Saturday, October 5, 2013

Stats and a Story

Scott D. Parker

I had hoped to celebrate the end of my second book this year, but it's not quite done. Perhaps next week. Another month in the books, another month of writing statistics to share.

Here are September's numbers:
  • Minimum threshold: 30,000 (1,000/day for 30 days)
  • Total words: 50,134
  • Difference: 20,134 words above the minimum
  • Average: 1,671/day 
  • Best day: 3,620 (27 Sept)
  • Worst: 1,017 (25 Sept)
  • Items worked on: Chapter 21-37 of Book 2; completed short story for anthology.
  • Number of consecutive days writing: 130 day (since Memorial Day)
  • Milestone: passed 200,000 words for the year on 20 September.
The only thing of note for September is the shift from morning writing to night writing. It's not a deal breaker, but there were a few days in which I was dog tired and reaching the 1,000-word mark was difficult. Second downside is when tiredness wins out over continual when you're at a good part and want to keep writing but can't.

Most challenging writing: last weekend. I chaperoned a bus full of church kids. I brought my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard and, amid the cacophony of cat calls and loudness, managed to get over 4,000 words done. When I looked up from the iPad as we rolled into the church parking lot, I was amazed at the output. Guess I can write anywhere. Next challenge: rock concert!  

The Story

Earlier this week, David Cranmer, of Beat to a Pulp fame, asked if I had anything in drawer that he could post on his site this week. One of the obvious side effects of a  non-writing slump is the lack of completed tales in a drawer. I said I had one little thing I wrote a few years ago and used as an origin of sorts to my Houston police office character. I offered it up to him and he accepted it. The story, "The Power Behind the Name," is now live at Beat to a Pulp:

Thanks, David.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Doctor A Week: Peter Davison: Kinda

By Russel D McLean

11 weeks. 11 Doctors. 11 stories. Right up to the fiftieth anniversary, Russel will be reviewing one story a week for each Doctor. He will try and relate each story to a larger picture and how it relates to each period. He will occasionally make fun of them. But he will try and show you what a varied and brilliant history the show has. As well as overcoming his own prejducies about certain periods in the shows history. Each review will have spoilers and will assume a certain level of knowledge about the story in question.

What point of view could they have? They’re savages!”

Ahhh the eighties. Cheap, spartan sets and australian air hostesses (three stories in and Tegan’s *still* not changed out of her uniform; but then Adric’s been wearing pyjamas for months).

Also Peter Davison: youngest Doctor ever at the time, playing it absolutely straight and far too often inneftecually. not his fault, but the fifth doctor is so rarely in control it often feels like he might not as well be there. Also all the bickering in the TARDIS (its the most full its been in a long time with Adric, Nyssa and Tegan) tends to grate after a while. Also its at this stage the Doctor seems to be dressing in a particular fashion; the cricket stuff is far more like a costume than previous regenerations who merely seemed to throw on whatever they could find that worked. Yes, they were eccentric, but with the question marks and the slight impracticality of it all, it looks like an affectation. I want to like Davison, I really do. And he does very well with the material, but if you take this Doctor’s lines in isolation your realise they are trying to dial back the alienness of the character, to make him less eccentric. The result is that Davison has to try and make up the slack, but there’s nowhere you could go even if you were Lawrence Olivier. They would, of course, dial it in the other direction when Colin Baker came on board, but we’ll talk about that next week...

There’s also a po-faced seriousness to this era of stories that sometimes gets in the way of the fun. I know Davison is a fan favourite, but at this point - as I mentioned - the scripters play it far too safe with his incarnation. He’s oh so terribly nice. All the time. Even when he’s annoyed (and who wouldn’t be?) at Adric, the boy genius. In fact with all the squabbling among the TARDIS crew during this era, you’re amazed Davison doesn’t just suddenly snap and chuck Adric and Tegan out the TARDIS doors and into the time vortex (when Adric does finally kick the bucket in Earth Shock, even the Doctor doesn’t actually do that much to stop the inevitable).

