Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kindle Fire May Have Infected My Computer


It's been one hell of a Sunday.

I've had "malware" issues as of late and this morning, I believe I have found the culprit.

A little background on my setup: I am talking about Kindle Fire HD and Windows 7 with McAfee virus protection, Windows Defender enabled, and a savvy user who NEVER clicks pop-up links or accepts unsolicited or suspect "updates".

This morning I decided to update my author bios and "also by" lists on some of my more popular and recent books (Fatal Reaction and Better Left Buried) in preparation for The Missing Year launch on November 17th. All was well and I completed the file updates pretty quickly, uploaded to Amazon, and plugged in my Kindle to verify that the file looked stellar for customers. Amazon allows you to download a mobi of your book file for preview and I always check to make sure that all of the features work (color changes, links, etc) for prospective readers.

That's when BAD things happened.

My computer went to DEFCON levels of pissed off, pop-ups going off all over the place: "WARNING!", "DOWNLOAD THIS!", "YOUR COMPUTER IS AT RISK!".

As if somehow I hadn't noticed.

No, I won't "download this" and thank you for the warning. McAfee finds little, but on reboot, says there's a Trojan. Not the protective kind as you may have guessed.

I want this OFF of my computer!

Trojan quarantined and dumped. Malware attack continues. Computer set to block ability to download ALL malware removal software. Great. Yes, well, hackers, I have alternatives. Hubs (aka marital tech support) downloaded Malwarebytes (FREE adware removal tool compatible with McAfee) to a thumb drive and after some minor nightmare of closing non-stop opening windows manages to get this installed.

Malwarebytes finds over 1,000 instances of cyber-voodoo.

I'm here like, "All I did was plug in my Kindle."

That's when the light bulb went off. Can Kindle get viruses? Yes. There seems to be conflicting information on this but the clincher for me is, there's FREE antivirus specifically for your Kindle. I doubt Norton's made it for no reason. Now, you're wondering what makes me almost CERTAIN Kindle was the culprit, here's my proof: after said light bulb I went to go to the app store to download antivirus on the one device I didn't even think about needing it. No dice. No app store for me. Whatever "bug" got into my Kindle BLOCKED the app store. I don't use it a lot so I hadn't even noticed, nor did whatever malware have any noticeable impact on my Fire ... until I plugged it into my PC to transfer a file via USB. I wiped my Kindle to factory. Sucks, but that's the only fix. Viola! I have access to the app store again. Sneaky, sneaky hackers. First stop: FREE antivirus. My Kindle is now protected and set to scan daily. Word to the wise: don't wait for this to be you. Install the free antivirus on your Kindle and check it twice lest you be thrown in the nightmare that was my morning. For a minute there, I thought my PC was going to have to be formatted. That is a fate worse than death for an author. Crisis quasi-averted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Brittany Maynard's Right to Die




The news circuits are buzzing with talk of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard's right to die. Having received a terminal diagnosis shortly after her wedding, Brittany made the decision to move from California to Oregon for the purpose of dying.

Oregon is one of three states to offer "death with dignity" for patients deemed to be within six months of their natural death due to illness. Patients are required to seek life-ending measures on two occasions at least fourteen days apart. If deemed appropriate, they will be given a prescription for a pill to painlessly end their life. This is something only the patient can do. This isn't physician-assisted suicide, another issue altogether. Death with dignity allows for the terminally ill to stem their suffering and hasten an inevitable process.

I applaud Brittany's brave decision, wishing I lived in a world where everyone had this choice. I disagree with anyone forcing someone to suffer. 

Many of my blog followers know that I have dealt with this issue in the past, having lost my grandfather to Mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer. 

As an author, I write what I know. 



Coping with his illness gave way to the thought of a story of someone faced with losing everything and the extreme lengths they and their loved ones must go to in order to ensure a compassionate end to their lives. People see things differently if they can put a face and a story to the cause. Brittany Maynard has done more to that end than I could ever hope to do, but I am lending my voice. 

The Missing Year , a contemporary romance novel and slow-burn medical mystery, is slated for November 17th release, but is available from Amazon as a pre-order for only $3.99.




"Thirty-four-year-old Blake Wheeler was everything Lila had ever wanted. A rising-star surgeon with his whole life ahead of him, Blake gave Lila ten perfect years of marriage before plunging her into the hardest year of their lives. 

When a late night shooting leaves Blake in a coma, Lila is faced with a difficult decision: continue life support or let him go. 

One year later, Lila remains unwilling to speak, in a private mental health facility where she refuses to move on. 

Dr. Ross Reeves knows firsthand about loss, having spent the better part of five years burying himself in his work. Tasked with the challenge of breaking Lila's silence, Ross investigates Lila's past and her husband's death, finding more to Blake's murder than meets the eye. A series of mysterious coincidences has Ross wondering if Lila is acting out of grief ... or guilt."




Compassion and Choices offers a section on "What You Can Do" to support end-of-life choice and has several touching stories from those who have been affected.

Death With Dignity offers a political action view, focusing on how the right to choose should be a basic human right.

From the Author:

#RIGHTOTDIE is a cause I feel strongly about. "The Missing Year" is my way of supporting the cause and raising awareness of the right to choose. A couple of short years ago my terminally ill grandfather was fighting mesothelioma, wanting very much to die rather than continue to suffer at the end of his life, and he had said to me, "When will this stop?", talking about his suffering. The only answer I could offer was, "When it's done", meaning the toll of the incurable cancer that slowly drained him over the course of months. My state does not support #DeathWithDignity. I watched someone I love suffer, losing all control of his body while his mind was keenly aware. I hope someday to live in a state where that doesn't have to happen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Who Else Attended the Freakshow?


