Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 3


3

            Rosa Stephens was a Mexican girl who managed to pass as white. She used this to her advantage when she met Mason Stephens, a well-to-do businessman from San Diego. Rosa’s naturally fair complexion and strangely lit green eyes made her look exotic and unique, but not a poor Mexican girl whose family were migrate workers who picked strawberries and blackberries in Monterey every summer and pinot noir grapes in fall.
  Mason met her at a wine tasting festival at Wine and Roses in the new Napa Valley, which was a swath of gold country land located near Lodi, California. Mason, a carefree but conservative man ran several branches of the Dollar Rental Car chain. He was an extremely handsome young man with close-cropped and gelled dark hair. He mostly wore a white shirt, tie and slacks to work each day. He did have a hearty laugh that anyone within a few yards could hear. He was athletic and snow skied at Bear Valley in the winter and boated on the San Diego harbor in the summer. People loved Mason. He was charismatic, charming and mostly good-natured … in public.
Rosa, who was outgoing when necessary, was mostly quiet and very secretive. Mason was a good guy, but he had his prejudices, and he was no fan of Mexicans – and in particular he complained about workers taking American jobs and illegal aliens crossing the nearby border. While they courted, Rosa rarely mentioned family. She had won a Mensa scholarship in high school because she had an incredibly high IQ and was a genius with numbers and codes. Her gifts were strangely unexpected in her family where her father had only a 7th-grade education and could barely write. Her mother Eleana while adequately educated up to the 10th grade, but had spent her life moving from place to place and being a proper Catholic who had too many babies. She had 10 kids with eight surviving past age one.
After they discovered Rosa’s incredible IQ, her father Miguel had accused Eleana of an affair with Joseph Landers, the head of one of the ranches they worked at. Eleana and Joseph had spent many hours talking while she worked. He eventually hired her to work in the office, and that is when everyone assumed Rosa was illicitly conceived.
Her fair complexion combined with the unusual intelligence made it quite possible. While Eleana had never admitted if she had slept with Joseph Landers, most people assumed it was true. As a result, Rosa was efficiently ostracized to San Diego State University, and her family happy to see the reminder of Eleana’s affair gone.
            Rosa’s shame over her true heritage caused her to hide her background. She found it easy to lie and say they died in a car crash on Highway 1 along the coast. She also hid all her brothers and sisters by saying she was an only child. Mason was never the wiser, but when he began systematically beating Rosa after she failed to pick him up on time from work, her lies made it easier to isolate her. After the first time in which he got out of the car, grabbed her by her wrist, and straight up slapped her multiple times across the face, the abuse never stopped. Any wrong move or just bad mood, and Rosa became Mason’s punching bag. He showed no kindness as his fists would pound her down into the wood floors or he would toss her petite body against a wall. One time she had left chicken out to thaw and he went off on some rant about salmonella. She was left with a broken rib after that one and a story to the doctor about slipping on the sidewalk.
Soon her morning ritual was consumed by hours of covering up bruises. It didn’t matter though because she was a housewife who never saw anyone but the gardener Rod, who was a stout, strong Mexican who paid Rosa compliments that Mason never said. He called her “chica” and “bonita” for Rod could see through the charade to the truth. He knew she wasn’t white. But even Rod’s support couldn’t ease the emotional pain of the constant beatings. Rosa soon turned to the bottle for help to numb away her grief, shame and humiliation. She just couldn’t quite see how she could leave Mason. And after so many physical and emotional poundings she found it easier to just take the blame and punishments.
