Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview w/ literary agent Victoria Marini

My lovely agent, Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc. was kind enough to allow me to interview her.


Let me start with the important questions:

Cheese or chocolate – damn. Cheese. But if you caught me after dinner, I’d probably say chocolate.

Cake or ice cream – ice cream.

Cats or Dogs – BOTH! I absolutely can not decide, and believe me, I’ve tried.

Tea or Coffee – Coffee

Favorite book of all time – This is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. I’m going to list 10 in a row that come to mind: The Testament of Gideon Mack, Coraline, And Then There Were None, Speak, Straight Man, Before I fall, The Stand, The New York Trilogy, We Have Always Lived in The Castle, Paper Towns. I just, I get so affected by so much of what I read it’d be impossible to narrow it down.

Favorite childhood bookA Wrinkle In Time and Wayside School is Falling Down.

Name something that’s always in your purse or pocket – to be honest, dunkin donuts napkins. I find them everywhere. I don’t mean to always have them, but I do. In terms of what I intend to have: my kindle and chapstick.

Okay, now it’s time for the REALLY important question:

What made you decide to represent CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN?

A few factors came into play, as they ways do when I decide to take something on. First, I ate it up. I didn’t want to put it down, I didn’t want to skim, I didn’t want it to end, but I had to know how it ended. Second, it fit perfectly on my list. I didn’t have a fun romantic suspense and I’d been looking for one. Finally, I liked that it was quirky and non-formulaic. It had all the best parts of a more basic romantic suspense story, but it was all it’s own and that’s important to me.

Tell us about some of your other clients and their releases.

I am all over the place, but I swear it’s just because I’m mercurial in my taste. I represent Young Adult authors and most recently sold Corey Haydu’s debut OCD LOVE STORY. That will be in out in 2013. It’s intense.It’s about a girl whose OCD leads her to stalk people. I also represent YA urban fantasy author ChanelleGray who’s book MY HEART BE DAMNED is schedule for an April 2012 release. And then, on the adult side, I represent literary novelist Kathleen Alcott whose debut THE DANGER OF PROXIMAL ALPHABETS is out October 2012.

What kinds of books are you hoping to find to represent?

Oh man, this list is a living document. I’m looking for more romantic suspense with fresh characters and great commercial hooks. Strong female protagonists in the line of duty. I love a unique mash-up inspirations, when the author has been inspired by things that don’t seem like they should go together but makes it work i.e. “Bourne Identity meets sleeping beauty.” I am looking for light commercial sci-fi and thriller, and mystery, particularly in YA, but also adult. I am also a sucker for a great premise. I’ve seen pitches for books about a girl obsessed with making a perpetual motion machine, Jane Eyre stuck in purgatory, a war between the signs of the constellations, phantom of the opera meets The maltese falcon etc… Obviously those are all taken, but if a query had a great premise, I’ll request the MS. But, always, voice and character are paramount. If I see amazing writing, I’ll want to keep going. And, conversely, If I see a fantastic concept, but the writing isn’t there it’s a “no.”

What’s the best way to query you?

Send a query letter toVictoria.gsliterary@gmail.com. You get an auto-response so you know I got it, and I always answer even if it’s just a form rejection. AND I post query updates on twitter and on my blog.

Okay, last question: Who’s your favorite character in CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC
HITWOMAN?

This is a tough call. I’m, oddly, fond of Tony Delveccio. He’s not a good guy, but I like his shrewd sense and his confidence, and I like that he favors Maggie and Patrick in his own bizarre mob-boss way. If of think of “favorite” as who I most “got a kick out of”it’d be Delveccio. But, really, I loved Godzilla. He is surprising because he’s, of course, a funny, quirky, sort of “antic”character that makes this novel unique, but he’s more than just a gimmick, you know. He’s brave and sweet and grieving, too. Plus, he’s a fantastic guide and compliment to Maggie’s more from-the-hip-work-with-what-you-can approach to life.

 Thanks so much for playing along, Victoria!
Okay Killer Friends: Tell me, what are some of YOUR favorite books of all time?


Friday, January 27, 2012

So many books...

So how far have you all gotten in CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN? If you're not reading this book, go get it now. I'll wait.

Okay, I'm not here to talk spoilers so don't worry about me giving away any major plot points. I'm here to ask you how many books you read in a year.

