About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and BestThrillers.com. Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers. http://www.debbieburkewriter.com

Barnes & Noble Makes a Comeback

Photo Credit: Ethan Hoover, Unsplash

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

What goes around comes around. And around. And around.

So goes the tale of Barnes & Noble.

The bookseller was founded in New York in 1886 as Arthur Hinds & Company. A clerk named Gilbert Clifford Noble rose to partnership and soon changed the name to Hinds & Noble. In 1917, Noble partnered with William Barnes to become Barnes & Noble.

Fun fact: In 1940, B&N was one of the first businesses to feature Muzak. 

A single NYC store grew to a nationwide chain. In 1974, the Fifth Avenue B&N became the biggest bookstore in the world.

Along the way, B&N gained a reputation as a corporate bully that gobbled up smaller chains and elbowed aside numerous independent bookstores, putting many out of business.

Big fish eat little fish. To the dismay of readers, few indie minnows survived B&N’s dominance.

“Barnes & Noble was perceived as not just the enemy,” said a former chief executive of the American Booksellers Association, which represents indie shops, told the New York Times, “but as being everything about corporate book selling that was wrong.”

Then…along came a whale named Amazon.

Photo credit: Stephane Wegner, Unsplash

Online book sales thrived while physical bookstores dropped by the wayside. The juggernaut of Amazon led to mergers and bankruptcies of sizable chains like Waldenbooks, Crown, and B. Dalton. In 2011, Borders filed bankruptcy, leaving B&N the sole remaining national bookstore chain.

Amazon was fast gaining ground.

In 2010, B&N introduced the Nook e-reader to compete with Kindle but it never came close to Kindle’s success. Stores added coffee shops, free wi-fi, gifts, and non-book merchandise, hoping to survive. Nothing worked. Sales dropped, employees were fired, stores closed.

Per Ted Gioia, The Honest Broker:

“By 2018 the company was in total collapse. Barnes & Noble lost $18 million that year, and fired 1,800 full time employees—in essence shifting almost all store operations to part time staff. Around that same time, the company fired its CEO due to sexual harassment claims.”

The bookseller that had put so many other bookstores out of business appeared ready to join their fate.

Enter James Daunt. The 59-year-old former banker and business exec had founded Daunt Books and turned around Waterstone’s, a British bookseller that had once languished in similar straits to B&N. In 2019, he took the helm as B&N’s CEO and set out to rescue the floundering chain.

A daunting task (sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Daunt turned the focus back to books and got rid of unrelated merchandise. He gave control of stores to local staff, correctly reasoning that the people who meet customers every day are in the best position to know what their particular readers want.

Y’know, like mom-and-pop indie bookstores used to do.

Managers have free rein to stock books by local authors, including good-quality self-published ones, and those of regional interest. They no longer have to stock books chosen by a single head buyer from thousands of miles away.

A few months ago, I visited B&N in Missoula, Montana. The manager not only ordered some of my books, she is also happy to host an in-person event later this year.

B&N stores are now becoming more like the indie bookstores they used to put out of business.

Daunt’s strategies are succeeding. In 2023, B&N plans to open 30 new stores. Ironically, some will take over the same locations where Amazon’s experimental physical bookstores failed.

What goes around comes around.

What’s coming around now for B&N is good news for readers. It also gives a boost to local authors who want to see their books on real shelves.

~~~

TKZers: Have you visited a B&N store recently? Do you see changes? What’s your opinion about them under the new leadership?

~~~

 

COMING SOON! SPRING 2023!

DEEP FAKE ~ Tawny Lindholm Thriller #8

You can’t believe your own eyes.

To be notified when Deep Fake is released, please sign up here.

True Crime Thursday – GoFundMe Scam

Photo credit – Marco Verch, CC 2.0

 

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

In November, 2017, Katelyn McClure met a homeless veteran named Johnny Bobbitt when she ran out of gas on a Philadelphia highway. Bobbitt gave McClure his last twenty dollars. Grateful for his selfless generosity, McClure started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help the former Marine get back on his feet.

Their feel-good story went viral. Within three weeks, 14,000 people donated more than $400,000 to the campaign.

HEA (happily ever after), right?

Nope.

Turns out the entire story was a scam concocted by McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico.  Although Bobbitt didn’t initiate the fraud, when donations skyrocketed, he joined their conspiracy.

In 2018, the plot thickened when Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico, claiming he had received only $75,000 from them out of the $400,000 raised for his benefit. McClure and D’Amico used the rest of the money on vacations, gambling, expensive handbags, and a BMW.

According to Military.com:

D’Amico attempted to justify withholding the money from the veteran because of Bobbitt’s purported struggle with drug addiction, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2018 that he’d rather “burn it in front of him” and that giving him the money would be like “giving him a loaded gun.” Though the couple told the paper that they had paid for a hotel room, electronics, food, clothing and eventually a camper for the veteran, they declined to provide receipts.

The unusual lawsuit drew the attention of prosecutors in Burlington, NJ, the NJ Department of Justice, and federal authorities.

During the investigation, a text from McClure came to light. Less than an hour after kicking off the GoFundMe campaign, Military.com reports that McClure messaged a friend:

“Ok so wait the gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t,” she said, according to New Jersey prosecutor Scott A. Coffina. “I had to make something up to make people feel bad.”

“So shush about the made up stuff,” she reportedly added.

Digging deeper, investigators found a similar scenario in Bobbitt’s past from a Facebook post in 2012 where he claimed that he’d given his supper money to a woman in need, garnering sympathy and donations.

The GoFundMe scam unraveled. Ultimately, all three pleaded guilty to state and federal charges.

D’Amico, 43, pleaded guilty to misappropriation of funds. In 2022, he was sentenced to five years in prison on state charges, and 27 months for federal charges, sentences to be served concurrently.

In October, 2022, Bobbitt, 39, was sentenced to three years of probation for conspiracy to commit money laundering and ordered to pay $25,000 restitution. He was admitted to an addiction recovery program.

In January, 2023, McClure, 32, guilty of second-degree theft by deception, was sentenced to three years in state prison and is already serving time on a one year and one day sentence in federal prison. She was a former New Jersey state employee and is prohibited from holding any state job.

