Fifty-eight degrees. No wind.
Fifty-eight degrees. No wind.
(c) 2005 Alex Steuart Williams (FLIP) and Erica Rothschild
I'm being serious.
Okay, here goes:
1. "I'd write, too, but I can't stand the thought of all the trees I'd be killing."
Yes, I've heard this one. My response back then was, "Don't worry. You won't sell enough books to raze a sapling, because your pub house won't push you that hard to begin with."
Today, I'd add, "And besides, most books are digital, so you can't use the tree-killer bullshit as an excuse not to write anymore."
2. "I'd write, too, but I just can't make the time."
Good. Stay busy. The world doesn't need anothor author. Here's a hint: It's not a hobby. It's a profession.
3. "Why don't you kill off your series' villian?" Because then I wouldn't have a series. And if I don't have a series, I don't have the rent money. I'll make you a promise: when and if he quits paying the rent, I'll quit writing about him.
4. "Honestly, what do you really do to pay the bills?"
Then again, I'm not JK Rowling, either.
If a writer is persistent and lucky, he or she will find that their income is somewhere in between minimum wage and unimagined wealth.
I'm not saying it's an easy way to make a living. It took years to crawl my way up beyond the government set poverty line. To make the rent, I wrote other things: game questions, greeting cards. magazine articles, even horoscopes. (No, I was not a licensed astrologist, just a mom with two growing kids who could go through money like the Pentagon).
5. "The best authors–like JD Salinger, or, say Margaret Mitchell– only wrote one, or maybe a just few, books in their lifetime."
Oh, really? I guess that leaves out Dickens, Twain, Wharton, LeCarre, Dreisher, Trollope, James, Chandler, Christie, and Doyle, to name a few–all of whom are on my favorite authors list–along wtih Salinger and Mitchell.
And by the way, some of the worst writers only wrote one book as well.
I'd say the odds are with those who get the most chances at the plate. Don't forget, Babe Ruth broke records for hitting home runs and for striking out.
Not to mention, a writer's skill level rises each time up to bat.
6. "When am I going to see you on the New York Times Bestsellers list?"
Maybe never–and that's okay with me. A Times review won't necessarily pay the bills.
For that matter, a Times review won't necessarily be a good one. Just ask any author who has been scorched, panned, or ridiculed by one.
7. "When will I see your book reviewed in the New York Times?"
Again, maybe never–and that too is okay with me. I write commercial literature–romantic suspense, funny mysteries, contemporary women's fiction–and those books usually don't get a NYT review unless they're deemed such a cultural phenomenon that even the Times can't ignore them.
As for those authors who are waiting for some news outlet to review their books, all I can say is, good luck. Even the best New York publishing house publicist rarely scores a major newspaper review for a mid-list or debut author, let alone a segment on the Today Show. Now, if you're willing to change your first name to Snooki, or your last name to Kardashian, you may actually get that review, or some air time.
It's just the way of the world: a ghosted celebrity can garner more air time for a mediocre book than a gifted author will receive for a notable work.
So suck it up.
Better yet, don't reach for the stars when that is not the lasting definition of success. You're better off working the crowd instead of waiting for the crowd to come to you. In fact, I know many authors whose books have gotten better–and substantially more reviews–than those I see in the Times–
Rude awakening: many major newspapers have done away with book reviews–and book reviewers–altogether. That being said, the voices that are ever more important to authors are avid readers, especially those readers who are willing to write a review on the websites of the bookstores (both online, and brick-and-mortar) where they buy their books. Even better is when they chat up your books to friends.
In today's book market, a four-plus star reviews by hundreds of readers on an online bookseller's site can generate more sales than a few kind words in a Times review on any given Sunday.
Bottom line: word of mouth means everything.
8. "You can write more than one book a year? Hmmm. You're not an artist. You're not even a craftsman. You're…a hack!"
Here's the scoop. Even painters have to produce more than one painting in a lifetime–let alone a year–in order to eat, pay rent, and pay for their kids' braces.
The same goes for musicians. They have to play more than one gig. And songwriters have to write more than one song.
No one wants to be a one-hit wonder.
In fact, even one hit is akin to winning the lottery.
As for being a craftsperson: the proof is in the satisfaction of the buyer.
I'm very proud of my body of work. Every book has received an average of four or more stars. And every day, I get letters from readers who were kind enough to take the time to tell me how much fun they had with my books, or how much they love my characters. I love to hear that it kept them up at night (it certainly did for me when I was writing any one of them!) or that they laughed so loud that it woke their spouses.
That, my dear friends, is satisfaction.
9. "It must be nice to be able to set your own hours."
I write at least ten hours a day.
Believe it or not, some chapters are written in my sleep.
When I'm not writing, I'm plotting. Or researching.
The creative process is the most important aspect of my profession. But the marketing of my books are just as important. That being said, when I'm not writing, plotting or researching, I'm concepting covers, going over edits from my proofers and editors–
And promoting, promoting, promoting.
In any regard, I'm thinking about my books twenty-four/seven.
None of it is easy. But it can certainly be rewarding. I guess that's what makes it a "job," and not a hobby.
10. "It must be great to have such a fun job."
I wouldn't be doing anything else. And I'll do it, as long as I please my readers–and myself.
But like any job, it's not always fun. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I disappoint myself with how slow I am at it. It takes time to craft a sentence, let alone a paragraph, a scene or a chapter.
Then you have to do it time and again, until you have a cohesive story. Creating a work that even you enjoy, despite having read it so many times, you want to scream.
I remember the reaction my sister had when I told her I'd sold my very first novel. "In fact, the contract is for two books," I proclaimed proudly.
This was met with a look of horror. "You mean, they can make you write another?"
"God, I hope so," I declared.
