In the Shadow of Death: Chapter Six

In The Shadow

“It really is a gorgeous night, tonight,” Scarlett remarked.  “Initially I’d thought you were insane to want to walk.”  The air was crisp and clear.  Overhead were a billion stars, twinkling around a misty moon.  Definitely not what she had expected from a city purported to be dreary and gray.  There was no snow, but the crunch of autumn leaves under their feet was a worthy substitute as they made their way down the sidewalk back towards RazCon Towers.  The doors of a tiny jazz club were open and they could hear the soft, lazy strains of a saxophone and piano playing.  After dinner, he’d taken her to a small clothing shop that specialized in restored vintage pieces.  She came out of the shop with three pairs of jeans, several tops and the clunky leather boots of her dreams.  Even better, when she’d gone to the register to pay, he pushed her out of the way and handed over his credit card, despite her protesting.  She nearly laughed at the absurdity of how the evening seemed to come straight out of some silly romance novel.

“I rather like the cold,” he replied.  “Everything just seems brighter.  Especially at night.”  He looked up at the sky, casting his elegant profile against the moon.  His eyes were closed and she could see the feathery eyelashes that lay against his cheek.  The moonlight bounced off of the lines and curves of his face and again she was struck by his extraordinary beauty.  Even in the cold of the evening, he sent a blast of heat straight to her center and she shuddered visibly.  He noticed and stopped.  “Are you chilled?  I didn’t think about your not having a coat.”

“I’m alright,” she replied, crossing her arms over her chest and hugging herself against the chill.  “I was silly not to bring it.”

“I agree,” he said dryly.  He took his jacket off and wrapped it around her shoulders.  It swallowed her frame and she pulled it tightly around herself.  It was warm with the body heat that lingered.  Inhaling deeply, she could smell him all over it.  A woodsy scent, clean and pure like the unspoiled snow that gathers on the uppermost branches of a cedar tree that mixed with the earthy smell of the leather.  A distinctly male scent that made Scarlett tingly all over.  “Whatever are we going to do with you, little one?” he teased.

Something inappropriate almost escaped her lips, but she caught it in time, covering with a tiny cough.  “Sorry… a tickle in my throat,” she said.  “But don’t bother trying to save me.  People have been trying for years.  I’m surprised David didn’t tell you that.”

“He did, in his own way I suppose.”  He took her hand and Scarlett inhaled sharply, almost startled by his action.  “Your hands are like ice.  We should get you inside.”  He said little as they continued down the street.  People passed them by with knowing smiles.  She even heard his name whispered and caught a few hungry stares.  It made her feel both smug and self-conscious.  All those feelings of not being attractive enough or seeming awkward rushed into her cheeks with a flush of heat.  She curled a little closer into his side and began to walk faster.  She wanted out of the street.  She didn’t want to be stared at anymore tonight.  The drugs had made her lazy and she was nearly frozen to the bone.

He didn’t speak again until they were standing at the small private elevator, waiting for it to arrive in the lobby.  “Since we’re down here, would you like to see the studio?”

Scarlett’s heart leapt and her face lit up with an excited smile.  “Yes, please!” she exclaimed eagerly.  The thought of getting back to painting was exhilarating.  Already she’d begun to feel that familiar itch in the back of her mind.  She supposed it sounded ridiculous and pretentious, but at times she felt so inspired that it became a necessity to get something down on the canvas.

He returned her smile and held the elevator door as it opened before them.  “Then by all means, let’s not keep you waiting.”  A few minutes later, the doors opened into another foyer, much like the one downstairs, except the reception desk was a bit smaller.  “I put it here on the floor with my office because there was a lot of empty space up here.  My secretary, Leilah, will be glad to help you if you need anything.”  He pointed to the large doors behind her desk.  “That’s my office there.”

“Very Bruce Wayne,” she joked.

“I can assure you I don’t own any bat costumes or drive a funny car,” he chuckled, leading her down the hallway off to the right.  “Your keycard will open the door and only yours.  I don’t even have access unless you invite me.”

Scarlett’s eyes went wide.  “You don’t have to do that. I mean, it is your building.”

“Nonsense.  Art is a very private and personal business.  I don’t want you to feel that you have to worry about my spying.  Not that I ever would.”  He held his hand out.  “So go ahead.  Try your key.”

Scarlett swiped the card on the box at the side of the doorknob, eliciting an angry beep from the machine.  “Oops… I don’t think it likes me.”

“Nonsense.  Try again.”  She obeyed, getting the same glaring red “No access” message.

“I must be doing something wrong,” she said, feeling a little embarrassed that she couldn’t swipe a card effectively.

Raze reached out and took the hand that held the card.  He was close behind her and she could feel his breath on her neck as he leaned over her shoulder.  “There’s a trick to it,” he said, guiding her hand to swipe the card in a slow and steady movement.  “You can’t do it too fast.”  Immediately the card reader gave a happy chirp and she heard the lock click open.  “See there,” he murmured.

