Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Why I Believe Novels are the Best Books to Write," by Robert V Baynes, author of 'The Day the Dollar Died'

I am not saying that every book that is written should be a novel. However, I am partial to them. Once I wrote my first novel, I sort of got hooked on them. If you look at the history of books, most of the great ones have been novels.

Some people may say that they have a message that they want to tell people, so they are not interested in writing a novel.  Well, when I started my first book, I wanted to get a message across to others. I chose to do that in the form of a novel.
I decided to write a novel because I believe that often the best way to get a message across is to tell a story about it. Even though my first book was a novel, I don’t think anyone missed the message I was trying to convey.

Almost every novel has some message or values that the author holds and is trying to get across to their audience. As a extreme example of this, I think of ‘Atlas Shrugged’. If you have ever read this book, you definitely know what the author’s values and ideals are.

I believe that novels are far easier for people to read and to remember. For some reason we as people relate to stories easily. Even Jesus conveyed many of the lesson’s he wanted people to learn in story form.

Another great thing about writing novels is that you don’t have to document all of your points you want to make. You are making up that story as you go along, so every little detail doesn’t have to be itemized. If you are trying to get a point across, however, you should still try to be as accurate as possible.

I have read a lot of books, both novels and otherwise. I can tell you from experience that I remember the novels best and I also remember the messages of certain novels better than I do the books that just gave me facts.

So my point is, if you decide to write a book, think carefully about whether or not, you could make the message of your book into a story and get your message across in an easier to read form.

Title: The Day the Dollar Died
Genre: Political/ Christian  Fiction
Author: Robert V Baynes
This is a novel about an ordinary farmer who finds that his country is changing and it affects his own life. He loses more than he ever imagined and has to make some hard choices to save his family.
The main character is John Birch and he has a pretty good life. He has a great wife and children and is doing pretty well financially. He gets to do a job he loves and still spends time with his family. He finds that circumstances beyond his control change his world so that he ends up losing the financial security he worked so hard to build up. All he has left is his family and now he has to risk everything to try to save them from an ever growing government.
This book is very realistic and follows a line of thinking  that many find very logical and possibly inevitable.
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Robert V Baynes is concerned about the direction America is headed and wants to share his concerns with others who care about their freedom. In his spare time, he likes to fish, cook and read.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Writing Life with Georges Ugeux, Author of 'The Flying Dragon'

A Belgian and U.S. national, Georges Ugeux is the Chairman and CEO of Galileo Global Advisors LLC, an investment banking advisory boutique.  Ugeux joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1996, as Group Executive Vice President, International. An adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, Ugeux is the author of a numerous nonfiction books about finance.  The Flying Dragon is his first work of fiction

What’s inside the mind of a mystery novel author?

First and foremost, you have to like the genre. I was raised with Agatha Christie and my compatriot Hercule Poirot. I also love Georges Simenon. I love the challenge of finding out what the characters have planned and have a passion for people. I began writing the book without knowing exactly what would happen. It was breathtaking.

The second element for me, is the joy of creating a character. I chose an unusual one: a young Chinese woman. I have been working with Chinese women for many years and was inspired. I am proud to have created Victoria Leung and will continue to develop her character in future books.

What is so great about being an author?

It is incredibly rewarding to have creative freedom while also being able to draw from my extensive personal and professional experience in international travel and financial services. The creation of characters is also a unique experience. As an author, receiving feedback that readers are excited to learn more about the protagonist is very gratifying.

Being an author is also a personal journey. I wrote several “serious” or non-fiction finance books, which require sources and analytics. Fiction writing stems entirely from imagination, experience and existing relationships. It is for this reason that I chose to create a personal website - it truly depicts who I am as a person.

When do you hate it?

The editorial part is excruciatingly detailed and challenging. Making sure one does not confuse the days of the week or the names of the characters can be quite a task. It is a word by word and line by line process. I created a time line with details about the characters to ensure consistency.

While the process is certainly frustrating, without it, the book makes zero sense. Discipline is as essential in fiction as it is in non-fiction writing.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

My professional life consists of extensive international travel, which includes long flights to Asia and Europe. I often write on planes, at home, in hotels and outside. As I don’t have the time to use full days for writing, my traveling is key in providing me the time to pursue both my fiction and non-fiction pursuits. 

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

Without an ego, one would likely never start writing a book. You must believe that you have something to say that you want to communicate. This belief requires a confidence that is impossible without some version of an ego.

This same ego pushed me to start my own company, to teach, speak publicly, blog and write. Of course, I am proud…but ultimately, I am mostly fascinated by the reaction to the content.

Ego is like Esopus tongue. It can be a huge engine for creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, I have seen too many instances in which egos have become an end in themselves as well as the source of arrogance and destruction. It is important to keep a balanced view.

How do you handle negative reviews?

I am a blogger and am gratified with comments. In “Le” the leading media in France, I have had more than 70,000 comments.

There are two types of negative comments, the most common being insults and derogatory comments about or directed at the author. I simply ignore them.

