Friday, May 26, 2017

Crime and Punishment in the News

In recent crime and punishment news*...

Alabama executed the supposed 'Houdini of Death Row' (because he'd managed to wiggle his way out of 7 other execution dates):  http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2017/05/live_updates_alabama_death_row.html

Kuwaiti officials apprehend pigeon carrying backpack full of drugs: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40042260

Then there's the 8-yr old car thief:  http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2017/05/16/police-8-year-old-arrested-palm-bay-car-burglary-case/101740458/

And the other little hoodlums in the same town: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2017/05/17/more-youth-arrested-palm-bay-car-theft/101784600/

And these assholes who killed a little boy after they stole the car he was asleep inside: http://ktla.com/2017/05/18/3-mississippi-teenagers-arrested-for-allegedly-killing-6-year-old-boy-after-stealing-car-he-was-left-in/

In happier news, here's a Chicago cabbie who rescued a little girl in the same situation as above: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-girl-unharmed-after-north-side-car-theft-20170518-story.html

And the feds are finally getting tough on crime again.   http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/sessions-directs-federal-prosecutors-to-seek-max-punishment-for-crimes/article/2622895

* You may notice a major omission in the crime news from this week.  I prefer not to touch on the horrific crimes in Manchester at this time.  It will lead to ranting and arm-waving and a rise in blood pressure, and I'm not in the mood. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Disappointing Read

If you know me, you know I rarely leave a bad review.  Part of that is because I rarely finish a book that would result in a bad review.  I realize it's bad partway through and quit.  Who's got time to read bad books?  I also know that bad reviews can hurt a book's sales and since a review is just my opinion, why do that to someone? 

But this weekend, I had to give a book three stars.  (Yes, for me, 3-stars is a bad review.)  The book was Mickey Spillane's The Erection Set.  From the title and the cover, I already had an inkling it was going to be tawdry.  And let's face it, Mickey is sometimes a little tawdry.  It's part and parcel of his books.  But this... this was over the top. 

It seemed like it was nasty for the sake of being nasty.  Full of shock factor snippets tossed off for effect.  I felt like Mickey was told to sex the book up a bit and took the editorial notes to a ludicrous level.  

And even then, I could've forgiven it.  I read books with sex in them.  I read books with some nasty bits in them, too.  I flip past that stuff and move on to the story.  Which was what I was doing throughout The Erection Set

But partway through the book, I found something familiar.  And even with my piss-poor memory, I could tell it had been ripped off from another book.  It was the same plot devise Mickey had used in his earlier book The Deep (which I totally loved).  And I thought to myself, he can't be doing the same thing in this book.  So I kept reading.

Oh, things were just different enough to make the story interesting, but it was, in essence, the same book.  All the way to the end.

Guy who's been away fighting in WWII and then stayed away for some amount of years afterwards, comes home.  He's got a reputation of being a criminal and a general bad guy.  Since he was something of a hoodlum in his youth, it's easy for everyone from his past life to believe he's bad.  And with bad things happening, he's the easy suspect.  So the police pull him in and question him.  He writes a number on a piece of paper, slides it across the table at the detective and tells him to call that number.  After the officer does, he's told he can go. 

There's a gal in the story who falls in love with the bad guy.  She's pretty sure he's not as bad as everyone thinks and she falls in love.  When confronted with what she thinks is the proof of his evil doings, she hates him, but she sticks around to see how it all plays out. 

In the end, it's revealed that he's been working for the government all along and the assumptions she's made are proven false.  All is well.  The end.

That's an easy description of both books.  And it gave me a serious sad last night.

I depend on certain authors to give me what I expect - well-written stories I haven't read before.  And Mickey had let me down.  I wondered if maybe in his old age, he was getting cantankerous, but then I realized he was only 54 when he wrote this.  Then I wondered if he'd perhaps gotten sick of people trying to tell him what to write, so he thumbed his nose at the establishment and gave them a regurgitated book so thick with raunch, they'd have to see how bad it was and leave him the hell alone. 

Then Hubs brought up an interesting point - Mickey allowed them to publish this book.  He put his name on it.  (Yeah, contracts... I know, but still...)  To Hubs, it sounded like Mickey had sold out.  The thought of which made me even sadder. 

So, yeah, 3-stars.  If it had been anyone but Spillane, it would've gotten fewer, but the writing was still there and still awesome, if you ignored the nasty and the regurg.  Hell, if it had been anyone else, it wouldn't have finished it.  But I learned an important lesson here.  I won't be reading anymore of his post 1970s novels.  Stick with the early stuff and I should be fine. 

