COTW: Burden of Proof, Chapter 8

Chapter Eight

 

Justin was still feeling good two hours later as he made his way through the run-down neighborhood known as the Hill District. Why it was a source of pride that this area had been the inspiration for a popular crime drama, he’d never understand. Normally, he hated when a case brought him into this high-crime, heavily littered section of Pittsburgh. It set his teeth on edge to see how casually overlooked the crime he fought was among these abandoned storefronts and rundown tenements. Fortunately for him, today was different. With Chelsea’s smile hanging in his memory and warming his heart, he barely noticed the calculating stares of the street corner hangers-on, or the suspicious glares of the pushers and pimps leaning against the chain link fence surrounding an empty lot.

Scanning the storefronts, he saw the grime-covered neon sign proclaiming Painted Lady in garish pink. Smothering a sigh, he pulled into an open space in front of the building and resigned himself to this task. The file on Maria Cavarella said she owned and operated a tattoo parlor out of this building. From that sign, he wasn’t too optimistic about what he’d find inside.

Shutting off his car, he slid out and double-checked the locks before turning toward the building. Frowning, he glanced back at his new BMW Z-3 roadster, uncertain it was a good idea to leave it parked along these unsafe streets. Not like he had much choice. He had to go into this building if he wanted to talk to Dominic Cavarella’s sister. Her file indicated she might have information about her brother’s marriage, but she’d avoided him with the adroitness of a trained spy. She hadn’t returned any of his calls — no big surprise if she was hiding unaired family laundry — but she also ignored the official requests sent from the District Attorney’s office for her to appear for questioning. That brought him here in person. For the sake of his case, he had to know what Maria knew about her brother and his wife.

Justin strode through the door of the graffiti-covered building before he could change his mind, and promptly wished he hadn’t. Even the loudly-rattling air conditioner, working overtime to cool the windowless space, didn’t mask the eerie jangle of a bell, before a feminine voice called out, “Just a minute!”

Uneasy, Justin glanced around the small lobby again, suppressing a shudder of disgust. He didn’t consider himself a prude — hell, with the dreams he’d been having since his first run-in with Chelsea, he should lock himself up for indecency — but this entire room gave him the creeps. It was like something straight out of the Marquis de Sade’s sickest fantasies. The furniture was dark wood and black leather, covered with an uncomfortable array of metal studs, and the deep red-brown hue of the walls reminded Justin of the few gruesome crime scenes he’d seen firsthand. The artwork covering the walls — if one took the liberty of calling grotesque charcoal drawings art — was clearly meant to shock as much as disturb. They all featured nude, tattooed models — both men and women — in various states of torment. Over each hovered a shadowy, bat-winged demon.

The beaded curtain rattled, and Justin was relieved to have somewhere other than those pictures to look. He snapped his gaze to the woman who’d come through the curtain, and stopped cold. She was tall and slim — emaciated-looking, really — and dressed in a black lace dress that flaunted a decided lack of curves. Spiked bands circled her neck and both wrists, and her dark hair was a wild mass of spikes that fell into her hollow, dark eyes. Her maroon-tinted lips curved wryly as she looked him up and down, before her eyes narrowed on his shocked expression. Clearly, his discomfort amused her.

“You don’t look like the tat type, sugar,” she observed in a Winston-and-whiskey drawl dripping with disdain. “Aren’t you in the wrong neighborhood?”

“I’m looking for Maria Cavarella.”

“You a cop?” Her gaze shuttered, her expression grown wary. Then, as she studied him, she snorted. “Of course not. Your suit’s too expensive. You must be one of Dom’s thugs, right?”

Thugs? Was she implying Dominic Cavarella had Mob connections? “Are you Maria Cavarella?”

She sighed heavily. “Yeah, that’s me. I told Dom I wasn’t gonna back down, so you can just kiss my Catholic–“

“Miss Cavarella, my name is Justin Blakely. I’m with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office. I need to talk to you about your brother, Dominic.”

She scowled. “He’s a pompous ass. There, you got what you wanted. Now, go away.”

“Miss Cavarella, I’m afraid that’s not enough.” He stopped her as she turned away. “Are you aware your brother was stabbed to death by his wife, two months ago? No one remembers seeing you at the funeral.”

She muttered something under her breath, and then barked a sharp laugh, before turning to face him again. “So? What do you want from me?”

Her attitude grated on his nerves. “So, it’s suspicious. I need to know where you were on June third, and if you know of any domestic difficulties Dominic and Marlene had, prior to the murder.”

