Sunday, May 5, 2013

#SampleSunday: Polar Night Opening

Hello and welcome to everyone stopping by here from the Polar Night Book Blast through Pump Up Your Book. (And to everyone else too, of course!)  

Please enjoy the first few chapters of my supernatural thriller Polar Night, now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Amazon UK, Kobo, and Smashwords



He loved the cold.

Raw, icy, bone chilling cold. It reminded him of home. Of January. Of her.

Most couldn't tolerate the harsh Alaskan winters. But he wasn’t like most. He didn't fear the cold. He embraced it.

He stared out at the barren white landscape in front of him, and brushed a strand of straight blond hair from his forehead. He shook the snowflakes from his long, gloved fingers, and put his hands back into the pockets of his black coat.

He loved the cold, yes, but he loved the night even more. His first winter in Alaska had convinced him to make the state his American home. He knew he had found the right place.

He lived for the night. And it was coming.

It was almost December, and the darkness was coming.

When it came, she would be his again. He felt a rush of anticipation as he turned to go back inside.

The darkness was almost here.

One Month Later

Danny Fitzpatrick rolled over in his bed and stared at the ceiling. He glanced towards his window and winced at the sunlight filtering through the blinds. Sunlight? What time was it, anyway?

Danny put a pillow over his face to block the sun, as his head was pounding too much for his eyes to handle the light. He tried to remember what day it was. December 22nd? 23rd? If the sun was up, it had to be close to noon. Which meant he was already very late for work.

Too much to drink last night, Danny?”

Startled, Danny jumped and tossed the pillow aside at the sound of her voice. Caroline. He turned towards her, in spite of the fact that he knew she wasn't really there. She never would be again. One of these days, he'd drink enough alcohol to get that through his thick skull.

He sighed and heaved himself to a sitting position, tossing his legs over the side of the bed. The clock on his bedside table flashed 2:00. Had the power gone out over night? He couldn’t remember if the electricity had been on when he’d stumbled into his apartment last night after helping to close down Abe’s Bar. Or was it the Blue Moose he had visited? Either way, it wouldn’t be a surprise if his electricity had been out when he had finally managed to find his way home. The slightest wind seemed to knock his lights out on a regular basis.

Danny picked his cell up from the table, and checked the time. 12:30. So he was even later than he thought. He forced himself to his feet and walked to his kitchen, where he started a pot of coffee brewing and downed four extra-strength Excedrin capsules. Then, he headed for the bathroom and the hottest shower he could stand.

Five minutes later, he stepped out of the shower and toweled himself dry. Dropping the towel on the floor, he checked out his reflection in the mirror above his sink. He had dark circles under his hooded brown eyes, and he definitely needed a shave, but otherwise, he didn’t look too bad for a 40 year old guy. His face was long and narrow and his pale skin reflected his Irish heritage, but, except for the fact that his nose was too thin and too pointed, he didn’t have much to complain about when it came to his appearance.

He picked up the towel and rubbed it through his thick chestnut colored hair. His mother had always said his hair was the color of a thoroughbred. But Danny was sure no horse had ever had hair as unmanageable as his. No matter how hard he tried to plaster the hair to his head, it seemed strands of it were always sticking out at odd angles. He tossed the towel on the sink, and ran his hands through his hair, causing it to stick out even more, as he walked back to his bedroom. He didn’t feel like taking the time to shave.

Danny stepped into his closet, hoping he had something clean to wear. He was in luck, as he found a pair of khaki pants and a white oxford shirt he had just picked up from the dry cleaner. He grabbed a blue pullover sweater from the top shelf of his closet, walked to his dresser to get some underwear and warm socks, and quickly got dressed.

As he walked to his living room, he tried to think of an excuse to tell the captain to explain why he wasn’t reporting to work until after noon. He’d come up with some bullshit about a lead he was following up on this morning. But he knew it really didn’t matter. No one cared what he was doing, as long as they could say he was working diligently on cold cases.

He poured himself a mug of coffee and looked in his cabinets for something to eat. He had a choice of strawberry Pop-Tarts, or blueberry Pop-Tarts. He chose blueberry, ate two cold, and finished his coffee. Pouring the rest of the pot in his thermos, he headed for the front door. Of course, he needed his parka, gloves, and head scarf before he ever set foot outside. It was December in Fairbanks after all, and the temperature was a frigid -2.

