Was Jack The Ripper A Woman?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last night I was surfing The Huffington Post and came across a story about an Australian scientist who performed DNA testing on one of the Ripper letters. For those who don’t know, several letters were sent to police during the time of the murders. Most are believed to be fakes, but a few are considered to be authentic. Scientists using technology that’s way above my head took swabs from the back of the stamps and the seal of the envelope to process for DNA. There’s a lot more to the science, but you get the point. Reports were inconclusive, but enough of a profile was constructed for the scientist to claim the Ripper could have been a woman.

Seriously?! Don’t get me wrong – there have been more female serial killers than people realize. Countess Elizabeth Batheroy murdered hundreds of peasant women in the Middle Ages in order to drink their blood and remain young. Some go so far as to suggest she may have been the real inspiration for Dracula instead of Vlad the Impaler. There’s also Amelia Dyer, a.k.a The Baby Butcher, who murdered several infants while “baby farming,” a practice in turn-of-the-century England for illegitimate and poor mothers. Aileen Wuornos is another notorious female serial killer, and many more paved the way before her.

Still, it’s just hard to imagine a woman could be responsible for something as heinous as the Ripper murders. At least five proven victims in Whitechapel (and likely more) were mutilated by the Ripper, their throats and genitalia slashed open. Could a woman really have done such a thing?

I have to admit, it’s possible. There’s all types of crazy in this world, and for all our modern advances, people weren’t that different during Jack’s time. I could see a religious woman with a crazy gene seeking to rid the streets of London from the filthy prostitutes.

Makes for a good story, doesn’t it?

According to history, the detective who ran the investigation thought it was possible the Ripper could be a woman because Mary Kelly was seen hours after her death, with the Ripper wearing her clothes. The only female suspect had a similar M.O. to the Ripper, so it’s impossible to rule out the option, especially with the new DNA evidence.

If this is true, no wonder the case has never been solved. The police were looking in the wrong place! Investigators leaned heavily toward the male suspects, and many believed the Ripper had some sort of surgical training or was a skilled butcher. Those theories have never been proven and are still argued to this day.

Jack the Ripper wasn’t the world’s first serial killer by any means, but he was the first to garner worldwide media attention. Reporters went crazy with their theories, and the investigation was tainted by their interference. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Now imagine if the Ripper had been a woman and the media frenzy that would have created.

‘Sweet, Victorian housewife slaughters prostitutes while her babies sleep.’

The press would have loved her!

We’ll probably never know the truth. Then again, genetic profiling and the science of DNA advances at the rate rabbits reproduce, so who knows what we’ll learn about the Ripper in a few years. Maybe the geniuses will come up with some trick to get a full profile from what little biological stuff is left.

I doubt it. Jack the Ripper will continue to live in infamy, the stuff of legend and folklore. Tourists will flock to Whitechapel to follow the trail of the murders, butterflies in their stomachs as they walk the streets. They’ll listen to the tour guides tell the story, all the while thinking what a hideous man the Ripper was.

But who knows? Perhaps Jack was a Jane, after all.

Tempting Tuesday: Yummy Goodness

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today’s topic? One of God’s most wonderful creations, it’s a therapist, friend, and enabler. Every morsel soothes the soul and makes even the most dire situations just a little bit brighter.

I’m talking about chocolate, of course.

My sweet tooth has a life of its own. Even though I’ve been off my diet a month today (yay!) and maintained, I battle the need for something sweet and delectable every day. Several times a day, actually. I try to curb the need by chewing gum or guzzling water, but it really doesn’t come close. There’s nothing like chocolate, period.

The trick is finding chocolate that’s not too packed with calories and doesn’t taste like cardboard. Seems impossible, doesn’t it?

Oh, ye of little faith. We just need ‘the Google,’ as my husband’s grandpa calls it. A few minutes of searching, and I discovered this yummy goodness just waiting to be sampled.

Cocoa Fudge Cookies

Your mouth’s watering, I know. Mine, too. This recipe’s got some prep time, but the pay off looks delicious. I’ll be trying these this weekend for the holiday. If you decide to give into your sweet tooth, let me know what you think!

Do you have any great dessert recipes to share?

• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 5 tablespoons butter
• 7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
• 2/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Cooking spray

• Preheat oven to 350°.
• Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and salt; set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars (mixture will resemble coarse sand). Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
• Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.



Manic Monday: The Las Vegas Tunnel People

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tunnel people, you ask? Sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, doesn't it? Let me assure you, it's not. Most of us know about the large homeless populations in New York, Chicago, and D.C, to name only a few. But Las Vegas - the city known for glamour and frivolity - has a unique destination they don't advertise on their tourism brochures.