Oh, American Horror Story. I have such a love-hate relationship with you. Season One was arguably great, until shortly after mid-season. The ending had me wanting to track down the writer and junk punch them. I know a lot of people who loved the Asylum, but I wasn't one of them. I guess I'm not the 'naughty nun' type. Coven brought me back because I'm a sucker for all things witchcraft. Speaking of which, my UK pal Katie John has just released Witchcraft, the first book of The Meadowsweet Chronicles, if you're similarly inclined. It's on my Kindle and I can't wait to get into it..



Ever since its earliest days, the small English village of Heargton has been steeped in the occult. Tales of witchcraft and paranormal activity have been part of the local folklore for generations. Some people blame the lay lines that intersect at the very centre of the village, others blame a terrible curse. 

700 years on, Heargton Village still holds dark secrets, and when one of the village girls falls victim to a terrible ritual killing, the old superstitions resurface. 

At the heart of these whispers are the Meadowsweet sisters. All beautiful, all charming, all eccentric, but it is the middle daughter, seventeen-year-old Fox, who captures the imagination of American newcomer Jeremiah Chase; a deviant New York playboy sent to live with his Aunt in the Chase ancestral home of Coldstone Hall. A place that has its own grisly history. 

But, as Jeremiah discovers the history of the Meadowsweet Sisters, the Chase family history is also unearthed, leading Jeremiah to understand that good and evil are not always on opposing sides. 

A tale of witchcraft, demons and ghosts, blending traditional English folklore with the American Gothic.


Back to the topic at hand, Freakshow.

I got my ticket and I watched the opening twice, mostly because my husband goes to bed early and I wanted him to catch up so I watched it live AND on DVR. 

Can I say, this season had me at Twisty the Clown?



Captain Spaulding is arguably one of my favorite horror movie villains--thank you, Rob Zombie--so "Twisty" hit a lot of the same buttons for me. While he's a non-speaking clown, he has the "ain't clowns funny" repertoire that makes Spaulding so maniacally fun!


While I'm not sure if I'm going to ultimately be thoroughly disappointed with Freakshow (ala Murder House), the setup is intriguing.

Freakshow has the same sex-horror theme that the previous seasons have had, pushing boundaries with "Lobster Boy" Jimmy and his side gig as a flipper-toting sex toy for bored housewives. There's tension there. Carnie gangbangs, abductions, drugs, and what say, kidnapping? That candy striper got more than she bargained for.

I prepared to hate the two-headed girl, but have come to like the fact that she never seems to be in agreement with herself. The character is done well and I'm looking forward to seeing the inner turmoil come to a head. 

As per usual, I'm not a fan of 'accents' (sorry, Jessica Lange) or 'musicals', but I've come to overlook the fact that those things are staples in the series, at least the singing. Coven had me at Stevie Nicks. I'm a Fleetwood Mac junkie. Yes, readers, I'm showing my age, sort of. I'm thirty-seven, but was raised on this music, so I love it. Jessica Lange's singing didn't wow me the way it seems to have most people.

Mostly, though, the 1950's Freakshow setting is inherently creepy and mysterious. I like where this is headed so far, enough that I can't wait for next week's episode.

Give me more, Freaks!

What did you think?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Annabelle: A Horror Film Review


A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists. -IMDB

IMDB rating: 6.2
My rating: 6

John and Mia are an expectant couple living in a changing world where unlocked doors are no longer ideal. News on the television of the Tate-LaBianca murders set the cult terror feel, giving the viewer the first hint of what's to come.

Annabelle, a gift from John to Mia, was simply a doll that completed Mia's collection. Annabelle wasn't built bad. She was made that way. When a murder at the neighbors' house enters Jon and Mia's home, the spirit of Annabelle Higgins, one of the killers, takes root. 

From there, bad things happen.

I've heard the movie described in other reviews as a "horror grab bag", and I don't disagree. Anabelle focuses on satanic cult mythology, relying on old religious tropes in what is ultimately a demonic grab for an innocent soul.

The doll is creepy. Period. Even new she'd have scared the hell out of me right out of the box. When she starts moving around and reappearing after she'd been trashed, I'd have lost it. That being said, as an avid horror movie fan, this one felt ... relatively unscary. Heavily sanitized and more of a soundtrack scare than anything authentically creepy, the film relies on jumps and scratchy violin noise to evoke fear. 

For at least half of this film, I was overwhelmingly bored.

I expected this going in. Why did I go? I'm a horror junkie, it's October, and I had to get it out of my system. 

