Friday, January 30, 2015

UNDER THE ICE: A Gus LeGarde Mystery

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RBU83YM?ref_=pe_870760_118561140

Today the print and eBook versions of Under the Ice (LeGarde Mystery #9) are available on Amazon.com.

AMAZON LINK

LeGarde Mysteries can be read in any order, as standalones or part of the series. ;o)


What do you do when your past comes back to kill you?

After escaping her abusive husband, life is finally good for Camille LeGarde and her daughter, Shelby. She has a great relationship with her new husband, Gus, who also loves Shelby like his own child. But the LeGarde family’s fragile oasis is shattered when the man of Camille’s nightmares is released from prison.

Greg Robinson never wanted to be a father. But he’s playing the biological card for all it’s worth to get close to Shelby, so he can realize his true goal—revenge against Gus LeGarde, the man who “stole” his wife and daughter.

Lured by the promise of connecting with her real dad, Shelby vanishes, sending Gus and Camille on a desperate race through the worst ice storm of the century to find her before Robinson can act on his chilling threat…

If I can’t have them, neither can you.

Chapter One

Camille threw back the comforter and peered at the alarm clock. “Isn’t she home yet?” My wife had been dozing off and on for the past few hours, and her words were slurred from sleep.

Lying beside her, wide-awake, I answered in a tight, angry voice. “No, she’s not.”

She flopped back on her pillow with a loud sigh. “Geez, Gus. It’s almost twelve-thirty.”

I’d been worrying about my teenage daughter for two hours now, imagining the worst possible scenarios. An accident. Rape. Kidnapping. Dead in a ditch.

Curfew was ten-thirty, and Shelby was way past late. This wasn’t the first time she’d been in trouble over the past few months. She’d been pushing her limits since she got her license.

The full moon shone on the floorboards and rays of light bounced off the walls. Max—our half Dachshund/half Husky mutt—snuffled in his sleep, stretched his legs, and thumped his tail against the bedspread. Boris, our longhaired mini-dachshund, snored contentedly; his hot-water-bottle-body warmed my feet.

“Should we call her?” Camille mumbled.

“I’ve left four messages already. But I can’t sleep until I know she’s safe.” I reached over to the nightstand to grab my phone. I scrolled down to Shelby’s name and tapped it. It rang. And rang. And rang.

“Hi! This is Shelby. I’m busy now, but I’ll call ya back. You know the drill.”

I grumbled into the phone. “Shelby. It’s Dad. You’re over two hours late and we’re worried. Call me.”
Scowling, I thumbed it off. “She’s killing me, Camille. I don’t think I can take much more.”

“Huh?” Camille mumbled. She’d almost fallen asleep again. She flopped an arm over my chest and said, “Didden she pick up?”

I wiggled my legs in a futile attempt to get comfortable. “No. She’s not answering.”

Camille finally sat up, yawning. “Wait. Are you sure she’s not already home? Maybe she sneaked in while you were sleeping.”

I hadn’t been sleeping, but I heaved another sigh, threw back the covers, and stomped to the window. My bare feet froze on the wooden floorboards. I peered out into the dark night through elegant, frosty designs on the cold glass. The familiar shape of Camille’s VW Beetle was conspicuously absent from the snow-covered parking area stretching between the house and the barn.

“The bug’s still gone.” I let out an exasperated sigh. “Where the hell is she?”

“Try Alicia’s cell. They went to the movies together.”

“Okay. But if she doesn’t pick up, I’m going out to look for her.”

I got back in bed, reached for my cell again, and found Shelby’s best friend’s number. We’d entered dozens of her friends’ numbers since Shelby got her license several months ago.

“Hello?” Alicia sounded groggy.

“Hi, Alicia. It’s Mr. LeGarde. I’m looking for Shelby.”

She hesitated one second too long. “Uh... she’s not here, Mr. L.”

“When did she drop you off?”

The bedsprings squeaked in the background, and I imagined the girl rubbing sleep from her eyes and sitting up in bed. There was another pause.

“Er…I’m sorry, but our plans changed at the last minute. Work needed me to stay late, so I didn’t get out ‘til after the movie started. I’m not sure where she went.”

Anger and fear vibrated in my chest. I wasn’t sure which was the stronger emotion. “Alicia,” I said with forced calm. “Do you have any idea where she might be? We’re really worried.”

“I guess she might have gone to the Meyers’ party.”

“Stan and Lucy Meyers?” I said.

“Yeah. Steve threw a big party tonight. His parents are—”

I interrupted. “Out of town?”

She was silent.

“Alicia?”

“Yeah. I think they’re in Florida or someplace like that. I’m sorry, Mr. L. But I’m sure she’s fine. She probably just lost track of time.”

I thanked her and hung up. I’d already pulled on my jeans and a shirt when tires crunched against snow in the driveway.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RBU83YM?ref_=pe_870760_118561140

Chapter Two

I stomped downstairs and waited in the doorway between the kitchen and the great room, arms crossed and brow furrowed.

Shelby breezed into the kitchen, pulled open the refrigerator, and grabbed a carton of orange juice. “Hi, Dad.”

“‘Hi, Dad?” I mimicked, frowning. “Are you kidding me?” I stormed into the kitchen after her. “Where were you? You’re two hours late.”

She avoided my eyes and poured a glass of juice. “Uh. At the movies. Remember? With Alicia.”

“Seriously? You’re going to lie about this?”

She turned an innocent face to me. “What? Why—”

I took a step toward her. “I just talked to Alicia.”

Her expression tightened. “What’d she say?”

“She spilled the beans, Shelby. You’re in big trouble.”

“Why?” she said, too casually.

“A party, Shelby? For crying out loud. When the parents aren’t home?”

“Nothing happened.” Shelby casually leaned against the refrigerator. She took another slug of juice and rolled her eyes. “Curfews are dumb. It’s Friday night. I don’t have school tomorrow.”

I wanted to give her my standard lecture about privileges and rules and loss of freedom if the rules were broken. But this was the second time in a month she’d flagrantly ignored her curfew, and worse, she seemed unconcerned about the consequences.

“The rules don’t change for the weekend, you know that. Your mother and I were worried sick.”

“I don’t know why.” She flounced to the cupboard and reached for a pack of Oreos.

“You’re grounded.”

Her eyes flashed in anger, and her lips compressed. She tore open the package of cookies and ate one.

“This time it’s not just for one day, it’s for a whole week. No car, no phone, no computer, no television, no anything,” I said, just getting warmed up.

“You can’t do that!”

“I’m not done,” I said. “The grounding is for breaking curfew. I haven’t punished you for lying to me yet. That translates to a weekend of chores.”

“What?” She spat the word at me.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to get through to you. You’re using your mother’s car every night. Your attitude is disrespectful. You’re hanging out with kids we don’t even know, who are probably drinking alcohol. God knows what went on at that party tonight. You promised to stick to a schedule, to be home by ten-thirty every night.”

She rolled her eyes again and took two steps toward me. “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my real father.”

She’d stuck me with a proverbial knife and twisted it in my heart. I felt it, as authentic as steel, and staggered from the blow.

Camille padded down the stairs. “Shelby! What’s wrong with you? Gus is the only father you have now. He adopted you, for God’s sake. He’s my husband, and I won’t have you talk to him like that.”

“But, Mom! He said I can’t—”

“Whatever Gus said, goes.” She paused for a moment and her voice hardened. “Unless you’d rather go live with your ‘real’ father, in prison?”

Another low blow.

Shelby fumed. I walked past her to pick up the glass and put it in the sink. The scent of smoke wafted from her hair. It wasn’t cigarettes. Suddenly, I was transported back to Woodstock. The sickeningly sweet stench of marijuana rose from my sixteen-year-old daughter.

“You smoked pot?” I yelled.