But it was the previous fall when her house of cards began to fall and crumble. She had become pregnant with their first child. Mason initially was overjoyed. He had hoped to have a big family, and it seemed now that dream was coming true. He cooked for her, doted on her, brought her red tea roses from the back garden, and fawned on his wife. Rosa foolishly began to believe the beatings were over. She started to relax and enjoy the pregnancy until one day it happened – he found out.
They were strolling along Harbor Blvd. in San Diego. Mason had his arm around his six-month pregnant wife who was literally glowing with one hand on her small belly. Mason’s hearty laugh caught the attention of a young woman who was sitting at the bus stop. The woman immediately recognized Rosa and ran straight up to her.
“Rosa?” she cried. “Is that you?”
Rosa and Mason stopped and stared at the sweet young woman with chocolate brown hair and searching brown eyes. It was Kendra, her younger sister. She hadn’t seen Kendra is seven years or better. Kendra just grabbed her older sister and hugged her tight, pulled away, and touched her burgeoning belly.
“Oh mí hermana! Un bambino!”
Mason knew Spanish. “Is this your sister?” he frowned.
“Sí,” said Kendra. “It’s been so long. And this must be your man?”
Rosa was scared and quietly nodded.
“I will have to tell Mommy. She will be so happy for you. We miss you so much!”
Now Mason glared down at his frightened wife. Kendra looked at Rosa with concern. She didn’t understand what was happening.
“I … I … have to go,” said Rosa as she started to move forward.
“But wait dear sister, where do you live? Do you have a number?”
Rosa shook her head with her eyes now averted. She began to move faster away. Mason was right behind her. Kendra watched them go. She didn’t know what to do or what was going on.
That night, it happened: After Mason raged and raged about his “god damn lying Mexican wife and bastard child,” he began to beat her. At first, he avoided her belly, but then the rage took over. He no longer cared. He tossed her around the house like a ragdoll as she pleaded for the life of their unborn child in-between punches and kicks. By the time it was over, he had perforated her uterus and amniotic fluid and blood were everywhere. Walls were smeared with blood, the floor was a slippery mess of red puddles and fluid, and a still fetus with its umbilical cord still attached to Rosa lay dead on the floor.
The only thing that saved Rosa was that a neighbor heard crashing and screaming. By the time the paramedics arrived, Rosa was half-dead herself and Mason nowhere to be found. As she lay for two weeks barely alive and in a coma, she prayed not to wake up. She just wanted to die. Her baby gone, and her life ruined. When she was well enough the doctor told her she would never be able to have another child. She screamed and screamed. She screamed for herself. She cried for her dead baby. And she mourned for the children who would never be.
When they released her from the hospital she returned home. She never told them it was Mason who had beat her within an inch of her life and killed their baby. She said she couldn’t remember what happened. So when Mason finally showed up repentant with two-dozen roses, the hospital staff thought he was the grieving husband. No one stopped to question him.
Presumed innocent of any wrongdoing Mason was allowed to take Rosa home. He then left her alone day and night to fend for herself. For three weeks she recuperated without anyone to help her in and out of bed. Every time she passed the baby’s room she cried or simply looked the other way. She began calling her dead baby Rosario. She began drinking more and more hard liquor to dull the physical and emotional pain. The prescribed Vicodin soon became a toxic remedy to her grief, too.
It wasn’t long before Rosa was out of her mind.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 2


