Special Blackout Excerpt!

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Luke

 

New York whirled around us, people bustling to get to where they were going. JFK had been packed, but we managed to hail a cab and get ourselves to the loft in Manhattan, where we would be staying. It was easy to get to Theatre Row, our undercover location, from the high-rise building. Our backstory was simple. Rae and I were from a company out in California, and we were looking to move to New York. We wanted to try out a couple locations before deciding to make a permanent decision.

Rae insisted we maintain that we were friends, so as to avoid complications. Hell, our friendship was complicated already after New Orleans, but whatever made her feel comfortable. I flung down my bag on the queen bed in the sparsely furnished room. The Bureau made sure we had the necessities, so that was nice.

“There’s a tech meeting at the theatre tonight.” Rae leaned on the doorframe with a sigh. “Certainly not the Ritz, huh?”

I chuckled. “Nope, but it works. You okay?”

She raised and lowered a shoulder. “Usual zone. Feeling more uneasy about this one than I was when Madame Evangeline was telling my future.”

I had to admit, I missed Sabine’s grandmother. I missed New Orleans. I missed…well, I missed holding and kissing Rae. “Heh.”

“Should we get something to eat first? I’m sure there’s a pizza place.”

I loved how Rae knew when to break obvious building tension. “Order in?”

She smiled and walked to the olive green kitchen. “Geez, you’d think they’d make some decorating changes since the 70s.” She thumbed through a stack of takeout brochures by the fridge, settling on one and placing an order for a large pepperoni pizza and a bottle of Coke. I hated this on duty crap. Pizza and Coke just wasn’t the same.

I slumped into the sofa, sinking into the middle. Clearly they were trying to keep us in the façade that we were struggling theatre people. “Damn,” I groaned, adjusting my position. “Hey, Rae, wanna experience true torture?”

Rae laughed, crossing her arms and watching me shift uncomfortably. “Nope, I’m good.”

“Aww, come on. Cuddle up with me on the couch of death.” I patted the empty spot.

She huffed and walked over, sitting down with a small scream. “What is this? I think a spring just poked me. Undercover, or not, we’re replacing this monstrosity tomorrow.”

“And that’s why I love you, Rae.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I coughed, realizing what could be implied. “I mean, in the platonic sense. Hey, let’s see what’s on TV.” I grabbed the remote from the side table drawer and turned on the old set, my heart longing for my flat screen at home. I found an old Friends episode, and we lapsed into uncomfortable silence. Shit, I thought. You sure put your foot in it this time, Thompson. But, I did love her. Maybe this time around she’d finally let me in.


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Catching Up! Plus a BRAND NEW Blackout teaser!

Hi everyone!

I know most of my recent blog entries have been promoting others, but I’m going to take a moment to catch everyone up on some of the things coming up for me!

First of all, Bitter Bonds is DONE! Yay! It’s off to the editor *bites nails* and then it will be released on Friday, May 13th (spooooooky!). It is currently up for PREORDER at 99 cents/99p for the duration of release week, and then it will go up in price, so grab a copy while you can!

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Next, I’ve just started sign-ups for my NEWSLETTER! *puts on her big girl author pants* When you sign up, you get a FREE copy of Hubris, Luke’s Story, AND when I send out my first newsletter, I’ll be giving away a signed copy of The Fairest of Them in paperback with the shiny new cover! Squee!

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Finally, I’m working on Blackout, the next (and possibly final) Rae Hatting novel! I know, I know, sad times, but I want to move on to some other crime novels with new, awesome heroines. I know it’s a long wait, but Blackout will be out this October. I would have had it sooner, but…I’m going to California for three weeks in July and I plan to do NOTHING!

Blurb:

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely…dead.

Reeling from their time in New Orleans, all Special Agents Rae Hatting and Luke Thompson want to do is recover, and try to understand their budding attraction. However, there is no rest for the weary. New York calls this time, with an incipient serial killer enacting horrible vengeance on the thespian community. As bodies drop onstage, audiences are none the wiser that they are witnessing murder. Will Rae and Luke discover the culprit, before it’s ‘curtain down’?

