Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday's Chapter from Pieces of the Past by Jamie Hill

Witness Security – The Series

Pieces of the Past – Book One


The past is closing in on Christine Scott. Uprooted from her pleasant life in Chicago, she and her two children are thrust into the Witness Security Program when the mistakes of her husband catch up with him. He lands in prison, while she and the kids are transplanted to a quiet Kansas town. Christine does her best to keep life normal for her active ten-year-old son and persistently moody seventeen-year old daughter. But when they start receiving gifts from an anonymous sender, reminders of their old life, it becomes obvious that someone has found them.

Doug Jackson's been in service with the US Marshal’s office for fifteen years. He hasn’t lost a witness yet, and doesn’t intend to start with Christine or her family.  If he can get them to cooperate, his job might be easier. Unfortunately, no one seems concerned about making Doug's life easy. Not the man in the white sedan who eludes him, nor the pretty Christine, thoughts of whom he can't seem to shake. Their lives depend on Doug keeping his head in the game, and he's determined to do just that.



Life is hard, then you die. He’d read that on a T-shirt once. It seemed like a fitting expression. Maybe I should get me one of those shirts. Then at least people would know what to expect when they saw him coming. If they saw him coming.
He chuckled and adjusted the air vent on the left side of the car’s dashboard so it aimed directly at his face. He’d started to sweat profusely, and wanted to nip it in the bud. He used a wadded-up fast food napkin to pat down his balding head.
The neighborhood seemed quieter than usual. From what he could tell, the oppressive heat had sent children in search of pools and adults inside, seeking relief. Even through his closed car windows, he heard the drone of air conditioning units as he drove slowly down the street.
He stopped a half a block away and studied the yellow house, its sidewalk framed by a red brick planter full of petunias. No bicycle in the driveway, no loose basketball lying at the base of the hoop, which sat atop a pole next to the house. For a moment, he wondered if the family was away. They can’t be. I saw those things here yesterday.
When the front door opened and the woman came out, he breathed a sigh of relief. I’m paranoid. Not uncommon for someone in his line of work. He adjusted the right vent so the cold air blew in his face, too.
The woman glanced in each direction before she inserted a letter into the shiny black mailbox and raised the small red flag on the side. She gazed toward his car and seemed to stare right at him.
He crouched down low in his seat. She can’t see me from there. A new bead of sweat formed on his temple, and trailed down his face. I hope.
Without missing a step, the woman walked back into her house and closed the front door.
He swabbed his forehead, straightened his shoulders and settled back against the rented sedan’s leather seat. The coast is clear. A bit too close for comfort, but no harm done. Plus, he got a good look at her, so there was no doubt he was at the right place.
He lifted several photos, and sheets of information accompanying them, from the passenger seat. Thumbing through the pages, he paused when he reached the picture of the woman and examined her closer. Straight dark hair framed her face, falling past her shoulders. Young. She looked much less than her purported thirty-five years. She’s a pretty dame. Clear brown eyes and a happy, innocent smile.
Bet she’s not so happy anymore. Reality had a way of taking that from people. I should know.
He flicked the photo back and forth against the steering wheel. If the woman was somehow happy again, after everything she’d been through, he’d be amazed. And sorry that someone was intent on blowing it. But that’s the way the cookie crumbled.
This is no big deal. Just another job. He tossed the photo back into the passenger seat and stared at the house once more. Same game, different players. There had to be different players, if he did his job right. If I ever mess up, I’ll be the one lying on the slab. He hadn’t screwed up yet, and wasn’t too concerned about it. He was very good at what he did.
He yawned, fiddled with the vents again, and settled back into his seat.

Chapter One

Topeka, Kansas

Christine Scott closed the front door and locked it out of habit. Their first August in Kansas was hotter than blazes outside. She didn’t expect either of her kids would be going out. Ethan was in the family room playing a video game. Peyton was in her room, where she spent most of her time.
Christine sighed. It had been a frozen day last January when she and the kids moved to the quiet city of Topeka. The state capital was large for Kansas but nothing like Chicago, where she and both children had been born and raised. The move had been quite a jolt, on top of changing identities and literally, their lives. The marshals in the Witness Security Program had encouraged them to keep their same first names and initials, hence the Stewart family became Scott. Seventeen-year-old Peyton, furious about the relocation, the divorce, everything, had taken it hard.
Jordan Burke, the US Marshal assigned to their case, did everything she could to make things easier. Christine liked the woman, even though a part of her was envious of the dark-haired beauty with her long, thick black hair and a figure people couldn’t help notice. She could tell Peyton was enthralled with Jordan, partly because of the woman’s looks, but also because the marshal treated Peyton like an adult. That scored major points. Christine watched them interact, saw her daughter was starting to idolize their protector, but didn’t really mind. Jordan was gorgeous and just plain nice. She understood that the kids weren’t thrilled by uprooting their lives and relocating from Illinois to Kansas.
Christine hadn’t been thrilled either, but she was an adult and could see the big picture more clearly. Her accountant husband of eighteen years had lied to her and put their family in jeopardy. He’d thought the cash he received laundering money for the Russo crime family would make up for the hardships they’d had to endure. He’d been wrong on so many levels.
No amount of cash could ever make up for the death threats Christine and the kids had received. They’d had no choice but to enter the protection program. Neither child seemed to believe it when she explained she was divorcing Daddy and they were entering the Witsec program. After they moved, they’d never see Daddy or Grandma and Grandpa again. Ten-year-old Ethan was devastated. Peyton had chosen anger, and remained angry for a very long time. Christine wasn’t sure the girl was over it yet.
The phone rang, startling her out of her thoughts. She grabbed her cell and recognized the number as one of Ethan’s classmate’s. “Hello?”
“Hi, Christine, this is Donna Ulinky. How are you today?”
She pictured the pretty, auburn-haired woman, with the freckle-faced red-headed son. Unlucky son. Roger had broken his arm in the early weeks of baseball season and had spent the whole summer in a plaster cast. “Hi Donna. Fine, thanks. How’s Roger? Did he get his cast off?”
“This morning. He’s so excited to finally be able to swim. He’d like to take some friends to the pool this afternoon. Is Ethan free? We could swing by and pick him up, and drop him off in a couple hours.”
“I don’t know.” Christine glanced toward the family room nervously. She usually preferred to take him places herself. “Maybe we could meet you there.”
“Nonsense. If he wants to go, we’ll pick him up. There’s no reason you should have to deal with the heat.”
Christine gripped the phone until her fingertips turned white. “I, uh—”
“Both my husband and I will be there. I promise you, we’ll keep an eye on the boys.”
She hated being thought of as an overprotective mother. She’d always prided herself on being cool and laid back. Another facet of her life her husband had stripped away and she had no choice but to live with it. She had a real reason to be protective of her children, but the people in their new lives could never know about it. “I’ll see if Ethan wants to go. Hang on, okay?”
Christine muffled the phone as she stood in the doorway of the family room. “Honey, Roger Ulinky got his cast off today. His parents are taking him swimming. Would you like to go?”
Her son’s bright brown eyes sparkled. “Really? Sure!” He proceeded to punch some buttons on the controller in his hand to close out the game.
Christine inhaled and lifted the phone. “Donna, Ethan would love to go. What time will you pick him up?”

