Saturday, April 30, 2011

Entry "Drugs" for New Mystery Readers

Scott D. Parker

There's been talk around here recently about preaching to the choir. That is, we mystery bloggers and readers, we talk amongst ourselves, we get passionate about books and authors, we attend conventions, and all sorts of other things. When I read The Sherlockian by Graham Moore, one of the co-stars comments on the nature of the Baker Street Irregulars and their particular kind of fandom. As a member of the Star Wars Generation, I have no room to point fingers.

Are we normal? Are we out of the mainstream?

This question arose for me this week when one of my favorite American Idol contestants, Casey Abrams, was voted off. For those who don't know or care (which was me the previous nine seasons), Abrams is a very talented multi-instrumentalist who has been compared to Norah Jones by one of the judges. The mainstream public would rarely buy a jazz album, but, somehow, Jones's debut rocked the charts. It's one of those moments when I think "Now, other people can hear the type of music I like." I knew Abrams was not going to win this particular contest because he's just not mainstream enough. However, when you heard the judges and other industry people talk about him, it made you realize that people in the music business know their type of talent when they see it. To them, it makes no difference if America "gets it" or not.

As I said, I knew Abrams was never going to win American Idol (personally, I'm pulling for hard rocker James Durbin), but I was thrilled to see him go as far as he did and show the viewers his style of music. If a few more people out there decide to browse the jazz or blues section of the iTunes music store, Abrams has done a good deed.

We mystery folk silo ourselves within our own particular kingdom. We bestow awards that enhance the nature of what we do. I like that and believe it is necessary for the sustainability of the mystery genre. We each have our favorite author and easily share it with other mystery readers. But, chances are, we may not share that book with a friend who is more mainstream, a friend who browses for mystery novels at the grocery store. I think you know which authors I'm referring to: Patterson, Coben, Connelly, Cornwell, Roberts/Robb.

Now, I wrote those names from my memory and there some in this readership that don't like some of these authors because they are mainstream. Fair enough, but I'll counter with a simple question: why? Why is it bad that Patterson churns out thrillers like nobody else? Why is it bad that J.D. Robb does her things but (based on the one I've read) doesn't get the SF part right? Is it just a good story? And isn't that enough?

How many times have you recommended The Da Vinci Code to someone? I thoroughly enjoyed the ride that book gave me. The writer part of me tore it apart, but, then, I'm a writer and that's the curse/gift I have. It' still a good book.

Here's the thing the SF/Fantasy community does alot: make a list of entry-level books. The SFF community knows that a reader just showing interest in science fiction isn't going to pick up Dune, The Lord of the Rings, or just about anything by Stephen Baxter. They are going to start with their favorite Star Trek book, follow it up with a classic by Asimov or Bradbury, and then, and only then, suggest something mind-blowing like China Mieville or Paolo Bacigalupi. You see, the SF devotee eases a newbie into the genre until the hook is set.

How might you do that for the mystery genre?

Quote of the Week: "No matter how good you may think you are at something the only true path to honestly calling yourself a professional is time, patience, and an unwavering knowledge and precision within your craft. It doesnít matter how many toys you have around to manipulate your images." -- John Carey (from a blog post entitled "When Less is More is More Than Less" (via Minimal Mac)

In this day and age, we have so much stuff. And we writers sometimes thing we need a lot of stuff to create our stories. It's something I've struggled with, and this quote, while ostensibly relating to Mr. Carey's photography, applies to us writers, too.

Friday, April 29, 2011


By Russel D McLean

Yes, this post is late today - - Russel's internet gave out for a few hours last night. But he's back up and running this morning.

Interesting story heard from an author recently about titles. The author in question had submitted a book his publisher loved. It had a great title, too. But the publisher nixed the title for something pretty generic and standard (something that could be the title of any one of fifty thrillers and that was so literal, my teeth ached from laughing about it). However, as the author pointed out, if the title sold the book, he was all for it. Even if he thought it was a bloody dull title himself.

