Monday, December 31, 2007

THE STALKER 2B (Dickens Challenge)

2B.

Lourdes frowned. “Is that good or bad? I can’t tell.”

“Bad. At least we know where Buchanan is and what he’s capable of, but I have no idea what ever happened to this guy.” Mason jerked his chin at the mall entrance. A muscle jumped in his jaw. “He ruined my career once. He’s not going to do it twice.”

“Well, then.” Lourdes sighed wearily. “Let’s go back to the office so I can clock out, thank you very much, while you boys figure out a game plan.”

They turned back towards their vehicles, each black, each marked with the Security Solutions logo and reflective striping. The golf cart Mason and Ben had driven from their office suite across the street looked every bit as sporty and sleek as the four-wheel drive SUV Lourdes had to patrol their commercials sites during the night.

Lourdes waved as she drove off, leaving Mason and Ben to take one last look at the graffiti spray painted across mall’s entrance. Already the parking lot was filling with shoppers and their curious glances.

“So, we’re talking Gryzbowski? Krusinski? Whatever his name was?”

“Krukowski. Yes.” Captain Thomas Krukowski, last assigned to 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 75th Infantry, the Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia. Mason hadn’t seen or heard of the man in five years. He was surprised Ben remembered. They hadn’t exactly discussed the end of Mason’s military career in great detail. Slugging an officer, even in self-defense, wasn’t something Mason was proud of. And although his command had offered him an honorable discharge, in the end he’d only accepted to save his friends from the witch hunt that followed his altercation with Krukowski.

“You think he could be here?”

“Not with the Rangers, no.” The vast majority of the many active-duty military personnel stationed on Guam belonged to the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, but that didn’t mean Krukowski wasn’t visiting—in personal or professional capacity—or hadn’t retired here.

“But you’re thinking it’s him, not The Smile.”

Mason nodded. Paying a couple of kids to spray paint slurs on buildings was just the underhanded kind of thing Krukowski would do. James “The Smile” Buchanan acted on a larger scale entirely, which didn’t mean he wouldn’t take advantage of the fallout that was sure to rain down on Security Solutions after eight cases of criminal property damage in one morning.

Mason steered their golf cart into the parking lot in the front of the office building that housed their office suite and groaned when he saw the KUAM-TV news van next to the black-and-white police cruiser that was still there from earlier. He looked over at his partner. Just forty, Ben’s dark hair and goatee were already shot through with silver. Glasses perched on his nose. He wore the pinched expression of someone suffering from acute acid reflux.

“It could be worse.”

“How so?”

“They could be looking for skeletons in your closet.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Fat chance.” A grin tugged on the corners of his mouth. “Unlike you, I have an excellent housekeeper, and according to her nothing in mine, hers or our closet.”

Ben stepped out of the cart. “So, let’s go in and do what that bossy woman of yours suggested, find this Krusinski character and kick his ass.”

“Krukowski. What’s the time difference to Georgia?”

“Fourteen hours. Fifteen hours.” Ben shrugged. “They’re still yesterday, that I’m sure of.” He yanked the office building’s front door open and pointed. “Lead the way.”



***


I wanted to have 2b and 3 ready for today, but time got away from me. Darn holidays :-) Chapter 3 almost made it. I’m not sure yet if I’ll save it for next Monday and post it first thing in the new year.


May 2008 be the most amazing year yet!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

THE STALKER 2 (Dickens Challenge)

2.

“My father would turn in his grave.” Benicio Marques, Security Solutions’ general manager, stood under a cluster of palm trees strung with Christmas lights and frowned up at the space above the Tumon Bay Mall’s main entrance. There, wedged between Welcome to Micronesia’s Largest Mall and a row of illuminated wreaths, the red-and-green Pickle Kisser almost managed to blend into the festive color scheme.

“Your father turned in his grave a long time ago.” Mason stared at the red penis towering over the glass doors. He was pretty sure Ben’s father would have reconsidered leaving his security company to his oldest son if he’d known Ben would ask Mason to join him as a business partner.

