With the recent launch of The Collectors, I experienced the same fine emotion I always feel when a book is shared with readers and reviewers. To me, each book is a like a daughter, stepping off the porch barefoot, a bit disheveled, but grinning—perhaps smirking—as she heads out into the real world. As I watch her head on up the road with her battered suitcase and tousled hair, I wish her all the best, confident that I have loved her and done my very best to raise her well. We’ve had our ups and downs, disagreements and arguments, but this was always in the spirit of helping her become the best that she can be.
As always, I hope her journey is good and interesting, just before the screen door slams and I head to my back office, where another young one is waiting to be born.
This is why when I’m asked about having a favorite Danser novel, the answer is always no. How can you, and why would you ever favor one darling child over another?
All the best,
The Danser Novels
Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.
Publisher: BHC Press
December 15, 2020
Pierce Danser is on the hunt for his soon-to-be ex-wife, the actress Pauline Place, who’s disappeared from the Black Island film set in the heat swarmed waters off the Mexican coast. A wealthy “collector” with a black heart and dangerous, evil mind has kidnapped her, planning a forced marriage to complete his manage of twisted museum pieces. As Pierce starts down the winding, dark, and deadly path in pursuit, his journey is a roller coaster through a horror show. No matter the grisly and dangerous obstacles, he is determined to rescue Pauline, even if it means the loss of his own life.
The clock is ticking, his resources are slim and he’s up against a man of great means as well as a twisted, cruel vision.
“Welcome to the film set, Mr. Kiharazaka. Please mind your step, we’re having a problem with vermin.”
The tall, thin man, fresh from Kyoto, adjusted his stride, placing each step of his spacesuit boots gingerly.
“I’m Rolf. Can I call you Zaka?” the assistant director went on.
“Please, no,” Mr. Kiharazaka replied demurely.
“Will we be going weightless? It was in the original scene.”
“We’re woking on that, yes.”
“A joke. Sort of.”
A few yards away, green gaffing tape marked the edge of the darkened film set. Rolf spoke into her headset and the lights came up, revealing the interior of the spacecraft: the complex helm and seating for the crew. The second set—the crew table and galley kitchen—was half-lit in the distance.
Mr. Kiharazaka stared with unreserved delight. The crew had accurately replicated the 1990s television series Tin Can’s two most famous locations.
Members of the film crew were already on the set, at their places among the equipment; lights, extended boom mics, and various cameras, some dollied and some shoulder-held. Mr. Kiharazaka had to rotate stiffly in his spacesuit, turning his helmet, visor up, to watch the young, professional film crew. He nodded to some and spoke to none. For the most part, these serious professionals looked right through him, focused on their craft.
“Please step in, Zaka. We’d like you to feel comfortable in both locations.”
“Where is the cast? The Robbins family?”
“Soon enough. Please.” Rolf extended her hand and Zaka crossed the green tape and stepped into the helm, noting that the flooring was white painted plywood. With the flight helmet on, the voices about the set were muted. Zaka stared at the helm, admiring, but not touching, the multiple displays. He stood back of Captain Robbins’s helm chair, taking in all the exacting details of the complex spacecraft controls. Easing between the captain and copilot chair, he turned to Rolf with his white gloved hand out to the second chair, asked, “May I?”
Rolf gave him her buttery professional smile.
“Captain, permission to man the helm?” Zaka asked.
Rolf rolled her eyes, up into the complex scaffolding above. The client was already in role, using the famous and familiar dialogue from the Tin Can series. Since none of the cast was yet on set, Rolf answered for Matt Stuck, the sod of an actor who played Captain Robbins.
“Aye, mate. Take thar helm,” she spoke the next well-known line with a grimace.
Zaka bowed to her voice and twisted around into the copilot’s chair.
She looked on as Zaka began the familiar series of taps and changes on the right side of the helm. She could hear him identifying each click and adjustment he made. He was doing a good job mimicking the terse, focused voice of copilot Sean Robbins, but his inflections were clearly Japanese.
The director, Rose Daiss, entered the soundstage, crossed to the set, and for once didn’t trip on the snakes of cables. She wobbled her large rear into the La-Z Boy with “Director” stenciled on the back. Her nickname was “Bottles” and never used in her presence—it was a reference to the many times she had washed up. Her pudgy face was nip-and-tuck stretched, her skin was rough, but rouged well. She did have good hair.
The director’s personal assistants entered the soundstage and roamed to their places just back of the cameras. They donned headsets and leisurely took up their positions, standing deferentially to Bottles’s side, their faces lit by the glow of their tablets.