The second types of comments focus on the issues. I try to find time to explain better or understand where the commentator is coming from. What I write can sometimes offend others. When this happens I have to admit it and recognize that it can cause people to react strongly. I have my part in it.

How do you handle positive reviews?

I try not to take myself too seriously. Positive comments are gratifying, especially if I really feel they are not complacent but sincere – like I might have actually done something right. It is a reward to be appreciated and recognized. I see no reason not enjoy them.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

It would be preposterous to introduce myself to a new acquaintance as an author. Having just written my first book, I will absolutely remain modest. However, when I do share that I’ve just published my first fiction book, people are usually impressed and genuinely interested (especially since they met the author).

The most common question is: Where are you finding the time to write a book?

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

I only write when I feel like it. I see no reason to force myself. Nobody is chasing me – it is a real pleasure.

Any writing quirks?

People are dying to read books in which they feel like they really “meet” the author, the characters and their voices. I don’t try to be anybody else. I am truthful and just write what I feel. Readers will very quickly recognize fakeness.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I would agree with part of their thinking. Writing is currently something I do for pleasure, or as a hobby. I am a professional financier and a teacher. However, writing is a serious undertaking and I do and continue to take my own writing seriously.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

We all have our doubts. There will always be a moment when I am convinced that my book is not good enough and/or maybe not worth writing at all. This is the right moment to do something else: go out, exercise or sing. Let the moment pass.

I have a love affair with writing. Hate is not part of it.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

Not at all. This idea is one that is communicated to authors by the publishing industry, but it is wrong. Realistically, there is very little money in writing. Don’t do it for money..and you might even be pleasantly surprised! Success can come from many other places - being understood is one of them…the pleasure of the reader is the other. 

Success is much more than money.

What had writing taught you?

Disciplined imagination. Writing (like teaching) requires discipline and imagination. I have plenty of imagination but there is no shortcut. Without imagination, it is sterile.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Writing a fiction novel is a journey – both a fascinating and sometimes frustrating one. Ultimately, the joy and enjoyment has to exceed the frustration or it might not be worth it. Take it easy and breathe. The secret of success is inside the author. 


Title: The Flying Dragon
Genre: Mystery novel
Author: Georges Ugeux
Publisher: Archway publications

About the Book:

No one can resist Victoria Leung. She's beautiful, brilliant, and fearless. Since leaving the fraud department of the Hong Kong Police, she has enjoyed her new status as senior detective at Pegasus, an international security firm based in London. She climbed the ladder by taking down Sun Hung Kai Properties' Kwok Brothers, a real estate empire, and earned the nickname “The Flying Dragon” in the process.

On an otherwise typical morning, Victoria receives a panicked message from her close friend Diana Yu asking for help: Diana's ex-lover, Henry Chang, is in grave danger. Bertrand Wilmington, head of the derivative trading desk of a global bank, has fallen from a window of the twenty-second floor trading room, and Henry Chang is somehow involved. Perhaps with Victoria's help they can clear his name and reveal the secret behind Wilmington's death.

While Hong Kong and Mainland authorities attempt to crack the case with little success, Victoria puts her experience as a banking auditor to use. Her expertise is critical in discovering key clues, and she won't back down until she gets answers. As she searches for the truth, The Flying Dragon quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of arrogance, power, money and sexuality. Will she expose the corruption and bring down a financial giant?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Excerpt: Sabotage by Bryan Koepke

Title: Sabotage
Author: Bryan Koepke
Publisher: Writers Cabin Press, Ltd.
Pages: 316
Genre: Thriller

Reece Culver and his friend Haisley Averton travel to Scotland with only one thing on their minds - fishing.  After witnessing an automobile accident involving a freelance journalist they quickly realize that something far greater than a crash caused his SUV to sink into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

With increasing curiosity, Reece inserts himself into the complicated life of Marie Rhodes who is in the middle of her own crises as she watches her 20-year marriage crumble.

Realizing that they’ll never make it out fishing, Haisley uses his skills in computer forensics to find out who hacked into Karl Rhodes’ office computer at Draecon International and made it appear that he’d remotely accessed the dead journalists laptop.  As Haisley combs through logs on the chief of strategy’s computer he stumbles upon an even bigger plot involving a secret drone factory somewhere in the United Kingdom, what looks like funds being embezzled out of Draecon International, and a plot that threatens the national security of the U.K.

Reece spends increasingly greater amounts of time with Marie Rhodes trying to learn what she knows and soon finds that he can’t resist the temptation of falling in love with the woman of his dreams.  But as things heat up he questions her true motives.

When Karl Rhodes’ executive secretary is found dead Reece agrees to protect Marie’s soon to be ex-husband Karl.  In a tricky game of cat and mouse Reece travels the globe as he tries to keep Marie, her husband, and Karl’s mistress out of harms way, and unknowingly puts himself directly into the crosshairs of a hired assassin.

