Tag Archives: Lee Thompson

Released: WITH FURY IN HAND

With Fury in Hand book cover

I’m excited to let everybody know DarkFuse has released my latest Crime novella WITH FURY IN HAND! You can grab your copy from Amazon here.

The first reviews have come in.

Michael Parker at Crime Fiction Lover.
Paul Nelson at Paul Read or Dead.
And reviews on Goodreads.
And reviews on Amazon.

I hope you’re all well and living life to the fullest!

Best,

Lee

With Fury in Hand

With Fury in Hand book cover

Super excited about this book coming out in May, 2015 from DarkFuse! You can pre-order it here!

Over the next seventeen hours, on the unforgiving streets of Flint, Michigan, five people with troubled pasts and uncertain futures will collide in a devastating chain of intertwining events.

Through the eyes of a homeless orphan, a banking executive with disturbing fantasies, an adulterous wife, a young prostitute with a stash of money, and a man trying to leave his criminal days behind, you will witness their pain and feel their loss.

Redemption requires forgiveness, but fury serves no master.

Inside THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS Character/Conflicts

Inside “The Devil Gave Them Black Wings” Characters/Conflicts

I’m doing a series of fun insider posts on my novel THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS which will be released March 17th, 2015. I’ll share why the setting is personal and unique to me; I’ll share about the main characters and their conflicts; my beliefs on Grief and Healing—which is essential to moving on with our lives after tragedy strikes us; I’ll share the inspirations for segments of the storyline; how racism isolates a small black family when their daughter is kidnapped; and we’ll hit the points of curses and blessings, how each can pivot into the realm of the other.
I hope you find this interesting, and I’m glad to give you a look inside my head and the inner mechanics of one of my latest novels.
Please feel free to share the posts. And if you have any questions you can ask me on my Goodreads Q & A here

Happy reading!

Lee

black wings cover for kindle

 

In THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS a cursed angel battling a paternal complex shadows an abducted child with a vengeful father who will do anything to get her back… He mourns the loss of innocence in the young neighbor girl who is determined to find the kidnapped child… And he seeks to offer peace to a despondent husband returning to his wife’s childhood home after her death on 9/11…

Through triumphs and setbacks, unlikely friends forge an unbreakable bond, and find a way to always remember the value of love and courage.

*****

Welcome to the second post about the inner mechanics of my forthcoming Supernatural Thriller THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.

There are a number of major characters in this novel, which I like because they’re all connected and are irrevocably so by the end. Having multiple POVs offers a lot of room for contrasts and misunderstandings between characters. I’d like to share a quick sketch of each character, what they want and need, and the major dilemmas they face.

Sebastian: A doomed angel, he takes his charges very seriously, and it drives him crazy that all the girls he guards are cursed with tragic lives. He can do very little to protect them, since he is unable to communicate with them. Until the end of this book he sees the human story as one large tragedy.

Jacob Elder: Wants to be left alone to deal with his grief (he tends to wallow in it for a while until the angel Sebastian begins bothering him.) When a local black girl is kidnapped from the park where Jacob has been sitting and watching children play for the last three days, a policeman puts Jacob at the top of his list of suspects.

Nina Kunis: Wants a purpose for her life, wants to matter, wants to clear Jacob’s name and find out who really kidnapped young Robin Stark. When she begins to suspect that her older boyfriend, who is not shy of his attraction to young girls, is behind Robin’s disappearance, she isn’t sure what to do. A local reporter named Caitlain Reno also interviews her because Nina lives across the street from the park and Robin Stark’s father works with Nina’s mother. Caitlain is upset when Nina says the reporter is exploiting Robin and her family to make her career. But Caitlain tells her little black girls have been taken for the past decade and no one with any power has done anything because there is still a deep-seated racism permeating the town.

Victor: Jacob’s brother-in-law. Wants to bring Jacob home, back to New York, afraid that Jacob will hurt himself due to depression and hopelessness. He tracks Jacob down using his credit card purchases, and ends up knocking on doors until he finds Nina, who he believes has seen Jacob from the way her face changes when Victor shows her Jacob’s photograph. Nina’s stepfather Rick calls the police but Victor has ties to the mob in New York, and doesn’t tolerate much from small town law enforcement. His contempt for them only gets him and Jacob into more trouble.

Caitlain Reno: A reporter whose main goal is to write a book about the abductions of ten young black girls (over the past decade) in a town that tries to appear spic and span. She doesn’t realize the danger she’s in until the child murderer visits her home.

Richard Stark: Robin Stark’s father. More than anything he wants his daughter back. He was there at the park with her the day she was taken, had left her on the merry-go-round while he ran to the ice cream truck to get each of them their favorites. When he thinks the police are taking too long to save his daughter, and under his wife’s demands that he do something, he compiles a list of local sexual predators and begins knocking on doors, hoping he can shake his daughter’s kidnapper out of his nest. He has always been a law-abiding man, but fully accepts he will have to break laws, and live with the consequences, once he finds Robin and the man who took her from him.

