Belladonna Dreams

Poisoning is the preference of most female serial killers and Sioux Falls, South Dakota has a poisoner on their hands.  The killer’s choice, belladonna, a rare flower in the United States.  The use of it is nearly unheard of.

Then a chance encounter; a hand gesture, the laugh, Aislinn Cain knows it’s him.  Her old foe has returned to torment her.  The rest of the SCTU is worried her brain tumor has returned, because it’s impossible.

As Aislinn falls further down the rabbit hole, chasing phantoms, the team tries to pull it together to find their poisoner.  However, Aislinn isn’t the only one chasing phantoms, as belladonna brings back nightmares for another member of the SCTU and will leave them questioning their decision to work with serial killers.  Then someone attacks the VCU, further hindering the investigation.

Amid the mass deaths, the SCTU must decide between tacking down the person poisoning bar patrons in South Dakota or getting revenge for their fallen serial killer hunters.  Finding this killer will bring more questions than answers, it will open old wounds, and force everyone to rethink what they know about serial killers.

Officially on Break!

Belladonna Dreams pre-orders will start 1 August.  The book will release 10 September.  There are some edits to be done and it needs to go to the beta readers, but I’m done writing it.

Which means, I’m officially on break.  I’m not publishing again until March, at least, not officially.  I might have an urge to release a novella or two, but I can’t and won’t guarantee that it will happen.

A strange thing happened to me after I sent Belladonna Dreams to be edited and realized I was officially on break, all I wanted to do was write.  It took me three extra weeks to finish Belladonna Dreams, but now all I can think about is my desire to write.

Of course, I’m not taking a writing break, so this works in my favor.  I’m taking a publishing break.  Not publishing will give me time to work on all those projects I’ve put on the back burners.  They can now move to the front burners and get my full attention.

And there’s a lot there.  A half dozen or so stories have been percolating on those burners, waiting for their time.  Hopefully, all my readers will stick with me as I work on these projects and not get too bummed out about the fact that I will not be releasing a book in three months.  So that when I do release, they are there, waiting with baited breath, to check out what twisted things have come from the publishing hiatus.

I’m sure there will be some twisted things too. It’s how my brain works.

Jamberry Nail Wraps & Alcohol: A Life Lesson

Once a month, a small group of girls and I get together and hang out on a Friday night.  It’s Girls’ Night and it is quickly becoming sacred.  I spend this time with female dart players (two of which are nieces that play darts), because we don’t really have time to chatter at each other at darts.  We talk, but we don’t have time to get in-depth about our lives… So, there’s Girls’ Night.

Girls’ Night has two staples: food and booze.  Sometimes we just hang out and chatter (it’s really hard to call what we do “chatting”), others we play games (bring on Cards Against Humanity and more words that I absolutely do not need to know the definition for, but will learn), but this last week, we did our nails.

This story actually begins in May.  A friend of mine had a Jamberry Nails Facebook party.  I won the grand prize; a Facebook party of my own and a small heater for the wraps.  I also bought a set of wraps and fell in love with them!  I was excited about the Facebook party.  We held my Facebook party at the end of June and it went really well.  Three in our group bought wraps (not counting myself).

We scheduled a mini-Girls’ Night, the four of us, plus one other from the group who just wanted to hang out.  We got pizza, like usual.  Everyone brought alcoholic beverages to meet their tastes, like usual.  And we sat around for a couple of hours, drinking and eating pizza… before we decided to do our nails.

I heard this phrase a lot “Get over here, I need help!”  One of me, three of them, and I was the only one who had ever done it… plus, we had all been drinking… heavily.  Needless to say, it didn’t go well.  Two of the girls had lost the wraps from their nails by the following evening (for different reasons, but probably associated with alcohol), mine look like a drunk put them on (some are on the wrong fingers even), one looks decent, which sort of amazes me (but she did admit she woke up on Saturday and had to do some more trimming on them).

So, I can play games (including Trivial Pursuit), chatter, not appear drunk, and even write books while intoxicated, but I can’t do things that require hand/eye coordination (typing doesn’t count since it is basically muscle memory for me at this point).  Also, when getting together and having a “plan,” we should make sure that the “plan” gets done before the drinking gets heavy.

