Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Infamous Murder Case

Last night, Hubs and I were looking for something to watch when I hit an episode of A Crime to Remember on ID (Investigation Discovery) that we hadn't seen yet.  I don't remember the title, but it detailed a killing spree in Lincoln, NE back in 1957. 

The details seemed familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it.  So during a commercial break, I did some googling.  Turns out it was the Starkweather murders.

Not familiar with the Starkweather murders?  Billy Joel mentioned them in his song "We Didn't Start the Fire" - 'Starkweather homicides, children of Thalidomide".  Or if you've ever seen the movie The Frighteners, the bad guy in that says something to the effect of 'got me one more than Starkweather'. Oh, and I guess there was a movie based on the killing spree - Badlands, starring Cissy Spacek and Martin Sheen, in 1973. 

You see, 19 year old Charlie Starkweather decided he was going to do some killing one day.  No one quite knows the reason.  And he took his 14 year old girlfriend, Caril Ann, along for the ride.  They started out with a gas station attendant and ended with the murder of a traveling salesman.  Eleven people dead by the time they were through - including her mother, her stepfather, and her 2 year old baby sister.

Starkweather got the chair in June of 1959.  His girlfriend got life in prison, but got out in 1976 - perhaps because she was only 14 at the time of the murders and some bleeding heart decided she'd served enough time.  I dunno. 

She maintains she had nothing to do with the killings, but I'm not buying it.  Some of the details seemed... off... somehow.  In one case, he shot two teenagers - a boy and a girl.  The girl was mutilated with a knife afterwards.  Later, he shoots a husband and ties up the wife and the maid.  The wife and the maid were stabbed to death, but he claims they were alive when he left them.  A rifle was his weapon of choice.  Stabbing seems more her thing. 

She claims that he was holding her captive.  Of course, the fact that they spent 6 days in the house with her dead family and she did nothing to alert the authorities makes me think she wasn't quite the victim she wanted people to believe she was. 

The world will never know for certain. 

What do you think?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Business Stuff

It's the 26th of December.  By this time next week, it will be next year.  And you know what that means?  New spreadsheets for 2017! 

Yeah, I'm guessing you're not nearly as excited.  Neither am I.  It's a necessary thing, though.  So, this morning I created a new 2017 Sales Totals spreadsheet and a new 2017 Book Sales Data spreadsheet.

Last year, I totally screwed something up and ended up with a mess of both.  This year I'm hoping to avoid the mess because I made a template instead of creating a copy of the Book Sales Data sheet.  (Creating a copy somehow made all the formulas in the Sales Total Spreadsheet point to the new copy instead of the original, so when I wiped out the 2015 data, it blanked out my original Sales Total sheet.  It was awful.)  Fingers crossed this all goes super smooth this year. 

So, the new spreadsheets are there.  I still have work to do, of course, but they exist - waiting patiently for new sales to fill them up.  (Fingers crossed there, too.)

That's just a screen capture of the top of the sheet.  When I scroll down, all of my books are there in order of publication.  And each has it's own color, which then translates over to pretty lines on the Sales Totals spreadsheet.  It's like a rainbow.  And each month gets its own page in the workbook.  I've only created January and February so far, but I'll get to the others.  I have time.

It's just my totally anal way of keeping track of sales.  The Sales Totals spreadsheet has pretty graphs, too.  I'll probably show a few of those when I do a 2016 wrap up post next week.

If you're a writer, how to you keep track of sales?  If you're not a writer, do you use spreadsheets for other stuff in your life or work? 

Friday, December 23, 2016

All My Books Are on Sale!

Hey, Everyone!

Just in time for Christmas, and extended for a little after-Christmas Kindle filling, all of my books are priced at 99c in the US and .99p in the UK.  Now through Tuesday night! 

Like crime?  Try Dying Embers, Fertile Ground, or Accidental Death

Like political thrillers?  Give Blood Flow a whirl.

Into paranormal fun?  Check out the Once Upon a Djinn books: Wish in One Hand, In Deep Wish, and Up Wish Creek

Something for pretty much everyone on your list, I think.  And some fun things for you, too. 

I hope you all have the happiest of holidays! 



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Opening a Can of Whoop-Ass on Myself

Okay, so I posted that Stalled thing on Monday.  Then I gave myself a good, ol' fashioned ass-whoopin'.  There was much internal swearing going on.  It lasted about thirty seconds - which, in the scheme of an inter-brainial war, was pretty long.  And after I said 'yes, ma'am' to myself and got my butt to work.

Some people would call this 'negative self-talk'.  I probably called myself every name in the book.  Told myself I was being stupid.  Mentally shouted at myself.  And it worked.

Would I ever talk to someone else that way?  Probably not.  I'd get punched in the mouth.  But this is me.  I can't punch myself in the mouth.  (Well, I could, but it would hurt and I'm not into pain.)  I can also take it.  It's not like I was saying anything that wasn't true at the time.  I was being a whiny baby.  I did need to get off my ass and get to work.  I needed a little drill sergeant tactics to motivate me.  General Patton stuff.  I mentally slapped my own face.

