A blog where Stephanie M. Belser test-drives her fictional stories.
Expect the occasional
"stall, spin, crash & burn".

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A New Project

Chapter 1

It was a normal morning. I was sitting at my desk, reading reports and making notes on what I needed to do for follow-ups. Some of the operatives whose reports I was reading are very good at their jobs, but not so good at writing them up. I’m sort of a boss and an editor, I guess. Age and experience had gotten me “promoted” to a desk job. A few on-the-job injuries didn’t hurt.

The receptionist buzzed me and informed me that a walk-in wanted a few minutes of my time. That’s unusual, for dealing with potential clients wasn’t part of my routine.

“Who wants to talk to me,” I asked.

“She says her name is Amy Glesius and that’s what her ID says. The ID checks out,” she said. There is a scanner/reader at the receptionist desk. She would take an ID, run it through, and in seconds, have a readout on the person the ID was linked to.

“Is there a comfy room available?”

“Interview C.” Some of our interview rooms have nice chairs, coffee and crullers. Others don’t.

“Please show her there and tell her that I’ll be out in a few,” I said, clicked off, and sat back in my chair. Amy Glesius. I knew her in college, at least before I dropped out and signed up with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. A tour with them, then police work, then going private led me, eventually, to where I am today. And before you ask, I did eventually get the sheepskin and a couple of others.

While I can’t say that we had a thing, Amy and I were friends, of a sort. We hung out with many of the same people. She was one of the few whom I didn’t immediately lose track of during my time in the Corps. But after a few years, we did. So I hadn’t heard from her in a very long time.

I closed out what I had on my computer, got out of my chair and went down to the interview room. I opened the door and walked in. Then I stopped. The woman who was standing at the sideboard, getting a cup of coffee looked like Amy, all right. But she wasn’t over thirty, maybe not over twenty-five. I had last seen Amy over three decades ago.

She turned as I came into the room. She smiled and said: “Hi, Becca. It’s been a long time.” She took a step as if to come shake my hand or give me a hug.

I took a step back and held up a hand. “Forgive my rudeness, but who are you?”

“It’s me, Becca. I’m Amy. Amy Glesius.”

I shook my head. “No. Well your name may be Amy Glesius and maybe you’re the daughter or nice or cousin of the Amy I knew, but she would be in her fifties. You ain’t her.”

She sighed. “Let’s sit down and I’ll explain.”

I waived my hand at the table. As she took a seat, I fixed myself a cup of coffee. I looked at the doughnuts, gave in, and took a chocolate cake one. What the hell, if I was going to be fed a line of shit, I might as well have something sweet.

I took a seat on the other side of the table. The big boss insists that, desk jockeys or no, all of us who have permits carry. I had a Smith 9mm on my right hip and I was glad I did. My internal alarms were going off like an Okie tornado siren.

“Let me do one thing,” Amy said, as she put her bag on the table and reached into it. I pulled my gun and held it on my lap. Amy pulled out two boxes, each the size of two packs of cigarettes. She put them on the table, then she picked up one and pushed a button and set it to the left of her and near the centerline of the table. Then she picked up the second one, pushed a button and put it to her right.

“What-“ I stared to say.

“Just wait a sec or two,” she said.

There were little LEDs on the side of each box. They glowed red, first steady, then started blinking. Then they switched to blinking yellow and, in a half a minute or so, they were blinking yellow, then blinking green. A handful of seconds after that, both boxes were showing a steady green indication.

“What are those things,” I asked.

“Scramblers. You have the room wired, but the mics and the cameras won’t pick up anything.”

I had never seen anything like that, and I’ve dealt with some very high-end gear. Hell, we build some of it for the Three Letter Agencies.

“I’m sure our tech guys would love to look at one of these,” I said.

“If they tried to open it, the resulting crater would be about twenty yards wide,” Amy said.

I dropped the subject. “What do you want, Ms. Glesius?” I took a bite out of the doughnut and washed it down with some coffee. It was good coffee. A few of the big chiefs in the company were ex-squids and one thing the Navy was famous for was good coffee.

“Is there anything I can tell you that’ll persuade you that I am who I say I am,” she asked.

I shook my head. “You could have had one hell of a briefing, for all I know. So, what do you want?”

“My company needs a good detective. They want to hire you.”

I shrugged. “I don’t do much in the way of field work these days. And I work for a company. I don’t freelance. You’ll have to ask the front office, and if it’s something that the company might be interested in, they’ll ask me if I want to do it.” I saw her frown, a little, and I added: “I’m past the point where I say ‘yes, boss’ and go where I’m told.”

“You want to at least know what the job is about?”

“No.” I was going to say that I had no reason to believe anything that she might say, but I decided not to go there.

“All right, then,” she said. Amy picked up each of the boxes and pushed the same button on each one. The LED lights went out and she stowed them back in her bag. She slid her chair back to stand up.

I began to slide my chair back and, as I did so, I slid my gun back into its holster. I stood up and went to the door. Amy followed me, I showed her out to the reception area.

“We’ll be in touch. And it was good to see you again, Becca,” she said.

“Until later,” I said.

She nodded and walked out into the lobby.

I turned and saw that the receptionist was looking at me. I rolled my eyes, shook my head slightly and went back to my office.

It takes all kinds.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Project the Next: "The Ghost"

I have it done. I uploaded a draft to Amazon, so that I could then download it onto my Kindle for a final review.

Good thing, I'm 40% through it and found two mistakes.

It came in at 18,000 words.

I don't do outlines. I just start on a story and then the arc of the story and my imagination takes it where it goes.

