Monday, October 12, 2015

Small press shout out

This just seemed like something that needed to be done.

Here are some small presses that I like and some recommended books for each one.

Lazy Fascist Press

"We’ve published everything from minimalist dark comedies to meta-fictional SF, along with historical fiction, fairy tales for adults, and hybrid plays. We seek out books that are emotionally hard-hitting, critically engaging, and exhibit crisp, original prose. These books tend to be difficult to pigeonhole under any one banner, but together they form a complex mosaic of the disenfranchised, the poor, and others who are struggling to survive — and make an impact — in an increasingly bleak world. However, we’re not all about doom and gloom. We like to laugh, demand the absurd, and love great storytelling above all else."

Books I dig from them: Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson, The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr, The Laughter of Strangers by Michael Seidlinger, The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones, The Door that Faced West, Zombie Bake Off by Stephen Graham Jones, Black Hole Blues by Patrick Wensink

Broken River Books

"Starting out as a weird crime fiction press, BRB has branched out into horror, bizarro, and even nonfiction books. While the overall genre of our titles might be hard to pin down, all of our releases are connected by their incredible prose, killer design, and anarchic spirit. BRB has maintained a blistering publishing schedule, releasing 27 books (including 5 on its new imprints, King Shot Press and Ladybox Books) in a little over a year.

With a diverse and unpredictable catalog ranging from the southern gothic Peckerwood to the weirdo epic The Last Projector to the bizarro riff on B-movie madness Leprechaun in the Hood: The Musical: A Novel, BRB and its imprints are dedicated to bringing you fiction that falls just left-of-center. This is fiction for the rest of us."

Books I dog from them: Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres, Street Raised by Pearce Hansen, The Last Projector by David James Keaton, Gravesend by William Boyle, The Fix by Steve Lowe, Repo Shark by Cody Goodfellow

280 Steps

"280 Steps is a publishing house specializing in crime fiction. The name is taken from master crime writer Raymond Chandler’s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely, the second novel he wrote featuring L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe. 280 Steps publishes established authors and rising stars, as well as well as reissuing crime classics."

Books I dig from them: Rumrunners by Eric Beetner, Burn Cards by Chris Irvin, Out of Mercy by Jonathan Ashley, One-Eyed Jacks by Brad Smith, Neon Noir by Woody Haut, The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers

Word Horde

"Word Horde was founded on the the idea that great stories should be given every opportunity to find the right audience. That when you work with the most talented creators available, you cannot help but create great art."

Books I dig from them: Vermillion by Molly Tanzer


"ChiZine Publications is willing to take risks. We’re looking for the unusual, the interesting, the thought-provoking. We look for writers who are also willing to take risks, who want to take dark genre fiction to a new place, who want to show readers something they haven’t seen before. CZP wants to startle, to astound, to share the bliss of good writing with our readership. We want stories using speculative elements—magic, technology, insanity, gods, or insane-magic-technology-gods all in one—to show the dark side of human nature. The good guy can feel—and act on—anger, hatred, vengeance just like the villain. Heroes don't always win, conclusions don’t always wrap things up nicely, and sometimes things can take a turn that’s just plain weird . . . even for the genre.

Books I dig from them: Bulletime by Nick Mamatas, The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere, Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli, Haxan by Mark Hoover, In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay, Katja From the Punk Band by Simon Logan, Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy, People Live in Cashtown Corners by Tony Burgess, Sarah Court by Craig Davidson, Westlake Soul by Rio Youers.

Two Dollar Radio

Two Dollar Radio functions on a no-wasted bullets policy. You won’t find jokebooks or bathroom readers camouflaged in our lists. In the work we produce, we value ambition above all, and believe that none of our books/films crimp to convention when it comes to storytelling or voice. Ideally, that contributes to a liberating reading/viewing experience. Our primary interest lies with what we would characterize as bold work: subversive, original, and highly creative.

Books I dig from them: Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm, Haints Stay by Colin Winnette, The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing by Nicholas Rombes, The Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolph Wurlitzer, The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith, The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich.

One Eye Press

"One Eye Press is a multi-genre publisher with a focus on short consumable fiction ranging from flash fiction to short novels distributed across multiple formats."

Books I dig from them: Federales by Christopher Irvin, Gospel of the Bullet by Chris Leek

Crime Factory

Primarily noir and hardboiled fiction.

