I’m doing a minor update on an earlier contemporary romance novel, The Deception, while I wait for my editor to finish up my latest contemporary romance novel,The Letter. The two stories are similar. Those who have read The Deception will no doubt enjoy The Letter, and vice versa.
The most noticeable change is the book cover. Inspired by real-life stories of revenge porn, The Deception is the story of a woman exploited in a profoundly ugly way. However, the original cover created a bit of a controversy as some didn’t understood the reason behind it. While still sexy, the new look is less controversial. I also think it’s a prettier cover.
a sample read from The Deception
Carrie slammed the phone down in disgust. It was the third crank call she’d received that morning. The calls had all come to her office number, posted on her website and she wondered if her website had somehow been hacked. She called her webmaster and asked him to investigate. He called back a short time later. Other than heavier than usual traffic that morning everything appeared to be normal. In the interim, she had received yet another obscene phone call, so they decided to take her phone number off the website. Within an hour the harassing calls had stopped.
Carrie tried to pull herself together and go back to work. The calls were disturbing, and she was having a hard time concentrating. She heard the bell at her front counter and stepped into the reception area to find Marcy, her letter carrier.
“Good morning, Marcy. How was your Fourth of July?”
“Nice and quiet,” she said as she placed the mail on the counter. “I have something you need to sign for.”
Carrie signed the form and Marcy handed her a large, thick envelope. The sender was GMH Publications, from Los Angeles. She didn’t recognize the name, so more than likely it was a prospective client. Marcy said goodbye as Carrie took the mail back to her desk and opened it. Inside the big envelope was a check, payable to her, for five thousand dollars. Attached to the check was a personally signed letter from Caleb Wyman, publisher of Gentry Magazine, congratulating her for winning the photo contest in their latest issue.
“What on earth? I never entered any photo contest. Not for anyone, and most certainly not for you.”
She reached back into the envelope and pulled out the remaining contents. It was the latest issue of Gentry Magazine. As she thumbed through the pages something familiar caught her eye and she heard herself shrieking.
The inspiration for my contemporary novels comes from all kinds of places, including social media. In fact, the idea for my contemporary romance novel, The Stalker, came from a Facebook fued.
For better or worse, Facebook has become a part of our culture, and a few years ago a bitter feud erupted on my Facebook newsfeed. A friend’s former colleague had a falling out with her. She had blocked him Facebook, but his so-called friends and supporters enabled him to continue stalking her by sending him screenshots of her Facebook posts. This included posts about her job, her family, and even her children. He would then use her posts to smear her, and her family, on his newsfeed.
No one deserves to be bullied and harassed on social media. My friend took her harasser to court, and the judge put a stop to it once and for all. However, the legal system takes time, so this feud went on for at least a year. As a writer, I saw this as a good premise for novel. Most people assume stalking is limited to former lovers, but it isn’t the case at at. Anyone can be a potential stalker, although stalking itself is a rare phenomenon. I talked it over with my friend, and she gave me her okay to use her experience as the inspiration for my novel.
While inspired by real-life events, The Stalker, is a unique and fictional story. It’s also a much darker and creepier story. Craig Walker, a successful freelance writer, is stalking Rachel Bennett, a former coworker. Rachel had once considered Craig a mentor, but their friendship soured when she got a promotion he thought she didn’t deserve. Now Criag out for revenge, and he intends to destroy Rachel, once and for all.
Rachel waited until Shane was gone before turning her attention back to the deputy. His nametag identified him as Joseph Gonzalez.
“And so another wonderful evening gets ruined, thanks to Craig Walker.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “I first met Shane, the man who just left, back in high school, but I never really talked to him until tonight, and I could tell something wonderful was about to happen. Then you showed up.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m just doing my job.”
Her toned softened. “I know you are, and I’m sorry for being rude. This really isn’t your fault. You got duped by Craig Walker, just like I did.”
The deputy motioned for her to take a seat in the corner of the lounge. As she settled into her chair, he took a small notepad from his pocket and sat down across from her.
“Okay, Ms. Bennett, can you please tell how you know Mr. Walker?”
“Craig Walker is an ex co-worker who I first met in Reno, Nevada, where we both worked for a magazine.”
“Were you ever romantically involved with him?”
