• MUD EYES Character Playlists

    Woman in Park Listening to Music with Union Jack Headphones

    I’ve almost finished writing the second draft of my novel MUD EYES.

    It’s been a long and winding road, and I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m satisfied with it. Although this is my second draft, it won’t be my last.

    Now, I have a much better grasp of my characters. I recently discovered 8tracks and made playlists for each major character in the novel. I switch the playlists depending on which scene I’m writing. The music helps put me in a writing mood and captures (more or less) the essence of each character.

    If you’d like to listen to what I’ve put together, feel free to check out the widgets below.

    Make sure you’re following me on 8tracks if you want to hear new playlists! I’ll follow you back ASAP. 🙂

    What do you think of these character playlists? How do you feel about making different playlists for each of your characters?

    Tweet tweet:

    Do you make playlists for your characters? @brianawrites shares some of hers for MUD EYES. (Click to tweet)

  • Chapter 4, Scene 2: Next Steps

    Rumpled Hotel Bed with White Sheets and Pillows
    “What do I need to do?” I ask.
    “We need to get you out of here. You should be somewhere safe.”
    “I can’t go home.”
    “That’s right. I’m—”
    “Sorry,” I finish. “Yeah, I got that.”
    He smiles weakly. “I honestly wish there were more I could do. I wish I could fix this situation somehow. It’s all a big mess. We’re in over our heads.” He chews the inside of his cheek. “You have no business being a part of this. I wish it hadn’t happened.”
    “That makes two of us,” I say.
    All my life, I’ve wished for some excitement. What’s it gotten me? Two dead parents, a dead brother, and possibly my own destruction. On top of that, I’m growing up in a society that will never accept me. I’ll never be able to achieve my full potential—all because of my eye color. It’s insane.
    Julian sizes me up. “I’d hug you if I thought you’d let me.”
    I want to let him, but I can’t. It feels wrong. I hope he understands.
    “What are we going to do?” I ask.
    “Malcolm wants to make sure you’re safe,” he says.
    “And you do, too.”
    He exhales. “And I do, too.”
    We settle into silence. He sits down beside me on the bed. Again, I catch a whiff of mint. I wonder whether it’s his cologne or something else.
    “You and Malcolm can come stay with me. As far as I know, Silver doesn’t think I’m involved.”
    Of course, that makes sense. Julian is a government official, after all, and he’s also at the top of society. Why would someone with that much power want to beat the system? His disguise is perfect.
    I can only see one flaw.
    “What if someone sees Malcolm and me?” I ask. “We both have brown eyes. There’s no way we’d be safe in your part of town if word got out that we were staying with you. Come to think of it, you probably wouldn’t be safe either.” More than that, he’d essentially be raising Silver’s suspicions—giving himself away. “I don’t think we should risk it.”
    “We don’t have much of a choice,” he replies. “Don’t worry about me, Damita. I’ve lived a privileged life. Society has let me get away with so much—it’s time I made a difference in the world. So what if I put my life on the line? We’ve all got to die sometime, right?”
    The last part stings, and I can tell from the shock on his face that he wishes he hadn’t said it. “Oh, God. I’m so sorry.”
    “Please don’t,” I say.
    He gets up from the bed, goes over to the door, and leans against the frame. “We’ll be waiting for you next door. Just come when you’re ready, whenever that is.”
    Without another word, he lets himself out. I get up and lock the door behind him, wondering if I’ll ever be ready.
    I flop down on the bed, roll onto my stomach, bury my face in the pillow, and scream.
    Spread the Word:

    In @brianawrites’ MUD EYES, Damita must find somewhere to hide. If not, she’ll be discovered by her brother’s killer. (Click to tweet)

     “All my life, I’ve wished for some excitement. What’s it gotten me?” – MUD EYES by @brianawrites. (Click to tweet)

  • Chapter 4, Scene 1: Silver’s Top Assassin

    Black and white motel photograph

    Blood freezes in my veins. Wesley Cray. He’s Alaric Silver’s top assassin, which can mean only one thing—he’s the one who murdered my brother. And if he’s been spotted outside my house, he’s most likely stalking me. He’ll kill me next.