I read 60 books in 2011 - roughly half of those were books I edited, so only about 30 books for my own enjoyment. I wish it had been more.

There are so many books out there I'd love to read, but there just aren't enough hours in the day, or the year, to get to them all. I really wish I could read every book by all my writer friends at Romance Divas, and I wish I could dig into another series like Karen Marie Moning's Fae series that would have me desperate for the next installment of my favorite characters. But when would I write?

Sometimes I have to actually choose between writing and reading. I realize now and then that I haven't curled up with a good book in a long time and I need to. One of the down sides of being a writer is, it seriously impacts your reading time. I used to go through books like nobody's business. In fact, when I was a kid, my parents used to roll their eyes when I told them I needed to buy more books. How many parents actually suggest that their kids spend money on someting OTHER than books once in a while? Mine actually did. I used to drive them crazy with trips to the book store, and I'd come home with a dozen sometimes. [Books were a lot less expensive back then- well, print books. I can't imagine how I would have been with access to millions of ebooks like I am today].

Tell me, as writers, when do you find time to read? Do you have to purposely set aside time for your favorite authors or is it more like if you're not writing, your reading? How many books did you read last year? Has being a writer put a cramp in your reading life?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Win a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate

Yay! Release day for CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN is finally here!!

Stop by any of the stops listed here to be entered to win.



Maggie Lee is not your average hitwoman. For one thing, she’s never killed anyone. For another, after hitting her head in the car accident that killed her sister, her new best friend is a talking lizard—a picky eater, obsessed with Wheel of Fortune, that only Maggie can hear.

Maggie, who can barely take care of herself, is desperate to help her injured and orphaned niece get the best medical care possible, so she reluctantly accepts a mobster’s lucrative job offer: major cash to kill his monstrous son-in-law.

Paired with Patrick Mulligan, a charming murder mentor (who happens to moonlight as a police detective), Maggie stumbles down her new career path, contending with self-doubt, three meddling aunts, a semi-psychic friend predicting her doom, and a day job she hates. Oh, and let’s not forget about Paul Kowalski, the sexy beat cop who could throw her ass in jail if he finds out what she’s up to.

Training has never been so complicated! And, this time, Maggie has to get the job done. Because if she doesn’t … she’s the mob’s next target.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Executive Editor, Lucia Macro of Avon/Morrow

Today my special guest is Lucia Macro, Executive Editor at Avon/Morrow.
I was lucky enough to work with Lucia on CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTICHITWOMAN. Not only is she a fabulous editor, she’s a good sport, as evidenced by the fact she answered the questions below.
JB: Let me start with the important questions: Cheese or chocolate
Lucia: Cheese hands down.

JB Cake or ice cream

Lucia: Oh dear. Kind of neither. I don’t have a sweet tooth—honest! So I am afraid the answer is pie.
JB: Cats or Dogs

Lucia: Dogs. Border collies all the way.

JB: Tea or Coffee:
Lucia: I need my Joe, early & often.

JB: Favorite book of all time:

Lucia: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

JB: Favorite childhood book

Lucia: Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott. I think I read it 100 times.

JB: Name something that’s always in your purse or pocket:

Lucia: Lipstick. Money. After the Great Blackout of 2003 I learned to always carry real cash. (Take note all you pickpockets out there.)

JB: Okay, now it’s time for the REALLY important question: What made you decide to take on CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN?

Lucia: Because it was sooo good. And it was different and fresh. E book readers expect the unexpected; they still love the traditional, but it seems they’re risk takers in their e-reading.

JB: Tell us about some of your other writers and their releases.

Lucia: I think we’d need a few pages. I’ll just say look for books by Rachel Gibson, Gaelen Foley, Stephanie Laurens, and Katharine Ashe. That’s just part of my romance list for the first part of the year! And if you haven’t read Mary Curran Hackett’s PROOF OF HEAVEN, which is a trade paperback original, you have really missed an amazing book.

JB: What kinds of books are you hoping to find to publish?
Lucia: I edit all sorts of romance and women’s fiction in all formats for Morrow and Avon. That’s a pretty broad list, but what I need are books that are going to stand out in today’s marketplace. You need to be original, but also hit the emotional nails on the head so to speak.