Rolf shouted for status among the film’s crews, and they called back equally loud. Lighting, boom mics, and cameras leaned in on the set. Mr. Zaka climbed from the helm and walked back into the spacecraft along the equipment bays on the left wall—the right wall of equipment didn’t exist, providing the view for one of the many cameras. He tapped a brief series on the wall panel and the air lock door opened with a gasp. He stepped through, the door closing at his heels, and crossed the short area of soundstage to the side entrance of the crew and kitchen set. Zaka took in every detail of the reproduced Tin Can galley as he moved carefully through the room. He eased himself into his role and the chair assigned to Ruth Robbins, the flight crew’s matriarch.
The director shouted at her assistants, barking orders and questions, sounding semi-lucid. Rose’s drug-addled, fast-clipped voice received intimidated replies. She was enjoying their pale, cowering expressions while chasing two lines of thought, a mixture of movie-making aesthetics and redundant direction. Her face was beading with drug sweat on her upper lip and brow.
“Where’s my cast?” Rose bellowed, finishing the tirade. That done, she promptly nodded off, delighting Rolf, who then inherited the director’s role.
Zaka was exploring the many displays embedded in the galley table, trying to ignore the shouting.
“Heat it up,” Rolf instructed her underling
The assistant typed a series of brief commands on his tablet and the script dialogue for Ruth Robbins—whom Zaka had paid dearly to portray—appeared. The script was scroll ready and at an angle on the galley table that couldn’t be seen by the cameras.
Rolf heard the cast crossing to the set, a scuffing of moon boots and voices approaching from the soundstage. A sweeping flashlight beam guided their way. The cast moved into the back glow from the lights on the set. Rolf pressed the inside of her cheek between her teeth and bit down. Most of the original cast had been hired or persuaded to appear in the remake of the famous season seven-ending cat fight scene. The brawl between the Robbins’ daughters was nominally, impotently, refereed by the only member of the flight crew who was not a member of the family: the handsome, irreverent, and sociopathic engineer, Greer Nails.
Twenty-two years had been most unkind to the once-famous family members. Greer Nails appeared overinflated; the penchant for food and wine, and dessert, over the past years of dimming celebrity had taken their toll. His formerly idolized face was jowled, reddened, and fat. His spacesuit looked like a white dirigible.
The other cast members were naked save their space helmets. Time and gravity and overindulgence had also taken a toll on their bodies. Greer Nails was the lone holdout from nudity, and with obese good reason.
The scene that Zaka had chosen from the menu provided by the studio had cost him a breathless $3.7 million. An additional $1.3 million was invoiced when he selected the option off the Premiere menu for the cast to be nude except for space helmets. He had expressed his desire to be part of the famous scene’s reenactment, in the role of Ruth Robbins, the space family matriarch. Most of his role was to be aghast at the start of a violent family shouting match and brawl. Later, he would be able to view the vignette time and again, for all eternity, receiving sole ownership of the footage of this and the other short scene as part of the package he had paid for.
Zaka watched his castmates approach, trying to keep his eyes on their helmets, not their nakedness. He was delighted and light headed with his proximity to the famous—the real flesh instead of celluloid, but their memorized faces were distorted by their helmets.
Nods were used in lieu of greetings. They had met during rehearsal earlier in the day. Places were taken, and Rolf reviewed the lighting and camera placements.
The first scene was succinctly re-rehearsed. This was of little use to Zaka, who had the script committed to memory. But the rehearsal helped him dissolve some of his lighter-than-air headiness. The rest of the cast drolly joined the read and walk through, their acting marked by a blend of boredom, professionalism, and chemicals.
Zaka was delighted. Here he was, a real actor with an important part in the infamous scene’s reenactment. It was all he could to not giggle. He somehow found the ability to maintain Ruth Robbins’s dithering mothering role.
Julianne, the slutty smart sister, stepped past Greer and pantomimed the jerk-off gesture that would set off her sibling, “Cy,” as in Cyborg. In the television series, Cy had been Greer Nail’s budding romantic interest.
Zaka was enthralled, but also concerned. He had paid for Captain Robbins to sit at the head of the galley table, and he was nowhere to be seen.A booming, authoritative voice carried from the back of the soundstage.
“Welcome to Tin Can Two, Mr. Kiharazaka. You are certainly star material, mm-hmm!” Fatima Mosley called out.
