Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tales from the Dark Side…of Love: Five Real-Life Tales of Love Gone Wrong

Today, February comes to a close, which means another Valentine’s Day has come and gone.  Hopefully you didn’t spend too much time crying into the Fannie Mae sampler you bought for yourself.  But if you did, it’s okay; there’s always next year.  

In observance of amour gone wrong, I spent this month sharing Dark Love Stories from movies, music and books and even a few of my own personal tales of romance gone south.    

To finish out February, I wanted to share some real life tales of love gone wrong that resonated with me.  I either found a little bit of inspiration in these stories for my work or was just captivated by what transpired between the players. 

Regardless, they all make me sad.

Here are Five Real Life Tales from the Dark Side: Real Life Tales of Love Gone Wrong:

1.     Scott and Laci Peterson
By now, the sad, sordid tale of what happened between Scott and Laci Peterson is stamped on our collective conscience; an eight months pregnant Laci disappeared from her Modesto, Calif. home.  Her badly decomposed body was found in the San Francisco Bay five months later.  Scott initially played the role of the devoted, grieving husband, but as the layers of his life were peeled back, a sociopath lay at the core.  Scott had tired of being married to Laci and wanted to live the carefree life of a bachelor (even managing to find himself a girlfriend during Laci’s disappearance.)  Instead of divorcing his wife, he murdered her and their unborn son.  Scott was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

I wrote the first draft of “Live and Let Die,” during the height of the Peterson case.  Though the stories don’t have any similarities, it definitely provided some inspiration.

2.     Mark and Lori Hacking
Deception is very often at the heart of the dark side of love.  I’ve always thought of this as one of those tales about how sometimes you really don’t know anything about the one you’re with. 

Mark and Lori were the epitome of a young couple in love with the world on a string.  She had a good job with Wells Fargo and was pregnant with her first child and husband Mark had just graduated from the University of Utah, with medical school acceptances at George Washington University and the University of North Carolina.

Except it was all a big lie.  Mark never attended college, much less been accepted to two medical schools (he even went so far as to pose for pictures in a fake cap and gown).  Lori had discovered Mark’s elaborate lies and when confronted, he snapped and shot her in the head.  He pled guilty to first degree murder and received a sentence of six years to life.

3.     Diane Zamora and David Graham
I had a high school boyfriend cheat on me and I have to say, my first instinct was to kill him, not the girl (don’t worry…if anyone ever did kill him, it wasn’t me).  I’ve never understood why women direct all their venom on the other woman and not their husband/boyfriend.  In my forthcoming suspense novel, “Sweet Little Lies,” I turn this idea on its head and have the wife kill the cheating husband.

High school sweethearts Diane and David had their whole lives ahead of them; they were both headed for careers in the military, having been accepted to the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy, respectively.   As is usually the case with these things, all was not as it seemed, as David had cheated on Diane with another girl.  Diane’s solution was that Adrianne Jones had to murdered.  Diane and David clubbed and shot this poor girl, then went to church for absolution.  Diane spilled the beans during a chat with her new Naval Academy chums, who turned her in.  Diane and David were both convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison.

4.     Ted and Generosa Ammon
I’ve probably watched this TV movie based on the brutal murder of financier, Ted Ammon, a dozen times and each time, I’m riveted.  Ted and Generosa fall in love and marry, but Ted soon realizes his wife is just a tad bit unstable (okay, a lot unstable).  They divorce and she basically makes his life a living hell by trying to keep their children from him and plundering his considerable fortune with her outrageous demands (the least of which was shacking up in a posh Manhattan hotel with her electrician lover, Daniel Pelosi, while forcing Ted to foot the bill).  Ted was found murdered in his Hamptons home, Generosa died of breast cancer and Daniel was found guilty of murdering Ted. 

5.     Drew Peterson and his wives
I don’t know how much of a “Love Gone Wrong” this is, since I have to wonder if Drew Peterson is even capable of love.  I live in Chicago, so the disappearance of Drew’s fourth wife, Stacy, was major news here for a long time.  Stacy went missing in 2007 and the general consensus is he murdered her.  During the course of the investigation, it was discovered there may have been more than meets the eye in the drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.  He was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison. 