Thanks for taking the time to read and share this. If you’d like to pre-order a copy of THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS, you can do so here

Inside “The Devil Gave Them Black Wings” Setting

 

I’m doing a series of fun insider posts on my novel THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS  which will be released March 17th, 2015. I’ll share why the setting is personal and unique to me; I’ll share about the main characters and their conflicts; my beliefs on Grief and Healing—which is essential to moving on with our lives after tragedy strikes us; I’ll share the inspirations for segments of the storyline; how racism isolates a small black family when their daughter is kidnapped; and we’ll hit the points of curses and blessings, how each can pivot into the realm of the other.

I hope you find this interesting, and I’m glad to give you a look inside my head and the inner mechanics of one of my latest novels.

Please feel free to share the posts. And if you have any questions you can ask me on my Goodreads Q & A here.

Happy reading!

Lee

  

Inside “The Devil Gave Them Black Wings” Setting

black wings cover for kindle

 

In THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS a cursed angel battling a paternal complex shadows an abducted child with a vengeful father who will do anything to get her back… He mourns the loss of innocence in the young neighbor girl who is determined to find the kidnapped child… And he seeks to offer peace to a despondent husband returning to his wife’s childhood home after her death on 9/11… 

Through triumphs and setbacks, unlikely friends forge an unbreakable bond, and find a way to always remember the value of love and courage.

 *****

When I was in my early twenties I was reckless and impulsive. I was an alcoholic without a car, a violent young man with a large chip on his shoulder, and I had tired of where I grew up. I wanted adventure, a calling, a purpose for my life. I started reading the Bible, and believed that if I learned to rely on something outside of myself, I’d make better choices, maybe I’d be happier. Self-pity and anger were holding me back and I did my best to purge myself of their venom. I decided, somewhat out of the blue, that I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to teach something good, values that I believed I needed to aspire to, and I wanted to learn by listening to others, maybe help them in some small way. So, without a car, with sixty-something dollars to my name after buying a bus ticket, I rode down to Cleveland, Tennessee with a small bag of clothing and a guitar.

I choose this place in Tennessee because it had Lee University, where I could go to their music school and study to be a preacher. I figured the influence of others with a devout seriousness would help me stay on track. But I was dirt poor when I got there, I didn’t know a soul, I was homeless, hungry, and frustrated. In a homeless shelter on the bad side of town there were all kinds of addicts. I could relate to them because, although I hadn’t had a drink in a year, I wanted one every single day.

It was a time of turning points, big changes. I did great for a while, got on my feet, made friends, stayed away from the bottle which pretty much represented a loaded pistol I used to stick in my mouth for the better part of every day.

Cleveland, Tennessee is a Bible belt. A dry county. That helped for a while. But then I visited a local music store and made friends with this guitar player (Don Wade) who was kind of a mentor to me. I went out and watched his band play. As much as I wanted to be good, I missed the seedy sides of life, and I liked the neighboring town Chattanooga for all the enticement it offered. I didn’t fit in with most of the Christians I’d met. They were all so naïve (or so it appeared) and I felt out of place, like a square peg among a bunch circles.

It was more natural to return to the type of things I knew. I walked everywhere (I love walking because it’s good exercise and gives me time to think). I went all over town, all the time, the good parts, the bad parts, just a wayfaring stranger in a strange land. I didn’t hunt trouble, but I didn’t shy from it either.

I gave up the idea of preaching. I didn’t feel worthy, didn’t feel as if I had anything to say, and to me Christian meant Christ-like, and I was far from that. But I watched everybody and listened, and there were a million small heartaches all around, and I found I could listen to a stranger and it seemed to help them because nobody else gave them the time of day.

In THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS, my thirteen-year-old character Nina Kunis has this trait. She likes to give people a chance to open up. For her—pretty much still forming into who she will be when the story begins—life is full of mystery, darkened corners, and exquisite possibilities. But there is a danger in the connections we make, a risk we have to take if we want to truly connect with someone else, which Nina learns the hard way.

And then there is Jacob, who brings his wife Santana’s ashes back to her home town from New York. After she dies in the towers on 9/11, he carries an excessive amount of guilt because she had wanted to return home, to Cleveland, Tennessee, the week the Trade Towers were hit, but Jacob had refused her. He was a bit of a control freak then, and like most control freaks, he did not want to risk losing her to her childhood memories when the life he had built for himself in New York was exactly what he wanted. But his refusal to give her what she wanted, just a simple trip home, carried her down among the rubble at Ground Zero. To make matters worse for him, a young black girl goes missing, and a local policeman designates him as the prime suspect because Jacob appears homeless, and has spent three days in that park watching the children play before the girl was taken.

