Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Teaser Tuesday -- How Further Confessions COULD have started

I thought it would be fun to share the beginning of the first draft  I wrote of FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN and the version that was finally published.  (I still REALLY want to use the cupid thing…)

Okay here's my first draft:

You know it’s going to be a bad day when Cupid is taking pot shots at you, and instead of using a bow and infatuation-tipped arrows, he’s using a 9mm Glock.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My name is Maggie Lee. I’m the niece of three crazy aunts, the daughter of two unstable parents, and the proud aunt of one amazing niece. In my spare time I make some extra money (to care for my aforementioned niece) by killing people. I’m a hitwoman.

It takes a village to raise an idiot, and it takes more than one idiot to pull off an assassination. I’m helped out by Patrick Mulligan, my murder mentor who moonlights as a cop, Godzilla (God for short) a smug, talking lizard and Doomsday (she prefers to be called DeeDee) a Doberman who has the worst grammar, but the best of intentions.

On a good day my life is pretty crazy. On a bad day Cupid is trying to kill me.

--#--

“Your aura looks funny, chica.”

I glanced over at Armani Vasquez, sitting on the opposite of the table in the Insuring the Future break room. “Is it green?”

Squinting at me, she nodded.

“Maybe that’s because I’ve never seen anyone eat candy hearts like that before.”

“No. That’s not it.”

I looked down at the pink heart that said “Be Mine” poking out of her chicken Caesar salad. My stomach turned in protest.

Armani pulled out a purple cloth bag and shook it at me making the contents rattle. “Pull.”

Sighing, I did as she asked, removing seven Scrabble letters from the pouch and laying them down for her to read.  DEGOSTV

She scowled at them thoughtfully. Some psychics deal Tarot cards and some gaze into crystal balls. Armani reads Scrabble tiles and has prophetic dreams.

Not that long ago, I scoffed at her predictions, but then they started coming true. Granted they didn’t play out the way she or I thought they would, but their accuracy became too much of a coincidence for me to ignore. 

So I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich while she used her good hand (the other was injured in a tragic Zamboni accident) to maneuver the game pieces like a street hustler playing Three Card Monty.

“What’s wrong with your dog?”

“She’s grammatically-challenged.”

Armani looked up from her work and looked at me like I was the crazy one, despite the fact she was talking about my aura and interpreting my Scrabble picks like a fortune teller reads tea leaves.

“Just kidding,” I lied, swallowing my mouthful of PB&J. I’d never confided to her, or anyone, that the car accident that killed my sister and injured my niece,  Katie, left me able to talk to animals. Or at least to lizards and dogs, so far I hadn’t had much luck communicating with cats, but I suspect they may be too stuck up to talk to the likes of me.

“Do you have a vet?” Armani asked.

I shook my head.

“You should.”

“Doomsday is fine.” Doomsday, who prefers to be called DeeDee, is the Doberman Pinscher I took into my home after I killed her owner Gary the Gun. I already told that story in Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman, so I’m not going to go into that now.

“Then why do your letters spell Dog’s Vet?” She pushed the line of tiles across the table at me. DOGSVET

“Maybe it says God’s Vet,” I mused worriedly.  

While Katie recovers in the hospital, I’ve found myself responsible for the care and feeding (like crickets only) of her lizard, Godzilla, God for short.  The little guy is big on attitude and loves Wheel of Fortune.

“You need to find a vet,” Armani told me, dropping the tiles back into the bag.

Apparently that wasn’t the only thing I needed to find.

--#--

“We need to find you a man,” my Aunt Loretta opined the moment she walked into my apartment.

Ignoring her, I took the large shopping bag she held and put it on my kitchen table. “Why don’t you sit in the living room.”

“This is a questionable neighborhood,” my aunt worried.

“It’s fine.”

“You shouldn’t be here alone.”

“I’m not. I’ve got DeeDee. Speaking of which, I’m going to let her out.”

