This year’s BLOG (meant to be tongue in cheek since I rarely blog) is on a writer’s retreat I attended two weekends ago. First I need to extend my special thanks to Anna Albergucci (and her husband, Darin) for extending their home to us, providing most with sleeping accommodations, and stuffing us with two incredible dinners. Oh, she provided breakfast and lunch as well, but the dinners were incredible and not soon to be forgotten. I probably just painted myself into a corner commenting more on the dinners, so I’ll stop there … thank you, Anna, what more can I say without getting myself into trouble. Your heart is as large and warm as your home, and I will never forget the kindness.
Attending the retreat were authors Amanda M. Thrasher (also Co-Founder of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC), Anna Albergucci, Chrissy Szarek , Connie Cox and JoAnna Voyles; five amazing and talented writers – can you imagine being in a room with five creative people, all women—I was the only man—and able to make it out alive and in one piece. Luck was surely on my side.
As soon as you can, check out their author pages and grab yourself copies (plural) of their books (plural) – you’ll be happy you did. All very talented writers, all covering different genres that kept my head spinning wanting to know more, and to get to know more about them.
Amanda is an incredible writer of children’s and YA books as well as being an incredible marketer and businessperson for her publishing house. Chrissy Szarek , Connie Cox and JoAnna Voyles, also incredible writers, focusing on romance and paranormal romance, and finally, in a class of her own, Anna Albergucci, writing literary fiction. Talk about a wide range of genre’s and writers. I felt beside myself to be able to share a weekend with such talented and amazing people, and when I say amazing, I’m serious. They are. I was impressed with each of them and found that just listening to them about their work made me feel the passion they have for writing is what I feel when I sit down to write, something that is very hard to explain to people who do not share that passion. Nothing like talking about your story and the person you talk to looks as if theirs eyes just glossed over and drool dribbles out of the corner of their slightly parted lips. You even have to lean in and listen to see if they’re still breathing, but hey, it could just be my stories. Boy meets girl, girl blows him off, he stalks her, she kills him, she meets the love of her life in prison and lives happily ever after.
On the first night, Anna read for a half hour but that conversation went on late into the evening, and left me in awe. I enjoyed it so much I finally closed my laptop not wanting to think about reading, as I was engrossed in everything that was happening. The feedback, the professionalism, and friendship were the best I have ever seen. Believe me, the only thing worse than a room full of creative people is stuck in an out of service elevator with a sales person not even close to quota, but this was incredible. Absolutely delightful.
Afterwards, before I called it an evening, we got to know each other, something I found even more enlightening. Five strangers (to me), oh, we met earlier at the Lexicon Writers Conference, but they never once considered a man by the name of John Smith that could have been, you know, wanted by all the law enforcement agencies in the country, and yet we sat and talked about subjects and things that I never had the pleasure of sharing. Afterwards, I felt I made at least one friend, Anna’s cocker spaniel, Brino (I fed him as much as I could get away with), and walked away with a feeling that is beyond words. A special group I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
On the second night, Anna had invited the Chico writers club where we all sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner. Yep, Anna provided a Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner was delicious and the conversations with the writers club left me in tears. I could not stop laughing and I think JoAnna shared that laughter with me. That group was loaded with characters that I think might appear in one or two of my novels (I know one will). Of course, I’ll change the names, but the conversations were priceless. Oh, did I mention it was cool watching Amanda welding a knife, deboning chicken and turkey. One word. Yikes. That woman had that knife flying faster than chef at a Teriyaki Steak House. I started to take a picture but feared for my life. A great author and deboner, and a lot of fun to watch (I’m sure she’ll make me pay for this).
With dinner complete, Amanda then proceeded with a great talk about the publishing business. Thank you, Amanda, I thought session was very informative and I took away a lot of good information.
The other take away for me, besides a full stomach and a great collection of books, was that I was able to sit and watch each of them and found each to be so damned funny I bit my tongue often to stop myself from laughing. Chrissy and JoAnna have this thing going that I swear they know what each is thinking and what they’re going to say next – I loved it! I also learned that Connie fit in that little arena where I sit; she is creative and analytical, so that was cool, very cool. Anna has the warmest heart of anyone I know, and Darin, what more can I say but thank you. And finally, Amanda, you touched me, deeply, and with that I say, you are very special and I thank you.