There is so much more I wish I could tell you, but I’ll save it for other posts about the inner workings of this novel. I’ll wrap it up for now with the whole point about what I learned while living there and why I felt it was the perfect setting for this story.

When I lived down there, one of the first places I lived was in a shitty motel room that cost about a hundred bucks a week. I went to this church I liked, and there was this constant bombardment of the wholesomeness and sincerity of the congregation in contrast to the shitty neighborhood, the fights and drug deals and crack whores, I had to return to. I could have just returned home, back to Michigan, but I was stubborn, and I think there was a part of me that liked how vastly different the two worlds were that I resided in.

The light and the dark meet in certain areas. There can be great love, tremendous hope, butted up against violence and despair. And that’s what THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS is all about: great love and tremendous hope butted up against violence and despair. The novel is a slow burn and I hope that by the time you finish it you’ll know these characters better than you know your family.

Thanks for taking the time to read and share this. If you’d like to pre-order a copy of THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS, you can do so here

Thanks again for all the support!

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, you can do so here, and receive a FREE Kindle copy of my Supernatural Thriller EARTHLY THINGS.

Interview with Cinematographer Richard Vialet

 

This marks the first time I’ve interviewed a cinematographer, so this is pretty cool. I learned about Richard because he reviewed my novel IT’S ONLY DEATH and my novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL. Like most creators, I like people who like my work. No shame there. Thanks to Richard Vialet for taking the time and sharing about himself and what he’s learned with his craft. For fellow writers, up-and-comers and such, I believe we can learn a lot from other creative people (I learn all the time from musicians, athletes, artists, poets, other writers, film makers, etc.) So enjoy! And spread the word about the interview. You can check out Richard’s website here to see cool stills and video clips from projects he’s done

How much artistic leeway do you have with each project? Or does it vary a lot from director to director?

Richard Vialet: Yes, it definitely varies from director to director. I’ve worked with some directors who are very specific with the shots that they want from scene to scene, providing storyboards and other references, while others are less specific visually, and lean on me to craft the shots while they just work with actors. I try to adapt my working style to fit the style that the director prefers. Most directors give me carte blanche on lighting decisions though, with the occasional suggestions on set. But I never plan a look and approach without letting the director know my intentions first.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?

Richard Vialet: Probably the most valuable lesson for me at this point in my career is to keep an open mind about every project and everyone you meet, and always treat everyone with respect. I might find a project that doesn’t sound very attractive at first, but by keeping an open mind, you might discover potential. For example, a project might not be paid very well, but the director may be an undiscovered talent and have a unique vision that could lead to great things down the road. So you never know who you’re meeting with. Another great lesson I’ve learned is to stay healthy. I’m still working on that! We work demanding hours that are taxing on the body, and I would love to be doing this job for as long as possible.

What’s a typical film project like? What steps do you have to take to do your job with as few hitches as possible?

Richard Vialet: On a typical film project, the crew is basically just trying the tell the story and support the director’s vision as much as possible. while also trying to predict any obstacles that might pop up on set and being prepared to tackle them.

The key to doing this is: Pre-production. Pre-production. Pre-production. There is a lot of money on the line, and unless you’re David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, or Chris Nolan, you almost never time to get shoot the movie you want to make. So scouting locations as much as possible, being familiar with the script, getting on the same page as the director and the other department heads, and having a clear idea of how I want to approach every scene, goes a long way to a successful shoot.

What are some of your favorite films?

Richard Vialet: 1) Casablanca – It’s a timeless, universally enjoyable, and nearly perfect story of romance and heroism, and explores the choice between striving for personal happiness and acting for something that’s bigger than yourself.
2) L.A. Confidential – It’s probably the best movie adaptation of a book, skillfully converting one of the densest crime novels ever into a 2-hour, 20-minute movie that is really entertaining and extremely well-made. It also has one of the best casts of any movie.
3) Se7en – The textbook movie for what a great psychological thriller can be. It has a creepy and original concept and script and has such a dark, oppressive mood, that after your finished and watch it again, you’re surprised by how little violence and graphic images there are. A feat of filmmaking.
4) Sunset Boulevard – It was amazing how modern Billy Wilder’s movies felt. And this one was his greatest. It’s one of the most scathing satire on Hollywood to date and I consider Gloria Swanson’s tightrope walk of a performance one of the best ever.
5) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – It’s pretty cool that this movie is still endlessly entertaining even though it was made in 1948. It’s an awesome adventure about how greed slowly corrupts and becomes a greater danger to the characters than bandits, wild animals, or the elements.
6) A Separation – Proof that great writing and acting is all you need. It’s interesting how this small Iranian family drama was ten times more riveting than most of the big-budget action movies I’ve seen.

Who inspires you?