    I leap up from my seat, jolting Atalanta off my lap. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” I’m a dangerous combination of angry and scared. “How do you know that, anyway? When exactly was he seen?” My pulse pounds in my ears and in my clenched fists. I can’t believe things have somehow gotten worse.
    Malcolm stands. “China told you?”
    Atalanta nods. “In a way, it’s a good thing. She’s not defecting like we feared.”
    I don’t know who China is, and I don’t care. “Is he coming after me? Did he know what Rory was involved in? What you all are involved in?” I want to puke. It’s not just them—I’m a part of the conspiracy, too, whether I like it or not. And I most decidedly don’t.
    “Settle down,” says Malcolm.
    “Don’t tell me to settle down. You don’t even know me.”
    “Damita,” says Julian, “why don’t we go into the other room and discuss this? In private?” His eyebrows knit together in concern. I have an easier time believing his sincerity than Malcolm’s. Still, I’m not happy with anyone for keeping secrets from me. 
    I ask the question that nags me. “Did you know about this?”
    “No,” he says. I believe him. “But I’m sorry.”
    I take a minute to breathe. Then, before Atalanta or Malcolm can say something else to set me off, I follow Julian out of my room. He opens the door to his and lets me pass through before closing and locking it behind us. I don’t see why he thinks he has to lock it, but I trust his judgment. I sit down on the bed.
    “I’m so sorry,” he says again. “This is absolutely awful. You must be so upset.”
    “You have no idea,” I say.
    “What can I do to help you?” He stoops down to look into my eyes. It’s the most intimate contact I’ve experienced. My cheeks burn. I look away. He tucks his fingers under my chin and lifts my face toward his. I have to look at him.
    “Please trust me,” he says.
    I know Julian is my best bet of finding some security. “Until you make it impossible to do so,” I tell him.
    He releases me and starts pacing. “If Cray was near your house, we can assume he killed Rory. Again, I am sorry. If Cray killed Rory, it means someone in the government knows we’re plotting something—or, at least, that Rory was. We have no idea how much they know.”
    “Silver knows,” I say.
    “Right. That’s much worse.” He sits down in the chair I saw Atalanta sitting in before. “He might be coming after you. I hope he didn’t see the policeman take you here. Otherwise…”
    I swallow. We both knew what that means.

    Spread the Word:

    “My pulse pounds in my ears and in my clenched fists… things have somehow gotten worse.” MUD EYES by @brianawrites (Click to tweet)

    What would you do if the man who killed your brother were coming after you next? Read the latest installment of @brianawrites’ MUD EYES. (Click to tweet)

  • Chapter 3, Scene 4: The Run

    New York City at night
    “I don’t know you,” I tell Malcolm.
    “I’m trying to help you. To keep you safe.” He waves his hand. “The rest is just extra. Can we start fresh?”
    I shake his hand. If Rory appointed this man to watch over me, I can give him a shot. There have to be several reasons I was given to him instead of Julian or Atalanta. It’s just bizarre that the man I know the least has the strongest tie to me. I want to learn more about him and my brother.
    Julian watches us interact with a smirk on his face. He knows something I didn’t–about Malcolm, that is. I wonder what it could be.
    “All right,” he says to Malcolm, “you’d better get going. Attie and I might go on a run of sorts tonight.”
    I don’t know what he’s talking about, but the scowl on Malcolm’s face tells me it’s not good. I come right out and ask.
    “What are you talking about?”
    Malcolm’s scowl intensifies. “She doesn’t need to know about any of this, Julian.”
    “It’s too late,” he says. “Don’t be stupid. She’s involved.” He looks pointedly at me. “And don’t speak about her as though she isn’t there. It’s rude.”
    I feel a surge of affection for Julian. He seems to care about me, too. I don’t understand why Rory didn’t make him my guardian. I’m most comfortable around him. Maybe he has some kind of dark side I don’t know about.
    Malcolm goes to put his arm around me. Without meaning to, I flinch. He withdraws and shoves his hands in his pockets instead. “Damita, Rory wouldn’t want you to know about all this. He never would’ve wanted you to go out on a run.”
    “She’s not going,” says Julian. “She just asked what it was.”
    There’s a knock at the door. Julian gets up and answers it. Atalanta blows a stream of smoke into the room.
    “Where have you been? I thought we were going…” She makes eye contact with Malcolm and her voice dissipates. “Oh my God! How long have you been here?” She rushes toward him and pulled him into a hug. “Julian and I were worried sick!”
    Julian scoffs. “She was. Not me.”
    I don’t believe him. I haven’t known him long, but Julian Hartwell doesn’t seem to be apathetic about anything.
    Atalanta flicks ashes off her cigarette, waltzes into the room, and plops down on my lap. I freeze in shock. She grabs my hand and pulls my arm around her waist.
    What’s wrong with this woman?
    “Julian and I are going on a run, Malcolm? Isn’t that exciting?”
    His face doesn’t change as much as it had before. “So I hear. Same place as last time?”
    “We’re going to try down by the docks,” Julian says. “China said she knew a guy, and he might have an idea what to do.”
    “Speaking of China,” Atalanta says.
    Julian clicks his tongue. “What, you talked to her?”
    “I need to tell you all something,” Atalanta says. “It concerns everyone.”
    The room is all ears. She leans forward, placing her hands on her knees.

