Friday, September 19, 2014

Schrodinger's Scotland

By Russel D McLean

Russel voted one way or the other in the Scottish Referendum. This post was written the day before the referendum results were announced.

This morning Scotland is or isn't an independent country.

This morning Alex Salmond either battered his head off a table or danced a slightly inappropriate and half-cut jig.

This morning David Cameron sent a silent prayer of thanks heavenwards before striding out to meet the press with a confident swagger or he had a small cry and tried to figure out where to go from here.

This morning people were either incredibly happy or downcast and disappointed (in fact probably both are true given the split in opinion)

This morning some people will make a lot of money on the bookies or they will lose a lot of money.

One certainty this morning is that things will change. Whether Scotland votes yes or no we will all have some serious thinking to do both north and south of the border.

One certainty is that to make the best out of whatever happens we need to think about who we are - regardless of nationality - and the kind of future we want to create.

One certainty is that if you thought about your vote and cast it with the best faith you had, considering all the arguments you heard and the things that matter to you as a person, then you did the right thing. What happens next is that everyone takes a deep breath, shakes hands with those they may have disagreed with, and works together to move forward.

One certainty is that whatever changes come, they will not happen overnight, regardless of which way the vote swings.

One hope is that no one should cast blame anywhere, fall out with family and friends, or get angry with those who thought differently to them.

Whichever way we vote, there is uncertainty. There always is. But let's see, now, what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thrill Your Idols


By Alex Segura

I've had the honor of meeting a lot of authors and creative people I admire - in comics, literature and music. As a publicist (my day job), you have to steel yourself a bit, because the last thing you want to do in a professional setting is geek out about someone you're working with. That being said, I think all of us have other writers we hold up as pseudo-rock stars. We read all their work. They were hugely influential to us, etc.

Last night, I got to listen to James Ellroy read from his latest (and he'll tell you his greatest) novel, Perfidia, at The Mysterious Bookshop. I had a blast. It was something I'd been looking forward to for months and was kind of nervous about. I've read almost every word Ellroy's published and he - along with Pelecanos, Lehane, Block, Lippman and a few others - are on that list for me. Authors that I not only admire, but point to as huge influences and reasons for me even considering the idea of becoming a novelist myself.

So, yeah, this was a big deal. But it got me to thinking about idols and mentors and putting people up on a pedestal - and the downside of that. I've been lucky enough to meet most of the living authors I look up to and feel inspired by, but what I found most rewarding from those exchanges is discover the writers were funny, charming and friendly - they're people, too. It sounds silly to type, but it's the truth. Yes, they have foibles, bad days and their own problems. But we all do.

I think you gain a lot more being in the moment and enjoying a quick conversation with someone whose work you greatly admire as opposed to building it up to be something it can never be - or being disappointed at the end result because it didn't meet some unrealistic expectation.

Anyway, this was a quickie, mostly because I'm curious to hear stories from you guys about similar instances and how they went. Have you had positive or not-so-positive moments with authors you look up to?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Going Digital

by Holly West

When Carina Press made the offer to publish my Mistress of Fortune novels, I was really excited. I'd been working toward getting published for years, had spent months polishing the first book, and had queried many agents in my pursuit of a publishing deal. In so many ways, the offer from Carina Press was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Carina is the digital imprint of Harlequin, which meant that the book would be, at least initially, ebook only. I'd be lying if that didn't give me some pause. But it didn't take me long to make my decision. At this point in my reading life, virtually 100% of the books I read are ebooks. I will occasionally buy a print version when it's a friend and I want a signed copy, but I almost always buy the ebook as well so I can read it on my eReader. And you know what? I read at least 15% more books than I used to as a result. Sure, I love print--I will always love print. But for everyday reading--books I don't intend to collect-- ebooks are my jam. So why wouldn't I consider an ebook-only deal? That pretty much settled it for me.

Carina Press is known more for romance than mystery, but nevertheless they're proving themselves a contender in the genre. Dear Author says:

"I think Carina Press mysteries are overlooked despite being really good. They don’t have a name for mysteries…yet. The reviews for this book are largely positive and all of them comment on the smart mixture of both historical fiction and crime fiction." 
On September 29, Carina Press will publish my latest novel, Mistress of Lies, along with three other unique mysteries that I'm really excited about. I asked these authors to tell me why they chose to go with a digital deal like I did.

Ricardo Sanchez, author of Elvis Sightings says:
"As much as I love my old books, and enjoy thumbing through well loved pages, the reality is that almost all of my new reading, be it comics, fiction or the news, takes place digitally. When I was thinking about what kind of publisher I wanted for my book, I made a decision to look for someone with a digital first approach to publishing, as well as a company with a deep relationship with their readership. Carina fit the bill perfectly. Plus, their editors are spectacularly talented. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The one downside to digital is that I had to buy my mom an eReader so she could download my book, but it was time she joined the 21st century anyway." 
Rosie Claverton, th UK-based author of Code Runner, has this to say:
"For me, the appeal of a digital deal was all about the publisher. Carina Press are a small press, so everyone knows everyone and everyone's in the know. Most of the editors are on Twitter and they're friendly and approachable. Their open submissions policy, similar to other digital-first publishers, means that I worked directly with my editor from the word go.
My friends and relatives took a while to get used to the ebook-only option, but they soon get behind the idea when they realise the prices! When books are affordable, they reach a wider audience and I'm delighted at how quickly folks snap them up."
And finally, Julie Anne Lindsey, author of Murder in Real Time, says:
"You know what’s harder to explain to friends and family than the fact they can’t put my book on their bookshelf because it’s only available digitally – as in not tangibly – not at the bookstore or Walmart or Target? Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing more confusing, frustrating and ridiculous than explaining the concept of a digital book deal to people who aren’t digital readers. Even the casual-ebook-enthusiasts assume all books have a print option. 
They don’t. Seriously. They just don’t. *shakes head slowly* No.
So, why on earth would anyone intentionally choose a digital only or digital first publisher? Well, maybe it’s just me, but personally, I think digital presses are amazing. In the five years since I started writing, I’ve seen catastrophic landscape changes to the face of this industry and a massive shift in the dynamic between traditional publishers and their tech-first counterparts. I love that books can be offered at a jaw-dropping low-low prices (and occasionally FREE), thus making those stories affordable to anyone. I love that people can read my books on their laptop, tablet or smart phone. I love being part of a new era in publishing. Thanks to publishers like Carina Press, I’m making friends, finding readers and reaching my dreams."
I'm looking forward to our collective release day, September 29. Here's the scoop on our books:

 About Elvis Sightings:

When Floyd is sent to Kresge Wyoming to prove, once and for all, that Elvis didn’t die on the toilet, he’s beaten up, roped into a search for a missing town councilman, and threatened by government agents. If he can manage to survive a Viking re-enactment and the clubs of men in black, he might just save the town, find Elvis and get the bearded lady.

Pre-Order:
Carina Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iTunes




About Code Runner:

Ex-con Jason Carr is framed for murder and agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane must prove his innocence before the police, gangs and the mastermind behind it all, hunt him down.

Pre-Order:
Carina Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iTunes







About Murder in Real Time:

Mayhem, murder and a sexy secret agent follow downsized FBI worker Patience Price as she returns to her sleepy seaside hometown of Chincoteague, Virginia. When two members of a travelling reality television show are killed in a room at the local B&B—a room usually occupied by Patience's FBI agent boyfriend, Sebastian—she finds herself on the case. Sebastian doesn't want Patience ruffling any feathers but, as always, she can't help herself.

Pre-order:

Carina Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iTunes


About Mistress of Lies:

A beggar girl claiming to be Isabel Wilde’s niece reveals that Isabel’s brother, Adam, was murdered during the plague. Isabel must take up an impossible task: discover the truth about her brother’s death, twelve years after it happened.

Pre-order:

Carina Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iTunes

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crime TV round up

For those willing to venture away from network TV (which seems to be happening more and more) there are a few crime TV shows worth taking a look at. Here's some of what's out there.

The Killing

The end of the first season of The Killing justifiably didn't sit well with viewers, enough to cast a shadow over future seasons.It limped along into a third season before being canceled, then it got picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final season. The entire series is available to stream on Netflix right now. But here's the thing, season three is pretty damn good. Over on FB I wrote a lengthier piece of criticism of the show. Here I'll just say this. It is a very flawed show but it is a also a show that has a lot of good things too. So if you have Netflix consider checking out the rest of the series (even if that means just starting with season 3).


Top of the Lake

This show has a lot of good talk around it. Justifiably so. A couple of powerhouse performances, a slow burn case, something to say, and a strong sense of place all contribute to one hell of a show.



The Fall

The Fall is worth watching but here's the thing. From the jump there were things about the show that bothered me. In some cases little things, in other cases bigger things. These things accumulated enough to where this became a problematic show for me. It's highly regarded and your mileage may vary. The biggest sin this show commits however, and is worth knowing ahead of time, is that there is no conclusion. But like I said, it is worth checking out, and I'll likely check out season 2 whenever it comes out.


Happy Valley

I really liked Happy Valley and would give it my strongest recommendation. The main character is complex and portrayed brilliantly. The supporting characters all have a depth to them. The story often flies along at an insane pace, especially the middle two episodes which are some of the darkest on TV. Unlike The Fall it actually has a full story to tell. Happy Valley is on Netflix.


Luther

I finally got around to watching the third season of Luther and it continues to amaze. A stunning dark crime fiction series and one of my favorites.


 

Secrets & Lies

Give Secrets & Lies some credit for originality. It's a police procedural told from the point of view of the prime suspect. As his world gets torn apart and closely scrutinized he takes it upon himself to clear his name. This is a great idea for a crime story and is smartly executed. It is also being remade for American TV (trailer here) so you should check out the original now. The original is 6 episodes long and the remake runs longer. My fear of the remake is that the idea can't support that many episodes.




What crime tv shows have you enjoyed recently?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Swallowing a Bad Review

By Kristi Belcamino

My first book came out June 10 and while it has received mostly glowing reviews, I've always been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I mean, it is completely normal for an author to receive scathing reviews, right?

See, the thing is, I've been preparing for bad reviews way before I was published: I appointed my husband as my troll buster, followed @AvoidComments (Don't Read Comments) on Twitter, and stopped my Google search terms that would automatically send me posts with my name in it. Forget all that.

As of this week, I have two books out and they have a combined total of 91 reviews.

Out of those reviews, I can honestly say only two are real duds.

But here's the thing, those two stick with you.

As much as I promised myself I wouldn't read the reviews, I still do. I read them. I check Amazon a few days a week to read new reviews and to see my ranking. It's sad but true. I can't just pretend like they don't exist. At least not right now when the shine of having my first book out is still so exciting.

And here's the other thing about those two duds — more than anything I want to respond to them. I want to defend myself. Isn't that just human nature? But of course, even if I were able to respond, I know that is completely the wrong thing to do.

Before I was published, I read lots of articles about bad reviews.

I was even told that bad reviews sell more books than good reviews. (Go figure!)

A few people suggested thanking the person for reading and saying that while this particular book of yours wasn't right for them, you hoped that maybe another book of yours would be.

But you can't do that on Amazon and frankly, it sounds all good in theory, but I still think it is a bad idea. Better to just sit back and keep your trap shut.

Because there are some areas where you can respond — if a blogger hates you, you can email that person or leave a comment on the blog. But don't do it.

Or how about on Goodreads? You can message that person ... or not.

The only cure for getting over a bad review is to keep writing.

In fact, as a writer, I'd say that this little piece of advice — keep writing — is the only cure for 99 percent of the maladies we face as authors.

Scott nailed it in his post below and I love the hashtag @AlwaysBeWriting. I'm using it now too! Thanks Scott.

Dear readers, do you have any thoughts on bad reviews?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Always Be Writing

by
Scott D. Parker

Back in the day, when mass market paperbacks were first invented, I imagine there were a lot of people who suddenly realized “Wow, I can take the book I’m reading and stick it in my back pocket and carry it around with me.” The portability of a paperback meant that avid readers could always read, in line at the grocery store, the post office, wherever. Same for the boys who fought in World War II. Paperbacks were light and took up relatively little space. It was a good thing.

Fast forward to today’s smartphone and iPods and tablets. For avid readers, being able to carry a literal library of reading material is one of the best things for readers who don’t mind reading on a screen. Now, with all the apps like Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc., we readers never are without a book. Moreover, for those of us with ereaders at home, our progress is synced along the way. Throw in audiobooks and this is truly a golden age for readers.

I’ve been both kinds of person in my lifetime. I used to carry paperbacks in my pocket, I used to read on my Palm Pilot (!), and now I enjoy having my iPod Touch G5 with me all the time. It’s remarkable and nothing new.

What is new is on the writer’s side of things. If you’ve read some recent posts, you’ll know that I have a day job and on five-minute breaks at said job, I pull out my iPod and write a few paragraphs of my story. In fact, I tweeted this week a milestone in that type of writing:

997. The number of words I wrote today on my iPod Touch in seven 5-min. breaks at the day job. Yes, it can be done. #AlwaysBeWriting

I used the hashtag “AlwaysBeWriting.” I’m not a huge hash tagger and others have already used that tag and my subconscious just reminded me. Don’t care. But it made me think of my recent activities as I’m walking around this earth with this little computer in my pocket and I realized something remarkable: I was pulling the iPod out not to read something but to advance my current book.

Was I really? What did I do at Kroger last weekend? Hmm, I wrote a few sentences. What did I do last month when I took the boy to the dentist? Wrote. Standing around the kitchen waiting for the beef to be browned and the water to boil? Wrote. During a commercial break while watching “Face/Off” or “Project Runway?” Discuss which artist was the best and whom to send home. Gotcha, but you see my point.

For me, having this little device has enabled me to always have my active *first draft* manuscript with me. If I have two or five or ten minutes free during the day, I can choose to write and I often do.

Every little sentence gets you closer to The End, even if those sentences are written while waiting in line somewhere you’d never think you could write. That’s what I meant by the hashtag #AlwaysBeWriting.

Am I alone in this new realization? Are y’all always writing?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blood. Bullets. Beer. Russel.

By Russel D McLean

A quick one this week and then next week back to a longer post (again it will be about New York but maybe not in the way you expect)

The last two weeks have been spent in New York. Well, not two weeks, but rather the last two Fridays (the joy of freelancing is that you can head off somewhere midweek to midweek, which is what we did, although factoring in the 24 hour return journey, we wound up getting back late on the second Friday).

I love New York. I truly do. Looking at my passport I've been back there about five years out of the last six. Its a city that keeps on giving, and what it had to give me this time around was Noir at the Bar.


If you've been keeping an eye on Facebook, you'll have seen that there is now a Noir at the Bar Glasgow page. This was set up by myself and Jay Stringer and I promise you that soon (probably the new year) we will start getting folk together to being you a night that will hopefully equal the one I had in New York.

If you haven't done Noir at the Bar, its a very different kind of author event. More like a poetry slam for hardboiled writers, I guess. You get an allotted time period during which you can read whatever the hell you like. Me, I chose to read a bit from the new book, where Josh Bazell chose to tell a story that started of sounding like he was setting up the reading but wound up being a bit of a clever-clever performance piece. There were veteran authors and some reading their first works. There were novelists, short story writers and all kinds. There were so many variations on crime fiction being read. But what struck me most was how relaxed it all was. Its the first first book event I've done that wasn't about selling books. Did it have an effect on sales? I don't know, but it was a fun way to spend the evening and far more relaxed than most other author events I've done. Probably the flowing beer helped. A lot. That and the raffle draw.

Ahhh, the raffle draw.

The one where each writer drew a ticket after their reading and the winner got one of the prizes donated by the organisers. The one where a certain Scotsman reached in and drew out... his own ticket! (I demanded a redrawing... and luckily it wasn't The Literary Critic's ticket!)

Anyway, my point is that it was a great evening and it was good to see a literary event that was more relaxed, more casual and more accessible in some ways. The lack of emphasis on sales (there was no bookstall) was interesting and I think its the kind of thing that runs on the enthusiasm of the organisers and participants. there are variations on Noir at the Bar throughout the US. Off the top of my head, New York, St Louis, LA, Washington and others have hosted and are hosting therse events. If there's one near you I heartily recommend you try. And, you know, if we ever get Glasgow fully off the ground, I think its gonna be damned good!