2

            Pete Mulligan stepped out of a long, black stretch limo in front the St. John Rehab Center located in Portland, Oregon. Nestled in the redwoods and shaded by the forest, the California Craftsman-style house had a long circular driveway with a three-tiered fountain out front that watered spilled over the sides to make a soft flowing noise. In front of the windows grew purple, yellow and pink flowers surrounded by lush ferns. The rehab center looked more five-star resort than treatment facility for the mentally ill and substance abuse addicts. The only giveaway was the check-in booth located in front of two large redwood doors that had keypad locks on them.
            Pete stood out front while his chauffeur unloaded the trunk. He stared up at the looming redwood doors that touched the ceiling. Pete was a typical over-privileged Hollywood executive who had produced last year’s superhero blockbuster at Warner Bros. studio. Unfortunately Pete was also a Hollywood cliché. He had first developed a cocaine problem followed by severe alcoholism.
Like most successful Hollywood executives who got rich too young and too fast, he had never developed a sense of right and wrong. He was Hollywood royalty, and his father had been a top dog at MGM Studios back in the day. His father Michael P. Mulligan (P for Peter which is how Pete got his name) also had an alcohol problem and was famous for his drug-infused orgies on the Pacific Palisades estate with the incredible oceanfront view.
            Pete was always on hand to fuck every starlet wanna-be with either real or bleached blond hair, fake tits, and noses that all looked identical since they all visited the same plastic surgeon. It wasn’t long after the age of 16 that Pete’s drug habit went from casual “snow bunny” fests to a nagging need to get high at 7:00 a.m. just to get out of bed. The alcohol problem got started during his college days at UCLA where he spent more time wasted on the frat house sofa than he did in class. How he managed to skate by on a C+ average was a mystery to everyone who knew him. Some of his “brothers” felt certain Pete hired some geeky redheaded guy he started blowing to take his tests.
            Pete though was uncannily handsome with dark red hair, darkly tanned skinned that was lightly freckled, and chiseled cheeks. He was tall at 6’ 2” and had that perfect Ken Doll-type build with broad shoulders, washboard abs, and long lean, muscular legs. He worked out just enough to keep his body in tight shape. He wasn’t gay. He fancied himself pansexual. Most of his real friends knew he was hetero and used women and men to get his way. Those true friends only consisted of Cooper Mills, a blonde cohort with a slightly pudgy, stalky build and Jay Ryan Ryan (yes, double middle and last name included) who they all called RR who was short, but well-built with dark skin, eyes and hair.
            Too many years of drug abuse, bad habits and reckless behavior resulted in his new home at the rehab center in which for the next six months he would as Judge Stein who oversaw the case said, “Hopefully rediscover his humanity.”
            The case that landed Pete in rehab had been based on the death of a child who was left unsupervised in his luxury tudor-style mansion in Beverly Hills. The judge had given Pete two choices: go to rehab or go to prison. For Mr. Mulligan had killed his three-year-old niece Lisanne when he left cocaine on his bathroom counter. The unsupervised toddler had dumped it in her mouth. No amount of CPR had revived the small child, and Pete’s sister Bethanney had gone utterly ballistic as most bereaved mothers tended to do.
Of course, Bethanney had been doing the drugs with her brother that day and had no business bringing the baby with her. The only reason the little one was even left alone was because Pete and his sister were too high to notice she had disappeared from the room. Three hours later and one dead toddler on the bathroom floor, and Bethanney accused her brother of “murdering her baby.”
            The judge slapped Bethanney back and she was sentenced to community service while the spoiled and rich Pete was unable to gain sympathy from anyone on the jury. After all, a toddler was dead – and dead babies didn’t play well in front of any jury. All Pete’s lawyer could do was plea-bargain a brief visit to the county jail followed by six months in rehab. Pete’s lawyer only got that much of a reduced sentence because he played golf with the judge’s pediatrician … and they slipped a hefty bribe through the system.
            Now here Pete stood. His chauffeur had left his luggage in front of the doors. Pete’s family were no longer speaking to him. He couldn’t blame them. His niece was dead. How he felt about it he wasn’t sure anymore. After so many months of courtrooms and lawyers he mostly felt tired. The idea of spending another six months rehashing his shit didn’t sound appealing either. His brief stint at the county jail was where he went through detox vomiting into a steel toilette and sweating on the top bunk of a three-tiered bed. He had just wished for a peaceful night’s sleep, but Quincy Fong, the diminutive Asian who had swiped his company’s bank accounts, snored like a giant fat guy. On the second bunk was Roy Boss, a Mexican gangster who had gotten busted for shooting a “civilian” during a Fat Boy Burger robbery in Montecito. Boss had spoken broken English and had terrible allergies that left him snorting and snuffing at night. So Pete couldn’t remember the last time he slept soundly.
            A woman wearing bright pink scrubs walked out of the two doors with her hands in her pockets. She was a reasonably attractive middle-aged, brown-haired lady with soft brown eyes and a kind smile.
            “You must be Mr. Mulligan. My name is Ms. Fisher.” she extended her hand, which Pete shook. “We’ve got a very sound program here. Our man Mr. Bradley will take your luggage to your room. Since you won’t be going through detox here, we’ll be getting you right into orientation.”
            “Call me Pete,” he said quietly.
            “I’m sorry Mr. Mulligan we can’t do that.”
            Pete frowned, and Ms. Fisher motioned for him to follow her. She disappeared through the big doors. As Pete walked into the door’s shadows, he paused. He thought he was either walking through the doors of hell or entering the next phase of his life. Since Pete was a jaded, skeptical young man he figured it was more likely a hellish place where you were forced to face your life – and this prospect made him want to use. But oh well. He had no drugs left, half of his money taken by his sister in a civil suit, and a string of fuck-ups to make just about anyone ashamed.
            He sighed and entered …
           

