Monday, June 30, 2014

Upcoming releases

Here are some of the upcoming releases I'm looking forward to.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father's people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise - and many will perish.

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.

Like Jean-Patrick Manchette’s celebrated Fatale, The Mad and the Bad is a clear-eyed, cold-blooded, pitch-perfect work of creative destruction.

Perfidia by James Ellroy:

The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. The United States teeters on the edge of war. The roundup of allegedly treasonous Japanese Americans is about to begin. And in L.A., a Japanese family is found dead. Murder or ritual suicide? The investigation will draw four people into a totally Ellroy-ian tangle: a brilliant Japanese American forensic chemist; an unsatisfiably adventurous young woman; one police officer based in fact (William H. "Whiskey Bill" Parker, later to become the groundbreaking chief of the LAPD), the other the product of Ellroy's inimitable imagination (Dudley Smith, arch villain of The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, White Jazz). As their lives intertwine, we are given a story of war and of consuming romance, a searing exposé of the Japanese internment, and an astonishingly detailed homicide investigation. In Perfidia, Ellroy delves more deeply than ever before into his characters' intellectual and emotional lives. But it has the full-strength, unbridled story-telling audacity that has marked all the acclaimed work of the "Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction."

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell:

An elegant conjurer of interconnected tales, a genre-bending daredevil, and master prose stylist, David Mitchell has become one of the leading literary voices of his generation. His hypnotic new novel, The Bone Clocks, crackles with invention and wit—it is fiction at its most spellbinding and memorable.

Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.

Rich with character and realms of possibility, The Bone Clocks is a kaleidoscopic novel that begs to be taken apart and put back together by a writer The Washington Post calls “the novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction.”

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes:

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit's standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?

If you're Detective Versado's geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you're desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you're Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you'll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe--and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

If Lauren Beukes's internationally bestselling The Shining Girls was a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg:

Sal Cupertine is a legendary hit man for the Chicago Mafia, known for his ability to get in and out of a crime without a trace. Until now, that is. His first-ever mistake forces Sal to botch an assassination, killing three undercover FBI agents in the process. This puts too much heat on Sal, and he knows this botched job will be his death sentence to the Mafia. So he agrees to their radical idea to save his own skin.

A few surgeries and some intensive training later, and Sal Cupertine is gone, disappeared into the identity of Rabbi David Cohen. Leading his growing congregation in Las Vegas, overseeing the population and the temple and the new cemetery, Rabbi Cohen feels his wicked past slipping away from him, surprising even himself as he spouts quotes from the Torah or the Old Testament. Yet, as it turns out, the Mafia isn't quite done with him yet. Soon the new cemetery is being used as both a money and body-laundering scheme for the Chicago family. And that rogue FBI agent on his trail, seeking vengeance for the murder of his three fellow agents, isn't going to let Sal fade so easily into the desert.

Gangsterland is the wickedly dark and funny new novel by a writer at the height of his power – a morality tale set in a desert landscape as ruthless and barren as those who inhabit it.

Echo Lake by Letiitia Trent:

30-something Emily Collins inherits her recently murdered Aunt's house, deciding to move to Heartshorne, Oklahoma, to claim it and confront her family's dark past after her dead mother begins speaking to her in dreams, propelling this gothic, neo-noir thriller toward terrifying revelations of murderous small-town justice when a horrible community secret is revealed through the supernatural pull of Echo Lake.

Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll:

In Jonathan Carroll's surreal masterpiece, Bathing the Lion, five people who live in the same New England town go to sleep one night and all share the same hyper-realistic dream. Some of these people know each other; some don’t. 

When they wake the next day all of them know what has happened. All five were at one time “mechanics,” a kind of cosmic repairman whose job is to keep order in the universe and clean up the messes made both by sentient beings and the utterly fearsome yet inevitable Chaos that periodically rolls through, wreaking mayhem wherever it touches down—a kind of infinitely powerful, merciless tornado. Because the job of a mechanic is grueling and exhausting, after a certain period all of them are retired and sent to different parts of the cosmos to live out their days as "civilians." Their memories are wiped clean and new identities are created for them that fit the places they go to live out their natural lives to the end.

For the first time all retired mechanics are being brought back to duty:  Chaos has a new plan, and it's not looking good for mankind...

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce:

David, a college student, takes a summer job at a run-down family resort in a dying English resort town. This is against the wishes of his family . . . because it was at this resort where David's biological father disappeared fifteen years earlier. But something undeniable has called David there.

A deeper otherworldliness lies beneath the surface of what we see. The characters have a suspicious edge to them . . . David is haunted by eerie visions of a mysterious man carrying a rope, walking hand-in-hand with a small child . . . and the resort is under siege by a plague of ladybugs. Something different is happening in this town.

When David gets embroiled in a fiercely torrid love triangle, the stakes turn more and more menacing. And through it all, David feels as though he is getting closer to the secrets of his own past.

This is a darkly magic and sexy book that has a strong suspense line running through it. It's destined to continue to pull in a wider circle of readers for the exceptionally talented Graham Joyce.

