffrey, you silly goose, you’ll get your clothes all wet.” Amelia’s voice lilted as though the sound had come from a dulcimer, not the pale young sliver of a woman standing in the doorway, “Come inside before you catch your death or mold!”

“Of cold,” He mumbled, correcting under his breath, turning to face her, “your death of cold.”

As he staggered through the doorway, still in the daze of post-traumatic shock, the lights flickered showing the room for the rundown condemned wreck he’d assumed it would be. The rotted holes in the wooden floor gave way to a darkness that he briefly mused could swallow what little life he had left. The room smelled of too often moistened drywall from just below the faded peeling paper. The storm outside had come in to have tea, as it trickled down through the Swiss cheese roof.

Jeffrey dropped his suitcase abruptly, causing a loud thud, and raised his hands to de-speckle his glasses. After another look around, through dryer eyes, his heart sank. Nothing had changed, as he’d hoped it would. Depression began to ooze from his pores, in a sweaty enveloping film of entropic, organic decay. This was the bottom, he thought to himself.

“Welcome home Jeffrey.” She chimed, “Dontcha just love it? We can live here forever. Isn’t that just fantastical?”

He let out a deep sigh, and softly began to weep.


“Everything looks better in the light of a new day” Amelia said, mere inches from his face causing him to wake with a start. Moving back from her violation of his personal space he found himself suddenly among a pile of empty food cartons and discarded wrappers on the decades dirty floor. This did not look better to him.

“I made you some breakfast.” She announced, presenting a plate and glass from behind her back. She sat them down in front of him ignoring his bewildered look, and continued, “It was hard to find things around here to eat; it must have been a while since anyone else lived here. Things will all be different once we have time to plant a garden.”

He stared at her and then the dirty cracked plate sparsely covered in vegetation for a moment before shifting his gaze to the broken glass, a large piece missing almost halfway down one side. He looked back at her, rubbed his eyes, and blinked in disbelief.

“Rainwater. It’s very good for you. I collected it for you this morning while you were sleeping. Her smile still amazed him. He had to be with her. When she looked deep into him he had no question that she was worth more to him than all he’d left behind. He just wasn’t completely sure if this was due to anything based in fact or reason or a result of his final descent into complete insanity.

“If this is where you feel safe we’ll stay here, but you have to let me try to fix it up a bit.” Jeffrey looked around the room, lifting the unbroken edge of the glass to his lips.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A bit of an overhaul

I updated my Amazon.com Author Central page, as well as my author page at Goodreads.com

The more I use Goodreads the more I realize just how many different and wonderful resources that site offers. I couldn't be more pleased with it. I'm sure over time I'll hit more little snags in the way they're set up that will annoy me (like the required chapter titling on their writing section), but overall I am in awe of their site.

Now it's back to coffee and revisions on 'Domestic' and 'Distant Thunder'.

Monday, May 2, 2011

'Blood & Spirits' - Dark Urban Fantasy

Book One in The Coming Storm trilogy.

Small-town life can be hard for a dead girl...

For Veronica Fischer the night to night life of a bloodsucking madam in Middle America is tough enough before she adopts Rachel Gregory, an eight year old ghost.

After her house is set on fire, and Rachel disappears, all signs point to foul play. When she finds herself with a hit out on her unlife, and warrants for her arrest, it becomes clear she's going to need help.

Now she has to contend with horny zombies, violent spirits, and murderous grave robbers if she's ever going to find Rachel and discover the awful truth of the coming storm.

A raucous ride through the dangerous lives
of the lecherous undead.

"Unique for this, my favorite, genre." - Tammy Vonderheide, 'Mena & Chloe'

"In a market flooded with vampire stories, I was not expecting much from debut author, Dennis Sharpe. I have never been so happy to be wrong." - darkfaerietales.com

"I loved how strong Veronica was, she didn't whine she took action. My kinda vampire! The story development, very rich & well done." - wickedlilpixie.com

"I'm surprised that a male author wrote this book from a woman's point of view, and did it well!" - Paranormal Opinion

"I freaking LOVED Veronica. She's sharp, funny and has a totally killer attitude... and she's a madam!" - Bookish-Brunette.com

"Sharpe’s writing is refreshing. I was so astonished that a man could write such a dynamic female main character that I repeatedly checked the cover to make sure Dennis wasn't a Denise. " - Book Sake

"It has action, mystery and a kick ass heroine" - The Book Nympho

Links to Blood & Spirits, Book One in the Coming Storm trilogy.

