Today’s Indy Author Talk is from Baltimore author (transplanted from New Jersey), Jill Yesko! She has given us a glimpse of her upcoming novel Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie. She hopes to have it complete by 2016. It’s the first chapter from Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie, the final book in the Murder in the Dog Park trilogy. I hope you enjoy the first chapter of her book and grab the other two in the triology! I will be heading to Ukazoo in Towson MD just to do so!
♥ Gladys #XOXOtheNerdGirl #NerdGirlOfficial
Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie
Hot in the City
I stared out of the smeared glass pane, transfixed by the waves of heat rising up from the Inner Harbor. Water Taxis floated by like rubber toys bobbling across a steamy bathtub. Across the harbor, the neon Domino Sugar sign was barely visible through the smoggy sunshine. The thermometer on the window ledge of my second-story office read 102 degrees. I couldn’t remember a hotter June day.
I cracked a wad of nicorette gum between my molars and drummed my palms against my desk. A scrim of sweat formed on my forehead and my armpits were as slippery as a driveway after a rainstorm. I tugged at my sports bra strap and gathered my sweaty hair into a sloppy ponytail. One word kept running through my heat-addled mind: Clients. I need to score some rich clients—and fast.
With the air conditioner on the fritz and the Wifi down, there wasn’t much for me to do except look at Jerome’s ass bent over the filing cabinet, pray that my business wouldn’t go belly up before Labor Day, and curse the infernal Baltimore summer.
In the six months since Jerome and I had opened J&J Investigations and Bail Bonds in a tiny office above a bar in Fells Point, we’d barely made enough money for a round of Natty Bohs.
“We’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel when a tattooed, snaggle-toothed grandmother won’t co-sign her grandson’s bail bond,” Jerome said, sighing dramatically. The handful of bonds Jerome had written, mostly for petty thieves and numbers runners, turned out to be disasters. The clients jumped their bonds leaving us on the hook for thousands of dollars as they sneaked off to be reabsorbed into Baltimore’s dark underbelly.
It had been my idea to start our business. Jerome was my best friend, a transsexual who managed a bail bond agency near the downtown. I was a private investigator looking to break out on my own after working as a computer hacker. It seemed like a match made in heaven: two misfits joining forces for good rather than evil—the woman with oppositional defiant disorder and awesome computer skills, and the well-connected gender-bending bail bondsman who knew all of Baltimore’s dirty secrets. How could we miss? With people getting arrested round the clock in Baltimore, our phone should be ringing off the hook.
I’d promised Jerome that we’d make more money if we combined forces. Jerome wrote the bonds and I chased down the miscreants who skipped out on their bonds. Bounty hunting wasn’t something I was crazy about. The hours were even worse than for my private investigation clients. One days like today, with the air conditioner on the fritz, four hundred dollars in our bank account, and zero new business, I felt like bitch slapping anyone who looked at me the wrong way.
“No one said starting your own business was going to be as easy as falling off a log,” my husband Don, a tough Baltimore cop, reminded me when I came home from work grouchy and itching for a fight. Even though Don was right, I still wanted to strangle him every time he pointed this out.
In spite of all the problems, I was committed to making our business work, even if it took me two weeks to chase down the last asshole who’d skipped his court hearing leaving Jerome and me on the hook for $15,000. After searching for the dirtbag in every dive bar from Highlandtown to Essex, I finally located the jumper curled up and snoring in a rat-infested dumpster behind the Golden Ring Mall. When I got back to the office, Jerome burst into tears, relieved that we’d once again dodged a financial bullet.
I touched my prosthetic left ear and glared at Jerome who was doing yoga stretches against his desk. I click my tongue disapprovingly while Jerome suggestively lifted his buttocks and breathed in and out like he was having an orgasm.
“Quit rubbernecking at my downward facing dog,” Jerome said, wiggling his butt like a two-bit stripper begging for a tip. “Staring ain’t gonna give you this kind of booty,” he said, giving his butt a playful slap. “Face it, Jane, you got no ass and that ain’t gonna change. Now when are we gonna get this air conditioner replaced? It’s hotter than a nun’s crotch in this damn pit.”
Well, what about that new AC? he huffed.
“We can buy a new air conditioner when we get some clients.” I replied, mopping my brow with the back of my hand. I got to my feet then stood in front of the ancient air conditioner like a gunslinger ready for a shootout. I unleashed a roundhouse kick with my motorcycle boot. The unit stuttered and whirred before blowing a jet of hot air in my face. I kicked it again. A weak stream of cool air wheezed out.
“All fixed,” I said. “Now who’s going to fix the Wifi?”
Jerome giggled. “Ask me about hair weaves and writing bail bonds. You’re the technical genius.”
“Some genius,” I said, spitting my gum into my palm. Jerome and I stood in front of the air conditioner, our faces inches away from the precious jet of cool air. “Maybe we need a gimmick,” I said. “You know, like free pens with our names on it, or our faces on the back of public buses.”
Jerome turned to me. “Girlfriend, we need something fresh. You and me need to put on a fundraiser ball. I can invite all my cross dressing girlfriends—you know I am on a first-name basis with every queen from Richmond to Boston. It’ll be a real extravaganza: J&J Investigations invites you to a night of boogie madness and cocktails. We can rent out the 13th floor of the Belvedere Hotel and charge seventy-five dollars a head. That’ll clear us an easy five grand.”
Jerome’s answer to every problem was always the same—throw some fake tits and umbrella drinks at a problem and hope it will go away.
“Sorry Jerome. That won’t cut it. We need fucked up clients with American Express Platinum Cards.”
