I’m a Recovering Crime Writer, Not a Lawyer.

I’ve been watching one of those social-media explosions, lately. Let’s see if I can even find video without commentary attached…

There is more video than this, but a huge number of the copies I’ve seen include people speculating about what happened, so I’ll let you look them up yourself.

She was 19 years old (note for people outside the US: two years below the legal drinking age.) and at some point the following day, (many, many hours later) she was found dead inside a hotel freezer in an “unused” portion of the building which was under renovation. (And that’s pretty much everything anyone can agree on.)

In the beginning, the police seemed to be leaning toward this being an accidental death.

And then, Kanneka’s mother took her story to social media (I actually heard about this on Twitter, before it got to mainstream news in my area), and the internet rose up in support of a more thorough investigation.

The manner of death is now undetermined. (Manner of death is a check-box. Multiple choice. Five options. Natural, Homicide, Suicide, Accidental and Undetermined. It is not the same thing as cause of death, which could be Alcohol poisoning, hypothermia, asphyxia, etc.)

And on the internet–you’ll see what I mean, if you look at many of the videos–the theories of how and why Kanneka died run from the reasonable to X-Files worthy material.

My opinion? Doesn’t really matter a lot, but I think unlikely that Kanneka was murdered for her organs, and it’s also unlikely that her death was faked by sex-traffickers.

I still think there’s an excellent chance she was murdered.

Oh, no. Not in the way you’re thinking. I don’t think anyone pushed her in the freezer, or locked the door, or edited themselves out of the surveillance footage.

What I believe is that this death may have been the result of a felony.

Felony murder is the idea that you are responsible for the deaths that occur while you are committing a felony, or as the result of a felony. And–in the United States–it’s more or less first degree murder.

So, imagine that you are the get-away driver in a bank robbery. You never set foot in the bank, you never point a gun at anyone. Maybe your accomplices inside the bank don’t even have guns. The bank guard turns and shoots your buddy Steve. Steve dies as a result of your felony, so… guess who’s going to jail for murder? Just a hint: not the bank guard.

So, now that you have the general idea…

Imagine that you are a drug dealer in a hotel party. Selling illegal drugs is a felony. (Selling any scheduled drug without a license is, too.)

(As is Conspiracy, by the way. Someday, I’ll have to talk about my deep and abiding hatred of conspiracy.)

So, here we are… Down to the toxicology report.

If what we’re looking at is purely alcohol intoxication, then, maybe it’s an accidental death.

If, on the other hand, there’s anything else causing that intoxication… If she was sold or given drugs… If there were drugs at the party, and that’s the reason nobody called the police or the front desk when she first went missing… if any number of things happened,… that’s a death as the result of a felony.

Pondering Patreon

I’m not signing up, just yet, but Patreon has been on the edge of my radar for a while, now.

For those of you who don’t know, Patreon is a platform that allows people to support the creatives they love by pledging various amounts of money per (well, thing created, or month, or… well, you get the picture.)

In exchange, the creatives produce “things” for their patrons, beginning at one end with access to patron-only content (think stories, music, or comic strips) and progressing to bigger, more extravagant rewards as the money goes up. (Think private performances, real-live art, physical, signed copies of books, and sometimes out-takes that never made it into the finished manuscript.)

And in theory–if you’re good enough, or lucky enough–you get paid enough to live, and work on your art, and so forth.

So, getting serious, here.

The first time I heard of Patreon, it was from a rock star. Who had just published a New York Bestselling memoir. Who, even several years later, is making 38,000 dollars per thing.

Well, obviously, her variables do not apply to me.

I’m an introverted writer, and my tits are strictly indoor tits, and by the way, I don’t have a pre-mustered army of fans behind me.

So, I went in search of lab rats. early adopters who are biologically similar to myself.

That’s easy enough. I headed off to Twitter, and made a list. And every time someone mentioned using Patreon, I added them to the list.  Okay. So, there aren’t all that many, and they’re probably not a cross-section. It’s an on-again, off-again hobby. (If you know anyone else who should be on the list, or if you have a Patreon, yourself, send me Twitter handles.)

