I'm almost finished with my second novel and I'm looking for feedback on it. It's a murder mystery set in the present day about the murder of a congressman's daughter. Since I'm looking for feedback I'm going to post the first chapter here and I'm hoping that people who visit this site (and I know there are people who do) will post their opinions. Keep in mind that the manuscript has yet to be edited.

Also, I am working on the sequel to Willow Pond, but it's taking longer to finish then I thought it would.

Chapter One

Paul Chandler was running along the Westside Highway towards Riverside Drive when he began to feel the full blast from the sting of the Hudson River. It was an icy cold day with the promise of another snowstorm in the air, but that made no difference to him. No matter the weather, rain, snow or blistering heat, he ran five miles every day. It brought life to his body and prepared him for the rest of the day.

Every day at 5:30 AM his alarm went off and he would head into the kitchen and prepare a smoothie for himself—blueberry mango was his favorite. He was very health conscious and jogged, went to the gym every day and followed a vegan diet. He thought people who ate junk food and were couch potatoes were lazy and basically just taking up space on the planet. Whenever he passed one of those fast food places—McDonalds or Burger King he was stand and stare in the window at all the slobs filling their faces with food that would kill them one day. He took pride in the fact that he was so disciplined and had a difficult time understanding people who weren’t.

Sometimes when he ran he met people that would stop and talk to him—once it was a congressman from a southern state—most of the time he listened to his iPod and sang along with the music. That day it was too cold to stop and talk to anyone. He had dressed in layers, but he could still feel the cold air and he worried about frost bite when he began to loose feeling in his toes and finger tips.

He enjoyed living in New York City because of all the interesting people he met and the never-ending parties. He enjoyed the political discussions that almost always came up at these parties, though he was careful to take all points of view into consideration. He wanted everyone he met to think of him as a fair person but in truth he had very definite political leanings.

The best part of the Manhattan parties he attended were the beautiful women he met. Some of them were escorts, but he usually ignored them since they were more interested in celebrities and politicians rather than attorneys unless they were from one of the large New York City firms which he wasn’t. Everything in this town was about being well connected and he wasn’t nearly as connected as he wanted to be. For sure he was on his way up, though he wasn’t anywhere near where he wanted to be.

It was time for him to head back to his apartment. He had a 10 AM meeting with a client whose husband had been accused of molesting her teenage daughter. He thought the guy was innocent but it was his job to get a conviction. The mother and the daughter were angry with him for having walked out on them and wanted revenge. Friends and family were out to get him too and were doing everything to help them. It would be his job to trip the mother and the daughter up on the witness standing—something he didn’t think he would have any trouble doing. No matter how much he believed the guy hadn’t done anything he still expected to get a conviction. He also knew the mother and daughter were afraid he wouldn’t because the case against him was weak. What they didn’t realize was that he’d gained conviction on cases with a lot less evidence.

This wasn’t the kind of a case that got his pulse racing. Those were the murder cases and that was the reason he had become an Assistant DA. He wanted to find that one big case—the kind of a case that made front page news every day—the kind that would put him in the same league as Johnnie Cochran, or F. Lee Bailey—they were the men who people thought of when they thought of great trial lawyers. Sure, they were controversial, but controversy spelled success.

Even as he thought of them, he could feel the need stirring inside him, the need to find the success that had thus far eluded him. Sometimes this need would eat away at him until it consumed him. His father and grandfather had taught him that unless a man was a success in his chosen career, he was nothing. At thirty-two he knew that time was running out for him to prove himself. His father had already expressed his disappointment.

When he walked in the front door of his apartment he breathed a sigh of relief, then went upstairs and got into the shower, letting the hot water run down his body for several minutes. Stepping out of the shower, he toweled himself off thoroughly and went into his bedroom, where he found the clothes he was going to wear already laid out on the bed. Every morning before he went running, he put out the clothes he was going to wear so he’d be ready to leave for the office within minutes.

Fifteen minutes after he walked in the front door of his apartment he was on his way to the DA’s office on Centre Street in New York City.  The ride on the subway took around twenty minutes, longer than he wanted, but with the traffic in New York it would have taken him twice as long to drive.

Before he left he turned the TV briefly and listened to the weather forecast and heard them talk about “periods of moderate snow” and thought about moving to California or Florida, which was something he had been thinking about often lately. He hoped the moderate snow didn’t turn into another blizzard. Earlier that week he had witnessed a terrifying spinout. For a terrible moment it seemed as though the two vehicles were headed for a head-on collision. It was avoided only because one of the drivers of was able to regain control and turn with no more than a second to spare. Though no one had been seriously hurt one woman did suffer minor injuries.