JB: What’s the best way to query you?
Lucia: Go through the Avon inbox for romance. If you write general fiction, I only take agented submissions.

JB: Okay, last question: Who’s your favorite character in CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN?
Lucia: The lizard. We’ve had discussions here about who/what he really is. I think we are all correct.

See? I told you she's fabulous.


Since Confessions releases tomorrow, I'm all over the net for the next week or so. Stop by and comment on any (or all, it'll give you more chances to win!) of them and you'll be entered into a drawing to win a secret prize. In addition, Avon is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate to one lucky winner.
Today I'm at:

RAMBLINGS FROM THE CHICK

NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

Jennifer Hillier's The Serial Killer Files

Stop back tomorrow to find out where else I'll be later this week. If you're not already, follow me on Twitter. Or for more laughs follow the lizard Lucia mentioned and the hitwoman, Maggie



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The dollar [or less] debate

Pricing is the focus of so many industry discussions lately, and as an indie published author, it’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about.

The $0.99 eBook [the lowest price an indie author can set their book at on Amazon.com] is at the center of the controversy. Does it really pay an author to offer a book at $0.99 as a loss leader or even as a set price point? Does it devalue an author’s work, sending the message to readers that a book is a throwaway, something the author just put out there to get interest, or is it catering to readers who are hard hit by a flagging economy and who need bargains wherever they can find them?

I offer several of my books at $0.99 – mostly because they’re reprints and I felt not only would they make a good introduction to my work for bargain hunting readers, they’d already paid themselves off and any profit I made on re-issuing them was, technically, coincidental.

My two first-issue indie novellas – MARRIED TO THE MIB* [by Jennifer Colgan] and SEVEN DAYS IN SYDNEY [by Bernadette Gardner] are priced at $1.99. Despite price manipulation, they sell dismally compared to HUNTER’S MOON – priced at $0.99 from the beginning and still my champion seller.

Does the dollar really make a difference? Should all novellas be priced at $0.99, especially when readers routinely give low ratings for short works simply because they’re short? [and often even when they’re priced low?]

Some authors feel a lower priced book not only leads to lower profits but it tells readers they’re getting an inferior product. Others feel a reader will be more forgiving of a lower priced book and will also gravitate toward them as a gateway to finding new authors, whose higher priced work they’ll be more willing to pay for once they’re hooked.

A quick survey shows 14 of the top 50 Kindle Best Sellers in romance are priced at $0.99 or lower [one of the books is priced currently at $0.79]. That’s a little more than 25%. Does this mean the $0.99 price point is helping to sell books, or does it indicate price has little to do with best seller status?

As a reader, how do you view $0.99 books? Do you see a worthwhile bargain that can help you find a new author and give you much needed inexpensive entertainment? Or do you see the $0.99 price point as an indication the book is substandard? [Interestingly only 8 of the top 50 sellers in general fiction are priced at $0.99]. This tells me, overall, the lower price doesn’t help sell books. What do you think?


Monday, January 16, 2012

3 Questions, 2 Crit Partners, 1 Book

As if I don't torture my poor critique partners enough as it is, I called on our very own Killer Chick, Jennifer Colgan, and my friend, Cynthia Valero, to answer three quick questions about CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. (Which releases 1/24...have you pre-ordered your copy yet??)

Tomorrow don't miss the interview I did at Modokker Book Picks! (don't let the Blogger warning scare you off, lol)

My deepest thanks to my good friends for their amazing insight, continued support and for playing along.


1) We've been working together for years now and Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman is a departure for me. Tell the truth, did you suspect I'd lost my marbles when you first started reading it?

JENNIFER:  After I met you, it didn’t take me long to realize your marbles were long gone, so, no…no, I didn’t think you’d lost them when I started reading Confessions. I actually kind of thought this was the real you coming out in your writing.

CYNTHIA:  Uh, no. You have the darkest sense of humor that I know, which really translates into ... you say what most people think but don't say. I could not wait to see those meaty slices of Jen truth in the forthcoming pages. I knew I'd snort and snicker and that proved very true, so many, many times.
2) Who's your favorite character in the book?
JENNIFER:  God, of course. Who can resist a talking a lizard?

CYNTHIAI love Maggie. She's an every-woman trying to find her way until she cracks her head and is thrust into a new life that brings out her best--and worst. If we are counting non-humans in a separate category, then I'd have to say God. I love God. Not everyone can radiate such disdain through a glass tank.

3) If you had to describe me in three words or less, which would you use? (and no, you don't have to be nice)

JENNIFER:  I could just say: Marbles all gone. Or maybe: Delightfully devious imagination.
CYNTHIAConsiderate, clever, and that word for "willing to wield her flaming sword of indignation upon any public display of bad behavior." Oh, that is the word: Jen is the BEST.


Get to know these fabulous ladies better:

JENNIFER COLGAN

Having narrowly missed being crushed by an avalanche of Star Trek novels as a teenager, Jennifer Colgan vowed to one day cause the book shelves of avid readers all over the world to collapse under their own weight.

Now multi-published under her own name and as her alter ego, Bernadette Gardner, Jennifer has arrived in the digital age and instead hopes to be responsible for overloading the memory cards of e-book readers everywhere with her paranormal, futuristic and science-fiction romances.

To learn more about Jennifer visit her website at www.jennifercolgan.com, Bernadette’s website at www.bernadettegardner.com, or their Two Voices blog.

CYNTHIA VALERO
Cynthia Valero is currently finishing the first book in a young-adult fantasy series (for which she thanks JB for her thousand reads). In the meantime, she posts her writing practice to inspire others in their creativity at http://tenminuteuniverse.blogspot.com/.

And in case you don't know me, you can learn more at www.jblynn.com
Do you have wonderful friends and/or critique partners? Do you love to torture them? For example, I'm currently fighting the urge to send a friend a package of Twizzlers...she HATES the smell, but whenever I see a pack I'm transported back to the memory of going to the movies with her (ages ago) to see RESTORATION. (If you haven't seen it, DON'T....there's a good reason it never even makes it to TV.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Patented Doodling

I’m in trouble again.

Purely by accident, I stumbled upon yet another awesome craft that will now compete for my time. A couple of years ago it was crocheting, then I discovered the Japanese art of temari, and now I’ve been captured by Zentangle.

Zentangle, it turns out, is a trademarked name for something I’ve been doing for years without realizing it. Do you ever doodle somewhat aimlessly, making the same simple patterns over and over again or embellishing shapes with other shapes, leaves, feathers, hearts, stars, etc?

Like this:



It turns out this type of simple, repetitive drawing can be used as a form of meditation as well as an art form. Two artists, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, discovered the meditative properties of this type of artwork and began creating official patterns as well as Zentangle kits get people started Zentangling.

This website contains hundreds of patterns and instructions, but the ideas are limitless. I venture any one of us who’s picked up a pen and scratched out an embellished shape on a scrap of paper while sitting in a meeting or a classroom or a doctor’s office has created some unique Zentangle patterns without even realizing it.

Of course, eager to create an official Zentangle, I dropped everything and started to draw. Here’s what I came up with.


 
Sorry plot bunnies. I have to doodle now. I plan to get back to writing as soon as run out of paper and ink.*

Have you Zentangled without even knowing it? If you want to give it a try, the instructions are easy and there are a number of You Tube Videos to get you started, but beware, once you start Zentangling, you may find it hard to get untangled.


*Just kidding. I’ve been writing like mad on my new project and I promise not to stop. Unless something comes along that’s even cooler than Zentangling.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How a Kitchen Timer Can Help You Write a Book

I own three kitchen timers (not counting the ones built into the microwave and oven) and they get a lot of use.



I use them for timing naps, internet surfing, exercise,  solitare games, cleaning, beauty treatments, sodoku, and writing.

Right now I'm using them to get through the interviews and guest blog posts I have to do for the launch of  CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. If I look at the pile I have to do, it's overwhelming, but if I set a timer and tackle one for 15 minutes, the job suddenly becomes more doable.

Most of the time though, I use my timers to help me write books. Specifically they get used when I'm stuck or just don't want to write (which is most days, since I'm rarely "inspired"). Telling myself I only have to write for ten minutes, usually is enough to at least get me started. Some days, it isn't. Then I time my breaks (which is why solitaire, internet surfing and sodoku are in the above list). I'll write for ten minutes and break for ten minutes....all the live long day if that's what I have to do.