I first heard about the tunnels about a year ago, when I began researching my novel, tentatively titled Light and Dark. I needed a place for a would-be bank robber to escape, and I figured that a city built by the mob would have underground tunnels. So I Googled 'Las Vegas tunnels.' I was shocked at the articles that turned up: a thousand people live in the 200 miles of storm drains running underneath the city, and what's worse, the bulk of them live underneath the Strip!

Some, like the couple pictured above, live in camps decorated with whatever they can salvage. Others have virtually nothing.

Many have lost jobs due to the economy (Las Vegas has been among the hardest hit in the housing crisis) and many battle various addictions. Some are veterans suffering from post traumatic stress, and nearly all have been dumped into the tunnels because of traumatic events in their lives. They eek a living however they can, including surfing the slot machines for abandoned credits, a trick called "credit hustling."

And yes, children live down there as well. Reporter Matthew O'Brien, whose book Beneath The Neon chronicles the lives of the tunnel dwellers, says he's seen evidence of them, toys and teddy bears.

Can you imagine? These are storm drains! Dark, filthy, with an inch or more of standing water, crawfish (yes, crawfish in Las Vegas), cockroaches, spiders...you get the point. The tunnels may be a sanctuary from Vegas heat, but they're also in constant danger of flooding.

It's heartbreaking. And infuriating. Las Vegas is one of a many cities dealing with a major homeless problem, and many people want the truth swept under the rug, preferring to pretend the homeless don't exist or worse yet, blame them for their plight.

I don't care what vices a person has, everyone deserves a roof over their head and a clean bed to sleep in, especially in a country with such excess.

After I got over the initial shock, I knew escaping into the storm drains was perfect for my book. I had to create a plausible route into them, which was a fun creative challenge. But I also had to deal with the subject carefully. I didn't want to be insensitive to the people living down there, but I wanted to show a bit of what their lives might be like.

I purchased Beneath the Neon, and it's a sad read. O'Brien spent several years visiting the tunnels and getting to know the people, and his insight is invaluable. I was able to get a sense of the general geography of the tunnels, as well as some idea of how the people live and interact.

A handful of scenes in Light and Dark take place in the tunnels, and they were tough to write. My heart goes out to these people, and to all the homeless living across the country. How can we help them? What can I, a regular mom from Iowa, do to make a difference?

Donate to food pantries, to Salvation Army, to Goodwill, yes. But there has to be more. Americans have to stop turning a blind eye to the people living on the street - and under them - because a twist of fate could land a lot of us in their positions. How many of us live paycheck to paycheck, with only a house payment or less in our savings? What would your family do if you had no income for six months? Could you survive? I hope the answer is yes, but for millions of Americans, it would be no.

As politicians are battling over who gets paid more and debating which desperately-needed programs to slash, these people are suffering and more will continue to join them. Every one of us has the right to freedom, but we all have a responsibility to our fellow man.

I don't have the answer. But I know something has to change. What can we do to help?

Sources: NPR
Daily Mail
Matthew O'Brien

Saving a baby mouse...the highlight of my vacation

Monday, June 20, 2011

We're vacationing in Deer River, Minnesota, for the week. Lots of fishing and way too much eating. I didn't plan on doing any blog posts, but I had to share the story of Lucky the mouse.

On Saturday, my sister Kelly put her boat into the lake and a big mouse promptly scurried out. She couldn't catch her, and the mouse disappeared underneath a bench.

Oh well, on to the fishing, right?

Yesterday afternoon I went out with her and my other sister, as well as my husband and some others. Kelly jumps into the boat and sits down, and what does she see? A tiny weeny baby mouse laying on its side. We thought it was dead at first, but he was just really cold. Kelly snuggled him into her hand, and we tried to get him to go back under the bench where we think the mother's nest is.

No dice.

The men said to throw him into the lake and put him out of his misery since he was so little, but we couldn't do that. He'd survived this long, so I named him Lucky. My sisters and I had no clue how to get him to eat, so we stopped at a gas station (remember, we're way out in the boonies) looking for an eye dropper or anything we could use to put milk in. Best thing we could find was an antifreeze tester, fresh out of the bag. We cut off the tube part of it and tried to use the tester as a syringe, but the opening was still too big. Finally I put some milk into the crevice of my sister's palm and all of the sudden we hear this lapping noise. He'd ate out of her hand!

We made him a little nest out of paper towels in an empty Mountain Dew box, and he's made it through 24 hours. The milk we left in a little Gatorade lid was gone this morning, and we are seeing little mouse droppings around, so we're excited he's eating.