Kinda is regarded - depending on your point of view - as either one of the best or one of the worst of the Davison era stories. It does actually show the possibilities of this new take on the Doctor, with some strong philosophising and a lot of mysticism beneath the sci fi surface.. The black landscape in which Tegan finds herself during the dreamscape sequences is starkly effective (a shame that’s undercut by the standard colonist sets). The Mara itself is wonderful in its initial human form - - although as with all villains, he’s a little too jolly. Maybe seeking the end of everything is infinitely amusing. I also love the idea of the box where no one knows what is inside. Its all very Schrodinger and a simple way of building tension, although the scream that ends episode two is markedly dramatic considering no one has seen the contents of the box they’re about to open.

Back with the colonists, Sanders - the leader of the human expedition to this backwards little world - is a big blowhard stereotype, although his childishness after his encounter with the Kinda - the name given to the natives of this world - is very amusing. His second in command, Hindle, is all chaotic crazy, on the verge of losing in this new world. He is suitably hammy, but feels out of place in the new subdued tone of the Davison era. There’s also lots of stuff with two Kinda who wear hats for no apparent reason.

Tegan finally gets some interesting stuff to do. No more whinging about getting home, she gets to go all weird in her dreamsapce (the multiple Tegans - and which is real? - bit is brilliant, and marks for me what the intent of this era may have been, although it would rarely if ever live up to that again) and then plays the bad guy for a little when she lets the Mara break through into reality via her physical form. Its all a little cliched now, but for the time its all very good stuff and a little frightening.

I also like that its the women who have the most intelligence here. The Kinda are a matriarchal society and perhaps there’s something in the fact that its when the menfolk gain a voice that everything starts to go very very wrong. Its progressive thinking, and its another intriguing idea in a script that’s chock full of them (when its not doing the colonists cliche story).

Kinda’s problem is tone. For all the great symbolism and thoughtful stuff about savagery, intelligence and so forth, it’s also a standard colonists versus unexpectedly wise primitives story. Dances with Timelords, if you will. The best sequences are the dream based ones and those with the Kinda. The dullest bits are the colonists-going-mad moments and the very strange and slow fight with a robot controlled by Adric (who, as ever, is just a colossal and dull pain, whose magic tricks wouldn’t fool a blind mongoose).

In short, there are moments of brilliance here combined with typical eighties cheapness. The ambitions outweigh the execution (checked the papier-mache snake of doom when the Mara reveals it’s true self). Its not for everyone, but its one of the best Davison stories I’ve seen, ranking up there with the similarly unusual Enlightenment and, of course, crowd-pleaser Caves of Androzani.


The robot that takes Adric and the Doctor to the colonist’s shape keeps farting hilariously. I know, I’m twelve years old.

The story was originally written for Baker. So one assumes they took all the jokes out for Davison. Sadly. I would love to see what Davison would have done with a more eccentric script. Imagine if they’d given him some Matt Smith dialogue or just an alien sense of perspective that wasn’t so subdued.

Love the colonists’s chairs with their names on the back. Hate their cheap 80s flatpack colonist ship.

“primitive mind” - - when Davidson says this line, it sticks out. A very unDoctorly approach to the world. Would he really see the Kinda as primitives? The Doctor is usually the first to see the truth of a situation like this.

“Is he an idiot?” - - oh such a leading question from the wise woman re the Doctor. In this incarnation he may well be, He is so desperate to be nice that at times he just seems completely lost. It is a change from Baker, but aside from flashes of genius, most of the fifth doctor stories tend to see our hero making things worse or making very little difference to the actual situation.

“I just feel so useless” - Adric has a self revelatory moment in episode 4 during one of the timefilling scenes where, for no reason, he and Tegan hang out in corridors.

Nyssa is conveniently absent for most of the story. Apparently this was because the story was written before they realised there would be 3 companions and rather than give her something to do, they just made her faint and go for a lie down in the TARDIS for the whole story.