Eight years and seventeen novels later, I still feel that way.
And, now a bonus comment…
11. "I've got a great idea for a book! Why don't I give it to you, and we can split what you make, 50/50?"
Ha ha! I get this one a lot! I've even gotten it from my sister.
Thank you, but I respectfully decline your offer. You see, I have so many ideas already, that I wonder if I'll have the lifespan in which to write them all.
And besides, at best, a concept is a one-liner (at the most ten words). Even if it's the best book concept in the world, but then you're leaving me with the heavy lifting–that is, coming up with the other eighty thousand words that makes it a book.
You see, a book may start out as a high concept, but it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's a lot of sweat equity–especially if the concept doesn't resonate enough with you to (a) spend the time to research the era or topic, or (b) create characters who go through the motions to bring it to life–and make readers laugh, cry, or write you to tell you how much your words meant to them.
That being said, go ahead and write it, as only you could do.
And let me know when it's published. I look forward to reading it, and supporting you, just like you read and support me.
Gorgeous, wouldn't you say? It was painted by the 19th Century famous portraitist, John Singer Sargent. His abstracts were always of friends– usually other artists, such as himself. I wonder if that was because he felt his clients demanded something more meticulous, whereas perhaps these were painted on the fly? His version of toting a camera was to relax with easel, canvas and paints, be it oils or watercolors.
This one is entitled "Zuleika," was completed in 1907, and hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. The name is a genus of moth. It is also Persian in origin, meaning "fair, brilliant, lovely."
She certainly looks that way, here.
Who was she? The wife of a friend, perhaps? There are a series of poems based on a character by that name. Turns out Sargent was friends with humorist Max Beerbohm, who was working on a contemporary novel by that title, about a woman by that name whose beauty was so great that her merely stepping off a train to visit her grandfather in Oxford caused men to obsess over her — to the point of committing mass suicide.
This Sargent painting and Beerbohm's novel might have been the very first product cross-promotion — multi-platforming in its earliest form.
More than likely, it was Sargent's way of jibing Beerbohm — payback for the latter's caricutures of the revered painter.
Notice the subject's eyebrows are just one wave of black paint. Sargent's downward point-of-view is filled with realistic shadowing. The grass is a riot of green, blue and yellow hues which play tricks on the mind: we envision individual blades of grass, and dappled sunlight.
I love that he caught her reading. Is Proust? Dickens? Baudliere? Possibly The Works of Max Beerbohm.
Art is fun, and can be funny, too,
My latest novel is
The Housewife Assassin's
Vacation to Die For
Now out, in
In Kobo, Nook, and Apple by August 20, 2013
A nude sunbathing serial killer, a Lord of the Flies 'tween takeover, poison-dart throwing pygmies……
Talk about a fantasy (nightmare?) island!
An NSA scientist has disappeared with a deadly plague virus. Donna and Jack must find him, before it is unleashed on Fantasy island, home of three very different resorts:
Like Kamp KidStuff, where families frolic among dolphins, cartoon characters,
and warring gangs of tweens who believe in the law of the jungle–including human sacrifices;
And Eden Key, a nude singles sanctuary where tiki-hut treehouses provide the perfect setting for rum-fueled romances and casual hook-ups—not to mention the occasional swinger slashing…
Finally, there's the Hunt Club, which allows its members to track a very unique, soon-to-be extinct prey.
And you call this a vacation?
The renowned burlesque dancer, Dixie Evans, died this weekend. She was known as burlesque's "Marilyn Monroe." Yes, the resemblance was uncanny! See for yourself. Here's how she built her act.
Take it off, take it all off,
August 10, 2013
Dixie Evans, Who Brought ‘Monroe’ to Burlesque Houses, Dies at 86
By MARGALIT FOX / New York Times
Dixie Evans, a popular stage performer billed as the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque” — the first two words in very large letters and the last two in very small ones — died on Aug. 3 in Las Vegas. She was 86.
Her death was announced on the Web site of the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, of which she was a former curator and director.
Ms. Evans was a marquee name at midcentury, mentioned in the same avid breath as Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand and Lili St. Cyr. In later years, she was featured in newspaper articles and television programs about burlesque and appeared in the 2010 documentary “Behind the Burly Q.”
She was profiled in the 1996 book “Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics, and Other American Heroes,” by David Isay, with photographs by Harvey Wang.
Reflecting on her unlikely stardom in a 1992 interview with CNN, Ms. Evans said, “I was not that talented and I wasn’t that pretty.”
But her close-enough resemblance to Monroe — enhanced by a peroxide blond coiffure and the uncanny ability of Ms. Evans, who never met her subject, to mimic her speech and shimmy — ensured her success as a locus of transference.
“If you couldn’t meet the real Marilyn,” Ms. Evans told The New York Times in 1998, “you could come to the burlesque and meet me.”
Night after night from the early ’50s onward, at burlesque houses around the country, Ms. Evans took the stage in Monrovian garb and swung into musical numbers that recalled those in Monroe’s films. Unlike Monroe, she ended the numbers far more lightly attired than when she began.
She kept the act going for more than a decade, modifying it enough to mollify Monroe, who at once point threatened to sue. Wherever she played, she drew a devoted, even rarefied, following.
“Walter Cronkite used to come every year to see my act,” Ms. Evans told The Los Angeles Times in 1993.
Frank Sinatra was said to be a fan. So, too, was Joe DiMaggio, who was reported to have visited the show for consolation after his divorce from Monroe in 1954.
Then, in 1962, Monroe’s suicide rendered the act obsolete overnight. As Ms. Evans told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, “When she died, I died.”
She held a string of jobs, doing public relations for a hotel in the Bahamas and working as a nurse’s aide in California, before an abandoned goat ranch in a dusty Western town afforded her an improbable return to burlesque’s glittering glory.
