The third book in the Central Division Series, titled Discarded, is nearing the finish line. My goal is to publish it by the end of March 2016.
At this point, I’d like to share the prologue. This is still a work-in-progress, but is getting close to done. This story deals with the larger issue of human sex trafficking, which is a scary subject in and of itself. Here is the prologue. Enjoy!
Kassi Young awakens to darkness, save for the amber streetlights whizzing by overhead.
She’s in the back of a car, lying across the seats. The stench of musty, old leather and cigarette smoke causes her throat to convulse. The lump of her cell phone in her front pocket digs into her hip.
She inches her hand down, careful not to make any sound against the leather seats.
“Charlie wants to know the ETA,” the female passenger says.
Kassi knows the driver tonight as Mitch, but doesn’t think that’s his real name. Last month, she heard someone call him Dave. And before that it was Matt and even Bob. She doesn’t know the woman at all. She’s been a mystery before tonight.
“I’d tell him if I knew where the fuck I am,” Mitch says. “Goddamned fucking road construction.”
Kassi slips the cell out. She glances up, just as a streetlight passes by, and luckily sees only the back of the seat.
Her cell is off. With a limited amount of places to charge it where she lives, she keeps it off until she needs it. She learned this the hard way when she first started living on the streets. Her first night out, a girl named Megan saw her using Facebook and told her the web uses up too much juice. “Trust me, I even suggest shutting off all web stuff. Limit it to texting.”
Kassi didn’t heed the warning. Her cell died in the middle of the night. The only available power outlets were at Rosie’s, the community church, or at the homeless shelter, the latter if she’s lucky to snag a spot for the night. Which she didn’t. Rosie’s was closed then and the church outlets had a very long line.
Despite being in vibrate mode now, her cell still makes the usual droid sound when powering up. Holding her thumb over the speaker along the back, she pushes the power button. The screen lights up and she immediately presses it against her chest, praying Mitch and the woman don’t see it.
“Do you even know if we’re going the right way?” the woman asks.
“How the fuck am I supposed to know? Why don’t you check on our passenger.”
Kassi closes her eyes as she hears the crinkle of leather in front of her. She wraps both hands over the cell, concealing it the best she can.
But who is she gonna call? She can’t call her parents. Even if they know where she is and what she’s doing–or what she is supposed to be doing, which is earning a few bucks sucking or fucking–they still aren’t able to help. Not even her two friends, Pink and Lemon, can do anything.
She counts to twenty and peeks open one eye. A streetlight passes by, illuminating the headrest and nothing more. She hits the phone icon, careful not to allow very much light from the screen to seep up, and then taps the dialing pad.
“911 emergency,” the dispatcher’s voice says and Kassi immediately presses her thumb over the ear speaker.
“You hear something?” Mitch asks.
Kassi brings the cell up to her cheek and whispers, “Help me.”
A hand snatches the cell away from her, a long fingernail scratching her cheek.
“Did you even bother to search her?” the woman asks.
“Then explain this.”
“Here, let me see it,” says Mitch.
“What are you gonna do, Russ?”
Russ? No, it can’t be.
“Shh–how many times . . . shit. She called the cops.”
The woman peers over the seat. “You’re gonna pay for this, you fucking cunt!”
A chilly breeze fills the interior.
“There. Matter solved.”
“But what if the cops trace it?” she asks.
“What the fuck are they gonna find? There’s nothing that can be linked back to us.”
The window closes, yet the cool air linger on.
Kassi’s only other option for escape is to dig her nails into Mitch’s neck, but that option is cut short as the woman leans back and presses a cloth over her face. Before she can claw at her arm, a strong, sweet smell overcomes her and everything fades into a swirling pool of black and amber . . .
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Tim can’t believe his luck. He steps off the subway and there, lying along the concrete wall amidst a thin film of dirt, is a broken wrench.
It’s a 3/8” open-end. He has another 3/8” back at his apartment—that one is a combination-style, unbroken of course. This one is broken right down the middle at a slight angle. If it’s a twin of the other or a true open-end, he isn’t able to tell.
He pockets the find and moves on through the weary, late evening crowd
“Evening, Mr. Scudder,” the proprietor of the magazine kiosk says. He tips his New England City Yankees baseball cap. “Got your new Time and People.” The kid who runs the kiosk—who isn’t really a kid, for he must be edging thirty—reaches under the counter, and ever-so gently lifts out a small stack of magazines. “As requested, two each, one wrapped in cellophane.”
