A snippet opener for a new story eating my brain with a spoon.
Phillip Denton wasn’t what I expected, but then your heroes usually aren’t. He was more gangly than broad, but with the kind of wiry muscle that still left him capable of being a bobcat in a bag to handle. I could imagine him overpowering them, one at a time, then carrying them away for his own purposes.
I know what those purposes are. I’m not going to repeat them here. We’ll get to that.
The day we met, it rained until the streets turned from blacktop to rapids. I shivered outside the Robin’s Egg Diner waiting for him as he had his pancakes with extra butter and syrup. He always had the same thing. I checked. No eggs. No sausage. No coffee. Just pancakes.
He stepped outside, black coat with an equally black umbrella though it would do little good in the downpour, and prepared to go to his car. I put my hand on his arm.
In that moment, I remembered the clippings, every one of them, and how they made it clear he was an unstable and dangerous man.
“Hi, I’m Amanda Lawson,” I said when he turned. “You killed my parents.”
If you’re not a follower of my Facebook page, (Shame!) you probably haven’t heard from me in a while. I post there a lot more than I post here. And I post here more than I send to my newsletter, go figure. Anyway, for those who aren’t up to date on the adventures of my existence, I started a new job. I now work for a Savannah-based State Farm insurance agent as an agent team member. What this means is: my schedule just got shot to crap. I now work from 8-5 Mon-Fri, seems pretty normal right? Yeah, except I haven’t had a standard job in almost a decade. I’m used to going to work around 10 am and being done by like 3 pm. This left me a lot of time to write. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
How is this going to affect my publishing schedule? Yeah, I have one of those. It stated I was going to put out a book a quarter this year. 4 books total over 12 months. “Blades of Fate” comes out on the 1st of April. (PREORDER IT NOW!) I’m at the 95% mark in getting that completed for publication. I have two days left before Amazon wants the manuscript in their grubby paws. Between starting a new job, which included studying to take an exam prior to, and then getting a ridiculous case of the flu I have somehow managed to still not have to move this publication date. As for the other three books I have on the list, I don’t know. We’ll see. As soon as I know something concrete, you’ll know something.
Meantime…”Chains of Fate” is on $0.99 promo through the 29th in preparation for “Blades” on April 1st. I’m madly typing away to make sure “Blades” is ready on time and “Cities in Time” (aka book 3) has an opening chapter I’m not 100% about.
Anyway, thanks for hanging through all that when what you really wanted was to read something fun. Here’s an excerpt from “Blades of Fate” for your patience.
“What’s in the box?” – Detective David Mills “Se7en”
You spend the entirety of this short film with that exact question on your mind. In “The Box”, one of the four shorts done in “XX”, you are presented with a typical family: mother, father, daughter, son. One day, on the subway, they encounter a man with a wrapped box which he claims is a present. The son widdles his way into getting a look inside and thus starts the downhill slide. He stops eating. Then, like an infection, the lack of hunger passes to his sister, and finally to his father. However, my favorite scene in the whole piece lasts for about one minute and is the grisliest part of the whole film.
Mother lies down to sleep after having asked father about what he and the son talked about. Her concern is hyper-present. He gives her a non-committal answer and goes to sleep. Then a camera cut followed by the camera panning down the mother’s body. As it moves, the viewer notices first spots of blood, then you see her ruined arm followed by her destroyed leg. Yet you know from the beginning of the shot, she is alive. Father cuts away portions of her flesh and offers them to their children. However, watching the family consume her flesh is not the strangest part. The final shot of that scene is a shot of the mother’s face as she breaks into a smile.
The concept of the devouring mother is the mother devouring her young. Instead we are given the idea of the family devouring the mother. The entire scene is done superbly. They don’t spend much time on the grotesquerie, which would have detracted, but stay on the main idea: the family coming together. Her smile signifies her return to the family, her being included again, and the return to happiness that brings.
The viewer is never told what’s in the box. In fact, we’re lead to believe nothing was in the box at all. An idea, which coupled with the mother being the only survivor, must add to her guilt.
As my longtime readers will undoubtedly know, I love Hannibal Lecter. Not in the “I want to marry him” kind of way, but just in the “you are who you are and don’t apologize” sort of adoration. Yes, I am 100% aware he is not a human worth emulating in any regard other than that. Someone who eats other people is not a good role model. Let me just put that out there.
However, since I adore Hannibal, I find myself wondering about the people Hannibal is based on. Thomas Harris created an exceptional serial killer, several in truth, so where did he get those ideas? In doing research about Harris, I came across Robert Ressler. Not a well-known name outside of certain circles, truthfully, but vitally important to the field of research regarding ‘serial killers’. In fact, he is the one who coined the phrase, serial killer. Before that, they were called stranger murders because they didn’t fit the profile common to murder back then which was that a person was generally killed by someone they knew who would be caught fairly quickly.
Fast forward a bit and a dear friend, Isabella Darkwood, walked into our writing group and handed me a book, “Whoever Fights Monsters” by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman. I am ashamed to say I did not start reading right there at the table. In fact, I wouldn’t touch it for months, almost a year. It sat on my bookshelf and stared at me, then I moved to another apartment where it sat on another bookshelf and stared at me. Finally, I picked it up and read it through in three days because I was reading every spare second I was able.
For those of you whose primary understanding of the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit comes from Criminal Minds, you might be a bit disappointed. Ressler makes a point of saying BSU agents are not field agents and they are not usually involved in catching the bad guy beyond doing a profile. However, his discussions of profiling from an infant art into what might possibly be considered a science are fascinating. Learning about the interior workings of the FBI is enlightening, including how the unit went from being two men with an apprentice to the creation of VICAP. A lot can happen in 20 years.
Serial killers, according to Ressler, fit into three categories presented along a sliding scale: Organized, Disorganized, and Mixed. The distinctions, though not as stark as some would like, are markable and this gets me to why I find this important.
A couple years ago, I wrote a novel “Hush” which includes a serial killer stalking a psychic. I based my villain on what I knew of serial killers at the time, which includes a lot of pop culture depictions. I have not published “Hush” because I simply haven’t gone through and made sure I enjoy it enough to send to other people. However, having read Ressler’s book, now I want to go back and profile my own killer and see if I can make him more interesting and more realistic. Is this necessary? No, not at all. However, it will make me happy and that is enough. Perhaps it will even make others happy. That would be even more than I could hope for.
Goodreads allows readers to ask questions of authors, a feature I normally don’t pay a lot of attention to. However, in this case, I found the question interesting enough to warrant a response. My favorite fictional couple isn’t really a couple at all at least not in the traditional sense. Hannibal and Clarice never kiss. They don’t go on romantic dates together. Heck, for long periods of time, they aren’t close enough to touch. However, they are certainly in love with one another.
[Warning: I will be discussing the movies [Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal] because I remember them better than the books. Hannibal is one of my favorite movies of all time.]
If you know their story, you know they meet while Hannibal is incarcerated and they begin to develop a relationship in her repeated visits. It starts out as her working him for information and him using her for his amusement. Each of them is getting something out of the relationship even if only a little bit. Clarice respects and maybe even fears Hannibal perhaps due to his reputation while Hannibal is bored and curious. Not the best ground for a burgeoning relationship, but we all start somewhere, right?
Through his aid, she rises. Then at the end of Silence of the Lambs, he kills some cops and disappears. She cannot and will never forget him. Clarice says to Barney, former orderly at Hannibal’s institution, in Hannibal “He’s with me at least thirty seconds of every day, like a bad habit.” However, she moves on with her life. And he with his.
We later find Hannibal has absented himself to Italy and is building the life of an intellectual there. Still, he knows he cannot outrun his past and he still has some unfinished business with Ms. Starling. The letter he sends her is friendly and comfortable despite the awareness they are standing on opposing sides. He wishes to be free to roam, she wishes to catch him.
The striking question for me in Hannibal, before I realized their real relationship, was: Why come back? He could have killed the Italian cop and disappeared to another place without ever setting foot back on American soil. First theory: He came to do away with Mason Verger. Except he doesn’t care about Verger as he’s already mastered him. Also, that doesn’t follow as Hannibal doesn’t go to Verger, he goes to Clarice. Second theory: He just wants to be back in the States. Again, doesn’t wash because he could have gone somewhere else in the States without interacting with Clarice or putting himself close enough for Verger to catch. Third theory: He wants to finish what he started with Clarice and see where it is going.
Their final scene together in the kitchen right before he cuts off his hand to get out of the handcuffs is a state of their relationship discussion. He says to her, “Would you ever say, if you loved me you would stop?” He admits, without overt sweetness, his feelings for her. She refuses him when she says, “Not in a million years.” Then, despite this rejection which I can only assume he expects since he knows her very well (“That’s my girl.”), he still chooses to mutilate himself instead of her for the purposes of his escape. He loves her so much he puts her well-being above his own. In spite of her staunch resistance to his advances, you see a single tear come down Clarice’s cheek. She mourns his loss and I have to wonder if she is thinking of what may have happened if she had said yes.
It is undoubtedly a dark romance, but it fits the bill.