Mary Lee Evans was born on Aug. 28, 1926, in Long Beach, Calif., to a well-to-do family. Her father, an oilman, died when she was a girl, and the family fortunes declined precipitously. Young Mary worked in the celery fields and during World War II was an airplane mechanic.
Dreaming of stardom, she began her stage career as a chorus girl in touring musicals. One night, in her late teens or early 20s, she found herself stranded in San Francisco between jobs with 50 cents in her pocket. She discovered that the local burlesque theater paid four times what she had been earning.
A few years later, when Ms. Evans was performing at a Minsky’s burlesque house in Newark, Harold Minsky, the son of the impresario Abraham Minsky, transformed her into Marilyn.
In the late 1980s, Ms. Evans learned that her friend Jennie Lee, a retired burlesque star, was terminally ill with cancer. Ms. Lee, who was living on a former goat ranch in the desert in Helendale, Calif., had created a de facto museum there from her old memorabilia.
Ms. Evans moved in to help care for her, assuming responsibility for the collection after Ms. Lee’s death in 1990. She expanded it into the Exotic World Burlesque Museum and Striptease Hall of Fame, whose holdings included Jennie Lee’s silver-sequined pasties, Gypsy Rose Lee’s wardrobe trunk, the cremated remains of the burlesque queen Sheri Champagne and — perhaps the collection’s most curious artifact — a photograph of Lili St. Cyr with Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1991, Ms. Evans founded the Miss Exotic World pageant, an annual competition she liked to call the Olympics of burlesque.
In 2006 Ms. Evans moved the competition and the museum, now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame, to Las Vegas, where she made her home from then on.
Ms. Evans’s marriage to Harry Braelow, a prizefighter, ended in divorce. Survivors include a sister, Betty, and many nieces and nephews.
For years in the 1950s, Ms. Evans was a fixture at the Place Pigalle, a burlesque house in Miami Beach. One night, she was arrested.
“Whenever it was election time in Miami, they’d raid the strip joints,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 2009. “I told the judge, ‘Your Honor, this is the same act you saw at the policemen’s show.’ ”
His Honor dropped the charges.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 11, 2013
An earlier version of this obituary omitted a survivor, Ms. Evans’s sister, Betty.
(c) 2013 New York Times
No joke. I truly feel that way.
Okay, unless it's to say, "You're the sweetest person in the world, and I want you to know I'm thinking about you today."
My contest for The Housewife Assassin's Relationship Survival Guide Contest just ended, and yes, I have reached the winner for the $100 giftcard, to the bookstore of the winner's choice:
She is ConnieVB.
From the bottom of my heart, I'd like to thank her, as well as everyone who entered.
Here's the part where I say, to each and every one of you, "You're the sweetest person in the world, and I want you to know I'm thinking about you today."
If I could, I would have picked each and every one of you as winners. (Wouldn't that be cool? Note to self: buy more Lotto tickets...)
But to my mind, you're more than that. You're kind and generous people who have gifted me your time in order to learn about, and appreciate, my stories.
I also want to tell those of you who went for the bonus points that I truly appreciate the fact that you too the time to write reviews for my Housewife Assassin series. In fact, it was ConnieVB's sixth entry that was chosen, via RandomResult.com.
I've attached the screenshot of her winning entery, here:
I'm always in awe of those who take the time to post reviews, even when I'm not running a contest. They do so, just because they enjoyed one of my novels.
I've put it this message in my books, and I mean it: we authors live and die by our reviews. It is the best way of encouraging other readers to try us, to sample us, to buy us, to read us, and hopefully to love us.
You see, the more you express you love, the more likely it is that we can keep writing books. Every novelist I know works very hard at his or her craft, not as a hobby, but because it pays the rent and puts food on his or her family's table. Would we quit writing if it didn't?
I hope I never find out the answer to that question. The Housewife Assassin novels and other books in which I can control the prices are only $3.99 for a reason: Not only do I want to write them, I want to make them affordable enough for you to buy them. Some coffee drinks at Starbucks cost more. Here's hoping the enjoyment you get from my books last longer.
It may take you a few days to read a book, but it takes us months–sometimes years–to write them.We do so because our art and craft drives us.
At the same time, it is our hope that it also entertains you.
The fifth book in the Housewife Assassin series, The Housewife Assassin's Vacation to Die For, will be out by August 15, 2013. The moment it launches in the online bookstores, I'll send out my eLetter. If you aren't already on it, please feel free to sign up for it here.
I'll also be launching a redesigned and updated version of my very first novel, True Hollywood Lies. You'll read about my contests for both books in my eLetter, and here on my blog as well as on my website.
When I wrote ConnieVB to tell her that she'd won, I also asked her to tell me a little about herself, so that I can share it with you. I've done this with each of my contests because, dear readers, when I hear back from you, I can lift my head from my computer screen and know that I've touched someone, in some small way.
Here's how ConnieVB puts it:
"Okay, so when I read the subject of your email my first thought was not me. Then when I read the note it was shut the front door! LOL
I have loved talking about your books, all of them, not just the housewife series. They are so much fun to read! It makes me glad that I finally broke down and bought a kindle and loaded it with free books. :) I adore books and swore I'd never go electronic. There is just something about the feeling of a book and turning the pages. I have a ton of books that I've read but if someone were to open one up now the spine would still crack, I was that careful with them. :) I'm especially glad that in turn I got to know you. You're such a sweetheart!
As far as including something about me in your blog…..well, now I'm speechless lol
I love to read but I also enjoy cooking, baking, and stitching. All the domestic stuff that no one expects from an opinionated feminist like myself. 🙂
In my free time I'm a domestic goddess taking care of my awesome husband, two children, and our two furry kids.
