Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monday's Special Is ... Janeology!

Janeology by Karen Harrington

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"Harrington begins with a fascinating premise and develops it fully. This debut novel is as much character study as a legal thriller." - Booklist

"In a thriller world saturated with James Pattersons, John Grishams and Stephen Kings, this debut novel from Karen Harrington comes as a breath of fresh air." - New Mystery Reader

"Not only is Harrington a masterful conjurer of a suspenseful thriller, but she is also a wordsmith able to maintain the reader's attention and involvement in her masterful exploration of the science of psychology, genetics, and the fascination with the concept of retrocognition, all the while unraveling a mystery not unlike decoding a strand of DNA." - Grady Harp, Amazon Vine Voice

Read the following excerpt, and answer the questions that follow for a chance to win a free copy of Janeology. Or, stop by and chat with Karen!

Here’s what I remember about that day. What I can’t forget about that day. It was hot and humid. My sweat-soaked shirt clung to my skin under the oppressive June heat. There are dozens of photos showing me like that. Dozens more of me as I was led away by an officer, my tie flapping up as I stumbled over the plastic toys in our front yard.

And then they led me to the jail where I found myself with Jane. We were alone in a cold room and I kept plucking the shirt material from my chest, still overcome by heat and shock.

There were no attorneys then. Funny, it’s hard now to remember my life before attorneys. That day, we were just two people sitting in a room waiting to have a conversation. You would never know that hours before Jane had turned on the kitchen faucet, filled the sink with water and killed our son Simon. And then she attempted the same with little Sarah, who God knows must have been terrified as she watched her mother do this to her brother before being chased through the house until she, too, was caught and submerged. But I learned that later.

If I had known those details when I went to the jail, maybe I would have been raging, maybe violent. Who knows the appropriate response to having a wife who kills? That day, I felt stuck, nervous and hesitant at meeting my own wife. I was forty-one years old and should have been in control of my emotions as I entered the holding room, but as I felt the thick door click closed against my back, I had the urge to turn and run.

Jane looked normal. Or perhaps normal for Jane. She wore no reaction of any kind to seeing me. Her body was relaxed, her legs crossed. She greeted me with a light, dry voice, saying my name in her usual fashion by drawing out the vowel.


The intimacy of it made me ill.

“Tom, are you okay? I wondered when you would get here,” she said, standing.

“Jane, sit down.”

She backed away and slipped back into the plastic chair. We looked at each other for a long moment. I searched her blue eyes for traces of murder, believing I should see something black that belied her beauty. Some flipped switch. Something red or black. I thought perhaps I saw less white in her eyes, but that might have been a trick of the room’s flickering fluorescent light. The only visible difference was what she had on: a county-issue orange jumpsuit. The orange reflected off her face, giving her a sun-kissed glow, like she might have spent a day at the beach instead of within the cement-grey walls of a jail. Even her hair was still in its trademark perky ponytail with wisps of dark blonde highlights framing her face.

“Are we going home?”

My mouth was dry. I licked my lips. I heard ringing in my ears.

“We’re not going home. You’re not going home.”

“I guess I know that. They said you would say that.”

“Why Jane? Tell me. What’s going on because I can’t figure this out? Tell me what happened.”

She was devastatingly casual.

“I had too much. I was done being a mother, you know.”

“No. I don’t know. Why couldn’t you tell me? Ask for help?” I said, clawing for air. “Sarah is still alive. Did you know that? She is holding on.”

Sarah had a thin pulse when paramedics arrived and was critical now, and I was desperate to be with her.

“Jane? Do you know what you did?”

I stood and looked away from her, bracing myself against the wall. Anger welled up inside me and I was glad because it was finally an emotion I could recognize. My hands wanted to encircle her throat, but I forced them into my pockets. This couldn’t be my wife. The woman I loved. Love.

The ringing in my ears got louder. I heard the sound of something breaking, like a piece of cold chalk snapping in two. A bone giving way. My heart dividing, part of it tearing away at a fault line, a tear which began when the dean had appeared in my classroom doorway.

“Don’t argue, Tom,” he had said. “There’s been an accident.”

“An accident?”

“Please go to your home with this officer.”

The man in blue stood at my door and would not meet my gaze, shuffling his feet and staring at his shoes. Finally he took me by the elbow while the dean entered my classroom.

Jane was tapping the floor with her foot now. I looked at the black and white clock on the jail-room wall. Ten after nine. My life seemed about to dissolve into something unrecognizable. Her voice, her careless words. I was done being a mother.

“Are we going home now, Tom?”

“No, Jane.”

“Because I didn’t take my pills yesterday. There was a doctor in here earlier and he wanted me to get them. Will you bring them to me?”

“When was the last time you took them, Jane?”

“I don’t know. Maybe last week. The day the ice-cream maker came, I think.”

My mind tumbled. How could she think of an ice-cream maker when she had destroyed both our lives? And then, because I couldn’t think of another thing to say, I got up and left.



1. Write a 10 word sentence about a dysfunctional family. No, not your dysfunctional family... your, uh, friend's dysfunctional family.