“No,” said Rachel, firmly, as she shook her head. “Mr. Walker and I have never been romantically involved. It was strictly a business relationship.” She went on to describe their talks in the break room, and how he had turned on her after she was hired as the new art director.
“So,” said Gonzalez, “you said he was reprimanded after this incident. Did the harassment stop after that?”
“He never actually spoke to me after that, but he still gave me the evil eye whenever he saw me, and he always made a point of contradicting me at staff meetings, even when everyone else agreed with me. I probably could have said the sky was blue, and he would have said no, it was green. And then things started getting really scary.”
“What do you mean by scary?”
“I started getting some really nasty emails in my personal account. They came from different senders, but they all had pretty much the same verbiage. I was a hack who didn’t know how to do my job, and the only reason I got my job was because I’d slept with the boss. Changing my password and blocking the senders didn’t seem to help. So, I finally went back to my supervisor, but I was told that unless I could prove Craig was the sender, they couldn’t do anything about it. They suggested I open a new email account.”
“Yes, and after that I made a point of not checking my personal email from my work computer. Later on, I found out someone was using the contact form on the magazine website to complain about me, but management simply ignored it. They knew what was going on; they just didn’t want to get involved. It was about the same time we learned the magazine would be going out of business.”
The deputy went over his notes. “You mentioned something about this not being the first time you had an evening ruined by Mr. Walker. Could you please explain what you meant by that?”
“Back in Reno, it seemed like every time I went out with friends, Craig would be there. If we went to a bar or restaurant, he’d be at another table. If we went to a movie or show, he’d be seated in the auditorium; always giving me a cold, hard stare. It was as if he knew my every move, even though I’d made a point of keeping my private life private. I never discussed any of my plans with co-workers. Then there was Eric.”
“Who was Eric?”
“Eric Hawthorne was someone I was seeing while I was in Reno. It wasn’t anything overly serious, but we enjoyed each other’s company. So one night while we were out having dinner, Craig was brazen enough to approach Eric in the men’s room. He told him what a lying, two-faced bitch I was, and that I was sleeping with the boss, and why was wasting his time with someone like me when there were so many other women out there who were better? The confrontation apparently didn’t last long, maybe a minute or so at best, but it really made Eric mad, not to mention how embarrassing it was for me.” Rachel sighed. “Eric sent me an email a few days later. He said he was sorry about the problems I was having with Craig, but he wanted to end the relationship. He wished me luck and hoped there’d be no hard feelings. After that, I never heard from him again.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Once again, I went to my supervisor. She said she was sorry, but since it happened after hours and away from the office, they weren’t going to get involved.”
“I see.” Gonzalez scribbled down more notes. “Is there anything else?”
“Other than the fact that he harassed me via the company email account at my next job, and through social media, I can’t think of a thing.”
Once again my illustrator, Wes Lowe, has hit it out of the ballpark. His cover art for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Stalker, captures the essence of the story perfectly.
The Stalker is the story of a woman harassed by a former coworker. Rachel considered Craig a mentor until she got a promotion he thought she didn’t deserved. The magazine they worked for as since gone out of business, but Craig continues to harass her, and the stakes are becoming deadly.
In the following excerpt, Rachel is getting acquainted with Shane, a former classmate, at their ten year class reunion.
A reading sample from The Stalker
They excused themselves from their table, and Shane led the way to a lounge on a lower mezzanine level. A man playing a guitar sat off to the side while a few hotel guests were seated around the tables. Shane led her to a long sofa and a waitress soon arrived.
“Would you like a glass of chardonnay?” he asked.
“Yes. It’s my favorite. Thanks.”
He turned to the waitress. “Make it two.”
Their server stepped away and Shane turned his attention back to Rachel. “So, now that we know all about what we did in college, what happened after that?”
“I ended up in Reno, Nevada,” said Rachel. “I accepted a position with a regional magazine called Sierra Life. It was a lifestyle publication with features on local history, architecture, home decorating ideas, places to visit, that sort of thing.”
“I see. So, what did you do there?”
“I worked in the art department. I did most of the ad layouts, and I helped the art director put each issue together. It was challenging but fun at the same time; sort of like putting a puzzle together.” She paused for a moment and a frown came over her face.
“What’s wrong? All of a sudden, you don’t look so happy.”
Rachel sighed. “While I was there, I had some unexpected challenges.”
“Really? Like what?”
“Well, I’ll spare you all the boring details. Let’s just say I had a coworker who turned out to be, well, rather difficult.”
