February 26, 2010

Guest Post by Julia Rachel Barrett & a Giveaway!

Please welcome Julia Rachel Barrett here today. Her new book My Everything was released in February (You can read my review here). She's here today to talk about her love for Barry White and what it has to do with her new book. Enjoy!

I am a huge Barry White fan.
My favorite song of his is probably My EverythingYou’re the first, you’re the last, my everything, and the answer to…all my dreams…I like to shove his CD in my car stereo, turn the volume up full blast, and careen down the highway, dancing like an insane person.  Woe to anyone driving in front of me, behind me, or on either side of me!  Of course I play the music in my car because the sound system is great and I can really turn up the bass.  Isn’t that what Barry White is/was known for?  His bass?  Sadly, he died young, in 2003, at the age of forty-six.
So anyway, once upon a time, I was stuck in the car all day for work as sometimes happens, listening to Barry White over and over again, and that night I had a dream.  Voila!  My romance suspense story, My Everything, was born!  I dreamed the work from start to finish.  Weird, huh?
Happens all the time.  Right now I’m working on a sci fi ménage that I dreamed…yeah, I know…a ménage…woke up all hot and bothered before the dream came to an end though, so I’m going to have to see what develops and with whom it develops as I write the wordsCaptured, a work of science fiction that SusiSunshine recently read and reviewed, also came to me in a dream in its entirety.  Now that was an extremely interesting experience – not only dreaming the story, but the fact that every single minute detail was so perfectly depicted.
Ever hear of lucid dreaming?  It’s a concept I learned as a teenager and began to practice.  I’d always had vivid dreams.  But to be able to stop a dream and change it in mid-stream?  That is fun!  Sometimes you get those monster dreams, you know, where something horrible and hideous is chasing you and your legs won’t move or you feel like you’re running through quicksand?  I’m able to remind myself that it’s just a dream and I turn myself around and talk to the monster, maybe turn him into a gorgeous horse,  jump on his back and gallop away, or, you know, there are nights when I prefer a gorgeous man...If worse comes to worst, I can always wake myself up.
So while I’m working away, getting this recent dream out of my head and into my computer, here’s a bit of lovely suspense – My Everything.  The story will take you from Costa Rica to Texas to Nebraska to Los Angeles – I’ve lived in each and every place the story travels – writing this romance was an absolute joy!  Besides, there’s nothing I like better than reading and writing about love lost and love regained.  

