Category Archives: Gravity Imprint

Guest Post: Who Cares if the Wrong Person Went to Prison? by @bobmueller


Photo Source: Pixabay.com

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

Someone else was released from prison last week after serving time for a crime they didn’t commit. This one served 19 years. The one last month served 23. Or was it 20? And the average time behind bars is 14 years. The stories come so often these days that we’re in danger of becoming numb to them, because they all sound the same. A black man (and statistically it’s more likely to be a black male), wrongfully convicted of a violent crime, released due to DNA evidence that negated an eyewitness identification, or a false confession, or faulty evidence.

The National Registry of Exonerations, a statistics project of the University of Michigan Law School, reports 1,777 exonerations nationwide as of April 27, 2016. Black men make up just over 46% of those exonerations. 116 of them were on death row. That means the State came close to killing the wrong man.

But so what? Why do I care?

Why should you care?

Because the State could kill the wrong person.

And if the wrong person is in prison, then the “right” person is still out there committing crimes.

Wrongful convictions in general are a bad thing, but at least they can release the wrong person, throw some money at them (in some states), and let them at least try to move on with their life.

But it’s hard to do that for a dead person.

Far too many states don’t do anything for a wrongfully convicted person when they get released from prison. Some of these people have been imprisoned for more than half of their lives. Many have no clue what the internet is or does. They may have never held a cellphone. They don’t get any chance to catch up on modern life. One former inmate in North Carolina received 10 minutes’ warning that he was being released.

In 24 states, they won’t get any compensation for the loss of their lives. They get nothing to try and pay them back for the missed birthdays, graduations, weddings, and funerals. Others require them to file a court claim to recover any money. That’s hard to do when you’re broke. Oklahoma caps its compensation at $175,000 no matter how long someone was incarcerated. Louisiana, home to one of the most overworked and poorly supported public defender systems in the country, caps its compensation at $150,000. Alabama requires the state legislature to authorize the compensation, but they at least provide a reasonable amount of minimum $50,000 per year.

Adding insult to injury, up until December 2015, that compensation that you had to fight for was taxed federally. Thanks, Obama.

What all this means is that the State first spent a bunch of money to put someone in prison. But then the State has to give that person a bunch of money because oops, we goofed. Sorry about that.

You know where that money comes from though. It’s not “The State.”

It’s you.

That compensation – if it’s paid – comes from you, and me, and everyone else who pays their taxes, expecting the State to get it right when they send someone to prison. Imagine what the city of Tulsa could have done with the $8 million they recently paid out on a wrongful conviction case.

In the meantime, while you’ve been stuck in prison, trying not to get beaten, raped, shaken down by the guards or the gangs, or just struggling to survive, the real bad guy has been out there, still committing crimes.

The Innocence Project points out that in the 337 exonerations they’ve accomplished, the real perpetrator has been found in 140 cases, or just over 41% of the cases. Their research indicates at least 130 violent crimes could have been prevented had the actual offender been properly identified the first time. I think it would be interesting for one of those victims to sue the agency that convicted the wrong person, thus allowing them to be victimized. Maybe I should talk to John Grisham about that one.

130 violent crimes. Robberies. Rapes. Murders. All preventable.

130 other victims.

130 other people.

And that’s just based on the 337 exonerations achieved by the Innocence Project. Imagine how many could have been prevented if the 1,777 national exonerations had all gotten it right the first time.

So why should you care if the State puts the wrong person in prison?

Because the real bad guy could still be out there, hurting people.

Maybe someone you love.

Maybe you.

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RBM Full Headshot 480x600Bob Mueller is a teller of stories. They sound like thrillers in his head. He puts himself in someone else’s shoes, teases out their feelings, blends that with bits and pieces of history and life experience, and crafts a story that might have been inspired by a song or a news story. But it’s about emotions in the end. Published under Booktrope’s Gravity Imprint, Bob is a member of International Thriller Writers, Tulsa NightWriters and Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, a father of eight, and a pastor’s husband. His novel The Sad Girl is available now from Amazon. You can also find him at http://www.bobmuellerwriter.com, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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Filed under Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Politics, Writing

Guest Post: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps You Thrive by Rachel Thompson


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

I tell people right away that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I didn’t used to. I held that shame and fear of judgment in tightly for years, a filmy veil of anxiety separating me from everyone else. I didn’t feel I could really get close to friends or even lovers, always holding back this ugly secret. If anyone saw the real me, the tainted, used me, they wouldn’t want to pursue any kind of relationship.

It’s a common mindset after trauma – to be in victim mode and not even realize it. Total nonsense, of course, because I’m awesome. Ha! But this is what shame tells you, one of many horrific stories we learn to believe.

Therapy and meds helped me a lot to overcome those lies, but the damage is incredibly deep, it never truly leaves us. I moved from victim to survivor, but it took a lot of work, and if I’m totally honest with you right now, I still argue with myself sometimes; I minimize, or tell myself that it could’ve been worse, which is just so incredibly fucked up. How much worse would it have to be? I was only 11 when a man stole away my childhood…and then he came back for more.

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Eventually, I found the courage to write and share my story, despite the voices in my head telling me to shut the hell up, that nobody would care to read about yet another victim, that talking about something that happened 30-plus years ago would be seen by total strangers as a pathetic bid for attention (when truly, who cares? It’s my story, dammit, and I matter).

I moved beyond surviving into thriving. Writing, no publishing, my story, became such a huge part of my recovery, I truly had no idea the impact on so many others and myself.

That’s where I changed my paradigm and fooled that wretched little voice: I made friends with Shame. She’s been with me longer than almost anyone, and she has a lot to say, too. So, I let her speak, and Broken Pieces was born. I released it in 2013 and it’s still #1 on Amazon’s Women’s Poetry list, #2 on Women Authors, and Top 20 in all of Memoirs, which blows me away.

It’s won gosh, like 10 awards, but more importantly gave rise to a huge community of survivors, and that means more to me than anything else! #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday at 6pm pst/9pm est) on Twitter with survivor and licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, the #NoMoreShame Project Anthologies (published by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope), and a 100+ person strong private survivor support group I moderate on Facebook are all the result of that first book. So is the Gravity Imprint!

Broken Places followed in 2015, with more amazing reviews, awards, and top rankings. I’m writing the final Broken book now, Broken People, for a Winter release from Booktrope. Apparently, Shame still has more to say.

I’m still just as busy as ever with writing, business, publishing, my advocacy work for other survivors, and most importantly, being a mom. Beyond surviving, I’m now thriving, though with occasional triggers, I stumble my way back.

My kids vaguely know something bad happened when I was younger – my son will be 11 in September. He’s very protective of his mama, and I love that about him. I’m raising him to be respectful of all women, including his almost-17-year-old sister with whom he bickers constantly over the Xbox and Squeakers, our girl cat. He has a lot of females in the house to learn from!

The lessons are there, though, and that’s what matters; I tell them both often, “you get what you give, and you give what you get.” Give mad, get mad; give compassion, get compassion. Him: Give money, get money? Me: Welcome to Capitalism (and book marketing).

I survived, and now I thrive, because I give what I get.

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Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
Twitter (Business): @BadRedheadMedia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelThompson
Facebook Broken Pieces Fan Page:https://www.facebook.com/BrokenPiecesByRachelThompson
Facebook (Business): https://www.facebook.com/BadRedheadMedia
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+RachelThompson/
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/rachelintheoc/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/rachelintheoc/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rachel-thompson/24/784/b95
Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619475.Rachel_Thompson
Author Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/j9oaH
BadRedhead Media Newsletter: 
http://eepurl.com/koN8r

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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Depression, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literary, Mental Health, Published, Survivors, Writing

Guest Post: Birthing a Book by Beth Schulman


Birthing a Book Image

Writing and publishing my memoir was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It was heart-wrenching, messy and full of stress. It was also cathartic and rewarding beyond measure. Life-changing.  A lot like becoming a mother. In fact the experience was so similar to getting pregnant and giving birth, I could create a Venn Diagram to illustrate my point (this will only make sense to fellow elementary school teachers). Instead, I’ve crafted a list.

  1. IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT APPEARS:You spend a decade of your life trying desperately not to get pregnant. When you’re finally ready to become a mother, you think it’ll be a piece of cake. Just stop taking birth control and poof, you’ll become pregnant. Well, anyone who’s struggled with fertility issues knows this isn’t true. I kept a private journal for over 10 years, recording the scenes from my childhood.  When I finally felt ready to weave those scenes into a book, I assumed it wouldn’t take that long. It took three years of committed writing time to produce something of substance.
  2. FALSE LABOR:You go to the doctor when you’re 8 1/2  months pregnant, feeling sure the baby will be delivered within the hour.  After being examined you learn you are only one centimeter dilated and the doctor sends you home.  You feel depressed and defeated. When I submitted my manuscript to my editor for the first time, I felt like I’d nailed it. I anxiously awaited his response. When he came back to me, the news wasn’t good.  I had to do a complete rewrite. 
  3. REGRET: After being told the baby isn’t ready, you go home and cry. Your feet are swollen and your belly resembles a rock hard, oversized watermelon. You are tired and cranky. You begin to question your decision to become a mother. You suddenly feel completely ill-equipped for the job. But it’s too late. When I reread my memoir and started to make the many changes my editor suggested, I felt overwhelmed. The more I looked at the words on the page, the more I questioned why I’d taken this on. Who was I to think I could pull this off? I wasn’t a writer.  I was a kindergarten teacher. But I was too far in to back out.
  4. RELIEF: Your water breaks and now you’re sure this is really going to happen. You drive to the hospital feeling both elated and terrified.  When my editor reread my revised manuscript, he sent me a text saying I’d done the hard work and it was time to send it off to the proofreader. It wouldn’t be long now. My book would indeed be “delivered.” 
  5. LABOR AND DELIVERY: You experience pain at a level you never knew existed. Then you get the epidural and it’s not so bad. The next step was sending it off to the layout and design team. I agonized over letting it go, worried about whether it was “ready” for publication, but with the release, came great relief. 
  6. PURE JOY: You hold that tiny miracle in your arms and you are overcome with joy. You feel a sense of pride and accomplishment you’ve never felt before.  You want everyone to meet your beautiful baby!  This is exactly how I’ll felt when I held my book, The Gold Mailbox, in my hands for the first time. I couldn’t wait for readers to meet “my baby!”

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Beth Schulman author photoMs. Beth Schulman is a mother, teacher and avid reader and writer.  She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Individual and Family Studies and from Cabrini College with a Master of Education Degree, with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching elementary school students for over 20 years.  Beth has devoted her life’s work to creating supportive, creative and literacy rich learning environments for young children. She has also worked with professional teachers at The University of Pennsylvania through The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) as an instructor and literacy coach since 1997.  Beth lives in the Philadelphia area with her two teenage sons, James and Ian. The Gold Mailbox is her first book.

 

The Gold Mailbox cover2

“This dazzling and moving memoir is a roller coaster of loss and transition, held together by the reminder that love and family run deeper than we ever imagine. Written in gorgeous prose, this ultimately uplifting tale will have you savoring every page.”

Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance

 

Visit Beth’s website: http://bethschulman.com

Facebook: Beth Schulman Author

Twitter: @bschulmanauthor and @authorbethschul.

 

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Filed under Blogging, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literature, Survivors, Thankful, Writing