Camille leaned over and sniffed Shelby’s hair. Her eyes widened. “My God, is this how you answer our trust? Is this how it’s going to be?”

Shelby looked wounded. “I can’t believe you’d think I would— Arggghhh! You never trust me. Neither one of you.” She screamed and ran up the stairs.

Seconds later, a baby began to wail. The sounds of my twin granddaughters’ cries were distinctively different, and I recognized Celeste immediately. I bounded toward the stairs.

Camille turned off the kitchen light, followed me upstairs, and continued down the hall to our room. Shelby’s door slammed at the far end of the house. I snorted in frustration and then peeked into Freddie’s bedroom. My daughter lay sound asleep on her queen-sized bed. Her wispy gold hair covered her face. The poor thing had worked extra long hours this week at her veterinary clinic and was exhausted. I pulled her door closed and hurried to the twins’ bedroom.

Celeste sat up in her crib, her copper-colored hair curled in tight ringlets and her peaches and cream cheeks damp with tears. “Opa. Binky.” She pointed to the blue pacifier she’d thrown on the floor.

It landed nub up, so I grabbed it and handed it back to her.

She tossed it aside and lifted both arms to me. “Uppy.”

I picked her up. She snuggled into my neck, collapsing against me. I grabbed the pacifier, one more time. This time, she accepted it. I settled in the rocking chair with her, rubbing her back. The wooden slats creaked as we rocked on the hardwood floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. I hummed “Rock-a-bye Baby,” feeling her warm breath on my neck.

Marion, Celeste’s dark-haired twin, slept quietly in her crib, sucking on her pacifier as it moved in and out of her rosebud mouth. Her cherubic face was lit by the glow of the tiny night-light.

Ten minutes later, Celeste’s breathing slowed and she relaxed in my arms. I kissed her soft cheeks and lowered her into the crib. She squirmed, lifted her head for a moment, and flopped back on the mattress. I held my breath and said a little prayer, then crept backwards out of the room. 

If only they didn’t have to grow up.

I wearily shuffled down the hall and leaned into my grandson Johnny’s room. I watched his chest rise and fall several times. He lay on his back, with both arms and legs spread-eagled. A soft snore escaped him. The purple balloons from his birthday party last Thursday bobbed on the bedpost. They’d lost air and were wrinkled. I couldn’t believe he was already five. 

When I finally crawled into bed beside Camille, I collapsed onto my pillow. After a few minutes of tossing and turning, I finally drifted off to sleep, fretting about the teenage condition and worrying about what lay in store for us tomorrow.


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RBU83YM?ref_=pe_870760_118561140
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reworking Older Titles (The Lord Keeps Me Humble!)


Hello, friends and fans of MB4!

I hope you've had a successful start to 2015. Did you make any writing resolutions? I'm ashamed to say, I didn't. I'm just plugging away at the jobs I've had on my plate for a while. Now that I've come up for air, I'm shocked that the end of January is in sight. How did that happen?

I’ve just finished putting the finishing touches on Under the Ice, my last Gus LeGarde Mystery. This makes ten in the series, and although I “never say never,” and may well write some more with these characters in the future, I’m breathing a sigh of relief, because some of these books have been waiting to see the light of day since 2006.

Because my head is so full of characters and stories begging to be released, for some reason I write too fast for a traditional publisher to keep pace with me. Especially since they aren’t uniquely devoted to just me. Heck, it wouldn’t be fair for all the other writers in the company to sit around and wait while my publisher focused on me, would it? So, I had a selection of older LeGarde books I’d written years ago, just languishing in the publishing queue.

When I decided to go ahead and put them out myself, I worked hard at it for a year and a half. In addition to a few new titles I managed to write (Devil’s Lake and The Seacrest) and two new books in my Tall Pines series (Sanctuary and Betrayal), I managed to polish up and release Lady Blues, Spirit Me Away, The Liar’s Gallery, and now, coming in a week or so, Under the Ice.