I have no idea who the chess playing couple are in Tegan’s dreamscape, but their bizarre conversation about whether Tegan is really there or if they’re imagining her is wonderful.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Netflix for books -- here we go

By Steve Weddle

If you're tired of reading your ebooks for free, you'll be happy to know that a few new options allow you to pay for the service.

Years back, my local library had Rocket eBooks, these blocky things in cases, pre-loaded with dozens of books. You could check out the "Mystery" ereader and you're carrying 18 ebooks -- Evanovich and Connelly and Child so forth. There was a literary reader. A romance reader. Each one, loaded up with a different genre.

You couldn't check out individual ebooks, at least not near me.
You can now read near boats!!

Overdrive came along and provided an effective -- though cumbersome and clunky -- way to check out individual ebooks. They'll pop up on your Nook. You can load them up on your Kindle. Heck, you could probably even plop them onto your Sony eReader. Whatever you have, you can log in through your local library, and -- if the book isn't already checked out and if your library has it -- read a soon-to-be favorite.

Recently, Oyster has gotten into the mix, offering old books for your Apple phone. If you want to read something that they have -- limited to participating publishers -- you don't have to worry about whether someone else in your county has "checked out" the ebook. You can start reading, for only $120 per year. As Oyster says:
We created Oyster to evolve the way people read and to create more of the special moments that only books can offer. From anywhere a mobile device can go—a bustling subway car, a quiet coffee shop, or lost at sea with a Bengal tiger—our mission is to build the best reading experience, one that is both communal and personal, anytime, anywhere. 

Imagine being able to read anywhere. It's like a dream come true.

Ha. I kid because I love.  (Seriously, though. Selling your ebook service as "now giving you the ability to read anywhere" is kinda weird because, you know, um, books have been kinda portable for a while. I mean, for reals, it isn't like any of my books are those big dog bahama mama books the monks used to gild, you know?)

I hope Oyster does well. The nice folks at BookRiot seem to love it. The app is only available for the Apple phone now, but word is they'll be expanding soon. The interface looks lovely, if that's something that you're interested in.

And now news that Scribd and HarperCollins are teaming up to provide another ebook subscription serivce.

Amazon has offered its lending library to Prime users -- $79 a year -- for quite a while, too.

We have many, many options for borrowing books. Some I've missed mentioning, no doubt. Free from the library. Paid-subscription from other folks.

I suppose there's gold in them thar hills if companies are now getting onboard with it. Netflix for books. Spotify for reading. MySpace for auto detailing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


So Breaking Bad is over and done with and what are we supposed to do for entertainment now? 

After a slew of recommendations on Twitter I gave Love/Hate a go. It's been hailed as Ireland's answer to The Wire, a plaudit which does get thrown around rather easily, and while it doesn't have quite the depth or ambition of David Simon's iconic show there is a hell of a lot to like about it. 

The story -

Darren returns to Dublin to celebrate his brother's birthday after a period lying low in Spain, hiding from firearms charges, but the party is derailed by his brother's murder. Out for revenge Darren is drawn into the orbit of his former boss, drug smuggling kingpin John Boy, a snarling, psychopath surrounded by a coterie of yes-men who are only ever a wrong look or an extra line away from violence. Darren might be useful to him though; he's smart as well as vicious, and brains are in short supply in the business. Darren might also be the man to take him down though, if he continues to believe John Boy is responsible for his brother's death.

Cue power struggles, manipulation, violence, strange alliances and senseless killings.  Lots of senseless killings. And drug use/bad language/casual sex. Of course.

Do I really need another gangster show boxset, I hear you ask. Why not just rewatch The Sopranos

Well, Love/Hate is actually grittier I'd say, more akin to Showtime's Brotherhood - another series worth watching if you've missed it - a full speed pelt through post-boom Dublin's underbelly, touching on drug smuggling, prostitution and arms dealing, with the IRA making an appearance in later series.   

It boasts some outstanding performances, including The Wire's Aidan Gillen and Misfits' Robert Sheehan - who's probably a bit too pretty for the role - as well as a great supporting cast who actually look like street level dealers and muscle and bring a tonne of swagger to the screen.

The storylines might lack an overarching narrative but in place of grand schemes you have a more authentic sense of the chaos around criminality, the sudden flare ups and incompetence, politiking and self destruction which tend to dominate a world populated by psychos and thugs who have no fear of the police and massively out of control egos. 

But the real joy of the show for me is the script. Brutal when it needs to be, clever and dark, with a twisted sense of humour. It goes from laugh out loud funny to absolutely chilling in the blink of an eye and there's been nary a bum note in the three series I've watched. The writer Stuart Carolan is pure class.

One word of warning, after hitting the boxset you will almost definitely develop an Irish accent.

Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD and should keep you going for a few days at least.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Vulture


Recently I read a book called, 33 Revolution Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs by Dorian Lynsky which I think is excellent. There’s also a good blog for the book that gets updated quite a bit.


I picked up the book mostly for the late 60s and early 70s stuff, research for what looks like will be a series from me, the “Eddie Dougherty Mysteries,” that start with Black Rock set in 1970 and will continue till… well, I don’t know yet, but 33 Revolutions... continues right up to today.

I particularly liked the section on disco. I was one of those teenagers in the 70s who firmly believed that, “Disco sucks,” but that has become just one more thing on a very long list of things I was wrong about.

And thanks to my Rdio subscription I listened to most of the songs mentioned in the book while I was reading and while they aren’t all as fantastic as Nina Simone’s, “Mississippi Goddamn,” it turns out there are a lot of terrific protest songs.

Another surprise in the book, one that’s crime fiction related, was the rather off-hand mention of Gil Scott-Heron’s mystery novel, The Vulture.

Wait, what?

Sure, I had a feeling The Revolution Will Not Be Televised wasn’t his only really good song, I had a feeling there would be other very good ones I’d just never heard and I had a feeling that he had written a lot of good poems that I hadn’t read, but a mystery novel?

Well, yeah. And it’s a good one.


This is the cover of the version I got out of the Toronto Public library, reprinted in the UK in 1996 by Canongate. There doesn’t seem to be a recent American version but it is available on Kindle and also as a double e-book along with Scott-Heron’s other novel, The Nigger Factory.

First published in 1970, The Vulture is described as, “digging the rhythms of the street, where the biggest deal life has to offer is getting high, The Vulture is a hip and fast-moving thriller. It relates the strange story of the murder of a teenage boy called John Lee – telling it in the words of the four men who knew him when he was just another kid working after school, hanging out, waiting for something to happen.”

In a lot of the stuff I’m reading there’s an underlying current of how things are changing. Well, change is constant, of course, but the change in attitudes from, say, 1968 to 1972 is quite striking and The Vulture is on top of it. As one character notes, “It was a new day for John Lee. There had always been a smile on his lips and a chuckle rolling over his vocal chords, ready to be exposed with only the slightest provocation. The daytime was gone from his eyes. All that remained was the night.” Another way he puts it is, “He was the corner fashion post. The blue jeans and T-shirt were gone, but so was the sunshine.”

In retrospect an awful lot has been written about the transition from the peace and love 60s to the greed is good 80s but Gil Scott-Heron was writing about it as it happened. In songs, poems and novels. 

The opening line to this is, “Standing in the ruins of another black man’s life,” and one of the comments on the YouTube page is, “Replace 'Black Mans Life' with 'Poor Mans Life' and it works even for us middle aged white men.....” Maybe one of the best YouTube comments of all time (though, really, I try to stay away from YouTube comments).

In the introduction Scott-Heron says he say the book as a movie and it’s really too bad that movie hasn’t been made. This novel is insightful and smart and a long way from blaxploitation.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Interview with Burnt Bridge editor Jason Stuart

Why did you set up a small press?

That has always been the goal since the inception of Burnt Bridge. We’ve dabbled in it a bit already with our first title almost two years ago called Buffalo Bill in the Gallery of the Machines by Mark Rapacz. It was a novella that came over the transom and I was so in love with it, I felt like it deserved to be its own book, so Mark and I collaborated on that project and created a really amazing product. It debuted at AWP in 2012 in Chicago. We were not set up to be a full press at that time, so a lot of it came down on Mark himself, which he seemed both eager and equipped to do. This is what led me to choosing him, in the end, as a partner for our going forward with the brand as a press.