Which does bring into question the idea of titles. Effective titles, too. They’re tough, perhaps one of the toughest parts of a book. You can tell a good title instantly. And you can smell a hurried or bad one a mile away.

A good title has to act as a book’s first impression. It’s the first time you’re laying eyes on this potential next read. You’re eyeing them up. You’re looking for a reason to accept or reject. A title can do this easily. And for so many reasons. Different titles work for different people. One of the questions I have been asked by people is why titles change for the US market so frequently. For example Stuart MacBride’s BROKEN SKIN became BLOODSHOT for the US market. Why? God only knows, but I bet there was a reason behind it to do with culture. And it has to be better than the reason Ian Rankin’s FLESHMARKET CLOSE (the name of a real street) became FLESHMARKET ALLEY.

But of course such things are often out of an author’s control. While certain online reviews in certain online bookshops may bemoan “why do authors do this?” because they’ve bought the same book twice because of different titles, they’d do well to bear in mind that its often a publisher’s decision and that often its not taken lightly.

I remember Michael Robotham’s THE DROWNING MAN came out under the title LOST back in the mists of time. Why change the title? Well, as soon as the book came out, a television show started airing that was sweeping the world like an almighty juggernaut. It was called LOST and it could not have been more different than Robotham’s brilliant thriller. The decision for the change was obvious and necessary. In the bookstore I was working in at the time, I remember fielding a lot of questions about “is that , like, the book of the TV show?”

I’ve only been subject to a proposed change in title once (well, twice, but adding the word “The”
to a book that was called LOST SISTER was not that much of a trauma). It was a short story called JIMMY’S WAY. Not the greatest title, I have to admit now. And I have to admit that the editors at Thrilling Detective were spot on retitling the story A MATTER OF HONOUR.

Titles are vital, I believe. And they’re tough, too. An ideal title is original, memorable and should forever be associated with that story. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Multiple authors sometimes end up with the same title. Sometimes a title doesn’t reflect the work. Sometimes they fail to attract the right readership. They’re a balancing act.

But when they’re right, they can really help a book’s chances of being picked up, cracked open and read.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grammar is Important... Just not as important as you think

Okay. I'll go back on what I said last week. I'm a hypocrite. Here comes the lecture:

"Kids don't even know how to write a sentence these days. I know it. I can see when they start working for me out of college."

There it is in a nutshell. A person's argument about the state of education. Education must suck because kids can't write a sentence these days.

I'm going to disagree with anyone who's said that.

First off, if a sentence is written so poorly you can't tell what they said, why are you interviewing, or even hiring, these people?

Meanwhile, I see it every day in my classes. Kids can write sentences. They sit down, they have an idea, they put it on paper. Rarely does a kid sit there and not write anything because they can't do it. They can write a sentence. They can put a thought on paper.

Here's what the person who says the quote that opens this blog post means though. That sentence isn't grammatically correct. There are typos.

And here's where I say it.

People who nitpick grammar and typos as a way to negate what someone says is taking the easy way out.

Grammar is not as important as thought. Grammar is there to help transmit thought, but must of us are smart and we can still see what someone means if the grammar is slightly off. If there's a mispelling, you can still figure things out. Usually, there's context.

Want an example? Okay.

"I don't want to change Mommy."


"I don't want to change, Mommy."

Means two different things, doesn't it? You're all uppity right now. Ready to give me an example like this.

Well guess what. Rarely is that going to be the only sentence in the piece. You're going to have more to go on to figure it out. Something that follows it up, like:

"Well too bad, Sally. What you're wearing is completely inappropriate for church."

Wow. I guess now you can figure out which one was correct, can't you?

See, people who nitpick grammar don't want to go deeper. They don't want think deeply about what a person is saying and either criticize or agree with the thought. They just want a simple reason to be able to write the person off.

Like just looking at test scores to analyze a teacher's ability.

I once said people take typos too seriously. Spelling mistakes are the least of my worries. When I said that a person responded, "It amazes me that someone in education can be so anti-intelligence."

I was incensed. I am not anti-intelligence. In fact, the person who said that is anti-intelligence. I want people to think about their writing. I want people to find meaning in what they say. I want people to get thoughts on paper, to think about what they're talking about and say something smart about it.

You want to make a spelling mistake? You want to misplace a comma? Fine. I'll figure it out.

When we teach writing, we go from from fluency, to clarity, ^to stamina^ to correctness.

You correct last. The importance is the thought and getting it on paper. The rest comes in revision and editing.

Does a mistake take people out of the writing? Yes. But you can get right back in it.

Am I saying a paper should be riddled with typos and errors in grammar? No. It would be unreadable.

But most kids going into the work force have a basic knowledge of grammar and usage. They can write a sentence. It's tough to be 100 percent right 100 percent of the time... in anything. Especially in the internet--"I can look that up right now and prove you wrong"--era.

It's up to you to think about what they're saying more than how they're saying it. But that's not what people in power often want. They don't want people to think. They don't want people to criticize and/or create. They want them to be able to do the simple technical things.

Do what the man says, do it right and don't think too much about it.

That's why grammar is so important to these people. It's rules. And when you break the rules, what you say becomes invalid.

At least to them.

People who don't want to think.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Old-Fashioned Love-In

John McFetridge

Dave White said, don’t lecture me, tell me what you love and why. Good advice.

I love the movies of John Sayles. I love his novels and short stories, too.

The first John Sayles movie I saw was Return of the Seacacus Seven at a film festival in Montreal in 1980. The IMDB describes it as the film that inspired The Big Chill, though “inspired” wasn’t the word used at the time.

But yes, both films are about college friends from the 60’s who get together for a reunion about ten years later.

There are some odd differences, though. The characters in The Big Chill get together for a funeral – one of their friends has committed suicide. Depressing. Otherwise the characters are quite successful; a TV star, a guy who owns a chain of shoe stores, a writer for People magazine, doctors, lawyers – the usual Hollywood stuff. And they have problems. Deep, emotional, personal problems. And music, lots of Motown, lots of 60’s hits.

The reunion of the Seacacus Seven is an annual event (the single guy here, the singer-songwriter who isn’t a success at all complains about not ever getting a bed and he’s told, “You get a steady woman, you can kiss the linoleum goodbye,” – it’s a small house) “celebrating” the time they were all arrested in New Jersey on their way to a protest in Washington and spent the weekend in jail in Seacacus. Now they’re high school teachers and social workers and they work in community theatre and probably listen to NPR and donate enough to PBS to get those tote bags. None of them drive European sports cars. And they haven’t given up on their 60’s ideals, they’ve just matured and joined the “real world” as people do and adapted those ideals.

Besides the fact that in the Chill the people are all successful and have a lot of money (except the guy who killed himself and the guy who can’t have sex anymore, but I don’t think we’re supposed to make any connections there) one of the most striking differences between the two movies for me is the treatment of the “outsider.” In the Chill one of the women has married some rich guy and lives in the suburbs (so, of course, she’s miserable) and he’s not liked by the rest of the group. He doesn’t understand their “ideals” and why they’re upset they didn’t live up to them more, or something, and he goes home. Then the rest can really party.

In the Seacacus Seven one of the women brings a guy no one has ever met before and she’s worried they won’t like him. She’s gone to work for a senator and she’s worried that her boyfriend’s more “conservative” views (I put that in quotes because I think today the guy would be called a Marxist ;) will alienate her old friends.

But they’re her old friends and they love her and they accept the new guy and joke around with him and chide him about his views but they listen to what he has to say and the only thing that really matters to them is that he loves their friend and she’ll be happy with him.

Oh what a naive days they were, ha ha.

But as this is a blog about crime fiction, the John Sayles movie I wanted to talk about was City of Hope. Many of John Sayles’ movies have crime – or really corruption – as a central theme and in many ways City of Hope, released in 1991, is the precursor to The Wire, a story of the decay of the American city, the alienation of the underclass and the complicated and corrupt politics that infect everything.

And, like I was talking about last week, it’s not so much about the lone hero as it is about how people work in groups and form communities.

Here, Greg Smith explains it all better than I can (a little too academic, maybe, but still). I’ll just quote a little:

More than any other contemporary American director (with the possible exception of Robert Altman), John Sayles consistently experiments with making films about groups.The maker of “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” “Matewan,” “Eight Men Out,” “Lone Star,” and “Sunshine State” explores how to tell stories where heroes and villains are deeply rooted in their communities, not isolated from them. For Sayles, community is not just a backdrop for action; it is the stuff of everyday drama and everyday politics.

Sayles also attempts an even more difficult juggling act: telling a story with multiple protagonists, each one crucial to the narrative’s completion. In the commercial cinema (a medium whose structures are geared around telling stories about individuals), an auteur must necessarily rethink and reform basic narrative principles in order to deal with the intersecting desires of multiple protagonists.To do so may also require reinventing the visual strategies of storytelling, as Sayles does in perhaps his most narratively complicated film, “City of Hope,” a film with over 50 speaking parts and dozens of key players. “City of Hope” creates an urban environment in which people with only passing familiarity with each other may have profound effects on each other’s lives.

See, it’s The Wire.

Smith also compares Seacacus Seven and The Big Chill and goes on to compare City of Hope to another Lawrence Kasdan film, Grand Canyon, pointing out, “Both films (each released in 1991) deal with the fragility of human connections, given the declining state of race relations in American cities, and both follow a number of characters (Grand Canyon has six prominent ones) who accidentally bump into each other. But Grand Canyon is centered around Mack (Kevin Kline), the figure whose missteps provide an (assumedly) white middle class audience with an entree into the darker urban environment.”

All this talk of individuals and community isn’t something we often hear coming out of Hollywood or even out of much crime fiction. Maybe it’s an American thing. I saw an article this week called, “We're #1 -- Ten Depressing Ways America Is Exceptional,” and it is a little depressing but for those of us outside of America trying to figure out America can often become an obsession.

The part that struck me was, “When Harris pollsters asked US citizens aged 18 and older what it means to be an American the answers surprised no one. Nearly 60 percent used the word freedom. The second most common word was patriotism. Only 4 percent mentioned the word community.”

So that might explain why things like The Wire, and the the films of John Sayles may not be as popular in America as they seem to be outside of America.

But maybe that’s changing.

Okay, so this turned into more of a lecture than I wanted, and certainly more than Dave wanted.

Tell me what you love – the films of John Sayles.

And why – gotta be that exploration of community, where heroes and villains are deeply rooted in their communities, not isolated from them.

City of Hope is available from Netflix and iTunes and there are probably DVD copies hanging around and I think I have an old VHS copy if anyone wants that. Worth seeing.

I couldn’t find the trailer for City of Hope online, so here’s a clip of John Sayles talking about creating character details and then paring them away:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Voting Season

By Jay Stringer

I have a quick call out to DSD readers. If you've listened to our podcast episode on crime comics, or if you follow some of the other podcasts I've plugged in the past, then you'll be familiar with the voice of Paul Montgomery. In addition to podcasting, he's a staff writer over at Ifanboy, and is a mighty fine fiction writer who I may talk into sending us some prose someday.

Just this past weekend he had me on his main podcast, Fuzzy Typewriter, to talk about the new season of Doctor Who, and he's been very generous in the time he gave to our crime show, and to the numerous mentions he's given DSD in his shows and on twitter.

Why am I waffling on, you may ask, and why do I smell of fish?

Well the fish thing is a mystery even to me. But as for the waffling, I think we could help Paul out and it'd be a nice way to extend this DSD community of ours.

Neil Gaiman has set up a contest for the upcoming audiobook of AMERICAN GODS. The winner of the contest gets a speaking part in the new production. The contestants have submitted an audio file of themselves reading from the book, and the winner will be chosen by Gaiman from the top 20 entries.

You need to register before voting, but I've done it myself and it only takes a few seconds. You can then vote once, or vote every day. Any and all would be appreciated.

Paul's entry is here, and you can vote here.


Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

By Jay Stringer

This is one of those 'clip show' type entries into DSD canon. I posted this story once before on my defunct noir blog. It's the end of a bank holiday weekend over here and I've been doing about a million things. Thought I'd kick back and show you an older story of mine. My voice has moved past this point, and there are things I'm tempted to change. But it's fun to look back. In fact, that's sneaking some merit into this; a good way to remind yourself sometimes of how much you've learned is to look back at old work.

Some days you just can't lift that imaginary pen, and you feel like you have no talent. Pull out a story you wrote a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. Chances are, you'll find something in it that you really like, and find inspiration from it. You'll also probably find a lot of bits that you would do differently now, and that reminds you how much progress you've made.

Try it.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before.

Paul had long gotten out of the habit of looking up every time a customer walked in through the door. The novelty soon wears off, and you come to the realisation that Angelina Jolie isn’t going to walk in and smile. The top ten of the FBI’s most wanted is not going to take at seat at the bar and order a whiskey.
So the stranger was at the bar before Paul paid him any mind.

“A shot, please,” the guy spoke in an accent free voice.
He was smoking a cigarette and sat slumped forward on his stool.
“Problems?” Said Paul.
“You could say that. I’m the Devil.”
Paul took that in his stride. You heard everything working in a bar. Once, a guy told him he was Mickey Mouse in a previous life. The major supposition there being that Mickey was dead.
“Cool,”said Paul, “Can you turn me some water into wine, I mean if its no trouble.”
“No. That was Jesus.”
“Okay then, a lesser miracle, can you get Wolves promoted?”
“I’m really not about miracles, i'm more into the dammed.”
“Oh, you’re a punk then?”
“Yeah, I was the very first.”
“Okay, you’re the Devil then, for the sake of argument, what’s wrong?”
The Devil finished his drink and took a long drag on his cigarette.
“I’m just feeling a bit, I don’t know, down.”
“Isn’t that the point? Being down?”
“Funny. You’re very funny. Case in point though. I’m feeling misunderstood.”
“You’re the Devil, and you feel misunderstood.”
“I’m not a bad guy.”
“And I bet you hate that. Being an okay kind of guy totally fucks with your job, I suppose.”
“Not really. It I was never really a bad guy, that was never the idea. It started with original sin, and went downhill from there.”
“No kidding, that’s just what the Bible says too.”
“No, no. Be grateful. I’m branded as evil simply because I’m the only honest voice you’ll ever hear. I gave you people choice.”
“Get over yourself. You gave us an apple.”
“Don’t push me Paul, I know what you did in the summer of 1989, just a bit of extra cash, maybe, but it stains.”
Realising he’d never told this guy his name, Paul decided maybe it was best to find something else to do, something else that involves standing two feet further down the bar.
He walked away and began loading the dishwasher, one eye on the television, sky sports news updating the evenings European cup results. The Devil didn’t take the hint, and didn’t seem to see the extra two feet’s distance as an obstacle to conversation.
“You see, the problem inherent in the whole system is you guys.”
“Well, Demons, they are generally inclined to do bad things. And the Angels, they are generally required to do good things. But you want something really evil doing, something that was truly born in the dark heart of madness, you need a human. Humans can come up with things I could never dream of.”
“You mean Like Hitler?”
“No, I mean like Walt Disney. That mouse is fucking evil. There’s something in his eyes, it gives me the creeps’.
“But I thought Mickey was dead.”
“The mouse isn’t dead. He’s just sitting and watching. He’s waiting.”
“Have you thought about talking to God about this little mid-life crisis?”
“Seriously, you ever tried talking to her? There’s not a lot of two way conversation goes on there.”
“Not even for you?”
“Especially not for me, she hates me. It’s a thing.”
“Well, you did lead a rebellion.”
“No I fucking didn’t. That’s just all her friends talking for her, giving me a bad name. What I did, I cheated on her.”
“You and God were a couple?”
“Too fucking right we were. Then, well, in the days before, there was nothing to do, really, and there were all these seraphim floating round, and looking all angelic…”
“You cheated on god?”
“And boy have I paid for it. I’m stuck down here with you lot, who are far worse than I ever was. And you know what? She created you in my image. Damned to spend eternity surrounded with copies of myself, to be reminded what a shit I am.”
“So that’s it. The whole thing. The hole point to life, for us, is a break up”
“And doesn’t that explain a lot for you? Your whole constant feeling of missing something. The slight uneasy notion that you are really just a bit of a shit?”
“You’ve got an answer for everything, haven’t you? Some witty line for all occasions.”
“That’s the point, of course I have.”
“That’s impossible. Not every question can be answered, can’t be done.”
“I’m living proof.”
“I tell you, I can come up with a question you can’t answer, I bet you.”
“Yeah, sure, why not.”
“You know my price.”
The devil pulled out another cigarette, already lit.
“I can do it, no hassle”
“I mean, think about it first, I’ve heard everything.”
“No, lets do it, I bet you, and when I win, you’ll make it so I own this bar.”
“That’s it? All of time and space, all of creation, all the money in the world, and the sum total of your ambition is to own this bar?”
“Not even, like cbgb’s? studio 54? The viper room?”
“Nah, this place will do me”.
They shook hands.
Paul noting how the Devils palm was warm.
“Okay, here we go. You ready?”
“I can’t wait.”
Paul cleared his throat. “Why?”
“Is that your question? Seriously?”
“Yeah.” Paul not feeling so good now.
“I mean, when I said ‘i’ve heard everything’, that included debated with sixth form students and drunks underneath the expressway."
Paul dried a glass.
The force of his grip almost enough to shatter it.
The devil stood up of his stool and blew smoke in Paul’s face.
“The answer you’re looking for,” he said with a scary smile. “Is ‘Why not?’”
He downed another dink.
He winked at Paul.
“Thanks, I’m feeling a lot better.” He said, “And I’ll see you later.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Mistake of John Rector

By Steve Weddle

Imagine the horror that author John Rector felt this week.

Not too long ago, he was on top of the world, ma. His two novels have been well received. His newest novel, THE COLD KISS, published by one of The Big Six New York publishers, was named to Suspense Magazine's 'Best of 2010' list and has been optioned for one of those Hollywood movies. His novel before that, THE GROVE, was so popular as an indie publication that it got the AmazonEncore treatment in re-release. And last fall he got to sit within robe-touching distance of yours truly. Rector had it all.

Then last week someone on the internet pointed out what a failure he has become. Where did it all go wrong?

Is it the writing? No. According to the posting, he has "very good books."

Did he fall prey to alcoholism? Drugs? Does he lock himself in his hotel room to work on novel edits while I'm keeping him a seat warm at the bar and texting him and calling him to come back down and hang out? And how did the internet even find out about that?

Maybe it's even worse. Did he commit the cardinal sin of crime fiction writers? Did he go an entire week without tweeting about bacon?

No. It's worse.

Allow me to quote from the blog post that explains The Failure of John Rector:
There’s no other way to put it – Signing a book deal was a huge mistake. John Rector could have been a Top 100 Kindle Store Author.
Oh. My. Gracious.

He signed a book deal? With a publisher? What in the name of Wendy Everly was he thinking?

According to the post, Rector was On The Charts at the Amazon website. He was on his way to being able to see his name in the TOP 100 Kindle authors. And yet, he chose to sign THE COLD KISS over to Macmillan/Forge. How could he have made such a mistake? As the post author elaborates in the comments:
The very act of signing up with a Publisher is the equivalent of saying – I’m going to focus less on readers.
Yes. That is exactly what it is saying. Not long ago, John Rector would spend his time and energy writing a novel. Then he would upload it for the Kindle. Now he has signed with a Publisher. Which clearly shows that he doesn't care about the readers. Um, I'm not sure how that follows, exactly. But I read it on the internet. From what I've seen, publishers of books do tend to focus on the readers of those books. And the last I heard, Rector was still writing. And editing.

What's interesting to me isn't making fun of that post (well, maybe a teensy-weensy bit). Rather, what interests me is how we define success. And how others try to define it for us.

For the author of that blog post pointing to Rector's 'mistake,' success is clearly being a "Top 100 Kindle Store Author." William Shakespeare is a Top 100 on the Kindle list, probably because he offers his books for free. James Patterson, whose books aren't free, is also a Top 100 Kindle Store Author, meaning he is successful.

Let me check THE WOLVES OF FAIRMOUNT PARK, our DSD Book Group read. Hmm. Seems that Dennis Tafoya's excellent novel is #135,270 Paid in Kindle Store. Damn. Poor guy. And I liked that book, too.

Dennis Lehane's MOONLIGHT MILE? 1,090.
And speaking of Noircon:
Laura Lippman's GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT? 4,473.
George Pelecanos's SHAME THE DEVIL? 12,883.
And speaking of Do Some Damage, how about Friend of the Blog Brad Parks. He won the Shamus and the Nero for the same book, right? Let's see how his newest is doing.

Oh. My Gracious.

And here I thought these people were successful authors.

I suppose John Rector will just have to console himself with the thought that some pretty damn good career-novelists have made the same 'mistake' he did.

Let's see if I have this right -- If you sign the deal with The Publisher, then you don't focus on the readers and you fall down the Kindle Top Authors list.


As I understand it, when you sign with Macmillan or Penguin or FSG to print your book, one of the things they do, and I'm no expert here, but one of the things they do is that they, under most circumstances, print your book. Which means people sell them in stores. And, again, I'm not an expert in anything but mediocre whiskey and quantum mechanics, this means that those sales do not count in your Kindle sales.

So it seems odd to me to judge an author by Kindle sales when that author's books are available a thousand other places. Rector's books are available in print and he's selling fewer Kindle copies. Seems to me like that is sorta how it's supposed to happen.

It's kinda like using the Gran Turismo video game as proof that the Ferrari 458 Italia is a better-selling automobile than the Honda Accord.

Not that THE COLD KISS is a Honda Accord. Hell, Rector's writing is more like a tricked-out herse, corpse-full and flame-spewing.

So it seems to me that if you want to list authors who sell on the Kindle, well, make a list. But being on that list isn't a measure of success for most authors. Or it isn't the only one.

Rector's "mistake" would be publishing a book that doesn't kick as much ass as his first two have. That would mean he's no longer focused on the readers. Not being on the Top 100 Kindle Authors list just means he isn't focused on that list. Other than that, it doesn't mean much.

Unless you're the kind of person who judges the quality of an author by whether he/she is on a list. In that case, the list probably means a great deal to you. Too bad the books themselves don't.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Finding inspiration in the holidays

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Because I am the Sunday blogger, a fair number of my posts fall on holidays. Holidays in my house are always an adventure – especially now that I have a toddler. Most people think that kids love holidays for the candy and presents. Mine won’t eat the candy and is tends to be content to play with the first present he opens. We have to con him into opening the rest. The one thing the tot really loves is seeing family.

Family is a funny thing. Because you don’t get to choose the people you are related to, the holidays can force you to spend time with people you don’t get along with. Add to the mix the stress that often comes with the holidays and sometimes the family adventures can be a powder keg ready to explode.

Not good for sanity.

Great for fiction. Especially crime fiction.

Think about it. There are lots of sharp knives used to carve the turkey and slice the leg of lamb. Take a stressed out member of the family who is down on his luck, add great-aunt Edna’s loud, abrasive personality and her need to criticize everyone around here and bang – you have a chance for an explosive crime fiction scene. Russel posted on Friday about how crime fiction explores people in extreme situations. He’s right. And how much more extreme can you get than the stressful holidays surrounded by people that know exactly which button will push you over the edge?

So to celebrate the Easter holiday, feel free to post here a scenario for a holiday related crime. (And if it is one you envisioned acting out today – we won’t tell anyone!)