Richard Vialet: My mother Eveth, cinematographers Rodrigo Prieto, Harris Savides, Greig Fraser, and Bradford Young, late photographer Gordon Parks, and directors Sidney Lumet and Steven Spielberg.

How did you get your start in the film industry?

Richard Vialet: I enrolled at Howard university in Washington D.C with the goal of becoming an actor and film director. But I fell in love with cinematography and decided to focus on that exclusively. I was then accepted into the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory as a cinematographer and after graduating from there, I’ve been working, doing what I love ever since!

I know you love to read, who are five of your favorite authors?

Richard Vialet:

1) Stephen King is truly a master storyteller who”s not only entertaining but knows how to skillfully use the art of the written word to tell engaging stories. And he’s constantly challenging himself and evolving. I think King should be included more in talks about the greatest modern American authors.

2) Dennis Lehane is one of our greatest crime writers. His books have a great balance of character development and plot and has yet to write a bad book in my opinion. Mystic River is one of my favorite novels, Gone, Baby Gone is the best detective novel I’ve read to date, and Shutter Island is a great atmospheric psychological thriller.

3) George Pelecanos’s urban morality tales and tragedies continue to touch me. He writes some of the most authentic dialogue and explorations of inner city life than most authors and always treats his characters with love and respect. I feel like I know the people in his books.

4) I recently started reading Junot Díaz and I love how reading his books feel like hanging with a buddy and hearing some good stories about young lovelorn guys and failed romance.

5) I’ve also just started reading Lawrence Block and his writing and crafting of plot seems so effortless. He makes it look so easy.

*Other favorites include the great Walter Mosley, David Goodis (the poet of depression and urban despair), Megan Abbott, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Robert McCammon, Scott B. Smith, Jake Vander Ark, and Chester Himes.

I’m sure you travel a lot, correct? Did you ever fall in love with a particular setting while filming?

Richard Vialet: I fall in love with at least some aspect of everywhere I’ve traveled; I just love to discover new places. But the Pacific coast of Costa Rica might be my favorite so far, and looked great on camera. I’ve also shot in the Redwood forests of Northern California and that was mind-blowing! I kept thinking about the Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi!

You’ve already been part of some great projects. What is something you’d like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?

Richard Vialet: Of course, every filmmaker is dying to get the next game-changing script. But yes, I’ve been fortunate to work on a wide variety of genres with their own individual challenges. But I would love to shoot a Western. A serious one, with classic themes and a great villain. I’m a huge Western movie fan. I think a musical would be tons of fun as well!

What are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about it?

Richard Vialet: I can’t talk lot about the specifics, but it’s a sequel to a popular revenge thriller remake. At first, I wasn’t excited about it because I’m not really a fan of the gory genre that the first movie belongs to. But after a director I’d worked with before signed on and I read the script, I realized that there was more of character and story in this sequel and I was excited about doing an installment that brought something new to the genre.

Thanks so much for taking time to answer questions, Richard!

Again, check out Richard’s website here!

RELEASE DAY: It’s Only Death

its_only_death (2) book cover

My second Crime novel IT’S ONLY DEATH is available today! If it’s something you think you’d be interested in, you can order your Kindle or paperback copy here.

There are three new reviews you can check out, too. One from Jon Recluse, one from Michael Parker over at Crime Fiction Lover, and another from I Heart Reading. Thanks to all the reviewers!

Book Description:

Six years ago James blew town after killing his cop-father in a bank job gone bad. When his sister informs him that their mother’s health is fading fast, he returns home, wanting to make peace with her before she passes.

But James quickly finds there is little peace left for him at his childhood home.

His father’s old partner has been biding his time, waiting for a chance at retribution, and finally discovers James is back. But he’s only one of the many shady characters James must face if he is to survive the next few days.

Not only must James survive his return, he must also face the devastation he left behind, the shattered pieces of what remained of his life before he was forced to run.

Now his days on the run are over.

Upon the edge of reckoning, James’s past comes full circle to the final showdown with his personal demons and the devils that are closing in.

It’s Only Death is an explosive, gritty tale of urban crime and one man’s descent into the nightmares in the darkest recesses of our society.

Happy reading!

P.s. Don’t forget to sign-up for my newsletter to get your FREE Kindle copy of my Supernatural Thriller EARTHLY THINGS!

THE GRAVE DARK AND DEEP

Here’s a new novel opening I wrote this morning. I’ll probably tackle this book before I start the second BROKEN BOY SOLDIERS novel. I want to tip my hat to some heroes like John D. MacDonald and Donald Westlake with this book. If this is your kind of story, would you want to read more after the opening here?

 

THE GRAVE DARK AND DEEP

By

Lee Thompson

 

At dawn, on a warm summer day high in the Rockies, they stripped him and nailed his nuts to a tree stump and left him to die.

His brothers in blue: One old partner who had warned him to keep his nose out of Mr. Derringer’s business; the other a new cop, young, cocky, a kid who had never spoken a word to Roger White.