She snorted indelicately. “Sugar, Dom and I haven’t spoken a word directly to each other since the sorry sonuvabitch threw me out and cut off my inheritance at his damned wedding. You think I’m working in this shabby dump because I like it here in the Hill District?” She looked him up and down, her gaze turning calculatingly heated. “You got company for tonight, sugar? I can free up my schedule if you want a tour.”

Suppressing a disgusted shudder at the thought of spending time with Maria, Justin scowled. “Whatever you’re trying to sell me, lady, I’m not buying. Your brother’s secretary said he received two calls from you the day of his murder, and he was on the phone for over an hour, both times. She also said he’s met with you at least three times in the past six months.”

An icy wall descended over Maria’s face, and her stance turned hostile. “I think we’re done here, Mr. A.D.A. You want to talk to me again, you call my lawyer. Otherwise, I don’t have to tell you a damned thing.”

And, as Maria Cavarella sashayed back through the beaded curtain, Justin couldn’t help but wonder if Chelsea didn’t just have something with her avowals of Marlene’s innocence. Compared to Dominic’s sister, Marlene Cavarella was a damned saint.

*****

August 8
10:30 AM

This wasn’t where she wanted to be, Chelsea acknowledged as she pulled into the sprawling, tree-lined driveway of the Gothic mansion abutting the Cavarella estate. The whitewashed stone walls of the old building looked cold and forbidding, and she shivered, hoping those walls weren’t harbingers of her acceptance here.

She wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the rich and famous today, but the police report listed supermodel Kimberly Manning as having assumed temporary custody of the Cavarella children at the time of their mother’s arrest, and Chelsea needed to talk to the kids.

Glancing through the oak trees forming the border between Ms. Manning’s home and the equally lavish Cavarella estate, Chelsea could see the taunting flicker of caution yellow dancing on the stiff afternoon breeze. Since Marlene’s arrest, police had cordoned off the Cavarella house and grounds for investigation, and she couldn’t wander into the crime scene without a writ or warrant from the judge, which wasn’t likely to happen. However, she could do the next best thing, for now. She could talk to Marlene’s teenage twins.

Not sure what to expect, Chelsea parked her car and walked toward the mansion’s front door, still wondering how she managed to get mixed up in a society murder case. Didn’t these people stick to their own? She frowned, recalling the last time she dealt with the rich. They certainly seemed inclined to band against her.

Shuddering in spite of the mid-afternoon warmth, Chelsea wondered how Sally stood the pressure of her case in Houston. It generated national media attention, and the trial was a circus. Sally shied away from any cases that might attract media attention, since then — a hard thing for a Private Investigator of her expertise to do — but Chelsea understood why. The longer Sally stayed out of the news, the longer she remained hidden from the Sentry Brigade.

If only she could stay out of the media limelight, too. Chelsea sighed as she rang the doorbell. A sweetly pitched voice called, “Just a minute!”

An instant later, the door opened, and Chelsea found herself looking into the smiling face that had adorned fashion magazine covers for the past three years. Kimberly Manning was a slim, beautiful woman with long, straight blonde hair and huge indigo eyes. Her softly tinted lips were curved into a welcoming smile that warmed her entire face and startled Chelsea. Weren’t models supposed to be cool prima donnas?

“Hi!” Kimberly said cheerily. “Can I help you?”

Chelsea blinked, nonplussed. “Do you always answer the door yourself?”

The musical cascade of Kimberly’s laughter was warm and friendly. “Usually. I like my private life to be private.” She winked. “I guess you can take the girl off the farm, but not the farm out of the girl. I grew up about two hours away from here, until high school. I thought I was so cosmopolitan, going to high school here, but all I did was prove how rural I really was.”

Chelsea nodded, unable to find a suitable reply. Clearly, Kimberly Manning’s magazine smile was the genuine article, as was the woman herself.

“Ms. Manning, my name is Chelsea Hanover. We spoke on the phone, earlier.”

Kimberly thought a moment. “Oh, right. Marlene’s attorney, right?”

Chelsea nodded.

Kimberly’s smile faded. “I can’t say I’m surprised someone killed Dominic, but I never would have suspected Marlene. She was always such a sweet, shy woman.”

Chelsea studied the woman carefully. How much did Kimberly know? “You know the Cavarella family well?”

Kimberly nodded, holding the door open as she stepped back. “Come on in. I’ll help you any way I can.”

As Chelsea followed the model through her house, wry humor bubbled up inside her. Kimberly wasn’t kidding about being a farmer’s daughter. There wasn’t any fancy art, or decorative furniture in the place. Everything was sturdy and functional, and there was very little clutter.