All Quiet on the Homefront

Posts have been erratic lately.  I know.  So, here’s why:

1.  I was preparing Belladonna Dreams for the editor and realized I had missed typing some chapters.  I’ve spent a few days filling these in.

2.  I have been trying to ignore the urge to write on the other stuff.  I need to get Belladonna Dreams done.  I have all the others started though.

3.  My daily writing time has been cut into lately.  The racecar blew two engines in one weekend, meaning my SO has been home every evening.  Not that it is making a huge difference, because I’ve been dealing with a migraine for several days.  It’s a morning/night migraine.  I wake up with it, it backs down in the afternoon, then it comes back with a vengence around 6 p.m.  My meds are quieting it, but not killing it.

4.  I’m also not sleeping well.  This isn’t rare and it isn’t insomnia.  It’s weird freakin’ dreams.  Last night, I dreamed a dog wearing a top hat was singing songs from The White Album (not really a Beatles fan, so I’m not sure why it was singing The Beatles).  My mother was throwing dollar bills at the dog, like it was some sort of stripper.  My SO was trying to convince me to adopt it because it was so talented.  One of my nephews was trying to convince my SO that adopting such a dog would be a disaster, but wouldn’t explain why.  And I was trying to point out to everyone that we needed to evacuate the building, because it was on fire.  Pretty sure the dog was sent to kill us all.  I’m remembering the majority of my dreams and I’m talking in my sleep, never a good sign.  According to FitBit, even when I go to bed for 7 straight hours, I’m only getting 4 1/2 hours of sleep… I have it set to normal sensitivity, but it’s still recording several hours of restlessness.

5.  I’ve been making some serious changes to how some of my books are distributed (and formatted).  This is taking far longer than expected.

However, Belladonna Dreams rewrites and chapter fillers are on the down hill slide into being “done.”  I expect to get it to the editor Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.  Pre-orders will start in August.

It Has Begun

Because I mentioned I was curious to see how KDP Select authors were going to respond to the new royalty divisions, I have gotten some emails about it.  And the month isn’t even over yet.

I’ll start by giving brief explanation:

KDP Select books are borrowable through Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited.  Every month, Amazon sets aside a chunk of money (I believe it was 11 million in June) to pay for these “borrows.”  As of 1 July, we are no longer getting paid just because someone has borrowed our books through one of the above mentioned programs.  We get paid by how many pages get read of said books.  The big change is that instead of receiving a flat rate every time someone borrows a book, the author receives a pro-rated royalty based on how many pages the reader read of the borrowed book.

For authors like me, this isn’t a big deal.  I have 3 books enrolled in KDP Select and I have a low borrow rate on those three books.  People tend to just buy them.  Also, I’m used to this payment arrangement as Oyster and Scribd do the same thing and I have all my books available on these sites (my 3 KDP Select books are multiple book sets).  This means that I have received a whooping $0.25 before because someone only read a small portion of the book.

I consider it an equalizer.  Good books get read completely.  Bad books get put down quickly.  It seems fair to reward the good books with a bigger portion of the Select Fund each month.

Here’s how it has gone for me: My Dysfunctional Chronicles compilation book has been read once, all 627 pages.  My Tortured Dreams/Elysium Dreams set has been read once, so far, they have read 300 pages of roughly 700.  Since they have gotten that far, I imagine they will finish it.*  I have no worries that I will be paid approximately $2.50 for each of these reads.

However, what authors are telling me is that they are unhappy because their book X has only had 400 pages read, despite previous months when they were paid for 100 loans.  To me, this says people are starting the book and not finishing it.  If you had 100 loans last month and this month those loans have translated to 400 pages, I’m guessing those loans from last month were not complete reads either.

We will have to wait until royalty reports become available at the end of September to know exactly how much we are making per page read… But I’m anxious to find out.

Note: I believe this to be two people because all 627 pages of the Dysfunctional Chronicles was read in three days and the 300 pages of the Tortured/Elysium set started Sunday with approximately 150 pages read and then another 150 read yesterday.