After his separation from the Army, Mason had taken his specialized skills to Malaysia, becoming a casino and hotel security manager. When Ben, his boyhood friend, had gotten in touch with him he’d been ready to return home to Guam. It hadn’t taken much effort on Ben’s part to convince Mason to help him with his father’s small security company, a business on the verge of bankruptcy.

Months later, they’d founded Security Solutions. Whereas Ben’s father had provided monitoring systems, Mason and Ben offered uniformed guard services. Today, their employees protected small businesses, industrial buildings, and a few of the many hotels. They patrolled the grounds of the University, kept library visitors quiet, and roamed the mall during business hours. Occasionally they dealt with graffiti.

“If you squint just right, it almost looks like a candy cane.” Lourdes, dressed like Mason in black cargo pants and a black Security Solutions polo, narrowed her eyes at the defaced fa├žade and snorted. “Pickle kisser, can’t say I’ve heard that before.”

“I have.”

“Well, that’s good then.”

Mason hiked a brow at his nightshift supervisor. Ben gaped at the woman.

Lourdes shrugged. “I’m assuming you have the number of the asshole who called you that. So let’s give him a call and see what he did at 5 o’clock this morning.”

“Please tell me it wasn’t The Smile who called you that,” Ben said before his friend had a chance to answer. “I’ve just started going to bed without thoughts of that man ruining us.”

Lourdes’s dark head swiveled in Mason’s direction. “The evil father-in-law? It’s that time of year, you know. In-laws and holidays are never a good combination.”

“He’s bad news any day of the year,” Ben grumbled.

“It wasn’t Buchanan.” Like Ben, Mason still expected reprisal where James “The Smile” Buchanan was concerned. The four months since the events that had made them public enemies had done nothing to assuage Mason’s dislike of the man.

Lourdes frowned. “Is that good or bad? I can’t tell.”

“Bad. At least we know where Buchanan is and what he’s capable of, but I have no idea what ever happened to this guy.” Mason jerked his chin at the mall entrance. A muscle jumped in his jaw. “He ruined my career once. He’s not going to do it twice.”


[I am so very, very glad that I know this is only a first draft and word count will exponentially increase with each subsequent draft.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Guam in the palm of my hand

So I went to the post office yesterday. My dear husband had not mailed his Christmas packages yet and it fell on me to see them off. I don’t consider standing in line at the post office my wifely duty, so there was some mild begging involved. (I will add the time spent there to the time spent in line waiting for his Pro Bowl tickets and then hope that my Christmas and/or birthday present shows his appreciation.)

I had to get stamps to mail Christmas cards overseas and what did I get? These pretty little stamps with palm trees, a sunset and a sliver of beach and the tiniest words on the bottom, “Hagatna Bay, Guam.” How cool is that?!

It’s not like I come across references to Guam on a daily basis, so whenever I do see something I take it as a sign of my impending success. (Which is also why I was excited about Survivor visiting Micronesia again.)


Life is so exciting right now … I love it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

THE STALKER 1 (Dickens Challenge)

1.

Mason Ward’s cell phone buzzed to life on the built-in shelf next to his bed. Instantly awake, Mason grabbed it before it could wake the young man sleeping next to him. “Ward,” he grumbled. He didn’t have to be polite; according to his phone’s display it was 4:30 in the morning.

Silence greeted him.

Mason disconnected and dropped back onto his pillow. The air drifting in through the open ports over the bed was thick with the scent of Pacific and the relative chill of December. He inhaled deeply, resigned to the fact that he was now awake. Damn crank calls. He knew if he scrolled through his incoming calls, he’d find a local number that would eventually turn out to be a payphone. He hadn’t kept track of the first few calls, had barely even registered the hang-ups, but the last half dozen had come from different locations. Someone sure went to a lot of trouble to annoy him.

He eased out from under the sheet and swung his long legs over the edge of the bed. His lover didn’t stir; the redhead had only just joined Mason in bed an hour ago.