There are others but this is a good start.

How about you, what upcoming releases are you looking forward to? Have you read any of these?


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The K9 Who Saved My Life

I have a little true crime story for you today.
Once upon a time a police dog saved my life.
It happened shortly after I moved out of an apartment a block from Seal Beach into a house full of artists in Los Angeles.
My new neighborhood was home to one of the nation’s most dangerous gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha. Our house, like every other house on the block had bars on the windows and a barred screen door with double deadbolts.
So, you might think this story about a police dog saving my life has to do with living in the gangbanger neighborhood, where drug deals and police helicopters were part of the landscape.
One Sunday afternoon, I headed back down to the waitressing job I still had in Seal Beach. I needed some money for a road trip I was taking early the next morning. Withdrawing a fist full of cash in my new, gangbanger neighborhood didn’t seem like a smart idea, so I decided to stop at my old ATM in bucolic Seal Beach.
The parking lot of the bank was deserted. As I got out of my car, I vaguely registered the noise of police sirens, but didn’t really pay attention. As I fiddled with the ATM, the sound grew closer.
I looked up. Across the parking lot, a man was running toward me with something in his hand that flashed in the setting sun. A dog with ears bent back, was right on his heels. I didn’t really understand what I was seeing.
In a fog, acting by instinct only, I started walking toward my car, still not comprehending what was going on, only acting on some primal, biological, survival instinct. Everything was in slow motion.
When the man and the dog were about ten feet away from me, I saw the shiny thing in the man’s hand was a knife. Just then, the dog attacked him and in a flurry of snarls and shouts, they rolled on the ground.
At the other end of the large parking lot, a group of police officers rounded the corner on foot, panting. Squad cars with flashing lights and sirens followed. At the same moment, I heard the heart-stopping thump-thump-thump of a low-hovering helicopter before I saw it round the corner above the charging mass.
After what seemed like an eternity of fumbling with my keys, I finally unlocked the door to my car and tumbled in, frantically locking the door behind me. I sat frozen, staring through my windshield at the struggle in front of me.
The man got up and ran toward me in my car. Behind him, the dog lay still, a small bundle of fur that was not moving. About six police officers caught up to the man just as he reached the front of my car. With guns drawn, they made a semi-circle around him and the hood of my car.
Straight across from me, the black muzzle of a gun pointed my way. My only thought was if the man ducked, the officer pointing that gun would accidentally shoot me.
Within seconds, the police had tackled the man in a blur of shouting and motion. When the crowd parted, he was facedown and handcuffed.
Behind me, the helicopter had set down in the parking lot. Everyone was running around shouting. One of the officers ran up to my window and shouted for me to get the hell out of there.
So, of course I did.
The next morning early, I took a planned road trip to Northern California.
A week later, when I got back, I asked my friends if they had heard anything about a police dog getting stabbed. They told me the funeral of the K9 had been all over the news.
I didn't really think about it again until years later.
When I did, it didn't take a lot of online researching to find out more. The dog who saved my life was from the Huntington Beach Police Department. His name was KIM. Many years back, I emailed the police officer who was his handler and shared the story of how I was convinced deep in my bones that his partner, Kim, had saved my life that day.
Here’s an article the LA Times ran about the incident.
Here is what the Huntington Beach Police Department website says about KIM
End of Watch: March 26, 1991
On Sunday, March 26, 1991, shortly after 5:00PM, Officer Jim Weaver and his canine partner were involved in a high speed pursuit into Seal Beach. At the end of the chase, the suspect tried to escape on foot and ignored repeated demands to surrender. KIM was released and chased the suspect overtaking him in a nearby parking lot.
Once on the ground, the suspect stabbed KIM several times causing major injuries to the dog. The suspect finally surrendered to officers and was charged with multiple crimes. Due to his extensive injuries, KIM died a short time later. KIM was 5 1/2 years old and served the HBPD for two years.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Five Hundred

Scott D. Parker

I walked away from a job yesterday. I have a new one lined up in a week so I’m not making making as big a leap as our DSD buddy, Russell, but it’s still a step into a new direction.

One thing that is going to change is the amount of personal time I have. Violins playing, I know, but I’ve been working from home for 3.5 years now and it’s a huge deal to give it up in favor of other benefits. With the old job, I was able to wake up at six and write for a couple hours before before “commuting” down the hallway and go to the day job. That’s gone now, so I’ll need to find other moments in the day to write.

That will also make my writing time have to be more efficient. My biggest challenge, to date in my fiction writing career, is my efficiency. Last summer, I was a writing machine...because I knew where I was going. The past couple of projects have started with a great first half but then got bogged down in the middle. Everyone knows the muddy middle is the hardest but it’s even more difficult when you don’t know how to get through it. That’s my major hurdle to overcome this summer: practice.