(links updated after the Jan. 20th 2015 release)


Listing on goodreads.com

The cinematic trailer for Blood & Spirits

Sample text:

The first chapter -


I’M TOLD IT’S AN ODDITY that I still sleep. It only comes in short
bursts, no more than forty-five minutes at a time. Most others with
my condition -- and I have only known a handful -- tell me they don’t
sleep anymore. Some of them haven’t in more than five decades. I can’t
imagine the hell that must be. Even in my brief moments of rest, I
still dream and in that I find relief. Even if the dreams aren’t what I
like, they are still an escape.

The soft thickness of my comforter envelops me as I relax back
into bed. Before I’m completely awake, my mind begins to unfold,
opening to the world around me. In the distance, the fog is rolling in
off the river, dense and blanketing, its vaporous fingers right there
on the edges of my consciousness. The night is cool, and the last
lights of the dying day dance across my ceiling, reflected from the
crystals hanging in my window. The light tinkle as they sway into
each other is a reassuring sound; the beautiful prisms they cast, a
blessing. Not one night comes that I don’t wake to thank Jules for
having the windows in this house ‘treated.’ I can actually see the
sun, even if I can’t be out in it.

I am now completely aware for miles around me. I’m awake,
and not even grudgingly so. Not tonight. He’ll be here soon. I look
forward to it and fear it all at once, but I ask myself ‘why dwell on
what we can’t change?’

A soft breeze blows across me as I slip out of my bed, making
the hairs on the back of my neck stand out. My mind recognizes the
sensation as a chill, even if my dead flesh can’t feel as it once did.

Rubbing a hand down from the base of my skull, in a futile attempt
to warm myself, I open the lid to the old steamer trunk Julie brought
up from the basement today. She aired out everything in it while I
slept, and the interior smells as though she even put some of my
perfume on a few of the choice garments. I breathe in deeply and can
feel the corner of my mouth turns up slightly. Time may have dulled
Jules’ scent, but it’s still unmistakable, mingled in with the fragrance
in the clothing.

Clothes have always held memories for me. The crimson silk of a
dress drops down over me and it’s as though his eyes were on me
again. The mirror reveals the garment to be no more out of place, for
its slinky cut or lack of length, than it did when I first wore it a lifetime
ago, when I could still remember being a girl. I first put it on in front
of him and twirled around to raise the hem, hoping to entice and astonish
with my feminine wiles, foolish enough back then to believe that
because I loved him, a creature like him was even still capable of love.

I’ve learned from his example and years of my own mistakes –
emotion is a weakness to be managed.

Yet, here I am, slipping into this dress that I haven’t worn since
he left, simply because I know he’ll remember it.

Stepping out into the thick evening air, the raw power of the
river hits me with the force of a freight train. Even from this distance,
the power is unmistakable. Tonight, though, it has an odd feeling, as
though it were restrained.

Standing still with my eyes closed, I concentrate and listen to the
pulse of the water rolling heavily over the rocky bed, feel the lapping,
almost angry waves against the shoreline. I don’t know why closing
my eyes helps me bond to my surroundings, it just always has. It
must be another facet of my insanity.

I’ve never met someone with my affliction that was as sane as they
had been when they were alive. I wasn’t ever all that sane, either, but
I’ve grown more detached as time has gone by. Too often these days,
I feel like a spectator. Maybe that’s just my coping mechanism. My
therapist would love to know about this fabulous train of thought. Prick.

As I enter the garage, it occurs to me that I’ve only got two cars
at this house. Frank was to take Julie back to town with the Charger this
afternoon to keep up the appearance that everything was normal. I’m
certainly not taking my old Volkswagen Beetle to go bar hunting, so
the flat black Eclipse will get a workout tonight. I hate this car, but
she’s been fast enough to outrun a lot of demons I didn’t feel like facing.

Pulling out of the driveway, I already wish I’d stayed at the other
house today. The drive into town is only thirty minutes, but I’m tense
enough tonight and don’t need the wait. Telling myself that I needed
to be here, for safety’s sake, only makes me feel more upset at my fear
and lack of control.

Six months ago, I’d have talked to Lucy; she’d have taken the edge
off. If she were here, though, I’d have had no need to contact Jules.
Now I get to feel like a failure and look like one, too.

