Saturday, December 31, 2016

KEEPING MY SHIT TOGETHER

As an artist it's hard for me to treat my writing as a job, but that's what I have to do. I have to plan and make deadlines for myself. I can't just write when I feel like it. I have to set time aside for writing and write, research or plot during that time. Between a full time job, a part time job, family and writing, it's hard for me to keep my shit together. Throw any new stress my way, and things get really messy. 

I was planning on having both The Artist and The Zombie Book out before Christmas this year...but crazy drama and a massively debilitating sickness on the home front put a damper in my productivity. The Zombie Book is only half written and it took everything I had to get The Artist out before 2017...I wanted the my favorite editor to have one more go at it and I wanted my favorite model to adorn the cover, but I couldn't have either if if was to hit the digital shelves before midnight...I will change the cover later, but it's out and it's good. 




Starting in the new year I'm taking 85 hours worth of classes for a part time social working job on top of my full time job, family and writing, so maybe I'm being overly ambitious, but I'm hoping to have The Zombie Book out in a few months and then have the 2nd Serial Series Novella (The Librarian) out by Fall 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

BLACK & RED COVERS



I seem to always be searching for the best covers for my books, but I usually come back to these drawings...



So if I go back to my black ink drawings, this might be the new cover for Toxic Warrior, Raina Kirkland book 5. What do you think?




Monday, December 26, 2016

BEING CHEAP SUCKS!

So every December I price my books at $0.99 because I know how the holidays can destroy your budget, and I figure that if someone needs an escape from the madness and their blessed heart chooses one of my novels to do so, then I'll make it easier for them. But, time and time again I find that people don't want to buy 99 cent books. 

Normally my books are $3.99 each. Which is about $1 profit to me, and the books sell okay...I mean, they're no hot cakes by any means. But I feel my sales aren't too shabby for a nobody with no marketing talent, no massive fan base and no consistently charming presence on social media...At lower prices, $0.99, $1.99 and $2.99...the books don't sell. I don't understand it, but $3.99 seems to be a good place. 

A lot of more famous authors sell there digital books at outrageous prices, like $15.99...what is that, like $13.00 profit per book...But then again, they have people working for them, huh? Marketers, editors, assistance, agents. I just have me. Then again, again, they're selling books in the thousands or millions, MILLIONS! I'm literally selling tens of books, TENS! LOL 

I'm getting the itch to redesign my covers again...for the what, fifth time in as many years...we'll see. Do you think my covers truly reflect my books?




Friday, December 16, 2016

Some Jokes.... Or Whatever

Sometimes I'm kind of funny...eh. But I forget my jokes all the time. People are forever telling me to do stand up or write comedy for a living, but I'm far too insecure to do anything about it. I'm fairly certain that if someone put a camera in my face and was like, "3, 2, 1, be funny now." I'd just shit myself. At the very least piss myself. I've always had a weak bladder and laughter is the enemy of a weak bladder. It sucks. When people laugh, I laugh. When people cry, I give a shit usually, but if someone is laughing at my joke, I will totally crack the fuck up...and then inevitably pee myself...Maybe I could wear Depends or something. I don't know.

I do sometimes tweet or Facebook post things I find humorous, but I've been told that most of what makes me funny is my timing, inflection and facial expressions...so these things don't transfer well in writing.

Like, people are always put off by someone eating phallic shaped food. Hot dogs, gross! Bananas, OMG! Right? But no one bats an eye at someone guzzling down milk, just swallowing all that...oh well. Maybe you're not laughing at that funny observation, but believe me, there's like a 75% chance that you would be laughing if you saw and heard me deliver it...Is it a compliment when someone says your face makes it so much more funny...Uh, thanks...

People are always seeking happiness, but I think I'd be much more fulfilled with a whole penis...in more ways than one. ^_^

You can picture a butt farting in slow motion. How the butt cheeks clap together...I don't mind if my butt claps when I fart, but if it asks for an encore I'm going to freak out.

Sorry, dirty mind, dirty jokes.



A video posted by Diana Graves (@dianagravesnovel) on



You know what...If I get more than 100 comments from different people on this post, I will go to an open mike stand up comedy thing in Seattle, Wa.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

EVERYONE WANTS YOUR MONEY!

It really is the season of giving; as in giving all our money away! As if dishing out massive money for presents isn't enough electricity & food costs more in December, and all those hours at work don't seem to add up to anything at all...

Right now I'm feeling the pinch big time because a pipe busted and that cost money to fix and clean up, then we had to have some electrical work done, costing nearly $3,000! So, yeah our mortgage will just have to be paid late for the first time ever, and I'm still not done Christmas shopping...

So as you can see, I know how hard this time of the year can be. And doesn't it just make you sick that the time when you want to escape into a story the most is the time when you can't afford to buy a new book? 

For this reason I've made all my books just 0.99 cents each for the full month of December. 



Friday, December 2, 2016

I'M TIRED

I'm Tired

Madeline Kahn


Here I stand, the goddess of Desire
Set men on fire
I have this power
Morning noon and night it's drink and dancing
Some quick romancing
And then a shower
Stage door Johnnies always surround me
They always hound me
With one request
Who can satisfy their lustful habits
I'm not a rabbit

I need some rest
I'm tired
Sick and tired of love
I've had my fill of love
From below and above
Tired, tired of being admired
Tired of love uninspired
Let's face it
I'm tired
I've been with 1000's of men
Again and again
They promise the moon
They always coming and going
Going and coming
And always too soon
Right girls?

I'm tired
Tired of playing the game
Ain't it a crying shame
I'm so tired
God dammit I'm exhausted
...


The rest of the lyrics can be found at Genius.com But that is pretty much me right now. ...but not with sex. That is the one thing I could do with more of. I can count on one hand how many times the hubby and I have had time for such things this year, and that's a crying shame. No, I'm tired of pretty much everything else.

Renovating the house was such a stress. I told myself, "Oh as soon as it's on the market, I can finally rest!" It was on the market for 2 days! Now it's paperwork, contracts, electrician bills that kill and waiting, OH THE WAITING IS KILLING ME!!! Will they buy it? Won't they? Will their lender let them buy it?

AND

Of the two novellas I started in October, The Artist is really close to being done. Just some tightening of the plot and some editing...The Zombie Book is still about halfway done. I was hoping to have them both done by now and in the final editing stages, but I am behind. I blame myself. I can't seem to write at home. Not a word. At work, I can usually carve out an hour after all my work is done, but these past four weeks I can't think at night. My brain is drained. I'm exhausted in the worst way. Red Bull alone sustains me.

My eyes are burning as I'm writing this...I don't know if it's the mental and emotional drain of selling my home and living with my mother during the processes (not that my mom is the problem. It's being the official diplomat between my family and my husband, that's the fun bit)

Maybe my love for writing would win out against my lack of focus if I had some reviews for my latest book, Toxic Warrior. That's not me fishing for reviews. I'm just stating a fact. It's hard to be a self starter when you're never certain of yourself or what you're doing. Toxic has been out for more than two months now and sales are low and there are zero reviews...that sort of thing makes an artist think, maybe I'm wasting my time. And when you start to think like that, writing becomes a reminder of a failure.

So there I am: in financial, emotional, artistic limbo...



Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Long Time Coming

You might recall...if you read all my blogs, that my New Years resolution for 2015 was to sell my home. Two weeks after writing that post I found out I was pregnant! I also found out that I am fully useless as a pregnant person. Everything else was on hold while I made a human in my body. My writing, most housework, I had to go down to part-time at work, and I couldn't help renovate our home for the market... So, no selling my home. Sadness. 

Then 2016 came along and I was determined to make good on my promise to myself. From February till November, Hubby and I worked our butts off on that house on the weekends, between caring for two little ones, using up our vacation time and dealing with money constraints. Fun times... 

But we finally, finally, finally, with sore bods and tired minds, were done by November 9th. We were DONE!!!! 

One week later it was listed on the market, November 17th, my birthday! 

One day later offers were coming in!

Two days after the house went on the market, we accepted an offer...Lets all hope everything goes very smoothly. I haven't been able to sleep more than a few hours a day since this all began, and sleep deprivation makes you go a little crazy... and chubby. I've gained so much weight, what with the near constant stress and no sleep... Oh Boy! 









Saturday, November 5, 2016

RAGE + ROT = ZOMBIE

So I don't like writing "because magic." I hate that. For me, there has to be some scientific reason for everything, VERY LOOSELY scientific, but I can't just write something like, she used her magic to make him this or that, or magic brought the zombie back to life, or vampire magic...there has to be a "reason" for everything. Biological, chemical, neurological, something tied into something real.

I made vampirism a virus that acts like a parasite, which changes the host's body to better suit it's continued existence. Everything about the vampire is tied to this; from it's super human talents, to it's aversion to the sun. 

Gods are aliens who have advanced to the point of sentient energy. They've learned to manipulate matter on a molecular level and Angels are their slave robots, also made of pure energy. Demons and Devils are simply put, Gods and Angels of a different view point not popular among the species. 

Witches are half-breed offspring of demons, thus gaining some talent in manipulating molecular structures. But lacking the foresight into the consequences of their actions, often what they do comes back to bite them, so they believe in some rubbish about magic having a price and create "familiars" animals and people who they feed their blood in order to place the burden of their magical deeds on them instead, when really it's all about luck and expectation. Blah, blah...seems legit, right?

So Zombies...The myth: these are undead folk brought back from death by magic and they are super hungry for brains or flesh, almost exclusively human bits. Yummy. But it makes no sense whatsoever. 

Dead people can't function because the very nature of our biological existence would never allow it. Also, dead bodies don't function, therefor they do no feel hunger pains. 

The best idea I can come up with to explain their murderous, rotting, contagious ways:

Murder: Must be some kind of brain damage that creates blind aggression. They rip, bite, destroy anything and everything; animals, humans, moving parts and each other. The parts of the brain that must be damaged is the part of the brain that controls serotonin (empathy). Also the logic center of the brain and the memories. Without logic, empathy and our memories we don't add up to much. Add in overproduction of certain flight or fight hormones and boom, murderous rage!

Rotting People:  People do rot while living. It's called Gangrene and it's caused by lack of blood circulation. When a part of the human body loses blood flow for a long period of time it starts to die off, first by the destruction of the nerves and then the ability feel goes. When you can't feel a part of yourself, you can't be as careful as you need to be, and a cut can become infected, which will progress unimpeded by the health benefits of white blood cells. That part of you becomes gangrenous and rots away. The rot can spread fast. So, if a disease of some kind takes away the blood flow to the majority of your body, especially around the surface areas, you can hurt yourself while attacking someone in a murderous rage and then gangrene sets in and rot spreads from there. 

Contagious: Believe it or not, but this was the hardest part for me to rationalize. Violence, easy...brain damage that's caused by some kind of drug or disease or parasite. Rotting flesh, easy....gangrene. How all of that can be transferred from person to person...harden than you think. Most movies and books have the disease spread through bites and claw marks. Basically it's blood to blood contact, assuming the zombie has oozing bloody stubs of fingers and shredded lips. Or it could be in the blood and saliva. But, in The Walking Dead the zombie virus is in everyone and no matter how you die, you will come back a zombie. I'm more interested in zombism as a contagion to be avoided. 

Introducing a manufactured disease created for biological warfare; Nezhit’ Kontsa.

Nez for short, it causes the brain to shut down higher functions, increases aggression and kills red blood cells in the skin and extremities. The person is actually still alive, but they are crazy murderous and rotting with gangrene. Nez has two stages of contagion. When first released into a populated area it's a gas, but once it infects a host it becomes blood born, only transferable by blood to blood contact.



ANGRY MUTANTS

I'm still on my hunt to unlock my own personal take on Zombies, but this article on Violent Genes (and you may know where my mind is heading with this) is very interesting. 


How Brain's Chemistry Unleashes Violence


I haven't yet researched this sites claims but if it's right then what it's found is remarkable, which is why I'm remarking about it now. 

Apparently there is a mutated gene that only appears on the X chromosome, meaning it can only be passed down by women, Moms. This mutation can cause aggression in people by reducing or eliminating the amount of serotonin the brain makes, making people anywhere between mean spirited to downright sociopaths, from that insensitive ass-hat you avoid, to murdering rapists. Environment may be the determining factor there.... 

This mutation effects men worse since women have 2 X chromosome, meaning there is a greater chance that one will not have the mutation, and will be expressed while the mutated gene lays dormant. But, men only have 1 X and 1 Y, so if they get a mutated X gene, they are screwed....

Again, I haven't confirmed the validity of this article's claims. 
I'm just spreading possible ignorance. Fun. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

MADE IN THE STARS BY JIM PROCTOR

One of my favorite authors, Jim Proctor has a brilliant novella you really must check out if you love sweet romance (not whips and chains and all that) and Science Fictions. 

The book leaves you wanting more!


Mankind has spread to dozens of worlds throughout the universe, and traveling to another world is as simple as stepping through a wormhole or walking onto a Starliner to travel through hyperspace. Finding true love across the vastness of space has been relegated to mathematical algorithms and supercomputers.

Keylann Ascentia is looking for love. With the aid of her Mate Technician, Torina Gates, her search takes her to new worlds. As much as some things change, others remain the same. Sometimes, when you least expect it, love finds you.


5.0 out of 5 starsSo Clever, So good!

Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Made in the Stars (Kindle Edition)
I didn't realize it was a short story when I started reading it, so as I was grooving alone on this lovely story about a woman named Keylann who is seeking love in a universe where humanity is all over the place...yeah, and you think it's hard finding a date on Earth...lol. Their version of E-Harmony are Mate Technicians, like personal match makers. The story is very enduring.