This last book, Under the Ice, was the toughest to edit and make presentable to the world. I’d written it in 2006, and just because of crazy timing issues, I hadn’t touched it since.

I thought it stunk.

Really. When I read it over during the course of three months, chapter by excruciating chapter, I was bored to tears. Maybe it’s because I’ve been writing thrillers and love stories since then. Maybe it’s because I was fitting this “do” job in between writing new, fresh stuff. But I was convinced it might be the worst of my series, and it honestly did need some very tedious editing.

Another issue that happened during this rewrite is that my Microsoft Word program stopped highlighting the misspellings and grammar mistakes. I tried one day to fix it, but couldn’t easily pinpoint the problem. That made for a lot of potential mistakes. Since then I’ve researched it and got it all back in working order. For the record, it was hardly an intuitive fix.

When I sent the book out to my first line of defense, two editors who work for me from the beginning to help me save face when I release the book to its next phase, the Beta Reader Phase, they found quite a few errors. I fixed them, and tried not to make even more mistakes in the “fixing,” (which does happen, as I’m sure you have all seen), and then shipped off the manuscript to about seventeen wonderful volunteers who have various amazing skills they are willing to share with me for the simple reward of “reading the story before it’s released” and also getting their personally inscribed print copy as a thank you. I love these folks, as you might imagine.

I’ve never had so many typos, extra words, missing words, case issues, and inconsistencies as they found in this book. Wow. I’m telling you, the Lord really kept me humble with this one. I think we must’ve had over 200 corrections, and I thank God for my Beta team, because mostly every single reader found a different selection of mistakes than the others! Some readers are best at catching action inconsistencies. Some are wizards with commas. Others have the knack of spotting that extra “to” or missing “a” in my prose. If it weren’t for all of them, however, I’d be flame-faced embarrassed when the book was released.

Because my own brain “reads” what it THOUGHT I “wrote,” I can’t find these errors. My brain thinks it’s so smart, integrating and upgrading the words before I interpret them. But dang it, I hate it. I wish I could spot my own mistakes.

Well, after all is said and done, my readers came back to me with comments like, “This is your best work yet,” “It flowed so well,” “I think it’s my favorite,” etc.

It just goes to show you. A story I hated editing “piecemeal” was actually well received when read as a whole entity.

Once this upcoming release of Under the Ice is done on January 30th, 2015, I am finally going to be free to write fresh, new books in any order I feel like. What a luxury! To tell the truth, I’ve already plotted and started writing a sequel to The Seacrest: a love story, and am halfway done with a sequel to Devil’s Lake, called Devil’s Creek.

After that, who knows? I just know I’ll be having a blast with whatever stories beg to be released next.

Following is a complete list for anyone who’d like to take a look at my stable of books, most of which are in eBook, print, and audio versions. 

Happy writing!

Aaron

DOUBLE FORTÉ (print, eBook, audio book)
UPSTAGED (print, eBook, audio book)  
TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON (print, eBook, audio book)
MAZURKA (print, eBook, audio book)
FIRESONG (print, eBook, audio book)
DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (print, eBook, audio book)
THE LIARS’ GALLERY (print, eBook, audio book)
SPIRIT ME AWAY (print, eBook, audio book)
UNDER THE ICE: COUNTERPOINT (coming soon 2015)

HEALEY'S CAVE (print, eBook, audio book)
TERROR COMES KNOCKING (print, eBook, audio book)
FOR KEEPS (print, eBook, audio book)

FOR THE BIRDS (print, eBook, audio book)
ESSENTIALLY YOURS (print, eBook, audio book)
SANCTUARY (print, eBook, audio book)

STANDALONES
THE SEACREST (print, eBook, and audio book)
DEVIL’S LAKE (print, eBook, and audio book)
DEVIL’S CREEK (coming soon)

WRITING ADVICE: 

WRITE LIKE THE WIND, volumes 1, 2, 3  (audio books)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, thrillers, love stories, and writing guides, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming releases, UNDER THE ICE (2015) and DEVIL’S CREEK (2015). Aaron has won over 18 book awards for his novels and finds writing to be his form of "cheap therapy." Feel free to connect with him on Facebook or his website; he loves to connect with readers!



