Junction City, TX, 9/22/2018, Star-Gazer News Service–A Local author was picked up by local cops and arraigned before a local judge after 15 local women allegedly died after reading his new novel, Give Me All Your Money, Babe.
During this morning’s news conference, Chief Kruller clarified that the women were dead rather than allegedly dead. “‘Allegedly’ referred to and real or imagined a connection between author Caine Molasses novel and the women’s demise,” said Kruller.
“I wasn’t there when it happened,” Molasses told reporters. “I was busy working on my new novel, Thanks for All Your Money, Babe, a satirical yarn about the gigolo business. I’ve made more money gigoloing than I have writing because today’s readers are buying most of their books from famous writers who are publicized by PR flacks working for big New York publishers.”
According to witnesses, the 15 women died moments after stopping by the Merchants and Farmers National Bank on Maple Street where each of them wrote Molasses a check before dying of supposedly unnatural causes.
“They just collapsed,” said teller Bert Jenkins. “Several of them bit me when I tried to administer CPR, but they died anyway. It’s like they knew their number was up.”
Police said that after interviewing Molasses for 25 minutes, he was “clearly in the clear.”
Reporters learned that Molasses’ muse, Sally Sweetwater, stuck up for him by claiming they were together the entire evening.
“Personally, I think each of the women took an undetectable poison before walking into the bank. They loved Molasses, especially when he called them honey. But they knew that all of them couldn’t possibly marry him because that would be against the law, silly as it may be.”
Coroner Jack Stiff said he never detected any undetectable poison in the women’s bloodstreams during the autopsy.
Stiff, who said that he had seen enough stiffs in his life to determine the cause of death in a matter of moments, said that as far as he could tell, the women died due to an unusual blight of mass hysteria.
“Each of them thought they were the only one he loved,” said Stiff.
According to a white paper file by psychiatrist Sigmund Jung–author of Death Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry–“love kills more people than bullets, knives, or heavy objects in a room.”
“I thought I could juggle all those broads forever,” said Molasses. “I feel really sorry this happened, but luckily I’ll forget about it in a few weeks when I pick up somebody new at the grocery store.”
After the deaths were announced, the Texas Booksellers Associations announced that Molasses latest novel was number one on the bestseller list.
“For every dark cloud, there is a silver lining,” police chief Kruller said.
Lena, was officially released today by Thomas-Jacob Publishing as book three in the Florida Folk Magic trilogy as a follow-up to Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. Both the Kindle and the paperback editions were available earlier than expected, so we’ve beat our planned release date of August 1.
When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet.
Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.
When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.
This novel is a mix of conjure and crime set in the 1950s when the KKK had a very strong presence in Florida. Many policemen and sheriffs were either members or worked with the Klan and Klan businesses. I wondered how many people I knew were Klan members: it wasn’t something I could ask nor something they would admit if I did ask. My hope is that this series will serve as an immersion into the past and help bring increased understanding about why current attitudes are as they are.
Washington, D.C., January 2, 2018, Star-Gazer News Service–Homeland Security Agents announced here today that a massive sting operation has resulted in the arrest of thousands of writers with low Amazon rankings committing crimes with the help of plot generator software rather than writing great American novels.
Chief of station Liberty Valance said that the writers were caught when the modus operandi of a “larger than usual” number of crimes matched the formal structure of short stories and novels.
“Over and over again, we were seeing exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution,” said Valance. “We also saw a correlation between writers who purchased plot generator software who were getting rich even though their Amazon rankings–with numerous one-star reviews–were in the toilet.”
Publishing insiders have worried for years that plot generator software was more likely to be used for planning perfect crimes rather than perfect fiction.
“If a writer’s any good, s/he doesn’t need a software package to create the plots for his or her novels,” said Bennett Surf, director of the American Association of MFA (manufactured authors) Colleges and Universities.
Analysts discovered that writers were launching their plot generator apps and typing in phrases like “knock over liquor store,” “make money via insider training,” “run over granny with a reindeer,” and “overthrow government” rather than using the software for the purpose for which it was intended.
“That purpose,” said Surf, “was bilking prospective writers out of hundreds of dollars by selling them a product that promised that a lack of imagination and writing skill need not keep their fiction off the New York Times bestseller list of the Pulitzer and Booker prize winners circles.”
Valance said that most of those caught designed first person crimes rather than third person or omniscient narrator crimes, making it easy for profilers to “pin the tales on the wannabees.”
A white paper issued by attorneys for the top ten plot generation applications said that the programs were dispensed for purposes of fun and relaxation, and that all of those “spending hard-earned cash” for the products signed terms of service agreements in which they promised not to use computer-assisted plotting for anything other than novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories.
“We even banned the use of plot generators for poetry because sonnets and limericks are usually horrible and potentially criminal,” said Plots-R-Us CEO Bill Smith.”
“There never have been any writing shortcuts (other than sleeping with somebody in the publishing business) and now–thanks to the Homeland Security Department’s agents and analysts–crime no longer pays as well as it did,” Valance said.
The White House praised Valance for no longer being a decorative drapery. “Today, it’s curtains for wordy criminals,” President Trump tweeted.
–Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter
“Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you.” – Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
“You’re more likely to be hurt or killed by someone you know or love. And you’ll probably be at home when it happens.” – Mother Jones Magazine
“Over half of the killings of American women are related to intimate partner violence, with the vast majority of the victims dying at the hands of a current or former romantic partner” – The Atlantic
“Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.” – SPCC
As I look at articles written for and about writers and their work these days, the focus of late seems to be mirroring the political issues debated in the press, in Congress, in churches, and in social media. I am seeing more essays, poems, and short stories by writers who–like everyone else–are trying to make sense of environmental problems, personal rights, racial issues, economic imbalances, health care priorities, terrorism, immigration, and religion as it impacts governmental policies.
Some writers write to figure stuff out: the resulting poem or short story might help readers figure stuff out. And if the writer is good, this can be done without making the poem or story sound like a political tract or a news release from a social service organization. It’s been said that many people learn more history from well-written historical novels than they do from the basic history courses they were required to take in high school and college? Why? The drama of the story catches their attention. The same can be said about fiction that focuses on the issues of the day.
For those of us who haven’t yet become immune to the horrors reported in the daily news, the quotes at the beginning of this post are shocking. The thing is, most news stories about family-related abuse and murder focus on one family or one person. So, while the numbers of the dead, dying, and traumatized continue to add up through the calendar year, nothing focuses our attention on them with high amount of impact of terrorist shootings such as 58 people killed and 546 injured at the Las Vegas Harvest music festival on October 1.
We lost our innocence a long time ago, those of us who–as children–believed that the world would be better off by the time we grew up than it has turned out to be. We believed in Superman and other heroes who would find ways to prevent every potential Las Vegas horror without infringing on our liberties. And we believed in the power of churches, laws, social service institutions, education, and the general evolution of society to end the abuse and murder of family members, especially women and children.
So here we are today, focused on terrorism–which we seriously do need to sanely address–while deaths and injuries of family members stack up like cord wood with fewer headlines to remind us that those we love are more likely to hurt us or kill us than a terrorist or some other thug on the streets. I’ve seen novels and poems about this, but not enough. It’s easier to find novels about fighting terrorism than fighting child and spousal abuse. I’m not surprised: after all, a government security contractor that isn’t bound by the rules governing police/FBI fighting a group that wants to blow up Washington, D. C. is more likely to be a bestseller than a novel about a woman who keeps calling the local police department with fears about what her husband might do.
We can do better, I think. We can look at family-oriented abuse and murder and–perhaps, first–join nonprofit groups that are fighting it and educating the public about it. But writers can take another step. They can experiment with themes and plots and characters and find compelling ways to tell stories about individuals who are–so to speak–living in hell next door while we focus on people caught up in the national news miles away. We need writers creating short stories, essays, memoirs, and poetry about this as a means of figuring out why it’s happening, and of reminding readers that it’s happening closer than they think.
Several of us were “talking” on Facebook this morning about the fact we can’t see a rolled up carpet alongside the road without thinking there’s a dead body in it.
If any organized crime enforcers are reading this blog, I have a question: Do real killers roll bodies up in carpets?
If a cop or a nosy neighbor sees a couple of guys putting a roll of carpet in the trunk of a car at night, you’d think the scene would be a dead give-away.
Perhaps we’ve seen too much TV where bodies are lamely rolled up in carpets. A popular show last year showed a bunch of college students moving a body that way. Gosh, if that’s the disposal method of choice for students, just think about older people who’ve seen a thousand crime shows where carpets and the dead always went out in the trash together.
When I see ads for rolled up carpet, I expect a disclaimer at the bottom that says: Dead Body Not Included.
There must be a better way of removing the dead from our presence that doesn’t attract attention. The wood chipper in Fargo had possibilities until a lot of people saw the movie and assumed that if they heard a wood chipper at night, somebody was going to be reported missing in the morning.
The TV series Bones finds interesting (and usually gross) ways of disposing of bodies at the beginning of each show. They seem to like the “high yuck” factor to attract the disturbed segment of the population.
As an author, I speculate about this kind of thing for research purposes. However, what with the feds spying on us, it’s become harder and harder to do Google searches like “How Can I Hide Uncle Ned’s Body” without some web crawler bot finding it and flagging the query at one of the alphabet soup agencies that claims it isn’t watching for key words like “body” and “rolled up carpet.”
We hear on TV and the Internet that cops think cop shows are unrealistic. They could help. All it would take would be a web page with information like this:
How to put granny on an ice floe without getting caught.
How to poison your husband/wife so that even Abby on NCIS won’t figure out how it happened.
How to dispose of a body without getting caught by the police.
How to successfully launder money, hire a hit man, move weapons around the country, and get away with running a numbers racket out of your kitchen.
Frankly, all of us would benefit from this kind of information: (a) authors would make books and screen plays more realistic, (b) readers/viewers would have higher quality entertainment, (c) kids would stop getting scared when they see rolls of carpet in the ditch because nobody would be using carpet improperly any more.
Those of us who have been scarred for life worrying about what’s in rolls of carpet would finally know that carpets are safe. The country would save billions of dollars that go to therapists who are helping patients cope with this problem. (My guess is that most health insurance companies don’t over “Carpet Phobia.)
Personally, when I see a roll of carpet, I want to visualize how beautiful it will look in the living room rather than thinking, “hmm, I have seen Dad for a couple of days.”
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea,” “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Sarabande,” and other books in which no dead guys have been rolled up in a carpet.
Today’s guest is author Melinda Clayton (“The Cedar Hollow Series”). Her new novel, a stunning tale about a family in the midst of self-destruction Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, was released October 16. Clayton, who has published numerous articles and short stories in print and online magazines, is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado. She holds an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration. She recently founded Thomas-Jacob Publishing described as a “unique family-owned publishing company.”
Clayton previously visited Malcolm’s Round Table in July of 2012 when her novel Entangled Thorns was released as the third book in “The Cedar Hollow Series.”
Malcolm: Welcome back! In your new novel Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, you move away from the Appalachian Mountain families in “The Cedar Hollow Series” to Phillip and Anna Lewinsky, a modern-day urban couple, living in Memphis. As an author, how difficult was it to shift away from the prospective “comfort zone” of an on-going series with known characters and established settings to a new environment featuring students graduating from college who are ready for careers and family life?
Melinda: Thanks for having me back, Malcolm. It was difficult, but I also felt it was time. There may be other Cedar Hollow stories, but the story of Phillip and Anna Lewinsky had been rattling around in my head for some time. I had also wanted to write a story set in the area of Tennessee in which I grew up, so that was fun. It was also fun to revisit the University of Memphis on Memphis’ rainiest day of 1989. I remember that day well. I was really tired of the rain, of being cold, and of getting soaked on my walks to both class and work.
Malcolm: At the beginning of the book, you quote a line from “In Place of a Curse,” a signature poem by John Ciardi: “They who are wholly broken, and they in whom mercy is understanding, I shall embrace at once and lead to pillows in heaven.” In addition to suggesting a unique title for your novel, how does this sentiment set the stage for the story to come?
Melinda: I think of Phillip as being “wholly broken.” This is a man who in his early twenties felt he had everything he needed to be happy. In his words, “I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. First job, first apartment, first girlfriend, best friend. What more could I have possibly wanted?” But by his mid-forties, when we first meet him in the Prologue, he feels he has nothing at all. “Life imprisonment or death; that is the question. And while the outcome matters immensely to the other players in this drama of my life, it matters not at all to me. I am dead either way.”
