writing

A Poem

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Nothing Sexy About Dope

No matter how one spins it,

the dope game is dirty, from

every angle, in every state, even internationally.

We pay bad guys, commonly

called “CI’s,” to buy dope off

other bad guys, sometimes their

competition, so we can get paper,

and knock their doors down legally.

The war on drugs, although a

righteous idea, has failed, without

a doubt, for over thirty years.

The cartels have greater resources

than every law enforcement unit combined,

and they profit tens of billions annually,

live like kings with gold-plated rifles,

Siberian Tigers, and mansions built

with walls infused with bundles of cash.

Dead bodies pile up in Mexico, and

that violence seeps into the United States.

Cops, border patrol agents, and other

law enforcement groups take the bait,

get a huge payday to look the other way,

yet they always get caught and tons of

drugs penetrate the US with alarming

magnitude. This stuff consumed me

for six years…but I have the perfect plan.

Choke the borders with money sniffing

canines, intercept every penny of drug money

heading into Mexico, use it to get

Americans off drugs. Death doesn’t

bother them, losing drugs to the police

is expected, but taking their money?

Yeah, it infuriates them to no end,

causes severe grief, forces them to

pop pills pacifying ulcers. Only then

will the real war begin.

-C.L.Swinney © 2015

Joe

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Joe

Blood and other miscreants

struggle to move through capillaries.

A faux-wood kiosk shields

the bevy of people lined up

like candy bars in a vending machine

anxious to be selected.

Lifestyles clustered in a tumbler

seek purpose and motivation to face

the grind stone, rough and unrelenting.

A loud gum-chewer smacks and twirls

surveying tempting pastries.

I grovel with sullied thoughts.

The machine infuriates my needs,

clamors, but not for me.

Finally I reach another like me.

My heart palpitates seeking true weakness.

Caffeine, and whatever I adulterate it with,

is stirred, always clock-wise,

immediately drawing every sense erect.

Cautiously, I cradle the tin cup

up to my lips and tip ever so slightly.

-C.L.Swinney COPYRIGHT 2014 by CLSWINNEY

Far From Routine

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Far From Routine.

Deputy Sheriff Smith arrived to work carrying his work boots and weathered ballistic vest. His damn locker combination didn’t work, and the bastard he couldn’t fathom working with again was standing naked a few lockers down flaunting his steroid-laden physique. Smith slammed his boots and vest on the floor, “Big deal, I’d still scrape the floor with you,” he muttered a little too loud under his breath.

“What was that?” asked “Beefcake” while he strolled over to Smith pounding his chest like a low-land silverback gorilla. He stood mere inches from Smith, invading his personal space cushion, and clenched his fists as if he was trying to squish oranges into juice.  Bustling and murmurs in the locker room slipped away, scurried to the shadows, clinging to the walls anxious for drama.

“I said big deal, I’d still scrape the floor with you,” Smith answered defiantly. He’d had it with Beefcake, his job, he’d just received a text from his wife talking about divorce, and he hadn’t even had his Peet’s coffee yet. To hell with them all. He bladed himself to Beefcake preparing for a physical altercation.

Beefcake kicked Smith’s gear out of the way and stepped even closer. His pride and integrity had been challenged by Smith’s comment, and he couldn’t let it go. The other gorillas would call him out and his place at the top of “Idiot Mountain” would be threatened if he let this comment slide. He telegraphed his next move while winking at Smith just before trying to punch him in the jaw. Smith ducked as Beefcake’s fist rammed into Smith’s locker. The others noticed a sergeant walk into the locker room and grabbed Beefcake and Smith while trying to break up the pissing contest. Some of the remaining men snickered hoping Smith would pummel Beefcake because no one liked a hot-shot.

As the sergeant walked into the gladiator arena between two rows of ancient lockers, he raised an eyebrow after noticing Beefcake was naked. He looked him up and down, pointed at his groin, and chuckled. Beefcake turned red in the face while the others realized they were still hugging a naked man. Just before they let him go, Smith’s locker magically popped open.

Smith grinned and looked at Beefcake. “Thanks ‘Fonzy.’” The room erupted in laughter and the tension exited as quickly as a parolee would after hearing, “Police search warrant!” Smith and Beefcake exchanged glances.