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Straying from the normal

I have written in almost every genre. Fantasy, mystery, romance, and a little bit of in-between--leaning toward horror. But there is one thing I always said I would never write.

Sci fi.

I know, right?

I just didn't care for it. I loved sci fi movies, but books just left me dry. I didn't have enough of a science background to know when it rang true or was baloney-sauce. So I mostly left sci fi to those who are aficionados. Give me good old
Southern fiction any day. Throw in a murder or a ghost, well, I'm yours forever.

Then I got a wild hair and wrote what passed for sci fi in a short piece. I submitted it. They liked it and wanted to put it in an anthology. Well, punch me and call me Judy. They LIKED it! William Faulkner is rolling over in his grave about now.

Just hold up there, old Bill. I am hot on the trail of something new. Sci fi. And not just sci fi, the old dry pie. I mean space opera stuff. I know you fellers are all about mystery and suspense and thriller, but that all can be inserted in this type of sci fi. In fact, it is a prerequisite. You have to have drama and high stakes. Somebody might get "insert space gear name here" to death. They might have a spaceship collision. What if a planet exploded?

Yeah, man. I am on the hoof now, outlining and plotting a blockbuster. I am so excited, I can hardly wait to share it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Not-So Friendly Skies

 By
Dora Machado

Has this ever happened to you?
 
I was flying from Colorado to Tampa when the guy sitting in front of me, 11 C to be exact, decided to settle for a nap. Crunch. With a violent shove, the back of his seat smashed down on me, my knees, and my brand new laptop. I could've used the Jaws of Life to extricate my laptop from the jam, or perhaps the assistance of the flight attendant, who ignored my predicament with an indifferent shrug. For the rest of the flight, I stared at the man's balding pate, practically laying in my lap. Score one of the gods of mischief. 11 C unhinged both my laptop and my muse.

I have a love-hate relationship with planes and airports. I love traveling, but I hate the process of getting there. The long security lines that range from the strange to the absurd rankle me. Do they really make us safe or is it all perception-based make believe? The uptight travelers and the grumpy flight attendants drive me crazy. Are we paying customers or human cargo? I hate to admit it, but every once in a while when I'm traveling, I have to suppress an impulse to shout at the top of my lungs something along the lines of "travelers of the world, unite!"

It wasn't always like this. I have distant memories of the friendly skies and every once in a while I score a pleasant flight on a carrier that doesn't charge extra for your suitcase--or your next breath—and still considers smiling an important requirement in their job descriptions. But still, I fly an awful lot and I long for the kinder times where we weren't all looking at one another as potential terrorists across the aisle and my knees were not bruised after every flight.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the economics about selling more seats per airplane. I've also heard about the arguments that Americans are getting bigger vis-à-vis airplane seats. Okay, fine. Let's stick to our diets, America. But sometimes, when I board a plane and look around me, I suspect that somewhere, someone is playing a joke on all of us. Only miniature elves could fit in some of those narrow, jam-packed seats, and even then, their tiny knees might end up as bruised as mine.

 
As a writer, I do an awful lot of work while in the air. Those hours are vital to my schedule. And while I'm willing to sacrifice my knees for the thrill of the journey, my laptop is sacred. It's hard enough to work in the cramped quarters as it is, but when 11 C slams down his seat without warning and smacks down my laptop like a swatter on a fly, this usually chill traveler sees red.

Which is why I've come up with my own rules for flying. Unless the flight is very long, I don't recline my seat. Period. It maintains an illusion of space and it really helps the person behind me if she or he is using a laptop. If I must recline my seat during those longer flights, I look back to make sure I'm not going to smash the other person's laptop, device, or carryon dinner. If the person is awake, I inform them I'm about to recline the seat a couple of inches and do so slowly.