Tim hands over his financial card, and thirty-two dollars and fifty-five cents are electronically transferred out of his bank account.
“You know,” the kid says, “if you ever want an e-reader, I can get you a deal on one. Then you wouldn’t have to carry around all these magazines.”
“No, I could never do that,” Tim says. Inside his coat are three newspapers. He slips the new magazines in next to them. “I know it’s the wave of the future and all, but I just like to hold the real thing. Besides, I wouldn’t want you to go out of business.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, Mr. Scudder,” the kid says. “I still get paid when I set up others on subscriptions. Awful nice of you to think of me though.” He motions to an enclosed case behind him. “If you ever change your mind, I have plenty to choose from.”
In the display are rows upon rows of e-readers, several smaller than the size of his hand. They also come in a variety of colors, from drab black and white to hot pink and shiny chrome.
“These can hold up to five hundred thousand books and magazines,” the kid says. “And they say in about a year or so, there’ll be ones that can hold over a million. Christ, no one can even read that many.”
Tim is about to walk away when he sees a magazine next to the readers. “What’s that?” he asks, pointing at it. The cover is all black with white striking letters near the top that read The End.
“Oh, that’s a new magazine that just came out,” the kid says. “The premiere issue. The e-version is available too, but everyone says you have to get the real thing. Got a box of fifty just a few hours ago and I have only three left.”
“Premiere issue, huh? Never had a premiere issue of anything before.” Tim rubs his chin. “You have three left?”
A lady wearing a purple shawl jogs up to the kiosk and asks for an issue of The End.
“Evening, Mrs. Williams, here you go.”
She shoves her financial card into the kid’s hand. Once he scans it, she scurries away, holding the magazine tight against her chest.
“Thanks, Mrs. Williams,” the kid says. He turns back to Tim. “Two, now.”
Tim adjusts his coat and thinks about his own collection. “I . . . I’ll have to think about it. You can’t save them for me, can you?”
This time, the kid’s smile fades. “Sorry, Mr. Scudder,” he says. “I can’t.”
* * *
Tim’s apartment is three blocks from the kiosk. He typically walks quite briskly when he has new pieces to add to his collection. This time, however, his pace is more reserved, for every other person he meets is reading a copy of The End.
Aside from the usual streetlight LEDs blazing the way, traffic overhead is unusually heavy. The screaming whine of fusion engines gnaws at his mind.
Trailing up behind him are three teens zooming back and forth on electric scooters. One hops onto a nearby polymer bench and rides along the back of it.
Once they pass by him, Tim steps up to his apartment complex. A datapad lights up to an iridescent blue.
Instead of placing his palm on it, he steps back, gazing in the direction of the magazine kiosk.
“No, I’ll make room.”
He comes off the step and freezes. Next to the building is a line of old bottles. But it’s not the bottles that draw his attention, it’s the deck of cards behind them.
Well, if today isn’t my lucky day.
A police cruiser zooms by directly overhead, red and blue strobes flashing madly. A spotlight shines down onto nearby rooftops.
Tim reaches down and plucks the deck out from behind the bottles. He thumbs through them. Fifty-two regulars and two jokers.
“Perfect for my collection.”
He walks back to the kiosk with such swiftness that the newspapers and magazines nearly bounce out of his pockets. But as he rounds the corner, he stops.
A FedEx postal cruiser hovers beside a nearby café, the driver chatting excitedly with the chef.
Typically, when kiosks are packed up for the night, there’s at least some trace of them left behind, like a torn magazine page or even a placard stating BE BACK IN 12 HOURS. SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. But in this case, there’s nothing. It’s completely disappeared.
A white-haired gentleman in a black fedora saunters on by, an issue of The End rolled up in his fists.
“Excuse me, sir,” Tim says. “Where did you get that?”
“Kiosk down the way,” the man says, cocking a finger behind him. “But he’s out. I got the last one.”
“Could I buy that from you? I’ll pay triple what you paid for it,” Tim says, despite his lack of knowledge as to the original price.
“No way!” the man exclaims, stuffing it inside his coat and hurrying away.
“I said no! Beat it!”
* * *
He hits up seven other people on his way back to the apartment. None are willing to give up their premiere issue of The End for any amount of money.
His neighbor, Stephanie, is waiting inside for the hyperlift, black metallic briefcase in hand.
“Any new additions to your collection, Tim?”
He pats the sides of his coat. “A new Time and People. I even found a deck of playing cards outside. With the jokers.”
