As people read Queen of Schnapps, they’ll keep stopping to say, “What? Did that really just happen?!” Judith’s schemes are so bizarre, readers will wake up laughing at their nightmares after they finish this book.
To say Judith Webster is quirky would be an understatement . . . turns out she’s an alcoholic serial killer hell-bent on getting everything her heart desires.
She hates her job at Gas 'N Go, but works to fund life's necessities: gambling, eBay, and her schnapps collection. When a hunky Irish actor joins the cast of her favorite soap opera, Judith’s new goal in life is to meet and marry Evan Gallagher. Her husband will just have to deal with it.
Nobody would ever guess Judith is insane, that she duct tapes her cat inside a goldfish-shaped bed from hell, or how mad she gets when Harry Qualls struts down the street with his mailman purse. Her biggest secret, however, is the way she deals with people stupid enough to piss her off. On her shit list is a dangerous place to be, but she’s taking names.
She hasn’t been held accountable for her crimes before, but a girl can never be too careful.
Exclusive First Chapter:
"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."
~Edgar Allan Poe
Behind the counter at Gas 'N Go, I sat bored to death watching the clock slowly tick down the minutes until my shift would finally be over. Come on five a.m. The past two months working here had sucked, and I hate being a clerk. At least it isn't quite as bad as my last job selling donuts to a bunch of damn early birds who expected me to smile and be polite at the ass crack of dawn.
The electronic device on the door chimed. Frank Wilkes gave me a quick once over on the way to his station behind the counter, then shook his head. "You know Susan's gonna have a shit fit when she catches you without that name tag again."
"If she was that worried about it, she should've got one with my actual name on it." I looked up at him from my stool as I reached under the counter for a small plastic rectangle. "This," I continued, pointing to the white letters printed on the tacky blue background, "clearly does not say Judith Webster, so I have no intention of pinning someone else's crap to my shirt. Susan can stick it up her ass, or she can find somebody named Judy and stick it up hers." I tossed the cheap badge back onto the cluttered shelf hoping to never again set eyes on the stupid thing. "What are you laughing at?"
"Don't get mad, but it cracks me up when you get all pissed off. You make these funny faces and your eyes nearly pop out of your head, but it's kind of cute."
"Now Frank, you know I'm married so stop with the compliments." I held one hand up, palm facing him. Not that I don't like being called cute, but I'd never think about cheating with a co-worker. "I told you—"
"I know, we had that talk last week when I pointed out that you had a price sticker stuck to the seat of your pants." Frank grinned like a moron. "Settle down, I didn't mean anything like that. Sometimes I can't tell when you're joking." He winked, but then rubbed his eye. Good thing he caught himself or I'd have been all over him for making another pass at me. "Hey, at least I know better than to call you the wrong name."
"Thanks, Frank, I appreciate that."
I like my name. Judith. It sounds sophisticated and worldly. My biggest pet peeve is having stupid people adulterate it to some dippy nickname like Judy, or worse yet, Jude, both of which I refuse to answer to. If Ed McMahon's ghost ever rang my doorbell with a ginormous check made out to Judy Webster, I'd slam the door in his face. I've explained it to my boss a million and one times, but still, Susan keeps on calling me Judy—possibly to get a rise out of me since I'm apparently so damn adorable when I'm pissed off. No way in hell I’m wearing that fucking plastic tag.
I punched my time card, yelled "See ya tomorrow, Frank," and helped myself to a Heath bar on the way out of the convenience store. The two tones of the chime sounded like a robotic donkey as the door closed behind me.
I wished it was later in the day when I drove past Corkers, my favorite liquor store, on the way home. Some ridiculous law prohibited the sale of alcohol before in the morning, but I had a pretty strong hankering for a nice mind-numbing drink. Maybe I could find something in the back of the kitchen cabinet to hold me over.
The beautiful autumn morning made me decide to drive through Atkinson Park, located just a few miles from the Gas 'N Go in the heart of Henderson, Kentucky. Trees along the curving pavement arched into a canopy overhead as I drove my blue Buick through a red, gold, and brown confetti of leaves. I parked near the picnic area to eat the candy bar before I started the thirty-minute drive home, the windows down to let in the cool breeze as sunrise blended into the bluing sky.
The Ohio River shimmered below the twin bridges as I drove into the sprawling city of Evansville, Indiana and my upper-middle-class neighborhood on the far side of town. The apple-red front door I painted last Labor Day complemented the tan siding and dark green shutters.
Greg was sound asleep in bed when I got home. His alarm usually went off at so he had a few more minutes left to snooze.
Our schedules kept us apart most of the time. Greg worked day shift at a factory in town so with me working nights, it was rare for us both to have a whole day to spend together. We did good to have a couple of hours in the evening home at the same time, which we usually spent eating supper in front of the television. We'd been married for sixteen years, so there really wasn't anything all that exciting left to talk about.
I went straight to the kitchen to make breakfast. My mother-in-law would throw up if she saw the stack of unwashed pans and crusty plates in the sink or the filthy drinking glasses on the countertop. The refrigerator, on the other hand, was immaculate. I’d spent the previous Saturday throwing out fuzzy green fruit and veggies and oozing containers of leftover take-out, then scrubbed the shelves with bleach and wiped down all the condiments before I put them back on the shelves. In alphabetical order, of course.