And coming to print soon!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday's How She Does It with Jamie Hill #MFRWauthor

1. You write both romantic suspense and women's fiction. Do you have trouble shifting your head when doing this?

Romantic suspense is my favorite but it takes much more thought and effort. I like to have a twist in my stories so the reader is left wondering up until the reveal, and that takes work. With limited writing time I find myself starting and stopping a lot, then I have to go back and remember who all my main characters are and who is going to be the bad guy in the end! Straight romance comes easier but I must admit I love the added suspense.
2. You're mainly contemporary. Have you ever considered another genre and what would it be?

I don't enjoy historical books although there have been a few exceptions over the years. Jane Toombs' Golden Chances was a series that started in the past and followed a family up into the modern century. I loved that because I favor series works where I can see how a couple or family has progressed once their story ends.

I've always wanted to write horror but except for a couple of short stories, that never went far. I've done a couple science fiction shorts as well, and I like the freedom of creating my own world and rules. Then I found out from fellow BWL author Lee Killough how critical sci-fi readers can be and that if a person is going to write about vampires, they must learn the accepted vampire rules. That ruined it for me. So basically I've decided contemporary is my genre!
3. How do you handle reviews both positive and negative?

Negative reviews hurt, there's no denying they don't. I try not to dwell on them but I usually don't forget them, either. I understand reviews and tastes are subjective, so I always just hope there are more people who enjoy my work than those who don't. If I get a good review I do love to blog about it and crow a little bit on Facebook!
4. Do you have a library of research books and if so, are there favorites?

No research books, but the internet is invaluable. I Google different subjects for every manuscript, keeping in mind everything I read might not be true. But for the most part I think I can tell what is. If there's something I don't feel good about I'll leave it out before putting it in a book.
5. How do you come up with your villains? Do you find them as interesting as the heros and heroines?

As I mentioned above I like twists in my stories so the person who ends up as the villain was probably just another character up until the reveal at the end. Having said that, I think everybody has some good and evil in them, and it's the characteristic they choose to nurture that becomes prominent. I try to write real people, cops who are tired at the end of the day, who might drink a little too much or smoke cigarettes or swear. It's funny, I've gotten more criticism about characters who smoke than those who swear. I like to add some sex to my stories, too, and it's either too much or not enough, depending who you ask!
6. Are your settings places you're familiar with or do you make them up?

Lots of my stories are set in the Midwest because I know the area. But I enjoy visiting a place (like Seattle or L.A.) and then setting a story there, throwing in just enough about the town that it seems like I really do know something. A few years ago I read a travel article in a woman's magazine about the Cayman Islands and it gave me just enough facts (and lovely photos for my mind's eye) that I set a story there, and it worked nicely. Most of my stories are set closer to home, in my comfort zone, where we call soda 'pop' and the Arkansas River is pronounced 'Ar-Kansas'!

Thanks for having me today Janet. Readers can find all my titles on my website at or at Books We Love:


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday's Hero - Kristan from Amber Chronicles by Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor

The youngest prince of Rivand stared at the sky.  The moon had risen and was new.  He lifted the bottle of wine and drank deeply.  If only he could find something to be other than the wastrel prince, a man without a place in the kingdom.  He drank again and finished the bottle.  When he gestured for another, he saw the palace page appear.  Kristen tried to make himself invisible.  There could be no other man or woman in this tavern being sought by the king.
He watched the page search the faces of the men gathered around the tables.  Perhaps he wouldn’t be seen here on the balcony.  His hopes were dashed when the page hurried through the crowded room and appeared at Kristan’s side,  “Your sire requests your presence.”
Kristin rose and followed the boy to the tavern door.  At least he hadn’t imbibed enough to make his stagger.  He mounted his horse and rode through town to the imposing stone building that had been his home for all his life.
As he entered the throne room, she saw his father waited.  His oldest brother usually sat at the king’s side.  Where was the crown prince?  Did this mean his heir was about to be born?  Kristen shivered.  One day, a crown prince might be called to face the Witch of the Woods. He recalled the cryptic words he’d read in his grandfather memoirs and remembered his vow to free the woman caught in the amber gem.
“Kristen,”  his father’s voice was low and rumbled with anger.  “Your conduct is unbecoming to a prince.  I’m tired of hearing of your constant pursuit of wine, women and dice.”
Kristan straightened.  “What else is there for me?  My oldest brother follows you.  The second will be his advisor.  The third will head the army.  The fourth, the navy.  The fifth the treasury and the sixth the agriculture of Rivand.  There is nothing left for me.”          
“Not so.  There is marriage.  One has been arranged with the daughter of Wevald.  Put your affairs in order.  You leave at the end of the week.”
“I don’t want to marry someone I’ve never seen.”  Kristan turned and fled the room.
“You will do as ordered,”  The king shouted.
Kristan raced along the empty corridors until he reached his chambers.  He sat on the edge of the bed and wished the numbness of the liquor he’d drunk would return.  He had to make plans.  This marriage his father had arranged wasn’t for him.  From deep inside came the certainty that for him there was another destiny though what he didn’t know.
He rose.  He had to leave the palace tonight.  Where he would go, he wasn’t sure.  He found a haversack and quickly packed a few changes of clothes.  From the chest at the foot of his bed he took the sleeping blanket he had used on hunting trips.  His hand brushed a tear-shaped globe.  He lifted the amber crystal and held it to the candlelight.
“Emme,”  he whispered.  His thoughts flashed to the night his grandfather had died and how the valet had brought the amber orb to him.  For years, he had kept the globe beside his bed and stared at the woman trapped inside.  Without knowing why, he tucked the sphere in his haversack.  He stuffed coins in his boots where many men kept knives.  He hurried to the stable and saddled his horse.  He rode quickly through the town and exited the gates and rode toward the forest.
The crescent of the new moon rose but the light cast was dimmed by the trees.  Though the leaves were those of spring and small, the trees were crowded.  Kristan heard a rustling.  The wind or an animal, he thought.  The small light cast by the crescent moon cast shadows.
“Hoy.”  The shout startled him.  Someone leaped from one of the trees and knocked him from the horse.  The animal squealed.
Kristan was unable to free his sword.  His attackers slashed with knives.  He was able to land a few blows before something hit his head so hard he was dazed.  He collapsed and held his breath.
The thieves grabbed his pack and began to rummage in the contents.  He was glad he had thought to hide his coins.
“What’s this?”
“Amber and a large chunk.”  Suddenly one of the men screamed.  “No.”
The amber globe fell to the ground.  The men ran.  Moonlight illuminated the globe and the shimmer around the sphere appeared to grow.  Kristen tried to get to his knees.  His head felt as thought he’d been spinning for he couldn’t believe what he thought he saw.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Writing The Fiction Series by Karen S. Wiesner

For the next few weeks I'll be talking about writing series. The book was written by a friend and we've had lively discussions about writing series versus trilogies. I happen to like series and following the growth and development of characters over the years of their lives. I've been reading one science fiction series for years and am up to book 15 and hoping for more.