They made their way out of the forest and back to the field their truck was parked in, while Roger bit through his lower lip and tried not to move a muscle. The pain was so intense that black dots hung like a film over his eyes. His pulse beat recklessly in his temple. His jaw ached from locking the scream in. He hadn’t wanted to give them any satisfaction. But as soon as they were out of sight, he sobbed, unable to look down at the wreckage of his scrotum. Blood was hot, but cooling quickly, on the inside of his thighs. He feared passing out, what further damage might that do?

Immediate worries.

There were others, but they didn’t hold much precedence now.

He turned his head with excruciating slowness. They’d left the ruined girl’s body ten feet away, at the edge of a wet depression. She was on her left side, facing away from him. There was blood on the insides of her thighs too. The only thing he had to be thankful for was that he couldn’t see her young smashed face. Just the blonde hair, the slope of naked shoulder, the rise of hip, the milky skin somehow bleached.

And for a while there was only the two of them and the quiet, barren wilderness…

 ###

My latest Crime novel, IT’S ONLY DEATH, is coming out from DarkFuse in a couple days. You can buy it here! 

I also have a Supernatural Thriller, THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS, coming out March 17th, which you can pre-order here.

Thanks for reading! – Lee

Paperback release: WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL

My popular Crime/Horror/Noir novella is out in paperback! I’ve had a lot of fans ask about buying it in that format since its release, so I’m glad the time is finally here. Two of my heroes (Tom Piccirilli and Jack Ketchum) read it and also gave it blurbs, which is pretty awesome. Right now you can buy it here. It will be available in a few other channels in the next week!

New Jesus cover for paperback-page-0 (2)

 “Hard as nails!” – Jack Ketchum, author of THE WOMAN

“Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption.”–Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS

Home, he thinks, Where the heart bleeds freely.

A hell of a boxer, he earned the nickname ‘Fist’ back in the day. But during the past eight years, he’s transformed into somebody he no longer knows-a weak, pitiful, and passionless office drone.

Barely hanging onto the last thread of his self-respect, he returns home one night to discover Hell has truly crossed its threshold.

And Hell has lessons to teach him through what fragments remain.

Slivers of dark light.

Knowledge in blood.

Forgiveness, clarity and redemption in commitment.

The Opening of BROKEN BOY SOLDIERS

Almost finished with the first draft of my novel BROKEN BOY SOLDIERS. It’s going to be my first apocalyptic Crime trilogy. Crazy, right? I can’t help it. This is going to be one badass story.

It’s about a city-wide invasion and how a group of survivors learn and grow in the midst of madness. It has multiple viewpoints (a young homeless girl whose only concern is to keep her brother safe; a cop who abandons his duties to try and find his family; a killer who has been stalking a family for a year and is about to strike when the chaos begins; and a young gang leader who at first mistakenly believes the crime families are at war, that he and his little gang can swoop in and pick at both sides until they’re the kings of the city.)

 

Ryann Judd

1

The first warning of trouble arrives with the blaring sirens.  They whoop from the towers at the four corners of the city and the alarm echoes through the streets, the alleyways, disturbing Lane’s sleep behind the dumpster. He is covered in a thin blanket. He’s using a coat I’ve stolen a year ago as a pillow. He is eight years old when the sirens go off and, minutes later, jets shred the sky, and windows slide open, and the murmur of thousands of voices whip through the city like a backwind. He has drool on his chin. His eyes look like flames in the semi-darkness behind the dumpster. I rub his head, pet his hair, whisper, “It’s nothing,” although I know it is something. In my fourteen years I’ve never heard anything like it, and judging from the questions of others—homeless people too, deeper in the pockets of darkness, some drunk, some with their blank stares washed from their faces by an event none of us yet understands—nobody else has ever heard anything like it either.

For some reason it makes me think of Nazi death camps, air raids, incinerators.

Morbid, I know. But sometimes I’m morbid (who isn’t, sometimes, you know? Especially when life seems hopeless, or there’s only enough hope to make you wish just a little more was within reach.)

I wasn’t born with any special powers waiting for me to discover them. I only want to keep my little brother alive once the riots start in the streets. It’s early morning. Summer. You never think the end of the world is going to come when it’s nice out, you know?

But sometimes God (gods?) like to smother us in fear, drop the roof on our heads, crumble the walls, blow the fire in the hearth out across the curtains in the still cool early morning. Maybe catastrophes makes us stronger, maybe they can bring us together? Ask my little brother Lane about that, he knows about fear, not that he ever confesses it. He’s such a little soldier. Most people, if they were in his place, as young as he is, all they would do is whine, or give up, or die. But he carries on. I love him and I fear enough for both of us.