Kimberly saw her interested look, and grinned. “Not what you expect from a model, huh?” She shrugged, then. “I grew up with four brothers and two sisters. My mother didn’t believe in owning anything us kids could break, and clutter was just unacceptable.”

Chelsea smiled, then turned the conversation back to her case. “How well do you know the Cavarellas?”

Kimberly shrugged again, frowning. “I met Dominic about five years ago, when I was just starting out. My agent thought Cavarella Enterprises would be a good jumping off point for me. I guess he was right, but I wasn’t very thrilled by the idea, at the time. I’d heard a lot of bad stuff from industry people connected to Cavarella, and I didn’t want into any of that; it would have given my parents a stroke. And I didn’t care much for Dominic’s personality, when I met him. He was arrogant and domineering, and worked everyone at the agency nearly to death, but especially the models. He encouraged anorexic behavior in his models, badgering us to lose more weight. I ignored him, but most of the other girls were too afraid he’d kill their careers if they didn’t do what he wanted. I got out of there as fast as I could. Then, after the Paris show for Chritein Toumé three years ago, my agent had me buy this place, because I refused to move to New York or L.A. Marlene introduced herself to me almost immediately. I could tell she was lonely, shut up over there in that mausoleum with only two kids to keep her company. Not that they were much company, anyway.”

“Mr. Cavarella wouldn’t let her leave the house?”

Kimberly snorted. “Like I said, he was arrogant and domineering, and he particularly enjoyed lording it over his wife. Marlene made a lot of excuses for him, but I could see even she didn’t believe some of them. But she wouldn’t leave him, either. Not even when I offered to take her with me to my show in New York. I just wanted her to get out of there, to see that the world wasn’t as scary, alone, as she thought.”

“What did she say?”

Kimberly shook her head sadly. “She said Dominic had saved her. She’d worked too long and too hard to give him up.”

An eerie finger of dread ran down Chelsea’s spine. “If Marlene found out that her husband was having an affair, do you think she’d be capable of killing him to keep him?”

“No way,” Kimberly said firmly as they stepped onto the back patio. “You’d have to have seen them together to understand. Marlene was head-over-heels for that Neanderthal, but there wasn’t a shred of jealousy in her body. He flaunted his affairs in her face; I think he got some kind of power trip out of it. She gave up things for him, and she made his excuses, and she covered his tracks when he stepped out of line. The idea of facing life without him scared the hell out of her, and he used that power mercilessly.”

“What do you mean?”

Kimberly shrugged, looking uncomfortable. “He threatened to leave her constantly, just to hear her weep and beg him not to. He had affairs just to watch her crumble until she gave in to whatever he wanted. He thrived on her fear, and I don’t think she’s even aware of it.”

Chelsea frowned, remembering the soft-spoken, dainty woman she met two months ago. Marlene did seem well and truly beaten down — shaken, with an abandoned look in her eyes painful to see. But was it enough to prove the woman incapable of murder?

“Ms. Manning, I appreciate your candor in this matter. Would you be willing to testify to what you’ve told me, when this case goes to trial?”

“My mama taught me you have to stick up for people who can’t stand on their own. Of course I’ll testify.”

Chelsea smiled her thanks. “I need to speak with Mrs. Cavarella’s children, if you don’t mind.”

Kimberly shrugged. “I don’t mind, but they might. Tracy’s upstairs in her room. I’ll go see if I can convince her to come downstairs.”

“And Timothy?”

Kimberly laughed sharply. “Your guess is as good as mine, Ms. Hanover. Timothy has a tendency to…disappear.”

 

Like what you’ve read so far? Consider donating to my fund in benefit of RAINN and The Rape Foundation. 50% of all proceeds will be divided between the charities and donated directly. 50% of the proceeds will go into a special fund to help with publication costs to get this book printed and more widely circulated, to further help these causes.

BECOME A PATRON – DONATE HERE

©2006 BURDEN OF PROOF BY ESTHER MITCHELL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDANY UNLAWFUL REPRODUCTION, DUPLICATION OR PRESENTATION OF THIS MATERIAL WITHOUT THE EXPRESS, WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR IS SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION UNDER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS LAWS.

Burden of Proof Final

COTW: Burden of Proof, Chapter 7

Chapter Seven

 

Talk about murder, Justin thought with dark humor as he dropped wearily into his chair after dealing with the inevitable circling of media vultures on the courthouse steps. He hated celebrity murders. He stared listlessly at the piles of paperwork that somehow always managed to congregate on his desk whenever he was in court. If looks could have killed, both he and the not-so-Honorable Willard Jennings would be dead men. Chelsea’s stormy eyes had shot lightning bolts at them that would have done Zeus proud. She made her disdain of Jennings’ role in this trial clear in her comments to the press.

For his part, Justin should be thrilled he drew a misogynist like Jennings to preside over a spousal-murder case involving a female defendant. Especially going up against Chelsea. Word around the office was Jennings had some kind of personal grudge against Chelsea Hanover. Yet the memory of her pale, lock-kneed courage clenched his gut, and he wished they pulled Halvanes, a feminist of the nth degree.

Chelsea had no way of knowing how much he detested Jennings’ degrading remarks at her expense, or worried about the vulnerability Justin saw in her eyes when she first realized she pulled Jennings. She’d looked ready to burst into tears for a moment, and the potential punched a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in his gut. Sighing heavily, Justin closed his eyes and rubbed his face as if that could banish the feelings stirring in him.

“Why so glum, Justin? I hear the big case is going well.”

Justin looked up to see Mack Martin, the Allegheny County District Attorney and his best friend since college, leaning in the doorway. Just what he needed today; one of Mack’s Semper Fi pep talks. A burst of dark humor went through Justin.

God, they must brainwash Marines in boot camp.

“Yeah.” He tried to work up enthusiasm, but Chelsea’s pale face hung before his mind’s eye, dampening his triumph. “It’s going great. All the evidence is pretty conclusive, and I’ve got Jennings presiding. I should be able to nail this one to the wall without much effort.”

“So why are you sitting here looking like someone just shot your dog?” Mack asked, stepping into the office and closing the door. Justin stiffened, frowning. Mack never closed doors for his little pep talks. Not unless they were potentially embarrassing to his staff.

“I’m up against Hanover again,” he finally admitted in a mutter.

Mack winced, but grinned. “Hey, she’s a pretty straight arrow, Justin. At least you don’t have to worry about perjured witnesses or sticky forensics from her. And she’s easy on the eye, too, you know?”

Justin bristled, not liking the glimmer of interest in Mack’s hazel eyes. But he forced himself calm. After all, who the hell was he to deny it, when he wanted Chelsea to the point of distraction? Calling himself a hypocrite didn’t cool his agitation. He didn’t want anyone else looking at her the way he did. Forcing the issue aside, he practically growled, “Yeah, but she also doesn’t take a case unless she’s sure of her client’s innocence.”

“And that’s got you worried?” Mack suddenly looked concerned, himself. He leaned his arms on the back of the chair opposite Justin, his expression pensive. “Look, Justin, I gave you carte blanche on this case, but not with the intention of driving it into the ground. We’ve dealt with some sticky cases before, but nothing like this. I don’t like the evidence we’ve got. It seems a little… ah, hell, Jus, it’s circumstantial, at best.”

What?” Justin sat bolt upright. He hadn’t known Mack reviewed the case at all. “We’ve got a solid–“

“Not really.” Mack’s shoulders slumped. “There are a lot of unanswered questions about Dominic Cavarella, and you can bet Hanover will be pulling them all out at some point. Hell, there are even serious questions about the feasibility of the murder as the police have it outlined.”

Justin went absolutely still. “What are you saying?”

Mack’s hazel eyes were troubled, when he met Justin’s gaze and a pang of doubt twisted through Justin. Mack looked weary.

“Damn it, Justin, if I was a juror, based on our evidence, I can’t say I’d be willing to convict Marlene Cavarella. I mean, I’ve seen the woman before, and I have to tell you, I’m amazed if she really did pull it off.”

Justin shifted in his seat, recalling Chelsea’s open scorn on that very issue. “Maybe she had an accomplice,” he said. “I’m already looking into the possibility.”

Mack’s frown deepened. “And maybe she was set up.”

“Are you saying we should just drop the charges? She’s already been arraigned, Mack…”

“What I’m saying,” Mack said with uncharacteristic grimness, “is tread lightly, with this one. You tend to be a bludgeon with the law, and this case isn’t going to be that easy. Be open to ideas or deals if Hanover comes to you, and work with her on this one, Justin. We don’t want to lock up an innocent woman any more than we want to let a guilty one get away with murder. Okay?”

Justin nodded glumly, and started to speak, but a sharp rapping at the door cut him off. Mack lifted one eyebrow in question, rose to his feet, and opened the door.

“Blakely, I’ve got to talk to you.” Chelsea burst into the office, looking out of sorts, and too sexy for her own good, Justin decided as his heart and gut slammed together, sucking the breath from him. She gathered a deep breath in the same instant, and the significance of it punched Justin between the eyes. Behind her, he saw Mack raise a surprised brow.

“I’m in a meeting, Counselor.” Justin regained his composure first.

Chelsea blinked, and gasped as she glanced back and saw Mack. Mack, ever the Irish charmer, flashed her a wide grin and a wink, and Justin’s good humor fled. Mack Martin was an attractive man, and a born charmer who, at thirty-six, had women following him around in droves. That Chelsea could be one of them…

She smiled apologetically at Mack. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt…”

“Hey, pretty ladies are never an interruption.” Mack shot her another roguish grin. “I’m Mack Martin, by the way.”

“Chelsea Hanover. I know who you are, Mr. Martin. I was glad to see you get elected this term.” As she gave Mack a shy smile, jealousy slashed though Justin again, startling him. He wasn’t the possessive type, but for reasons he couldn’t explain, Chelsea stirred all sorts of primal urges in him — not least of which was the desire to pull her into his arms and stake his claim in a way that would no doubt get his face slapped.

“All right, Mack, leave the lady alone,” he said, trying for the teasing camaraderie he often used at Yale to pull his flirtatious friend back on task. Evidently, his attempt fell flat, since both Mack and Chelsea turned to regard him in surprise — Mack’s turning to a roguish grin, and Chelsea with the look of a cornered doe.

Damn.

“I’m outta here,” Mack said, tipping an imaginary cap to Chelsea. “Nice to meet you, Chelsea. Justin, remember what I said,” he warned, then winked and, devilish gleam in his eye, added, “Play nice, you two.”

As the door closed behind Mack, Chelsea’s bemused gaze moved between it and Justin. “What was that all about?”

Justin shrugged. “Mack likes to give little pep talks to everyone around here — too many years as a Marine, I guess.” He leaned back, letting his gaze slide over her appreciatively. God, the woman always looked good. She definitely looked much better now than she had earlier, in court. There was color in her cheeks again, and her blue eyes were vibrant. “So what brings you down here? Already want to cut a deal?”

Temper flashed in her eyes, making him wonder if she applied the same passion to every aspect of her life. It unsettled him, how badly he wanted to know the answer.

“No deals, Blakely,” she snapped stiffly. “I don’t plead innocent people guilty.”

He shook his head in wry amusement. With her prickly shell, it was amazing she hadn’t ended up in contempt of court. “How do you manage to sleep at night?”

She blinked, clearly nonplussed. “Excuse me?”

“With all that passion and conviction, I’m amazed you can wind down enough to sleep.”

Chelsea averted her gaze. “I manage just fine. Are we going to discuss this case or not?”

He eyed her warily. “You said you weren’t here to deal…”

“I’m not,” she confirmed, then withdrew a sheaf of papers from her briefcase — God, didn’t she go anywhere without that thing? — and held them out, frowning. “I’d like your support in backing up my petition to the court to have Judge Jennings recuse himself on the grounds of personal bias.”

Watching the nervous way her gaze jumped from the papers to his face and back, and the way she licked those sexy-as-hell lips, Justin resisted the urge to smile. This was going to be fun. His expression deadpan, he leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest as he regarded her speculatively. “Now, why would I do that?”

“In the interest of justice,” she said with a defiant tilt of her chin. “I know you think you’re above fair play, but there’ll be no such thing as a fair trial with Jennings on the bench, and I’ll tie this whole farce of a trial up in appeal, if I have to.”

Her words stung. Didn’t she think he knew about Jennings’ bias? Didn’t she think he was as anxious to remove bias from these proceedings, in the interest of justice, as she was? Studying her wary, defiant stance, he sighed. Evidently, she thought nothing of the kind.

“I’m sure we can come to an agreement of some kind,” he said, striving for nonchalance he no longer felt. “How about we meet somewhere for dinner tonight, and discuss it?”

Just like that, an arctic chill wrapped around Chelsea’s entire posture, and her eyes grew icy and hard.

“How about we settle it here and now?” She bit out the words, each one snapping with disdain. “This isn’t a game, Mr. Blakely, and I’m not a prize to be won.”

“I never said you were.” Justin blew out a short breath. Damn, what did it take to get close to this woman? To be honest, he was as surprised as she about the dinner invitation. He wanted her, sure, but he wasn’t about to use this case to get to her. It was unethical, and she was too close to it, for reasons that mystified him.

“Sorry, Chelsea. I didn’t actually mean that the way it sounded. I guess… I’m just worried about you.” When her eyes flared with surprise, he shrugged uncomfortably. “You didn’t look too steady in there, today, and I was just thinking you seem the type who ties herself up in knots over a case, and doesn’t eat or sleep. You need both.”

Her expression softened, her eyes shimmering with gratitude, and Justin’s heart squeezed. God, he wanted to hold her. Just wrap her up in his arms and keep her safe. He frowned at his own thoughts. He never had these feelings, before.

“Thanks for the offer, and the thought, but I’m doing okay.” She met his gaze, then. “Can you help me with the judge?”

“Yeah.” He gave her a small smile, and the first olive branch of their ‘war’. “I’d already planned to file a petition of my own. You just beat me to it. I’ll back you up as far as I can on this. You’ve got enough to deal with in this case, without adding Jennings into the mix.”

 

Like what you’ve read so far? Consider donating to my fund in benefit of RAINN and The Rape Foundation. 50% of all proceeds will be divided between the charities and donated directly. 50% of the proceeds will go into a special fund to help with publication costs to get this book printed and more widely circulated, to further help these causes.

BECOME A PATRON – DONATE HERE

©2006 BURDEN OF PROOF BY ESTHER MITCHELL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDANY UNLAWFUL REPRODUCTION, DUPLICATION OR PRESENTATION OF THIS MATERIAL WITHOUT THE EXPRESS, WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR IS SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION UNDER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS LAWS.

Burden of Proof Final

A Writer’s Value: Breaking Down the Math

There’s been a lot of discussion, lately, about the value of a writer’s work. I have to say, it’s not just about authors, though I will be approaching this mostly from a writer’s perspective. But I have to say it: Artisans in general have been devalued, because people say “I can do that” without a clue what goes into the art.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people, right in front of me, say “Oh, I can make that myself” when looking at my jewelry.

You know what? Maybe you can. But you won’t. And it’s likely in most cases you won’t take the time or lay out the money to learn how to do it.

Writing involves learning, and the layout of money, on the faith that someone will find your work worthwhile enough to pay for. Most people have no idea what writing requires. I’m here to tell you.

It requires having the idea.

It requires research (months of it… sometimes years).

It requires focus.

It requires hours and hours of dedicated time, away from family and friends, with focus entirely on the work being done.

It requires a desire to create something larger than yourself — characters that people are going to care about more than they will ever care about you, stories that can convince readers to suspend reality.

My average book takes anywhere from four months to three years to write, depending on how deep the research goes. Can you honestly say that isn’t worth $6 for the final product?

If you calculate out the hours spent, versus my royalties on a $6 book (that’s roughly $2 I get per book sold), that means I have to sell at least 4 books just to make 1 hour’s pay, at minimum wage($8/hr). When you factor in that I spend, on average, 2,500 hours on each book, and calculate that out at minimum wage, it breaks down like this:

2,500 hrs x $8/hr = $20,000
(to break even just on time spent, at minimum wage)
+
200 pgs (average) x 4 printings (average) = 800 pages /500 pg per ream = 1.55 reams of paper x 3.64/ream = $5.47 paper cost (average)
+
0.67 cartridge ink (average) x 4 color (1,200 pages per cartridge) = Use of 2 2/3 cartridges (average) x $20/cartridge = $53.40 ink cost (average)
+
Notebooks, copies, pens, etc items usually come to about $50 per book, on average.

So, on average, that totals out to:
$20,000 + $5.47 + $53.40 + $50 = $20,108.87 on average for a book, and that’s just in production cost on my end (the writing), and assuming a publisher will pick up publication costs.

Now, remembering I will only be making (on average) $2 per book sold, just to break even, I’m going to have to sell 10,055 copies just to break even on writing one book… and that doesn’t include any advertising costs or other post-production expenses I’m expected to eat as an author.

You want to know what my average yearly income from writing is? About $30 (if I’m lucky).

Considering how much I have to fight torrent sites, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn I’m probably losing 10 times that amount to people stealing my work because they feel entitled to read it for free.

So… It takes a certain amount of dedication and drive to write a whole book (never mind a series or three), and the sacrifices. And everyone who devalues authors with “Oh, I could write a book if I wanted to” and “It’s not like it’s hard work” or “Well, authors make so much money, they can afford to lose the sale if I get it for free off a torrent site” are so full of crap, it’s coming out of their eyeballs.

Could you write a book?
Yeah, maybe you could. But you probably won’t. Because the minute most people realize how difficult and thankless it actually is, they give up. If you aren’t writing now, you probably don’t have the dedication and drive to do it for a career.

Is it hard work?
You bet your ass it is.

It’s grueling.

It’s time-consuming.

It’s hours and days and months of aggravation, missing out on things because your muse has you glued to a notebook or computer screen, writing away.

It’s heart-breaking at times, and exhilarating at others.

It’s 72 hours straight without sleep because you’re terrified if you stop, you’ll lose that brilliant idea that’s currently consuming you.

It’s ripping out your heart and soul and offering it up so some critic who’s having a bad day can make themselves feel better by stomping all over it, and then pasting on a smile and saying “Well, I learn from the bad reviews”… And days of bouncing off the walls with joy, and no one to share it with, when someone deems your hard work the best thing they ever read.

It’s a damned roller coaster of “I don’t know what to feel, right now” when you’re stuck between watching a love affair come together, and watching a life fall apart, right there on the page, and not being quite sure how either came to be, because they damned well weren’t in your outline, plot cards, or rough draft.

Can we afford to lose even one sale?
Not a snowball’s chance in Hell. We’ve bled for each and every sale, long before that book hits the shelves for sale. Writers are fragile creatures, and we base our self-worth on how worthwhile you, as the reader, consider us. Telling us “I want to read your book, but you’re not worth a measly $6 to read” tells us you think we, as a writer, are worthless… Many a good author has given up, discouraged, because they feel worthless in the eyes of their readers, because readers make the mistake of thinking every writer is the #1 Best Seller book, and making millions of dollars.

But you know how a book gets to that exalted position? People buy it.

So, unless you’re willing to buy, don’t call yourself a fan.

Books 01

“Againt the Rules” — Excerpt from MIND KILLER (Underground)

MindKillerCoverMatt Clipper is a product of the streets. His slot with the Commandos depends on his ability to keep playing a game with death he’s growing tired of. But with no military skill set, no education to fall back on, and no special skills to call upon, the streets and gangs are his only way to contribute to the team. But when the game he’s been playing goes from deadly to suicidal, his only hope of salvaging his sanity could rest in keeping how close to the edge he really is to himself.

 “Against the Rules” – Excerpt from MIND KILLER (Underground, Book 2)–

This couldn’t be good.  Jen LaSaulle swung her chair toward the hydrolift’s monitor as the signal of keycard activation buzzed in Comms.  The only people not in the Underground tonight were Ishmael, who was probably at least three thousand miles away, and Matt, who shouldn’t be back until dawn.

She sucked in a breath and fought away the grip of queasiness as her gaze locked onto the image of the black man currently slumped against the wall of the hydrolift, one hand pressed to his side.  Was he injured?

Her heart twisted as she searched his face for signs of pain, and found only weariness.  He must have forgotten about the monitoring system, or he’d never show this kind of vulnerability.

“Rough night?”  She spoke into the Comms headset, aware only he could hear her, in the confines of the soundproofed hydrolift.

Matt’s head jerked up, and all hint of vulnerability was gone as the badass returned full-bloom.  Only now, she knew it was all bullshit.  “Nah, I’m great, Catwoman.”

She rolled her eyes, even aware that he couldn’t see her expression.  When was Matt going to actually let her in?  “I’m a psychologist and a profiler, Clipper.   Give me some credit.”

He swore, and glared toward the camera as the ‘lift came to a halt in the Underground.  “Then read my mind, Doc.  I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Annoyance zipped through her.  This was an old argument.  She wasn’t prepared to have a relationship with a man who couldn’t share himself with her, and he only seemed to want to have a good time.   So they stalled at sex.  She told herself she was fine with that, then called herself a liar.  Still, they had the job, and if he couldn’t respect her as a lover, he was damned well going to respect her as a teammate.  “You don’t have a choice, tough guy.  You have to report in.”

The door to the hydrolift slid closed, but not before she saw his response in an uplifted finger.  Her cheeks burned with fury.  Damn it all, she was sick of this.  She couldn’t get him to talk to her, anymore, without pulling rank as the team fitness evaluator.  Even then, she knew he was handing her a line, even if she couldn’t prove it.  Matt Clipper was not okay.

Shoving to her feet, she stalked through the door and out into the corridor just in time to see Matt heading up the hall toward the housing sector.

“Get back here.”  Her words were cold, and laced with all the fury and pain she held caged inside her.  Matt wouldn’t treat anyone else on the team with this kind of careless disdain.  Why her?  “You know the rules, Clipper.”

He turned, and for a split second, the walls dropped.  Jen sucked in a gasp of surprise and dismay.  Matt was close to dropping – not unusual – but his eyes were wild and troubled.  She had no doubt where he was headed, or what he would do once he got there.  Her anger was forgotten as she hurried toward him.

“Please,” she softened her tone as she approached, and saw him tense as if he meant to flee.  “Just talk to me.  Let me be your friend, Matt.”