“You make it seem so easy,” she said, trying to mask the lust in her voice.  She couldn’t help it.  She was drawn to this man.  Something about his voice, his movement, it spoke to her most primal stirrings.

“I’m just used to it.  Shall we?” he pushed the door open, stepping aside so that she could walk inside.  The room was a wide space, nearly bare.  Like the penthouse, there were shiny hardwood floors and a bank of windows down one side of the room.  Rows of shelves and cabinets ran down another wall.  Some of the shelves had been filled with supplies:  brushes, palettes, bottles of paint and cleaners and a compact stereo system.  “Is it alright?” he asked.

Scarlett wandered about the room, tracing her fingertips along the wooden shelving that had been built into the wall.  “Of course it is,” she said.  “You seemed to think of everything.”

“Well, I did have a little help from David.  He’s the one that told me to make sure you had a stereo system.  Though, I didn’t buy canvases or a lot of paint.  I thought you might need to pick those things for yourself.”

“Thanks… I’m a little particular.”  Nestled in the corner of the room, by the large windows, was a fluffy couch and a drawing table with stool.  “But it’s just… too much.  You’ve done too much.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s like you know everything I want before I’ve even said it.”

“Everything you need, you mean?”  He strolled toward her, his movements almost predatory.  “As I told you before, I’ve been watching you for a very long time, Scarlett.  Be rest assured that there is very little that can be hidden from me.”  She turned as he approached, backing her against the wall.  His scent assaulted her again and her face flushed red.  “Tell me, do you like it?”

“Yes,” she stammered, looking up into his face.  “Thank you.”

He nodded.  Those steely eyes were fixed on hers and she searched them for any sign of teasing.  “Then you can start in the morning.  Yes?”

She nodded, her voice barely a whisper.  “Yes.”  She was nearly panting with him so close.  He was so intimidating and dripping with sensuality.  She knew that she would do anything he asked and that he delighted in that power he held over her.  “I mean… whenever you like.”

“As it pleases you,” he said, his eyes never leaving hers.  “Though I must warn you, I can be impatient at times.  More of that always getting what I want thing.”

“Do you?”

“Do I what, Scarlett?”  She shivered when he said her name.  Something about the way it rolled off his tongue.

“Always get what you want?” she asked nervously.

“Always.”

“An interesting concept,” she said.  “And what is it that you want from me?”

“Everything.”

Scarlett’s heart fluttered hard against her sternum, sending waves of desire all over her body.  A throb deep in her sex nearly made her moan, but she managed to stifle it just in time.  She wasn’t certain, but she was almost sure that he knew exactly how much of an effect he was having on her.  “You know…” she stammered.  “I haven’t had the chance to thank you.  You’ve gone to a great deal of trouble for me.”

“Think nothing of it.”  His lips were close to her brow.  So close that she could feel them graze lightly against her skin.  All she need do was turn her head slightly and they would touch.  “As I told you last night, I have every intention of protecting my investment.”

The air between them was heavy and thick.  Scarlett felt that they were on the verge of something, but she wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen.  Staring up at his face she examined the lines of his lips and the sharp contours of his cheekbones that stood out in the heavy shadow.  Before she knew what was happening she had stretched upward, brushing her lips across his.  When he didn’t protest, she kissed him again, this time letting her lips linger against his mouth.  His arms slid around her waist and pulled her close.  One hand slipped up her side, cupping her jaw gently as he pulled her in again.  His mouth closed over hers.  He parted her lips with the tip of his tongue, teasing it inside.  She accepted him eagerly with soft sighs, letting him nibble and bite.  He pulled back slightly, but she held fast, keeping her body melded to his as she placed kisses over his mouth and cheek.  The taste of his skin, the rhythm of his breath, took her arousal to a fever pitch and she found herself pressing her center against him.  “Scarlett…” he murmured between kisses.  He wove his fingers into her hair, pulling her head back and breaking their kiss.  “We can’t do this, Scarlett.”

“Why not?” she whimpered.  She tried to capture his mouth again, but he held her against the wall.

“I didn’t bring you here to seduce you,” he said, his expression going stoic.  “Let’s not do something we might both regret.”

“But I…” she stammered.  She wanted to say more, something that would convince him to go on, but the words died in her throat and she backed down.  “You’re right, of course.  We shouldn’t be doing this.  I seem to have a terrible way of mixing business and pleasure.”  Her eyes narrowed and she gazed at his face, searching for any signs of crumbling resistance, but he only looked away.  “It won’t happen again.”  She pushed past him and rushed to the door.   She could feel the tears stinging the corners of her eyes and she didn’t want to cry in front of him.  “I’ll see you upstairs.  I should call David.”

“Scarlett,” he began, crossing the room in two strides to catch up.  “Don’t be angry…”

She paused at the door, refusing to turn and look him in the eye. “Nonsense.  Why would I be angry?  Obviously I had too much wine at dinner and it got the better of me, that’s all.  Lucky you were here to stop me before I did something really crazy.”  She gave a fake chuckle and walked away, praying that her keycard would work this time.

Raze had the good sense not to follow her and after only two attempts at using the card, the doors to the elevator opened.  She didn’t wait for him and rode the elevator up to the penthouse, pressing the floor button several times as if it would make the machine travel faster.  When it arrived on the top floor, she rushed through the doors and up the stairs to her room.  When the door was safely closed, Scarlett collapsed on the bed and let go the tears that had been threatening to fall.  How could she have been so stupid?  Why would someone like Raze Constantine want her?  He was intelligent, successful and classy.  Of course he saw her as some kind of junkie charity case.  She was probably just another project, like that school in Africa.  Save the little junkie artist girl.  She gave a bitter laugh.  “Maybe he could have a telethon,” she said to the empty room.

Her purse fell open when she fell down on the bed and one of the pill bottles rolled out and onto the floor.  She reached down and picked it up.  She could be the junkie artist girl, if that’s what he wanted.  Two tiny pills and she might be able to sleep and forget all about Mr. Constantine and his kissing abilities.  Two Halcion and her angel might visit her dreams, making everything go away.  Popping the lid off with one hand, she shook two pills out onto the coverlet.  The little blue pills blended in to the silvery pattern on the bed, but she scooped them up with shaking fingers.  She put them on her tongue, holding them there until she could get into the bathroom to scoop water from the sink into her mouth to wash them down.

Scarlett leaned against the counter, staring at herself in the mirror.  Her makeup had begun to wear and dark circles loomed under her eyes.  Her cheekbones stood out in harsh relief and she rubbed her hands over them.  She didn’t eat much, these days.  She was too thin, almost gaunt.  It was true what Raze had said.  Her obsessions were getting harder to hide.  “Fuck it,” she growled at the mirror, turning the light off and walking into the bedroom.  She shed her clothes, leaving them strewn around the floor, until she stood naked.  She could feel the drugs creeping into her system, bathing her brain in a hazy kind of relief.  Her extremities felt heavy and her eyes were closing against her will as she lay down on the bed.  She sank into the depths of the feather mattress, pulling the comforter around her.

Downstairs, she heard the elevator doors open and Raze’s footfalls on the floor.  She wondered for a moment if he would call out for her, but he was silent.  His boots made a low thud on the stairs as he walked up.  Scarlett panicked for a moment, sure that he was going to come inside.  She pulled the covers over her head and peered out from under them.  If she pretended to be asleep, he wouldn’t stop.  The footsteps stopped outside her door and Scarlett’s body tensed.  Slowly, the door opened, a blade of light slicing the room in half.  Raze peered inside, but he said nothing.  Then, just as quickly, he was gone.

A Day in the Glamorous Life of Lexx

LexxieWe creatives have perfect lives. We get up in the morning and make ourselves a cup of French roast coffee, then sit down in our underwear and blissfully pound out 5,000 golden words in our next masterpiece. By that time it’s just past lunch so that we can get together with our other glamorous friends to plot and discuss our last six-figure royalty check. Finally, dinner rolls around and we order something fabulous to go with the expensive bottle of chardonnay we’ve been chilling.

You know that’s bullshit, right?

No kittens, I’m afraid it isn’t like that at all. Most people in any creative field will tell you that this life isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll likely never be super-famous. You’ll likely never be completely financially stable. Most of us have day jobs and obligations and soccer practices just like everyone else. To prove it to you, I’ve compiled a little glimpse into a day with Lexx.

7:30am: My alarm goes off for the final time after my husband Tally has attempted to beat it to death. I roll out of bed and into the bathtub. Mind you, this is the bathtub with the hole we’ve been fixing with epoxy for two years.

8:30am: I clock in at my dayjob as the jury coordinator for my county. That’s right, when you get pulled for jury duty, I’m the one you call and shout at. I begin answering calls with fairly lame excuses almost as soon as I walk in the door, in addition to helping folks with their court-related questions (What time is court? I forgot to pay this traffic ticket from two years ago and now they want to suspend my license. How much is my fine? I got served with a paper that I’m going to be coy and mysterious about so that you have to guess how to help me.). I put in my eight hour day at work. In between I try to get some words down (usually about 1000) and take care of marketing stuff (newsletter, social media, organizing events, researching ad space, writing blog posts– guess where I’m writing this).

5:00pm: I get home finally. Unless I have some other stuff planned (writers’ group “shenanigans” is on Thursdays, friends’ book signings, etc.), I try to sit down and decompress a little. I read books that I’m reviewing or beta reading, read for pleasure, play with my dog, peruse Facebook, or even nap.

6:00pm: The dear husband gets home and we cook dinner, do some laundry, clean up a bit, and finally manage to sit down and eat something.

7:00pm- 12:00am: I write, or try to write. That is not to say that I don’t get distracted. I have some shows I watch faithfully and often livetweet (@LexxxChristian on Twitter if you’re interested), but I try to write on either my WIP or sometimes blog posts if I need to catch up. I sometimes use this time to load up Hootsuite or create graphics for promotion.

When my day is done, I often drift off to sleep thinking about all the writing projects that I didn’t finish.

The point of all this is: don’t go into writing or any other artistic field thinking that it’s going to be an easy way to make money. Trust me, it isn’t. This dayjob is what pays my bills. I write because I love it. I write because I need to get the words out. I write because I need to escape. It isn’t glamorous, but it’s what I was born to do.

In the Shadow of Death: Chapter Four

Hey kids! Sorry this has taken so long to get up here. It’s been a crazy busy summer. I hope you enjoy… 

In The Shadow

Sleep had been an elusive friend and so finally around six, Scarlett had given up.  Watching the sun come up, she had thought about all of the things Constantine had said over their ill-fated dinner.  And though she’d tried to deny it, she knew that every word he’d spoken was right.  She wasn’t sure how he’d known, but evidently he was very perceptive.  Her life had been one disaster after another.  The bad relationships, the drugs, the drinking—all of it had conspired to make her a shell of a person.  This empty gash lay open in her chest and it seemed that everyone she knew, with the possible exception of David, had come by only to unload more poison into the wound.

Then there was Raze Constantine.  She wasn’t sure what to make of him.  He was absolutely, stunningly beautiful. His intelligence was internationally known and he was one of those guys that was so wealthy that no one was really sure how much he was worth.  Obviously he had some kind of supernatural perception that made him able to pinpoint every little glitch in her psyche.  But even knowing all that he did about her, he’d made no attempt to manipulate.  He’d been honest and forthright… perhaps a little too honest and forthright.  Raze had said all of those things that Scarlett needed to hear, no matter how much she didn’t want to.  She sighed.  It was probably for the best that she go back to Charlotte and let sleeping dogs lie.  Sticking around and agreeing to his little arrangement would only prove disastrous.  He would either tire of her instability and moodiness or turn angry and cold toward her.  No, it was better this way.

Scarlett crossed to the bed where she’d laid open her suitcase.  She began rambling through it trying to find something comfortable to wear on the plane home.  She laughed to herself.  It was so obvious that David had done most of her packing.  All of the clothes he’d chosen were bright and dressy.  Of course, he’d neglected to throw any underwear into the mess of garments.  Yet another sign that she was making the right decision by going home.  “I must remember to fire him when I get back,” she said to the empty room, tossing the clothes this way and that.  A knock at the door stopped her frenzied search.  “Who is it?” she called.

“Scarlett.  It’s Raze Constantine.  Would you open the door, please?”

She shivered and pulled her robe tighter around herself.  What on Earth could he possibly want at 7 in the morning?  “Give me a second!” she answered, looking around the room nervously.  She caught sight of herself in the mirror and cringed.  She’d just emerged from the shower and her black hair stuck to the sides of her face.  Grabbing a towel from the rack by the sink, she quickly wrapped her hair up in it, turban style.  Another check of the sash around her waist and she was on her way to the door.  She wasn’t sure why she should care so much what she looked like, but for some reason she wanted to look presentable.  She took a deep breath and then opened the door.

Raze stood there, looking at her miserably through hooded eyes.  It was obvious that he hadn’t slept the night before either and she found herself stifling a smile that she had caused him to be so flustered.  Raze Constantine was not a man to be flustered.  “Hello, Scarlett.  May I come in for a moment?” said he asked.  His hair was tousled, nearly obscuring his right eye with fallen locks. There was no expensive suit this morning, but ratted blue jeans and a crisp white dress shirt, open at the neck.  He looked almost human, save for those metallic eyes and pristine bone structure.  Scarlett said nothing, but stepped aside so that he could enter the hotel room.  He followed her to the small seating area and she gestured for him to sit down.  “I think we got off on the wrong foot last night, Scarlett.”

“Indeed,” she said, picking up the television remote and switching it off.

There was an awkward silence between them that was almost solid as he stared around the room, observing everything.  “I see you have your suitcase out.  Are you planning to leave?”

“Yes.  I called the airline this morning and had my ticket changed to the next flight.  I’ll be out of your hair by the afternoon.”

“You needn’t leave so soon,” Raze said.

“Why not?” she asked, re-folding her clothes to put back into the suitcase.  “Neither of us seems willing to compromise on your contract.  There’s no reason for me to stay.  I wouldn’t dream of imposing on your kindness.”