In the near dark of pre-dawn—the sun wouldn’t rise for another two hours—Mason pulled on his workout shorts and left the stateroom. He headed to the galley, dropped his cursed cell phone on the counter, got himself some a glass of milk, and went about his usual morning routine.

He hadn’t been an Army Ranger in five years, but he still exercised like one. Pushups. Situps. Chinups. Then the run. He walked down the long pier that separated his 58-foot Alaskan-style trawler from dry land, hung a right out of the marina’s gate and headed south on Route 2, past Nimitz Beach Park. It was too early and too dark still for anyone else to be on the road, even the roving bands of wild pig that usually foraged in the underbrush to either side of the road were still sleeping.

But the exercise didn’t have its usual calming effect on Mason. He couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to these crank calls than the wish to annoy him. Since he was on call 24/7, he didn’t even have the luxury to ignore his phone. He returned to the marina no closer to figuring out his problem and drenched in sweat.

His trawler had a bathroom, of course, but Mason preferred to shower in the marina’s men’s locker room. It had taken him, his friend Ben and the cabinetmaker two years to gut, restore and reconfigure The Sea Sprite to Mason’s needs, but there was only so much room on a boat and he hadn’t allocated much to his bathroom. As much as he loved living on his boat—a lifestyle he’d chosen with some purpose—it was far more practical for him to use the facilities the marina offered. And so he kept toiletries and a set of work clothes in his assigned locker.

By the time he stepped out of the shower, he had a short mental list of people who hated his guts enough to get up at 4:30 in the morning and call him. He slung a towel around his hips and dragged another through his hair. He pulled on a black pair of briefs and dragged black cargo pants up over his hips, then opened the locker room door to let the steam and hot air escape into the early morning. He turned back and went to grab his black polo shirt from his locker, when a feminine voice intruded on his privacy.

“I bet even your sheets are black.”

Mason turned to find a young woman standing in the door. She was a foot shorter than his six-four, with square, bony shoulders and sharp-edged clavicles that were in stark contrast to the full roundness of her ample breasts. Her sun-bleached hair hung in a loose ponytail down her back. Her yellow tank top and jean shorts left more exposed than they covered. She leaned back against the open door that clearly said Men’s on it and smiled.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

Mason’s brusque manner didn’t faze her, if anything her smile widened. She pulled her ponytail over her shoulder. “Hi. I’m kinda new here and I have no idea where anything is. Where do I go for a good cup of coffee around here?”

Mason thought of the man sleeping in his bed. Soren would know down to the yard where the nearest coffee shop was. Soren would also get a kick out of this girl coming on to Mason.

“There’s a gas station with a convenience store up the road.”

“Not what I had in mind, but it’ll do.” She gave him a pretty pout. “I’m Halley. Like the comet. I’m on The Pacific Sun.” She jerked her chin in the directions of the piers.

Mason knew the boat. The 32-foot Pearson Vanguard was a classic little sailboat, but sadly unused these days. He wasn’t sure but he thought he’d heard that she was for sale.

“Mrs. Maria said I could stay on it, her, for a few days. You know, until after the holidays, and I can get into the dorms.”

Mason arched his dark brows. He didn’t think the barely-dressed Halley and the retired Catholic School teacher Maria San Nicholas moved in the same circles. This girl wouldn’t be the first squatter the marina had seen.

His skepticism must have been apparent, because Halley quickly added, “Mrs. Maria is sponsoring me, you could say. We met through the National Student Exchange. I’m studying to become a Spanish teacher. Did you know she taught High School Spanish for twenty-five years?”

He’d had an idea. “You’re at the U of G?”

“Sophomore.” Halley beamed and reached for her ponytail again. “I guess I better get going. I really need that coffee. Nice meeting you, Mason.” She gave him a little wave and trotted off.