Fatima was the studio head, noticeably short and burdened by a massive chest that gave her stride a wobble. She was dressed in an elegant and trendy style, including a beret. She had a titanium leg, the original lost to disease. The metal ratcheted when her knee articulated.
“Zaka’s doing a great job.” Rolf called over, not turning from the rehearsal.
“It’s Kiharazaka, please,” Zaka politely corrected Rolf again.
“Actually, it’s Ruth Robbins,” Fatima smiled, causing her cheeks to fill and her eyes to disappear.
Zaka flushed with pride at being addressed as Ruth.
“All is well, mm-hmm?” Fatima asked Zaka.
“Yes, yes. Might I ask? Is Captain Robbins ready? And son Sean Robbins?”
“Why, here’s Sean now,” Fatima answered, her crunched face dissolving downward, revealing her wise, ferret eyes. She didn’t explain Captain Robbins’s absence, and Zaka showed good manners by not repeating his question.
Sure enough, Sean Robbins, the Tin Can’s copilot appeared from the shadows of the soundstage, naked save his helmet and boots, looking slightly sedated—well, a lot sedated. His birdlike wrists hung limp.
There was a white worm of drool creeping from his face, now ravaged by years of amphetamine addiction. He was escorted by two of the bigger grips, who held his scarecrow thin arms and pulled him along, his moon boots sketching the soundstage flooring.
The sisters, Cy and Julianne, did not look pleased to be reanimating their once famous daughter roles, no matter the money. They were clearly drugged to an agitated condition and firing foul slurs, even before the shoot began. Julianne had a wrench tattoo on her naked, once-perfect boob. Cy’s sensual body was scarecrow thin, as though drawn of all blood.
The grips assisted Sean Robbins into the hot lights and seated him at the galley table. He opened one eye and panned it across the cameras and lights aimed on him, then barfed into his own lap.
“Unpleasant, mm-hmm,” Fatima observed.
Zaka did the brave thing—he stayed in role, putting on his best Mrs. Robbins bemused and maternal expression.
“Nice,” Rolf encouraged him.
One of the grips wiped up Sean’s vomit. The other cleaned off his chest. Sean stood up and looked on, patting one of the men on the top of the head.
Rolf called out, “I have the set!”
From the film crews came sharp, short calls, and the boom mics lowered overhead.
“Quiet, quiet!” Rolf delighted in her temporary directing role.
“Lock it up,” she hollered.
“Places,” she shouted to the cast.
A young woman appeared with an electric slate, shouted a brief stream of incomprehensible code, clacked the device, and disappeared.
Zaka did well, not looking to Captain Robbins’s empty seat at the head of the table.
Rolf yelled, “Action,” and the movie magic began.
For Zaka, there was a spiritual lift, even as he stayed in his rehearsed movements. He allowed himself to experience the elation, but stayed in the role of motherly concern.
Julianne entered the scene from the door to the helm. She moved behind Sean, who had a line of dialogue but missed. Staring at Cy, she stepped to Greer’s side and hefted the weight of his groin. Cy transitioned fast and smooth, from agog to madness. She fired forward and attacked, going for the smirk on her sister’s face with a clawed left hand and the space cup in the other.
As scripted, Mrs. Robbins took one step back from her end of the table, her expression alarmed and offended.
Greer was looking down at his groped crotch like he was just then realizing he had one. He leaned back as Cy collided with Julianne, and the brawl exploded with screams and nails and fists. The two careened off the galley counter and shelving, swinging and connecting blows.
If Captain Robbins had been at the head of the table, he would have moved fast to separate the two, looking sad and determined and disappointed. Instead, a bit of ad lib occurred, the two brawlers tumbling low in the shot, fists and knees swinging and pumping. Greer performed the ad lib, turning to the mayhem with a slack expression and barfing on himself again.
Mrs. Robbins went into action. She stomped manfully to her scuffling daughters, arms shooing, intending to break up the chaos on the spaceship floor. She was two strides away when Greer stepped out and pushed her back. Mrs. Robbins resisted, flailing her arms, eyes wide with alarm. Greer held her true. The fight continued, the sisters grunting and gasping. Hair was grabbed, a low fist was thrown. Julianne coughed in pain. Cy let out a cry, “You bitch!”
That was Zaka’s cue. He looked away, eyes upward and spoke the season-ending line, “My daughters. The sluts.”
“Cut. Cut. Cuu. Cuush . . .” Rose Daiss, the replaced director, called out in a trailing off slur. She was ignored.