Why Did I Do That?!?

I didn’t have the time to exercise today and frankly, after a week of very little exercise, I was feeling the effects.  First, I am used to playing darts twice a week.

To most people, darts is not a very good exercise.  But when I go a week without picking up my 25 gram steel-tips, I notice the weight.  I played Monday and Wednesday.  When I finished singles Wednesday night, my arm was a bit sore.  I will also say that darts lasts about 2 hours each night.  So, I repeatedly throw a 25-gram projectile, 7 feet and some odd inches, for 2 hours.  My right arm muscles are more developed than my left.  I’d like to find a counter for them, just to see how many times I actually throw it at the board, but I’m not that inventive.  And I’m lazy.

Back to the story… I didn’t exercise today.  We had service people here for most of the morning switching our cable to satellite.  The afternoon was spent working.

My SO goes to bed and I decide I’m going to jog around my living room to get my exercise.  I manage fifteen minutes.  This is a feat for me.  I’m huffing, puffing, sweating, my heart rate is elevated, and I am feeling every second of it.  It was a struggle.  The timer on my phone is the only thing that kept me going.  I had planned 20 minutes, but I failed and I’m okay with that.

I type the exercise into FitBit.  No activity points show up on Weight Watchers.  It tells me I’ve burned 89 calories.  Holy shit.  I tortured myself for that?!?  Um, no.  I delete it from FitBit and add it to Weight Watchers.  Jogging earns me 4 activity points.  That’s much better.  I think Weight Watchers needs to work on their integration with FitBit.

Weight Watchers Update

I’m still losing weight.  Not in leaps and bounds, don’t get me wrong, but a couple of pounds a week.  I’ve started noticing some things though.

1.  I eat smaller portions, automatically.  – When I first started, I was willing to admit that I drank (drink) a lot of soda.  However, it wasn’t until we were on vacation that I realized how big my portions had once been.  I noticed it at a restaurant.  It served Mexican and American food.  I opted for a cheeseburger and Spanish rice.  I ate about half the burger (which is normal for me at a restaurant, where the burgers are just too big for me to eat a whole one), but I struggled to eat all the rice and in the end, I didn’t manage.  That’s odd.  I love rice, a lot.  I will leave a lot of things on my plate at the end of a meal, but rice isn’t one of them.  Yet, my stomach told me that if I shoved one more bite down my throat, I’d end up like Mr. Creosote.

2.  It reminds me to exercise. – While on vacation, I missed getting the exercise (and activity points).  We played ladderball a few times, but never for very long.  We played miniature golf one day, that day I felt the best, but it was accompanied with going to museums and parks.  That was the only day I managed to get over 15,000 steps.  I was walking most of the time to and from my camper, but it wasn’t the same and I could tell.

3. Activity Points really help. – I get that I need exercise and that I don’t get nearly enough of it.  But I didn’t realize how much of an impact those activity points make in a week.  The app is set to take activity points before party points (Weekly Plus Points) and since I wasn’t getting many activity points, I was really cutting into those party points.  So much so, that I was actually starting to worry that I would go over the allotted daily/weekly points values.  When I got home Sunday, I had gained a few pounds.  I started back into my routine of housework, darts, and exercise.  Today, when I did weigh-in, I had lost those pounds, plus one more.  My points reset today and I’ve already earned 4 activity points.  Those are points I can use tonight at darts (where I will earn some more) or on Friday, when the girls come over to do manicure night.

4. I still hate water. – It doesn’t matter how much fruit I put in it, I still hate it.  Forcing myself to down two bottles a day is a form of torture.  I am drinking less soda and I am considering changing from being a Coke drinker to a Pepsi drinker, because Pepsi is worth one less point per can, but at least I am changing some of my habits.

