Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts!


He gives a woman everything she could want, answers her deepest unspoken needs, her hidden thoughts, her darkest desires. But Varick isn't just too good to be true, he is hell-sent.

Roxanne, Del, and Alice were girls together at Our Lady of the Hills School, where they met and came to adore their teacher, Father Romero, a Cuban refugee. For one of the girls, Father Romero was far more than a crush, and as a result of her lies he is driven away from his faith and his home and into an empty spiritual darkness that makes him easy prey for true evil.

Years later, Romero takes his merciless revenge—revenge that is terrifying, sexually-charged and surreal as a fever dream. No one in the women's lives is safe. Not even an unborn child.

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She was just plain Alice, and they never let her forget.

Roxanne and Delilah, who was called Del, knelt close to Alice by the light of a candle, the skirts of their stiff blue school uniforms crumpling against her. Del rested a hand on Alice's shoulder as though she might try to get up from the leaf-strewn ground and run away. But they all knew she wouldn't. Roxanne used a twig to stir some pungent concoction in a shell-thin African bowl she had brought from home. The odor suffused the copse like the fug from an ancient outhouse. To Alice, it smelled suspiciously like a baby's dirty diaper. There was something else, though. Something caustic and chemical-smelling that made her eyes water.

"I don't have to eat it, do I?" Alice said.

"Oh God," Del said. She hadn't wanted to go along with this whole thing in the first place. She was nervous enough about being in the park after dark. And there was something deeply wrong with what they were doing, she knew. Witchcraft on television was fine, but this was something else.

"Of course not," Roxanne said, her voice patient. The bowl was heavy in her hands, though it hardly contained anything at all. If she were a few years older than thirteen, she would know it was heavy with her own desire—a desire that she could, at that moment, identify only as dimly sexual.

"Get her coat off," she told Del.

"Come on," Del said. "Don't be a baby, Alice."

She reached for the buttons on the front of Alice's pea coat, which was exactly like the ones she and Roxanne were wearing, though Roxanne's had a black velvet scarf tucked beneath the collar. Alice didn't help with the coat, but she didn't resist, either. Del flung the coat and the blue cardigan sweater with its Our Lady of the Hills crest onto the dormant grass.

Alice shivered in her blouse, hoping that she would be able to leave on at least her skirt and socks.

Roxanne nodded. Del's cold-numbed fingers tugged at the buttons of Alice's blouse.

"For pity's sake," Roxanne said. "Alice, you need to unbutton your blouse. You don't have to undo it all the way. Then you need to lie down."

Alice did as she was told. Roxanne put down the bowl and tucked the discarded coat beneath Alice's head. She brushed her fingertips over Alice's brow and smiled. Sweet, tender Alice. Though perhaps not so sweet—she whined sometimes. But at least she was Pure Alice, who had never been kissed—a virgin, as they all were.

"Now. Everyone be quiet," she said, picking up the bowl. Her hands shook a bit with the excitement of it all. She closed her eyes.

The words she spoke—seemingly to the sky, or the air in front of her—were unintelligible to the others. Her tone was one of supplication: a petition or a prayer, not so different from the prayers the priests said at mass. She tried for the same singsong in her voice, the same careful cadence. She's added a few thoughts and words of her own to the spell she took from the satanic witchcraft book she stole from the public library, thinking that they would make it more effective.

The herbs in the mash were ones she remembered being used in a joyful Santeria rite that her mother had taken her to, when her mother was on one of her "spiritual quests." It was this blending of dark magic and the divine that she believed would give them what they wanted.

Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS. Or pop in and chat! Laura isn't as scary as her books...
What would Laura's kids say about her cooking?


Chris Eldin said...

Good Morning, Everyone!!

If I'm around the computer, I'll post the excerpts a bit earlier to catch the coffee crowd!

But authors may not be here until later....

Laura Benedict said...

Good morning, Chris!

It's Tuesday, isn't it? I'm only scary on Thursdays and alternate Saturdays!

Chris Eldin said...

LOL! Good morning Laura!

Only alternate Saturdays, eh?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ooh. A food question at the roast. Is she ready to be sampled, Chris? Or is Antonio doing the cooking today?

Chilling premise, Laura. I shuddered at the description.

How do you sleep nights with that kind of imagination?

Charles Gramlich said...

What would Laura's kids say about her cooking? "interesting ingredients, Mom, but just what is that lingering aftertaste?"

Love the description of this book. Sounds like it's down my alley. I'll check it out.

Laura Benedict said...

Oddly enough, Sarah, I sleep very well! In fact, I could barely rouse myself at 2 this morning when my 16 yr old came in to tell me she'd been throwing up. (She really should have been able to tell that the milk that was in the fridge was spoiled, don't you think?! Hm. Maybe I do have food issues...)

Hi, Charles. My kids are always asking me that--except "interesting" isn't usually the word they use. I wonder why?

Julie said...

Wow, sounds like an intriguing book. I'll have to look for it. Any sour milk involved in the concoction cooked up in the novel?