“You good?” Smith asked Beefcake.

He nodded. “Yup, see you out there.” Two grown men, one still naked, shook hands and the force was back to normal.

Now they suited up for the real battle. The one where a punch to the jaw would be much better than what potentially waits for them. A treacherous environment full of guns, dope, gang members, robbers, killers, villains…not to mention the crazies plotting and training every single day to kill a cop or deputy. If only I could get the opportunity, Smith considered as he laced his boots tight and donned his mangy ballistic vest.

After briefing, Smith, Beefcake, and the rest of the team went their separate ways. Some have traffic details, others have meetings, Beefcake’s headed to see one of his lady friends, and Smith rolls to Peet’s coffee. They had twelve more hours to go. If they survived, they’d get to go home…some to happy homes, some to not-so-happy homes. For most of them, work is an escape. It’s an extremely difficult job, but the stress at home, with family, mortgages, kids, bills, and the rest of it was like a pressure cooker for them. Sometimes these guys became ticking-time bombs.

Routine, if there’s such a thing, patrol continued without too much excitement. There was a parking complaint on Middlefield, and a fifteen year old girl was reported missing. The dispatcher sent Smith to the missing child call and he rolled his eyes. He assumed she would be off with her boyfriend and let me guess, her parents don’t like her boyfriend. He chuckled as it seems he’s going to be in the middle of yet another pissing contest. Beefcake was sent to the parking complaint. He didn’t respond. “Imagine that,” Smith said out loud. Hopefully the sergeant tracks him down.

Smith drove to the location of the missing child report. On the way, he stopped at a red light. For some reason he noticed a lowered Cadillac in his side and rear view mirrors. It was occupied by four people, and it was slowly pulling up next to him. A red flag in his head was hoisted, and he went from condition orange to condition red.  He heard and felt hip-hop music and saw the juveniles and young adults in the car were dressed in red. Instantly he classified them as gang members, and wondered why the younger ones weren’t in school.

They inched closer to Smith. There was a lot of discussion and pointing coming from the Cadillac. Smith didn’t like it and he found himself trying to see their hands. He slowly let off the brake to inch forward to use his door panels as cover should a fire fight ensue. The Cadillac also inched forward. They were taunting him. He disengaged the safety measures of his holster and unlocked the rifle holder. If it’s going down, I’m gonna take as many of these bastards I can with me. His pulse accelerated. He wondered how long until the light turned green. What’s my escape route? Where are the third passenger’s hands? Are they reaching under their seats? What’s my backdrop? All these thoughts raced through his mind as a bead of sweat ran from his forehead down into his cumbersome ballistic vest. He wondered if the expiration date was past due on the damn thing. I’ll check the date after my shift.

A loud bang went off behind Smith and he nearly had a heart attack as he spun his head behind him to see where it came from. He saw an old Volkswagen bug and a yuppie grinning sheepishly. Smith whipped around to look for the Cadillac. It was gone. He looked up and the light was green. Jesus, that was wild. He was still in one piece, so he continued to the missing child call.

Smith met with the parents at the front door. The father’s eyes bulged and he started gnawing on his fingernails at the sight of Smith. Smith found it odd that the man was so freaked out by his presence. He tried to be professional, but this was the third time this family had called for service. Each time he responded he found the missing daughter with her seventeen-year-old boyfriend. Smith finally figured out that the missing child’s family wants the Sheriff’s Office to do their job…raise their child. They say their daughter is out of control and won’t listen to them. Smith, during the course of his investigation of said child, had contacted the child’s school. The school felt the same as him…the family wants the school to raise their child. She received stellar grades, was involved with school activities and sports, and she volunteered time to help the homeless-far from incorrigible in Smith’s eyes.

“Can I come in?” Smith asked the father. The man shook his head and kept looking at Smith’s firearm. He didn’t answer. Smith had detected something wasn’t right, but he wasn’t sure what.

He dug further. What’s really going on here? Something about the case and the way the mother looked at him concerned him. The father seemed paranoid and kept looking down the hallway like he was waiting for someone to come from a room. He made a few phone calls and located the missing child…she was at school, where she was supposed to be. The only thing missing is the parents, he thought.

Smith was frustrated because he felt the family was playing him and the Sheriff’s Office. He had two calls for service pending now, and he was stuck dealing with a call that really wasn’t a call.

“Look, I’m not sure what to tell you guys. She’s at school and you knew it. Why’d you report her missing?” Smith was trying to read their faces, get a sense of what the hell was really going on.

The father looked at the mother, she turned away, and he looked back at Smith. He looked down the hall again and back at Smith. He looked at Smith’s firearm and back down the hallway. The hair on the back of Smith’s neck spiked. Uh oh.

“Come on guys. What’s up, and what’s down the hall?” Smith said to them while pointing down the hallway. The mother began to shake and the father looked like he’d seen a ghost.

Smith walked toward the hallway. The mother trembled and the father shuffled in front of him. He towered over the father and physically moved him out of the way.

“There’s nothing! You can’t go down there. You need a search warrant to search my house,” the father said in an almost robotic tone. Smith noticed the man was terrified. He had seen that look before, and now he was asking for a cover unit on the radio.

Smith peeked in the first room, nothing out of the ordinary. The mother was sobbing and the father continued to plead. “Stop, you can’t go down there!” Smith forged on. He checked the bathroom and the closet and saw nothing.

A hysterical scream from the mother caused Smith to shudder and then he heard it…a loud thump that came from the last room. The door was closed and he grabbed the handle. It was locked from the outside. The father was shaking now…he was white like a corpse. He stood near the kitchen with a blank look on his face.

“Give me the key, or I break the door down,” Smith growled. The father didn’t respond, but continued to shake his head. Every fiber in Smith’s body told him something bad was behind the door. He heard a siren close by. It was time to act.

“I called! I called, he’s in there,” the mother whined while fleeing out the front door.

Without hesitation, Smith shouldered the door and barreled into the room. He saw the seventeen-year-old boyfriend gagged and bounded to a chair that had fallen over. The thud! The visual and what it meant registered in Smith’s mind. He spun and pulled his firearm then bang! In the blink of an eye, he lost his hearing and immense pressure pushed him to the floor. Two more loud bangs followed during the confusion.

Smith looked up to see the father standing in front of him. He was holding a gun and time had slowed way down. The gun slipped to the floor and Smith saw bullet holes covered in blood in the father’s chest. The man slumped over and his lifeless body made a sick gurgling sound after hitting the floor revealing Beefcake standing in the doorway- smoke still lingered from his duty weapon. Smith cracked a wry smile. He unbuttoned his shirt and saw the ballistic vest had caught the bullet fired at his chest by the father.

“Damn Beefcake, next time leave her house a little quicker,” he said with a grin and wink after noticing Beefcake’s uniform was un-tucked and lipstick was on his collar.  

Copyright by C.L.Swinney 2014

Joe

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Joe:

Blood, and other stuff in my veins, is lethargic. I negotiate a kiosk and lumber toward the bevy of people lined up like candy bars in a vending machine, some anxious and some fearful, to be selected. A myriad of lifestyles gather in a tumbler seeking a reason to punch the clock another day. A loud gum chewer smacks and twirls surveying temptation, while the rest of us grovel with sullied thoughts. The espresso gadget’s clamor infuriates my needs, since it’s not for me as it chimes for another. My time comes. My heart palpitates without the need for narcotics. Then caffeine, and whatever I adulterate it with, is stirred, always clock-wise, immediately drawing my palate erect. Cautiously I cradle my tin cup up to my lips and tip ever so slightly.

Dying Set Me Free

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Dying Set Me Free.

I was nine when I died.

I trembled while lying in bed,

wide awake, suddenly the door opened.

He slithered in, fueling his needs,

and did the unthinkable by taking

his son’s life. Once I felt

his touch, my soul fled from

my body. I tried, but could

not stop it. I watched as the

carcass of my body gasped for

oxygen as the demon left my

sanctuary. My mother, she knew nothing.

I dared not mention such things.

Awake, or asleep, it always persisted.

When it ended, unknown, but I

was reborn, more evil, more angry.

I’m thirty-nine now. My soul

sleeps with the fishes, while the

mental war rages, even a generation

could not save. I lie in

bed, awake and trembling, searching for

the nine year old helpless me.

 

C.L.Swinney

Two Excellent Novels Hit the Scene!

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 Final Death Comes in Threes                                                                      Final Awkward Moments

 

 

Can We Successfully Combine Drama and Humor in a Mystery?

The simple answer? Yes. I write two mystery series, and they’re both lighter with a little humor. There’s a great big “however” here. However, murder isn’t funny, by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore, the books contain some drama, too. I’ll never make light of a killing.

Back to humor, you can find some in the characters solving the mystery, and in some of the situations in which they find themselves. There’s so much drama in today’s world that I believe we need something to lighten our moods sometimes. Hopefully, that’s a need I’m addressing.

In my Sandi Webster series, she’s a female P.I., has a menopausal mother, employs a klutzy guy, and has a partner who always wants to watch her back — although he usually ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She frequently finds herself dealing with quirky or eccentric people. These traits often equal humor, and they’re traits I’ve found in people in my own life over the years.

I’ve worked in law enforcement (in a clerical capacity), part-time in a shoe store and a lingerie store, and for a state transportation department, among other jobs. Like Chris, I could sit down with you for hours and hours and tell funny stories. Of course, some are only humorous after the fact – like the time I had to search a Ladies Room for a bomb, with no training. There was, after all, a time when you wouldn’t expect to find a bomb in a john. Then there was the time a woman was turned down for a clerical job in law enforcement because she didn’t have the qualifications. Death threats followed, even though I’d only given her the typing test. Ah, those were the days.

My Bogey Man series features Chris Cross, who’s a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart, and who manages to walk the walk and talk the talk. Bogart is his muse, his hero and his idea of how a man should act. That is, the Bogey he saw in the movies. He’s very good at rolling his lip under like Mr. Bogart did. Chris is married and has a step-son, and they sometimes remind me just a little of a modern Thin Man family.

Humor keeps most of the characters going. We need a good laugh in our own lives once in a while, and so do fictional characters.

In both series the characters and their lives grow and change over time. So do we. Time seems to pass slowly in a series. Occasionally that would be preferable in real life, although there are other times when we wish we could speed things along.

One new book in each series was released in March of 2014.

Death Comes in Threes is the latest Sandi Webster mystery. She has to face a longtime foe, although things seem to happen on his terms rather than hers. He wants to kill her, and of course, she’s saying, “Nope. Not gonna happen.”

Awkward Moments features the Bogey Man. Someone sent me a joke that said, “Awkward Moments: When you’re digging a hole to bury a body, and you find another body already buried there.” This short joke inspired a whole book. Imagine trying to bury the small body of a bird and finding bones from someone who was buried there many years ago. You just never know what you’ll find. Right?

So now you know a tiny bit about me and my books. If you need a little entertainment, I hope you’ll look for it with either Sandi or Chris.

Needless to say, I hope you’ll try Grey Ghost by Chris Swinney first, but don’t forget me.

Thank you for inviting me in as a guest today, Chris. I’ve really enjoyed speaking out a little.

Website:         www.marjamcgraw.com

Blog:               http://blog.marjamcgraw.com/

Buy:                http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=marja%20mcgraw&sprefix=marja+mc%2Cstripbooks%2C203&rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Amarja%20mcgraw

 

Author Photo New_edited-1

**NOTE FROM ME (CHRIS). THANKS for coming on my blog and sharing your wonderful work. I wish you tremendous success and I’m here for you if you ever need anything.

-Chris

Make the Best Sellers List.

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So you want to know what it took to make the best sellers list on Amazon. Well, I’ll tell you (and yes for FREE).

The first thing you MUST do is write a good book. I don’t care how much you spend on advertising or how long you made #1 on the FREE list, if you don’t write a decent book, you will have a very difficult time making it on any PAID list. Having said that, if you spend time learning Amazon and the hundreds of book lists available to the consumer, you will begin to see there are certain categories that have fewer than one hundred books. So, if you write a book in that genre or sub-group, you should land on the “best sellers list.”

Nevertheless, here’s what I did. Prior to, and during the release, I did approximately five months of intensive marketing. All of it was directed to everyone who hadn’t already purchased my novel, Gray Ghost, or those who were considering making another purchase as a gift. I ASKED them to make a purchase on the same day. To magnify the effect of the Amazon analytic software (to demonstrate a lot of sales in a short period of time to increase the odds of making the list), I tried to get everyone to buy within the same one-hour time frame (12-noon).

To entice more buyers, I worked with the publisher and Amazon to get the Kindle price of the novel to .99c for a five day period (free option through Amazon but needs to be done by publisher unless you are an indie author, then you can make this happen with an email to Amazon). The paperback price remained the same. I would have liked to lower it, but the publisher said no.

I PAID for advertising for this event to coincide with the five day period the book was at .99c. These are the advertising groups/companies I used and what I paid them:

I used Goodreads ($10),

Facebook ($10),

Twitter (free),

Linked-In (free),

blogs, “Blog-Marathon” (free, time consuming),

Independent Author Network (IAN1, @authornetwork,$29.95),

DigitalBook Today http://www.digitalbooktoday.com/ ($20),

KindleBooksandTips http://www.fkbooksandtips.com ($20),

BookBub  http://www.bookbub.com/ ($25)

Author Marketing Club (WLC, http://www.authormarketingclub.com ($19.95)

TOTALS: $134.90* It should be noted that accept BookBub and Digital Book Today, the others continue to advertise Gray Ghost, and we’re into month five on this budget…

I can’t give you the numbers of books sold for each advertiser because Amazon does not provide them to authors with traditional publishers and my old publisher would not provide me this data. Hence, I moved along and found a new publisher. I do know that you need to sell at least one hundred (100) books in a day, sometimes in an hour depending on the genre, to get on a best selling list. My book was ranked in the #200,000’s for paperback and #67,000’s for Kindle prior to the sale.

However, here’s the results:

Gray Ghost for Kindle made as high as #22 on the PAID Kindle list for Crime Fiction. It also made as high as #41 on the PAID Kindle list for Mystery. An unexpected bonus was the book STAYED on the list for almost a week, which seems to support that the advertising had a long-term effect on sales.

Unexpectedly, Gray Ghost for paperback also made the best sellers list. The book was full priced at the time ($12.95) and made as high as #87 in Mystery and #63 in Crime Fiction. This format, however, only lasted two days on the list. I suspect people were buying it because some enjoy a paperback and others were not realizing they were buying the paperback format. Either way, it was a bonus for me.

PRIOR to this event, I had approximately nineteen (19) reviews for the book (from date of release and four months into the project). After the event, I had fifty nine (59) reviews (from event to today). FORTY more reviews! This was an unexpected increase in reviews and as we all know, reviews on Amazon are crucial for exposure and sales.

During the event and for a month after, AMAZON began advertising my book to readers of Crime Fiction, Thrillers, and Mystery. I suspect their analytic software alerted them to a book selling well so they promoted it further. That’s the beauty of Amazon. They back the books that are selling to keep the sales going and to make more profit for Amazon. I also gained from this, as they were sending hundreds of emails out with “What’s Hot in Mystery” and my novel was the first on top of the list. That’s always a good thing.

I’m thankful my book made the best sellers list on Amazon, but it should be noted that it is entirely different to make the NY Times best sellers list. It’s a more competitive market and collects sales in at least five different markets. Totaling the numbers of books sold generates a list, and the NY Times publishes it.  Indie authors make this list (Renee Carlino comes to mind), but the overwhelming number of authors making this list are in traditional houses, and when I say traditional houses, I’m talking about the BIG Five.

Whelp, I hope this info will help you in some way achieve your goals. My number one piece of advice is to write well and write often. you should also read a ton. All the hard work will pay off in the end. This is a very difficult business with lots of butt-kissing, cut-throat contracts, and people preying on would-be authors. Rise above it. There’s light at the end of a completed manuscript, story, prose, or poem. It’s your job to find it.

C.L.Swinney