“You couldn’t be an imposition to me, Scarlett.”  He took a step toward her and she shied away before he could take hold of her elbow.  Instead she turned around sharply, her face looking glum.

“Why are you here this morning?” she snapped.  “You made it pretty clear last night that your contract was a one-time offer.  I didn’t accept.  So I really don’t see the point…”

“You’re right.  I don’t usually make repeat offers.  But I couldn’t let you leave London without asking why you’re so afraid.”  Reaching out, he took up the blouse she was still clutching in her shaking hands.  “I think the cost of the plane ticket and these accommodations alone should afford me some sort of explanation.”

Scarlett shoved past him, dropping the suitcase and putting as much space as possible between them.  She wanted to answer his question because he was right.  He had gone to a lot of expense to bring her here, but there was no rational explanation.  Nothing that she could say that wouldn’t sound absolutely insane.  The truth was, if she were being honest with herself, that she knew him.  He was like a voice from a dream she couldn’t place, but one thing was for certain: she knew him and he knew her.  Very well.  Too well for her comfort.  In his eyes she could see that he knew every little dark secret.  “I just can’t put my life on hold for an indeterminable amount of time, and honestly, I don’t think it’s very fair of you to ask.”

Raze nodded and began to pace, his fingertips poised beneath his lower lip.  “You’re absolutely right,” he replied after several minutes of silence.  “You have no reason to accept.  No reason to trust me at all.  Nor do I have any reason to trust you either.  Perhaps you hadn’t thought of this before, but this endeavor is a leap of faith for me too.  You see, these pieces aren’t just paintings for my collection.  The way I see it, Scarlett… I’m asking you to put my soul on the canvas.  I feel very strongly about this and if you won’t do it…”  He stopped, heaving a sigh.  “It sounds crazy, I know.  But I promise that all of your questions will be answered in time.  If you’ll just… give me a chance.”

Scarlett gave a heavy sigh and sank to the corner of the bed.  She rubbed her forehead as if she could massage away the stabbing pain behind her left eye.  She knew she was defeated.  After all, it wasn’t as if she had much of a life to go back to.  A shabby apartment, hallucinations of an angel that would swoop down and carry her away to all her wildest dreams?  What Constantine was really offering was an escape route that she feared had come too late.

His voice was quiet when he spoke again.  “What does one have to lose when she’s already thrown away everything?”

“Give me the contract before I change my mind.”  Her hand was trembling as she gripped his expensive silver pen between her fingertips.  With slow deliberation she signed her name above his in her scrawling script, feeling that she was signing her life away.

BACK to Chapter Three

Top Ten Horror Movies with Crymsyn Hart

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It’s been a while since we last spoke. Let’s just put it this way, kittens— it’s been a long summer. But now we’re back and the autumn is upon us. You know what that means: it’s time for all things spooky!! And let’s kick off the spookiest season of the year with author Crymsyn Hart. This week she’s hopping from blog to blog promoting her Deathly Encounters series. I asked Crymsyn to pop over and talk to us about her top ten most HAIR RAISING HORROR MOVIES!!!

Since I write about Grim Reapers, you would have to say that I must have been influenced by something. Well, that is true. I am a lover of horror movies. Here are my top ten favorites…

  

  1. Poltergeist – The original not the remake
  2. The Thing – The Kurt Russell version.
  3. The Ring
  4. Jaws
  5. Rose Red
  6. The Shining – the TV movie not the Jack Nicholson version. Great movie, but not one of my favorites.
  7. Dawn of the Dead
  8. The Exorcist
  9. The Conjuring
  10. Puppet Master

Well I don’t know about you guys, but I definitely added some movies to my Halloween Watch-list!

Here’s a little bit about the second book in the Deathly Encounters series, DEATH’S REVIVAL, available NOW from Seventh Star Press…

Becoming a grim reaper was right up my alley. I enjoyed being dead. I helped souls crossover into deathsrevivalcover1200x800either Heaven or Hell with my fellow reaper, Than. For two years, I enjoyed my life and then the killings started. Psychics were being murdered at haunted sites and souls disappearing.

Someone was tampering with the fabric of the universe, trying to draw something evil into this world.

To do that, the killer needed the souls of the psychics and the ghosts he could gather to open the doorway. I was charged with saving those souls and find out who the serial killer was. Yeah, being used as bait was definitely not my first choice, but who can kill a grim reaper?

I’m already dead. With Than’s help, I’ll stop the evil from penetrating this world so I can get back to my soul gathering.

I mean the dead stay dead, right?