I enjoy theatre, music, movies and hope to see the world one day."
And I'm sure there is a lot about ConnieVB that is like you, too.
If Donna and her stories have done anything for me, it is that it's created a wonderful community of those of us who share a sense of humor, a sense of books, and a sense of life.
I couldn't be happier than to welcome all of you to my world.
Thank you for making me a part of yours, too.
My cell in the Santa Monica hoosegow could do
with a little sprucing up, but my roomies, Big Bitch Bitsy and Shitfaced Leona,
would get in my face and threaten me with some smackdown should I even consider
rearranging their fine collection of Chippendales trading cards, which has been
stuck onto the concrete wall with Bubblicious.
I’ve been in this hellhole for the past seven
hours. I don’t plan on staying here another night. Still, Bitsy (whereas she
uses this as a surname, I don’t want to disrespect her by calling her by the
much less bestie-friendly Big or Bitch) is no fool. She sees me eyeing the
bottom bunk near the window, and wants to set me straight up front that it’s
hers. Bitsy’s fist goes for my nose. To her surprise, I’m able to stop it with
my stiffened palm, and twist her arm out behind her, which is all it takes to
warn her that not only sticks and stones, but pressure in the right spot, is
all it takes to break her bones. Being raised by gentlefolk, I release her with
a warning that doesn’t mar the reputation of the woman who bore her, or
reference some embarrassing part of her anatomy.
You’d think she’d take the hint that I’m not
someone she should be messing with, but no.
The long shadows cast by our cell’s fugly
fluorescent overhead light tip me off that she’s about to stab me with a shiv
made from a metal spring from Leona’s bunk. A roundhouse kick to Bitsy’s gut
sends her reeling backward into the wall. I cram her head against it with my
version of a Vulcan Mind Meld, where pressure points in three key spots on her
cranium has Bitsy repeating every word I say. “I will act like a lady at all
times. I will share with my bunkmates. I will talk in a lady-like voice. I
won’t use my nasty pottymouth.”
Works every time. Thank you, Mr. Spock.
“Tsk, tsk. Is that any way to make friends and
I turn around to find Jack smiling at me from
just beyond the bars. So, that was the reason for the salacious whistles and
catcalls coming from the other cells. Usually, it’s for a new prisoner, or as
they call them here, “fresh meat.” This time it’s for six-feet-two-inches of
prime beefcake in an Armani suit.
I wave gaily at him. Okay, it’s more like a
middle-finger salute. “’Bout damn time you got here. If it’s going to take you
seven hours to drive a whole two miles, why do you own a Lamborghini?”
“Because the girls love it.” Noting my raised
brow and Bitsy’s shiv in my hand has him rethinking his answer. “In all
seriousness, Ryan and I are having a hell of a time convincing the local
authorities that you didn’t kill Edwina. It doesn’t help that your prints are
the only ones on the murder weapon.”
“But I explained that to the SWAT guys! It was
in my hand when Breck and I wrestled for it, and he twisted my arm so that it
was pointing at her when he squeezed the trigger.”
“Likely story,” mutters Leona, through her
I peel her favorite Chippendale off the wall and
tear it in half. She whimpers, but takes the hint that she better keep mum in
front of my gentleman caller.
Jack shakes his head at my cruelty. “It doesn’t
help that the security video shows you as coming out of the House of Mirrors
right after Breck got shot in there.”
Suddenly, it looks like I’ll have the time to
complete a full makeover of my jail cell.
I smack the bars between us with my fist. “Oh my
God! If I end up in jail for Edwina’s murder, Carl will be given custody of the
kids! I’ve got to get out of this mess!”
“Don’t worry about Carl. The files Edwina left
behind have put him back on the Watch List, and Breck, too for that matter.
Unfortunately, Carl left with Asimov’s contingent before we could stop him.”
“Well, that’s some relief.” I feel tears forming
in my eyes. “What have you told the children about my absence?”
“Just that you were in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Unfortunately, your arrest made the news in a big way. The police
leaked Breck’s version of it. Needless to say, all of Hilldale is buzzing about
it. Penelope and her posse actually believe that you’re jealous of Babette.
Mrs. Breck’s silence on the topic isn’t helping matters.”
“Figures she’d be towing his party line.” I
shake my head in disgust. “Breck is a member of the Quorum. For that alone,
we’ve got to bring him back. Seriously, Jack, what are we going to do?”
“We just have to wait it out, for however long
it takes.” He looks down at his watch “Which should be about… now.”
For just a few seconds, all the lights in the
Jack looks down the hall. Seeing that the two
guards have been distracted by the shouts of the cellmates over this disruption
of their routine, he slips me a small bag through the bars.
“That was Arnie,” he mutters, just barely loud
enough for me to hear. “He’s just put their security feed on a loop. It’ll run
for a couple of hours. In the meantime, this spray turns these two into
sleeping beauties. If need be, you can use the spray on the guards, too, but I
think the diversion Arnie is causing in Cell Block C will keep them busy for
awhile. We guessed at the uniform size. The smart card gets you through every
door in this joint. Abu and I will be waiting down the block in his ice cream
I give him a thumbs up. I wish I could kiss him,
but I don’t want to make my roomies jealous.
I’m just glad he’s kept his shirt on, and he’s
kept his a bowtie and French cuffs at home.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Signal Press / In bookstores now!
Book 1, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Book 2, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S
GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING
older looking than your online dating photo, Nadia,” General Melmud Massoud
Shammam says as he scrutinizes me from top to bottom.