5.  I still hate water. – Unfortunately, I also hate coffee and tea.  If I didn’t hate black coffee and plain, unsweetened tea, the drinking situation would be a little easier. Finding an alternative for soda or water, isn’t going well.  Stevia makes me feel hungry.  I’m allergic to all artificial sweeteners; some give me migraines and others make me feel high.  And I still really hate water, a lot, so there’s still some issues in that department.  Even things like V8 are worth a lot of points (as is sweet tea and coffee if you add sugar or creamer or sugar and creamer).  Also, despite everyone’s claims that drinking water will make me feel less thirsty, it doesn’t.  One day, I was outside doing stuff and managed to drink 6 – 20oz bottles of water.  I was still thirsty and my incredibly frequent trips to the restroom proved that dehydration was the cause of my thirst.  Oddly, water also makes me thirstier, the more I drink of it, the drier my mouth seems to get.

6.  I forgot my “rewards.” – Losing weight in and of itself is a reward, but I know most people give themselves small indulgences when they hit milestones.  When my cousin was doing Weight Watchers, she not only kept a paperclip chain, adding one to the chain for every pound she lost, but every time she lost 5 pounds, she gave herself a treat…non-food related.  I haven’t done either.  I should, but I’m not sure what that reward would be.

Ok, back to writing books.

Secret Sins

I’m always a little disappointed when Celebrity Gossip is trending above major world events. However, yesterday’s trend was on celebrity hygiene.  We all like to think of ourselves as being hygiene gurus, but the truth is, we all have our secret hygiene sins.  Why?  Because we are all human.

So, in the spirit of shaming celebrities, I thought I’d offer up a list of 5 hygiene things that I am lazy about:

5.  I hate shaving.  I don’t know who or why someone decided women needed to shave their legs, underarms, and nether regions, but I’m convinced they should be shot… with a rocket propelled grenade launcher.  Men have the choice of whether to shave their faces or not.  I don’t know any men that deals with the hair on their chests, backs, pubic regions, or asses.  And a majority can’t be bothered with their nose hairs or ear hairs.  Yet we women are expected to keep our legs smooth as silk, our underarms stubble free, and our nether regions either shaved or trimmed.  This is on top of any other cosmetic waxing, shaving, plucking, threading, or other torturous beauty regimens, because let’s face it, we get chin hairs, light dustings of mustaches, side burns, bushy eyebrows, and a small, very unlucky part of the female population has nipple hair.  So, as I was saying, I hate shaving… meaning I don’t do it nearly as often as the man in my life would like.  If I’m not going to be wearing shorts, there’s a good chance that my legs haven’t been shaved in a while.  If the hair isn’t sticking out the sleeve of my T-shirt, it’s short enough for now.  I shave my legs every couple of weeks during the summer and from November to March, I don’t even attempt to touch them with a razor.  Shaving dries them out so badly, that the skin hurts and even lotion doesn’t help.  I shave my underarms about once a week.  I will not discuss my nether regions however, that’s just a blatant case of TMI.  And my eyebrows will just have to be bushy.  They’ve been waxed, once.  Two people had to sit on me to get the second eyebrow done… I was more willing to look stupid than let them attempt to wax the second one.

4.  I will wear my socks more than one day in a row.  If I’m not showering that day, I’m not changing my socks, end of story.  My feet don’t smell and it isn’t like I do much more than walk on my carpet, so I see no need to change them everyday.  I also sleep in socks.

3.  I don’t brush my hair everyday… or even most days.  I sleep with it in a ponytail.  When I wake up, I adjust the hairs that have gone awry and put it back in a ponytail without ever touching a brush.  Even after washing it, I don’t always brush it.  I have fine hair, brushing it is futile, it’s just going to tangle within a half-hour anyway.  I could spend that ten minutes doing other things.

2.  I believe in the concept of “clean enough.”  This means that if it doesn’t smell and doesn’t look dirty, it’s clean enough to be worn again.  This particularly applies to my pajamas, which I will wear three or four days in a row, depending on whether I can smell them or not.

1.  I don’t brush my teeth. I gave up that habit some time ago.  I was once told, by a dentist, that even if I brushed twice a day, my teeth were still going to fall out of my head, they might even do it faster since I have almost no enamel on them anyway.  Between clonazepam, Chaugrin’s, and bad genetics (orthoblahblah imperfectus), I have reached the stage where brushing my teeth causes them to chip, break, and loose little parts.  I use mouth wash regular and occasionally suck on a Tic-Tac, but the truth is, none of that covers up the smells that come from not brushing your teeth and having a disorder that causes constant dry mouth and I’m a smoker… My advice, don’t lean in to let me whisper something to you.