I waited a beat for my cashmere-clad, blinged-out, perfume-soaked aunt to protest, but none came. Shrugging I opened my bedroom door, freeing the eighty-pound dog who almost knocked me over in her rush to greet Loretta.

While the two of them got acquainted, I stuck my head in the bedroom to see how God was doing. “Do you need anything?” I asked.

Sprawled out on the driftwood inside his terrarium, he waved me away, without even bothering to look at me. I should have known better than to interrupt his viewing of Chicks Cooped Up (a prison-based reality show).

“I brought you some jewelry, dear,” Aunt Loretta said as I joined her in the living room.  She was perched on the edge of the sofa, petting DeeDee’s head, which had been unceremoniously plopped into the lap of my unsuspecting aunt.

I suppressed a groan. The last time Loretta had gifted me with an jewelry it had been an oversized cameo broach that I wore exactly once, the moment she insisted I try it on. “I don’t really need any more jewelry, Aunt Loretta.”

She blinked at me, her fake eyelashes dancing like oversized spiders. “It’s not for you.”

“But you just said…”

“It’s for Darling DeeDee.”

The dog tilted her head at me. “Darling,” she panted happily.

“Be a dear and get the pink bag,” Loretta ordered, waving a bejeweled hand in the direction of the kitchen.

I did as she asked, doing my best to ignore the way Doomsday kept panting, “Darling. Darling. Darling.”

“I’m sure she’s wonderful company,” Loretta said, “but we need to find a man to warm your bed.”

“The darling dog warms my bed just fine.”

And here's the version that was finally used:   

            You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re stuck at a red light and Doomsday is breathing down your neck.
            In this particular instance Doomsday happens to be a seventy-pound Doberman Pinscher. Instead of having the voice of doom, she sounds an awful lot like an air-headed, bimbo-y blonde. “Way that! Way that!”
            Did I mention that Doomsday has really lousy grammar?
            “Not that way,” Severus Snape drawled from the front passenger seat. Okay, not really Snape, but God…zilla, a talking Gecko, with an attitude to match his namesake.
            Have you followed all this so far? The superior talking lizard is in the front passenger seat, the breathy Doberman is in the back, and I, Maggie Lee, am in the driver’s seat, even though it doesn’t feel as though I’m in control of this wild ride we’re on.
            I know this whole thing sounds crazy. I know animals can’t talk, but ever since I was in a terrible car accident a few months ago, I can understand them. Of course I haven’t mentioned this little side effect to anyone, because I’m afraid they’ll lock up my crazy ass in the nuthouse (hell, with my luck, they’d probably make me room with my mom who’s a long-term resident) and I’ve just got too much to do to let that happen.
            Which brings me to why God and Doomsday were arguing about which direction we were headed. I needed to kill someone at a wedding.
            It’s a toss-up which I hate more: killing people or weddings.
            Unfortunately, I’m getting pretty good at both.

