Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just Like In The Movies

‘When I thought about it, my most vivid and powerful memories of childhood were in black and white. The monochrome serials that were shown at the Saturday morning Kidz-Klub at the local Odeon Cinema, and the Hollywood films on afternoon television when I was throwing a sickie from school, all seemed so much more vibrant than anything that real life could come up with. And, as you would expect of someone who grew up living more fully in his imagination than in the day-to-day, adulthood proved to be a series of disappointments and non-events.
Nightclubs, for example, were, in my mind, bustling with tough guys in pinstriped suits, wise-cracking cigarettes girls and sultry Femme Fatales belting out torch songs on a Chiaroscuro lit stage. So, when I eventually stumbled into the grim reality – claggy carpets, overflowing toilets, beer-bellied men staggering around a dance floor with leathery, bottle blondes, well, my heart sank like the Titanic.’
 From Gumshoe by Paul D. Brazill.

When the late great Quentin Crisp first arrived in New York – a city he eventually made his home- he immediately fell in love with the place and enthused that it was  ‘just like the movies’- something that could he could never say about Blighty, it seems.

But life rarely is ‘like the movies’ – and so much the worse for life. And also for Albert Finny in Stephen Frears’ smashing film Gumshoe - based on the book by Nevil Shute. Gumshoe is a the story of a slightly cracked bingo caller in the north of England who is in love with Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and in particular their cinematic incarnations embodied by Humphrey Bogart.

Or there’s the eczema riddled pulp fiction writer in Dennis Potter’s brilliant and nasty The Singing Detective – escaping from painful reality into a delirium where he is the protagonist of his novels. Or Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar and his recurring fantasies of  a land known as Ambrosia, which is far and away from him hum-drum life.

And there’s Peter Ord, protagonist of my own Gumshoe. Darren Sant put it best:

‘Following the breakdown of his marriage, in a booze addled flash of inspiration, Peter Ord decides to become a private investigator. However, is Seatown ready for him? More to the point is he ready for the Seatown’s cast of ne’er do wells, gangsters and lunatics? Peter must tackle many challenging cases, including one involving a legless crooner, and when he comes under the radar of local crime lord Jack Martin, has he bitten off more than he can chew? With sidekicks like hack Bryn Laden failure is not an option it’s compulsory.’
If that tickles your fancy, Gumshoe is published by Pulp Metal Fiction and available from Amazon, Amazon UK & Smashwords.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

REAPING with Chris F. Holm

By Steve Weddle

The third book in The Collector Series from Chris F. Holm is out today.

Who Collects the Collectors? 
 Sam Thornton has had many run-ins with his celestial masters, but he’s always been sure of his own actions. However, when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of former Collectors who have cast off their ties to Hell – is he still working on the side of right?

As expected, the latest from Holm is one of my favorite books of the year. I'll chat more about the book itself later, but wanted to share with you some Qs and As with Holm today, the book launches.

More about THE BIG REAP at Goodreads and at Holm's site.

Steve Weddle:
The Sam Thornton series pulls from world history and from religions & and from mythologies. How do you keep all of this straight? How do you decide which bits work? What research do you use? How do you create  this deep, vast world for the series?

Chris F. Holm:
The truth is, I don't keep a series bible or anything. I don't map this stuff out ahead of time. I mostly just wing it, and trust my brain (and CTRL-F) to keep it straight. That said, I kind of think it's like doing improv, where there are sort of rules to how I wing it that keep me in check. Like, when it comes to world-building, I try to leave negative space whenever possible. That way, I'm not painting myself into a corner by tossing out details before they're needed, or contradicting something that's come before. And I never make something up out of whole cloth unless no myth, folk tale, or religious figure exists that would work within the context of what I need. For one, nothing I could come up with is even half as weird. For two, borrowing liberally from established mythologies gives Sam's world texture, and some small sense of verisimilitude.

As far as what research I do, a lot of it -- in the moment, at least -- is simply creative Googling. But I'm also borderline obsessed with classic horror novels, Greek myth, epic poems, cryptozoology, religious Apocrypha, conspiracy theories, urban exploration, and the like, so even my various methods of procrastination becomes accidental research.

The bugs. Honestly, dude. What the heck is with the damn bugs?

The truth? I'm scared shitless of them. Any kind, big or small. Have been since I was little. In fact, the scene from book two in which Sam wakes to find every surface in his hotel room -- including himself -- crawling with bugs was inspired by something that happened to me when I was a kid.

I spent most of my childhood in a log home my dad built, way out in the upstate New York countryside. I was six when we moved in, and in college when my parents sold it, and in that time, I don't think the house was ever truly finished.

One day, I came home from school to discover a plate-sized hole in the drywall above my bed. It led to some ductwork that eventually vented to the roof. To this day, I've no idea what that duct was for, or why it languished unfinished for as long as it did.

Anyways, one night, weeks after the hole showed up, I woke to the sound of rain. I could feel it falling onto my blankets, so I switched on my bedroom light, sure I'd find a roof leak drip-drip-dripping down on me.

It wasn't a roof leak.

It was beetles. Hundreds of them, it seemed to me, but that's probably a gross exaggeration. They were pouring out the hole above me and onto my bed. They were in my blankets. In my hair. I freaked. Woke up the house. My dad patched up the hole the next day, but I still slept with the lights on for a while after.

Having followed Sam Thornton through these three books, we see quite a change in him, not all of it for the good. I’ve described the books as Charlie Huston meets Jim Butcher, and I think the Huston series with Hank Thompson is more and more apt as your books have come along. What’s happening to Sam in this last book? He seems to have come a long way since the opening of the first book.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to writing series characters. Some authors -- the late Robert Parker, for example -- write their characters in a sort of suspended now, so when you read a Spenser novel, you know before you start what you're in for. Others -- Lawrence Block's Scudder novels come to mind -- allow their characters to evolve over time. That makes them less comforting reads, I suppose, but the upside is, the series is richer and more dynamic when taken as a whole. Both are valid approaches, but I'm solidly in the latter camp when it comes to my own fiction. I have no interest in writing the same book twice. If Sam's the same at the end of the tale as he was at the beginning, I feel like that's a sign I picked the wrong story to tell.

When we first meet Sam, he's broken. Friendless. Utterly devoid of hope. Which makes sense, I guess, on account of he's spent sixty years or so of a presumed eternity in hell.