And the other important lesson I learned.  Don't regurgitate your stories.  I'm lucky because I don't have any telling me what I should write or any editorial board telling me how to write what I write. 

And another thing... Don't write something just because someone thinks it's what the public might want.  Again, I don't have anyone telling me what I ought to write, so I'm lucky there.  I could write what I think the public might want, but that's just not me.  I write what I write.  Hopefully, readers will enjoy it and buy my stories.  If not, there's really not much I can do about it without selling out.

Not that I don't think about it on occasion.  Ah, the sweet siren song of sales... 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Confidence

Writers need a lot of things - paper, writing utensils, computers, printers... yada yada yada.  They also need balls... errr... confidence.  Well, they need confidence if they want to be anything more than people putting words on paper for themselves, that is.  Come to think of it, you don't really need a lick of confidence to write something for yourself, but I digress...

Confidence.  You need it.  And unfortunately, it's not something you can buy at the Wallyworld. 

You need confidence to send a query letter.  You need confidence to send your book out on submission.  You need boatloads of confidence to self-publish, because it's only you telling yourself you're good enough.

And, yes, I mean YOU'RE good enough.  Yeah, yeah, I've heard that rejections are 'nothing personal', but the words we write are intensely personal.  Or to paraphrase from You've Got Mail, 'When you say 'it's nothing personal', you mean it's nothing personal to you. It's personal to me.'

So you need confidence. The funny thing about confidence, though, is that you can have it one day and lose it the next. 

Back in late 2014, I pulled every iota of my confidence into a shining sphere, hammered it into a shield, and went out into the world, ready to take on self-publishing.  Two years later?  I'm holding a handle wondering where my shield went.  A little off here, a little off there... and it's gone.

Oh, I managed to cobble a little confidence back together early in the year so I could put Natural Causes out there.  Crickets.

And so, right now, my confidence is gone.

Oh, I know I can write.  Like I said, I never needed confidence for that.  I just have no confidence that I can make any money at this anymore.  I'm not sure what I write is what the public wants and I'm totally not sure I can write whatever it is the public wants.  And every time I sit down to work on writing or editing, the little voice in the back of my head says 'what's the point?' 

I know... wah.  Cry me a river.  Boo hoo.  :shrug:  x+y=z, a is a, it is what it is.

Not sure what the future will bring at this point. Maybe all this will pass, I'll gird my loins and step back into battle.  Until then?  I don't know.  I'd ask you to stay tuned, but I'm not going to ask anyone to sit and watch static until the program comes back on.  But trust me, if anything changes, you'll be the first to know.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Rush to Judgement Meter Topped Out

Recently, I saw a news story about a teenager assaulting an older woman - picking her up, dashing her to the ground, and then throwing her in a pool. 

This morning, I saw screen capture photos of said assault.  To me, it looks like he picks her up in a sort of beat hug and she's holding onto him like she knows him.  The next photo looks like he was walking toward the pool when he accidentally dropped her.  Afterwards, I assume he picked her up again and threw her in the pool.  It didn't look like assault.  It looked like pool antics gone wrong.

I didn't watch the video, I only saw the screen captures.  Maybe she was fighting and screaming, and the dozens of people around them are accessories. 

Or maybe someone somewhere is trying to incite something by making this out to be more than it is.  The teen has been charged with assault and could face jail time. 

I don't know the truth.  I suspect the majority of people out there don't know the truth either.  But the 'rush to judgement meter' here is topped out.  It seems like it's topped out damn near everywhere - on both sides of the aisle and all along the middle.  I'm certainly not immune. 

I think that's partly because I don't know what to trust anymore.  Certainly not the media.  Not Joe Public who is getting their information from said media or secondhand from people who are getting their information from the media.  Every piece of information has to go through a series of sieves now. 

Including what I say here because my information is only as good as the sources I have chosen to trust.  I do my best to do my homework and get it right, but... yah...

So, when you see crime in the news, check your sources.  Hell, when you see anything in the news, check your sources.  Then check your premises.  Then recheck everything. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Q&A Interview Style About Fertile Ground

So, I thought I'd do a little Q&A today about Fertile Ground, you know, since it's on sale and its one year anniversary is fast approaching...

What is Fertile Ground, anyway?

It's a suspense novel written in the same general world as Dying Embers.

What's that mean?

Well, it means that FG is a book with the main character working for the Serial Crime Investigation Unit of Homeland Security - just like in DE.

So, no Jace?

Nope, no Jace.  Although she is mentioned briefly.  This book is all about Teri Buchanan. 

What made you write this book instead of another book about Jace?

When I finished DE, I felt like I was done with Jace.  But I didn't feel like I was done with the SCIU.  There are a lot of serial criminals out there.

Serial criminals?  Don't you mean serial killers?

Well, there are those - like Emma in DE - but there are other heinous assholes in the world who commit crimes in a serial fashion.  Like Adam in Fertile Ground.  He's a serial rapist. 

What made you think of something like that?

Frankly, I was thinking about what to do next with the SCIU, and I wanted something different.  A different criminal who committed serial crimes.  Serial rapist came to mind and Adam Wyte popped into my head.  And since I created Jace as someone terrified of fire set against a pyromaniac, I had to create a hero who would be face something she truly feared.  Thus, Teri Buchanan, a rape survivor heads up the manhunt for a serial rapist.

Rape survivor?

She doesn't like to think of herself as a victim.  I didn't want this to be a victim book.  Like always, I wanted to write about justice and power over fear. 

But, if you use the parallel of Jace's pyrophobia in DE, doesn't that mean Teri is afraid of rapists?

I wouldn't say that.  She's pissed.  She never saw justice in her own case.  Given that, she's more than a little afraid of what she'll do when she's confronted with a rapist.  She's afraid her experience will make her likely to take the law into her own hands, and SCIU agents are law-enforcers, not judge and jury.  She has to face her fear and do the right thing.  Unfortunately for her, other people have other agendas.

Like who?  What?

You'll have to read the book and see.

What do you have to say to anyone concerned about the subject matter of Fertile Ground?  Rape is an incredibly touchy subject.


All I can say is that I do not actively describe any rape scenes in this book.  I'm not into that crap.  Creepy stalker scenes?  Yep.  Murder scenes?  Of course.  It's what I do.  And if you come along for the ride, I promise there is a very satisfying ending.  Naturally.  This is me we're talking about.  The good guys always win.  The bad guys always lose and they always get what's coming to them in the end.

I hope you'll pick up a copy of Fertile Ground - on sale now worldwide - and see for yourselves.

Any other questions?  I'll answer what I can as long as it doesn't give any spoilers.  I hate spoilers.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Crime in the News... Yesteryear Edition

Dateline 1979... Not that big a trip in the wayback machine, but definitely not a current event.

A pregnant woman is brutally raped and beaten  She loses the baby and sustains a major head injury.  After the fact, she cannot remember the attack or the events leading up to it.  Months later, she has a flashback of sorts and suddenly, she is certain her husband is the culprit.  He stands trial and, based on her testimony, he is found guilty and sentenced to 15 - life.

He maintains his innocence.  (But don't they all, right?)  He swears he was out getting burgers at the time of her attack and came home to find her afterwards.  He says he saw a man getting into a vehicle and leaving the area when he got home from his burger run.  None of that matters because his wife swears he's the one who attacked her. 

Flash forward to 1996 when DNA technology was in its infancy but already becoming a major tool in crime investigation.  They test the rape kit from the attack.  The DNA matches... a serial rapist who had been hunting that area during the time of her attack and is in prison for raping and attacking other women.  After 16 years in prison, the husband is exonerated.

Three years later, he is awarded over $600K for his wrongful imprisonment.  Two months after that, he settles a lawsuit with his now ex-wife who is still sure he had some measure of responsibility in the death of their baby.

Umm... yeah.  There are so many things wrong with this, I'm not sure where to begin. 

Oh, I get why he was convicted.  Kind of.  She said he did it.  She, who had sustained brain damage during the attack, giving her all the joys that come with that shit, took the stand and pointed at him.  It should've been a defense attorney's field day.  In the couple occasions where I might've been called upon to testify for the prosecution, I worried that some defense attorney might bring up my own brain injury as a weapon to use against my testimony.  In her case, I suspect someone was helping plant those memories in her shattered head. 

Plus, back in 1980, they only had blood type to go on with regard to evidence.  He had O+, the attacker had O+.  (The most common blood type, btw.)  Bingo bango bongo, he's guilty.  Except when he isn't.

And I get why he settled the lawsuit.  After all both he and she had been through, he didn't want to drag them both through a court battle.  Hell, he probably feels some measure of displaced guilt because if he hadn't left her home alone that night, the whole thing might not have happened. 