Best thing about it? He's totally spoiled! By this morning, he'd already started getting excited when he heard voices and wants to be picked up. He loves to snuggle into your palm and sleep, and he doesn't like to be ignored. I went to check on him this afternoon, and he was buried under his towels. I said something, and the mound of towels started to shake. There he was, scurrying out of the towels and climbing to the top, SQUEAKING! I almost died! He kept trying to climb out of the box (thankfully it's too deep, and he's still too little), so I finally took him out. He snuggled right into my hand and fell asleep.

We're trying not to get too attached since he's so little, but everyone has been holding him and passing around, and Kelly has already said she's going to have to take him home with her.

Let's hope sweet Lucky continues to have a good week!

Eating Healthy on Vacation and Avoiding the Car Munchies

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Eating healthy is a lifetime challenge. It’s hard enough to stay on track when we’re at home, in familiar surroundings and in total control of our meals, but it’s another when we’re on vacation. The temptation of new foods, alcohol, and snacks are strong. Everyone deserves a break, and it’s okay to broaden your eating horizons on vacation.

But how can we avoid letting the perpetually hungry monster inside of ran rampant?

Everyone has a different trick, but here are some great ways to keep the monster from eating you into a new size.

For the road-trippers like me, pack a cooler full of water and healthy snacks. They’re better for your body and your wallet. Make sure they’re low-cal and high in protein like an apple of Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is extremely high in protein and much better than regular yogurt. I’ve tried all the brands my local stores carry, and my favorites are Fage and Chobaini. Chobaini’s honey Greek yogurt is fantastic!

Snack often. Having a healthy snack midmorning and mid afternoon is really important in keeping our appetites under control. Protein bars are great for this. Many are low in calories and high in protein, and they come in all different flavors, including chocolate. Mmmm. Special K has some great ones, as well as EAS. They’re high in protein and really low on carbs.

Drink lots water. The staple of any healthy diet! Keeps us full and is great for the skin.

Keep your bread choices to whole grain when possible.

If you’re going to be camping like me, (we spend a week fishing and staying at cabins. My family has gone to the same place since my dad was a kid) stock up on lean meats like fish and chicken. Get turkey-dogs instead of beef. You can also make a great veggie plate to go with this: simply chop up your favorites—I like red and green peppers, onions, asparagus, squash, and zucchini. Toss them in a ziplock bag, add some olive oil, real salt (sea salt), pepper, and basil. Shake ‘em up and toss on the grill. Tastes yummy and will keep you from gorging on dessert.

Last but not least… the alcohol. I know we all look forward to relaxing and embibing more than we do at home, but remember the wasted calories. Limit yourself to one extra drink, two at the most. Your waistline and hangover-free body will thank you later!

What are some of your tips for eating healthy eating on vacation?


Don't Stop Believing

My novel has been the ugly stepchild at times, fighting me on every plot point and character traits. At others it’s been loving and sweet, pouring out of my fingers with ease.

The beginning has gone through countless rewrites as I honed the plot and learned not to write entirely by the seat of my pants.

My MC started as a stubborn recluse with a pathetic demeanor, and evolved into a strong female with brains and excess bravado. She changed from a character I struggled to write to one who dominated my thoughts. She was supposed to be a co-protagonist, but her strength and determination claimed the majority of page time.

My second protagonist, the smoking-hot hostage negotiator with no flaws, became darker and a little damaged. He stopped being a pansy and started acting like a worthy male lead.

And my antagonist…my demented psychopath I’ve always adored. He evolved from a strange man obsessed with a girl to a calculating man driven by past grief. He now has a reason for his actions and a carefully planned end game. He’s become three-dimensional, stepping off the page and getting into readers heads. His story will gain readers empathy even as they root for the protagonist to kick his butt.

I’m calling this psychological thriller Light and Dark, but I’ve no idea if the name will stick. Maybe something brilliant will come to me in the edits.

And there are a lot of them ahead. I know I’ll go through several rounds before I’m ready to considering querying or self-publishing.

The journey is by no means complete. But I’m extremely proud of my accomplishment. There have been days I wondered what the hell I was doing, why I was wasting my time—you all know the feeling. I thought about quitting. Or starting something new.

But my characters kept talking, and I became determined to tell their story. My reward is this euphoric feeling…and a strawberry margarita. Or two. Maybe three.

The point is, if you’ve hit a wall with your writing, don’t give up. You set out to write your book because you loved the idea and believed in it. Don’t stop! Forget about the end goal of publishing for a while and just get wrapped up in the writing. Embrace it. Don’t agonize over the details or the hiccups, get the meat of the story down. Whatever you do, keep writing. And be proud of every accomplishment. It’s more than a lot of people who dream of being writers can ever say. Pat yourself on the back, have a drink. And then write some more!