I dropped a couple cherry pop tarts in the toaster for Greg before taking my bacon and eggs to the living room. My black and white cat, drawn by the smell of food, jumped up on the sofa to purr for a bite of my breakfast. I clicked the remote a few times, then cooed down at my kitty. "Good morning, Miss Poopsie. Would you like some of Mama's bacon?" She gobbled up the crispy pieces I put on the sofa cushion along with some scrambled egg bits. "Did you miss me while I was gone, slaving away at that stupid job?" She licked the plate clean after I finished eating.
The cat nuzzled my cheek as I picked her up and headed toward the bedroom. The alarm had gone off a few minutes before so I wasn't surprised to meet Greg on his way to the kitchen.
"Morning, Judith," he said, giving me a quick peck on the cheek as we brushed past each other in the narrow hall. "You make coffee yet?"
"Nope, caffeine would just keep me awake. See ya tonight. Don't work too hard." I went to bed, tucking myself in at about same time Greg pushed the lever to start his pop tarts toasting. Poopsie rested on a satin pillow beside me. Aliens are afraid of cats, so I had no reason to worry about an unwanted anal probe with her purring away.
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
I just sort of ran with the idea of a serial killer nobody in their right mind would ever suspect. You would not believe how much fun I had playing with this alcoholic, soap opera addicted schnapps aficionado.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere. Stories can be inspired from dreams, random thoughts, what-ifs, even the mood a song on the radio puts me in.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Promos. It’s hard to make enough time to promote my books while I’m writing the next one. What are your current projects?
I’m working on the next Rock Candy Romantic Suspense novel and planning a new series.
Tell us about your first book. What would readers find different about the first one and your most recent published work?
The first book I wrote was Nefarious, and my latest release is Queen of Schnapps. Hmmmm, let me see. Well, they both have highly intelligent criminal minds at play, but while Nefarious revolves around the main character overcoming domestic violence before she can surrender to true love, Queen of Schnapps deals more with the stalker mentality of someone dead set on getting what they want, no matter who stands in their way.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Never underestimate anyone. Ever. The most dangerous people in the world can easily look like your fifth grade English teacher.
Does music play any type of role in your writing?
Music is a great way conjure up the right mood. “I Feel Lucky” is Judith’s theme song and they play it at her favorite casino, so I cranked it up while I wrote her roulette scenes.
What books have influenced your life most?
Anything by my three favorite authors: Stephen King, Jude Deveraux, and Dean Koontz.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Okay, Briella thought, I definitely heard that wrong. Then Mrs. Hollingsworth took her hand, and wouldn't release it when Bree tried to pull it away. What the hell is going on here?
There wasn’t nearly enough champagne in her system for a good buzz, so she drained the glass and hoped to feel some of its effects after this weird turn of events. The room was full of whoops and well wishes, but she didn't see any cameras. If Dillon's punking me, I'm so going to kick his ass.
"What is going-"
Mrs. Hollingsworth interrupted her with a hug, and whispered into the ear farthest away from the guests. "Don't say a word, my dear. I'll explain everything in a moment."
"But I don't even know-"
"Not a word until we're seated in the other room." She leaned back to look into Briella's eyes, their noses only inches apart. "There's a letter from your Grandpa Butch. He left it with my lawyer before he died."
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you! I appreciate you reading what the voices in my head tell me to write, and no, I’m not really that warped . . . most of the time. Well, it depends on who you ask.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
They can check out my website, my facebook page, and tweet me.
Do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured writing-wise?
Ideally, I like to write three hours a day. Right now, my baby girl dictates when that time is, usually while she takes a nap, after she’s in bed for the night, or when she allows me to use the computer as she plays next to me or sits in my lap. Early mornings are good too.
Why did you choose to write [genre] stories?
I read every genre imaginable, so it’s no surprise I don’t pigeon hole my work. I write mostly sassy Southern suspense, which includes romance, cozy mysteries, and humor.
What is for you the perfect book hero?
There isn’t one. Nobody is perfect, and who wants a flawless hero anyway? I like characters who surprise me, who aren’t what they first appear to be.
When you start a book, do you already have the whole story in your head or is it built progressively?
I plan the hell out of it before I write the first word. Planning is actually one of my favorite parts of the process. I let my wild ideas flow into character sketches, outlines, and plot twists. When things take an unexpected turn after I start writing, I go with it. Outlines are made to be tweaked.
When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories in my head. My parents read to me from a very early age, and I was lucky enough to hang out with grandparents and great-grandparents growing up; there was nothing better than listening to them tell me stories about their lives and things that happened to them and people they knew. And my family is responsible for my twisted sense of humor.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Always. I remember writing stories and poems before I could ride a bicycle.
List three books you have recently read and would recommend.
Tell us something that people would be surprised you know how to do.
I know how to train dogs in obedience and agility, can speak a little basic Cherokee, and I’m double-jointed.
Will you write more about these characters?
No, or at least I don’t plan to. But if Judith starts whispering ideas in my ear again, who knows. I sure don’t want to end up on her shit list.
Tina DC Hayes writes sassy Southern suspense. She lives down a little country road in western Kentucky with her husband and four children. A few pampered pooches and two parrots keep her company while they stand guard against writer’s block. Currently up to her elbows in diapers, she’s an expert at 4 a.m. bottle feedings and Patty Cake.