A great quick sci-fi romance read. 5 Stars!

I thought I should add more here. If you've ever read Jim Proctors other novels, you know he has a huge talent in showing us the advanced technology of these other futuristic civilizations. In Made in the Stars, I especially loved the wormholes the people use to get from planet to planet.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A-DICK-TION SUCKS

I always thought of myself as having a non-addictive personality. I tried smoking cigarettes to the point of addiction, but it never took. No matter how often I smoked, I never craved it, I never longed for it. Every time I lit up it took effort of willpower to do so. Alcohol was the same for me. I dated a evil prick of a man when I was in high school. He wanted me to be a drinker and I tried...especially while dealing with him, but I never could get to the point where I craved it. I loved sweet alcoholic drinks that were more desert than poison, but beer was always piss in a bottle to me. 

I thought of myself as someone who just didn't get addicted to things. Then I realized drugs and alcohol aren't the only addictions out there. 

Meat is addictive. To a meat eater, they LOVE it. The crave animal meat. They sometimes become aggressive toward those who denounce their precious meat. They look forward to their daily fixes. They usually have trouble shitting and get ass cancer but MEAT! MEAT! MEAT! 

Soda is addictive! Got to have diet coke. Diet in the morning, diet in the evening, diet at supper time. When you're addicted to diet coke, you MUST HAVE IT ALL THE TIME!!!! Someone addicted to diet coke might make outrageous claims like; it's good for me because it's mostly water and it's good for my teeth...yeah, right, NOPE. LOL ^_^ 

Bread is addictive. I was totally addicted to bread. I ate it every single day. I would say things like, if I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, I'd happily choose bread. Now, I can go forever without. I don't even think about it. I'm not sure how I kicked the habit.  Probably when I had gestational diabetes with my first baby. 9 months without bread will do that to you. 

Sugar!!!! The most evil poison. Food manufactures put it in everything because they know it's addictive. More addictive than cocaine and cigarettes. I'm currently trying to kick this addictions, but it's an up hill battle. Sugar is everywhere and in everything. I can go without meat. I can go without bread. I can go without soda and alcohol, but I find it near impossible to go without sugar....I'm pretty sure I have full on diabetes now. Sucks. 


ZOMBIES, HOW, WHY, WHAT?

For some ungodly reason we are obsessed with zombies! I don't know why that is. Maybe our fascination isn't with the zombies themselves, but more with the idea of being alone, or fewer because of some crazy mass extinction, which is somehow less sad and more exciting by the fact that the dead are undead! That doesn't seem so crazy a fantasy in a world of over 7 billion....  Or maybe we are fascinated by their lack of humanity. It's a David and Goliath story, man vs beast, humanity vs the exact opposite. 

In my Zombie Book I've set the tone...The zombie apocalypses was brought about by government or corporate means, in which they used a new drug as a scapegoat for the unexplainable zombie violence on the streets...until it was too late and most of humanity has been killed...fun times. But what were these powers that be up to? How exactly did the ever sought after ZA happen?

Here's what's going on in my mind:

In my 4th Raina Kirkland novel DEADLY ENCOUNTERS, zompires come into play. In Raina's world zombies are totally a thing. But, they aren't particularly dangerous. They are animated corpses brought back to life my necromancers for whatever reason; as slaves, entertainment, religious business...whatever. Zompires (zombies vampires) is a whole other ball game. Vampires in Raina's world are humans who are playing host to a parasitic virus that alters their body. But during the first few days of infection the human is a ravenous crazy beast who would likely eat their own grandparents...blood rage. During this period, the body is changing. the bones are become denser, the fatty tissue and lower bowels are being recycled by the body, the skin is becoming tougher and there is increased blood flow to the brain. The body is become a vampire; faster, smarter, stronger...but with zompires only the brain is infected with the virus. It doesn't go beyond that point...so, while the brain is telling the body it's blood rage time. Let's kill some people because we got to change, the body is just rotting away, zompires.  

The above is an example of a brain parasite or rage virus, like in 28 Days Later. Almost all zombie fiction explains away zombies as having some kind of brain thing; a neurotoxin that wipes out our humanity and makes us killing machines, 

In real life their are some very real chemicals and brain diseases that can create zombies. There are all natural plants, fungus, parasites that find their way into brains and control the hosts and there are diseases, such as mad cow disease that make humans violent. There are also drugs, like bath salts, that have been linked to irrational violent behavior. 