It reminded him that he might need to slow down—he laughed at that thought. He lived life in the fast lane and didn’t know any other way. Some wondered why he never got clobbered—why he always won. The reason was that his father and his grandfather expected no less from him.

“You need to remember who you are and where you come from,” his grandfather said. “No matter what anyone tells you, you have success written all over you.”

Whenever he felt down, which was rare, those words would echo in his head. After taking the # 2 train to Chambers Street he walked the couple of blocks to the DA’s office and soon found himself sitting at his desk. Within minutes Jill, the law school intern was standing there handing him a file. Jill loved working at the District Attorney’s office and found her work to be both challenging and rewarding. Paul was an excellent trial attorney and she had already forgiven him for making a pass at her when she first started working there. Mr. Phillips ran the office with the precision of a Swiss clock and the most important thing to him was bringing criminals to justice. Jill was an integral part of the support team, worked closely with the police and forensic labs gathering necessary reports and researching the law. She also had direct communication with clients and witnesses, prepared statements and took depositions.

“The Grant Case,” she said. “God, you look beat.”

“Thanks, Jill. Next time try ‘Good Morning’ instead. It usually makes people feel better, than you look like crap does.”

Jill sighed. “You know me? I always tell it the way I see it.”

Rachel Simpson was a fifteen-year-old drug addict who had accused her stepfather Alfred Grant of raping her. To Paul the reason for the accusation was simple; tired of her drug use Grant had turned his stepdaughter in to the police when he discovered cocaine in her bedroom. Then the girl and her mother, Grant’s estranged wife Sybil came up with the molestation charge. The problem was that many of the Grant’s friends were backing their story. He reasoned that Alfred had done something to make them angry and whatever it was had to big, but the problem was he had no idea what.

He had a meeting with Sybil Grant and her daughter Rachel Simpson in an hour so he began to go through the file. There were statements from her whole family and several friends damning her husband Alfred, but there was one statement that one of them had given him that puzzled him. The guy’s name was Marty Davis and he had known Alfred Grant for over twenty years.

“He’s a friend of yours?”

“For twenty two years. He’s a great guy.”

“You know what he’s been accused of?”

“I do.”

“Is that something he’s capable of?”

“Alfred? I don’t think so.”

“So you don’t think he’s guilty.”

“Oh, sure I do. He did it, no doubt about it.”

That short interview was too strange. One minute he said that Alfred Grant was the greatest guy in the world and the next minute he insisted he was a child molester. A great guy was never a child molester—a great guy took care of and loved his wife and kids a child molester was pond scum. Marty Davis’ statements contradicted each other. No doubt, he was lying. But why?

He would have to bring him in for an interview and get him to tell the truth. If the truth turned out to be something other than what he thought it was, then they would face that when the time came. Paul knew that the DA expected him to get a conviction and he needed to know the case upside down and inside out so there weren’t any surprises when they got to court. There was even the possibility that Grant would plead guilty and serve a few months rather than run the risk of a jury trial. Juries were always sympathetic to children who were sexually abused. The fact that Grant was most likely innocent didn’t mean a damn—innocent people went to prison all the time.

“Unless everyone in this guy’s life is nuts or out to get him for some reason,” The DA, Jack Phillips said. “Then, Grant is guilty. It’s as simple as that. But you know that you have a job to do.”

Jack liked to piss him off because he knew he was ambitious and his heart was in trying murder cases, but he insisted on continuing to give him these cases that never used his skills as a trial lawyer. They bored and disgusted Paul.

Sybil Grant arrived promptly at 10 AM. Paul had seen her at the arraignment a week earlier. Then she had looked disheveled and had a wild look in her eyes. Now she was well-dressed in a dark blue dress that fell to just below her knees. She was a very attractive woman if not beautiful slim, with an intelligent look on her face.

“Where’s your daughter?” Paul asked.

Sybil Grant shot him an angry look and he began to worry. The outside façade might be weak and he was afraid that Alfred Grant’s lawyer would see through that.

“I didn’t want to put her through one more thing. She’s already been through enough.”

“No,” Paul said. “I’m going to put her on the stand and I must speak to her before I do. You must have known this was going to happen. It’s not an option, Mrs. Grant I have to talk to your daughter.”

“I’m going by my maiden name now—Sinclair. Don’t call me, Mrs. Grant anymore, it’s Ms. Sinclair.”