    “Wesley Cray has been spotted in the woods near Rory’s house.”
  • Chapter 3, Scene 3: Malcolm McKinney

    city train at sunset

    While Julian, Malcolm and I sit in my motel room, I can’t help feeling stupid. I thought my brother told me everything. After knowing him for so long, I didn’t think him capable of keeping secrets from me. Now they truth comes out. I feel sheepish and silly. The worst part is that Julian and Malcolm don’t seem at all surprised by my ignorance. If anything, they expect it. That makes me feel worse.

    Malcolm is the first to change the subject—it isn’t so much of a change of subject as a shift in mood. He leans forward from his seated position on the edge of the bed. “When we got involved in this conspiracy, Rory was determined to make sure you were taken care of. If anything happened to you, he wanted me to become your guardian.” When I don’t say anything, he continues. “As long as you’re okay with it, that is.”

    What am I supposed to say? I’ve known the man for all of ten minutes. He said he was close friends with Rory, but I have no proof. Sure, Julian knows him, but Julian hasn’t proved his relationship to my brother, either. Can I trust anyone?

    “I don’t know,” I say.

    Given the circumstances, it’s the most honest thing I can say. Malcolm seems nice enough, but is he guardian material? I have no idea. What if the whole situation is somehow a trap? What if Malcolm, Julian, and Atalanta are all in cahoots to murder me? What if they killed my brother?

    “What are you thinking?” Julian asks.

    I’m sure what to tell him. The truth is awkward. I can’t very well come out and say I don’t trust either one of them. I don’t know what they’ll do or how they’ll handle it. So, I lie instead.

    “I was only thinking about Rory,” I say.

    “We’re going home,” Malcolm says.

    I don’t know what he means. When he says “home,” is he talking about the house I shared with Rory? That’s not a home anymore, just a house. And it certainly doesn’t belong to Malcolm.

    “A policeman is coming to get me,” I say.

    For all I knew, this is true, but it also makes a convenient excuse. Malcolm can’t take me with him if we’re expecting the police.

    “No, he’s not,” he says. “I already talked to him. They don’t need to question or harass you anymore.”

    I know from the light in his eyes that he means every word. In spite of the brevity of our relationship, he’s serious about protecting me. No wonder Rory chose him to be my guardian. Still, I don’t like that my only way out has been taken away. I plan to retaliate however I can.

    “You don’t have the authority,” I say.

    Malcolm sighs. “We’ll never get anywhere if you fight me at every turn. Why don’t you trust me?”

    I’m not sure where to start. For one thing, I never met him prior to my brother’s death. I don’t know anything about him. Then there’s the fact he’s involved in the conspiracy. He has no problem with committing treason. What other crimes is he comfortable with?