The tires scream as I kick the car almost sideways, narrowly avoiding
a deer. My lack of focus is getting worse. As much as the idea repulses
me, tonight I’m actually going to have to go look for food instead of
letting it come to me. I haven’t had to do that in years. On one hand,
it’s a fitting start to the night, but on the other, I had really thought
I’d outgrown eating out.

I always forget how much sensory input I lose when I spend time
around all the steel and pavement. The dark moonless drive down
rural roads is a blessing, putting me more in tune with the land, at
once one with the leaves on the trees, the bats overhead, and the rocks
around the base of the roadside.

The sound of the insects in the high grass is comforting. Their
flittering finds my ears even over the engine noise. They are mine as
much as everything else here; as much as I am a part of them. It took
more than twenty years to reach this level of awareness, and I’m still
not foolish enough to believe I’ve mastered it.

I used to be able to spend time expanding my mind. I used to do a
lot of things I haven’t been able to do lately. Everything has devolved
so fast and I’m still reeling.

The past year I’ve been so caught up in the life of a dead girl,
I’ve dealt with little else.

Rachel died eighteen months ago at the ripe old age of eight; I met
her after that. She was hanging around the Jefferson House, where my
girls work. If she hadn’t picked that place to haunt, I doubt I’d be in the
mess I’m in now.

The town springs up slowly. Houses begin to sit closer together,
then nearer to the road. Side streets appear, and businesses start to
intersperse among the spider web of tight residential development,
obviously undertaken with no real planning or forethought. Then, at 
last, the glow of the streetlights tells me I’m back where I’m in control.
This is the town I run, inside and out. Or I did.

Passing the street that leads to the Jefferson House, it takes will
not to turn. I want to check up on things, but personal priorities come
first, and I have to trust Julie has everything well in hand.

The dulcet tones of a southern rock cover band blare from six
blocks away, tingling my eardrums. The music is louder than usual. It
should be a fun night, or at least a packed house. Either way, I’m content.

The transmission voices its complaint as I downshift onto the
access road. I’ll never really like this car, but she does get from A to B
more quickly than most. I still wish I’d driven something nicer tonight,
something with a top I could put down. But, in the end, the car I’m in is
the least of my concerns right now.

The lot isn’t full yet, leaving plenty of good spaces, but rock star
parking wasn’t really a concern of mine to begin with. This just
means that after I eat and pick him up, I should be able to get back
here to a manageable crowd.

If I’m lucky, he’ll want to be social tonight. If not, then I’ll be too
busy to make it back here at all. I really want to show him that the
biggest part of my life is still under control, so he won’t only see the
little girl that has to call him in as her savior. Again.

Why do I need so badly for him to be proud of me?

As I cross the parking lot, the lingering scents of sweat, cheap
beer, and longing hang heavy in the air already. This might be a little
too easy. Though catching a fresh meal has never been really what
I’d call difficult. That’s why the small town, Midwestern life suits
me; I usually get what I want and rarely have to work that hard to
have it. Hopefully, years of having my food delivered hasn’t left me
too out of practice.

Someone sees me coming and opens the door and holds it for
me. That’s the thing about being a regular in a small town rural bar –
you are a known commodity, more or less. This helps and hurts
when you have to hunt for food where you also gather socially. Like
a balancing act. Some are good at it; some are not. Those who have
been less than good at it around here, I’ve had to deal with. No one
pisses in my pool even once and gets to do it again.

There’s a big cowboy at the end of the bar, a couple bikers near
the pool tables, and a few burly construction workers at a table. After
only the briefest pause, my route is clear in my mind. The first taker
is my next victim. I really love playing this game. Maybe I’m not so
rusty, after all.

I don’t get the chance to make it very far. As I pass the bar, in my
peripheral vision, the dark brown of the cowboy hat moves in my

“Now this is why I came out tonight. A good looking girl in tight
fitting dress!”

The booming words come projected from the stout bear of a man
standing at the end of the bar, undressing me through his beer goggles.

The cowboy it is; he’ll make a full meal.

I do my best to fake a blush, while acting interested and offended
all at once. Pretending to care what men think is an art. It takes moments
to learn, but lifetimes to master. I’d like to believe I’m an expert.

I walk over to him, smiling but with my eyes downcast. “My name’s
Veronica. Who are you, handsome?”

He puffs up in his detail-stitched denim shirt, pushing out his
barrel chest in a vain attempt to hide his well-tended gut. He’d be
fairly good looking if he didn’t obviously take such pride in how
good looking he thinks he is.