If Anna has another retreat next year, and I didn’t tick anyone off with this blog (another reason I rarely blog) I hope she invites me. I’ll certainly be earlier next year than I was this year. And, if Anna extends the invitation to anyone else who did not attend, be sure to say yes. I guarantee that you’ll have a wonderful time, you’ll laugh a lot (it was two days before my cheeks returned to normal), and you’ll leave with at least one new friend, Brino (anyone who knows me knows I love the canine kids-I have two J).
Until next time.
This week is about the novella, Jester, which is based on a screenplay that I wrote several years back. I submitted the Jester the Clown screenplay to the Writers Digest contest and came in ninth place out of over thirty thousand entries; it was a very exciting moment for me. With that in mind, I decided that it would make a good novella and published Jester at the end of August 2013.
Krisztina Peters, one of my favorite characters, first appeared in the novella Deadly Affairs as the lead detective on the case. She is of Hungarian descent and rather striking. Her caramel colored eyes, chestnut-brown curly hair (which she hides beneath a Bali hat for only God knows why), very light tan completion and a tweed jacket that she would rather die in than discard, looks more like a young college professor than a major player in the Dallas Serial Crime Unit.
Krisztina is driven by the horrible experience of nearly being raped as a child by a pedophile, the janitor that lived in the basement of the same apartment building where she and her parents resided. Unbeknownst to the authorities, the janitor was a serial killer who got more than he bargained for. Krisztina was able to fight back—kicking and screaming, overtaking him with his own pipe wrench that weighed almost as much as her at the time. Escaping the monster, she then called the police who then imprisoned the janitor.
That near-death experience and the interaction with the police left an impression on the eight year old for life. It was then she made a promise, no monster would ever go free.
However, Krisztina is not without faults, her passion to rid the world of monsters leaves very little room for a personal relationship and she is forever searching to find the right partner to share her life.
Left at the altar, Krisztina is not very fond of men, especially her former fiancé that she caught in her bed with her best friend. Angry, she fired two rounds into the headboard, just above their heads, to prove a point – she really wanted to hurt them. That misdealing led her to suspension from the force until the Deadly Affairs case.
As luck would have it with Krisztina and the men in her life, her current live-in boyfriend, Robert, is really living with her for the benefit of sex and free rent; however, she makes Robert pay dearly for his actions. She hasn’t put a bullet into the headboard, but the thought has crossed her mind.
Her hatred for killers causes her problems as she carries the anger deep inside. And because of this, she has problems focusing, along with controlling her anger. It only worsens when she sees Robert with another woman.
She carries the nickname, Hungarian Princess; a name given to her by her partner when she first made detective in the Dallas Department of Public safety. She hates the nickname almost as much as she hates her partner, and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot distance herself from the sleaze bag.
The novella, Jester, begins in Plano, Texas, where one of our lead characters, Jester the Clown, has a history of seeing ghosts. So many ghosts it drives him to the bottle, to murder, to jail, and then finally to a mental institute, where he disappears from everyone. At least, until a brilliant and methodical serial killer is on the loose and Krisztina stumbles on to him.
As the murder count rises, and Krisztina is at a dead end, she must sober Jester up to catch the monster before the monster kills her. However, sobering him up is an impossible task – Jester doesn’t want to sober up. He doesn’t want to see the ghosts. He doesn’t want to witness again and again their horrors, and more importantly, their pleas for vengeance.
As Krisztina traverses through the crime scenes and the lack of evidence, her affection for Jester grows so much so she begins to believe in his delusions, that he can actually see ghosts.
Jester is by far Krisztina’s toughest case and what she learns about herself helps her grow into the woman she has always wanted to be.
Trade Paperback can be found at:
Kindle can be found at:
Also available in other eBook formats.
I was speaking with a friend this morning about blogging and she asked why I don’t blog — not her words exactly but the best I could comprehend when that word is used. Of course, I defended in that nasal sort of way saying, “I BLOG!” and she continued as if I had not responded with, “You’re a writer at heart, blogging should come easy for you, and the good Lord knows you like to talk.”
That comment brought on the wrath of a silent treatment toward her, so I crossed my arms and shut her down. My eyes glazed over and the opening in my ear canal shrunk just enough to block out the drone of her voice but not too narrow that I couldn’t hear Katy Perry in the background rockin on about her skin tight jeans.
I mentally argued, “I blog.”
Then I thought, Well. A little. I suppose.
I then came out of my stupor and said, “With the social media, the blatant blare of technology, and the inundation of hundreds, if not thousands of emails daily, Facebook, and Twitter, who has time to blog? Who has the time to sit and blog about something that a thousand or more people have already blogged about. I sure don’t want to blog about the current events, the daily/nightly news sends a shiver down my back with all the chaos in the world and I’m pretty sure my opinion would just tick people off…
Then she came back with, “Write about your hobbies.”
That stumped me.
Believe it or not.
The writer/speaker in me had nary a comeback whatsoever. Silent, except for a gurgle down at the bottom of my throat that I refused to clear. I’d be damned if I was going to give her the satisfaction of knowing she shut me up.
Write about my hobbies?
Hell, I’d say writing is my hobby—would love to make it my job—and it’s something I love to do, so yeah, I guess I could blog about writing. I suppose.
Then I started to say, “Half of the blogs you read are about someone’s hobby. You probably could build just about anything you want by just reading blogs or watching YouTube, which to me is a video blog,” but I didn’t. I stood fast on ignoring her.
Plus, I was running out of excuses damned fast.
But DAMN IT, I BLOG. A little. I suppose.
Then it dawned on me, CL, the CEO of Dark Red Press had said the same thing just a week or so ago, saying almost the same exact thing as Dorothy said this morning. CL even went as far as suggesting ideas for me to blog about (he knows me well. I run on about 6 out of 8 cylinders half the time), and even went as far as trying to encourage me (damn! He knows me way too well).
Both had said, with a slight chortle mind you, you can always write a blurb about your books and then when you run out of words, if that’s even possible, you can always post a chapter, if not a chapter, maybe a paragraph, or worst case your favorite quote. Did you notice, “when you run out of words, if that’s even possible?” I did and I hate it when I learn something about myself in those subtle ways, but I’m digressing here.
So now, I’m sitting here wondering … Okay. I could write a paragraph about each novel, or dig through them looking for my favorite quote, starting with my favorite novel and go from there. Post the one paragraph or my favorite quote, and then the chapter and I’d have a blog for that day (OMG! That day!), but then I realized how a parent felt when someone would squeak out that dreaded line, “Which kid is your favorite?”
Each is my favorite until the next one comes along. Yeah. Fickle. But what can I say. It’s an honor to have a story written, published and read by someone, so in their own right (if a novel could have a right) they all become my favorites of sorts. That’s not to say there isn’t one you’re not totally fond of, like the kid that can’t stay out of trouble. You love him/her but you’d love to kill him/her. See. I’m moving into an area I have zip expertise except through hearsay.
Sooo, my blog for today is, why don’t I blog.
I do blog. A little. I suppose.
Soon to be released this month in ebook and paper back novella.
Copyright © 2013 Jonathan Black
Cover by Brian Fatah Steel
Published by Dark Red Press
Standing in front of Wang’s BBQ restaurant window, Jester looked inside, not at the décor, nor the patrons who gathered around tables, sitting in booths, or filling their plates from the buffet table that stood in the center of the room. Nor did he watch the young female Asian waiters as they scurried throughout the open room with trays filled with glasses of iced water and tea, pots of hot tea, or carrying a bill. Like the customers, the waiters ignored the man dressed as a clown peering in, all the while talking to himself.