  • Chapter 3, Scene 2: Rory’s Friends

    parking lot
    The minute I see the car, my heart stops. I saw it earlier at the house, but it’s somehow different now. Changed. It doesn’t look different, but it feels different. As we get closer, I’m struck by a sense of dread. Something’s off. I can’t explain it. Somehow I just know.
    Julian must feel something, too. He stops short of the car and turns around. His face is tight. “This could be a trap.”
    “Yeah, I thought about that.” Rory was murdered and the police haven’t caught the killer. What if he wants to silence me next?
    “I’ll go first,” Julian says. “That way, if something happens…” He lets his voice trail off. Neither of us wants to talk about death.
    By the time we get around to the side of the car, we realize that the driver’s side door is wide open. There’s no one sitting behind the wheel. The keys dangle from the ignition. A faint beeping echoes into the parking lot, reminding the driver what he left behind.
    “I don’t understand it,” Julian says. His face is creased in fear and frustration. “Someone had to drive it here. Where did they go?”
    I scan the parking lot for clues. There aren’t many other cars around and certainly no people. Where could the driver be?
    Then, I hear a door slam. Mine and Julian’s heads snap up in the direction of the noise. Someone walked out of the front office. The man is tall, dark-skinned, and radiating charm. I take a step back. I know nothing about him. The way he eyes my brother’s truck makes my skin crawl.
    Julian’s shoulders slump. He smiles. “Malcolm. What are you doing here?”
    The man keeps his eyes on me. “This is her then? Damita?”
    “How did you get my brother’s keys? They were in his bedroom.” My stomach ties itself in knots. I step closer to Julian. Even though he seems to know this man, I have no idea how. My brother knew him, too. So why haven’t we been introduced yet?
    “He told me where they were. Is there somewhere we can talk?”
    “Neither of you should probably be seen with me,” says Julian. “I’ll go back upstairs first. We can reconvene in my room.”
    I remember Atalanta and wonder if she’ll be there, too. I’m still not sure how I feel about her. Julian trusts her, at least on some level, but he expressed concerns for my safety with her around. What does it all mean?
    “The officer who dropped me off yesterday said he was coming back,” I say. “They want me to answer a few more questions.”
    “Your brother was my friend,” Malcolm says. “I’ve heard a lot about you.” I’m sensing a pattern in my brother’s circle of so-called friends. Malcolm digs the toe of his shoe in a crack in the asphalt. “I’d really rather you and I have this conversation in private.”
    I want the opposite. “I’m not comfortable being alone with you. Julian,” I say, “can you come to my room with him?”
    Julian nods. “Of course. I’ll be upstairs in my room. Knock when you get up there.”
    With my eyes, I implore him to stay. With his eyes, he dismisses me.
  • Chapter 3, Scene 1: The Car

    two old black station wagons in a field

    I rush over to the window to verify what Julian said. There is, indeed, a black station wagon, with a scratch on one side, that looks exactly like the car that Rory drove.

    I feel unsettled. I can’t understand it. Why is that car in the hotel parking lot? 
    If I didn’t drive it, the only other person to drive it was Rory. The keys are hidden in his bedroom. Unless the police officer found the key, which is entirely possible, I can’t understand who has the ability to open his car. Even if the cops have the key, why would they drive his vehicle?
    “The keys were in his bedroom,” I tell Julian.
    “I’m sure they were,” he says.
    “So what is his car doing down there?”
    “I was hoping you knew.”
    My heart pounds in my chest. “What do you think we should do?”
    Julian hesitates. “I don’t know,” he says. “I just don’t know.”
    I can tell by the look on his face that he’s absolutely horrified. I know exactly how he feels because that’s the way I feel, too. I can’t imagine why someone would want to take my brother’s car. Are they trying to send some kind of message?
    “What do you think we should do?” I ask.
    “It might be dangerous to go down there.”
    “But you think we need to check the car out, right?” I hope that’s what he’s thinking. I want to know what’s going on, and I don’t want to go down to the parking lot alone.
    He nods. “I’ll go. You stay.”
    “Damita, it’s dangerous.”
    “That’s my brother’s car.”
    He gives up trying to argue with me. I can tell by the tension is his face that he disagrees with my decision, but he clearly respects me enough to let me tag along. When he holds the door open for me, I’m a little surprised.
    “What’s the matter?” he asks.
    “I never imagined a sky eyes would hold a door for me.”
    “Come off it,” he says. “It’s all right. Let’s do this.”
    I don’t feel like arguing with him, either. We have no idea what’s waiting for us downstairs. The longer we put off our investigation, the more I fear something will happen to the car—something decidedly not good. As though things can get worse. 
    I slip past Julian without touching him somehow. I can’t handle touching him. Just talking to him feels bizarre. Close contact is illegal.
    He waits for me at the top of the stairs. He stares up at the ceiling.
    “What’s wrong?” I ask.
    “Not a fan of stairs,” he says. “I’m afraid of heights.”
    I study the staircase. It contains two flights. “It’s not even that steep or anything, you know.”
    “I know,” he snaps. The subject is closed.
    I wonder if there’s any way I can help him. “Would it be better if I went down the stairs first?” I don’t wait for an answer. We’re running out of time.
    “I’m coming,” he says. 
    I don’t look back. It’s hard for me to believe that someone comfortable with plotting treason can be afraid of stairs. The only thing I was afraid of was losing my brother. 
    Now, I am fearless. There’s nothing else that anyone can take away from me.
  • Chapter 2, Scene 6: The Reluctant Conspirator

