Tuesday, September 30, 2014

There And Back Again.

By Jay Stringer

About three months back my brain went boom. I was angry. I was moody. I was getting sad. A lot. For no real reason. There were days when I'd come home at the end of the day-job and not be able to talk. My chest would be tight. I'd then sit in front of the keyboard to try and write -the thing I was supposed to enjoy- and find I had nothing left. I would sit up until four or five in the morning trying to find whatever I had lost.

In short, I was not fun to be around.

I realised I'd been feeling this way for a while. That I felt like I'd been having a slow heart attack for many months and that my my brain had felt neglected and decided to get in on the act.

I went to the Doctor, after a few weeks of refusing to seek help, and he told me straight away that I was all kinds of nuts.

I joke. He didn't say that at all. A Doctor wouldn't use the phrase "all kinds."

I was signed off from the day job and I've been off ever since. I'm due to go back next week and, in all honesty, I can't afford to stay off any longer.

For the first few weeks of being off, I made the mistake of trying to continue writing. I was treating it like a holiday and doing what I always do when I'm on holiday from the day-job; writing. I was still fighting with the blank page and still getting angry over something I didn't understand. After that, my better half pointed out that the Doctor had told me to stop working and that I hadn't done what he said. I wasn't on holiday, I was supposed to be healing.

So I finally let a few people in on what was going on, and stopped writing.

I filled my time with reading, sleeping, and cleaning the flat (though I'm overplaying how much of that I did, really.) The most important thing I did was starting to ride my bike. We live only half a mile from the River Clyde, and every day I would get out on my single speed (later, fixed gear) bike and ride. Ten miles at first, then fifteen, then twenty to twenty five miles a day. Along the river or through the city. On abandoned cycle paths or in crazy busy traffic. I could do more now. I could easily do thirty or forty, but I find the current amount is what I need.

After a few weeks of that, you start realise what's important. Perspective comes back, and your priorities snap back into place.  It's going to be different for everybody. I needed to get back to writing. I was itching for it. I got back at my desk and carried on with the current book, and with work that I owed to a few people. Eventually I remembered DSD was still here, waiting.

Why am I writing all of this?

Well, I'm a writer, it's what I do.

But it's also important to say some of this. We don't talk about mental health enough in any walk of life. And in ours, in this crazy writing profession we've chosen, the vast majority of us are holding down more than one job. Some of us get to really enjoy the other job, some of us get to really hate it. But regardless, on top of that, we also have families, friends, commitments. We have skin that would like to see the sun from time to time, and lungs that want to be out in the fresh air.

As writers, we have the odds stacked against our health. Chances are you're spending too many hours of your life sat down. Too much time staring at information on a bright screen. You're also spending way too many or your waking (and sleeping) hours letting the writing take over sections of your brain.

I see it affecting friends, and I saw it affect me.

If you're feeling in a bad way, talk to someone. And if you recognise any of the signs in what I've said, then make changes. For me, I'm done writing at weekends. Once my day job is done for the week on a Saturday afternoon, I'm done using my brain again until Monday. And I'll be out on my bike every day, whatever it takes to find the time to do it.

Whatever changes you need to make to balance your life out, start them today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Goodwill - my favorite used book store

My local Goodwill has been a source of some great book finds over the years. I've come to think of it as a good quality used book store rather then a place where James Patterson, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz novels wind up. I've found signed books and out of print books. Books by Jess Walter, Joyce Carol Oates, Ken Bruen, Duane Swierczynski, Terrill Lankford, Boston Teran, and many others.

One trend I've been able to capitalize on is paperbacks. Clearly my town is filled with guys (presumably) with large pulp, western, men's adventure, and Gold Medal collections which pass through the store a couple of times a year. This has happened so many times that I started to wonder why. One possibility is that it is a town in a rural farming county with older men whose paperback collections from 40+ years ago don't interest their kids and grand kids (those who might be cleaning out a house, attic, or garage) not interested in what is int he boxes or on the shelves.  Another possibility is that my town is more of a book town then the lack of book stores may indicate (One BAM at the mall, one used store). This could be the case because one of the main Random House warehouses and offices is here in town, employing a large number of people with access to different company functions (major authors have passed through town for some of them).

Below the jump are some of the best of my book loot (lots of pics)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Drawing from real life

By Kristi Belcamino

When BLESSED ARE THE DEAD first came out, several journalist friends contacted me and said they recognized the pesky reporter antagonist, May, as someone we knew mutually.

But they were wrong.

While May was loosely based on a reporter I knew (and let's be honest here, disliked and was never friends with), the character is more of a composite than a real portrayal of that grabby, sociopathic, backstabbing reporter—whoops, did all that slip out?—who now is doing quite well as an extremely successful reporter.

But I digress.

What I've found is that I do draw aspects of my characters from people I know in real life.

For instance, Gabriella Giovanni's best friend, Nicole, is a loose composite made up of parts of my real life beloved reporter friends, Claire Booth and Celeste Altus. But the majority of her character and personality comes from my imagination. She is a made-up person that has some cool traits from my close friends.