Series fascinate people and often are planned but sometimes happen because a writer finishes the story and the character, or another character in the book demands their own story. Sometimes it's the world that holds a fascination for the writer and the reader.

The benefits for the writer are interesting when they turn to writing a series. If the series becomes popular, there is an audience waiting for the next book in the series. There is also for the writer a knowing of the character and showing the character changing or developing, or not. Some series characters remain the same during the books of the series. This is often seen in mystery series where the hero or heroine remains the same. A new case is what turns the writer to write another story featuring this character.

Some series show a character beginning as a young adult and moving them through the phases of life. So the kinds of series are as varied as the writers who pen them and the reader who picks a certain series to read. The series follows that age old question "What happens next?"

So if you plan to write a series, stay tuned and see what comes next.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday's Inspiration - A Story Is... #MFRWauthor

"A story is words strung onto paper." Dwight V. Swain   Or in this cast, the computer. Being a writer means loving words and the way they fit together to form a picture. Sometimes when searching for words a writer hast to look them up. Some writers turn to Roget's wonderful listings and others turn to etymology to find the just right word to make the story come alive.

There's a problem with loving words and looking up new ones and that's when a writer choose a new and strange word that puzzles a reader. If the meaning of the word can't be shown by the content around this word, the reader will be pulled from the story to a dictionary to find the meaning. They may never return to the story.

Another problem when finding the right word is finding a lot of words to create the picture one is striving for. Words, especially adjectives can run in strings that so overwhelm the reader in pictures the reader feels lost in a sea of words. Finding the just right word that cascades the reader to think I recognize that place, person or thing.

So choosing the right words to string onto the paper can be great fun. Making sure those words create the picture the reader will understand can be hard work. But writers love words and fitting them together.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters

Meander 1 - Writing The End always gives most writers a great feeling. Being a draft writer I can write this more than once during the creation of a story. For me The End doesn't mean the story is over but the story is ready for rewriting or revisions. Always gives me a kick and goads me to take the story to the next level. What does it do for you as a writer. When I write The End on a story for the final time it means I should get ready for the next story and hope the story will bring great things for me as a writer and a reader. I'm always happy to know when one of my favorite writers has written the end.

Meander 2 I don't like to read reviews of my stories. If they're good, I feel happy for an instant. If they're bad I feel sad for a moment. Reviews are how someone reacts to a story and there are people out there who love to write bad reviews for other authors. Sometimes I write reviews but if I can't give a story a good review, I don't write one. The story has been published so why write something nasty. If you didn't like the story, why bother.

Meander 3 - Toth's Priest is coming to the end of the second rough draft. I had to take the story and do a turn since when I reached the end of the really rough draft there were plot holes big enough to put an ocean liner through. So the second rough draft managed to fill in the holes and to show me where I'd gone wrong. There is a lot of fighting and some nice love scenes sprinkled throughout the story. Since this is the final story of a trilogy, there's a lot of tying loose ends in this story. I'm still enjoying the trip to an alternate ancient Egypt.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday - On SeriesAffinities by Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor

 I'll soon be talking about designing series using a friend Karen Wiesner's book Writing the Fiction Series. So I thought on Sundays for a time, I would talk about some of my series. I never realized I'd done so many of them. The first series I'll talk about is Affinities. There are four books in the series and they're all available via download or in paper books.

When I started the series, it was to be one book. I have this strange way of planning a book. What I do is a throwback to the days when I was read to children's stories and when I read stories to my own children. There is little dialogue involved and occasionally setting is put into play. What happens is I have the characters and I let them tell me what happens next. Affinities was to be a story for my grandchildren. At that point I had four. One was born in an Air sign, one in a Water sign, One in an Earth sigh and one in a Fire sign. The characters developed had some of their traits and talents but also those of the four cardinal signs in Astrology.

When I finished this story written in pieces while I worked on other stories. I had nearly 70 pages of story. Now this was much too much for a single book so I divided the material into four and set out to begin the books. I had finished the first I called it a chapter but it was more like a segment and sent it to my good friend and motivator Jane Toombs. She loved the bit I showed her. So once begun I had to finish the series. But I'm also someone who can't sit down and write the same kind of story over and over again so there were periods of time between the books of the series. The last book didn't emerge until I found a new publisher for the first three. For some reason with the first publisher they didn't sell. They are doing much better now. This is an EPIC fantasy story.

On future Sundays I will be showing bits about the characters, the many focus characters, the villains and some of the strange things that popped into the story as the books progressed.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday's Excerpt from Jeep Tour by Gail Olmsted