    towels on white hotel bed
    I take the towel from him and lay it down on the bed. “Just come out and say it. Someone’s going to kill me like they killed Rory. Isn’t that what you’re worried about?”
    “Yes,” he says. “That’s exactly what I’m worried about.” He doesn’t say another word. He doesn’t have to. We both understand the gravity of the situation. By telling me about the conspiracy, he’s unwittingly dragged me into it. I’m a part of it whether I like it or not–whether he likes it or not, to be frank. Even if I don’t do anything, I know what’s going on. Knowing is the crime.
    “So,” I say, “that’s it, then. That’s where we are.”
    “I’m sorry,” he says.
    I ignore him. “What’s next?”
    “If you decide you want to actively participate,” he says, “Atalanta, Malcolm, and I can walk you through our philosophy and basic strategies. You’ll meet Malcolm soon, I hope. Not sure you haven’t.”
    Realization dawns on me. “Malcolm McKinney? The district manager?”
    “The one and the same.”
    I gape at him. “But he’s a government official.”
    Julian smirks. “So am I.”
    I can’t believe it. Malcolm McKinney. He was appointed to the position by Alaric Silver himself. And Silver doesn’t appoint just any brown-eyed citizen. No—he’s only interested in stocking the ranks with loyalists. Malcolm is a better actor than I gave him credit for.
    “Where’s Atalanta?” I ask. “Do you think I should trust her?”
    “Absolutely not,” he says.
    “But you do?”
    He shrugs. “I trust her when I have to. Otherwise I don’t think about it. You’d be wise to do the same.”
    I think long and hard about his implications. For all intents and purposes, it looks as though the two of them are dating, but that’s impossible. Skies and muddies don’t mix. Everybody knows that. 
    Besides, how could someone be in a relationship with someone they don’t fully trust?
    Julian goes over to the window and pulls back the curtain. His eyes scan over the parking lot. He turns back to me. “How did you get here?”
    “There was a policeman. He dropped me off.” I don’t understand why he’s suddenly so anxious. 
    “Why, what’s the matter?”
    Julian stares at me. He seems to be frozen.
    “What is it?” I ask.
    “There’s a car down there,” he says, “and it looks just like your brother’s.”
  • Chapter 2, Scene 5: Something Big Is Brewing

