There’s a Story in Every Picture – Come Tell Us Yours

By Jordan Dane

I still get chills on release day. Officially released September 27th, Reckoning for the Dead (HarperCollins) is book #4 in my Sweet Justice novels, my second series with Harper. My thriller novels have the feel of being ripped from today’s headlines because real crime inspires me. With an international setting, these books focus on a covert vigilante organization called The Sentinels that wields its brand of justice on a global scale, without the hindrance of jurisdictions or courts of law.
With a starring role, Jessica Beckett is a former bounty hunter from Chicago with mad skills in outsmarting fugitives on the run. She has a no frills, tenacious pit bull personality, with a Colt Python and a dark past that never stops punishing her. International operative, Alexa Marlowe, is the polar opposite. Living in New York City, she’s sophisticated and into high fashion. She’s well-traveled and loves the good life and pampering, yet she can be fearless when it comes to leading the men in her tactical unit through the fiercest of hostage rescue scenarios on foreign soil. Her strong sense of loyalty makes her willing to take risks by putting her own life on the line. These women give Lady Justice a whole new reason to wear blinders and their brand of justice is anything but sweet.
In Reckoning for the Dead, Jessie and Alexa’s worlds become embroiled in upheavals stirred from their shadowy pasts. For Alexa, her former lover and Sentinel’s chief, Garrett Wheeler, is reported dead, killed in a mysterious covert op that’s “off book.” When a new leader suddenly assumes control of the elite vigilante organization overnight—a man Alexa can’t afford to trust—she isn’t buying anything he tells her. In search of Garrett and the truth, she goes rogue and off the grid, following a deadly trail that leads into Mexico, behind the fortress walls of a murderous drug cartel boss. Alone, Alexa has no one to watch her back, not even her new partner, Jessie.
Ex-bounty hunter, Jessie Beckett, has troubles of her own. When her DNA turns up as evidence in a gruesome murder committed when Jessie was only a child, before her life was shattered by an infamous killer, Jessie’s world is turned upside down. Solving a very cold case may hold the key to who she really is or kill the only memory she has of a woman she believes is her mother.
For Alexa and Jessie, the dead must have a reckoning.

In celebration of my new release, I thought it would be fun to post some images and have YOU tell US a short story. Pick an image and tell a brief tale–the start of a story. Think of it as ZUMBA for the brain. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Tease us and make us want more. Are you up for the challenge?
Cry Baby Creek Bridge – Every town has a legendary bridge

The Dungeon – The Stuff of Nightmares

There’s definitely a story here. Please, no booking photos.


23 thoughts on “There’s a Story in Every Picture – Come Tell Us Yours

  1. The Dungeon – The Stuff of Nightmares

    I trudged up the cold, gray steps trembling with every footfall. Would I find him there?

    “Olivia,” I thought, “Get a grip. Dragons don’t exist…”

    Still, I fingered the emerald amulet that hung at my chest with every step toward the dungeon. My only barganing chip. My last hope to get out of this mess, if what the old man said was true.

    As I reached the platform and peered into the darkness of the gothic windows I felt a vibration. Something big moved. I heard the rustle of scales on stone. Caught a glimpse of a barbed tail in the shadows.

    I squeezed the emerald tightly between my fingers and tried to breathe. Shook my head. Trembled.

    I heard the question echo off the stones. “You’re in need of my services, I understand…”

  2. The bridge image – I purchased this image for a book trailer I did for my debut young adult novel – IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011), but only after this beautiful B&W photo helped me write the start of that book. My opening prologue featured this bridge when my young heroine is reminded of what she’d tragically witnessed two years earlier, a dark memory stirred by the buzzing sound of flies.

    In my research through a librarian friend of mine, I’d found this image after I’d heard that the old bridge at Cry Baby Creek in OK was haunted by the ghost of a Native American woman clutching the limp body of her dead baby. Guess you could say I wrote my first YA around this haunting image where reality crosses the line into the spirit world.

  3. Hey Paula, good morning. You got your creative mojo working early. I LOVED your dungeon story, so visual and I could even feel the vibration of the dragon as it moved. Well done. I definitely would want to turn the page & read more. Thanks for indulging me with your storytelling.

  4. I’m not creative enough right now except for my own stuff, but those pictures and your book cover are evocative and creepy. Good luck with your release, and may your book sales soar!