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 1


 My new book The Abused is a dark psychological thriller about eight patients who go to rehab only to find themselves in danger when someone starts murdering the patients.

1

            Her father loved the kittens more than his own daughter.

            Merry had learned that lesson the hard way. She and her sister Carrie were sitting on the crumbling back stoop of the old 40’s style stucco blue house. Their gray tabby cat Fluffy had just had a litter of kittens – two black ones and a perfectly white one. Carrie, a precocious eight-year-old with dirty dishwater blonde hair and steely gray eyes, was taunting the white one with a stick. She picked up the kitten that softly mewed.
            “Catch,” she suddenly said to Merry.
            Merry, a sweet and frail-looking four-year-old with golden hair and light green eyes, looked up in surprise. What was she catching exactly? And then suddenly a white fur ball hurled toward her face. She managed to catch the kitty that now mewed rapidly in fear. She was holding it when she heard the backdoor suddenly slammed open. Little Merry’s big green eyes looked wide-eyed at a pair of navy-blue Converse sneakers standing in front of her. Before she could say anything, a hand reached down and yanked her by her tiny upper arm. She cried out as that same hand began to drag her into the garage.
            “Dadddddyyyyy,” she screamed.
            Darrell, her father, a lean and lanky man with dark red hair, pulled his little girl along the rough cement, scraping her calves along and scratching them up. While she cried and protested to stop, she was pulled over a curb into the dark, dank garage that was loaded with years of clutter and oils stains all over the cold cement floor. Darrell stopped right in front of an old, white Maytag dryer, yanked open the front door, and shoved his yowling and flailing little girl inside.
            “Noooooo,” she cried and screamed.
            Once inside she scrambled to try and escape, but the door was slammed shut. Now screaming at the top of her lungs, she hurried trying to pry open the door with her small fingernails. She pounded and pounded on it all the while sobbing. She couldn’t get it opened, and then she heard the familiar twisting and clicking sound of the knob. She paused and realized he was going to turn it on. Now she was panicked and utterly scared to death. She screamed and screamed and then heard him through the walls of the dryer speak.
            “You want to throw kittens around?” he snarled. “I’ll show you what that feels like you little brat.”
            “No Daddy no … I didn’t do anything,” cried the girl.
            She became still for a moment as she lay at the bottom of the dryer curled up in a ball like a fetus. Her green, wide eyes drifted to the top of the dryer where she could see light emanate from a screen that vented the hot air to the outside of the house. Frightened in the dark, she cried some more. She heard the button compress. And then she began to feel hot air as her fragile body began to twist and turn round and round – thump, thump, thump.
            “Let me out! Let me out!” she screamed and pleaded.
            But she kept spinning in circles with her neck curled up and her chin shoved against her chest. She closed her eyes and sucked in hot air only hoping the torture would end soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

3 Tips on How to Start Your Book

1. Create the Table of Contents -- the table of contents is your book's road map (this mostly applies to nonfiction). Creating your table of contents will give you an idea of how to start. In all nonfiction books the structure should make sense in a kind of "unfolding" way. Each chapter should relate somehow to the chapter before it. For example, your introduction to your topic obviously should be in the front of the book. It's a standard approach. Now I am always for break the rules, but know the rules before you break them.