Readers say one of their favorite characters is the photographer, Chris Lopez, known as C-Lo. He is a bad ass photographer who saw some crazy stuff in Vietnam and lives and breathes journalism.

Although one of my favorite editors in the world is named Chris Lopez, he and my book's photog character are really nothing alike.

I've heard that people you know who read your books will see themselves in characters who are nothing like them and not see themselves in characters you've modeled after them. Does that make sense?

For instance, one author I know based a character upon his mother and then worried when he gave her the book to read. Her response? "I loved your book and boy was that mother awful!"

Go figure.

All this came up when a journalism friend wrote me to say she enjoyed BAD and asked about the characters and people we knew. I messaged her and told her she should know that book two has a character with a similar name to hers because I wanted to give the character a cool name and do a small wink/nod to her in doing so. I sent her the passage, a few paragraphs of the character with the similar name. But after I sent it and didn't immediately here from her, I freaked out because she is an awesome reporter and cool chick and I hoped she liked what I had done with the character who shared a similar name.

Thank God, she later wrote and said she was honored because that was my intent, to give a nod and wink to my friends and those I've worked with over the years. But what if she hadn't? Or what if someone thinks a character who is awful is based on them? Then what? Tricky stuff, huh?

Not to mention in August, I told my priest friend that an entire major character was based on him and I hoped it didn't get him in trouble with the Archbishop -- Thank God, he laughed and said not to worry and then started telling all his friends that he was in a book! Then, he had his nun friend read the book and find the parts with him in it. (Which was great until I realized the first two pages alone have 15 F-bombs in them. Sigh.)

Then, coincidentally, also today, I got an email from a dear friend of mine. She said I could share it here:

"Kristi:  thanks for our 15 minutes of fame!!!   I had to read real slow to make it last that long or I guess you can look at it that we will always and forever be characters in print.  When I read Canadian with spiky red hair i wondered and then knew for sure when her husband's name is Arnt and they come to surf every year.  Thanks for thinking of us.  Made us remember our first meeting with you two when you arrived in the little bug with the little tent and camped beside our big camp."

So, dear writer and reader friends, what are your thoughts on this?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Going to School with the Self-Publishing Podcast

Scott D. Parker

If school teachers were more like Sean, Johnny, and Dave, we’d all make straight A’s.

The three amigos in question are Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David W. Wright. They write an astounding amount of fiction per year (1.5 million words!) in multiple genres but, more important to this discussion, they host a weekly podcast on self-publishing.

I found their podcast via Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast. Hers is a wonderful podcast featuring interviews and updates on Joanna’s career. I’ve been listening to both sets of podcasts in reverse order. Joanna interviewed Johnny in April 2014 and, from there, I discovered his podcast.

The Self-Publishing Podcast is chock full of camaraderie, fun, information, and a palpable zeal for writing in the 21st Century. I listen to their podcasts at the day job--you can see them live on YouTube--and they help me get through my workday. I make notes throughout the day just listening to the three of them talk and banter about the wide world of indie publishing. It’s like a college lecture only with more speed. And laughter. And swearing, so if that’s a thing for you, well, get over it and still listen to the podcast.

The latest episode is #125 so, if you are just discovering them like I am, you have over 100 hours of lessons to learn. But it’s fun learning. They just talk and I absorb. Most of the hour-long episodes start with general chit-chat about the week’s work, maybe a voice mail from a fan, and then an interview with a guest. For the past two weeks, I’ve basically listened to nothing else but the SPP, the Creative Penn, and Ace Frehley’s new album, Space Invader. (Excellent LP, by the way. Dude can write some wicked licks.).

A few highlights:

  1. Any episode with Tucker Max

I’ve learned lots from these three, but if there’s one underlying philosophy, it’s this: write what you want, write it as fast as you can, make sure it’s good, get it out in the world, and then do it again. If you fail, so what? You’ll learn from it and get better.

If there’s such a thing as required listening for tips, tricks, pitfalls, and successes in indie publishing, then the Self-Publishing Podcast is required. To paraphrase their book on publishing, Subscribe. Listen. Learn. Repeat.

Friday, September 26, 2014


By Russel D McLean

Since we moved into the Gothic Monstrosity last year, we have tweaked and adjusted the interior in many ways. The Literary Critic has gone to town painting and restoring furniture while I have mostly got out the way and focussed on the office. Its now finally getting to where we want it, but while the office was almost complete, something was missing.

And now its here.

A typewriter. From what I can tell this one's from somewhere around '53-'57 and still in great working order. I have in fact now put in a piece of paper with the opening paragraph to The Big Sleep typed up. And it works. It is the missing piece of the puzzle for me. Suddenly the room feels right. And in the few days since adding that last piece, my productivity seems to have increased.