More efficient writing to adjust to the less time I have to write. Okay, but what, you ask, does five hundred have to do with that? Well, since you’ve kept reading down to paragraph four, I’ll tell you. After I walked out the door for the last time, I headed over to Office Depot. I wanted to buy my own mouse that was the same model as my old work mouse. (It’s a Lexar M310 if you want to know.) While there, I saw the package of 11x17 paper. I love paper that size and use it when I start writing down ideas for a story. I start with a pencil, finely sharpened, and just start brainstorming an idea. I did it most recently at the beginning of this month when I laid the groundwork for my current yarn. Now, it’s  filled with notes and arrows and cross-outs and all sorts of mind-mapping type things.

The astute reader will no doubt have put two and two together to figure out where I’m going, but I’ll spell it out nonetheless. As I practice more efficient story creation and practice more efficient use of my personal time to write, I’d like to have a goal: five hundred ideas. One per 11x17 page in that package. Some stories will take more than one page and others only one so the number probably won’t be five hundred, but I think you get my idea. Dream big. Dream bold. And have a plan.

I want to spin tales out of those five hundred pieces of paper. A year from now, how many will have been filled? Two years? Five? Ten? It’s one of those times when blank paper is a thrill.

How do you create your stories?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Taking the (freelance) Plunge

By Russel D McLean

For those of you paying attention, I have been lackluster recently  here at DSD. For that I can only apologise. My day job, since the move, had been taking up a lot of time - far more than I ever expected and far more than it did back in Dundee - for a whole variety of reasons. Also my paid writing gigs were increasing and as much I love DSD, the money had to come first. What we all know is that sooner or later something has to give, and you may remember my last post was all about giving up the day job to go freelance. I'm there, now. Which of course has meant that my first week of freelancing has been spent with the world's worst cold and my body just shutting down after months of sticking it out for the sake of the day job. Its reacted like I'm on holiday. But the good thing is that there is still stuff I can when I'm sick. So between pills and potions, I've been reviewing and editing and working at a pace that suits my recovery. Its an advantage and a good one. But before you think the new life is all sweetness and light, let me assure this was not a decision entered lightly. I'm going to learning as I go but I at least have a sort-of-maybe plan for what lies ahead.

Here are some of the many things that I spent months thinking about before taking the plunge:

 Money, Money, Money

You do not become a freelancer without some kind of backup plan. Not unless you're absolutely certain of what you're doing. For the first few months I know I'll be running at a loss. I hope (hope hope) that enough work will start to come in as the months go one to start to make it up. But I waited until I had a small amount of money behind me and also checking with the Literary Critic that at least one of us will be able to make the bills in any month. We have financial plans in place. You have to think ahead to the eventuality that some months are going to be very tight indeed.

(death and) Taxes

With an employer, your taxes come off automatically. Self employed people and freelancers need to think about taxes and NI and how to pay all that. I find my head thrown so I have sought out a reputable accountant to help with this.


I know some people who have, but I do not   recommend just jumping into this full time without getting some experience first. I chased up leads part time for years before realising that I was getting enough work to make a go at making freelancing a reality. Make the connections. Chase the leads. Get the jobs. Know that this is what you want to do and what you can do. Because once you're in, you're in all the way.

Chase Those Jobs

You do not have the jobs come to you. For a long time I used to wonder about why, despite people loving my reviews online, I wasn't getting those paid gigs in the papers. I would write query letters and get little to no response. That started changing when my queries became more specific. I didn't just say, "I writes guid reviews, d'you'se have anything going?" - - I chased specific editors with specific reviews. I said, "This book could be interesting and I am the guy to review it for reasons XYZ" In other words I sold the content of what I wanted to do and I sold myself. I did the same with the interviews I wanted to do. I secured the subject in potential first and then approached editors with the pitch. Its all fine and well saying, "I think an interview with Bill Gates would be great," but if you can't get a hold of Bill Gates you can't rely on the editor being able to do it for you.

Don't Think in a Straight Line

I want to make a living from writing. I thought for a long time that all I could do was write fiction. I thought that sooner or later that Big Deal would appear and make my world a better place. I couldn't get my head out of being a fiction writer. And then I started to branch out. I thought about reviews and how to monetise those and realised I had to go where people were paying. So I followed that up. I turned my hand to a different kind of interview (scripted inteviews - q and a's - are good for blogs and fanzines and so on, but if you want to get paid bucks for interviews, you need to develop a narrative interview style which I discovered was very tricky but incredibly rewarding). I sought out freelance jobs with small publishers. I pursued paid chairing/interviewing events via libraries and festivals. In other words I considered my skill set and then set out to exploit in every way I could. even ways I'd never usually think of. Sometimes I have still hit a brick wall but by opening myself up to different ways of using my particular talens I have found a lot of varied and interesting ways of keeping the income coming in. Some of it I will never get credit for, but that's okay. I have the cheque.

