Saturday, November 30, 2013

Season's Readings

Scott. D. Parker

As soon as the Thanksgiving celebrations end, my mind--as does everyone's--turns to all things Christmas. Yesterday, I broke out my Christmas music, always  inaugurated by Chicago's What's It Gonna Be Santa CD. I followed it up with Chicago's third CD of yuletide tunes, Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three. Today and through the weekend, I'll follow up with Brian Setzer Orchestra, Chris Botti, Harry Connick, Vince Guaraldi, and Frank Sinatra.

In my box of Christmas CDs, I also have my small collection of Christmas anthologies. They run the gamut from SF (Christmas Stars) to classic (Dickens Christmas tales; Christmas Classics) to mystery (Crime for Christmas) to scary (Christmas Ghosts; can't find a link; it's the Hartwell/Cramer one) and Sherlock Holmes (Holmes for the Holidays). I've even got my comics covered with A DC Universe Christmas and Lee Bermejo's Batman: Noel.

But there is a new entry in the Christmas-theme crime anthology market: Otto Penzler's The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Released just this year, this 650-page book has something for just about everybody. Agatha Christie opens and closes the book, and in between these bookends, all your favorites are here: Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, Ellery Queen, Donald Westlake, Isaac Asimov, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout, and more. The stories are broken out by themes such as A Modern Little Christmas, A Puzzling Little Christmas, A Pulpy Little Christmas, and A Traditional Little Christmas. If the stories don't get you, the wonderful cover painting, evoking something from the golden age, certainly will.

This will certainly fill up my yule-time reading for years to come.

Holmes Follow-Up

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast and how much I like it. I was honored that Scott Monty, one of the two hosts, stopped by and left a comment. And Matt Laffey, curator of (a compendium of Holmsian links), also read and commented on my post. Thank you, gentlemen.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Moving Day

By Russel D McLean

Russel and the Literary Critic (aka Lesley McDowell) are moving house this week. Which leaves little time for blogs. All will be back in order next week, however... I promise.

So in the meantime, here's an idea of what our move will probably be like... which of us is Donald Duck you ask? Well, we'll let you decide...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Author Etiquette: To Thank or Not To Thank

By Steve Weddle

Hello, Thanksgiving.

First, let me thank everyone who came out to the NYC reading at The Mysterious Bookshop recently.

We had a great time. I read "Purple Hulls" from Country Hardball and then we did an audience-participation segment, acting out various scenes from the novel. Folks were pretty cool about it, though one of the volunteers begged out after being told what the story was about.
Totally fine. No one is judging you, Peter J.

If you weren't able to come, you can still snag a signed copy from The Mysterious Bookshop and from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, where we did the launch on November 20.

Also, I hid a copy in FAO Scwartz (near Iron Man) and one in a pizza place (I forget which one) in Midtown. Both are signed.

So I'd like to say thanks again to everyone who came out and those who wanted to, but couldn't -- especially if you bought the book. *winks charminglyish*

Also, thank you for reading along with us at DSD.

And thanks to Eva Dolan for coming along with us. Sad to see her leave.

Next week, Holly West joins the team. And for that, we are thankful.

And speaking of thanks, we were chatting this week on Twitter and Facebook about whether it was a good idea for authors to thank book reviewers, specifically for a good review of the author's book.

CheffoJeffo, a book blogger, had some thoughts following the discussion. Also, @popqueenie had some smart things to say from the reviewer side of things

I'm sure others have, too.

Basically what we're talking about is this:

1) Jenny wrote a book.
2) Mike wrote a nice review of the book.
3) ???

Does Jenny email Mike to thank him? If so, what does that email look like?

"Mike, thanks for the nice review of my book. I am glad that you enjoyed it. Cheers, Jenny."

Is that cool? It seems most everyone agrees that thanking a reviewer is a good idea. Hell, I figure most authors are like me in that they're pleased as hell that a reviewer went to the trouble to read and review. I've written many reviews, especially here on DSD. Authors don't always say "thanks," though I figure they appreciate it. Of course, I don't review a book to make the author happy. I review a book because I loved the book and want other people to know about this piece of awesome that they might enjoy. Still, it is nice to be thanked. But it can be kinda weird, too.

(By the way, I do realize I should put this in a "10 Things" post with GIFs and snark. I ain't gonna. But I realize that I should for teh internet.)

Laura K. Curtis, whose Twisted just hit shelves, said she'd gotten the impression that some reviewers felt as if they were being stalked, as if they couldn't be as free with reviews if they knew the author was watching them.

If you're reviewing a book and worried what the author will think, does that impact your review?

Also, if you're friends with the author -- or enemies -- does that impact? Or at least have the appearance of a conflict. ahem

So, should the author and the reviewer remain at a distance, one never acknowledging the work of the other?

