Sunday, November 30, 2014

IRL - In Real Life Friends

By Kristi Belcamino

I'm going to say right off the bat that pretty much any dribble I come up with after Jay Stringer's post about Joelle Charbonneau's project to donate books to the Ferguson Library is going to be tagged as #goodproblems #firstworldproblems #whinywriterproblems.

In fact, I would actually suggest you go back and read Jay's post rather than this one. Here it is:

So, you've been warned.

This is about some of the differences I've found in begin a published author and the sudden request for friends on Facebook. (Stop reading now if you like.) I'm going to continue in case anyone has any suggestions.

So, here is the deal:

A while back I converted my personal Facebook page to an "author" page. The day it happened, I panicked. If you only have an "author" page you basically exist in a black hole. You can only see pages you "like" in your newsfeed and if you have friends who aren't authors or don't have professional "pages" they are invisible.

So the next step is to set up a personal page.

I did so mainly to keep in touch with my friends IRL (in real life) and my family across the United States. I also have a few friends that I've interacted so much with on social media, I felt like I knew them even though we had never met in person. So, I was pretty happy with my personal page, and focused all my attention on my author page and then checked in on my IRL friends and family on the other page, but rarely posted on that page.

Cue six months later. I was a total wimp and approved, oh maybe 100 people as friends on my personal page that I had never met, and several I had never even heard of. As a result, I shied away from more personal posts, including pictures of my two daughters (If you question why, you obviously haven't read my first book.)

Well, yesterday I cleaned house. Anyone I hadn't met IRL or anyone I hadn't had significant social media interaction with was deleted. It seems fair, right? I'm sure many of them are awesome and I would love them if I met them in real life, but since we haven't yet met and I'm never on that personal page ANYWAY, I unfriended them. Makes sense, right?

So, why do I feel like such a bitch?

I do. Absurd I know. Like I'm not some special person that everyone is dying to be friends with on Facebook and yet I'm shining them on, but still.

It made me feel like a heel. Like a snob. Like a jerk.

All because I only wanted friends on my personal page that I had met IRL or who I had significant interaction with on social media. Is that wrong?

Will everyone I unfriended tell all their friends to never buy my books? Will I lose out on the chance to make a great new friend at the next conference I go to because they are irritated I unfriended them? Am I worrying about something totally absurd and ridiculous when there are so many other things in this world and this life to even spend time thinking about? Well, yes.

So, my question to my fellow authors is how do you handle this delicate dance?

Because on the one hand it is ABSOLUTELY FREAKING AMAZING that strangers want to interact with me because of my BOOKS. NO FLIPPING WAY. Seriously the coolest thing ever.

And in fact, many of my "new" IRL friends I met at Bouchercon, were ones I had "met" on Facebook. But these are the ones I would've kept as friends even if we hadn't met in real life because we've had significant back and forth social interaction and I feel as if I know them.

I want to be able to have a personal page where I can put up pics of my kids and personal details to share with my family across the country without feeling as if I'm sharing private moments of my life with people I've never met and may never meet.

And here is a whole different side issue to this: how much do you as authors post about your family and private life? If you have kids do you have qualms about putting their names and faces out there or is it just me because of my interactions with the worst of the worst pedophiles?

I welcome any thoughts on this.


Thanks for indulging me.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

On Teasers in Books

Scott D. Parker

Yesterday, there was a great disturbance in the Force. It was as if millions of voices cried out in triumph and immediately started marking the days until December 2015.

Well, I did. I even wondered if I could just find a DeLorean and time travel to the future. Interesting thing to think about: next year will be the “future” year we saw in Back to the Future II. While we won’t get Jaws 19, we will get Star Wars VII. Who’d’ve thought that back in 1990. Or 1983. Or 2005.

I’m stoked.

The concept of a teaser is a mainstay in movies, but it has some legs in the book market as well. I love looking through some of the major paperback releases of major novels by major authors because there’s usually a teaser of the next hardcover. That concept is one I’m putting in to full effect when I start releasing my books next year.

I am making the changes that my editor found in my novel. Once that is done, I’ll also determine which teasers for my future books I’ll put at the end of that first book. In reality, once you get my first book in January, you’ll end up having a psedo-sampler for 2015.

The key is, however, giving just enough to whet the appetite but not so much as to render the story fully told in two minutes. That’s much easier with novels. I’ll probably just end up attaching the first chapters of completed stories in this first book.

Makes me need to double down and get those other first chapters up to snuff in a month. Ah, the joy of being both an author and a publisher. And, believe me, it is a joy.

Do y’all like ‘teasers’ of other books in books you buy?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Hope Through Stories

By Do Some Damage.

By this point, you don't need us to tell you what's been going down in Ferguson, MO.

But something that we are telling you about is the work being done by a member of the DSD family, Joelle Charbonneau over at her own website.

To quote Joelle;

"As a parent and a young adult author, I can’t help but think of the youngest members of the Ferguson community.  I worry that they will see the hopelessness and unrest around them and turn their back on the possibility of a better future.  I worry that they will believe they don’t matter.  I am terrified they will lose hope. They need to be reminded that they are important and that there is hope even in the darkest of times."

