Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere Podcast

Scott D. Parker

The always excellent Classic Tales Podcast is featuring three Sherlock Holmes tales in November. I subscribe to the podcast and was happily surprised to spend a couple hours this week again in the company of Holmes and Watson. B. J. Harrison does the pair with good narration and I can always 'see' what he's reading.

It's been awhile since Harrison did Holmes, but if you need an aural Holmes fix on a more regular basis, I cannot recommend the "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere" highly enough. With the tagline "In a world where it's always 1895," this monthly podcast is devoted exclusively to news and other tidbits about Holmes, Watson, the world in which they lived, and the people around the world who follow their exploits.

The website is chock full of information about the great detective. I dare say, in my online activities, it is the primary source for all things Holmsian. From this website, you can get to just about anything you want, including the Baker Street Journal, one their sponsors.

But it is the podcast itself that is so much fun. In fact, I find it essential listening. The two hosts are about as charming as you can find online. Scott Monty and Burt Wolder are steeped in the lore of the Canon and all the other paraphernalia surrounding Holmes and Watson, so much so that they often make funny, yet dry, jokes that insiders will laugh at and newbies will learn. There is a gentle quality to their voices that can soothe during a harsh rush hour but stimulate the brain as well. Their interviews cover the spectrum as well. There's a dropdown menu on the front page where you can see all the folks they've interviewed and go straight there. I always am pleased when I refresh my list of podcasts and see another one of their podcasts downloading. I load it on the iPod that very day and enjoy the listen.

On this Saturday in November, find whatever device you use to listen to audio material and download the latest episode, "Thankful for Sherlock Holmes," and enjoy it. Then you can realize you have 57 more. There's your early Christmas present. And you're welcome.

What are some great podcast you listen to?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What readers want from author appearances

By Steve Weddle

So I made this storefront thing. You can get a flask.

A couple really nice reviews have hit the web recently here and here. Great sites you should add to your RSS reader toot sweet.

Also, friend-of-the-blog Dana King (GRIND JOINT) was nice enough to chat me up this week, as were the WSPR folks yesterday and the Book Chatter tonight with me and Neil Smith, John Rector, Johnny Shaw, and Stacey Cochran.

And next week I'll be in Richmond and New York City, reading and signs tens of copies of my book. These two events will consist of standing in front of people and trying to be entertaining or interesting enough for them to feel like it was worth the bother.

So, um, how do I do that?

I expect it's a nerve-wracking experience. Writers don't always handle this well. At a reading once, William Faulkner became so nervous, that he defecated down the back of trousers.

I don't expect it to get that bad.

Here at DSD, I've talked about readings and author events. But that was in the abstract. Now this is kinda concrete, Lord willin and the creek don't rise.

And by "concrete" I mean the thing that hits my head if and when I pass out trying to read in front of people. What if I mispronounce something? What if I skip a line? What if there's a typo on the book? What I look up and see two people talking instead of listening to me because oh lord am I that boring but maybe they're talking about me and maybe they're saying how they were told I was a good writer but look at me up there now who do I think I am after all I'm no Karen Russell hell I'm not even Russell Karen who is that oh that's the guy I went to summer camp with and he shit himself in archery class oh you mean like William Faulkner?

So, you know, the reading.

I'm told to keep it under four hours and that handing out $100 bills to the audience is fine. I'm not sure about either of these things. I think my agent was probably just kidding about both. But I've never really understood her humor.

If you come out for readings, what do you like? What are some good ones you've been to? If you hate readings, why do you hate them?

What can I do to make you happy?

(UPDATE: Turns out the William Faulkner pooping his pants thing was a skit by Jimmy Kimmel, a late-night television comic. Sorry. We regret the error.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Interview - Kyle MacRae of Blasted Heath

Kyle MacRae & Allan Guthrie
Since its launch in 2011 Scottish indie publisher Blasted Heath has built an intriguing, crime-based list which features feral teens, down at heel gamblers and a murderous barber. Founded by author and literary agent Allan Guthrie and serial entrepreneur Kyle MacRae it's developed a solid following with fans of the hard stuff and brought some exciting new talent to readers. Kyle joins me today for a bit of a chat...

