Monday, September 29, 2014

A Little About My Real Family

I have seven babies. Their names are Chase, Cali, Dusty, Rusty, Sophie, Sunny Girl, Coco, Skittles and Max. The first seven are guinea pigs I have rescued, the final two are my pound hounds. Max is the latest addition, and he's from the Kenosha Humane Society.

Max was two when we got him, and he had virtually spent his first two years inside a cage at the humane society because, while Max is an adorable poodle-shih-tzu mix, he was incorrigible and people would fall for him--at first--and then return him to the humane society as uncontrollable.

So Deb and I adopted Max and soon found him incorrigible too. But if we took him back they were going to put him down. So we looked around and found a company called Sit Means Sit. We sent Max to their ten day training program at a cost of around $1800. When Max came back he would look you in the eye and pay attention to what you were saying.

Then he fell in love with us. He watched every move we made. He followed Deb from room to room. Soon he refused to leave her side. When he comes into my writing office and I have the TV on then he knows it's time for a nap and while I watch CNN Max gets up in my oversize chair and lays down beside me and naps. That's my boy. Today as I write this Max has been in to see me twice this morning and one of those times he even conned me into getting him a piece of roast beef out of my office fridge and him making off with it. He's got me pegged. I would do anything for him. So would Deb.

Max and Skittles have a huge fenced backyard where they chase off all the birds and squirrels and take care of things like that. I can go out back and sit for an hour and watch the bird bath and not one bird comes near. The dogs have them trained, much to my chagrin because I love all creatures great and small and love to watch birds in the bird bath. Or did before Max moved in.

Good boy, Max. Roll over. Fetch. Good boy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Will the Real Jeff Bezos...

I believe in principles before personalities, but there's one exception to this rule.

That comes into play when I see a victim of bullying. That's when I'm likely to step up and say Wait minute, here! (I'm 6-4, 270 so it works--lots). This is one of those times: Wait a minute, here!

The person I'm stepping up to lend a hand to is Jeff Bezos, the last person on planet earth who needs any help, much less help from a single citizen like me. Jeff (Mr. Bezos, in my daily speech) is being put upon by the media for all kinds of imagined shortcomings and imagined bad acts and imagined bad heartedness, as well as a general dislike for mom, apple pie, and--well, you get it.

So let me take a few minutes and tell you about the Jeff Bezos that I know.

First off, Jeff always has what I need. In my size. Or my wife's size, or your size. When I needed a new garden hose he said Will that be in half-inch or five-eights, will it be non-coil, and what color would you like, we even have red.

When I needed a new Macbook Pro he gave me umpty-ump to choose from, some with bells, some with whistles, some with both bells and whistles. And then he gave me hundreds of reviews to read about them so I could make my own best informed choice.

I needed fig jam. A distant memory from my childhood. Not a problem, here's fig jam, you can get it overnight, if you're that hungry.

But here's the best of all. I was beaten down by a job I had done for forty years. I was a professional and I had carried other peoples' water and borne their griefs and hardships as a professional and, brother, I was burned out. So I looked for ways to financially bow out of the profession I chose when I was twenty-five and full of pep. Now I was sixty-five and frazzled. I tried computers. Nothing there. With the help of a Paki engineer I developed a website of my own, one able to do high-performance data massage as a tool for other lawyers to use in the cloud. It went nowhere and I spent $35,000 chasing that pie in the sky. There were others things, too. Alas, nothing worked. I was too tired to continue, too broke to quit. Even my doctor said I had to quit.

One thing.

I had been writing short stories and novels since I was a teenager. Early teens, maybe even before. And I had tried to publish them, with no success. At one time I had applied and been accepted to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, which is the most prestigious writing program probably in the world. Instead, I went to law school. The things we do when we're in our twenties. That's another story for another day. Point is, I wrote and kept writing. Even when I was at the end of my rope and ready to die.

Problem was, no one in New York wanted to read lawyer novels written by a nobody like me who hadn't gone to the right schools and who didn't come with a pedigree. I couldn't get an agent to even read my books, much less rep me to a publisher. I even tried sending directly to a publisher or two and never heard back. Not. One. Word.

Then I found Jeff. He had a program called Kindle Direct Publishing. Right there on Amazon. Well, Amazon already had my trust and so I thought, Why not?

I pushed PUBLISH and my first novel went up on Jeff's website in January of this year. Since then I've published four more books and sold all told in the twenty-thousand-somethings. All from a guy no one would take a chance on.

Best part?

Guess who doesn't have a law office anymore? And guess who doesn't have to practice law anymore? Guess who got to retire to writing books and making enough to live comfortably off his book royalties. You guessed it, me.

So when you see Jeff's name in the papers and some clown is trying to put him down for this or that, please remember my little story here.

Jeff. He has what I need.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Defending Turquoise is a Courtroom-Heavy WhoDunIt

As a young lawyer (mid-20's) I spent lots and lots of hours just hanging around courtrooms and going to school on other lawyers. I was learning how they did things like put on direct testimony without leading a witness, cross-examining without open-ended questions, how to make objections on relevance, foundation, hearsay, best evidence, and so forth and why to make them and when. I learned how to make "speaking objections" (frowned on by judges) and how to make clean objections that were not themselves objectionable. Yes, I learned how to fight dirty for those times when someone else was fighting dirty and you needed to protect your client. Opening statements and closing arguments are an art form and I spent years learning how to deliver on those opportunities. Then I studied all the judges within my geography and learned what they liked/disliked, what they would put up with and wouldn't, and I made notes about all of this, lots and lots of notes. Next I bought books. Books on expert witnesses and how to ask the right questions. How to object to expert witness testimony, how to argue against and for experts--all the tools a trial lawyer would needed

When all was said and done I was ready.

And by now the better cases had begun to fall my way.

My big break came when a police chief hired me to defend him on theft charges. The FBI was the investigating agency and the Illinois State Police forensics were in there too. After a three day trial I got a not guilty. From then on I had a reputation as the "go-to" guy on cases in my area.

So what came next?

I started going after cases on a national basis. Soon I was defending clients from California to New York, from Texas to Washington.

I'm not telling these things to brag. I am telling them to point out the preparation it took for me to begin writing believable and accurate novels about lawyers and court proceedings. I wanted my books, especially the trials and testimony portions, to be as accurate as could be, for how things happen during trials and what lawyers are thinking about when those things happen.

When OJ Simpson went on trial I took a leave of absence from my office and stayed home every day and watched that trial in its entirety. Who wouldn't? I got to watch F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, Johnny Cochran, and Barry Scheck (probably the greatest DNA lawyer of the time). These guys were fantastic, and had huge reputations and I loved getting to known them and learning how they did things. Has this paid off in my writing? I think so.

Which brings me to this. My new book, coming in about 1 week, is courtroom intensive. It takes the reader through two murder trials. It exposes the reader to how small some judges can be, how hateful they can act, and how godlike they assume themselves to be. Don't get me wrong; those judges are a tiny percentage of the really fantastic men and women who populate the rest of the bench. The good ones like Bill Garbarino, Richard Mangum, Steve Verkamp, Cecil J. Burrows and so many others I've worked before. These guys are the best of the best and I will always be grateful for how well they treated me, how respectful they were to us all, and how wise their decisions and well-informed.

So in Defending Turquoise I have tried to get some of that best and worst into the book. I have lived this stuff, ate it and slept it, and love bringing it to the page for you to experience. There's nothing more rewarding to me than getting to share some of what I know with my readers.

Defending Turquoise. Get it now and enjoy my longest and my most trial-heavy book yet.

One last thing. The killer isn't revealed right away. Please don't spoil the book for others with reviews that tell who did what.

But please leave reviews,lots of them. That's got a lot to do with me getting paid in this new job of mine, writing.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Defending Turquoise: in Beta Reads

Defending Turquoise is finished through first draft! As of Sunday the last sentence was written and the polish began Monday. The cover is being developed Down Under and the editor has set aside his time to edit. At this point it's almost all the way out of my hands, depending on what the beta readers come back with.

In order to get the book finished and meet the pre-order deadline, I skipped football the past several weeks and still don't know how the Pack or the Bears did, but I've got those recorded. The problem with football, though, is it eats into time I'd rather spend writing.

At this point the next book has been heavily researched. It's the book that's either going to get me run out of town or have me swimming in Nobel Prizes. We'll have to see.

Tired and overdue for a fresh Starbucks.

Oh, one other thing. Just raised all prices across the board to $3.99, might soon go to $4.99. My books are worth that and I have to pay my bills while I keep the hammer down. Hope my fans understand and support me in this.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How I Became an Overnight Success

Thaddeus and I came on the scene of the great American legal novel seven months ago. Last month we sold over 5,500 books and it's climbing every day.

An overnight success story?

On some of the blogs I read, new writers who have written a book or two often wonder why they're not selling.

I think I know why. They don't read.

How dare I, an overnight success, say that!

Sit back and let me tell you about overnight success. I began my creative writing career in 1967, my sophomore year in college. This was before most writers writing today were even born. I kept writing until 2014, when I self-published my first book, The Defendants. During that time I wrote five novels before The Defendants, got an agent, submitted my novels to the great New York City gatekeepers, and they turned me down. My novels were lacking this or that or the topic wasn't one they thought they could sell and etc etc etc. Always some reason. So what did I do? I kept on writing. Short stories. Novels. Poetry.

Know what else I did?

I learned to read. That's right, I learned to read my own writing and began to see it for what it was. Much of it was muddy, didn't say what i thought it said, meandered, was full of itself--and on and on. So I began the task of learning how to write all over again.

I wrote the first paragraph to a new novel and spent three days with that paragraph trying to understand what I'd said. I realized, again, that I hadn't said what I was trying to say. There was too damn much music in my writing that wasn't my own music. I was sounding too much like this guy or that gal or being something I wasn't.

How did I solve this?

Simple. I accepted myself and my own style. I started writing what I was thinking. Not trying to skirt around it in a literary fashion as they teach you in college when they ask, What is the writer actually saying here? I don't like that kind of crap, but I was doing it. So I decided to write from the heart. If I felt something or believed something, then Bang! it went on the page.

Finally I had it. I was the one to tell the story, in my own best way.

I called the story Thaddeus and the rest is--is becoming--history.

5,500 last month. And counting.

Overnight success.

Happy Labor Day

Have you noticed? Have you noticed there's no "management day?" Wonder why that is.

Anyway, today being Labor Day, I decided to labor. I wrote probably 4000 words on Defending Turquoise. It'a an exciting book and I love working on it. Turquoise is a mid-teen Navajo girl accused of murdering the man who was raping her.

Did you know that on the Indian reservations the rape statistics put that crime at twice the level of non-reservation parts of the U.S. Did you know that with Alaskan tribes some stats show it's twelve times higher there? Well...that's enough to commend and command a novel right there.

I like to look for my stories in the common places, but not always. Sometimes we have to sit up straight and take a look around us. There are people out there whose stories deserve to be told. Thaddeus Murfee is ready to embrace those forgotten and ignored people and their stories.

So am I.