Jerome looked at me sternly. “And where are we going to find people like that? Your last rich client nearly got your head shot off.”
“Thanks for the trip down memory lane. You really know how to make a girl feel special.”
I shot a rubber band at Jerome’s head. He swatted it out of the way with a pink handkerchief that he extracted from his skintight jeans.
Jerome was right about picking better clients. My last big case involved two rabbis hell bent on double-crossing each other over a black market kidney ring that was worth millions. Selling bodily organs creeped me. Against my better judgment, I’d taken the job which promised to net me thousands of dollars. Instead of a bag of cash, a Russian mobster had blown away half of my ear and put a bullet in my shoulder. I spent six months in physical therapy and lost the hearing in my left ear. I’d learned a hard lesson: never take a case just for the money—and never work with Russian mobsters. Money always added up to trouble for me.
Jerome perched at the end of my desk and picked up a framed picture of me and Don taken at our wedding last year. Jerome, who’d become a wedding officiant, had married us in the backyard of our condo in Mt. Jefferson. I stood next to Don clad in a plain white dress, a tight smile pasted across my face, my hair a windblown mess. After years of avoiding commitment, I finally said “I do”. It didn’t hurt that Don was 6’ 4” of rock-solid muscle who loved me fiercely in spite of my anti-social tendencies.
“You two sure make a pretty couple,” Jerome said admiringly. “Of course, you could have done something nicer with that hair of yours. And you should think about breast implants for those mosquito bites.”
“Oh for God’s sake, put down that damn picture and stop talking about my boobs.”
The heat had fried my last brain cell. I needed a cold shower followed by an even colder six pack. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said to Jerome. “No paying customers are going to be coming out in this weather.”
I locked the office door and followed Jerome down the rickety stairs. Halfway down, my iPhone buzzed in my back pocket. I pulled it out. I didn’t recognize the number and was about to kill the call when it hit me. I blinked and looked again, gripping the phone in my sweating hand.
My heart pounded like I’d run a thousand wind sprints. I collapsed against the banister and as the still buzzing phone dropped from my hand.
I remembered that number.
Mandy Legg-Alexander was leaving me a message.
Jill Yesko’s writing career has spanned more than two decades. She’s worked as a reporter, editor and freelance journalist for publications ranging from The Baltimore Sun to Shape magazine. Along the way, Jill’s written about everything from hiking the mud flats of northern Holland to profiling Olympic athletes and U.S. Senators. After a year-long, solo trip halfway around the world, Jill was featured as an “adventurous traveler” in O, the Oprah Magazine. Jill’s commentaries on caring for her father can be heard on NPR.
Prior to her career in journalism, Jill was a national-class cyclist, doctoral student in cultural geography and very briefly, a cartographer.
A New Jersey native, Jill now lives in her adopted hometown of Baltimore, Maryland with her basset hound.
Q. When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?
My mother insists that I came out of the womb reading and writing…then again, my mom likes to tell stories!
After many years as a journalist and newspaper reporter, I began writing fiction as an antidote to endless profiles of CEOs and articles about county council meetings. The freedom to make things up and not be called to the carpet by copy editors was liberating. In crime fiction writing, people never complain that they’ve been misquoted.
My inspiration for writing Murder in the Dog Park and Dog Spelled Backwards came after I read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Aha, I thought: here’s a great read with an unforgettable protagonist that needs about 25% of its content lopped off. It showed me that a book doesn’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable — or dare I say successful. From there I was off and running.
Q. What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
I am not a book snob. I didn’t major in English (I was a geography major, of all things!) and didn’t set out to be a writer so my tastes are all over the map (no pun intended).
For crime fiction I enjoy the Nordic Noire genre that included the aforementioned Larsson,Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, and others. I’m also a HUGE fan of Irish author Tana French. On this side of the Atlantic I pay homage to Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, and Mickey Spillane. Other writers who have informed my life outside of crime fiction are poets Adrienne Rich and William Carlos Williams.
Q. Tell us about your characters and how they came to be? Have they been in your head for a long time?
I joke that Jane Ronson, my tough chick protagonist is a version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander with slightly better social skills and car. I’ve been incubating Jane for a few years. She’s appeared in some of my short stories in different iterations. I use her as a stand in for women who don’t feel like they are feminine enough and who have difficulty negotiating relationships. Lenny, Jane’s cousin who she has a love/hate relationship with is the only character who is based on a real person. I also say in interviews that Baltimore, the city in which my books are set, functions as a stand alone character. If you’ve ever seen a John Waters movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Q. What motivates you to write?
I write to get stories out of my head. I’m constantly walking around or musing about people and situations. I often commute to work on the Light Rail and will look around the car and immediately begin crafting stories about the people seated around me.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing?
Since I’ve been working full time, the hardest part has been finding the time and quiet head space to write. Aside from that, I can get bogged down by too many critiques. I find it overwhelming to integrate suggestions. The old saw “too many cooks spoil the batter” is very true.
Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I wrote and self-published my books which was a wonderful production challenge. I learned a lot about the technical aspects of publishing, everything from book design to formatting my books for various e-platforms. I found that I enjoyed this part of the process far more than I’d anticipated.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
From walking around with my eyes open!
Q. What does your family think of your writing?
My mom is my biggest fan. She loves saying “my daughter is an author.” She doesn’t understand why I can’t get booked on C-Span!
Q. What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Try to write without self-editing. Don’t let other people sway your creativity. And for heaven’s sake, don’t stop writing.
Q. What book(s) are you reading now?
Tana French’s The Secret Place, a collection of poems by Beat generation writers, and my colleague Rene Swindle’s delightful new book A Pinch of Ooh La La.
Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/ogwdcra
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