The brawl continued. A mangy rat crossed the plywood set boards, scurrying away from the fisticuffs. The two beefy grips stepped to the edge of the set, poised to separate the sisters. The brawl looked real enough to them.
Rolf took the director’s prerogative, screaming at everyone.
People often ask how I come up with ideas for my novels. Sometimes I have no answer—it just seems to pop into my head. Best guess, the kernel of an idea probably came from a newspaper or magazine article or something I saw in a movie. It was probably just so far back I don’t recall.
Before I started to write THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, Brandon Garrett’s story, the third book in my Maximum Security Series, I had decided to set a book in Colorado, maybe even a new series. I ran across an article about the Army Chemical Weapons Depot near Fort Carson and started thinking… wouldn’t it make be interesting if someone stole chemical weapons from the depot? I wonder if it could be done? How would the good guys catch the thieves? And so off I went on a story that turned into The Ultimate Betrayal.
Having written over 70 novels since I began way back when, it’s harder and harder to come up with fresh ideas. I do a lot of research for my books. This novel, set around a military base, was particularly difficult. Lots of stuff I didn’t know.
In the story, when investigative journalist Jessie Kegan’s father, a colonel in the army, is accused of treason, Jessie is determined to clear his name. Reluctantly, she turns to former Special Ops soldier, Brandon Garrett, her late brother’s best friend–a true heartbreaker, according to her brother.
With danger coming from every angle, time is running out and the game being played is deadly. Working together, Bran and Jessie must risk everything to solve the riddle and confront the threat–before it’s too late.
Till next time, happy reading and all best, Kat
When investigative journalist Jessie Kegan’s father, a colonel in the army, is accused of treason, Jessie is determined to clear his name. Reluctantly, she turns to former Special Ops soldier, Brandon Garrett, her late brother’s best friend—a true heartbreaker, according to her brother.
With danger coming from every angle, time is running out and the game being played is deadly. Working together, Bran and Jessie must risk everything to solve the riddle and confront the threat—before it’s too late.
Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film. Kat’s latest novel, THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, will be released in paperback December 29th.
Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay psychological suspense novels. The series has been critically-acclaimed and won twelve awards, among them Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. All four books have reached the Top 10 in the thriller genre of Amazon best-sellers.
In regards to writing thrillers, Suspense Magazine says she’s “the leader of the pack,” while International Thriller Writers claims Laurie has “cracked the code” of penning psychological suspense. Laurie is active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a former board member of Sisters in Crime. Recently, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Laurie as a director on the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains – the parkland setting of her books.
Laurie lives in the mountains with her husband, two snakes, and a cat.
We’re talking today with author Laurie Stevens about her award winning Gabriel McRay novels.
Jann: The books in your Gabriel McRay psychological suspense series, The Mask of Midnight, Deep into Dark, The Dark Before Dawn, and In Twlight’s Hush have received great reviews. When developing this series, did you start with character or plot?
Laurie: I developed the series around two characters: Gabriel McRay and Dr. Ming Li. Psychology and forensics interest me, and both characters epitomize my interests. Not only that, but given the traits of the two characters, I could have fun playing with the stereotypical roles of men and women. Gabriel must explore his inner mind, while Ming is the more brazen and the steadier of the two.
Jann: Gabriel McRay is such a rich and brilliantly flawed main character. What can you tell us about him?
Laurie: Gabriel suffered a trauma as a child and brought his issues into adulthood. Men, historically, have been taught to cover their weaknesses, which Gabriel did for many years. But his symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder influence his behavior, his relationships with women (in particular Dr. Ming), and his general outlook on life, which in the first book is pretty dismal. Through Gabriel, I wanted to highlight a journey to recovery. What makes Gabriel unique is his desire to become a more content man. He wants his relationship with Ming to work, he wants to feel accepted and have friends. He’s honest with himself in that regard and it spurs him on to find different ways to heal. In fact, the murder cases he solves in each book trigger a pivotal point in his healing process.
Laurie: Very good question. In book 4, Gabriel achieves a sense of enlightenment. I’ve been told (and I’m glad for it) that the entire feel of the book is “lighter.” Gabriel has done a lot of work on himself; he’s heeded his life lessons, and now it shows. He is able to solve a cold case involving a teenage girl who went missing over thirty years ago because he has developed a more open mind. That is the premise of the book.
Jann: Villains!! You create great villains. How do you do it? What’s your process?