For More Information

  • Sabotage is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Book Excerpt:

Saturday June 8, 2013
             Julian had been told the target would be traveling south along the coastal road. With a practiced hand he pivoted the stock of the Russian-made sniper rifle on its black steel swivel mount atop the bipod legs and aimed toward the highway below. The SUV would be passing right through his sight . . .  there. A chilly breeze blew through the tent, rippling the damp cotton shirt that lay molded to his back. He wasn’t nervous, but he did tend to sweat as the killing hour approached. He regarded the unpleasant sensation as just part of the job. It wasn’t like anyone would ever find out.
Peering through the custom-made rifle scope, he adjusted the magnification between his thumb and index finger, zooming in on the worn white strands of the highway’s center line several hundred yards below. As he rotated the knob back out, he spotted the farthest flag he’d placed in the branches of a nearby tree. The strip of white plastic barely fluttered, telling him the wind was calm.
His square unshaven chin pressed firmly against the cold black stock of the Dragunov SVD, and he pushed upward, seating the steel magazine that housed multiple 7N1 steel-core sniper rounds. With its 151-grain projectile and velocity of 830 meters per second, it was perfect for this type of work.
A rifle was the best—precise, anonymous, and decisive. He ran the shot through his mind one more time. Envision what you want to have happen. He’d read about that in an e-zine, and he adopted it as part of his preparations, even though it was supposed to be part of his ten-year life plan. He didn’t need any plan. In ten years he’d be rich and retired on a private island in the Caribbean.
The tracking device he’d stuck under the rear bumper would tell him when the SUV was near. It would approach on its way south toward the city of Talbert. He’d picked the perfect spot. The narrow Scottish road curved left around a large hill, and the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean spread beyond the guardrail.
Confirm the license plate BV-061-EK, lead the target, and pan upward to the windshield. He’d draw a bead on the man’s head, squeeze the trigger, and watch as the windshield filled with a fine red mist. He’d envisioned the heavy vehicle veering sideways and crashing through the flimsy rusted guardrail before plunging into the depths of the sea. The driver would be dead before he realized how freezing cold that water was.
            As the assassin waited patiently enduring the wet chill that reminded him of his home on Bainbridge Island, he monitored the moving red dot on his cell phone. A young woman with a yellow scarf drove past in her blue Volvo sedan. His stomach growled, and he remembered the bacon he’d had at the inn.  The slabs were thick and cooked only in patches. Typical British cuisine.
            The dot was rapidly approaching, and he shifted his attention to a silver Nissan Pathfinder rapidly making its way up the road. It carried two occupants. Damn it, he thought as a maroon BMW X5 came around the corner. The Pathfinder would pass in front just as the BMW entered his field of fire.
He could feel a drop of sweat rolling down the knobs of his spine. He zeroed in the rifle scope on the BMW windshield. The cross hairs remained steady as the SUV slowed to make the curve. He saw the Pathfinder pass through in a blur. He had a split second of clearance as he squeezed the trigger. The windshield misted red and flashed beyond his line of sight.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Interview with S.K. Derban, author of 'Uneven Exchange'

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, S.K. Derban moved to London within the first three months, and remained in England until the age of five. Her mother, born and raised in the United Kingdom, was involved with the London Royal Ballet Company, and a great fan of the arts. Even after returning to the United States, S.K. Derban’s life was filled with a love of the theatre and a passion for British murder mysteries.  Her personal travel and missionary adventures also help to transport readers virtually across the globe.  S.K. Derban has smuggled Bibles into China on five separate occasions, and has been to Israel on seven missionary trips.  When writing, she relies on all aspects of her life, from a strong faith in the Lord, to her unique combination of professional experience.  The many personal adventures of S.K. Derban are readily apparent as they shine through into her characters.

Her latest book is the mystery romance, Uneven Exchange.

For More Information

Can you tell us what your book is about?

UNEVEN EXCHANGE celebrates the many facets of a woman. Just hours before completing a mission to help her country, Alexandra Callet is brutally abducted.  Her beloved Mexico has now become a place from which she struggles to escape.  As she fights for her survival, Alexandra’s faith in God gives her the strength to make a difference.  Although her life is in danger, Alexandra emits resilience, determination, and the will to succeed.  Her reward is due.

Why did you write your book?

It is my strong desire with all of my books to make a difference in the lives of my readers. Throughout all of my different stories I hope to bring them joy. I also hope that their strength and faith will increase by reading about the strength and faith of my characters.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Although all of my characters are from my imagination, each character is made up from little bits of someone I know. Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist using parts from a number of people just to make one!

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

Before I start writing, I have already planned the book from beginning to end. Imagine that you just watched a fantastic movie, and you are asked to explain the movie in detail from beginning to end. Before I write, I have the entire book in my head. Then, I sit down and write about it just as if I am explaining a movie.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Alexandra is just finishing her meeting with DEA agent Kevin O’Neil. It is during this meeting that she is recruited to work undercover.

Is it hard to get a Mystery Romance book published?