And now–thank you, hurricane–my teacher Holly Lisle is joining Patreon. Here’s a link, so you can get the scoop straight from her.

That’s another not-my-variables situation, but I’m hoping we’ll hear the inside story of how it’s working, and what she thinks. (You know, assuming she isn’t blown all the way to Canada by the next hurricane.)

As of right now, though… the conclusions I’ve reached are:

  1. It helps to have a ready-made fan base
  2. Having a means of reaching out to people who are not fans yet is imperative. (That would be the people at your show who just turned up for the buffalo wings. I’m not really sure where a writer pulls in spectators.)
  3. Most people are starting way too early, and probably wind up with one or two family members or close friends sending them a buck now and then.
  4. Rewards should be really well thought out, and consist of multi-disciplinary content.
  5. If you have a friend who can be talked into jumping, maybe watch them hit the ground before you leave the window, ’cause you only get one chance at the grand opening.

 

So, any thoughts on Patreon or other pay-the-artist platforms? Tips?

And, again, if you know anybody who’s doing it, send me a message, or leave a comment, and I’ll add them to my List of Glorious Fame.

Dying Computers, Chainsaw Editing, and Snail Races

As I’m going through my revision, I’m noticing that certain letters are missing. Not all the time, and not always the same letters, but… I’m writing in letters. After a few pages of this, I’m starting to think about new computers (or at lest, new keyboards.) My slightly neurotic alternate theory is that it’s me, somehow, just not hitting the keys as hard as I should be. I can’t decide whether that last one’s a sign that I’m cheap as hell and don’t want to spend money on a new computer, If I could just get degenerative muscular diseases instead, or if I’m paranoid that I’m getting something I’ve encountered in other people.

Note to self: It IS you, and in the future, don’t pop the keys off your keyboard to clean, you moron.

I’m editing with a chainsaw, today. Twenty one pages come in… and four come out. Four! And there’s nothing wrong with the extra 17 pages, really. Just chunks that are duplicated in other places, or that I don’t need anymore, because I’ve revised them out of my timeline.

On the bright side, think of all the word count that frees up.

I have front row seats for #pitmad this morning, which basically means 1.) I’m not working and 2.) I have all kinds of tabs open on my computer, watching various agents from by TBQ (to be queried) list punch in those likes. Likes on Twitter do not automatically refresh, or even notify you of their existence, so I’m wearing out the reload button. Exactly why am I doing this?

Well, maybe I’m bored, and maybe I’m diligent. It does give you an idea of their specific tastes, though.

The process reminds me of the snail-races we used to have back when I was a teacher’s aide. Place the agents inside a circle, and wait. So far, none of them have actually done anything, but the kids are entertained, and teacher gets a few spare minutes to catch her breath and organize the next lesson.

Snail A has liked two pitches. Snail B has poured himself a cup of coffee. Pretty sure Snail C is in one of Billy Ostermeyer’s pockets.

In most cases, the reward for getting #pitmad likes is… Well, you get to query in exactly the same way you would, if you’d just read the guidelines, but you get to add #pitmad to the subject line.

I can’t decide whether that’s worth the effort of the snail race, or not.

IWSG: Surprises, Surprises

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The awesome co-hosts for the September 6 posting of the IWSG are Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

 

September 6 Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

The biggest surprise I ever got with my fiction was when I switched from Mysteries & Thrillers to Science Fiction.

I wasn’t really looking to change genres… After all, I had finished manuscripts just waiting to revise, and I was getting fairly upbeat and positive rejections on the one I was sending out at the time.

But, NaNoWriMo was coming up, and I was pretty much stuck in one of my WIPs. (Well, come on… just exactly what is the response when someone throws a human hand through your front window?)

And the stories were getting darker.

I also had a bunch of friends who wrote Science Fiction and Fantasy waiting for me at NaNoWriMo, so when I realized I needed a break from the slicey-dicey stuff, I knew where I should go for that break. Take some time off, entertain a few friends… maybe a nice trip to Mars.