All were ordered to pay restitution to GoFundMe.

GoFundMe refunded all donations to contributors who were taken in by the fraudulent story.  

GoFundMe posts warnings on how to spot scams and frauds here.

Most people want to help others in need. Con artists prey on those generous, compassionate instincts.

Give from your heart but, first, investigate with your head.

~~~

TKZers: Do you check out people or organizations before you donate to them? How?

Have you heard of similar scams?

~~~

In Stalking Midas, a glamorous con artist takes advantage of an aging, addled millionaire who loves his nine rescue cats. She can’t allow investigator Tawny Lindholm to disrupt her profitable scam. After all, she’s killed before and each time it gets easier.

Buy at Amazon and major online booksellers.

Happy Public Domain Day 2023

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

1927 was a watershed year in motion picture history. 

Wings won the first Academy Award for Best Picture. 

“Wait a minute…wait a minute…you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”

Those were the first words ever spoken in a motion picture. Although The Jazz Singer is now considered insensitive, nevertheless, it stands as an historic moment in 1927 when the first “talkie” rang the death knell for the silent film era.

You can listen to a clip of Al Jolson’s first words here. 

 

January 1, 2023 was Happy Public Domain Day when copyrights ended for movies, literary works, and music published in 1927.

Here’s a partial list of works that are now in the public domain, provided by Duke University.

Literary:

Herbert Asbury, The Gangs of New York

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Agatha Christie, The Big Four

Countee Cullen, ed., Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Black Poets of the Twenties

Franklin W. Dixon, The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys #1)

Franklin W. Dixon, The House on the Cliff (The Hardy Boys #2)

Franklin W. Dixon, The Secret of the Old Mill (The Hardy Boys #3)

 

 

 

Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” and “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place,” the last two stories from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (which means Holmes himself is now in the public domain)

E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel

Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women

Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

Franz Kafka, Amerika

Anita Loos, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes

Edith Wharton, Twilight Sleep

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Films: 

Metropolis (directed by Fritz Lang)

The Jazz Singer (the first feature-length film with synchronized dialogue; directed by Alan Crosland)

Wings (winner of the first Academy Award for outstanding picture; directed by William A. Wellman)

Sunrise (directed by F.W. Murnau)

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller)

The King of Kings (directed by Cecil B. DeMille)

London After Midnight (now a lost film; directed by Tod Browning)

The Way of All Flesh (now a lost film; directed by Victor Fleming)

7th Heaven (inspired the ending of the 2016 film La La Land; directed by Frank Borzage)

The Kid Brother (starring Harold Lloyd; directed by Ted Wilde)

The Battle of the Century (starring the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy; directed by Clyde Bruckman)

Upstream (directed by John Ford)

Music:

The Best Things in Life Are Free (George Gard De Sylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson; from the musical Good News)

(I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for) Ice Cream (Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, Robert A. King)

Puttin’ on the Ritz (Irving Berlin)

Funny Face and ’S Wonderful (Ira and George Gershwin; from the musical Funny Face)

Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man and Ol’ Man River (Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern; from the musical Show Boat)

Back Water BluesPreaching the BluesFoolish Man Blues (Bessie Smith) Listen here.

Potato Head BluesGully Low Blues (Louis Armstrong)

Rusty Pail BluesSloppy Water BluesSoothin’ Syrup Stomp (Thomas Waller)

Black and Tan Fantasy and East St. Louis Toodle-O (Bub Miley, Duke Ellington)

Billy Goat StompHyena StompJungle Blues (Ferdinand Joseph Morton)

My Blue Heaven (George Whiting, Walter Donaldson)

Diane (Erno Rapee, Lew Pollack)

Mississippi Mud (Harry Barris, James Cavanaugh)

~~~

Of particular interest to mystery authors, the last two works by Arthur Conan Doyle featuring Sherlock Holmes are now in the public domain. What does this mean to writers?

If you’ve always hankered to feature the iconic Sherlock as a character in new adventures, you are free to do so without violating copyright or worrying about legal repercussions (more on that in a moment).

Here are a few genre possibilities:

Sherlock uses his powers of deduction to solve contemporary mysteries in the 21st century;

Or he time-travels through history in pursuit of villains;

Or fantasy stories might bestow magical superpowers like flying, turning invisible, telekinetically moving objects, and casting spells;

Or sci-fi, where he travels to distant universes—a rocket ship or space station makes a great setting for a locked room mystery;

Or for romantic suspense, he can fall in love.

Although a number of contemporary works have featured Holmes and Watson, there is a copyright backstory that’s nearly as complicated as Conan Doyle’s mysteries.

Even though Sherlock and Watson had already entered the public domain, legal battles over Sherlock’s copyright persisted for years. The Conan Doyle estate claimed various justifications to charge licensing fees to authors and film makers who wanted to use the characters.

Most creators paid the fees rather than endure the time and expense of taking the estate to court. But attorney Leslie Klinger fought back and won.

In one suit, Judge Richard Posner criticized the estate’s “unlawful business strategy” and stated:

The Doyle estate’s business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the ‘rational’ writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expenses, in challenging the legality of the demand.

The expiration of the copyright on the last two works featuring Sherlock has now ended any possible claims by the estate.

Sherlock is finally, unquestionably free for any creator to use.

That means, as to Sherlock’s future adventures…you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.

~~~

Just for fun, here’s The Battle of the Century, featuring Laurel and Hardy and the greatest custard pie fight of all time:

~~~

TKZers: Do any stories, movies, or songs from 1927 make your creative juices flow?

Do you have ideas for repurposing works that are now in the public domain?

Please share your ideas in the comments.

Reader Friday – Friday the 13th


According to Wikipedia, we have one to three Friday the 13ths each year. This year we are allotted two – today and in October.

The history of Friday the 13th is too long to discuss here, but I will mention that in Hispanic and Greek culture the unlucky day is Tuesday the 13th, and in Italy it is Friday the 17th.

So, as I love to do here, let’s get wildly creative and set a NEW DAY TO REPLACE FRIDAY THE 13th.

The Assignment: Pick a day that was your most unlucky day, and give us a paragraph arguing why we should use your day, and replace Friday the 13th. Or, alternatively, pick a day that has been the most lucky day for you. Okay, put those thinking hats and creative brains to work, and show us the results.

 

If you are having trouble posting a comment, we apologize. We are having technical problems with our website, but we are working to correct them. Thank you for your patience!

First Page Critique – Deadly Water

Photo credit: Ray Bilcliff, pexels

by Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

Happy New Year! Hope the spirit of the holiday season kept you warm in spite of the frigid weather.

What better way to kick off the first week of the new year than with a First Page critique? Please take a plunge into Deadly Water submitted by a Brave Author.