We are human and therefore, imperfect, even (or especially?) in the hygiene department.

An Interesting FitBit Problem

Last night, after banging out a few paragraphs on a new piece, I went back to work on Belladonna Dreams.  At about 1:30 in the morning, the loaner FitBit began vibrating.  There was no reason for this vibration, so I opened the app on my phone to see what was up…

It informed me I had reached my daily step and distance goal.  But I hadn’t moved from my normal writing position except… well, no, I never left the couch.  How could I have made the goals already?  After an hour and a half of sitting on my couch, writing.

As I stared at it the screen, thinking intently about why it would have recorded steps, the counter began to move again.  I’d just taken four more steps.  Only I hadn’t.  And I hadn’t been typing.  I’d been thinking.  Surely, it isn’t connected to my brain, logging that activity.  So, I thought some more and the counter continued to climb.  What the hell?

Then I noticed it.

When I am deep in thought, I unconsciously rub my thigh, in a spiral pattern.  It’s a weird habit that came into existence at some point in my life and I am only aware that I’m doing it when other people point it out to me.  Sometimes, it’s my right hand and right leg, sometimes it’s my left hand and left leg.

Last night, it was the left side, the wrist where I wear the FitBit.  I decided to test it.  I consciously rubbed my thigh.  After about five spirals, it logged a step.  If I speed up the spirals, it logged more steps with fewer rotations of the spiral.  I logged 1,600 steps this way.

Since I don’t realize I’m doing it, I don’t know how to break the habit.  It isn’t something that I realize I’m doing.  It’s just a thing that happens when I am thinking.

These steps cannot be removed from FitBit, which means when I write, I’m going to have to be conscious of this habit.  I have no doubt that I will forget and won’t notice it, until the FitBit starts vibrating to tell me about my awesomeness in meeting my goals.

For the record, it logged 1,603 steps and a distance of 0.78 miles.  Strange…

The New Stuff

So, vacation has ended.  I am finishing up Belladonna Dreams this week to send to the editor, but on the drive home from vacation, I had a thought for how to begin one of the new pieces, which I have decided to share.  Expect more snippets from the other new stuff as the weeks progress.

A man is not defined by what he has done, but what others think he has done. This Zen wisdom had come out of the mouth of a brilliant, psychopathic, nine year old girl nearly twenty years earlier. It has always been my guiding principle.
Never had I applied it outside of my own life, but sitting in these hard chairs, staring at the man across the table, the phrase had come back to me, complete with her voice. Next to me, Caleb Green was asking questions of our handcuffed suspect. I had remained quiet. Speaking now would not only ruin the effect, but let loose my temper. Strangling someone was frowned upon, even amongst members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The man being questioned was a psychopath, that much was evident in his arrogant speech and demeaning glances. He thought little of Caleb Green or myself. His initial impressions told him we were company men. Our expensive suits were window dressing for the mediocrity that often accompanied being a company man, waiting for his time to ride a desk, before cashing out, taking his pension check, and moving to Florida to live in a gated community in a condo that he might not be able to afford. To him, this made him naturally superior in intellect, cunning, and credibility.
What he had failed to grasp, was the depths of the acronyms given to him. While we were indeed FBI agents, there had been three other letters attached to our identification: VCU. We were not mediocre anymore than we were mentally stable. The cavernous pits of our instability were unfathomable. While Caleb and I both wore the mask of sanity very well, we were not.
The differences between Caleb, myself, and the man across the table from us, were few. Like him, we were both documented psychopaths. Like him, we both enjoyed bloodshed. Like him, we both had genius level IQs. The differences could be summed up only by our positions, with us on one side of the table and he on the other. Caleb and I were both capable of controlling our bloodlust. It was a delicate balancing act that we had both perfected. Although, I had learned to admit that Caleb had more control than I did.

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