I think there's something to be said for mascots and tokens. I think that some things can help to focus the mind and serve as a reminder of what you're attempting to achieve. I learned to write on my dad's old typewriter. Having one of my own even if its purely decorative reminds me of why I'm still doing this in a way. Its a connection to what's important to me about writing. Even the years in which the typewriter was created matters, too. I had expected to find a piece of old junk that didn't work. When I picked up that beauty (at a bargain price, too) I felt better about the fact that it worked, that it was in perfect condition. Its too loud, of course, to use regularly, and I'm very happy typing at a computer, but I think there's something quite beautiful about typewriters of that era; a kind of slick hope for the future that has vanished from design.

Or maybe I'm just mad. Maybe I'm just filled with a strange nostalgia for the past. Might explain why I also have a vinyl player, why most of my music is from the 60s and 70s, long before I was born.

All writers have habits and tokens and things they keep around when writing. For me, the typewriter is something I've yearned to have for a long time and now that its here, I feel like my writing space is complete; other things will be window dressing but I now have something there that reminds me, every day, where I've come from and what I'm hoping to achieve.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Fitbit taught me about writing

By Steve Weddle

In an attempt to get my cholesterol below 350 and my resting heart rate under 90, I’ve moved from a breakfast of bacon and egg croissant to bacon and egg on whole wheat bagels. Additionally, I got a Fitbit thingy to tell me how many steps I’ve walked and how many times I got up in the middle of the night to pee.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned from this: never stop to count your steps. I mean, you’d think I’d have learned this from the Kenny Rogers song, but I’m thicker than a hamburger patty from Eddie’s Oklahoma City BBQ and DVD Rental Shoppe.

If you stop to count your steps, you’re asking for trouble. Maybe you’re close enough to your goal to stop. See, they give you some crazy goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is something like 50 miles or so, I think. So I lowered mine to 1,200, figuring that was more achievable and a nice round number. 

Anyway, if you stop and look, you’re doomed. Like the cartoon of the coyote who looks down walking across the chasm. Or the Andrew Hudgins poem that mentions the cartoon of the coyote who looks down walking across the chasm. Or the blog post that mentions the Andrew Hudgins poem that mentions the cartoon of the coyote who looks down walking across the chasm.

As a writer, you should follow this advice. Never, ever send your work to anyone until you’re done. Never. It’s asking for trouble.

In my younger and less-middle-of-the-night-peeing years, I’d sometimes finish a chapter and immediately send it off to fellow writers asking what they thought. All I wanted was for them to say, “Golly, you’re pretty amazing. This is some fantastic writing. I’m so jealous of your skills.”

But my friends are complete assholes.

Instead, they’d say specific things. “Oh, I like how this is going. You plan to have the two of them get together later in the book?”

What? I hadn’t. But now should I? Or if I do, is it obvious that it’s coming? I mean, I shouldn’t because I hadn’t meant to, but maybe I should because it would be a good idea? My lord.
Or they’d make more pointed suggestions. I lost them because I didn’t explain the multiverse well enough. Was the cat talking or just thinking about a Rimsky-Korsakov-themed restaurant. Maddening, I tell you.

When you’re writing, just make up things to tell people. When they say, “How’s the writing going” just tell them it’s going fine.

Don’t tell them anything you’re really doing. Don’t share anything.

Most people just ask about your writing hoping you’ll ask about theirs -- like when people ask about your kids.

Don’t tell them. Don’t say anything.

Just write. Just keep taking your steps.

When you hit your 100,000 words or your 1,000 steps, then you can talk to people about it.

Never talking about the doing. Only talk about the done.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Which Way is Up?

by Holly West

My life feels crazy right now and I'm not sure how to handle it.

I just had to put that out there, you know?

My husband and I are contemplating a major move from Los Angeles to the area in Northern California where I grew up. We spent last week up there looking at houses and feeling overwhelmed. We did end up putting an offer on something but it wasn't accepted. I was disappointed about that at first but now, back home in Venice, I'm kind of glad we don't have to pack up and leave just yet.

None of this really relates to writing except that for me, everything relates to writing. In this case, it's my identity as an "LA" writer. The thing is, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who thinks of myself as an LA writer because A) I don't generally write about LA and B) who cares anyway? If I can write about London sitting in my office here in Venice then I can certainly write about LA while enjoying the lush landscape of Northern California.

I've only recently become really involved in the LA writing community, primarily through our local chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Both groups have become important to me and while I know LA is just a quick plane flight away, there's no question it will be more difficult to participate if I'm in Northern California. I plan on becoming involved with the NorCal chapters of these organizations but establishing myself in these new communities feels daunting.

Ultimately, I know this potential move has less to do with my writer-self and everything to do with the fact that I've lived in Los Angeles for over 25 years and I'm reluctant to move on. This city is a part of me. We've looked at the pros and cons of moving and in so many ways, the pros outweigh the cons--much more house and land for the money, a more relaxed lifestyle, and proximity to family and friends that we don't currently have are just a few of the reasons we're considering this change. But in the face of my uncertainty, the cons loom large, taking on much more significance than they deserve.

It sounds like I'm trying to talk myself into this, doesn't it?

I don't know what our final decision will be, but as far as the immediate future is concerned, I have a book coming out. Mistress of Lies will be published on September 29, just six short days from now. It's hard for me to believe that at this time last year, I was still writing it.

It's also a good reminder about how fortunate I feel to be a part of the writing community at large. Deep down inside, it doesn't matter where I'm located and you can't say that about every job. It's good to have some freedom.

Finally, I've found that the one thing that calms me when all of this indecision starts to rage inside my head is writing. Immersing myself in my work. This is the first time that I've ever truly found solace in writing and that's comforting.

I'm guessing a lot of you out there have made a major move at some point in your life. Care to share with the group about how that turned out? What about moving from the city to the country? How did you cope with the drastic lifestyle change?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Small Press Logos

Not too long ago our very own Scott D Parker wrote about logos and publishing houses.  In response I thought it might be fun to round up some of the logos from small presses.

(A quick note on methodology. I made a list and pulled the logos from Google Images. So if something wasn't available it isn't here. Because I limited myself to Google I was sometimes limited by image size and quality.)

What do you think of these logos? What do they tell you? Do the ones without words work better?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

There is no free lunch

By Kristi Belcamino

When you write a book, very rarely is it a solo effort.

You write the words, but then there are so many other people who make a book possible. In my case, that includes my husband, my agent, my editor, my writer's group, my beta readers, and so on.

That is why the acknowledgment page is so important.

I want to always thank those who help me and if I could I'd give every one of them a free copy of my book.

In fact, when good friends, my mom, members of my writing group, etc., buy my book, I can't help but feel a little guilty—as if I should give them a copy of my book for free.

Because I would really like to do that.

But I'm not rich. And that's the crux of it.

When BLESSED ARE THE DEAD was published, I received two advanced copies. My husband snagged one and I grabbed the other. Two. Free. Copies. That's it. Yup.

So if I were to give away books for free, I'd basically be buying the books out of my own pocket and giving them away.

I wish I could.

But the truth is there is no free lunch for authors.

Sure, some might get a few copies here and there to give to reviewers, but in my case. Not so much.

I've purchased copies of my own book to bring to library author talks, book club meetings, and other gatherings. As grateful as I am to have someone buy my book - thank you, thank you, thank you - it is always a big strange to take the money myself.

So, when my friends buy my books, I always feel guilty.

Grateful, but guilty.

I know that's silly because I am always happy to buy my friend's books, but STILL. It's just a little bit of an uncomfortable situation.

It gets even more awkward when someone, maybe a friend who isn't connected to the book world at all, who assumes you get a boatload of free books, asks for one. Nicely asks for one. And does not mean anything bad by it, would just really like to have one of your books.  I never know how to handle that either.

How do you handle that graciously? Any advice is welcome.

For now, I say thank you and hope that is enough.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Richard Castle is Missing

Scott D. Parker

I’ve made  no bones about my love for the TV show “Castle.” I’ve pretty much loved it since the promo--Thank you, Nathan Fillion!--and the pilot just solidified this show as one of my modern favorites. But one thing put it over the top, the meta top.

As a refresher, the character of Richard Castle is a novelist who teams up with a New York police detective, Kate Beckett, to serve as “inspiration” for his new character, Nikki Heat. When the second season aired, a funny thing happened: an actual, real book was on actual, real store shelves. And it mirrored the events of season two and was referenced in multiple episodes.

This trend has continued every season. New season equals new “Richard Castle” novel. Each novel has a picture of Nathan Fillion on the back and the book bio is the character you see on television. I know. Very meta.

So, this past week, the newest Richard Castle book, Raging Heat, the sixth in the series, was published. Now, you know that the season finale last May had Castle himself mysteriously disappear on his wedding day. To keep up the ultra-metaness, the acknowledgements are written not by Richard Castle, but a “Junion Editor.” The Editor is doing that because...wait for it...Richard Castle has gone missing.

Am I the only one who thinks this kind of thing is way cool. BTW, I’m enjoying the book. I ended up buying the hardback rather than the ebook this time.

One irritation, however, is the audio. For one thing, it’s not available until November, I think. What’s with that? All editions should be available at the same time. The other thing that’s even more irritating is that the original narrator for the first four books, Johnny Heller, didn’t do book five. Nor is he doing the current book. I really liked the way Heller did the narration. He embodied the characters and gave them a unique voice. As I tweeted this week, I’ll be reading the new book but only hearing Heller’s voice.

Anybody else like this meta-Castle thing? The new season premieres on 29 September. The DVD set for season 6 is out. Time for all things "Castle."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Schrodinger's Scotland

By Russel D McLean

Russel voted one way or the other in the Scottish Referendum. This post was written the day before the referendum results were announced.

This morning Scotland is or isn't an independent country.

This morning Alex Salmond either battered his head off a table or danced a slightly inappropriate and half-cut jig.

This morning David Cameron sent a silent prayer of thanks heavenwards before striding out to meet the press with a confident swagger or he had a small cry and tried to figure out where to go from here.

This morning people were either incredibly happy or downcast and disappointed (in fact probably both are true given the split in opinion)

This morning some people will make a lot of money on the bookies or they will lose a lot of money.