I don't get why she brought the lawsuit in the first place.  Except he'd just come into a boatload of money.  Which is kind of sick, in my opinion.  Using the tragedy of all that occurred to squeeze cash out of a man who'd already paid for something he didn't do with 16 years of his life.  Feh.

Anyway, as people (as in The Innocence Project) look into more and more of these older crimes using newer technology, we're seeing more and more cases get overturned.  Cases that today would never end in a guilty verdict.  And one hopes that as the old crimes age and disappear, we'll stop seeing this kind of miscarriage of justice.  Technology is an awesome thing.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fertile Ground Snippet and Sale

Good morning, folks!  Since Fertile Ground is on sale right now, I thought I'd share a little bit of it.  Enjoy!



ONE


The woman strolled past Adam toward the produce aisle, the essence of her fertility wafting through the air like a perfume. He waited until she stopped to squeeze the cantaloupes before he followed. The fruit she fondled couldn’t be nearly as ripe as she was, but by all appearances, the melons were more attractive.
Today she wore her hair pulled back in a tight, unflattering ponytail, and her baggy clothing hid her as well as any camouflage. But he saw the female for what she was. A perfect vessel he’d spent weeks carefully choosing. Whether in this butt-ugly guise or when he’d first seen the girl with a simple dress flowing around those shapely bare legs, the essence of her femininity called to him. He wouldn’t need to actually look at her. Not for long, anyway. Finding these women attractive had never been a requirement. He only needed to get inside and plant his seed. Then he could be done with her. For now.
Nine months down the road, she’d bear a child in his image. They all did. And that’s all that mattered.
Seven weeks ago this girl had simply been another prey animal passing through his hunting grounds. She’d claimed his notice then, but he’d already had a target in mind. Since then, he had insured the other girl would be draped over the porcelain, proving that her womb bore his fruit. Time to move on to this next vessel.
When the brunette squeezed a tomato to test its ripeness, he smiled. Even as dedicated to his mission as Adam was, he could spare a moment to appreciate the irony. Most likely the girl didn’t possess the self-awareness to know how ripe her own body had become.
Fertile ground. Like the others. And exactly like the others, she couldn’t be bothered to keep track of her cycles. Women never watched for the signs. They never bothered to understand God’s rhythm or His plan for the female of the human bond.
Only Adam understood the Lord’s intentions.
“Be fruitful and multiply,” he said on a whisper of breath as the girl painstakingly chose a half dozen apples, placed them carefully into a bag, and gently set it in her cart. Those meticulous hands would someday hold his son.
A soft smile crept over his lips as he imagined his boy’s sturdy legs taking their first steps. The toddler’s smile of too-few teeth would express the initial joy of becoming a man and leaving the life of an animal behind.
For the first few years, children were little more than the monkeys some claimed mankind descended from. Adam knew better. The beginning of a man’s life amounted to a test. He could choose to crawl like an animal or not. Walking upright signified the passage from base creature into the greater ideals of God’s plan.
Adam’s sons would know their true place in the world. The women could raise them through those monkey years. Time enough to claim them once they joined the human race. Once they became men.
“Excuse me.” The shy voice was so close he jumped. “Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
He steeled himself against the annoyance welling up. Pasting on a deprecating smile, he tilted his head. “Not a problem. I was trying to decide if I want salad for dinner tonight.”
“It’s just that… Do I know you from somewhere?”
This wasn’t the first member of his herd to recognize him. Sometimes, he let them stumble across him on purpose. It made the hunt so much more exciting. Gazing at her carefully, he pretended to try and place her face. “Were you at the protest on campus a couple months ago?”
Her lush mouth split into a wide smile filled with the perfect teeth he hoped were natural. “Right. Over at Eastern. I figured that was you. Funny running into you here.”
“I was thinking that exact thing myself.” Enough people populated the metro-Detroit area they never would’ve crossed paths accidentally, but letting her think his appearance was a coincidence or fate played into his plans.
“Do you live near here, too?” Her green eyes narrowed under sculpted eyebrows. “Weird that I haven’t seen you before.”
“I travel around the area for work. I happened to be driving by on my way east, saw this place, and got the idea to grab something for dinner.” The words dropped smoothly from his mouth. He’d spoken the same lies too many times before for them to come out as anything but natural. Of course, it helped that they weren’t total falsehoods. He did travel for work and he was hungry.
“I live a couple blocks from here,” she said, nodding in the general direction of her apartment. He pasted a surprised look on his face, as if he hadn’t spent the previous night in her backyard watching her.
“Small world.” He grabbed a tomato and a bag of lettuce. “Well. Gotta get back on the road. It was nice running into you.”
“Sure. Next time you’re in the area, look me up.” Her words sounded friendly enough, but he knew she didn’t want to see him again. None of them wanted to.
But they all did.

 

TWO


A baby wailed its displeasure, jerking Agent Teri Buchanan upright and causing her to hammer both shins on the seat in front of her. The businessman there craned his head around to glare at the source of his discomfort. She grimaced back. Nothing like a red-eye flight to bring out the best in people. Nothing like a lack of coffee to bring out the worst in Teri.
Still, she must’ve slept. And so deeply that she’d missed the pilot’s standard ‘we’re beginning our descent’ speech. The problem was she didn’t feel the slightest bit rested. Wired, maybe. Keyed-up, definitely.
Popping a hard candy into her mouth, she readied herself for her first arrival into Detroit. She certainly didn’t need to wade through crowds in a strange airport with her ears plugged from air pressure. That kind of headache she could live without, especially if she wanted to make a good impression on her first day in a new assignment.
Her watch said 5:42 when the plane landed. The timepiece, along with the rest of her, was still on Dallas time. Adding an hour, she did a little more math and calculated she had barely enough time to make it to her new office before the conference call from Director Walter Graham. She’d seen the man on Friday, for petesakes, but a text the day before her Monday flight made it clear he wanted her in this meeting.
The question was ‘why?’
“I really appreciate your assistance with staffing this branch, Teri,” he’d said. He acted like she didn’t have an ulterior motive for getting the flock out of Texas. They both pretended the move had only been to improve her skills and advance her career. When she thanked him, neither delved too deeply into her gratitude.
Teri had her reasons. She needed to get away from Dallas. If only to get out from under the shadow of Graham’s golden girl, Jace Douglas, and shine in an environment all her own. If she had to hear about how Jace had brought down the car-be-que killer one more time, she might scream. If she had to watch the woman, who had everything Teri could never have, parade around the office doing everything right, she’d implode. Hell, the woman had even come back from the case with a new partner—both personally and professionally.
She’d hate the woman if Jace wasn’t so damn good at her job.
What she couldn’t afford to admit, even to herself, was that Jace had nothing to do with her need to transfer. Teri was running from the weight of her past. And putting as much distance as she could between herself and him.
Even as she pushed herself out of her too-small airplane seat and tugged her carry-on from the overhead compartment, she could still hear his breathy grunts in her ear. She could feel his weight upon her—
A wayward elbow to her ribs pulled her back into focus. If she allowed herself to fall into old memories best left to rot, she’d never get the hell off the flying sausage casing.
Following the sea of lemmings through the terminal, she made it to baggage claim ahead of her belongings. One of her bags tumbled out onto the conveyor before too long. The other had to have been the last bag unloaded from the plane, and it looked like a gorilla had used it for a trampoline. Cursing her dumb luck and lack of time, she made a mental note to harass the airline later and scurried for the taxi area.
Not long after, she slid into the back of a cab and headed east toward the city. The Detroit office, according to her orientation packet, wasn’t actually in the city proper. It was tucked into a suburban industrial park on the western outskirts of the metropolis. That suited her fine. From what she’d heard, Detroit wasn’t the safest of cities to live or work in.
Exactly the sort of place to put a new branch of the S.C.I.U., though.
A quick glance at her compact showed the ravages of red-eye travel. Her shoulder-length hair had taken on a luster that leaned more toward dirty-dishwater than the ash-blonde she paid good money for. The bags under her eyes were only slightly less heavy than her luggage. And at some point, her skin had lost the rosy-glow one would hope for on the first day at a new job.
Pawing through her purse like a raccoon after crayfish, she located what few cosmetics the TSA would allow through to the gates and did her best to recreate Agent Teri Buchanan of the Serial Crimes Investigation Unit. Another glance in the mirror told her the effort was pointless. She looked more like the witness to a horrible crime than a woman who investigated them.
The taxi pulled in front of the Detroit branch of the S.C.I.U. with five minutes to spare. Not enough time for her to find her office and settle in, but hopefully enough to secure a cup of strong coffee before facing the Director. Graham wasn’t exactly a hard-ass to work for, but she didn’t want to push the boundaries by straggling in all bleary-eyed and caffeine-deprived.