That’s Me in the Corner
“Your sunglasses? Ma’am, your sunglasses.”
            “Ma’am, you need to remove your sunglasses,” the TSA agent spoke with an intensity that I found just a bit intimidating. Airport personnel are just so darn cheery, said no one ever!
            “Oh, sorry,” I pushed my sunglasses up over my forehead.
            “Jax, what’s with you?” Linda hissed at me. “It’s like you’re out of it.” I had no response to that. I was out of it.
            Making sure that the face I presented matched the one on my driver’s license, the agent looked carefully at me. What did he see, I wondered? A quickly approaching-forty-year-old academic, disheveled from rushing to get to the airport for our early morning flight. The drive from Sedona last night had taken us longer than we had planned, and after a dinner of appetizers and margaritas at the hotel bar, I had collapsed into a restless sleep. I had felt fuzzy and disoriented ever since my five a.m. wakeup call, despite gulping down a large coffee en route to the airport. An early morning flight had seemed like a good idea when we had made our plans last month. I could only hope to get in some sleep on the flight home in order to be standing upright the next day, which I knew to be full of classes and a department meeting to boot. Call me a lightweight, but I do better with eight hours of sleep in my own bed and a diet of three squares a day and a lot less booze.
            Did the uniformed agent see the network of crow’s feet just starting to make their appearance? The under-eye circles that no amount of night cream would fade? On the plus side, I had thick reddish brown hair that had not yet begun to go gray, green eyes, a sprinkling of freckles on my nose, a high forehead and a wide mouth. Cover girl? Not hardly. But, not bad. Good enough. The same face or close to it that I had been staring at in the mirror for my whole life. I used to give myself little pep talks as I prepared to leave home each morning. I would smile broadly at the young girl/young woman/not-so-young woman in the mirror, nod encouragingly, and say something like “looking good” or “go get ‘em tiger” or “you go, girl” or occasionally, “what the fuck are you looking at?”
            Done with me and seemingly satisfied that I was who I claimed to be, the agent handed my license back to me and called the next victim, er, passenger. I walked through the scanner without incident and then stopped at the nearest bench to put on my shoes (slip on, natch), grab my cardigan sweater (it gets chilly in airports), and organize my handbag and carryon. I double checked, making sure that I could locate my boarding pass. I have been known to misplace a movie ticket in the short time it takes to walk over to the ticket taker. I have a lot on my mind. Linda and Kate were waiting, so we hustled over to grab a bite to eat before they called our flights.
            After a simply delightful breakfast containing not a single item from any of the major food groups (but it is the most important meal of the day, and my personal favorite) during which we stood toe-to-toe with our fellow travelers and Linda swears she was groped, we split up. I had only been approved to attend the conference a few weeks back, long after Linda and Kate had booked their flights. The return flight that they had chosen was full, so I had booked a more expensive direct flight home and was going to pay the difference out of pocket. Kate and Linda had to make a connection in Chicago and despite leaving sooner than I did this morning; they would get in two hours later. That’s one thing about money. Having it definitely influenced my consumer behavior. I had thought of offering to treat my colleagues but decided against it. Too showy. Not my style. Now I was glad I hadn’t. I relished the idea of being alone for the next several hours.
            I was tired of talking and compromising – where and when to eat, which radio stations to listen to in the car. I looked forward to being alone. I wanted time with my thoughts.
            A secret smile lit up my face. Rick. God, he was cute. No, not cute, Robbie, my ex, was cute. Rick was bigger, more rugged. Devastatingly gorgeous? Yes. Not cute.
            When my flight was finally called, I settled in to my comfy business class seat and gratefully accepted the bottled water that the attendant offered. The seat next to me stayed vacant and I settled in with my pillow and my Kindle. And my thoughts-of blue skies, red rocks, and strong hands covering mine. Those green eyes were hard to forget. And that killer smile.
            Hours later, my fellow passengers and I landed. No clue as to why, but we rushed like mad to the carousel assigned to our flight and began the wait. Waiting for your luggage is like waiting to get picked for a team in grade school gym class. Think about it. You want to get chosen, but while waiting, you start to feel a certain camaraderie with the others. As your classmates/fellow travelers get chosen before you, you start to panic. What if I’m last or don’t get picked at all? As soon as your name is called or your luggage appears, you have nothing in common any longer with the rest of the group. You’re relieved, proud, happy. Without feeling a twinge of guilt, you skip forward, join your team, and never look back.
            I pushed my way through the crowd, grabbed my bag and took off for the exit, three of the four wheels humming along. The cold night air was oddly refreshing after breathing in stale airplane fumes all day. While I searched for signs of the shuttle that would take me to the parking lot, I regretted my decision to cheap out and not spring for valet parking. I realized my car would be coated with ice and with no guarantee of starting on the first try. It was just a few minutes later, while I was riding the noisy overheated shuttle, that I first heard the voice. ‘Sell it, donate it, get rid of it. Buy something new and drive it to Sedona’ it said. What? No way. I couldn’t think like that. But apparently I could. That particular train of thought chugged along, picked up steam and would not be stopped by mere reason or logic. I wondered how much I could get for it? My car, I mean. I'd be selling it, I'm sure, along with many of my worldly possessions in order to make a fresh start in Arizona. Stop that. You’re not serious. Or was I? Could I be in love and ready to make some changes? Love, did I say love? No, not love. Lust? OK, maybe lust, but change, long-overdue change, that was my real motivation. But that smile and those hands attached to those forearms. Yikes. Give up my apartment and my job, say goodbye to my friends and move to the Southwest? No more freezing winters, no more grading papers and no more department meetings. But I love my job, don’t I? And I’m about to be granted tenure!
            I debated calling the number that Rick had given me. Was it his home? His cell? Was this some sort of cruel joke where he would have given me a phony number? But why would he do that? He didn’t strike me as someone who could be intentionally cruel. And if I did reach him, what would I say? “Hi, it’s me. Jackie. Just wanted to let you know that I made it home, safe and sound.” Ugh. No. I would need a plan. Better sleep on this.
            After stowing my bag in the trunk, I started my car. I hopped back out and hunkered down to scrape at the thick glaze of ice on my windshield with my fingers, deciding that travel was overrated and a huge pain in the ass. But my car had started right up, despite five days in freezing weather. Was that a sign? And, if so, of what?


Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday's How She Does It featuring Gail Olmsted

1.      How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
Before I started writing, I knew I had a socially awkward, recently divorced woman as my main character and a sexy tour guide as her love interest. The adorable ex-husband, annoying best friend, mysterious new friend and a curmudgeon of a landlord came later. The characters developed into “real” people as I started to explore their relationships and writing dialogue.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
 I started writing with a very basic premise: what would happen if you gave in to a sudden urge to uproot your life and start over? What would you do and how far would you go when you lost just about everything you ever had? I wanted Jackie to be wary but resilient and ultimately victorious. I wanted Rick to be attractive but flawed. I really had no idea just how their relationship would evolve.
 3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I am a true romantic, so I knew when I began writing JEEP TOUR that I wanted Jackie to be happy at the end, but I was willing to wait and see just what happy “looked” like- with the new guy, someone else or blissfully unattached. I figured she would be employed but had no concrete job for her. At one point, I thought she might end up as a tour guide herself!
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
 Sedona, AZ was central to the story so over two visits there I got a feel for the place, not from a tourist’s perspective, but what locals would do and where they would live. I also took a lot of photos to keep me inspired when I wrote.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
 Research about Sedona was done primarily on location, with some help from a couple of online resources. I also consulted with my nephew and a female pal of his, in order to get a more accurate sense of what it was like to come of age in the late 80’s vs my experiences in the mid-70’s.
 6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
 I wrote each of the 27 chapters with a very basic idea of what I wanted to see included: i.e. certain conversations, introduction of new characters, plot twists, flashbacks, main character development etc. The title of each chapter is actually a favorite song title or a phrase from pop culture. Most of my writing involved the use of Dragon voice-activated software, a gift from my thoughtful husband. I’m a slow typist with horrible handwriting so the only way this story would get told was if I had some help. The software kept up with the rapidfire dialogue which raced through my brain and recorded my questions (should she tell him now or wait??) so I could go back and answer them later.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday's Hero - Duncan from All Our Yesterdays by Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor

The bell above the door jangled. Astrid sucked in a breath. The man who entered was definitely her type. His rugged features, muscular body and tousled dark hair impacted her senses with sledge hammer blows. Who is he? Her smile faded when she saw the petite blonde who followed him.

Clive sauntered toward the couple. "Duncan, Lorna, thought you were headed to the shore."

"Heard about Lloyd and wanted to see if there was anything I could do." His deep voice vibrated through Astrid.

The woman glided toward Clive. "Told him to leave Lloyd to the doctors." She ran her tongue over her bottom lip. "But you know Duncan. Thinks he can handle everything."

A picture of a preening cat popped into Astrid's head. The woman's slanted eyes were the blue of Aunt Sarah's Persian cat. The rings on the blonde's fingers glittered as she reached for Clive's hands.

The man strode toward Astrid. His smile was volcanic. Heat collected low in her abdomen. What fires would his hands raise as they caressed her skin? Whoa. She wrenched her gaze away.

"So Antiquities is yours to play with, Clive," the woman crooned. "Now you can show me the goodies in the vault."

Astrid stepped toward the pair. "The gallery isn't Clive's."

The blonde pursed her lips. "And who are you?"

Clive released her hands. "Lloyd's daughter. Lorna Stinit and Duncan Garrett. They're excellent customers."

Lorna Stinit pushed strands of hair from her face. "So you're Lloyd's daughter. Duncan, stop staring and ask about her father. Then we can leave."

Duncan took Astrid's hands between his. "Your father's mentioned you many times. How is he?"

"Responding to treatment." She met his gaze. His hazel eyes held her fast. She wondered if he felt the heat between them. Stop it. He's taken.

"Duncan, come see these marvelous Egyptian pieces," Lorna called. "I want them." She held the necklace that had sent Astrid on a wild trip into an ancient land.

Duncan's eyes narrowed. He looked from Lorna to Clive. Tension built. What was going on?

Paula glared at the woman. "You ruined my picture."

"You can always take another. How about with me wearing them?"

"Beautiful, but not for you," Duncan said.

Lorna pouted. "Why not? The lapis would enhance my eyes. I'd change the carnelians for sapphires."

"And ruin the value." Duncan took the collar. "This necklace calls for a tall woman." He turned to Astrid. "Let me show her what I mean."

As he draped the piece around Astrid's neck, his fingers brushed her nape. Her body responded. For a moment, the room shimmered and she feared falling into the past to re-live love and death once more. Duncan's deep voice kept her anchored to the present.

"See what I mean." He removed the necklace. "Clive, I'll buy the set if Astrid agrees to model them at the gala for the local opera company."

"Really, Duncan," Lorna said. "Shouldn't you check with me? Aren't I your co-sponsor?"

Astrid met Lorna's icy glare. "I'll be too involved with Dad to attend. And, the necklace isn't for sale until Dad agrees."

Duncan leaned closer. "I always get what I want."

She met the challenge in his eyes. "And what is that?"

"When I decide, I'll let you know."

His words held a threat to her emotions. "Don't bother."

Lorna laughed. "See, my dear, you can't always have everything."

"We'll see." Duncan arched a brow. "Clive, let's see some of the other new things. The pectoral with the hawk interests me. Same time frame as these?"

Clive shook his head. "Later. We should have some new items next week."

As they moved away, Astrid released her breath. She didn't know what was happening, but she felt on edge. As she left, she thought about her odd adventure. She had been Seshat, a woman betrayed by her lover.
Had the dream been a warning?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - A bit more about revision #MFRWauthor

Just a few more things to check during the revision process and the book will be ready to go out into the world.

1. Check the proportions - Sometimes the opening scene goes on for pages and pages and sometimes it's scanty. Other times 2 big scenes come one right after another with little time in between for the reader to catch their breath and to absorb the changes in the characters views or goals. Make sure there are valleys after the peaks.

2. Make sure the reader will care about your characters. I know I've done this and I was never sure why the characters I cared for left the reader cold. So make sure your character wants something that resonates with the readers. Also make sure there is an opponent that gives the hero or heroine reason to believe they won't reach that goal. If there is nothing opposing a character reaching the goal the reader won't care.

3. Don't become so tied up with your revisions you avoid going on to a new story. I've had several friends, one who years ago was part of a critique group I belonged to who revised the first chapter of her book so many times she never moved beyond that story. Even when we yelled, "Give it up. Start something new" she never did and she never reached the goal of becoming a published author.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday's Inspiration - A story is... #MFRWauthor

"A story is experience translated into literary process." Dwight V. Swain.

Exactly what does this mean to a writer. To me, it means developing characters who are experiencing an event that's going to change their life. It also means finding the right words to translate this experience and make the story show what happens in a character's life. There are many kinds of stories, some are literary, some are genre specific. Some stories are long and some are short. I've done both.

When I began writing years ago, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to write long or short but I began writing short stories. I wrote a number of them and one of my favorites is about a nurse, an older woman who worked the night shift. She wasn't the kind of woman who was outgoing and her nature was for the solitary. A patient changed her life. This wasn't a happy ending story, or was it?

The patient was a dying man who for some reason was drawn to her. He asked her a question. "Why don't you smile?" Actually the seeds of this story were based on an incident in my life. As a young nurse I was scared when working with patients and experienced one of those days when nothing went right. After a series of accidents including spilling water from the pitcher used to fill wash basins for the patients all over my foot and the floor. A patient who had just lost his foot because of diabetics looked up and said, "Smile, just a small one."

So stories are born from small seeds and what I did when I wrote "Just A Small Smile" sprang from this incident but I made her an older woman who had never found love and how a dying man taught her about giving of herself to ease someone else's pain. I've tried to do this with all my stories, show how experience is translated into a story by choosing words and form, characters and setting, and all the other things that make a story sing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor

Meander 1 - The blog. Now I post every day but the Sunday feature is getting boring at least for me so I'm coming up with something new and will manage that by next week. I have a lot of books I want to promote and that's something I really want to do. So I'm working on a new feature.

Meander 2 - A good friend seems to have gotten into a writing funk. That's hard to deal with and I'll be thinking of ways to encourage her. She's a good writer and will get better as the time passes. It's all about persistence and dreams. It's also about organizing what you're going to write. Now there are some people who can just sit down and write without having a plan, but most people need a plan.

Meander 3 - My writing is moving forward. Working on Toth's Priest and hopefully by the end of the month will have the current draft finished. Then it will be a matter of filling in holes, beefing up the setting and making sure the characters are following their nature and their hearts. The word count will at least double in this draft, meaning what needs to be filled in will be what's important.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

3 Blog Visit Sunday discoveries by Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday's Excerpt from Immortal Relations by Guy Ogan

Excerpt from “Immortal Relations”

Chapter One: Finding Love

 It had been several years since my mother passed away from Alzheimer’s and a little of the pain from seeing her decline while I cared for her had eased. Yet something she had said kept popping into my consciousness at odd moments, mostly when I was alone and in need of sleep. Even when I was young and she was the vibrant, creative lady that she had been, she would absent mindedly mumble something like, “He’s over there with that woman” or “He has had a child in Czechoslovakia” but if asked, would say nothing further. Perhaps her misgivings were due to my father’s trips to Europe as part of his government job and that he had spent more than a little time there after the Second World War. Even as I’d grown, I’d never considered that I might have a half-brother or half-sister overseas, but now these memories made me wonder.

One day, while looking through seemingly tons of Yellowing papers in dad’s file cabinets an old envelop caught my eye. In it I found a Black and White photo of my late father next to an old building.  On the back it said “Prague, Czechoslovakia” and in a very feminine hand was “I’ll always be waiting here.” This brought back all those things my mother had said and gave me the idea that I might be able to find the building and see some of where my father spent his time while in Europe as he’d never discussed his years in government service. Even with the difficulties of travel in these days of terrorist threats I thought it might be worth the hassle to see a part of Europe I’d never seen. I contacted a travel agency specializing in travel to Europe and asked them about visiting Czechoslovakia and was told it is now called “The Czech Republic” but they could make my arrangements. After getting a passport and enduring all the red tape involved in international travel, I packed my bags and had a friend drive me to the airport. Once I’d removed my watch, change and metal objects I went past the magnetic detector, removed my shoes, put up with the pat-down, as well as the various sniffers and scanners, then I could proceed to the gate to wait for the flight to load. I’d flown so much in the military; flying didn’t hold much excitement anymore, I thankfully fell asleep sometime after we were airborne.

