Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Destination Inspiration: Puzzle Pieces and Ghostly Hitchhikers

Ideas for books rarely come to me in one fully formed flash of story. Actually, I'm not sure I've ever had a full book pop into my head. Usually, it's a bunch of pieces--an idea for a character, an opening scene, a basic premise--eventually I have enough that I can put the pieces together and I have my book. And sometimes it's a matter of finding that last piece before I can finally sit down and write.

When I wrote Living Lies, I struggled finding that final piece. I had the story I was going to write in mind, my characters, but I just could not come up with the right opening. About the same time friends of ours had moved, and the hubster and I went to help them get settled in their new house. They'd moved outside the city and to get to their house we had to drive a stretch of nearly deserted highway. It was dark, snowy and we felt like we were the only car the road. And that final piece of the story popped into place.

Living Lies

Doing whatever it takes could get them both killed.
Twelve years after her sister’s disappearance, Haley Carling spends her days trying to hold what’s left of her family together, running her late father’s shop and caring for her alcoholic mother. Then her sister’s remains are uncovered in the basement of their old home, and fingers start pointing. At the Carlings.

Dean Lawson, long the prime suspect in the Carling girl’s disappearance, is sure he’s got evidence proving who the killer is. He’s determined to clear his name, and he won’t let anything stand in his way. Not even his lingering attraction to Haley.

Haley is just as determined to protect her family from the former town bad boy’s accusations. But now someone is stalking her, and Haley realizes Dean’s the only one she can trust.

With a killer closing in, Dean wonders if he’s made the biggest mistake of his life…a mistake that could cost Haley her life.

Product Warnings
This title contains a mystery to keep you turning the pages late into the night.

Copyright © 2008 Dawn BrownAll rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication

“Hareton sits on the edge of the Snow Belt, that’s why the snow is so much heavier out this way.”

Sandra rolled her eyes, but said nothing. She couldn’t care less about the weather patterns of some middle-of-nowhere town. Her husband, Brian, was much too busy fiddling with the radio to notice.

Sighing, she turned her attention back to the front window. Not that there was much to see. Outside, small flakes of snow danced in the narrow beams of the SUV’s headlights. Occasionally, the yellow light of a house broke through the inky blackness and veil of falling snow. A welcome relief from the monotony.

A tall snowbank to her right suddenly loomed closer as the front of the SUV swerved dangerously toward the edge of the highway.

“Brian, the road!”

He jerked his head up and straightened the wheel.

“Can you please stop playing with the radio and drive?” she snapped.

“Sorry. I was trying to find the game. What’s with you? You’ve been miserable all night.”

“There’s nothing with me. I just have no desire to find myself flattened against a snowbank so you can get a hockey score.”

“Fine. But your attitude started long before now.”

He may have had a point. She’d been on edge since they turned onto this highway. It was probably just a combination of the weather and having gone nearly a half-hour without seeing another car. The isolation made her tense.

“What were Rhonda and Jimmy thinking when they moved out here?”

Brian grinned. “Low mortgage payments.”

“I guess. It just seems so far from civilization.”

“We’re forty-five minutes from home.”

“I know.” She sighed. “This weather is making me twitchy. I wish we had just stayed home.”

“If you don’t want to go to their housewarming, then why are we?”

“Because Jimmy and Rhonda are our friends, and it’s their first house. They want to show it off.”

“They’re your friends.”

“They’re your friends too…” Her words trailed off as she spotted a small, lone figure trudging through the snow along the side of the road.

“Who would be out here in weather like this?” Brian asked.

As they drew closer, Sandra saw it was a girl. Wisps of blonde hair whipped out from under her hood.

“Stop the car,” she said.

“Are you nuts? She could be anyone.”

“There’s no one else out here. If we don’t pick her up, who will? Besides, she’s small. I think between the two of us we could take her if she turns out to be a psycho.”

“Famous last words,” Brian muttered, but he slowed the car and pulled over anyway.

From the side mirror, Sandra watched the girl trot up to the SUV. She slowed as she grew closer and hesitated before opening the back door. When she finally did, the overhead light illuminated the interior. The girl peered into the dim car and eyed Sandra and Brian suspiciously, but she stepped forward, her shoulders sagging a little when her gaze fell on the empty baby seat.

“Thank you for stopping,” the girl said, climbing in. “Are you going to Hareton?”

“Yeah.” Brian pulled back onto the road. “Can we drop you somewhere?”

“Just a ride to town would be great. I’m Michelle, by the way.” She looked young, eighteen maybe nineteen.

“I’m Sandra. This is my husband, Brian.”

She turned to face the backseat. Michelle was pretty, the cheerleader type. Long, blonde hair fell in soft waves from under her hood. Her face was small with a pert nose, flawless skin and a smile toothpaste ads would pay a fortune for. But something about her eyes, dark and empty like bottomless wells, bothered Sandra.

“It’s an awful night to be out walking,” Sandra said. “You must be freezing.”

“I am.”

“Did you break down?” Brian asked. “I didn’t see any cars farther back.”

“No, I didn’t.” A rueful smile touched Michelle’s lips. “I had a fight with my boyfriend.”

“And he just left you out here?” Sandra asked, appalled.

“It’s not that bad. Someone always stops.”

What an odd thing to say. Sandra turned back around in her seat.

They continued the rest of the way in silence. As they neared Hareton, the lights from the town reflected pink off the falling snow, shimmering like a halo in the night sky.

“This isn’t right.” Michelle’s voice broke the quiet.

“What’s wrong?” Sandra turned to look at the girl. What she saw stopped her heart and turned her bowels to water.

Wide, sunken eyes stared out from Michelle’s gaunt face, her skin so pale it appeared almost blue. The heavy winter coat, faded and tattered, hung off her bony frame.

Michelle’s hand reached out, trembling as if lifting it took great strength. She wrapped her skeletal fingers around Sandra’s wrist like an icy vise, sending waves of frigid chills coursing through her body.

Michelle pulled herself forward. Closer. Until her face was mere inches from Sandra’s.

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