I might need to do this again.  And again.  And again.  Until it sticks.  I did get like 4 chapters worth of edit notes down for Natural Causes and did 21 pages more on the read-through for Early Grave on Monday, so that's something.  But I didn't do anything again yesterday.  I went fishing instead.

:lifts booted foot threateningly aimed at own ass:

Yes, ma'am.

I will get some more work done today.  Before I go fishing because, if I wait until after, the chances of working drop precipitously.

Have you ever had to kick your own ass?  How'd that turn out for you?

Monday, December 19, 2016


I've been trying to work.  Really, I have. 

I open the file for Early Grave and I go to where I last stopped reading.  (I'm reading the 130 pages I already have written so I can get a sense of where to pick up the writing again.)  I read through for a while until my brain hurts from all the flaws (it's very first drafty) and then I wander off.  I'm on pg70 now, but I started doing this like two weeks ago, so you see how that's going.

About a week ago, I sent Natural Causes to my Kindle so I could start editing that.  And there my Kindle sat on the table where it charges.  Yesterday, I took my Kindle and a notebook into the living room to maybe prod me into getting my ass to work.  Cuz, like, it's taking up half my end table and I have to keep moving it to access the Kleenex.  Nope. 

At the beginning of the month, I read through what I have written on Wish Hits the Fan, got to the end of that, and realized I have no idea where I'm supposed to go next.  I think about it when I'm driving, and sometimes when I'm trying to sleep, but I still can't see my way through.

Sometime in mid-Autumn, I thought it might be a good idea to work on rewriting Fear Itself.  I'm 66 pgs in on that.  But I haven't been able to muster the urge to sit my ass down and work through this.

So, I began pondering the idea of going back to something completely different.  I have that modern day Arthurian thing I was working on.  I was really excited about that.  Or Sleeping Ugly.  That was a lot of fun.  But I can't get excited about those either.  Nothing's blowing my skirt up*.

Not sure what the answer is here.  Not sure what the problem is either, so that's probably why I can't find the answer.  I don't feel burned out.  Maybe it's a combination of things that I won't bring up here because who needs to listen to me piss and moan.  (As if this whole post isn't akin to a PAM session.)

Anyhoo...  I hope this explains a little why I haven't published anything since September and I don't have anything on a publication schedule and why you haven't seen a newsletter in forever.  I'm stalled.  I'd like to be writing.  I'd love to have something to offer you that isn't a half-formed blob of primordial goo.  But I don't. 

Maybe 2017 will bring me some gumption.  But like I said in my Sunday Update, wishing for 2017 to be better only works if you're willing to do something to make it better.  When I figure out what that something is, I'll let you know.

* My great-grandmother was fond of saying 'Whatever blows your skirt up' instead of 'whatever floats your boat.'

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Writing Ideas File

"Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any." - Orson Scott Card

I don't know if I'd agree with the idea that seeing five or six story ideas a day means you're a good writer.  Or if not seeing that many means you're ordinary.  But, yeah, there are a myriad of story ideas out there in the world and we walk by them every day.  Sometimes they're a passing fancy that comes to nothing.  Other times they light a fire in a writer's heart and the only thing to do is sit down and start typing.  Most times, they just stick long enough to put them into a file for later use.

My 'Writing Ideas' file is at 8 pages long - single spaced and set as bullet points, so I can separate one from another. 

Some of them are just a kernel of an idea, like: Medical examiner w/ pet cadaver dog.

Some of them are fully fleshed.  (No example because I don't want anyone to write my idea.  Silly, but that's how I roll, baby.)  A few of the fully-fleshed ones are now books - Fertile Ground, for one.  Others are totally written, but haven't made it to book yet.  Some are partially written stories that I really need to get back to.

Reading through the list the other day - when I stopped to put a new idea at the bottom - I realized I still want to write most of these ideas.  Of course, I'd have to live to be 150. 

And I get new ideas to add to the list, so I may never finish - even if I do live to be 150.

Of course, it would help if I was actually writing right now.  Maybe reading through the ideas file will light a fire under my ass.  We'll see.

Do you have an ideas file?

Monday, December 12, 2016

What Do You Think?

Yesterday, Hubs and I decided to drive to a few spots and check out the lake levels.  It was dreary and had started to mist heavily, but we were determined to get out of the house while the temperatures were still above ass-freezing levels.

In one spot, we park the car and notice two other cars roaring up behind us.  They pull over to the other side of the area, next to each other, and sit there with their cars idling.  We get out to walk the 'beach' and notice another car pulled off into an impromptu 'road' in the weeds, sitting there idling.  We get out and walk down to the water.  As we turn to go back to our car, one of the first two cars zooms off. The other remains with his car idling and his window rolled down.

Point one:  This is not an area with the nicest of homes.  It's a local park in a little pocket of rundown trailers.

Point two: The occupants of all three vehicles were men in their late teens to mid twenties. 