Sometimes, if I'm really desperate, I'll put the timers aside and log into WRITE OR DIE....cuz there's nothing worse than watching your hard-won words disappear forever.

What tricks (or common household products) help to keep you on track with tasks you'd rather not do?

Just an FYI: Be sure to check back later this month when I'll post interviews with my agent, Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider and with my editor, Lucia Macro, of Avon/HarperCollins.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

25 Stops to a Better Day



My original plan for today’s post was to talk about having a positive attitude and how I decided that 2012 would be the year of ‘can do’ rather than another year of ‘maybe I should, but maybe I shouldn’t.’

Then I was reading some posts over at the Indie Romance Ink board where someone mentioned this fantastic blog post at Terrible Minds about 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing.

I hopped on over there because I’m always interested in finding out what I don’t need to be doing. The post is funny and informative and for me, it’s a list of about 23 things I’ve done or am still doing that I need to quit RIGHT NOW!

Chief among my sins is #7 STOP THINKING IT SHOULD BE EASIER

Somewhere along the line in the last seven years of writing, I started to think that this crap comes easy to me. I just sit down and write and after a couple of weeks I have a story and after a couple of more weeks, I’ve edited it into even better shape and a few months after that I have a contract and everything is cool. So when I started hitting speed bumps – stories that never got finished, stories that were still crappy even after I tried to fix them, stories that didn’t get contracted by the first publisher I sent them to, I started to think to myself, Maybe I can’t do this anymore. Maybe I forgot how to be a good writer. How did I learn in the first place?

Lucky #7 was a kick in the pants for me. Who am I to think this is easy? Or that it should be? It looks easy from the outside. When I see other people finishing their novels, getting contracts, starting new novels, I often assume they did all that on the fly without really breaking a sweat, because I’ve written things that were easy to write and fun to write and fast to write. I forgot that not everything I’ve done was easy, fun or fast and the stuff I have out there that I have the audacity to think is my best work represents a lot of rewriting and editing and fixing and deleting and balled up pieces of paper in the trash can.

I’ve gotten to the point where my relationship with writing is like a celebrity marriage. The first time the road gets rocky with a manuscript, I’m headed for divorce court and on to something new. I have a pile of unfinished manuscripts to prove it, all of them thrown over for something I thought was better, smarter, faster and would make people happier than the one before.

My goal this year is to not let that plot bunny attack be for nothing. I have an idea. An ambitious one, granted, but that’s the idea I plan to stick with. No wandering around looking for something shiny and new in a few weeks that I think will make it to publication faster, that I think will have a brighter future than what I’m working on now. This idea deserves a chance and my goal is to see it to the finish line, even if it’s hard, because I didn’t really get where I am doing easy stuff, it just looks that way from where I’m sitting.

Now, go read that blog post. You won’t be sorry you did. And tell me what things you need to stop doing.  I’ll be right here when you get back.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Meet Godzilla...you can call him God

As one Twitterer said, "CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN reads like the first Plum. But really, really twisted. Peyote twisted."

According to my informal poll of early readers, one of the most popular characters in the book is Godzilla. Instead of a list of resolutions, I thought I'd start off the year at Killer Chicks with a quick excerpt from the scene when Maggie Lee first meets him.

For more information about CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN, which will be released on January 24th (but is available for pre-order now!) please visit my website.

**please note that this excerpt is not the final edited product...any errors are all my fault


          Like I said, it took me two days to remember the lizard, and that was just because Katie’s grandfather reminded me of her favorite toy.

          I let myself into Theresa’s house with the key she kept by the solar-powered garden gnome in one of those fake rock/key-hider things.

Their house was in one of those cookie-cutter neighborhoods that dot the landscape of New Jersey, tucked between industrial parks, protected Green Spaces, and spots where George Washington had stopped to take a leak during the Revolutionary War. The streets in the development all had bird names.

Theresa and Dirk had bought on Cardinal Court, not because it was the best house in the area, but because cardinals were our mom’s favorite bird. Theresa had said it was a sign. Personally, I don’t believe in signs, premonitions, vibes, or luck, but I hadn’t said a word, because I’d figured a dead-end street was probably a safer place to raise a kid.

          It was dark as I fumbled for the light switch.