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So, as always, happy reading, please sign-up for the newsletter, and I can’t wait to share Bitter Bonds with you all!

Saturday Night Treat: Misfortune CH 1

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Tease? I think not!
Preorder here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014AI54JE
Available on all Amazon Marketplaces!


Chapter 1

Rae

“No way. I don’t believe in any of that stuff.” Luke shook his head as we studied the crime scene photos splayed across the desk.

“I thought you were all about spirits and nature.” I teased, flipping through the reports by local law enforcement.

Luke flopped into a chair, “That’s different, Rae. That can be explained. I think most of these people are just taking advantage of the naïve.”

Our first case together, and he was already skeptical of everything. Great. “You do know if this is going to work, we have to associate with these people, right?”

“Yeah, not by choice, Rae.” He flicked a picture my way.

There certainly was a clear MO to the crimes. All the victims so far had either been positioned like tarot card images, or dumped somewhere that exemplified the meaning of the cards. I wasn’t saying I believed in fortune telling either. The latest victim was clearly positioned like The Hanged Man.

I read a portion of the report aloud. “‘The Hanged Man typically means sacrifice, or giving up on something important. Traitors in Italy were punished by being hanged in this position.’ That’s downright creepy.”

Luke had gotten up by this point, disappearing out of the conference room and heading to the kitchen. I swore under my breath, irritated that he had wandered out while I was reading him something possibly pertinent to the case. When he reappeared with two mugs of coffee, I was tempted to forgive him. Almost.

“Could you please try to focus? I really would like to remain in this division.”

He placed the cups down, and sat again. “Sorry, needed some fuel. Are we travelling for this one?”

“A little, yeah. The majority of body dumps are happening in D.C.” I breathed in the aroma of the coffee, colored perfectly with the right amount of creamer. He was learning, I supposed.

Chuckling, he spun the file away from me again. “Fitting. Loads of traitors in that part of the country.”

I tucked a strand of my auburn hair behind my ear and narrowed my eyes. His flippant attitude was starting to rub me the wrong way. “Hey, mister, we have a job to do. Uphold the Constitution, protect from all enemies, etc., etc.?

Ruffling his own blondish brown hair, Luke fixed those stormy eyes on me and sighed. “I’ll try to behave. Just let it be known I hate those charlatans.”

“Duly noted.” I swiped it out of his hands and buried my head back into the file. All was silent for a few moment until Luke broke my train of thought…again.

He was rocking back and forth in the chair. “So, when do we leave?”

I gritted my teeth. Was he really this annoying before? “Tomorrow morning. We will meet the Metropolitan Police Department as soon as we get there.”

“Right.”

Unable to really sit there any longer, I got up and wandered back to my desk, dropping the folder on the surface. Luke had settled into the division very well. He already made friends with most of the agents. I was baffled by his sudden change in attitude, but attributed it to finally letting go of Melinda.

I smiled briefly up at the agent dropping off a manila envelope with our travel information. I opened up the package, reading over the information for the man in charge of the investigation to this point. Detective Mark Samuels was a career man, no family, divorced twice, and still relatively young by department standards. It was he who pushed for FBI involvement.

“Finally, someone sensible.”

Luke appeared out of nowhere. “Who, Red?”

I scowled. “Don’t call me, ‘Red.’”

“Lighten up, Rae. Now, who is sensible?” He sat on the edge of my desk, thumbing through the papers.

I snatched them away. “Detective Samuels, the lead on the case, and our sole contact while we’re in D.C.” I put everything away and grabbed my bag. “You should go home and pack. I don’t like to be late, Thompson.”

He started to laugh. The jerk started to laugh! I was fuming as I stomped out of the office in a huff. Damn him. I didn’t like to feel so out of control! Well, I was ready to show him what Rae Hatting was capable of, with or without some cowboy cop! I slammed my fist into the elevator button, causing several agents nearby to jump and glance over. I shrunk into my jacket, slightly ashamed of my out-of-control behavior. Calm, collected, pulled together Rae Hatting. That was who I was before all this. I just had to find her again.