Thank you to all my Twitter and blog friends for their encouragement and advice! Social media really is a wonderful writing tool.

And now, in celebration of finishing my draft, one of the greatest songs of all-time!


Keeping the weight off is harder than losing it

Monday, June 13, 2011

As most of you know, I recently completed my weight loss journey, losing sixty-five pounds and going down five sized. The post A Fat Girl No More covers the experience.

I’ve been on the maintenance phase since May 27th, and I’ve managed to maintain within three to five pounds. But it hasn’t been easy. The maintenance phase is essentially healthy eating, and when you’re turned loose after six months of being monitored, the temptations start to creep up again.

My sweet tooth is growing back nicely, but so far I’m still in control. If I do crave the evil demon known as sugar, I reach for an apple or berries. If I’m feeling hungry (something I’ve noticed since I’ve been eating more), then I have half a protein bar and a big glass of water. I’m exercising regularly too, a first for me.

And yet, every day, I want to eat more, more, more. Now that I can have bread at night, I want two pieces. Cheesecake for desert? Bring it on. After all, I’ve lost so much weight, a little cheating now and then can’t hurt, right?

Wrong. My plan allows for one cheat day a week. The rest need to be spent eating responsibly, because it’s very easy to gain one or two pounds a week and before you know it, you’ve put on thirty.

I won’t let that happen again. My friend says I worry too much about food, that I know I can go back on the diet or work hard with exercise to lose five or ten pounds if I need to. I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to have willpower and maintain what I’ve worked so hard for.

So I say no to that second piece of bread and pass on desert. Then I complain for a while. How it’s not fair some people can eat anything they want, that I thought I wouldn’t be this structured after I hit my goal, yada, yada, yada.

That’s when my ‘before’ picture pops into my mind and I vow never to go back. Life’s not fair. I gain weight easily and have a slow metabolism. If I want to look and feel good, I have to accept that and do whatever I need to in order to stay healthy.

Low carb, low fat, low calories. Lots of fruit and veggies. Vitamins and calcium. Daily exercise. We all know the drill. The problem is that it’s easier said than done.

On the days you want to binge or say to hell with it, just remember how much better it feels to be at a healthy weight. Remember what it’s like to feel like the slug in the crowd, how no jeans fit right because your stomach blobbed over them, and how miserable you were. No one is happy being overweight. It affects the mind as much as it does the body. Think about how your mental state is now compared to when you were heavier and consider the differences in your life.

And then ask yourself, “is it really worth it? Is having that extra piece of bread or chocolate bar really worth sending myself back down that slippery slope?”

It’s not, I promise.

Maintaining is hard as hell. Arm yourself with healthy snacks, and if you can’t control the chocolate craving, (trust me, I understand this pain), get a Special K protein bar. I love their Chocolatey Chip and Peanut Butter Chocolate. And then have a couple of bites. Save the rest for later. You’ll answer the craving and won’t have the guilt that usually comes with it.

Keeping our weight down is going to be a lifetime battle. We’ve got to arm ourselves with everything we can to win, and most importantly, remember you’re not alone. We’re in this together.

Good luck!

Brag Post

Sunday, June 12, 2011

We're having beautiful weather today, and everyone is outside enjoying it. Our four-year-old Golden Retriever, Toby, is no exception. He's an amazing dog, great with the kids, and although I'm biased, I think he's pretty damned gorgeous.

Hope everyone is having a great summer day!

Helping A Frightened Child Cope

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My five-year-old, Grace, has been afraid of thunder for a couple of years now. The severity of her fear comes and goes, but this week it’s gotten much worse. We had a bad storm on Wednesday; several funnel clouds were spotted, and we were in the direct path of a downburst, pictured above.

The downburst came out of nowhere. One minute it was thundering and just a light breeze, and then, bam! I thought we’d been hit by a tornado for a second. The birdbath flew across the yard, and a big crash echoed against the sliding glass door in the kitchen.

Turns out that was our new grill. The wind had sent it flying and pulled the cover off. The grill was fine, but the rain was coming, and I didn’t want it exposed. So I rushed out onto the deck, in the middle of frighteningly strong winds, and tried to deal with it. Things were blowing around the yard like crazy, and in retrospect, it was a stupid move, especially since Grace was watching the whole time.

I forgot – as I often do – to put myself in her shoes and look at the world through her eyes. She was crying, saying things like “Mommy, I love you, you’re my love, we’ll never be apart.” I knew she was scared, but it didn’t dawn on me until I was back inside the house that she was afraid something was going to happen to me, and she’d be left alone.

