Saturday, December 8, 2012

You'll Know When You Know

Scott D. Parker

"You'll just know." That's the typical answer when someone asks how they might know if they're in love. You cannot rationally explain the internal feelings, the swirling of emotions, you just can't. Which is why, when it comes to love, you just know.

Same is true for writing projects, too. In November, Steve and I both latched onto the NaNoWriMo gimmick as a means to kickstart our respective projects. By the confines of the WriMo rules, we both failed. That is, we both failed at stringing along 50,000 words in a row. But, as Steve pointed out in his excellent piece on Wednesday, we both won by losing. I had honestly hoped to compile 50,000 words, but I didn't. What I did do is get back on track with writing a novel.

How so? Well, for the month of November and on into December, I've thought about my new book, the characters, the plot, the order of things, how best to say something, etc. It's been constantly churning in my noggin, so much so that most nights, if I haven't already worked on some words, I very much look forward to that quiet time, alone with my thoughts, my index cards and pencils, my corkboard, and my Mac. It's great.

I've been there before. When I was writing my first book, it was all just chugging away like a well-oiled machine. Still, there were those moments when I doubted. Why am I writing? Should I be writing *this* book? Well, I told myself, *I* like it. That is enough. But there was one moment that really solidified my book in my mind.

The book features Harry Truman (fictionally) and a particular type of Japanese submarine that can launch a plane. I had seen photos and drawings of the aircraft, but that was about it. On vacation at the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, I went into the gift shop. Lo and behold there was a plastic model of the exact airplane in my book. That was karma. That was the external indicator that I was on the right track.

I haven't had one of those--yet!--for this new book, but I'm happy that I'm just thinking about it. All the time. It's a struggle at times, but I still have my answer to that question about this book.

I just know.

Friday, December 7, 2012


By Russel D McLean

Apologies for the late post today - I was rather caught up in paid writing work! 

About eight or nine years ago, I got a call from my friend John (whom I haven’t seen in ages – hey, buddy, promise I’ll be in touch soon). John was recently out as a gay man and rather enjoying things from what I could tell. Anyway, after all the usual preamble you get with a friendly phone call, John said, “Look, is there something you want to talk about?”

I didn’t have anything I wanted to talk about that I could think of. But he insisted. Like this was something serious. And we played that game people do, where neither of them really wants to say anything in case they’re wrong. It took John to finally say: “I saw the profile.”

The profile in question was on a gay dating website. He sent me the link. And I saw that there – under a pseudonym (oh how I wish I could remember it) was me. I knew it was me and not just someone who looked like me because the profile pic was taken in a bar I frequented at the time. And, in fact, I had a copy of the very same photo. It had been taken on a night out with the English Literature Society of Dundee University. I should add, it wasn’t an incriminating photo, although my eyes were a little glazed. This wasn’t a photo already on the net. This was one you’d have had to scan in.

“Is there something you want to talk about?”

I was confused at first. My sexuality is pretty comfortably heterosexual. And if I did come out, I probably wouldn’t use a gay dating site, just as I never used a straight dating site (which might explain why I spent eight years single). So what was my image doing there? And what were some of these activities I apparently enjoyed? And why did I describe myself as a bear?*

After the conversation got less awkward, when I realised what he was talking about, I explained to John that I hadn’t posted the profile. I had no access to it. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would post an image of me there. But it had to be someone we both knew because there were only a select number of people would have access to those particular photographs.

What nagged at me even more was the fact that whoever had posted it there hadn’t tipped me off to the fact that they had done so. They hadn’t linked to anything personal about me, they hadn’t posted my email address or forwarded messages of interest (maybe the profile got none) or used it in some way to spread rumours about me.

They had just posted the profile.

And let it sit there for over a year until John stumbled over it while looking for a date.**

I still don’t know who did it or why. Was there an end game? Was it a practical joke that never reached a punchline? Was it some weird kind of revenge? Was it someone so shy they thought that posting an image of me would give them more chance at getting a date than posting their own features?

I contacted the site and told them that my image was being used without my consent. Proving this got a little complex and I wound up posting a photograph of myself to my then blog holding a newspaper so that the site’s operators could determine I was who I said I was. The profile was deleted with no further incident. But the site knew very little about the details of who had set up the profile. I was intrigued, however, to learn that it had been dormant for six months, almost as though whoever had set it up had forgotten about it or got bored. Or maybe had been unable to achieve whatever end game they were looking to (I still don’t know what it could have been - - but I was rather proud to learn I’d got a lot of views, at least)

Or perhaps they had achieved their goal. Perhaps it had nothing to do with me, and all they had needed was an image that was not them. Because they didn’t want anyone who knew them to find them or because they somehow thought I might be a more attractive proposition (believe me, the likelihood is that I wasn’t). Maybe they met someone and forgot about the profile. Or maybe…

Or maybe…

I was thinking about this again recently when a writer friend of mine discovered someone trying to set up a facebook account in their name. In this case, the fakester was befriending actual friends of the original but again there seemed no real gameplan, no attempt to spread real malice. It was just someone co-opting someone else’s identity and… well… sitting there, online. Doing nothing.