Personally, and I can't say this often enough, I love the work Joelle does.  I've talked at length before about my slow start to reading, and how easily I could have been left behind, and I've seen first-hand the passion and energy Joelle puts into fighting for YA readers and trying to push open a door for them into our crime fiction community. If we can have more people like Joelle, then we'll also have a lot more people like me, who were pulled up out of trouble to join in the party.

Joelle has started Hope Through Stories, which is a drive for YA authors to send signed books to Ferguson library. The library has been doing amazing work at a time when schools have been closed, and in these most troubling of times, we get to see why it's so important that we fight for our libraries to stay open, to stay funded, and to stay accessible.

We'd like to extend the offer to you guys. To our readers, and to the crime fiction community at large. Sure, we may pause, we may worry whether our books are apropriate. But just think, what were you reading when you were young? Who got to make the decision on when you were ready? And hell, even if our books do prove to old or too dark for the younger readers, there are plenty of adults out there right now who need to feel included, engaged, spoken to.

I'm sending three of my own books, plus a bunch of my favourite comics.

If you're going to join us, then add your name in the comments, or email me at, and we can build a list here and maybe your names will be added to Joelle's list, too.


c/o Scott Bonner
Ferguson Municipal Public Library
35 N. Florissant Road
Ferguson, MO 63135

If you want to donate directly to Ferguson Library, you can do so through the website

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thank you

If you're reading this - and celebrate Thanksgiving - I hope you're stuffed with tasty food and surrounded by those you love. As I get older, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. It combines so many great things - the warmth of family, good food, friends, conversation and sometimes a decent football game. While it's gotten commercialized like anything else, there isn't much stress about buying presents or decorating, at least in my family. We just gather, eat, hug, smile and enjoy a few quiet moments. Anyway, I hope you're enjoying your day - and that you're not on the Internet reading this for too long.

Thanksgiving is also an opportunity to look back on the year and beyond to give thanks for all the good, middling and bad that's come to pass and recognize that it's that blended pot of circumstances that makes us who we are. Though, I for one want more good than bad. Luckily, I can say that was the case in 2014. 

It was a transitional year, sure - I started learning how to be an author as opposed to an aspiring one. But it was a great year, most importantly. Silent City came out last October and 2014 was a whirlwind of events, readings, growing pains, conventions, comics, panels, signings and so much more. I won't try to list everything I'm thankful for - there be dragons. You always end up forgetting something. But I will take a minute to say thanks for some things that I think most authors can relate to, and then put down the mic so you can all join the party in the comments section.

I'm thankful, first and foremost for my wife, family and friends. Self-explanatory. I don't think Silent City or much of anything I've written would exist without her. She's understanding and patient when I'm typing away into the night and she's the first set of eyes on my writing before it goes out into the world. There's a reason the book is dedicated to her.

My fellow authors. I said this a few times while at Bouchercon last week, but damn - is the crime/mystery writing community friendly or what? Whether it's a pep talk, an invite to an event, a moment of sage advice or a cheerful note/call/email - I feel constantly supported. You know who you are, and thank you for being kind to a newbie. I can only hope to return the favor.

My agent. For making my books better and being an advocate for my work. My publisher, for deciding to put the book out and supporting me throughout.

Readers. Bloggers. Fans. Marketers. Book People. The lifeblood of this whole operation. We write to be read, and it's so great to hear from people - ideally when they like something, but even otherwise. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and the anxiety you feel before you set your work free and let the outside world engage with it is insane. I should amend my earlier statement about mystery/crime writers - it isn't just authors, it's the entire network, from the person moderating your panel to the guy tweeting about enjoying your book – the entire community is full of supportive, friendly, helpful and kind people. They just like to read about terrible things happening – they do the opposite.

Indie booksellers. Thank you for stocking my book. Thank you for hosting my events. Thank you for being welcoming and supportive to a first-time author finding his way. Buy indie.

That’s all I got. What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Talk Dirty to Me

by Holly West

When I sat down to write my weekly Do Some Damage post today, I had a completely different topic in mind. Then I happened upon the post Jay wrote yesterday about writing sex and decided to write about that instead.

The thing is, I was just this morning thinking about this very topic--writing sex and my discomfort with it--and particularly, about a story I contributed to Shotgun Honey's first anthology, BOTH BARRELS Vol. I, called Regrets Only. It features a troubled female protagonist named Tammy Valero whose been diagnosed with incurable cancer. The realization that she's only got a few weeks to live compels her to take care of the one regret she has in life, with (of course) disastrous consequences.

Tammy isn't quite a prostitute, but she's become accustomed to using her body and sex to eke out a living and to get what she needs, both emotionally and materially. After a lifetime of addiction, abuse, and bad choices, she's managed to convince herself that whatever worth she has is wrapped up in her sexuality. She barely notices that what little satisfaction she gets from it is a poor substitute for the love, respect and security she's hungry for.

