A deal with the Devil. Demons haunting your every step. When an Angel offers you the chance to redeem yourself, you take it. Because eternal damnation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
But the Devil always gets his due.
On the streets of Baltimore redemption is….. Payable On Death.
~ Bewitching BT
“You’re too young to be so troubled. You haven’t even seen a quarter century. You’re just a babe.” The man flicked his cigarette in to the dark, a shower of little orange sparks erupting when it hit the pavement.
“I’m not your babe. Leave me alone.” I pushed off the railing on the pedestrian bridge crossing over I-95 and walked away.
“Ah, poor choice of words. I was simply commenting on your age. You’re no one’s babe, Jacqui. How could you be? You’re too afraid to let people get close, lest they see the bruises.” He ran a hand along his hair, ensuring each piece in the slicked-back style remained in place.
“Who are you? How do you know my name?” I’d never seen him before in my life. Someone that perfect left an impression. If we’d met before, I would’ve remembered.
“I can make things better for you. Take away your pain, ease your suffering. You hardly sleep, listening at your bedroom door for any sign of trouble. I can help with that.” He was confident. He had to be, walking around Baltimore at night dressed in a three-piece suit, diamond cufflinks gleaming even with only the dim blue light from the police CCTV cameras to highlight them.
“I don’t know what you think you know about me or what you’ve heard but I don’t do drugs. So you can go peddle that shit somewhere else. I’m not buying.” Despite having more reasons than I could count, I’d managed to avoid getting hooked on heroin – an impressive feat given the amount flooding the city.
“Mmm. I almost wish you were. It makes things so much easier when drugs are involved. Let me ask you a question. Do I look like some street thug drug peddler to you?”
I took in the meticulous tailoring, the expensive shoes. “You’re definitely not from around here.” I gestured to the boarded up row homes across the street.
Weeds overran the small front yards, brushing the bottoms of the windowsills. Plywood replaced glass in almost every window. Trash littered the street, the city cans overflowing onto the sidewalk to the delight of the ever growing rat population. Sirens echoed in the distance, the dealers on the corner unfazed.
Welcome to Harm City.
Still, it was safer on the street than at home most nights.
“Home for me is a lot farther south of the Mason-Dixon line than Maryland, dear child. What are you doing up here? Shouldn’t you be home? With your mother?”
“You don’t know me, you don’t know my mom. Get the fuck out of here before I call the cops.” I held up my phone and pointed at the BPD security camera.
He clucked his tongue, wagging a finger at me. “Such a foul mouth for such a pretty face. I know a lot about your mom. The lie she told about going to a basket bingo with her friend Janice. Mom never made it out of the house by the way. She’s very pretty, your mother, I see where you get your looks. Maybe if she hadn’t fussed with her hair and makeup so much or if she’d chosen a different blouse…”
I’d heard those excuses from my mother so many times. If she hadn’t done this or that, he wouldn’t have beat her. Breathing seemed to be what set him off where I was concerned. I avoided going home as often as possible. For my mother’s sake as much as mine. He seemed better when I wasn’t around.
“It looks bad this time. The neighbors are out for the night. No one to call for help. And he’s upset, very upset.”
“The neighbors are out? If by ‘out’ you mean abandoned and boarded up, then yeah, they’re out. He’s always upset. I’ve begged her to leave, so many times. She won’t. She said if she ever did, he’d kill her. Trust me, if I go back now, it will only make things worse..”
“It’s different this time, Jacqui girl.” The same thing my mother said every time my stepfather came home with flowers and a box of wine to apologize. “He came home early, found the suitcase she packed to take with her to the shelter by the door. She’s hurt. All alone in that house. With him.”
I started to run, only making it a couple of steps before he grabbed me.
“You’ll never make it in time. I can help you, Jacqui girl. I can put an end to all this. Don’t you want to help her? Don’t you want to save your mother? Save yourself? This isn’t the life you deserve. No one should live like this. Forgotten by everyone, left to the drunken rages and violent fits of that monster you live with. Why is this happening? Why did He forget about you? He’s supposed to love you. Doesn’t He care what happens to you?” He pointed toward the sky.