Books I dig from them: Saint Homicide by Jake Hinkson, Fierce Bitches by Jedidiah Ayres

Civil Coping Mechanisms

"A continuously expanding selection of innovative literature and poetry. The kind of stuff that stays with you."

Books I dig from them: Noir: A Love Story by Edward Rathke, Winterswim by Ryan Bradley

Blasted Heath

"Fascinating characters… gripping stories… deadly writing. That’s what Blasted Heath is all about. The very best in crime fiction, with a few surprises along the way."

Books I dig from them: Angels of the North by Ray Banks, All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith, The Point by Gerard Brennan, Hot Wire by Gary Carson, Saturday's Child by Ray Banks, Hard Bite by Anonymous-9

New Pulp Press

"Bringing you the most original voices in crime fiction, neo-noir and neo pulp."

Books I dig from them: Bad Juju Jonathan Woods, A Choice of Nightmares by Lynn Kostoff, The Science of Paul by Aaron Philip Clark, The Bastard Hand by Heath Lowrance, In Nine Kinds of Pain by Leonard Fritz, Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride, The Fever Kill by Tom Piccirilli, The Last of the Smoking Bartenders by CJ Howell, Dust Devils by Roger Smith.

Beat to a Pulp

"Offering stories in a variety of genres (from noir and hardboiled crime to Westerns, from science fiction to the undefinable), BEAT to a PULP is sure to have something for every pulp enthusiast. "

Books I dig from them: The Big Ugly by Jake Hinkson, The Posthumous Man by Jake Hinkson

Nightscape Press

“To provide readers with high quality speculative fiction novels, novellas, and anthologies while going above and beyond to promote and nurture our greatest resources, the author and their work.”

Books I dig from them: Sterling City by Stephen Graham Jones, Three Miles Past by Stephen Graham Jones

All Due Respect

"low-life literature. Criminals, thugs, douchebags, cheaters, gamblers, pickpockets, ne’er-do-wells, guns, cigarettes, bath salts, booze, beer, strippers, whores, wheelers, dealers, schemers, robbers, adulterers, embezzlers, loan sharks, losers, and lottery winners (who are, of course, losers)."

Books I dig from them: Selena by Greg Barth

Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing

"We tend to publish dark speculative fiction but have been known to branch out into other genres, if the story is right."

Books I dig from them: Sirens by Kurt Reichenbaugh,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Importance of Owning it

by Kristi Belcamino

Are you a writer?

Here's a simple quiz:

Do you write?

Yes? You're a writer.

No. You're not a writer.

At some point, all of us have to take ownership of being a writer. I believe if you truly want to be a writer, you write. And you call yourself a writer.

If you write, you can ditch that weak willy nilly "aspiring writer" title and dive right in.

I had to do that.

My ego didn't want to call myself a writer. In fact, I spent about thirty years avoiding calling myself one.  After all, after scrapping my first novel at age 11, I was scared to death of writing fiction. Who was I to think I could write a book and be a "writer" - the  most glorious and elusive and magical career in the world?

So, I got a journalism degree and poured my heart into newspaper writing and reporting. I was a REPORTER. Not a writer.

And then - THANK GOD - I got older. I turned forty and glory days, realized I didn't care anymore about what anyone thought, which gave me the freedom to sit down and write a fiction book.

So, I sat down to write and decided to call myself a writer. I even bought this mug so I could look at it every morning and remind myself that I WAS A WRITER. For reals.

And who knew? People liked my book. An agent liked it and then a publisher liked it.

But even before anyone else liked it, I claimed the title and owned it: I am a writer.

How about you?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Some Great Reading for Halloween!

Scott D Parker

Not a lot happened here at the home offices of Quadrant Fiction Studio this week. I'm missing out on many of the Bouchercon events this week. It's great to see all the photos. I guess the biggest thing is happening this week is the upcoming release of Weird Menace Volume 1 from Rough Edges Press. Those who don't know, this is the publishing arm of James and Livia Reasoner. Here's the cover of volume 1:

And here's the image for volume 2 which comes out a few weeks after volume 1:

I have a story that's coming out in Volume 1. It's called "The Curse of the Monster Makers!" James sent me my draft earlier this week and asked me to review it for typos and anything else that needed to update. As I mentioned last week, I have a problem with titles. The title — which is awesome — is entirely from James himself. So thanks James! I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in Volume 1 and Volume 2 during this fun Halloween month.


Speaking of covers, I'm prepping the second Benjamin Wade book for publication and I need a cover. I have a lot of old paperbacks and most them have actual painted art. But there was a time, probably in the late 1950s or early 1960s, when cover art became a little more minimal. I'm thinking of the paperback versions of the James Bond novels were there was only one picture on the entire cover. Also the Michael Shane novels by Brett Halliday--at least the Dell additions that I have--didn't always tried to illustrate a scene from the story. Instead, the covers showed a couple of images that gave you the idea. Currently the book is titled ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE. And instead of going in the painted scene category (like I did with WADING INTO WAR and THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES), I'm trying the minimal approach. Here's what I've come up with so far.

Let me know what you think. Do you like it? Do you not like it? What could make it be better? I've never done this before, so I'm happy to get some feedback.


Finally! FINALLY! Chicago has been nominated to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

About. Damn. Time.

Full roster here. And you can vote. Multiple times.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lofty Goals

by Holly West

Apropos to Angel Colon's post from last week, I thought I'd share some of my goals. This isn't so much a post as it is a look into what I'd like to accomplish over the next few years. H/t to Neliza Drew for finally making me sit down and write them out.


1) Finish, polish, and submit current WIP (Nose Dive) to my agent. Ideally this would happen by November 2015 or at least in advance of the December holidays. Note: As of this writing, the first draft is done. DONE! Now some polish and it will go to my editor on 10/22.

2) Social Media, Newsletter, & Blog: Develop a more consistent and organized presence in all three areas with a focus on brand and providing meaningful content. Newsletter should be content, not promo driven.

3) Regular installments of a special project on Watt Pad. Not sure what this will be yet.

4) Depending on progress w/ current WIP, might do NaNoWriMo in November. Note: This is probably not going to happen.

5) Work on balancing work life w/ home/pleasure life.

6) End all outside volunteer commitments. Concentrate all efforts on my own goals. Note: I've already messed this one up with a couple of commitments in 2016.


1) Develop a crime/mystery series, likely under a pseudonym, for self-publishing. Goal would be to put out at least one book a year independently.

2) Depending upon response to Nose Dive (which will hopefully be under submission to publishers by Spring 2016), self-publish.

3) Write a fourth novel, likely a stand-alone, for submission to my agent by the end of 2016.

4) Request the rights to the Mistress of Fortune series revert back to me Note: This is a bit early to make the request, so I'll have to see where we're at when the time comes.

5) Take at least one major vacation


1) I'd like to have an ongoing contract w/ a traditional publisher and an ongoing self-published series.

2) Seek a new publisher for or self-publish the two Mistress of Fortune series titles. This might result in writing more in the series, which I might be up to by then.

5-year Goal (2020)

1) Regularly writing two books a year, ideally one self-pubbed and one traditionally pubbed.

Do you have a five year plan? Share it in the comments.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Star Struck at Bouchercon

by Kristi Belcamino

In a few days I'm going to be at my second Bouchercon and I can hardly wait.

I've had my suitcase packed for three weeks. Not really. Well, maybe.

It'll be a little bit different than my first Bouchercon last year.

This year, I'm nominated for two awards - which is totally unreal - and this year, I have four books out instead of one.

But I know I'm still going to be that same star struck nerd fan girl I was last year.

I've been studying the attendee list for months. So many authors I admire will be there this year.and even though I've interacted with them online and in some cases, briefly met in person, I know I'm going to be tongue-tied if I come face to face with them. Sigh.

For instance, last year, when I came down from my hotel room to the dining room that first morning, I saw MEG GARDINER sitting alone at a table eating her breakfast!!!! I gave a timid smile and SHE SMILED BACK and I was completely embarrassed and star struck and couldn't have struck up a conversation with her if I had a gun to my head. Yeah. (Sorry Meg if you ever see this!)

Let me put some of this in context -- I'm not NORMALLY a celebrity star struck girl.

Journalism knocks that shit out of you. For instance, I've been cussed out by Tone Loc. Eddie Van Halen spilled his drink on me. Jerry Seinfeld rolled his eyes at me during an interview. Clint Eastwood called me. (Okay, he left a message, we didn't actually get to talk. Damn it.) Dennis Hopper once talked my ear off - although I still haven't figured out what he was talking about. I once hung out with Edward James Olmos in a prison. The Reverend Jesse Jackson called me from his limo. I got to shake President Bill Clinton's hand (Okay. I lied. TOTALLY star struck by meeting the prez.)

So, I'm not normally star struck. Except when it comes to authors I admire!

This year, I'm going to be a bit more brave than last year. Instead of smiling shyly at an author across a table at the bar, I'm going to go strike up a conversation and buy them that drink I promised to buy online. 

I'm going to walk up and thank the authors who have inspired me or helped me along the way. I'm going to try not to be intimidated by them and walk that fine line between fan girl stalker and admiring fellow author.

If only it were as easy as meeting Hank Phillipi Ryan, who joined us walking between hotels one night last year, struck up an easy, natural conversation with us and then gave us her card, offering her friendship. (Hank is such a class act, we should all aspire to be like her!)

I won't call them out here but just suffice it to say that there are at least a handful of authors attending Bouchercon who will probably leave me star struck. I'm going to try to put on my Extrovert Hat and not be a fan girl nerd. Please wish me luck.

And if you want to name names of the authors who render you speechless, feel free!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Internalizing Story Structure

Scott D. Parker

We talk a lot about story structure and tools of the writer's trade. Turns out, were not the only ones that see it. Case in point is what happened to me this week.

I was at a going-away lunch for three of my now former colleagues. I sat next to an engineer who, as it turns out, is a voracious reader. I had given him "The Box Maker," my first western as part of the new Triple Action Western imprint. We got to talking about books and the type of books he likes to read. I mentioned an experience I had a couple of years ago when I visited a few estate sales in the area. For three consecutive estate sales, the man of the house had had a man cave, for lack of a better word. It was the study/room, usually dark wood-paneled, with the recliner, that the man of the house would escape to whenever he needed the solitude. Those three houses all had one thing in common: an entire bookshelf full of Louis L'Amour novels. That was when I realized that L’Amour novels were just what men read back in the day. My co-worker and I both agreed that seem to be an equivalent now.

As part of that discussion, my engineer/coworker started talking about how L'Amour structured his novels. "You gotta have a man, usually a lone man, who is really good with the gun. There’s gotta be a bad guy the good guy was has fight. This has to be a love interest, a woman that the man loves. You have to set up the final showdown, usually right after the hero gets his chin bloodied by the bad guy. Then you have the final showdown."

As I sat there and listened to him say this, I realized he had internalized the basic three-act story structure. I think many other people do as well, but it was interesting to have it explained — in much more detail than I just did here — exactly what he (and us?) like to see in a novel. He said he hoped I found a character that clicked with readers and could write an entire series.


On a side note, we writers often wonder if free copies or cheap copies can actually turn out to be a good investment. For me, it’s a yes. A month ago, I gifted this same engineer the first Triple Action Western, "The Box Maker." He read it over a weekend. He really enjoyed it, so much so that on the following Monday, he made a joke about the twist ending. Ironically, it to me a few minutes to figure out what he was talking about because I had no context. Well, after the lunch on Thursday, he brought over his Kindle and showed me that latest Triple Action Western yarn, "The Agony of Love," was queued up in his Kindle. He pushed the “Buy” button and said, "You've just made some royalties."

He topped himself yesterday by letting me know he had purchased WADING INTO WAR and THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES. I thanked him very much. He said that he might get them all read this weekend! Certainly something that makes a writer feel good. An investment of $1 returned $6. I'll take that any day of the week.


I won’t be attending Bouchercon this year, but I’ll definitely be there in 2016. New Orleans is driving distance. Have fun, y’all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lessons from the Corporate World: Project Management for Writers

Guest Post By Angel Luis Colón

Holly's note: Don't let Angel Colón's gritty writing fool you: he's one of the nicest guys around. I asked him to write this post because I think he's a writer to watch. As he explains below, he's only been serious about his writing for a few years, but he's managed to pack a big punch in that time. I figured we could all learn something from him.

I’ve got a little secret: writing as a career? I’ve only been serious about it for three years now. Well, less than three years really.

Now, let’s backtrack. I always WANTED to be a writer. I studied Journalism and Creative Writing in College (according to my BA, I might even be a journalist). I’ve been a voracious reader since I can remember. I also spent a lot of my 20’s impressing people with my lofty ambitions and all the epics of epicness locked inside my amazing brain. That wasn’t enough, though.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have some level of skill—I could write. Hell, I could write FAST—scary fast. There were even people that looked at words I’d put on paper and said, “Oh, this is good,” with minimal surprise in their voice.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase the great teacher, John Kimble, I lacked discipline.

I may live my life by his example more than I realize
So what changed? What helped me move forward and gain external successes (meaning publications and other fun writing gigs)? What keeps me working to grab at the next set of rungs on the never-ending ladder?

Well, a lot really. I got serious about being a better writer, about being published and grabbing any and all opportunities I could. But, that all didn’t just happen. It didn’t click into place until I realized I could actually apply the career that paid my bills to the career that stoked my ego.

Mind = BLOWN.

A lot of writers have a day job, that’s no secret. We toil at our computers and notebooks when we’re not toiling at company-owned computers and notebooks. It is what it is. By day, I’m a pretty buttoned up guy who sold his soul to the corporate hole years ago.

I’m a Project/Program Manager. It’s boring. It’s also an incredibly useful field to be in when you’re a writer. Why? Because it demands a level of discipline and goal-setting skills that are built to make things effectively happen. And when I say goals, I don’t mean ‘get published’ or ‘dethrone JK Rowling in one on one combat’ (have you seen her with a katana? Unstoppable). That’s not how managing a project works.

Projects have tangible end goals, but they never actually end. There are always opportunities for improvement and never a time to ignore your work.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of one size fits all writing advice. I prefer to pick at advice like a carrion bird and apply it in a way that makes sense to me.

In some circles of Project Management we have a little something called DMAIC. Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. Exciting right? But it’s surprisingly applicable to your writing career.

Here’s a little example (and mind you, I play fast and loose because, like I said before, this is how I make it work for me):

Define: This is your goal, let’s keep this bite-sized and use one I try to stick to.
Write, on average, 9-12 short stories this year (a spread goal gives us room to work with, hard goals are too rigid and muck up process easily. Always best to have a lower and higher limit).

That’s a lofty one, but it’s accomplishable.

Now next:
Measure: Let’s check what we’ve done in the past and what we’re capable of. Last year, we wrote 7 short stories over 12 months.
Okay, great we would need two more stories to hit our lower limit. What was our output, word count, etc? Can we do better?
600 words a day – maybe we can push to 700/800.

Analyze: I know my numbers, but can I enhance or repeat?
Maybe I can talk with my wife (a ‘key stakeholder’) and get an extra half hour to write each day.
Or I can fit it into my commute or lunch.
How do my weekends look?
Has my work quality suffered when I overdid it? When have I burned out before? Maybe we can keep a journal and see how many words we do on consecutive days. When do the words peter off?

We have all that in order. We’ve decided to talk things over with the spouse.

Improve: The spouse can give us more time (yay!)
It’s only fifteen minutes. (boo!)
But I have some free weekends coming up, let’s take Sundays and try to keep out of commitments as much as we can until we’re at a place we feel our output is up to snuff.
Wait, crap, where do I fit my editing time?
This is when we pilot our methods as well. What’s tough during Improve is that you may need to hop back to prior steps. Refining process is deeply, deeply important and you’ll find the extra work will help in the long term.

So it all worked out. We’re in a rhythm and we’ve written a few stories.

We’re in:
Control: This is when process is launched and going.
But I hit a wall. The holidays AND writer’s block have snuck up on me.

And that’s why it’s a Control phase. We’re never really “done." There are a lot of reasons beyond not having time too. We’re still learning, networking, exploring. Maybe there are classes we want to take, maybe there’s a novel burning a hole into our head. Nothing is necessarily an obstacle—just an opportunity for improvement. Being disciplined doesn’t mean there isn’t room to bend or change whatever doesn’t work.

And here’s the deal: none of this equals external success. That’s a whole lot of other factors that people literally write volumes on. Still, internal success can sure as hell help to push you towards external success more often. I’ve found that my writing career has blossomed when I’ve found discipline and placed my priority on those internal successes. Maybe you will too.

Also, bribe people with cookies/alcohol—OFTEN.

BIO: Angel Luis Colón is the author of THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR. His fiction has been shortlisted for the Derringer and has won an award or two. His nonfiction has appeared in The LA Review of Books, The Life Sentence, and My Bookish Ways. He’s also an editor at Shotgun Honey, home of some of the finest hardboiled flash fiction on the Internet. Find out more at or ignore him on Twitter under the handle @GoshDarnMyLife.