The resulting story contains many crude sexual references and a somewhat explicit sex scene that, even now, makes me uncomfortable. The scene isn't gratuitous, nor is it particularly titillating, though even if it was, that wouldn't invalidate it's appearance in the story. Mostly, it's used to illustrate Tammy's habit of compromising herself in spite of consistently dubious outcomes.

My own experiences have been very different from Tammy's, but the truth is that I know few--if any--women, including myself, who haven't compromised themselves sexually in some way because it seemed easier to capitulate than to refuse. That compromise could be as seemingly innocent as hugging a man you don't particularly want to hug. As I wrote the story, I knew I was tapping into something very personal that made me feel vulnerable and exposed--I was acknowledging that in some ways, I knew exactly what it felt like to be Tammy. That is where my discomfort lies, and where it remains.

What I've since realized is that when you tap into that vulnerable place and dig around a little bit, that's when the best writing can happen. I don't mean to limit that to sex, of course--any time you're writing about something true and real you're exposing a nerve of sorts, and sometimes that can be uncomfortable.

But that's only part of it. As Jay points out, crime writers routinely tackle some of life's toughest subjects--death, violence, drugs, war, the "misery of the human experience," so why do we shy away from writing sex scenes? I've written violence, perhaps not explicit, but violence, nonetheless. I never agonize over it as much as I do writing about sex. Hell, I don't agonize about the violence as much as I grapple with using foul language. Why is that?

The truth is that I don't even like to talk about sex, even with my close friends. Writing about it feels awkward, perhaps because it's an admission that I've done it. That it's something I like and something that interests me. That doesn't stop me from writing it--Mistress of Fortune has more explicit sex in it than most crime fiction novels I read and I put it there because I wanted it to reveal something about my protagonist. That's what the best sex scenes do--they reveal something about your characters.

Well, I have to say, this post ended up being much more interesting than the one I was going to write. Lucky you.

What are your thoughts on writing/reading sex?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex (Baby)

By Jay Stringer

You know those times when I can come off as a pretentious arty idiot? There's one near the end of this blog. I'll give you warning before it happens. 

Why are we scared of sex scenes?

Okay, sure, there are writers out there who don't shy away. I'm sure even as you read this, you can think of enough examples to shoot me down in flames. But I think I'm on solid enough ground when I say that many of us -including me, originally- shy away from writing sex scenes.

I wonder why this is. I've been wondering for a while now. And I've asked people. Online, on ello and facebook. In person, at the bar at Bouchercon.

We're crime writers. We like to write about some of the darkest, most challenging moments in the human experience. We write violence. Death. Misery. Blood. Guts.

Sometimes, if we want to appear edgy or cool, we write drugs. We pretend to get all transgressive and do things that chalenge the reader.

But write a simple, fun, exciting or emotional sex scene? Hooo boy we can't run away quick enough.

Some of the writers I've spoken to say it's fear; fear that readers might think we're writing about ourselves. Well, firstly, who cares? We're writers. There is a bit of us in everything we write. Secondly, if I'm willing to write about some old guy being beaten to death with a stick, without worrying that the reader might assume I've gone and done that for research, then why the hell should I be worried they'll think they're reading about my own kinky sex habits?

I worked hard at avoiding sex in my work for a long time. My protagonist in Old Gold get's down to it twice during the story, and I went out of my way to avoid having to really write any sex. Here, I'll quote some of it at you;

"It was easy and functional, and we both seemed to enjoy it. It was sober sex, something I'm not used to. We smiled as we went. We didn't make too many mistakes."
I'm doing a lot of heavy lifting there to avoid dealing with any actual sex, and when I read it back, that heavy lifting is all I can see. I can see the nerves, the awkwardness of a first-time writer trying hard not to be laughed at.

But what single moment can we find in any story (any lifetime) that reveals more about a character than while they're naked with someone else and trying really hard to get off? When do we see anyone in a more emotional, honest or vulnerable state? Or, alternatively, if the scene shows that they still have their guard up, that they're still playing games, then that says more about them than just about any other scene. Sure, we can say violence reveals character, that trauma or high-stress reveals character, but why rely on those moments when there is something simple, easy and relateable that we can get to with far less plot mechanics?

A second answer that has come up in my conversations has been the reader. Maybe we'll turn away the reader by throwing in some sex scenes. Sure. Maybe. People's tastes vary, and every book you ever write will lose somebody. I've written about violence, racism, politics, drug use, grief, death; somewhere in there I've probably found things that have made a reader put the book down. On the individual level, that's absolutely fine. But on a larger level, if we're worried that en masse readers can handle death, violence and brutality, but baulk at a little sex, then there's maybe a deeper conversation we need to be having there.

My second book Runaway Town features no sex at all, though the plot features sexual assaults related to us through memories, so I still think I made the right call there. By the time of Lost City, I was well aware that I had the fear of the scene. And my approach to writing is that if I'm scared to write something, then I have to write it. So Lost City opens on a sex scene.

Fear is good. We need to use it. Channel it. Fear tells us what we need to write next, not what we need to avoid.