Before he could get into his silver Subaru Legacy, he had to unplug it from the socket on the outside wall of his apartment building. Unplugging a car was something he was still getting used to, but he had quickly learned that if he wanted his car to start during an Alaskan winter, he needed an engine block heater installed and plugged in every night. He had also been told that all-wheel drive was an absolute must, something he was already used to from driving in Chicago snow. After reading online that Subaru cars were popular in Alaska, he had quickly made his purchase. So far, the car had not disappointed him.

Except for the fact that he cursed himself every morning for not buying the auto-start feature when he sat with his teeth chattering as he waited for the heater to warm the car enough for him to drive without shivering. Why hadn’t he doled out the extra money so he could start the car from inside his apartment? Even better, why had he ever moved here to this god-forsaken place? Chicago wasn’t cold enough for him?

After concluding his daily rant to himself, he pulled out of his driveway on Slater Street and away from his apartment building, an unassuming fourplex with a white siding exterior. The landlord, who lived next to Danny’s apartment, kept the place clean and the lot and walkway plowed, which was all Danny cared about. He knew his landlord’s name only because he wrote the man a check each month. While he would smile and say hello to his other two neighbors, he had no idea who they were and he liked it that way. He assumed they did too.

Danny passed Slaterville Park and remembered how he had intended to start jogging there or at nearby Griffin Park last summer. The park entrance and sidewalks were covered with snow now, but he’d found the greenery and flower gardens inviting when he’d driven past in the summer. He’d also liked the moose antler arch that marked the entrance to Griffin Park, and kept meaning to check out the rest of it. He’d known a daily walk or jog would have done him good. But he’d never ended up doing either.

Danny turned left on Church Street and made another left onto Illinois, which eventually turned into Cushman Street, the home of the Fairbanks Police Department. As he always did when driving in to work, he noticed the old Catholic Church on his left. Danny had heard that the church was on the National Registry of Historic Sites, and had been around since the founding of Fairbanks. Danny liked the building, but had been amazed last spring when he had driven by and realized the roof of the building was green. He’d assumed the roof was white; not realizing the white color was only because of the constant covering of snow during the long winter.

He crossed the Chena River and continued towards the police station, stopping at a red light at the corner of Second and Cushman. He noticed the marquee sign of the bank on the corner flashing the date and time. December 23rd. Two days away from his first Christmas in Alaska.

When he left Chicago for Fairbanks last February, he’d never expected to still be here at Christmas time. But then, he hadn’t expected to be anywhere else, either. He’d tossed his detective’s badge on his captain’s desk and walked away from his job and his life. What was left of his life, anyway.

Danny had no children, no brothers or sisters, and his mother had died several years earlier. He had no idea if his father was also dead, as the last time he’d seen him was when the man left Chicago and moved to Atlanta to start a new family. For the majority of his adult life, Danny’s family had been his colleagues in the Chicago police department. His life had revolved around that department and that job, before it had all collapsed around him in a split second filled with ear-piercing screams, unrelenting terror, and gushing blood.

He’d packed a bag and driven to O’Hare without a clear plan in mind. When he’d seen the listing for Fairbanks on the departures screen, he’d remembered that he’d always wanted to see Alaska. And he’d decided that there was no time like the present. It was hard to imagine a better place to get lost in than Alaska. He’d bought a one-way ticket and hadn’t looked back.

It was all well and good that he’d wanted to explore the frozen tundra of the north. But he couldn’t go too far without an income, something that hadn’t really crossed his mind back in Chicago. He realized he didn’t know how to be anything but a cop, so he’d put in an application with the Fairbanks Police Department. His big-city detective credentials had gotten him in the door, but his refusal to use his experience in homicide had relegated him to cold cases.

Cold cases had suited Danny just fine. He didn’t have anyone breathing down his neck and he didn’t have to worry about making prosecutors or politicians happy. He knew no one outside of the victims’ families really gave a damn if he solved the cases. All that mattered was that the higher-ups had a warm body they could point to in order to assure grieving families and nosy reporters that no cases were ever forgotten, and one of their best detectives was looking at every possible angle, no matter how old the case. And, Danny couldn’t help but feel a connection to the victims whose cases he studied. He saw them as lost souls, something he could relate to all too well. He wanted to solve their cases, in spite of the fact that his efforts were mostly futile.

