Being True to You

I’ve got another post for you about writing your truth. I told you I had a lot to say about this.

In past posts, I have talked about how to write your truth. Today’s post isn’t going to be much of a how-to. I have something on my chest that I want to share. It was something that hit me when I was getting information together for a book I was ghostwriting.

I freelance write through a company. I ghostwrite books. Part of that requires me to do research on topics because most of what I write is non-fiction books. It’s through this research that I found so many books on Amazon that you can tell didn’t come from a person’s truth.

This post doesn’t have to with my ghostwriting or anything to do with that sort of thing.

What I want to talk about is the sheer number of books available on Amazon that are written for the sole purpose of making money.

Now, you may be wondering how I can tell that there are so many books on Amazon that aren’t written from a person’s truth. I’ll tell you, but first I want you to do something.

Head over to Amazon and pull up a listing of books. More specifically self-help books; weight loss, exercise, mental health, those sorts of things. Now, pull up a few and click on the preview book. Glance through to see what you can glean from it and take a look at the reviews and other information about the book.

You’ll probably start to notice that some books just have a better feel to them than others. There are some that feel like they could actually help you, while others are just ‘eh.’

Now, I don’t know what is in the heart of an author when they write a book, but what I do know is that if they wrote from their truth, from a need to help people or share something, you can feel it in their writing. It comes off as much more honest that fluff writing.

You don’t have to just write novels in order to write your truth. You can write your truth in non-fiction books as well. It means you are sharing truths about you and your passion in order to help somebody else. And this statement is true for fiction and non-fiction because I believe fiction can help people as well.

So many of the books you see on Amazon are books that have been written and published just for the purpose of making money. They weren’t created from a passion deep within somebody. They didn’t come from the heart.

The problem is, though, that all of these books that weren’t written in truth are covering up the books that are written truth. Speaking as an Indie author, there are so many other Indie authors out there that write their truth and have amazing stories to tell through novels and self-help books that get pushed underneath all of these other books that don’t have any heart in them.

I don’t know how these truthless books become successful. (I have my thoughts, but I will keep them to myself.) All I know is, we need to create more books that have heart and truth in them. We need more books in the world that tell stories that help people and entertain people for the sole purpose of helping and entertaining.

There are enough snake oil salesmen in the world. Those of us who truly have a story to tell, who want to share our truth, need to band together and share with the world what it means to love what you do and to love doing it no matter what you get back.

I know there is nothing that can be done about these filler books on Amazon and other sites. They are always going to be there and more will continue to be published. It’s easier today now than it was 20 years ago. You don’t need an agent or a publisher anymore. I’m not trying to start a revolution or what have you to stop these books from being published.

I am here to help and urge those who do have a heartfelt story to share, to share it.

If you are still unsure about what it means to write your truth, you can use these books to help you.

Because trust me, you can tell the difference when you read a book when it has been written from the heart, no matter the genre.

I think I’ll step down from my soapbox for now. I’ve said what I came here to say.

I hope I have helped you just a little bit more when it comes to writing your truth.

“What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.” – Carl Rogers

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

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Best Way to Develop and Build Characters

Welcome to the first post of 2019. I hope your holidays were fantastic.

I’m starting off the year by talking about characters. You can’t have a story without characters. No matter how hard you try, there are going to characters, human or not. Even if there is just a person describing a scene, that narrator is a character.

Stories have characters (duh obviously) but it can be difficult to create well-rounded characters that people enjoy reading. The key part of any character is to make them human. Now, that doesn’t mean they have to be human, they just have to act like a human. That means they have human ideas and characterizations and the like. They are driven by beliefs and dreams.

One of my favorite blog posts about character development is The Writing Cooperative article, How to Create Authentic and Powerful Fictional Characters written by Valerie Black. Click the link to read. It’s a good read.

As with the article I just shared, there are lots of archetypes for your main protagonist, which I will probably dedicate a blog to later on. For this blog, we are going to look more at how to build a character.

What’s in a name?

The first thing you need to do is figure out a name. Coming up with a cast list for your book is a good idea. As a rule of thumb, try to make your names as pronounceable as possible. Also, the names need to fit with your story. If you’re writing a story set in 17th century England, the name Payton is going to fit very well.

Now, I know, coming up with names can be difficult. It’s like naming a child. You want to make sure it works for them when they first come to fruition and when you write their last line. When push comes to shove, you can always use source material. Search online, grab a book, magazine, whatever you have around you to find names. Be careful not to accidentally use the same names in different stories that aren’t meant to have the same characters.

Another tip for names and this isn’t something that I do, but it is a good idea. Write out a long list of possible names for your story that way you will have some if a new character were to pop up. You never know when a random person will appear in your story.

But what will I wear?

Names are fine and dandy, but you still have to know what your character looks like. You need to know things like their age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, race, all those things.

It’s easy to come up with your character based on their social and educational status. The trick comes when they are from specific locals. If you are writing about people in Atlanta, Georgia, you need to know how those people act and speak. Unless you are going for something funny, you want to try to avoid stereotypes of what you think people sound like. That’s where research comes in.

Putting it all together.

You’re going to have characters that come together easily you know them down to their blood type. Then there will be others that you just have a mental image of. No matter how detailed you have your characters, you have to make sure you know them. If you don’t know them, you can’t convey their story. This is especially true if you write in a POV.

One great way to get to know your characters is to answer a bunch of questions from their point of view. This will put you in their mind so that you get to the essence of who they are.

Are they important?

Lastly, you have to figure out if the character gives to your story. Ask yourself what each of your characters mean to your story. This should be something you do for every character, no matter how long or short their time is in your story. All characters should grab your reader’s attention.

If a character isn’t adding something to your story, get them the hell out of there. It’s better to lose a character than make your readers stumble through a scene with confusing characters.

Now, this is by no means the end all be all information for character development. These are just three tips that can help you get started. We will look at more character development information in coming blog posts. But this should get you started.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Three Ways to Write Your Truth

My last post on writing your truth was a bit jumbled because I went into without a plan in mind. I knew I wanted to write about it, and I just started writing. Hopefully, you were still able to get something from it. I’m back again to talk about writing your truth. Here we are going to talk about three ways to make sure that you write your truth and not someone else’s.

In my opinion, the simplest definition of writing your truth is writing what you really want to write. Writing your truth isn’t something outlandish or some mysterious being that only a few can tap into. Writing your truth is something everybody has the ability to do, all it takes is some time and effort.

There is one hard part about writing your truth. You have to know you.

Find Out Your Beliefs

In order to write your truth, you have to know yourself. That’s the first thing in writing your truth. Know yourself. Take some time to sit down and write out the things you believe. Those are your truths. The things that you believe to be important in life. Not what other people tell you, but what you believe. These beliefs have been forming throughout your entire life. And whether you know it or not, you have been living your life based on these beliefs.

That’s the first thing you are going to do in order to write your truth. Take a moment, five to ten minutes, and write down a list of your beliefs. I don’t want superficial beliefs either. Nothing simple like I believe in God or I believe the sun is hot. I want specific beliefs. Things like people need to fight injustice, marriage should be between two people that love each other, people should be allowed to be whatever they want to be. I want you to go deep. Take some time to go do that now.

……….

……..

I’m serious, write your list now.

…..

Welcome back. Now that you have your list of beliefs you now know the things that you should write about. While you can write about things that go against these beliefs, such as a person who isn’t necessarily religious could write a book that is religious in nature. But doing so is going to be very difficult.

It will take quite a bit of planning and forethought. You will find it very hard to embrace these truths because they aren’t yours. The only way to successfully write something that goes against your truths is to change your beliefs about them. But that’s a different subject.