~~~

Deadly Water

Kit sat on the back steps and laced up his running shoes. Getting a bit battered he thought. Might have to invest in a new pair if I plan on doing that marathon later in the year. Jumping nimbly to his feet, and making sure he had the ball in his pocket, he set off up the road towards the beach. Gem trotting happily beside him.

The day had one of those dirty gray overcast skies that were full of rain. The forecast was indeed for it to bucket down later. Kit knew these skies well, having grown up on the street he still lived. Rain would come from the north east, and it would last for a few days. Given his current mood this suited him perfectly well.

Down on the beach the tide was well out. Despite the number of runners, walkers, dogs, and strollers, there was plenty of room for Kit and Gem. As she had done for countless kilometers, Gem was content to lope alongside Kit. Half border collie, half German Shepard, Gem was a true companion. Loyal, obedient, and possibly deadly. Strangers never knew if Gem was going to herd them, or rip their lungs out.

Kit ran with one of those easy strides that made running look easy. He was tall, with hair that wasn’t quite red, not quite auburn. With that, and his green eyes, he could either scrub up stunningly, or just as easily look like he had slept rough for days.

They did the mandatory four lengths of the beach. Kit then took the disgusting old tennis ball out of his pocket and threw it into the water for Gem to chase. He still had a good throwing arm from his cricketing days, so this gave Gem a good workout. The sprint up the hill home always made him feel virtuous.

Back home he made his regular breakfast of egg with tomatoes on toast, and fed Gem. It was now getting on for seven thirty, and Kit wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the rest of the day. The house really did need some work, especially the fence. Ever since his parents had died, and Kit inherited the house, he had not much felt like renovating.

The promised rain arrived.

It was on day three of the rain that his mobile went. It hadn’t rung for days. His mates knew better than to annoy him when the mood was on. Kit and Gem had still run every morning. Running as therapy Kit thought grimly to himself more than once.

~~~

Okay, let’s get started.

Title: A title makes the book’s first impression on a reader and Deadly Water fills the bill for the mystery/suspense/crime genre. It immediately raises the question—why is the water deadly? That promises sinister happenings–maybe a floating body, murder by drowning, or a dangerous hunt for undersea treasure.

The title also works to set the story’s mood. Treacherous seas evoke primal fears of being lost, alone, and helpless in the depths, along with the terror of being unable to breathe. BA made an evocative, effective choice with Deadly Water. Good job!

Craft: The writing is generally clear. No typos or spelling errors except “Shephard” should be “Shepherd.

“Might have to invest in a new pair if I plan on doing that marathon later in the year.” This is the only place where “I” is used. The rest of the page is in third person.

For consistency, consider changing I to he: “Might have to invest in a new pair if he planned on doing that marathon later in the year.”

“Well” is repeated twice in two paragraphs.

The phrase “one of those” appears twice and is unnecessarily vague and wordy.

Try reading this page out loud to pick up repeated words and to smooth out a few awkward phrases.

Beginning a sentence with “It was” sounds weak. What does it refer to?

Watch out for gerunds (-ing words). “Jumping nimbly to his feet, and making sure he had the ball in his pocket, he set off up the road towards the beach. Gem trotting happily beside him.”

Suggested rewrite: Kit made sure he had Gem’s ball in his pocket. He jumped to his feet and set off up the road towards the beach, the dog trotting happily beside.

Setting and tone: British-isms like “scrub up” and “mates”, as well as the reference to “cricket”, suggest the setting is an English seaside town.

“Dirty gray overcast skies that were full of rain” is a nicely written phrase that establishes a gloomy, threatening tone.

“Given his current mood this suited him perfectly well” indicates Kit feels melancholy.

Characters: Two characters are introduced, Kit and Gem.

Kit is a fit marathon runner who still lives on the same street where he grew up. He recently inherited a home after his parents’ deaths.

Kit ran with one of those easy strides that made running look easy. He was tall, with hair that wasn’t quite red, not quite auburn. With that, and his green eyes, he could either scrub up stunningly, or just as easily look like he had slept rough for days.

This description gives a clear picture of what Kit looks like. However, the point of view is omniscient—as if a god is looking down on him—in contrast with the third-person POV in the rest of the excerpt.

An important goal at this early stage is to interest and connect the reader closely with the main character. Switching the POV pulls the reader out of the story, which is risky.

Gem is described as:

Half border collie, half German Shepard, Gem was a true companion. Loyal, obedient, and possibly deadly. Strangers never knew if Gem was going to herd them, or rip their lungs out.

Whoa! Ripping lungs out grabs the reader’s interest in a big way. I want to know more about this dog.

What causes her to react with unexpected violence? Is she trained to attack? If so, why does Kit need or want an attack dog? Should she be off-leash on a public beach? How does Kit handle Gem’s scary behavior?

At this point, Gem is a far more interesting, compelling character than Kit. She is also an effective device to foreshadow future conflict.

Story Problem: This otherwise well-written page has a major flaw.

Nothing happens.

Here are the problems Kit faces on this page:

Should he buy new running shoes?

Can he motivate himself to fix the fence?

His mobile goes dead.

None of these problems is compelling or earth-shaking.

The reader doesn’t care. And that’s a BIG problem. 

A side note: I was confused by the sentences “It was on day three of the rain that his mobile went. It hadn’t rung for days.”

On the first reading, I thought “his mobile went” meant the phone had gone dead. On rereading, I wondered if the first sentence was missing a word. Should it have read “his mobile went off”? In other words, did it ring for the first time in days?

If in fact the phone does ring for the first time in days, that constitutes a disturbance, which I’ll discuss in a moment. However, since the reader doesn’t know the significance of an incoming call, it’s not a compelling hook.

Back to the story problem. BA hints at potential difficulties. Kit is depressed enough that his mates know not to call him. He considers running as therapy but doesn’t address why he needs therapy. If his mood is connected to the deaths of his parents, how does that lead to a larger story question?

At TKZ, we talk frequently about ever-shorter attention spans. Reading is only one activity in world filled with constant distractions.

For authors seeking traditional publication, agents and editors need to be grabbed by the first page, paragraph, or even sentence. Otherwise, they quickly move on to the next submission.

The same applies to self-published authors. The “Look Inside” sample must immediately grab a prospective buyer’s attention. If not, there are a few million other books they can check out.

This first page is not a story yet because there is no disturbance or conflict. It’s just another day in the lives of Kit and Gem where nothing out of the ordinary happens.

The background may be useful to help the author become familiar with the setting and characters.

 But…it’s boring for the reader.

 My guess is the real story begins a few pages later when a significant event changes the course of Kit’s life.

Unfortunately, most readers won’t stick around that long. To hook them, put the disturbance on the first page, preferably in the first few paragraphs.

What if Kit throws the ball for Gem to retrieve but instead she brings back a severed hand?

Bam! The story is off and running.

Here’s one possible way to begin:

Kit’s mobile went dead during his regular morning run along the seashore, deserting him when he needed it most.

Gem, his German Shepherd-border collie mix, was racing down the beach after her ball. Abruptly, she stopped to sniff a pile of flotsam that three days of windswept rain had washed ashore. As Kit approached, he noticed a stench besides rotting seaweed.

A body. 

He started to call emergency services then realized his phone was dead, as dead as the young woman handcuffed to a wooden rail.

Jim Bell frequently counsels writers to “act first, explain later.”

To make this first page effective, try beginning with action. What disturbance changes Kit’s predictable, monotonous life into a story adventure?

The background information—like his familiarity with weather patterns, his parents’ deaths, and that he lives on the same street where he grew up—can all be woven in later, after the reader is hooked.

Summation: This page has potential. I like the English seaside setting and Gem is an interesting character. The excellent title promises that something bad is going to happen.

If BA rewrites the first page with action that lives up to the title’s promise, the reader will be eager to plunge into those Deadly Waters.

Thanks for submitting, Brave Author!

