Saturday, April 5, 2014

Serendipity Times Two

Scott D. Parker

Last week, I wrote about Aaron Allston’s Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide and how it has helped me in how I think about my various works in progress. Now, I want to share a little about serendipity.

A week ago, I stopped in our local Trader Joe’s to pick up a couple jars of their cookie butter. (In case y’all didn’t know, this is basically a sweet peanut buttery type concoction that uses graham cracker type cookies to make a speadable treat. I spare my body the bread. I just eat it by the spoonful!) Seeing as it was late afternoon, I stopped by the tasting area for a quick shot of free coffee. As I was sipping the java, the man behind the counter did the thing that happens to me a lot. “Has anyone ever told you that you look like that guy on Gray’s Anatomy?” [When I say a lot, I mean about once a week.] He then drew a blank on the other guy to whom I am compared. “Um, that guy who was married to Madonna.” He struggled for a moment and then I nodded. “Sean Penn.” We started talking and we got around to our professions. “Technical writer who also writes fiction,” I said. “Independent filmmaker,” he said. It was a fun realization to know that a couple of folks in a grocery store who just started talking both had creative professions. Shortly, he commented that while screenwriting was something he knew how to do, he wasn’t sure he could write an entire novel. Well, I mentioned my process and [cue Allston] let him know about Allson’s book that I was then still reading. My enthusiasm for the process of writing and how the tenets in Allston’s book got me to refocusing my energies on the process of writing was clearly evident. He smiled and told me that my enthusiasm actually made him more excited to write. I gave him a card with Allston’s book title. Perhaps he went home and ordered it online.

Then, a day later, a co-worker who is a motivational speaker and a writer asked me how I prepare for writing a novel. Specifically, she asked me how I outline. Boom! I told her (via very fast typing in Skype with a lot of misspelled words-I was excited) how I used to outline, which basically was not much of one. I had a buncha scenes in a string, but not much else. And, it just so happened, I told her, that I was reading Allston’s book which not only described his process but provided a rough and writing outline. I think I helped sell another book.

On my own front, I’ve already used the things I learned from Allston’s book to start working on my unfinished novella. I’m already seeing a way not only to finish it, but tighten up the entire story. Thanks again, Mr. Allson.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to get rid of a dead body

So here's what I asked:

What tips do you have for disposing of a body? A dead one, preferably.
I mean, if it weren't dead, step one would be "kill person." So let's just go with disposing of a dead body. I think dismembering it is key, as is speeding up the decomposition. If you're trying to protect yourself from detection/prosecution, you either want to remove anything that could be a "clue" or plant clues that would lead elsewhere. 

I'm thinking you'd want to disassemble the jaw, making sure to crack all the teeth in order to prevent identification. 

You'd want to peel off the skin of fingertips, too. What else? Is burning the body a rookie move?

Acid? Not too popular. Sinking the body? Yes and no. Mushrooms?

Here. Check for yourself. I've made the post public:

How to get rid of a dead body

Popular suggestion: Reading DEAD PIG COLLECTOR from Warren Ellis.

Of course, wood chippers and soylent green are favorites, too. 

I'm still considering lye vs acid, too.

And if you're going to transport the body, put down some tarp. Do it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Write a Novel in 90 Days*

by Holly West

*More or less

This week, I'm finishing up copyedits on my second book, Mistress of Lies. It's the last round of edits, which means that once it's turned in, it's pretty much done.

To be honest, it's a little hard for me to fathom. For years and years and years I dreamed of writing just one novel. That was my holy grail, the pinnacle of personal success that I thought I'd never reach. That being the case, writing two books was out of the question.

And yet, here I am.

Book one, Mistress of Fortune, took me about two and a half years to write and polish (much longer to actually publish, but that's another story altogether). Book two, my first under contract, took me about six months to write a draft suitable to turn in to my editor, meaning it was polished, but not all that shiny. Writing to a fixed deadline obviously required a lot more discipline than I'd displayed during the writing of the first book. Even so, I dawdled and complained, and generally waited until the very last minute to get that thing done.

It's how I roll.

Initially, I'd intended to write book two "by the seat of my pants." I'd written Mistress of Fortune with a loose outline but I didn't write the scenes in order. I jumped around depending on what I felt like writing on a given day. This method worked, but revising it was a nightmare; going into book two I thought that writing it in order, as it came to me, would be a better strategy.