Don’t Be Silent

The second thing is to stop silencing yourself. I’m a woman, so I can only speak from a woman’s perspective. Women tend to silence their selves more often. I could speak on why I think that is, but that’s not my point here. Many people will stop themselves from writing their truth because they think that it’s something that others don’t want to hear, or that they will be ridiculed for it.

They feel shameful for their truths, so they stop themselves from writing about it. Now, I want to explain that I am not telling you to be hurtful or mean to others. That’s wrong no matter what. (I’m pretty sure I put that in my last blog about writing your truth and is a boilerplate agreement from now on when talking about writing your truth. DON’T BE MEAN AND HURTFUL)

What I am telling you is to be nice in how you write your truth. No matter what it is, you can write your truth without hurting other people.

I know that this may seem like I am verging on a touchy subject, and I probably am, but it’s important that we talk about this. Writing your truth is the only way you are going to feel happy and comfortable with your writing, and, yes, it will likely upset somebody. But as long as you didn’t blatantly attack somebody or you weren’t outright mean, then you have nothing to be afraid of. I’m not here to talk about ethics, just the matter of not silencing yourself.

To recap, the second point is that you should not let society or others silence you just because you are afraid that they are going to judge you for it.

Be Vulnerable

The last tip is to be vulnerable. This will go hand in hand with the second tip because you are putting yourself out there to be judged, which is a vulnerable position. Vulnerability is the key to writing your truth. Which we will go in-depth on later on. All I am going to say right now is that if you don’t feel a little bit vulnerable when you are writing and putting yourself out there, then you are probably hiding at least part of your truth.

Remember, understand your beliefs, don’t silence yourself, and be vulnerable. Once you have accomplished those three things, you will be well on your way to writing your truth.

“Three things cannot be long hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

7 Effortless Tips For Writing Every Day

Making time to write every day can be a daunting task. I know I have problems with making sure that I write on my own work every day. I’m still learning how to make sure that I make the time for it. For those who work a different day job, will often struggle more to make time for their own writing.

There are some who feel guilty when they make time to write. Mainly because they see it as something fun to do and not something they have to do. Before you sit down and work out a writing schedule, make sure you figure out your priorities.

Alright, let’s jump right in…

Give Yourself More Time

Wake a little bit earlier in the morning so that you have more time during the day to write. This may seem too simple to work, but it works. Sleep is important, so make sure that you are still getting enough sleep. You need brain power to write, and sleep gives you brain power.

Pick a Time to Write

You want a writing schedule, so decide what time of day you are going to write. Make sure it is a time that you have free pretty much every day because consistency will make it more likely that you will stick with it. A lot of writers do their best writing first thing in the morning because the creative juices are flowing. Some say you are more creative when you’re a little tired, so maybe you write before bed. Just pick a time and stick to it.

Pick a Time to Read

A writer who doesn’t read will fall on their face. You have to read in order to be a good writer. Make sure you set some time aside every day to read. You can read anything, just read.

Use Life for Inspiration

If you have a day job other than your writing, use the people you work with as inspiration for your writing. Even if you don’t have a different day job, watch the people you interact with on a daily basis, or those you meet out in public. If you watch closely, you will start to see that everybody has their own characteristics, character flaws, and attitudes. Who knows, they may inspire your next story.

Gather Your Work

I’ve always been super organized with where I keep my writing, I’m obsessed with USBs. For some people, they have notes and writing plastered across notebooks and in different computer files. Group everything together into one place so that you can what you need faster. This will help you to feel more motivated to write because you won’t have to hunt for what you are looking for.

Make a Happy Place

Set aside space in your home where you write. It doesn’t have to be a huge space. In fact, it could be your kitchen table. But know, that is your space. When you are there, it’s time to write. Set up the space to make you happy and motivated to write, and reduce the distractions as much as you can.

Reward Yourself

When you have accomplished some writing for the day, no matter how much, reward yourself. This can be anything that you like doing. Go for a walk, give yourself an extra five minutes of reading time, whatever will make you want to write again the next day.

That’s it. Use these seven tips to create your own writing schedule to make sure that you don’t feel like you have to force your writing time. Nothing is worse than feeling like you don’t have the time to do something that you love. Make the decision now to make time to write tomorrow.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” – Charles Buxton

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Short Story – Pelagia’s Fate

The mountains loomed over the large white castle. The sun eased past the horizon, illuminating the yard. Shrubs with little red flowers lined the wall. Shining yellow and white sprites sprinted through the yard watering the flowers, cleaning the pool, and pruning the shrubs. Above them, at the tallest window, stood a man of 120 years, yet he didn’t look a day over 25.

His long black hair billowed in the wind that rushed through the open balcony window.  His bare chest shined in the growing light. His boxers hung low on his hips, showing off his defined body and the slightest ruffle of dark curly hair.

Padraig rubbed his hand over the tattoo on his ribs. The dark blackbird popped from his porcelain colored skin. The only color the tattoo held was the bright red arrow that hung from the blackbird’s beak. Padraig had been part of the first group that Amon had given their fates to. He had thought it was a ridiculous idea. Never believing that one man had the ability to hand out fates to people with only a simple tattoo, but the tattoo had been free. Padraig had lived for several decades with that tattoo without as much of an inkling that it was going to come true. Then one day it happened. And it continued to happen.

Padraig had grown up in a poor elf family. They lived on the outskirts of Inis and scraped by with the scraps of the nobles. When he was told he would become a noble, his family had been ecstatic. They ignored the other half of his fate, but that was the half that scared Padraig. Once he became a noble, he knew he had to be careful. He didn’t want the evil half to come out. He thought he had managed to escape the other half of his fate. He never got married. He made sure all the people that worked for him were men, but then one day he slipped. That was it. That evil side came out … and he loved it.

The door to his room creaked open. In stepped a beautiful woman. Her long red hair was tied high on her head. She wore a strapless green bikini top with matching bottoms. Across her stomach, a purple spider web held a large black spider. The tattoo shimmered from the sweat that prickled across her skin. Adeline was 70 years younger than her husband, but it had been love at first sight.

Padraig’s ex-wife hadn’t been able to handle his lifestyle. She loved the extravagant places they lived and the fact she was married to a noble, but she hadn’t been able to live with his dark side. She couldn’t take the bad with the good. Adeline could. Padraig’s dark side played right into hers.

“Showing off for the workers?” Adeline asked.

“I just got up, wanted a bit of fresh air. How was your workout?”

“Wonderful. I see you had a good time last night.”

Adeline walked over to the bed and began to ease off the ivory white sheets. Starting at the foot of the bed, she rolled the sheets up into a ball, keeping the blood on the inside. She tossed the blood covered sheets next to a lump on the floor, hidden in the corner. A closer inspection would show that lump used to be a beautiful fairy woman. The only thing that was still recognizable on the body was a black and white tattoo of a tombstone with a black cat sitting perched on top.

“Did you have to make such a mess?” she asked.

“I can’t help it if she wouldn’t stay still.”

“I thought I told you to use the sedative.”

“I like it better when they’re awake.”

“The sedative I gave you allows them to wake up but keeps their body immobile. It also keeps me from having to explain to the cleaners why my husband has such bloody sheets.”

“Just throw them away. I can buy new ones.”

“Throw them away? If we threw away everything that you bloodied, then we wouldn’t need cleaners.”

“Honey,” Padraig, cooed, wrapping an arm around his wife, “Are you jealous?”

“I was just hurt you didn’t let me pick this one out. And she was one of our best gardeners.”

Padraig kissed his wife’s cheek. Wrapping her in a hug, he led her over to the stripped bed.

“Let me make it up to you.”

