Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Start of a Beautiful …

By Scott D. Parker

All writing advice boils down to the obvious: Just Write. Those words are painted on a ceramic pencil holder I keep on my writing desk. On the back of it, I put a small red dot. When the lady at the ceramic store asked my why, I told her that I was always missing something and I needed a little reminder to help me remember what I missed.

The beauty of that little red dot is that it can stand in for just about anything: better prose, more natural dialogue, get that essay to the editor yesterday! This week, the little red dot has taken on a new meaning: schedule. I am blessed to be able to work my technical writing day job out of my house four out of five days a week. As a result, I’m in this room many, many hours. I’ll admit, too, that come the end of the work day, I am so ready to get off my butt and step away from the computer and the keyboard. Not a real conducive writing environment, that.

Like Dave on Thursday, I read Chuck Wendig’s post, “Six Signs It’s High Time to Give Up That Whole “Writing” Thing” (Hey, Chuck! Two DSD shout outs in one week!) There was a single take away from that essay: Shut up and write. The nifty thing for me was that I already was.

Taking a cue from Jeff Abbott, I started a habit five days ago: write in the morning. With summer here, my boy is not in school. In the past, when I didn’t have to get up so early, I’d allow myself a few minutes more sleep. Not so, now. I made a simple decision: maintain my wake up time from the school months and get 1,000 words done before heading “off” to the day job.

And I’ve done it, too. In this first week of summer when the mercury nears 100 every day, the mornings have been unexpectedly pleasant. So, not only have I fired up the Mac every morning a little before 7am, I’ve also pounded out my words sitting outside on my patio. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to have your writing for the day done by 8am—my hard cut off time since I do have to work. And, as the week progressed, I found that I, when I awoke and groggily brushed my teeth, the sentences I was to write started forming in my head. By the time I poured the coffee, I almost didn’t’ need it so thrilling was anxiousness to get to writing.

An interesting colliery: Because I have to start work at 8am, I have had the situation where I’ve had to stop in the middle of a scene. I’ve never really done that before—despite the advice from numerous sources that it’s a good idea—but found it to be a pretty cool thing the next morning. I don’t think I’ll keep that aspect of my writing, but it’s helped a couple of times.

When do you write? Are you a morning writer?

Short Story Collection of the Week: Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles as written by Edward A. Grainger. I think we all know that Edward A. Grainger is really David Cranmer, writer, editor, publisher, husband, and new father. A couple of days ago, the first collection of his Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles short stories was released via Kindle. I had the pleasure of reading some of these stories in draft form and I can attest that there isn’t a bad tale in this book. Even if you don’t particularly like westerns—see Chris F. Holm’s introduction if you fall into this category—you will enjoy these tales of adventure. Besides, the collection is only $0.99. Come on! You can part with a dollar, can’t you? You’ll get much more than you paid for, I assure you.

Friday, June 10, 2011


The new DSD collection -- COLLATERAL DAMAGE -- is coming -- just in time for Father's Day. More soon.

Collateral Damage:
A Father’s Day Collection of Mayhem 
To follow the immense fun -- um, I mean HUGE FINANCIAL SUCCESS -- of our TERMINAL DAMAGE collection, we came up with this book.
TERMINAL DAMAGE was tied together in that all the stories took place at an airport on the same day – when all hell broke loose.
The stories in COLLATERAL DAMAGE are tied together by Father’s Day. Revenge, mysteries, killings and more bleed through the pages of this book.
We hope you enjoy this one as much as folks seemed to enjoy TERMINAL DAMAGE.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I'm exhausted.

Like brain fried, body overheated, friggin' exhausted. I work in a school, and if you remember your days of going to school, you'll know that in the early summer most buildings are like brick ovens. And it was 97 degrees outside today. Imagine what it was inside.

So, when I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was write. I wanted to sit down, drink some water, surf the internet, and then the fall asleep.

Then I read this wonderful post by Chuck Wendig and felt like complete crap.

Writing is important to me. I love to do it. Love the entire process, even when it's frustrating. And after I read Wendig's post, I realized how long it'd been since I'd done it.

Okay, not exactly true. I've been writing. Just finished a short story that you'll read soon.

Buuuuttttt, there's something I've been putting off since Witness to Death came out: I have to do a big, nasty, book changing rewrite of the novel I'm working on.

I'm not talking minimal edits like making sure Jim's eyes are the same color in chapter 1 as they were in chapter 18. No, I'm talking combining two minor characters into one major one. Changing events. Making the book work.

And see that's a part of writing. A big part.

It's what the people who aren't really cut out to be writers don't know and what Chuck points out so well. That you have to keep working on it and keep working and keep working to the point where in the course of writing a 75,000 word novel, you've actually written 200,000 words and cut most of them out.

The novels I've written... most of them are nearly unrecognizable from their first drafts. The plot, the characters, they have the same names, but they do different things.

I've never given up on a novel.

I'm not about to start now.

The rest of you can go out and talk about writing your book. You can talk about your concerns, your plans, your promotional ideas. That's all well and good.

But it doesn't mean squat if you haven't put in the work.

Gloria Steinem said, "I do not like to write--I like to have written."

There are a lot of people on the internet who would be better served if that quote read "I do not like to write--I like to talk about writing."

I will not be one of those people.

Writing isn't drafting and proofreading.

Writing is drafting, tearing the whole thing up, putting it back together, tearing it up again, and then proofreading.

And it's work, whether you're tired or not.

So tonight, before I wrote this post, I re-wrote the hell out of the first scene of this book. And it's going to make everything else harder down the line.

But the book will be better because of it.

Thanks for the reminder, Chuck.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Evening of Mystery and Crime

John McFetridge

Like the invitation says, ECW Press is hosting an evening of mystery and crime at the new Sleuth of Baker Street Books, 905 Millwood Road, Toronto, tomorrow night at 7:00.

I'm very pleased to be taking part. In fact, ECW asked me to host the event and introduce the other writers (I think because I live the closest and don't seem to be doing much these days).

Longtime readers of DSD (I like to use Declan Burke's line, all three regular readers) will remember Mike Knowles who used to blog here. Mike now has three books published by ECW; Darwin's Nightmare, Grinder and In Plain Sight. Mike has taken some of what Jay was talking about yesterday to heart and doesn't spend much time online. It may not work for everyone, but Mike's books are terrific and intense.

Ross Pennie is a doctor and he's written two medical myseries so far, Tainted, which, if you aren't already scared senseless by the idea of a killer virus you will be, and Tampered which I haven't read yet but I have a feeling will also scare me. Ross has a website:

Toronto cop Brent Pilkey has written two novels, Lethal Rage and Savage Rage and is interviewed in Toronto Life magazine here talking about writing crime in Toronto.

And Anne Emery is the Arthur Ellis Award Winning author of the Collins-Burke mystery series; Sign of the Cross, Obit, Barrington Street Blues, Vespers, Children in the Morning, and Death at Christy Burke's, so far. Anne's website:

So, if you're anywhere near Toronto it looks to be a great evening. These days with indie bookstore closing all over the place it's great that Sleuth of Baker Street decided to move a few blocks away rather than close down.

And if you can't make it, all these writers are certainly worth checking out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Emperor's New Website

By Jay Stringer

I'm on my digital soapbox again. Some of this may sound like something I've said before. I guess it's because it's a thought I keep coming back to, honing it each time. And I may need to wash my mouth out with soap after this one.

The internet whispers in our ears. It tells us that we have to be on it all the time. It tells us that if something is worth discussing, it's worth discussing on the internet. As writers in the current climate, we let the internet tell us all sorts of things about building platforms and selling points. But is it just a big distraction? The emperor's new website.

We all think we need to be plugged in all the time. A culture that now derives achievement from being able to figure out the latest illegal download, or from telling the world that they've just taken a shit that looked like Elvis. We simply keep boiling our lives down and down, reducing our thoughts and our beliefs and passions until they can be fit into a little box for people to like or poke.

And then there's twitter. Oh, twitter. Believe me, I've spent hours defending twitter to people who I would say just didn't get it. They didn't get the greatness of the networking, or the social interaction, or the freedom of speech. I would point to Trafigura and to Iran. Because, you know, making your picture green on a social networking site is totally like standing in front of a tank.

For any of us who've gotten on a soapbox and defended twitter on the grounds of all the great things it does for freedom of speech, well, the jokes on us. We've seen the real face of social media. All of twitter wants the right to go crazy with snide jokes about peoples personal lives. It wants to be able to broadcast the name of a footballer who's had an affair, and sees no responsibility in its actions. And it's not even over any kind of principle, it's simply done because we can. Because everybody is online, and everybody wants to be the star of the show.

Everybody wants to be the clever one.

The funny one.

The sassy one.

Twitter was ablaze with people shouting about freedom of speech. But these days, it seems to me, that concept now simply means that anonymous people have the right to know whatever they want, about whoever they want, and to say anything they want. I say there is something even more basic and vital than freedom of speech. And that is responsibility.

And I really can't say I see much of that being used online. Before the net it was simple. Everybody lived in a big messy world that was governed by cause and effect. Actions would be followed by consequences. A lot of people tried not to be dicks, and a lot of other people didn't. And those that didn't were assholes. Now I go on message boards for comics, for films, for music and for football, and what i see is shouting and snark and bitching. Everybody wants to be the star and nobody wants to be responsible.

Twitter is a micro blogging site. Is that really what we need? Is there any issue so simple that it needs to be micro blogged? It simply reduces us. In 140 characters what can you do, other than snark or be passive-aggressive? As I logged onto this here website to write this post, I spelled my name wrong, and my first reaction was hey that's funny, I'll tell twitter. Looking at all of the things I really like to talk about -writing, reading, films, comics football, music, social issues- I can't think of one that can be done justice in 140 characters.

And the sense of entitlement out there on the net is mind-blowing. A world full of people who think they are owed shit by other people. George Lucas making a few shitty movies becomes, George Lucas raped my childhood. Really? Raped? That's the word you want to be going with there? Firstly, I notice that the people using that phrase tend more often to be male. Secondly, I notice that there must have been a lot of geeks with seriously shitty childhoods if they can be ruined by a film made 20 years later.

This one is directly to you people- George Lucas doesn't owe you shit.

He made some films you like and some films you didn't like. Any obligation he had to you is fulfilled the minute he creates something that you like. Same for musicians. Am I going to hate Ryan Adams for the fact he hasn't made an album that I liked in about 7 years? Or am I going to feel grateful that, in Whiskeytown and his first few solo years, he made some music that I continue to find amazing? He paid any obligation he had to me the minute he created that music. But still, we go on, and we bitch and we moan about all these things that we think we're entitled to.

Here's my thing- The internet is a tool. And a tool is only as good as the person using it. The internet isn't the problem. We are. A generation who've forgotten how to talk without being passive-aggressive, who've forgotten how to be constructive, who have to be experts on everything but panic if they can't find the tin opener.

And me, you, us, creative types, we're the worst. We all obsess over creating a platform. We need to be seen. We need to be heard. Our voices matter because we have so many intelligent things to say.

I didn't have much of a web presence until a few years back. When I realised I wanted to get known as a writer, get my work out there, get an agent, get published, yadda yadda. We all go racing online to create a platform and a selling point. You get a blog. Then two. Then a third one creeps in. Then you;re guesting on others, and popping up on podcasts, and living on twitter. Then you're spending more time blogging, chatting, and getting in twitter arguments than you are writing any fiction.

And regardless of any of our discussions about pricing and format - you can't sell it if you don't write it.

I'd had some contact with my agent on twitter prior to her taking me on, but it was my work that got us working together. She liked my prose and my ideas. Likewise, when I got nominated for that award last year, it wasn't "best comment about pooh on twitter," or, "most insightful opinion about publishing." It was for one of my short stories.

What I really want to speak for me is my work. The stories that I write, shorts, novellas, novels. These are what I want people to know me for. Arguments, debates, or crappy jokes on the internet? No thanks.

I had a rethink over the weekend. I logged off twitter and sat back from the laptop. I realised that so much thought was going into creating a web presence and a platform that I was starting to forget why I was doing it all in the first place. I'm pretty sure my agent will have more success selling work from a productive writer who only shows his face in a couple of places online, rather than an unproductive writer who's all over the net getting into discussions and arguments.

One of my favourite British writers has often pointed out to me that folks like George Pelecanos don't feel the need to maintain a huge presence. Winslow? Don't see him very much. Richard Price?

Now, I'm no fool. I'm not sat here thinking that the only thing stopping me from being as good as those guys is my internet connection. There's the small matter of talent and practice. But I'm pretty sure that my presence on the web isn't going to improve my chances.

So I'm pulling back to basics. I figure the web only needs to see my ugly face once a week. Twice at most. And I'm sure twitter can live without hearing my opinions on everything, all the time.

How about you? Do you get caught up in the trap? Do you find yourself falling down that rabbit hole?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Noir at the Beach House

Summer's here.
I'm for that.
Got my leather sandals
Got my straw hat.
Got my cold beer.
I'm just glad that it's here.
-- JTaylor

By Steve Weddle

If you're north of the equator, welcome to summer. If you're south of the equator, then have a nice day.

So with summer comes vacations of beaches, family get-togethers, weeks in foreign lands, etc.

Lee Smith -- and/or other folks -- said that there are two kinds of stories.
1. A stranger comes to town.
2. Somebody takes a trip.

With that in mind, how about we do us up a little writing challenge here. Anywhere from 500 words to 5,000. Post links here. Deadline two weeks from today.

Your spin on:
Summer vacation given the crime fiction treatment.
Noir at the beach house.
Beatings at the beach.

And let's have a prize.
One lucky entrant -- probably chosen at random -- will receive a copy of FUN AND GAMES from Duane Swierczynski.

Along with fellow writers Charlie Huston and Victor Gischler, Duane Swierczynski leads an insurgency of new crime writers specializing in fast-paced crime rife with sharp dialogue, caustic humor and over-the-top violence. Together, they ensure that the grittiest and most compulsively-readable crime fiction in the world is still produced right here in the USA. SPINETINGLER REVIEW

So post here if you feel like joining in on the fun. I'd suggest keeping the stories to around flash length of 1,000 words or fewer, but I ain't in the mood to set limits on your awesomenesses.

Once you write up your story and post it on your site, drop back by and leave the link in the comments. I'll collect them all for two weeks from today -- June 20 -- and post them in that day's blog post. And then I'll draw/pick a winner of Duane's super-cool new book.


If you don't want to flash your fiction, then let us know about your favorite vacation story in the crime fiction tradition. I can't think of any Christa Faust, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane stories that have to do with summer vacation.

Honestly, the most stressful times ever in anyone's life ever in the world is when that person is trying to relax. Get away from the stress. Ain't nothing better for conflict than that. So if you'd rather share someone else's story than write your own, then hellfire, post up whatever title you want. I just can't think of any summer vacation crime fiction. Maybe DELIVERANCE. Maybe ICE HARVEST. Any ideas?

Either way I'll pull a FUN AND GAMES winner from the comments.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Let’s talk about sex

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Yeah – I thought that would get your attention. Everyone knows that sex sells. You just have to look at advertising campaigns to see proof of that. Sex sells in fiction, too. The romance genre racks in billions of dollars in sales every year. Not that every romance is teeming with sex. But a great number of romances do have at least one steamy scene between the covers.

Sex sells.

And yet – as I look at my favorite mysteries and thrillers I realize that very few if any of them contain sex scenes. Yes – there are romantic relationships. Very often these romantic relationships are sexual ones. But just when things are getting heated up the scene ends and the story moves on.

Why? No, I’m really asking this question. I doubt that the mystery and thriller readers have an aversion to sex. If we took a poll of the DSD bloggers I’m betting we would find that all of us are quite fond of it. So why don’t we see as much of it in crime fiction as we do in other genres? Is it because the writers aren’t very good at writing sex scenes? Is it because readers don’t want to read them?

Personally, I think it’s because the pacing of a thriller or mystery doesn’t leave room for a lot of those scenes. The best sex scenes aren’t simply about getting hot and sweaty. The best sex scenes help develop a character in a way you can’t get without the scene. Mysteries and thrillers often find other ways of creating this emotional depth.

Or maybe I’m wrong? Maybe crime fiction readers everywhere have been clamoring for more sex scenes and the crime fiction writing universe just didn’t know it. Here’s your chance to let us know. Do you think that some of the books you’ve read might have been better off with a sex scene or two? Do you think sex scenes should never be in mysteries and thrillers? And if there is a sex scene in a book you are reading, do you actually read it or do you skim through it? Does sex sell a book for you the way it does for cosmetics or does it just make you want to chuck it at the wall? Inquiring minds want to know.