Stop Underselling and Get Paid

Too many writers do things for free. We need to get paid. There are some situations - perhaps, such as this blog, which I and the rest do for love - where payment does not enter into it. But the truth is, people forget that writing - good writing - is an art, an effort, a skill. Its not lugging bales, true, but then not everybody is able to write well and those who can should be paid accordingly. But we do so much for free unnecessarily. Because we let people get away with it. Because we too fall for the trick of undervaluing our own skill set. I'm not quite at Harlan Ellison's stage yet (and he's done a few things I disagree with) but this rant is very much on the, ahem, money:

(I hope he was paid for that interview!)

Be Open to New Ideas

A few months ago before I seriously thought about the idea of quitting the day job, someone approached me to something I'd never done before. Its an editorial thing and while my name will never appear on it, I got paid. But it wasn't something I'd thought about doing before because I'd never considered myself to have experience in the area. Except I did. Everything else I'd done pointed towards an ability there. So I took the job and damned if it hasn't led to more work and more fun. You have to be open to doing things you didn't expect to do. This isn't nine to five any more. You can make your own hours, but you have to be flexible, open and adventurous.


There's lots more going on and I've only just started at this full time. But I'm looking forward to it all. I'm having a blast already and I'm getting more time work on my own fiction as well (which does pay) as well as time to think about DSD columns, too. Something I haven't been able to do in a long time. I hope to have news about other projects soon, but in the meantime if you want me, I'll be in the cave of solitude, drumming up some work...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Let them talk

I’ve written a few blog posts about my experience with certain things - from agents, revisions, social media, dealing with reviews and more. But I realized late last night that I’d forgotten a very important one: Publicity.

This is doubly important to me, because I'm a publicist by trade. For over a decade, my job has been to promote authors/creators and their work through interviews, book reviews, book events, conventions and the like. It’s a fun job - and allows me the chance to be around creative people and help get the word out on books I love. I mostly do publicity in the world of comics and graphic novels, but I think there are lessons that can be applied to our world, as mystery writers.

So, here’s a peek inside a publicist’s brain, and a few hints as to how you, the author, can help get the word out on your book when the time comes.

Say hello. Big publisher or small, chances are high that your publicist is swamped. Once the deal is locked in and you know when your book is coming out, find out who your publicist is and reach out. Don’t send a list of demands, suggestions or marketing ideas. Just offer to meet for a cup of coffee or to talk over the phone to introduce yourself. Eventually, the conversation will veer toward your book, how to promote it, etc. But get to know the person first and allow them to get a sense of you as an author, so the publicist can figure out what to do. Plus, it adds some humanity to a job that is very often done just through email or conference calls. If your publicist is good, they’ll take you up on it.

Pool your resources. Know a reporter at Paper X that’s been bugging you to review your book or interview you? Have a list of contacts/bloggers/fans that will review all your books whenever they come out? Great! But tell your publicist. They can help coordinate the press and, most importantly, time it properly. A good review does squat if it doesn’t hit at the right time - either right as the book is coming out or around big events (book tour stops, conventions). A publicist will always appreciate you making their job easier, and they’ll remember that when they have to do extra work on your behalf.

Ideas! As noted earlier, publicists are busy. At small companies, it’s often 1-2 people handling all the publicity for the entire line. Some small publishers don't have a dedicated publicity person (!). At bigger companies, publicists are spread thin handling dozens of books or numerous imprints. It’s a 24-7 job that doesn’t allow a lot of room for a personal life or, ha, sleep. So, when an author - after the introductory phone call, natch - has some realistic ideas about promoting their book, they usually see this as a good opportunity. Plus, it gives you a chance to actually influence how your book is promoted - which is cool, assuming you have a somewhat collaborative publicity person. Go in with ideas that are both realistic and relevant to your work. Don’t expect them all to be approved and be open-minded. Odds are, you’ll come to a greater solution together. Collaboration is the fun part of the publicity stage - you finally get to talk about your work, as opposed to sitting alone and creating it.

Don’t go rogue. This is related to my last point, but merits its own slot. It’s bad for to unload in a public forum, especially the press, about any internal issues you’re having with a publisher/publicist/etc. If it’s someone who published you long ago and you’re being vague and maybe someone can figure out what you’re talking about - that's up to you. I, personally, would just keep gripes private. Your call, though. 

If you have an issue with your current publisher or with how your book’s been promoted, talk to your publicist or publisher directly and professionally. Don't emotionalize it, either - it's easy to be labelled "difficult," and if your points are clear and fact-based, it's much harder to be tabbed as such. If that’s not working, bring in your agent. Airing your dirty laundry in public makes everyone look bad and doesn’t help improve the relationship that still needs to work to promote your book.

Make yourself available. “Why hasn’t my book gotten enough press?” I’ve heard that a few times over my career, and the reasons are usually pretty clear: sometimes books don’t resonate with people. It’s the harsh reality of timing, coincidence and the universal consciousness. Some things just don’t click. It’s up to your publicist to help combat that. Every publicist is different, but we all have methods to fight a case of the blahs - but we need the author’s help. Were you free to do that interview your publicist asked you to do? Did you do that signing? Were you up for the radio or blog tour? No? That’s probably part of the reason why your book isn’t getting any press. Realize that once your book is out or about to hit, you need to be available to do whatever they ask (within reason) in terms of promotion. It shows you’re a team player and that you’re invested in making the book a success.