Far below them, in the deepest and darkest corners of the castle, came a penetrating scream. Darcy darted through the nooks and crannies that he knew so well, chasing after a shiny silver elf. He didn’t enjoy chasing elves as much as he did the others. Elves would glow when they got scared or excited, so they made it too easy for him to find them.

Adeline had lured Darcy into their home with the promise that his fate wouldn’t come true. The day Darcy stepped out of the hospital white building with his fresh tattoo, he had lost all hope. He had always been a gentle soul. His entire family was twisted, evil ogres and Darcy had always felt out of place. When he looked down and saw the large chimera on his left leg, he knew how his life was going to end.

The ugly creature was made up of a lion with a tail that grew into a snakes head, and a goats head growing out of its back. Darcy’s tattoo was more intricate and uglier than any others in his family. His packet had told him that the chimera was seen as an omen for disaster. That was it. Nothing else was explained.

For days, all Darcy had done was wander around the center gardens of Inis. He enjoyed watching the rainbow-colored butterflies race through the flowers. He would help the gardener’s plant pink and purple flowers. Every few days, he would see this beautiful woman with long red hair running through the gardens. It seemed like on those same days his family would show up and mock him. Then one day the red-headed lady came up to him.

“You come with me, to my castle, and you can work as a gardener forever. You’ll never have to worry about your fate coming true. I’ll make sure of that,” she cooed the last part in his ear.

Darcy ran home and packed his bags. His brothers had laughed at him when he told them his plan. His parents weren’t home, and he didn’t plan on waiting around for them. He met the lady back at the gardens and followed her back to the castle.

The first few days had been amazing. He worked outside. He had regular gourmet meals. He had free run of the castle. Then one day Adeline asked him to go to the basement. There was something wrong with the boiler, and she needed him to fix it. As he walked in, the door slammed and locked behind him. He shook the door, trying to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. A hum came from deep in the maze of concrete walls, drawing him closer. He continued to wander through the maze, but the closer he got to the hum, the further away it sounded.

He continued to wander through the maze for days on end trying to find that sound until he had learned the maze like the back of his hand. All of a sudden the humming stopped. Meals were slid under the door for him, letting him know the time and day: breakfast at 8 am sharp, lunch at noon and dinner at 6. Then one day the door opened. The light burned his eyes. He hadn’t seen daylight in a few weeks. When the doors shut, he could hear a quiet sob.

He followed the sob through the maze-like he had the hum, but this time he caught up with it. It was a young giant girl, no more than 20. She tried to run away from him, but he grabbed her, pulling her to the little room he had made himself. He forced her to sit and talk to him. Every time she sobbed, he would smack her to shut her up. The next morning she was gone. A week passed, and then another girl was tossed into the maze.

This continued week after week until he grew used to these visitors, and bored with the interaction. Then they started coming more often, and he became more creative in the way he treated them. He would chase them through the maze until they collapsed. They couldn’t hide, he knew where everything was. After a year, Padraig came to speak with him. He offered him the chance to roam the castle again if he so chose if he would continue to “wear down” his lady friends. Darcy agreed, he wanted to see the gardens again, but he also enjoyed his exercise.

Here he was, 20 years later, and he still enjoyed chasing these women. The shining elf darted into a cave that all the women seemed to find. They thought it hid them. If any ole’ monster was chasing them, it would, but not Darcy. He stopped chasing her for a moment and listened to her cries. He crept up behind the wall and peered over. With a soft tap of his finger, the elf looked up at him before letting out a blood curtailing scream.

***

Pelagia rubbed her hand across the lily tattoo on her shoulder. The tattoo had long since healed, but it still itched from time to time. Her long blond hair was held in a braid that draped over her tattooed shoulder. Her casual blue outfit stood out against her family’s power suits.

She sat at the red oak table that her parents used for family meals. When the kids didn’t come to visit, they used the small breakfast nook in the kitchen. It was the Friday night dinner that Pelagia dreaded sitting through each week. The conversation always turned to her fate. Her parents and siblings would start talking about everything they had accomplished at work. The new rules or laws that they had sent to the elders for approval or the new election they were getting ready for. Then they would look over at Pelegai, see her rubbing her shoulder, and then stare at their food for a few minutes. Somebody, usually her mother, would speak first.

“Honey, stop rubbing your shoulder, you make me worried when you do that,” Brigid said, picking at the roast duck on her plate.

“Sorry, it’s a habit,” Pelagia replied, dropping her arm.

“A bad habit,” mumbled Jarlath.

Jarlath, Pelagia’s father, couldn’t understand her preoccupation with her fate, nor did he understand why she just sat around and waited for it to come true. Of course, she wasn’t sitting around and waiting. Pelagia worked, she volunteered at the local hospital, and she was active in her spiritual group. To her parents, she was wasting her time.

“Sorry, Dad,” Pelagia growled.

“I just don’t see why you can’t come work for me. I need a new secretary, and you just might make it in politics yet,” Jarlath stated.

“I don’t want to. I am happy doing what I’m doing.”

“Then why do you look so sad?” Brigid asked.

“I’m lonely.”

“Then find someone.”

“Mom, I can’t. My damn fate won’t allow me to.”

“You can find someone to be with without having sex.”

“The Universe must not feel the same way.”

“Well, at least you’re still alive.”

“Mom! Really? Every time I’m here you have to bring that up.”

“What? You can’t forget the noose around that flower. You are going to commit suicide one day, so you need to get used to it.”

“I understand that will happen one day, but you don’t have to act so cavalier about it. All that does is make me think that you all won’t even morn me when I do die. You’re already comfortable with my fate. That’s the problem with this stupid system.”

“Do NOT refer to the fate tattoos as stupid. The Universe, elders, and nobles all believe that it is an amazing system,” Jarlath yelled.

“Oh, sure, they think it’s great. The Universe doesn’t have to live these fates, and the elders and nobles have the best fate possible. All I’m trying to get at is the fact that these fates make us worry until they come true, and if you have a fate of death, then your family has already gotten over it before you even die. I want people to miss me when I’m gone. I don’t want people sitting around saying things like, ‘Well I saw that coming.’”

“We will miss you,” Brigid said.

“Sure, you will.”

“If you’re going to sit there and insult your mother, then you can leave,” Jarlath said.

“Fine!”

Pelagia pushed herself away from the table and stormed out the door, slamming it behind her. She wandered her way towards the garden, which had become a weekly tradition. Every time she had a fight with her parents she would end up in the garden.

The garden was a gathering ground of sorts. A large circular hedge marked the garden’s territory. Inside, the garden was full of flowers, trees, and protected plants. As Pelagia walked through the large golden gate the elegant scent of the globeflower hit her nose. The garden greeted her with a sea of pink, blue, and yellow. She shuffled her way to her favorite bench in front of the bog rosemary. As she settled into the bench the tears began to flow.

Pelagia sat and cried for several hours. There were very few people in the garden at this hour, but the few that were there didn’t pay her any attention, except for one. If Pelagia hadn’t been crying she would have noticed the fiery redhead that had been watching her for the last hour.

Adeline loved walking through the gardens at this time of night. Only the most desperate and pathetic wander through, giving her the best opportunity to find help. Adeline had noticed Pelagia a few times before, but never felt it was the right time to approach her. Tonight, on the other hand, seemed right. Pelagia was more upset than she had ever been.

Adeline sashayed over to Pelagia’s bench and sat down. Her gentle hand touched Pelagia’s arm. Pelagia jerked at the touch. Seeing how beautiful the person behind the touch looked, Pelagia relaxed for a moment.

“Are you all right?” Adeline cooed.

“Yeah. Fine.” Pelagia sniffled.

“You don’t look fine. Why don’t you tell me what’s really wrong.”

