Friday, February 17, 2012

Coming soon!

I thought I would do a little Friday promo in celebration of a few things. First off, Daddy's Home remained on the top 10 Kindle bestseller list for a month, even coming in at #4 for a few days directly behind Suzanne Collins "Hunger Games." It is now at #15, and I can't complain. Check out the press release about the film/TV and foreign rights as well. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9172034.htm So, to celebrate my readers I am giving away a $25.00 Amazon Kindle gift card. Just leave a comment in the comment box over the next week and I will pick a winner next Friday.

I am also really excited that I will be releasing a new book (mystery series) next month. THE GREY TIER; A DEAD CELEBS MYSTERY. This series will be under my name Michele Scott, and although is has the humor and romance that the Nikki books do, there is an added element of paranormal and urban fantasy to it. It's a bit different for me, but I have had a blast writing this book and my fingers are crossed that readers will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here is a bit of a preview. Check back over the next few weeks for more chances at Amazon gift cards, and pre-postings of the new book.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Cheers,
Michele



 CHAPTER ONE

My name is Evie Preston and I hang out with dead rock stars. Oh, and the occasional dead movie star or two. I know, weird, huh? Trust me, I think so, too.  I've  actually came home to witness Janis Joplin strumming her guitar and singing along with Bob Marley. And that is only the beginning of what happened that night! I’ve learned quite a bit about those who live on the other side over the past few months. For instance, they aren’t all ghostly and transparent-like. Oh no. The ones I see tend to be in full-color 3-D except for when they exert, ah…certain energies. Then they go a bit hazy. I will get to that. And they prefer to be called spirits.
I know, I sound completely insane, right? Like “commit me” insane. But honestly, I am not crazy. Okay, maybe a little bit, and believe me, the first time I saw Bob Marley in my place (technically not my place, not even close to being my place, but I’ll get to that) in the Hollywood hills getting high and singing ‘Buffalo Soldier,’ (sans Janis) I thought I was either dreaming, hallucinating from a bad meal at Denny’s, or, yes, completely nuts None of that was the case. Bob is a very real, very dead guy who likes to hang out with me, along with a handful of other deceased, famous rock musicians (and a few who never quite made the charts, one of whom I’m currently developing some feelings for. But more about him later, too). So, not only do I hang out with dead rock stars, I also think I am in love with one or, at least, in lust…which makes me totally screwed up. But I am not crazy.
Before I go any further, though, I need to go back a few months to the day after my twenty-eighth birthday in Brady, Texas: population 8,000. The signs were everywhere. Signs, that is, to get the hell out of dodge.
I was at Mrs. Betty LaRue’s place which smelled of fresh laundry, home cooking, and mothballs. She was comforting me over the dismal turnout of my Mary Kay presentation, which she’d kindly hosted—my latest attempt at becoming an entrepreneur.
We were drinking apple-cranberry tea, her Lhasa Apso, Princess, curled in a ball under Betty’s chair, and my dog (of indeterminate breed…possibly part-coyote, part-lab, maybe a dash of border collie in there), Mama Cass, lay across my feet. I loved how Betty always let me bring Mama Cass in the house. Cass went everywhere with me, but not everyone is as gracious about her as Betty.
“I really thought this would go much better,” I said, bringing the warm tea to my lips.
Betty smiled, the fine lines in her eighty-something-year old face creasing deeper into her skin, “Oh honey, I don’t know what happened to my girls today. I am so sorry. I thought there’d be at least ten of us. They all love my snickerdoodles. But you know how some of us old gals get; we forget things.” She twirled a yellow-white wisp of curled hair around her finger. The rest of it was pulled up into a loose bun (or chignon as Mama calls it). She’d obviously been in to see my mother that morning for her weekly hair appointment.