Her eyes grow wide. “Oh, wow, you’re so lucky. I don’t care for Time myself but I did pick up my People and Reader’s Digest.” She glances around. “And I picked up these.” She opens her briefcase and shows him the very familiar black cover of The End. “Premiere issue. I got the last two.”
“Can I buy one?” asks Tim.
She slaps her briefcase shut, the sharp bang resonating throughout the hallway. The hyperlift doors open.
“Please,” he says, holding out his financial card. “I don’t care how much. Please.” His other hand is in an inside pocket, gripping the broken 3/8” wrench.
She clears the combination display on the briefcase, and tucks it under her arm.
He releases his grip on the wrench. There must be thousands upon thousands of combinations to choose from, so his chances of gaining possession of the magazines now, even by nefarious means, are nil.
“Sorry,” he says, stepping onto the hyperlift. He pushes the button for the eleventh floor. “Coming?”
She edges into the far corner, keeping the briefcase as far away from him as possible.
“Awful busy outside, huh?” he asks.
“Outside. Seems busier than usual.”
“You don’t know?”
He glances over at her. She grips the briefcase with both arms now. “Am I missing something?”
The doors soon open.
Stephanie bolts out down the hall. She fumbles with her keypad, and as soon as the apartment door slides open she slips inside.
Tim’s apartment is on the end—he actually rents two units in order to house his vast ever-growing collection. He enters his code on the keypad, and the door slides open a few inches then stalls, hypergears whirling, growing higher and higher in pitch. He gives it a hefty shove and it finally slides free, an avalanche of newspapers and magazines spilling out into the hallway.
A stale sulfuric odor wafts out. He breathes in and smiles.
* * *
Tim sits in his brown leather recliner, wedged amongst heaping mountains of newspapers and magazines. He cleans out his coat pockets, laying the new additions on his lap.
That’s when he spies something—a magazine with an ominous black cover—stuck between the two still wrapped in cellophane.
“What did that boy do?”
A note pasted on the front reads:
My compliments from years of business.
Tim tosses the new Time and People onto one of the mounds, the top now starting to teeter, and opens The End.
* * *
Butch Dice secures the breathing apparatus, completely engulfing his head.
“How long has he been in there?” his assistant Cheryl asks.
“The neighbor said she spoke to him about two weeks ago. Remember when that weird magazine came out? The End? That was when. He was asking about her copies of it, and looked to be real desperate.”
“Did you ever read it?”
“That magazine? No. My wife did. She said it was the biggest waste. All hype. Made some rich guy even richer, that’s for sure.” He points at the door. “Ready?”
He punches in the code given to them by the building manager. The door starts to slide, ever-so slowly, the hypergears groaning. When it finally opens, magazines and newspapers pour out into the hallway. Inside, along the wall to their right, are six tall tool chests. Stacked on top of these are several piles of playing cards, many touching the ceiling.
They wade through the mess to where the officers found Mr. Tim Scudder crushed to death beneath layers of magazines, The End clutched tightly in his hands.
“We’ll need eight dumpsters,” Butch says.
“But he had two living units.”
“Then we’ll need sixteen, just to be safe.”
As Cheryl starts cleaning debris away from the door, she spies a broken wrench. She picks it up.
If it wasn’t for the stairs cut precisely into the stone floor, they never would’ve guessed there actually was once life on Mars.
Janice Ling descended, deep inside the cave, careful not to overextend herself as her oxygen level displayed two hours and twenty-one minutes left—if she started running and jumping like a few of her colleagues, she’d find the oxygen being rapidly depleted.
“Do you realize you’re the first woman to set foot on Mars?” Ken Eagle asked.
Of course, but only because Susan came down with a cold.
“I did,” she said. Without turning around, she motioned on ahead. “But we’re here to explore this cave, not reminisce about sexism. Are you the first Indian?”
“I believe we prefer to be called Native Americans,” said Ken. “And yes, I believe so. What do you make of these stairs?”
She focused her light down onto the intricate stonework. The walls and ceiling were similar to the coal mines back on Earth, with a definitive circular shape and size, the walls rough from dynamite blasts and hydraulic hammers.
“You’ll be remembered, you know,” said Ken.
Janice stopped. “Without exact measurements, I’d say the stairs are cut at a ninety-degree angle. However, standard width for stairs on Earth is around nine inches with about an eight-inch drop. These are roughly half of that.”
“Martians may have been smaller. If their species is similar to the one found by Roswell, they would be.”