So why?

Why do it?

The internet is an odd place, where identity is fluid and where you can gain a fresh start merely by tapping in a few letters on a keyboard. You can become someone or something utterly unknown to those who would recognise you in day to day life. You can become someone else. Someone you create. Or, in odd cases like these, someone you co-opt.

For crime writers, it’s a creepy (and inspiring in fictional terms) thing to think that the people we’re talking to may not be the people we’re talking to. What if John had, rather than calling me, private messaged the profile? Would he have worked out that it wasn't me?

And what if the profile wasn't expecting someone who knew their image to get in touch?
I still think about the person who put my picture online.

I still wonder why they did it.

But this isn’t a novel. Its not a movie. Resolutions in life are never near, and the fact is I’ll probably never know who they were, or why they put my picture on their profile. And in some ways its more intriguing that I don't...

*For those not in the know, I discovered it meant a hirsute and usually large man. I don’t mind that at all. If I was on the scene I think I’d be comfortable with that description.

**Let’s quickly point out this was a fairly tame dating site, so it wasn’t like my image was being posted around the seedier corners of the internet – this was men looking for companionship with men and little else.


By Jay Stringer

There's a fine line when it comes to self-promotion. It's a journey we've all gone through together, holding hands and only occasionally putting laxatives in each others' drinks. Do we post self-promo all the time, with every tweet? Do we do it occasionally and tastefully and apologise for it at the same time? It seems to me that the basic rule of blatant self promotion is to do it when I have something I want you to buy.

So with that in mind, here we go, you can now pre-order my second Eoin Miller book. It's called RUNAWAY TOWN, it's the second part of a trilogy, and it's so good that your face will melt and your toes will fall into another dimension.

It's available at Amazon on both sides of the Atlantic. And the more you buy now, the less urgent demand I have to try and have another idea.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Top Ten Stories

By Steve Weddle

This week, John Hornor Jacobs, R.Thomas Brown, and Jane Hammons shared their TOP TEN SHORT STORIES lists.

In discussing the first two lists, yesterday on Twitter the nice Jane Hammons and I promised to swap lists. Her list had some of my favorites: Alice Munro and Hemingway's "Hills," for example. Her list also mentioned "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," an interesting story that was a staple of my fiction syllabus when I taught undergraduates.

So, thinking quickly and with as little consternation as I could manage, I came up with a quick list that I posted in the comments of her blog.

Turns out, I kinda cheated. See, Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is there in the top three for me, but you can't really call it a short story, I suppose. So I've replaced that story in the list with another of my very favorites.

And if you ask me in a month, I might swap out half of these. Holly Goddard Jones's "Theory of Realty" would be on here if the list went to 11. They're favorites, all of them. But picking 10 to share from the many I've fallen in love with is tough. Anyway, in no particular order, here's the list.

1. Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

There's a pretty nice version of this that ran on HBO many years ago in a series called "Women & Men." It started James Woods and Melanie Griffith. Most of Hemingway's female characters are Melanie Griffith. Or that dark-haired woman I always confuse for her sister. Jennifer Tilly. Or Meg. One of them. James Woods is a fine Hemingway guy, too. The HBO thing was nice. Of course, nothing compares to reading the line "Will you please please please please please please please stop talking?"

2. Comet” by James Salter

Most of Salter is amazing. I'm told his novels are filled with humping. I haven't read the novels. The stories are just so beautiful, so precise, so heart-breaking. In this story, there's a line where it says that he knows the names of all the constellations. When you get to that line, you'll cry. I can't explain now, but trust me. It's awful.

3. “Burning House” by Ann Beattie

A party with people and their problems running against everything. The ending is sublime.

4. “Emergency” by Denis Johnson

As Jane Hammons and others have said, anything from JESUS' SON. I first found this story when Tobias Wolff read it here for the New Yorker.

5. “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell

This was in a BEST OF collection I read. I think Stephen King selected it. Another crotch-kick of an ending.

6. “Decoration Day” by John William Corrington

Read this one as an undergraduate myself back in the 1980s. Still go back to it. Corrington wrote a poem with the line "like women and plans/ best laid." Heh.

7. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” by ZZ Packer

I found out about ZZ Packer from an anthology Packer edited. What a story.

8. People Like That Are the Only People Here” by Lorrie Moore

You have to be careful with this one, especially if you're a parent.

9. A Brush” by John Berger

From Harper's magazine in 2010. A guy meets a woman and her husband in a swimming pool.

10. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver

I fell in love with this story before I knew its history of editing. That alone is fascinating. I could pick just about any Carver for this list. That one where the guy is in the bar and these two women come up and try to get him to take them to see their night-school instructor. Anything Carver but "Cathedral" I'd put in this list, I guess.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How Losing NaNoWriMo Helped My Writing

By Steve Weddle

No one really gives a shit whether I finish this novel. Whether I write 10,000 words today or 100, no one but me cares.

I have no editors depending on me. I've signed no contracts, made no promises.

If I said that I was going to set this novel aside and go get some ice cream, you might say "Bring me a sundae."

As the story goes, when a best-selling author was late with his follow-up a few years ago, one of the Big Six publishing houses had to lay off a few folks. They'd expected the book at a certain time. They'd planned advertising, publicity. The author turned the book in the next year. The book was not well received. More people were let go. No one is waiting on his next book.Tom Hanks is taking other roles.

Other writers on this blog and elsewhere have deadlines to meet. Page proofs.Galleys. ARC. Salespeople running across America, telling bookstores about the next novel.

No one is doing that for me. No one is waiting for this novel. No one gives a shit whether I finish this novel.

Years ago I wrote a book that turned into a kind of mystery novel. Good feedback led to changes led to bad feedback. I wrote a sequel to that novel, but never felt much like revising it. So, I have two novels written. Each has its own strengths, though they share a consistent narrative and characters. I quite like much about the books.

I started working on a third book that takes elements from each of the two. A more literary, less plot-driven book. I can write the line -- "the kind of day when the sock drawer had one of everything and two of nothing" -- and not worry about how it moves the plot forward. I can work on scenes with characters, without needing to get them closer to the MacGuffin. I can toy with the writing. I can sculpt.

That's what I've been doing this autumn. Getting lines down. Working on scenes. But I wasn't writing every single day.In a sense, I wasn't moving things along. Which, you know, yeah. I get that.

(In case you give a damn, here's an excerpt from the book.. Maybe you'll like it.)

So when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I figured it was good timing.

I set up an account.I started with the 10,000 or so words I'd gotten down. The ones I liked. I pulled out the untouched moleskine I'd been carrying around. And I figured I'd pull from each of the two novels and work on new for this third, ending up with maybe 50,000 words by the end that I could play with.

I didn't care that the 50,000 words might be some cut and paste from the old books. I just wanted to have a hunk of words.

Well, I do have a hunk of words, though not 50,000 brand new words.

(I also have a Facebook page for the band that's in the new book. They're a Dixieland punk band called TUPELO SHIV. You'll like them. Seriously. Like them.)

NaNoWriMo is a sprint. It's intended to get you writing down anything you can, averaging 1,667 words per day. It doesn't matter what those 50,000 words are. Just write. And this is great. But that part of it wasn't for me.

The part that was for me was priceless, though. I needed to get back to writing everyday. And I don't mean sitting down at the laptop and pounding out 10,000 words of fight scenes or 5,000 words of plotty nonsense. I needed to get the novel back in my head more than I needed to get 50,000 words down. I needed to get the characters back talking to each other.

You know that point when you're writing a book and everything ties in? When you're watching Star Trek or reading an article in Forbes or talking to the gal at Starbucks and it's all giving you ideas for your book? That's what I needed to get back. And it worked.

NaNoWriMo was a great experience. I didn't do the Write-Ins in Charlottesville. I didn't read all of the pep talks in my inbox. I didn't message all my NaNoWriMo buddies every single day to ask for updates.

But I did get back to the novel. And when no one is counting on me to finish it, yeah, sometimes that's not easy.

It's on me. Me. This is my project. No publisher has bought it from me. No one is telling me what the cover art will look like. No one is telling me that they've chosen to push the release date back 14 months because another book like mine is coming out. No one is telling me that they've decided to drop the marketing plan for the second book because the first one only sold 5,000 copies.

No one is telling me shit. No one is pressing me against deadlines.

Because this is my book. Only mine.

And when everyone else is gone from your house and it's dinner time, you have to decide whether you're going to spend some time and make some gumbo or are you just going to eat a bowl of cereal?

Because I was eating cereal for months, and I got goddamn tired of it.

And I could have kept rinsing out the same bowl, filling it with Captain Crunch, and sitting down in front of SportsCenter.

So, thank you, NaNoWriMo for reminding me that soon, the house is going to be filled with people who are hungry as all hell for something good and I need to get my ass back in the kitchen.

First, you make a roux.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas sale: All Snubnose Press titles are .99¢

It's Christmas once again and Snubnose Press is celebrating everyone's favorite B&E man with a sale.  For the month of December all Snubnose titles are .99¢

Here's your chance to grab:

Moondog Over the Mekong by Court Merrigan
Piggyback by Tom Pitts
Captain Cooker by Todd Morr
The Subtle Art of Brutality by Ryan Sayles
Karma Backlash by Chad Rorhbacher
A Healthy Fear of Man by Aaron Phillip Clark
Herniated Roots by Richard Thomas
Bar Scars by Nik Korpon
City of Heretics by Heath Lowrance
Ghost Money by Andrew Nette
Choice Cuts by Joe Clifford
Blood on Blood by Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky
F*ckload of Shorts by Jedidiah Ayres
Bouquet of Bullets by Eric Beetner
The First Cut by John Kenyon
Pulp Ink 2
Cold Rifts by Sandra Seamans
The Duplicate by Helen Fitzgerald
Nothing Matters: A Noir Love Story by Steve Finbow
Laughing at Dead Men. by Keith Rawson
Old School by Daniel B. O'Shea
Hill Country by R Thomas Brown
Gumbo Ya-Ya: Stories by Les Edgerton
Old Ghosts by Nik Korpon
Dig Two Graves by Eric Beetner
Monkey Justice: Stories by Patti Abbott
The Chaos We Know by Keith Rawson
Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan

Those that prefer Nook can go here.

Shop now, shop often, give 'em away as presents, and if you like what you read please help spread the word.


Currently reading: Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos

Currently listening: "Times All Gone by Nick Waterhouse

Patience, me boyo

By Dave White

"This sucks."

The easiest two words in the English language.  Too often we lean toward the negative.  Fans are always willing to tell creators, athletes, actors, and artists that they suck.  Their work is terrible.  They're never going to succeed.

All they want is a good story, fans say.  Just tell good stories.

But, when someone does that, and shakes up the status quo, fans are the first to say something sucks.

But what surprises me the most, is the lack of patience.  Take the recent comic book hubbub with Dan Slott, writing of The Amazing Spider-man.  Slott is taking some big risks with his story and comic book fans (shocker, I know) are up in arms.  But here's the thing... the story isn't over yet.  Hell, it's not even halfway done.

Can't you wait?  See how it plays out?

I remember the same with THE SOPRANOS.  If someone wasn't getting whacked every other episode, fans were pissed.  People whined and whined about season 5, but by the time that season was done, it was probably the best story David Chase and company told.

We need to learn patience.  We need to have optimism.  Wait and see how something plays out before bashing it.

Or am I completely off here?

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we slowed down a second and let stories, art, sports seasons run their course before damning it??

Sunday, December 2, 2012


By: Joelle Charbonneau
Okay, I am the caboose on the Do Some Damage "Next Big Thing" Train Adventure.   To be honest, I am not exactly sure which book I’m supposed to be talking about…the book I’m writing, or the book that is going to be published next.  Yep—it is quite possible I’ve been working too hard or inhaling fumes from one to many sugar plums.  Still, I am going to attempt to answer these questions as best as possible.  And if I sound a little addled—well, it is probably because I am.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Since this says working title, I’m assuming it means a book that I am currently working on and not one in production with my publisher.  In that case, the title of the book I am currently writing is GRADUATION DAY—the final installment of The Testing trilogy that will start hitting shelves on June 4th.
I guess I should also admit that I’m also working on the first couple of chapters of Rebecca Robbins mystery #5 that I have currently titled Skating Up Hill.  
2) Where did the idea come from?
Well, the idea for The Testing trilogy as a whole came out of years of watching my voice students go through the college admittance process.  Every year they have more hoops to jump through, more auditions to appear for and a whole lot more stress.  It made me wonder what would happen if the process was even harder and if the worst thing that could happen wasn’t just hearing “No.” 
As far as Skating 5 is concerned, well in Skating Over The Line, I brought a new character to Indian Falls…one with a secret.  In Skating Up Hill, that character vanishes and it is up to Rebecca to discover his secrets and hopefully get him home in one piece.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
The Testing trilogy are post apocalyptic young adult thrillers.   
Skating Up Hill is probably the exact opposite!
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in
a movie rendition?
I have no idea, but if the Skating books ever get made into movies I want to be the camel wrangler.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Um….the ACT meets Hunger Games?  (This is The Testing, although it might be fun to throw Rebecca Robbins and her grandfather into this plot and see what happens!)
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Testing trilogy is being published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s.  The first book, THE TESTING, will hit shelves June 4th.  INDEPENDENT STUDY will publish in January of 2014 and the final installment that I am currently writing, GRADUATION DAY, will makes its appearance in June of 2014.
As for Skating Up Hill….the Rebecca Robbins novels are currently published by Minotaur Books.  Book 5 is not yet under contract, so I guess we’ll see how that goes.


Phew…okay!  I hope that made sense.  If not…well, feel free to ask questions about anything and everything and I’ll try to clarify.



(And yes, I know there are several questions on the meme that I didn’t answer.  I opted to forgo them because they made me think I’d answered the above questions incorrectly.  Since, I liked my above answers, I decided to end things here.)