I nodded. “It’s okay, Betty. Thanks for hosting anyway, and the cookies were delicious. Three isn’t such a bad turnout.” Thing was, only Betty bought anything. Her friends Margaret and Hazel only came for the cookies and samples. “And I made about ten dollars, so that will buy me a couple of meals. You’ll love that anti-wrinkle cream.”
Betty ran a hand over her face and laughed sweetly. “Child, there is nothing gonna work on this here face at this stage. And I’m proud of these lines. I earned them.”
I laughed back. “So you only bought the cream because you felt sorry for me?” Mama Cass’s ears perked up and she lifted her head, which I bent over to scratch.
Betty sighed. “Evie Preston, I have known you since you started kicking up a fuss in your mama’s belly,” She winked at me. “I have watched you try so hard to be exactly what your mama and daddy wanted you to be, especially after all that bad business. And there was that little faux pas with—” she paused briefly, “What was his name?” She brought the cup to her lips, her hand shaking ever so slightly. I sighed, knowing exactly what bad business she was referring to. As for the faux pas, he was the star quarter back my senior year and the lucky recipient of my virginity. Sadly, he was also the jerk who then decided to share the news with the entire town. Thank God my mother was able to intercept that little tidbit before it could reach my father’s ears.
But as far as the bad business, neither of us wanted to go there.
Betty waved her free hand carelessly in the air as if to brush the painful thoughts away. “But I know you wanted to be a good Texas girl and marry a good Texas boy and have babies and run a family like your folks did. However, dear girl, then you got real lucky, didn’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You got a God-given talent.” She tried to set the tea cup down on the side table. I reached over and took it, setting it down for her. She beamed at me. “Thank you, honey.”
I looked down at my dog, now licking my toes sticking out of the only pair of high-heeled sandals I owned. “No, I don’t, Betty. I know I’m good, but there are a lot of good musicians out there.” Now I was twirling the ends of my hair, but there was no way my mother or even myself would ever put it up into a chignon. It was stick straight, long—just past my shoulders, dark brown, and baby fine but silky, which is good, I suppose…the silky part, anyway. The closest I ever get to pinning my hair up is a ponytail. Everything else just slips through the hair ties.
Betty waved her hand again. “Nonsense!” Placing her hands on the sides of her chair, she pushed herself up and ambled over to the white-bricked mantle. She grabbed an envelope, brought it back, and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Your birthday was yesterday, wasn’t it?”
“You remembered?”
She frowned. “I may be old but I don’t forget my favorite people’s birthdays.”
“I’m one of your favorite people?” I mused.
“Oh Baby Girl, you know you are. You got spunk. Had it since you came out ass-backward showing the world what you thought of it.” She was referring to my breech birth.
“Thank you. I think.” I couldn’t help smiling. Betty was the only one I knew who spoke the truth without holding back. She didn’t tip-toe around stuff. Very different from my family. Tip-toeing was what we did best.
“Open it! I don’t have all day. It’s about time for my nap.”
I tore open the envelope and found a check inside for five thousand dollars made out to me. I gasped. “Betty! What…”  Cass jumped up, her huge ears pricked forward, tail wagging, watching me like a hawk. “It’s okay, girl.” She lay back down.
“I was twenty-eight once too, you know, and I had dreams, big dreams.” Her blue eyes glazed over for a moment. “I wanted to be a movie star, and I could have, too. I was damn good, like you are at what you do, and I was once beautiful, believe it or not.” She winked at me, but there were tears in her eyes. I knew about Betty’s dreams from long ago. I also knew that there was a part of her life that hadn’t been so good, and it was that part, which had changed the course of her life. If only I had known her back then, but I hadn’t been alive yet. I could have made it easier for her. Although, it had been decades since the trauma she’d endured had passed leaving a large scar on her heart, I could still help in a small way. I laid my hand on top of hers. Ten seconds later, her tears were gone and the scar from the past was lessened and she continued.