  5. Thanks, Nancy. I loved the cover too.

    Yesterday, a reader on facebook (Robin) had come back from the bookstore & posted a pic of the books she’d just bought. I told her that authors LOVE when readers do this. She found that out firsthand when every author she’d purchased had a chatfest on her page. We all knew each other. Sharon Sala, Heather Graham, Wendi Corsi Staub (who has a stunning cover too). Sharon actually helped me get published & we still share the same agent, thanks to her too. Anyway, it was one of my release week fun stories. Thanks for the good wishes, Nancy.

  6. Paula– I’m impressed by your creativity on the fly. I usually need to warm up to an idea before my fingers hit the keys. Feel free to try another image and best of luck with your writing.

  7. Ah, launch day. Always nice. Good luck with the new book, Jordan!

    As for the last pic, the story begins: Simon Cowell took his new face for a walk and was shocked when the gates of Buckingham Palace did not open for him.

  8. LOL Jim—You are a closet Idol watcher. Who knew?

    I watched only a few short minutes of his new show and saw same-o, same-o, big time ego.

    Thanks for the good wishes and the chuckle. That image was purchased for one of my book trailers – The Wrong Side of Dead. Now I won’t be able to look at it again without thinking of Simon.

    Gee, thanks. 🙂

  9. Man behind bars image:

    He stared, stunned, at the gruesome reality in the courtyard below him.

    They had done it, really and truly done it. And while his own stomach began to roil with nausea at the bloody scene, no one else in the crowd below seemed to care at all.

    There were no screams. There were no sobs of dismay. There was no one wailing in regret.

    Then he heard a sound, made by one person alone in that mass of villagers gathered around the crimson-stained platform. Horrified, he heard the sound spread – as it always does – from the one person to the many.

    One man clapping had given way to thunderous applause.

    My God, what would they do when it came time for him to appear before the People’s Chair? His words had gotten him (and poor, dead Nolen) into this, could they get him out?

  10. OMG Tricia–Amazing layering and subtle hints of what’s happening. I love this.

    And you picked up on the bars not being normal prison ones. Well done!

    I hope you subscribe to The Kill Zone and participate in our next critique that we offer to our followers where they send in anonymous 300 word entries. The most critical part of a submission to an editor or agent. I think you & the lovely Paula would do quite well. All of our authors chime in with one giving a detailed critique.

    But thanks for helping me celebrate and for sharing your gift. Best wishes to you.

  11. Jordan –

    I thank you so much for your encouraging words! That was the first professional critique I’ve ever received – I have been merely a dabbler with my fiction. But you’ve given me feedback to be courageous!

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment on my little blurb.

  12. Tricia–I believe the craft of writing can be taught, but storytelling is a gift.

    I had always been an avid reader since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I braved criticism to write my own stories as an adult–looking to fulfill a the passion I had for writing–that’s when my whole life changed.

    Do it for YOU. Believing in yourself is the gift that keeps on giving.