It is difficult to get any book published. First and foremost, I believe that a true writer must write because they simply cannot imagine not writing! I would write even if never published. Write because you love to write. When you write for yourself first, good writing will find its way to others.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Fortunately I have not suffered from writer’s block. I suffer from not having enough time to write. I fear I am beginning to run out of room in my brain for all of my ideas!

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Pour a glass of red wine, light a candle, snuggle into a comfortable chair, and read a good book.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

It would be my pleasure to take you to Little Italy in San Diego. If fact, I am a third of the way through a book that takes place in the heart of Little Italy.

What do you like to do for fun?

Spending time outdoors is a passion of mine. Spending time outdoors with my family and friends makes it even better! I am blessed to live in San Diego where the weather is near perfect. The hardest thing to decide is if I want to go bike riding, golfing, stand up paddle boarding, or to play tennis!

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

To all of the writers, I would like to remind them to Keep Writing! Try and write at least one page per day. It took me 10 long years and 500 rejections before my first book was published.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Interview with Triliian Anderson, author of The Dawn of Dae

Can you tell us what your book is about?

The Dawn of Dae is a dystopian within a dystopian. When a portal is opened and a menagerie of wild and amazing creatures spills onto Earth, humans learn just how fantastical reality can be. Most humans are bonded to these dae, leaving Alexa as one of the rare unawakened, a human without bondmate or powers.

Surviving is only the first of her problems, as she tries to figure out how to live in a world filled with dragons, werewolves, and unicorns. To make matters worse, the dae who look human are the most dangerous of all.

With the help of a sentient macaroni and cheese casserole, Alexa adapts to her new circumstances while trying to convince a particularly annoying dae she doesn’t belong to him…

Why did you write your book?

I wish I had a deep, sentimental reason for writing this book, but I started this series to have fun. Then I went down the rabbit hole and explored all of the nagging little ‘what if?!’ questions rattling around in my head.

The Dae Portals series is my way of letting loose and having fun, allowing myself to go down the rabbit hole and seeing what I can discover.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

This series has so many fun characters, but I’ll showcase my four favorites.

Alexa, the leading POV character, is a young woman who has had a pretty tough time of it. She’s someone who could have had a good life, but her parents died, and in the society she lives, orphans slide down to the lowest rank if they aren’t old enough to fill their parents’ shoes. She wants to work her way up to the top, and is driven to become more than just a fringe rat, the lowest of the low.

She’s persistent, a bit obsessive, and motivated to do something with herself, which makes her a great deal of fun to write.

Rob is a dae, and he’s really entertaining for so many reasons. He has a thing for Alexa, and she’s not too happy about this thing he has for her. He’s fire to her gasoline, and writing the explosions between them is a great deal of fun.

Colby is one of my favorite characters because it’s so different from other characters I’ve written. Colby is a macaroni and cheese casserole given sentience during the Dawn of Dae, the event that changed the world. Colby adores Alexa, and has a unique appetite.

Finally, Sullivan is a tattoo artist Alexa meets shortly after the Dawn of Dae. He’s also a vampire, and has no scruples about making himself at home in her apartment until he’s uninvited.

These four were really fun to write in particular, although I have a certain love affair with a dragon and a unicorn who also show up.

The book and its characters are pretty bizarre, which is part of why I love it so much.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I try to avoid basing characters on real people. I tend to get my character ideas from psychology research, taking stereotypes, personality classification groupings, and so on—and then I try to figure out how these people tick.

Sometimes, I will see a person with a certain behavioral pattern and become inspired, but I always do some reading on the internet to help determine what type of person would have that sort of trait or behavioral pattern.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

Both. I almost always do one, two, or three outline rough drafts before I start writing, but this is to help me figure out how the character ticks and how the plot could go. That said, there are certain events in each book I have set in stone. These are things outside of the characters’ control and would happen no matter what they did. These sort of events help me keep myself on track.

That said, I really enjoy the freedom to have my characters be stupid, make mistakes, learn, and grow… and I can’t always capture that in an outline. So, when I write, I allow myself to stray from the original outline. (I use the unseen characters, the unseen protagonists and antagonists) to help keep the important things on track.

Sometimes, that doesn’t work, though… so I end up having to just go with the flow. The ending of the second book in the series is an example of when things just didn’t go to plan.

That said, I like how it did work out, although it’ll make some pretty big changes to what I originally intended for book three of the series.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Definitely. The setting defines how characters behave. It’s the whole nature vs nurture argument. We are the product of our genetics and our environment. As such, I’m a pretty firm believer characters are also the product of their genetics and their environment.

Without setting, I wouldn’t be able to create the characters I do. I love weaving the environment with the people I write. It makes them feel real on the page.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I don’t typically suffer from writer’s block. There is always a solution to blank page syndrome. Sometimes that solution is “Suck less, me!” and sometimes it is “Find that plot hole and fix it!” but I don’t get blocked, not any more. I used to, before I came to the conclusion my version of ‘writer’s block’ was actually “I’m really lazy and don’t feel like working.”