Lane has the biggest eyes you ever saw, a very light shade of green. They used to be innocent, and I feel bad, you know, for the lies I’ve had to tell him over the years, just so he wouldn’t realize how terrible things really are.

Instead I like to pretend we’re on an extended vacation. Lots of people wish they were as free as we are, living on the streets like we have since our parents died (nobly, I told him. Our father was like a knight of old, our mother a woman of incredible beauty and purity. They’d been good people, I’d told him. And they were that, although in real life they’d been pretty ordinary until someone made them a footnote in the history of our city.)

And now there is some other kind of history forming right around us. You can feel it in the pulse of the air. The jets roar by again. They have to be only feet above the buildings, the sound they make deafening, the smell they leave behind enough to burn something horrible permanently into your head.

I have something I’ve always drawn comfort from, just like Lane does (although his thing is tainted by another lie, but he doesn’t need to know that.) I pull the picture he’s drawn of the two of us on his eighth birthday, three months ago, in late spring/early summer. We had gone to the park and I’d bummed change, you know, to buy me and him two cupcakes with candles in them. They were chocolate with white frosting and sprinkles. We sat in the gazebo that day and Lane told me I was the best girl in the world. He was wrong about that, like I said, I’m not anybody special. You let people think what they want though, you know? And anyway, he needs me, and I like to make him smile, I like to show him that what he thinks and feels matters to me.

He’s been on the streets with me since he was three years old. Long story. I can’t go into it right now. He can’t remember what happened the night our parents left us, which is good (his forgetting, not their leaving us. Besides, they didn’t really have a choice in leaving).

What Lane can remember is the lean times, many of them. He is malnourished, small for his age. His white skin seems to glow translucently in certain light. He used to have the most innocent, disarming smile. As it left him, something left me, too.

But hunger and uncertainty can rob anybody of the traits that make them special. Not that he isn’t special any longer, he is, yet you can see he’s scared too, and he’s tired all the time, and I worry, sometimes, that he might be sick and that one night I’ll wake to him lying there next to me, not breathing, his eyes wide open, staring at a wall as cold and unfeeling as so many people who pass by us on the streets, as if we are invisible (sometimes they look at us like we’re a nuisance, or just plain infected. You don’t want to see your little brother getting those kinds of vibes from people. It makes you want to wipe the smugness and superiority off their faces with a two-by-four.)

I stare at the drawing he created of the two of us sitting at the gazebo on his birthday, hunched over the cupcakes that we tried to take our time on, savor, you know? He’d drawn it with colored pencils I got for him. Quite a kid. He is a good artist for his age. I think he has a photographic memory, but it is special too, because it’s like he’s able to stand outside of himself and see everything around him. All he has to do is close his eyes. Some people might think that’s freaky, but some people don’t know what a gift that is, especially if there’s ever a time you need it.

He scoots up the wall, leans against it, sniffles, and rests his head against my shoulder. He says, “You still like it?”

“I love it. It’s the best gift anyone has ever given me.” He’d made me look beautiful, like some kind of angel. There are shadows that almost resemble wings. His hair is in his eyes, he has one hand raised to brush the hair back.

Lane says, “I hear people running.”

“It’s none of our business.”

“What do you think they’re running from?”

“Maybe they’re running to something.”

“No,” he says. “Listen.”

I listen, but I don’t know how you’re supposed to distinguish by sound alone if people are running away from something or to something.

I nod, as if I hear it too, though.

He smiles. He says, “We should see what’s going on.”

It’s hard to contain an eight-year-old’s curiosity.

He stands next to me, places his hand gently on my shoulder. He touches everything gently, as if afraid he might break it. He has those hopeful, big eyes. He says, “Please. I’m sick of sleeping.”

We sleep a lot. It helps when you’re starving. I don’t know you anymore, but I hope you never have to see your little brother wasting away in front of you, and I hope you never know what it feels like to watch him devour a can of cold beans, his clothing tattered, his face smudged, and how it is to see the love grow in his eyes because you did whatever it took to make sure he had something.

 You cuddle him at night because there are bad men out there, and bad women, too, and you keep his back against the damp bricks and place yourself the best you can between him and the world.

Lane waits for me to tell him that we can go out onto the street and see what is happening, but the jets keep roaring, and those terrible sirens keep blaring, and I people yell in the distance. Some curse, some cry. And there is a rumble in the street then; it shakes the ground and dust falls from the window sill of the restaurant across the alley and the dumpster we hide behind skids over a foot. The sound of heavy machinery is in the air, above us, all around. Jets and tanks and personnel carriers. I close my eyes and wish that it’s just a dream. (Surprise, it’s not.) The noises are louder. Did you ever hear a lot of people die at once, in unison? It’s like a horrible song, but a perfect one, a dark music, a rise in unnatural intensity and volume and a decline in normal, everyday sounds. It’s a gathering vibration that shakes the core of you.