“You mean you had a coworker from hell.”
“That, my friend, would be an understatement,” she said. “Hell wouldn’t have wanted him, because he would have taken the place over.”
“Wow. So who was he?”
“One of the staff writers. We never dated, or anything like that, but he got into the habit of joining me in the break room for coffee, and we’d talk. Nothing serious, just, you know, everyday chitchat. I guess you could say he was an office buddy, although I did look up to him. Then, later on, the art director left, so I applied for her position. By then I’d been with the magazine for about eighteen months, so I knew the formula, inside and out. I figured it would be a good career move. However, what I didn’t know at the time was that, Craig, my break-room friend, didn’t exactly agree.”
Rachel took a deep breath. “I didn’t want word getting out that I’d applied for the job, so I didn’t mention it to anyone, not even Craig. Therefore, I had no way of knowing his girlfriend’s niece had also applied for the job. Fast-forward a few weeks. They offered me the job, which I accepted. Then, the next thing I know, Craig is unleashing his wrath on me and he’s accusing me of sleeping with the boss.”
Shane’s expression turned serious. “Good grief. What is wrong with people these days? So what did you do then?”
At long last, my upcoming contemporary romance novel,The Betrayal is back from the editor.
The Betrayal is a story of lies, deceit and infidelity. However, I was facing some real-life challenges of my own as I was writing the story, which resulted in my having to set the manuscript aside for weeks at a time. Then, when it was finally complete, my editor found some continuity errors, so the last few chapters had to be revised. Not to worry. We were both delighted at how much those changes improved the storyline.
Unfortunately, I can’t divulge too much. It would spoil the story. I can, however, give you a sneak peek.
a sample read from The Betrayal
The knot in Emily’s stomach grew tighter as she pulled into the driveway and pressed the remote. The garage door slowly rolled up, revealing Jesse’s silver Lexus sedan parked inside. Her heart sank. Annette must have taken him to the airport. She took a deep breath and pulled into her old spot, taking her empty suitcase from the trunk, along with several flat boxes and a few rolls of packing tape. The others helped her carry everything inside.
“What a beautiful home,” said Andrea.
“Yes, it was.” Emily led them down the hallway and opened the first door on her right. Inside stood a small, antique desk and chair. Her computer sat on top of the desk, with an electric keyboard set up on the opposite wall.
“Wow look at that,” said Andrea as she walked up to the bookcases full of trophies.
“Those are all from her piano competitions,” said Megan. “She started doing them when she was in the fourth grade.”
“Third,” said Emily.
Megan shrugged and smiled. “Okay, I stand corrected. It was the third grade, but it was also before I met her. She was still competing and still winning trophies in high school, when I finally did meet her. I even went to some of her competitions.”
While Megan was talking, Emily grabbed the tape and started putting boxes together. “Uh-oh. I forgot the packing paper. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be right back.”
“Need help?” asked Sean.
Emily gave him a smile. “Sure.”
They stepped out, returning a moment later with the packing paper and the remaining flat boxes. Emily instructed them on how to pack the trophies before she grabbed her suitcase and headed upstairs. Her body tensed up as she opened the bedroom door. Inside, the bed was freshly made, and she spotted a small, hand-written note left on top of her pillow.
I know what I did was wrong. I’ve fired Annette and I’ll be looking for a new assistant as soon as I return. Please, don’t leave me. I still love you, and I’ll do whatever it takes to win you back.
Emily started to crumple the paper, but then thought better of it. She dropped it back on the pillow and packed up the rest of her clothes as quickly as she could. Before long the bag was filled. Zipping it shut, she jumped at an unexpected sound. A man’s voice was calling her name.
“Whoops. Sorry, Emily. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s okay, Sean. I guess I’m a little on edge today.”
“Perfectly understandable. Do you want me to take the bag downstairs for you?”
“Please do. It’s probably a little too heavy for me to carry. I just need to grab a box for the other things I have left, and then I’ll be done up here.” A wave of sadness came over her as she looked around what had been her bedroom for more than three years. Once she was done, she doubted she would ever see it again.
“Are you alright?” asked Sean.
Emily tried to shrug it off. “I’m fine. Let’s take that bag downstairs.”
We’re hard at work on the book trailer for my contemporary romance novel, The Deception.