“They call me Buck, and if I could I’d like to do a lot more than
buy you a drink,” he slurs slightly at me.

He motions to the bartender for another round and I do my best to
blush again, this time giving a halfhearted laugh at his insipid comment.

“Here ya go, darlin’.” He hands me a Jägerbomb and tries to
force it to my lips. “Bottoms up, baby!”

He reminds me why I live in a small town; this corn-fed hick
really thinks he’s irresistible. Well, who am I to disappoint? I down
the drink like a good girl going bad, exhale deeply, and lean over
into him, letting my neckline plunge as it was designed to do. As old
and tired as this dance is, I really do love his eyes on me. Some
things never change.

“Now, that was worth it, wasn’t it?” he asks me proudly. “Buck
won’t steer ya wrong.”

“We can go somewhere more private if you’d like…Buck,” I
whisper softly in his ear, pulling back almost as slowly as the wicked
grin spreads across my face. His perverse smile hides nothing. I have
him now – hook, line, and zipper.

Money changes hands as we exit the bar. I laugh a little out loud
while remembering the lack of faith I’d had in my abilities. I try to
lead him to my car, but he’s intent on going to the alley behind the
building. I try to convince him, sliding my hand slowly down over
the large oval belt buckle with his name on it. But he’s convinced the
alley is what excites him, and I don’t want to take the time to change
his mind, so I follow along.

It begins subtle and playful, but it’s clear that’s not what he’s in
the mood for. He pushes me down onto my knees in a matter of seconds,
quickly wrapping a hand in my hair and beginning to jerk my head
back and forth violently.

He couldn’t hurt me if he tried, so I let his game continue on his
terms. Using my mouth like a cheap sex toy is a bit insulting, I guess,
but I don’t need to breathe so I’m not gagging or choking. As always,
I’m here to get what I need, and so I’ve gotten used to allowing them
what they need. I look at it like my public service, or my good deed.

I could just take what I want and be done, but that generally
leads to more problems than I want to deal with. I’ve even grown
bored with the games of superiority and subservience. I let them feel
dominant, and powerful. It’s the least I can do, really. Besides, the
heightened state of arousal makes them taste better, even if most of
them could use a lesson in hygiene.

It’s been so long since I did this in public. It might even be a little
exciting if I weren’t so anxious, or if Buck were more attractive.

I’m only vaguely aware of the fact that he’s calling me a dirty whore.
A little laugh flitters inside that he would call me dirty; the irony is lost
on him but not me. I’ve almost completely tuned him out, focused
on the job I’m here to do.

And then he makes a mistake; he hits my face, hard. If I were still
alive, it would have done some damage, broken bone, maybe even
knocked me out.

This isn’t playful anymore – this bastard actually likes to hurt
women – now, I’m done playing.

I pull back slowly from him, looking at his fist wrapped around
what looks like a roll of quarters. He’s using every ounce of strength
and leverage he has to try to hold me on my knees. He has no more
effect holding me down than the weight of my clothes. His eyes begin to
widen and he lets go of my hair as I rise slowly and determined. His
fist is still drawn back, but we both know he’s not going to swing.
I’m going over all the painful ways I can drive home the point that
he doesn’t get to hurt the girls he plays with, all the while considering
how much I love this dress and don’t want to ruin it.

Standing in front of him I wipe his liquid from the corner of my
mouth and stare deeply. I can see the panic in his eyes. I can smell
his fear, deep, rich and growing, and for the first time tonight, I’m
actually aroused.

“Now, Buck, what could possibly have made you think that was
a good idea?” I ask in a cool and controlled voice.

“Get back on your knees, whore! I ain’t paying you to fucking
talk!” He spews the words out loudly, in a vain attempt to regain
control as he tries to force me back down with one hand, while still
menacing with his fist. He only succeeds in ripping my dress.

Not this dress, not tonight. He’s decided it for me; tonight is the
end of his story.

“I’m used to the rough stuff, Buck.”

In an instant, I have his throat in my hand and his back against
the wall. He’s beginning to shake as he draws back to swing.

“I was just going to let you off with a little pain and a warning
about hurting working girls, and look what you’ve done.”

The fear pours off of him in waves as I disregard his raised fist
and calmly show him my torn dress. It’s enough to make even my
body react involuntarily to the stimulation. “You want a pretty girl
to throatfuck, you pay for it. We’re all good. You like it a little rough,
that’s fine. But slapping a girl around hard enough to actually hurt
them? We just don’t do that, Buck. You’re incredibly lucky I don’t
bruise easy.”