Chapter 1

            “I see a disco ball in your future.” Aramani Vasquez, the closest thing I had to a friend at Insuring the Future, delivered this pronouncement right after she sprinkled a handful of candy corn into her Caesar salad.
            Disgusted by her food combination, I pushed my own peanut butter and jelly sandwich away. “Really? A disco ball?”
            If you’d told me a month ago that I’d be leaning over a table in the lunchroom, paying close attention to the bizarre premonitions of my half-crippled-wanna-be-psychic co-worker, I would have said you were crazy.
            But I’d had one hell of a month.
            First there had been the car accident. My sister Teresa and her husband Dirk were killed, my four-year-old niece Katie wound up in a coma, and I ended up with the ability to talk to animals. Trust me I know exactly how crazy that sounds, but it’s true…I think.
            On top of everything else, I inadvertently found myself hurtling down a career path I never could have imagined.
            I’m now a hitwoman for hire. Yes, I kill people for money…but just so you know, I don’t go around killing just anyone. I’ve got standards. The two men I killed were bad men, very bad men.
            Before I could press Armani for more details about the mysterious disco ball, another man I wanted to kill sauntered into my line of vision. I hate my job at Insuring the Future. I hate taking automobile claims from idiot drivers who have no business getting behind the wheel. But most of all I hate my boss, Harry. It’s not the fact that he’s a stickler for enforcing company policy  or even that he always smells like week-old pepperoni. No, I hate him because Harry “likes” me. A lot. He’s always looking over my shoulder (and peering down my shirt) and calling me into his office for one-on-one “motivational chats” to improve my performance.
            I know what you’re thinking. I should report his sexual harassment to Human Resources, or, if I deplore the idea of workplace conflict (and what self-respecting hitwoman wouldn’t?) I should quit and find another job.
            I was getting ready to do just that, report his lecherous ass, and then quit (because I really do despise “helping” the general public) but then the accident happened. And then the paid assassin gig.
            So now I need this crappy, unfulfilling, frustrating-as-hell clerical employment because it provides a cover for my second job. It’s not like I can put HITWOMAN on my next tax return. Besides, if I didn’t keep this job, my meddling aunts would wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life.
            Harry, thumbs stuck into his suspenders (cuz everyone knows that suspenders are the height of fashion in a place where the typical dress code is t-shirts) strolled over to the table Armani and I occupied in the back corner of the break room. “Ladies.”
            Neither of us answered him. I took a giant bite of pb&j while Aramani speared a piece of candy corn covered with anchovy-laced salad dressing.
            “Don’t forget we’ve got a team meeting tomorrow morning.”
            “How could we forget?” Armani asked. “You’ve sent five freaking emails about it.”
            Ignoring her, Harry focused his lusty gaze on me (I guess he thinks nothing is hotter than a woman with cheeks like a chipmunk). “We’re going to have breakfast.”
            He made it sound like it was some sort of intimate date, not a meeting with a dozen other people present.
            I just kept on chewing, waiting for him to take the hint and go away.
            He transferred his gaze to Armani. “We may have to let some people go.”
            She raised her arm and waved her stump of a hand, the tragic result of not paying attention to her own premonitions and an out-of-control zamboni hurtling across the ice. She wore her disability like it was some sort of magical amulet allowing her to break the rules of Insuring the Future without repercussions. She knew damn well that if someone was going to be fired, it wasn’t going to be her.
            I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be surprised if I was on the short list of possible employees to dump. Working at a call center, listening to the umpteenth caller claim to have swerved to miss a deer at three-thirty on a Saturday morning, wears on me, and I’ve been known to make a snide comment-- or two dozen-- about drunken deer. While the audits of my recorded calls show I do an accurate job, my numbers for “customer support and empathy” swirl around the bottom of the toilet.
            And they’ve only gotten worse since I started killing people. I’d like to blame it on the insomnia that kicked in just before the second hit I pulled off, or the fact that I’m stressed out because my niece Katie is in a coma, but the truth is my tolerance for bullshit is at an all-time-low.
            “Don’t be late.” Harry and his stinky breath cleared our airspace.
            “He makes me sick to my stomach.” The fact that Armani said this while spearing a mouthful of candy and salad turned my stomach. It was all I could do to swallow my bite of sandwich.

            I never did get the details of the damn disco ball because an IT guy had an allergic reaction to something he ate, which necessitated a lot of oohing and ahhing and wringing of hands from the lunchtime crew as everyone waited to see if he was going to make it, or if his obituary would read, “Random tech guy from Insuring the Future passes on after brief battle with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.”

A little different, right?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tastes Change

My senior year in high school, I was totally into heavy metal.  Dude, I went to the first Monsters of Rock in the Pontiac Silver Dome.  It totally rocked.  I don't remember all the bands that were there, but I know Metallica, Scorpion and Def Leppard were there.  (At least I think they were... I was hammered and it was a long time ago.)  The headlining act was Van Hagar... errr Van Halen. 

I also had Poison's first album on tape, went to a David Lee Roth concert (with the opening act Faster Pussycat... woohoo), and drove around listening to Queensryche, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, et al.