Unlocking the door to my house was the nicest feeling in the world. Placing my bag on the hook by the door, I shrugged out of my coat, and thumbed through the mail. “Grace? Are you home?”

“Yeah! Just finishing some homework.” My sixteen year old daughter came out of the bedroom a few moments later, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder. I smiled, but it shrank from my face as she was followed by her current boyfriend, Seth. I knew I had to trust Grace, but having boys in the house alone still rubbed me the wrong way.

“Evening, Agent Hatting.” We had established early on my profession, and that I would take little grief from him. I should be kinder to him. He was a straight-A student, on the high school football team, and had two loving parents. I may have run a background check on him.

“Hello, Seth.” I tried my best to restore my smile. “Have you two had dinner?”

Grace looped her fingers through Seth’s. “No, we were going to see if it was okay to order pizza?”

“Sure. You know I’m going out of town tomorrow, right?” I went into the kitchen and thumbed through the menus.

Seth kissed Grace on the cheek and moved over to the TV, switching it on.

“Yes, Mom. I know I’m going to Cary’s.”

“Good, are you packed? I’m not sure how long I’ll be away, but I will let you know when I do.” I dialed the number, ordering two large pepperoni pizzas and a bottle of Coke.

Grace came over and wrapped me in a hug. “Yes, Mom.” She whispered up. “Seth asked me to the winter formal!”

I squeezed her back. “That’s great, sweetie. It’s not for a few months, so we can go dress shopping when I get back.”