Once I realized I was being lazy, my writer’s block magically went away. Sometimes I have to go back and rewrite a scene or two, or I have to go back and add things so I can move forward, but I’m always looking for solutions to what is slowing me down now.

I’m a much happier writer for it. And substantially more prolific, too.

What do you like the most about being an author?

This is hard. I generally love the entire process, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the moment I get a new idea for a book—one I can actually pursue. I have a graveyard of unfinished stories and stories I plan to come back to when I have time, but nothing beats that creative spark when a story—and its leading character—comes to life.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

I can’t say. It’s so different for every author. For me, it was the moment I really figured out how wonderful reading books was. That paved the way for me to write books of my own.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Don’t give up. Writing is so, so hard. Hiring an editor and putting your words up for sacrifice is so, so hard. Every part of the process is hard… but it’s worth it.

We cry and bleed onto the page, but when the moment comes someone loves what you have created, it all becomes worth it. It may sound cheesy, but for every new fan who sends me a message they loved one of my books… I circle right back to the beginning. I’m renewed.
A hundred people could dislike my book, but the one who loves it and finds something special about what I wrote… that one person makes it worth while for me, because I understand how wonderful it is to find a book I simply love… a book that lets me escape my world and step into another one for a while.

It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading!

About The Book

Title: The Dawn of Dae
Series: Dae Portals Book 1
Author: Trillian Anderson
Publisher: Bright Day Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Format:  eBook  / ePub / PDF - 222 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Buy The Book:

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Book Description:
The chance to attend college is just what Alexa Daegberht needs to break out the mold of her caste. If she can become a Bach, she can escape the poverty she’s endured ever since her parents died when she was five. Only through education can she rise above her birth caste–and she knows it.

All of her plans fall to dust when she opens a portal within her refrigerator, turning her macaroni and cheese casserole into a sentient being. By dawn the next day, the mysterious dae have come to Earth to stay. Hundreds of thousands of people vanish into thin air, and as the days pass, the total of the missing number in the millions. Some say it’s the rapture of the Christian faith.

Alexa knows better: their dae ate them, leaving behind nothing more than dust as evidence of their hunger.

As one of the unawakened, she doesn’t have a dae, nor can she manifest any forms of magical powers. She’s lacking the innate knowledge of what the dae are and what they mean for the world. Now more than ever, she is an outsider. Her survival hinges on her ability to adapt to a world she no longer understands.

Unfortunately, one of the dae has taken notice of her, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her. Alexa’s problems pile up as she’s forced to pick her allegiances. Will she submit to the new ways of the world? Will she become some monster’s pawn? Or, against all odds, can she forge her own path and prove normal humans can thrive among those gifted with powers once the domain of fantasies and nightmares?

Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

My first real memory of my parents was also my last.
It was the refrigerator’s fault I remembered. I should’ve known better than to expect new appliances in my new apartment; I was lucky to have appliances at all. I sure as hell couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
The refrigerator, however, was a problem. Every time I looked at it, I remembered—and my first memory of my parents was how I, Alexa Zoe Daegberht, had killed them with a wish.
It was the same refrigerator, right down to its smoke-stained, pebbled surface and its loose handle. The years hadn’t done the damned thing any favors, and I wondered if the door would fall off its hinges when I opened it. Then again, they had built things better when I had been a child.
It was too bad I hadn’t been built a bit better. A lot of things would have been different. It wasn’t my father’s fault no one could touch me without irritating my sensitive skin. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t kiss my cheek like other fathers could with their daughters.
It was his fault he had forgotten; if he hadn’t, my face wouldn’t have been itching and burning. If he hadn’t forgotten, I wouldn’t have run to the fridge, using it as a shield against his touch. If he hadn’t forgotten, I wouldn’t have parroted what he too often said while fighting with my mother:
If you walk out that door, don’t you ever come back.
Because I had believed it, had wanted it, and had prayed for it, wishing on a shooting star that night, I had gotten exactly what I wanted. My parents had walked out the door and left me behind, never to return.
The ocean didn’t like giving up its dead, and planes smacking into the water didn’t leave a whole lot to salvage.
I dropped my bags on the kitchen floor, spat curses, and kicked the refrigerator.
It won; beneath the plastic was metal, and it refused to bend. All I did was crunch my toes, and howling, I hopped around on one foot. Through tear-blurred eyes, I glared at the offensive appliance.
“I’ll end you,” I swore.
Maybe I could spray paint the damned thing pink; it’d be at least four years before I earned my degree and rank as a Bach, and until then, I was stuck with it. Once I became a Bach, I’d be elevated to a better caste—a caste with a future, and a bright one at that. Once I was a Bach, I could afford to buy my own appliances, and I’d never have to see that make or model of refrigerator ever again. If I scored well enough on the exit exams, I had the slim chance of being accepted for Master training.
I had my entire life ahead of me, and it would be a good one. There was no way I’d let a stupid refrigerator take that from me.
I kept telling myself that, but I didn’t believe it.
I gave up and went for my last ditch resort; if macaroni and cheese couldn’t make things better, nothing could.