Today?  I can't stand pretty much any of those bands.  Oh sure, on occasion, I'll listen to a song - if it comes on the radio and nothing else is on - and get a little nostalgic.  But my days of headbanging are over.

In college, I got into jazz and some weirdly electronic instrumental music.  Some of that stuff I still enjoy, but it's not my go-to thing anymore.  I do need to find a copy of Spyrogyra's Catching the Sun album because I always remember that making me happy.

College was also where I got into some punk rock.  Not a lot, but just enough to color my tastes.

I've always had a love for classical - from my years playing flute - but now I only use it when I need some major downtime.  And big band - which my parents introduced me to, is for cleaning the house.

Even more recently, I've had a thing for 'angry girl music' that I used to need to write to, but that went away and now I find myself writing to what I guess could be termed folk rock - Lumineers, Delta Rae, Mumford and Sons - or a more peppy version of that put out by bands like Bastille and Imagine Dragons.

The other night, though, nothing seemed to spur the muse, so I clicked through my Pandora stations to find something that would work.  Know what it was?  Howard Jones and Crowded House.

What about your musical tastes?  How have they changed since high school?  Or are you still listening to the same stuff? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Nutty Question

The 31st is National Trail Mix Day.

Yea or Nay to trail mix?  Any ingredients you must (or must not) have in yours?


B.E.: Hubs is more the trail mix person than I am.  I buy this stuff called 'Mountain Trail Mix' for him - two bags worth at a time, because he goes through it so fast. Also, he adds yogurt covered raisins, peanut M&Ms to the mix. Personally, I'd be happy just eating the M&Ms and raisins. ;o)

JB: I like trail mix as long as I've got something to wash it down with. I don't like chocolate in mine and despise carob. (I despise carob in everything.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's new with you?

I'm writing this first part on Tuesday afternoon.

My stomach is churning nervously.

Why?

Because Tuesday night I'm trying something new.

I'm hoping I'll have fun. I'm worried I may fall on my face.

But in a weird way, I'm energized. There's something about trying something new, or meeting someone new, or thinking something new that fills me with an almost electric excitement.

I LOVE starting new writing projects.

And yet they make me just as nervous. Something could go terribly wrong.

Or  I could have fun.

I'm writing this second part on Tuesday night.

I tried the new thing. It was fun. I didn't fail.

I'm ready to do it again.

Tell me Killer Friends: Do you like new things? What's the last 'new thing' you tried?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Cut & Dried (A Jordan Almond mystery)

Years ago, I had an idea.  What if someone was actually named Jordan Almond, and what if she was a private detective... 

Here's the first short chapter of my unfinished attempt at a humorous mystery (which I had planned to be the first in a series):