If I wanted to go ultra sci-fi on you guys I could say it's all nanobots who have taken their job description (repair human tissue) too far and with too little skill...so we get zombies.  But, as much as I like to mix my loose understanding of science with fantasy, uh no. 

So you can see that I'm quit perplexed by this issue. I've done zombies before...well, zompires. And I truly enjoyed writing them, but that was in an urban fantasy world. This is a post apocalyptic world of today. No witches and no vampire; just evil humans, zombies and the very few decent people left on this planet. 

I'm thinking...there's something in the water or meat supply...or maybe it's the never suspected VEGGIES! 



Sunday, October 16, 2016

ONE GIANT CLUSTERFUCK

I've been wondering to myself for a while now as to why Toxic Warrior, the last book in the Raina Kirkland series, is about 75 to 144 pages shorter than the other 4 books? I didn't realize the answer until tonight.

Duh...
Every other book has life going on, as it does, while serious business is going down.
Raina is dealing with family drama, while seeking answers/ revenge for what was done to her and her brothers.
399 pages




Raina is buying a house to appease a demon, while taking care of her drama packed family and dealing with evil faeries....you know, as you do.
351 pages




Raina is going to a wedding and dealing with a huge life altering surprise, while immortal hit-men are murdering people on a massive scale.
420 pages




Raina is reuniting with her loved ones, while fighting zombies and the demon living inside her.
392 pages



There's always life happening around tragedy. Life doesn't just stop when it's most convenient.
...Until
Toxic Warrior. Raina is at war, that is all.
276 pages


Open war has a way of stopping life from going on. There are no side stories in Toxic Warrior. It's just Raina in one giant clusterfuck!



Friday, October 14, 2016

THE ARTIST: A Serial Series book 1: CHAPTER TWO

For those who've read the first chapter of The Artist and want, must read more, here is chapter 2, because I love you. If you haven't yet read chapter one, press HERE.


A Serial Series Book 1
By Diana Graves
Copyright © 2016 Diana Graves
All rights reserved.
Kindle Edition

[CHAPTER TWO]

     Jim was totally right.  I found myself sitting in one of the library’s soundproofed study rooms with two men.  The rooms were meant for reading groups or collaborations in which people needed to talk to each other without disturbing the other library patrons, but they worked just as well for interrogations.
     I had expected police, but what I got was FBI agents in snazzy suits that made even Jim look underdressed.  They had a list of books I’d checked out with such titles as: Criminal Minds, The Profile of a Killer, and my personal favorite, One-Hundred and One Ways to Kill.  Was it damning? I didn’t think so, but they did.  The agent in the black suit, agent Miller, slid the list across the table with a strong sure hand, as though it proved something. As though they had caught me red-handed. Agent Miller had dark skin, light brown colored eyes and a smile on his lips.
     “Can you explain your reading material, Miss. Cobb?” asked the agent in the blue suit, a tall pale man with light eyes and hair. Everything about him was fair except the dark thin mustache above his heavy frown. He was standing over me, glaring down at the top of my head.  I guess he was supposed to be intimidating or something.  I didn’t catch his name, if he gave it at all.
     I shrugged.  “I’ve been studying criminology since I was a teenager. It’s a hobby of mine.”
     “You come to this library on a regular basis. At least twice a week.” said Miller.  He seemed calmer, nicer.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were actually doing the whole bad-cop/good-cop thing.  I had to smile at that, and it was a big bright smile that held restrained laughter. I nodded. “Why do you study this particular subject?”
     My smile almost slipped but I caught it and held onto it. I was a good liar, always had been. Lying on the spot was my specialty. The trick was to mix truth in with the lie.
     “It started in my sophomore year of high school.  I took a class in psychology.  I remember being told that humans are the only animals that kill their own species.  I’m not sure if that’s true.  I don’t study animals, but it was that statement that made me first curious about what would drive one man to kill another.  Usually its hate, revenge or economic gain; mundane reasons like that.  Serial killers, however, their reasons defy logic.  They might kill a person based on their age, or hair color, or career.  The man that killed the girl on the cross certainly wasn’t driven by anything we could relate to.” I was smiling and talking too fast because for the first time I was discussing my passion with people who might actually appreciate it.
     “Were all his victims so dramatically displayed?” I asked.
     The agents spoke over each other. 
     Miller asked, “What makes you think it was a man?”
     While the man in blue asked, “What makes you think this was the act of a serial killer?”
     I looked at both of them in turn like they were being foolish, but their eyes were trained on me.  They really meant to get their answers. 
     “Come on guys.”  I sighed and relaxed into my plastic chair.  I looked at the agent in blue, still standing over me like I was going to make a run for it. “You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t a serial killer.  The FBI show up for only a handful of reasons, and a woman found dead in a library isn’t one of them.”  I turned to Miller, “And even if we overlook the fact that it would have taken a lot of muscle to display that body like it was, requiring a lot of upper body strength, less than one percent of serial killers are women.”
     Miller nodded, but the other agent smiled and finally sat down.  It wasn’t a happy smile though.  “So, we shouldn’t suspect you.  Is that what you’re saying?” he said. 
I shrugged (I do that a lot).  “Do what you want.  You’ll just be wasting your time.   Meanwhile your killer will be out there, killing and mutilating another person.”
     Miller nodded rapidly while flipping through a thin stack of papers in front of him.       They were statements written by all the people in the library this morning, including myself.  He found the report he was looking for and quickly read it under his breath before looking back up at me, his eyes narrowed, holding a question for me.
     “Someone stated that you called the crime scene, ‘art.’  Is that how you see it?”
     “No.  But the killer does.  I think he sees himself as an artist, and the woman’s body was his medium.  If he’s a serial killer than there’s more out there somewhere.  More pieces to his collection than just his…crimson angel.”
     “You’re from North Carolina, aren't you Miss. Cobb,” said the agent in blue.
     “Yes. How-”
     “Your accent,” he explained. “I spent some time there. Yours is a bit muddied from being in the North West, but I have an ear for accents.”
     “Ok…”
     “One of the library’s employees filed a complaint against you for harassment, didn’t she?” he continued.
     “Years ago. What kind of conclusion are you trying to draw here? I’m a girl from the south with interests in criminology and I incidentally creeped out some uptight librarian three years ago, so what? I obviously killed this woman? Smart. Good detective work,” I said sarcastically.
     Miller looked to the other agent. The tall pale man shook his head and Miller shuffled his paperwork. “That’s all for now, Miss. Cobb. You may go.”
     I sighed. They disappointed me. I guess what they say about meeting your heroes is true…
     “It’s a serial killer and looking at you two, there will definitely be more bodies out there in the future.” And with that I stood and moved to leave the room.
     “Don’t leave town,” the agent in blue said before the door closed behind me.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