Surely, Insanity was Jester’s partner as his stare focused on one table in particular. A table of four. A husband of forty, his wife of thirty-five, a young boy of eleven who resembled his father more than he resembled his mother, and their daughter who just turned nine and resembled neither . She was much prettier than her parents. But a secret had etched itself upon her young face as if placed there by a sculptor who had found the perfect marble in which to chisel out the perfect face of fear and guilt. Still, today a messenger would release her from the clutch of that private hell. However released, it would be a memory she would carry until she reached the age of twelve. An age where she will have exhausted all the strength she had to rid herself of the secret, and would finally take her own life. Shortly after, her mother would follow. Although from the same loin and nectar as Anna Beth, Anthony was no innocent. He would continue his father’s hobby until his mentor’s bullet would take his life.
Instructed to take Anthony Alexander’s life, Jester refused. He could never hurt a child, no matter what lay hidden in the dark recesses of their mind and the things they do when they act on those dark thoughts. He would leave that task to the police or maybe, when Anthony was no longer a child, Jester would kill him. Although ensured by his partner, Insanity, it was too soon to know if Anthony would gain a mentor.
A birthday cake sat ceremoniously in the middle of the table, Anna B was the only portion of her name left as the cake, like her name, had been sliced into wedges and were now being devoured by the two children as though they had never before had the luxury. Mother picked at her cake as she studied her daughter, wishing the child happiness on her birthday.
Blind to the secret, Mother held no knowledge of the abuse Anna Beth had endured at the hands of the man who was supposed to love and protect her.
The father, Tony Alexander, had a faraway expression. His mind was elsewhere. His workshop, perhaps. A place where he felt the happiest. His “man cave” is what Mother told her friends and relatives. “Tony, oh, he’s in his man cave… You know Tony, he just loves that workshop,” her excuses sounded somewhat practiced as she responded to the question of “where’s Tony…” Too slothful to take his napkin, he wiped saliva from his lips with his bare arm as he thought more of his workshop and the helpless toys waiting for him.
Little Anthony, his back to the wall, looked past his mother and pointed, “Holy cow, Anna, mom got you a clown.”
Perplexed, mother turned in the direction of Anthony’s pointed finger. She hadn’t summoned the clown, she could never afford such luxury. She smiled, thinking Tony finally did something nice. For once.
Anna Beth squealed while trying to wedge herself out from behind the table. Poppa Tony had pushed the table close to his princess so that she wouldn’t ruin that wonderful dress she was wearing. He liked his princess in that dress and he also liked his princess clean.
“Look, momma, a clown,” said Anna Beth as her squeal settled into a jubilant laugh. Unlike Mother, Anna Beth had no clue of their financial situation, and beamed at the thought that her mother would complete her dinner with a clown.
Outside the restaurant, Jester looked away from those lively caramel eyes of Anna Beth. “I can’t keep doing this… I just can’t,” Jester said as he looked at no one but at some one.
Dressed like a Court Jester, with the pointy hat, a white face, red nose and a warm wonderful red smile, Jester the Clown shook from the pressure. Although he couldn’t hear it with his ears, he knew off in the distance, in a racing police sedan, the radio was squawking, “All available units. Proceed to Wang’s BBQ restaurant, corner of Coit and Park for a 10-32. Unit is on the scene with a visual for Jester the Clown. Suspect is presumed armed and extremely dangerous.”
Jester turned back to the window and peered inside. A single tear rolled down his cheek, leaving a sad trail through makeup applied by the hands of an expert. He looked to his left.
“They’ll kill me tonight… this will be the last…” Jester said with a lump of fear and remorse in his throat. He coughed. “It won’t hurt will it?” He stood still, waiting for Insanity to answer him, maybe trying to decide if going inside was such a good idea, or maybe he was actually hearing an answer. It appeared to be the latter as a calm passed over him and he held his head up. He nodded and said, “Okay.”
Jester looked at Anna Beth for a long moment, then over to Tony.
He listened as Insanity spoke to him.
“Yeah, Officer Jake Hooper is an idiot but there’ll be more police than him for me to worry about,” said Jester, as he looked back at the black and white Plano police sedan. “They’ll be better at pulling their trigger… It won’t hurt too badly, will it? I can only hope it’s a bullet to the eye and straight to the brain… I hear you can’t feel pain if it’s in the eye and to the brain…” Jester rambled. He shook from the thought of the police killing him, not at dying for he welcomed it, but the pain that can precede dying. When he killed, he always tried to make it fast and painless, even though those he killed deserved to suffer.
A second black and white Plano police sedan bounced and scraped across the curb as it raced into the parking lot, drowning out someone’s radio. Match Box 20 – Real World, one of Jester’s favorites, faded as the car that blasted the song sped away.
Jester hesitated for a long moment, listening to someone, a voice in his head, or maybe the voice of reason. He nodded, blew out an audible sigh, and opened the door. He hesitated as the air-conditioned cool blast washed over him. Then after a long moment, he moved to go inside.
The wind tossed celebratory confetti of sand and dirt. It rained down like birdseed at a wedding. The gesture was not wasted as Jester mumbled, “Poor little Anna Beth…”
As he stepped across the threshold, Jester heard an officer shout, “Unit One is in the parking lot, suspect is entering the restaurant.”
“Proceed with caution, Unit One. Suspect is armed and extremely dangerous. He’s wanted for multiple murders,” the voice on the radio said, and two young police officers, feeling invincible, Jester’s age, perhaps, with weapons drawn and ready, raced toward Wang’s BBQ. Maybe they knew Death was not waiting for them like a conductor taking a ticket for a one-way trip. Maybe they knew Death, in his dark hood, clutching his scythe in a bleached hand with bony crimson fingers, would be waiting for Jester, and the two had no worries. Tunnel vision can lead one down a path of deceit like a lamb to a butcher, but tonight, Death and his scythe would take someone else.
As Jester’s left foot passed over the aluminum threshold the wonderful scent of cooked meat welcomed him into the restaurant’s belly. Jester’s stomach grumbled but his mind and his partner, Insanity, led Jester directly to Tony as though she had taken him by the elbow.
When Tony looked up, he somehow knew death was only a few steps away but in his arrogance, he ignored the telegraphed message and leered at the clown. Normally his bulky physique and leering stopped his opponent but his stupidity didn’t register the danger that the malevolent figure would cause.
As Jester passed table after table he could hear the “oohs and aahs” and whispers coming from the children and the adults as well. Jester was dressed impeccably, except for the obvious trail of that single tear that had disappeared down the neck of his ruffled blouse. In the far background, he heard the door open and then the jingling of metal, keys maybe, the squeaking of leather, and thudding footsteps drawing closer. Even farther away, he heard sirens and hoped it was an ambulance coming to whisk him away to the closest crematorium, but he knew the sirens were more police vehicles. Nearly every law enforcement agency in Texas was looking for him. Jester the Clown, a serial killer of more than seventeen men, would elude the police no more. Like the Canadian Mounties, tonight the Plano police would get their man.
Jester stood silently by the table for a long, long moment. Waiting. An intense moment as everyone in the restaurant watched to see what the clown would do next. A magical show no less, or maybe a silly song and dance that would bring smiles and cheers from everyone.
“Why do you have to kill them?” Jester asked softly. He wanted the secret to remain between him and Tony. He pinched mucus from his nose and wiped his thumb and finger on a blue handkerchief hidden inside his left sleeve.
He blinked at the overhead florescence. For the first time he realized he had stepped out of the light that kept him warm, and into the coldness of that very moment. He felt a breath upon the back of his neck and knew she was with him.
He inhaled the aroma of Chinese brown sauce over fried rice and exhaled the scent of rose petals. He never knew why, but he tasted and smelled the scent of roses just before he pulled the trigger on every man he killed. He believed it to be a gift from his Insanity partner so that he would never smell the scent of death. He thanked his friend but wondered why she chose him. Why had she chosen a man who loved children more than he loved life, and he loved life so much being a clown was never something he would give up.
Another single tear welled, hanging there on his lower eyelid for a moment before it spilled over and followed the same trail down his cheek, beneath his chin, then down his neck where it too would disappear beneath the ruffled collar.
He had long ago run out of tears. There’d been too many to deal with.
Poppa Tony merely stared at the crazed man and refused to respond. Egotism often clouded reason and vision.
“Please tell me… Why do you have to kill them?” Jester asked again but louder. This time he wanted to both intimidate Tony, and also let the rushing police officers know what his next move was going to be with the murderer that refused to acknowledge him.
Jester looked at Mother, into her frightened eyes, and mumbled, “I’m so sorry…” He then looked to Anna Beth and smiled. “It will be over very soon, baby girl,” Jester continued in a near song like voice.
“What the…? Get the hell outta here, you crazy bastard,” snapped Tony, in the tone and manner he usually showed Anna Beth when he took her to his workshop.
Jester didn’t move. He stared at Tony, and then tucked his right hand into the pocket of his baggy pants.
Anna Beth started crying and scooted across the booth toward Anthony. She knew, but was afraid to admit what the clown had hidden in his pocket. She knew it would not be a clever sleight of hand trick that would bring out a bouquet of flowers, but it was a warm, kind hand that would end her secret. She didn’t know how she knew, but she felt a breath of relief and the worried lines so expertly chiseled on her face had already begun to loosen.
Tears welled in her Mother’s eyes. The secret was exposed. Mother reached and grabbed her chest where her heart lay hidden, to where she had once laid Anna Beth’s head when Anna was a baby and then hummed a lullaby that would put Anna Beth to sleep. Mother moaned a tear-filled sorrowful “No”.
“If you don’t go away, I’m gonna bust you up,” said Tony, his chair scraped away from the table in a feigned effort to stand.
Jester turned his attention back to Mother as he pulled the .45 caliber pistol from his baggy pants pocket. He pointed it at Tony not once believing Tony actually had the courage to confront someone of strength; Jester knew Tony was a coward who only took those weaker than him.
Behind him, in the background, Officer Jake Hooper, now fully in the restaurant, screamed out, “Drop it!”
Tony’s chair scraped again as he struggled to hide behind the mother of his children.
Mother, Anthony, and little Anna Beth cried out in panic.
Behind Jester, and all through the restaurant, everyone who could move leaped away from their table and rushed to the door, all the while blocking the police. As she promised Jester, the police would not have a clean shot. It was total chaos. Jester could do what she sent him to do.
Jester stared at Mother, his eyes pleading for forgiveness. Never moving away from her beautiful raw sienna eyes he said, “I have to stop him. I warned the police, but they wouldn’t listen.” He winced with each remorseful shot. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Six of them. In exactly the same spot, each bullet trying to push the previous one deeper into Tony’s heart, and so quickly did the bullets enter him, Tony’s body sat neatly erect, held by invisible hands, so that each bullet was a sure kill.
Still looking at Mother, Jester said, “He has three women in his workshop. He’s murdered one, and would have murdered the other two before the weekend is over.” He turned to Anna Beth, but still speaking to Mother, “He has taken Anna Beth’s innocence away…”
Mother screamed out in horrible pain. Not at the fury that had accosted the table, nor at the court jester who had taken Tony’s life, but at the light that now shone brightly as the blindfold fell from her eyes. She didn’t reach for Tony, nor Anthony, but for her baby girl.
Anthony looked up at the clown and then over to his father in awe, and, for some unknown reason, with excitement, and for the first time in his life, with an erection. He was even closer to his father than his mother ever knew. He turned back to Jester and their eyes met and held for a brief moment. Anthony shivered in utter fear that chased away the erection.
Jester, silent, then turned to the police, who were in awe but alert, and listened as Officer Jake Hooper demanded, “Drop the gun, you fugging clown!”
Jester pointed his empty gun at Officer Jake Hooper and smiled a bright clownish smile.
Suicide by Police.
In the deathly silence of the aftermath, in the calm eye of a hurricane, Officer Jake Hooper fired a single shot.
Welcome to Writer’s Alcove, the place where I go to dream of stories and tales, and to put my imagination on electronic paper to revisit from time to time. I hope that you, too, will visit, and share in my imagination.
My collection comes in the forms of Novels, Shorts, and Screenplays. So grab a beverage and stay a while!