I’ve heard it said there are a million stories in the naked city.  I don’t know about the naked cities, but here in Flint, nothing is as obvious as that.  Of course, if things were laid out for anyone to see, I’d be out of a job. 
You see, I’m a private detective. 
I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, I’m not living the dream.  I mean, it pays the bills, and I could be doing a lot worse things with my life, but to paraphrase an old country song I hate, ‘Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be P.I.s’.  It’s harder work than it sounds, and sometimes you piss people off enough to want kill you.
Seems to happen to me a lot more than I’d like, but that’s the way life goes sometimes. 
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not in this for the money; I’m not in it for the prestige either.  This business isn’t as rich and glamorous as Hollywood would have you think, which is too damn bad.  There’s a silver lining here somewhere.  I haven’t found it yet, but a gal can hope, can’t she?
Who am I?  The name is Jordon Almond.  Yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard all the jokes, so don’t bother.  My parents thought it was funny.  I don’t. 
From what I was told, the name was actually Allman up until the ‘60s when my father took a bad trip and ended up changing it to something more in tune with Mother Earth.  After he woke up a few years later, he kept it Almond because he thought it was a good joke.  Now I’m stuck with it.  I would’ve changed the name years ago if my father hadn’t made me promise to keep it.  He knew I never broke a promise.  I wish I’d remembered my father’s sense of humor before I agreed.  He up and died before I could wiggle out of it.
He also roped me into the family business, but he did that after he was gone.  His last will and testament said that as soon as I finished college, the whole kit and caboodle was mine.  So I stepped off the platform—degree in hand—and right into the gaping hole of my future as a private detective.
Now you see why I never bothered to change the name on my office door.  Even after my father died, I left it like it was:  Eddie Almond Investigations.  Hell, even in the crappy neighborhood where Eddie bought this office, I don’t want to take a chance on someone stopping in to buy candy.  I don’t do candy.  Hell, I barely even eat the stuff. 
Not that taking over the family business was the worst day of my life.  Oh no.  I’ve had plenty of worst days in my thirty-five year existence, and most of them had nothing whatsoever to do with dear ol’ Dad.  In fact, one of the crappier days I couldn’t really blame on Eddie at all.  If I had to blame it on anything, I’d blame it on my own desperation. 
You see, it was like this... 
About three years ago, if I remember correctly, I was sitting at home minding my own business.  It was probably about three a.m. and I was playing a bit of no limit hold-‘em before I got started on my day.  Just as I flopped a straight, and was drawing to an inside straight-flush, the lights flickered once and my damn computer rebooted.  As luck would have it, I was sitting in one of those rooms that just folds your hand when you lose your connection, so not only did I not make my straight flush, I lost the couple hundred dollars I’d already bet.
So there I was watching a week’s worth of groceries disappeared into cyberspace, and cursing a blue streak, when the phone rang.  Of course, I didn’t answer it; that’s what they make machines for.  (No, I don’t have voice mail.  One of these days I’ll drag myself into the 21st century, but don’t look for it to be any time soon.)
After I finished rebooting and looked at my account balance on the poker site, I wasn’t quite feeling like playing any more.  A few more sessions like that, and I was going to have to find a new way to supplement my income.  Maybe they needed a new dog washer at the Pampered Pooch.  Problem is: I like dogs the same way I like kids—as long as they aren’t mine they’re wonderful.  It’s not like the P.I. business is all that lucrative, but like I said, a promise is a promise.
With nothing else to do, and my brain still whirring like a kids’ toy, I decided to listen to the phone call I didn’t want to pick up.  Bad mistake.  I should’ve just erased the damn thing and went to bed.
“Jordan?” said a familiar voice I couldn’t place.  “I need you.”  If only...  At the moment, I wasn’t seeing anyone, didn’t know anyone I’d want to need me, and I certainly didn’t think the image popping into my mind was what the caller had in mind.  I searched my brain to figure out where I’d heard that somewhat effeminate male voice.  I knew it wasn’t a work-related voice.  This business eats up the effeminate and shits them out.  Hell, I’m a woman and I can’t get away with femininity. 
Then the little light bulb went off over my head.  My hairdresser!  Of course.  By the time I figured it out, the rest of the message had played, but I was pretty pleased with myself for naming that voice in under five words.  Enough patting myself on the back, though.  Since Gerry didn’t swing on my side of the street, he obviously needed help, and since he was the only one in the tri-city area who could do anything with my hair, I figured I’d better help him.  If only to keep myself from looking like something the cat coughed up.
Reaching for a pen and paper, I pressed the replay button.
 “Jordan?  I need you.  I’m at the police station.  They… They think I killed someone.  Can you help me?  Please?”
Now Gerry Fitzpatrick could be a bit bitchy sometimes, but the thought of him as a murderer was beyond stupid.  He cried when he had to clean the traps at his less-than-upscale salon.  I once saw him have a funeral for a particularly unlucky field mouse who must’ve been in town visiting his more urbane relatives and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Gerry couldn’t kill anything.
So why were the cops thinking he had?
Looking at the clock, which wasn’t much help since the power burp had set it to the flashing 12:00 again, I decided I didn’t really need to sleep that night anyway.  I grabbed a jacket to throw on over my sweats, and headed out the door.
Oh, the things I do for a good haircut.


Someone... not saying who... :cough:jb:cough: ...thinks I ought to finish this.  What do you think?