The storm continued, the tornado sirens went off, the thunder was immense, and the hail was wicked. We lost power for two hours. She was terrified the whole time. Of course, her father was out of town so it was just the two of us. I managed to get her settled down onto the couch in the basement, but she wouldn’t let herself go to sleep.

Eventually things calmed down and I got her to bed, but she wound up with me in the middle of the night because of the thunder. Last two nights have had the same result. She’s afraid of every loud noise, asking ‘what’s that’ when a truck lumbers by. She won’t let me out of her sight, she keeps talking about the storm, and if I leave her with her Dad, she sobs and cries after me. She hasn’t done that since she was two.

During last night’s round of storms, she slept with us, and even when she was asleep, her little body trembled every time it thundered.

Tonight she’s finally in her own bed, thanks to nice weather. I feel so badly for her. She’s so scared, and it doesn’t seem to help to tell her it’s just noise, it can’t hurt her. I don’t mind her sleeping with us when she’s scared, but I hate to see the fear emanating from her. And part of it’s my fault, because she saw me struggling in the wind like an idiot. I finally got her to tell me today she was afraid something was going to happen to me.

It’s so heartbreaking. I try so hard to protect her, and then a moment of agitation undoes everything. I know all I can do is ride it out, but seeing your child so upset is one of the worst things in the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put them in a safety bubble and still find away to keep them happy and socialized?

Hopefully this all passes soon. I will keep reassuring her, keep letting her know I’m there and always will be. It’s all I can do for her, and that’s the most frustrating part of all.

Flash Fiction/Web Fic: The Prophet

Friday, June 10, 2011

Post Three - Denial

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
WARNING: Graphic Content

Jaymee Nichols had some attitude, Nick Samuels thought as he watched the petite woman stand defiantly against his Impala, arms crossed and lower lip jutting out.

His mother had always warned him a pouty lower lip made a great place for a bird’s toilet. Somehow he didn’t think Jaymee would appreciate that nugget of wisdom.

“The prophet?” She said. “That’s biblical.” A sour expression twisted her pretty face and darkness clouded her eyes. “What’s the good book got to do with this fucking mess?”

“You’ve got quite a mouth on you,” Nick said.

She flushed. “Only when I’m nervous.”

“Nothing to be nervous about. I know you’ve had a terrible experience and just want to get away from the scene.”

“Can’t go too far.” She pointed to the east. “My trailer’s just over there.”

Jaymee’s trailer looked more like the old too shed his father had torn down when the roof caved in. Dingy white on top and ugly, disco-gold on the bottom, the trailer looked like it had been sitting in the lot since the seventies. Two cracked concrete steps led to the front door, and wilted petunias clung to life in their dilapidated wooden box beneath a small window. Although the grass sported patched of brown, her lot appeared tidy. Jaymee’s place was four-star quality compared to most of her neighbors.

Nick wanted to ask her what a girl like her was doing in a place like this. He’d been an agent for ten years. Experience and instinct told him Jaymee was no working girl, no druggie or petty criminal. She was a decent person stuck in a bad situation—one that had gotten much worse today.

“Who’s the prophet?” She pushed her dark blonde hair out of her face. Jaymee couldn’t be more than twenty-five. Her skin still had the fresh glow of youth. The fine lines and wrinkles hadn’t yet surfaced.

“A serial killer we’ve been tracking the last few months,” Nick answered. “He started in downtown Minneapolis. Killed a prostitute and left her in a dumpster. Same M.O as the scumbag who killed your friend. Same signature.”

“What’s the difference?”

“M.O. is how they do it. A perp will change it if necessary. A signature is part of their ritual. The killer is driven by an inner need to complete the task. He can’t enjoy the experience if he doesn’t.”

“So what’s this douchebag’s signature?”

“He’s got two. One’s the reason for the nickname. You can think the Star-Tribune for that. He leaves a proverb with every body.”

“I suppose he’s doing God’s work,” Jaymee snapped. “Typical upstanding churchgoer.”

Nick wondered what made her detest the church, but kept his thoughts to himself.

“Maybe,” Nick conceded. “He’s organized, methodic. Leaves very little trace evidence.”

“What’s the second signature?”

The mark of sick individual, Nick thought. “That’s confidential. It’s one detail we’re keeping out of the press, but I’m told it’s visible at this crime scene.”

Jaymee winced at the words and sagged back against the Impala. Her small shoulders slumped, her mask of bravado slipped. “I always knew Crystal was headed for disaster.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Nick said. “What can you tell me about her?”