Get it now from these fine retailers:

Amazon                                            Barnes & Noble                                         KOBO

About Crymsyn…

crymsynhart_authorphotoCrymsyn is a National Bestselling author of over seventy paranormal romance and horror novels. Her experiences as a psychic have given her a lot of material to use in her books. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and her three dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s curled up with the dogs watching a good horror movie or off with friends.To find out more about Crymsyn:

Website: http://www.ravynhart.com

Twitter: @crymsynhart

Blog: http://www.crymsynhart.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crymsynhart

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Crymsyn-Hart/e/B002BMJ1Z0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1405515745&sr=8-1

Newsletter Sign Up

Author Seeking Complex Readers

 

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Greetings from the world of the living! It’s been a while, but I hope you’ve all been well. I’ve been writing my little heart out the last month trying to finish up my upcoming release from Little Red Hen Romance. It’s a charming little #Sherlock Holmes #mystery entitled “Chasing the Dragon.” It’s a bit longer than the regular LRH release, coming in at just under 30K. But the 30K are well worth it in my humble opinion. As I was talking to my editor about it this morning, we inevitably veered the conversation into that deep, dark pit– how to sell more books? It’s a question that is always on the minds of writers these days. Many of my colleagues have gone from selling enough books to make their car payment to barely selling enough to warrant a check. There are so many layers to this question that we can’t even begin to examine all of them, but I wanted to focus this blog post on the most important one:  YOU, dear reader.

Picture it, Facebook: 2016. A beautiful young writer is browsing the author groups and reading blogs. She is puzzled, as she keeps seeing words like “BESTSELLER” and “5 STARS.” The problem is, all the books that had been tagged as “BESTSELLER” or “5 STARS” seemed to be carbon copies of one another. And they certainly weren’t the kinds of books that the young writer was churning out at light speed. Romances that weren’t even remotely romantic that featured predatory relationships, unreal situations, no high-stakes conflict, increasingly whacked-out scenarios– the list goes on. And apparently readers are lapping it up like milk and honey.

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Something about this just doesn’t gel.

I know readers, particularly romance readers, are smarter than this. I know they want complex stories that aren’t just about the sicky-sweet love and the increasingly disturbing sex. And how these two things exist in the same story still escapes me.

Here’s what I want in a reader: 

Someone who believes in love. I often get the impression that the people writing 50 Shades knock-offs think that love is a joke. That the fairy tale stuff doesn’t exist so we may as well make it a humiliating experience that no one will enjoy. Love ISN’T perfect, but it is out there. Sometimes hiding in the most unlikely of places.

Not a hopeless romantic, but a hopeful one.

Someone who wants adventure and a complex storyline in their romance. It doesn’t have to be all about the romance. There should be more at stake than an old boyfriend blowing back into town. Romance CAN exist in the midst of an international incident. Or on an interplanetary mission to save the sun. Or between a dragon and the slayer sent to kill him on behalf of the government. Romance novels don’t HAVE to be Hallmark Channel movies of the week.

Someone who isn’t just reading from one sex scene to the next to get off. That’s what Penthouse Letters are for.


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So where can you find these amazing feats of literary fitness? Well look no further than Little Red Hen Romance. It’s co-op of authors, Lucy Blue and yours truly, work tirelessly to bring meaty love stories to the complex reader. That reader that wants to lose themselves in the magic and adventure of a damn good story and feel the heart flutter as they witness two people falling in love.

I know you’re out there.

GUEST POST: 5 Tips for Writing a Humorous Novel with Karina Fabian

NeetaLyffe_ILeftMyBrainsinSanFrancisco_audio_MEDWith all this talk of horror and mayhem lately, I thought it might be nice to feature an author who not only knows her way around a horror novel, but can also make us DIE laughing.  Get it… DIE laughing?  Ahem… anyway, here today at The Belle, author Karina Fabian is going to be educating us on the art of comedy as featured in her new audiobook release, I Left My Brains in San Francisco.  So without further ado…


I’ve always enjoyed being silly. I fell in love while trading puns with a new friend who is now my husband of nearly 25 years. At work, I’ve been known to put our skeleton in funny places, like the bathroom stall for “private time.” When I was asked to write a zombie story, I got into a silly mood, and the story, “Wokking Dead,” ended up being more an apocalypse of puns than undead. However Neeta Lyffe (say it out loud) was a character of such character that my publisher asked me to writer her in a novel. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator won awards, and now I’ve written the second, I Left My Brains in San Francisco, which comes out in audiobook this month.