From years in the service I awoke when I felt the aircraft start to descend to land in England. After the security checks, I switched to another aircraft bound for Prague. I was glad when the aircraft took off, knowing it wouldn’t be long before I could start looking for where my father spent some of his working years. After landing, my passport was checked; I gathered my small bags and went to the window to convert dollars for local currency. I then walked outside; it was still dark and it had just stopped raining so the air smelled clean and sweet. Finding the cabstand I held my picture up to the first driver in the queue, he shrugged and shook his head. The next cab in line was piloted by an older silver haired gentleman who still looked very fit; he smiled when I showed him the picture nodding his head saying, “Old Town Hall, I take you.” Starting off, I asked him if a Hotel was near the old town hall and he said, “Very Close”.

The sky was starting to clear and looked as if the day would be clear and bright but at the time of morning we traveled, it being a Sunday, there were very few vehicles on the road. My driver slowed to a stop and pointed out the Old Town Hall through his windshield (I was in the rear seat). Then he said, “Hotel…very soon” and in seconds he had stopped his cab at the curb by the hotel’s front entrance. I got out with my bags and held out paper money and coins to pay for the trip. He took what he needed, I thanking him and waived as he drove off.

At the front desk, I arranged for a room and took the elevator to the fourth floor. It was still very early but I wanted to start looking around so I just dropped my bags by the bed, went back to the first floor and walked the short distance back to the old town hall. The sidewalks were deserted; the only traffic seen as I walked back was a cab and an almost empty bus. Getting out my picture, I looked everywhere for other pedestrians but it seemed too early and I saw no one else anywhere in the area. I held the picture up high walking around and closely compared both the architecture and the angle from which the photograph was taken. As I looked up at the windows, which were well above street level, I noted one that was open giving me a reflected view of the other side of the road. There, on the opposite side which had been empty seconds ago, someone was suddenly standing; but I was sure there hadn’t been anyone there a second before. Seeing her, I sucked in a breath; my God she was stunningly beautiful! I’d seen pictures of “Hollywood Starlets” and "Super-Models" and I knew the Czechs had several of these such as the lovely Paulina Porizkova and Petra Nemcova and I thought this had to be one of them. Suddenly she vanished! I thought she might have moved and my old eyes had missed it so I turned to look and found myself starring into a pair of eyes. Automatically, my head jerked back; the vision of loveliness I’d seen across the street was mere inches from me. She said, excuse me, I didn’t want to startle you! Then she smiled the most brilliant smile I’d ever seen, my knees felt like rubber as I started to fall back but her hand shot out grabbing my arm to keep me upright. The power in her arm surprised me and my heart raced and I couldn’t tell if it was from almost falling or the close proximity of such a beauty! After I felt like I could stand on my own, she introduced herself as Magdalena Dvora'k, saying she had seen me looking at a photograph and asked if I’d been to Prague before. When I told her the picture was taken of my father standing by this building many years before. She asked to see it and I handed it to her. Without skipping a beat, she said “Doug Logan”; if my legs had been rubber before, now they were Jelly! Dazed, I staggered back with her hand back on my arm and I leaned against the stone cold wall. Her gaze transfixed me as she looked deeply into my eyes. It seemed as if she were God’s own angle assigned to test and weigh my soul, for how long I didn’t know. Once I’d regained some composure I said, “How…how could you know my father’s name?" She chuckled at my stammering and said he was the love of her late great aunt who always talked about him and kept his picture next to her bed. To say I was speechless and still weak in the knees was an understatement so she helped me to a bench where we sat for awhile, me trying to recover, while she looked bemused as she read the puzzlement and confusion in my pale face now drained of all its normal color.

I was weighing the odds of meeting someone whose great aunt had known my father and it seemed an unbelievable coincidence! Do you feel alright she asked? I said, not really, adding I can’t get over our meeting, more improbably that your great aunt knew my father. She said, Oh, not just my great aunt her whole family knew him; he was very helpful to them in recovering their lives after the war. Magdalena said her great aunt could speak, read and write in English, because her father was a Czech diplomat in England before the war and her great aunt had gone to school there. Her father was recalled when he voiced alarm over the pacifist actions of England’s Prime Minister at the time, who thought he could make deals with Adolph Hitler. Of course history proved Hitler lied on paper about “Peace in our time” and then, when the Nazi’s invaded Czechoslovakia, my great aunt’s father was arrested and shot. His wife escaped to her parent’s farm with my great aunt who was just a pre-teen. Then, Winston Churchill became England’s Prime Minister and when America came into the war the Nazis were defeated! Later, my great aunt went to work for the new Czech government as an interpreter working with some Americans who came to help. Your father was one and it wasn’t long before he captured her heart and she his. Unfortunately for my great aunt her lover was married and as much as he cared for her he was too committed to his wife and young son, as well as to his agency. I noticed her voice broke toward the end of her comment, so I knew she deeply felt the heartbreak of that lost love! She went on to say; when the new communist government expelled Americans my great aunt wrote her promise to always be waiting on the back of the picture of your father by the Old Town Hall. As color returned to my face I said I knew my father was always committed to us; but it was too bad he couldn’t have had both loves! I guess that was an impossible situation, especially back in those days. She looked confused and asked; don’t you feel angry he cheated on your mother? I told her I felt love was such a beautiful thing and such a blessing to those who suffered during the horrors of war that I wouldn’t deny him or your great aunt that solace. While that terrible war, that claimed the lives of millions was over, with all the death and destruction, I felt the whole human race suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and if their love helped them overcome that, how could it have been wrong? Thanking me for my understanding she said, “I know my great aunt would appreciate what you’ve said”. She then asked how long it had been since I’d had anything to eat or drink. I told her that I’d had something light, a few hours ago on the plane. She thought it best if we visit a nearby café for something to eat and a little coffee. We talked as we walked slowly, now among the few others who had started to come out to face the day as a bright Sun rose higher in a cloudless Blue Sky.

Sitting outside the café; she ordered a coffee and a pastry for me, saying she’d had something just before we met. We talked while I ate and I mentioned I’d read about the 80,000 Prague Jews murdered by the Nazis in World War II. I told her I felt the West had failed to act against Hitler until it was almost too late. As we sat discussing history and politics I marveled at both her knowledge and her beauty. When she finally said I looked tired, I had to admit I was feeling a bit of “jet lag”. She said if I had a room I should get some rest and when I told her the name of my hotel she said it was close. We continued to talk as we walked; arriving she asked “Do you mind if I come up” and I said I’d love for her to stay as long as she could. Once in the room, she said she’d let me get some sleep. I told her I’d like to hear more of her great aunt and her family, if she could come back. She said she would so I told her I’d call the desk to give her the spare key upon her return. She told me to lock my door when she left. After locking the door, I was so tired I just lay down, cloths and all, without even pulling the threadbare covers back.