An Excerpt:
Chapter One
Summer, 2008
Tom called on the secure line. It was the first time Ben had heard his voice in thirteen months. The line was for emergencies only, and the call indicated that either Tom was in trouble or he was. Tom said little, just that he had a job for him. That was the tip-off. Ben knew Tom didn’t have any more jobs for him. Ben had insisted they end their professional relationship a year ago. Tom said he’d meet him in two days at three twenty-one, their code for Something’s up. I need your help. Tom was talking about the hotel. He meant he’d already blocked room 321 at the Sheraton in Pomona, California, so it would show up as occupied by Benjamin McCall on the hotel’s computer. It was a decoy in case they needed to smoke someone out. Ben would stay down the hall.
He couldn’t say no to Tom. They’d been best friends since long before either of them dreamed of entering the military or training with Special Forces and finally opening a security agency together. Long before Tom married his high school sweetheart and had two daughters, and many years before Ben’s wife, Julie, was killed by a car bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was only twenty-six, and she was pregnant with their first child. She wasn’t supposed to die.
Ben had been in charge of the ambassador’s security. He ordered a change in cars at the last minute. There was no real hint of anything suspicious. He was merely following his instincts. He planned to personally inspect the other limo when they returned. Unfortunately, his order to stay clear of the vehicle was deliberately misdirected. When Julie left to accompany the ambassador’s wife on an unscheduled visit to a local school for orphaned girls, she was killed along with the ambassador’s wife, the driver and two bodyguards.
Thirteen months ago, Ben McCall vanished without a trace. As far as his associates knew, he was dead. Tom was the only person he trusted to keep his new identity and his location a secret. Ben was sick of death. He’d seen too many deaths and been responsible for more than his share. He wanted to get as far away from his work as he could, so he moved to a country without an army, Costa Rica. And he moved onto a mountainside in Cañitas, near a town that had only a single mile of paved road and one gas station. It was a four hour slog in and out of the area on narrow, winding, rutted dirt roads in good weather. During the rainy season, the roads were more often than not impassible and as far as Ben was concerned, the muddier, the better.
Having spent his early years in Brownsville, Texas, the only child of a white man and a Hispanic woman, Ben was bilingual. His olive complexion and his lean, muscular build made it easier to blend in. Costa Ricans were accustomed to Americans who spoke Spanish more like Mexicans. Within a couple months, he’d absorbed the dialect and his neighbors seemed to have accepted him. He carried an American passport and his birth certificate read Hector Luis Reyes, born in 1973 at Good Samaritan Hospital, Phoenix, Arizona.
If there was one thing Ben had learned over the years, it was never stand out. Blend into your surroundings. He did that very well. His home was modest and similar to every other home in the area, small and unpretentious. The stucco was painted a pale blue. The front door opened onto a large tiled courtyard. Serious crime was almost non-existent in Costa Rica but there were episodes of petty theft. Ben hoped to avoid any unexpected guests. He still had some equipment and paperwork to protect, and some armaments. He locked them in a woodworking shop that opened directly off his kitchen.
Ben had what he considered the best security money could buy, a German-bred German shepherd dog. Louie weighed just over a hundred pounds. He was fast, strong and his teeth were as hard as steel. The bite of a German shepherd was nearly as crushing as the bite of a wolf. Ben’s dog could break a forearm with ease, but Louie was so laid-back that you’d never know it. Most Costa Ricans had street mutts that came and went, not trained purebreds. The dog was one area where Ben wasn’t willing to compromise.
As Ben checked and rechecked his bags, he wondered what he’d be walking into and if he would be up for it. He probed the recesses of his brain, trying to consider every possibility. He felt like a rusty nail. He’d left the country to forget, to heal, and to find a reason to start over again. After Julie died, he’d dived into his work with a zeal that astounded Tom. Mostly because he wanted to hunt down and kill the bastard who’d killed her. Fifteen months ago, he’d succeeded, but by then his rage had caught up with him and he’d burned out. He had to vanish. He’d become a danger to himself and everyone he worked with.
Tom recognized it, and the two of them made the arrangements. They implemented the contingency plan Ben had set up when he and Julie married. He still carried Julie’s unused passport and new birth certificate in the lining of his worn leather jacket like talismans, holdovers from his previous life.
The past year spent in the solitude of the mountains had helped. Ben was beginning to feel human again. No phone other than his connection with Tom, no television, no radio, no newspaper. A couple of times a week he hiked or rode his motorcycle into Santa Elena, the town center, to do some shopping and grab a cup of coffee or some juice at one of the internet cafes. He never logged in but he liked to listen to the local gossip and any news of the world the young backpackers and tour groups shared among themselves. Ben was fluent in French, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Arabic and Farsi, and he knew enough Italian, Japanese and Russian to follow a simple conversation. But he never let on that he understood. He simply listened without comment as he drank his coffee and then he returned to the isolation of his mountain.
Ben looked up from his carry-on bag. The tropical sun shone through his bedroom window, and his eyes lit on his hummingbird feeders. He figured there were twenty or thirty hummingbirds out there, all different sizes and colors, vying for time at one of the feeders. Costa Rica was home to close to forty species of hummingbirds, some of them bigger than the sparrows back in the States. Ben found himself reluctant to leave the birds, the monkeys, and the three-toed sloth that resided in one of his tall cecropia trees, but he felt he didn’t have a choice. Tom needed him.
Ben shrugged. He reminded himself to speak with Ernesto about the hummingbird feeders and the dog. Ernesto was a contact from long ago and he did double duty as Ben’s one-man security guard and caretaker. He lived in a small cottage on the property with his own large nondescript street mutt. Ernesto and his dog were light sleepers, and the man was good with a gun.