I left my apartment to explore my new neighborhood and find work, leaving behind the devil-spawned refrigerator with a week’s worth of macaroni and cheese casserole cooling inside. If any of the other students found out I was surviving on pasta flavored with neon-orange powder, I’d be the laughing stock of the college.
I wanted to create the illusion of having come from somewhere other than the poorest district in the city, and to do that, I needed money. Merit-based students like me paid off tuition and housing in labor; I was doomed to at least four years serving as some professor’s slave. At least I had ranked high enough to have an apartment instead of a closet in the shared dorms, but unlike on-campus students, I was on my own for the basics.
There was one place I knew I could find a job in a hurry: the Inner Harbor. If I had come from any other district, if I had belonged to any other caste, I wouldn’t have needed to turn to Kenneth Smith for work. But Kenneth took in those others wouldn’t and made them do his dirty work.
Unfortunately for me, I was good at doing his dirty work. Sighing, I ducked my head, adopted a brisk stride, and headed towards the water.
Baltimore was a big place, and it took me an hour to navigate my way through the city’s heart, skirting around the fringe I had once called home. On the surface, it was a clean, quiet place with carefully trimmed lawns, neatly pruned trees, and flowers contained in concrete planters.
The scars of rebellion pockmarked the brick buildings, a reminder of the violence Kenneth Smith and his cohorts had stamped out years ago, turning a slum into the elite’s paradise.
Once upon a time, the Inner Harbor had been the entertainment district of Baltimore, a place prone to rioting, a place everyone, no matter what caste, could go and gamble away their money or find other pursuits, many of them illegal. Sporting events were popular—if you could afford the entry fee.
I couldn’t, and Kenneth Smith counted on that. He didn’t want me as a client, anyway.
He wanted me as one of his hounds, a dog of his endless drug war, hunting down his non-paying clients, sniffing out dirt on them, and either luring them into one of his little traps or otherwise acquiring his money. The method didn’t matter; the money did, and that was that.
I hated the Inner Harbor; if I had a pack of matches, I wouldn’t have hesitated to light one up in the hope of burning the whole place to the ground. My temper soured the closer I got to the little townhouse located where the fringe began and the elite’s playground ended.
No one in their right mind would have believed, not even for a moment, that Baltimore’s charming, ruthless, and despicable criminal mastermind lived in such a dingy place, and that was exactly the way Kenneth Smith liked it.
I knocked four times, paused, and because I was in a bad mood, I gave the dark-painted door a solid kick, jamming my already aching toes. I didn’t hop around as I had in my apartment.
One of Smith’s bitches didn’t do something so undignified, not in public.
The pain I wanted; it served to focus my attention and remind me of the misery my boss would inflict if I screwed up. Clenching my teeth to keep quiet, I waited. I heard the thump of someone coming down the stairs, and several moments later, the lock clicked. The door opened, and Smith’s favorite dog answered, glaring at me through narrowed eyes.
“You again?”
I smiled at Lily because I knew it would piss her off. “What do you know? It is! Astonishing. Can I come in, or are we going to put on a show for everyone in the neighborhood? I didn’t dress the part. I left my lacy panties at home.”
I didn’t own any lacy panties, but all things considered, I was going to die a virgin anyway. A kiss on the cheek was enough to give me hives. What would happen if someone tried to kiss me on the mouth—or do something far more interesting with me?
I’d probably die.
Lily snarled something incomprehensible under her breath, stepping back to let me in. “Prissy bitch.”
Blond-haired, blue-eyed, pasty-skinned Lily belonged in a doll shop, but instead of telling her to go back to selling herself on the street like I wanted, I asked, “Where’s the boss?”
“Down in the den. He’s with a guest. Wait in the parlor. He’ll come for you himself, I’m sure.” Lily glared at me, slammed the door, and stomped her way up the staircase to the second floor, leaving me to mind my own business in the entry.
I waited by the door.
The parlor always reeked of drugs, but I had kicked my various habits years ago. As always, the parlor made me want a hit so I could forget everything, right down to who I was and what I had done to get by.
I had changed. I wasn’t going to let anyone forget it, myself included.