By the time I was finished with my first draft, I think I already knew that I wasn’t going back to the thriller end of the universe. At least, not full-time.

I’m a lot happier spending months and years debating how to populate a spaceship than I am thinking about how badly that murder in the news was messed up by the perpetrator, even if reading thrillers is…thrilling… for a week or two.

 

Looking to the Future, and Preparing to Duck

There’s a point in querying when you look at the agent’s guidelines, and you look at your manuscript, and you start doing math in your head. If literary agent is on a train leaving Boston at 3:17 and rejects three and a half manuscripts every ten minutes, in what city will she rip open a hernia laughing at your audacity? If literary assistant is from Nebraska, and you mention the Huskers three times in your query, will he read quickly enough to award perceived affinity points before he realizes you meant the Concrete Canoe team, and don’t know anything about football?

And–my personal favorite–if Guidelines request X number of pages, where exactly are you abandoning your characters?

So far as I can tell, there are three possible answers to this question.

Don’t worry.

You’ll loose plenty of sleep regardless.

1.) Holy shit, I thought this thing was finished. I am going back to revise.

2.) One good stopping point is too short. The next one is too long.

or…

3.) Gee, I wonder if there’s a specific protocol for sending humorous penis descriptions to a respected publishing professional.

Maybe that last one is just me.

It’s not an erotic scene by any stretch. My character arrives on scene naked and incredibly intoxicated.

And I love the scene. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

But those moral restraints society has worked so hard to imbue me with tend to suggest there might be some form of etiquette involved… Somewhere.

Here is the scene I couldn’t read out loud in the company break room.

And a quiche, because a non-sexy breakfast food is an excellent way to take the awkward out of… awkward!

Is quiche platonic enough? I mean… well, it doesn’t have any holes.

At any rate, the most popular numbers of pages to request seem to be 5 pages… 10 pages… and CUE THE NUDITY!!!

Filling Out the Languages

The language my characters speak has a lot of words for “husband.”

Well, it will, after I get around to filling in all the little gaps I’ve left for the word. (Yes, I have gaps. They’re all marked with the letters tk(for to come, but searchable)no space and a general description of the word I plan to put there.

I don’t intend to make a list, but I know the words exist in  the language, and probably less than five show up in my actual manuscript.

It’s a mostly-English manuscript with minimal nonce-words.

I probably wouldn’t remember the words I make up/borrow/steal from start to finish, so I’ll add them in at the end.

Any thoughts on language? How deep do you go into language building?

 

A Quick Assessment and Other Themes

So, taking a step back, and looking at where I am in my novel… at last count, my main character was about to confess that she may not have… exactly… uhm… killed the person everyone assumes she killed. Actually, he might be alive and well, and fidgeting around in her basement, reading sports magazines, and eating Cracker Jack. (Or whatever the interplanetary, non-sports oriented version of that is.)

The character she is talking to keeps bouncing back and forth between being about eight (shut up, it’s fiction) and sixteen (with stops at every station in between). I’m fairly sure there’s probably a minimum acceptable age at which to have the you know that guy I was supposed to kill? Didn’t. Conversation. So, I’m thinking he’ll probably wind up closer to sixteen, although maybe a little younger.

Definitely a re-write it couple of chapters.

I’m also stumbling into questions of theme, and what the hell is this story really about?

Aliens from outer space.

Some of them are blue.

Some of them look like you.

I always hated theme in high school. It was the part where you took a perfectly good story about aliens from outer space, and then announced, but it’s actually about world peace and puberty. Rorschach for English majors.

Hey, but you’re the one showing me all the dirty pictures.

I spent a lot of time looking for themes, and the ones I found were never the “right” ones.

Then again, if I’m writing the book, how could I possibly be wrong about the themes? Well, don’t worry. Someone’s bound to find a way sooner or later.

New Month, New Goals

First day of August, and I’m thinking about all the things I would like to get accomplished between now and the end of time. I would like to finish revising my novel, of course. I think that’s probably more than a month’s worth of work, but “By the End of October” would maybe be do-able, and it would get me out of the project in time to do NaNoWriMo. Before next summer would still enable me to say “we met briefly at Pike’s Peak last summer.”

And then, we have all those short stories I’ve been meaning to write. **sigh** It seems like every time I finish one, it pops up on the website, or someone calls dibs on it, and that’s that. Or, you know… 20,000 words later, I just have to admit that it’s pole vaulted over “short” story.  I may not be programmed to be a short story writer.

As usual, I guess the goal is 4 short stories in August. One per week, or maybe all in a rush at the end.

I’m still on the fitness=better sleep thing, and working my way toward… well, sleep. I like sleep. I want sleep. I’m working on that.

Shall we add “podcast” to the list? I’m still up in the air on that. I don’t have a clear idea of what I’d talk about for half an hour, but read some stories, announce some random trivia, crack a few jokes… maybe drag a friend or two in with me? I’m fiddling with the idea. Maybe I’ll hit that “buy” button and have a microphone sent to me.

Get a haircut, look like a civilized human being, track down the next day job, which with luck will be somewhere else, doing something else entirely. I’m running out of steam.

So, podcast? Thoughts, suggestions? Somebody talk some sense into me!

Cutting Manuscripts In Public

I spent yesterday playing slice and dice with the next overgrown sasquatch-chapter of the manuscript I’ve been revising. 40 pages going in, and probably right around thirty by the time I decided it would just be easier to rewrite the whole thing. There are just too many pieces, people! I think I’d collected every single unanchored question in the entire book, and thrown it into the interrogation scene. And some of them aren’t very interrogation-y questions. And there’s this really random character (who I love) in the middle of it, telling them how to work a bathtub.

Well, he’s a retired college professor. They’re just going to do things like that, from time to time, and you can’t stop them.

I’m caught somewhere between But I don’t want to cut the retired college professor!!! And So… uhm… why is there a college professor in the first place?

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I did most of the cuts at a table filled with chatty co-workers, so I’d be able to cut with one hand and gossip with the other. You know… keeps your mind off the cutting, so (hopefully) you don’t notice that you’re about to remove the last good bathtub explanation scene.

I wound up talking about how to sell a short story. Where to find addresses to send it to. And maybe the truth is that there are plenty of writers floating around my small town, and that they just don’t know how to take the next step.

Maybe they just need to be wrangled into the library for a writers’ group, and maybe… if I were more social, more organize-y they’d already be there.

The Past Tastes Better

The Past Tastes Better

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, my job is nothing. Forty or fifty years, or in rare cases, seventy, but never much more. A quick nip in time, back to some church dinner or Bar Mitzvah to pick up gramma’s secret recipe—whatever it happened to be—and back to collect the check. Big checks, and bigger tips. Tipping assuages the guilt of asking someone to risk being atomized—and plenty of time to study.

MIT doesn’t let just anyone play with their toys, after all.

Not that they know.

If anybody asks, I’m a waiter.

I’d been a waiter for over a year before I got the other kind of request.

The woman looked at me for a long time before she said anything. Something not quite right about her clothes, as if she were trying to hid who she was, and where she came from. Her baggy t-shirt advertised a decade-old Golden Gophers victory, and her khakhi pants had a bargain-basement droop.

“I would like to buy two tacos,” she said. She enunciated each word, practiced, and vaguely reminiscent of the old Mid-Atlantic accent. I still didn’t know where she was from, but not Minnesota.

“Go away.” I turned another page in my nondescript magazine and smiled at a comic strip that wasn’t funny. “Can’t you see we’re closed?”

She stood firm. “Please? They’re for my pet parakeet. He’s dying.”

That was the code. I leaned over the counter to see if anyone was watching. “Oh. All right. Come around back.”

I waited until I heard a knock, and jerked the door open. “You know what I do?”

She nodded. “And?”

“I need you to go to twenty-seven forty-two.”