He didn’t give a shit about what name she was calling herself. She was a silly woman and she was forcing him to waste his time on stupidity. When he became an Assistant DA he had never expected to be sitting and talking to a woman who thought changing her name would change her life.

“Bring your daughter in tomorrow morning at the same time, Mrs. Grant—I mean Ms. Sinclair. Until then, our meeting is over.”

With that he got up from his desk, leaving Sybil Grant sitting there staring at him open mouthed.

I look forward to your feedback. Thanks
 
 
My novel Willow Pond is going to be free this coming Sunday, Monday and Tuesday June 24, 25 and 26. This will be the fourth time I've offered my book for free. Willow Pond was published around the same time KDP Select started and I was one of the first authors to use it. To me it's still and experiment and I question whether it's a good thing for authors or not.

Chapter Two  

Phillip was never on time for anything. Laura had learned, over their two and a half years of marriage, that he actually believed no one else had anything to do that was more important than what he was doing.

By one o’clock the next afternoon, Todd was packed and ready to go. She hated the whole idea of his leaving and kept hoping the phone would ring, that Phillip would offer some lame excuse as to why he couldn’t take Todd. Whatever the excuse was, Laura would have been happy to accept it.

It was nearly two-thirty by the time she saw the white Rolls Royce pull up in front of her building. She stared with disgust at the ostentatious car, knowing Phillip had used both it and his chauffeur to show off in front of her neighbors. It made her even angrier at him than she already was. Her neighbors had no idea she had been married to a movie star, and she liked things that way. Now they’d all want to know who had been driving the Rolls Royce.

When she opened the door, Phillip looked so annoyed she wanted to slap him. He strode into the apartment and glared down at Todd as if he were nothing more than a piece of property he owned. Todd blinked guilelessly up at him. It was past his naptime, and he had grown cranky. He tried to comfort himself by sucking his thumb.

“I thought we agreed that was a nasty habit, and you were going to break him of it,” Phillip said. “Do you want him to grow up with buck teeth?”

“Oh, please,” Laura said. “He’s tired. You were supposed to be here an hour and a half ago. Where were you?”

Phillip shifted from one foot to the other. “We got stuck in traffic.”

“I don’t believe you,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “Maybe I shouldn’t let you take him. I doubt you’re going to spend much time with him anyway. Is your new starlet at Willow Pond?”

He lifted his chin. “I don’t have to tell you anything. After all, how do I know what goes on here?”

Ignoring her, Phillip walked over and picked Todd up. The little boy looked up at his father and sighed, then turned away from him. Seeing this, Laura became even less comfortable about letting Phillip take him, but she had no choice.

“I wish you’d brought Mrs. Nickerson with you. She’d know how to get him to sleep on the ride back.” Laura removed a bottle of apple juice from the ice box and handed it to Phillip. “This might help. Give it to him if he starts to cry.”

Phillip stared at the small ice box, incredulous. “My God, I never realized you had one of those … things. Why don’t you order a full sized refrigerator and send me the bill? I won’t have my son living this way.”

“No thanks. And your son is just fine. Better than ever, actually.”

Laura watched them walk down the steps, climb into the car, and drive away. When they were out of sight, she wandered gloomily back into the kitchen, wondering how she was manage the rest of the day. The phone rang, providing a welcome distraction.

“Did Phillip pick up Todd?” Virginia asked.

“Yes, unfortunately. And he was late as usual. He’s going to have a rough time with Todd and he deserves it. Thank God Mrs. Nickerson’s there.”

“I have a feeling Phillip’s going to grow tired of these visits. They’ll cramp his style. Do you have anything planned for this evening?”

Laura took a deep breath. “Not really.”

“Why don’t you come over and have dinner with me? It’ll help get your mind off Todd.”

Laura hesitated, craving solitude, but battling loneliness now that the apartment was so quiet. She accepted, and Virginia was delighted. She told her she’d put a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator to chill.

“What are we celebrating?” Laura asked.

“The fact that you’re coming for dinner. The chef prepared Osso Buco, and I didn’t want to eat it alone.”

An hour later the taxicab pulled up in front of Virginia’s West 77th Street brownstone and Laura stepped out. Whenever she went to her aunt’s home she was struck by how opulent and yet homey it was, all at the same time. Somehow, despite her lifestyle, Virginia had managed to create a real home out of the four-story, fifteen room brownstone.

Virginia embraced her when she opened the door, then ushered her into the living room, which had been decorated in the Art Deco style. During a trip to Paris last year, Virginia had discovered Art Deco was all the rage over there. When she returned, she redecorated the living room and dining room to reflect that style.