  13. Steven stared through the bars of the cell, shock still holding his mind, words failing to form as he wondered if he were in a dream, a nightmare. He prayed that was all it was, a horrible vision in a stress wracked sleep. But the stench of sweat, human waste and rotting flesh told him otherwise. The painful bruises on his back, butt, and thighs were no dream either.
    In the old days of America, the days of his childhood when the states were truly united into a single country, once could easily travel from state to state with no papers, no passport. There were not even any border protection booths on the highways, one could simply drive anywhere they wanted. There was seldom even any difficulty getting into Canada and Mexico. Now though, a simple crossing from Arkansas to Oklahoma was met with armed border guards and patrols in the woods of the hinterlands.
    Under the premise of investigating the legends of a haunting he had visited the bridge many times. The real reason for his frequent visits had been to meet Darla, a woman he had met in college. She had been in Arkansas on a special inter-state visa to attend the university. They had fallen in love, but her permanent residence request had been denied and she was forced to return to her family home ten miles across the state border.
    A spurned soldier on her side of the border had decided to get back at her for refusing his advances and the ambush was set. They waited until the couple embraced. Mid-kiss the soldiers materialized around them with jeers and rude comments.
    “Now what’s this? How is it that a good looking Okie girl like you turns down a nice man like me only to come out here and get caught swappin’ spit with an Arkansas hick?”
    Steven moved between Darla and the soldiers. He started to speak but before a word came out the electrodes of a taser blasted him to the ground in a shaking, bladder emptying 20,000 volt explosion.
    “No!” Darla screamed.
    The soldiers moved closer, guns trained on him. The silver emblem hanging on a chain around his neck slid into view, a Star of David.
    “Girl, you must be outa your mind,” they laughed. One of the soldiers rammed his rifle but into Steven’s gut forcing a burst of air from his lungs and tears to form in his eyes. “Not only kissing up on an illegal alien, but breaking the law a second time by tonguing a Jew? Chain’em up boys.”
    From his cell in the infamous Blue Dungeon Steven could hear the distant screams above the clicking of rats claws as they scurried over the body of the neighboring prisoner who had died the night before. Darla, the woman he longed to marry, being violated by man after man. If he ever got out of this place alive, he thought, he was going to commit to that which he had resisted thus far. He’d join the Freedom Militia, they would pay for what they were doing to his beloved, he’d get his revenge.
    Heavy footsteps on the cold stone floor interrupted his thoughts of vengeance. A voice rang out against the walls and bars of the dungeon.
    “Looks like its your lucky day Jew trash. New Governor has changed the rules so rather than hang you for trespassing you’re just gonna be deported back to your hell hole of a country.”
    Steven heard a hard, fleshy slap and Darla’s screams suddenly stopped.
    “You have five minutes to get on the bus outside for transport back to the border,” said the guard as he put the key in the cell door.
    Steven stumbled out of the cell stiffly, painfully. He followed the train of a dozen other exonerated prisoners up the stairs toward freedom. At the top of the stairs, a few yards from the door he saw the jilted soldier. The man looked at him with a wicked grin.
    “Pity, she had to defile herself with trash like you,” the soldier scratched at his crotch. “But not to worry, her final memories were of real men…several real men.”
    He let out a sickening chuckle. Steven looked forward, expressionless. Revenge would be coming, the salty sweet taste of blood already forming in his mouth.

    Revenge was coming.

  14. Basil–I think you should donate your brain to science, Basil. You’ve got the furtile ground of an author in that 3 lbs of gray matter. And only YOU would combine all the images to make one cohesive story. Like I said, it’s a gift. Happy writing, my friend.

  15. Jordan. YAY on the book release. Congratulations!

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I love homework. Here’s my first two minute try:

    Cry Baby Creek Bridge – –

    Three days driving day and night to escape the nightmare life that had held me for twenty two years and I jammed on the breaks hard enough to singe the tires.

    When the air cleared, the last dregs of resilience drained from what remained in my arsenal of hope. My future awaited on the other size of a bridge that lay decayed and overgrown like a corpse in a hayfield. I wasn’t going to make it.

  16. Better late than never, Kath. Thanks for the good wishes and your story contribution. The emotions are so raw & evocative. I love it. I’d keep reading. I really am drawn to characters with baggage. It’s interesting that in YA, 1st POV is common as a narrative, but so rarely in adult books that editors have been known to ask authors to revise to 3rd. It’s a shame. Some stories are just perfect for the intimacy of 1st person. Don’t you think?

  17. It’s amamzing how many folks, especially editors, have a love/hate relationship with first person. They either love it, or hate it. I for one, love it. I’m just sayin . . .

    Thanks for the fun, Jordan!

  18. Sorry this is late. Congratulations on your book release!

    The Dungeon

    She stared at the dark stone steps as the guard half dragged her up. Why were they letting her go?

    She squinted in the offensive sunlight and assessed the grimy courtyard:locked tight and over guarded. The Admiral knew who he was dealing with. Captain Charner must have warned him.

    The Admiral stood square. His eyes reproached her. He spoke rigidly, “You are free to go under one condition. . .” His eyes swung to her right with more resentment.

    She followed his gaze and stiffened. To her right Captain Charner now held her sword.
    “Under the condition that you help me find the Lost Dream,” Charner said

    Lance’s ship? She tore her eyes from her sword and looked back at the Admiral. “You put up with pirates in the navy?”

    The Admiral snapped, “You help the scoundrel or hang tomorrow.”

    “What do you say?” Charner said. He really believed he could control her. She could play along with it.

    She crossed her arms. “Fine.”

    “Good,” Charner said. “We leave immediately.” He handed her the sword.

    She smiled inwardly. Seriously? He was going to trust her with this?

    “That’s it?” the Admiral said. “No argument?”

    She said,”I don’t have any other choice.”

    At the moment.

  19. Ah, Ashley. There is nothing like great dialogue loaded witn innuendo, like a well-played chess match. Well done. And thanks for playing at TKZ and your good wishes on RECKONING.

    Have a great weekend. And best wishes with your writing.

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