Grinning like she had just won first prize in a contest, Grace went to the living room, curling up on the couch next to Seth. I sighed. Did all moms go through this? I went off to the bedroom to pack for the trip, trying to ignore the couple of hormonal teenagers in my living room.

~~~

Luke

I was left leaning on Rae’s desk, scratching my head in wonder. I got up and meandered back to my desk, pulling on my old, worn leather jacket. I missed my motorcycle, hoping I could get it shipped out soon. Frank was taking good care of her, or so he said. Shoving my hands in my pockets, I made my way to the elevator leading to the parking garage. The used blue Nissan was little substitute for my pick-up, but traversed the streets with ease. I got in, and turned on some Blake Shelton, rolling down the window and driving out, waving to the guard.

I wove through evening traffic, finally making it to the one bedroom apartment I rented. It was hard not to miss the quiet forest sounds, and I made a mental note to get a place as far away from the city as soon as I could. Steering into my numbered parking spot, I got out and climbed the stairs, unlocking the chipped door. Needing background noise, I turned on the TV immediately, finding Monday Night Football with a relieved sigh.

Tossing the remote on the leather recliner, I headed to the kitchen, my stomach growling. I had a carton of eggs and some miscellaneous vegetables. I muttered to myself, “Guess it’s omelette night.” No point in going to the store when I would be gone for a while. Pulling out a frying pan and bowl, I began to crack eggs when my phone rang. I put it on speaker.

“Hello?” I hadn’t checked the caller ID.

“Luke? It’s your mother. Since when do I not get a call from you?”

I made a mental count. Shit. It had been nearly two weeks. “Sorry, Ma. Just getting into all the procedure and that. We got our first case though.”

“And how’s that lovely Agent Hatting? She certainly is something.”

I raised my palm to my forehead, groaning as I got sticky egg white in my hair. I grabbed for a dish towel. “She’s a royal pain in the ass.”

“Language! Anyways, I wanted to see how you are. Are you going out of town?” There was a worried sound to her tone.

I grabbed a fork, whipping the eggs. “Yes, don’t worry, Ma. I’ll be fine. I promise I’ll phone to check in. How’s Frank?” I changed the subject.

“He’s fine! I went up to check on him, and bring him some fresh vegetables. I swear, that man lives on fast food!”

Nothing changes. “Yeah, that’s Frank.” I knew the divorce had hit him hard, so he was grateful to have my cabin now.

“Ginny Hatting has been up a couple of times. She’s so sweet.”

Ginny? Oh, right. Rae’s mom. “She has?”

“Mmhmm. Oh, look, I have to go. You take care, sweetheart.” Click.

I grumbled, grabbing a knife and the cutting board, sufficiently irritated now by the cryptic nature of my ma’s phone call. Finalizing the preparation for my food, the phone rang again. This time, I did check for the caller ID. It was Rae.

“What’s up, Hatting?” We were back to surnames now, based on her recent outburst.

“Just wanted to make sure you were going to be ready at 8am.”

She had forgotten to let me know what time we were leaving back at the office. Must have taken some nerve to call me now. I laughed to myself. “Thanks, Hatting. Hey, did you know your mom visits my ma?” Silence. “Rae?”

“Huh? Yeah, umm, I have to go. See you tomorrow.” Click.

I raised my eyebrows, staring at the phone. What was with these women? I shook my head in awe, finally able to get the eggs and vegetables into the pan. I hummed to myself as I cooked, glancing occasionally at the score. I scooped my monster omelette onto a plate, and took a cold beer from the fridge, sitting down in the recliner. The beer slid down beautifully, along with my hastily prepared dinner.

When I finished, I grabbed my laptop, keen to do some of my own research on this serial killer. There were a few newspaper articles about the killings with vague theories from over-eager reporters. Detective Samuels was tight-lipped, offering little or no comment on anything asked of him. Knowing Rae’s proclivity to take all the paperwork home, I had requested a back-up file before we left. I opened the attachments.

‘The Hanged Man’ was the third distinct body dump to date, but the fourth actual victim. There were a couple of suspected related murders, but nothing could be concretely linked to this killer. I scanned the images of the other victims. The first one was easily ‘The Lovers.’ Heck, I recognized it without the report, chuckling at my memories from Live and Let Die. Jane Seymour as Solitaire was a favorite of mine. Boyhood crush.

Snapping back to reality, I studied the victims’ profiles. There were two bodies, each identified as Georgetown University students, reported missing by their roommates. After investigation, Samuels noted that both were cheating on their respective partners. He interviewed several possible suspects, but none proved fruitful. Another dead-end for the dedicated detective.

I pulled up a web browser and typed in ‘The Lovers tarot,’ yielding a plethora of sites claiming to offer free and cheap readings. I waded through the crap to find the meaning of the cards. I was starting to find interpretations based on different schools of thought. I frowned, thinking finding the one specific to our killer would be a chore and a half. I glanced down, reading the computer clock. It was past eleven, and I hadn’t even packed yet. Reaching for my laptop bag, I stuffed the computer in and stalked to the bedroom.

My trusty duffle bag was waiting at the bottom of my closet. It had traveled with me from Dallas, to Mendocino County, to San Francisco, and then to Quantico. I pulled out the necessary items and stuffed them in, taking a trip to the bathroom to half-fill my toiletry bag. By the time I finished, the red numbers on my alarm clock flashed after midnight. I stripped, and fell into the sheets, setting my alarm for just before seven. I wanted to get in a run prior to leaving.