Not so much. Three months before my deadline, I had about 20,000 words written but felt directionless, unmotivated, and miserable. I had no idea how that damned book was going to get finished, let alone be even remotely readable.

I had 90 days to finish the novel. Here's what I did:

Days 1-30: I'd sold the second book based on a synopsis and sample chapters, but the synopsis had been short and was an insufficient road map for going forward. Plus, I'd changed some major elements in the story with my editor's blessing. Hence, I gave myself nearly a full month to write a detailed outline and synopsis.

Coming from a screenwriting background, the three-act format has always appealed to me and I stuck to it faithfully in writing the outline. I used the outline to write the synopsis (about twenty pages), then had my husband read it to make sure it made sense. He provided some useful feedback and I revised the story accordingly. In this way, the developmental part of editing the manuscript was, to a large extent, taken care of in the synopsis phase.

Days 30-60: I wrote the first draft. It was weak in some places, but I had a finished novel, gosh darn it, and that was all that mattered.

Days 60 - 90: My husband and I both read through the manuscript. I revised it based on both of our notes, taking care to polish it as much as I could along the way. I reserved the last four days to do a complete read-through myself, knowing there was no time to make any big developmental changes. It was mostly just copyediting at that point.

Day 90 (Deadline Day): I sent it to my editor and crossed my fingers.

Though I knew it still needed work, I was happy with the finished novel. The story is much more personal for my protagonist and in my opinion, has more heart as a result. And surprisingly, the first edit letter I received for this manuscript was pretty painless--there were some character motivations that needed strengthening and an important, but not too difficult, story element that needed changing, but that was pretty much it. Further edits have gone just as smoothly.

I kinda-sorta feel like I've hit upon my method when it comes to writing a book, though it might only work for genre novels. Do I think I can write my next novel in 90 days? Perhaps not. But having a process that works for me gives me confidence that I can do this again and again.

For those of you who've written more than one novel, how did your process change with subsequent books?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


By Jay Stringer

A while back we announced the AJ Hayes Memorial Writing Contest.

There's still plenty of time to enter. Here's a recap of the rules;
– Flash fiction (under 1000 words) 
– Crime fiction, mystery, noir, suspense are all accepted
– AJ loved to write poetry, so that’s good too
-Your story must feature a character named Bill. 
There are some great prizes up for grabs, cashy money for the winner as well as publication in Needle Magazine. Most of all, though, there's simply the chance to honour and remember one of the community's best people.

I've had a short story in my head for a couple of weeks now, and the contest reminded me it's been a while since I've written any flash. This piece isn't for entry into the contest, if I'm honest I don't really think it even plays by the rules. It's not a crime, mystery or noir. It's simply a story I wanted to tell.

Get your stories in by June 1st, in Word format, to



I love running after dark. The air is crisp, it feels pure. It hits your lungs like a cup of cold water.

I run along the path beside the football pitches. Above the music in my earphones I can heat shouts and laughing of the people playing. On one pitch I can see middle aged men letting off steam after a day at work, their replica football tops stretched across beer bellies, the floodlights reflecting off their scalp through thinning hair. On the other pitch I can see teenagers, maybe one of Bill’s youth clubs or a local team. 

It’s been a while since I’ve been out. In my head they can all see it. In my head they’re all pausing to watch me, to talk about how I’m out of shape or slow. In reality, nobody notices. Just another woman running around the edge of the pitch at night.

Before the accident I wouldn’t have cared. Before the accident they wouldn’t have time to notice me. I’d have been going up through the gears and moving quicker than any of them. 

At the Polmadie footbridge I turn down the hill that takes me to the side of the river. I leave the light behind as the floodlights from the football pitches disappear beyond the crest of the hill. The darkness swallows me as the path levels out at the bottom of the slope. There are no lights down here, just trees and shadows. My heart grows a couple of sizes in my chest every time I come this way, but the fear helps me, it pushes me to keep going, to hit those final miles. 

It's cold and wet. My brain knows the only people likely to be on this path at this time of night are other runners. Nobody will be hanging out here on the off chance they'll be able to mug a passerby. 