2. If your family tree was an actual tree, what type of tree would it be? Explain.

3. Nature? Or nurture? Discuss. Hey, they all can't be easy.


Charles Gramlich said...


1. "Love is hate," mom said. "Don't you ever forget that."

2. Considering how many of us there are I'd say we're an oak.

3. as a biological psychologist I say Nature all the way.

Margay said...

I am not writing to enter the contest, as I already have the book. I just wanted to stop by and be part of the roast for Karen. It's so good to see you getting the recognition because this is a fascinating book.

AstonWest said...

1. Psychotic sisters-in-law make you wonder when your wife will snap.

(assuming sisters-in-law is one word ;-P )

2. The nuts haven't fallen far from the tree, so I'd say an oak (with several acorns).

3. A little of both. Nature definitely has an impact, especially with genetic predispositions, but even with nature having a say in the matter, one can't get past the fact that the surrounding environment is going to influence a person.

ChrisEldin said...

Wow, this is gripping, but also difficult to read. Good questions, too.

I'm not allowed to enter, but I say nature for most of it. I think the environment can help to suppress or enhance personality traits, but nature puts them there to begin with.

laughingwolf said...

welcome karen, i'm hooked! :d

1. she and the kids are sick, but i am sicker

2. a live oak, they're horribly beautiful... just like me :O lol

3. nature of course, she IS the mother, after all!

Scobberlotcher said...

Good morning everyone.

Thanks for stopping by my roast. It's fun reading your answers this morning - especially your one sentence stories.

Be back later today...

Karen Harrington

Briane P said...

1. "His life improved when he learned holidays could be fun."

2. I'm going to go with apple tree-- specifically, the apple tree behind our house that nobody knew how it got planted there and which Mom always told us not to eat the fruit off of. It just seems right.

3. Nurture & nature. I come from a family of four kids who were all raised more or less the same way, except that punishments stuck more for me -- probably because I didn't protest as much. So my nature helped the nurture work. Plus, I was a quiet and fat kid who liked to read, so I did better in school as a result of not being popular or athletic, which then caused my parents to treat me like the kid who did better in school, so nurture followed nature.

Which is all a fancy way of saying "If my kids are screwed up, it's 'cause genetics made them able to be screwed up by me."

Stephanie said...

1. Sweetie, throw your scraps in the dish for your dad.

2. Evergreen. We survive the hot and cold...

3. Remembering those awful baby monkey experiment movies from Psych 101, I goota say nurture.

Stephanie said...

I need more coffee. Gotta. Gotta say nurture.

Scobberlotcher said...

Hi, everyone. Karen Z. Roastee, here.

I thought I'd drop by around the lunch hour and give you another JANEOLOGY appetizer. The following excerpt from the book features Jane at age nine on the day in which her life pivots away from innocence. (And I also want to present this so you'll get an idea of how the book presents a number of people from Jane's family tree, presenting her character from the perspective of her genealogy.


Texas: 1976
The blue Buick had come to a stop five miles from the Texas-Mexico border. There were two survivors, both sitting in the front. Apparently they had picked up a hitchhiker. That was the one in the backseat, the one they said hurt my mother. The others didn’t even have to go to the hospital. Not a scratch. But the man in back lay there bloody and swollen, his weathered face slack against the blue vinyl seat. Folds of skin filled with dried blood. The murder weapon and a necklace were found under the seat. At least, this is how I imagined it all happened from what I’ve heard about the car accident.
I sit in a jail room and try to overhear more while the lady cop makes phone calls. The other officers drink coffee and talk about me. I guess they think I can’t hear them, but I can.
“The kid must be upset,” I hear one of them say. “We’re waiting for her father to come and get her. A Samuel Downing of Del Rio. He didn’t sound too happy about having to get her.”
I hear another officer say that some of the blue vinyl had stuck to the dead man’s face and peeled off when they got him out. He was headed to Mexico after killing two women.
“He was done for, plain and simple,” someone said. “An eye for an eye and all that jazz. Justice on earth or on a piece of toast.”
I wish I had a piece of paper to write down what he said. I want to remember “justice on a piece of toast.”
The officers keep talking and I’m glad they do because I’m bored and tired. They keep talking about the dead man and what had happened to “the women.” That’s what they call them. But that was “a whole ‘nother story” as they say in Texas where this all happened on a hot night that turned into a bitchin’ morning. That is what I would have written if I had a piece of paper. Where I live, a lot of things are bitchin’. That’s what my mother always says anyway.
They send a lady cop into the room to talk to me. I guess she’s a lady cop, but then she says something about family services and I don’t know what that is. She wants to know more about the women and how the day all started. The women are my mother, Vicky, and her friend, Carol. Carol has a daughter too who is ten like me. Her name is Sally and we all live together in an apartment with bad curtains.
The lady copy wants descriptions of them—names, and a bunch of other things. I can’t think of what to tell her even though she is trying to be nice.
“Your mother is a pretty lady. And she has a pretty daughter too,” the lady cop says.
I don’t like that the lady cop is trying to be that nice. I already know my mother is pretty. Pretty enough to attract drunk men. That’s what I overheard Carol say one night. They never thought they were pretty enough, but I still thought they were, in the magazine sense.
They could have been sisters, the way they looked the same. Dark brown hair they home-permed. My mother said she read somewhere that, “curls around the face get you a date.” They plucked their eyebrows so high that I thought they looked like they were waiting for an answer to a question. They looked especially this way when they wore blue eye shadow.
They had big breasts like magazine women too, but my mother had to buy the kind of woman’s chest you can put under clothes. She bought them from a magazine that advertised how to increase your bust size. It was easy to slip them in and out, rinse and leave them by your sink at night. One time, she did that and a man discovered them the next morning and put one of his cigarettes out on it. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Both Carol and my mother have long legs and pretty pink-painted toes. Perky Pink I think was the color on the bottle. I always told my mother she was pretty, but she didn’t listen. She said she attracted plenty of fists to the face. She got those fists from the “game.”
The lady cop asks me more questions about the game, and I tell her it’s a way to stretch things out between pay. That’s because paychecks from working at the local A&W and the Lucky Lady gas station didn’t add up to much, even if you did stuff stolen cheeseburgers or lottery tickets into your purse. Which they did all the time.
“How have things been at home,” the lady cop asks, so I describe home for her as best I can.
Home for us wasn’t much of a place. I mean, it had curtains, which they both thought made it look more permanent and nice. But it really gave the place a sad look like the inside of one of my friends’ trailer. I shared a room with my mother. That is until these men spent the night. Then my room was the closet. I slept in there most nights anyway and I’d started hanging little pictures on the walls to look at when I couldn’t sleep.