Laurie: Mark Twain said, “Everyone is like the moon and has a dark side, which he never shows anybody.” Scary as that sounds, it’s probably true. While I’m not sure how much of myself is reflected in those “bad characters,” I can say that I have put a lot of research into the faulty human psyche.
My process begins with deciding what psychological issues the character has. With one female villain (no spoilers here), she’s mostly a space cadet. But what makes her act so spaced-out? Her issue, of course. She lives in a fantasy world, and has some good reasons to be there.
I will read lots of articles or even a book that highlights the particular issue. The research gives me the bones of the character. All I have to do is flesh her out. I’m not going to say the research can take you to a very dark place.
While researching the character of Victor Archwood, I spoke with one of the top forensic profilers in the nation. He determines if a criminal is competent to stand trial. This doctor has interviewed infamous and dangerous people. I asked him, “As a psychiatrist, do you see the human in the monster?” His reply surprised me. He said, “No. Some people are truly evil.” That confounded me. As an author, I had to decide, do I make Victor simply a demon? Evil for evil’s sake? That didn’t sit well. I’ve always heard that if you’re going to create an adversary, make him or her a worthy adversary. I decided to create a character that, bad as he is, has issues that someone, somewhere will identify with and have sympathy for. To garner sympathy can make a villain more interesting and possibly scarier than a monster.
Jann: I understand that the series is currently be shopped for adaptation to episodic television. Can you share anything about this venture?
Laurie: I’d like to share something I think will be interesting to book authors. The producer and agent asked my help in creating the sales pitch. First, I was asked to condense each book into a one page synopsis. If you’ve ever done this, you’ll know it’s not easy. Still, I did it and thought, whew! Finished.
Then, they asked if I could forget the idea of 4 separate books and revise the synopses into one long overview of the plot. So, I revised each synopsis and created “one long overview” — again, in about four pages. I thought, whew! Finished. Then, they asked, “Where do you think you would place cliff-hanging breaks in your “overview?” So, I quit thinking of what I’d written as a book plot and instead viewed it as the plot of a screenplay. That’s when I had fun. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and I broke the “overview” down into 5 episodes. Would I prefer 30? Of course, but that might be a harder sell. Now, you authors should get to work with these 3 steps and create screen episodes out of your opus!
Jann: What’s next? Another book for Gabriel? Are you working on something new?
Laurie: I have been asked to create another Gabriel book, one that brings back the villain Victor Archwood. I did leave an open door in “In Twilight’s Hush” that allows me to do this. In the meantime, I switched genres. I’m working on a literary fiction novel, which challenges me to ramp up my game as a writer.
I also co-wrote (and just completed) a rom-com/thriller screenplay.
Jann: On a personal note, I hear you found a rattlesnake coiled in your closet. I have a fear of snakes of any type. What did you do?
Laurie: I heard what sounded like a sprinkler running or a punctured soda can about to explode. I could not figure out where the darn sound was coming from. I looked around, and there it was: coiled and shaking its rattle. I called to my husband, “Steven! We’ve got a rattler in our closet.” He produced this pole with a pincher on the end and carefully gripped the snake. I opened a big plastic container. My husband placed the snake inside, let it go, and I closed the lid. We then hiked up our hill and let the critter loose. When my cat came into our room, I could tell he’d been after that snake because he went around the room sniffing then jumping back. Sniffing, then jumping back. Yes, this could have gone wrong in many ways. Thankfully, no one was hurt, including the snake.
Jann: What’s the best thing about being an author?
Laurie: We can, and are encouraged to, live in our own little worlds.
Jann: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Laurie: Music, reading a book or watching a show I admire. Oftentimes, I get frustrated with politics or a societal issue, and that will drive me right to my writing.
Jann: Where can we get your books?
Jann: Do you have a website, blog, twitter where fans might read more about you and your books?
Laurie: Would love to connect:
Jann: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Laurie: Write as if your words make a difference. They do.
Jann: Thank you so much for talking with us today Laurie. This has been so much fun. All four novels in your Gabriel McRay thriller series are terrific and take the reader on a great ride. For more information on each book in the series, click on the covers below.
When I was little my parents packed my brothers and sisters and me into the back of a huge station wagon and headed to Palm Springs – in August! We’re talking 110 degrees in the shade. We didn’t have air conditioning in our car and the big six motels we stayed at had window air conditioners, but there was always a pool to cool us off. It was during one of these trips that I had my first taste of what would become an obsession with suspense and thriller fiction. It was the first time I surrendered to the suspension of disbelief.