How weird would that be? Mike reads Jenny's 483-page book, then writes a brilliant 2,376-word post about that book's genius, but Jenny can't be bothered to say "thanks" for what Mike wrote even though Mike spent all that time and effort praising what Jenny had written? Damn you, Jenny. You suck.

But, then there's what Sean Chercover said about a "thank you" being misconstrued as an attempt to influence the reviewer.

As BookRiot's own Rebecca Schinsky pointed out, that might be a problem with the reviewer.

We started a nice conversation on Facebook about this. Here.

Also, what constitutes an appropriate "thanks"?

Does saying "Thanks" and RTing the review on Twitter carry as much weight as a personal email to the reviewer? Or should you mention the review on your own blog and send people to the reviewer's blog? Or should you comment on that reviewer's blog with a simple "thank you," since comments are currency? I mean, there's nothing worse (except war and famine and stuff) than spending 4,000 words reviewing a book and an author, only to have zero comments on your post five days later.  :(

Is a personal email invasive? Is a public comment just another #humblebrag?

"Thanks a bunch to @Ed69 for this five-star review of my Edgar-nominated novel STANDARD MYSTERY, now available at"

And what about just using the review without ever acknowledging the reviewer at all? I don't know of any decent writer who would argue the merits of that.

So, I ask you, what's the right response?

Let's assume we want to thank the reviewer.

Publicly? RT or FB Share with a "thank you" attached?

Private email or message?

On the reviewer's blog?

On your blog?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gift Ideas for a Criminal Christmas

Sadly this is going to be my last post at Do Some Damage. Due to writing and day job commitments I'm having to step back from blogging for awhile, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Steve and the rest of the Damagers for being such a bunch of sweethearts.

But that's no way to bow out, so bearing in mind that we're now just 30 days away from December 27th, the first opportunity you'll get to exchange those woefully inappropriate Christmas gifts, I've been casting my eye about for presents for the crime lovers in your life.

Just in case they already have enough books and booze...

At The Movies has a fabulous selection of original and reproduction posters which range from 'oh my god how much!?' to actually pretty reasonable. Lots of choice for crime fans and they have a framing service.

Price - £150 +

Available from At the Movies 


I can't promise you won't get arrested for carrying this fabulous iPhone case - if you do get stopped just put on a superior air and a posh accent and tell them it's by Marc Jacobs. (Calling the copper a 'pleb' is optional.)

Price - £50

Available from Liberty of London

Does anyone use salt and pepper shakers anymore? I don't know. But if they do then these silver plated shotgun cartridge ones are really kind of nifty. Suitable for hunting/shooting types and your armed robber cousin alike.

Price £24.99

Available from Not on the High Street

It's Boxing Day afternoon, you've been drunk for 72 hours straight and you're too stuffed to move, but you're probably fantasising about murdering your in-laws about now. This is the perfect soundtrack.

Price - £3.49 CD/£5.99 download

Available from Amazon 

Not just for boy band douche bags. Channel your inner Alain Delon with this crushable, wool felt fedora. And then post pics on FB, so we can bask in your chic.

Price $40.00

Available from Village Hatshop

That one person who hates e-readers. And hates people who dog-ear pages. They probably kind of hate everything, right? They'll probably hate this book mark too but you've got to buy them something.

Price $8

Available via Trendhunter

Handmade to order and the seller will do custom colour schemes by request. A great gift for fans of the great detective and it's pretty stylish too.

Price $32.98

Available from Dancing Arethusa on Etsy

No kid will ever want these, but they'd be perfect for working out tough scenes from your book at your desk. At least that's what you'll have to say when you get caught playing with them. (There's a Star Wars set too.)

Price £15.85

Available from Fancie Fannies on Etsy

You don't want to be one of those people who humiliates their poor little pooch by dressing them up as reindeer, do you? It's virtually animal cruelty, what with the antlers and the red nose. A convict is far more dignified.

Price from $18.57

Available from Baxterboo

One for Dexter fans or trainee serial killers. Hand embroidered silk on cotton, this one's pricey but if you like the effect the alternative way to get it is quite gory and I'm not sure how you stop real blood from going a bit rank.

Price $272

Available from Lost City

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Robin Spano on Wattpad


A while ago I joined an online community called Wattpad where people share short stories and serialized novels. images (2)

Or something like that. It’s always hard for an old guy like me to understand exactly what it is these things are all about with all their buzzwords and jargon. I haven’t posted any stories yet, but I’ve read a few others by people like Margaret Atwood and Cory Doctorow and it’s certainly easy to navigate the site, or the app (I read it on my iPad).

And now my friend (and fellow ECW author) Robin Spano is doing something very cool on Wattpad. She’s serializing her first novel, Dead Politician Society, and, what makes it really interesting, she’s revising it as she goes.