Now, if you have done everything you’ve been asked to do and you’ve suggested things that you feel are valid (“This blogger wants a review copy” or “This reporter called me and wanted to interview me”), then you have grounds to complain. Publicists, like anyone else, come in all sizes. Some are great, some are not-as-great.

Hope this helps! Please share your own experience in the comments.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Word of Thanks and Free Books

by Holly West

After my mini-breakdown about marketing and promotion last week, I pulled up my big girl panties, which, incidentally, have become a whole lot bigger since I started writing full-time, and got to work. That's usually the answer for me when I get bogged down by annoying details. Head down, chonies up, and figure out what my next step forward is.

In this case, I started with blurb requests. I made a list of authors that might consider offering blurbs for Mistress of Lies and began crafting my emails. By the way, fellow DSDer Alex Segura wrote a post about blurb etiquette awhile back and it's a good one.

My first request was met not only with an affirmative response, but a whole lot of other valuable information as well. Here's where I need to acknowledge Jeri Westerson, whose latest Crispin Guest novel, Cup of Blood, drops on July 25, 2014. I love the Crispin Guest series because, like my Mistress of Fortune series, it's hardboiled historical fiction. It's called "medieval noir" for a reason.

Having benefitted from the kindness of authors numerous times since I started on this path, I'm still sometimes bowled over by their generosity, and such is the case with Jeri.

Suddenly, asking for blurbs (and reviews) didn't seem like such a terrible task. My fear, you see, was that if I asked my author friends for blurbs and they said no, it would somehow change our relationship, make it awkward in some way. Now I understand that it's an accepted part of the business. Sure, I already knew that on some level, but it never quite sunk in. Now I'm asking for blurbs right and left, so watch out. You might be next.

Really, what Jeri did for me was unravel the puzzle a little bit. Sometimes, that's all I need, just a little push in the right direction.

My next step will be asking for reviews from book bloggers and websites across the Internet. My biggest mistake when Mistress of Fortune came out was relying too heavily on the relationships I'd established on social media to sell the book. Sure, social media is a valuable asset, but it's only a piece of the puzzle (and boy, this all puzzles me much of the time).

And now for the free books.

With beach reading season upon us, Dana King is making four of his books available for free on the Kindle from June 25-29. Here's the rundown:

A Small Sacrifice
Nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Indie PI Novel, it's the story of Chicago investigator Nick Forte, who is asked to clear the name of a man who has been publicly vilified as the murderer of his young son. Forte learns, while Doug Mitchell might not be guilty, he's no innocent, and the circumstances place Forte and his family in jeopardy.

Grind Joint
Named by the LA Review of Books as one of the fifteen best reads of 2013, Grind Joint is the story of what happens in a small, economically depressed Pennsylvania town when someone gets the bright idea of solving their financial woes by building a low-roller casino. The local cops find themselves up against more than they bargained for when the Russian mob takes an interest.

Worst Enemies
The first of the Penns River books, the story of what can happen when someone takes the scenario of Strangers on a Train way too seriously. Detectives Ben Dougherty and Willie Grabek have to solve two murders organized by a person who is close to both victims, yet operates at some distance.

Wild Bill
A standalone tale of FBI Special Agent Willard "Wild Bill" Hickox, who's ready to retire but wants to put the cherry on his career by bringing down Chicago's Number One crime boss. When a gan war re-arranges all the players, Will must choose between duty, experience, and a combination of the two if he is to ride off into the sunset as planned.

That's me out. Have a good week, everyone.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

News; Bryan Q, Star Killer Star, A Small Sacrifice

By Jay Stringer

Three things to shout about today.

Firstly, ex-DSD writer Bryon Quertermous is open and available for freelance editing work again. If you're a self pubbing author who needs a good eye on your work, or a professional edit, then you won't go wrong with Bryon (just don't feed him after midnight.)

If you're a commissioning editor, or an indie press, why wouldn't you want him to work on some books for you? (Never get him wet.)

His editing site is up and running here. Crime? Sci Fi? Thriller? Fantasy? I don't even know what most of those things are, but he can help you with them.

Next up, my buddy Eyre Price has a new book out today. Star Killer Star is the latest Crossroads Thriller. He mixes music, crime, conspiracy and violence in a way that can only be described as awesome. The book is out in paperback and on kindle right the hell now, so you know what to do.

Here's the Amazon write-up;

So many bright, young music stars lost too soon. Tragic consequences of the pop-rock lifestyle or calculated casualties of a far more sinister plot? 
Sent on a mission by the mysterious Mr. Atibon to discover who really killed Jimi Hendrix, Daniel Erickson uncovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest government offices and corporate boardrooms. When devilish music promoter Haden Koschei sets his sights on a new pair of victims, Daniel’s quest gets personal, as he and his hit man friend, Moog, race down the highway to hell to save their loved ones. It’s a long and winding road, beset with maniacal FBI agents, corporate commandos, and crazed Mexican drug lords. Before Daniel can make it to the big finale, he must first face his own destiny. Star Killer Star is a smart, fast-paced thriller that asks: If fame is power, who controls it? And what are they using it for?