I drape my arm over his shoulder and pull him tightly to my side. I whisper, “Something bad is happening.”

It is the first time I’ve ever told him anything like that, because usually I don’t want him to worry, but whatever is happening is happening right there, not a hundred feet from us, although we can’t see it from behind the dumpster.

Lane says, “Why can’t we just see?”

“Maybe,” I say. “But we’ll have to stay in the alley.”

“I want to go out on the street.”

“No. You have to listen to me. All right? I look out for you, don’t I? I’m older. We have to be careful.”

He rolls his eyes. “I know. But don’t you think we miss out on things by avoiding them?”

He has a point, but he’s too young to understand that I am protecting him.

Another thing you don’t want is to see other kids going to birthday parties at their friends, or hanging out with their buddies after school, and then look at your little brother and see how alone he is, even if he has you. The other boys on the street would have taken advantage of him, some of them would have hurt him, with their fists, or worse. You can’t let them do that. You can’t take the chance, because once someone takes something precious from you, or from him, it’s gone forever.

I should know.

I do know.

We know.

“We stay in the alley,” I say.

He shrugs and sighs and says, “Fine.”

It isn’t fine though, whatever’s going on. I don’t want to see, don’t have the faintest bit of curiosity. But Lane would have snuck away the second I wasn’t looking and he’d be out there among all the people yelling, possibly getting trampled by some of them as they run to something or away from something.

Yet it is better to satisfy his curiosity, better for me too, to know what is going on, because if it is something that would affect where we’re staying, we’ll be on the move instantly. You don’t sit there motionless when the devil is knocking on your door. You slip out the back. You’re not a coward, you’re a survivor. You have someone to take care of. Their life is in your hands. You don’t fight. You elude. For their sake, even if sometimes you want to fight because it would feel good to hurt people who are threatening him.

He’s had a hard enough life. Nobody has any idea. If they’d been there when the man came in that night, when he was dressing your parents up in the most bizarre way, having fun with their corpses, they would understand why you protect your little brother. There are too many mean, cruel, sick people out there. They don’t have any qualms about hurting a child; some of them like doing it because they’re sick and hurting someone so small and innocent makes them feel powerful.

Lane says, “We should go before we miss it.”

I think: We’re not going to miss it…

I nod. I stand, take his hand, hold him close, my heart hammering.

We ease down the alley slowly. There isn’t much visible out there from where we’ve started. The random flash of people running by as if they’ve caught fire. If only that is all it’s been, some tragic accident, like a semi-truck full of volatile chemical had flipped over, poisoned the air, had people burning alive.

We could live with that, we’d vacate.

But with the jets and sirens and the slap of thousands of boots on the pavement, there is more to it, something worse, something catastrophic.

I lean over and say, “We need to get out of here.”

“You promised,” Lane says.

I sigh. “I don’t like this. Not one bit.” If I try to drag him away he’s going to make a lot of noise, and he’ll attract attention to us. I’m not sure which of us is really in control.

I can tell by his expression that he has a million possibilities whipping through his head. He still believes in super heroes and villains. He might think Superman is out there, battling some alien forces. Who knows? He isn’t about to share it. The older he gets the less he shares.

He holds my hand (he always holds my hand, and I dread the day he’ll feel too old, too manly, or just too plain embarrassed to do that, because he’ll get away from me then.)

We stop near the mouth of the alley.

The sun is bright in the street, which is a relief, because it was so overcast earlier.

Cars have clogged the road. It isn’t much different, at first, from typical rush hour traffic, only there is all the noise and people running around. We can’t see from the alley what is causing the ground to rumble. Lane says, “We need to go out there.”

But the alley feels safe. It is so much darker and cooler than the surface streets.

Morbid thought: The alleys always remind me of a grave. We find peace there, quiet, for the most part. Violence sometimes happens, but for the most part people keep their troubles behind closed doors or on the roads. To leave the alley and enter the mix with all the strange faces out there is to invite trouble into our lives, and trouble isn’t something we need. We only need to be left alone. Everybody else can take care of themselves and whatever they have to deal with. That’s why there are cops and firemen and churches and community groups.

And military, and that’s what sounds like it’s coming down the street. You ever heard of martial law? I read about it in a book once, a science fiction novel (not my favorite genre, but when you’re broke and you love to read you’ll take any book you can get, and you’ll squeeze every bit of pleasure you can from any story. Some are definitely better than others. Sometimes you find an amazing one, like Water for Elephants, or Grendel, or Last Night in Twisted River. But the okay ones are aplenty, and that’s enough. Not every story can knock us down. Not every character can be so fleshed out they’re more real than our own families, or the family we used to have that just feel like ghosts now.)

I think too much, remember?

I’m so deep in thought I don’t feel Lane leave my side.

He is ten feet ahead of me, only a few steps from the sidewalk.