Stacy’s never been found.
Photo: ABC News

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tales from the Dark Side…of Love: Tale of a Like Gone Wrong

If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself in…well, let’s just say a lot of years of dating and relationships, you’ve got to know when to fold ‘em.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a bright-eyed college graduate with one tortured, Mr. Big-esque relationship behind me and what I hoped was an immediate future filled with carefree dates that wouldn’t require too much emotional investment on my part.  

(As an aside, like Carrie’s Mr. Big, my Mr. Big would pop in and out my life like a weed for years to come.  That however is a different story to be fictionalized in one of my books one day.  But I digress.)

It was during that lighthearted time that I met, oh, let’s call him, Neil.  I was working at a bookstore and unbeknownst to me, Neil was a regular customer who’d developed a little crush on me.  He finally struck up the nerve one day to approach me and shyly ask if he could call me some time.  I was a little taken aback, but as I sized him up, I wasn’t horrified.  While not tall, dark and handsome, Neil was nice looking and he seemed so earnest, I couldn’t help but be a little intrigued, so I gave him my number.

It wasn’t long before Neil and I were exclusive.  I was totally swept off my feet.  He would bring me lunch at work, call me when he said he would and make plans to take me out on a regular basis.  Not to mention he was always showering me with compliments about everything from my sparking personality to my exotic beauty (okay, those weren’t his exact words.  But he did tell me he thought I was sweet and really pretty).  After Mr. Big, where disappearing acts were plentiful and compliments scarce, I was in heaven.  While I wasn’t in love with Neil, I liked him a lot and if things kept going well, I could definitely see the possibilities for a nice future.

Well, of course, me being me, it didn’t exactly work out like that.  My Spidey Sense did start to tingle a bit over certain things Neil said and did.  Like when he let it slip that when his last girlfriend tried to break up with him, he refused to let her go because he to “convince her she was wrong,” waging a steady campaign designed to wear her down (didn’t work).  Or when he flipped out at me for calling him twenty minutes later than I said I would because my dad had called me and I needed to talk to him.  Or other little white lies that instead of copping to when caught, would turn into World War III.

It’s always the little things.

I also started to become uncomfortable of his near-worship of me.  I mean, who can live up to being a Goddess all day long?  Personally, most of the time I’m only good for about half a day.   I was beginning to feel uneasy with the relationship and my gut told me it would be best to take a break.  In my heart of hearts, I felt like we probably would get back together, but I really just needed some time.

Well, Neil didn’t see it that way.  In fact, he went off the rails.  He begged and pleaded with me to give him another chance, told me what a mistake I was making, so on and so on.  Well, of course, that just convinced me I was making the right decision.  Reluctantly, he said he would give me the space I asked for.

Didn’t exactly turn out that way.

First, he kept calling me.  All the time.  For every four times he called me, I’d return a call, but would always make our conversations brief.  When that didn’t work, he would lurk around the bookstore.  Couldn’t exactly ask him to leave, but when he didn’t get my attention that way, he started following me around the store.  Eventually, that turned into him shouting about what an ass I was (because I was the one standing in the middle of a retail establishment screaming my head off for all the world to see).  He did get thrown out that day.

After that particular episode, I was done.  Cold turkey.  Over and out.  Stopped calling him back, put all my managers on alert that this guy might possibly come in to start trouble.  Done and done.

I didn’t hear from him, so I thought it was over.  Life could go on.

About a year passed when who should come strolling into the bookstore one day but Neil.  By that point, I had fallen deeply in love with someone who’d been a friend for years and was quite happy.  My heart stopped for a moment when I saw Neil; not because I was missing him, but because of the shock of seeing him after so much time had passed.  We were awkward yet polite with each other.  Then the inevitable came.

“So,” he looked down at his feet, his voice soft with shyness.  “Are you seeing anybody?”

I nodded, the unavoidable smile spreading across my face.  “Yeah, I am.  It’s going really well.”

His face fell, but he tried to put on a good front.  “Wow, that’s…that’s great.  I’m happy for you.”

I thanked him and we chatted a bit more before I told him I needed to get back to work.  I felt good.  No drama, no meltdowns.  This must have been what that “being an adult” thing I kept hearing about felt like.