And finally for today, our pal here at DSD, Dana King, is gearing up to give some books away for nada on kindle between June 25-29. That's a total of FOUR books that you'll be able to get for the combined price of ZERO dollars.  I'm pretty sure that counts as one of the best deals ever.

Dana's book A Small Sacrifice  has been nominated for a Shamus Award this year for best indie P.I. novel. The winners will be announced at Bouchercon in November (I'm going to be there this year, by the way, come buy me a drink...I mean....come say hello.)

Here's the blurby bit for A Small Sacrifice;

Detective Nick Forte is not impressed when Shirley Mitchell asks him to clear her son’s name for a murder everyone is sure he committed. Persuaded to at least look around, Forte soon encounters a dead body, as well as the distinct possibility the next murder he’s involved with will be his own. Clearing Doug Mitchell’s name quickly becomes far less important to Forte than keeping references to himself in the present tense.

If you want to be all caught up before then, or if you simply want four bloody good books for the price of none, you'll be able to get them here from tomorrow. And today's post comes with some homework. Hit the twitters and the facebooks and tell people about these three good writers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bulletin Board: Links and Things

(I used to do these more regularly, maybe I should start up again. If only because there are some things that other link round up posts miss that crime fiction peeps might like.)

  • Exhibit A Books, the crime fiction imprint of Angry Robot Books, has closed up shop. I was looking forward to reading Patti Abbott's, Matthew Funk's, Nik Korpon's, and Rob Hart's books and hope that I'll be able to do so soon. Here's hoping that these authors, and the others, will have their rights released in a timely matter.
  • We've had a lively discussion about this over on Facebook. Is Clint Eastwood an overrated director?
  • Dynamite Announces 'Ex Con' Series. Look for it in September:
"Ex-Con #1 begins in 1985 with L.A. con artist Cody Pomeray, who had a gift for looking inside a mark’s soul with just a glance. But one fateful night, he targeted the wrong man — and was sentenced to the most savage prison in California. Pomeray would have been beaten to death on his first day if not for the intervention of Barnaby Creed, the most powerful crime lord in the Southland. Now it is 1989 and Pomeray’s out on parole, robbed of his special ability and tasked with doing Creed “a little favor.” He has no idea he’s just stepped into a long con, and this time, *he’s* the mark!"

  • An Ex-Con Reviews Orange Is The New Black: ""The one thing that drives me nuts about this show is all the snappy banter. I understand that they have to make the show interesting, but if a guard came in and saw that you had smeared food on the wall, they would have thrown a bucket and scrubber in and not fed you again until you cleaned that shit up. They certainly wouldn't have allowed you to talk about the food on the wall, or wait for you to give this quirky explanation. This is like a scene from Blossom or something, where the guard is playing the exasperated Dad character. It's like, "Oh, Piper! What wacky antics have you gotten into now?""
  • "In 1973 a ragtag group of Texans scrounged up $60,000 and created a film so violent and visionary that it shocked the world. But if you thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was strange, then you haven’t heard the story of how it got made."
  • 19 Rare Recordings of Famous Recordings
  • The Palomino: An Oral History: ""Back then there was an element of danger in the bar. There were people drinking and people in the parking lot. There was whiskey flowing. It wasn’t really a super-drug-era place—maybe weed. A lot of honky-tonkers would take uppers so they could drink more. I remember seeing Johnny Paycheck standing at the bar once, and Waylon Jennings. It was just a very impressive, kind of frightening place to be young and go into. When you’re 21, 22, 23, your ‘hanging out at the bar’ chops aren’t up yet. You’re not a man-man, where you go in, stand at the bar, put your money down, and get your drink.""
  • Manchette: Into the Much by James Sallis: "
    Though dredged from the same dark sense of purloined promise as Chandler’s, Manchette’s profoundly leftist, distinctly European stance may be something of a problem for American readers. Like many of his generation, Manchette was influenced by the Situationist Guy Debord, whose theories, elaborated in The Society of the Spectacle, were everywhere during France’s 1968 insurrections. Situationists held that capitalism’s overweening successes came only at the expense of increased alienation, social dysfunction, and a general degradation of daily life; that the acquisition, exchange, and consumption of commodities had forcefully supplanted direct experience, creating a kind of life by proxy; and that liberation might be found in fashioning moments that reawakened authentic desires, a sense of adventure, a ransom from dailiness.