THE ARTIST: A Serial Series book 1: CHAPTER ONE

As you might know, I'm writing two novellas at this moment; a zombie book with no official title, and a murder mystery called The Artist, about a serial killer who turns the human body into works of art. On this blog you can read the first 5 chapters of the zombie book HERE, but I haven't posted so much as an excerpt of The Artist. Here is the first chapter of The Artist:



A Serial Series Book 1

By Diana Graves

Copyright © 2016 Diana Graves

All rights reserved.

Kindle Edition

[CHAPTER ONE]

       
She didn’t smell as bad as I thought a dead body should smell.  There was no hint of rot or decay. Instead she smelled of bleach and a strong floral perfume, the cheap kind that some women seem to bathe themselves in. The smell reminded me of going to church on Sundays in the South, in which older women boldly wore a choking musk that lingered in the air and tainted everything it touched long after the wearer had gone. Standing as close to the corpse as I was, I could taste the perfume on the back of my tongue, and I imagined that’s what hairspray must taste like.
The body was hanging on a crucifix that was nailed to the old oak book shelves.  Her wrists and feet were nailed into place.  I was eye level with her stomach, where all her insides were coming out of a perfectly carved hole.  Her intestines were draped around her hips, creating a scarlet skirt that hid her womanhood. Her white-blond hair hung heavy over her shoulders, hiding her bare breasts. I had to wonder why the killer took such great lengths for modesty’s sake, when every other part of her was exposed. It was usually a sign of remorse, but displaying her so bravely in public challenged that notion and pegged the killer as an attention seeking narcissist.
As deplorable as the murder was, I had to admire the killer’s workmanship. Meat from the woman’s back had been skillfully pulled out in ribbons and attached to her outstretched arms, like ruby-red wings.  But for all the gore, every inch of the woman was expertly painted; from her lily white skin to her cherry red innards. Perhaps reality wasn’t as pretty as the killer had hoped.  The whole image was breathtaking, but the red mask covering her face was bothering me for some reason. It begged to be removed.
Jim, the head librarian, whispered sharply, “Carmen,” when I reached a hand up to lift the girl’s mask off her face. I glanced back at him for only a second before looking back at the body. I couldn’t stop staring at her.
“Carmen,” he said again, and I looked back at him. He was motioning with his hands for me to take a step back and I begrudgingly obliged.
Satisfied with my compliance, he walked away to attend to other patrons and I watched after him as he did what he could to comfort them. I’d known Jim for eight years. He was an unassuming man of average height and body type, but his smiling brown eyes and mousy brown hair made him look far younger than his forty-seven years. The goatee and walnut shaped prescription glasses did much to mature him.
I was alone standing in the aisle, mere feet from the body.  Everyone else was sitting in the heart of the library, waiting to be allowed to leave. I could understand why most people wouldn’t want to look at the dead woman. Not long ago it was a person, and what had been done to her was horrifying. I, however, felt compelled to stare at her. I was captivated by her from the moment I ran into the large aisle, curious about all the yelling.  This section in the public library was designated for religious literature.  I’d never stepped a foot in it until now.
With Jim out of sight, I inched closer to the body. I had to keep my arms folded over my chest, so I wouldn’t lose myself again and reach out to her. I bent my head to the side to try and see her face under that mask. The closer my face came to her, the more I could smell raw meat gone bad under all that paint, bleach and perfume.
“Carmen, step away from the body, step away.  The police will be here soon,” Jim said as he walked by the aisle to check up on me.  
I rolled my eyes, but he was right. Getting too close to the body was stupid.  I backed away from the woman slowly, rubbing my sweaty hands on my jeans, but I stared after her.  The word breathtaking kept coming to mind, scary too...but so breathtaking.