So here Danny was, ten months later, an official resident of Alaska and of Fairbanks, the Golden Heart City. He’d yet to explore the frozen tundra, but it was still on his to-do list. For now, he’d mostly explored the bars and liquor stores of Fairbanks. He’d been happy to know that Alaska’s reputation for high alcohol usage was not unfounded. He’d fit right in.

Danny turned onto 10th Avenue at the blue sign advertising the Fairbanks PD, pulled his car into the police station parking lot, and parked as close to the building as he could. The building was the nondescript taupe color that was so typical of municipal buildings in cities all over the country. Whoever had designed the place had tried to brighten things up with green trim on the windows, but the effects had been negligent, and the only word that came to mind when describing the building was drab. City Hall was right down the road, as was the bright red and glass building that housed the Fairbanks Fire Department.

He braced himself to go back out into the cold. Pulling the hood of his parka tight around his neck, he made a mad dash to the door of the station. He heard Tessa Washington’s laughter as he barreled into the front corridor of the office, and pulled the hood of his parka off so that he could actually see her.

At barely 5’2”, Tessa was much shorter than Danny’s tall and lanky 6’ frame, even with her long braids piled high on her head. She had unusually dark brown eyes, and her skin was the color of a mocha latte. Tessa was always impeccably dressed, regardless of the weather. This morning, she wore a navy and cream striped cardigan over a pale blue tailored shirt, with thick cream colored corduroys tucked in to waterproof Caribou boots. She was Danny’s closest, or really only, friend on the force.

“You’re not used to this cold yet, Danny?”

“How the hell would I be used to it? This is my first winter here, remember?”

“I just thought a Chicago boy wouldn’t be such a wimp.”

“And I thought a military lady would have better manners.”

Tessa laughed and helped Danny out of the arms of his coat. She had been in the military police at nearby Eielsen Air Force Base, and had decided to stay on in Fairbanks once her military duty had ended. Like Danny, detective work was all she knew. Also like Danny, she was a loner. As she put it, walking in on her husband screwing her best friend while all were stationed on the same base had killed any interest she had in being social. She was very happy living alone in Fairbanks with her “baby,” a gigantic Siberian Husky named Maya, after Tessa’s favorite author, Maya Angelou.

“So are you just reporting for work now?” Tessa asked, as the two walked towards their cubicles in the far corner of the office. Tessa’s was decorated with tinsel, a red bow, and a Merry Christmas banner. Danny’s stood bare.

“Yeah. Kind of a late night last night,” Danny said.

“A drunken night, you mean.”

Danny shrugged. “You could say that.”

He glanced towards Captain Meyer’s office. “Is he looking for me?”

Tessa shook her head. “No. He’s been in meetings all morning.”

Danny nodded and sat down in his chair. “Good.”

He looked at the bulletin board above Tessa’s desk, and noticed a picture of a pretty blond woman in the center of the board. “Your latest case?” he asked.



“No. Not yet, anyway. Missing persons.”

Danny leaned back in his chair and put his feet on his desk. “How long has she been missing?”

“Two days now. That’s why I got it.”

“So what’s the story?”

“She’s a 28 year old Fairbanks resident, and was last seen on the morning of the 21
st when she left her boyfriend’s apartment and said she was going shopping. She can be seen on the security camera outside the store where her car was found, so she did go shopping. But she never showed up for her job that night, and nobody’s seen her since.”

“What was the job?”

“She was supposed to be taking Santa photos at the Winter Solstice celebration down at the Golden Heart Plaza. You know, the 21 Days of Solstice event?”

Danny nodded. “Yeah, I saw that advertised.”

“Ms. Treibel’s a freelance photographer and worked the event last year too. She had this year’s celebration scheduled months ago. ”

“So there were a lot of little kiddies who couldn’t get their picture taken on Santa’s lap?”

“Yeah. I guess it was a PR fiasco because the photos had been advertised all over the city, and they didn’t have another photographer lined up.”

“Safe to say missing this job was a big deal then.”

“A very big deal. And apparently, Ms. Triebel here has always been very reliable.”

Danny stared at the photograph of the missing woman. It had been taken outdoors, and her cheeks had the rosy glow that came with a chilly day. She had a cheerful smile and her straight blond hair fell to a clean line along her shoulders. Her face was angular, with high, prominent cheekbones and an aquiline nose. She was pretty, Danny thought, and he couldn’t help but think there was something familiar about her.

“Ms. Triebel. What’s her first name?”


“You got any suspects?”

“Not yet. Except the obvious, the boyfriend. I just got the case this morning though, so I haven’t had much time to go over it.”