Mason caught her use of his first name and shook his head. He’d give her a couple of days or so to figure out he wasn’t in the market for a girlfriend. In the meantime, he’d give Mrs. San Nicholas a call to check out Halley’s story.

He returned to The Sea Sprite to find a cup of steaming brown rice tea and a note scrawled on the back of an envelope on the galley counter next to his phone. Call work ASAP. The tea made him smile. The note made him cringe.

He snatched up his phone and hit speed dial. He took the steps that led down from the galley to the narrow companionway that he followed to the bow of the Sprite. He gently pushed the door to the master stateroom open to see if his lover was still awake, but Soren was sleeping again, sprawled across green, pinstriped sheets.

When Lourdes Nakamura, Mason’s nightshift supervisor, answered her phone, Mason stepped back into the dark companionway. “You called?”

“Boss. We’ve got trouble.”

Mason groaned and dragged a hand through his short hair. It was barely even Monday and already his day didn’t look so good “What’s up?”

“Graffiti. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Graffiti didn’t sound like something Lourdes couldn’t handle. The ex-Marine had been a bouncer in some of Guam’s rowdiest nightclubs before Mason had offered her a job on his staff. She was as capable as they came. Mason frowned.

“It’s all over the mall. And when I say all over, I mean all over. Check your phone, I’ve sent pictures.”

Mason thumbed through his phone’s menu and called up incoming files. “Christ.”

“So not the first word that came to my mind,” Lourdes admitted, a wry tone to her voice.

Mason felt like the Sea Sprite was suddenly pitching and rolling under his feet. He reached out a hand to steady himself as he scrolled through the files in his phone with the other. His stomach sank with each consecutive picture. Lourdes hadn’t exaggerated when she’d said “all over.” What little undecorated surface of the Tumon Bay Mall there had been was now covered with the rainbow-colored words “Pickle Kisser” next to the very grotesque rendering of a penis.

“I got the call around 4:30. I sent the mobile guys to check it out. It’s not just the mall. It’s all over the library on O’Brian Drive, the Tamuning post office, John F. Kennedy High School, and up and down Skinner Plaza. It’s not a random prank, is it?”

“No.” Mason wished it was, but he didn’t believe in coincidences of that magnitude. He stared at his phone, absently noting that each act of vandalism must have been committed by a different person. The slur was the same in every picture, but the handwriting was different, some words printed, some cursive, letters slanted left or right, some capitalized, some not. The penis spray-painted next to the words looked similar in each picture, though, as if the artists had worked from a template.

Mason went over the last few weeks of his life, trying to remember anything he might have done to provoke the wrath/contempt of a man he hadn’t seen in five years. He’d heard his fair share of whispered “fag” or “faggot,” but he’d never heard anyone else call him “pickle kisser” before or after Captain Tom Krukowski, the man who’d ended his military career.

But what reason would Krukowski have to come after him all these years later? The way he saw it, Mason had all the right in the world to carry a grudge. Krukowski’s witch hunt had almost cost him an honorable discharge from the military. Only timing had saved what very little had remained of his good name.

“Boss? You’re awfully quiet over there.”

“Just thinking.” Mason’s short list of enemies hadn’t even included Krukowski. Thirty minutes ago the man hadn’t been more than a distant, bad memory. Now he was what he had never wanted to be: the focus of Mason’s attention.

“Can you think while you drive?”

“I’m on my way.”

“Bring air freshener. Your life just got flushed down the toilet. The cops are here.”

The Dickens Challenge Begins

I'm "stealing" this post from Tim Hallinan's blog The Blog Cabin:

The Dickens Challenge has officially begun. For those of you who haven’t been following this thread, several brave writers (including me) have committed to emulate Charles Dickens, publishing a chapter at a time when they haven’t the faintest idea where they’re going next. (Well, they probably have an idea, but they/we all wish it were a more specific idea.)

Here are the writers, with links to their stories. I hope you’ll read them and drop a line in appreciation of their bravery and talent, if not their judgment.