The Deception a story of lies and deceit. Carrie, a young photographer, suddenly finds herself homeless when her significant other abruptly ends their relationship. She has taken up temporary residence in her photography studio, but if her landlord catches her, she could end up on the streets. Enter Louise, an old friend and former mentor. Louise needs a model for a nude photo shoot and Carrie desperately needs the money. With no other options available, she reluctantly accepts Louie’s offer. Little does she know the devastating and potentially deadly consequences of her decision.
Today videographer Rob Resetar shot two more scenes for the book trailer; a love scene between Carrie and Scott, one of the antagonists, along with photo shoot scene. With any luck, the book trailer will be completed right after the first of the year.
In the meantime, I’m sharing a short excerpt from The Deception.
an excerpt from The Deception
Carrie Daniels closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she tried to quell her growing anxiety. The big metal chain made loud clicking sounds as it pulled her up higher and higher. Her breaths grew shorter and tighter as she opened her eyes. The last thing she saw before the first big drop was the stark, clear blue sky. She heard herself letting out a loud scream as the roller coaster plunged and whipped along the track. The butterflies roiled in her stomach as she held tight while the car zoomed around another hairpin turn before taking one last, final plunge. As the ride slowed to a stop, she reached up to pull a loose strand of her long, dark hair away from her face before leaning over to give Doug a kiss.
“I don’t know why you insist on calling it that,” he said as he climbed out and began walking away.
“Calling it what?” She quickly climbed out, picking up her pace to catch up with him.
“Our anniversary. Anniversaries are supposed to commemorate a specific date. Neither of us can recall the exact date anymore.”
“I can to,” she said, flirtatiously. “How could I forget our very first date? You took me to the opening day of the Arizona State Fair, and every year for the past ten years we’ve come back on opening day to celebrate.”
This year, however, Doug didn’t seem to feel like celebrating. He had been acting strange for some time. Carrie kept asking him what was wrong, but he kept brushing her off, saying he had a heavier than usual workload at the office. Carrie, however, couldn’t shake the nagging feeling there was more to it. They walked in silence as they wandered into the carnival gaming area. Finally, she tapped him on the shoulder.
“Aren’t you going to try to win a big teddy bear for me?”
He stopped and turned, rolling his eyes. “Carrie, you know these games are rigged.”
“That never stopped you before. Every year you try to win the big teddy bear for me, so that makes it a tradition for us. And remember what you said to me the year before last? You said if you ever won it, you’d propose to me.”
“You know I never meant it literally.”
“What’s gotten into you, Doug? You’ve haven’t been yourself for weeks and it’s scaring me.”
“I already told you. I’m stressed out with work, and on top of that all I’m hearing out of you lately is how your biological clock is ticking. All these years you’ve been telling me you weren’t in any hurry for us to get married. Now, all of a sudden, you’re in a big rush.”
“Well, if you recall, we celebrated my thirtieth birthday last month. I’ve finally come to realize I can’t wait another ten or fifteen years to start a family. I want to have a baby, Doug, and I want to have it with you.” Carrie noticed some of the people walking by were giving them strange looks. “Look, this isn’t the time or place, okay. Let’s just try to enjoy what’s left of the day. We’ll talk more about it later.”
She walked up to one of the games and reached into her purse, handing the man a twenty-dollar bill. He gave her some large plastic rings, which she began to toss. Much to her surprise, a few landed around the pegs. Once she finished, the game operator presented her with a small white teddy bear.
“Well,” she said, beaming, “it may not have been the big bear, but at least I won something.”
“Carrie, would you mind taking a seat?” Doug pointed to a nearby bench. “We need to have a little talk.”
Her heart dropped like a ball of lead. Nothing good was ever said after those words were spoken.
One of the chapters in The Reunion, was inspired by a real-life event. My significant other and I had volunteered to work at a Halloween haunted house. He dressed up as a samurai warrior ghost while I put green makeup on my hand and arm and hid underneath a stairwell, reaching out through the stairs to give folks a friendly little wave as they passed by. It was a fun night and an unforgettable Halloween.
In the excerpt below, Gillian, has volunteered to work at a haunted hayride. While she’s there, she meets a mysterious stranger who she feels she can confide in.
a Halloween excerpt from The Reunion
Gillian was warming herself at the heater when she heard footsteps coming up behind her. Someone in a Grim Reaper costume had joined her, and whoever it was seemed to be staring at her. Finally, he spoke up. His voice sounded raspy as he spoke.