Point three: None of the cars were nice.  One was a black low-end sports model with glass packs on the muffler.  Another was a green late model luxury car - like an old Lincoln town car or Cadillac.  The third was a black beater pickup.

Point four:  None of them left their vehicles while we were there.

They weren't there for the view and they didn't strike me as fishermen.  I'm guessing drug deal.  What do you think they were up to? 

Btw, we went elsewhere.  No sense getting in the middle of something when all we were wanted was to look at lake levels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

That Dream is Dead... Long Live the Dream

Coming up on thirteen years ago, I started writing with the dream of being published... Well, actually it was the dream of being traditionally published.  And the dream probably started when I was a teenager and subscribed to Writers Digest.  But that last part is neither here nor there. 

I had a dream of being published and back in 2004, it was only a dream of being published by one of the traditional houses.  Which meant getting an agent.  Which meant learning how to do query letters and synopses.  It also meant learning how to accept rejection and defeat and heartache. 


Over the years, the dream slowly died.  I think it starved to death.  And that's okay.  In its place a new dream grew - the dream of getting published.

Yeah, they sound like the same dream, don't they?  The dream of being published vs the dream of getting published.  To me, though, one is passive* and the other is active.  The dream of someone else publishing me vs the dream of getting myself published.  'Pick me pick me' vs 'get up off your ass and do it your own damn self'. 

Two years into the 'get up off your ass' dream, the old dream is dead.  I killed it and then I ate it.  Nowadays when I see someone suggesting 'the best way to write a query letter' or offering 'a new list of agents who are seeking submissions', I shudder.  I can't imagine resurrecting the old dream. 

The dream is dead... long live the dream. 

*Yes, yes, I know that going after publication by traditional means is in no way passive.  Think passive voice and active voice.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Not too far from here, there's a thrift store.  It works in conjunction with a local charity and there's usually something or other I can find to buy there.  Usually, it's used books.  I'm a sucker for used books.  Natch.

Anyway, the last time I went there, I noticed I hadn't seen the manager in a while, so I asked about him.  Well, he's moved on to a new mission in life.  Good for him.  The new manager, I was told, had all these great ideas on things.  Okee.  Whatever.  Cool for you if you get more sales for your charity. 

So, I went in there last week.  Everything looks about the same.  :shrug: 

I wandered through to the books.  I immediately found two paperbacks I needed.  Then I found another two.  Then I remembered that I'd heard they were changing the pricing on books from 4/$1 (used to be 5/$1) paperbacks.  I scanned around for the new sign.  PAPERBACKS 50c EACH. 

Well, that kind of put a crimp in my crinolines.  But whatever.  I found two more I wanted and then walked over to the 'vintage' shelves.  Big sign: VINTAGE $5 EACH.  Oh, holy crap.  Those used to be $1.50 ea.  I was almost afraid to look at the hardcover section.  Those only doubled in price from 50c to $1. 

No hardcovers or vintage books for me that day.  Time to check out.  With only 6 paperbacks when I'd usually take home a bag of books.  :shrug: 

I made casual mention of the price change in books to the cashier.  She must've been hearing it a lot because she got kind of defensive and a little snotty when she's usually quite nice.  She told me how they're having trouble moving books.  So much trouble that they're no longer accepting book donations.  Which is why they raised the price. 

No offense to her, but that's about the most stupidful thing I've ever heard.  (Yes, so stupid, it deserved its own word - STUPIDFUL.)  I didn't tell her she was stupidful.  She doesn't set the prices or the policy for the store.  This is one of the new manager's brilliant ideas. 

As I was relaying this story to Hubs and then on Facebook, something occurred to me.  This thinking seems to be what the traditional publishers are using.  Book sales are down... supposedly... so jack the prices up.  The last time I looked at buying a hardcover, it was $27.99.  And I didn't buy it.  I can't afford that.  Just like I can't afford to buy 12-15 books from the thrift store like I used to.  Not at 50c ea.  $3.  I had three dollars to spend.  Period.  It's called a budget, and I have to stick to it.

Oh, that store manager and those big publishers might comfort themselves with the idea that they made more money per book.  But they're selling fewer books.  For the thrift store, that means a backlog of excess inventory.  For the publishers?  I don't know how all that works.  I would think it would mean the same.  At the very least, it would mean their sales numbers are down.  Thus, book sales are down.  And I think it's showing in the pocketbooks of writers. 

Jus' sayin'.

The cashier did invite me, in an oh-so-snotty tone, that I was welcome to come volunteer at the store, if I had a better idea.  Oh, I do.  I have a ton of awesome sales ideas that might benefit that place.  And the idea of going in there and sorting through boxes of old books is tempting.  Problem is, I don't think they'd really welcome my ideas.  And I really don't have the energy or the will to stand in that place for more than an hour at a time a couple times a month. 

So, I'll do what most self-respecting customers do.  I'll bitch about it here and at home, and I'll find other places to spend my money.  Cuz that's how the free market works. 

There's another thrift store a little out of my way that benefits a different charity.  Maybe I'll drop in there and see what they have to offer.