Did you get all of that, 11 C? It's called common courtesy and, I promise, it won't hurt you.

BTW--and since we're talking about writers on planes--maybe we should address one other little tiny issue while we're at it. If someone is using a laptop or a device near me, I typically avert my eyes from the content. Nothing is more unnerving to a working author than a nosy neighbor peering into one's half-formed prose.

Yeah, I'm talking to you 12 D.
 
LOL.
Tampa Airport at Night
 
 
 
 
Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She is one only a few Hispanic women writing fantasy in the United States today. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.
When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blog Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.
 To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit her at www.doramachado.com , email her at Dora@doramachado.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.
 
 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Coming Home, original flash fiction

Well, I know I know. I have been missing on the blog AGAIN. But I promise it is for a good reason. I am writing, you see. It is imperative that a writer writes, or they lose the right to call themselves a writer. Okay, that was a lot of right/write stuff, but you get my meaning. So, because I made you wait so long for a post from me, I am going to treat you with a flash fiction I wrote as an exercise. It is not complete, but writers sometimes keep adding bits and pieces to their work to make it better. I suspect this one will be that way. Maybe you'd like to help me finish it? What do you see happening next?


by Kim Smith, copyright 2015


Coming Home
by Kim Smith

Coming home is like breathing in a dust storm. You can do it, but you might die, and if you don’t do it, you will certainly die.

My return pulled at me like so many hands plucking my sleeve. Memories engulfed me. Surviving this visit would be hard, but that didn’t stop me from climbing off the train in Memphis. The familiar scenery hit me like a blues song. Coming home, being alone, feeling gone, all done.

The acrid scent of hot pavement, and roses wafted up. Crepe myrtles in fiery array all down Riverside Drive greeted me, and I looked up to see people on the bluffs enjoying the sights and sun. I joined them for a little while, sitting and waiting for that glimmer of hope that happened at the end of every day when you live near water. The hope called sunset, hope of a better tomorrow.

Sunsets over the Mississippi River is all gold and red and orange, and when the shadows fall and darkness swamps the whole area, a sojourner could feel lost. Loss of bearings, loss of self-lost forever in what might have been, not what had been, for what had been had done its worst and moved on. I moved on too, down the cobblestones slanting down to the river and my past.

Beale Street was the same as ever. Music spilled out of each doorway like a private concert being played just for me as I passed. The sounds of broken conversations, the tinkle of beer mugs being passed about, all created a symphony of sound that made me want to go inside.

But I didn’t. I kept moving. My heartbreak like a guitar strung around my neck, hanging useless waiting to be picked up and turned into life again.

When I arrived at Meemaw’s house, I knew coming home was just the period at the end of a sentence with no meaning. I had to come here. The old place brought tears to my eyes and washed away some of the misery inside my heart. The ramshackle building hosted a long well-used porch, complete with porch swing, now aloof and lonely. Maybe being here would fill the emptiness that traveling had not. Maybe my loss would find company here.

Out back, I could hear Pappy scraping food from a plate into the dog’s pan. The old flea-ridden Beagle shook her whole body as she waited happily, anticipating the morsels he’d put there. He straightened and saw me.

I greeted him and was embraced with a toothless smile. A welcome home. A “so sorry it has to be this way”. He didn’t have to tell me. He felt the loss as much as I did. No matter how far away I’d roam, I’d never forget the tears filling his eyes as he spoke of her.

We went into the living room where the worn out flowered sofa sat looking forlorn as if it wanted Meemaw to come and lie on it again. I knew I did. Pappy did. The place was never going to be the same without her.

Coming home was as bittersweet as missing the last piece of Meemaw’s best chocolate pie. But being home was as twice as welcome. I was home. Home was where life began.

______
Kim Smith has more freebies for you on her website, http://www.kimsmithauthor.com