“It’s a long story.”

“I have time.”

Pelagia looked deep into the stranger’s eyes, searching for a reason why she was interested. She couldn’t get past the ice blue color of her eyes. They pulled her into a trance, and Pelagia started telling Adeline everything. Once Pelagia finished her story, Adeline wrapped a long slender arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.

“What if I told you I could protect you from your fate?”

“You can’t do that. Nobody can. It’s fate.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. My husband and I own that large white castle on the east side of town. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Anyway, we have made it our mission to help innocent people like you stay safe from horrible fates. The work of Amon can be crude and evil, and we believe people should have the opportunity to make their own life.”

“But nobody can possibly keep fates from coming true.”

“If you come live with me, you can work in the gardens there, and you will have a nice little basement apartment all to yourself. You’d have free roam of the property, and not a single person there will cause you any harm. Now, tell me how your fate could possibly come true in a place like that?”

“I suppose it would be hard for my fate to be fulfilled there.”

“Your family won’t miss you either. They’ve already moved on.”

One last tear slipped down Pelagia’s cheek. With a sigh, Pelagia stood and turned toward Adeline.

“I’d love to live with you and your husband. Anything is better than where I am now.”

“That’s my girl,” Adeline said, standing and wrapping Pelagia in a hug.

Adeline took Pelagia’s hand and led her towards the Buckley castle. Pelagia’s eyes grew wide the closer they came. Never in her life had she seen anything as amazing as her new home.

Adeline led her up the huge white marble stairs to the front door. Celtic knots decorated the edge of the iron door. The soft lilt of singing echoed around the corner of the house. The door creaked open as they approached, welcoming Pelagia. The foyer was decorated with gothic accents, red roses, and white candles.  Pelagia eased into the expansive room. Looking up the hall, the lights of the candles disappeared into the darkness. Adeline draped an elegant arm around Pelagia and led her down the hall. The soft echo of their footsteps followed behind as they reached a large steel door.

“Here we are,” Adeline announced.

“Where does the door go?” Pelagia whispered.

“To your room. You get the entire basement to yourself. It’s completely furnished too.”

“Really?”

“Yep. You have free run of the house and grounds as well. Make yourself at home.”

Pelagia reached out and grasped the cold doorknob and pulled the door open. Cool air hit her. A soft whir can from the expansive darkness that unfolded before her. She eased her foot onto the top step. The step was hard. Despite the darkness, she knew it had to be marble. She continued her slow march down the stairs.

Pelagia’s skin started to emit a soft glow lighting the dark stairwell. While she could see where she was going, the glow of her skin casted an ominous shadow along the walls. At the bottom of the stairs, Pelagia ran a hand along the wall looking for a light switch. Her finger slipped over the switch. Lights flicked on overhead illuminating her new home. Pelagia had seen a few basements during her life, but nothing this extravagant.

An expansive living room stood in front of her. A huge flat screen TV hung on the wall. A complete black leather living room suit decorated the floor. Red, purple, white, and pink lilies and irises decorated the tables and walls.

Pelagia stepped through an archway into the kitchen. A cute little breakfast nook was set up in the corner. Marble countertops sat on the cabinets. To Pelagia’s eyes, she had brand new stainless steel appliances. She walked back into the living to the open bedroom door.

A huge canopy bed stood in the center of the room. She found an equally big bathroom to the right. She flopped down on the soft bed and smile up at the sparkling purple canopy. With a sigh, Pelagia started to close her eyes when she heard a low grumble coming from outside her room. She bolted out of the bed and eased through the living room to investigate.

Another growl shook the room; this time sounding further away. Pelagia followed the growl to a large black door on the far side of the room. She slowly reached out her hand to touch the doorknob.

“That doors locked,” Adeline stated.

Pelagia jumped and whirled around to face Adeline.

“What?” Pelagia asked, her heart racing.

“The doors locked. It’s for the boiler room. Nobody ever goes in there except when there is maintenance that needs to be done, but there’s a second entrance so you won’t be bothered.”

“Then why do you have this door?”

“It was put there before we turned the basement into an apartment, and we didn’t take the time to remove it.”

“Oh.”

“I brought you some cookies and milk to welcome you home. I’ll introduce you to everyone tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”

Pelagia took the tray of cookies and milk with a smile. Adeline gave her a small wave as she made her way back up the stairs. Pelagia gave the large black door one last look before taking her treats to the kitchen.

That night Pelagia enjoyed her treats and enjoyed her first night of restful sleep since her 18th birthday. Over the next few days, Pelagia got to know her new home. She made friends with fairies and sprites that worked in the gardens, and the kitchen elf started teaching her to cook. She never once thought of that odd growl she had heard the first night. The large black door didn’t even catch her attention. She was enjoying her life for the first time in a long time, and she didn’t have to worry about her parents butting in. They had no clue where she was, and she wasn’t about to tell them.

The one week anniversary of Pelagia’s move in, Adeline and Padraig threw her a party. They had all of her favorite foods; cookies, milk, honey, several types of berries, and caramel. After she had eaten her fill, and the party started to wind down, Pelagia made her way to bed. She laid for a few moments on her bed and watched the lights around her twinkle. As she started to drift off to sleep a deep growl rocked her bed.

Pelagia sat up. Another growl ripped through her apartment, louder and fiercer. She scooted to the head of the bed with her legs tucked into her chest. As another growl rumbled through the air; a large shadow passed by her bedroom door.

“Hello?” Pelagia called sheepishly.

She was answered by another growl. Goosebumps run up her arms. Easing off the bed, she crept to the door and peered out. The living room appeared as it had earlier. She pushed the door open with a squeak and stepped into her living space. The growls continue in constant succession causing the walls the shake. The closer she walked to the large black door, the louder the growling became. She reached out a shaking hand and grasped the doorknob. The knob wouldn’t turn. The large black door rattled as something hit it from the other side. Pelagia jumped back and ran upstairs.

She ran through the house trying to find Adeline, but she was nowhere to be found. Pelagia hurried into the kitchen, running into Padraig. Pelagia stumbled backward. Padraig stepped back holding a glass of wine in his hand and wearing nothing but boxers.

“You okay?” Padraig asked.

“Yes… No… I mean…” Palagia stumbled.

“Calm down. Why don’t you tell me what happened.”

Padraig sat his glass down on the black marble island and motioned towards a bar stool. Pelagia eased onto the bar stool next to Padraig. With a sigh, she raced through the story of what happened downstairs.

“I’m sure that seemed very scary,” Padraig cooed, reaching a handout and stroking Pelagia’s hair, “But it’s just the boiler room. It acts up sometimes.”

“But something banged on the door.”

“It just sounded like it did. Nobody is the boiler room. Both doors are kept locked.”

“But…”

“Everything is fine.”

Padraig ran a gentle hand down Pelagia’s arm onto her leg. She brushed his hand away and stepped back from the island. Padraig sauntered over to Pelagia, pushing her into the counter. He wrapped an arm around her waist and brushed his hand down her face. Pelagia cringed at his touch.

“You need to relax,” Padraig sighed.

“Let me go,” Palagia shouted, pushing him away.

Pelagia took off to her room. Back downstairs, she ran for her bedroom, planning on locking the door to keep Padraig out, but the door was already locked. She scrambled to find a hiding place, but there wasn’t one. Even the outside basement door was locked where she couldn’t get outside. She turned to look at the large black door again. The growls and banging had subsided leaving her apartment quiet.