~~~

Over to you, TKZers. What do you think of this first page? What suggestions do you have for the Brave Author?

~~~

 

 

Start the New Year with a new series. Please check out award-winning Thrillers with Passion by Debbie Burke. 

Amazon link

Editor Interview – Val Mathews

By Debbie Burke
@burke_writer

After lunch on the second day of a writing conference, typically attendees’ brains are already brimming. Fatigue sets in. With full tummies, the temptation to nod off is strong.

Editor Val Mathews

However, no one dozed during Val Mathews’s presentation at the Flathead River Writers Conference in Montana this past October.

Val is a former acquisitions editor at The Wild Rose Press and teaches at several universities. She’s a certified flight instructor and used to fly Lear jets. Additionally, she’s a gifted speaker who knows how to grab and keep an audience’s attention.

At the beginning of her talk, Val got about 100 attendees up on our feet and walking between long rows of tables and down the aisles of the auditorium. Initially, she asked us to imagine we were taking a leisurely hike in Glacier Park. What did we see, smell, and hear?

Then she switched the scenario to a crowded city street. We were late to an important meeting, had forgotten our notes, and needed to return to the office to retrieve them. The energy in the room increased. The sea of people hurried around, now moving in opposite directions, passing each other and trying to avoid collisions.

Next, Val reduced the pace and had us walk with different postures—chests out, heads lowered, hunched over, hips forward, speeding up, slowing down—while paying attention to how each variation made our bodies feel.

Then she told us to become our main character and emulate their posture, movements, stride, and attitude. She asked, “How does your character feel? What are the physical sensations? What are they thinking about? How does that affect their movement?”

After ten minutes, Val had succeeded in chasing away all drowsiness and captured our full attention.

The exercise impressed me, so I invited Val to visit The Kill Zone. Welcome, Val!

Debbie Burke: Please share a little of your background and how you ended up in the publishing business.

Val Mathews: Thanks for having me, Debbie. I’m so glad you enjoyed my workshops! They are always so much fun to do, and everyone comes away renewed with ideas and inspired to write!

By the way, that opening exercise was borrowed from acting classes I took recently. Acting is all about stepping into your character’s body and soul and deeply connecting to your character’s inner world. Writers must do the same thing! And we can get to this deeper level of connection with our characters through our senses. Good writers have a knack for stepping into their characters, and it shows on the page. The characters come alive, feel real! And real-feeling characters hook readers.

So, to answer your question, I recently left The Wild Rose Press. Currently, I’m an editorial consultant for CRAFT Literary, a well-established online literary magazine, and I teach other editors at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Editorial Freelancers Association in New York City. Also I work one-on-one with writers to take their manuscripts to the next level—or the next few levels. All done remotely from my home in Athens, Georgia.

The funny thing is that I feel like I ended up in publishing by accident, even though my mom encouraged me to pursue that direction all my life. I got into publishing later in my life. In my 40s, after I already had a couple of careers and raised a family, I was accepted into graduate school and earned my Master of Arts in Professional Writing.

While in graduate school, I taught First-Year Composition, tutored writers, and volunteered as a poetry editor for a little literary magazine. On the side, I was coding and designing websites. Then I volunteered for SurfCoaches, a surfing company in Costa Rica, and created a digital magazine and website for them.

Those experiences gave me the confidence to approach the Georgia Writers Association and propose a digital literary magazine. They were thrilled since they only had a little newsletter at the time. I got a team together—mostly volunteer editors and readers—and we poured through submissions. We published poetry, short stories, and articles on the craft of writing. We did a couple of flash fiction contests too. A lot of fun!

Initially, I was just going to handle the poetry side, but surprisingly to me, I ended up being really good at fixing red-hot messes and fine-tuning short stories.

One of the accepted short-story authors asked me to edit her full manuscript. Then another asked and another. They referred me to their writer friends, and before I knew it, I was working with a writer every month while still in grad school. It spread by word of mouth. Soon writers asked me to come and talk at their writer groups, and I got even more clients. Then I started presenting at writer conferences, and my career took off from the exposure and experience. I’m booked two months or more in advance now.

A few years ago, I sent letters of introduction to a few university presses and small traditional publishers. I was hired on with The Wild Rose Press and got on the developmental editor list with the University of Georgia. During the first few years, I asked myself, “Is this real? Can I do it again next month?” And I always did. My mom would say, “I told you so.”

I’m still amazed at how I get to do what I love and I can do it from home, the coffee shop, the mountains—maybe the moon in five years. (Just kidding about the moon; I’ll settle for an island as long as I have a good internet connection.)

In college, I wanted to major in Biology. My mother bucked. She said, “But you can’t; you’re a girl!” Hard to imagine nowadays! She convinced me to major in English at Loyola University in New Orleans. Eventually, I rebelled, and I secretly enrolled in college for aeronautical science to become a commercial pilot like my father. I didn’t tell my mom until after my first solo! I flew turboprops and Lear Jets for a little while, and then life took unexpected twists and turns that led me to my current publishing career.

I’m still a FAA Certified Flight Instructor and have been for almost three decades now. Being a jet pilot is a bonus in the editing world. Aspiring authors often mention that my flying past was one of the deciding factors that made them pick up the phone and ask about my editorial services. And they always sign on.

Needless to say my mom was right. She knew I had a knack for writing and editing. Don’t you hate it when your mother is always right?

DB: What attracted you to editing?

VM: Although I edit at all levels—from developmental to proofreading—I’m most attracted to developmental editing. Developmental editors are all about the big picture. We assess how scenes hang together as a whole, how a story moves and unfurls, how characters drive the story forward. We’re kind of like detectives. We look for clues—or story seeds, as I call them.

These story seeds are often hidden or not fully fleshed out by the writer. But developmental editors look deep into the heart of a story and pull them out. Often writers don’t even know these seeds are there! Their creative subconscious scattered those seeds, but their consciousness was barely aware of them. When I point them out, their faces light up. It’s incredible to watch authors in this moment of inspired realization.

What I love the most about developmental editing is these light-bulb moments.

It’s deeply fulfilling to help writers fulfill their dreams. If a manuscript lacks focus, I’ll help the writer find it. If an author lacks confidence, I’ll work to inspire, challenge, and cheer them on. A developing editor’s job is not just about the manuscript—a large chunk of what we do involves inspiring the author’s voice and developing their full potential. In fact, the best developmental editors become the author’s collaborating partners—we hone the writer’s unique voice and make the author’s vision our vision.

When copyeditors move to developmental editing, it’s a significant perspective shift for sure. And how to make that move is a big part of my focus when teaching other editors to do what I do.

DB: When reading manuscripts, what qualities catch your attention?

VM: Well, on that first page, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping to be hooked. I love a story that starts with a strong voice—either a strong narrator voice or a strong character voice. Voice is a bit of an allusive term. What a good voice is for one editor may not be for another. It’s often very subjective.

In Voice: The Secret Power of Great Writing, James Scott Bell says that a “great voice is symbiotic,” meaning interdependent, and he encourages authors to identify with their characters so intimately that the authors begin to feel and think how the characters feel and think. Again, this is what actors do when preparing for a new part, and what I try to do in my workshops.

