Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Change is Coming

Scott D. Parker

Nothing major happened this week. Yesterday was Day 82 on my consecutive days writing streak. It was also Day 44 on my mini-streak of consecutive days with 1,000 words or more. I passed the 100-page mark on the new book on Tuesday. I’m up to 137 now. What I’m saying is that this week, like every day since August 1, I’m just producing words on Book 3. I’m just pounding away on the keys and loving just about every minute of it.

The summer of 2013 will always be remembered as the time I finally finished Book 2. What made it possible was the very fact it was summer. My boy was out of school and he slept in most days. Thus, I didn’t have to make sure he was awake and in the shower at a certain time, fed by a certain time, and driven to school at a certain time. I was free, especially on the four days a week I work the day job at home, to write from around 6am to when I clock into the day job, usually around 8am. Nearly all of that time, I wrote on my desk, outside, with dawn breaking and the animals waking up. I know who walks their dogs and when, I know just about the time the sun crests the east roof of my house, putting a glare on the screen, and how to be really, really quiet so as not to wake the family. It's been a magical time, a time consisting of 1.5 to 2 hours of writing time a day. It lets me get the words flowing pretty easily.

For me, that ends on Tuesday. My boy returns to school and my morning writing time vanishes. On that day, and the subsequent days throughout this coming school year, I’m going to have to produce books at a different time of the day. I’m pretty confident that the creation of Book 2 this summer was not a fluke, but I need to get Book 3 written while my boy is in school and we’re in school mode. And then get Book 4 done. And five. Et cetera.

That will be a huge change for me. Option 1 is to wake up at 5am. Not sure I can do that despite me having become a morning person. But it is possible. The only other alternative is 10pm at night. Ugh. The options aren’t pretty and that’s what I need to figure out: When am I going to write?

Tune in next week (and the following weeks) to see how it all shakes out.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kickdegogo Your Book

By Steve Weddle

Last year, Rutgers blogger Dave White briefly asked about Kickstarter. And you responded with your thoughts.

But, at the same time, doesn't it seem like you may not trust your work to sell otherwise?  You're basically begging for an advance, and then doling out the material.  You're trying to even the odds.  Which is okay, I guess.
Now, it seems as if writers have no shame have new avenues for getting your money before the book comes out. Indiegogo. Personal blogs.

In the traditional method, a publisher supported the effort of getting the book out, by paying the author an advance against future royalties. The publisher would then pay for the printing and distribution and advertising and so forth. We've had many posts about how that's changed in terms of what publishers pay for. This isn't that.

What Kickstarter and Indiegogo and, well, the web itself, allow writers to do is interact directly with millions of fans.

I recently read a post in which an award-winning author asked for donations so that he could continue to pay for his life of sending the kids off to daycare while he spent his day writing. His fans funded this request. Good for him.Good for his fans. It's lovely to have that kind of support.

I am not in any way judging what other people do. I'm not saying this is right or that is wrong. If you can get someone to pay you $10 to fart the National Anthem, then stock up on your broccoli. Whatever. If you're farting art, all the better.

I'm all for unconventional methods of writing. My current project is being written entirely in blue ink. Not black.

BookRiot recently posted some bookish projects worth Kickstarting. Check them out and see what you think.

And here's a post about how ridiculous Kickstarter is, looking at people who want you to donate so that they can make signs for homeless people. There's the nastiness of using the homeless as your fodder for comedy, but the point holds.

This dude got $500,000 to fund a book he'd already written.

This anthology doubled its funding goal.

I'm just wondering, as authors, whether we're doing this right. If you have a project that requires big upfront costs -- overseas travel, scientific equipment, prototypes -- that's one type. It's a project.

There's another type in which the Hollywood millionaires want you to fund the movies they want to make. I guess that's another type. See: Veronica Mars.

Then there is most of us. Not the hiring of an artist for a graphic novel. Not the trip to Ashendenvilleburg to research a murder from 1837.

I'm looking at the author sitting at her kitchen table, writing along each day instead of going to work at Auto Zone. Are you fine with sending that person a check for $50 so that you can get an early look at the PDF? I mean, that's kinda how Harper Lee wrote MOCKINGBIRD, right? Isn't that the story? Someone granted her a year's worth of money so she didn't have to dayjob it?

I get that cover art for a self-pubbed book is expensive. Or should be.

I get that proofreading and editing cost bucks, and that your book doesn't have the traditional path that takes care of that.

Using Kickstarter as a pre-order machine does have a certain appeal for self-published/DIY/Indie authors, I think. I can see getting the $10 from everyone upfront, then using that to buy good cover art and professional editing and all. I get that.

But the donating in lieu of dayjob seems different.

And, of course, what's the harm? If I want to send $20 to Arturo Bandini or Kilgore Trout, what harm is there? I'm giving them money so they can write. What business is it of yours?

If you have a writing project you need funds for, tell me about it. Need money to cover the printing of some cool hardback you have planned? Dude, sign me up. You need to pay artists ahead of time to illustrate a great noir story you want to tell? Yes, ma'am, that's a project I can dig.

Funding a specific project that needs upfront money? That seems like the sort of thing Kickstarter was set up for.

Do you like the idea of authors asking for money so they can focus on writing their next novel? So they don't have to work eight hours a day -- or more -- like most writers? Should we think of this as public grant money directly from the public?

When an author says he/she needs funding to attend conference and pay for kids' clothing and daycare and a high-speed internet connection, I figure we might already have a way to take care of that. An advance. A royalty check. God forbid, a dayjob.

It's clear the writer enjoys the idea of being a writer.

When authors ask for money to cover "life's expenses" so they can write full-time, it seems they're asking for me to fund a lifestyle.

And that lifestyle isn't a project I'm interested in funding.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Interview with Gerard Brennan

I've been a big fan of Gerard Brennan's work since reading his debut novella The Point, a fast paced and wickedly funny story of two small-time crooks hiding out by the seaside while an insane drug dealer is after their heads.  Gerard has gone on to produce several more well-received books as well as a co-writing a critically acclaimed play, The Sweety Bottle, with his father, which has just finished its run at Belfast's Grand Opera House.  Gerard was kind enough to join me for a bit of chat...

Your new novella Wee Danny is just out, can you tell us a bit about it?

Wee Danny is the story of a seventeen-year-old boy putting in his time at a young offenders' centre in Northern Ireland. He knows he needs to keep his nose clean to escape the prison system before he turns eighteen or he'll end up in jail. But you can only pretend to be something you're not for so long.

What drew you back to writing about Danny Gibson?'

I always liked Wee Danny Gibson. While writing Wee Rockets, I enjoyed his scenes a little too much. Up until things went wrong for him. I figured that I needed to hear from him again, if only to get rid of that nagging question... Whatever happened to that cheeky wee rocket?

In both books you were excellent at getting inside the adolescent mind, is that because you're just a big kid?

Hah! Yeah, I definitely think that's a factor. I still have plenty of growing up to do. But I'm in no rush.
I also try to remember what it was like to be a teenager, I was at my most honest and vulnerable and it seemed like nobody was ever interested in me or any of my friends. We were nuisances who had to be put up with. I don't think kids are much different today. Just more clued in, thanks to the interweb thingy they all talk about. 
So I make it a point to listen to teenagers, even the quiet ones. If nothing else, they're awesome BS detectors.

You're not quite in Belfast with this one but its effects on Danny are felt. How is the post-Troubles landscape informing your work? And what's the crime writing scene like around your way now?

Because I like to write about contemporary NI, the post-Troubles landscape IS my work. But I'm definitely not alone. The scene is thriving right now. I've been going on about the NI talent for a few years now on To name-check a few, I'm a massive fan of Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway and Adrian McKinty, all essential NI reading. The latest great to blow my mind was Claire McGowan. Check out The Lost as soon as you feckin' can!
There's going to be a 'Belfast Noir' in the near future too, thanks to Stuart Neville and Adrian McKinty taking on the editing duties. You'll find a whole heap of talent in that collection.

And what about the MMA scene you've covered in your recent Fight Card novella, Welcome to the Octagon?

MMA is very popular in Northern Ireland right now. There are a number of organisations putting on amateur and semi-pro fights. I attended one just last week. My own attempt to capture the spirit of this phenomenon runs something like this:
"Mickey The Rage Rafferty has gone through some tough times, but he's not ready to tap-out just yet. The Belfast widower has to take care of his eight-year-old daughter, Lily. However, his main talent is fighting and the only way he can make enough money off it to support his girl is to take dodgy underground matches paying off in bloodstained cash. Mickey’s trainer, Eddie Smith, doesn't approve. He wants his most promising student to step into the cage as a real martial artist, not as a fool for thugs and gangsters.
With Eddie on the verge of cutting him loose, Mickey is up against the cage – crushed between fast cash and a legitimate career. Mickey has some big decisions to make and some even bigger opponents to face."