John Dishon, newly married and newly out of college, is a beginning novelist with special interests in Asian culture and literature, who sees the Challenge as a way of getting one of his ideas for a novel out of his head and into written form. His book will begin Monday, December 17. It’s called Country Snow and it can be found at
www.johndishon.com

Nadja (NL Gassert) is working on the second book in her gay romantic suspense series set on lush, tropical Guam: When a vengeful STALKER seeks to punish Mason Ward for the sins of his past—and present—the security specialist needs to fight to save himself and those closest to him. Nadja will begin to post on Monday, December 17 and you can read her at
http://write-experience.blogspot.com/

Timothy Hallinan is a novelist who lives in Los Angeles and Bangkok, Thailand. The Fourth Watcher, which is the next novel in his Bangkok series, will be published in June 2008 by William Morrow. (The first, A Nail Through the Heart, is out now.) His Challenge book, Counterclockwise, will start Monday, December 17 at
http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/

Steve Wylder is an Amtrak ticket agent and freelance writer living in Elkhart, Indiana and Bloomington, Illinois. His most recent published work is “Time Passages: Reflections on the Last Train Home,” in Remember the Rock Magazine. His contribution to the Dickens Challenge is tentatively titled “Things Done and Left Undone” and will begin Monday, December 17 at :
http://ontheslowtrain.blogspot.com/

Lisa Kenney is a telecommunications industry account executive and beginning novelist who lives in Denver. She’s tackling the Challenge with a Dickensian themed story with the working title Foundling Wheel and will begin posting excerpts Monday at
Eudaemonia. Lisa, bless her brave soul, will begin to post on Monday, December 17.

Wendy Ledger has an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and has taught there as a lecturer of introductory writing. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The East Bay Express, and Music for the Love of It. She has two blogs,
http://crookedtune.blogspot.com and http://weledger.typepad.com/pomegranate. Her contribution to the Dickens Challenge, “The Untitled Leap,” will be posted at http://weledger.typepad.com/pomegranate, starting Monday, December 17th.

Usman is a businessman and writer who lives in Pakistan and has recently completed a book, which is now in revision. His work for the Challenge will be a mystery/thriller for which he’s still gathering ideas. (Welcome to the club.) It’s not titled yet but when he publishes, beginning around January 1, 2008, it’ll be at
http://reality967.livejournal.com

And John Dishon has created a site that brings all of the stories together, to make it easier for you (although I’m sure most of the writers hope you’ll also drop by their own sites.) The URL is www.johndishon.com/test

Thursday, December 13, 2007

THE PROTECTOR rankings

I love amazon.com and all the good people who are interested in THE PROTECTOR. Thank you so much for making this an extra special holiday season for me. You guys rock!

No. 2 in Books > Gay Mystery & Thrillers

No. 9 in Books > Gay Romance
No. 39 in Books > Gay Fiction

Oh, just so you know, you don't have to buy the book on amazon for me to love you. If there is an independent bookstore in your area, support it by ordering THE PROTECTOR through them. I will autograph it no matter where you bought it. Just drop me a line and we'll figure that out.


Mahalo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pisces 2008

Too funny. I just saw this prediction for 2008:

Travel:
The position of Rahu planet may result in your undergoing a long and distant journey this year.

Rahu must know that I am moving. Or wait, maybe I'm just going on a vacation? Seeing how I live on an island, any vacation away from here involves a long and distant journey. Ideally, I'd love to go back home to Germany to attend my brother's wedding. Oh, and my 20th High School reunion.


This also works for me:

Wealth, Career and Business:
As far as the matters of wealth, career and business are concerned, 2008 will be very lucky for Pisces. This time will be just perfect for happiness, success and prosperity. The favorable position of Rahu planet will result in an increase in your social standing and respect in the society. In case of businessmen, there are chances of receiving sudden gains. Your enemies will be scared of you and your sources of income will increase.

Sweet. I’m looking forward to 2008 already.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Dickens Challenge

Timothy Hallinan had a great idea: write a novel by the seat of your pants and post chapters weekly. The Dickens Challenge is just what I needed. Sign me up.