“She was wild. Drank too much, smoked too much. And I’m not talking about cigarettes. She was also a good friend and a shoulder to cry on.” She pursed her lips as she clung to her emotions.

“You said she wasn’t a hooker. Where did she get her clients from? The strip club?”


“Did she ever go down to the Cities to earn some extra cash?”

“I have no idea,” Jaymee said. “There were times she’d be gone a few days, and I’d look after Mutt, her dog. She never said where she was going, and I never asked. Guess I didn’t want to know.”

“Interesting,” Nick said.

Jaymee’s blue eyes flashed to his. “Why?”

“I’m trying to figure out why our serial killer traveled four hours north of his hunting grounds. I’ve got four other victims in Hennepin County. Every one met the same fate as Crystal. Every one was a known prostitute.”

“Crystal wasn’t hooking.” Jaymee’s voice jumped half an octave. “She had a specific clientele of guys she trusted. That’s it.”

Nick knew he had to tread carefully. He needed Jaymee to trust him. “I’m just trying to figure out what brought him here. You said yourself she left for days at a time and you had no idea what she was doing.”

He waited a few seconds to let the words sink in. “Is it impossible she went down to the city for work?”

“If by work you mean walking the streets, then yes, it’s Goddamned impossible.”


“Because she wasn’t stupid,” Jaymee gritted out. “She knew how to work smart.”

“She also had a drug habit,” Nick said softly. “Coke or meth?”

Jaymee flinched. “Meth. Coke was too expensive.”

“Meth’s not cheap either. It also messes with your head, makes you lose control and make bad decisions.”

Jaymee looked down at the ground, digging the toe of her canvas sneakers into the dirt. His words made sense, Nick thought. She just didn’t want to accept them.

“No,” she finally said. “Not Crystal.”

Her jaw was set, her gaze defiant. She’d made up her mind.

“All right,” Nick said. “Can you think of any time she was afraid? Worried she might have a stalker? A guy at the club who got too handsy?”

Jaymee shook her head. “No. She never complained. Life was all good and all about the next high.”

Nick couldn’t understand why Jaymee didn’t believe Crystal would hook in the Cities. The girl had a serious drug habit and little fear. The combination didn’t make a cautious person.

Adams waddled toward them, sweating through his polyester shirt. His round belly suffered from serious dunlap disease, hanging so low over his belt Nick wondered how he could see to fasten it.

“Samuels,” Adams huffed. “Something you need to see.”

“I need to go home,” Jaymee said. “Please.”

“Go,” Nick said. “But expect to hear from me soon.”

She waved him off, moving across the lots with her arms clenched tightly around her waist and her shoulders hunched.

With a sigh, Nick headed for Crystal’s trailer. What fresh hell awaited him today?

The Prophet Post 1

The Prophet Post 2

Kid Quote of the Day: God is magic

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My daughter comes up with some zingers. Today's was no exception.

Grace: God is magic. He can walk on water.

Me: Where'd you learn that at?

Grace: On Family Guy. You know, with Peter Griffin.

Parents of the year, I tell you!

Dexter: New American Hero?

I’m late to the Dexter phenomenon. We don’t have Showtime, and I just recently started watching this amazing show. Now halfway through season 4, I’m convinced he's one of the best characters I've ever come across—on television or in literature.

At first glance, Dexter seems pretty cut and dried. A psychopath (or is it sociopath? The two often go together) who gets his kicks murdering people, but with a caveat: only the bad guys, so he’s at least contributing to society. This ‘code’ was established by his adoptive father to keep Dexter alive and to help the old man from accepting the fact that his son was a coldblooded killer.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are intermixed and sometimes hard to define. They don’t care about anyone but themselves, have no conscious, no morals. They feel nothing, although many can mimic feelings in order to blend in. Psychopaths are often defined as the monsters in society, and this is how Dexter sees himself. A monster fulfilling his need the best way he can.

Throughout the series, Dexter repeatedly says he can’t feel. He has a girlfriend to appear normal, and she’s perfect because she’s got dark issues of her own. She’s also got two kids he’s very good with. The closest person in his life is his sister, Deb. Still, he doesn’t believe he truly cares for these people. In his mind, he’s going through the necessary motions. And yet he consistently goes the extra mile for all of them.

As the show progresses, Dexter goes from seeing himself as a monster happily blending in to questioning everything he’s been taught by his father. He grows more attached to his girlfriend and her children, going so far as to call them ‘my kids’ when one of them is threatened. He saves his sister’s life at great personal sacrifice and has no regret because he’s ‘fond of her.’

The interesting thing is these aren’t contrived actions. None are done simply to look like he’s the good guy. They’re visceral reactions he can’t explain. After all, he’s the monster who can’t feel.

Yet nearly the entire show revolves around what he’s feeling: about himself, his place in life, the people closest to him. He tries to fit in not because he has to but because he wants to. Even when his darkness calls, he sticks to his code because of his trust in his father’s advice. Dexter claims to have no conscience, and yet every major decision is weighed carefully, with visions of his now deceased father chiming in with guidance.

So what is Dexter? A killer with a conscience, certainly. But is he a true psychopath? There are worse monsters out there. Dexter only kills murders, and only after he has concrete proof.

Eventually Dexter discovers why he kills, and the knowledge sends him on a path of self-discovery. Considering what he experienced, it’s a miracle he functions in society at all. Experts debate whether psychopaths (and sociopaths) are made or if their problems are genetic. One thing they all seem to have is a stressor, a trigger that sends them down the wrong path. This certainly happened to Dexter, and I have to wonder if he would have ever had the urge to kill had he not experienced such trauma.

I don’t believe he’s a true psychopath. His experience likely made him a killer, but Dexter cares too much about those around them to be considered a psychopath. I think he’s convinced himself he’s a monster because he’s afraid to admit he cares. Keeping people at arm’s length not only protects his dark secret but his emotions as well.

One of the most moving scenes (and an awesome performance by Michael C. Hall) is early in season four. Dexter is getting ready to kill a woman who murdered her family. She pleads with him, telling him he's no different from her, that he hides himself from his family. As Dexter thinks of Rita and the kids, a stunning realization hits him: he doesn't want to lose them. He's blown away by the thought and tears come to his eyes. It's an incredible moment of growth for the character, and it's this type of humanization that sets him apart.

However you define him, Dexter is a character of complexities and contrasts. He’s committed horrible crimes and is utterly callous with his victims. He’s out for self-preservation. And yet, he’s a good man. He takes care of his family and friends, his girlfriend and her kids. He lives by a moral code no other criminal would follow. He is in constant flux, trying to understand himself and his place in this world. Viewers root for Dexter. We want him to get away with murder and sometimes we can’t wait until he kills his victim, because they deserve to pay the ultimate price.

What other character has garnered such a range of emotions? None that I can think of. Dexter is a true original.

Your Book in One Sentence.

Monday, June 6, 2011

We’ve all heard it before. Writing manuals, experts, and most importantly, agents and editors, insist if you can’t describe your novel in once sentence, you don’t have a good grip on it. Between the keyboard and your creative mind, something’s muddled.

A small part of me believes this is a bit extreme, but I understand the premise. When querying, we’ve got about a nanosecond (maybe two) to grab an agent’s attention. The one-sentence rule is not only a way for them to judge your concept but also your writing ability. Effectively jamming a 100K(ish) book into one sentence takes skill.

It dawned on me that while we all support each other’s writing, most of us don’t know much about what we’re all working on. We talk about word count and plot issues on Twitter, but always in generic terms. So I thought it would be fun to put our skills to the test and share our novels – in one sentence.

Of course as I write this, I’m already wondering if I’m supposed to include the title and genre in that one sentence. A lot to learn before querying time, obviously.

Here’s my first attempt:
Psychological thriller Light and Dark follows Emilie Davis, the victim of an attempted kidnapping, as she fights the demons of her past while searching for her stalker, a man known only as ‘The Taker.’

This sentence shows the gist of the story but leaves a lot of the meat out. There’s no mention of my co-protag or the Taker’s outstanding escape. The sub-plot of Emilie’s past issues and her big secret are barely touched. This one sentence thing is even harder than it looks. I know my book. I know it’s a plot that works. Maybe I’m over thinking as usual. What is Light and Dark really about? That’s a working title, by the way.

Second attempt:

After a strange and frightening stalker bungles a kidnapping attempt and makes one of the most daring escapes in modern Las Vegas history, Emilie Davis must face the darkness of her past to outwit the man known only as ‘The Taker.’

I like this better. I still wonder if the title and genre should be in the sentence, but this tells more about the book than my first attempt. There’s still no mention of the second protag, but Emilie is the driving force of the book. It’s her experiences that shape the second protag’s thoughts and actions.

I could have included more about where the Taker escaped two and talked about the underground world he visits, but that’s a subplot. It’s a definite point of interest and makes for a great twist, but it’s not really what the book is about.

What do you guys think? I would love feedback and constructive criticism, and I definitely want to read your one-sentence novels. Let’s help each other!

Happy Monday!