Later that night, I walked out to my car and as I slid behind the wheel, I was annoyed to see a sheet of a paper flapping underneath the windshield.  Annoyed, I got out and snatched it up, ready to crumple it in my hand when I noticed it was addressed to me.

It was from Neil.  He poured his heart out about all the mistakes he made and even though I was with someone else, if I would consider giving him another chance, he would show me how different things could be.

As I stood in the dim light of that musty, noisy parking garage, reading those heartfelt words, I think my heart broke a little.  While I was never in love with Neil, I had liked him a lot and knew the courage it must have taken for him to put his feelings down on paper and risk rejection.

Still, I had moved on, and I didn’t want or need to go backwards with Neil. Even though he went all macadamia ranch on me for a minute, Neil wasn’t a bad guy – maybe a little misguided.  I waited a few days before I called him to let him know I received his note and while I appreciated the sentiment, I was going to keep things status quo.  He was quiet.  Sad.  But he accepted my decision without argument.  We wished each other the best and hung up.

That was the last time I spoke to him.

Since Neil was never a great love of mine and we only went out for like six months a million years ago, I never really think about him.  Still, like every relationship, it was a learning experience; I learned I don’t want to be worshipped (well, not all the time anyway).  Most importantly, I learned the importance of listening to my gut – it will never steer you wrong. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tales From the Dark Side…of Love: Five Dark Literary Love Stories

We all know the power of a good love story; anytime we hear tales of undying devotion, passionate reunions or romantic proposals, even the hardest of hearts melt in the face of all that ardor.  This is probably why romance novels continue to rack up billion dollar plus sales year after year.

While I’m not a romance reader (I read one Nora Roberts book about a hundred years ago), I do like reading stories with romantic elements in them, and of course if there’s some murder, obsession and infidelity in the mix, I’m in and I’m in big.

So, on that note, here are my Top Five Darkest Literary Love Stories:

“Madame Bovary,” by Gustave Flaubert
It’s hard to say who’s more tragic in this story; the insatiable Emma Bovary, a bottomless well of need for both the material and physical or her hapless husband, Charles, who won’t break the shackles she’s placed around him.  Either way, “Madame Bovary” is a fascinating portrait of a woman’s descent into madness due to being unable to accept the reality of who she is and what her life is.


“Tess of the d'Urbervilles,” by Thomas Hardy
There are so many things you could say about this book (and indeed, many things have been said about it), but I only have a few.  The luminous Tess is exploited by everyone from her social-climbing father to her heartless seducer, Alec and even her true love, the pious Angel Clare.  My heart ached for her foolish pursuit of the latter and in the end, her love for him ultimately proved to be her undoing as she’s put to death for the crime of murder.


“Written on the Body,” by Jeanette Winterson
This is a delicious exploration of a passionate love affair between a married woman and an unnamed narrator.  For a further twist, the reader never learns the sex of said narrator.  This novel plays with emotions, sex and imagination in a beautifully descriptive way, leaving the reader to ponder the mysteries of love.


“Strange Fits of Passion,” by Anita Shreve
If there is one writer who I desperately wish I could write like, it is Anita Shreve.  There is such a lyrical and haunting quality to her storytelling.  This tale of a relationship gone sour with the bitterness of domestic abuse chillingly illustrates once again that unless you are under the bed, you never really know what goes on between two people.  This is beautiful and ugly all at once, a rare feat.


“Where or When,” by Anita Shreve
I chose another Anita Shreve novel because like “Strange Fits of Passion,” it details a doomed love affair.  The lovers, Charles and Sian decide to find out “what if?” when they consummate their relationship and the results are obsessive, all-consuming and tragic.        

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tales from the Dark Side…Five Dark Love Stories – The Movies

Happy Almost Valentine’s Day!  Or maybe it isn’t.  If you’re experiencing the Dark Side of Love this Valentine’s Day, cheer up –it’ll be over soon.

In celebration of (or perhaps in retaliation against) all the love swirling in the air the next few days, here are my Top Five Dark Love Stories – The Movies.  Pop some popcorn, bust open the wine and be glad your love life isn’t anything like these movies:

Revolutionary Road
This is one of those sneaky movies.  You don’t realize just how searing it’s going to be until the end credits roll and you’re left in that darkened movie theater completely shredded by what you’ve just witnessed.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are stunning in this dark character study about the bonds of, matrimony.  Brilliant.