Furthermore, I love a story that captures my senses. At The Wild Rose Press, we have a good rule of thumb: include three sensory details per page and one of those should be something other than visual. Sensory details make the characters and their world come alive and really pop off the page.

DB: What qualities turn you off?

VM: Simply boring writing. Boring is also an elusive term too. What boring is for one editor may not be boring to another editor. Again, it’s often very subjective. But there are a few things that all editors will agree on.

For instance, dialogue that doesn’t add anything to the mood or increase the tension or drive the conflict. Boring dialogue and “talking heads” turn me off the most. Talking heads is when characters are talking but disconnected from the story world—there are no action beats, no sensory details, no glimpse into the point-of-view character’s inner world and motivations. The characters don’t feel real!

But the good news is it’s an easy fix. Writers can just look for long stretches of dialogue, and weave in actions and details to ground the reader in the story’s physical world. Then show the character’s conflicting desires, values, and emotions so the character becomes real.

Another turn-off is when the characters’ roles are generic, stereotyped, or old-fashioned because they don’t represent real people in all their colors, patterns, and quirks. Again boring.

DB: Could you describe your acquisition process at The Wild Rose Press?

VM: Every editor at The Wild Rose Press may have a different process. Typically, a senior editor or our editor-in-chief will send us a potential new author’s submission package consisting of the query letter and the first five pages. Each editor makes their own decision to request more pages or send a friendly (but often helpful) rejection letter. That’s why an author’s opening pages have to pop. Writers have a small window to hook a publisher and make the acquiring editor want to read on.

However, my submission process normally starts at a writers’ conference. Most of the submissions I read were sent to me from authors I met at a conference or workshop. I also get contacted by literary agents who pitch their client’s novels.

When I receive a submission, the first thing I do is read the first five pages. Often, I can tell on page one if it’s going to be a rejection—cold hard truth. If the opening doesn’t pop off the page, most readers aren’t going to wait until page three hundred to see if anything happens. One time, a writer told me, “But it gets good on page one hundred.” True story! Readers read for the joy and thrill of it. We want that joy and thrill on page one, page two, page three, and every page after that.

To get your foot in the door with an acquisition editor, rock the house down on the first page. It doesn’t have to be exploding bombs, car chases, shooting matches, and murder mayhem on page one, but it does need to hook us immediately and keep hooking us on every page.

The hook can be a promise of future conflict or subtle micro-tension or a strong character voice. One of those three things (preferably all three) will prompt me to immediately email the author and ask for a partial or full manuscript.

After reading the first five pages, I look at the pitch part of the author’s query. I’ll also read the synopsis and then request more pages or send a rejection. Some editors always read the query first and only ask for more pages based on the pitch. However, more than once, I’ve been thrilled by a fantastic pitch and strong synopsis, only to be disappointed when reading the manuscript. I think sometimes authors hire a professional query and synopsis writer.

I suggest writing it yourself. You have to know your story cold. When writers struggle to put the gist of their stories into a strong pitch paragraph or break the story down into a tight synopsis, then I bet there is a good chance their manuscripts have plot holes or too many storylines or too many characters—just my two feathers. I’m sure there are exceptions.

If I’m on the fence about a story or just want another opinion, I sometimes run it by our reading panel for their input. Depending on their positive reviews, I will continue with the acquisition process. Sometimes the readers give me insights I haven’t thought about or clue me into some aspects of the novel that might rub readers the wrong way.

Once I find a manuscript that I love and want to make an offer to the author, I send a Request for a Contract to my senior editor. If she approves, she sends it through, and an offer is made. Then the fun begins!

DB: What do you believe are the most significant changes in the publishing industry in the past five years?

VM: Well, the pandemic certainly changed things and pushed readers more strongly toward audio and digital books. Both have been steadily rising, but they really jumped up in readership during the pandemic. Audiobooks are a hot marketplace ticket! We are talking about a billion-dollar market here!

Authors may want to consider keeping their derivative rights. Derivative rights are the starting point for audiobooks. Before signing a publishing contract, ask, “Do I control my derivative rights, specifically my audio rights?” Read that contract and consider renegotiating to hang on to those rights. Because as I said, audio rights are hot right now and are expected to get hotter.

Spotify is buying Findaway and is really moving into the audiobook market. They expect audiobook sales to grow from $3.3 billion to $15 billion by 2027. That’s huge!

If you control that right, you get 100% of the profit. However, more publishers are keeping those rights. But it’s still economically not attractive for many publishers to produce audiobooks, so they may decide not to do it. In either case, you may want to ask for those rights to be reverted back to you so that you reap all the profit.

DB: What trends have you noticed lately?

VM: TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform and is probably today’s essential tool for branding and marketing your novels. I used to rave about Twitter, but TikTok is stealing the show these days.

Although audiobooks and digital books are hot, print books are in demand, and apparently there is a shortage. Despite the surge in new technologies, all generations still prefer reading physical books. So, the good news is that print publishing is not dying as many had predicted.

Serial fiction is super-hot! As the old sales adage goes: It’s easier to keep an old client than to get a new one. The same goes for readers. This is particularly important for self-published authors. Sites like Kindle Vella, Wattpad, Inkitt, Tapas, Radish, and other online reading apps will continue to do well.

During the pandemic, book sales increased, especially among Gen Zers. Not surprising with more free time and people working from home or off work and going to school from home. And contrary to popular belief, Millennials are voracious readers.

The book industry is still alive and well. Older readers tend to gravitate to thrillers, mystery, and suspense, whereas younger readers tend to favor fantasy, science fiction, and general literature. Young adult novels had the most significant jump in sales in 2021. Also, 66% of poetry book buyers are under thirty-four. These young people are huge readers!

One interesting statistic I found is the rise in romance readership among young people, specifically young adult men. However, with that being said, most fiction readers are still women. About 80%!

Writers may want to think about creating a tough, wicked-smart female protagonist who solves her own problems and doesn’t wait for the knight in shining armor. I think the days of the damsel in distress are gone—again, just my two feathers.

It’s good to understand the differences between the generations and how they hear about novels. Gen Z looks to social media and friends for book recommendations, whereas most of the older generations depend on bookseller lists. So, if you’re not on social media, such as BookTok, I encourage you to get hopping. It’s never too late or too soon to start.

DB: Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked about?

VM: Yes! On behalf of all editors everywhere, I want to thank you and all the writers out there. Thank you for letting us into your creative worlds. I know how hard it is to let your “baby” go and entrust it to the care of an editor. I want to acknowledge the guts it takes to be a writer and put yourself out there. I’m so happy that you are in the world! Keep learning. Keep pushing your boundaries. Keep moving forward one page at a time.

You can find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/editorvmathews and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/val_mathews/.

~~~

Val, thanks for the deep dive into the mind of an editor. We appreciate you sharing your insights with TKZ! 

~~~

This is my last post before TKZ goes on our annual holiday break. See you in 2023. Aargh! How did 2022 whiz by so fast?

As always, thank you for your interest and participation in TKZ’s community! 

May your holiday season be filled with cheer, love, and peace!

True Crime Thursday – Thanksgiving Pie Survey

By

Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

Photo credit: Dennis Wilkinson on Flickr

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving dinner without pie would be a True Crime.

So let’s take a pie poll. Which is the best: pumpkin, apple, pecan, sweet potato, mince, or something different? 

Please vote for your favorite pie and feel free to include the recipe, too! 

One of the many blessings I give thanks for is being part of the terrific Kill Zone community. 

Wishing you and yours a day filled with love, fellowship, and good food. 

Negotiation Secrets for Writers

 

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

“Make him an offer he cannot refuse.”
Vector image CC BY 4.0

Whether you’re buying a car, arguing with a boss, or making a deal with your kids to do their homework, most interactions in life are negotiations. Each of us wants to get our own way.

Humans live in a constant state of imbalance, jockeying back and forth to gain the upper hand.

That usually translates into attaining power over someone else. That power can be immense or tiny.

Learning to exploit power imbalances is an effective technique for writers to ramp up the tension in fiction.

In most stories, one character has certain goals while another character has different, conflicting goals. That leads to negotiations between characters that can be physical, verbal, social, or psychological.

The goal can be large scale (world domination) or small scale (spouses arguing whether the toilet seat should be up or down).

One character usually starts out dominant; the other is in an inferior position and wants to rise to the superior position. Their struggle creates tension and suspense as the reader wonders who will prevail.

Each scene in a novel is a micro power struggle between characters. Those struggles can be shown in different ways:

  1. A character has superior knowledge, ability, or position that the other character attempts to gain.
  2. One character wants to control another.
  3. A character takes action that appears to mean one thing but actually means something different.
  4. A character’s dialogue is different from what they’re actually thinking.

Seller says: “I’m offering you a fabulous deal on this 911 Porsche.” Seller thinks: The price is ten grand higher than market but he’s salivating. He won’t leave without the car.

Buyer says: “Forget it. I won’t pay a dime over $$.” But Buyer thinks: I’ve always wanted a 911. If he comes down a grand, I’m snapping it up.

Boss says: “Management told me to cut expenses ten percent across the board including your salary.” Boss thinks: With three kids, she doesn’t dare quit. A ten percent cut means a bigger bonus for me.

Worker says: “That’s unacceptable. Besides, I have a better offer with a twenty percent increase and three weeks paid vacation.” Worker thinks: Can she tell I’m bluffing? What if she fires me?

Anyone who’s ever been a parent can fill in their own examples of negotiations with their kids!

In thrillers, mystery, suspense, sci-fi, and fantasy, typically the antagonist is stronger, richer, smarter, more ruthless, or more determined than the protagonist. The protagonist spends much of the story trying to keep from being squashed and defeated.

Character A may start out in control at the beginning of a scene but Character B has leverage because of superior knowledge or ability that reverses the power by the end of the scene. Then in subsequent scenes, A must scramble and come up with new strategies to regain control while B fends off efforts to topple him/her.

One of my favorite stories is O. Henry’s “Ransom of Red Chief,” first published in the Saturday Evening Post. [Note: some language from 1907 is no longer acceptable today]. It is a detailed blueprint of negotiation among characters who jockey back and forth for power. Demands are made. Counteroffers follow. Demands change, resulting in counter-counteroffers and counter-counter-counteroffers.

Here’s the story premise: Two ruthless criminals, Sam and Bill, decide to kidnap the only son of wealthy Ebenezer Dorset and hold him for a ransom of $2000. Surely Mr. Dorset will immediately cave into their demands and pay. Sam and Bill believe their scheme can’t lose.

When the redheaded ten-year-old victim beans Bill in the head with a brick, that physical act is the first hint of a potential power shift. Nevertheless, Sam and Bill are still in control as they subdue him and spirit him off to a cave hideaway.

However, in the cave, the kidnappers discover their hostage is a handful and they must maneuver to maintain physical and verbal control over him. Bill plays a game of make-believe with the boy, who’s dubbed himself “Red Chief.” In the game, Red Chief captures Bill and ties him up. Soon the kid “…seemed to be having the time of his life. The fun of camping out in a cave had made him forget that he was a captive himself.”

“Red Chief,” says I to the kid, “would you like to go home?”

“Aw, what for?” says he. “I don’t have any fun at home. I hate to go to school. I like to camp out. You won’t take me back home again, will you?”

We weren’t afraid he’d run away.

Although Red Chief remains their prisoner and no longer resists, he has verbally prevailed over Sam and Bill.

Red Chief’s physical harassment of them escalates. The kidnappers’ confidence begins to crack.

During the first night, Sam has a dream that illustrates Red Chief’s growing psychological power: “I had been kidnapped and chained to a tree by a ferocious pirate with red hair.”

Later, terrified screaming wakes Sam.

“Red Chief was sitting on Bill’s chest, with one hand twined in Bill’s hair. In the other he had the sharp case-knife we used for slicing bacon; and he was industriously and realistically trying to take Bill’s scalp.”

Red Chief’s attack demoralizes Bill who asks Sam, “Do you think anybody will pay out money to get a little imp like that back home?”

Their prisoner has taken psychological control of the situation.

Sam leaves the hideout and returns to town, expecting to find villagers in an uproar and frantically searching for the missing boy. He had anticipated the kidnapping would give the criminals social control over the community. Instead, all is calm. Their original premise, that Mr. Dorset will be desperate to get his son back, isn’t happening as planned.

Uh-oh.

Back at the cave, Sam finds Red Chief has further injured poor Bill. Sam tries to regain physical and verbal control.

I went out and caught that boy and shook him until his freckles rattled. “If you don’t behave,” says I, “I’ll take you straight home. Now, are you going to be good, or not?”

Red Chief appears contrite and apologizes. Sam believes he and Bill are back in the driver’s seat.

But the kidnappers’ determination falters when Bill, who can’t take any more abuse, begins to negotiate with Sam to reduce the ransom terms.

“…it ain’t human for anybody to give up two thousand dollars for that forty-pound chunk of freckled wildcat. I’m willing to take a chance at fifteen hundred dollars. You can charge the difference up to me.”

They agree to lower the ransom. Their foolproof, get-rich scheme is losing ground.

Next, Sam delivers the threatening note:

If you attempt any treachery or fail to comply with our demand as stated, you will never see your boy again. If you pay the money as demanded, he will be returned to you safe and well within three hours. These terms are final, and if you do not accede to them no further communication will be attempted. Two Desperate Men.

Although battered, the disheartened criminals are still holding onto their victim and believe Red Chief’s father will agree.

Instead, Mr. Dorset responds with a counteroffer:

I think you are a little high in your demands, and I hereby make you a counter-proposition, which I am inclined to believe you will accept. You bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars in cash, and I agree to take him off your hands. You had better come at night, for the neighbours believe he is lost, and I couldn’t be responsible for what they would do to anybody they saw bringing him back. Very respectfully, Ebenezer Dorset.

With a classic O. Henry twist at the end of the story, Bill and Sam are out-negotiated. The kidnappers become the victims and must pay Mr. Dorset to take back Red Chief.

To incorporate negotiation in your own stories, ask these questions:

  1. What are each character’s goals?
  2. Which character is in a stronger position and which is weaker?
  3. How do they negotiate with each other to shift power to achieve their goals?
  4. Do they ask, plead, implore, barter, demand, or threaten?
  5. Do they slyly seduce their opponent? Or beat the snot out of them?
  6. Do they feign defeat to fool their opponent into dropping their guard?
  7. Do they bluff and posture, claiming strength or power they don’t actually have?

The more your characters negotiate with each other, the more the power shifts between them, raising tension and suspense. Readers turn pages to find out who wins. When you keep readers interested, they become fans who buy your next book.

Make your readers an offer they cannot refuse. 

~~~

TKZers: Please share negotiations and power struggles between fictional characters that made an impression on you. Use examples from published stories, films, or your own WIP.

~~~

Debbie Burke is making an offer you can’t refuse:

For only $.99, try out the award-winning Tawny Lindholm Thriller series.

Special price for Thanksgiving week only. 

Amazon sales link

Dream Hacking

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

The paranoid hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I read several articles by scientists from MIT, Harvard, and University of Montreal about emerging techniques for manipulating dreams.

Search engines are already scary-smart at reading our minds and predicting our behavior. Type a few letters into the search bar and instantly the rest of the word or phrase appears. Google is like a long-time spouse who finishes sentences for you.

Soon, similar mind reading may be extended into your dreams as you sleep.

Disturbing? Yup.

According to an article by Rob Pegoraro in Forbes.com, as a 2021 Superbowl promotion, Coors Beer offered people free beer in exchange for their participation in a study of “targeted dream incubation,” billed as “The World’s Largest Dream Study.” Subjects were shown Coors’s videos of snowy mountain views and crystal streams several times then fell asleep to the soundtrack of those ads.

Upon waking, the subjects reported dreams of waterfalls and being in snow. The most telling—and chilling—reaction of all came from one woman: “I think it was… something to do with… Coors.”

Subliminal advertising in commercials first became a hot topic way back in 1957. Marketer James Vicary claimed sales of popcorn and Coca Cola increased because of messages inserted into ads. The messages supposedly flashed so quickly the eye could not see them. He later admitted his study was a gimmick not supported by evidence.

According to Chron.com, consumer concerns prompted the FCC to issue a statement:

The FCC stated that all broadcasting licensees should not use subliminal advertising techniques because the techniques are deceptive, which runs counter to the purpose of the FCC. The statement is still on the FCC’s website as its stance on subliminal marketing.

Nevertheless, the concept caught on. This article from Business Insider cites examples.

Aboriginal cave painting-Jabiru dreaming
Photo credit: Wikimedia.com CCA SA-4.0

Dream manipulation is nothing new. Ancient peoples as far back as 5000 years and perhaps longer recognized the enormous power of dreams.

Cultures around the world, from Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and even remote isolated islands, developed practices to guide dreams toward a specific goal. Some goals included:

  1. Connection with a deity;
  2. Seeking solutions to problems;
  3. Overcoming traumatic events;
  4. Predicting the future.

To attain these goals, different rituals included:

  1. Rubbing ashes or paint-like substances on a person’s face;
  2. Eating raw flesh of a particular animal before sleeping;
  3. Inflicting pain, e.g. Native American Vision Quests;
  4. Going to sacred locations to sleep.

Today, many conditions, including anxiety, PTSD, poor school or work performance, eating disorders, etc., are commonly treated by using suggestions during sleep.

Here at TKZ, we frequently talk about how authors can solve story problems by using prompts before they go to sleep. Writers often dream their way through roadblocks.

Watch tracker
Photo credit: Wikimedia.com CC A-2.0

Technology already tracks our physical activity, heart rate, exercise, location, proximity to stores, and far more. Some years ago, while shopping for a new smartphone, I was shocked to find an app that monitored vaginal secretions. Whoa, guys, that is way too intrusive.

When such monitoring goes beyond the physical body and digs into the deepest recesses of the mind, the slope gets downright slippery.

What if a person’s dreams can be manipulated so businesses can profit from them?

With marketers now seeking high-tech ways to manipulate consumers in their sleep, concerned scientists are sounding ethical alarm bells.

In open letter signed by more than 40 scientists in June, 2021, Robert StickgoldAntonio Zadra, and AJH Haar wrote:

TDI [targeted dream incubation]-advertising is not some fun gimmick, but a slippery slope with real consequences. Planting dreams in people’s minds for the purpose of selling products, not to mention addictive substances, raises important ethical questions. The moral line dividing companies selling relaxing rain soundtracks to help people sleep from those embedding targeted dreams to influence consumer behavior is admittedly unclear at the moment.

Futurism.com says:

…it’s only a matter of time before tech companies that make watches, wearables, apps and other technology that monitor our sleep start to sell that data for profit, or use those tools to hack our dreams while we slumber.

Our dreams might turn into nightmares we can’t wake up from.

This technology opens a vast plot playground for authors of sci-fi, crime, and thriller writers to explore nefarious uses for dream hacking.

TKZers, please name books or films where dream manipulation is used.

How would you incorporate dream hacking into a plot?

Do you give yourself pre-sleep suggestions?

~~~

 

Debbie Burke’s books won’t hack your dreams but many reviewers say they keep them awake at night. Please check out Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion, for sale at this link

True Crime Thursday – Tom Brady Super Bowl Rings

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

7-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady

 

Hey, psst! Wanna buy a Tom Brady Super Bowl ring?

The sports memorabilia market is estimated at $12.2 billion for 2021 with 15% annual growth anticipated for the next decade.

Collectibles don’t get much bigger than Tom Brady Super Bowl rings.

 

 

Scott V. Spina, 25, of Roseland, NJ, figured out a slippery way to cash in on that market. In 2017, he purchased a Super Bowl LI ring and memorabilia from a former Patriots’ player identified as “TJ.” Spina paid with a bad check and immediately sold the ring for $63,000 to a broker of championship rings in Orange County, CA. “TJ” was out of luck–no ring and no money.

Along with the ring, Spina had received information that allowed additional, smaller rings to be purchased for family members and friends of players.

Spina then contacted the Ring Company and claimed to be the player he’d purchased the ring from. He ordered additional rings engraved with the name “Brady” that were supposedly gifts for Brady’s baby.

Next, Spina went back to the Orange County broker and made an agreement to sell him three rings engraved with the “Brady” name, supposedly obtained from Brady’s nephews, for $81,500, nearly three times what Spina paid for the rings.

The broker became suspicious of the nephew story and withdrew from the deal. That probably didn’t bother Spina because, on November 17, 2017, the same day he took delivery of the “nephew” rings, he sold them to an auction house for $100,000. Three months later, one of the family rings was sold at auction for $337,219.

The FBI Art Crime Team investigated and Spina was charged with one count of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

On August 29, 2022, Spina was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of $63,000 to “TJ,” the former Patriot player he bilked out of the original ring.

 

Risky plays can lead to being sacked.

 

 

 

~~~

 

In Stalking Midas, when investigator Tawny Lindholm uncovers fraud, a glamorous predator stalks her, ready to commit murder to protect her scam.

Buy at:

Amazon

Major online booksellers.