I know you can bang so I'm assuming there was some ring-time research behind this one...

I've spent a decent amount of time in a boxing ring at a local club over the last year or so. That was invaluable research (and quite a buzz). Obviously, I had to do a lot of training to get comfortable enough to step into the ring, even just for a spar. All great research.
In my early twenties, I spent five years practicing Wing Tsun and managed to work my way up to instructor level. Ran my own club for a year and a half before deciding to devote more time to writing. Not exactly MMA but I got a taste for the discipline needed to become an expert in a chosen style. And I met my fair share of headbangers in need of an adrenaline fix.
Because I wasn't actually training in MMA while writing WTTO, I had a friend who's versed in Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai read the fight scenes. Once he gave them the thumbs up, I was confident they'd stand up to expert scrutiny.

Any plans to step in the ring again?

I'd like to take on an actual fight some time in the near future, boxing or MMA, even if it's just a charity fight night or something. I'm interested to see what I have the time and determination to accomplish now I'm making my way through my thirties.
Just hope I don't crack my ribs. Done that enough times this year.

So, what's coming up next for you?

I've just finished writing a novella for the Derry City of Culture 2013 crime fiction festival. The festival isn't until November, but I like to get things wrapped up quickly. As for my next project? I think I'm going to attempt another play. I had it in my mind that I would try and write a noir for the stage and I have something mapped out already.

And in the not too distant future, there'll be the PhD. It's titled Radical Crime Fiction and I'll be working on it at Queen's University Belfast for the next three years. As it's funded, it's giving me enough financial security to jack in the dayjob for the next three years. It's is such a dream come true I'm waiting for somebody to call me with a catch. I'll get to spend my days reading old school crime greats like Himes and Manchette while trying to figure out why the genre became 'formulaic' and 'safe'. I'm also tasked to write a radical crime novel. With three years to work on it, I'm going to try some seriously experimental shit. Writing-wise, I mean. Although, when in uni...

Read eBooks While Loving Indies

By Steve Weddle

My local indie in Richmond -- Fountain Bookstore -- hosts all the great book readings and launches. I've seen Brad Parks there a few times, as well as Kent Wascom, Jeff Vandermeer, John Milliken Thompson, and more. And it's across the street from an Irish pub. It doesn't get much better.

In fact, we plan to launch my own COUNTRY HARDBALL at Fountain Bookstore on Wednesday night, November 20.

While I'm always buying the hardback when I go a reading and whenever else I can make it downtown, I still love reading on my Kindle Fire or the K3 or my phone or iPad or whatever. Well, imagine my surprise when I realized I could buy books from Fountain for my Kindle Fire.

IndieBound has info here.

The info for Fountain is here, and you can find your own local indie and go from there.

I now have the Kobo reader app on every device I can put it on. Phones. Tablets. Kindle Fire. I don't even have a Kobo reader, for goodness sake. I've got epub files floating around everywhere.

So, those of you saying how you love indies, but would rather read eBooks than drop $28 for a hardback, come on. Plenty of room for you at the Kobo store.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Let's talk about books baby

I've said before, more that once, that the number one thing you can do to support your favorite authors, and the books they write, is to talk, even briefly, about books. You don't have to start a blog and write 500 word reviews for all of the books that you read. But what you can do is mention on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever social media use (including the OG social media site -- your daily life) that you just finished reading a book, that you liked it, and if you're feeling generous, a couple of words on why. That's it. If you read, you should become a new type of book reviewer, a book talker.

Let me demonstrate the importance of talking about books, using specific examples.

I read Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick. It eventually made my end of year list and I nominated it for a Spinetingler Award. I first read about it on Paul Brazill's blog.

I read The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett. It too  made my end of year list. I first heard about from Jeff VanderMeer.

I read Lost in Clover by Travis Richardson, and it, wait for it, made my end of year klist and I nominated it for a Spinetingler award. I heard about it on Facebook when Eric Beetner mentioned that he had picked up a copy.

Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers was put on my radar screen by this tweet from the publisher. It caught my eye because I liked the title. It made my end of year list and is one of the more powerful books I read that year.

Someone sent me an email about Katja from the Punk Band by Simon Logan. Basically a "holy hell, you have to read this" kind of email. Holy hell is right. Again made my end of year list.

When Publishers Weekly did their end of year list The Four Stages of Cruelty by Keith Hollihan caught my eye because of the great cover and the interesting blurb. I read it and loved it.

When I read about Balzac of the Badlands by Steve Finbow over at Bookmunch it sounded intriguing as hell. When I read about it at this blog my intrigue was solidified. I had to read this book. And I'm glad I did because it too, say it with me, made my end of year list.

Brian Evenson mentioned on FB that he blurbed Jonah Man by Christopher Narozny and that was enough to make me search it out, buy a copy, and read it.

Andrew Nette is great for book recommendations from Australia because he's reading books that are tough, impossible, or expensive to get here in the U.S. He talked about Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook like it was a must read. And he's right, it is.

When you start talking with people about books a couple of things happen. You find people whose opinions you trust and they seek you out to tell you about books. Jed Ayres read Cold Quiet Country by Clayton Lindemuth and just had to tell some people to read it. And he did, on Twitter.

There was something about this review of Waste by Eugene Marten that intrigued me. And I’m glad it did because it is one of the best psycho noirs I’ve ever read.

Bottom line: If you like books talk about them, even if only briefly. The more you talk about books the wider your network will be. The wider your network is the more likely you are to catch your next favorite read.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Boy do I feel dumb

by: Joelle Charbonneau

This week, I've been working on copyedits for GRADUATION DAY, the third book in The Testing Trilogy.  Copyedits are always an interesting time in the production of a novel.  The book has been revised and revised and revised again.  My editor, agent and I finally believe the book is in great shape. Then the book goes off to the shadowy figure known as the copyeditor to make sure all commas are in the right place and all the spellings in book 3 actually match the two that came before.  A great copyeditor also checks for overused words and makes suggestions about any repetitive phrases that could be eliminated.

So it is with a great deal of joy and angst that I approached opening the package with the copyedited manuscript. Joy because the book is getting close to being spiffed and polished and ready for readers and anguish because the pages will be filled with lots and lots of notes and tons of little tweaks that make me didn't I think of that in the first place?

Copyedits (when done by an amazing copy editor, of which I have been blessed with) make me feel dumb.  Not the comma part, because the one thing I have learned in this writing process is that every publishing house seems to have a different idea of where commas should actually go.  So the added or removed punctuation doesn't phase me.  But the rest....


All the notes and the suggestions and the polite requests for changes make me grateful that I have a copyeditor.  It also makes me feel stupid.  Very, very stupid. Like I failed ever grammar class that I'd taken in high school.

The funny thing is, I know that's not the case.  In fact, I know that often I have far less notes on these pages than I'm expecting.  But it is the nature of a writer to think that we should be able to do everything without help.  That we should be perfect.  That we shouldn't need an editor or a copyeditor or anyone else who reads the story throughout production.  Because the story is ours.  As the storyteller -we should be able to make the story fabulous all by ourselves.

And that's wrong.  Yes, the story is ours, but the best thing about writing a story is watching the process of the story being turned into a book.  And not just any book...the best book it can possibly be.  And that's what all those amazing people helping shape the story are for.  My copyeditor makes me feel dumb and incredibly grateful to have her working on my book.  I mean...the book is SO much better for her.  And my editor...well, let's just say I am thanking my lucky stars I get to work with her because she is brilliant.  Here's hoping she liked my work enough in this trilogy to work with me in the future because I'm not sure if my work could ever be as strong without her.

Writers feel dumb a lot.  We feel stupid when we don't know what comes next in the story.  We feel like complete idiots when we're in the middle of writing a book and we are certain it is the worst book ever.  We think we're not so bright when we read the manuscript and think the story might not be as bad as we originally thought.  We bang our heads against walls when we get editorial notes that point out glaring errors that we swear we should have spotted.  And we even feel stupid when the book hits shelves and readers pick it up because we're certain someone is going to finally understand how much we don't know and that we're total frauds.

But you know what?  Despite that, I feel like the smartest person in the world for being in this business.  Why?  Because I get to work with people who make my work look sharper, more focused and just plain better than it was before.  How cool is that?

So, as I finish these last couple pages marked with green pencil and lovely notes from my wonderful copyeditor, I am incredibly thankful that I have such an amazing production team helping me shape this book.  Because the dumber I feel, the luckier I know I am.