Doesn’t the title say it all?  Just like “Revolutionary Road,” this story illustrates how the only two people who know what goes on in a marriage are those two people – and sometimes not even them.  Richard Gere’s hapless husband has no idea wife Diane Lane is carrying on a torrid affair.  But when he finds out her dirty little secret, the results are tragic.  I don’t know about you, but I needed about five cocktails after this one.

Leave Her to Heaven
This Gene Tierney tale is a classic story about obsessive love.  Nobody, and I mean nobody will get in the way of her pursuit of Cornel Wilde.  I remember seeing this on TV back in high school and there is a scene of Gene Tierney sheathed behind a pair of sunglasses while she allows a helpless disabled boy drown.  She was pure ice as she watched him sink and all I could think was “that is one bad bitch.”  There are lots of movies out there about psychotic women and the men unfortunate enough to love them, but this is one of the first and one of the best.

Notes on a Scandal
While this may not be about love, it is most definitely about obsession.  Judi Dench is, of course, outstanding as the dowdy spinster school teacher desperate for a new best friend – having driven away the woman she’d previously tried to cast in the role with her domineering demeanor.  Enter the ethereal, clueless Cate Blanchett who welcomes Judi into her life, realizing too late she’s the fly to her spider. 

Dangerous Liaisons
Everyone is in fine form in this twisted saga of sex, deceit, jealousy and of course, love.  You have sadistic Glenn Close pulling everyone’s strings, a cynical John Malkovitch and a naive Michelle Pfeiffer undone by them both.   This is a sumptuous, richly layered movie that will haunt you long after it’s over.    

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cover Reveal - "Sweet Little Lies"

I’m very excited about my upcoming suspense novel, “Sweet Little Lies,” which will be out soon on Amazon Kindle.  In the meantime, here’s the hot-off-the-presses cover!  


About “Sweet Little Lies”

What would you do if you found out your husband had been unfaithful? Divorce him? Take him back?

Kill him?

Unfortunately for Mark Monroe, he becomes the recipient of choice “C” after his wife, Kelly, discovers evidence of an illicit affair. In a panic, she flees, deciding she will turn herself in the next day.

However, before she can, Kelly learns even more devastating secrets about her husband, which sends her on a frantic mission to unravel the mystery of the man she married and murdered – all while trying to stay one step ahead of a dogged police detective determined to bring her to justice.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tales from the Dark Side of Love – Tales of the Porn Star

As I mentioned before, this February,  I'm devoting my blog to "Tales from the Dark Side...of Love."  In between sharing my favorite creepy love songs and movies and books about the Dark Side of Love, I'll be sharing some stories of my own about some of the creepiness I've encountered over the years.
A few years ago, I scored tickets to the ribbon cutting for a swank new executive business center in downtown Chicago.  It was a red-carpet affair with many of the city’s most glam in attendance (how I managed to get tickets is beyond me).  I took a good girlfriend with me and we spent most of the evening stalking the waiters for hors d’oeuvres and sucking down the free wine like it a Friday night instead of a random Tuesday.

I don’t remember the exact details, but at some point, my girlfriend and I struck up a conversation with two guys (or maybe they struck up a conversation with us) and when I mentioned to one of them I was a freelance writer, his eyes lit up (I get this a lot)—he was looking for a ghostwriter for a project (I get this a lot, too) and would I be able to help him?  Sure, sure, why not, I thought as I handed him (let’s call him “Ray”) my card, my only thought being “that’s cool, a potential new client.”

On my way home that night, my phone rings and it’s Ray.  Hmm,” I thought, “he must really want some help with this book.  I mean people usually call during business hours to discuss new projects.”  Never occurred to me he was calling to ask me out.  Yeah, sometimes, I’ve got no game.

We dated for a few months, but truth be told, the chemistry wasn’t really there; he was cute, but not drop-dead cute.  He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but could be entertaining.  He was nice enough, but didn’t send me swooning.  I guess I kept him around thinking something might spark.  I mean, don’t we ALL hear these urban legends about couples with no chemistry in the beginning who later fell madly and passionately in love with each other?  I could be missing out on something amazing by cutting him loose.  