In fact, it’s
my bottom that fascinates him the most. To my chagrin, he holds up one of my
dating profile pictures in order to compare it to the real thing. “Did you
Photoshop your buttocks to look like Pippa Middleton’s? Yes, of course! I see
that now! Shame on you, sister, for coveting an infidel’s likeness!” He shakes
his index finger at me.
busted. It wasn’t my ass. That was Arnie’s idea. I’ll never listen to him again, that’s for sure.
“I should be
disappointed, but I am a practical man and prefer hips large enough to bear
many, many children. So perhaps you will make me happy after all.”
Ha! Says you, I think, but I stifle the urge to
stick my stiletto into his heart.
breasts are bigger than mine, so I’m not sure I’d find his heart underneath all
I’d sure have
fun trying, though. Like playing a real-life version of that old game,
bow my head to the man once renowned as the top torture expert in Gaddafi’s
army and murmur, “It is true, sir. Allah has given me many wonderful years. But
the life of a fertile virgin is empty if it is not spent at the side of an
ID’ed by Interpol’s Universal Face Workstation as the thug standing with Carl
in the munitions exchange video. His payoff in arranging the fatal meeting was
a new identity and a one-way ticket to the United States.
Ladies, big FYI:
because this coward left his three wives and nine children to face Libya’s mob
rule, he’s back on the market. His online dating profile in Anastasia Date (the leading website for
men seeking Russian brides looking to move overseas) reads like this:
Join me in America!
Strong, virile and handsome man seeks slim and perfect woman with whom to
share his life. Let’s hit the links, and take long walks on the beach at
Must be Muslim, and a virgin. Natural blonde preferred. Must like golf
and also hiking, since sometimes we may spend time camping out in the desert
for long periods of time. But I am well-endowed, so it will be worth your
charmer, ain’t he?
into Melmud’s account and zapped the responses from the few Slavic singletons
desperate enough to answer the ad so that I’d be his default choice.
response was fine-tuned in the hope of making me sound meek, pious and
submissive. My profile photos were shot by a photographer who freelances for Playboy, and all that implies. With the
help of a sheer, form-hugging shift and some soft backlighting, the
photographer knew exactly how to accentuate the positive.
So did Arnie,
who’s a wiz at Photoshop. Pippa has set a very high bar for the rest of us. I
may have been wearing a headscarf, but now it’s obvious that Melmud’s eyes
weren’t drawn to the shape of my head.
“Nadia” would have flown from Moscow to LAX, but thanks to some Arnie’s hacking,
the best Melmud could pull off on such short notice was a flight to San
Francisco, where he was to her up, then fly her into Santa Barbara on his
female Acme operative with my height, weight measurements (perky breasts and
all) and an identical head scarf boarded the flight. When she got off, she went
into the fifth stall the closest ladies’ lavatory, where I was already waiting
for her. We’re dressed as twins down to our matching headscarves, so anyone
following her would presume we’re one and the same. She handed me her ticket to
put with my fake passport, changed her clothes and wig, and then there was one.
bodyguard met me at baggage claim and hustled me into another terminal, where
Melmud’s private customized Gulfstream G650 was ready to whisk us down to Santa
Barbara. The plane is tricked out with a private living room, bedroom, dining
room and kitchen galley.
words, all the comforts of home for a fugitive on the run.
Now that I’m
in mid-flight with my supposed betrothed, I’ll slip him the ultimate mickey—SP-117, a concoction invented by the
Russia’s external foreign intelligence arm, the SVR. It’s tasteless, colorless,
and leaves the victim clueless as to anything he may have said.
under the influence, I’ll ask him the whereabouts of the missing munitions
cache. But it’s only a fifty-minute flight, so I’ve got to work fast. My problem: being Muslim, neither Melmud
nor his thug drinks liquor or caffeine. A glass of water will have to do.
I begin with flattery, in my best Moose-and-Squirrel accent.
“Sir, my innate shyness forces me to request that our time together be
By the way he raises an eyebrow at this unexpected modesty it
looks like he believes that perhaps he really did find the only virgin on a
website loaded with Slavic vixens. I guess he’s giving me the benefit of the
doubt because he snaps his fingers at his bodyguard, who disappears into the
cockpit with the pilot, closing the door behind him.
I reward Melmud by loosening the top button of my already
low-cut, floor-length tunic, revealing the lacy camisole beneath it.
The plane hops over a cloud, giving me the opportunity to
tumble against him. Oops! My hand falls in his lap in the hope of bracing my
fall. I cover my mouth, as if shocked by this seemingly innocent action.
But when our eyes meet, I lick my lips in anticipation.
His response is Pavlovian in one regard. He’s panting for a
country, we toast the holy union between a groom and his bride.” I lower my
head. “Will you allow me to serve you, my honorable fiancé? Just a glass of water,
He smiles and
nods toward the kitchen galley. I bow slightly before gliding to a cabinet and
pulling out two glasses.
He is too
busy loosening his tie and planning the tests that will prove my virginity to
see me slide the medallion on my ring and release the drug into his drink.
As I hand him
his glass, he shouts, “Prost!”
He passes out
just as he had begun to slobber all over me. Yuck! I shove him off to the far end of the couch. I go over my
mental checklist of everything on my list—
Oh, fudge! I forgot to check the SFO duty-free
shop for any Furbys!
Note to self:
get better at multi-tasking.
things first. Buy time.
Melmud’s cell phone from his pocket and yank the subject’s SIM card from his
phone. Then I dial Jack with the satellite connection on the wireless SIM card
reader I’ve concealed in my valise.
little mail order bride?” he asks.
crap. I’ve just pulled out the SIM card. What now?”
Arnie’s on the line, too. All you have to do is slip it into that little
doohickey he gave you. When it’s done, uplink it, and voila! He’ll have access to a week, maybe two, of previous text
messages and traceable cell numbers.”
