Saturday, November 15, 2014

Halfway Home with NaNoWriMo and Publishing News

Scott D. Parker

NaNoWriMo - Halfway Hoome

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

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

Publishing Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Persistence Pays Off

Guest post by Sybil Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Five Recommended Short Story Collections & Anthologies from 2014

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

Sixteen Small Deaths by Christopher J Dwyer (Perfect Edge)

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

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

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

The Downriver Horseshoe by Scott Miles (Stolen Time Publishing)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Guest Post by Dana Cameron

The mystery world has been abuzz this past week with an issue that came up around Bouchercon.

As a debut author I did not feel qualified to write about it on this space, but I did come across an article written by Dana Cameron that I thought encapsulated the entire issue.

I'm reposting this article by Dana in full with this thought from her about how people are cooperating to solve this issue and that everyone involved is excited and enthusiastic about Bouchercon this week.

As Dana put it "We raised an issue, folks discussed it, it was tough, and now we're all going to B'con!"

Here is her article in full:

This is how things change
by Dana Cameron
If you haven't heard about the ongoing debate about Bouchercon 2014 and “Men ofMystery” (MoM), you will soon—Bouchercon is in a week. Here's a short version; I've included links if you want a fuller picture.
About a week ago, a few folks noticed that there was two sessions blocked off on the official Bouchercon schedule, dedicated to celebrating more than 60 male authors. “Men of Mystery” is a yearly local event, and its organizer, Joan Hansen, also has a yearly “Festival of Women Authors” event. Her dedication to the mystery community has been recognized with an MWA Raven award. The goal of those two Bouchercon sessions was to enfold a yearly local event into a larger one, both devoted to mystery; but there were other issues at play.
At the heart of the problem is this: When other outside groups—Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, to name a few—have events at Bouchercon, Bouchercon doesn't pay for their rooms, receptions, etc. Bouchercon is footing the bill for the room for MoM and by doing so, was giving its backing and imprimatur to a private event that excluded women.
One of the great things about Bouchercon is the focus on a variety of topics in the genre, and either a man or a woman can talk about writing noir, or traditional mystery, or supernatural mystery, or historicals, and so on. A woman cannot be a Man of Mystery. I believe there wouldn't have been such a negative response if there had been a combined “Men and Women of Mystery Panel.” Or, if the event had remained "Men of Mystery," but had the MoM organizers pay for the space, and held it before or after the regularly-scheduled Bouchercon panels.
A concerned group began to reach out to Bouchercon and others in the mystery community to try and address this development. Sara Paretsky wrote a passionate and thoughtful response against the inclusion of the MoM event. Mystery Writersof America and Sisters in Crime also made statements, speaking against this exclusive outside event being part of the regular program, as well as recognizing the difficulty of the issue arising at this late date. Robin Burcell wrote eloquently about her experiences as a woman in a man's profession, but more especially about her concern that the hard work of the volunteers was being overshadowed by this discussion. Barbara Fister created a brilliant, succinct dialogue that elaborated on the structures of the arguments being made by all sides.
The Bouchercon National Board issued a statement that essentially started with “This entire episode is based upon a misunderstanding unfairly undermining the good work of a lot of caring, dedicated people without a gender-biased bone in their bodies” and ended with “We apologize to those who perceived including Men of Mystery as an offense to our diverse mystery community, for none was intended.” Which was less of an apology and more of a rebuke to people who protested.
Feelings are running high on all sides, and the situation is at once simpler and more complicated than it appears. For me, it comes down to this: Good people make mistakes without intending to. Good people can respond to those mistakes while still valuing the effort that went into the process. Working together, they can address concerns and find solutions. That's what's happening now: The Bouchercon Local Organizing Committee and Joan Hansen offered to split the time into two one-hour panels, and now the first will be “Men of Mystery;” the second is being designed even as I type this. That is progress.
I have worked on conventions and conferences, and I know what hard work and dedication it requires and all for the love of the organization—because it sure isn't paid work. There are difficult decisions to make in the planning process, problems that occur during and even after the event, and the volunteers are right there, every step of the way, working to make a fabulous convention. So right now, I want to say thank you to the organizers and volunteers of Bouchercon Long Beach. And I'd like to encourage you to thank them too, when you go.
It has been daunting, for me personally, to speak up about this. I suspect it has been the same for others, too. And so I'd also like to thank the people I've been working with (who are simply amazing) and everyone who's been offering ideas and support, for their courage and determination. It takes guts to speak up and it takes dedication to try and change something. Change requires a lot of hustling, a lot of emotion, and in this case, it's a bare two weeks before the event. I'm learning a lot from this experience, and, hard as it is, I'm grateful.
The thing that compelled me to address this situation was the notion that this is how things change. This is how they improve. This is how we learn. Negotiations of this sort are not fun, but there are big rewards. Maybe in the future, both intention and perception will be better aligned. Maybe the next time the need for a dialogue like this arises, we'll all have better skills with which to engage.
I love Bouchercon, all of us do. I've always said that it's like homecoming for crime writers, and we all rejoice in that big tent being there for us. Sometimes, the tent needs to be made bigger or restructured or fixed to keep working for us all.