    Again and again one finds similar ideas in Manchette, here as a loose scaffolding holding story parts together, there like bones poking through broken skin. Manchette’s stories clip along at breakneck speed, breath be damned, skimming over polarized societies and forfeited lives, momentum never flagging. And in that disjunction, lightness of surface supporting the heaviness beneath, Manchette found his voice.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I Appointed My Husband as a Troll Buster

I’ve been preparing to have my book enter the world for months, researching how other writers handle things like combining marketing with writing a new project and how they handle the inevitable BAD REVIEW.
Luckily for me, a few months back, my husband appointed himself my Official Troll Buster. He will read my reviews for me and then pass on ones he thinks I might want to see.
Now, let’s just get something straight. I’m not a prima donna writer. I can take constructive feedback with the best of them. So here are some reasons why I am happy my husband—God bless him—is my Official Troll Buster when it comes to people who have things to say about my book and me online.
Not everyone is going to love my book.
Heck, not everyone is going to even like it.
Okay. Let’s get down to brass tacks here: some people might even—GASP—hate it.
There, I said it.
Bully for them.
And here’s an earth shattering revelation: I don’t like every single book that comes my way.
There, I said it in public.
I don’t like every award-winning, NYT bestseller that sells a million copies. Some, yes. All, no.
Reviews are not constructive criticism.
I’ve heard writers say, “Well I like to read my reviews in case it helps me improve for my next book.”
That made sense to me.
I thought really long and hard about whether it would be worth reading negative reviews simply to become a better writer and then I realized … nah. Nuh uh.
Because here’s the thing, unless someone is able to provide constructive criticism of my writing in a way that I can use and learn and improve from as a writer—well, then I’d rather not hear it.
I have a process that garners me invaluable feedback from the first time I let another person read my work.
First off, I have early readers — other novelists I trust who read my books early and give me feedback.
After that, I have a writing group. Supergroup is an amazing group of insightful writers and readers. I trust them completely. They tell me what works and what doesn’t long before I send my manuscripts to my agent and editor.
And the last level of feedback my books get is the incredible editing from my editor at HarperCollins. She is amazing. She is the best of the best in my book. I trust her and will listen to what she has to say. By the time my book hits the world it has been reviewed intensively
This is not my circus. These are not my clowns.
Internet trolls are not your average normal people. At least I hope not.
So I repeat this to myself: this is not my circus, these are not my clowns.
In other words, I’m not involving myself in someone else’s crazy.
I’ve got enough crazy to handle in my own life. I don’t need to invite someone else’s in.
In the good old days, it took time for someone to write a letter complaining about something I had written in the newspaper. It took time, effort, energy, and even money (the stamp) to put their thoughts on paper and send them off to me.
As a result, most of the letters I received were either well thought out arguments or discussion points or just plain crazy. It was easy to distinguish between the two.
Nowadays, any drunk fool who had a bad day can blather on about what an idiot I am and then hit “enter” or “post” on their keyboard and BOOM! Their comment is sent directly to me. And if I hadn’t been raised in the critical world of journalism, it might crush my tender little writer’s ego. But thanks to editors at newspaper, I shed that ego years ago. But that doesn’t mean I want to invite trolls into my world.

Writer friends: Do you read your reviews?

Reader friends: Will you not buy a book based on a negative review?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Going to School with Mr. Mercedes

Scott D. Parker

I finished listening to the new Stephen King book, Mr. Mercedes, earlier this week and I realized that I was in writing school.

Usually, when I read/listen to a book, I’m not aware of the mechanics of what the author’s doing and, to be honest, that happened with King’s new book. I was reminded how remarkable he is at his craft, how he so seamlessly set the hook of the story and just let me along. The first hook is chapter one, set a few years in the past. I didn’t know what was happening until the event that drives (pun intended) the main focus of the story: a deranged man driving a Mercedes plows into a group of people waiting in line at a job fair. What I learned in that simple opening chapter is the deftness of how King made me care for the folks that I knew were going to die. I made what I knew was coming much more difficult.

But it was the story itself, and particularly the construction of the story, that really got me. From chapter two onward, we jump forward one year and follow two characters: the detective who, now retired, never got to solve the case of Mr. Mercedes and the killer himself. In an interesting twist, King reveals the name of the killer early on, allowing us readers to know things the detective does not.

And that’s where the fun begins. As soon as King identified who Mr. Mercedes was, I thought “Why now? Why not drag it out?” Because King used that to great effect, most effectively when the detective made an assumption based on the data he actually had but was completely wrong. The tension was fantastic.

The points of view only focus on the detective and the killer. That kind of format is nothing new, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read a story like that. I really enjoyed it. King wrote the book in present tense that gave the entire experience and immediacy that got me through the hard labor of the unloading and laying of sod. Lastly, there were instances where I thought “Hmm, things are going too well, I’m just waiting for an obstacle to block the detective’s way.” Blammo, there one was.

SPOILER NOW: There was one aspect of the story that really was tension filled: that would be the bomb a the end. You see, King had a habit of having the characters think as if the events had already happened and they were just telling the story. Tus, when King had the detective say (paraphrase): Yeah, sure, have your sister and mom go to the concert; it’ll be fine. Man, I was really antsy on those times.

A word on the narration: Will Patton was excellent. He changed his vocal qualities to match the detective, the killer, and a couple of helpers. He did it so well that you didn’t even need the “he said/she said” to know who was talking.

I definitely recommend the book and, if you read it in hard copy, do so with a pencil and mark this baby up. You won’t regret it.

Do y'all often recognize how well an author writes a book *while you are reading the book"?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Koko Noir

By Steve Weddle

One of the things that Kieran Shea is so good at is kicking expectations in the crotch. Koko Takes a Holiday opens with a shoot-out in a bar. On display is Koko's skill with weapons. The killing and all. Ba,. Etc. It's vivid, clear, and exciting.

Koko escapes. Here comes some bloodbath, right?

Nope. Koko ends up having to ditch all her weapons before the next stop.

It's the little stuff like this that shows Kieran Shea's skills -- on full display. Show your character is a master at something, then take away that strength. See what's left. It's a stripping away to get at, well, at the character of the character. It's brilliant.

Go read the book. Koko Takes a Holiday.

This post fires off on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Tonight, I'll be in Durham, at a bar with some talented writers, doing some reading and signing. I plan to read a Roy Alison story that is set after the conclusion of Country Hardball.

You can read about the event in the Herald Sun or in Indy Week or, you know, just show up.

Seven crime authors will be reading and signing books at the bar 106 Main (located at 106 E. Main St.) in Durham during the city’s first “Noir at the Bar” event. This reading, signing and mingle event begins Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and continues until 9:30.  "Noir at the Bar" is a nationwide movement popularized in St. Louis by authors Scott Phillips, Jedidiah Ayres and others for crime authors to gather, meet, and read their work. Bars in New Orleans, San Francisco, New York and other cities have presented events.Durham's inaugural event will feature Steve Weddle (“Country Hardball”), Grant Jerkins (“The Ninth Step”), Eryk Pruitt (“Dirtbags”), Chad Rohrbacher (“Karma Backlash”), Peter Farris (“Last Call for the Living”), Charles Dodd White (“Sinners of Sanction County”) and Phillip Thompson (“Deep Blood”).Visitors may purchase books at the bar, or may bring their own copies for autographs.Pruitt, who is organizing the evening, hopes this reading will be the first of many “Noir at the Bar” events for Durham.Admission is free. For information, visit and search on “Noir at the Bar.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I've Got the Promo Blues

by Holly West

(sung to the tune of Honky Tonk Blues)

You can hum that while I take care of a little housekeeping:

I released the official cover of my second book, Mistress of Lies, on Monday:

Isn't she pretty?
It's now available for pre-order on Kobo, Kindle, and Nook readers, so do what you do best and go order it.

Pretty please?

Now that's taken care of, we can get on with today's post.

If you've ever thought to yourself, holy bananas, Holly West sure does complain a lot, consider this: I make an effort not to whine too much. So you're getting maybe 50% of the overall gripes that cross my mind. But today, not for the first time, I lamented all the marketing and promotion I have to do as an author, and darn it, I'm gonna do a little kvetching. 

Let me explain: I spent the last couple of days re-designing my website for the billionth time (which is a whole other problem I have, this chronic dissatisfaction with my website and the compulsion to re-do it every two weeks). As part of this process, I visit other author websites and figure out what I like or don't like about them to figure out what features I want to incorporate in my own. This time around, I was hit with the realization that other authors seem to do a much better job with promotion than I do.

In short, I have promo envy.

Actually, it's not so much envy as confusion. I see authors doing loads of different events, getting blurbs, receiving all sorts of reviews, getting lots of ads placed, etc, and I think: Things? Why am I not getting any of these things?

(said like Withnail when he questions why he doesn't have any soup):

Side note: If you've not seen Withnail and I, you must remedy that situation immediately. Don't even finish reading this post, just go watch it now.

In fairness, the fault lies with me when it comes to dropping the promo and marketing ball. I've nothing against it in theory, but when it comes down to actually doing it, I get overwhelmed. If only there was a comprehensive list of things I should be doing and when I should do them. Does a guide like this exist somewhere?

I asked several authors to give me blurbs for Mistress of Fortune. I followed through on only one of them (shout out to Susanna Calkins) because I was too shy to actually send the others the book.

Shyness doesn't sell books, people! Cajones do!

I know that publishers often set these things up for authors. Carina Press did a few things for me, but I should've done a whole lot more myself. With the release of book two, I'm really trying to be proactive about getting the word out to more than just my friends on Facebook.

I also know that a lot of authors work their butts off doing everything themselves. They do anything they can to get the word out. Here's where I fall flat on my face. I do have a "say yes to everything" policy, but I should be going out there and rustling up business instead of letting it all come to me.

Sigh. This is a depressing post. Sorry. Let's leave it at this: What's the most effective marking thing you've done to promote your book? It's hard to know what directly contributes to sales, but the day I did a guest blog post on Chuck Wendig's blog, I saw a big rise in my Amazon ranking. Of course, many authors say Amazon rankings are essentially meaningless, so take that for whatever it's worth.

Now it's your turn. Tell me the secret to selling lots of books. KTHX.