          “It’s about time.” The man’s voice, English and dripping with disdain, scared the shit out of me. Who the hell was in the house? Pressing my back to the wall, holding my breath, I tried to figure out where he was. All I could hear was the chirping of crickets.

          “What are you waiting for?” His voice, coming from Katie’s room, was familiar. Haughty. Full of contempt. “I said, ‘What are you waiting for?’”

          I exhaled in relief. Alan Rickman. It was Alan Rickman’s voice. Theresa must have left a Harry Potter DVD running. I’d once suggested that I thought Professor Snape was too scary for a three-year-old. Big mistake. I got the whole, “parents know what’s best for their kids” speech, as though having a child somehow improved the judgment of an adult.

          Switching on the light, I made my way to Katie’s room to turn off the movie and find the dinosaur.

          Flipping the switch just inside her door, I illuminated her pink and frilly bedroom. The TV was dark. That was weird. A quick glance at the bed told me Dino wasn’t there, so I dropped to my knees to look underneath.

          “Hello? I’m over here.”

          Goosebumps sprang to life all over my body. Why did it sound as though Professor Snape was talking to me?  I shook my head. I was being ridiculous. I lifted the bed skirt and peered beneath.

          “I’m not under the bed you imbecile. I’m over here.”

          Rocking back on my heels I dropped the bed skirt. It really did sound as though he was talking to me, but that couldn’t be. I closed my eyes and forced myself to take a slow, deep breath. No need to panic. I was just tired. And stressed, definitely stressed.

          “Here, you moronic biped. By the mirror.”

          I opened one eye and slowly swiveled my head in the direction of the dresser. No one stood in front of it.

          “Up here! Up here! ON the dresser!”

          Slowly, I raised my gaze. Not believing what I was seeing, I blinked. I still saw it. Squeezing my eyes shut, I counted to ten. I looked again.

          Yup, the lizard was still standing up and waving at me.

          I gulped. Holy crap, I’d lost my mind.

          I crawled over to get a better look at Katie’s pet lizard in its glass terrarium. About six inches long (most of it tail) it was muddy brown with a dark stripe down its back. It wasn’t what I’d call a cute and cuddly pet. And it didn’t look anything like Alan Rickman.

          “I’m starving. You’d better be here to feed me. And I need to be misted. All this dry air has just wreaked havoc with my complexion.”

          “Would it kill you to say ‘please’?” I asked.

          The little guy fell over backward, his tail twitching. He scrambled back up and stared at me with those shiny eyes of his. “You can hear me?”

          I nodded. Heaven help me, I thought a lizard was talking to me. Apparently my father had been right to compare me to my mother. Like her, I seemed to be delusional too.

          “I don’t believe it.” His tail twitched.

          “Me neither.”

          He rubbed his chin with one of his front feet as though he was trying to make sense of this odd development. I waited for him to speak again, hoping he could make sense of all this. Pathetic, I know.

          “You are here to feed me, aren’t you? I haven’t eaten for days.”

          “What do you eat?”

          “Crickets.”

          “What else?”

          “Just that. Crickets. I could eat other things, but I prefer crickets.”

          I swallowed hard. The idea of eating a cricket disgusted me. “What other kinds of things?”

          “Fruit flies, meal worms, maggots.”

          I gagged. They were even grosser than crickets! “Okay, okay, where do they keep your food?”

          “In a bag in the closet.”

          Opening the closet door, I found a plastic bag containing a couple of live crickets. It vibrated in my hand as the bugs jumped around. It took all my self-control not to drop it on the floor and stomp it. I hate bugs the way Indiana Jones hates snakes. “They’re alive.”

          “Mmmm…fresh meat!”

          I swear I saw him lick his lips. “What are you waiting for? Feed me!”

          “Please.”

          “Please what?”
          “When you say please, I’ll feed you.”

          “You have got to be kidding me.”

          I dangled the bag above the terrarium. Not only did I think I was conversing with a lizard, but now I was trying to teach him manners. That probably made it official that I’d lost my mind.

          Please, feed me the fucking crickets!” he bellowed.

          “No need to be snippy about it.” I hastily untied the plastic sack, making sure the insects couldn’t jump out and touch me. Pushing aside the glass lid of the enclosure, I dropped the entire bag of bugs inside.

          “Food! Glorious food!”