In those days there were no freeways from Long Beach to Palms Springs, so it was a long drive. On that particular trip, there was a radio-play about a man who was eaten by army ants in a jungle. It was terrifying. Even worse, my parents never flinched. They looked like zombies staring at the endless ribbon of road. My brother turned his head to look at me just as the man on the radio screamed, but it was so dark all I saw were his glittering eyes. I was literally mute with terror. I had bad dreams for a month. I LOVED IT!
This week my brother sent me a link to that radio-play. Listening to it again not only made me feel like a little girl, it made me realize there were reasons I was caught up in the story. The characters were well drawn, the place was perfectly described, the suspense built incrementally and climaxed in a scene so terrifying I felt I was there. Bravo, to the writers and actors.
When it’s dark tonight, click the link and listen. I bet you’ll get a shiver up your spine too.
P.S. This radio-play was produced in 1957. I was 5 years old. Yike!
Rebecca is swamped today, so we’re featuring one of her more popular posts from our archives.
The day I stood in the choir loft surrounded by my fourth grade peers I had no idea that I was about to learn a lesson in suspense, terror, fear, retribution and resolution that would lead me to a career as a thriller author.
The day was hot, air-conditioning was unheard of, and we wore our itchy, ugly, brown wool Catholic school uniforms year ‘round to save our parents money. I was a very good girl. I never drew attention to myself, folded my hands with fingers pointing heavenward when I prayed, picked up trash on the playground and helped pass out papers in class. But that day, I made a blunder that put me in Sister Carmelita’s crosshairs. As she raised her arms and positioned her baton in anticipation of another rousing chorus of a hymn I have long forgotten, I rolled my eyes. Yep, I rolled them to the back of my little ten-year-old head in frustration and exhaustion.
Sister Carmelita cut her own my way. I realize now that she had mastered the art of eye cutting because she couldn’t move her head given her the box-like wimple. Everyone stopped breathing. No one knew what I had done, only that I had done something very, very bad.
“Miss Forster.” Sister Carmelita’s voice was modulated appropriately for God’s house. “Wait after choir.”
My stomach lurched. I felt light headed. I was doomed.
Sister Carmelita is long gone. During her time on earth she faced changes in her church and her life, but I doubt she ever knew how that day changed me. So, if you’re listening, Sister, I want you to know that, 30 years later, that moment sealed my fate. I spend my days writing thrillers, trying to recapture the exquisite sense of suspense I experienced that day. Here is what you taught me:
1) Less is More: Your understated notice of me, the glitter in your eye, the sound of your voice was more intriguing, more compelling, more enthralling than screaming, railing or ranting.
2) Timing is Everything: All 29 of my classmates knew I was in trouble. I knew I was in trouble. I even knew why I was in trouble (disrespecting you, God, choir practice, country, family and all living creatures with a roll of my eyes), yet you didn’t nip things in the bud with a mere instantaneous admonition. My comeuppance was exquisitely timed. You threw in an extra hymn to extend practice, studiously ignored me, meticulously folded your sheet music as my classmates silently went down the stairs. You waited until the door of the church closed, clicked and locked us together in that big, shadowy church before you turned.
3) The Devil’s in the Details: You were taller than me (back then almost everyone was taller than me), but that wasn’t why I was afraid. It was your whole package, the details of your awesome being that were so formidable. Covered head to toe in black, your face framed by your wimple (which, by the way, looked like the vice used during the Spanish Inquisition), your hands buried beneath the scapular that fell in a perfect column to the tips of your shoes, made for quite a package. But there was more: The scent of nun-perfume (I think it was soap, but it smelled like nun-perfume to me), the clack of those huge rosary beads attached to your wide belt, the squish of your rubber soled shoes. I saw all this, I heard all this, I smelled all this and each sense was heightened because of the hush surrounding us.
I remember your methodical advance into my personal space. I remember you lowering your eyes as I raised mine. The suspense was heart-stopping, the anticipation of my penance almost unbearable. Quite frankly, you were terrifying.
But here’s the funny thing: I don’t remember how it ended. Did you scold me, sister? Did you show mercy and forgiveness? I only remember being terrified. Like the brain of the seven year old Stephen King swears gives him inspiration for his horror books, you, Sister Carmelita, inspire every sentence I write in every thriller novel I pen. For that, I can’t thank you enough.
I also want you to know, I have never rolled my eyes at anything since that day in the choir loft.
To prove her father’s innocence, she’ll have to turn a killer's sights on herself.More info →