By the time
the upload is finished, Melmud’s Kickapoo Joy Juice has kicked in.
“Who is the
Quorum?” My voice is gentle but authoritative.
But they pay well for arms. Enough for me to buy the mansion next door to Oprah
in Montecito. But Oprah’s dogs crap in my yard all the time. Still, I don’t
mind. They are Oprah’s dogs! Some are Laboradors, but there are also a couple
of Springer spaniels. Not to mention the golf club in Montecito is top notch. I
have a two handicap. Soon they will soon make me a member. I am sure of it.”
should have warned me SP-117 leads to diarrhea of the mouth. If this were just
another extraordinary rendition, I’d have already given this dude a Cheney spa
treatment and tossed him out the door.
I start over.
“Melmud, try to stay focused. What is the Quorum doing with heat-seeking
Like, duh. At thirty-three thousand feet in
the air, this guy better tell me something I don’t already know, or one of us
is going to jump ship. I don’t want it to be me. “Where will it occur? On what
day, and at what time?”
“What I know
A sharp rap
at the door stops him cold. That damn bodyguard!
the bodyguard is telling his boss that we will be landing in five minutes. He
wants to know if there is anything we need.
about to say something when I hiss, “Don’t answer!” I reach for my satellite
phone. This time I dial Arnie direct.
When he picks
up, I whisper frantically, “I need you to dial Melmud’s bodyguard as if it’s
coming from Melmud, and give him a message.”
“Why would I do that?”
in the middle of interrogating this creep, and the guard is standing right
outside the door! I can’t have Melmud answer him out loud. He’s in a trance! No
telling what he might say! I need the guard to get a text message telling him
to scram! But to be authentic, it’ll have to be in Arabic, and my bandwidth
doesn’t stretch that far.”
piece of cake. And I’ll make sure the caller ID will show Melmud’s phone. Just
text me what you want it to say.”
I think for a
moment before sending him this:
While she is smart and beautiful and surely would make a fine and pious
mother, I still have my doubts that this woman is a natural blonde. I am
testing my theory now. If the door is still closed when we land, no one is to
disturb us! When I am done, I will meet you by the limo. Allah willing, my
bride is flaxen and therefore worthy to accompany us to Montecito. Oh, by the
way, the next time Oprah’s dogs take a dump in the yard, shoot them.
outside the door tells me the bodyguard has gotten Arnie’s message. A moment
later I hear Melmud’s thug murmur, “Yes, General,” in Arabic, before trudging
back to the cockpit.
I breathe a
sigh of relief. “Thanks, Arnie.”
“Glad it did
the trick. But, Donna, what the heck was that stuff about Oprah’s dogs?”
“I needed to
add a tinge of authenticity to the message. Trust me, it did the trick.”
I click off
and shake Melmud back into interrogation mode. “Tell me, quick. Where is the
shipment from Libya right now?”
infidels would not tell me. To hide this knowledge from me, they spoke in
French. But they did not realize I speak it, too. All I know is that it is
coming in by ship. From a toymaker.” A sly smile rises on his lips. “And by the
way, the female infidel really did have a butt like Pippa. But by her amorous
moves with her partner, I am guessing she is no virgin.”
slut, and Carl enjoys it? No surprise there. And for the record, this dude has
no idea what he’s talking about. No way does her bum look better than mine!
cackle puts me back on task. “Why should I care, anyway, when the cargo
arrives? The less I know about it, the better. I’ve worked too hard establishing
my excellent new identity as a successful self-help guru from Dubai. I’m
working on my book now. It is called Don’t
Worry, Be Happy: Six Must-Do Moves to Being a Better You. I have no doubt
it will be a sure-fire bestseller! I will leave it in Oprah’s mailbox, and she
will love it and build a whole television network around its teachings.”
Obviously, the truth drug has made him delusional. “I love Oprah. And I love
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Did you know she lives nearby? I love Seinfeld, too. I
wonder if he ever visits Elaine…”
I hear the
vibration of the plane’s wheels dropping. Time to wrap up our little
tête-a-tête, and it couldn’t come a second sooner. Hanging out with this guy is
driving me nuts.
I force him
to sip again from his glass. A moment
later, he drifts off to sleep. By the time Melmud’s bodyguard shakes him awake,
I’ll be just a pleasant memory.
I’ll also be
brunette again, and long gone.
landing is smooth as silk. As planned, Jack is there waiting on the tarmac. The
credentials he presents to the flight crew and the bodyguard identify him as
the field office director of the Santa Barbara County branch of the Immigration
and Naturalization Services.
turns white under his swarthy tan. The last thing he wants is for the INS to
question him about his passport, or Melmud’s, for that matter.
On the other
hand, he’ll gladly step aside so that Jack can take me off the plane in
handcuffs. Here’s a shocker. Turns out, I’m not a virgin after all. Apparently,
“Nadia” has run away from her husband, a Muslim jeweler based in Moscow.
“Your boss is
bereft,” Jack tells the bodyguard. “He asks that you not disturb him. He said
something about five salads.”
eyes open wide. “No, he means ‘salats.’
He wants to pray.”
only one thing. The Self Help Guru Formerly Known as the Mommar’s Mutilator is
very upset that his life-size Barbie wasn’t the fantasy bride he’d hoped for.
anything?” Jack asks, as we roar off in his Lamborghini.
coming in by ship.” Talk about a needle in a haystack. “Also, I now know why
Gaddafi’s regime was so dysfunctional.”
“Do you think
it might’ve had something to do with the fact he was a nut?”
that’s a big part of it. But it turns out we Americans were the real cause of
were. We played an important if somewhat covert role in aiding and abetting the
“Nope, I mean
even before the Arab Spring. You see, Mommar’s generals watched too much
American television. To them, life is a series of self-help aphorisms culled
from daytime talk shows. They also think sitcom characters are real.”