As Robin says, “The plot won’t change, the structure won’t change.” But she is getting deeper inside the characters’ heads.untitled (4)

The novel, which was first published in 2010, is about, well, as it says, “The mayor of Toronto collapses and dies while giving a speech. The newspaper receives an email – a fake obituary that takes credit for the murder.”

Now I know the idea of the mayor of boring Toronto doing anything outrageous is really a stretch, but that’s what fiction is all about.

Robin has three novels published in the “Clare Vengel” series so far and I think they’re all really good, but now you can check Clare out yourself, for free, at Wattpad.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Emotional complexity

Another quick post today.

There was a great scene in the home stretch of Breaking Bad's final run (too many to count really) where Walt calls Skyler and unloads on her as the cops are listening. It's a masterfully written, directed, and acted scene. I was stunned by the emotional complexity of it. It was so complex and subtle that, even to this day, some folks have misinterpreted it. The key to the scene is understanding that more was going on under the surface. That what was really going on was the opposite of what was happening on the surface. By unloading on her and saying all of those vile things about her he was actually telling her that he loved her. It was that depth that drowned some people.

Such a great scene. I actually tried finding a clip of it but everyone seems fixated on only three words ("you stupid bitch") from it instead of the whole thing.

It got me thinking about other emotionally complex scenes.

Like when Rawls comforted McNulty:

This scene is great because Rawls fucking HATES McNulty (and he says so here to his face) but still realizes that McNulty needs to be consoled.

Or when when Bolander comforts Meldrick in Homicide:

These two characters are not enemies in the way that Rawls and McNulty are in The Wire but that have been against each other for this entire episode after the apparent suicide of Crosetti (Meldrick's partner). When Meldrick falls, overcome by grief, it's the one guy who he thought would be glad to see him hit the ground that holds him up.

Here's a great small scene from The West Wing:

In the middle of a national tragedy, which is a very personal one for these characters, Toby actually has some good news to announce, that his children have been born. He feels genuine happiness at this event but at the same time feels very guilty about feeling happy. There's a quick moment where it looks like he's going to throw up that is perfect in this scene.

I have many favorite moments in these shows (and others) but it's usually these emotionally complex scenes that stick with me the longest. Perhaps because they are the most human, perhaps because the are the most like us. 

How about you. Any favorite scenes that fit the bill?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What are you thankful for?

By: Joelle Charbonneau

Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite holiday.  There are no gifts to buy.  No major holiday decorating is required.  Instead the day is about something simple, but incredibly profound.


When the first pilgrims landed here in the new world, they were ill equipped to survive in the harsh environment.  Food was scarce because they didn’t know how best to hunt the animals in this land or understand what food would grow best in the soil.  They needed help.  Thankfully, the nearby tribe of Native American Indians were willing to teach them better hunting skills and provided them with knowledge of how to tend this land.  There were language and cultural barriers, but they overcame them.  Because of that, there was a feast of thanks.  (Can you tell I’ve been talking about the holiday with my five-year-old?)

It is easy to think about all the things that are wrong in life.  Busy schedules.  Lack of sleep or money or things.  We forget to look for the good in life and be happy for the blessings we have. 

So, today, in this space, I’d like to talk about what I’m thankful for. 

I’m thankful for my family – my son, husband, mother, nephews, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and beyond. Families have their ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade any of the branches of my family tree.  I am thankful for the laughs and love and the support they have given me. 

I am thankful for the friends I have been lucky to have in my life.  I only hope I am as good a friend to them as they are to me. 

My students are one of my greatest blessings.  Watching them flourish and grow into amazing performers and even more wonderful people is something that brightens my darkest hours.  They are a true gift in my life and I will consider them mine no matter how old they get or how far they go. 

I am beyond grateful for my agent, Stacia Decker, and the entire team at Donald Maass Literary.  More often than not, I doubt my ability to succeed at being a writer.  Stacia never fails to believe in me when I falter in believing in myself.  She is there for the good, the bad and the strange.  And trust me when I say she doesn’t get paid near enough for what she does.

I am thankful for all of my editors and publishing teams, but especially my editor, Margaret Raymo, at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the entire HMH team.  They are superstars in the publishing world and their strength of conviction about my work takes my breath away.

I count each member of the writing community that I have met as a huge blessing. 
I am grateful to all the booksellers who have given me your vote of confidence by stocking my books.  And I am thankful for each and every reader who takes the time to pick up a book.

And yes, I am grateful to have enough food to eat and a car to drive and a house to live in.  But while those are important, it is the people in my life that make me glad to wake up and see what the new day holds.

So when you are sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner and passing the cranberry sauce, know that on that day I will be thinking of you and how grateful you are for being a part of my journey.  I can’t wait to see where that journey takes us from here.

And please, in the comments, let me know—What are you thankful for this year?  I would love for all of us to celebrate this season of thanks together.