I'm rusty. I’ve been sitting on my arse for too long. My Doctor told me to take it easy after the accident, but I went further than that. Six months of sitting on the sofa eating Ben & Jerry's and watching Veronica Mars DVD's. Waiting for the phone to stop ringing. Waiting to hear Terry’s keys in the door. I can feel every minute of that time now. Not in my legs or my feet, not even in my damaged spine; I feel it in my lungs. They're burning. I fight it, try to breathe in deep, from my belly.

This was all second nature to me before the accident. Like driving a car, operating the gears with one hand, the pedals with my feet, the steering wheel with my other hand. Like driving a car. Easy.

But sometimes cars can go off the road.

In the darkness ahead I see movement. The shadows twitch then gather around something, and the dusk turns into the shape of a running man. He’s large, not a natural runner, he rocks from side to side as he strides. For a second I imagine a blade in his hand and I fight the panic. He smiles. It’s a friendly smile. Then comes the nod of the head, the code passed between all runners at this time of night. He senses that I’m tense and goes wide on the path, giving me plenty of room.  Through it all, I keep going. Breath, run, move, live, go. 

My spine starts to hurt, but I keep going. My Doctor told me it would hurt for a while. My therapist tells me it will hurt for a lot longer. Association issues, she says. Grief. A phantom pain for something I can’t change, something I’ll never be able to change.
On the far bank of the river I can see the modern apartment buildings, the new face of Glasgow. People leave their curtains drawn late into the night forgetting there is a path across from them hidden away in the trees. I’ve seen all manner of things from here. Couples fighting, couples screwing, couple’s breaking up or making up. All the things that me and Terry will never get to do again.

The fire builds in my lungs. I suck in the cold air to put out the flames. That sip of ice cold water. It hits home better than any drug. I manage to pick up my pace again, feeling the old me push on out, easing into the run. I come around the corner and the path straightens out on the run-up to King’s Bridge. On the road above, the bridge connects traffic between the north and south bank of the Clyde. Down here on the path, it leads into Glasgow Green, the public park. The streetlights from above cast light onto this stretch of the path.

As I near the bridge I feel a flicker of doubt. The streetlights cover me in light, but by contrast the path beneath the bridge is in total darkness. Again the fears. Again my back hurts, and I remember I’m alone out here, and that I’ll be alone when I get home, too. Nobody there anymore. 

I reach the edge of the shadows and there’s movement.

Hoods. A group of kids. Teenagers. Half a dozen of them, right in front of me. They move around me, on either side. They’re close. I feel them staring at me. They move. I flinch. I think I flinch, anyway. Then I get it; they’re moving out of my way, making room for me. I catch one of their faces beneath the hood. A girl. She looks about twelve. She offers me a smile. I laugh.

Past the bridge, I’m into the Green now and my back is finally saying, no, it’s time to stop. I slow to a walk, and my breath comes sharp and hot. I laugh, at myself, at my fear, at the world.

Fuck it. What else can it do to me?

I wait for a moment, then I start moving again. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Syndicate Books to publish GBH and entire Ted Lewis catalog

I receive a lot of press releases and this one immediately caught my attention, that a new publisher would be publishing the complete writings of Ted Lewis. Of course the Jack Carter books are named by title in the release but I wanted to know something else, something I'm sure others are thinking. Would GBH be coming back in to print? GBH is a long out of print crime novel that commands high prices on the secondary market. Also, a lot of crime fiction fans want to read it. I asked Paul Oliver about GBH, he told me that GBH would be published as a hardcover in Spring 2015 and will be the culmination of the project. All of the Lewis books will be available as ebooks too. 

A quick look at the Syndicate Books website tells us that:

Syndicate books is a new publishing company that specializes in restoring to print & digital availability important works of crime & mystery fiction.
(Emphasis is mine)

On Facebook and Twitter I've often talked about out of print authors, Newton Thornburg and Shane Stevens come to mind, and I hope that Syndicate Books is around for a long time to ensure that these (fingers crossed) forgotten books and authors, and others, find a new audience today. It's a worthwhile endeavor. I'm excited for the Ted Lewis books and I'm excited to see what future projects will be.