“But then my folks, like yours, had other ideas and I decided to play by their rules. Now, I don’t regret it . . . maybe I do a little. Thing is, Evie, you can sing like a nightingale and you can play the guitar like nobody’s business. You need to get the hell out of this town before you wind up like every other girl here—knocked up, changing dirty diapers, and cleaning up after some idiot male who spends his nights with a beer in one hand and a TV remote in the other.”
I frowned. I’d already seen almost every girl from my high school graduating class living out the life Betty had just described. The lucky ones skipped town and went to college. I hadn’t been quite that lucky for a variety of reasons. I could have. I had the grades and the desire, but life had other ideas. On the positive side, which is where I like to go, I at least had not had the misfortune of marrying some guy who didn’t appreciate me, expected his dinner on the table when he got home from his shift at the local textile factory, and wanted his wife and children to obey, just because he said so.
“It’s amazing it hasn’t happened to you already,” she continued. “My guess is you were either smart enough to use birth control, smart enough to not date one of the goof-offs in this town, or scared to death by your daddy’s brimstone and fire sermons.”
“Pretty much all of the above, but still, I can’t accept this.” I held the check up.
“Yes, you can, and you will. Go live your life, Evie Preston. Pack up that van of yours, your guitar, Mama Cass, and head west. You sing your heart out in every bar, every cafĂ©, every church—I don’t care where you go, but go and sing. I know one thing: you have what it takes to be a star. Forget all about them cosmetics you’re trying to pawn…”
“Mary Kay,” I interrupted. “It is a really good line. Mama swears by them.”
She frowned and waved that hand at me. “Just forget it no matter what, because you and I both know that won’t get you nowhere. That kind of thing is for people like Shirley Swan up the road trying to make an extra buck to take care of those four kids of hers. Not for you. Take the money, cut your losses, and run. Go live your dream, child. You gotta stop living for your mama and daddy. You didn’t cause what happened and you can’t ever change it.” She shook her head vehemently. “Now your parents, they have to get on with their lives, honey, and if they don’t, I hate to see you waste yours. So go on and live life. Do it for me. Go live my dream. Humor an old woman. Please?” Her blue eyes watered and the creases around them crinkled as she choked back emotion. “You go do this for Betty La Rue.” She shook a bent finger at me.
How could I refuse after a plea like that? I tried one last time, for the sake of courtesy. “But my daddy—”
Betty dabbed at her eyes with a kerchief. “He’ll get over it. And your mama is gonna secretly be cheering you on. It’ll be hard on them, but this’ll be the best thing for all of you.” She sighed heavily. “Especially you, Evie. Especially you. Trust me.”
So I did. I trusted Betty LaRue.
The next day I packed up my 1974 VW bus, a suitcase of clothes, my Rosewood Gibson acoustic guitar, and Cass. I pulled out of my parents’ driveway while Daddy waved his arms wildly in the air, yelling, “You’re gonna ruin your life out there, Evangeline (he’s the only one who ever calls me by my full name)! Los Angeles isn’t the city of angels. It’s a city of heathens and devils!!”
I knew he was just scared. My leaving was breaking his heart. I’m pretty sure if I looked closer, I’d see tears in his eyes. God, I felt so heartless, so cruel, but…I knew Betty was right. This was something that had to be done.
 I could see tears for sure in my mother’s big hazel eyes, the same color as my own, as she mouthed, “I love you.”
I rolled down the window, choking back my own sobs. “I love you, too. I’ll call. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I really will.”
With blurred eyes, Mama Cass’s head in my lap, a Patsy Cline cassette in the tape deck (Thank God for eBay. You have no idea how hard it is to find cassette tapes these days), I headed west to the City of Angels. For the first time in sixteen years I felt like I could finally breathe again. I was leaving behind the only two people around me who I had never been able to heal even a little bit, and I didn’t think I ever could.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An Interview with True Crime Author RJ Parker