Lisa said...

1. If given a choice, I'd have been born an orphan.

2. A bonsai - trimmed and clipped of everything unsightly.

3. Nurture. Lots of folks have psychotic seeds, but they don't all sprout and shoot.

laughingwolf said...

nice add, karen... keeps the mystery going ;)

Phoenix said...

Oh wow, all those voices and styles. How fun to write -- and to read! Talking craftsmanship here, people, not the disturbing child-killing stuff.

*waving to a fellow Texan* Your event schedule seems to indicate you hail from the DFW area. That's been my stomping ground for many a year, although these days I live just north of there. Howdy!

What a great debut! What's next? Anything you can share???

laughingwolf said...

told my bud from fw i have a permanent lens implanted in my right eye that was made in fw... he told me i'm now forever part texan and can yeeehawwwww with the best of em ;) lol

Sarah Laurenson said...

1. My uncle is my cousin and my brother-in-law.

[I’m going for b-i-l to be 3 words. If it’s only 1, I could add another relation like so: My uncle is my cousin and my grandfather and my brother-in-law.]

2. A weeping willow.

3. There’s a lot to be said for both sides of this coin. When I flip it, it always lands on the edge. Nature is the base material, but nurture shapes it.

Welcome to the fire!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Argh. Can't add.

My uncle is my cousin, my grandfather and my brother-in-law.

Scobberlotcher said...

Hello everyone,

Karen, here.

Hey, Phoenix. Yes, I am in the DFW area. Nice to meet another Texan, too.

As for the next project, yes, it is underway. I am Twittering about the editing process now, having just received the full, edited ms. back from my editor. I'd like to say I'm having fun, but...

Thanks, everyone for stopping by!

ChrisEldin said...

I loved reading the extra excerpt--thanks for sharing!

Jeff Huber said...

Best wishes for continued success with the book.

Jeff Huber

Shona Snowden said...

Gee, did Monday finish already? I do have jet lag. This is an awesome extract; harrowing and unforgettable. For some reason, I thought this would be about Jane Austen. Guess it's not then!

I think I'm buying this one...

Todd said...

1. She lunged at her stepmother with a butcher knife.

2. The family tree is pretty solid oak with a lot of branches, except for my cousins: the branches split like bamboo then.

3. It's a combination of nature and nurture. While genes hardwire us, almost to the point of hard determinism, we still have enough will to change some aspects of our lives, or we can be retrained by religion, philosophy, literature, ethics, morality, love, etc.,to put up a wall to some genetic determinism.

Scobberlotcher said...

Hello friends,

Well, the time has come for each of us to leave the dinner table and part friends. I hope you all keep in touch and stop by my blog. I'll be having another book give-away contest in December.

Without further adieu - I've chosen LISA as today's winner. I love her answer to #1 so much, I may have to use it in a novel. Ha! Really. It's that interesting. Think of where that story could go?

1. If given a choice, I'd have been born an orphan.

2. A bonsai - trimmed and clipped of everything unsightly.

3. Nurture. Lots of folks have psychotic seeds, but they don't all sprout and shoot.

Thanks again, Book Roast friends.

- Karen Harrington

laughingwolf said...

grats lisa... and thank you karen :)

ChrisEldin said...

Congratulations Lisa!! And thank you so much, Karen, for playing with us on the Book Roast!!

Thank you to everyone!!

AstonWest said...

Congratulations, Lisa!