Now that I have, I can say As Above So Below was a better movie. Save your theater bucks and hit this one up on DVD. Annabelle comes across as the cash grab it probably truly was.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bitter: A Short Story


Bitter


Snow blanketed the windshield of the '83 Cadillac, packing the wipers and cutting visibility by half.
The clock said five AM, though with the winter sun rising, Amy knew it had to be later. She shifted in the passenger’s seat, listening to Leonard Skynard on the radio and trying not to think too hard about the last several skids.
The desolate roads weren’t fit travel, the plows barely able to make a dent in the storm.
Passersby were few and far between.
If they wrecked, she was as good as dead.
Jackson smeared his hand across his grimy sweatshirt and pushed in the lighter. A filterless cigarette dangled from his lip, resting against his unkempt beard.
Those hands will never be clean, Amy thought, trying to bring her surroundings into focus.
Brown melted into white melted into gray.
Trees. 
Alone in a vast, rural nothingness.
Amy pulled her seat belt tight across her chest.
“You’re going to love the new place,” Jackson said.
The last three had been terrible, her days spent in captivity countless, yet innumerable. Time didn't exist in Amy's world, not since her abduction. She didn’t acknowledge Jackson, listening instead to the half-full gas can sloshing behind her seat, the fumes of which were making her sick.
“Did you hear me?” Jackson said, his whisky-soaked breath hot in her face.
"Watch the road," Amy said, shying away from the stench.
Their last home had only a bathtub, one Jackson had rarely used. He smiled, his cracked front tooth hanging at an odd angle, ready to fall out.
"I'm fine." He pulled so far back into his lane that he crossed the yellow line, headed straight for a full size diesel truck.
Look out!       
Amy was too terrified to form the words. She reached across Jackson and jerked the wheel, over-correcting.
The tires skidded, catching in the snow dam lining the country road's shoulder.
Jackson fought to bring the car back around, but it was too late. Ice topped with snow topped with ice made it impossible to stop the slide.
Amy braced for impact.
Jackson’s hand hit her chest hard, holding her tight to the seat as the car went end over end down the steep embankment.
Amy's stomach lurched, releasing a pungent, bilious stream.
“Jackson!” Bitter vomit punctuated her scream.
The car rolled to a stop, with her pinned and Jackson's body limp in the driver’s seat.
With no cell phone and no way to signal for help, Amy’s only hope at escaping with her life appeared dead. Her body ached, her muscles tensed, and her bones were wrecked from the impact.
“Jackson, please. Wake up. I need help.”
The shattered window let in a stream of sobering air that froze her gasoline-soaked sleeve. She drew a deep breath and forced herself to move. Her right leg was numb, pinned beneath the pile of junk that had been thrown forward by the crash. Dizzy and nauseated, it took all of her strength to pull her foot free. When she did, she was sure her leg was broken. There was a palpable separation midway between her knee and ankle. She braced herself, biting on her shirt as she forced the pieces back into position, wrapped her leg, and dragged herself in a military crawl away from the car.

* * * * *

“Do you want her bones or her body?”
Dr. Alaine White carefully folded the brittle note and slid it into her lab coat pocket.
“Everything okay?” Jean, a middle-aged ICU nurse with gray-brown hair and a reassuring smile, appeared in the doorway of the empty inpatient room.
“I’m fine, thank you.” Alaine wiped her swollen eyes with the back of her hand. “I just need a few minutes alone.”
Jean nodded and closed the door. Having known each other almost fifteen years, Jean was one of the few people Alaine didn’t need to explain herself to.
Fourteen, Alaine thought.
Her daughter, Amy, would be fourteen in May. She had been so small, so easy to lose in the crowd.
Alaine lifted the blinds and stared through bleary eyes at the increasingly heavy snowfall. Time stopped as she relived that afternoon in fine detail. Seconds turned to minutes, drawing her into the past until duty called.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Jean said, “but—”
The overhead speaker sprang to life, the female voice strong and loud. “Trauma team to the emergency room. Repeat, trauma team to the emergency room.”
It was time to save a life.
“I was coming to tell you.”
Alaine dried her tears and hurried into the hall. Her white lab coat flapped behind her and the stethoscope around her neck bounced against her chest as she ran toward triage.
Jean struggled to keep up.
“What’s the call?” Alaine said, the beginnings of an adrenaline high setting in. The sad memory of her lost daughter faded into the background, leaving her on life-saving autopilot—a coping mechanism that had, at one point, been her only reason to live.
“MVA, male, severe burns.”
MVA, motor vehicle accident.
Alaine expected to see her share given the storm. “Age?” she said.
“Paramedics couldn’t say.”
The brisk winter air licked Alaine’s face raw as she stood in the glow of the white ambulance back-up lights, waiting for her patient.
The unmistakable, rancid smell of melting flesh clung to everything as the rear doors opened. The young paramedic gagged as he slid the gurney and its lifeless passenger into the cold.
“I have a John Doe,” he said. “His pants pockets are intact, considering, but there’s no wallet and no ID.” Alaine lifted the blanket to see the man’s clothing melded with the charred skin beneath it.
He wasn’t physically on fire, but his skin was still burning, she knew that.
Burns eat until they’re finished.
Until they’re full.
The man’s face and hair were reduced to a raw, black and blood mash and his fingers were eaten past their tips.
“Bay 2,” she said, openly mouthing a stick of mint gum to offset the smell.
Two uniformed officers, Matt and Roger Princeton, followed closely behind her.
“Alaine,” Roger, the father, called out to her. “We need to talk.”
“Not now, Roger. I’m a little busy.”
Small town emergency rooms didn’t run like those in the city.
Everyone knew one another.
John Doe’s heart monitor squealed. He was in v-fib.
Cardiac arrest.
“No you don’t,” Alaine said. “No one dies on me. Get them out of here.” She called over her shoulder, asking to have the father and son team removed. Jean coaxed the officers aside. “Clear!” Alaine set the pads and charged the defibrillator. Nothing. She silenced the alarm. “Clear!” Come on, Come on. A thin electronic line announced the victim’s retrieval. “Not on my watch,” she said, looking smugly upward. “Get me a room in ICU.”