Waking up in a cold sweat was something I had gotten used to. The nightmares were especially vivid. I squinted over at the clock, noting it was just after five in the morning. Unable to settle my mind down, I went and splashed water on my face, staring at my reflection in the mirror. I turned on the shower and stepped into the spray. There was no point in going back to sleep now, as the demons would be waiting for me. Soon, I could replace the haunting visions with new ones, but in the meantime, I would cope with the old ones the best way I knew how.

Cover Reveal: Misfortune!

I’m pleased to present the cover to the next Rae Hatting Mystery novel, Misfortune! It’s due out on November 21st, 2015 and will be up for preorder! Without further ado… Misfortune_Fulljpg ebook coverDeath is on the cards… There’s a new serial killer on the loose, dumping bodies in sinister relation to tarot card meanings, preying on his victims’ vices. With roving psychics, all claiming to have knowledge of the killer, to a mysterious Cajun woman, who just so happens to be related to Dr. Sabine Lawson, will Luke and Rae solve the case before another person ends up tempting fate and succumbing to an unfortunate mishap. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25229054-misfortune


Misfortune joins The Fairest of Them and Crushed Gardenias in the Rae Hatting Mysteries series!

Let the Countdown Begin!

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In ten days, ARCs of The Fairest of Them will be going out to bloggers across the web. As a side note, there is still time to sign-up here!

As this time approaches, I’m finding myself freaking out! This is the first time I’ve done this type of promotion package. I don’t know what to expect, and I feel a bit vulnerable putting my novel out there in this way. In the past, I’ve relied on my own marketing skills, word of mouth, and just plain luck. I suppose it’s on par with sending your kiddo off to school for the first time. You want to laugh, cry, scream, and smile all at the same time!

I have some AMAZING beta readers and editors who assure me my book is good, but there is still that niggling doubt. Will I disappoint the readers of Crushed Gardenias, who begged and begged for more Rae Hatting?

Bookmark RaeOn a more positive note, bookmarks! I’ll be giving away a chunk of signed ones at the Fairest release!

So, from all my readers, please wish me luck! This is a HUGE GINORMOUS CRAZY step for me in the direction of becoming a successful self-published author.

Happy reading and I hope to see you at the release party!

Women’s History: The First Female FBI Agent

 

Much like my post on Female Soldiers During the American Civil War, I like to give a bit of historical background to the novels I write. Female FBI agents are very prevalent in the United States today, making up 19% of the bureau’s special agents. This left me curious. When did women first start working for this elite agency?

As a tie in to my novel, The Fairest of Them, I decided to delve into the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, a.k.a the FBI. According to their website, the FBI stemmed from a special group of law enforcement agents, founded during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. He teamed with Attorney General Charles Bonaparte in 1908 to lay the foundations to what would later become the FBI. In 1918, with the end of WWI, the group of Special Agents was renamed the “Bureau of Investigations.”

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Alaska Packard Davidson

But this isn’t a history lesson on the formation of the FBI! I’m here to tell you about women in the FBI! The history on this subject is sparse, but one name I found was Alaska Packard Davidson. She served as a special agent from October 1922 to June 1924. She was 54 years old when she was appointed. When J. Edgar Hoover took over the Bureau, Davidson, along with several other female agents were dismissed.

Hoover is only known to have hired one female Special Agent during his entire term in office. That was Lenore Huston, an agent from 1924-1928.

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Lenore Huston’s credentials

After, according to the FBI’s website:

On July 17, 1972, the first two women of the modern era entered the FBI Training Academy at Quantico, Virginia. Fourteen weeks later they emerged as special agents. Over the next 40 years, women agents reshaped the Bureau, achieving leadership posts across the U.S. and around the world. This series looks at their roles, their challenges, and the rewards of a demanding career as a G-woman.

A pretty big gap in history! You can learn more by going to: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2012/may/women-agents_051612/women-agents_051612

fairest-ebook-with-awardDon’t forget to look for The Fairest of Them, with my own Special Agent Rae Hatting.

Meet Special Agent Rae Hatting!

Rae Hatting teaserMany of you will remember Special Agent Rae Hatting from the short story, “Crushed Gardenias.” Response to this wee, stand-alone story was so great, I decided I couldn’t let her stay put! My latest work in progress brings Rae to the novel scene (yay!). The Fairest of Them will release later this year and I will keep you all posted about when that will be!

Special Agent Hatting finds her match in Detective Lucas Thompson, a transplanted Texan in California. The pair come together in a volatile match as Rae takes over an unsolved case involving strange circumstances. A serial killer is on the loose with a penchant for dressing up his victims as characters from fairy tales. Intrigued? Rae certainly is!