The sound of footsteps echoed above her. She ran towards the large black door, knowing it would be locked, but desperate to find a hiding spot. To her surprise, when she turned the doorknob the door easily swung open. Pelagia stepped into the dark, cold room. A sewer smell hit her nose causing her eyes to water. A rumble ran through the room almost knocking Pelagia down. The door slammed closed. Pelagia frantically grabbed at the door, but the door was locked. Turning to face the dark room, Pelagia made her way into what looked like a maze. Another growl ripped through her. She took off running.

“There’s another door,” Pelagia whispered.

The maze shook as Darcy took off. Pelagia ran as fast as she could, trying to get to the other end. The more she ran, the more lost she became. Every wall looked the same. Every turn seemed to lead back to the same cubby hole. The more frightened she became the more her skin glowed.

Out of breath and tired, Pelagia hunkered down into the cubby hole to rest. She hadn’t spotted Darcy. He had learned a while back that the longer his prey went without seeing him, the longer he got to chase him. Nothing was more fun than the chase. Darcy peered around the wall at Pelagia. She sat curled in a ball. Her head pulled into her knees.

Pelagia’s hair swayed as Darcy breathed harder. The smell of his breath caught her attention. Her head shot around and spotted Darcy. With a blood-curdling scream, Pelagia took off again through the maze. Darcy reached out a monstrous hand and grabbed for Pelagia’s shoulder. She shook free and continued her pursuit through the maze.

“I’ve got to stop glowing,” Pelagia whispered to herself.

As she rounded another corner Pelagia tried to calm herself. With thoughts of fruits and flowers, Pelagia’s glow began to dim. Her eyes weren’t used to the darkness, causing her to run into a wall and fall.

Darcy had lost sight of the little sprite when she dimmed herself. She was one of the best victims he had ever chased.

“Where did you go?” Darcy growled.

Pelagia pulled herself up. As she took a step a hot pain ripped through your right leg causing her to scream.

Darcy darted in the direction of the scream. Pelagia limped as fast as she could, but Darcy was too fast and too use to the maze. She could feel his hot breath on her neck. His cool fingertips touched her skin. She jerked away, but her leg gave out sending her tumbling down. Darcy grabbed the wounded girl by the neck. Pelagia kicked and struggled to get out of his grasp, but it was no use. Darcy tossed her against the wall of the maze like a rag doll. Pelagia’s head bounced off the wall sending her into darkness.

***

Pelagia’s eyes blinked open to a searing pain in her head and a blinding light. As her sight cleared a familiar face came into view. Padraig crouched over her. Pelagia tried to move out from under him, but her body wouldn’t move. The only thing she could move was her eyes. She rolled her eyes as far down as she could. Nothing was between her and Padraig. She laid naked under him.

Padraig leaned over her, pressing his hands into the pillow beside of her head. Pelagia tried with all her might to scream, but nothing came out. The only thing she could do was lie there. Padraig continued using Pelagia until she passed out again. That didn’t stop him. For hours Padraig would ravage Pelagia, stopping to rest for a few moments before starting again. Finally, he had his fill and left her.

***

A few hours later, Pelagia came too in the same blinding white room. This time she could move her head and body. She jerked up to a sitting position causing waves of pain to rocket throughout her body. A soft whimper escaped her throat.

“It’s about time you woke up. I was beginning to worry about you,” Adeline cooed from the corner.

Adeline stood at the far side of the room. She wore a long green evening gown that sparkled in the midday sun that shined through the window. Her red hair cascaded around her body. Picking up a glass of water, Adeline glided across the room to Pelagia. Trying to avoid her touch, Pelagia slid across the bed as far away from her as she could get.

“You know, my husband really enjoyed having you. He’d never been with a virgin before. You may have ruined him for any other woman. But the problem is, you’re never going to feel like that again.”

Pelagia tried her best to curl up into a ball, but her leg hurt too badly from her fall. For the first time, she saw what her body looked like. Her thighs held dark bruises shaped like fingers. A stain of red blood covered part of the sheets. Adeline smiled as she watched the fear fill Pelagia’s face.

“Well, I have someplace I need to be. I didn’t dress like this for you. You really should drink some water. You’re probably severely dehydrated.”

Adeline strolled towards the door before stopping.

“Don’t think that can go anywhere. Your buddy Darcy will be watching your every move.”

Adeline left Pelagia alone with Darcy. Darcy stood at the door with his arms crossed wearing nothing but a loincloth. Pelagia accessed the damage Padraig and Darcy had caused. There wasn’t a spot on her that didn’t ache or hurt. The knee she had hurt was black and blue and swollen. Her arms felt like they had 100-pound weights strapped to them. Tears started to flow as she continued to think about what had happened.

She eased herself off the bed and hobbled towards the window. She opened the door to the balcony and stepped outside. The sun was hot on her cold skin and caused her head to pound. Darcy grunted, calling her back inside. Pelagia took one last look outside. She was in the top room of the turret she had noticed when Adeline first brought her to the castle.

Pelagia eased back to the bed and leaned against the post. Darcy stared at the young sprite. He had never been put on guard duty before. In fact, he had never seen what happened to the women he chased through the maze after he immobilized them.

“Excuse me,” Pelagia began, “Where can I use the bathroom?”

Darcy said nothing but pointed towards a bucket in the corner of the room. Pelagia sighed.

“I can’t go in that. Can’t you take me to one of the bathrooms?”

“No,” Darcy grumbled, still pointing at the bucket.

“My leg is all messed up. I’m not going to be able to squat over that. I have a shy bladder too.”

“I don’t care.”

“Please, all I’m asking is that you step outside the door. I’ll manage to squat over the bucket, and you won’t have to watch. There’s no way for me to escape except through that door.”

Darcy growled, shaking the floor. Pelagia pushed herself against the bedpost. Darcy took a step towards her, holding out a hand.

“Two minutes,” he said, raising two fingers.

“Thank you.”

Darcy slipped out the bedroom door, closing it behind him. Adeline and Padraig glided up the white marble stairs. Adeline held a basket of food, Padraig, a bottle of wine.

“She is magnificent. I think I can convince her to be my pet,” Padraig said.

“I’m glad you like her, but what about Darcy? He’s going to miss the maze.”

“We’ll send him someone through from time to time, but he’ll be Pelagia’s guard the rest of the time.”

“That should…” Adeline’s thought stopped when she saw Darcy standing outside of the bedroom door, “What is that fool doing?”

Adeline dropped the basket of food and took off towards Darcy. With a shove of her hand, she sent him flying back into the wall.

“Why are you in the hall?” Adeline screamed.

“She needed to pee.”

“So. You watch her. She gets no privacy.”

“She can’t escape but through this door.”

“You fool. There is a large window and balcony in that room,” Padraig interjected.

“She would fall to her death if she tried to go out that window.”

Adeline grumbled as she pushed past Darcy into the bedroom. Padraig ran in after his wife, looking around. Adeline took off to the bucket, but it hadn’t been used. There was no sign of Pelagia. Padraig tapped his wife on the shoulder and pointed towards the balcony. The doors were open and the white curtains flapped softly in the breeze. Far below them, in the gardens, a screamed rippled up through the window.

Running out on the balcony, Adeline and Padraig looked down to the concrete floor below. A small red stain began to grow as blood rushed out of Pelagia’s smashed skull. Gardeners rushed over to help, but there was nothing that could be done. Her fate had been fulfilled, and all that would remain of her was the stain that would never leave the Buckley’s garden.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Stop Judging and Write Your Truth

If you have been a writer for any length of time, you have probably heard the saying writer your truth. The meaning of this statement is different for everybody, but in essences, it means to be true to yourself. So much of our lives we have to monitor what we say to make sure that we don’t upset somebody. Monitoring everything is detrimental to your imagination.

I want to preface what I’m going to talk about with this statement. I am not talking about being mean or rude to people. Writing your truth is about getting to the depths of who you are. It’s not about saying things just to be hurtful or mean.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can move on.