* * * * *

The soothing whir of the life support machines contrasted the late night quiet. Alaine checked John’s IV bags and changed out the empty antibiotic. He was marginally stable and heavily sedated, but alive … and she needed him to live.
She needed them all to live.
“My name’s Alaine,” she whispered into John Doe’s ear, having gotten used to the burnt flesh smell. “I’m going to do everything I can to get you walking out of here, but you need to stay strong.”
“How is he?” Blond-haired, blue-eyed Matt entered the room, his nose and mouth covered. At twenty-three-years-old and an only child he was too young and too over-protected for his line of work.
Alaine had known the Princeton family for years and knew well that these were the exact kind of situations Matt’s mother wanted him protected from.
Roger walked in behind Matt, wearing the same stern look on his wrinkled face as he had the day of Amy, her daughter’s, disappearance. A blue uniform cap hung from his fingertips, the line of which had been imprinted on his silver hair.
“He’s here,” Alaine said, “That’s more than I expected. Any luck with the ID?”
Roger shot Matt a look of silent warning.
“Nothing yet,” Matt said.
“What about the car? Can’t you run the plates?”
Matt shook his head. “Dead end. The car was reported stolen six months ago.”
“We’re here to collect prints and clothing,” Roger said.
Alaine looked at the thick bandages covering John Doe’s hands and shook her head. Allowing them to touch him risked him contracting a life-threatening infection. “No contact. I’m sorry.”
“We’re going to have to compromise on this one, Lanie. It’s important.”
Lanie.
She hated when Roger called her that.
“Wash your hands,” she said, handing him a pair of rubber gloves. “His clothes are over there in that bag, but his prints are gone. Fingers will be too when he’s stable enough for surgery.”
Jean knocked on the door, bundled in full winter gear. “Bob’s on his way with the truck, Alaine. Can we give you a lift?”
“No, thank you,” she said. “I’m going to stay here tonight in case anything goes wrong.”
“Are you sure?”
“Maybe you should go with her,” Roger said. “Get some rest.”
“I don’t need rest, Roger. I’m sure,” Alaine said to Jean. “Thank you for the offer. Drive safely.”

* * * * *

Roger used the brush end of a scraper to clear the snow from the cruiser.
Alaine wouldn’t budge and he didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth about the life she was attempting to save.
“You almost blew it in there,” he said to Matt who was brushing off the windows. “Alaine’s not stupid. She can tell when something’s wrong.”
“What about you telling her she should get some rest? You don’t think she knew you were trying to get rid of her?”
Roger climbed into the driver’s seat and fastened his seatbelt, depositing the snow-covered tool on the passenger’s side floor and rolling down the window. “You coming?”
Matt stared up at the ICU, the passenger seat covered with snow. “I don’t feel right not telling her. She has a right to know.”
We don’t even know. We have two unidentified bodies.”
“One of which is a corpse.” Matt got into the passenger’s seat, his body heat melting the snow beneath him. “What if the body in the morgue is Amy? What if that man Alaine is taking care of is Jackson Hobbs.”
“Don’t you go starting trouble, Matt. I’m warning you.”

* * * * *

The morning sun shone over a fresh foot of snow, the light bright through the inpatient room windows.
Alaine was awakened by the fierce alarm of another in a line of cardiac arrests.
Not again.
“Code Blue room 415. Repeat, Code Blue room 415.” The overhead page called the crash team, announcing “Code Blue”, the term for a patient in cardiac arrest.
Alaine sprang from the bedside chair and retrieved the crash cart.
“Clear,” she said, out of habit, manning the defibrillator. She applied one pad to John’s chest and the other to his ribcage, administering the shock.
John twitched, his bandaged hands rising and falling with the whole body spasm.
Again.
The second charge brought back the critical line on the monitor.
John was back by the time the crash team arrived.
“Dr. White, I’m sorry it took so long,” said Jamie, the team’s thirty-something leader. Brown haired and brown eyed, Jamie stood six-two and rail thin. “We had another code on the second floor.”
“It’s all right,” Alaine said. “He came back easy this time.”
“This time?”
“John and I have been at this all night.”
“No offense Dr. White, but it looks like it.”
Alaine caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. Her bob-length hair stood on end where it had been pressed against the back of the chair. Her mascara bled into the fine lines around her eyes, magnifying the bags surrounding them.
“I’ll stay with him if you want to take a break,” Jamie said. “Go grab some coffee and a shower. John’s not going anywhere.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “What if … ?”
“His vitals are stable.”
Alaine checked the monitor and seeing Jamie was right, reluctantly agreed. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Take as long as you need.” Jamie settled into her chair.
Alaine nearly tripped over Matt in the hallway.
“I was looking for you. We need to talk,” he said.
“Where’s your father? Is he all right?”
“He’s fine. Please, before he shows up. He doesn’t know I’m here.”
Alaine unlocked the call room door down the hall and closed the door behind them.
“What’s the matter?” she said.
“You might want to sit down.”
“For what?”
“Alaine, please.”
She took a seat on the wooden bench, facing him. The suspense was killing her.
“There’s no easy way to say this. I promised I wouldn’t … I …”
“What is it, Matt?”
“It’s about John Doe, your burn victim. Last night when we came to ID him you asked me if I ran his plates.” Matt drew in a deep breath and wrung his hands. He was stalling. “There’s a right and a wrong way to handle this, agreed?”
“Handle what?” Alaine snapped, tired and impatient.
“The car was registered to Roberta Hobbs.”
“Jackson Hobbs’ wife?”
Police had found Roberta’s body with the letter the day after Amy went missing.
Do you want her bones or her body?
“You can’t mean that … it’s him?” Alaine’s voice trailed off to tears.
“I don’t know,” Matt said.    
“You’re telling me that man I’ve been saving all night is the same piece of shit who took my daughter?” She was overcome with equal parts sadness and rage. “Did you see her? Did you find Amy?”
Matt’s expression morphed into some likeness of the one she remembered from when he told her they had closed the missing persons case. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize!” She pounded his sturdy chest with her fists. “Not for this. Please tell me Amy’s alive.”
Matt subdued her attack and pulled her close. “I’m so sorry.”
Alaine drew herself into the fetal position and sobbed. “I need to see my daughter, Matt. I need Jackson Hobbs punished!”
“We’re going to make this right,” Matt said. “I promise.”