It should be live in a few days.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Oops"- a Very Short Story

“Drop the gun.  Now,” I said.

The man opened his hand.  The automatic fell to the floor.  He kept his hands up.

“Kick it to me.”

He did.

I looked at him.  “What are you looking for?”

“Man, I’m not saying shit.  I want a lawyer.”

I looked at him.  I opened the cylinder of my Smith & Wesson and dumped all six cartridges into my left hand.  I put one back in and closed the cylinder.  I dropped the other cartridges into my jacket pocket.

“What were you doing here,” I asked.

“Fuck you,” he sneered.

I held the revolver somewhat sideways and pulled the hammer back with my thumb.  I spun the cylinder with my left hand, the gun made a rapid clicking noise.  Then I quickly pointed it at the man and snapped the trigger.  The trigger fell with a loud metallic clank.

“Hey, what the fuck!”

“What were you doing here?

“Man, you’re nuts!”

I repeated the process, spinning the cylinder and then pointing the gun at him and pulling the trigger.

“Jesus fucking God, man!”

“What are you doing here?”

“Christ, I’m going to sue you for every fucking--”

I repeated the process again.  This time, the gun went off.  The burglar fell back against the wall and then slid down to the floor.  He looked at me, coughed once, and then the light went out of his eyes.  He fell over sideways.

I kicked his gun back over to him.  I loaded my revolver with the other cartridges, taking care that the fired cartridge was under the hammer when I closed it back up.  Then I went over to the telephone on the desk and called 9-1-1.  I gave them my name, address, told them that I had shot an intruder in my office and that they needed to send an ambulance right now.  Then I hung up.

I squatted down and looked at the dead guy again.  His eyes were still open.  I felt for a pulse, knowing that he probably had none.  He didn’t surprise me.

I stood up and looked at him.

“Oops,” I said.

Friday, January 24, 2014

More Kvetching about Kindle

I've been trying to figure out how to put an intent into the first line of paragraphs for Kindle. If I use a tab, then in some paragraphs, when Amazon reformats it, they put in two tabs. Or a tab and a space.

But if I try doing it with five spaces, then when Amazon reformats it, the process jerks out the spaces so the line is all the way to the left.

So, why not put in a double carriage-return between paragraphs, you might ask? Sort of like what you see here?

Ah, but then what happens is that most of the paragraphs will have double-carriage return, but some of them won't. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when that happens.

I think I need to drink more. But then I've downloaded a few professional-grade books and even they have formatting errors.

Definitely need to drink more.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kindle and Formatting

I'm trying to get smarter on formatting stuff for the Kindle. My test vehicle is Aluminum Rain.

But it's not much fun. I used to play with HTML a very long time ago, but it's far more complicated than it was back in the day. "Self-publishing", at least electronically, seems to be also a matter of book-binding and all of that.

No complaints, at least some folks have read them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sam Hawkins vs. Lena Smirnova

Besides the obvious, writing the two characters has different challenges.

Sam is more of a traditional hard-boiled PI. He takes a job and he does it. He dishes out lumps and takes them as necessary. He's by no means a gorilla, but he keeps what's private out of the story that he is narrating. What you see is what he wants you to see. Essentially, his tale is a long version of his eventual report to his clients.

Lena's character is more complex, in part because she is not the narrator. You never see the narrator (like Chorus). Because Lena does not control the narration, you see a lot more of her life.

I read a lot of the old school detective novels when I was a teenager: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald and Mickey Spillane. Of the lot, it's a bit of a shame that Ross MacDonald's work seems to have drifted into obscurity the fastest, though some of them have been reissued in the last few years.

For me, Lena's character is harder to write because of the level of detail and complexity of her life. She has a large multi-generational extended family (I maintain a growing genealogical chart), she does other things besides detective work, and, in the one that I am now working on, she has a love life (such as it is). She is involved in her community. Because Lena lives in a fictional American state, I have had to create maps as I go and imagine a bit of history.

Though, in true hard-boiled tradition, both Lena and Sam are somewhat alike. They are both comfortable in their own skins and in being on their own.

The two characters will meet eventually.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Project the Next^2

I am also working on another Sam Hawkins story. This one does not have a working title.
_____________________________________________

Chapter 1

I was hired to do a background check on a possible candidate for a political-appointee job.  They’re not terribly unusual in this area. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t bother to ask why.  If the person hiring me has a good reason for hiring me to investigate someone, asking why will often result in my learning a lot more than I care to know.  I’m not a shrink, I don’t get paid for listening to other people’s problems.  If someone has a not-too-good reason for wanting to hire me, they’ll just lie about it.

Sometimes I know they’re lying, sometimes I don’t.  I check to see if there is a restraining order out with the person I’m supposed to check’s name on it.  I’ll check to see if the person is a witness in the kind of cases where witnesses couldn’t afford to buy life insurance.  But mostly, I’ll check to make sure that the checks that I’m given don’t bounce.

My name is Sam Hawkins.  I’m a private detective.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Project the Next

While Aluminum Rain is offline for a few hours (Amazon's processing a corrected copy), this is the first chapter in the next work.
____________________________________________
Chapter 1

Lena Smirnova didn’t wake up in a cold sweat during the night. That was a good thing.  The counselor that she saw had mentioned something about her suffering from “post traumatic stress”.  She had thought that the word “disorder” was part of it, but he had explained that for a lot of things that people had experienced, post traumatic stress was a normal reaction. They were more worried about the people who didn’t have a reaction to it than those that did. Or so they told her.