People blur by him, on foot, the cars idling, some people smashing windows in store fronts, some people howling like they’re turning into animals, werewolves maybe. With sounds like that in the air nothing is out of the realm of possibilities.

I run toward Lane, but for the five steps I take to reach where he’s been, he takes five miniscule steps away from me, and he’s out among the rioters, sucked up by them, disappearing behind a mass of legs and arms and manic-looking faces.

“Lane!” I scream so loudly it hurts my throat. I dive into the mass of bodies.

“Lane!”

Elbows catch me in the side of the head. Someone knocks me down. I scrape my knees, the pain so bright and sharp, but I bite the leg of the person nearest me. He swats me aside and I see my brother near the curb, curled up in a fetal position. People stomp the pavement around his head. They could so easily obliterate him, and he is all I have in the world besides a bunch of rotten memories.

I push myself up and shove a man and woman as hard as I can, hoping I can get to my brother before he’s trampled.

The jets roar again.

The ground trembles as if it is giving birth to something from the belly of hell.

A lot of the bodies around us, between us, still, and it gives me the chance I need, just a few seconds, to reach Lane. I pull him to his feet, more angry with him than I’ve ever felt, and more relieved too.

I crush him to my chest.

Someone knocks us up against a car, but I hold on to him.

He’s crying. His tears are hot. The air is steaming around us.

There is the sound of something ticking overhead, but I can’t tell what it is.

I say, “We have to get back to the alley and get out of here.”

He’s sobbing. “I’m sorry!”

I rub his back. “Come on.”

“It’s my fault,” he says.

“Shut up, okay? We have to get out of here.”

But we’re surrounded. There has to be fifty people between us and the alley, everyone being pressed tighter together by things we can’t see—the tanks, I think, soldiers maybe, guns. What have we done? What has anyone done to deserve this kind of treatment?

Lane says, “I’m scared.”

“It’ll be okay.”

The heavy footfalls of the soldiers.

The crack of rifle shots.

The endless whir of the siren in the sky.

I pull Lane back to the ground. I push him under a car and crawl underneath behind him.

People scream, mostly in fear. Someone yells over a bullhorn, but their words are indistinguishable over the panic rippling through the frozen crowd.

I hold Lane’s hand. His eyes are squeezed tightly shut.

I pray he’ll leave them shut until it is over.

I pray the soldiers won’t find us there beneath the vehicle.

The citizens on the sidewalk and around the other cars try to make a break for it, all of them suddenly running in different directions, but there is the snap of electrical charges and people hit the ground, convulsing. One of them is right next to the vehicle we hide beneath. He is looking at us, without really seeing us, too far gone in the pain, the wires running from his chest to a man wearing black polished boots.

I place my hand over Lane’s mouth to keep him from screaming. The guy on the ground closes his eyes. He relaxes. He looks like he’s fallen asleep, but he isn’t sleeping.

There are more black boots among the people and they are driving them back. I am too afraid to reassure my brother. He’s wet himself. I can smell it. I squeeze his hand tighter, worry I’ve hurt him, but I need something to hang onto, so terrified that one of the men in black boots will spot us and pull Lane out by his ankle and I’ll never see him again…

###

My second Crime novel IT’S ONLY DEATH comes out in about ten days! If you haven’t ordered a copy yet you can do so here!

I also had a novel submitted to Kindle Scout and it didn’t sell. Thanks to those who cast their votes for it. I’ll be putting it up for pre-order on Amazon by tomorrow because THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS is a wicked Supernatural Thriller and needs to get out there in the world.

As always, thanks for all your love and support. Treat yourselves and each other well!

Best,

Lee

January 2015 News

2014 is over and 2015 is off to a great start! I hope you’re all doing well. Here’s the latest news!

Cinematographer Richard Vialet read and reviewed IT’S ONLY DEATH here, saying: “He includes more story in this book’s first paragraph than most authors have in the first half of their work!”

DarkFuse is releasing IT’S ONLY DEATH on January 20th. You can pre-order it here.

Josef Hernandez at Minneapolis Book Examiner has TWO of my novels on his Top 10 Reads of 2014. He also labeled me his “Writer of the year,” which is pretty cool. You can see his article here.

He also reviewed IT’S ONLY DEATH here.

I also have my second Julian Vaughn novel THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS up on Kindle Scout. You can sample it there, and if you enjoy the sample and would like to see it published, you can nominate it. There are only a few days left to do so. Nominate here while there’s still time.

Michael Parker at Crime Fiction Lover picks A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS for his Top 5 Reads of 2014!

On the writing front, I’m nearly finished with the first draft of my first apocalyptic novel. It’s going to be the first in a trilogy. I adore these characters and as soon as I finish this first book I’ll jump right into writing the second novel.

And if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, do so here and receive a free Kindle copy of my novel EARTHLY THINGS!

Wishing you all the best! Thanks so much for all the support!

Lee