I wanted to explore that dynamic, the path one might travel that could lead from euphoria to despair, from hopeful to hopeless.
Malcolm: Asking a therapist why s/he writes about characters with deeply rooted psychological problems probably makes as much sense as asking a composer why s/he writes about characters who are struggling with a symphony. Yet, as I think about both “The Cedar Hollow Series” and Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, I can’t help but see the books’ characters as almost being—as we say in the South—“too broke to fix.” In addition to the page-turning read we all look for, do you think these novels will also help provide closure for readers who know people who seem wholly broken and/or who often feel they might be wholly broken?
Melinda: Wow, I might have to think about that for a minute! I think the “broken” characters in the Cedar Hollow Series have within them some spark of hope, enough, at least, to compel them to continue moving forward. One reviewer remarked that she loved it that those books all ended on a hopeful note, a type of new beginning for the characters. If there’s a message to those books, it might be something along the lines of each cloud having a silver lining, or there being a light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up; this too shall pass, etc.
I think Blessed Are the Wholly Broken is different in that within the first page, we know Phillip Lewinsky has been found guilty of the murder of his wife. One of the beta-readers called me midway through reading and said, “But he’s going to get out, right?” She found him to be a sympathetic, likable character and wanted a happy ending for him. I suppose a philosophical argument could be made that in a paradoxical sort of way, he was happy with the ending and he did find the closure he was looking for, but the writing of Wholly Broken was more about an examination of the unraveling of a life than it was about reaching closure.
Malcolm: How do prospective wholly broken people/characters impact the therapist/novelist?
Melinda: In some ways, the impact is the same for both the therapist and the novelist, in that I’ve always been fascinated by trying to discover what makes us all tick. Behavioral theory would say we don’t engage in a behavior unless we’re getting something out of that behavior. Maybe we’re being positively reinforced in some way, or maybe we’re trying to avoid something uncomfortable. That’s overly simplistic, but I think for the most part, it’s true.
As a therapist, part of finding the solution lies in finding the why of the behavior. Once a person recognizes and understands the purpose behind their behavior, they can choose whether or not they want to change it.
As a novelist, it’s fun to work to tie together a character’s motivations, choices, and decisions with their ultimate outcome.
Malcolm: After readers learn on the first page of Blessed Are the Wholly Broken that a crime has been committed, the novel moves about quickly from one time to another and from one place to another rather like a “whodunit.” I felt like I was reading a detective story. How did you approach your research for this, especially that involving medical, police, prison and courtroom procedures?
Melinda: This novel, by far, required more research than all three of my previous novels put together. I spent time both talking with and emailing medical and legal experts as well as making several phone calls to the Lauderdale County Jail to make sure I accurately portrayed not only procedures, but physical components of the building.
I sent hardcopies of the chapters dealing with medical issues to an expert in the field of microbiology, and chapters dealing with legal and courtroom procedures to the founder of a law firm in New York.
I wanted the book to be as true to the regions as possible, so I also researched weather patterns in that area during that time to make sure if it was raining in the novel, it really had rained on that particular day. I pulled up calendars from that time to make sure if court was held on a specific day in the novel, it would have really been held on that day in Ripley, Tennessee.
I think I probably spent more time on research than I did on writing. Everyone was incredibly helpful; if there are mistakes, they’re completely my own.
Malcolm: While Blessed Are the Wholly Broken was still a work in progress, you formed your own publishing company. How did the becoming a publisher change your perspective about what it takes to prepare and format manuscripts, and to publish and market a book? How did it change your viewpoint as a writer? Did becoming a publisher change your writing habits or approach or were you able to keep your publisher’s hat in the closet until the manuscript was done?
Melinda: Becoming a publisher in the middle of the writing process taught me that publishing is a lot of work! In some ways it stifled me as a writer because as I typed, I couldn’t help thinking, “Ugh, once I get done with this manuscript, I have to reformat it three different ways….” On the flip side, I loved having the ability to review and proof the finalized manuscripts before hitting “publish.” It was nice to have one last chance to check for any typos or formatting errors before going “live.”
Malcolm: Best of luck with Thomas-Jacob Publishing and Blessed Are the Wholly Broken. Where can prospective readers find you your novels on the Internet?
Melinda: Thanks, Malcolm! And thanks for the wonderful interview.