Which brings me to the other point that writers have made; The bad sex awards. More than one writer has mentioned to me that they don't want their work to show up on the list. Yeah. Fine. There's a chance it might. But you know what? There's a chance all of your work might suck. Everytime we sit down in front of the blank page, we are jumping off into the unknown. (Warning, pretentious wanky bit) But what kind of artist backs away from doing something for fear of being laughed at?

Remember that time Sandra Bullock turned up to collect her Razzy in person? Too right. Fucking own it. We can fail at all of this, but we should embrace that.

If writing is about any two things, it's about trying to fake a sense of emotional honesty and about doing something that brings with it the real possibillity of failure. If you know exactly how to write your next project, I would suggest it's time to find a new project. Find the one you might fail at. Find the thing you're scared of. And you won't find a single, simple, human act that relates emotional honesty better than a sex scene.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Three recommended 2014 re-issues

Over at Spinetingler we'll be doing our annual Best of the Year post (we usually post closer to the end of the calender year). In the lead up to that post I'll be using my time here at Do Some Damage to pull together some recommended reading lists for short story collections and anthologies, non-fiction books, comics, re-issues, and straight up crime fiction.

With waves of new releases continuously crashing over a reader's head the re-issue of a classic can get lost. Here are three that are worth the crime fiction readers attention.  

The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense  fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Thompson to kill them. Julie and Peter escape. Thompson pursues. Bullets fly. Bodies accumulate.

The craziness is just getting started.
Manchette is an acclaimed and influential French crime novelist. Only four of his novels have been translated into English so far. Some great American crime fiction writers are fans: James Sallis (intro to The Mad and the Bad); Duane Swierczynski (“Dear God: Please have someone translate more Jean-Patrick Manchette novels.”); James Ellroy ("Man-oh-man Manchette was a decades-long hurricane through the Parisian cultural scene. We must revere him now and rediscover him this very instant."). Manchette's English releases are scattered so take the moment to acquaint yourself with his work.

Get Carter by Ted Lewis

It’s a rainy night in the mill town of Scunthorpe when a London fixer named Jack Carter steps off a northbound train. He’s left the neon lights and mod lifestyle of Soho behind to come north to his hometown for a funeral—his brother Frank’s. Frank was very drunk when he drove his car off a cliff and that doesn’t sit well with Jack. Mild-mannered Frank never touched the stuff.

Jack and Frank didn’t exactly like one another. They hadn’t spoken in years and Jack is far from the sentimental type. So it takes more than a few people by surprise when Jack starts plying his trade in order to get to the bottom of his brother’s death. Then again, Frank’s last name was Carter, and that’s Jack’s name too. Sometimes that’s enough.

Set in the late 1960s amidst the smokestacks and hardcases of the industrial north of England, Get Carter redefined British crime fiction.
Ted Lewis' books are currently being re-issued by Syndicate Books. While the Carter trilogy are probably his most well known books in America (due to the classic Michael Caine movie) it's important to note that this series of re-issues will culminate in many crime fiction readers finally being able to read the legendary GBH. But don't take casting an eye to a future release as a skip for the current crop of releases. Simply put Get Carter is one of the great modern Brit Grit crime novels. Lewis at his best (and this is one of them) wrote some of the best crime fiction novels of all time. If you haven't seen the movie go do that now. If you've never read the book and are a fan of crime fiction then you must go read Get Carter now.

Stray Bullets: Uber Alles Edition by David Lapham

Stray Bullets is one of the five best modern crime comics (the others being Scalped; 100 Bullets; Criminal; Sin City). The Uber Alles Edition collects the entire run of comics in the series. There isn't a single narrative arc, or even a single, traditional protagonist in Stray Bullets. He creates an entire crime fiction tapestry with characters and events weaved together with devastating effect.

What great books were re-issued in 2014?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 - Murder at the Beach Recap

By Kristi Belcamino

I've been trying to process what my very first Bouchercon was like and in many ways it felt like bobbing around in a swimming pool crowded with other bobbing heads. I would see  people I knew or wanted to meet across the pool and would attempt to paddle toward them but would often get distracted by running into other people I knew and wanted to meet along the way.

Sometimes I never quite made it to the other side of the pool (or bar as it was often the case at Bouchercon) to say hello to someone I wanted to meet or chat with.

At the same time, there were many unexpected meetings along the way. Such as walking back to the hotel along the promenade beside Hank Phillipi Ryan and striking up an organic conversation with possibly the most friendly mystery writer alive. Or sitting down at a restaurant by the ocean at a table next to the most awesome Dru Ann Love and her friends. Or something as simple as meeting a friendly woman on the sidewalk, chatting with her on the elevator in the hotel, being blown away by her career choice to work with special needs kids, and then running into her another day while I was walking with Alex Segura and discovering this delightful woman was his wife's stepmother!

It was a four-day confluence of coincidences and bonding moments.

I'm happy to say that two of my favorite new author friends I got to know at Bouchercon is our very own Jay Stringer and Holly West. Both were so wonderful I only wish I could've spent even more time with them. (I was lucky enough to meet Alex in person a few weeks prior and he is even cooler in person!)