    Hotel Sink
    I crack the door open. “What do you want?”
    “Nice to see you, too,” he says. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
    I wonder why he cares. “What’s going on?”
    He looks through the crack in the door, bracing a hand against the door frame. “Would you mind if I came in?” He lowers his voice. “It’s urgent.”
    “If it’s so urgent, you better just come out and say it,” I say. I’m still not sure I can trust him. How do I know that this isn’t a trap?
    He sighs. “Damita, please. I’ve been nothing but cordial thus far but unless you let me in, I’m afraid 
    I’ll have to get a tad more assertive.” He pushes against the door until it opens.
    I don’t push back. There’s no use. Now that I think about it, he probably doesn’t mean me any harm. 
    If he wanted to hurt me, he would’ve done it already. I decide to trust him until he gives me a clear reason not to. For now, he’s one of my only ties to Rory. He might be able to shed some light on my brother’s murder.
    Julian seems taller as he brushes against me. I haven’t been quite so close to him before. He smells nice, like mint. Rory had always smelled like cinnamon. I feel a twinge of grief. I choke it back before it has time to take root.
    After I close the door, Julian sits down on the edge of the bed. “I hope I didn’t scare you too much yesterday. What I said about Atalanta… well, I was wrong.” He rubs the back of his neck. “You’re not in any danger where she is concerned.”
    I want to ask him why he was so insistent before. I put my hands on my hips. “Am I in danger otherwise?”
    Julian pauses. “We think you will be.”
    “If I don’t get your help, you mean?”
    “No,” he says, “it’s not like that.”
    Julian stands again and goes into the bathroom. He turns on the tap, gathers water in his hands, and splashes it on his face. Odd. I hand him the towel wadded up on the floor.
    “What are you saying?” I ask. “Be specific.”
    He waits a long time before answering me. “I’m afraid we dragged you into something terrible. We were reckless.”
    I wait for him to continue. He dries his face, goes to throw the towel back on the floor, and decides to fold it neatly instead.
    “I promised Rory you wouldn’t get hurt. He made me swear that if anything ever happened to him, I wouldn’t try to contact you.”
    “You didn’t,” I reply. “It happened by accident.” Even as I say the words, I doubt the truth behind them. It’s all too convenient–what are the odds of me getting dropped off at the very motel in which 
    Julian and Atalanta are staying? 
    The universe is seldom slapdash. Something big is brewing.
  • Chapter 2, Scene 4: Trust Issues

    Sheer Curtains Letting in Light
    He steps aside and allows me to walk past him. I make my way across the room and through the front door without so much as a look over my shoulder. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if I never see those two again. 
    I can’t understand why Rory kept company with them. The woman is attractive but volatile–a smoker and a rebel and God knew what else. Julian is trickier. An aristocrat at first blush, he seems to be more of a poor little rich boy with a past I can’t fathom–a past I’ll never know.
    I hate not knowing.
    I hate the idea of going back there and confronting Julian even more.
    After a little deliberation, I go back to my room, close and lock the door, and slide the deadbolt into place. I take off all my clothes and tear the scratchy blanket off the bed. I turn off the lights and slide between the sheets. 
    I fall asleep in minutes.

    When I wake up, I’m disoriented. I think it’s morning, but the light is all wrong.

    Then, I remember the strange encounter in the adjacent hotel room. I remember Julian telling me to run away before Atalanta came back. None of it makes sense. Why is he so insistent, so terrified? Atalanta won’t hurt me. She was Rory’s friend, too.

    I think again about my brother and want to throw up. I go into the bathroom and crouch down in front of the toilet. With my eyes closed, I count. 
    One, two, three, four… 
    No vomit comes. I spit into the bowl. Clear
    I stand, shaking, and flush the toilet. What’s going on with me?
    Grief is a strange animal. I don’t have a weak stomach, but since Rory’s death, I feel like throwing up every time I think about him. When I remember he’s dead, I feel sick. It’s awful. I wonder if the feeling will ever go away. Based on the way Atalanta talks about her brother, I don’t want to get my hopes up.
    Someone knocks on the door. 
    I start to answer before realizing that I’m still naked. I’m not expecting company. For all I know, Atalanta is waiting for me outside, ready to kill me once I open the door. I’m still not sure whether to trust her or not. For one thing, she took me in after I passed out. But there’s also the look of panic in Julian’s eyes when he talks about her and the urgency in his voice as he told me to leave. I don’t know much about Julian, either, but something about him seems more sincere. I’m torn.
    “Damita,” says the visitor. I recognize the voice.
    “Julian,” I say. “Just give me a second.”

    I grab my dress off the floor and pull it over my head. It settles over my body. After smoothing it a few times, I walk to the door. A look through the peephole confirms that Julian is waiting for me.