Ben watched a bank of clouds build up in the west. He remembered the first time he’d seen Julie. They’d met in Paris. He was drinking coffee in a café on the Left Bank one cold November morning when he noticed a woman standing in front, her lovely freckled face turned up to the rain. He could tell from her open expression that she was an American and he couldn’t resist. He went outside to offer her an umbrella. He ended up buying her a café au lait and a croissant. She was the first time he’d taken a risk in years. He allowed himself to fall in love. It was a mistake that cost him everything.
Ben shook his head. Julie had been dead two years. He didn’t want to revisit that time. It hurt too damn much. He dragged himself back to the present. Why the call? He wondered if Tom had been forced to make it. It could mean that someone else knew he was alive. He and Tom had been cautious, but that didn’t mean they’d been perfect.
Ben’s father had died when Ben was ten years old. His mother, Monica Medina McCall, had left Brownsville and moved to Austin. Between grants and loans, she got herself a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and went on for a Master’s. She currently coordinated a system of shelters and resources for abused women in central Texas. Ben regretted the fact that she probably believed her only son was dead but he didn’t have a choice. He didn’t want to put her at risk, or his step-father and his half-sister. Angel was fourteen now, nearly fifteen. She’d be graduating high school in a few years. Ben sighed. When he allowed himself to think about it, he missed them. He could be with them. Ben would have remained more or less anonymous, officially a security consultant, if it hadn’t been for the car bomb that changed everything.
Ben forced himself to take a deep breath. Dark days, he reminded himself, very dark days. Julie’s death still felt like an open wound, and open wounds hurt if you probed too deep.
Ben returned to his packing and sifted through his paperwork. He’d use Hector Reyes’ passport until he got through customs in Houston. He had a reservation from Houston to L.A. in another name, one he rarely used, Matthew O’Connor, the same name he’d use at the Sheraton. He’d need to make a point of answering to it. The corners of his mouth twitched. Yeah. It had definitely been a while.
* * * * *
Grace pasted a smile on her face. She was exhausted and she could feel a migraine creeping up behind her like a midnight stalker in a dark alley. Why on earth had she agreed to come to this techno-club? She’d flown into LAX on the red-eye, waded through the line at the rental car agency, maneuvered through the ubiquitous L.A traffic, arranged for early check-in, thrown her bags into her hotel room and headed straight to the campus for the Geriatrics Seminar. She’d lectured nonstop on pain management and then sat with the panel for the discussion on Death and Dying. When Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Westfall invited her to come for drinks with the group, she accepted readily, excited to be included with this prestigious company, never dreaming they meant a night out at a loud, crowded L.A. hot spot.
My God, she felt brittle. If one more person touched her, Grace thought she’d shatter. She’d only had two glasses of wine but that was obviously two too many in her current state. Dr. Westfall was saying something in her direction but Grace couldn’t make out a single word. There was a big, fat, shiny, blind spot where Dr. Westfall’s face should be. Grace knew it was time to go. Fortunately, she hadn’t driven to the club but unfortunately she’d still have to take a cab back to her car before she could make her way to the hotel. It might take her over an hour to get back and Grace prayed she could handle it. She’d ended up in the ER six times in the past year with a migraine headache just like the one she could feel coming on. Grace could tell already this was going to be a whopper.
Grace felt for her purse and mumbled her excuses, her stomach even now beginning to perform somersaults. She’d be lucky to make it to her car without throwing up at least once. Funny, Grace thought as she stood on the curb attempting to flag down a cab, here she was with a group of doctors and it didn’t occur to her to ask for help, and she was a pain management specialist. The headaches were an unwelcome weakness she didn’t want anyone to know about. When one struck, she was helpless. She’d had them since she was twelve years old, but they’d gotten worse after her husband Josh died. Grace missed his hands. He had the most sensitive hands and fingertips. His touch was like butter, like soft, smooth, liquid gold. On those rare occasions during their too brief marriage when she’d gotten a headache, he’d used his firm yet gentle fingers on her neck and shoulders. He would massage the back of her head, helping to soothe her until she’d finally drift off into a drug-induced sleep.
Her parents had never understood her debilitating headaches. They accused her of faking and said she was making excuses. Even when it got so bad that she was slurring her words and could no longer see because of the blinding aura, they’d push her to race until she was puking into the bushes at the side of the road. It wasn’t until her track coach insisted she see a neurologist that her parents finally relented, but they never let Grace forget how disappointed they were that she missed the state championships her senior year.
After Grace left home for college, the frequency of her headaches decreased. She began running again and even joined the cross-country team. She did well until she met Josh. One thing led to another and Grace decided she’d better get on the Pill. Big mistake. Six months of weekly migraines was enough to put her off birth control pills forever. They made do with condoms. Josh was a good sport. He never complained and occasionally they’d slip, but they were lucky and Grace never got pregnant. When she thought about it now, Grace didn’t feel so lucky. If she’d gotten pregnant, she’d still have a tangible part of Josh. Instead she had memories. Memories didn’t hold you close at night. Memories didn’t laugh at your stupid jokes and tilt your chin up, lean you back against the kitchen sink and kiss you passionately when your hands were covered with soap suds. Nope, even after two years, memories didn’t do that.
Grace shook her head and concentrated on flagging down a cab. She was growing maudlin. Well, she worked almost every single day with people who experienced loss, and like she told them, it was never easy. One corner of her mouth tilted up. She would be wise to take her own advice. After she made it to her room at the Sheraton and climbed into bed. First things first.