I’d slept over eight hours because the Sun was going down. I decided to take a shower rather than wasting time in the morning when Magdalena might return. I’d been in the shower just a minute when I heard her voice, “Are you in the shower?” “Yes, but the water is cold and I don’t know how to regulate the temperature.” Without a pause, she thrust her hand in turning the dials to adjust the temperature! Embarrassed, I thanked her for her help, she just laughed, then I heard some rustling of clothing and a second later she was standing behind me in the shower. She said her family had bathed together to save water. Over my shoulder I said, I wasn’t expecting a bath partner, but she was welcome! Washrag and soap in hand she said I’m going to hold you so I can apply enough pressure to open up the pores. She scrubbed and had she not held me her strength would have flung me into the controls – I was amazed at her power. She had a wash cloth in each hand but I could still feel her cold hands. But it felt good, the hot water with her hands on me, I didn’t care. Then, the pressure on my back and hold on my chest stopped. She turned me around and starting washing my neck and chest. In moments I had to apologize for “stirrings” I had no control over. She laughed and threw a towel in my face saying, dry and get dressed, there’s much to see and do tonight. Blushing, I sheepishly complied.

Once dressed, I peeked out the bathroom door to say I was sorry she had to see how old and out of shape I was. She chuckled, I like a man who has some meat on his bones; it shows he has not denied himself that which he likes; eating well can be the sign of good physical and mental health. Still red faced, I walked over and sat down on the end of the bed near her as she was in the room’s only chair. Magdalena wanted us to visit a few interesting places and see some city night life as well as a special building allowing for one of the best viewpoints from which to see the city. I quickly concurred with her itinerary, who would have said no to escorting such a captivatingly beautiful and amazing lady and sharing the experience of seeing the city’s night life with her. I thought, “I may be old but I’m not dead yet!”

We spent the evening and into the night walking by clubs and talking; she spoke about each club, the history of each area of the city and I spoke of my father and life in general. We’d then ride to another section of the city and repeat the drill; she was an extremely knowledgeable guide and I thrilled at being at her side. Finally, we came to what looked to be the tallest building on that side of the city. She had a key that looked to be from the 18th Century inserted in a side door so quickly it barely registered when it happened; a second later the door opened and I saw someone moving in the almost Pitch Black stairwell. Magdalena spoke to the shadowy figure and it soon disappeared. She turned back to me and with a twinkle in her eye saying, come on; I won’t make you walk up more than one flight to the elevators. With my stunningly beautiful guide I’d risk my old knees.Soon we were at the elevator, once on she put her gloved hands on my waist, holding lightly, which sent a thrill like an electric shock through me. When the elevator reached the top I realized why she held me, it lurched and shuddered with such violence it almost threw me off my feet, but she was as steady as a rock and kept me upright. I teased over the noise, does it always stop with such violence or did we just get hit by a 9.0 earthquake?! She laughed at my attempt at humor, to my ears; the sound was like the singing of angles! I grinned at her and she grinned back at me with her exquisitely captivating smile, my heart sped up like a rattling jack hammer, I didn’t think I’d ever met anyone like her before!

The roof had parapets similar to an old castle, we walked around enjoying the view; from this vantage point much of the city was visible until other buildings blocked the remainder. We continued to stroll around the outside while she told me more of the history of the city and her family. Impulsively, I felt compelled to turn to her saying, I know it’s probably inappropriate for me to say it, me being so much older, but you have been so kind and gracious to me that I think I’m falling in love with you. I’ll understand if you can’t feel the same way toward someone like me and I hope my expressing the way I feel won’t make you leave and keep me from being with you anymore. I’d rather be just a friend with no possibility of developing a deeper relationship than to never see you again! Saying that brought up some deep feelings of loneliness I wasn’t able to suppress; tears suddenly welled up in my eyes and, ashamed at those tears, I turned away from her. She grabbed me from behind and spun me around so fast my head took a second to follow the trajectory of my body! When my face caught up with the rest of me, she kissed me gently on the mouth saying she had similar feelings toward me, but there were complications for us to do much about those feelings. I wiped my eyes and felt as if my heart would leap out of my chest; with my emotional high it took a minute to recover. If this was a dream I prayed I’d never wake up.

Looking deeply into her eyes as she had done with me yesterday, I said if the problem is your immortality and super-human strength a solution is to change me! Now she looked confused; what makes you think I’m an immortal? I said, I’ve thought it from the first, only an immortal could move from one side of a four-lane road to the other in less than a second; I saw you reflected in a window disappear from one side of the road then you were just inches behind me when I turned around, that caused me to jerk back almost falling. With lightning speed and amazing strength you kept me upright and when you recognized my father in the picture and my legs failed me again your strength helped me over to a bench. At the café you didn’t eat or drink and I haven’t seen you eat or drink anything. You have strength that surpasses the strongest weight lifter, but wield it with total gentleness. You smell of sugar & cinnamon and are the most kind, considerate and lovely companion I could dream of and you’ve captivated my heart in the time I’ve been with you. Your hands and lips are cold like stone, yet you move with grace and fluidity of motion and your touch sends electrical shocks through me I want to last forever! You ask me how I could know; how could I NOT know!

You recognize I used the term immortal, I hope you realize I do so, not out of fear of the word vampire, but because I wanted to state my feelings before I asked you to explain how you became a vampire, since I believe when you knew my father you were fully human! And yes, I realized you are in fact "the great aunt" you described to me. I knew it because of the way you expressed "her" love for him and the catch in your voice when you spoke of him. I went down on one knee looking up to say, “We’ve been together for less than two days, yet I feel I’ve known you all my life! If you’ll allow me, I’ll spend forever with you any way I can; I prefer as your companion, but if not, I pledge you my blood if you need it. I want you to understand, my statement of love is unequivocal, I want to be with you any way you’ll have me…I want to be forever yours!” Then, I sensed a presence coming from behind, I stood, turned and saw a hooded figure running quickly toward us and I tried to move to defend Magdalena and myself. Seeing my almost comical protective stance, the figure stopped and said, Oh mother, I’m so happy for you! Magdalena introduced me to her daughter Eviana; who as she dropped her hood the city lights revealed a beautiful young woman of perhaps 18 years of age. I stared as she looked so much like a picture of one of my aunts taken when she was about the same age. I extended my hand; saying I’m happy to meet you and I thanked her for supporting my statement of love for her mother. I then turned and asked, “Is Eviana my half-sister?” Vampires can’t blush, but Magdalena looked like she would if she could…she said, since we’re being totally honest with each other, no she isn't your half-sister; but I’m sure you know, she is also a vampire. Eviana quickly grabbed me around the neck; kissing me saying I'm just happy my mother has found someone. I smiled at her saying I hope this won’t complicate the fact I want to be your surrogate father, as I am deeply in love with your mother. She giggled, I don’t care, it will be nice to have someone else to love and be loved by, I’m happy that my mother is happy, then she looked as if she would cry with joy if crying weren’t impossible for a vampire. While she couldn’t cry, I was still very much human with all the weakness of human emotions and our many statements of love brought forth my tears of joy.

Magdalena relieved my embarrassment over crying suggesting we go to where Eviana was working to show me what they did. As she danced around us, Eviana said, yes, we’ll show him! We went to a first floor Janitor’s Closet with a secret panel opening into a control room with at least a hundred monitors on the walls. The monitors showed all the streets in this part of the city. The cameras had microphones, but the cacophony of sound made it impossible to hear specifics. Magdalena explained their super-senses can distinguish 
between all sounds. She told me the purpose of the monitoring system was to pinpoint any crimes against humans, especially women, children and the elderly. If they saw or heard things that lead them to believe a crime against an innocent was happening they could call the local police or take care of it themselves if police weren’t near the location of the crime. They had teams of three vampires throughout the city that could reach any location in seconds, so they often dealt with problems themselves. Human criminals were easy for just one of their group to handle but a vampire might take all three. Seldom did more than one vampire appear and backup forces were ready.

Magdalena now took the time to explain how her group, or coven, was formed, saying she had been told much of this from other much older vampires in her group, most of whom are female. This is because male vampires often seem to lack any self-control, especially newborns. They, rather than having any interest in finding ways to co-exist with humans think of humans as cattle for slaughter at their whim. Men, women and children are all seen as “fair game” in their blood-shot eyes; kill and drink...drink and kill...seemed to be all they cared about! Many of those in the group were originally victims of these roving nomads, but for one reason or another, the attackers were driven off before they had drained them to the point of death. In her own case Magdalena learned two policemen happened to turn the corner where her attacker had just knocked her out and had begun to drink; one of the police officers blew his whistle to summon other police while the second policeman fired his pistol at the figure which was, by then, fleeing into the night. Both policemen ran after him, not realizing they had no chance of catching him, nor would they have survived had they done so. Magdalena went on to tell her story; she awoke in so much pain she crawled into some nearby bushes to die. Only later, did she recover enough to get to her feet and stagger back home. Looking lovingly at Eviana she said, there was my sweet daughter who seeing my battered condition tried to get the blood and grime off my face, neck and arms. Not realizing what had occurred or what I’d become, when she leaned over to pull the covers up to keep me warm in my bed, Magdalena said, “I bit own daughter!” Seeing how her face became twisted in anguish and torment I knew I was seeing a glimpse of what Hell must be like! The shame, pain and horror of that wretched memory had transformed her beautiful features beyond all recognition or redemption! Magdalena cried out in such pain it was as if from deep in a lake of fire, "I'm damned...damned for all eternity!"

It was like a knife thrust in my heart to see the tortured soul the woman I loved had become! I wept and I felt as if my soul was burning in Hell’s fire! My body shook with despair of the horror Magdalena so painfully expressed, I wanted so badly to relieve her pain. Eviana hugged her mother and reassured her she didn’t blame her for what happened, saying, mother it wasn't your fault, you didn't know what you’d become and did what came naturally to a newborn. You hadn't had the chance to develop the amazing strength to resist temptation that you now have. Now I’ll always be with you and that’s far more important than a little bite! But Magdalena seemed inconsolable, repeating the terrible judgment on herself "...dammed...damned for all eternity”, adding “Now you’re damned since I didn't die but came home and bit YOU!"

Her depth of pain and self-loathing disabled me at first but I was stirred me to speak through my own tears, I don’t see you as damned, you’re both so courageous protecting the people from evil, certainly you deserve to be together as you are and I hope to join you not only as an immortal, but to help protect the innocents. I dropped to my knees, taking Magdalena’s hands in mine I said, “I swear to you, I don't believe you are damned. That is the same as saying God, in his power and mercy, can't save you...that you cannot call on the most precious blood ever shed, blood shed for ALL...that of Jesus Christ. I've heard, in human folklore, that vampires believe they are "soulless monsters" with no possibility of redemption, certainly anyone, human or not, who wants only to kill innocent people puts themselves in great jeopardy. However, to say even they are beyond the redemptive powers of God is, in my opinion, just a way for them to justify their cruelty saying, "I might as well kill everyone, because I'm damned anyway!" It's a cop-out, a way those you call out of control vampires have formulated to justify their unbridled murder and feeding upon the innocent and weak. As with all those who harm others, we must hate the crime but hold out the possibility that they can be shown the error of their ways, change their thinking and behaviors so they can then seek salvation through Jesus Christ.

I asked Magdalena, how her group got the blood they need? She looked at me still showing a pained expression, saying they owned many funeral homes where humans who have passed away due to age, illness, accident, or murder are processed for burial or cremation. Human law requires replacing their blood with a preservative before burial. Mechanical extraction of their blood is done; it is never taken by a vampire. We maintain the dignity of the deceased at all times and we also own the medical disposal points for blood and blood products tainted with viruses, heavy metals or other toxins as well as disposal for outdated blood-bank blood that can’t be used for other purposes. We filter out toxins, not that they endanger us, but because of bad taste, adding a special anti-coagulant that also protects natural eye color, we don’t have the Red eyes of those feeding on living humans. We try very hard not to kill anything in order to meet our needs. If forced to feed on animals, thus having Golden eye color, we take only a small amount of blood from each, trying never to kill the living just to allow us to exist. Blood from the dead is less palatable than from the living, but sustains us and is superior to animal blood in providing strength to fight those that try to use this city as a feeding ground. Eviana added we also own a heard of sheep and goats in the mountains that provide small amounts of blood that could help us, should other sources be less than would meet our needs. The animals are very well cared for and only a small amount of blood is extracted. That blood is frozen for emergency use if the need ever arose. When one from the herd has to be culled the meat goes to one of the many charities we support.

To me, it certainly seems that you have done all you can to meet your minimal needs without resorting to harming innocent humans or even killing any animals, while giving back much more in protecting human lives. I believe you have done admirably and I would be willing to stand before a Righteous yet Merciful God to argue your group's case for redemption, through Jesus Christ. After a moment, Magdalena said, as Eviana nodded, thank you for believing that our souls are not damned, that we have a chance for redemption, no one else has ever told us anything but that we’re damned! Feeling their pain, I broke down and cried. While that made it difficult, I said I feel overwhelmed that you’ve been in so much pain for so long not believed you have a way to salvation. It is said Hell is a separation from God, if that is true then you and the other good vampires who have felt as you have felt, seem to me to have already been in Hell for a very long time - certainly in your group’s case most undeservedly so! I couldn't stop myself from crying over the mental anguish they had sentenced themselves to and through my tears I choked out, I will pray for your souls and all those in your group, I know those prayers will be heard! Now it was they who were consoling me, and it took some time before I could stop the tears of seeing the pain they had gone through, pain that I told them seemed totally unwarranted and unnecessary.

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