* * * * *

The siren blared as Roger sped down the interstate, the ambulance closing the gap behind him.
“Come on, Matt. Pick up the phone.”
Voice mail.
He had already left several messages.
Roger slammed the phone shut and looked for mile marker 262.
She has to be here.
He spotted the bend in the guardrail and waved Josh, the paramedic, over to the shoulder. Fresh snow blanketed the crash site.
“What makes you think she’s down there?” Josh gathered the requisite supplies and a gurney.
“Blood on John Doe’s shirt matched the body we pulled from the trunk. The body’s not Amy’s, and the cause of death wasn’t fire. It was stabbing. Coroner called me himself.” Roger sank knee deep in the embankment. “Blood on the dash is Amy’s and it couldn’t have gotten there unless she was in the front seat.”
The sun reflected off the untouched snow.
Serene.
Ironic.
Josh strapped the supplies to the gurney and hoisted it like a sled over the rail, following Roger’s lead. “There aren’t any tracks.”
“Snowed like hell last night and with everyone down here, maybe we didn’t see them.” His foot stuck beneath the icy crust and he near tugged off his boot.
“How could she have survived the cold?”
Roger scanned the landscape. “She would have needed shelter.”

* * * * *

Alaine took a vial of potassium chloride from her lab coat pocket and rolled it between her hands. She had gone from devastated to vengeful in a matter of minutes, planning John’s death as soon as the shock wore off. “His heart’s been touch and go all night, Matt. No one would think anything of it.”
One untraceable dose and he’ll get what he deserves.
“Don’t even say things like that,” Matt said, wiping his sweating palms on his pants. “Maybe my father was right.”
“Roger knows me well enough,” she said. “You probably should have listened.”
“I thought you should know who the man might be.”
“And now that I know, what did you expect me to do? You tell me you found Amy and that she’s...” Dead. The word caught in her throat. “I can’t let him get away with that.”
“I said no such thing. The body we found might not even be Amy’s. You need to give us time. Let us get a positive ID. Trust us to handle this.”
“How long?”
“Until what?”
“Until you know for sure?”
“We might know something already. Let me call and see if my father’s heard anything from the lab. He put a rush on everything.” Matt reached for the cell phone holster usually on his belt. “Shit. I left my phone in the car. I have to go get it. Tell me you won’t do anything stupid, Alaine.” She didn’t answer. He lifted her chin with his finger. “Promise me,” he said. “Or you’ll ruin both of us.”
“I promise,” she said, though she wasn’t sure she meant it.
“Wait here for me. I’ll see if there’s any news.”

* * * * *

Roger trudged through the foot of snow toward a hill a few hundred feet from the road. The crash site had been cleared, but the charred trees and crime scene tape told of the accident less than twenty-four hours old.
Fire and police had worked through the night, but had come up empty. A fresh coat of powder erased almost all signs of them having been there.
“Anything?” Josh called from the far end of the tree line.
Roger shook his head. “Amy,” he shouted. “Amy White!”
“Look, Roger! Over there.” Josh raced through the pines and fell to his knees, doggie paddling with his gloved hands.
Roger ran as fast as he could toward something red in the snow.
The tip of a bright red scarf hung from a dead tree branch that had broken under the weight of the storm. In the cold dark, with no reason to believe anyone was out there, it could have been easily missed.
Smart girl.
“She’s here.” The scarf marked the opening of a narrow cave, concealed behind pine boughs packed with snow. “Oh my God, Roger. I can’t believe it.”
Roger helped Josh clear a path to the lifeless body below.
Amy.
She looked enough like her mother for Roger to recognize her.
Amy lay in a partial fetal position, one knee curled toward her chest under a down jacket. Her other leg bent at an improbable angle. Blood dotted the snowy ground, but not enough to be fatal. Amy’s face was half-covered by the fur-lined hood. Her lips had turned blue.
Josh slipped his hands under the coat and pressed his two fingers to her neck. “She has a pulse. It’s weak, but she has a pulse.” He unpacked the bag on his back, unloading heating blankets and hot water bottles.
“We have to pull her out,” Roger said.
“We have to warm her and ease her out,” Josh argued. “If we move her too quickly, she’ll develop an arrhythmia. She’ll die.” He put the hot water bottles between her clothes and her skin. “Amy, can you hear me?” She was non-responsive. “Amy, blink if you can hear me.” Her teeth chattered, a good sign all things considered.
“We’re wasting time. We need to get her to the hospital.” A decade of doubt, of Roger wondering what he could have done differently to save the girl culminated in a single perfect moment. He thought of Alaine, of how she reacted when Amy’s case had been closed, and couldn’t believe his luck.
Only when they gave up did they find her.
Josh positioned a Reeves flexible stretcher as close to Amy as he could get. “Be careful, her leg looks broken. On the count of three.”
Roger looked for a hold that didn’t come near her injury, settling on supporting both legs with his arms underneath.
“One … two … three.”
Roger lifted the frail girl, limp in his arms.
“Easy, Rog. Easy.”
“I’m being as easy as I can be.”
Josh tucked the blanket around Amy and checked her pulse. “There were too many calls this morning for the station to send me with a partner, Roger. I need to be in the back of the ambulance with her. You’re going to have to drive.”