“Makes it harder to walk on,” she said. “How will I be remembered?”
“Because you’re the first woman.”
“That again?” She continued to descend, waving her hand onward. “If I will be, so will you.”
“Who’s the first woman in space?”
“Most will say Sally Ride, because the history records always remember those from the United States. But the first was a Soviet cosmonaut named Valentina Tereshkova.”
Minutes later, the stairs abruptly ended. The floor now resembled the rough walls.
“I wonder why they stopped?” asked Ken. “Can’t be erosion. Erosion would never be this precise.”
“Come on. I think I see the bottom.”
They were careful not to step on any jagged edges, despite the layer of steel on the bottom of their boots. When they soon set foot inside the oval-shaped room, they froze. And stared. Her heartbeat pounded hard in her ears and she struggled to maintain a regular breathing pattern.
Further proof that aliens do exist, especially at one time on Mars. And, from the looks of it, it hasn’t been too long either.
In the center of the room was a rectangular-shaped stone block, like the tomb of an Egyptian king. Along the sides were carvings of two hands—not the five-fingered hands of humans, mind you, but three-fingered ones—joining together.
Along the far wall was one word. Written in English, oddly enough, in letters at least two-feet tall.
The tumblers fell in place yesterday morning. And I mean, perfectly in place.
I’ve been working on the first draft of the third novel in the Central Division Series, and at first I didn’t feel the original plot was enough to hold through the entire novel. I added a second major plot to fill it out. My thought was to add a more realistic feel to big city investigators, juggling multiple cases (even high profile ones) at once.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger has said on multiple occasions in his movies: “Big mistake.”
(insert smiley face emoticon or appropriate meme here)
As each of the major plots for the third story grew, I quickly realized I had two novels in my hands. Not just one.
I thought a lot about the major thriller novels, movies, and TV series, and how they were set up. I realized that to pack so much in would be . . . well, a mistake. It would confuse the readers, something I don’t want to do.
So, what was once one novel is now two.
I’m about 8,000 words into the third novel, which will have to be dissected now that I have to take the second story line out. No worries. I’m very excited for the change.
A few months into 2014, I realized I had WAY too many goals. I won’t embarass myself by listing how many, but quickly into the new year I decided to simplify my goals. I may have still done a dreadful job of completing very many of them, I still published three ebooks, got my website Mark S. R. Peterson.com up and running, paid off our car (we have no car loans whatsoever!), signed up for the Goodreads Author Program, and submitted at least twice to the Writers Of The Future contest.
2014 is fast approaching the memory banks. 2015 is looking to be a good year.
No, I know it will.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve narrowed down my list of goals to accomplish. They involve two things: publishing and weight loss.
For publishing, Straight Razor is past the 42,000 word mark (out of an estimated 70K). I also have two more nonfiction ebooks in the wings, in the Mr. Shoestring series, I’m planning. Those two are still in the infancy stage and I probably won’t talk about it until they’re ready.
I’m also planning on using some of indie author Nick Stephenson’s advice in how to increase the number of e-mail subscribers. It involves offering a free short ebook to those who subscribe. Don’t worry, I won’t forget the early adopters and will make sure you get a copy of it as well.
A few weeks ago, I got to the halfway point in Straight Razor, the second novel in the Central Division Series franchise. When I later examined my current word count at that point, I was around the 25,000 word mark.
And the goal for this book was between 70-75,000.
Not quite halfway, in my book–and I was fairly good in math, in my late high school years.
I then realized I introduced a lot of leads (AKA red herrings) that would lead the investigative team of Simon Templeton and Kolin Raynes, of the Minneapolis PD Violent Crime Unit (VCU), but forgot to add them into the story.
*insert head slap*
My progress has slowed some, as I examined what should be written in and where. I truly believe the story will be stronger because of it.
And a hell of a lot more interesting.
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Now, all of this is fine, great, and dandy. However, I am going in a different direction when it comes to writing, especially when you’re thinking of self-publishing (indie publishing). Here it is:
Stay out of debt
When I examine what I’d love my publishing empire to look like, one major factor hinders it. Debt. The dreaded d-word. Debt has hindered much of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’ve had to do everything on a shoestring budget. From covers to editing and everything in between, our major debt load has handcuffed me.
But has it stopped me? No. I just keep trucking, working a full-time job and diligently working at reducing our debt.
So, although the sit-butt-in-chair-and-write-everyday writing advice is worthy noting, one very few talk about is debt.