Below is the full press release:

New York, NY, March 8th, 2014—Syndicate Books, a recently incorporated crime and mystery fiction publisher based in Brooklyn, New York, announced a distribution agreement with the award-winning independent publishing house Soho Press. The agreement will see select print and digital titles from Syndicate distributed via Soho Press’s pre-existing relationship with Random House Publishers Services. These titles will be distributed under the imprint name Soho Syndicate.

Syndicate’s lead project is the publication of the complete writings of the late Ted Lewis, author of nine novels, several of which are cited as among crime fiction’s most influential.  A few of Lewis’s most important works have never before been published in North America. Syndicate’s lead title, which publishes in September, is Lewis’ best known work, Get Carter, a book which has been adapted to film three times, most famously by Mike Hodges in 1971 and starring Michael Caine as the protagonist, Jack Carter. Hodges has written a special Foreword for the Syndicate edition.

The two other Lewis novels featuring Jack Carter also publish this fall. The third novel, Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon, has never before been published in North America while the second, Jack Carter’s Law, has been out of print for nearly 40 years. The rest of Lewis’s novels will be published digitally, emphasizing Syndicate’s hybrid approach.
Paul Oliver, publisher at Syndicate Books, also happens to be the director of marketing and publicity for Soho Press. Oliver has no plans on leaving Soho because of the launch of Syndicate Books.

Oliver, a 15-year veteran of the book industry, sees Syndicate as the natural progression of his career. Prior to working in publishing he co-owned a new and used bookstore in the Philadelphia area for eight years and worked for Barnes & Noble before that.

Syndicate hopes to announce another set of properties in the coming months.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Stars Aligned

By Kristi Belcamino
I’m just going to say right off the bat that I’m a little bit intimidated to even attempt to fill Joelle Charbonneau’s shoes on this amazing blog.
Why? Well, because she’s a rock star.
Joelle is one of the most dedicated and talented writers I know. And for some reason, I’ve been lucky enough to have her in my corner for the last few years. Damn lucky.
We first met when she judged a contest I entered. She wrote her name on my judging form, and asked me to keep in touch. Ever since that day, she’s been one of the most supportive and nicest writers I’ve ever met. And as I got to know her, I soon realized she was by far one of the hardest working writers out there, as well.
So when Joelle asked me to take her spot here at Do Some Damage on Sundays, I was floored, flattered, and thrilled at the same time. She’ll be back to guest post and I made sure to tell her if she ever changes her mind, this spot is really and truly always hers.
By now, though, you’re probably wondering who is Kristi Belcamino.
I’m a crime fiction writer, Italian mama of two feisty little girls, and a part-time newspaper reporter living in Minneapolis. My first novel, Blessed are the Dead, goes on sale June 10th. It’s inspired by my dealings with a serial killer when I was a full-time cops reporter working the San Francisco Bay Area crime beat.
When my editor and publicist found out I’d been asked to join Do Some Damage, they immediately suggested I reveal the cover for my new book here first. (Just shows how respected and beloved this blog is.)
Steve Weddle was gracious enough to give me the thumbs up on revealing my cover as part of my first post and the stars aligned.
Before I do so, I want to thank Steve and Joelle and all you loyal readers for allowing me to take over the Sunday spot on this blog. I’ve got a bunch of ideas for posts, but am also very excited to hear what you’d like to read about, so feel free to shoot me an email at and tell me your thoughts and ideas. You can also find out more about me at my website, or on Facebook at
Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of Do Some Damage!
Here is the back cover copy for my book, Blessed are the Dead

To catch a killer, one reporter must risk it all...
San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter Gabriella Giovanni spends her days on the crime beat flitting in and out of other people’s nightmares, yet walking away unscathed.
When a little girl disappears on the way to the school bus stop, her quest for justice and a front-page story leads her to a convicted kidnapper, Jack Dean Johnson, who reels her in with promises to reveal his exploits as a long-time serial killer to her alone. Gabriella's passion for her job quickly spirals into obsession when she begins to suspect Johnson may have ties to her own dark past: her sister’s murder.
 Risking her life, her job, and everything she holds dear, Gabriella embarks on a path to find answers and stop a deranged murderer before he strikes again.
Perfect for fans of Sue Grafton and Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series!

If you want to preorder a copy of the book you can do that here.  
If you don't want to wait, keep an eye on my Facebook page. You might just have a chance to win an early copy. 
And (drumroll please) here is the cover: