Friday, February 27, 2015

Crime Fighter Friday - Sergeant Nomsa Masuku

While searching for a weekly criminal to offer up for Wicked Wednesday, I stumbled across an article about Sergeant Nomsa Masuku - a woman who makes it her business to hunt down rapists and bring them to justice. Most recently, she was the lead investigator who brought down a man who subsequently was convicted of 30 counts of rape and 42 counts of kidnapping. 

This gal rocks.  A 40-year old mother in South Africa with three kids and 15 years on the force, I imagine she doesn't take shit from anyone.

Putting her own safety on the line, she would dress in casual clothes and go bar-hopping with a male colleague (because the rapist liked to target couples), in an attempt to draw this asshole out.  She didn't get him then, but eventually - posing as an ex-girlfriend of his who wanted her child support - she got inside his home, got him to admit who he was, and then arrested his sick ass.

You go, girl.

One less asshole off the streets. 

The world needs more officers like her.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wicked Wednesday - The Cleveland Strangler

I found today's Wicked Wednesday candidate when doing a search for serial rapists.  Sadly, it's harder to find info about serial rapists than serial murderers - not because there are fewer of them, but because not enough work is being done to track these sick bastards down.  But enough about that...

Today I'm going to talk about Anthony Sowell - a.k.a. The Cleveland Strangler.  Sowell was a serial rapist who turned to murder and other nastiness.  From 2007-2009, he terrorized an untold number of women and murdered at least 11 of them.  (Some of whom were found inside his home during the investigation.) 

In 2009, he was arrested and charged with 85 counts of murder, rape, and kidnapping.  He tried the old 'insanity plea' thing at first, but once he realized no one was buying it, he changed his plea to guilty.  In 2011, he was convicted and received the death penalty as his sentence.  (Whether he's languishing on death row, or his sentence was carried out yet, I don't know.)

Unfortunately, the justice system already had this guy behind bars once - for a rape in 1989 - but they released him after 15 years and he took advantage of his freedom to continuing raping and progress to killing. 

The authorities are still trying to link him to other rapes through DNA evidence - dating back to 2005 when he was released from his previous incarceration.

To borrow a family euphemism, they should've cut his ippy-pippy off.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fun With Memes

I was playing around today to see if I could come up with some neat marketing memes for Dying Embers.  Here are the two I made:

What d'ya think?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Things I Didn't Know Beforehand

I like to think I'm pretty savvy about the writing business.  Lord knows, I've been at it long enough. And I didn't spent the last ten years sitting on my butt writing books in a vacuum.  Nope, I've been out there reading and researching and learning and studying and improving and... Well, you get the gist. 

Still, this first leap into self-publishing has been a learning experience.  I thought today I'd share with you a few things I didn't know beforehand that I know now.

1)  If a reader borrows a book through Kindle Unlimited, the author doesn't actually get credit for it until the reader reads at least 10% of the book. 

2)  Cover art can take what seems like forever.  (I kinda knew this a little, so I budgeted plenty of time, but still...)

3)  Scrivener has ways to convert a manuscript into various formats for different ereaders, so in theory, you don't have to do it by hand or pay someone else.

4)  Where I was using ellipses, 90% of the time I should've been using emdashes.

5)  You capitalize directional places when you're talking about them as a specific locale - like Northern Wisconsin or Eastern Colorado - but not in general (i.e. "They drove north and then east.)

6)  If you gift someone a book through Amazon, they don't have to actually get the book you gave them.  It's more like a mini-gift-certificate they can use for anything on the site. 

7)  You can return ebooks.  This one totally floors me every time I think about it.  I shudder to think about how the unethical could potentially screw authors.  Lucky there aren't that many unethical people in the reading world.  (Yes, I am Pollyanna. I like to think readers are a better breed of people. Don't harsh my happy place.)

8)  All these years hanging out and making friends with other writers was worth more than just hanging out and making friends, because while I am a debut author, I didn't send my book out into an unfeeling world where no one would ever know I was there - because my friends have been awesome about talking about my book to their friends. 

And in the interest of disclosure, as of this morning, I have 23 sales.  I'm not breaking any records, but I'm way ahead of some people I've seen haunting the KDP forums who didn't get any sales their first week.  Right now, I owe that to you - my friends and my followers, the ones who've been with me through a lot of this beforehand stuff.  Because no one else has had a chance to know me and love my writing but you.  This weekend, though, a person totally unknown to me said she was halfway through Dying Embers and was loving it.  Which is totally cool.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Crime Fighter Friday - Agent J.C. Douglas

I thought I'd do the inaugural Crime Fighter Friday on my own fictional crime fighter - Agent J.C. Douglas - Jace for short.  (You'll have to read the book to find out what the initials stand for.)

Jace had the typical life of any kid growing up on a farm - until, at the age of 16, her house burned down while she was reading in the barn.  She lost her sister and her mom in that fire, and her father became a disconnected, bitter man.  She never stopped blaming herself, just as she never got over her phobia of fire. But she turned what she perceived as her faults into an internal flame that propelled her to become a top-notch agent at the Serial Crimes Investigation Unit. 

She lives on a little piece of land she owns in the Piney Woods region of Eastern Texas, where she enjoys swimming, reading, and decompressing after working long hours.  Truth be told, she'd rather be working, but even a committed agent like Jace needs a place to get away.

Currently on the trail of a series of gruesome murders, she has to swallow her fear of fire to hunt down the arsonist responsible for burning men alive in their cars. 

And hopefully learn to forgive herself somewhere along the way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wicked Wednesday - Dana Sue Gray

In my novel, Dying Embers, I follow the fictional Emma Sweet as she travels the country finding her old flames, and bringing herself what thinks of as justice - but what's really just revenge for slights both real and imagined.  But at least she's got that sense of justice - albeit twisted - to back her up.

This week's Wicked Wednesday candidate only has a petulant need for things as her excuse.

Back in 1994, Dana Sue Gray decided she wanted stuff, but she didn't want to have to go through the trouble of actually working to get it.  Instead, she hit on the idea that she could kill old woman and take their stuff.  Or to be more exact - take their credit cards and rack up charges while she gave herself the lifestyle she wanted. 

Using strangulation, beating, and knifing, she did away with at least 3 older women and attempting to strangle a fourth.  That attempted murder was her undoing.  Not only did the shop owner fight her off, but she got a good look at her attacker.  Once her description got around, it wasn't hard to find this woman who was withdrawing large sums of money from her victims' bank accounts and spending their money like it was a windfall. 

In the end, though, she got the only thing she'd every really earned - a life behind bars.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What's Next?

Dying Embers released on Friday - for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon or Createspace.  Huge 'Thank You' to everyone who bought a copy.  Even huger thanks to JB Lynn and Fran K who each took the time to review my book on Amazon and Goodreads.  It really means a lot to me.  :hugs:  The paperback went live on Amazon last night, and it should populate to other retailers eventually.  Hell, with something called 'Extended Distribution' it might even be available to libraries and junk.  I hope you all get a chance to read it, if you're so inclined.  It was tons of fun to write.

Anyway, enough about that.  I spent the past week totally absorbed in DE and I want to talk about something else.  Like what's next.

I know I mentioned this a week or so back.  (Seems like eons ago.  Time is wonky here in my world.)  I do have options.

First off, I have a mystery set in a small town on the plains of eastern Colorado.  Write what you know, eh?  When a big-city detective finds a dead woman at his brother-in-law's funeral, he's sure it's foul play, but the local police think otherwise.  The more he digs, the more 'accidental deaths' he finds and the more the locals want him to butt the hell out.

And then there's the suspense that borders on both techno and political thriller.  After a senator's wife dies in an accident, the husband cries 'murder' and the case is shunted over to an agent who's fallen from grace.  She's told to make it go away, except she finds the husband may be right.  Especially when the coroner finds a heart attack with no underlying cause and suspects a microchip may be to blame.

Both of those are already written to THE END.  They just need editing.

Of course, I could finish the half-written novel set in the Dying Embers universe - with a different agent of the Serial Crimes Investigation Unit in a different city chasing a different serial criminal.  It would dovetail nicely with DE, but like I said, it's half-finished.  I would still need to write the end and send it through edits before the end of March - when I've got a space set aside with my editor for my next book.

Or I could write this new book that's dancing around in the back of my head that would also be set with the S.C.I.U.


The easiest route would be the mystery, but since when have I ever done things the easy way?  :shrug:  In the interest of keeping myself occupied, I started entering the edits I already have on the mystery on Friday morning.  It's going well, but with everything I've learned from this publication experience, I already know I'll have to start over on the edits and polish harder.

Ah, the writing life.  Gotta love it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why is Marketing So Hard?

It's release day and my brain really isn't in a new-post place.  So I cheated and borrowed this from my post at Killer Chicks today:

Why is Marketing So Hard?

I grew up knowing that Sales was in my blood.  My father was a salesman.  He could sell you on anything.  I like to think I inherited that gene, and it pretty much bears out even today when I try to sell something I really love to anyone who'll listen.  (Even when said product is no longer made.)  For instance, I still chat up Paladin Tools - even though they were bought out by Greenlee years ago and no longer make their signature orange-handled crimpers.  And hey, have you tried O&H Danish Bakery's kringles yet?

Hell, I was selling chairs to a volunteer at the thrift shop just last week.  (Yeah, selling something to someone who works in the store.  But hey, she was the one who told me she likes to refinish old furniture and there were these awesome chairs I thought would be perfect for her.)  But I digress...

Anyway, I sell stuff.  Every item out there is a product that can be sold.  It's widgets all the way down.  So, here I am at the release day of my very own product - Dying Embers.  I know this widget better than any other widget I've ever had the opportunity to sell.  I believe in this like no other.  And I'm stymied at how to proceed.

I think part of the problem is in our society, it's verboten to talk yourself up.  It's pushy.  And lord knows, we don't want to be perceived as pushy.

Another part of the problem is it might be a widget or a product or a thingamabob, but this particular doohickey is 100% me.  I could sell tools because I didn't have a vested interest in the tool itself.  (The commissions, yeah, but the tool? No.)  If someone didn't want to buy the tool - even after I told them all the wonders of said tool - then it was no skin off my nose.  Move on to the next, and hopefully more enlightened, customer.  (I really did sell the best tools.)  Sure, their unwillingness to buy did reflect somewhat on my sales ability, but not on me personally. This time, if someone doesn't want to buy my book, it's a direct reflection on me.  And if they bought a tool they decided they didn't like, it wasn't my problem.  If they buy this book and decide they don't like it, they're talking about something that came out of me.


No wonder writers have such a tough time marketing their books.  I mean, I have no problem selling other writers' books.  (BTW, fellow Killer Chick, JB Lynn's latest book The Hitwoman's Downward Dog should be coming out soon.)  I just have a problem selling my own.

So, in the interest of improving my own marketing skills for myself, go pick up a copy of my first self-published book - Dying Embers.  It doesn't slice, dice or make Julienne fries.  It's doesn't have shiny orange grips or added torque.  It sure as hell doesn't get 34 miles to the gallon on the highway.  But it should be a gripping and enjoyable read.  It's cathartic as hell for anyone who's ever wanted to get back at their former boyfriends.  And it goes well with a half-gallon of double-fudge-brownie ice cream.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wicked Wednesday - The Car-B-Que Killer

Emma Sweet started out as a normal enough woman.  Wife of a wealthy and influential business owner in Wisconsin, she was the envy of her friends and the locals.  If you passed her on the street, you wouldn't know her as anything else.  But even the most normal among us can snap.  And even the most envied around us carry heartache they hide.

The difference is, most of of those people don't take our pain and turn it into a multi-state, cross-country killing spree.

Now Emma's taking her hurts - both real and imagined - and using them to get the ultimate payback.  She's taking the phrase 'old flame' to the literal extreme and earning herself the name 'Car-B-Que Killer'.

She's already killed six.  How many more old boyfriends will she take her revenge on?  How many more bodies will she leave broiling in their cars before she's stopped?

Look for more information on the Car-B-Que Killer in the pages of my novel Dying Embers - available for pre-order now at Amazon, and available for immediate read on Friday, February 13th. 

Revenge is better hot.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Writerly Life - Release Week Edition

Since I've never done a release week before, I have no idea how other writers do it.  This is where I'm at and where I expect to be throughout the week.

First things first - Dying Embers is done and ready to be uploaded to Amazon.  The Kindle edition will be out on Friday if at all possible.  You know, barring flood, famine, or wonky internet connection.  (I joked with my MIL about that last one on the phone yesterday.  :shudder:)  I'm ready to start working on the print version, too.  No release date on that yet because I'm totally clueless about how long that process takes.   But I do have the PDF of the cover now. Yay!

Most of this week will be devoted to getting Dying Embers out there so y'all can read it.  And to that end, I hope I'll be too busy to angst over it.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I have angst pre-scheduled in between all my other tasks.  Every time I have a free moment, I'm angsting.

I'm like trying to be all Zen.  But in the words of Bush "Everything's Zen, everything's Zen... I don't think so."

But I am using a day planner for the first time in over a decade, so I won't forget all the stuff I have to do.  (As long as I remember to write it down.)

At the end of this week, I will be a published author.  No big plans for Friday.  No champagne (because I don't drink).  No big dinner at a fancy restaurant (because eating out scares me after reading the health dept report around here).  Nada.  And that's okay, because I don't need fireworks.  What I'll need at the end of this week is a nap.

And then Saturday, I need to get back to work on something other than Dying Embers.

If you're a published writer, do you celebrate your releases?  If not, how do you imagine you'd celebrate your first release? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

True Crime Friday - Beyond Conviction

Truth be told, I stumbled across the documentary, Beyond Conviction, the other day, but I didn't watch all of it.

Basically, it's a movie wherein victims of crimes confront the people who made them victims.  The stories themselves seemed like they'd be interesting, but the commentary from 'noted psychologists' turned me off.  If only the criminals could see the way victims lives were impacted, and if only the victims could see... and if only people stopped thinking of these criminals as criminals... yada, yada, yada.

Okay, so I watched the first of three such cases - which I suspect were cherry-picked to prove the documentarian's theories - was presented originally as a rapist who attacked a girl who was living in the house where he stayed while going through some personal crap.  Partway into the segment, low and behold, the rapist was the victim's brother.  Pure shock value presenting it that way, and I was a little pissed for the rape survivor at their tactics.  And yes, in this particular instance, the only way she could heal was by confronting her brother and letting go of the anger she'd been holding for 13 years.

I skipped the next one when it turned out to be a mother whose son was killed in prison by another inmate.  Yes, she was hurting, but I couldn't see how confronting the other criminal who killed her son would do anyone any good.

I didn't go back for the third instance, but according to what I could find online, it centered around a daughter seeking answers from her father - who had killed her mother.

They call this 'restorative justice'.  The first and the third cases here, I could see how confronting the person who basically ruined your life could help with closure.  Not so sure how that mother in the second case is ever going to find closure.  But that's just me. Personally, I'd just want to be alone with the man who killed my child so I could beat him to death with a brick. 

Have you ever watched Beyond Conviction?  If you have, should I have stuck around through the other two cases?  If you haven't, what do you think of the concept of restorative justice?  Would you want to talk to the person who wronged you and get answers?  Or would you rather they just rot in jail?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wicked Wednesday - Paul Keller

Since my upcoming book - Dying Embers - has a serial killer who uses fire to commit her murders, I thought I'd take some time to talk about the man who is currently known for setting the most fires in U.S. history - Paul Kenneth Keller.

During a six-month stretch in 1992-1993, a series of arsons cropped up in Washington State.  They weren't limited to a key geographical area.  They weren't kept to a certain type of home or business.  They were crimes of opportunity and there didn't seem to be any end to them.

Until one witness - who wasn't all that certain of what she'd seen - underwent hypnosis.  During her calm and relaxed state, she was able to recall enough details of the suspect for a sketch artist to come up with a reasonable facsimile of the arsonist. 

And when a man saw the sketch, he feared the worst - that the drawing was his son, Paul Keller.

Since his son worked for him at his advertising business, he went back over the logs of Paul's outside sales work.  Sure enough, Paul had been in the towns where the fires occurred around the times when they occurred.  Then the father went over the profile of the suspect, and sure enough, Paul met the key characteristics of this psycho.

When authorities captured Paul Keller, he denied everything - until the officers complimented him on his work.  Then he opened up and told them everything.  I watched some videotape of his confession where they'd taken him to some of the crime scenes, and he seemed proud of himself for the fires he'd set.

He admitted to 76 fires.  In one of those fires - at a retirement home - three people died.

Paul Keller was convicted of the arsons and the murders.  He'll be up for parole in the year 2079.  They interviewed him in prison, and he seemed to know what he did was wrong, but he almost reminded me of the David Donald Sutherland character in Backdraft - totally without remorse and with a certain amount of glee behind his eyes.

One site I read while doing research for this post called all his other fires 'victimless crimes' because no one died, but he did around $20 million in property damage.  Personally, I don't see that as victimless.

Have you seen Backdraft?  It's a pretty awesome movie, plus it has Kurt Russell.  :le sigh:  And Sutherland plays a particularly creeptastic firebug.  :shudder:  And just to make it clear, my villain - Emma - isn't a firebug, per se.  She uses fire, but she isn't drawn to the flames.  It's just a convenient and horrific way to put an end to all her old flames.  Consider it her idea of poetic justice.  ;o)

Monday, February 2, 2015

No Relation

As I get approach the release date of my first leap into self-publishing, it occurred to me that I should perhaps clarify a particular point.

I am not Brandon Sanderson using initials to hide my identity.  In fact, he's a dude and I'm not.  Well, actually, I don't know anything about Brandon Sanderson.  I assume he's a dude and not a gal hiding her identity.  (Writing gals have to do that from time to time, you know.  Take George Eliot, for example.)

As far as I know, there's no relation to Mr. Sanderson either.  For one, Sanderson is my married name.  For another, I've done the genealogy for Hubs and unless there's a connection way back and Brandon is a shoot off another branch, he's not in the tree I created.

I haven't even read anything by Mr. Sanderson.  I've heard he's really good, but I just haven't made the time to add him to my TBR pile.  (Sorry, dude.  I'll try to rectify that eventually.)

I'm also not a relation to the indie author, Cedar Sanderson - even though we follow each other's blogs now (not here - at The Writing Spectacle.) 

I thought briefly about using a pseudonym to distance myself from the fame of Mr. Sanderson.  But he writes mainly MG or YA fantasy, I think, and my one foray into that genre sits half-finished for the foreseeable future, so there's little danger of confusing readers there.  Besides, I'm proud of my last name.  Hubs and I chose each other, and I am proud to wear his surname. 

I do use my initials, though.  It was a choice I made years ago - before I even began writing seriously.  And unlike some of my fellow female writers, it doesn't have much to do with my gender.  It has more to do with maintaining some amount of anonymity.  You see, I used to do quite a few letters to the editor - especially after 9-11.  There are a lot of scary people in the world, and I didn't want them locating me easily.  So, B.E. Meissner was born.  After I got married, I just changed the surname. 

Besides, my first name never seemed to have the right flavor for the books I was writing.  Beth doesn't write suspense, she writes kid's books or cookbooks or helpful marriage guides.  B.E. writes grit. 

Heh. I'm over that for the most part now, so all the Beth's of the world need not hammer me for my narrow-mindedness. In fact, as I get ready to publish in other genres, I will be using Beth Sanderson instead of B.E. Sanderson to differentiate my work for my readers.  If the cover says B.E., it's a suspense or mystery.  If the cover says Beth, it's my urban fantasy.  And when I eventually put my dystopian works out there, I'll choose a different name to associate with those. 

So anyway, I just wanted to say I am who I am, and I'm no relation to pretty much any other mainstream writer out there.  And if you have stumbled by here looking for Brandon or Cedar or any other writerly Sanderson in the world, sorry you missed them.  I hope you'll stay, though, and check out my books, too.  =o)