“I’m sorry. I was told I’d be working with a blonde lady.”
“Well, I was a blonde until a few weeks ago. Now I’m a redhead.” She extended her hand. “The name’s Gillian, by the way.”
“John. Pleased to meet you.”
As they shook hands John told her he was one of the locals. He also seemed to be curious about her. The sound of clopping hooves, nervous laughter and chatter told them the first wagon was approaching. Gillian pulled up her hood. At John’s cue she ran up to the wagon while he chased after her. Their brief performance brought startled screams from the passengers. The wagon rolled on and they returned to the heater.
“So why would a blonde lady want to become a redhead?” he asked.
“It’s a long story. Let’s just say I’m celebrating a new lease on life. The old me was the blonde, the new me is a redhead.”
As they talked, she caught a whiff of something familiar. The cologne Ian always wore. The scent was a distraction, and she had to reminded herself that it was a popular brand and other men wore it too. John soon became quiet. A short time later another hay wagon came by and they repeated their scary performance in the dark maze. After the wagon left, Jeremy stopped by to check on her.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“So far, so good. Wait a minute, Jer. It looks like you’ve got a little smudge. Let me fix it for you.”
He leaned down as she removed one of her gloves and gave him a quick touch up. “There, that’s better.”
“Thanks.” Jeremy wrapped the reins around the saddle horn and reached down with both hands to pull her hood up. “You need to keep this on so you can stay warm. I don’t want you catching cold.”
“Got it. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll come back a little later to check on you again.”
Jeremy rode away, and as Gillian turned back she noticed John watching her intently. It was starting to make her feel uncomfortable.
“I take it he’s your significant other,” he finally said.
“Actually, he’s my best friend. Probably the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“Really? How so?”
Despite her growing discomfort with his questions, something deep inside told her John was trustworthy. She followed her instincts.
“It’s a long, complicated story. I’ll just sum it up by saying I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now if it wasn’t for him. That man literally saved my life not too long ago. I don’t remember it, but I’m told I fell into some water and nearly drowned. He’s the one who rescued me.”
“You know, it’s kind of ironic. Here I am talking to you, dressed up as The Grim Reaper, when I’ve met the real thing.”
“Was it scary?”
“To tell you the truth, it really wasn’t, and it’s the only part of the entire incident that I can remember clearly. I was heading toward a light and I wasn’t coming back.”
Gillian took a deep breath and sighed. “I’d just lost the love of my life. I had no reason to remain here and I wanted to cross over. Then I thought I heard my friend, Jeremy, calling me. The next thing I knew I was back at my backyard pool, only I wasn’t in the water. Somehow, I was suspended over it. Jeremy was in the pool and he was holding a body in his arms, which I knew had to be mine. Then I saw the look on his face. I knew, right then and there, that if I didn’t come back it would destroy his life, so I had no choice. I had to come back, even though I didn’t want to. I watched him lay my body out on the deck, and I heard him ask me once again to stay with him. Then I felt something like a tug. The next thing I knew, he was rushing me to the hospital. It’s the reason why I’m still here.”
She started smelling the cologne again and she looked at him more closely. The costume he wore didn’t reveal much about him. He was wearing a full mask, with a robe and hood, and he appeared to be bundled up underneath it. A strange thought crossed her mind, but it couldn’t be. Larry said his father was spending the day in Fort Collins with friends. John remained silent for several minutes. Finally, he found his voice.
“Well…Gillian, wasn’t it?”
“Well, Gillian, your life is a precious gift. It’s something you must never, ever take for granted. You may think you came back for your friend, but it’s not the only reason why you’re still here. You’re here because your life is far from over, and you’re meant to be here. I’m sure your family and friends, and your true love, are elated that you’re still with them. And who knows, maybe your true love will return to you someday.”
“Thank you, John. I appreciate your insight, but as far as my true love goes, I’m sorry to say some things just aren’t meant to be. Nice thought, though.”
“Never say never.”
The hay wagons returned several more times, but for the remainder of the evening, John said very little. Gillian was relieved when she finally heard Jeremy’s approaching horse.
“That was the last one,” he said. “Are you ready to go, my dear?” Jeremy extended his hand and helped Gillian get back up behind him. She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist.