“Which book is your favorite?”
I get this question at each book signing and at each author presentation. Honestly, choosing a favorite book is like choosing which child is your favorite. Impossible.
An author spends nine months to a year writing it. Then comes the edits and polishing. I can tell you I spend hours prewriting in my head. I try this scene or that scene with this character, much like you or I do trying on new clothes or shoes. We need to see what fits and what looks the best. The writer does the same.
Now, if I had to choose a favorite, I will say that Stolen Lives is special. That’s as far as I can go. You see, Stolen Lives was the first book I had written. I wrote Taking Lives, the Prequel to the Lives Trilogy, because my first publisher asked me to write a prequel that would introduce the series to the reader. Taking Lives takes place two years before Stolen Lives.
Stolen Lives introduces three important characters to the rest of my books: Brett McGovern, George Tokay, and George’s Grandfather. There is a host of other sub-characters, but each place an important part in the story.
Stolen Lives tells the story of human trafficking, and the efforts of dedicated law enforcement and caring individuals to bring kids home safely. The Lives Trilogy and Prequel tells the stories I’ve heard from many kids and families over the years. Hours of research took place before I ever sat down at the keyboard and began to write. I am proud of the work, and I can tell you my heart and soul went into each page. I think that’s why this story and the trilogy has lasted over the seven years.
Thankfully, my publisher, Black Rose Writing, offered me a four book contract to re-issue these four books. You can get them at a 15% discount. The link is below.
I apologize ahead of time for the formatting. No matter how hard I tried, the ‘cut and paste’ feature wouldn’t cooperate. In any case, here is an excerpt from Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Approximately Two Years Later . . .
The boy’s muscles ached and he longed to stretch out, but the handcuffs prevented him from doing so. His head hit the steel wall of the dirty van each time Frank drove over a rock or a rut or pothole in the dirt road. The boy’s neck and shoulders had grown stiff from trying to cushion the blows. He shifted sideways so that his arms could take more of the pounding, but that was even more uncomfortable. He leaned as tightly against the wall as he could, pushing with his heels, but slipped on a McDonald’s bag, frowning at the mustard and pickle juice on his pants’ leg.
The man wearing the baseball cap pulled low to his sunglasses merely glanced at the boy, but gave no hint of emotion. The boy had never seen him before, that is at least he didn’t think he did. The way the man looked at him showing no emotion, no expression bothered him, but he wasn’t going to give into that, so he ended up ignoring him just like the man wearing the baseball cap seemed to ignore the boy and the other two men in the van.
Ron, however, who sat in the passenger seat turned around and glared at him, his thick lips pulled back in a sneer. The boy looked away and stared at the tips of his worn-out shoes. His big toe poked out of one and the sole flapped on the other. When the boy guessed that the big man wasn’t watching him any longer and when he felt that the man wearing the baseball cap wasn’t watching, he turned back cautiously and strained to see out the windshield. Red fingers of rock poked the blue horizon. Bulky buttes formed walls on either side of the van like impatient onlookers at a passing funeral procession.
The boy guessed that they were still in Arizona. The last road sign he saw mentioned Tuba City, but that was before they had left asphalt and turned onto the dirt road.
“How much farther?” Ron asked the driver impatiently.
Frank turned onto a gravel road, crossed a cattle gate, and slowed to a stop as the boy watched a cloud of dust envelop the front of the van. Frank stared intently out the windows in all directions. Satisfied, he nodded and said, “’bout a good a place as any.”
The two men in the front got out of the van and the boy braced himself. He had suspected, maybe deep down knew what was going to happen. For the better part of a year, the boy had taken trips in the back of a van, sometimes handcuffed, sometimes drugged, as he was driven from one city to the next.
The man wearing the baseball cap and sunglasses sat in the van, staring at the boy, still showing no emotion and not interacting with either of the two men or with the boy. The boy looked at him expecting him to say or do something, but he didn’t. He merely sat staring at him. Or at least, the boy thought he might be staring at him. With the sunglasses, he couldn’t tell if his eyes were open or closed.
The side door slid open and Ron yanked the boy’s legs toward him. The boy tried to slow himself down, but the man was too strong. Before he knew it, both shoes were off and flung into the van. His socks followed shortly after that. Then Ron ripped off the boy’s shirt and threw that into the van as well.
His eyes wild, the boy tried to kick, but the man was too big, too strong, and moved too quickly. With the boy’s hands cuffed behind his back, he was defenseless. The man slapped the boy in the face, and then slapped him again.
“Not in the van!” Frank barked. “Just get his clothes off and bring him out here. We don’t want a mess to clean up.”
The man opened the boy’s jeans and pulled them off along with his underwear, tossing them in the pile with the shoes, socks and what was left of the boy’s shirt. Then he grabbed an ankle and yanked him out of the van with a thud. The boy hit his head on the door frame, but he didn’t yell. No. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.
“Get up!” the fat man said to him.
When the boy didn’t move fast enough, the fat man kicked him.
The boy stumbled awkwardly to his feet and faced both men. Never more than then, facing those two men, knowing what was about to happen, did he miss his mother. He had never forgotten her face: how her green eyes danced when she smiled, how her nose turned up at the end—a ski slope he had teased her about. He remembered her gentle touch, her soothing voice, and the perfume she wore when she went out with dad. Never more in the whole year he was gone did he miss her more than in that instant.
“Start walkin,” Frank said, exhaling smoke and tossing the last of a cigarette to the sand.
The boy walked slowly, the hot desert sand burning the soles of his feet. Now and then, Ron would give him a shove and the boy would stumble, but not fall down.
The man wearing the baseball cap got out of the van, but stood close to it. He didn’t like the openness of the desert. He didn’t like the sheep grazing up on the side of the hill. He tried to look that direction, but even with his sunglasses, he was staring into the sun and had to turn away. There was something about the place that gave the man an unsettled feeling. There was something he didn’t like that was more than just the vast expanse of desert, so he stayed by himself and leaned against the side of the van near the passenger door and watched the two men and the boy.
“It’s too fuckin’ hot for this shit,” the fat man grumbled quietly so the man wearing the baseball cap didn’t hear him. “We deserve more money.”
Frank said nothing, but wiped sweat off his face with the back of his hand and then felt for the gun in his belt.
“Okay, that’s far enough,” he said.
The boy turned around and faced both men and said, “You’re going to kill me.” It was a statement, not a question, as if facing them and seeing the gun made it all more real. Final.
“Just fuckin’ do him and let’s go,” Ron said.
Frank shrugged at the boy as if to say, What am I supposed to do?
A tear ran down the boy’s face as he sobbed, “I wanna go home!”
“Yeah, sure,” Ron said with a laugh.
Frank shrugged, waved the gun and said, “We don’t need you anymore.”
The boy looked down at the ground and then up at the men.
“I want to go home,” the boy said again.
“Sorry, kid,” Frank said, popping the cartridge and then palming it back into ready position. “Got orders.”
“No one will find me,” the boy said in panic.
Ron laughed and then spit. “That’s the fuckin’ point!”
The thought of being left alone in this place, this desert, with no one or nothing around him except for some sheep grazing in the distance and a hawk circling high up in the sky, made him feel desperate.
“Sorry kid,” Frank said, walking behind him, putting a hand to the boy’s shoulder, making him kneel down. “You won’t feel a thing.”
The boy shut his eyes, steeling himself against the blast of the gun.
Frank stepped behind and away from the boy, aimed at the back of the boy’s head and pulled the trigger twice. The boy fell forward, still handcuffed, his face in the hot desert sand.
Frank was right. The boy never felt a thing.
Book One, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved.