Saturday, June 25, 2011

Going Green With Your Writing

Scott D. Parker

Every other week, along with the garbage, the recycle truck arrives on our street to haul away the stuff that can be used again. For fourteen days, my family separates the actual trash from the “trash” that can be recycled. To make it easy on ourselves, we have a bin in my utility room that all cardboard, glass, and plastic (save #6—why that one?) live in until I carry the inside bin out to the giant, green, rolling recycle “can.” The best thing about the city of Houston’s recycle program is that they don’t require you to sort anything. Throw it all in and they’ll sort it later. Makes recycling extremely easy and a no brainer.

I usually have to empty the inside bin at least twice over the two-week span between recycling pickups. When I do, I always make sure to examine all the questionable plastic, the ones that just might be #6s. As a result, I see all the boxes, cartons, bottles, etc. that we’ve been consuming. There’s the pizza box from movie night, there’s the cans of the sweet elixir that is Dr. Pepper sweetened with sugar (not corn syrup), there’s the empty cartons of Greek yogurt, truly a better choice over standard yogurt. I’m not that weird to say that I sometimes chuckle at a memory associated with an empty something. Wait. Am I? Yeah, probably.

I’ve been recycling some of my old writing, too. (Come on. You didn’t think this was merely a plea for all y’all to recycle, did you?) My current book features the same character, HPD Detective Anne Chambers, that appears as my entry in Do Some Damage’s current anthology, Collateral Damage. I’ve written about her before, but shelved the unfinished manuscript in favor of another story.

As I’ve been clipping along with the new book, I arrived at a scene that felt familiar. It didn’t take me long to remember that I had Anne conduct an investigation that involved an apartment. Hey, thought I earlier this week during one of my morning writing sessions, I wonder if there is anything I could use from that apartment scene here in the new book? So, yes, I stopped writing (breaking cardinal rule #1) in order to re-read that one chapter.

I ended up reading my entire manuscript—all 140 pages, 35,000 words of it. And I discover that the manuscript that I’d abandoned fearing that it went nowhere actually had more than one good scene I could recycle. In fact, a nip here and a tuck there and I should be able to use large chunks of that older work here in this newer work.

I’m obsessive about saving everything I write. Only recently have I slowly started not saving every, single iteration of every, single story. I don’t know why I do that. Guess I want the progress. The good thing, of course, about saving every little tidbit is that my future self might be able to use it. I did the work, even if it was a year ago. No reason why I can’t put those words to good use.

The irony is this: the new draft is written in third person. The older material is in first. Plus the tone is different. But that’s for another post.

Do y’all save everything, thinking you might get back to it one day? And do you?

Album of the Week: Peacemaker by Clarence Clemons. Most should know I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. Jay wrote about his love for the Boss on Tuesday. As a sax player, Mr. Clemons had a tone I envied. When Bruce’s music called for an old-school sax solo (a la “Born to Run”), the Big Man delivered in spades. But, to me, Clemons really shined with the slower pieces. Just as David Gilmour can “say” more with a single extended, held note than other guitarists can with fanatical fretwork, Clemons’s sound was luxurious and full. I’ll even namedrop Miles Davis in this discussion because Clemons knew the value of silence in his music. For you Springsteen fans out there, I’m talking “Jungleland,” “Secret Garden,” “Back in Your Arms Again,” among others.

This 1995 album is a slow, peaceful, meditative offering. At its base, Clemons is merely soloing over soft percussion, mostly non-western in origin. This is night music, the kind free from worry and other noises, the kind that can mingle in the shadows of your house or apartment and breathe life into the mysterious places in your soul. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, this album is Clemons’s thank you to God for bestowing upon him the talent to play sax. I listened to it in a Barnes and Noble sixteen years ago and immediately bought it. Now, it is one of my Top 10 desert island CDs. That is, if I can only choose 10 albums to listen to the rest of my life, this makes the cut. Last weekend, when I learned of Clemons’s death, I put Peacemaker on and drifted to another place.

Here is one cut from Peacemaker: Into the Blue Forest

Secret Garden

Back in Your Arms Again


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of a Review

Carol Barrowman reviewed my book this weekend. To a lot of authors, this is a big deal to begin with. The review was a rave, and I really appreciated it.

But what I couldn't have foreseen was the impact it would have on my sales. Witness to Death had been doing decent sales before the review came out. I was happy with how my foray into the ebook world had gone.

But then the review came out.

And sales exploded. In 4 days, I've sold close to 400 books.

GalleyCat picked up the story.

So, long story short, this was HUGE for me.

Before this weekend, I didn't know how important reviews are. From now on, they are VERY important to me. Good or bad.

And they're not just there to feed (or damage) my ego.

So, readers, how important are reviews to you?

Thank you so much, Carol Barrowman. I really, truly appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mike Knowles - The Wilson Series

John McFetridge

Back in the dark ages of Do Some Damage, when you still had to hand-crank a computer to get it started, one of the first contributors here was Mike Knowles. At the time he had one novel published, Darwin’s Nightmare, the story of an independent tough guy in the tough city of Hamilton.

There is a Hamilton-Toronto rivalry best seen in the Canadian Football League – a few years ago (well, quite a few years ago now) the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won the championship, the Grey Cup, they had a parade as winning sports teams do, and at the very end were four guys carrying a bedsheet with the words “Argos Suck” painted on it. They weren’t officially part of the parade, and the Ti-Cats had beaten the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the Cup, not the Toronto Argonauts, but those guys still got one of the biggest cheers from the crowd as they passed.

So it was great to see someone capture that feeling of Hamilton, that kind of, we don’t give a shit what you think, this is what we are, attitude in a novel.

Well, now it’s three novels.

Mike doesn’t blog anymore, he isn’t on Twitter and he doesn’t even have a personal webpage. He does have an Amazon Author’s page where all of his books are available for the Kindle. They’re also available for the Nook and the Kobo and even as old-fashioned hardcovers and paperbacks, though at most bookstores you’ll probably have to order them.

There’s been lots of great press for Mike’s books. Like this, from CrimeSpree magazine:

"picture perfect hardboiled writing. Knowles has a real grasp of the underbelly running under society and his characters all breath with authentic boozy cigarette breath. A great read and a great new voice."

Publisher’s Weekly said:

"Gunfights and well-choreographed scenes of carnage abound . . . This is pure, visceral action"

And Booklist:

"With lots of action and tension and plenty of dialogue, Wilson's story moves along rapidly as he struggles to cut his ties to the past."

Bottom line is that these are terrific books.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scooter And The Big Man

By Jay Stringer

I first published this a couple days ago on my blog. I had a book review to put up this week, but events of the weekend changed my plans. I just wanted to share these thoughts with a different audience.

I saw Therapy? play JB'S in Dudley when I was 18. And that became the benchmark for great gigs. No matter who I saw, or on occasion played with, that gig was unbeatable. For the most part, I always knew, it was nostalgia. It was because I'd seen them when I was 18, and there's few forces on earth that can play a trump card over the nostalgia of an 18 year old's memories.

I first saw Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band in Dublin a couple of years ago. I'd always wanted to see them play, but it took a long time for the stars to line up. They were as exciting and tight as expected, and it was a great gig. They battled to keep our attention away from the Irish rainclouds overhead, and they blew a curfew that cost them 50,000 to keep going for another of their marathon gigs. But there was one thing that you could sense playing on the mind of everyone in the crowd -Clarence.

He was struggling to move. His pain was visible even as far back as we were, and he was n't managing to hit all the notes on his sax. There had been stories of double hip replacements and back surgery, and there was the worry that this 67 year old was on one gig too many, and that his body wasn't going to let him do what it did in 1974.

We saw the band again two nights later in Glasgow, and my benchmark for a great gig was destroyed. I'd always heard of the nights when the band produced something truly amazing, and then I got to witness one. They went for over three hours, they rocked, they goofed off, they had fun with the crowd and there was a real feeling of spontaneity in the air.

And the difference? Clarence Clemons. Two nights after he'd looked like the pain had finally gotten the better of him, he nailed it. He moved around the stage like he owned it, and he hit every single note. He didn't just hit them, he hit them. The whole band took their lead from him. They played with the confidence that it was going to be one ofthose nights. Bruce was a revelation. That was the first time I truly saw how much he drew from Clarence- when the big man was on, Bruce could kick loose and fly.

And It shouldn't have been a surprise because the defining image of Bruce's career has always been that black and white cover of Born To Run. A skinny leather clad rocker leaning on the shoulder of his partner in crime. A telecaster, a sax and an easy smile.

Bruce and the band had always been one of those things that I had to enjoy alone. In the punk, grebo and indie circles that I mixed with, everyone was too busy being cool to admit to a liking. In the days before Ipods -and when I never really liked walkmen- that sax filled my bedroom and gave me visions of something beyond my dying industrial hometown.

So for those teenaged nights, and for that epic night in Glasgow, I thank you Clarence.

And I'm going to miss you Big Man.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach House Noir

By Steve Weddle

Now is the day the crows come home to roost. Or the roosters come home to crow. Or maybe they're black skimmers.

The Noir at Beach House deadline is today. Below are the links for folks who have let me know what's what. You still have time to post a link to your story in the comments -- or email me. Or tie it to the foot of a carrier rooster and send along.

"Insanely entertaining." That's what Josh Bazell said about FUN AND GAMES from Duane Swierczynski. Might as well say the same thing about all the fantastic entries for the DSD challenge. Check these out ->

Peter Rozovsky

Benoit Lelievre

Charlie Wade

Evil Ray

David James Keaton

Al Tucher

Eric Beetner

Thomas Pluck

Gerald So

Keith Karabin

Stephen D. Rogers

Katherine Tomlinson

Kieran Shea

Don Lafferty

Fiona McDroll Johnson

If I missed someone, post in the comments and I'll update. If you're coming in late, post in the comments today and you'll still be entered to win FUN AND GAMES from Duane Swierczynski. I'll pick a name late Monday (today?) afternoon.

FUN AND GAMES is the first of three Charlie Hardie thrillers from Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland Books).
Charlie is an ex- sort-of cop with the requisite wounded psyche, avoiding his past by running around the country house-sitting, drinking, and watching olde tyme movies.

His shot at redemption comes in the Hollywood Hills, trying to save a movie star from sure death. Much like that poor young man in CLERKS who wasn't even supposed to be here today, Charlie was supposed to be drunk in someone else's house, watching old Robert Mitchum movies.

What really works well in this book is that as the action moves forward -- explosions, poisonings, car chases -- the story moves backwards, bringing depth and explanation via character backstory.

Who are these Accident People trying to kill movie star Lane Madden? And why?
And why did Charlie Hardie run away and hide from his life, leaving his wife and kid far away?
And what's in that damned bag he can't live without?

As the story moves along from one chase scene to another, the story of Lane Madden's Secret is revealed a little more. As Lane Madden's backstory is revealed, so is Charlie Hardie's.

This book moves. Not just in the normal thriller way, not just racing from one explosion to the next. These explosions are more like dynamite thrown at that mountain where that dude was making the Crazy Horse monument. The more explosions, the more is revealed. And once that thing is revealed, you know, it's pretty freaking cool.

FUN AND GAMES is available this month. The second in the three-parter is set to hit shelves in October.

You'll dig this book.

One lucky person in our Noir at the Beach House contest will get a copy of the book. Will let you know shortly.

Thanks for playing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Meet Book Country

Since we have a lot of writers following our DSD posts, I am delighted to feature a guest post today about Book Country. I admit I had heard about Book Country, but didn't know much more than it waas a website some of the big publishers had put together. So, I'm thrilled that Dana Kaye is here today to share with everyone a little more insight about Book Country.

And on a personal note - Happy Father's Day to all! (And Happy Father's Day Dad - I miss you!)

And now - without further ado - Dana Kaye and everything you wanted to know about Book Country!

Writing is a solitary practice, but revision requires feedback. Most aspiring authors send their manuscript to friends and family, others meet with a critique group, and some enroll in an MFA program.

In April, Penguin Group (USA) launched Book Country, a website dedicated to genre fiction readers and writers. Focused on romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery and thriller, Book Country helps new authors hone their craft as part of a genre fiction community.

Users upload their novels (or a portion of their novels) for peer review. Book Country’s unique genre map helps writers categorize their novels, and lets readers find books similar to ones they love, which they then read and provide detailed critiques. Book Country brings the peer feedback and community feel of a critique group, online.

Another key feature is discoverability. If you’re working on a novel, publishing professionals won’t see it until you begin sending out query letters. Book Country gives agents and editors a place to discover new talent; for this reason, many publishing professionals have already signed up. Book Country also allows avid readers and bloggers to discover budding talent and use their reading experience to offer helpful feedback.

As the world continues to shift online, Book Country creates a community that was once only available in metropolitan areas. Now, genre fiction authors all over the world can come together online to exchange feedback, engage in discussions, and have their work discovered.

Join us at and follow us on Twitter @Book_Country