Writing your truth is important no matter if you write fiction or non-fiction. When you write, you are bearing your soul for the whole world to see. And if you don’t, then your story won’t be the best that it can be.

Don’t Hide You

When you sit down to write, don’t try to hide who you really are. It doesn’t matter what other people think when you are writing. Writing is a safe space. It’s where you can share your deepest and darkest secrets and fears without any judgment. Spew it all out on paper. When you do, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.

Don’t Worry About Others

So often writers go into a story thinking about what other people want to hear. When I first started writing Loved by Death, I didn’t have that problem. I developed as I started to put my writing out for people to read. The reason I didn’t care when I first started writing my book is that I was just writing to do something.

I had no thoughts of publishing it. I wrote it because my friend told me I should write a book. I went crazy with the world because I wasn’t thinking about what other people would think. Once I tuned into my writing dreams, and I started getting published in Milhaven Press, that’s when I found myself judging my words.

When I started looking for book reviews, I almost went crazy. I was literally asking people to judge my writing, and in essence, me. But we can’t go into writing with this thought process. When we do, we will hold ourselves back. We start thinking about what people want to hear as opposed to what you want to say.

Be Vulnerable

You have to bare your heart and soul on your paper. Non-fiction writers have to share everything about the story they are trying to tell the world, whether their own or somebody else’s. Fiction writers have to be able to get to the depth of their characters. There are going to characters that have actions and beliefs that some people will hate while others like them. That’s why people read books.

They want to feel the characters, and without being vulnerable, you can’t put those emotions in your characters or stories. Being vulnerable is no easy task. I get that. But really knowing you will help you to really know your writing.

I am by no means an expert on writing your truth. I am still learning. But, from my experience, I like learning things from people that is just slightly more knowledgeable than me. I don’t think anybody should feel like they know everything about something. We should all continue to learn.

As such, this is just the beginning of writing your truth. I will have many more posts about it. I will also be creating some videos about it as well. Speaking of video, I will be posting videos on YouTube on a regular basis. I am getting my first video together, so make sure you are on the lookout.

“Honesty if the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. I will be making Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles available for free on Kindle in the coming weeks, so make sure you keep an eye out so that you don’t miss your chance.

Short Story – Her Little Secret

The church was filled with family and friends. All of their solemn faces watched me as I walked up the aisle. The summer breeze coming in from the windows whipped my dress around my ankles. My hand reached out and touched the cold wooden coffin.

I shouldn’t have left. No matter how important it had been for me to go to school. I knew my parents were going to have problems, but I hadn’t imagined it would be this bad. I’d only been gone for three months when I got the call from my brother, Charles, Jr.

“Richard is dead,” Junior said.

I didn’t believe him, but I still rushed home. I wasn’t met with a kiss. I didn’t get asked how my trip was. Nobody said I love you. Richard, my husband, was dead. A week before I had left for classes a new ‘family’ had moved in. Vinnie Rio and his wife Maria had introduced themselves to my parents the day I left. They didn’t do or say anything wrong at that time, but I could tell.

My parents, Charles, Sr. and Rebecca, own a deli shop in a nice Italian American neighborhood. That was until the Rios moved in. It was the way they acted. The words they used. The way they walked and dressed. I knew they were part of the mob. What I didn’t know was that Vinnie was the head and that he was willing to do whatever it took to get my parents deli.

He wasn’t interested in making money selling meats. Instead, he wanted the back of the store. The large walk-in freezer to be exact. It was the perfect place for ‘business.’ He hadn’t said anything that day he introduced himself. He waited. He had dropped hints for a few weeks, according to my brother. My dad stayed strong and wouldn’t budge. Richard got involved when Vinnie hit my dad. He started talking for him, and that’s how he ended up dead. But, lucky for me, Vinnie never saw me that day when he came to town.

Junior put his arm around my shoulder leading me back out of the church. A young boy came running up with a phone in his hand. Junior took the phone.

“Hello,” Junior said.

I couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end, but I knew wasn’t good. Junior turned white as a sheet. His hand gripped hard into my shoulder.

“Can I speak to her?”

“What is it?” I whispered.

He waved me off and continued to listen intently. I eased him over to the paisley covered chair before he fell down.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I knelt in front of him, trying to read his face. He looked right at but didn’t see me. I could hear the guests filing out of the church, all of them looking at us with concern. As the last person left, Junior jumped up.

“Put her back on! No! I want to talk to my mother. I…”

“What’s wrong with mom?” I screamed.

Again, he waved me away. He held the phone tight to his ear. The air in the room tense. I couldn’t breathe. Something was wrong with mom and he wasn’t telling me anything. I didn’t like this, but taking the phone from him wasn’t an option. I had to wait, no matter how long it took.

“Okay,” he whispered, before hanging up the phone.

“What’s wrong?” I said, cornering him.

“They have mom and dad.”

“Who?”

“Vinnie.”

“Vinnie? Vinnie Rio?”

“Yes. Dad still wouldn’t give up the shop after they killed Richard. Now they’ve taken them, hostage, until I turn over the shop.”

I wrapped my arm around his shoulder and lead him outside. The sun dipped under the horizon casting everything in shadows. The moon peeked through the red clouds as we walked to my car. We drove to the shop in silence.

Everybody from the funeral would be piling into my house soon enough and I wasn’t ready to deal with them. I had something else on my mind.

Junior and I walked into the deli shop. He grabbed a plate and filled it with different sliced meats and cheeses. We quietly nibbled at the food. Neither of us wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. With a sigh, I broke the silence.

“Let them have the store.”

“What?”

“Let them have the store.”

“I can’t do that. Dad would kill me.”

“If you don’t, they will kill dad. Trust me. Call Vinnie and set up a meeting tomorrow.”

“Why? I don’t know how you could let those people use our shop for their work.”

“I don’t want them in here any more than you do, but it’s the only way this is going to end.”

“I’m not going to do it.”

“Charlie, if you don’t you will never see mom or dad again. Besides, I’ll call him myself if I have to.”

“You wouldn’t.”

I glared at my brother. I was four years older than him, and I had seen and done things that he would have never imagined. I had a secret that none of my family, not even my late husband, knew. He might have felt better if he had known, but I couldn’t risk it.

***

The next morning I hid in the back of the store. The office sat behind the meat counter and had a perfect view of the entire store. I stretched up on my tip toes to look out the window. Junior wasn’t happy. He had repeatedly begged me to reconsider after a while I stopped listening to him.

The front bell jingling and in walked a tall lanky man in a three-piece suit. A little overdressed for a Monday morning. Francis Capo, or as his friends called him, Little Frankie, sauntered up to the counter where Junior stood. He twirled a toothpick between lips before taking it out and tapping the tip on the counter.

“The boss wants to know if you have reconsidered,” Little Frankie said in a thick Italian accent.

Junior took a deep breath and stepped back from the counter. He hesitated too long. Little Frankie slapped the counter.

“Can you hear me? The boss wants an answer.”

“I…” Junior stumbled.

I slipped out of the office. None of the family knew I existed and I was going to use that to my advantage. I had slipped on my most form-fitting little black dress. My breasts poured out the top and my butt looked perky with the help of my sky-high heels. I glided up next to my brother, drawing Little Frankie’s attention.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

“Who are you?” Little Frankie asked.

“Veronica.”

“You related to him?”

“I’m his older sister.”

“Older sister, huh? I didn’t know they had any other kids. So, you the one in charge here.”

“Looks that way.”

“Vinnie wants an answer. He wants your freezer.”

Junior slipped further away from the two of us. He fiddled around with some of the meats, trying his best to disappear in the shadows of the store. I hated seeing him this scared.

“If the freezer is all he wants, he can have it.”

“I see there is one smart person in your family. It’s a good thing you agreed. I would have hated to mess up a pretty face like yours.”

“You wouldn’t have really hurt me, would you?” I asked, sliding closer to him.

Little Frankie cleared his throat. He rubbed his finger across his pencil mustache with a smile.

“I could think of a million better things to do to you than hurt you.”

“I bet you could.”

Junior coughed. I glanced over to see him glaring at me. I rolled my eyes back to Little Frankie who hadn’t stopped gazing at me since I walked out of the office.

“How about I come back by tonight and take you out.”

“Sounds great.”

With a grin, Little Frankie turned and sauntered out. I could feel Junior’s eyes burning holes through me. Turning my back to him, I strolled into the office saying,

“You have customers.”

***

Late Monday evening Little Frankie pulled up outside a large white mansion. This had to be the Capo house. I had been under the impression that we were going to a restaurant. I didn’t think I’d have to impress the entire family this early on.

Little Frankie walked around the car and opened my door. I eased out, making sure my tight dress didn’t rise too far. I hadn’t changed my dress from earlier, but I had added a leather jacket and pulled my long brown hair back in a ponytail. Frankie took my hand and led me up the stone stairs to the glass front door. A tall bleach blonde woman met us at the door.

She had curves in all the right places, but every inch appeared to be fake. The only thing on her that was real was the diamonds. She smiled the best she could, but her face wouldn’t allow anything to move. Escorting use in, she motioned towards two large red velvet chairs on either side of a long mahogany table. The woman sat at the head of the table, the other end was occupied by who I guessed was Vinnie. The meant the woman had to be his wife. The other two seats were filled by another man and woman. I wasn’t interested in either of them.

“Welcome, Veronica,” Vinnie said, motioning to a maid to fill my glass with wine, “You’ve met my wife, Maria. I hope Frankie has been a gentleman.”

“He has,” I replied, taking a sip of my wine.

“Good. I was extremely glad to hear that you had allowed us access to your store. Your father was quite a hard nut to crack. I’m glad you are smarter. What I was really interested in, though, is why I hadn’t ever met you before.”

“I’ve not been in town for the past few months.”

“I see. Why?”

“I was taking some classes.”

“For what?”

“You do ask a lot of questions.”

“I like to know who I’m dealing with. Your brother, Junior, is it? He’s an easy read. But you, you’re different. You don’t follow your father’s rules.”

“I’ve always done my own thing. I didn’t understand why he so against giving you access to the freezer.”

“Smart girl. Enough talk, let’s eat.”

We ate. The entire night, whatever Vinnie said, we did. Nobody questioned it. The dinner was good, though. Once we finished, with a snap of his fingers, the maids cleared the table and brought us coffee. After some idle chat about nothing in particular, Vinnie turned to me.

“Maria is going to show you around the house. I like you, and I have a feeling you will be around a lot.”

Maria took my hand and led me out of the dining room. Their house was vast and full of expensive furniture, appliances, and decorations. Rooms upon rooms lined the halls of the mansion. Most of which had never been used. Maria stopped short at the top of the stairs. I screeched to a halt barely avoiding her.

“You cannot tell anybody about what I’m getting ready to show you.”

I nodded. We eased down the staircase. Our steps echoed off the white walls. We stepped into a hall that paled in comparison to the rest of the house. I figured the area wasn’t frequented by guests. Nothing was decorated and the air smelled stale. My parents had to be around here somewhere. Maria tapped my shoulder, causing me to jump.

“Now, Vinnie probably wouldn’t want me to show you this, but I thought you might need to know. This is where we keep our little secrets. Promise me you won’t say anything.”

“I promise.”

“Good. Now, let’s get back upstairs before the boys get too lonely.”

***

I sat at the small table in the office of the deli shop and sipped my now cold cup of coffee. Junior had frozen me out. The most I could get him to say was a grunt. Before I left Vinnie’s home the night before they told me they would need the freezer today. I was dressed to the nines again to keep my charade up.

The front door slammed open and the bell clanged. The sound of stomping and shuffling feet sounded through the store.

“What are you doing?” Junior yelled.

A hard thump vibrated the floor under my feet. I ran out to find Junior on the floor of the store. Little Frankie disappeared into the freezer. I crouched next to Junior to make sure he was okay. He yanked his arm away from my touch.

“I told you they were coming,” I whispered.

Junior glared at me. He wasn’t hurt, but his ego was bruised. He pulled himself up and moved to the far side of the shop. A scream rang out of the freezer. I glanced around the door to see Little Frankie and Vinnie roughing up a small wiry man.

“What did I tell you last time?” Vinnie barked into the man’s face.

“I don’t think he understood you,” Little Frankie quipped.

Vinnie nodded at his henchman. Little Frankie raised a skinny arm and drove his fist into the small man’s face. Blood splattered out of his mouth. In a split second, Little Frankie’s fist drove back into his face. Blood burst out of his nose. The tiny man groaned.

“What was that?” Vinnie said, leaning down to the man, but making sure he didn’t get blood on his shirt.

“Trunk. Money … trunk.”

“I think he’s saying the money is in the trunk,” Little Frankie interpreted.

Vinnie turned on his heel and bounded out of the store. Little Frankie turned his attention back to the small man. He drove fist after fist into him until he slumped over in the chair, barely breathing. I felt Junior’s breath on my shoulder.

“Aren’t you going to stop him?” Junior barked, loud enough for Frankie to hear.

I pushed Junior into the office and shut the door.

“Look, I don’t like this any more than you do, but if you don’t keep your mouth shut, you are going to be in worse shape than that man in there,” I whispered.

“You’ve lost your mind.”

Junior stomped out of the office and right into Little Frankie. Frankie slammed Junior against the wall. Frankie’s arm drew back preparing to hit Junior. With a touch of my hand, Frankie dropped his.

“Please, Frankie. He’s my brother. I can handle him. He’s just upset about our parents.”

Little Frankie looked at me; a small smile drew across his face. He released Junior’s shirt. I glanced at Junior. He took off to the front of the store. I rubbed my hand down Frankie’s arm.

“He’s lucky you were here.”

“I know. I’m sorry he doesn’t understand your line of work. I’ll do my best to keep him in line.”

“If you can’t, I’ll have to.”

“I know. Just, give him a little bit. He’ll come around. I promise.”

“You’re going out with me tonight.”

“Okay.”

***

That night Little Frankie took me to a real restaurant. The food was beyond delicious, and it should be for the price they charged. Everybody took extra special care of us. We had no reservation, and the restaurant was full, but we only waited five minutes before the best table in the place was open. Nobody ever brought us a check. After dessert, we left.

Little Frankie wrapped an arm around my waist as we walked down the street. The night air was cool, so I didn’t protest his touch even though I wanted to. A figure moved to the right of me. I didn’t think anything about it. A moment later, Little Frankie was on the ground. A large man threw punch after punch at Little Frankie not giving him a chance to get in a hit.

I grabbed the man by the collar and pulled. He didn’t budge. I swung a fist into his side. Still, he didn’t budge. I stepped back and drove my foot into his gut. He grunted and tumbled off of Little Frankie. A glass stomach, good to know.

Little Frankie struggled to stand. His left eye swelled shut, and blood poured out of his nose. I didn’t like the man, but I could let him die tonight. Once he had his footing, he turned back to the hulk of a man that was still on the ground grasping his stomach. He stomped the man’s stomach causing him to writhe in pain. Little Frankie looked at me, nodding his head, inviting me to help him.