“What do you think?” asked Amber as I stepped out of the aisle.  Amber had long black hair, a thin body type, and a frumpy sense of fashion. She had a naturally beautiful face, though; big eyes, small nose, plump lips, tapered chin. All the things our culture teaches us to find attractive. But she didn’t seem to grasp her potential.  She looked plain when she could have looked gorgeous with very little effort.
I shrugged my shoulders to evade answering her question, because I knew she wouldn’t like my answer. She never liked what I had to say. Never.
I’d known Amber for years, because like Jim, she worked here as a librarian, and I spent a lot of time here. I could have stayed home and read all these book via a digital download, but I adored the smell of books, the feel of plopping a heavy tome on the table and poring over it for hours, filling my notebooks with facts, ideas and sketches.  Flipping through the pages and soaking in the knowledge gave me a sense of purpose and a natural high that scrolling down a touchscreen tablet could never achieve. Plus, libraries are free.
Amber was an apt enough librarian but she was easily offended. With my interests in abnormal psychology and criminology, I’ve offended her quite a few times over the years without meaning to.  Apparently she didn’t like me telling her all about Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer who raped, murdered and ate seventeen boys and men. She filed an official complaint against me. She called it gross intimidation and harassment. That overreaction almost got me banned from the library altogether. I didn’t talk to Amber after that, so you can imagine that she was the last person I wanted to talk to about the dead woman hanging on the cross.
But she was also an emotional wreck because she was the person who found the body.  It was her hysterical cries that brought me into the aisle, along with the rest of the library patrons, employees, and singular guard, Chuck. He was a big guy, with what seemed to be equal amounts of muscle and body fat. Six feet tall, bald head and small squinting eyes. His tan uniform didn’t fit well. It was baggy around the groin and chest, but stretched too tightly around his stomach and shoulders.
Chuck was standing at the entrance of the library waiting for the police and making sure nobody left.  The police asked him to do this, and in a booming voice he announced said request over the library intercom shortly after the body was found.  There weren’t that many people at the library at ten in the morning on Tuesday, but we few were now prisoners of circumstance.
“Come on, Carmen,” Amber prodded.  “You study this...stuff. What do you think?” Her eyes were swollen and rimmed in red from crying. She was in distress and maybe she thought some kind of answer would make her feel better...
“Fine. She was killed, obviously. She was cleaned with bleach, cut up, painted in red and white and posed like a sculpture. She’s a work of art,” I said quietly.  “At least, I hope it happened in that order.”
Her hazel eyes zeroed on me and her top lip curled up, like she smelled something awful.  I sniffed the air, but I didn’t smell anything save for the bleach and perfume.
“What is it?  Did I forget to brush my teeth this morning?”  I hid my mouth with my hands until Amber shook her head and grunted in frustration.  I gave her a raised brow.
“Art?” she asked.  Her words were hushed, but her tone was aggressive.  “The cross, the angel wings…clearly this is a terrorist attack on Christianity.”
I looked back at the body again.  She was nailed to a cross, and her insides were strewn about her, making her a gruesome angel.  She was even placed in the religious section of the library, but it didn’t feel like an attack on anything.  It felt like a showing, a display of something the killer was proud of.  It was a gruesome display of love. It was a statement piece, but I couldn’t quite grasp what the statement was. 
“A lot of religions have angels and crucified gods or heroes in them,” I said. “Dionysus, Horus, Krishna, Mithra, Attis of Phrygia.”
Amber shook her head, looking at me like I just didn’t get it, whatever it was. 
I shrugged.  “You asked my opinion, I gave it.  The killer may have used religion as his artistic inspiration, but I don’t think religion was the reason this woman was killed.”
“That makes absolutely no sense,” chimed in a white haired man in an argyle sweater.  “Obviously the killer was a Satanist, and she was his human sacrifice.” 
It was a drive-by comment.  The man made his thoughts known and exited without waiting for my rebuttal, which was, “That’s a ridiculous suggestion based on religious and cultural bias.  How does this in any way resemble the work of a Satanist?”