You can buy My Everything here.

Ways to contact Julia:
her Website

her blog
Seven Sexy Scribes

Thanks to Julia I have an eBook copy of My Everything for one lucky commenter today.

Giveaway rules:
1.) Leave a comment telling us about your favorite musician or source of inspiration! Or just ask Julia a question!
2.) Leave me a way to contact you(email in blogger profile or twitter is okay)!
4.) You can get an extra entry when you spread the word about the giveaway(just leave a link).
5.) Open to everyone!
6.) Giveaway ends on the 7th March and I will draw a winner after getting up the next day!

That's it! So comment away!


Julia Barrett February 26, 2010 at 3:14 AM  

Hey! Thanks, Susi! I'm working IRL for the next three days but I will check in.

Fran Lee February 26, 2010 at 4:02 AM  

Don't include me in the contest, because I won't wait to win it! LOL! I am a big fan of Julia's!

Tina Donahue February 26, 2010 at 8:53 PM  

My Everything sounds like another wonder novel, Julia - congrats! Tina :)

Alexia561 February 28, 2010 at 2:08 AM  

My Everything sounds wonderful! And how cool that you dreamed the plot! I've never been able to change my dreams, but would love to change the monster into a gorgeous male. :)

Hard to beat Barry White, but I've always had a soft spot for John Lennon.

Julia Barrett March 1, 2010 at 3:40 AM  

It's weird but I've dreamed several books - My Everything, Captured, and a new work in progress. Yeah, love turning the monster into a gorgeous guy!
I do love John Lennon's music too, but Barry White's bass really does it for me.

s7anna March 6, 2010 at 4:05 PM  

Hey Julia,
I just recently finished reading Captured and am totally in love with your world building abilities. What are some of the things that you draw inspiration from when you are creating such incredibly detailed otherworlds?

Happy Reading

Andrea I March 7, 2010 at 7:36 PM  

I,ve never read anything by Julia, but it looks very interesting.
I like county music and use it to tune out distractions when I enter Accounts Payables every Friday.

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