Since then, he's found his place a bit. Made some friends. Begun to hope for something better. Maybe even begun to think that he deserves it. The Sam of THE BIG REAP is more sure of himself than he has been in the past. More comfortable in his role as hell's hitman. And that's not necessarily a good thing. He's still the guy readers know and maybe kinda sorta love, but his new-found confidence makes him a little callous -- a little arrogant. And although he seems aware of that -- even fears that his years in hell's employ have finally begun to erode his sense of what's right -- he's also selfishly relieved not to be so tortured all the time.

That shift in personality was uncomfortable for me to write. I hope it's uncomfortable to read. Because it's important to the story, and with luck, by the end of THE BIG REAP it pays off huge.

His companion, so to speak, along the way has been Lilith. While this isn’t a “love story” in any usual sense, how has their relationship been progressing and, for readers of the first two books, how is it different as this third book opens?

Lilith is Sam's handler -- his sole connection to the hierarchy of hell. She's equal parts jailor, boss, confessor, tormentor, friend, family, and enemy. At the opening of the series, their relationship was playfully antagonistic, but the events of that book dragged it toward deep mistrust and outright hostility. Book two saw Sam pushing Lilith away at every turn -- only to discover that sometimes, she was his staunchest ally. The events of THE BIG REAP that take place in the present reflect this new reality. I think at the outset of the book, they respect each other in a way they never have before, although they're still very wary of one another. Given what comes next, though, perhaps neither is wary enough.

In THE BIG REAP, we get to see Sam on his first mission. From a writer’s perspective, what choices did you make that led you to hold this until the third book in the series?

I've got a low tolerance for origin stories. Sure, they're important to a character, but they're usually the least interesting story about that character. Some big fancy writer dude once wrote what's past is prologue, and origin stories always feel like prologue to me. So I decided if I were to ever tell one, I'd do so only if it served a larger tale.

The first part of Sam's origin story -- his devil's bargain and his death -- was told in flashback throughout DEAD HARVEST, but only because it served to explain how a decent guy wound up condemned to hell. The second part -- his rebirth as a Collector, his first meeting with Lilith, his first soul-snatching assignment -- wasn't germane to that story, nor to THE WRONG GOODBYE, so I didn't tell it. But it's damn important to THE BIG REAP, since much of the focus is on Sam's relationship with Lilith, so I knew I had to work it in.

I know you’ve been reading a great deal of Ian Fleming and John LeCarre lately. I thought LeCarre’s NIGHT MANAGER was such a nice example of a post-Cold War thriller. I’ve recently run across a biography of Christine Granville, the Polish-born English spy of the Second World War. She did about a billion great things, but is probably best known as the inspiration for Fleming’s Vesper Lynd in CASINO ROYALEMy guess is that all of these spy thrillers you’ve been reading had an impact on your writing of THE BIG REAP. Were there things in those books that you just had to work into THE BIG REAP?

I always envisioned the detente between heaven and hell in my books as a Cold War of sorts. Each side quietly chipping away at the other, trying desperately to gain a foothold. The shifting allegiances of players big and small creating ripples that might one day tip the balance. The notion of this secret struggle existing just beneath the surface of our visible world. Spy novels provided me a roadmap for marrying the fantastical with the everyday.

What is it about the old spy thrillers that people still fall for? The characters? The action? Something deeper?

In Fleming's case, I think the appeal lies partly in his structure. He essentially invented the modern thriller. Le Carre's books are more cerebral, which affords the reader the chance to feel all smart and stuff. But in general, I think the appeal of spy novels is that sense you get of, "Siddown -- I'll tell you what's really going on." They feed our hunger for finding meaning in the noise of life. Our innate sense of paranoia. And they turn enormous, abstract concepts like the Cold War or resource scarcity into deeply human struggles.

When I tell people about the Sam Thornton series, they want me to classify it. Is it mystery? Is it historical fiction? I end up saying  that it’s “Urban Fantasy” but I’m not really sure what I’m talking  about. Is it urban fantasy? Please label your artistic creation for me.  On which bookstore shelf will I find it?

I've never been wild about the "urban fantasy" label, because very little of my series actual takes place in an urban environment. But it's become a common shorthand for "gritty contemporary fantasy," and as such, I've made my peace with it.

I used to say I thought my stuff was fantastical noir, and maybe it is, but there's no shelf for that at the bookstore, so it's not much help. Some folks think I'm writing horror, and that's cool too I guess -- but I'd never claim the label myself, because it's only horror if I scare you.

The only label people tag my books with that bugs me is science fiction. I do science at my day job, and I promise you, there ain't a lick of it in the Collector series.

I say stick the books in the fantasy section and call it a day. Or better yet, skirt the issue altogether, and put them on the display table at the front of the store.

Speaking of labels, the Sam Thornton series is published by Angry Robot in the UK, but has nothing to do with robots at all. How did they come to publish the books and how great has it been to work with them?

I wound up with them the usual way. My then-agent shopped DEAD HARVEST around, and they're the ones who bit. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was, because it turns out, they've been fantastic to work with from the get-go. Every step of the process, from covers to marketing, has been incredibly collaborative, which is rare in the publishing world. And they've given me tons of leeway to write the stories I want to write. Time will tell if that was genius on their part or folly.

The third book in the series which is out now, THE BIG REAP, has left me and many, many early readers ready for book four in the series. Any hints as to what happens next?

In book four, Sam will buy a run-down villa in Tuscany and embark on a heartwarming journey of home repair and self-discovery where maybe, just maybe, he'll learn to love again. Or he'll wind up locked in the White House during a terrorist attack, and he'll have to use his Collector-y superpowers to save the day. Or, I don't know, something involving little yellow gibberish-talking minions. People fucking love those things.

SW: Put a recipe in the back, too. I like those.

Thanks to Chris. F. Holm.

Follow him on Twitter.

Buy The Big Reap at your favorite shoppe.

More Holm on DSD here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Another Reason to Self-Publish by Mike Monson

Today's guest is Mike Monson, who recently published his first story collection. I invited him to DSD to talk a bit about it.


Earlier this month, I self-published a book. While this has not made a dent in my shrinking bank account, so far it has been a wonderful and completely satisfying creative experience.

On July 9, I was fired from my job as a server for a hip gastropub in Kona Hawaii. This was very upsetting and humiliating (read all about it here in my blog How to Get Fired). This event gave me an immediate burning desire to undertake some kind of money-making project that was related to my real passion: writing. I wanted to do something that was uniquely me, something that would be way different from my grossly incompetent performance at the restaurant.

I’ve written 23 stories during the last year, 17 of which have been published online or in print anthologies. Most of these are crime stories set in Modesto and other locations in California’s Central Valley. This gave me a basic theme, I thought. I picked out the story that best reflected that theme, Criminal Love, and made it the title story. I figured I could put them all together somehow into a Word document and then just plug the whole thing into an Amazon program and—boom, instant e-book. I decided to call it Criminal Love and Other Stories: Tales ofLove, Sex, Crime, and Death in California’s Central Valley and Elsewhere. Strangely enough, except for a few minor glitches, it was almost that easy, and I had the book up on Amazon by July 12.

I am not one of those super-sophisticated social media/technology-savvy writers. No way. Yes, I have a website/blog, a Facebook account (just a regular account not a writer page), and, I Tweet. But, I really have no idea what I am doing. I just review books on my blog and post them on FB and Twitter. If I get a story published or get interviewed somewhere, I’ll post a link to that too. I’m always wondering how annoying I am being (it is never a question of whether) and I will often quickly delete self-promoting Facebook posts because I become convinced that, this time, I’ve gone too far and everyone is really going to hate me.
I have no plan, no strategy.

Sure, I’d love to make a living as a writer. I’d love to be able to stop having to work boring awful frustrating jobs. And, I’m doing what I can to that end. I wrote a novella that just may get published soon by an actual small press, and I am in the middle of a full-length novel. So, maybe, I’ll make some real money someday—but probably not. Right? (I know the deal.)

But, I must admit, the main reason I write is to get readers. I want people to read my stuff and then I want them to talk to me and tell me how they liked my fiction. That really, is my main motivation. Knowing that a human has read what I wrote and knowing that they liked it makes me happy. Very happy. And, guess what? As of this moment, 52 people have bought Criminal Love and Other Stories and six of them have posted comments on Amazon—kind, enthusiastic, and complimentary comments. I like this. I like it a lot.

For some reason, those two numbers must be my current sweet spot. Sure, I want more sales (the 52 purchases only earned me $17.49) and I’ll take as many more nice comments as I can get (I realize I may eventually get slammed by someone in a way that ruins my day or week), but, presently, I am very pleased with this self-publishing experience.

Now, if only I could find another job.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Every day is a mountain

by: Joelle Charbonneau

I love my job.  I mean it.  I really love it.  Otherwise, I can't imagine why I'd do it.  I mean, sitting in front of a computer screen pulling my hair out when I don't know what happens next in my story isn't exactly the best way to spent a day.  Some days the words come easier than others.  But no matter how easy or hard it is to find the right words or the correct path for the story, there is one thing that is constant.

Every day of writing is like scaling a mountain.  It doesn't matter that you just climbed a mountain yesterday because this is a new day.  A new mountain.  And if you don't make the climb, you will have to climb two tomorrow.

I always wake up excited to sit down and type.  The mountain never looks all that big from the bottom, but it only takes a few minutes of climbing before I realize that no matter how much I want the climb to be quick and easy it is going to require lots of effort.

Word by word, sentence by sentence I fill paragraphs and pages.  Some days it takes me an hour or two to scale the mountain.  Other days the climb finishes only moments before I go to bed.  No matter how long it takes, I feel energized by the accomplishment.  Pages were filled.  The story moved forward.  I am one mountain closer to The End.  And tomorrow I will wake up and start the climb on a brand new day.

Do you feel like you scale a mountain every day you report for work, or is it only me?  And do you feel the same kind of excitement when you safely go up and over the peak and reach the other side?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Significance of 100,000 Words

Scott D. Parker

On Tuesday evening, as I finished my daily writing with 2,419 words for that day, I entered that figure in my spreadsheet. Once the formulas did their thing, I realized I crossed the 100,000-word mark in this renewed writing initiative.

For someone who has barely put together 10,000 words over a year, to see the numbers add up to 100, 919 on that was a great experience for me. For readers who have followed my progress since May, that’s still only 3 total stories: 2 shorter pieces and the 1 novel. As for the novel and it’s “new word” count (I had a few chapters already written when I picked it up again in June), Tuesday also marked the day I crossed 75,000 new words on the novel. And Sunday marked my highest one-day writing total: 6,108.

Why do I focus so much on numbers when I’m writing words? Because they feed on each other. They are daily reminders of Progress Being Made. The more I’ve focused on that spreadsheet each day, the more pride I have in my writing and in myself as a writer. I love seeing my May monthly total (13,017) stacked up to my June total (34,000) and my to-date July total (57,381). I love seeing, in numbers, what I am capable of doing after so many years of self doubt and self denial. It’s exhilarating and a little intoxicating.

In fact, I’ve been telling another writer friend of mine to keep a spreadsheet of his daily totals, too. He’s taking baby steps after a bunch of things got in his way, too. As much as I extol the virtues of keeping a spreadsheet, I got an assist by another source this week.Back in June, Nik Morton published Write a Western in 30 Days: With Plenty of Bullet-Points and I downloaded it and read through it. In there, he also tells prospective writers to keep a spreadsheet of daily writing. The only difference with his version is he does it by subtracting the daily word count from the total number of words for a typical western (45,000). Yes, you can get down to zero, but I love the addition version where you can go as high as you want. Like last Sunday. I knew I had written a lot, but I was very proud of myself for laying down 6,100 words. It’s like a last little gift at the end of the day.

So, after years--Years!--of not writing, I’ve managed to write more words in less time than ever before. I say that not to be immodest, but as encouragement to those of y’all out there who read this blog, see most of us getting published, and wished you could do it. I’m here to say that the writing part is doable.That's the significance of 100,000 words for me this week. A tangible, positive reminder that yes! I can do this. Here's how it's worked for me.

1. Decide to do it.  **The hardest part and the part that gave me the most trouble for YEARS!
2. Start.
3. Keep Track. 

Do any of you keep track of daily word counts?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Exit Stage Left, Pursued by a Reader

By Russel D McLean

One of the things I love most in this business is meeting readers.

I've talked about this time and again but its true. I love getting out in the trenches and seeing people in action, figuring out who buys the books. Sometimes they're insane. Sometimes they're wonderful. Sometimes they're determined to prove they're smarter than the author. Sometimes all they want is to be entertained.