“This room looks great,” Laura said. “Is it the way you want it to be?”

“Pretty much, though you know I’m never completely satisfied with anything. I suppose you’d call that a character flaw. We could do the same in your—”

Laura held up her hand. “No, Virginia. Please let me live my own life and make my own decisions.”

“Of course. I just want the best for you. But you’re a very intelligent young woman. I know you’ll do what’s best for you and Todd. It’s just hard for me to let go sometimes, you know?”

Laura leaned over and kissed her aunt’s cheek. “I wish Phillip understood and felt that same way. He treats me like I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Virginia snorted, waving her hand dismissively. “Does it really matter what he thinks?”

It took a moment before Laura finished pondering what Virginia had said. “I know what you’re saying is right,” she said slowly. “It isn’t that I care what he thinks, but the reality is we are still connected through Todd. I don’t want Todd to grow up thinking less of me because Phillip does.”

“Believe me, Phillip knows how much that little boy loves you. He’s jealous because Todd doesn’t feel the same way about him.”

Laura giggled as champagne bubbles tickled her nose. “You always make me feel better about myself. How can I thank you?”

“You can do that by being happy. That’s all I want for you and Todd. Oh, and for you to remember that I’ll always be here for you.”

“Look at that,” Laura said, pointing at the tears that had filled her aunt’s eyes. “What would Dutch Schultz or Al Capone say if they could see you now?”

Virginia threw back her head and laughed, sniffing away the telltale tears. “I think they’d probably say I was an imposter, and the real Virginia Kingsley was dead. Whatever you do, make sure this never gets out. I have a reputation to maintain.”

Laura placed her finger against her lips. “Not a word.”

“So tell me. What you’ve been doing lately?”

Laura told her about the article she’d written, and the novel she was starting to put together. “I have no idea whether I’m ever going to finish it, but it’s something I’ve thought about doing for several years.”

“When you were a little girl you used to write short stories. After your mother and father died I found them in a box in your mother’s closet.”

Laura flicked an interested eyebrow. “Do you still have them?”

“Come with me.”

They climbed two flights of stairs, and when they stopped they stood in a part of the house which was obviously in the middle of being redecorated. The walls were partially painted and the floor was crowded with painting supplies, drop cloths and piles of lumber.

“What’s going on up here?” Laura asked.

“You know how much I always hated these four fussy little rooms. Well, I’m having them done over into two large rooms. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to use them for, but I’ll do that when they’re finished.” She took Laura’s hand. “Come with me.”

Virginia led her into the smallest of the four rooms. Inside was an old rolltop desk that Laura immediately recognized as having belonged to her father. She ran her hand over the top of the desk, imagining him sitting at it. He had died so many years before she felt only curiosity, not grief. Virginia left her to her memories, then climbed onto a chair and slid a box from the top shelf. She placed it on top of the desk then opened it and pulled out a sheath of papers.

“I remember this,” Laura said, grinning. “I must have been around seven when I wrote this one about the two fairies. Have you read any of them?”

“Of course. I’ve read all of them. Your mother and father thought they were wonderful. They loved your imagination.”

“They did?” For just a moment, Laura was a child again. She touched the papers lightly, as if she were afraid they’d crumble into dust. “Can I have them? For Todd.”


 
 
I'm trying to decide whether or not to stay with KDP Select. My term ends tomorrow so I don't have much time. I've heard some negative things and some positive things too. Some people do really well after their free days and even make it into the top 100. That hasn't happened to me yet. I've done good, but haven't had the kind of sales I dream of. By tomorrow around this time I'll have decide about Select. Right now I think about going to stick with it for another 90 days and see what happens. I think that's because I don't see anything that great with Smashwords, B
 
 
This is the second time I've started a blog and I hope I have better results with this one. It's been a tough time for me lately. My niece died suddenly of a heart attack on January 16 and I've been having a very hard time trying to understand and accept why it happened. In the first place she was much too young and and to me it's like she only had half a life. Then there's the way it happened so suddenly: she was in her apartment, started feeling chest pains and called her mother in Florida. By the time her stepsister an the EMT's got there she was gone already. They took her to the hospital and the doctors worked on her for about two hours, but they never got a heartbeat or a pulse. It reminds me of something I either read or heard somewhere about a little child who had lost someone she loved and want to know why God always got his way. I have the same question. Lisa was a very special person and no one like her will ever come this way again.
 
 
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