What initially inspired you to get into publishing? 
Pity. When I first met the Best Selling Kindle Author, Ebook Entrepreneur & Renowned Literary Agent, Allan Guthrie, he took me by the hand and led me through the sad streets of publishing. Why, there was poor Douglas Lindsay, author of the 19th century Barney Thomson classics, curled up in a cocoon of bile and disillusionment while he psycho-morphed into Elvis Shackleton, a bit like Ziggy Stardust segueing to Aladdin Sane but with a Dylan soundtrack. Brennan was homeless on the bad streets of Belfast, broken by Buckfast and meth (-alayted spirits, not crystal). Nobody at all had heard of Gary Carson, not even his mum. They still haven’t. Ray Banks was on the run from sicko-noir groupies. Still is. Back then, Anthony Neil Smith was little more than a figment of his dog’s imagination, which is a pretty desperate state of affairs when you think about it. We brought the bastard to life.
How did Blasted Heath come into being?
Quickly. It’s well known in certain circle jerks that Allan Guthrie stalked me and threatened to slam my testicles in a drawer (cf Two-WaySplit) if I didn't jack in everything else and help him invent Cool Digital Publishing. So we cobbled together some contracts, a handful of Kindle files and a website. Blasted Heath was birthed on November 1st 2011.
Mike Scott wrote a song to celebrate our launch 

Drunk his soul dry, so we did.
Blasted Heath is two years old now - congratulations - what's been the highlight for you so far?
Survival. Given that 98 UK publishers went under in the last year that’s quite an achievement. Then again, we don’t spend anything so we couldn’t go bust if we tried. 
You've steered clear of the more conventional type of crime novel, was that a conscious decision, seeking out challenging, noirish work? 
Not at all. We wish the heathens would write really commercial best-selling TV-series-friendly movie-deal-pending blue-rinse-tastic mainstream crime fiction without all the sweariness, violence and transgression. I have no idea why they don’t.
Speaking to your authors I get the sense that there's a great relationship between them and you and Al, how have you found the experience of working with them?
You’ve spoken to our authors? Don’t believe a word those bitches say. Especially Banks. It’s a thoroughly unhealthy relationship based on co-dependency. We own their heathen asses and they resent it.
What role do you see indies playing over the next few years?
I guess indies will continue to publish really interesting books that the big boys won’t take a punt on, at least in print, which makes the Kindle Store the breeding and discovery ground for new talent. Then we’ll get abandoned by our authors once we've made them huge. Hurrah!

The big houses will probably move more towards a low-risk ‘co-publishing’ model a la to Italian publisher RSC Libri’s recent experiment.
But who needs the big boys anyway? Readers validate, and they don't give a fuck about publishers. 
Outside publishing you specialise in media training and digital marketing, so what tips would you give authors on developing their profile?  
There are no tips. Social media is bullshit for selling books other than books about how social media can help you sell books. Which it can't. The only contacts worth cultivating are those who’ll give you awesome reviews so shag them and ignore everything and everybody else.  
Tell us about the Blasted Bundles...
BlastedBundles are an even cheaper way for folk to buy our already cheap ebooks in bulk. They’re brilliant. We launched them a few weeks ago and we’ve sold one.'s coming up next from Blasted Heath?
I’m betting we can sell a second Blasted Bundle, but then I'm an optimist. Other than that, I guess we'll continue to try to figure out how to make money when free becomes the only viable price for digital content.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grind Joint

By John McFetridge

Friend of the blog (and personal friend) Dana King’s novel Grind Joint launches this week and I highly recommend it. It’s really my kind of book; fast pace, a big cast of characters, good guys and bad guys – some of each are cops and criminals – and that phrase that has become a sometimes meaningless one, but isn’t here, “Setting as a character.”
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The setting in Grind Joint is a small western Pennsylvania town called Penns River. I’m told it’s an amalgamation of a couple of towns but after reading the book it’s a very real place to me.
Most of my knowledge about America comes from the media – books, movies, TV, magazines, etc., – and they have always had this image of the “small town” as almost saintly. The biggest fear in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is that Bedford Falls might become Pottersville. Imagine how terrible that would be, a small town with gambling and drinking and all kinds of unsavoury characters. They might as well open a casino.

Recently I read a very good book by Hardy Green called, Company Town. It’s a history of the two kinds of company towns that were most common; the one Tennesse Ernie Ford sings about in “Sixteen Tons” (one of my Mom’s favourites) where the company owned everything (even your soul, Ernie would say) and the attempted utopias built by would-be social engineers. I guess the book’s subtitle says it best: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy.

The stories of the two kinds of towns are fascinating, but it’s that last part of the subtitle that’s most important, I think: That Shaped the American Economy. If that’s true, then what’s shaping the economy today?
Grind Joint is getting all the right name checks, everything from Elmore Leonard to George V. Higgins to The Wire but the one that I really like to see mentioned is K.C. Constantine.
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Sure, the most obvious comparison is that they’re both crime novels set in small-town Pennsylvania and they’re both really good. But taken together they really show what’s happened over the last forty years. Here’s a hint – it’s not good.
But I don’t want to make it sound like Grind Joint (or the novels of K. C. Constantine for that matter) are wallowing in self-pity or spend all their time pining for a better time. Previous eras weren’t perfect, we all know that. Bedford Falls was a Hollywood creation.
The people of Penns River, though, like Rocksburg, aren’t giving up. In Penn’s River 2013 the people have had a few of decades to deal with what was new in Rocksburg in the 70s and they’re making their way.
I’m already looking forward to the next book in this series.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Connie Corleone effect

This will be a shorter post that is both a continuation of a past topic I wrote about here and a bit of thinking out loud.