* * * * *

Alaine dismissed Jamie, who had been watching John Doe in her absence, and closed herself into his room. She tried waiting for Matt, but something had willed her to move, to act on the pain tearing her apart inside. She had waited over ten long years for the opportunity to right the biggest wrong in her life.
She wasn’t about to let him take that away from her.
John Doe lay silent, save for the gasping sound of the respirator filling his smoke-damaged lungs.
“Jackson,” she whispered. “I know who you are and I hate you for what you did to me.” Her heart pounded, aching with each blip of the vitals monitor. She reached over and turned off the alarms on the machine, glancing briefly out the window at the emergency bay below.
Matt’s car was visible in the parking lot, the motion through the windshield telling her he was inside.
She knew she didn’t have a lot of time.
She took the potassium chloride from her pocket and a syringe from the supply cart drawer, drawing up more than enough to irritate John Doe’s already fragile heart.
“This is for Amy,” she whispered, injected his IV and waiting.
John’s heart rhythm changed and then silently flat lined.
Tears rolled down Alaine’s cheek, the terror of being found out as a murderer mixing with the sheer relief of administered justice. She looked down at the man’s lifeless body, thinking about how she’d tried to save him, and only regretting that his final hours hadn’t been filled with more pain.
The overhead speaker crackled to life, the familiar call alerting her to something else wrong. “Trauma team to the emergency room. Repeat, trauma team to the emergency room.”
A call.
It was the perfect distraction.
She hurried out of Jackson’s room, leaving the now deceased body to remain undiscovered, and worked out a story as to why the alarms might have been off. Given John Doe’s lack of identity and his fragile condition, it would be easy enough for anyone to believe he had died of natural causes.
Adrenaline kicked in as she forced her way to the front of a pack of staff crowing the ER.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “Does anyone know what the call is?”
The nurse nearest to her just shook her head.
The ambulance backed in to unload.
“Alaine! Alaine, wait!” Matt rushed toward her, red eyed.
“Matt, what’s going on?”
A smile spread across his face. “You’re not going to believe this.”
Roger emerged, snow-covered, from the driver’s side and limped toward them. “Did you tell her?”
“Tell me what?” Alaine said. “What’s going on?”
Josh opened the rear door of the ambulance and in the swirling light she saw the familiar face of her motionless daughter.
“Amy’s alive,” Roger said. “The body we found wasn’t hers.”
Alaine dropped to her knees and stared in disbelief.
Matt bent down beside her. “I just got the call,” he said. “The body we found belonged to Jackson’s girlfriend. Amy must have gotten away before the fire broke out.”
“But John Doe is definitely Jackson Hobbs?” She needed reassurance to quell her guilt.
“That doesn’t matter now,” Roger said.
“Tell me it was him,” Alaine cried. “I need to know it was him.”
“Alaine, what did you do?” Matt said.
Alaine closed her eyes, weeping into her hands. She didn’t care who was watching. “I—”
“Alaine? What did you do?”
The overhead speaker crackled to life. “Code Blue room 415. Repeat, Code Blue room 415.” 
It was Jackson’s room.
Someone had found his body.

Copyright ©2011 by Belinda Frisch
All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this FREE short story, please drop by and support the Thunderclap campaign for my upcoming novel, The Missing Year. It's free and quick, I promise.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lend Me Your Social Media Reach

Being an independent author for the past three years, I've learned that one of the most important things to the community is shared social media. Let's face it, we follow and support people who are like us, who we're interested in, and who have friends and family that might, too, be similar.

Talking about others' books as well as our own gets all of our work out to a bigger, targeted audience. I can't tell you how many times I've picked up a book I've read about on Facebook or Twitter and would probably never know existed otherwise. I just preordered a copy of Witchcraft by author Katie John based on a Thunderclap post and I can't wait for it to come.



What's Thunderclap? A free social media tool that takes literally seconds to support whichever cause you choose. I supported Katie and thought I'd see if I could hit the mark. So, if you have a couple of seconds, some friends and family who read mysteries, medical thrillers, or horror, lend me your social media reach, would you? The Missing Year is on its way. Help me get the word out.

I'd do it for you.

Zombies Take Over ACX

For those of you who don't know, Cure: Strandville Zombie Novel #1 is FREE for all e-readers, including KOBO and iTunes not listed below (see sidebar for all links). While firmly a horror novel, Cure bends the zombie genre to include a medical thriller twist. 

I had a ton of fun writing this series and often consider writing a third book.

I see this as a possibility on the horizon. 

In the meantime, Cure and Afterbirth are coming to ACX. The talented Julia Farmer (voice of The Walking Dead's "Sarita") in conjunction with production by Cerny/American Creative are working to release Cure soon. Cure and Afterbirth are expected to both be available by Christmastime. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a horde of shambling undead.




CURE:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/12CyWuI
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/14z6NEZ
NOOK: http://bit.ly/17gsxrm
Paperback: http://bit.ly/15HU3ty
Smashwords: http://ow.ly/nKhyd

Runner-up in the General Fiction Category of the 2012 HALLOWEEN BOOK FESTIVAL 
**Optioned for film**

Medicine meets horror in this thrilling escape tale about the evil men do in the name of progress.