2. Chapter by Chapter -- You can work a chapter at a time finish and go onto the next one. Don't worry about editing until you have a first draft.

3. Outline the Structure of Each Chapter -- You will want the same road-map approach for each chapter, too. Once you have an acceptable outline back fill the content.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Featured Author: DB Stearns

1. What inspired you to write Harmonic Wars? 
I saw a really cool and open-minded documentary on the Great Pyramid of Giza. It prompted me to research similar sites around the globe until I discovered that there was a great deal of archeological evidence that a highly advanced civilization may well have existed on a global scale thousands of years ago. I still have no idea about what the purpose of any of those sites were, but I knew I could make a really cool and compelling SciFi story about it. My research was compelling enough that I was able to be a guest on both Caravan to Midnight and Coast to Coast AM to discuss the research I did for Harmonic Wars as well as promote the book.
 
2. Who is your favorite character and why?  
Alana, because she is a strong warrior. Her sassy and down-to-earth attitude was so much fun to write. She is proof that good and righteous people can be fierce warriors who keep their sensuality without being a slut. Arturo was also a huge challenge to make his evil personality understandable and realistic. Some readers almost sympathized with him, but they had no doubt that he is pure evil, all the way to the core. Inshae on the other hand is a slut by nature, but then again she is a Succubus!
 
3. What did you learn during the writing process about yourself?  
I learned that my years of business writing was no preparation for writing a novel. I also learned that it takes a huge amount of initiative and personal drive to write, market and sell books. The marketing and selling is like pushing a snowball uphill hoping to start an avalanche, but you MUST keep pushing and never get discouraged. It takes time and patience. I also learned that I hate naming characters! 
 
4. What do you think is important for every writer to know?  
Use a good outline and know where your story is going! I created outlines for all four books in the Harmonic Wars series before I ever started writing the first book. When writing a series leave yourself an out so you can write spinoffs from the original series. I figure if I’m going to develop worlds and cultures I might as well use them to the fullest extent possible. Also, know when to “pull the trigger” so to speak. You can edit a manuscript forever hoping to create the perfect story, but at some time you must move forward and put your masterpiece into print. It will never be perfect, but it will be good enough if you trust your editors. Also, design your characters after people you know so that it is easier to include their realistic quirks and mannerisms. It will help to get the readers to endear themselves to the characters … then you can listen to them howl when you kill them off!
 
5. What do you feel is your strength in writing? 
I’m a very visual person, so I try hard to provide a cool vision of the future. When I’m in a creative mood I can write 5,000-6,000 words a day. I never try to do anything that will hamper or constrict that creativity … I just continue to let it flow as long as I can. It’s really cool, because it’s like watching a movie scroll across my screen as I write. Nobody is more surprised by what I write than I am. Once I was writing at a pub and had more than a few beers while I had my headphones on listening to Ozzy in the back ground. Finally, one of my characters started yelling “Sharon!"
 
6. What do you want to improve on? 
I need to improve my balance between my very detailed imagination and the “sweet spot” where the reader’s imagination can take off on its own. Sometimes I’m too detailed, but it provides some really great visuals! I need to work on pacing too.
 
7. What is your favorite sci-fi book and why? 
Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga. I had fantastic visuals of the ships and the distant planets that they visited. The characters were realistic and neurotic. Too many times authors try to make the hero perfect ... almost god-like, but we are all humans with serious faults. I tried to build some of this into my characters. 
 
8. Name one thing most people don't know about you? 
I am an accomplished singer and I play guitar. I am also a fantastic cook!
 
9. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you travel? 
Egypt to visit the Great Pyramid, Gobekli Tepe in Turkey which is like 20 Stonehenges that were covered up some 10,000 years ago, then off to the ruins at Puma Punku.
 
10. Would you rather have a great BBQ with friends or take a hike with your family? 
BBQ anytime, but only if I can cook it over a great smoker! And of course my family are my best friends, so they would be first in line along with my other friends!

Harmonic Wars is available on Amazon in print and the 3L Publishing website (www.3LPublishing.com) under books. The eBook version is available in Kindle, Nook and iBook. If you have any questions, please send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Three Common Mistakes Writers Make

1. Thinking that their editor is the same as a final proof and copy edit. Reality with books which are often very long is that an editor can't necessarily catch everything. Notice on most mastheads of magazines that you have several layers of editing -- the editor-in-chief, editor, managing editor and copy editor. The reason for the layers is that each role is slightly different. Even if you have a reasonably talented editor to clean up and help your copy shine, a final proof will still be a necessity. I try to tell writers this and often hear they don't need that final proof, which is completely wrong. When I end up showing them via a quick proof of a few pages how that belief is incorrect, it often opens their eyes to the true difficulty of getting a completely clean draft.

2. Not understanding that a Word document and a book template are two different sizes and produce a different page counts. I ask writers the size of the book, and they quote from the Word document. Standard book sizes (we use 6 x 9) contain approximately 250-300 words per page vs. a Word doc which contains roughly 500 words per page. You have to do the math on the Word doc's total to get the actual page count for the book template. The page count affects print cost.

3. Not understanding the value of professional services. When you hire an editor or graphic designer to work on your book you are hiring experienced professionals. If your focus is on getting something done cheaply then you have to remember my favorite saying, "Cheap is as cheap does." So when you end up with a document riddled in errors that you paid the lowest price to get done then you shouldn't complain.




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Listen to Your Expert

I have encountered clients who have no experience in marketing and publishing, hire 3L Publishing (www.3LPublishing.com) to publish their books, and then argue with the team about the process. If you're going to hire experts who have done something that you have no experience doing, the idea is to listen to the experts.

Now the customer is always right, true. Problem is when the customer thinks he or she is right -- and their idea of right is simply wrong. When you're talking about writing and editing, and the customer's ultimate goal is professionalism yet they're not following expert advice and experience then the end result is not always professional.

When it comes to writing some writers don't want their work touched no matter what the edit. I was joking with a friend of mine that some writers argue about grammar. My go-to solution is to not only explain why it's wrong, but also back up the answer with my favorite website Grammar Girl (yes, that's a real website). When Grammar Girl becomes my source for the argument because the writer isn't listening, it seems ridiculous. You now have a trust issue going on. Your client obviously doesn't trust your expertise.

My piece of advise: if you hire experts, trust your experts. Unless you've done what they're doing for a living then you need to listen. Their experience and knowledge should supersede your belief you know better. Chances are you don't know. And chances are your end result will not be professional. Of course in those cases the client inevitably blames our team for those mistakes produced from lack of listening.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

It Doesn't Matter What Other People Think

Some of the great innovators (think Steve Jobs) or even great creatives (think Meryl Streep) have made a pointed effort to create their own visions. They are driven by their own ideas. They aren't following the sheep, they are leading the herd.

Its easy to get sucked into the belief that you have to please the world. Other people's beliefs about you are important. Don't get me wrong, some people's opinions do have relevance. But if you're going to be a leader and not a follower, an innovator not a copier then you have to go to your own beat.

You're going to face naysayers. You might even face an eye roll or two or a chuckle or giggle. But if you firmly believe in your vision and believe in yourself (most importantly) then you should see these people as unimportant. They're only there to remind you to stay the course of your own direction.

So have confidence. Don't let others define you. You define you. And if you have a dream and a vision, pursue it with gusto. Tune out the unwanted opinions. And only listen when something actually makes sense.