Not everyone can write funny stories, nor does everyone want to. But if you’d like to try to make someone graffaw in a library or snort soda out their nose while reading in a cafe, here are some tips:

  1. Make Yourself Laugh. I mean it. If you don’t enjoy your own jokes, why bother writing them? You should laugh when you read your own work. If it’s not funny to you, how can it be funny to anyone else?
  2. Keep your pacing. Just like a comedian needs to pace his punchline, you need to pace the humor of your story. Be sure you set up the joke but don’t overstate it. Get the punch line in and give the reader a chance to laugh. Hit them with a surprise.
  3. A novel is not a series of jokes. It’s a story. Just like no novel is all dialogue or all long descriptions of the scene, a humorous novel is not all slapstick and comedy. In fact, properly placed seriousness can make the jokes all the better. My funniest novels have serious things happen in them. Sometimes, they are quiet moments to let the characters (and the reader) catch their breaths. Sometimes, they are the tragic consequences of what was a humorous scene. Other times, they are touching moments or intense action. You might say it’s a yin-yang kind of thing, but it adds depth and complexity, which makes a better novel all around.
  4. Don’t force the humor. Sometimes, all the machinations in the world will not let a joke go through in a novel, even when it seemed so funny in your head. Cut it the way you would a bad description or laborious dialogue. Also, be careful that your humor, especially political/social/religious humor, doesn’t cross the line to insult (unless that’s what you’re going for, but then be prepared for it to not be so funny after all.)
  5. Don’t expect everyone to get all your jokes. I’ve had critiquers who did not understand my humor. I’ve had editors try to fix the manuscript by changing punch lines (or punch scenes) to funny pieces they did not get. Even “Neeta Lyffe,” which I thought was a pretty obvious pun, has to be explained sometimes. (And pronounced. It’s like Need-a-Life, not Need a Lift.) Having said that, if too many of your beta readers don’t get the joke, then you should rethink it.

Laughter has been shown to reduce tension, exercise the cardiovascular system, and encourage a more positive outlook. Writing funny stories promotes good health! (Or so I tell myself when I skip the gym to write.) The great thing is, you get to share the benefits with others. So go write funny! And if your funny bone needs a workout, consider I Left My Brains in San Francisco. It’s even in audio, so you can listen to it while you run!


About I Left My Brains in San Francisco

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator–but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she’s looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it’ll be a working vacation after all.

 Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

Excerpt:

Survival Hardware hadn’t seen such a rush of customers since the last Armageddon prediction coincided with Black Friday.

Manager Clint Sanders rubbed his hands with glee. Oh, Marley, if only you hadn’t gotten drunk and decided to go zombie hunting. Was it only last Christmas?

He hurried to Customer Service, crafting an announcement in his mind.  “You want to live!  We want to live!  That’s why you are going to file calmly to the back if you need a suit.”

Yeah.  Sense of urgency, plus that “We’re in this together” crap.

He got to the counter and nodded at Bitsy, who had rung up a chainsaw and a half-crate of bleach.

God bless survivors. Clint continued to the back.  Out of habit, he checked the exit door, even though it was always locked from the outside.  He needed to delete Marley’s old code from it.

He cleared his throat.  “Listen up!  You want to live!  We want to live!”

The exit door clicked.

“That’s impossible!” he declared.  The store fell silent.

“Boss?” Bitsy’s voice ended in a squeak.

“That’s not what I meant!  Security team to customer service!”

He reached under the counter for a shotgun.  Bitsy grabbed the chainsaw.  They had filled them that morning—another example of the excellent service at Survival Hardware.

The door swung open, and the zombiefied remains of his late business partner, Marley, staggered through.

Clint to blasted him with the shotgun.  The impact knocked the Marley out the door.

Clint used the gunsight to scan the parking lot.  “He brought friends!  Call Nine-One-One.  I’m putting this place on shutdown.”

“Screw that!  I’ve been prepping all my life for this!”  With a howl of challenge, Bitsy dashed out the door.  She swung low and decapitated her former boss before moving on.

Thundering footsteps signaled the customers following in her wake.

He gaped at the carnage while Dirk called 9-1-1.  It’d be too late by the time they got there.  All that’d be left was to clean up the zombie parts and get the customers back in to pay.

God bless survivors.

Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco (also available in audio) HERE:

Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727643

Amazon: http://amzn.to/Nzm01L (paper) http://amzn.to/OBBmkL (Kindle)

More about it at http://zombiedeathextreme.com


About Karina Fabian:

Winner of the Global eBook Award for Best Horror (Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator), Karina Fabian’s writing takes quirky karinachainsaw2tales that keep her–and her fans–amused. Zombie exterminators to snarky dragons, things get a little silly in her brain. When she’s not pretending to be an insane psychic or a politically correct corpsicle for a story, she writes product reviews for TopTenReviews.com and takes care of her husband, four kids and two dogs. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

Website: http://fabianspace.com, http://zombiedeathextreme.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karina.fabian

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/KarinaFabian

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/103660024891826015212

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10981939-karina-fabian

What I’ve Learned About Editing

me and amy (2)OMG… can it be that The Belle herself is posting on the blog today?  Why yes!  Your eyes don’t deceive you.  It’s really me this time.  I figured that I should share my genius with you since it’s been a while (tongue placed firmly in cheek).  The truth is, I’ve been really busy the last few weeks.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I really have.  I’ve got two new releases with Little Red Hen Romance this month and I literally finished the edits on one of those stories the day before release.  I’ve also been knee-deep in the edits for the Sherlock Holmes anthology, An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which will be hitting eBook shelves on October 27, 2015.  And speaking of editing, that’s the purpose of my article today.

I’ve been a part of several anthologies as an author but An Improbable Truth is the first time that I’ve been on the other side of the editorial desk.  Yes, my evil alter-ego, A.C. Thompson is the editor of this collection.  And lemme tell you, kittens– it’s been a learning experience.  It’s had its ups and downs but I like to think the process has been pretty smooth for all those involved.  But now that I have something to compare it to, here are some things that I’ve learned.

  1. Have a schedule in place.  This is actually good advice for most endeavors, but it’s really essential if you’re going to take responsibility of other people’s work.  Before the call ever goes out, you should have a clear timeline in your head of not just when the release date is but other important things like:  when will the submission window close, when will everyone’s stories be accepted or rejected, how are you going to let them know, when do contracts go out, when do you project having your first round of edits done, your authors turn in those edits by what date, when is the deadline for cover art, etc.  Now these dates don’t need to be set in stone, but you should have some idea.  No one should be floundering at the last minute.
  2. Be a professional.  Let me say that again.  *In her best Christian Bale voice* BE A FUCKING PROFESSIONAL.  Ahem, that felt good.  Anyway, remember kittens– this is not the church bake sale.  This is someone’s hard work that you’re screwing around with here.  These people are not donating their work to your cause, they’re giving you something for publication that they will hopefully make a little money from.  That means that you cannot keep their work indefinitely in limbo never telling them whether their story got in or not or never sending them a contract.  Authors should NOT find out that their story wasn’t accepted by reading the release announcement. Nor should you keep them on a mailing list that constantly says “just because you’re getting this doesn’t mean you’re in the anthology, just fyi.”  It’s rude, it’s confusing, and it keeps an author’s story on the hook for ages when they could be submitting it to someone that might accept it. Rejections are the most un-fun part of the process, but they’re just as necessary as the acceptances.
  3. Don’t become an editor if you don’t have any credentials other than you’ve read a book before.  I decided to pitch the idea of An Improbable Truth because I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, the copyrights had been released, and there weren’t any other paranormal/ horror Sherlock anthologies out there.  Before I made the decision to pitch to my wonderful publisher, Nicole Kurtz, I thought about whether or not I was equipped to edit someone else’s work.  So here it is:  I graduated from Winthrop University with a degree in Education.  Part of that program required that I complete college level work in writing and grammar.  Up to this point I’ve published two novels a slew of short stories and novellas, and a magazine article with several reputable presses.  I’ve written five novels.  I have also been through a hard edit with a professional “big 5” author and editor.  Do I think I know it all?  Hell no!  I have called on the help of my sister who has a Master’s Degree in English as well as other editors many times.  Trust me, commas are not my friends. But if you don’t have a grasp of language in your own writing, you probably shouldn’t be an editor.  Sadly, this is an epidemic in the self-pubbing/ indie world.  We scream that we want to be taken seriously, but kids– big time publishing is never going to take us seriously until we hold our authors to the same standard as they do.  And that means good writing and professional editing.
  4. I am your editor, not your mama!!  Therefore, it is not my job to teach you to write or completely re-write your first draft.  I actually overheard an author tell someone, “It doesn’t matter if I can write.  That’s what the editor is for.”  WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!! It is your job as the writer to write a great story, polish it up (DO NOT SEND YOUR FIRST DRAFT), and edit– not write a ten page dissertation on why the editor is wrong and you’re right.  The editor is an unbiased third party whose only interest is in making your story the best it can be.  Don’t fight them every step of the way.  If you disagree with something, discuss it.  Don’t stomp your feet like a toddler and refuse to change it.  Or make up some silly excuse as to WHY you can’t edit.  It is worth noting that I did NOT have this problem on the Sherlock anthology.  Every single author I have is the picture of professionalism and talent.  I may be slightly biased, but seriously… these guys and gals rock!
  5. Have a plan for promotion.  This is particularly for the editors of anthologies.  Now you might say, “That’s not my division.”  Well Lestrade, yes it is.  If you’re editing an anthology for a small press it IS your division.  Finding as many places to get the word out about your authors and your book is part of your job description.  You don’t just send these things out into the world and expect them to swim on their own!  You have to be creative.  Think outside the box.  While you’re sitting here reading this ridiculously long diatribe, five anthologies just hit the shelves.  You have to make your book stand out.  Why should people buy YOUR anthology and not the other one.  And don’t worry, you aren’t alone.  Your publisher and all those lovely people who contributed to the anthology are there to help you.  They should have a plan for what they’re going to do as well.  And you’ll, hopefully, all succeed together.

So that’s it. That’s what I’ve learned so far and trust me– it’s a process.  I don’t know it all and probably never will.  And of course, these are all just my opinions.  We’ll see if they work at all in a few weeks.