I have so much more to say about B'Con, but will leave you with a few snapshots of my time there if you'll indulge me:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

On Being Professionally Edited

Scott D. Parker

One of the key steps for any author is to have one’s work read by a non-friend or a non-family member. You know, to get the unbiased take on your work.

A fellow author friend of mine highly recommended the editor she uses. My friend said, “Oh, you’ll love her. She’s really good.” On that kind of praise, I called up the editor and we worked out a deal. I dropped off the manuscript for my first novella that I’ll be publishing next year a little over three weeks ago and I met with her yesterday. Now, I’ve known writers who, at the time of letting their manuscripts out into the world or, as in this case, out to a non-relative/friend, balk or have a little worry. Did I have that worry? Not at all. You see, any manuscript can be fixed and made better. I joked leading up to yesterday that I was hoping to land somewhere on the scale of “This is the thing I’ve ever read” down to “Please, just put down the pen and walk away.”

As expected, I was somewhere in that range. We met yesterday at a nice little cafe here in Houston, the Heights to be exact. It was raining but not cold. We met, chit-chatted about things, and general getting-to-know-you stuff. Then we got down to it. I had delivered my novella in hard copy, double-sided. It was 65 pages or so. I got back the very same manuscript, marked up, and a good set of notes, also typewritten. Both were in a nice green folder. In addition, she delivered a list of instances when the various characters appeared and on which page. There was also a word list of various multiple uses of a word (towards and toward, for example; things I missed on my pass) and other things, like time-period accuracies (the yarn takes place in 1940). I got this word list both in alphabetical order as well as page order.

Before I cracked the folder, the editor told me that it was among the cleanest writing she had seen in a long time. Have to admit I enjoyed hearing that. There was a moment there, sitting in that booth, where my pride swelled a little. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? Then I opened the folder and saw the plethora of editorial marks. Whoa. If this was a clean manuscript, what must a unclean one look like.

But that’s her job, right? To edit. To make better. Believe me, I’ve scanned the edits and my manuscript, my book will be so much better for it. I also noticed a lot of check marks. I asked about those. Turns out, those were things she liked, whether it was turns of phrases, pacing, description, or whatever. Happily, there were a lot of check marks.

I got home last night and showed my wife the edits. In all, I had written the draft and then edited it myself (pass 1), my mom and dad edited it and bled all over it (pass 2), and my wife read it (pass 3) and made comments that didn’t appear in either of the first two passes. A fellow author friend of mine had also read it and given a thumbs up on it. Then I got my professional editing pass, number 4. My wife asked me, “So, now that you have that, after you make the changes, what’s next?”

What’s next? Well, I still need to develop a cover. I have a concept for this series. I am going to meet with a friend of mine who is a graphic artist. I will tell him what I’m envisioning and then send him off to work it up for me. Then the formatting of the ebook itself (I’m reading Zen of eBook Formatting by Guido Henkel--great book). Once those steps are done, I’ll have my new company’s website up and running. Then, come January 2015, once all the pieces are in place, the final step will be publication.

And the book will be out there in the world.

Exciting times.

Meanwhile, my own NaNovellaWriMo work is progressing nicely. My original goal was to finish my novella by 30 November. I'll make that, but I might beat that goal. There's an outside change I'll be done by Thanksgiving. 

How are y'all's NaNoWriMo projects coming along?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The four requirements of solid crime fiction

By Steve Weddle

John Hornor Jacobs and I have two things in common. One is that we're both fans of the work of Steven Brust, whose new Vlad Talos novel just came out.

HAWK is, roughly, the eight billionth Vlad novel. If you don't know the series, we're talking about an assassin living among people not-his. This is swords and sorcery. Also, witchcraft, which is kind of a dirty cousin to sorcery and kinda completely different. It's crime fiction, clearly, as we've got killings and gambling and minor wars. But we've also got wars with gods and pouches of gold. And klava, which is kinda like coffee but not.

The first Vlad novel came out in the early 1980s. I found it in the back corner of Waldenbooks in the mall in Shreveport (or maybe Bossier), tucked away in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of the store, which has always seemed a weird combination, though the Sword and Laser people seem to have embraced it just fine.

So now, 30 years later, I'm still reading the series. Here's why:

1) Heisty Plans. There's that cleverness in here that comes with some of the best Parker books. You see pieces of the plan and want to know how everything comes together. You're intrigued. You keep reading.

2) Stabby Time. Yes, you get some good action in here. Some of the plans made lead to killings, to assassinations. This moves the story along, but it usually also moves to up the stakes. The violence in the books is pretty tame in its telling, by the way. You get the stabbing without having the author showing off in a way that he thinks is being descriptive.

3) Humor. You get some self-deprecating wisecracks without having it go on too long or get to be too annoying. Think about the best parts of Nelson Demille's John Corey. Gallows humor, too. A snarky familiar. Anyway, as a smartass, I can appreciate this and acknowledge that this was a huge draw for the 1980s version of me.

4) A Character You Care About. I've been with Vlad Taltos since 1983, but wouldn't keep coming back if I didn't like the guy. The thing that brings me to the next book -- to the next page, even -- is my craving to find out what is happening to the guy. You're in his head for thousands of pages, after all.

Anyway, if you're looking for what makes good crime fiction, you could do well following a checklist with those four things on it. Brust does, and it's what has drawn me and John Hornor Jacobs and many other folks to the Vlad Taltos books. Like I said, it's one of the two things JHJ and I have in common. (The other thing isn't very interesting.)


PS - You can help get my book banned in Texas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Life Goes On

by Holly West

Bouchercon 2014 has ended.

It's amazing to me how you can immerse yourself in something, full force, for five days and then, in a flash, it's over, almost like it never happened. Oh, you have the memories of course, and the much needed shot of enthusiasm for your craft, but during Bouchercon, life as you know it stops and then resumes just as suddenly when the conference is done. It's somewhat jolting.

This was my first Bouchercon as a published author. I participated in Author Speed Dating, the New Author's Breakfast, and sat on a historical fiction panel. I played my first game of Bouchercon poker and won $16. I met my fellow Do Some Damage bloggers, Jay Stringer, Alex Segura, and Kristi Belcamino. I watched my friend, Matt Coyle, win an Anthony Award for his debut novel, Yesterday's Echo. I marveled at the fact that six years ago, when I attended my first Bouchercon in Indianapolis, I was a fan with aspirations to be a writer myself. Now I'm published and I'm taking part in the conference the way I'd only previously dreamed of. It's wonderful and weird at the same time.

I'm home now and my life looks like this:

Most of these boxes are filled with books.

My husband and I are moving out of Los Angeles in a few weeks to a house in the Northern California area I grew up in. I'll be living in the same town I went to high school in. We'll have five acres of land (a significant upgrade from the 4250 square foot lot we currently live on). There will be oak trees and manzanita bushes instead of palm trees and bougainvillea. Our property features a set of abandoned train tracks and a seasonal stream (officially termed a drainage channel).

It's a California Gold Rush town, which appeals to the historical fiction writer in me. I pictured PJs Roadhouse, a local bar, while writing my Shotgun Honey story, "Pass the Peanuts." I'm looking forward to writing more stories set in the area because while the characters I'll encounter there might be different than the ones I meet in Venice, they will be characters just the same.
Sutter's Mill in Coloma, CA
It's a considerably more conservative place than I'm used to, which is something I find daunting. I'm a little bit afraid of being the only atheist liberal within one hundred square miles. For the first time in my life, I've considered gun ownership a distinct possibility--not because I'm afraid of people but because there are wild critters about that might require something more than a "shoo" to keep them at bay. Bears and bobcats and mountain lions--oh my! Don't worry, I don't think it will come to that, but our long-haired chihuahua, Stella, will need a rattle snake vaccine.

Overall, I'm looking forward to this move. I'm not so much leaving LA as I am returning to family and friends, which feels wonderful. But I'd be lying if I said I was one hundred percent okay with our decision to abandon the place I've called home for over twenty-five years--my entire adult life. It's not easy.

We've lost two beloved dogs during our time in Los Angeles: Kramer and Stuart. When I packed up their ashes yesterday, it reduced me to tears. I wondered if perhaps this would be the way I'd allow myself to process my conflicted feelings about this move, because so far, the only tears I've shed have been about them. Or maybe the reason I'm not crying all the time is because deep down inside I'm ready for this and I just don't want to admit it to myself. Either way, I realize how tremendously fortunate I am that I have choices in life and people who care about me no matter where I choose to live.

Next week I plan on talking about ebooks versus print, because it turns out I have opinions about it based upon my own experience as an digital-only author. Stay-tuned!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Five recommended crime graphic novels

Over at Spinetingler we'll be doing our annual Best of the Year post (we usually post closer to the end of the calender year). In the lead up to that post I'll be using my time here at Do Some Damage to pull together some recommended reading lists for short story collections and anthologies, non-fiction books, comics, re-issues, and straight up crime fiction.

Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

Earl Tubb is an angry old man with a very big stick.

Euless Boss is a high school football coach with no more room in his office for trophies and no more room underneath the bleachers for burying bodies.

And they're just two of the folks you'll meet in Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin' Rebs and more bastards than you've ever seen.

The Field by Ed Brisson and Simon Roy

An underwear clad amnesiac, an ex-Bible salesman on a meth-induced murder spree, a seedy biker gang on a revenge mission, and a group of cosplayers out to save the world. What more do you need to know?

Dead Body Road by Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera

Orson Gage is no good man. His wife's death thrusts the only kind of righteousness he's ever known upon him: Revenge! Her murderers must die. All of them! In Dead Boy Road, follow Gage on the dark road he's chosen to travel - a road that looks more and more like a highway to Hell!
The next two books are my favorite graphic novels of the year and are highly recommended. 