Flash Fiction/Web Fic: The Prophet

Friday, June 3, 2011

Continuation of last week's post, now titled The Prophet. Hope you all enjoy, and thanks for the feedback:)

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
WARNING: Graphic Content

Flies swarmed in her face. Attracted to the rotting horror in the trailer, the annoying insects had come in droves. Cops and stone-faced forensics people surfed through the trash, picking apart the garbage like prospectors digging for gold. Jaymee watched as a steady stream of techs wearing contraptions resembling full body condoms carried evidence out of the trailer into an official looking white van.

“When was the last time you saw the victim?”

Jaymee’s eyes flickered to the detective called Adams. Short and pudgy, he appeared to be on the other side of forty and sliding full speed down the hill. Wrinkles lined his eyes, and sweat shined on his forehead. He dabbed his face with a dingy hanky and waited for her response.

“Few days ago. After work.”

“And what did the victim do for a living?”

“Her name was Crystal,” Jaymee snapped. “She stripped at local shit-hole in Grand Rapids.”

The detective raised a grayed eyebrow. “Her income limited to stripping? No side jobs?”

“She did what she had to do.”

“Don’t we all.”

Jaymee clamped her lips shut. Typical old school cop. Didn’t give a fuck about the people living below the poverty line unless he could do something to bust their chops. “Can I go now?”

“You’re a witness.”

“I didn’t see a damned thing! She was dead when I got here!”

Dead for a while, by the looks of it. If Jaymee lived to be a withered old lady, she would never forget the sight of Crystal’s body. Wrists and ankles tied down, dried blood pooled around her lower region, her private area slashed open, dark bruises everywhere. Slashes on her breasts and arms. The white sheets had been stained red—Crystal had bled out from the gaping wound in her neck.

Jaymee had heard a cop say her injuries were sustained pre-mortem. Which meant Crystal had suffered unimaginable pain. Her eyes were wide open in death—had she been conscious until the knife slit her throat?

“You discovered the body,” Adams said.

“I’ve told you everything.”

He ignored her. “Crystal have any enemies? She do her extracurricular work on her own or did she have an employer?”

“She didn’t have a fucking pimp.” Jaymee’d had enough of Adam’s prejudice. “Crystal wasn’t a streetwalker. Sometimes she did the guys favors for extra cash—that’s it.”

“Nothing unusual in the past week or so?”


“Adams!” A deep voice called from the left. Yet another car had arrived on scene, this one a shiny, black Impala. A man stepped out, stylish black sunglasses protecting his eyes from the sun. His jeans hung loosely around his hips, and the dark, green shirt he wore complimented his tanned skin.

Jaymee watched his approach. He didn’t look like a cop. Reporter? No press badge, just a Blackberry and a bag slung over his shoulder. He had an air of cool confidence that set her on edge.

“Samuels,” the detective sounded less than pleased at the other man’s arrival. “Not sure why you’re here.”

“Your boss just called me,” the newcomer said. He towered over Adams by several inches.

Adams scowled. “What for?”

Jaymee rolled her eyes at the pissing contest. Why didn’t men just greet one another by whipping out their dicks and measuring? Get the ego bullshit over with.

“Same M.O.”

“Not exactly. Couple of new things.”

“Same signature.”

Adam's face turned puce. “Says who? I haven’t heard a damned thing about it.”

“Check with your boss. He’s inside while you’re conducting interviews.”

Jaymee raised her hand. “Can I go now? I have nothing else to say.”

Tall, dark, and annoying turned to smile down at her. “Agent Nick Samuels, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.”

The big boys. No wonder Adams was ticked. Cops hated having their turf invaded.

“Jaymee Morris. Waitress at The Wall-eyed Bar, greasiest food in Grand Rapids.”

“And the person who discovered the body,” Samuels pointed out.

“That, too.” She cut Samuels off before he could speak again. “I’ve already told your buddy everything.”

“Of course, but I’d like to ask you some different questions. We have reason to believe your friend’s murder is related to a string of others near the Twin Cities.”

“You know how far we are from the Cities?” Jayme scoffed. “Don’t murders tend to stick to a favorite place?”

Samuels pushed his sunglasses onto his head. Green eyes stared intently down at her. “Serial killers can be unpredictable. There are stressors that can make them alter their procedures.”

Jaymee felt dizzy. “You think this is a serial killer?”

“There’s no evidence of that yet,” Adams sputtered. “None that I’ve seen, anyway.”

Samuel’s eyes didn’t leave Jaymee’s. “You haven’t seen the proverb yet.”

“Proverb?” Jaymee asked.

“Ms. Morris,” Samuels said, “Have you heard of The Prophet?”