I flash him a smile and for just a moment I can see he thinks it’s
all going to be okay.

“We had a perfectly good deal worked out, and now you’ve ensured
that I’m the last thing you’re gonna see, and given me the extra work
of dealing with your corpse.”

He shudders and wets himself.

It really is dirty how hot this has gotten me. I’ll blame it on my
state of mind, certainly not wanting to give this bastard any credit.

I peer deeply into his eyes, and his mind unfolds to me. I see all
that he had planned for me; I know all that is ‘Buck.’ The last restraint I
had left is gone. He’s from out of town, no one here knows him, and
only his trucking company will miss him.

I apply just a touch more pressure, and with a flick of my wrist,
he goes limp. I let go and he crumples to the ground in a heap. Quick
and painless is better than he deserves, but I’m pressed for time.

I drink from him what I need and leave him piled up behind the
dumpster. At least he’s served his purpose, even if he was more trouble
than I’d planned on.

Why this dress? Any other dress he could have ripped and he’d
still be breathing. Clearly, I’m too stressed out.

I dial my cell and wait, more than a little irritated when I get
voicemail. “Frank, you really need to call me back. I have a pick up for
you and it’s time sensitive. Remind me again why I keep you on payroll?”

I walk back up to the end of the alley and wait for my phone to
ring. The straps on the left shoulder of the dress are ripped completely
out of the back and there are two deep tears where they had been
attached. This is what happens when you have to rush. Things don’t
go as planned, and then shit gets broken.

“Can I help you with that?”

His voice is steady, soft, and scares me almost out of my skin.
This is why I pay him so well.

I turn to face him and am a bit taken aback to see him dressed in
jeans and a wife-beater. He’s never this down-dressed, even when I
tell him to be.

“Not with my dress, but you can wrap that up,” I fume, nodding
my head back down the alley to what remains of Buck. “And make it

Frank O’Leary looks like what a Greek god should look like.
Chiseled out of stone; an example of everything that makes a man
attractive. His mane of auburn hair, always perfectly messy, hangs
down between his shoulder blades. Like all men who look this good,
Frank has no interest in women. He also has very few morals, a
deviously creative mind, and an unequaled love for money. That
serves to make him an irreplaceable asset. I keep telling myself I can
never trust him completely, but he’s too smart to bite the hand that
pays for his lifestyle. Also, despite my attempts to keep him at arm’s
length, I’ve grown attached to him over the years.

He stares, one eyebrow raised, at the boots jutting visibly out
from behind the dumpster and nods. “Any particulars on how he
disappears or just ‘out of sight out of mind?’”

“Just make it fucking happen, Frank! I don’t have time for bullshit
tonight!” As soon as the words escape me, I’m aware they’re harsher
than he deserved.

The look on his face says it all. He understands. He’s not happy
about it, but he knows why I’m stressed and he’ll accept it for now and
hope that things will get better.

“He is coming in tonight, then?”

“Should be here in about an hour.”

I really have to get back to the old me, and soon. I know better than
to kill this close to where I go to relax. I know he knows that, too. It felt
good to destroy that piece of shit, and save generations of women from
having to deal with him, but I still know better.

Frank looks down the alley again, then back to me and holds out
a set of keys with a silver skull keychain. He knows me too well. I
take the keys to the Charger and hand him back the ones to the little
flat black speedster.

“How much gas does she have?” he asks, still looking down the
alley, sizing up the job.

“You need to get some,” I call back at him, already walking toward
the emerald-green muscle machine. “You’re on fumes.”

He’s muttering under his breath as I get in, but his voice is less than a
whisper and it gets lost under the deafening roar of the engine coming to
life. I put the top down and back her out slowly while checking my
watch. Not much time left.

I leave the lot and the mess behind me, able to count on Frank. I
have to get to the airport, and make sure everything is secure before
his plane lands.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jennifer Estep

So... I found a new author to latch onto and read everything they put out. I read one of her books and the way she tells a story is perfect for the way I like to read. If you haven't read anything by her I recommend the Elemental Assassin series. I screwed up and started in the middle, but I am now going to have to start with book one and tear through these books.

It helps me to know, after I read her book, that she's a comic junkie, and likes the same films I do. I'm a geek, and like to read authors I can relate to, at least the geek in them. All-in-all, Jennifer Estep rocks. Check her out.