I continued to mull this over when Ray came over one Sunday night to hang out.  For some reason, I was so tired, I could barely keep my eyes open.  I announced I was going to bed early and instead of joining me, Ray said he wanted to finish the movie we’d been watching.

“By the way,” he asked.  “Is it okay if I use your computer for a few minutes to check my email?”

“Sure,” I shrugged as I keyed in the password before shuffling off to bed. 

The next morning, as I got ready for my day, I went to check my own email.  Because I am a naturally curious person and because duh, I’m a woman, I clicked on my browser history to see what sites, other than email, he’d been on the night before.

First, I laughed.  Then, I might have thrown up in my mouth a little. 

There were pages and pages of porn sites.
I shut my computer off and waited for Ray to stumble out into the living room.  I sat on my couch, calmly eating a bowl of shredded wheat when he made his appearance twenty minutes later.

“Good morning,” he said.  “How are you?”

“Yeah, fine.  Listen, I don’t appreciate you looking at porn on my computer.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said, just a little too quickly.

“Uh, yeah you did.”

“Oh,” he said, clearly busted.  “Well how can you tell?”

I laughed.  “If you don’t know, I’m not gonna tell you.”

“Oh,” he said, before lapsing into silence and concentrating intently on “Good Morning America” on the TV.  I mean, what else could he say?

Ray hung around a few more minutes, trying to make small talk with me before I finally told him he had to scoot because I had places to go.  All day, I wondered how someone could be so brazen and not to mention stupid enough to go trolling through porn sites on someone else’s computer and worse, not be savvy enough to CLEAR THE BROWSER HISTORY.  Needless to say, any ambivalence I felt about him had been wiped out in one fell swoop. 

Since I’m a masochist, my curiosity got the better of me again.  I just had to know exactly how many sites he’d been on.  So when I got home that night, I counted and came up with a grand total of 45. 45! (and no, I didn’t look at any of them.  I’m not that much of a masochist).

I sent him a text message.  “I don’t appreciate you looking at 45 porn sites on my computer.  Do me a favor and lose my number.”

No sooner than the message left my phone that he started auto-dialing me.  I ignored all his calls, sending them to voicemail.  I figured he would give up after a day or two, but funny enough, he hung in there, robo-calling me a couple of times a day for about two months.   I never responded to any of his calls or messages and eventually he gave up.  About a year later, I got a friend request from him on Facebook, which I deleted, but not before taking a shower.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Tales From the Dark Side…of Love

Ahh, February.  February is Heart Month and home to Valentine’s Day, which conjures up images of hearts and flowers, candy and Cupid.  Because I write suspense novels about the dark side of love, I like to poke beneath the surface of all the sweetness and light to see what’s festering underneath.  Obsession, lust and jealousy sometimes come calling under the guise of love.  The dark side of love can destroy marriages, friendships and individuals.  Once it devours you, you’re never the same.

Throughout the month of February, I’ll be sharing a few of my own “Tales from the Dark Side of Love.”  Well, mostly the funny ones – I have to save the really deep stuff as inspiration for my books ;-)!  Besides opening the vault on some of my own “romantic” horror stories, I’ll be posting some of the best books, movies and music that explore the dark side of love.

To kick things off, here are my top five Creepiest Love Songs.  Enjoy!

1. Every Breath You Take – The Police
Can you believe people make this their wedding song?  Good luck with that!

2. Father Figure – George Michael
While the video for this song is probably creepier, when you listen to the lyrics, there are some serious daddy issues running all up and through this one.

3. Don’t You Want Me? – Human League
Gosh.  Where to start with this one.  The man plucks a cocktail waitress from obscurity and molds her into someone new.  When she tries to leave him, he wants her to change her mind or “we will both be sorry.”  Yikes. 


4. The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get – Morrissey
Nobody does obsession quite like Morrissey.  He’s going to wear down the object of his affection until it kills them both.  Somebody sign the restraining order already.


5. Invisible – Clay Aiken
Prime example of what happens when you wrap disturbing lyrics inside a catchy beat.  Everyone misses the stalker element and it becomes a Top 40 hit (see “Every Breath You Take” above).