“What’s in it for you? Why do you care what happens to us? If you know all that, you know I don’t have any money and neither does my mom.” I should have screamed for help.
His breath whispered across my ear. “Money isn’t the only form of payment.”
For a moment, I considered it, considered giving over my body in exchange for him following me home and killing my stepfather. In all the years of darkness and misery, I’d managed to stay straight, stay on the path. Faced with the brutal murder of my mother, was I willing to throw it all away?
“I know a place we can go, but not until you hold up your end of the bargain.” My stomach heaved when I thought about what I’d agreed to do.
“Oh, you sweet, simple girl. You are so delicious. The soft unmarked skin of youth pulled tight over toned muscle.” He licked his lips. “Yes, I am quite sure I would enjoy every moment. However, I don’t recall stating the terms.”
“Do we have a deal or not? You said I was out of time.” Panic gripped my heart. Was she dead already?
“You’re right, Jacqui girl, I did Have you put it together yet? Who I am? He didn’t answer you. He never helped you. But I can.”
Everything clicked. I should have ran. I should have said no. There were a million things I should have done.
“Can you save her? Can you put an end to this?”
The Devil smiled. “I believe we can come to an agreement.”
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?Awesome. Kidding, totally kidding! Gritty.
2. What would you say inspired you to write it? ?The song Heaven Knows by the Pretty Reckless came on the radio, before it ended I had a rough outline in my head. Right after that one, a song by POD came on the radio. I don’t remember which one but I remember looking at the car radio display and thinking about how POD meant payable on death back in my bank teller days and it was like lightning struck.
3. What was the source of inspiration for your protagonist? What about your antagonist? ?I feel like Jax is more of an anti-hero. She’s made bad choices and decided to do the right thing to wipe her slate clean. Not so much to save the day, at least at first. She’s a lot like the rest of us, trying to survive but willing to step up when no one else can. The antagonist, he’s the Devil so…. Yeah, I didn’t need a lot of inspiration where he was concerned. Lol. He’s as suave as he is maniacal.
4. Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it? ?More often than I care to admit! Reading is the best cure for writer’s block. At least for me, anyway. My love for reading parallels my love for writing so finding an escape in someone else’s words is often all the push I need to get going again. Though it may take more than one book.
5. Your all time favorite book? ? I can’t…I don’t know how to pick just one. Umm, Little Women.
6. What made you pick that one above all others? ?This is always in my top ten books. It’s hard to pick one but this is one I have read many times and always enjoy it. I always related to Joe. Still do, in fact.
7. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project? ?I average about the same time for each project. It usually takes me about 9 months to write a book.
8. Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way? ?Not in the least. Well, maybe the fact that I gave myself permission to follow my dream. I didn’t start writing until I was thirty-three. In that way, I feel more empowered but overall, I’m the same person I was before.
9. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind? ?All the time. Every book. I think, or at least I hope, I’m not alone in saying when I write I typically think it’s crap, the world will discover I’m a hack and I should quit. There are moments of this is the best one I’ve written, followed immediately by it’s garbage and then back again. Lol. It’s a constant battle. But one I‘m winning by finishing the stories. At least so far.
10. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing? ?I’m a wife of almost twenty years, a mother of three and I manage my mother’s two hair salons full time. If only I got that gene, I can’t even braid my own hair never mind cut someone else’s. On the upside, there’s people who can blow it out for me, lol. I also run a book convention for fans of genre fiction.
11. How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect? ?Honestly, I try not to read them at all. Unless there’s one about editing. Editing I can improve upon, writing? It’s art and art is subjective. Every book isn’t for everyone and I can’t take that personally. Reviews aren’t really for authors anyway. We need them, don’t get me wrong. We need them for all sorts of reasons, most importantly to be seen but they’re for readers to tell other readers what they thought.
12. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series? ?Yes, it’s book one in a three part series. Well, there are more gateways to close and the Devil always gets his due….at least he thinks so anyway.
13. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series? ? I think I have one more in my first series- it’s started at least. We’ll see if it comes to fruition. But there are a couple stand alone novels floating around in my head I really want to explore some more. I’ve got some graphic novels in the pipeline as well and I am really looking forward to seeing those completed!
14. What made you decide to go the self-pub way? ?I submitted to the big pub houses. Well one anyway. And with her rejection letter I deemed myself an author. She read it, the whole thing, and didn’t toss it out. A good concept, she liked the idea but it wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. Okay, I thought to myself, but what if someone is? What if there are readers out there who want what I am writing? I had a story to tell and it decided to go for it. I originally wrote it to prove to my kids that I could, that they could do anything if they set their minds to it. They could have a dream and follow it and it didn’t matter what stage of their life they were in. I hadn’t planned on getting this far.
15. What would you say was the toughest part? ?All of it. It’s a business and you’re the CEO, the board, the employees, you are everything and everyone inside that business wearing all the hats! But it’s worth it.
16. Did you hire professionals for editing, cover design, formatting? ?Yes. Initially I had a learning curve of what was available to Indies. Turns out we have access to everything the big houses do. My first two books still needed a lot of love and I have since gone back to revisit and improve them with another editor because I want them to be better, the best they can be. Editors are an author’s best friend, lol.
17. How did you decide who to hire, if you worked with pros? ?a lot of times it’s referrals. My cover artist for Payable On Death, Najila Qamber came highly recommended by a friend. I’m glad I took their advice!
18. Where is your work being distributed, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, AllRomanceEbooks/Omnilit, some other distributor? How did you decide which one(s) to go with? ?My books are on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ibooks, Kobo, basically everywhere. Some of them are on shelves in Barnes and Noble. It’s important to diversify your market. Not everyone reads on Kindle, especially Apple lovers, lol. Polls are starting to show that even though the Kindle ap is free and available to Apple users, they are still getting their books through the Istore. So for me, trying to hit as many markets as possible is the best approach,
19. If you could turn back in time and do things differently, would you? What would you change? ?Nah, I’m not big on regret. At least not in the sense of changing things. Everything happens for a reason. If you don’t have regrets or made mistakes then you’re not really living. As long as you learn from it, let it shape you in a positive way….
20. If you were to recommend one article, blog, post, or book to someone hoping to self-pub, what would it be? ?On Writing by Stephen King.
21. What’s one characteristic of an author who self-publishes, one word that would describe them? ?Determined
Fun facts: :
1. If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for? ?To write full time.
2. Name your favorite fruit. ?strawberry
3. Coffee or tea? ?coffee
4. Favorite season? ?autumn
5. How about fav time of 24 hours? ?the witching hour
6. Were you a boyscout/girlscout? ?girl scout
7. Favorite food for breakfast? ?French toast
8. Latest book you’ve bought and read? ?Fire Touched Patricia Briggs
9. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes? ?nope
10. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us! ?Purple but not like lavender like deep purples
11. Drama or comedy? ?Action!
12. Have a fav quote or personal motto? ?The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
13. Cats or dogs? ?dogs
14. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing? ?dinner out on the deck, cooked on the grill, lol.
15. What song have you listened to most recently? ?Higher by Pop Evil
About the Author & Links:
Rachel Rawlings was born and raised in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Her family, originally from Rhode Island, spent summers in New England sparking her fascination with Salem, MA. She has been writing fictional stories and poems since middle school, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she found the inspiration to create her heroine Maurin Kincaide and complete her first full length novel, The Morrigna.
When she isn’t writing, Rachel can often be found with her nose buried in a good book. An avid reader of Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Horror and Steampunk herself, Rachel founded Hallowread- an interactive convention for both authors and fans of those genres.
More information on Hallowread, its schedule of events and participating authors can be found at www.hallowread.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/Hallowread .
She still lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.