The Lonesome Go by Tim Lane

This collection of stories is broadly linked together by the experience of wandering — both literally and figuratively. With compelling verisimilitude, the lives of his characters are depicted by way of rich mixtures of obscure myths and documented facts, dreams and reality, belief and disbelief, throughout a haunted landscape populated by the ghosts of a complex and rich fictional tapestry. You'll witness a young man's dubious quest to discover the myth of the protagonist from an obscure vintage comic strip; encounter sociopathic hobos in boxcars and misled young men whose facial pores sprout worms and who throw up babies into gas station toilets; visit modern "Hoovervilles"; and experience the life and death of an undocumented immigrant bookstore doorman, former boxer, and expert hustler.

Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer

As our story begins, we meet Annie Hannigan, an out-of-control teenager, jitterbugging in the 1930s. Annie dreams of offing her mother, Elsie, whom she blames for abandoning her for a job soon after her husband, a cop, is shot and killed. Now, employed by her husband’s best friend—an over-the-hill and perpetually soused private eye—Elsie finds herself covering up his missteps as she is drawn into a case of a mysterious client, who leads her into a decade-long drama of deception and dual identities sprawling from the Depression era to World War II Hollywood and the jungles of the South Pacific.

Along with three femme fatales, an obsessed daughter, and a loner heroine, Kill My Mother features a fighter turned tap dancer, a small-time thug who dreams of being a hit man, a name-dropping cab driver, a communist liquor store owner, and a hunky movie star with a mind-boggling secret. Culminating in a U.S.O. tour on a war-torn Pacific island, this disparate band of old enemies congregate to settle scores.

What were your favorite graphic novels(crime or otherwise) from 2014?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mystery Conference Newbie

By Kristi Belcamino

Right now I'm at my very first Bouchercon in Long Beach, California.

After I digest everything I'll get back to you on how that went. (I'm writing this post early.)

But I can talk a little bit about some of my thoughts on my very first mystery conference on November 1st of this year - Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee.


* I was on an author panel. Yeah. Nerve-wracking, but COOL.

* I got to meet several authors in real life who I'd only previously stalked on Twitter and Facebook and they treated me like a peer! Alex Segura (my colleague here on DSD) was by far one of my favorite people to meet. Even nicer in person! Hi, Alex!

* My books were sold in the lobby by a real mystery bookstore.

* I was included in the special after-conference dinner at the Great Lakes Distillery.

* People stopped me and asked me to SIGN my book. People I DIDN'T KNOW!

* And this: But I think it really struck home when I was sitting in the audience watching another panel and a woman stopped by my seat and whispered, "Hi! I love your books!" And then walked on. Who was this woman? I had never met her and SHE LOVED MY BOOKS. I wanted to chase after her and thank her profusely and ask how she had heard about my books and get her name and address ... and so on. But I just smiled and thanked her.

* Another woman stopped by my seat, handed me her card, and said she wanted to feature me on her blog one day! Thanks Bethany!

* A blogger TWEETED some of my responses on the panel. Thanks, Stacey!

* A mystery community reader and photographer asked me to pose for pictures!

* I went to get Bloody Mary's in the lobby with a group of mystery writers who are on my bookshelves.

* I got to go hang out at Crimespree Castle, which—if it isn't already—SHOULD be a rite of initiation for all mystery writers.

Despite all these REAL AUTHOR experiences, I must admit I was too shy to approach and introduce myself to a few authors who also were on panels at the conference. I still feel like such a newbie.

This weekend I'm at Bouchercon, which several people told me was like Murder & Mayhem times 100. So, I'll be back to post on that - or maybe just to post pictures.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Halfway Home with NaNoWriMo and Publishing News

Scott D. Parker

NaNoWriMo - Halfway Hoome

So this is the exact halfway point in November 2014. How many of y’all are on track? If you write 1,667 words/day, you should have a little over 25,000 words to this point. I’m only doing a novella this month and I’m more than halfway with word count (13,500) and chapters (11) and well on my way to completion by the end of the month. I’m actually looking to finish by Thanksgiving or sooner. It’s easily doable, as long as I deal with the slight turn I discovered today.

If anyone is discouraged at not having 25,000 words, just keep writing. While 50,000 in a month is a steep wall, consistency is also important. Maintain your consistency and keep writing. If necessary, reset your goals for the month. But keep at it. Find those little moments in the day where you can squeeze in five or ten minutes. I’ve written a lot about writing on my iPod Touch. Maybe that’s something you can do. Good luck.

Publishing Update

When you decide to start a publishing company, you'd be amazed at the number of things you have to consider.

There's the name, obviously. I've got my name but I'm not going to reveal it today because I want to have my website up and running when I do.

Website. Wow, another crazy big thing to think about. What will it look like? What kind of color scheme to use? Where do I put the logo and masthead. What kinds of content will it feature? A preliminary sketch I have here at the home office shows the basic design that I like (and hope y’all will, too). Now, I just have to learn the ins and outs of web design with WordPress. The closer my launch date gets, the more I might be willing to outsource at least the initial pages.