As an author of both mystery and thrillers I do quite a bit of research into the criminal mind. It's not exactly pleasant, but it is fascinating. I have been intrigued for years as to what causes someone to become a killer. Are they born evil? Does their environment dictate who and what they become? Is it a bit of both? I'd love to know your thoughts on this topic.

I decided to go straight to an excellent source to get his opinion. R.J. Parker has written seven books on the topic of serial killers. I am currently reading his book WOMEN WHO KILL http://tiny.cc/l75ac, and it is truly intriguing. This is a copy of an interview he did with William Cook. I hope you find it as interesting as I do. RJ also gives some great insight into self-publishing. To check out all of RJ Parker's books, visit his blog at  http://authorrjparker.blogspot.com/2012/01/unsolved-serial-killings.html.


Write a comment on this blog and be entered to win a Kindle Copy of your choice of one of RJ Parker's books!



·         How did you get into writing about True Crime?
I have been an avid reader for over 30 years and really enjoyed fictional stories that included serial murders. I also read all of John Douglas books, who is my FBI hero, and he coined much of the terminology used today when talking about serial killers. I don't have much of an imagination so I never attempted fiction, and I wanted to write after reading thousands of books, so I decided to write on what I know best, serial killers.

·         What draws you to a certain subject? That is, what are the essential things that you look for in determining what will make a good/valid True Crime story or book?
There have been many serial killers in our history, it's not hard to pick certain individuals, there's an endless list. In my first book, Unsolved Serial Killings, I focused on the ones that got away which really intrigued me. SK's then could literally get away with murder because law enforcement lacked technical skills, not like today with DNA and Behavioral Science, Profiling etc. I also picked the topic of women because they are the least likely to become a serial killer, however, there have been many. People want to read about serial killers who killed many. They are not interested in the ones who only have 3 kills..they like 30 better. It makes for a better read, which is sad, but true. People are fascinated with true crime in numbers.

·         As a True Crime author you deal with a lot of disturbing subject matter in your work, has this impacted on your own life in any way? If so, how do you distance yourself from the more negative aspects of life as a True Crime author?
When I was writing No Killing in the Hallways, I was an emotional wreck. Being a parent of two teenage girls in school, and to research and write about what happened at V. Tech and Columbine, was draining. My daughters haven't read the book and I don't want them to.  My most memorable time was writing about Dahmer. The following is an excerpt from Case Closed: Serial Killers Captured and it broke my heart to write it:

In the wee hours of May 27th, 1991, Konerak Sinthasomphone, fourteen, was discovered wandering naked on the street, heavily drugged and bleeding from his rectum. Two young women from the neighborhood found the confused young boy and called 911. Dahmer chased after the boy to take him back to his apartment, but the women stopped him. When the police arrived, Dahmer told them that Sinthasomphone was his nineteen-year-old boyfriend, and they’d had an argument while drinking. The two women were not pleased and protested, but the two police officers turned the boy over to Dahmer. The police later reported a strange smell inside Dahmer's apartment, but did not investigate it. The smell was the body of Tony Hughes, Dahmer's previous victim, decomposing in the bedroom. The two policemen did not try to verify the boy’s age and also failed to run the background check that would have revealed Dahmer as a convicted child molester, registered sex offender, and still on probation. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered the young lad, keeping his skull as a souvenir. Author Note: Officers Joseph P. Gabrish and John A. Balcerzak were fired after this incident but appealed and were re-instated.”

·         How do you choose your subject/s when it seems as though there are so many accounts of the same crimes available, especially the more notorious cases involving Serial Killers and high profile crimes? That is, how do you make your books stand out from the rest?
Many books are written about 'a' serial killer, but mine are compilations of serial killers or spree killers. If someone wants to read all about Bundy, they will buy a Bundy book. If they want to read about 15 or 20 summary files of various serial killers, I have good choices for them; Women, Unsolved, Children, Doctors etc., then if a person finds one or two that they would like to read more about, there's books out there on individual cases.

·         Do you plan to, or have you ever, interviewed any of the more infamous/bizarre criminals in your books? In terms of reliable source material, is it best as a True Crime author to stick to validated accounts like court transcripts and previously published materials?
I would love to interview a serial killer some day but I haven't yet. The dregs of society I wrote about so far I think are all dead: either killed in prison, death sentence or old age. As for spree killers, they most always kill themselves. It is better to stick with Court documents, FBI archives etc., that are released under the Freedom of Information Act, unless, one gets the rare opportunity to interview a killer such as John Douglas has. He really wrote the book on SK's and have interviewed and gotten into the minds of dozens of them.