We took turns kicking and stomping him into the ground. Once he passed out, Little Frankie collapsed against the wall. It was my turn to wrap an arm around him. I led him back to the car and sped off towards Vinnie’s.

***

They had their own in-house doctor. This sort of thing must happen a lot. As soon as we stepped inside, we were met by a short man with a stethoscope. He took Little Frankie to another room, leaving me alone at the door. Vinnie stepped beside, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. Some large man came out of nowhere and attacked him.”

“Sounds like Bubba. That’s not his real name, but he won’t share his real name. He used to work with us, but when I met Little Frankie, I sent Bubba on his way. He’s tried to get the drop on him before but never succeeded. How did you get him off?”

“He’s got a glass stomach.”

“Figures. Big guys always have an easy to reach weak spot. Come with me. I have something to show you.”

Vinnie led me back to the staircase that Maria had taken me down the other day. This time we walked the long hallway. I glanced in some of the open doors. They were small furnished bedrooms, big enough for two people. One door along that hallway was closed. It had to be where my parents were.

The hallway emptied out into a large office space. On the far wall set a large vault, one that should be in a bank. The door was opened a crack. It looked like it was filled with gold and cash.

“This is where it all happens,” Vinnie said in a grand fashion, “Not just anybody gets to see this room. Besides myself, Maria, and Little Frankie, you’re the only other person who has been shown this room without a gun pressed to their head.”

“Why are you showing me the room?”

“Your one special lady. Little Frankie likes you and you proved yourself useful today. I want you to help me. I’ve got a new store, much like your father; he’s a bit reluctant to let me help him with business. I think you can help.”

After explaining the situation, Vinnie left me alone in the office. I had everything that I needed to bring an end to the Rio family. In just a couple of days, I had done what the other officers on the force hadn’t been able to do for years. Every time the police got close, the Rio family would move. This time I had insisted that I take the lead. The guys didn’t like that a woman would be taking over their case, and I suspected that they would be extremely upset that I had finished what they couldn’t.

***

Back home, I slipped to my room unnoticed by Junior. He had been staying with Richard and me long before all of this started. He was watching TV when I came in. I slipped out of my cumbersome dress and slid on my PJs. Grabbing the phone, I called my boss.

“Virgil speaking.”

“Virgil, it’s me, Veronica. I’ve got them.”

“You got them?”

“Vinnie took me to his office today. I have all the evidence we need to put him away. We can take them tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive. We wait any longer and they could end up getting suspicious, and we know what happens when they get suspicious.”

“All right. I’ll get the guys together. You go in and signal us when you’re ready.”

“Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow.”

“See you then.”

“Bye.”

“Oh, Veronica.”

“Yes.”

“Good work.”

I hung up the phone with a smile. Unbeknownst to me, Junior has slipped upstairs and had overheard my phone call. He slammed my door open and stormed in.

“Cops! Cops were not supposed to be involved.”

“I’m a cop, Junior. Cops have been involved since the beginning.”

“They’re going to kill them.”

“No, they’re not. At least not anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you honestly think they were ever going to release them? They were just biding their time until they got everything they wanted from us.”

“Yes, I do.”

“This is why I didn’t tell you, or anybody for that matter, what I was doing when I went away.”

“I thought you were a secretary.”

“That’s what everybody thought. That’s how going undercover works. It’s my little secret. I need you to calm down. Mom and dad are going to be fine as long as you don’t do something stupid.”

“I can’t do this. You’ve messed everything up.”

“I’ve mess nothing up. You were never going to give them access to the shop. You were going to get yourself and our parents killed. Richard already sacrificed himself. I’m now a 30-year-old widow. How do you think I feel? I’m taking down the Rio family, and if you don’t promise me that you will behave, I will tie you up in your room until everything is over.”

Junior stayed quiet. He eased back to his room and didn’t say anything for the rest of the day. The next morning was just as quiet. That was until I started to leave.

“Be safe,” Junior said, making his way back up to his room.

“I will.”

The entire family was at Vinnie’s. It seemed as if it was a tradition to gather together when somebody got jumped on the street. Little Frankie could only see out of one eye, and his breaths were shallow from his bruised ribs.

As the festivities picked up, I slipped away from the crowd. I knew my team was waiting just outside of the Rio fortress. I stepped out onto one of the several balconies and stretched. A whistle sounded off in the distance letting me know they had seen my signal.

I reached in my dress and pulled out my gun. After checking the gun, I eased back inside. A second later, the front door busted open. With the distraction on my side, I took off to the staircase. Somebody reached out and grabbed my arm, yanking me around. One of Vinnie’s men hovered over me.

I swung my arm around. He grabbed my arm, causing me to drop the gun. I continued to fight him off, but he deflected every swing. An explosion ricocheted through the house. The giant looked away. I grabbed up a large ceramic vase and smashed it over his head. He took a few steps and tumbled to the ground. I grabbed up my gun and took off downstairs.

“Mom. Dad.” I screamed.

Muffled yells came from down the hall. I took off towards the closed door. I grabbed the knob but it wouldn’t turn.

“Mom, dad, if you can hear me, I need to you move to the far wall.”

Shuffling feet sounded on the other side of the door. I took a step and aimed my gun at the lock. Firing off a shot, the lock blew apart and the door swung open. I stepped inside and saw my mom and dad holding each other in the far corner of the room. When they saw me, they ran and grabbed me up in a hug. For the next minute, I was covered in kisses.

“I love you too, but we have to get out of here,” I said.

“Why are you here?” my dad asked.

“That’s a story for another day.”

I motioned for them to stay behind me as we eased upstairs. Shots bounced off the wall beside us. Ducking against the opposite wall, I glanced around the corner. Little Frankie stood behind a column and fired another shot. I readied my gun and fired at his leg. It glanced off the column missing my target.

Frankie shot at us again, missing by a mile. Having only one good eye made his job a lot harder. I fired again, this time taking out his right knee. He dropped to the floor. I raced to him, never dropping my aim. Kicking the gun away, I turned him on his stomach and shoved my knee into his back.

“I knew you were too good at being bad,” Little Frankie wheezed.

“You kidnapped my parents. Did you honestly think I liked you?”

The house went quiet. My boss stepped around the corner with two officers following him. The house was in shambles. Most of the decorations had been destroyed. The couch was riddled with bullets holes. One of the officers stepped up and handed me a pair of handcuffs. I secured Little Frankie’s hands and stood. Mom and dad eased their way into the room.

“Did you get them?” I asked.

“We did. We took most of them alive. A few were injured, and a couple had to be killed. They hit a couple of our men, but they’ll be fine.”

“Good.”

“Where’s this evidence you found?”

“Down those stairs and all the way at the end of the hall. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take my parents home instead of hanging around here.”

“Go ahead. I’m sure Junior is worried.

***

The three of us stepped up on the curb outside of the deli shop. I could see Junior inside scrubbing the counters. His face was wrinkled in a frown as he scrubbed away his anger. I motioned for my parents to stay outside. The bell rang when I opened the door, bringing Junior’s attention to me. He frowned.

“Why are you here? I thought you were working.” Junior stated, anger rising in his voice.

“I thought I’d bring you present. Especially after everything I’ve put you through this week.”

“What?”

The bell rang again as mom and dad stepped inside. The frown on Junior’s face dissolved into a smile. Racing to mom and dad, he wrapped them in a hug before reaching over to pull me in. We stayed in our huddle for a few minutes more.

We closed the store for the day and spent some much-needed family time together. I explained my whole story and why I had to lie for so long. Unfortunately, Richard never got to find out my secret. He had been a causality that I hadn’t planned on. He wasn’t supposed to get so involved, but the people that killed him were in jail and there was no chance of them getting out.