But I was talking to myself.  Amber left the conversation with the man, and I was left standing at the entrance of the aisle alone.  I looked out at the library.  A handful of people were sitting at a long table.  Most of the people were quietly consoling each other, talking in their usual library voices.  As if anyone was reading a book.  It was then that I noticed the first suspicious look in someone’s eyes.  A woman looked at me from the safety of her husband’s arms.  It was the same look Amber gave me earlier; as though she smelt something awful.  I didn’t know her, so I shrugged it off and looked back at the body.
“Carmen,” said Jim from behind me.  I looked over my shoulder at him.  Jim had a perpetual boyish charm about him that made me smile.  He looked small standing between the broad shoulders of two tall crime scene techs in white jump suits.  I looked up at them with awe. Wow, real crime scene technicians wearing real white suits with masks and everything just like on television! How cool was this?
“Make way, please,” one of the techs said.
I stepped aside and let the techs pass me, though it was unnecessary.  The aisle was big enough for the four of us.  Without a word, one tech began snapping pictures, while the other wrote notes on his clipboard.  I wondered how many crime scenes they’d processed, and if this one was more outrageous or gruesome than the others.  By their blank faces and relaxed manner, I’d guess they’d seen worse.  I’d seen worse too, but only in pictures and on TV. 
“Come with me,” Jim said, taking my attention away from the men.
“What is it?” I asked aloud, deciding that whispering seemed silly.
Jim led me into the next section of the library without a word.  We found ourselves in the children's section, surrounded by bright colors, stuffed animals and miniature furniture.  He walked me deep into the open area and looked at me with the same kind eyes I’d come to expect from him over the years.  I smiled and he frowned.
“What?” I asked again.
He looked down, searching for his words maybe, and then back up at me.  His face was more guarded somehow.  I wasn’t used to that.  Jim was an open book, always ready to talk or dish out bits of wisdom.  Seeing him look at me cautiously made my stomach sink.
“Now that’s the reaction you should have had twenty minutes ago,” he said quietly.
“What reaction?” 
He raised one eyebrow, and gave me a flat look.  “Uncomfortable, Carmen, sick to your stomach. Not curious, not enraptured.  It’s a dead body for Pete’s sake.”
I looked at him with a tilted head, my brows pressed together in confusion.  He wasn’t making any sense.  Killers, serial killers were my passion. Their motives and their personalities intrigued me.  I had a deep yearning to know and understand the minds of killers. And their crimes are their personal demons manifesting themselves in the most horrific way imaginable.  That body out there was a treasure trove of information more telling than anything else he could have left behind short of a DNA sample.
“But…you know how I feel about murder, murderers in particular.   What reaction would you expect me to have?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I did expect curiosity, but do you know what people are saying out there?  They’re saying that you enjoyed looking at that body.  They’re saying that you could have done this, Carmen.  That’s what they’re going to tell the police.” 
“So what if they do? There’s no evidence to support their preposterous theories. I'm a killer based on what? Curiosity?” 
He stepped into my personal bubble, my two feet of comfy-space radius that no one was allowed to enter, not even my mother.  I backed away and he grabbed my arm to stop me. 
“Let go of my arm Jim.”
He brought his face within inches of mine.  It was a kissable closeness, and I could smell the toothpaste on his breath, and the faint sweet smell of cologne or aftershave. 
“Jim?”
“The police are going to question you.  They might even ask me for your book check-out history.  They’ll be suspicious.  What are you going to tell them?” 
What would I tell the police?  I thought about it for a moment, staring down at our shoes.  He wore highly polished black dress shoes, which matched his polished style perfectly.  I was wearing my usually sneakers.  Slowly my lips grew into a long red smile.
“What are you thinking?” he asked. Bewilderment made his face seem uncertain of what expression it should hold.  I looked up at him, and I knew I was positively beaming with joy! No anticipation! No pure elation!