Danny nodded and turned his attention to the stack of folders on his desk. “Let me know if you need any help with it. I know Barkowitz is on vacation this week.”

“Yeah. Must be nice to have seniority.”

Danny laughed. “You don’t expect sympathy from me, do you? You know you’re way more than one up on me. I’ll be the low man on this totem pole forever.”

“You will be if you keep sleeping in until noon.”

“Don’t you worry about my sleeping habits. You need to concentrate on finding Ms. Triebel.”

Tessa stared at the photograph. “What do you think are the odds she’s still alive?”

“Not great. But then, you never know. She might have wanted to disappear.”

“No better place to do that than here.”

“Those were my thoughts exactly when I came to your fair state.”

“Yeah, but I’m sure you told folks back in Chicago where you were going.”

Danny shook his head. “Tessa, sweetheart, I didn’t have anyone to tell.”

“That’s a sad story.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“You’ll have to tell me over a few beers sometime. I know getting you drunk is the only way I’ll ever get you to talk.”

“It’d take a hell of a lot more than a few beers.”

“A keg, then.”

“That’s more like it.”

Tessa laughed and reached for her coat from the back of her chair. “Alright, I better leave you to your work, and get back to mine. I need to go pay a visit to Ms. Triebel’s boyfriend. A Mr. Nate Clancy.”

“An Irish guy like me,” Danny said.

“I guess so.”

“With the name Clancy, I know so. I should go with you. See if he’s from the old country. We could swap stories.”

“You are so full of shit. I bet you’ve never set foot in Ireland.”

Danny laughed. “True. But parts of Chicago are close enough, trust me.”

“I can believe that. Your part anyway. A bunch of drunk Irish fools.”

Danny chuckled again. “Didn’t you say you were gonna let me get back to my work?”

“Yeah, I did.” Tessa walked towards the front door. “See you later.”

Danny turned back to his desk and started to page through the records of the case he had been going through the day before, but his eyes were drawn back to the photo of Maria Triebel. It was hard to imagine the pretty, smiling woman in the photograph choosing to disappear. But then, there was a time when those he knew would have said the same about him.

“Are you still with us, Ms. Triebel?” he whispered.

He stared at the photo, wondering why Maria Triebel seemed somehow familiar to him. Had he known someone who looked like her back in Chicago? He didn’t think so. Suddenly, his mind flashed to a case he had looked at a few days before.

He booted up his computer, and impatiently brought up his files. He had been working on a case that had just passed its three year anniversary. The victim’s family had refused to give up no matter how many years went by, and had been in touch with the department on a fairly regular basis.

Danny clicked on the name of Anna Alexander. A blond, smiling young woman who had disappeared from the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, three years ago this week.

It was clear now why Maria Triebel had struck a chord with him. She and Anna didn’t look exactly alike, but there were enough similarities that it would have been easy to mistake them for sisters. Or at least cousins. He felt the hair on the back of his neck rise up and a prickle of energy he hadn’t felt in nearly a year. His gut told him there was a connection between these two women. He could feel it.

Danny scrolled through the details of Anna Alexander’s case. She had last been seen on December 21, 2008. The Winter Solstice. He heard Tessa’s voice in his mind. “She was supposed to be taking Santa photos at the Winter Solstice celebration…”

Danny’s energy went from a prickle to a straight out deluge.


  1. That? I already that. :D

    Great read, Julie!

  2. I read half of it and will be back for the rest. The story captures you from the start.

  3. I'm just dipping in, so I didn't read all of it either... but WOW! that prologue is amazing. I love it.

  4. It's already loaded on my Kindle! Now to find the time to read. O.o Your A to Z about Alaska really whet my appetite for your story. :)

  5. Intriguing prologue. I started the 1st paragraph, but don't have time to finish it and had to tear myself away. If I get some free time, will get back to it. Writer’s Mark

  6. Polar Night is waiting in line to be read on my Kindle.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  7. Just finished reading this excerpt, and wow, fantastic! I especially love how sinister it is at the very beginning--that reeled me in right away! Also, your descriptions are simply stellar. I had no trouble at all visualizing the setting, or even the characters! Can't wait to purchase Polar Night one day so I can read more. :)

  8. great plans!! congrats on finishing a to z, now back to work, right?!

    awesome excerpt! cant wait to finish it!

  9. @LG, thanks!

    @Inger, thank you!

    @Annalisa, thanks so much, I'm thrilled you like it.

    @Laura, thanks for getting it!

    @Nancy, thanks!

    @shelly, thank you, I hope you will like it.

    @Tara, yeah, that about sums it up LOL. :D Thanks!

  10. That reads really fast! And that's a good thing, for me. Congrats on your book release, and thanks for the preview! :)

  11. Congrats and thanks for sharing with us.

  12. Your writing is simply superb. Gonna shout this out on twitter asap.

  13. @Sheena, thank you!

    @Michael, oh, thanks so much, you're awesome. :)

  14. I can never read about Alaskan cold without flashing on Jack London!

    Your preface gave me the chills in a good way and set up some interesting questions.

  15. Beautiful! Looking forward to reading the rest! :)

  16. Awesome chapter. I've given you an award today on my blog in my Reflections post. Loved your A to Z posts!

  17. Wow! Great prologue, Julie.
    Ad I'm convinced there's a connection between Ms. Triebel and Ms. Alexander... there has to be... Danny's "prickle of energy" proves it, and you know what they say about gut instinct...?
    Your book is on my Kindle. I need to get to it as soon as possible...

    Writer In Transit

    P.S. Don't forget to vote for your favourite definitions in the A to Z contest, over at my place...

  18. Julie, your story is fascinating. Great job. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  19. Julie, I nominated you for an award. Please go to: to find out more.

  20. @Lee, thank you! And I thought the same thing about Jack London when I started writing the book LOL.

    @Rebecca, thanks so much!

    @Christine, oh, thanks, I will be there to get it.

    @Michelle, thank you for reading it, I hope you will like it!

    @Deanie, thanks so much, I really appreciate your comments and the award!

  21. wow. that prologue is so intriguing! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  22. @Nutschell, so glad you liked it, thanks!

  23. Awesome, awesome, and MORE AWESOME.

    Seriously, I loved it! Thanks so much for sharing it. That prologue was all that and a bag of chips :)

  24. @Samantha, LOL, thanks!! Now you've made my day. ;) :D

  25. As you know, I already read your book, and loved it. I hope this "Pump Up Your Book" stuff, um, pumps up your readership. Good luck with it!

  26. I have to say, I really, really loved your book. You kept me turning the pages and made me look forward to going to bed every night.

    Best on your tour! Folks won't be sorry if they pick up your book.

  27. Congratulations for tackling a mystery! I love them but find the plot construction daunting. Best of luck!

  28. Hi Julie .. I couldn't stop reading it - SO am definitely looking forward to reading the rest .. Julie it really draws us in .. and I love cold cases ...

    Very interesting and I will love the book I'm sure .. cheers Hilary

  29. @Susan, I hope so too, thanks so much. :)

    @Mary, thanks again, I'm so thrilled you like the book.

    @Juliet, thank you!

    @Hilary, I'm so glad and hope you will enjoy the book, thanks!

  30. Can't wait to get a chance to read the rest of your book! It's in my to-read pile. I just need to read faster. :)

  31. I really really want to read Polar Night in the very near future. Can't wait. ;-)

  32. I must say again that I loved your book...and I still owe you a review. Sorry I've been so behind. But I'll get it done within the next month! Promise. :)

  33. @Cherie, thanks for adding it to your pile! :)

    @Misha, thanks!

    @Michael, I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! And you don't owe me anything, I know how crazy it's been for you with your release. :)

  34. Purchased your book within the last minute. Not only am I appreciative for you sticking with me by commenting when Life permitted, I'm looking forward to a great read.

    Sorry I missed so many A-Z entries, but we've decided to move to North Carolina next summer and had to get a ton of pre-moving work done now.

  35. Julie, I nominated you for an award. Please visit my blog, to find out more.

  36. @Kittie, oh, thanks for getting the book! And nothing to apologize for at all, I know life can get hectic. I hope you are able to get your move organized without too much hassle.

    @Deanie, thank you!

  37. While we'll all miss your regular blogging, it is much more important for you to continue to write such wonderful stories. Just reading the sample here, I got goosebumps from your terse and suspenseful words.
    Congratulations on publishing it, Julie--and much success.


  38. I want this in delightful paperback form!! Can't wait to see a copy on my shelf :) Just gotta wait for the opportune monetary moment. hehe

  39. @Inge, thank you so much, I really appreciate your good wishes and I'm thrilled you liked my excerpt!

    @Trisha, oh, thanks! :)


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