Look for the first chapter of THE STALKER right here on this blog next week. Since I scrapped almost the entire stuff I'd done before, I'm basically starting from scratch. So, no, I'm not cheating.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

THE PROTECTOR on amazon

How super exciting is this: on amazon.com, THE PROTECTOR was #13 on the gay mysteries & thrillers list and #51 in the gay romance category. People are buying my book.

I probably shouldn’t sound so surprised :-)

I know that a number of you have asked for an autographed copy. Let me just throw this out there: if you’ve preorder a book (and waited and waited and waited), I’ll be glad to sign it for you. In fact, I’d be honored to sign it for you.

If you’re interested, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.

About leaving and getting there …


I understand there are people who’ve never had to organize a move across state lines :-) Sweet. This is my second Pacific crossing. I’ve also moved across the Atlantic once and from the Northeast to the South once.

If you think that moving with the military is easy, because they organize everything for you, you are mistaken. Yes, they will come and pack up our stuff. And yes, they will unpack at the destination. Sure, they will book tickets, but it’s never in your best interest to just let them do that (they have fundamental issues with the whole “straight line is the shortest route” phenomenon).

It looks like we’ll be leaving Hawaii in June, immediately after the kids are done with school. We’ll visit the in-laws on the East Coast for a short time and get to Kansas in time for school to start in August.

[This is a total bummer. My brother’s wedding and my 20th High School reunion are in the same week we need to be in Kansas.]

We’ll have to do all this flying and moving with two cats who need shots and health certificates and the right kind of weather to be permitted to take-off and land. I haven’t checked yet, but I’m sure the major airlines still have those stupid heat restrictions, which are a major pain in the butt if you have to move in the summer. We’ll also have to find lodging in Kansas that allows us to bring our animals (fat chance). Then we’ll be living in a hotel until we can find a house to rent AND until our household goods arrive from Hawaii.

[Before we leave Hawaii, we’ll have to set up meetings with Kansas realtors and landlords to start house hunting as soon as we get there. This is always a challenge: “can you not come into the office to sign this paperwork?”]

We’ll have to time the first shipment of household goods so that it arrives when we do. Mostly those are things we need immediately (which makes it difficult to live without them when you send them ahead eight to ten weeks in advance). The second shipment won’t leave Hawaii before we do, which means it will arrive in Kansas way, way after we do (mostly that’s all the furniture and the rest of the junk we own).

We’ll have to send the car ahead to make sure it will be there when we get there. As of right now I have no idea if the car is shipped all the way to Kansas or if the military will only ship it to the nearest port (LA or San Diego). While the car is en route, we’re either going to have to live with one car (the husband’s) or rent one. I hate to spend money on a rental car, but it will be difficult to do all the last minute stuff with just one car.

We’ll have to register the kids in school (hoping to get them in the right school district near our future residence). Of all the things that need to be done, this is the least complicated. I can have the Kansas Department of Education send me all the necessary forms, have everything filled out and done here and send it back to Kansas in time for official registration. This way I don’t have to worry about it when we first get there. Piece of cake.

We’ll have to reserve all lodging and air travel right after Christmas, because pet space is very limited and everyone’s moving in the summer. This can get surprisingly complicated. Why do they care how much my cat weighs?

[To make things easier on the kids we usually mail their favorite toys and things (whatever doesn’t fit in the suitcase they’re going to live out of) to the hotel. I think we mailed every single Barbie we owned the last time. This time we’re probably mailing fifty My Little Petshop pets and every single firetruck we own.]

Moving with the military is a challenging undertaking. It’s very frustrating, because the military hasn’t figured out yet that *I* am the one who makes all the phone calls and arrangements—they insists on talking to my husband, thinking he’s in charge! I have to be officially sanctioned to do stuff or in other words, we’re going to have to make sure I have half a dozen powers of attorney.

Boy, but I do love to move …