Welcome to the Nixon Healing and Research Center, playground for the maniacal Dr. Howard Nixon whose medical research has him dabbling in the undead and has the women of Strandville disappearing.

Desperate to find a cure for the lethal virus which turns its victims into zombies, Nixon kidnaps Miranda Penton, a security recruit with a past that won't let her go. He doesn't count on anyone coming looking for her, least of all her ex-husband, Scott.

A warning call brings Scott to Strandville where he bands together with a team of locals determined to bring their own loved ones home. Together, they infiltrate Nixon's staff, hatching a plan that releases not only the surviving women, but the virus on those left in the hospital.

Nixon locks down the center to contain the spread, turning patients, visitors, and staff into a dangerous horde that is almost impossible to escape. Miranda and the others fight for their lives. The town of Strandville is ground zero for the zombie apocalypse and Miranda must get free because the fate of humanity lies with her unborn child.

Get your FREE e-copy or download Cure as an audiobook SOON! Stay tuned for more information.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Quiet Ones: A Horror Movie Review

It's nearly Halloween horror movie season (as if I need an excuse) so I'll kick off almost October with a review of a movie I watched this weekend.


"A university professor and a team of students conduct an experiment on a young woman, uncovering terrifyingly dark, unexpected forces in the process." -IMDB

IMDB rating: 5.1
My rating: 5

The Quiet Ones might be one of the bigger disappointments in horror this year solely because I've come to love Olivia Cooke in her Bates Motel role and this film didn't do her justice.

Set in 1974 England, Professor Coupland enlists the help of three young adults--Harry, Chrissy, and Brian--to explore the paranormal events plaguing their "mentally ill" subject, Jane Harper. 

Jane is a young woman who exhibits strange, sometimes self-mutilating behavior as she channels a spirit called "Evie". Coupland believes he can separate the spirit from the girl, therefore curing her of her madness. With no recollection of her past, other than that she has been bounced around the foster care system, Jane feels worthless and alone. She is held willingly captive in a room funded by the college Coupland works at, but as happened in Ghostbusters, Coupland's funding gets cut, forcing him to continue on his own.

The house Jane is moved to has that horror movie feel, the sense of isolation that works well under other circumstances. There's a brief mention that if the house they moved from was haunted, "Evie" shouldn't have moved with them. That one bit of information doesn't make it worth taking up valuable screen time to move Jane.

The Quiet Ones is told in a disjointed way where the discoveries are too convenient and the scares few and far between. There is a fundamental lack of screenwriting skill that has all of the characters hinting at relationships that could have been done much better. As it is, there's no real connection felt to anyone in the film. The "twist" ending could be seen coming a mile away, though it doesn't make sense if you think too hard on Jane's true identity.

This film feels like a recycled mess of tropesand if I didn't like Olivia Cooke--who, given the fact that the movie was crap, did a great job acting the part of Jane Harper--The Quiet Ones would have gotten three stars at best.

There was potential in the concept, but it was wasted on this film. With movies, every on-screen second must count for something. If you dissect The Quiet Ones, that didn't happen half the time. I'm not recommending this one, folks. Not even out of the Red Box. You'll want a refund.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ACX News and "The Missing Year" Update


Great news! Fatal Reaction  is now available in audiobook format. Narrated by the talented Julia Farmer, voice of The Walking Dead's "Sarita", the story has really come to life.


There are a couple of ways to get it, one being to buy it as a download and the other is to get it as your FREE book when signing up for an ACX trial membership (which may be cancelled at any time).

I promise, it's worth it. Julia and the Cerny/American Creative folks did an amazing job!

In other news, the opening chapter of Fatal Intention, the follow-up to Fatal Reaction is now out of my head. I had wanted to finish The Missing Year edits, but I missed Ana, Mike, Jared, and crew, and I was feeling a little destructive after a rough week. I figured what better way to cope than to light Dorian Carmichael's former office on fire? The question is, whose body did Anthony Dowling drag out of the flames? One chapter, one body. And so it begins.

The Missing Year is 1/3 edited. As the most uncooperative story I've ever written, it's taken me longer than expected to pound these words into shape. Someone once said that hard writing made for easy reading. If that's true, this story should be the easiest read ever. It is also my expectation to have it available to you by November, at the latest. My indirect romance has taken a turn for the mysterious! I'm starting to think I'm a mystery writer after all.

I will continue to work on Fatal Intention  in the meantime. I am planning a tentative April 2015 release for that one.

After that, who knows? I've been kicking around the Strandville dilemma, having found many new readers with the series. Folks are calling for MORE ZOMBIES! Maybe I'll write them. 

Too soon to know for sure.

In other Strandville news, Julia Farmer has signed on to narrate Cure. I am beyond pleased with what she and Cerny have done with my writing and am contracting with them almost exclusively to produce my work. Both Cure  and Afterbirth will be available by Christmas.

Listen to the Fatal Reaction sample if you're interested. You'll hear how multifaceted Julia is and I'm betting you'll be as drawn in as I was.

Until next time, I'm off to edit.

B.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life Experience: Euthanasia and the Loss of a Beloved Pet


Meet Ripley, my companion for the last decade who crossed the Rainbow Bridge early yesterday morning.