One certainty this morning is that things will change. Whether Scotland votes yes or no we will all have some serious thinking to do both north and south of the border.

One certainty is that to make the best out of whatever happens we need to think about who we are - regardless of nationality - and the kind of future we want to create.

One certainty is that if you thought about your vote and cast it with the best faith you had, considering all the arguments you heard and the things that matter to you as a person, then you did the right thing. What happens next is that everyone takes a deep breath, shakes hands with those they may have disagreed with, and works together to move forward.

One certainty is that whatever changes come, they will not happen overnight, regardless of which way the vote swings.

One hope is that no one should cast blame anywhere, fall out with family and friends, or get angry with those who thought differently to them.

Whichever way we vote, there is uncertainty. There always is. But let's see, now, what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thrill Your Idols

By Alex Segura

I've had the honor of meeting a lot of authors and creative people I admire - in comics, literature and music. As a publicist (my day job), you have to steel yourself a bit, because the last thing you want to do in a professional setting is geek out about someone you're working with. That being said, I think all of us have other writers we hold up as pseudo-rock stars. We read all their work. They were hugely influential to us, etc.

Last night, I got to listen to James Ellroy read from his latest (and he'll tell you his greatest) novel, Perfidia, at The Mysterious Bookshop. I had a blast. It was something I'd been looking forward to for months and was kind of nervous about. I've read almost every word Ellroy's published and he - along with Pelecanos, Lehane, Block, Lippman and a few others - are on that list for me. Authors that I not only admire, but point to as huge influences and reasons for me even considering the idea of becoming a novelist myself.

So, yeah, this was a big deal. But it got me to thinking about idols and mentors and putting people up on a pedestal - and the downside of that. I've been lucky enough to meet most of the living authors I look up to and feel inspired by, but what I found most rewarding from those exchanges is discover the writers were funny, charming and friendly - they're people, too. It sounds silly to type, but it's the truth. Yes, they have foibles, bad days and their own problems. But we all do.

I think you gain a lot more being in the moment and enjoying a quick conversation with someone whose work you greatly admire as opposed to building it up to be something it can never be - or being disappointed at the end result because it didn't meet some unrealistic expectation.

Anyway, this was a quickie, mostly because I'm curious to hear stories from you guys about similar instances and how they went. Have you had positive or not-so-positive moments with authors you look up to?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Going Digital

by Holly West

When Carina Press made the offer to publish my Mistress of Fortune novels, I was really excited. I'd been working toward getting published for years, had spent months polishing the first book, and had queried many agents in my pursuit of a publishing deal. In so many ways, the offer from Carina Press was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Carina is the digital imprint of Harlequin, which meant that the book would be, at least initially, ebook only. I'd be lying if that didn't give me some pause. But it didn't take me long to make my decision. At this point in my reading life, virtually 100% of the books I read are ebooks. I will occasionally buy a print version when it's a friend and I want a signed copy, but I almost always buy the ebook as well so I can read it on my eReader. And you know what? I read at least 15% more books than I used to as a result. Sure, I love print--I will always love print. But for everyday reading--books I don't intend to collect-- ebooks are my jam. So why wouldn't I consider an ebook-only deal? That pretty much settled it for me.

Carina Press is known more for romance than mystery, but nevertheless they're proving themselves a contender in the genre. Dear Author says:

"I think Carina Press mysteries are overlooked despite being really good. They don’t have a name for mysteries…yet. The reviews for this book are largely positive and all of them comment on the smart mixture of both historical fiction and crime fiction." 
On September 29, Carina Press will publish my latest novel, Mistress of Lies, along with three other unique mysteries that I'm really excited about. I asked these authors to tell me why they chose to go with a digital deal like I did.

Ricardo Sanchez, author of Elvis Sightings says:
"As much as I love my old books, and enjoy thumbing through well loved pages, the reality is that almost all of my new reading, be it comics, fiction or the news, takes place digitally. When I was thinking about what kind of publisher I wanted for my book, I made a decision to look for someone with a digital first approach to publishing, as well as a company with a deep relationship with their readership. Carina fit the bill perfectly. Plus, their editors are spectacularly talented. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The one downside to digital is that I had to buy my mom an eReader so she could download my book, but it was time she joined the 21st century anyway." 
Rosie Claverton, th UK-based author of Code Runner, has this to say:
"For me, the appeal of a digital deal was all about the publisher. Carina Press are a small press, so everyone knows everyone and everyone's in the know. Most of the editors are on Twitter and they're friendly and approachable. Their open submissions policy, similar to other digital-first publishers, means that I worked directly with my editor from the word go.
My friends and relatives took a while to get used to the ebook-only option, but they soon get behind the idea when they realise the prices! When books are affordable, they reach a wider audience and I'm delighted at how quickly folks snap them up."
And finally, Julie Anne Lindsey, author of Murder in Real Time, says:
"You know what’s harder to explain to friends and family than the fact they can’t put my book on their bookshelf because it’s only available digitally – as in not tangibly – not at the bookstore or Walmart or Target? Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing more confusing, frustrating and ridiculous than explaining the concept of a digital book deal to people who aren’t digital readers. Even the casual-ebook-enthusiasts assume all books have a print option. 
They don’t. Seriously. They just don’t. *shakes head slowly* No.
So, why on earth would anyone intentionally choose a digital only or digital first publisher? Well, maybe it’s just me, but personally, I think digital presses are amazing. In the five years since I started writing, I’ve seen catastrophic landscape changes to the face of this industry and a massive shift in the dynamic between traditional publishers and their tech-first counterparts. I love that books can be offered at a jaw-dropping low-low prices (and occasionally FREE), thus making those stories affordable to anyone. I love that people can read my books on their laptop, tablet or smart phone. I love being part of a new era in publishing. Thanks to publishers like Carina Press, I’m making friends, finding readers and reaching my dreams."
I'm looking forward to our collective release day, September 29. Here's the scoop on our books:

 About Elvis Sightings:

When Floyd is sent to Kresge Wyoming to prove, once and for all, that Elvis didn’t die on the toilet, he’s beaten up, roped into a search for a missing town councilman, and threatened by government agents. If he can manage to survive a Viking re-enactment and the clubs of men in black, he might just save the town, find Elvis and get the bearded lady.

Carina Press
Barnes & Noble

About Code Runner:

Ex-con Jason Carr is framed for murder and agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane must prove his innocence before the police, gangs and the mastermind behind it all, hunt him down.

Carina Press
Barnes & Noble

About Murder in Real Time:

Mayhem, murder and a sexy secret agent follow downsized FBI worker Patience Price as she returns to her sleepy seaside hometown of Chincoteague, Virginia. When two members of a travelling reality television show are killed in a room at the local B&B—a room usually occupied by Patience's FBI agent boyfriend, Sebastian—she finds herself on the case. Sebastian doesn't want Patience ruffling any feathers but, as always, she can't help herself.


Carina Press
Barnes & Noble

About Mistress of Lies:

A beggar girl claiming to be Isabel Wilde’s niece reveals that Isabel’s brother, Adam, was murdered during the plague. Isabel must take up an impossible task: discover the truth about her brother’s death, twelve years after it happened.


Carina Press
Barnes & Noble

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crime TV round up

For those willing to venture away from network TV (which seems to be happening more and more) there are a few crime TV shows worth taking a look at. Here's some of what's out there.

The Killing

The end of the first season of The Killing justifiably didn't sit well with viewers, enough to cast a shadow over future seasons.It limped along into a third season before being canceled, then it got picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final season. The entire series is available to stream on Netflix right now. But here's the thing, season three is pretty damn good. Over on FB I wrote a lengthier piece of criticism of the show. Here I'll just say this. It is a very flawed show but it is a also a show that has a lot of good things too. So if you have Netflix consider checking out the rest of the series (even if that means just starting with season 3).

Top of the Lake

This show has a lot of good talk around it. Justifiably so. A couple of powerhouse performances, a slow burn case, something to say, and a strong sense of place all contribute to one hell of a show.

The Fall

The Fall is worth watching but here's the thing. From the jump there were things about the show that bothered me. In some cases little things, in other cases bigger things. These things accumulated enough to where this became a problematic show for me. It's highly regarded and your mileage may vary. The biggest sin this show commits however, and is worth knowing ahead of time, is that there is no conclusion. But like I said, it is worth checking out, and I'll likely check out season 2 whenever it comes out.

Happy Valley

I really liked Happy Valley and would give it my strongest recommendation. The main character is complex and portrayed brilliantly. The supporting characters all have a depth to them. The story often flies along at an insane pace, especially the middle two episodes which are some of the darkest on TV. Unlike The Fall it actually has a full story to tell. Happy Valley is on Netflix.


I finally got around to watching the third season of Luther and it continues to amaze. A stunning dark crime fiction series and one of my favorites.


Secrets & Lies

Give Secrets & Lies some credit for originality. It's a police procedural told from the point of view of the prime suspect. As his world gets torn apart and closely scrutinized he takes it upon himself to clear his name. This is a great idea for a crime story and is smartly executed. It is also being remade for American TV (trailer here) so you should check out the original now. The original is 6 episodes long and the remake runs longer. My fear of the remake is that the idea can't support that many episodes.

What crime tv shows have you enjoyed recently?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Swallowing a Bad Review

By Kristi Belcamino

My first book came out June 10 and while it has received mostly glowing reviews, I've always been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I mean, it is completely normal for an author to receive scathing reviews, right?

See, the thing is, I've been preparing for bad reviews way before I was published: I appointed my husband as my troll buster, followed @AvoidComments (Don't Read Comments) on Twitter, and stopped my Google search terms that would automatically send me posts with my name in it. Forget all that.

As of this week, I have two books out and they have a combined total of 91 reviews.

Out of those reviews, I can honestly say only two are real duds.

But here's the thing, those two stick with you.

As much as I promised myself I wouldn't read the reviews, I still do. I read them. I check Amazon a few days a week to read new reviews and to see my ranking. It's sad but true. I can't just pretend like they don't exist. At least not right now when the shine of having my first book out is still so exciting.

And here's the other thing about those two duds — more than anything I want to respond to them. I want to defend myself. Isn't that just human nature? But of course, even if I were able to respond, I know that is completely the wrong thing to do.

Before I was published, I read lots of articles about bad reviews.

I was even told that bad reviews sell more books than good reviews. (Go figure!)

A few people suggested thanking the person for reading and saying that while this particular book of yours wasn't right for them, you hoped that maybe another book of yours would be.

But you can't do that on Amazon and frankly, it sounds all good in theory, but I still think it is a bad idea. Better to just sit back and keep your trap shut.

Because there are some areas where you can respond — if a blogger hates you, you can email that person or leave a comment on the blog. But don't do it.

Or how about on Goodreads? You can message that person ... or not.

The only cure for getting over a bad review is to keep writing.

In fact, as a writer, I'd say that this little piece of advice — keep writing — is the only cure for 99 percent of the maladies we face as authors.

Scott nailed it in his post below and I love the hashtag @AlwaysBeWriting. I'm using it now too! Thanks Scott.

Dear readers, do you have any thoughts on bad reviews?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Always Be Writing

Scott D. Parker

Back in the day, when mass market paperbacks were first invented, I imagine there were a lot of people who suddenly realized “Wow, I can take the book I’m reading and stick it in my back pocket and carry it around with me.” The portability of a paperback meant that avid readers could always read, in line at the grocery store, the post office, wherever. Same for the boys who fought in World War II. Paperbacks were light and took up relatively little space. It was a good thing.

Fast forward to today’s smartphone and iPods and tablets. For avid readers, being able to carry a literal library of reading material is one of the best things for readers who don’t mind reading on a screen. Now, with all the apps like Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc., we readers never are without a book. Moreover, for those of us with ereaders at home, our progress is synced along the way. Throw in audiobooks and this is truly a golden age for readers.

I’ve been both kinds of person in my lifetime. I used to carry paperbacks in my pocket, I used to read on my Palm Pilot (!), and now I enjoy having my iPod Touch G5 with me all the time. It’s remarkable and nothing new.

What is new is on the writer’s side of things. If you’ve read some recent posts, you’ll know that I have a day job and on five-minute breaks at said job, I pull out my iPod and write a few paragraphs of my story. In fact, I tweeted this week a milestone in that type of writing:

997. The number of words I wrote today on my iPod Touch in seven 5-min. breaks at the day job. Yes, it can be done. #AlwaysBeWriting

I used the hashtag “AlwaysBeWriting.” I’m not a huge hash tagger and others have already used that tag and my subconscious just reminded me. Don’t care. But it made me think of my recent activities as I’m walking around this earth with this little computer in my pocket and I realized something remarkable: I was pulling the iPod out not to read something but to advance my current book.

Was I really? What did I do at Kroger last weekend? Hmm, I wrote a few sentences. What did I do last month when I took the boy to the dentist? Wrote. Standing around the kitchen waiting for the beef to be browned and the water to boil? Wrote. During a commercial break while watching “Face/Off” or “Project Runway?” Discuss which artist was the best and whom to send home. Gotcha, but you see my point.

For me, having this little device has enabled me to always have my active *first draft* manuscript with me. If I have two or five or ten minutes free during the day, I can choose to write and I often do.

Every little sentence gets you closer to The End, even if those sentences are written while waiting in line somewhere you’d never think you could write. That’s what I meant by the hashtag #AlwaysBeWriting.

Am I alone in this new realization? Are y’all always writing?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blood. Bullets. Beer. Russel.

By Russel D McLean

A quick one this week and then next week back to a longer post (again it will be about New York but maybe not in the way you expect)

The last two weeks have been spent in New York. Well, not two weeks, but rather the last two Fridays (the joy of freelancing is that you can head off somewhere midweek to midweek, which is what we did, although factoring in the 24 hour return journey, we wound up getting back late on the second Friday).

I love New York. I truly do. Looking at my passport I've been back there about five years out of the last six. Its a city that keeps on giving, and what it had to give me this time around was Noir at the Bar.

If you've been keeping an eye on Facebook, you'll have seen that there is now a Noir at the Bar Glasgow page. This was set up by myself and Jay Stringer and I promise you that soon (probably the new year) we will start getting folk together to being you a night that will hopefully equal the one I had in New York.

If you haven't done Noir at the Bar, its a very different kind of author event. More like a poetry slam for hardboiled writers, I guess. You get an allotted time period during which you can read whatever the hell you like. Me, I chose to read a bit from the new book, where Josh Bazell chose to tell a story that started of sounding like he was setting up the reading but wound up being a bit of a clever-clever performance piece. There were veteran authors and some reading their first works. There were novelists, short story writers and all kinds. There were so many variations on crime fiction being read. But what struck me most was how relaxed it all was. Its the first first book event I've done that wasn't about selling books. Did it have an effect on sales? I don't know, but it was a fun way to spend the evening and far more relaxed than most other author events I've done. Probably the flowing beer helped. A lot. That and the raffle draw.