A goal of mine is to do as many aspects of a publishing company as possible. The graphic element is the big wall. I know some things but not nearly enough. That’ll be my long-term, year one goal: learn the software for graphic design and cover design and make my own covers. I have a few templates in mind to unify everything so it shouldn’t be a huge deal. But, still, it’ll take time.

That’s the key thing, too: time. While it’ll be exciting to launch this new business in 2015, I know that I’ll be in this for the long haul, building things piece by piece, book by book, design by design, choice by choice. I’m just trying to make as many good ones as possible out of the gate.

The best thing about it all? I’m having fun doing it. I’m really looking forward to sharing it in 2015.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Persistence Pays Off

Guest post by Sybil Johnson

A writer’s life can be a bit of a roller coaster ride. One day the writing’s flowing and hope fills your heart. The next day you receive a story rejection and that hope is dashed. The ups and downs can be a bit gut-wrenching. So much so, you wonder why you thought you could be a writer in the first place and consider giving up. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve even stopped writing for months at a time because I was so discouraged, but something always made me pick it up again.

My own writing journey has been fraught with rejections. It’s the nature of the beast, I know, but it’s still hard to take. One thing that’s kept me going is the small successes along the way. I’ve written half a dozen short stories, all of which eventually were published in various mystery e-zines. Most of them were rejected multiple times as being not right for an anthology or not right for this magazine or that magazine. Most took one to two years before they were published.

After each rejection, I’d reread the story, trying to figure out why it wasn’t accepted. Most of the time, I’d send it to the next market on my list without making any changes. Occasionally, I’d realize the story wasn’t quite right, I’d sent it out too soon, and I’d rework the ending. In those cases, I was always much happier with the story and the new version was eventually published. The most important thing I learned from that was don’t send stories out for consideration until you believe they’re ready.

Fatal Brushstroke, my first published novel, was also many years in the making. Even though I’ve been an avid mystery reader for a long time, starting off with Encyclopedia Brown in grade school and graduating to Agatha Christie in junior high, I knew little about writing one. So I read every book on the subject I could get my hands on and took a couple online courses specifically geared toward writing mysteries. I studied plotting, characters, setting and description. I analyzed novels I enjoyed reading, trying to figure out what made them tick. I finished draft after draft, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I’ve heard the following advice over and over again: don’t rewrite the same book, move on to something else. But, I felt the basic story was a good one, so I reworked my characters, changing subplots and scenes.

I have no idea how many drafts I finished over the years. I just kept on plugging away, occasionally putting it aside for months. Eventually, ten or fifteen years had passed. I’d seen a number of my friends sell first novels and others write five or six in the time it took me to write one. I felt very discouraged. Then the magic happened. A publisher read my novel and offered me a book deal. I was (and am still) ecstatic. I was finally going to have my novel published!

All of this taught me one thing: Persistence pays off. No matter how many rejections you receive, how discouraged you get, if you truly want to be a writer, keep on going. Eventually, if you’ve done your homework and worked to improve your writing, someone will publish something you’ve written.

Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Five Recommended Short Story Collections & Anthologies from 2014

Over at Spinetingler we'll be doing our annual Best of the Year post (we usually post closer to the end of the calender year). In the lead up to that post I'll be using my time here at Do Some Damage to pull together some recommended reading lists for short story collections and anthologies, non-fiction books, comics, re-issues, and straight up crime fiction.

Sixteen Small Deaths by Christopher J Dwyer (Perfect Edge)

After reading When October Falls a couple of years ago Dwyer was marked as one to watch out for. So I was happy to get a copy of Sixteen Small Deaths. The stories contain interesting moments and a perspective close in line with some of the other recent emerging crime writers from a couple of online scenes of the last few years. Still worth keeping an eye on and his stories are worth checking out.

Scream Queen and Other Tales of Menace by Ed Gorman (Perfect Crime Books)

Gorman is a pro. Which means he is master of turning out highly polished gems of stories. And that is exactly what we have here. 

The Downriver Horseshoe by Scott Miles (Stolen Time Publishing)

Probably my favorite collection of the year. It has a working class vibe that is sorely missing from a lot of fiction and Miles writes really interesting characters in interesting situations. 

Trouble in the Heartland: An Anthology of Stories Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen and crime fiction go hand in hand, in fact some of his best songs are straight up crime fiction. So this is a match made in heaven.  In fact, the idea of pairing Springsteen and crime fiction shorts is so good it's been done before (Meeting Across the River). Like any anthology there are hits and some misses.  This one comes out in a few weeks and is a must read for fans of crime fiction and of Bruce Springsteen.

The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology (Dark House Press)

I disagree with the "noir" discussion that surrounds this anthology, the stories' relationship to the theme, and its editor's take on the subject (here and in other places). But. There are some strong stories by some strong writers here so it is still worth recommending even if it is problematic. It looks like there has recently been a price drop on the Kindle version (now $4.99, but don't know for how long) so check it out for yourself.

I never read as much short fiction as I'd lik and still have other collections and anthologies on my tbr so this isn't a best of. What collections and anthologies from 2014 did you like?