“So do most
Americans. So I guess we truly are a global village.” Jack shakes his head
sadly. Then his eyes light up. “Oh, wow, that reminds me. The Big Bang Theory is on tonight!”
to catch it on demand. Have you forgotten the Oprah special airs tonight? She’s
interviewing Pippa Middleton! I’m sure as heck not going to miss that.”
appreciatively. “Speaking of Pippa, did anyone ever tell you your butt looks a
lot like hers?”
When I punch
his arm, he almost drives off the Pacific Coast Highway.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (email@example.com).
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In this scene, my heroine, Donna Stone, is on the hunt for a large shipment of stolen plutonium. A hot lead sends her to a posh Beverly Hills art gallery. Just because the owner is sleazy doesn't mean he has anything to hide–
Or does he?
Donna finds out–the hard way.
Speaking of works of art, here's another angry housewife painting from one of my favorite artists, Kelly Reemtsen. You can catch her work here on her website, and also at Skidmore Contemporary Art in Santa Monica, David Klein Gallery in Birmingham Michigan, or DeBuck Gallery, in New York.
The subject is wearing the perfect frock for a the start of summer, don't you think? And who'd a thunk an ax would make such an eye-catching accessory?
TGI Holiday Weekend,
“It’s a Larkaro,” Armand Fronsdal hisses in my
ear. “Arresting, is it not?”
Yep, that’s exactly how I’d describe an art
installation made up of a video projector playing a short film in which three
big-breasted nymphs cavort in the woods. But hey, what do I know from art?
One thing I do know: this man’s breath leaves a
lot to be desired.
But when I turn to face him, I’ve already set my
lips into a come-hither pout. “I’m looking for something a bit more… je ne sais quoi? Ah! Romantique.”
Having one-upped his Lounge Lizardeese with my
high school French has scored me major points with this jerk. He crooks a
finger at me to follow him.
He is too tall and too slight: think Ichabod
Crane in Goth. If his ponytail is supposed to cover up the fact that he’s got a
bald spot, he’s failed miserably. He’s wearing more eyeliner than me, which is
saying a lot, because I laid it on thick this morning.
Albeit no thicker than the crap he’s laying on
me now. “Has ma’amselle been complimented for her resemblance to John Singer
Sargent’s magnificent painting of Mrs. Waldorf Astor?”
I shrug. While it is flattering, we both know
it’s a stretch. Edvard Munch’s The Scream,
“Ah, well, perhaps we shall find some petit amusement, oui?” I murmur. Playing
the bored art patroness has meant dressing up in a shiny ass-grazing red
leather dress that zips up the front, black fishnet stockings that end in
four-inch Louboutin thigh-high boots, and a veiled chapeau perched atop my
French twist. What with the tightness of the dress and the tiny heels of the
shoes, keeping up with his long strides is a bitch.
The gallery is really a warehouse broken up into
several rooms. He doesn’t stop until he reaches the one farthest to the back of
the building. One wall is made up of medieval pitchforks in a lattice pattern.
Near another, a seven-foot hot pink and purple polka-dot penis rises, thick and
proud, among two humongous blue balls.
The center installation is made up of abstract
mirrored balls of varying sizes, hung from the ceiling. They are dripping some
substance the color of blood.
If this is his idea of romantic, I’m guessing he
doesn’t go on many dates.
he purrs in an accent as bad as mine.
I whisper as I stare up at the mirrored balls.
“This is my private atelier,” he hisses proudly.
“Everything in here is my own creation. If this piece speaks to you, I’m sure
we can come up with some arrangement: say, forty thou? That’s a third off the
“Such a steal. Almost wholesale.” I tilt my
head. Unconsciously I straighten the seams of my stockings. In truth, I am
taking aim with the toe of my right bootie. It is loaded with truth serum. The
sooner I take this guy down, the better. This place gives me a bad case of the
creeps, and I want out of here fast—
Ah, darn! His cell phone just buzzed. I wave him
off as he excuses himself to answer it.
In one of the mirrored balls hanging from the
ceiling, I see that he is almost at the door when he freezes. His back
straightens. Then slowly he turns around.
He has a wary look on his face. He doesn’t think
I see him as he plucks one of the pitchforks from the wall. And steps up behind
But I’m too quick for him, swinging the largest
of the mirrored balls toward his skull.
It knocks him down but not out. The pitchfork
skitters on the slippery floor. As I lunge for it, he grabs my ankle, and I
Damn. These. Heels…
Copyright © 2011 by Josie Brown. Published in May 2011 by Signal Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.
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My husband, Martin, isn't one of those men who must have the latest/greatest in technology. Nor must he demonstrate his manliness with boy toys that are always the biggest, and therefore presumed the best (phallically speaking).
Which brings me to the death of Scotty–an appropriate topic, now that the latest Star Trek Movie ("Into Darkness") is in movie theaters.
No, I don't mean Scotty, the good ship Enterprise's engineer (thank goodness, because I really really love love love Simon Pegg in the role).
I mean Martin's cell phone, a relic he calls "Scotty," as a quaint reference to the phasers carried by the Star Trek crew. You see, his phone is that tiny.
And it ispossibly as old as the original TV show itself.
Okay, certainly it's not THAT old. Besides, back then there were no cell phones, not to mention the first ones were attached to suitcases, so that would defeat his purpose of carrying the tiniest phone he could find.
In fact, his current cell is so tiny that texting on it (yes, at least it allows him to text, but only predictively) is a tribulation, despite his opposable-thumb dexterity. (He's right up there with the apes and chimps, so my mother was wrong about him.)
And the darn thing certainly ain't "smart." He can't get The Internets, and the pictures it takes look like they were pulled out of an elephant's ass.
Bottom line: Scotty is dying.
It's showing its wonkiness by asking to "Please Insert Sim Card" when it already has one. Or sometimes the screen goes white (yes, at least, originally it was in color). Other times, the message shows appears upside down.
"Honey, Scotty is dying," I tell him in a soothing tone.
"But I hate the new phones! They're too big," he whines "Much too bulky for a man to carry in his pocket."
"Too bad," I respond. "It's dying. That's okay. It lived long and prospered. But if you're waiting for another cell the size of a Star Trek phaser gun, youve got another thing coming. If you need something to carry it in, I'll lend you one of my purses."
Needless to say, this is not the answer he's looking for.
If he could, he'd wait it out, until cells got small again. Until then, he's still got to reach out and touch someone with something that receives messages that aren't smoke signals, so down to the Verizon store we go.
Speaking of dying, I've got a great excerpt for you today. It comes from Book 2 of The Housewife Assassin series, Guide to Gracious Killing. In it, my heroine, Donna Stone, is charged with protecting the Russian president from assassins while he's the guest of an American billionaire. Of course, both an assassin and the billionaire make their appearance at exactly the wrong time: while Donna is trying to take a shower.
I’ve just clicked on the dryer again, when
there’s another knock on the door. I crack it open to find a maid standing
there, with an armful of towels. “Shall I take them into the bathroom, Madame?”
Her accent is slightly British, which is par for the course around here.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll take them.”
She smiles and hands them to me.
That’s when I see it—a small tattoo of a wolf on
her left arm.
Her eyes follow mine. She senses I know who she
Her arm comes up toward my face. I block it with
my forearm, then kick her in the gut. She falls back, slamming into the
dresser. This stuns her, but just for a second. She reaches behind her and
yanks the dryer from the electrical socket. In no time at all, she’s got the
cord wrapped around both her wrists and arms.
“You won’t stop me from killing him.” Her vow is
soft, but deadly. “With what he’s done to others like me? That pig does not
deserve to live!”
“Trust me I get it. But it’s not happening here,
We both know I can’t talk her out of her mission
anymore than she can talk me out of mine: to save Asimov’s sorry ass.
We circle each other warily, assessing each
other’s weaknesses: She’s got more bulk than me, but she’s also slower. I’m
taller, too. Best yet, I’m now up against the dresser. Obviously, she considers
this a weakness because she charges me.
Even with the cord wrapped around my neck, all
it takes is one squirt of my spray cologne in her eyes to blind her.
She stumbles into the bathroom, dragging me with
her into the shower, where she turns on the water, full force. She’s hoping to
wash the sting out of her eyes.
What she doesn’t count on is my ability to kick
her into the shower.
She bangs her head against the marble wall.
Before she comes to her senses, I untangle myself from the cord, plug the dryer
into an electrical socket, and throw it into the tub.
Wolverine’s death mask stare and the smell of
her frying skin sends me gagging from the room followed by a shower of sparks
as the electrical system shorts out.
I shut the bathroom door, then lay down on the
bed to catch my breath.
This time when there’s a tap on the door, I
throw it open, to let Jack in.
But no. It’s Jonah Breck.
I pull my robe tightly around me. “My husband is
out right now.”
He smirks. “I know, dear. That’s why I’m here.
Don’t worry, we’ve got all the time in the world. He’s with the Japanese
defense minister, who is somewhat long-winded.” From behind him, he pulls a
bottle of Tattinger’s and two champagne glasses. “I presume you’re finding your
accommodations to your liking.”
“In all honesty, there’s a short in the
bathroom’s electrical system—”
Before I can say another word, he has backed me
onto the bed. When my robe falls open, he whips the sash out from around me.
Before I know it, he’s flipped me onto my stomach.
“I could use that drink right now,” I gasp, as
he binds my wrists with the sash.
“We’ll celebrate afterward.” I hear him fumbling
with his zipper. “You will, anyway. Trust me, I’ll have you begging for more.”
I struggle and try to sweet talk him some sense
into him, but no use. He’s got me pinned. I’ve just about given up any hope of
the Calvary coming when there is a sharp knock on the door.
“Mrs. Stone?” Both Breck and I recognize
Edwina’s voice. “Mrs. Stone, your daughter requests you come immediately.”
“Answer her.” Breck’s hot breath sears my ear.
I shout, “I’ll—I’ll be right there.”
“I’ll have to escort you. The girls are eating
in the south wing media room tonight, and with security as tight as it is… Well,
you can just imagine.”
Breck mutters a curse as he rolls off me. Even
as he unties me with one hand, the other gently follows the curve of my ass—
When he smacks it hard, I swallow the urge to
“A love tap. There’s more where that came from.
You’ll love the tour of my dungeon.”
He’s got a dungeon? His corporate bio doesn’t
mention a sadistic streak, but yeah, okay, makes sense.
I leap up and grab my dress, which is hanging
over the chair.
Breck smiles as I struggle into it. “Allow me to
zip you up.”
I suppress a shudder at the thought of his hands
anywhere on me. Instead, I nod.
He presses the zipper into my skin as he inches
it up, ever so slowly. When he’s done, I feel his lips grazing my neck. They
linger there as he breathes in the scent of my skin, sweat, and disgust.
How I long to smash that champagne bottle over
my host’s head, but seriously, what kind of guest would that make me?
And besides, I can’t deal with the disposal of
two dead bodies tonight.
Before I leave, I flip off Elvis Costello.
I can just imagine Ryan and Arnie’s shock and
awe at seeing Breck slithering out of the room.
I don’t even want to think about Jack’s
Let alone what he’ll say about the fried maid in
the shower. I guess I have a lot of explaining to do.
c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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