How do you think you can add value in the current publishing climate?

I think where Burnt Bridge will really be able to offer value is to authors who may have been with a larger press already and were not valued there. Our royalty terms I think are going to be a sell. Plus, we don’t take rights in perpetuity. After two years, the rights revert to the author or they may renew for a larger percentage for another two years. Ebooks are more open to negotiation and will generally revert to the author much sooner.

Additionally, in browsing around the marketplace, we’ve been discussing it amongst ourselves, and it feels like the current indie crime/noir scene is largely a boys’ club, this is something we’d like to try to chip away at as much as we can. We are actively looking for female authors and protagonists to help define us as we go forward.

Why become a publisher?

Because we want to put out the best work we can find. We want it in actual bookstores (for as long as they continue to exist). We are in talks with various independent booksellers about doing business with each other, and we hope to build a relationship with at least one major distributor within our first year. But, for the most part, it’s about promoting the art we enjoy and believe deserves attention.

Who chose the name?

Well, I did. Sort of. There’s a place by that goes by Burnt Bridge where I grew up in rural South Mississippi. There’s four or five legends tied to it, everything from Civil War ghosts to WW2 deserters, to Dukes of Hazzardian bootlegging yarns, along with an old fire & brimstone church that still stands there. But, I also liked the implicit metaphor and from it I derived our little catchphrase: Stories that don’t apologize. I thought it worked more or less for what we wanted.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

Well, I buy nearly every Snubnose title that comes out. I’m a recent convert to the Frank Bill kool-aid, as well. I can’t read enough of that guy. Jed Ayres, and the Noir @ the Bar crowd. I like David Keaton, Stephen Graham Jones, and everything J. David Osborne is doing with Broken River. I like it a little weird. A little offbeat. And pretty dark, though by dark I might just mean a little closer to reality. I like things to get messy. Crooks who smoke too much of their own meth. They’ve done a little too much roids and now they’re brainbaked and go half-assed into their bank robbery and leave an idiot trail for the asleep-at-the-wheel system to follow. I like heroes, but maybe not in the conventional sense, and not all the time. There doesn’t need to be a hero. But, it’s great when there is and it works.

As a publisher, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Most of all, willing to give something different a chance. We won’t be publishing the stock procedurals, or the tried-and-true thriller/mystery formula. I mean, maybe, but probably not really. We’re indie. We’re way indie. We’re so indie, I don’t even have all the money for our first block of ISBN’s (BIG FAT YET!). So, we’re willing to take chances as publisher that many established presses won’t. I’m not even sure we’ll remain limited to crime/westerns. I like genre-benders. I want to publish a novella that smacks of Blade Runner and Dead Man put together. I don’t even know what that story would be but I want to read it.

Will you be publishing in print or E or both?

Both. Though, we’re talking about turning over the ebook rights back to the author after a very short period, maybe 6 months from publication. I think that’s a good idea, and may help forge our relationship with our authors. I want a steady stable of writers who will grow with us. I think of the author as a partner in this business. We don’t work without them on board, and they should reap as many benefits from the arrangement as possible (and that are within reason and our means as meager independents). I mean, they could do it without us, but we can’t do it without them. So, like, pay it forward and shit.

But, also I want to be reader-friendly. I want to offer promotions that add value and make good sense. I am wary of freebies these days. I’ve tried the Amazon free giveaways and I am not sure they work. Discounting maybe to a buck is one thing, but all the way free? No strings? Not sure. This new Kindle Matchbook sounds keen. I want to build brand recognition and trust in the reader. Had a prolific reader recently tell me they’ve never once looked at who published a book they read. Even the ones they like. Authors, sure. Of course. But publishers? Never. I think given the state of Big NY publishing, that’s fantastic. But, I think branding is more important at the near-bottom of the publishing ladder where we are. Our name should matter. We only put our name on a handful of books a year. It’s conceivable that we end up with brand followers/fans. Like I said, I’ve already become one myself with the Snubbie and will soon be one with Broken River. You guys are out there as pioneers, paving the way for new, independent publishers like Burnt Bridge. And, our wagon is packed and we’re headed to Oregon with you.

How will/has this venture affected your own writing?

Who knows? Who really knows? I know it already eats up a lot of time and we’re barely moving. But, it’s fun. And, I like the idea of having so much creative input. Cover concepts. Marketing strategies. Weekly teleconferencing with the partners. This stuff is fun even when it’s pure bone-chilling logistics. So, who knows? I have set goals for a chapter/story a month. So far, I’m behind.

Are you open for subs? If someone's reading this who has a project that might be a good fit for you, how would you prefer them to go about submitting it?

Head straight over to our website and send it through the wire. We’re ready to read that sucker. We’re specifically hoping to lock down some women under our brand, something we see is underrepresented in the genre it seems. We’re looking for female protagonists, too.

How has the submission response been so far?

Slow, but steady. We’ve put out feelers to some authors we know are shopping around, and we’ve gotten some interest. We are close to deals on two books already. Looking to fill out our first year list by October if we can.

Lastly, what is noir?

Noir is when it all goes wrong, and you don’t even have time to ask why. You don’t even pick up the pieces. You just leave them behind and walk away, if you’ve even got legs left to do so. Noir is black as it gets. No one wins.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

SKATING UNDER THE WIRE launch and Giveaway

by: Joelle Charbonneau

It’s hard to believe that it has been three years since my first novel – SKATING AROUND THE LAW hit shelves bringing Rebecca Robbins, Pop and the entire Indian Falls gang into the wonderful world of mystery readers.  I still remember the anxiety I felt leading up to the release of that my first published book.  Would readers like the book?  Would people wonder what the heck my publisher was thinking publishing a book by me?  I mean, I was a musical theater/voice major in college who never took a single creative writing class.  What did I know about writing books?

3 years have passed.  My career has grown in ways I never expected or dreamed of.  And on Tuesday, SKATING UNDER THE WIRE, the fourth and final (for now) Rebecca Robbins book will hit shelves. 

I’m so thrilled because I love this story.  It’s perhaps my zaniest of all the books (which considering the derby girls in SKATING ON THE EDGE is kind of saying something).  The series brings a few new characters to the series in addition to revisiting so many of my favorites that have been part of previous books.  There is a wedding, Thanksgiving dinner and, of course, a murder.  Writing this book was so much fun.  I am delighted to finally share it with everyone.

I’m also sad.  Because we often see in the publishing world – a book series often has to come to an end.  In this case, my publisher has turned their attention to some other series they hope will find wide audiences.  While they love Rebecca and her friends, the series hasn’t sold tens of thousands of copies and this is a business.  (Of course, if this book were to sell tens of thousands of copies I’m betting they’d tell me they made a mistake….it is business, after all.)  And while I love visiting Indian Falls, I have learned something important in the last 18 months – I occasionally need sleep…which means I can’t keep writing at my current pace.  Which means something has to give. 

So it is with great delight that I look forward to sharing Rebecca’s fourth adventure with readers and sadness that I, for now, must put them away.  But the best thing about writing is that stories are always waiting to be told.  And hopefully some day in the not so far distant future I will have a chance to visit Rebecca, Pop, Lionel, Sean, Elwood and the rest of the Indian Falls gang again.  They have a very special place in my heart and I am so grateful to all of you who have given them a place in yours.

To celebrate the release of SKATING UNDER THE WIRE, I am giving away 2 sets of paperbacks of SKATING AROUND THE LAW and SKATING OVER THE LINE.  Please leave a comment below to enter.  All entries no matter where you live are welcome because I want to celebrate the final (for now) Rebecca Robbins journey with a bang.  (Winners will be chosen next Sunday - Oct. 6th!)