For just a second, I thought the numbers were coordinates. Then, I choked. “That’s in the future,” I said. “It’s–”

“Nearly six hundred years from now.” She watched my face, my arms, maybe even my legs. “You do … do that, don’t you?”

“Time travel.” I nodded.

“How much?”

“Every couple of weeks.” I really thought that was what she meant, and I really thought that was the stupidest thing I’d ever said in my life.

“How much money?” She asked.

“I can’t do it. The future–”

“The distant future,” she corrected me.

“It’s tricky. I can’t know where I’ll be in the future.”

“You’ll be dead.”

“Excuse me?”

“Six hundred years from now, you’ll be dead. It’s not like you’re going to run into your future self and ignite the atmosphere,” she said. “Just stay out of cemeteries, and you’ll be fine.”

I considered, as I always did, when that kind of an offer came up. A quick peek at the future news could pay off. “It’s complicated.”

“You believe it, don’t you?”

I sighed. Explaining the science to her wasn’t worth it, and she wouldn’t agree with me, regardless. Until you’ve seen it, you’ll never understand how vast and timeless a single grain of sand can be. “There isn’t enough money in the world to make me go to the future,” I said. “Too many variables.”

“The Grandfather Paradox?”

No, she didn’t understand what she was saying, but there it was. My out. I made my next nod an apology. “So, you understand,” I said.

She smiled back at me. “Of course, I do.” She shifted her weight, and got up. I was relieved. She wasn’t going to be a problem. “I’m sorry I wasted your time,” she said.

I shrugged it off. I didn’t need the job. I didn’t need any job. That made it easier to say no. “If you think of anything else you need,” I said. “If it’s within our parameters…”

“Oh, I’ll call you.” A wistful sigh, and I still felt guilty for saying no. She was out the door, and headed back to wherever she came from before I could say anything else.

I followed her into the rain, just to make sure she got back to her car alright. Nobody ever looks for a borrowed quantum distortion generator in a rough neighborhood, but I was uneasy about letting her walk alone. “Hey. Let me walk you to your car.”

She walked a little faster. “I don’t have a car.”

“You live near here? I’ll walk you home. It’s dark.”

She didn’t respond, and she didn’t look at me again. She got to the dead end of the road, and just stood there, with the wind and rain soaking her through.

“You mean, you’re homeless?” People did camp in that park. I hadn’t guessed. I hadn’t even offered her a sandwich. “What could you possibly want in twenty-seven forty-two? I mean–”

“Nothing.” She paced without looking at me. “I don’t want anything. I got what I came for.”

I debated how her mind was. Not good, if she was standing in that neighborhood, in the rain at night. But she got the pass code somewhere, and I tried again. “I’ll call some one. Want a sandwich? I’ll try not to burn the peanut butter.”

“It’s recursive,” she said.

Maybe she wasn’t talking to me. “I don’t understand,” I said. “Lets go somewhere warm.”

“It’s not a paradox. It’s recursive.” She was talking to me, and she wasn’t, and maybe she didn’t remember I was even there. She chewed her lower lip, and thought hard. “The whole thing. Time travel. The whole species. Maybe even the whole planet. It’s recursive.”

I gave her a stern smile. “You never told me what you wanted,” I said.

“It’s okay, Grandpa. I got what I came for.” She took something out of her pocket, and looked at it for just a second. “You get there, eventually.”

“I get where?”

She pressed a button, and disappeared into the blue crackle of distorted time.

Be sure you visit the other blogs on the hop for more short fiction.

You are Here—>The Past Tastes Better by Karen Lynn

Revealing Space by Barbara Lund

The Rose Tender by Raven O’Fiernan

The Last Sleeping Beauty by Tamara Ruth

Freeman byElizabeth McCleary

Hell’s Play by Juneta Key

The Token by Eli Winfield

Moshe by Chris Makowski

To The Moon And Beyond, by Fanni Sütő

Surprise, by Katharinia Gerlach

In A Picture by Erica Damon