He shifted, and his face blanched.  Jen’s eyes widened and her gaze dropped to the floor, where she saw a growing puddle of blood on the concrete and steel floor.  “Oh my god!”

Join the Commandos! Pick up your copy of the critically-acclaimed book that started it all, TAMIA, at Amazon.com today!

“The Green Man” — Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING (Legends of Tirum)

PHOENIX RISING CoverPhoenix Telyn Gwndal has finally accepted the Majik that’s her birthright. But when her mission to finish her father’s quest sends her into the beleaguered Borderlands, she’s about to discover Fate has quite different plans from the ones she’s made — and they involve a man she’s already promised herself never to love, and a proud people she can’t turn her back on. Can Telyn escape Destiny’s designs with her heart still intact?

 

“The Green Man” — Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING (Legends of Tirum, Book 2) —

Excitement pulsed a fiery song through her veins as she urged Bloodcloud toward the forest surrounding Phoenix Hall. She had no fear of its darkness — her Bathron eyes would grant her vision even in its darkest corners and brambles. And, if Kishfa rode with her this night, she’d have the Phoenix Book in her hands before the morning light.

Bloodcloud, however, didn’t appear as thrilled about their destination. At the edge of the forest, he shied up and danced away from the path several steps on two powerful legs, nearly throwing her from her seat on his back. Gripping his flanks hard with her knees, she leaned into him until he was forced to drop his weight back down. Yet, he refused to move forward, digging in with the tenacity of a pack mule.

Telyn’s brow furrowed. She’d never seen him act like this before. Bloodcloud was a trained warhorse, and until now, she’d have sworn he didn’t have a skittish bone in his whole body. If he backed away, it was for a very good reason.

“Come now, old friend,” she crooned to him as she stroked sure, calming hands over his softly bristled coat. “What bothers you? Is there Majik in these woods?”

“Now there’s a fool’s query if I ever heard one!”

Telyn’s head snapped up at the sound of a new voice. She’d swear she was alone out here. There shouldn’t be anyone within a league of this place. But there, just in the shadows of a large roan tree, leaned the form of a man — if indeed he was a man, and not some form of spirit come to haunt her. He was whipcord thin and dressed head-to-toe in what looked like moss, leaves, and brambles. Between his crossed arms rested a long bollstaff decorated in what appeared to be shiny eggshells, silverflower, and crane feathers. Every sense she had went on alert as the anaqueri at her side hummed to life and began to sing a familiar tune — impending battle.

“Who are you?” she demanded, uncertain she was willing to battle what might turn out to be some specter of this place. “How did you get here?”

He straightened, and stepped forward into the light, blocking her path into the forest. “Those would be questions for me to ask. You, after all, are the stranger here.”

This was becoming more confusing by the moment. “You mean you… live here?”

His eyes — a deep, forest green that blended into the darkening wood behind him — glinted with cold humor. “These wood be my home, and all that is seen. For I, Warrior Maid, am the Jaran Green.”

“The Green Jaran?” Telyn barely held in her scorn. The Green Jaran was a myth — a tale told to children to frighten them into good behavior.Said to be the lingering spirit of one of the Old Gods, the Green Jaran supposedly guarded the wood and all it housed, and often stole naughty children, whom he made into his goblinesque servants in punishment for their wicked ways. “Who are you, really?”

His gaze narrowed in cold fury that gave her pause. “Trust not your own eyes?”

Telyn frowned as she let her gaze travel over his unusual appearance. He certainly looked the part of the Green Jaran. Hadn’t she just learned the impossible about herself? Who was she to doubt the man before her?

“All right. So you’re the Green Jaran. However,” she paused, considering the wisdom of her next words. She had no idea what kind of power he truly had. Then, she shrugged. If he meant to kill her, there wasn’t much she could do to stop a god, after all. “I’m not a child. You can’t frighten me.”

He flicked her words away with one long-fingered hand. “You’ve come for the Book.”

She gaped. “How… I mean…”

“I know much about all who venture through my wood. But you, I have known since the moment of your birth, and I knew that one day, you would come. You have come for the Book.”

After what he just said, it would be foolish to deny his words. “Aye.”

“Then you should be terrified.”

Follow the Legend from the beginning… Get your copy of DAUGHTER OF ASHES, today at either Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com!

From The Pages: A glimpse from TAMIA (Underground, Book 1)

Tamia 02

Pick up your copy of TAMIA today at http://www.amazon.com/Tamia-Underground-Book-Esther-Mitchell-ebook/dp/B004TCVC02/ or find out more about Esther Mitchell and her books at www.esthermitchell.com