Whatever, I love meeting them.

I was thinking about this again after doing a book and beer evening with Stuart MacBride in Crail. Its the third me and Stuart have worked together. The first time we did an event together, things were a little awkward awkward. Neither of us knew the other's rhythms too well and we both floundered a little (although thankfully we pulled it back in the end and everyone had a good time) but now we seem to be getting a handle on each other, working out how to come across well on stage.

And that's something you're never prepared for as a writer:

The Event.

You know, where people come out to meet the flesh behind the pages. Where they want to see in action the mind that created a whole fictional narrative.

The people who come out want to be informed. They want to be entertained. They want to feel like they've seen something behind the books.

And that's odd.

Because writers are naturally insular people. One of the reasons I have loved working with MacBride (God only knows how he feels working with me) is that he is a born entertainer. I can play the straight man to his Polish Swearing routine or field a serious answer to which he can then create a punchline (and then still tack on a serious answer that outflanks my own). But he knows when to pull it in, when the audience aren't reacting or when they need him to be the writer, not just the beardy Sex God.

But its strange being on that stage. Knowing that these people have come to see you.

I've seen it go wrong so many times. From the writer who talked for five minutes then announced that not enough people were here and walked off to the author who read from their book in a dull monotone for an hour straight. I've seen writers paired together who clearly had no common ground. I've seen panels collapse due to a overbearing host.

But the problem is that we're not trained how to speak in public. We're just expected to know how to do it naturally. We're also often expected just to show up with no advance contact and bounce off other writers we've never met... (I'm not going to mention the pay situation)

I've done a lot of events now. I'm starting to get a personality that I play up. Mostly its a befuddled one,  but then its just an extension of who I am naturally. I've learned how to project, how to vamp when I don't know what I'm talking about, but all the same I've had little in the way of formal training (in terms of talking about writing; I did some stage work in my younger days) and just had to make it up as I went along. I still envy writers like John Connolly who can talk so eloquently, or Christopher Brookmyre who can naturally make a room crack up with laughter. Or Megan Abbott who just seems to always know exactly what she's saying. Or James Ellroy who just puts on the greatest motherfucking show that any pervert with a brain will appreciate. Dig the demon dog, hep-cats, he's got the greatest show in history.

 The pressure of events on writers is fantastic. We're expected just to show up and be interesting, but unlike stand ups or actors, we got into our line of work so we wouldn't have to deal with people. Now, I've discovered I love doing events, and more importantly love meeting readers, but I know every time that I have to give them something whether its a few good punchlines or perhaps a few insights into something they didn't expect (I've started to talk more and more about the style and lives of writers who influenced me; my life revolves around books, so why shouldn't I talk about them?). It can't just be about plugging the new book or reading page after page (unless you're good at that). The audience are there to be entertained. Which means that any writer who agrees to do an event should be aware of what they are getting into. As I have seen (especially with the writer who talked for a few minutes before walking off due to low turnout) some are doing only because it is expected of them, not because they want to. A bad event can be worse than no event at all in a reader's eyes, especially if they are not entertained. Because we have to remember, its all about the readers. The audience. And its certainly not about feeding our own egos. I certainly hope that anyone who sees me comes away with some sense of value for money. Even if the event was free...

The Significance of 100,000 Words

Scott D. Parker

On Tuesday evening, as I finished my daily writing with 2,419 words for that day, I entered that figure in my spreadsheet. Once the formulas did their thing, I realized I crossed the 100,000-word mark in this renewed writing initiative.

For someone who has barely put together 10,000 words over a year, to see the numbers add up to 100, 919 on that was a great experience for me. For readers who have followed my progress since May, that’s still only 3 total stories: 2 shorter pieces and the 1 novel. As for the novel and it’s “new word” count (I had a few chapters already written when I picked it up again in June), Tuesday also marked the day I crossed 75,000 new words on the novel. And Sunday marked my highest one-day writing total: 6,108.

Why do I focus so much on numbers when I’m writing words? Because they feed on each other. They are daily reminders of Progress Being Made. The more I’ve focused on that spreadsheet each day, the more pride I have in my writing and in myself as a writer. I love seeing my May monthly total (13,017) stacked up to my June total (34,000) and my to-date July total (57,381). I love seeing, in numbers, what I am capable of doing after so many years of self doubt and self denial. It’s exhilarating and a little intoxicating.

In fact, I’ve been telling another writer friend of mine to keep a spreadsheet of his daily totals, too. He’s taking baby steps after a bunch of things got in his way, too. As much as I extol the virtues of keeping a spreadsheet, I got an assist by another source this week.Back in June, Nik Morton published Write a Western in 30 Days: With Plenty of Bullet-Points and I downloaded it and read through it. In there, he also tells prospective writers to keep a spreadsheet of daily writing. The only difference with his version is he does it by subtracting the daily word count from the total number of words for a typical western (45,000). Yes, you can get down to zero, but I love the addition version where you can go as high as you want. Like last Sunday. I knew I had written a lot, but I was very proud of myself for laying down 6,100 words. It’s like a last little gift at the end of the day.

So, after years--Years!--of not writing, I’ve managed to write more words in less time than ever before. I say that not to be immodest, but as encouragement to those of y’all out there who read this blog, see most of us getting published, and wished you could do it. I’m here to say that the writing part is doable.That's the significance of 100,000 words for me this week. A tangible, positive reminder that yes! I can do this. Here's how it's worked for me.

1. Decide to do it.  ←- The hardest part and the part that gave me the most trouble for YEARS!
2. Start.
3. Keep Track. 

Do any of you keep track of daily word counts? 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Star is Born.

By Jay Stringer

On Monday, July 22nd, a baby was born in the UK.

An emotional, tired and hungry bundle of youth.

Born into a world full of possibilities and endless adventures, a world of riches and joy and wonder.

Unfortunately, this child was born into poverty. It will live in this poverty. Chances are high that it won't receive a full education, that it will be statistically more likely to die in poverty and to be more open to disease than 1333 other children born in that country on Monday.

That's just one story.

You can repeat it word-for-word 666 times before you can take away the mention of poverty.
You need repeat the story over 2000 times before you can narrow it down to one particular happy, healthy child who will never have to want for anything.

These are the stories we do and don't tell. These are the stories we choose and ignore.

1 in 3 children born in the UK right now is being born into poverty. Some amongst us might choose to look at the definition of modern "poverty" and score points by pointing out that many of those children are actually being born into perfectly livable financial conditions. But that doesn't matter. When the words "children" and "poverty" are in the same sentence anyone who wants to score points over semantics can take a running jump.

I don't have the stats to tell the even bigger picture. I don't have a figure for how many children were born on the planet on that day. I feel safe in assuming if we were to add those births onto the scale, the needle will only swing in one direction. We would be talking about children born with HIV, children born with no medical help, children born simply to die before they can even walk. Children who will never see clean water, or who will contract diseases for which there already exist cures, locked in medicine cabinets thousands of miles away. Children who will never know their parents. Children who will never learn to read or write, never hear music, never hear kind words.

Nine million children die every year before they reach the age of five. That's over twenty four thousand a day. In the time it's taken you to get this far into my post, over 17 children have died in confusion, fear or pain. That's regardless of which god or gods their parents have prayed to, of how good or bad they've been, or of what potential the child had for greatness.

It's pretty clear that we don't have to tell these stories if we don't want to. The media on both sides of the Atlantic seems to have already made that choice. There are shiny, happy and interesting people we can tell stories about, and some of them have bronzed bodies that look kinda nice on a TV screen or the front page of a newspaper. There are also serial killers and mentally unwell people that we can talk about, faces and names that we can manipulate and twist and make famous. There are politicians, movie stars, rock stars, bankers and royalty.

Who wants to read about all the people on the other side of the tracks? Who wants to write about them? Who wants to think about them?

Thinking about them might lead to us trying to, I don't know, do something.

I'm happy for that particular young couple, and their newborn son. I'm even more happy because that son has parents who will be able to give him everything, to provide and protect and give him every opportunity.

But how to we manage to focus so much energy on seeing the one and not the six hundred and sixty seven?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My book is not your map

By Steve Weddle

I tend to worry about things quite a bit, for quite a while, until I just don't care anymore. I get tired of worrying about them, so I just let them go.

What's that thing in the front yard? Is it a body? Should I go check? I really should. Days can pass like this. Eventually, I just get tired of thinking about it.

So it is with street names.

When I was writing COUNTRY HARDBALL, I'd try to keep going when the Doubt Dingo would start circling, asking whether I had the place right, the name right, the street right. The DD would tell me to stop and look it up. I'd need to get the name of the street correct. I couldn't say Highway 58 if it was really Highway 85, after all.

People would read this and tell me I was wrong. People would post on Amazon how I'd gotten the name of a restaurant wrong, the mascot for a team wrong. The Doubt Dingo continued to circle, barking at me to stop, to research while I was writing. Man, I hate that damn dog.

Most of the time, I'd just power through and figure I'd come back and track down the pesky bits later. And I would.

In re-reading the manuscript for the 37th time recently, I was again visited by the Dingo of Doubt. Science would suggest that substantial amounts of alcohol would be enough to drown him, but I haven't found the right balance. Or my own after enough of it.

Anyhoo, I realized that if you're using my book to drive through the backwoods of Arkansas, then you're probably a complete dumbass I don't need to worry about.

My novel isn't a damn Rand McNally Road Atlas. It isn't a wikipedia article on handguns.

Did I work on getting all the details right? You're damn right I did. And the folks who worked through each and every page over and over checked things, too. I got notes and questions back. And we fixed all kinds of things I'd screwed up. So, the roads are right, but that's what makes a good story, is it?

But my stories aren't about a building, they're not about a road. They're about the people in those buildings, the people who walk those roads when the sun starts to come up so that they can stand all day behind a damn cash register until it's time to come home at sundown and spend the night trying to figure out which three of the eleven bills they can pay that week. And it's about the other guy from another road who knocks on the door at midnight, saying he's got a $500 job if you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty.

In writing, sometimes I get caught up worrying that I've got the right gravel in the right place. Was that road paved a few years back? I need to check Google Street View.

I don't write for cartographers.

If you're reading my book thinking it will help you get to Miller's Laundromat, then you're looking for a journey I can't give you.

No. What I need to do is focus on the people, not the map. Focus on the details of the people, that's what matters. Not whether that gas station on Highway 58 closed in 1998 or 1997. The details about the people, about their struggles, those are the details that matter.

I have to work through the damned dingo barking at me, telling me to stop my momentum, get and and make sure I'm writing about the right highway.

I don't write for dingoes. Bunch of illiterate baby-eaters, anyway.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013



When my father, who was born in 1920, grew up in Montreal the city was bilingual in that there were people who spoke English and people who spoke French. And very few who spoke both languages.

There was even a famous book written about the situation called, “Two Solitudes.”
The first line of the book is, “Northwest of Montreal, through a valley always in sight of the low mountains of the Laurentian Shield, the Ottawa River flows out of Protestant Ontario into Catholic Quebec,” so there’s some trouble right there as Ontario wasn’t entirely Protestant and Quebec wasn’t entirely Catholic, but, well, writers, you know...

Then, like everywhere else, the 60s hit and social change was in the air. In 1972 a new political party determined to make Quebec its own country (or, at least, to change the federal arrangement – I guess you could call it Canada’s, “states’ rights” movement)  received almost 30% of the  popular vote.

Panic set in. Well, okay, not really panic but a lot of people – English people – started to realize that maybe the way things were wasn’t great for everyone and change was coming. People started asking, what can we do to make this better?

The most obvious thing for a place where 80% of the population spoke French was for the other 20% to learn the language. And it was decided for us kids the best way to do that was through immersion programs. So, I started high school in French immersion.

For my generation the success rate wasn’t great but it would be very difficult today to find someone under thirty in Quebec who can’t speak French.

So, forty years later I finally figure out out – immersion works.

But at the time I resisted the idea and never really learned French well enough to be comfortable with it. I regret that and I’m working on it now.

And with my writing I resisted the idea of immersion for a long time, too. I’d get an idea and I’d follow it for a while and then like Eric said here yesterday, I’d realize it didn’t work and I’d put it down and start something else (Joelle addressed this quite well in the comments, I think).

Then sometimes I’d go back to that first idea and work on it some more. Sometimes I would have three or four things going at once. And that might work for some writers but it doesn’t work for me.

Now when I think I have an idea for a novel one of the first questions I ask myself is if it’s something I could spend the next two years thinking about every day. Could I read dozens of books and articles on that subject? Do I really have anything to say about it? Is it worth saying?

Could I really immerse myself in that subject for years?

When I finished writing Black Rock (looks like the pub date is set, May 1st, 2014) I looked for another story that could follow it, something else set in the early 70s in Montreal. For most of us Canadians the biggest thing that happened in 1972 was the Canada-Russia hockey series. A big deal at the height of the Cold War, no doubt, but it didn’t seem like enough for a couple of years immersion. When I started to look into it more I discovered that the day before the first game in that series there was a nightclub fire in Montreal and 37 people were killed – and three men arrested for the arson. And then the night after the game the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was robbed of two million dollars worth of paintings (that have never been recovered).

So now it’s starting to look a little like a book but what’s at the heart of it?

As I continued to research I started to come across articles about war resistors who had moved to Canada – draft dodgers. There are no accurate numbers but estimates run at over 500,000 – one of the biggest migrations of people in North America and probably the biggest for political reasons.

And still very contentious. Everyone seems to have an opinion about draft dodgers.

So now it feels like something I can immerse myself in for as long as it takes to write a book. I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been more written about this movement.

One book that is definitely worth reading is a memoir by Montreal Gazette columnist, Jack Todd. It was published in Canada with the title, The Taste of Metal, and in the US with the title, Desertion: In the Time of Vietnam.



Monday, July 22, 2013

In Praise of Quitting

by Eric Beetner

Recently Joelle Charboneau gave us all a great lesson in perseverance and not giving up in the face of self doubt. Her words were welcome to any writer and she even offered a personal hand if we ever needed a boost of confidence. And this lady knows a thing or two about putting words on paper. Terrifically prolific, her books are good and please readers and reviewers alike. So know that I take nothing away from her wise words last week when I add my two cents by saying, yes, keep on working through the dark times . . . but maybe . . .

You see, I recently abandoned a book. I tried to save it. I tried to stick with it in the face of doubt and fear that it was no good. But here’s the thing I’ve found – sometimes those instincts are right.

I’ve always written with the notion that there are always more ideas. Ideas are free. And like anything free, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Not all my ideas are great. Sorry to say it, but neither are yours. I think it’s good to know when to walk away and move on down the road to the next idea.

I think we’ve all been in a relationship that went on a little too long past its expiration date, right? With the benefit of hindsight, we can see the point at which we really should have called it a day. But we didn’t want to give up!

With my book, I was fighting my own instincts. I knew what I was writing, or at least the characters, wasn’t mine. They just weren’t my kind of guys and girls. My fatal flaw, is that I was trying to write something more marketable. An easy sell.

Big mistake.

I switched it from first person to third person. I reworked my outline. I tried cutting the top and starting the action sooner. Bottom line was, I dreaded sitting down to work on this book. It was no fun, and I wasn’t doing my best work when it became a death march to sit at the keys.

The best thing for that book was a bullet in the head.

And that’s fine. There are always more ideas. I’m into my new book now and it’s going along great. My kind of characters in my kind of scenario. A guy just did target practice on a severed head in one scene. I’m having fun again.

So, by all means, first try everything on Joelle’s list. Get to the bottom and go back to the top and try them again. But if it’s just not working – kill it. It’s a zombie book and it needs to be decapitated before it eats your brain. If you know, you really know its not right, trust your instincts.

Don’t take it out and burn it. Don’t delete the file, reformat your hard drive and salt the earth behind you. Just walk away. You might find the fix for it later, even years from now. You might change and evolve as a writer and find yourself the right person to write that story.

But don’t be afraid to move on. Don’t fight with your own creativity. The solid advice of don’t doubt yourself I think also applies to knowing when to say when.

True, every writer goes through a phase of disliking their book, of trust issues, of doubt. But sometimes the truly courageous thing to do is write that Dear John letter and leave that abusive relationship in the past.

After all, there are always more ideas.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Young adult...not just for the young adults...or is it?

 by: Joelle Charbonneau

I have to admit that I never intended to write a young adult book.  I knew lots of authors who wrote for kids.  I thought their work was great, but I never thought I'd have a story idea that fell into the young adult category.  Since my first young adult thriller, The Testing, was published just over a month ago, I proved myself wrong. 

My mistaken assumptions about the young adult genre were part of the reason for this twist of writing fate.  First, I assumed that the young adult genre was the same as when I was a young adult.  (Which for those keeping score wasn’t all THAT long ago.)  Second, I assumed that the voice required for writing young adult books needed to be just that—young. 

Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.  No, the young adult genre isn’t merely comprised of Sweet Valley High books with a few Christopher Pike novels thrown in for good measure.  (Okay, maybe I’m older than I want to admit!)  Yes, some of the contemporary young adult books out there are filled with pop culture references and other teen slang that I’m not familiar with.  However, what I didn’t realize is unlike adult genre novels that have very specific categories and rules that govern them, young adult has only one rule:  a teen must be at the heart of the story.

It’s as simple as that. 

In adult fiction, the publisher is concerned about where a book is shelved.  Is it a mystery?  A thriller?  Is it science fiction or romance?  In young adult, they don’t separate books into categories the same way.  The books are young adult.  Period.  Which is why you find science fiction/thriller/romances or Fantasy/romance/mysteries topping the young adult charts. 

In my opinion, that mash-up of genres is the reason that so many authors have found joy in writing for the young adult marketplace.  Anything goes.  Young adult books (or books targeted for the ages of 12, 13, 14 and up) can have violence or strong, they can contain sex and provocative themes.  Anything that is allowed in the adult marketplace is allowed in teen books—as long as it is believable teen journey.

And teens aren’t the only ones reading these books.  Studies done have shown that adults are reading young adult books in droves.  Quite possibly this is because so many of the titles now available transcend the adult genre fiction rules.  Because the young adult marketplace reaches such a broad audience, it’s not a surprise that almost every publishing house has multiple imprints to accommodate their young adult titles.  Huge sections of bookstores are now devoted to “teen” literature and a great number of those bookstores have relocated their teen sections away from the children’s picture books in order to make them more adult friendly.

Which takes  me to the point of this little chat.  YA fiction isn't young.  It isn't simplistic.  In fact, the work I was doing this week on my new YA project involved a lot of math calculations to make sure I didn't screw up the world building.  The young adult fiction category doesn't mean that the story is uncomplicated or less violent--THE TESTING trilogy books are the most violent books I've ever written. Young adult fiction is a category that is growing every day because it appeals to readers of all ages.  At least, that is my guess.  And maybe you can help me prove that to be true.  I'd love to conduct a very unscientific survey.  Please let me know in the comments if you've read a book that features a teen protagonist sometime in the last year and whether you fall into the under 20 or over 20 crowd.  Let's see how wide the appeal of young adult fiction is with our DSD audience.  Most of you are crime fiction lovers...lets see how far your reading has taken you. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Yet Another Mile Marker on the Writing Road

Scott D. Parker

Nothing too earth-shattering this week. Friday was Day 54 on my consecutive writing streak, and Day 15 on my more-than-1,000-words per day streak.

I made good progress, yet I found myself in uncharted territory. Unlike my first novel which I outlined in details, the current novel-in-progress is one I’ve had in my head for awhile now, but I never truly outlined it from beginning to end. That has always worried me, but I kept moving forward. Like Stephen King has said, it is fun being that first reader and discovering the story along with the characters.

As I reached a certain place in the book around Wednesday, however, I realized that I needed to map out the remainder of the book to make sure that I cover all the bases and wrap up any loose threads. This despite me pretty much knowing how the ending is going to go.

How ironic that at an author event at Houston’s Murder by the Book, another author mentioned the very same thing. Jeff Abbott and Marcia Clark had a joint event last night and, as always happens, someone asked about process. Abbott mentioned that he doesn’t always outline, but somewhere along the two-thirds mark, he outlines the remainder of the book. Clark agreed, noting that she always wants to ensure she addresses any loose threads that may not have been addressed.

I find it comforting to experience little guideposts along the way to completing this current book. This was another. It’s great to hear other successful, published authors do the same thing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cuckoo in the Nest

Updated 19/07/13 - It has  now been revealed that the tweeter was connected to a lawyer who was aware of the pseudonym. So even though it did look suspicious, the publishers are actually innocent in the unveiling. Which I do find rather heartening.

Unless you’ve been living with your head in a sound-proof box this week you’ll know that JK Rowling was revealed as the real author of a crime novel called The Cuckoo’s Calling. The book - depending on who you listen to - sold between 450 - 1500 copies. I’m inclined to believe the lower numbers given the distribution of the book in the UK. A number of well known authors including Mark Billingham and Val McDermid blurbed the novel* and it got a couple (but not that many) of good press reviews.

Then JK Rowling was revealed as the author. The publishers deny leaking this information, but I still have to wonder how anyone noticed the “similarity to Rowling” when the book sold so few copies. And yes, she did share a publisher and agent with her pseudonym, but again that isn’t an unusual situation for an agent to build up a good rapport with a publisher and sell more than a few of their clients to them. When this happened, of course, sales increased by a staggering amounts and bookstores that had ignored the book ordered in droves.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that debut authors have a tough time. It tells us that names and platforms shift books and while good writing may rise to the top, it takes time. A lot of time. Ian Rankin didn’t sell too well until the seventh or eighth book. James Lee Burke won critical acclaim and then got lost in the publishing deserts for years until he rose like a Pheonix from the ashes. Most debut authors don’t sell.

Because readers are often afraid to take the chance.

That’s the basic truth of it. Working in bookselling for years, I know how hard it is to move a debut author. James Oswald is one of the biggest exceptions I have ever seen, but even he had a great platform to lift off from (as well as having talent), and a marketing campaign that you would rarely see for a new author. Most of the time, you can tell everyone about a debut author until you’re blue in the face but readers are still wary. And its no surprise. With crime writers in particular, readers like to have long affairs with authors. They like to come to authors with big backlists that they can read from the beginning or authors that come with the seal of approval of multiple publications (must mean that they have staying power). They don’t like it when debut authors come along, steal their hearts and then vanish without a trace.

But all of this makes it tougher for debut authors. After all, all a debut author often has to go on is their words. The lucky few have a great platform, but most are just plying their trade. The book should speak for itself, but in the modern world. its the people who shout loudest get the most attention. There are several reasons I can think of that Galbraith didn’t get attention until he took off that Scooby Doo mask and revealed himself to be JK Rowling. the most important of which is that the book wasn’t really pushed that hard. Working in the trade, I was aware of its existence, but the buzz was quiet. Nothing pushed it above the crowd, least of all the frankly rather dull cover**. It was another police procedural in an already overcrowded market. And while Galbraith’s pseudonym may have had a background in this according to the blurb, that’s not unusual these days, Matt Hilton and Luke Delaney both spring to mind as former police officers, so its not that unusual a background for a crime writer to have, necessarily. Certainly its not guaranteed to get them instant attention. And as The Literary Critic herself (Lesley McDowell) pointed out, having an author who can’t do the publicity trail may also have an effect upon the book itself (was there even a fake Galbraith twitter feed or fb presence?)

The fact is that, even though it should be, good writing isn’t always the first thing people look for when buying a book. They want assurances about what they’re reading whether through testimonials they trust or an assurance of the author’s pedigree. To create a brand from a good writer takes time. Its no wonder that Galbraith’s sales were so apparently low (but as lots of people have said, not bad for an unknown debut in hb) even when the writing might have been brilliant. There wasn’t enough volume to convince reader’s to listen. And the same is true of so many debuts. The fact is that a debut shouldn’t be about selling millions in one go. It should be about entering the market and starting to build something. One book’s sales are not enough to judge an author’s worth. Even Rowling didn’t start shifting until book 3. And who can forget that Raymond Chandler didn’t really shift that well for three or four books (part of that being to do with the fact he was published in hardcover only for those books)?

I would love the publishers to have been able to leave Galbraith alone for a few books and see how he did, same as King did with his Bachman persona. It would have been an interesting experiment to see how difficult it really is for a debut author to make it, especially when everyone knows the sales potential of that author's talent already. But at the same time I’m happy for Rowling that people who have read the book have enjoyed it. And I hope she is still able to exploit this second persona. After all, there is little more fun in this world than writing gruesome violence and dark deeds, as we at Do Some Damage can attest.

In the meantime, can Mr Stephen King please step forward and announce that he’s really me? Oh, what do you mean that isn’t how this works?

*cynics claim they must have known the truth as all three share a publisher. Yeah, it looks odd, but frankly I can see why publishers would do interhouse blurbs/reviews and it doesn’t mean that a) McDermid/Billingham were just being nice or that b) they knew who they were blurbing. I’ve met both McDermid and Billingham on several occasions and my instincts tell me that they are essentially honest types, so let’s just leave that particular conspiracy to one side, shall we?

**And yes, perhaps I’m one to talk - - this is not about targetting Galbraith/Rowling, however

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Time Capsules

By Jay Stringer

I was at a music festival over the weekend. Being married to a superstar journalist has many perks, and one of them, I've now learned, is getting a media pass to Scotland's biggest open air music festival. Neither of us could ever claim that the perks of married life in Scotland involve brilliant sunshine, but we had that over the weekend too.

I discovered a personal time capsule. We were sat in the sun listening to a band, and I suddenly remembered loving that band. About three songs into Deacon Blue's set, I realised I'd gone from "hey, I remember them, I can sing along to a couple of their hits," to "shit, there was a time when I loved this band, and now I can remember not only lyrics to album tracks, but also tell you the track listings from each of those albums."

Looking back knowing myself much better as a 30-something, I could explain exactly where and why they fit into the development of my personal tastes. I could talk about the different voice they had to all the other music I heard at the time, and how they combined the kinds of social realities that I'm drawn to in my fiction into musical hooks. I could make grand claims that the working class anthems like Wages Day and Loaded had the same spirit I was finding in Sprinsgteen, folk and punk. I could make derogatory remarks about bands like Blur and Oasis, and how much I wanted to get away from their brands of fakery.

But that's not really what it's about. A moment like that, the moment when I was briefly hit with memories, is about travelling back to times and feelings, about who and where you were at a particular point, rather than how you can explain it away now.

Most of all, listening to that set in the sunshine was about the summer I drove my family insane with one band. I'd been dragged away on a family holiday that I didn't want to be on (being away from my social life on my birthday as a teenager? Hell.) Even worse, it was a holiday to a little cottage miles from anywhere that had no electricity. As a compromise, we took a stereo, one that ran on rechargeable batteries that could be juiced up in the car. I had my assortment of cassettes, but the only CD I had on the trip was a birthday present- Deacon Blue's greatest hits (Our Town, 1995) and in those teenage ways I was going to steal a victory; the one abiding memory my family have of those two weeks is that one CD, over, and over, and over again. I think the opening notes of Dingity still make my parents break out in a cold sweat. That holiday might have been hell-on-earth for me as a teenager, but it's a fun memory to have. They're the kinds of things that you need to have in your locker, to make you smile two decades later in the middle of a field.

Do I still feel the same way about the band? No. Not really. But there was one final trick. I listened to some of their songs today as I walked home from work. I got to one track that I remember loving as a kid; fellow hoodlums. The song is full of references to landmarks and places in Glasgow. The Clyde, Buchanan Street, Hampden, St. Enoch, Partick and Cowcaddens. As a teenager growing up in the midlands, none of these references would have meant anything to me other than as the lyrics to a fun song. But, listening to it again today, walking along the Clyde and passed both St. Enoch and Buchanan Street, I realised how much my life had changed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What I Learned from Kent Wascom

By Steve Weddle

Lately, I've been trying to think about what Joelle would do. I think, you know, Joelle would send a thank-you card or note to that person. Joelle would do this nice thing, because that's what a nice person and professional author does. So I've been trying to be more like Joelle. I even got myself a WWJD bracelet to remind myself.

So I'm at Fountain Bookstore Monday night for Kent Wascom's BLOOD OF HEAVEN tour. Here's a great review of the book. You can get signed copies from Fountain, by the way.

Kent did a few things really well, which I thought I'd share with you.

Keep in mind, I'm not a big fan of readings. I'd rather sit in a lecture hall while an author and an interviewer sit onstage in comfy chairs, discussing the book. I don't need the author to read a chapter of the book to me, as I'm rather adept at reading the book myself, especially if it is in English. Which is often is.

Kent gets up, talks about the book for a few minutes, then reads a quite small section, then talks a little more, then opens for questions.

I've seen some authors relish the reading, the performance. Which is great, if that's what you enjoy as an author and what you're good at. My take is that Kent Wascom is not an actor.

He did his undergrad at LSU, where I did my MFA work. He did his MFA in Florida, where I vomited eleven times during Spring Break '87.

During the Q&A, I asked about Louisiana, and he took the opportunity to connect with me, as a reader and human. The way good politicians do. The way decent human beings do.

Then after the reading, we chatted for a few minutes, and I told him about the rumor that I was an exotic dancer while at LSU came about. He took that information and used it when he signed my book. I mean, you're talking to the reader, you want to put something personal in there, right? Something real?Another connection.

Don't just sign "Best Wishes, Dick Author." Put a real thing there on the page in your own hand.

My guess is that Kent made these connections with all his readers that night and, more importantly, that they left thinking so.

We write our books, our stories pretty much in solitude. I mean, we might post a few #amwriting tweets or updates in an attempt to beg for attention or acknowledge our writerly-ness or whatever. And we may blog about this part of the process or share event news. But, for the most part, the actual creation of the book is done in solitude.

I've been sending COUNTRY HARDBALL back and forth with the folks at Tyrus/F+W Media, making sure the commas are in the right place, the names spelled consistently. I've sent stories to friends for their thoughts. I've sent stuff to editors, to my agent, to all kinds of folks. But this is all done while I'm tucked away in the downstairs toilet like most writers, typing away on my laptop.

The connecting with readers thing is key. That's what the reading is about, I think. The readers. Sure, you want to sell a book. But you want to see the people you're doing this for. You want to talk to the people who want to read your stories, see what they're about, what they're interested in.

When someone asks how you write or why such and such happened in your last book or where your ideas come from, this may be the ninth time in that week you've answered that question. But it's the first time that reader has asked you. Maybe it's the first time that reader has cared enough to ask any writer any damn thing.

So it's important that each reader is seen as a potential friend, isn't it? Someone who is going to share your book with you? Someone who cares about what you're writing? Isn't it essentially that you can connect with that reader? That one reader?

And then you can go across the street with a few people from the reading and drink and talk about Bill Cheng's book and murders in Baton Rouge and making charcoal from human bones.

Because if you make those connections, then that doofus at your reading run home and blog about your book. And he'll read your book. And he'll dig your book. And he'll pre-order the next one.

Also, it's why you're a writer, isn't it? To tell stories to people?

Kent Wascom showed how it's done, so connect with your readers when you can.

After all, it's what Joelle would do.