When the boss came upstairs from the basement alone, I worried. Waiting the hour for him to finish wasn’t unusual, but the fact he hadn’t brought his client along meant one of two things: the client had either left through the tunnels, a conceit of the elite, or I was about to be introduced to them.
Nothing good happened when my boss introduced me to his clients. Nothing good came out of meeting with Kenneth right after an audience with one of the elite.
His fellow elite had a way of pissing him off, especially when they thought themselves above paying back their debts.
I examined the shining hardwood, wondering if Kenneth made Lily get on her hands and knees to polish it to perfection. I doubted it; if he had, neither one of them would have gotten any real work done, and that would hurt his bottom line.
“It’s not like you to come around here without a summons,” my boss said, and his soft-spoken words warned me of trouble.
Kenneth was a lot of things, and passionate was one of them. If he was moderating his voice, it was because he had graduated from annoyed to murderous, and he didn’t feel like killing me today.
I should’ve been grateful for that.
“You always need another nose to the ground, sir,” I murmured, keeping still despite my desire to fidget.
Lily really had done a stellar job with the floors. While I couldn’t make out the details, the wood reflected my dark hair and bronzed skin. My heritage remained a mystery, dying along with my parents.
Some folks said German because of my last name, but none of the German-descents I knew had such bronzed skin. I rivaled an Italian, but no self-respecting Italian I knew had a last name like mine.
I decided it was a good thing I wasn’t all that pretty. I didn’t want to end up just like Lily, serving the boss to keep him from killing the rest of us when he had a bad day. I had too many scars, and not all of them marked my skin.
If he found out about my inability to handle human contact, he’d probably enjoy knowing he could hurt me with his touch alone. When I left, I’d have to thank Lily and offer to run errands for her. It was wise to pay back debts, in advance whenever possible.
The silence stretched on. I gave into my restlessness, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. My toes still throbbed from their introduction to his door and the devil-spawned refrigerator in my apartment.
“Fine. Come on, then,” he snapped, pivoting on a heel to head back in the direction of the basement stairwell.
I followed him, keeping my gaze fixed on his black oxfords, which had been polished almost as shiny as his prized floors. He took the stairs two at a time while I took the more cautious approach. With my luck, I’d snap my neck tumbling down the steps.
“Sit,” he ordered as soon as I crossed over the threshold into his den.
His den was larger than my apartment, although that wasn’t much of a feat. Someone had been smoking something recently, and the fumes were strong enough to make my nose sting. I took a cautious sniff.
Cigar smoke.
At least my standing at college wouldn’t be risked by inhaling residue from one of Kenneth’s cocktails. If they ever found out I was one of his associates, though, I was screwed. I relaxed and, without looking up from his floor, made my way around the couch closest to the door and plopped down on it. I heard him sit on his armchair, which squeaked as he leaned back.
“I’m not in the mood for your bullshit tonight, my little collie.” My boss lit up, and the stench of his cigar choked off my breath. I knew better than to cough, though. All I’d do was piss him off even more.
I chose to ignore the fact he was calling me by a dog breed instead of my name and nodded my agreement. At least he hadn’t called me Lassie.
If I followed the rules, I’d be okay. I’d leave his house just fine—and Lily wouldn’t have any extra reasons to hate me. Speaking only when spoken to, nodding when appropriate, and always, always addressing him by sir would get me through the meeting.
If the boss had a job for me and paid up, maybe I’d buy Lily a pair of lace panties—in silk. I could get them now, as long as I had the cash for them. All I had to do was survive the meeting with Kenneth and do one last job for him.
“You’re a freshman now, aren’t you?”
Kenneth’s voice was still soft, quiet, and utterly devoid of emotion, so I drew a deep breath, nodded my head obediently, and whispered, “Yes, sir.”
“Full-merit,” he commented, and his tone took on a rueful edge.
“Yes, sir.”
“Now how the hell did a little mutt like you get into Bach studies on full-merit?” he demanded, thumping his fist on the arm of his chair. He smacked it several more times before sighing gustily. “You’re something else, that’s what you are. I obviously wasn’t keeping you busy enough. I am to blame.”
I flinched.
Whoever had been meeting with him before I had arrived had left Kenneth in a bad mood, and his ire was directed at me. Any other day, I would have told him to go cry a river and fill the Chesapeake. I wanted to tell him to stuff it, but I needed the work, and he needed me.
I could go to the places he couldn’t, and he knew it.
“I studied, sir.”
“You studied. No shit, Collie. What I want to know is how you got through the application process right under my nose without me knowing a thing until Lily went out earlier to summon you. Your pad’s already been taken over, if you weren’t aware.”
The vultures had likely swooped in the minute I had left, but I kept my mouth shut. If I said a word, it would be something I’d regret. Granted, I likely wouldn’t regret it for long, but that was a different matter entirely.
I nodded and resumed studying the floor. Lily had missed a spot, and I’d been around Kenneth Smith long enough to recognize dried blood when I saw it.
At least it wasn’t fresh.
“Cat’s got your tongue? Fine. Maybe for the better. You’d open your mouth and make me want to shoot you. You’re right. I want your nose. Son of a bitch elite backed out on his debt. He’s in Bach studies just like you. Sniff the bastard out for me. He’s got a taste for crystals and a head for scents. He also seems to believe he can back out on his debts to me. Get close to him, learn his haunts, and report to me. I want to know who or what can be used against him, where he lives, and any significant people in his life—preferably women. Better yet, make yourself a significant woman to him. You need to relax.”
I risked lifting my head and stared at Kenneth Smith.
It amazed me I didn’t break out in a rash just from looking at him. In so many ways, he was an average man; not too tall, not too short, not too anything, which conspired to make him right in all the wrong ways. My brown eyes were too dark for any sort of warmth, while his were melted chocolate, tempting and sensual.
Despite the annoyance of his tone, the corners of his mouth quirked up in a smile.
I hated Kenneth Smith. Every time I saw him, I wondered what it would be like to kiss someone. It was his damned mouth, which could flatten to a line or curve into a ripe smile, shifting with his mood. I could always tell his mood from the movements of his lips.
His voice said angry, but his mouth promised all of those interesting things I couldn’t do and Lily could—and would, probably as soon as I left the house.
“What’s his name?” I asked, reminding myself Kenneth was a dangerous, foul man. A smart girl didn’t deal with the devil or take him to her bedroom.
I’d already struck out once in the smart department. I’d probably punch my own ticket if I tried anything with him. If I didn’t die from an allergic reaction to him, he wouldn’t appreciate me throwing up on him.
Men had that effect on me.
Kenneth sighed, and I echoed him.
I wondered if he realized we were probably sighing for the same reason. He had already slept with all of his other bitches, leaving me as the one who always got away.
If he found out about my allergy, I’d never live it down.
Silence wasn’t like Kenneth. He chomped on his cigar, grunting his acknowledgment of my question. I waited, lowering my gaze to the floor to stare at the brown splotch marring the hardwood.
“Terry Moore. His father runs the stadium. He got hooked six months back, paid for three months worth of supplies, and decided he was above paying the rest of the balance.”
I did some mental math, clucking my tongue as I ran through the various costs of crystals and scents. Crystals appealed to those who enjoyed tasting their drugs, slowly dissolving on the tongue, while scents came as either incenses or other forms of inhaled narcotics. Big league players often spend thousands a week for the good stuff.
The elite settled for nothing less.
If Terry was studying for his Bach like me, he had friends—elite friends. Buying friendships through drugs wasn’t uncommon, especially among those who were supposed to be too good for the trade.
“A hundred and fifty thou,” I said, straightening my back and lifting my chin, defying my boss with my glare. “Small change for you. There’s gotta be more to it than that. You don’t move against the elite for pennies.” I paused, sucked in a breath as I remembered I wasn’t supposed to piss him off, and added, “Sir.”
Kenneth’s smile widened to a grin. “Can’t let anything slip by you, can I? You’re right. It is small change. Under normal circumstances, I’d let it get up to at least half a mil. But, he made off with some of my new stuff, and I want it back.”
Reaching down beside his chair, he lifted up a metal cage containing a variety of test tubes. They were filled with a red liquid with the same viscosity as blood. He lifted one out, sloshing it around. “Little Bachs don’t want to get caught on the tests, so he wanted something for school-year use. This baby doesn’t register on any of the current tests. You can dry it into a powder. You can inject it, and you can even drink it if you want. It’s mellow enough, long-lasting, gives one hell of a nice high, and doesn’t impair function too much. Best of all, it doesn’t seem to cause much damage when it wears off.”
If he was speaking the truth, he had likely found the Holy Grail of the drug world.
“How many uses in one of those vials?”
“A few,” he evaded.
I narrowed my eyes, considered the few clues he had given me, and shrugged. “How many vials did he make off with?”
“A dozen.”
“And you haven’t killed him yet?” I blurted.
Kenneth arched a brow at me. “He can’t pay me if he’s dead. After he’s paid, I’ll think about it.”
I grimaced. One day I would learn to keep my mouth shut. “Get the info and retrieve the drugs if possible. Anything else, sir?”
“I wouldn’t say no to you bringing me my money along with the info and the drugs.”
Somehow, I kept from saying even one of the hundreds of snarky, sarcastic comments flitting through my head. Any one of them would piss him off even more, and there was only so far I could push him before he decided to go for his gun. “I don’t think I can carry that much cash, sir, and I really doubt he’ll give me his bank account details.”
“You could always sniff them out for me. You’re good at sneaking off to places you shouldn’t go—like college.”
I scowled. “I said I would sniff, not bite, sir. Biting is Lily’s job.”
“One of these days, Collie, you’re going to piss me off.”
I widened my eyes, raising my hand to cover my mouth. “You mean I haven’t already?”
“Every day. Get out of here, bitch. I don’t want to see your face at my house until you have his info and my drugs. And don’t you even think about forgetting my money.”
I escaped while I could and risked taking the steps two at a time.

About The Author

Opener of Portals. Urban Fantasy Author. Mistress of Giggles. Warped Sense of Humor.

Trillian Anderson is, like so many of us, a figment of someone's imagination. She was born somewhere in the United States, loves to travel, and has no scruples about moving to new and interesting places around the world. She loves fantasy fiction of all types, but holds a special fondness for urban fantasies, epic fantasies, and stories capable of capturing her imagine.

Most of all, she enjoys grabbing a flashlight, hiding under the blankets, and pretending she's asleep when she's, in actuality, reading a beloved book.

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