Ahhh, the raffle draw.

The one where each writer drew a ticket after their reading and the winner got one of the prizes donated by the organisers. The one where a certain Scotsman reached in and drew out... his own ticket! (I demanded a redrawing... and luckily it wasn't The Literary Critic's ticket!)

Anyway, my point is that it was a great evening and it was good to see a literary event that was more relaxed, more casual and more accessible in some ways. The lack of emphasis on sales (there was no bookstall) was interesting and I think its the kind of thing that runs on the enthusiasm of the organisers and participants. there are variations on Noir at the Bar throughout the US. Off the top of my head, New York, St Louis, LA, Washington and others have hosted and are hosting therse events. If there's one near you I heartily recommend you try. And, you know, if we ever get Glasgow fully off the ground, I think its gonna be damned good!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer

From the woods of Colorado to the dive bars of Denver, Benjamin Whitmer’s CRY FATHER creates a setting, a mood that digs into you like a splinter.

Hiding in a small cabin with his dog, Patterson Wells works professionally at disaster clean-up, travelling across the country following storms to clear debris and get the power back on. In his personal life, though, he can’t seem to do the same. For Patterson, the disaster was the death of his son due to a doctor’s mistake. Not only did this take the life of Patterson’s son, but it also destroyed his relationship with the boy’s mother. Now, she comes calling on Patterson to join her in a suit against the doctor, to put some sort of closure on the tragedy.  But Patterson isn’t interested in clearing the debris of his son. Instead, he lives with his son’s memory, writing the boy letters much like you or I would write a diary.

In the meantime, Patterson’s neighbor is having trouble with his own drug-running son, Junior, a man with his own broken relationships. This novel is about fathers and sons, sure. But it's also about relationships of all kinds, including those we have with ourselves.

Soon enough, Patterson and Junior are pushed together, in a world fueled with drugs and violence.

As Patterson tells it, 
The main problem with cocaine is that you never really have enough of it. Even on a binge, you’ve usually got just enough to keep yourself in nosebleeds and self-hatred.

And that’s this book – the external and internal battles, everyone fighting against everyone, including themselves. This story is rich in darkness, not just in the sense of the violence and drugs and despair, but in the delving down into the souls of the characters, the digging deeper than most novels even consider. You can argue pigments and colors all you like, but I’ll tell you this much: CRY FATHER is not dark because of an absence of light, but dark because it contains so much.

The ending of this novel, as befits a book by Benjamin Whitmer, is as unavoidable as it is surprising.

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (September 16, 2014)

Full disclosure: Ben Whitmer said a nice thing about my novel last year.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All's Fair in Art and War

by Holly West

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I watched Tim's Vermeer. This documentary follows inventor Tim Jenison in his quest to understand the painting techniques employed by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, who lived and painted in Holland from 1632-1665. Jenison's theory is that Vermeer used optical devices to achieve photorealism in his paintings.

The Glass of Wine

I must admit: Jenison presents a compelling case. He begins by asserting that Vermeer could not have achieved the shadowing and light effects apparent in his paintings by using his painterly eyes alone--that in fact, the human eye is incapable of registering these details without some assistance. Jenison tests his theory by creating an optical device similar to one that Vermeer might've used and proceeds to paint a picture from a photograph of his grandfather. Jenison has no previous painting experience and yet the results are astounding.

It has long been argued that Vermeer used some sort of optical device in his work. But Jenison was the first to figure out exactly what that device might've been. The comparator, largely forgotten since Vermeer's time, is basically a mirror that shows a subject reflected from across the room. The canvas is visible from the edge of the mirror, and it allows the painter to compare paint color to the image being painted. Little technique is required, just patience, the ability to discern colors from one another and perhaps, a steady hand.

Buoyed by his success, Jenison decides to paint Vermeer's The Music Lesson using his optical device. Being rather detail oriented, he spares no expense in the project: he rents a warehouse and painstakingly re-creates Vermeer's studio. To the extent he can, he only uses materials that would've been available in the 17th century. It took him seven months to finish his version of Vermeer's masterpiece. 

The Music Lesson
I won't reveal his finished painting here, as it amounts to a spoiler, I think. But I will say that you'd be hard-pressed to tell Jenison's version from the original. If you're interested in this subject I suggest that you watch the documentary--it's fascinating.

This brings up some important questions: Did Tim Jenison "cheat" when he created his Vermeer? And if Vermeer used a device similar to the comparator, did he cheat, too? Indeed, is there even such a thing as cheating in the creation of art? If so, where do we draw the line?

As a painter myself, I've used grids, tracings, and other methods to transfer an image to a canvas. None of these methods strike me as cheating, exactly, but shouldn't a true artist be able to just draw/paint what he or she sees? Maybe not.

Cheek to Cheek by Holly West

One could even argue that Jenison cheated because we know he used an optical device. Since we've no proof that Vermeer did, maybe he didn't cheat.

Does it even matter?

If you've seen the documentary (and even if you haven't) I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. Because honestly, I can't decide if Jenison cheated or not.