About a week earlier, a mysterious malady, which could have been anything from a tumor to spinal stenosis, caused my sweet boy to no longer be able to walk. His fighting spirit had him attempting a few steps to the food bowl, but that was because Ripley loved food. By the end of the week we had begun bringing food and water to his bed, which try as he might, he could not get out of.

We took him to the vet on a Tuesday, the day after the nefarious onset of symptoms. She examined him, immediately taking to spinal stenosis or ruptured disk as likely causes. On top of his current condition, Ripley had a lot of health problems. Throughout his life he and his sister (we have his littermate) suffered from seasonal allergies that left them balding, flaking, and with skin infections. We tried everything from elimination diets to medication, but several times a year, the environment got the best of them. We treated them with steroids and antibiotics and they rallied, but steroids caused them both to be overweight. Each of our pair have had several surgeries for growths, which turned out to be fatty cysts, but we had removed out of fear of something worse. Ripley had an ongoing lameness in his front leg, which, coupled with his sudden hind leg weakness, had him unable to move. It broke my heart that he would still perk up at food or the mention of Frisbee. It hurt worse that as whatever this was progressed, I couldn't even give him his daily brushing (he loved being brushed!) without causing him pain.

We had a very difficult decision to make: go down a diagnostic path, or relieve his suffering. We believed, as did the vet, that Ripley was not a candidate for neurosurgery. His weight, his limb weakness, and his age worked against him. We opted to try the only medical treatment for his condition and brought him home for six days on medication. It was clear by day three that he was only getting worse.

The hardest thing to do was to make that phone call scheduling his passing. Ripley was my first pet as an adult and though I knew this was inevitable, I pushed the thought of it off to a distant someday. That day came much sooner than expected. I suspect had he lived to fifteen I still wouldn't have been "ready". 

People say there is no comfort to be taken from strangers, and I learned this past week that is absolutely untrue. I spent my days and nights trying to figure out how to "fix" this, how to hold on to Ripley a bit longer. My fight or flight had me wanting to steal him away, but there's no cheating death. If there was, I'd have run with him. I cried all day and night, forsaking sleep because I was determined their had to be another way. I researched every possible medical alternative, settling on the fact that he wasn't strong enough for any of them. I belong to a Sheltie group on Facebook and posted my dilemma, hoping someone had an answer. What they had, instead, was understanding. This apparently isn't so uncommon with the breed and many had sent their beloved pups on for similar reasons. I grieved. I went through all the stages and back again, but came to the conclusion that euthanasia was the best gift I could give him.

We carried him outside to go to the bathroom, gave him a week of as many of his favorite things as he could handle, and in the end, we gave him peace at the expense of our grief. It seems to me the most unfair and unkind thing a human can do to prolong their pet's suffering for their own selfish reasons. As Ripley's passing was inevitable, so was the fact that I must accept it.

I sought information from those who have made this difficult decision. Was he going to feel anything? Would he be scared? How do I help his sister cope with the loss? How do I cope? The resounding answer was that a properly administered medical death was painless.

I wanted to believe that. Now that I've had my first experience with it, I am envious that his was such a peaceful passing. 

We entered the vet's office and were set up in a room with a towel on the examination table. There was also a box of tissues. The vet extended her condolences and we believed them. She was sincerely empathetic, having treated our dogs their whole lives. She explained what she was going to do each step of the way, giving us almost complete alone time with Ripley as the sedative she injected lulled him into a deep sleep. Ripley had never been a fan of the vet, but that this one time he didn't fight her told me he was ready. He put his head on the crook of my arm and "held on" to me in the way that he could. I hugged him, my husband worked in a way to hold his paw, and eventually, we knew he was completely unaware of what was happening. Ripley's tongue fell out of his mouth and he soaked both my arm and my husband's pant leg in drool. He breathed the deep, snoring breaths I listened to every day as I wrote with him sitting at my feet. I miss him so much with that space empty now. Dakota, his sister, isn't nearly as attached to me. When it was time, when the vet was sure he was completely sedated, she shaved a little patch of his hind leg and inserted the butterfly (IV). As she pushed the lethal pink injection into him, he had only one tiny second-long spasm and was gone in my arms.

Afterward, he had an emptiness about him that neither I nor my husband could bear. He was limp, lifeless, and without control of his posture, he looked tragically gone. My husband fetched Dakota from the truck (as we didn't want her in with us until the passing had happened) and we allowed her to say goodbye as seemed to be the recommendation of other multiple dog owners and even the veterinarian. She gave him a couple of sniffs and was ready to go. I held Ripley in a more natural posture so that he appeared sleeping, for Dakota's benefit and ours.

There will be so much to miss, but ten years of great memories to look back on once I'm through this mourning. You might wonder why I feel the need to share this, and I'll explain. Writing this is for the same reason I write everything: to share the human experience. Everyone does things differently and I don't feel there's a "right" way. The night before Ripley's appointment, I read everything I could find on what to expect and even watched a YouTube video that was tastefully done for those having never experienced this tragedy. I needed to be prepared. It's how I cope. I'm hoping someone in my situation (making this decision for the first time) might find comfort in reading this post. The procedure itself was painless, almost beautiful in its efficiency, leaving my loving boy to unknowingly pass in the arms of those who loved him. I'm envious of his peaceful end, left to wonder why we're more compassionate to our animals than other humans. 

To those who have been there before me, I'm sorry for your loss. To those who follow, take comfort in knowing your beloved pet will not suffer. To Ripley, my sweet boy, I hope to see you again one day, running like you did when you were a puppy. I love you, buddy. Always.