Have you ever had the feeling that something wonderful was about to happen, but you didn’t know what it was? Not long ago this happened to me. My intuition was screaming at me to take a chance…on me. In a bold move, I bought back my rights to Wings of Mayhem without knowing what would happen or what road I’d take. I have to say Tirgearr Publishing was wonderful, too. Many publishers would jerk an author around if they approached them about reverting their rights. But they didn’t. They supported my decision.
So here I was, my future in my hands and no idea what to do next. Then something amazing happened on Twitter. An editor from Harper Collins reached out to me. They invited me to submit, which was incredible. After I sent them the manuscript, I thought about my readers. The Big 5 can take a year or more to bring a book to market. Did I really want to keep my readers hanging that long? No. You are the reason I write. I owe it to you to produce the best quality books I can and bring them to market in a reasonable amount of time. However, I’m not stupid, either. I explained my position to the editor. It’s now an open-invitation. Woohoo!!
Shortly after, two other houses extended an invitation to submit, as well. Publishing houses that don’t normally take unagented submissions. I was blown away. Before I knew it I was sending in my manuscript. It all happened so fast, I still can barely wrap my mind around it. A few days ago, I signed a 3-book deal with Crossroad Press for digital, print, and audio. Because I’d already gone through the editing and proof-reading phase with Tirgearr, and because I’d gone over it again when I got it back, they felt comfortable releasing the ebook right away while we wait for formatting of print.
I’m thrilled to announce Wings of Mayhem hit the shelves this morning. Yay!!! Because I had a previous release date with Tirgearr, we’re skipping the pre-release phase. The amazing cover art was designed by Elle Rossi from EJD Designs, who also created the cover for Marred.
I’ve been dying to introduce you to Shawnee Daniels. She’s so snarky and fun, I’ll probably write her stories for a very long time. So, I hope you like her as much as I do, because The Mayhem Series will last much longer than three books. For Marred fans, I’m in the process of writing book two. Not to worry, I’m not ditching Sage and the gang anytime soon, either.
I could post the description, but I’d rather give you a sneak peek. Below is an excerpt of Chapter One after Shawnee has broken into Jack Delsin’s home. Wings of Mayhem is a true psychological thriller, where you know from Chapter One who the killer is. The underlying mystery is the why behind the murders. It’s a cat-and-mouse, with alternating chapters between Jack Delsin (the killer), Detective Levaughn Samuels (the lead on the case), and Shawnee Daniels. The following excerpt is from Shawnee’s POV. Enjoy!
Friday, October 5, 2011
The house was hauntingly quiet. Too quiet, for some reason.
Granted, ol’ Jackie boy was still in holding until arraignment. This was a different kind of quiet. A strange aura, with an ominous evil that rode the air. The creepy sensation screamed for me to turn back. You’d think that would’ve been my first clue.
This job had to turn out better than last week’s. After all the trouble of hacking a Knox box, a supposedly un-hackable box used in gated communities for emergency vehicles, I discovered my mark snorted everything he owned. A few trinkets were hardly worth my time. Not to mention the skill involved to pull off a heist of that nature. To walk away empty handed…in laymen’s terms, sucked.
Average folk had no idea what went into pulling a professional heist. Half the general public believed what they saw in the movies, and the other half didn’t care. In their eyes, we—and by “we” I mean the artistically inclined—were no better than a common thug. A remark I found truly offensive. A common thug couldn’t swing from trees like Tarzan of the Jungle, hang from third story windows by one hand, or scale rooftops like Mary friggin’ Poppins.
Prowling down the hall, I stepped on a squeaky floorboard—and froze. Normally the rush of almost getting caught rippled across my skin, but tonight was not the night to dance with danger. I was on a mission to make Jack Delsin regret ever stealing from hard-working folks.
The irony was not lost on me.
The steam furnace kicked on and wailed like an injured animal. Clangs and crashes from old pipes rattled the house. Floorboards shifted like they were alive and breathing.
My thunderous heartbeat slowed to a quick pitter-patter—just enough adrenaline to make it interesting. If experience told me anything, it was when to cut my losses and bolt. No one caught me yet. Well, okay, once, but it wasn’t something I put on my resume. The whole mess wasn’t my fault, anyway. If some goofy-looking dude with a neck the width of Rhode Island hadn’t thrown a hissy fit when his steroid-infested body didn’t…shall we say…cooperate in the bedroom, the soles of my boots would’ve hit the asphalt before the last fake moan from his wife.
The open floor plan in this place was the bee’s knees. I especially dug a massive chandelier that hung from the second level and reached into the first. Crystal teardrops dripped from long curved arms. Their twinkle captivated me. Ever since I could remember I’d always been attracted to shiny things. It’s no wonder I chose this profession. Chose wasn’t the correct word. This life was one I fell back into when I saw rich assholes stealing from innocent people.
I crept through a partially open doorway, into a feminine master bedroom. An ivory lace comforter topped with pillow rolls had tassels dangling off the end. On the outside walls stood an antique vanity, rocker, matching his and hers dressers, and an armoire.
In the dark, gold glinted in my light beam atop the narrow six-drawer dresser.
“Nice,” I murmured, stuffing a select few of the necklaces and rings into my backpack. In my trade, it wasn’t wise to steal all the jewelry. Everything in moderation. A clueless homeowner equaled no urgent calls to the cops.
Tan drapes pulled partly closed masked a glass wall overlooking the backyard. I peeked between the folds. The slivered moon cast a glow upon a massive oak tree, in the corner of the yard. Opal-white stones formed an oversized circle around the base. No flowers planted within and too wide and lopsided for the intention to be merely decorative.
Like the rest of the property, I wrote it off to bad taste. Garden gnomes, was there nothing uglier?
I checked in nightstand drawers, in the pockets of Dockers flung over an upholstered chair, between the mattress and box spring, inside the armoire, dressers, and under the bed. All in all, the bedroom held a treasure-trove of valuable items: a gold watch, cash, and a fourteen-karat-gold rope chain that was so my style.
I stashed the goods in my backpack and moseyed down the hall. Skin tingling, warmth radiated through my core. Nothing compared to wandering through an empty home, twirling round and round, arms floating beside me.
Lining the walls hung framed drawings in what looked like charcoal. Two upside-down stick figures, one in a dress, one without. A handprint, and two vertical rectangles with no bottom bars. Jackie boy was one strange dude.
A door on my left held a sign that read “Enter at your own risk.” Of course I turned the knob. The sign seemed more like an invitation than a warning.
At first, I hesitated. This was obviously a teenager’s bedroom, evident by posters on the wall and an old corded-phone decorated with nail polish. Hitting kids’ rooms was not something I did.
On further inspection, the newest poster was of David Lee Roth from Van Halen. Either this chick was living in the eighties, or Daddy never redecorated after she moved out.
Next to the phone sat a wooden puzzle box like the one I had at seven years old. I swiped it more out of sentiment than value. Made from pine, it wasn’t worth much. The box possessed an intricate pattern that drove most people bonkers.
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket, and I checked the caller ID. Shit. “Whassup, Nay?”
“Where are you?”
I skimmed the contemporary. “Home. Why?”
“You’re out catting again. Aren’t you?”
She knew I hated that word. “What? No.”
“Christopher drove by your house and your jeep wasn’t there. Don’t lie to me. You promised me you were done with that life.”
“You checkin’ up on me now?”
“I knew it!”
“You don’t know shit. I ran outta kitty litter. If there’s nothing else, Your Honor, I’ve gotta bounce.”
I didn’t have time for the third degree.
I ambled toward a wide, sweeping staircase, similar to the ones in old black-and-white films, and ran gloved fingers down the rod-iron railing, twirling off the end of the banister, into the main level. First, I hit the kitchen. Whoever told the wealthy to hide their valuables in the kitchen did them a disservice. There wasn’t a thief alive who hadn’t figured that one out.
I swung open the freezer door and rooted around inside. As I jiggled a half-gallon of fudge swirl, a smile broke across my face. How stupid did he think I was? A fake ice cream container or coffee can didn’t fool anyone. Neither did stashing valuables in the ice cube trays. In which, I found two loose diamonds suspended mid-cube.
I gave the greedy bastard an “A” for ingenuity, but he’d have to step up his game to beat me.
In total, I pocketed about thirty grand worth of stuff. Most of which I’d return to the retirement fund via electronic transfer from Delsin, minus my fee. He wouldn’t understand why, of course, but since he was in a world of hurt, his lawyer would advise him to keep his mouth shut and roll with it. Which he would do. I’d seen it happen many times. His attorney would argue this was his way of making retribution because the theft was all a huge misunderstanding, or bookkeeping error. The prosecution would argue Delsin acted with intent, yada, yada, yada…same drill, different mark.
I crossed a short, hardwood-floored hall and landed in the living room. With a running leap I swan-dived onto a puckered black-leather sectional, flipped on my back, and gazed at the stars through another glass wall. Bright pinpricks of light danced across an inky-black sky.
It’s important to take a moment to appreciate God’s little gifts. Years ago, Mom drilled that nugget of wisdom home.
I crawled off the sofa, my gaze roaming around the living room. Off to the left, oak pocket doors protected either a den or office. Straps dug into the top of my shoulders, the backpack overflowing with sterling, gold, jewelry, and cash.
A solid score.
With gloved hands, I slid one of the doors aside. The moon spilled a cascading smolder through the slats of wooden blinds behind a long mahogany desk, kitty-cornered in the center of the room. On top, sat a banker’s lamp and burgundy desk pad with calendar, where Jackie boy scrawled single digits on some of the days.
I snapped a quick cell phone photo. One never knows when information could come in handy.
To the right of the desk, a padlocked door drew my attention. In seconds, I picked the lock. A foul odor struck me in the face like the slap from a jilted lover. I cupped a hand over my mouth and nose. The stench was like…like…decay.
I swallowed hard.
Pitch-blackness blanketed the inside. I leveled my flashlight. The beam dimmed, flickered, and then died. I banged it against a flat hand. “Not now. C’mon, stay with me.”
No dice. The damn thing refused to cooperate. Using my cell phone, if I triggered the camera, the flash could, in theory, light my way.
It’s worth a shot.
Bright light saturated the room in stark-white for a split-second, and nearly blinded me. Multicolored spots filled my vision. I pressed the heels of my hands in my eyes and this time, I flipped the camera so the flash faced the room.
Framed portrait of a woman.
Plastic…on the walls?
Red splashes. An art studio, perhaps? I aimed toward the table.
A power tool.
Wait. If those were hedge clippers, then what was—?
Flash, flash, flash.
I cocked my head. Huh?
Flash, flash, flash, flash.
My sight narrowed on the floor beneath the table.
Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash.
I straightened, shifted in my stance.
Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash.
“Can’t be.” A jolt of raw adrenaline shot through me. “What are the chances I’m in his house?” I sprinted out the room, missed the hole for the padlock three times before re-engaging the lock and hightailed it toward the staircase, tripping over my own feet. At the top, I slid around the end of the banister, the soles of my boots screeching across the hardwood.
Keys in the front door stopped me cold—metal jingling against metal.
My gaze tunneled on the doorknob.
The door creaked open. Slow. Methodical. Deliberate.
Wings of Mayhem is available at…
(All are smart links, so they’ll take you to the distributor in your country)
When I get the links to the other book distributors, as well as print and audio dates, I’ll post them here.