·         Where do you gather your source material from and what is the process you use when researching your subject before drafting your work?
I've contacted the FBI and have been given quite a bit of information, as well from their archives. Some things get blacked out however. The FBI policy on extracting information is that you have to rephrase or edit every paragraph, or, every 40 words. If the perp is captured and sentenced, than court documents is a great source and very explicit. If someone is interested in writing, those are two avenues plus, contacting the local police station that investigated the crime and if the case is closed, they will give you a summary of the crime but not crime scene pictures unfortunately.

·         What are some of the issues involved with writing True Crime accounts? For example, are there copyright requirements involved in quoting news/source materials and using images etc?
If you obtain information from the FOIA FBI archives, you don't have to source it. If you obtain bits and pieces from a newspaper article for instance, you have to source it. As for images, I only use images that are public domain. When you click on an image, it will state whether it's copyright protected. If not, it's public domain and free for the using.

·         Do you ever worry that the people/criminals you write about revel in their notoriety and the infamy generated by media interest?
At this point, no, because anyone I've written about so far is already dead. Unless it's an unsolved serial killer which I would have no idea how they feel about their notoriety. Most serial killers do like their moment in the media and enjoyed being coined a name, such as the Green River Killer or the BTK.

·         I notice in most of your books, you always acknowledge the victims of the crimes you analyse. Most, if not all, of the crimes dealt with in your various case studies are crimes against others, ie. they all leave a trail of victims behind. How do you deal with the victimology of these cases? It must be hard to represent the victims in these cases while being impartial when outlining the crimes themselves, how do you find the ‘middle ground,’ so to speak?
Good question. I grew up in a Christian home, and I feel for each and every one of those victims. Yes I write about the killers and the killings because it's a fact, I wish it wasn't, but it did happen. However, they will not get the glory from me. At the end of each case file, I list the victim, their age, and sometimes a little info about them with a prayer for their souls.

·         Have you ever had any mentoring or formal training as a True Crime author? There seems to be a certain type of instinct, or investigative style, needed to be effective as a writer in this genre – can anyone be a True Crime author?
Sure I guess anyone can be a writer, but it takes a different person to write about true crime. Not a harder person without feelings, because that's not the case with us TC writers. But to be able to separate emotionally from the criminals and the victims. It's tough. There isn't any training for a TC writer really. If you have good organizational skills and can put your own spin on things, you can do it. I have two professional designations in management so I'm very organized. I guess those skills helped me in writing these books.

·         Who do you look up to or admire as a True Crime author? Can you recommend any other authors/specialists in your field, and any other books, that stand out to you as exemplars of the genre?
First and foremost, John Douglas is my favorite. Since I was a young boy, I always wanted to be an FBI Agent from watching the show at the time, The FBI starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (who is 93 years young). I found out in my early teens that I couldn't be with the FBI because I was Canadian...what a disappointment, I still remember it. Getting back to John Douglas, I really enjoyed his books: Mind Hunters, Inside the Mind of BTK, Obsession, and The Cases that Haunt Us. He has other books, but those were my favorite and inspiration to write. Other great authors are: Gary King, Brian King, Ann Rule and Jack Olsen, just to name a few.

·         What are you working on currently and do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I am working on a couple new books. One is about cops who turned serial killer and the other is Children who killed their parents. I am also going to write volume 2 of Unsolved Serial Killings but more international stories.

·         Finally, what advice would you give for anyone thinking of writing True Crime and publishing in today’s market place? Is self-publishing the way to go, what would you recommend?
I wrote my books over many years and had no intentions of self-publishing. I was holding out for a publisher and the book was going to be about 500 pages, called, Playpen to Prison. However, a friend and famous NY best selling author of over 80+ books convinced me to self publish in November. I tell you, it's been a learning curve because I no sooner had the books up on other markets, when I retracted them all after Amazon announced the Select Program. It's been interesting and I have mixed views on this program. Self-publishing is definitely the way to go. Why spread the royalties around with agents and publishers? Like newspapers being replaced with the internet, paperbacks and hardcopies are being replaced by digital format and it only just begun, so I say, if you have a book to publish, get it edited and hop on the E-Book train. I also suggest not to put all your eggs in one basket. There are many venues out there and if you want more exposure, spread the book around. Currently, only people who own a kindle can buy my books which as I said earlier, is a learning experience.