I thought I would offer a preview of the first chapter. This book will be comprised of three parts, the first being from Detective Thompson’s perspective (don’t worry, it will make sense when you read it!). I hope it will be the first of a series involving the pair, if I can keep thinking up creative crimes.


Excerpt from The Fairest of Them **unedited and subject to change**:

The trail led to a clearing surrounded by redwood trees. They provided shade from the harsh afternoon July sun, their shadows dancing on the ground. In the very center of the ring, a woman lay, her hands folded over her abdomen. Blonde ringlets framed her face and her vivid blue eyes were wide open, staring blankly into the abyss. The slender form was draped in a pink dress with lace accents at the sleeves. Over it, she wore a stark white pinafore. Hikers had stumbled on the eerily staged scene in MacKerricher State Park, and called in the authorities.

Yellow crime tape was wound around the statuesque trees. It was as if they were standing guard, tall and silent. Upon closer investigation, a slim book was discovered, poking out of the pocket of the starched pinafore. It was quickly bagged and tagged as evidence before the body, carefully sealed in a black bag, was transported to the coroner’s office. I remember turning my face upwards, gazing at the majestic trees and wishing they could talk. If they could, my job would have been infinitely easier.

I had come to the small town in Mendocino County, California, early in 2003 with no intentions of taking up another job on the force. My legacy was safely tucked away in Dallas, Texas, after I solved a series of prostitute rapes and mutilations. The newspapers lauded me as a hero. The whole situation made me feel completely sick, not good for a detective. We were meant to be impartial and I found myself blaming the working girls I had so often warned about the dangers of streetwalking.

The circumstances leading me to resuming a position as a detective with the sheriff’s department were not something I wished to discuss with anyone. I would simply change the topic when brought up in conversation. I supposed that it was some sort of calling, unable to let me rest until I helped as many people as possible.

I drove back to the station, radio off, the red-taped evidence bag taunting me on the passenger seat. I knew what it contained, but I was reluctant to confirm it. I turned the bag over to the technicians at the lab and returned to my office with an off-hand reminder to let me know what they found. The book would be swabbed, submitted to latent fingerprint testing, and returned to my desk with the same report as last time: no conclusive trace evidence found. As I predicted, it’s what happened. I retrieved the book, setting it down on my desk in the plastic covering.

Snapping on a pair of latex gloves, I ran my hand over the leather cover. It was a first edition, like the rest. I carefully cracked the cover and the black print stood out on the creamy ivory paper: Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Beneath it, penned in perfect cursive were the words: She should not have taken what did not belong to her. I slammed the book shut in frustration. The taunts were becoming more and more specific as time went on.

Throwing the gloves in my trashcan, I decided to take a walk and see if Dr. Sabine Lawson had found anything on the body. The glimmer of hope had long since faded that she actually would. The curvy, African-American coroner was meticulous in her reports, so I doubted she would be even down to the woman’s breasts at this point. I had to do something to settle my nerves, though, or I would snap.

The squeak of the metal swinging doors signaled my entry into the disinfectant-scented room. I grinned at the sight of Sabine in her element. She wore her hair in narrow braids, pulled back in a no-nonsense ponytail. Her skin was the color of coffee with cream. There were many days I lusted after Sabine, but she made it clear to me from day one she was committed to her job. There was no room for “torrid affairs with wild cowboys,” as she put it.

“Whatcha got for me, Doc?” I went through the motions of putting on another pair of gloves to avoid Sabine’s scowl.

“Nothing yet and you know it. You’re restless, cher.” The drawl of her New Orleans accent came out like liquid silk.

I leaned against the counter and watched her work. “Damn straight. I can’t wrap my head around this guy. He was sticking to the classics and now this jump. Why Goldilocks?”

Sabine was used to listening to my ramblings and offering her interpretations. “Perhaps, she merely fit the profile of that character.”

“He’s not like that though. He plans this all to the letter. Every detail. Stalks these women for weeks!” I jiggled my leg anxiously. The change in the killer’s modus operandi rattled me more than it should.

“Calm yourself.” She began to speak into a microphone positioned above her work station.

“Female victim appears roughly 20 to 25 years of age based on bone development and pelvic placement. She has never given birth. There are signs of sexual trauma, but no ligature marks on her wrists or ankles. A small needle mark indicates that the victim may have been drugged. Sending a sample of blood and urine to the lab for further analysis.”

I interrupted her. “No trace of semen, I take it?”

She frowned at me. “No, like the others.” Sabine carefully made her opening incision in the abdomen of the victim and drew back the flesh. She busied herself with the remainder of her work, and I knew I was dismissed without her saying so. Pinging the gloves into a bin by the door, I walked out.


Crushed Gardenias coverIn the meantime, if you can’t wait, check out “Crushed Gardenias” to get a taster of Rae!