In 1985 Alison Bechdel proposed a simple test for gender bias in movies. Does the movie have 1) at least two women in it who 2) talk to each other about 3) something besides a man. Recently we have seen the Mako Mori Test which was created because the movie Pacific Rim failed the Bechdel Test but did a lot of other things right and the titular character became a favorite among women.

In the past I've written about story possibilities left unexplored because of a narrow gender focus ("The Patriarchy of Crime Fiction") today I want to talk about a specific version of this and, in the spirit of the above named tests, give it a name. I propose that some crime stories fall victim to The Connie Corleone effect.

The Connie Corleone effect is when a female character is prevented from running a criminal organization because of inherent sexism in the organization itself, and the culture surrounding it, even though she is equally or more qualified then her male counter parts. 

Two examples.

The first, obviously, is Connie Corleone. Connie's story arc is one of the more interesting ones in a story filled with interesting arcs. She eventually settles into the role of adviser to the head of the family (her brother) and paves the way for the next head of the family (another brother's illegitimate son). I have to wonder about the story possibilities if she was given control of the family instead of a behind the scenes position of intrigue and counsel. Given how much her life and her character was forged directly by the family business it could have been incredibly rewarding fiction to see her take that position.

Another prominent example of the Connie Corleone effect is in The Wire.  After Avon goes to jail, and Stringer is trying to hold the organization together, I couldn't help but wonder about Avon's sister, Brianna Barksdale, taking over. She's got great knowledge of the game, knows about the NY connections, and has a strong streak of putting the business first that runs through her.  She does, in many respects, come closer to taking over then Connie does, becoming in effect a co-runner of the business with Stringer Bell. But it's still a great "what if" game to imagine if she took over fully.

At the very least these two women were capable of taking over, but were never fully given the chance to do so. In fact, the reins of power were handed over to someone either not in the family or partially in the family rather then give them to the women.

What I'm arguing here is the same as what I argued over a year ago, that authors should examine all narrative possibilities. Plus I'm just thinking out loud.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The magic code

By: Joelle Charbonneau

This weekend I was at the fabulous Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, which is a gather of readers and over two dozen authors.  Fun, right?

These events are great because they allow authors to connect with people who love books.  They also give writers a chance to talk shop.  We exchange news and industry gossip.  We talk about the books we’ve recently read that we loved or the to-be-read piles that are about to topple over on our nightstands.  And it never fails we talk about the questions we get at events or the e-mails we receive asking us about how we got started in publishing.

Every published author (or at least every published author I’ve met) remembers what it is like to be searching for an agent or an editor.  We’ve all faced the rejections and the concern that our writing might not be good enough.  Perhaps that’s why we all get along so well.  Despite our many differences, the experience of creating a book on a hope and a dream then sending it out to dozens, sometimes hundreds of people in the small chance someone would love it links us. 

On the ride to the library, one author was able to tell us exactly how many rejections he’d received from agents on his first published novel – 118.  Others explained that they didn’t sell a manuscript with their first agent.  It took two or more agent experiences before they found the right fit and things finally locked into place.    And once you sell…well, authors dream of a long, fruitful relationship with one editor and publishing house, but more often than not that doesn’t happen.  Editors take other jobs.  Authors’ option contracts are not picked up.  Things don’t always go according to plan.

Which brings me to the point of this little blog post.  The road to publishing is a bumpy, long ride that beings after you hit THE END.  Once you finish a manuscript, there is no magic button to push that gets an agent’s or editor’s attention.  There isn’t a magic code to be cracked that will put you on the road to publication and let you stay there.  There is very little mystical or secret about any of it.  The only thing there is – is work!

We are all writers, which means we write.  For good or ill.  No matter whether we hear a yes or a maybe or a no.  We sit down in front of our screen and write.  Almost every author I talked to this weekend found their agent through a query letter.  They didn’t have a magic wand to wave that got the agent to read the book.  They just wrote the best letter they could and hoped for the best.  And not a single author was universally loved by editors.  Rejections abounded.  Heck, I have lots and lots and lots of them!   

The only secret to writing is book is making the commitment to sitting down and writing it…beginning, middle and end…no matter what.  And the only secret to getting traditionally published is realizing that it’s filled with lots of no thank yous.  But if you are driven to keep writing and at it long enough (and for me it took 5 manuscripts) you might hear a yes.

For all NaNoWriMo writers – I hope you are having a great writing month!  Go!  Go!  Go!