Laura Benedict said...

Julie, knowing Roxanne, if there is milk in it at all, it was probably pilfered from the lunchroom at school or the 7-11. She's trouble!

This excerpt is from the novel's opening--the whole chapter is on .pdf on my website.

laughingwolf said...

welcome laura... hi chris :)

you have me hooked for more reading from the excerpt, laura... sent a nice chill down my back :)

laura's kids think their mom's cooking is awesome... except they keep getting various long hairs stuck in their teeth, weird bone-like substances in their throats, and gassy globules that just won't slide off their spoons :O lol

Carleen Brice said...

Laura is a writer. I'm guessing her kids would say something like, "Wow, mom is cooking?!" I'm probably just projecting my own kitchen-laziness, but I loved the excerpt so I hope I win. :)

Chris Eldin said...

Hi again!
Keep your answers (and question also) rolling in!

I'll be back in a few hours...

Laura Benedict said...

Carleen, that's so funny--I confess that the family was a little underwhelmed with BLTs (with avocado!) and random soups last night!

I'll be hanging around for the next few hours, Chris, and checking in all evening as well.

Laura Benedict said...

laughingwolf, I didn't forget you-- I was busy checking up to make sure my editor wasn't throwing me over for you! You have out-grossed even me, a woman who spent hours wondering how festering flesh should be described! LOL!

laughingwolf said...

thx laura... it happens to be the genre i love most ;)

nothing like a good fright to make your hair stand on end... get a much closer 'shave' that way :O lol

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Laura!

I'm headed right over to your website--can't wait to read the chapter on pdf. And then I'll head out and get the real thing. You are such an amazing writer...

What do your kids say? Oh, let's see. How about-

"Dearest Mother, I'd dearly love a bit more of your perfectly cooked poulet kentuckienne avec pommes de terres souffles? And by the way, you do look lovely tonight."

McKoala said...

Ooh, nice and dark. Plus a fantastic title, and such a sharp photo!

My kids keep asking why I don't make the things that they like to eat. But it's tough when their tastes change daily.

Laura Benedict said...

Hey, Hank--You crack me up! If they were really smart they sure would say that! My mother-in-law used to have her kids address her as "Beautiful, clever Mommy." My kids just laugh at me every time I suggest it.

Thanks, McKoala. I love your profile pic! If I made only what my kids wanted to eat we would have Octopus sashimi and mac and cheese every night. Ew.

Chris Eldin said...

So Laura, what did you make for dinner tonight?

Laura Benedict said...

Oh, this is so embarrassing, Chris! My son hated his lunch at school, so I let him get salad bar at the grocery store so he could eat as soon as we got home. I think I saw three kinds of cheeses, pineapple, some of those faux-crab fish chunks and pudding with Oreo bits. My daughter left for play rehearsal as soon as my son and I got home...She said she ate something, but I have no idea what. It's 6:00 here now and I just put water on to boil for spaghetti to eat with the, uh, canned Cincinnati Skyline Chili my husband and I will be having. (Skyline is my childhood favorite!)

I should have made up a healthy answer, I know, but I'm a terrible liar! Does it count that I made a lovely Lemon-Artichoke Chicken dish with brown rice and salad two nights ago?!

McKoala said...

And you, Chris? 'Fess up!

Chris Eldin said...

Laura, I LOVE your son's salad! ANything with Oreo bits is all right by me!

Thank you, Laura, for spending time with us and sharing recipes!!

Thank you everyone for stopping by!! The contest is closed, and Laura will be by at any time to announce the winner of a free copy of her book.

Many thanks!

Laura Benedict said...

Thank you so much for having me here, Chris! I haven't had so much fun being roasted since I was fourteen and had my tinfoil-covered Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road (Elton John) album cover angled so my face would get the best UVA/UVB suntan ever!

Such great comments--I had a very tough time choosing. The copy of Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts goes to Carleen, because she so has me pegged. When I'm in the midst of writing a novel, my family always seems stunned when I manage to come up with dinner.

But laughingwolf gets a runner-up prize: a copy of my debut novel Isabella Moon, which just came out in paperback. LW gives me a run for my money in the gross-out department!

I want to mention, too, that I'm drawing for a totally FABULOUS giftbasket at my Notes From the Handbasket blog in March. All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter at laura@laurabenedict.com. (There's a copy of CMLH in the basket, too.)

It's been a delight...farewell, wonderful chefs and guests!

laughingwolf said...

grats carleen... and thank you laura, i'll email you asap :D

Chris said...

Congrats Carleen and LW!!

And thank you, Laura---Lots of fun!!!

laughingwolf said...

thx cris :)

Carleen Brice said...

I won! How cool is that?!

Kelli Stanley said...

Rats! I always miss all the fun! :( Grumble, grumble day job ...
But I want to add that Laura is an amazing and wonderful writer, mom and human being ... and a damn good cook. :)

I'd try anything (well, almost anything) she'd make (I've got a no viscera rule). ;) And I would and will read EVERYTHING she writes!!

You rock, babe!!