Saturday, January 31, 2015

Announcing Quadrant Fiction Studio

Scott D. Parker

Today is the day the world learns what I’ve been doing for the past few months and I find it wholly appropriate to remove the curtain here at Do Some Damage.

Quadrant Fiction Studio is my new publishing company through which I will release the novels and other tales I write. I’m planning on releasing the first book next month. I'll announce the title and display the cover image in the coming weeks.

I've got a landing page at the new website: I'll redesign it to its normal view when Book 01 launches. But you can see my vision for this endeavor. 

Picking the Name


I like the letter Q and decided to use it as the logo. So I started there. Next came the name. “Quadrant” was the first word that came to mind, Quadrant Press, that is. Well, that’s already taken. Quiver Press was another. I thought “thing that holds arrows” but the existing Quiver Press is rather more adult. Quill, of course, where I could have been cute and made the tail of the Q be the end of a feathered quill. Yeah, not good. And I even drew a picture of that one. Quire was one of my favorites--think of the in-person options of giving away quires of printed work--but it was suggested that more folks would think of the singing group.

All this time I was using the word "press" or "publisher.” Then, I started thinking of other terms. I kind of like the word “practice” as in “law practice,” but didn’t think “writing practice” sounded good. Artists, like my wife, work in a studio and that sounded better: Quadrant Studio. But, as you can imagine, that brings up visions of artists and not necessarily writing. So I threw the word “fiction” in there and viola.

The name also stood in for my vision of what I wanted to do. While this is a mystery blog, I read and watch more genres than just mysteries. I like westerns and science fiction and pulp and romances and historicals and...well, you can see how that might spiral out of control. My original idea was to have a “publishing house” (i.e., Quadrant) with four imprints, each with a specific genre and an associated ‘house name’ as authors, one of which was to be my own. I solicited the opinions of trusted folks and they steered me away from that. In the age of independent publishing, it’s really not necessary.

But the Quadrant idea held. So I plan on keeping the three main genres--mystery, western, science fiction--and leave the ‘fourth quadrant’ for whatever strikes my fancy. We’ll just see how close my fancy is to the buying/reading public.

Designing the Logo

When I had the four-genre thing going, I imagined I’d tie each genre with a color. Thus, I’d have a logo that represented that. It was a colorful logo, too. Much like the existing one, but with each ‘square’ a different color. Again, I got the opinion of trusted folks, including friends who are graphic designers. They liked it, but thought it looked like the logo of a kid’s book. Oops. Not the vibe I was going for.

So, I developed the logo you see now. It’s clean, two-colored, and relatively simple. Plus it has the benefit of fitting into the little squares on Facebook and Twitter. And, in the future, it’ll fit nicely on the spines of printed books.

Where Does the Road Lead Next?


I am busily working on the text of Book #1 and cleaning it up. I have a graphic designer who is creating my first book cover. If the stars align correctly, this first novella will be released next month. It’ll be electronic first with a print run coming later in the year. I’ll be using all available sources: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and CreateSpace.

From there, I have six other completed manuscripts. I’m writing a new one these first two months of 2015. I plan on maintaining a consistent output in the coming months and years.

It’s amazing just how much goes into getting a new company off the ground. It’s a challenge. It’s a ton of work. It’s a little scary. But most of all, it’s fun. So far, I’m enjoying every minute of it.

I will certainly make mistakes and they’ll all be in the public eye. C’est la vie. That’s the risk I take by doing this. But that means I’ll get the rewards, too.

It’s an exciting time here at the offices of Quadrant Fiction Studio. If you've got a moment today, head on over to the landing page and let me know what you think. Comments are welcome, good ones as well as constructive ones. It’s the only way I’ll learn what I’m doing right and what I can improve on.

I’ll leave you with the question that might end up being my theme: What Quadrant Are You?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


by Holly West

Dudes. Y'all caught me on a day when I have no idea what to write about. At first this post was going to be about research, because as a historical fiction writer, you'd think I'd know something about it. But about three paragraphs in I realized I probably don't know anything about research that any other writer doesn't already know.

Delete, delete, delete.

Then I thought maybe I'd re-post something I'd written for my personal blog a few years ago. It's about studying and practicing a craft, which is something I think about a lot. As a former goldsmith and current writer, I'm all about perfecting my craft with consistent practice. I've spent a lot of time completing creative endeavors, but I've never thought of myself as an artist. For some reason I prefer to think of myself as a craftsperson. To me, craft means it's about the work, not some ethereal talent I can't quite put my finger on.

Here's the post if you're interested:

Writing and the Craft of Sushi Making

After deciding not to re-post something I'd already published elsewhere (lazy, much?) I realized that what I really wanted to write about was the fact that my debut novel, MISTRESS OF FORTUNE, has been nominated for an award. Yessiree, attendees to the 2015 Left Coast Crime conference decided that MISTRESS OF FORTUNE should be considered for the Rosebud Award for Best First Novel.

And it feels fucking fantastic.

Considering my fellow nominees in the category (THE BLACK HOUR by Lori Rader-Day, KILMOON by Lisa Alber, ICE SHEAR by M.P. Cooley, and THE LIFE WE BURY by Allen Eskens) it is indeed an honor just to be nominated. But regardless of whether I win the award, I'm just so proud of MISTRESS OF FORTUNE. I don't often feel fully confident in who I am or what I do, but I know it's a damned good book and I'm thankful for the recognition.

There. If I'd just have written about this in the first place I could've spared myself an afternoon of irritation as I fumbled with possible post topics. The real purpose of this post, I think, is to remind myself that it's okay to admit publicly that I'm proud of my work and even to toot my own horn on occasion. Or wait--doesn't that cause blindness?

Something like that.

Whatever. I suddenly have a hankering to re-watch "Citizen Kane" so with that, I'll see you next week.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Indian crime fiction sampler

A few years ago Blaft publications released a bunch of Indian genre fiction in English for the first time. This batch of books was my introduction to the thriving and decades old Indian pulp fiction industry. This was enough of a revelation to alter my understanding of the crime genre and also to make me realize, once again, that I still have a lot to learn about it.

In that batch of Blaft books there were two stand out titles that are must haves for every crime collection: The 65 Lakh Heist by Surender Mohan Pathak and The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction. Both of these books are Highly Recommended.

After reading The 65 Lakh Heist (and another translated piece of Japanese crime fiction) I wrote an article over at Spinetingler about Asian crime fiction. In it I talked about the difference between fiction set in another country and fiction from another country. Fiction that comes from another country is written with that country's readers in mind and comes from their literary traditions and their culture. In other words a book like The 65 Lakh Heist was not written with an English audience in mind

I liked The 65 Lakh Heist so much that I recommend it regularly and try to keep my eyes open for other Indian Crime fiction releases. A little rabbit hole searching brought up some articles talking about books and authors that were totally new to me. Score! I also learned about a new crime fiction imprint of Penguin India called Blue Salt. So let's take a look at some of the recent Indian crime fiction books. The great news is that a lot of these books are available through Amazon.

A Cut-Like Wound by Anita Nair

It's the first day of Ramadan in heat-soaked Bangalore. A young man begins to dress: makeup, a sari, and expensive pearl earrings. Before the mirror he is transformed into Bhuvana. She is a hijra, a transgender seeking love in the bazaars of the city.

What Bhuvana wants, she nearly gets: a passing man is attracted to this elusive young woman—but someone points out that Bhuvana is no woman. For that, the interloper's throat is cut. A case for Inspector Borei Gowda, going to seed, and at odds with those around him including his wife, his colleagues, even the informers he must deal with. More corpses and Urmila, Gowda's ex-flame, are added to this spicy concoction of a mystery novel.

Most intriguing is the grim world of Bhuvana. Her hijra fantasies, emotions, and hopes are etched in a way that is chilling yet oddly touching. Some mysteries remain till almost the end, for instance Bhuvana's connection with the wealthy, corrupt Corporator Ravikumar, who lives in a mansion as grand as the Mysore Palace and controls whole districts of Bangalore.

The Price You Pay by Somnath Batabyal

An ambitious rookie reporter, a veteran news editor with a secret, a trigger-happy policeman, a sensational kidnapping: The Price You Pay is the story of Delhi, told through the eyes of the journalists who frame it, the policemen who protect it, and the outsiders who claim it.

When AbhishekDutta joins the Express as a trainee journalist, he has no idea how his life is about to change. Assigned to the crime beat by chief reporter Amir Akhtar, Abhishek encounters a motley cast of characters: DCP Uday Kumar, the ‘Dirty Harry’ of Delhi Police; ACP Crime Branch Mayank Sharma, who becomes a close friend; SamirSaxena, channel head of News Today, who mentors Abhishek’s move from print to electronic journalism; and dreaded gangster Babloo Shankar, who runs the Delhi mafia from exile. As he rides his beginner’s luck to unearth one sensational scoop after the other, Abhishek will soon discover that in the dog-eat-dog world of crime and politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies; it is every man for himself.

With a plot that twists and turns like the inner lanes of the city, SomnathBatabyal’s debut novel takes you into the dark underbelly of India, where common lives are mere pawns in deadly power games and where corruption lies at the very core.

Item Girl by Richa Lakhera

Sunheri and Suhana twin sisters who share a horrific childhood get caught up in a vortex of pain and deceit when Sunheri, a popular item girl in Bollywood, is accused of murdering her vicious uncle and is sent to jail. Suhana, an aspiring filmmaker, is determined to seek justice for her sister but comes up against Kala, their stepmother, who has hatched diabolical plans of her own. And when three other manipulative item girls Nargis, Digital Dolly and Daisy are identified as key eyewitnesses in Sunheri s case, the matter only becomes more complicated.

Throw into the mix an explosive rape-tape, a brutal blackmailer, a cruel boyfriend, a cynical journalist who knows too much, and a hard-boiled cop, and what you have is a mind-bending psychological thriller that will hold you hostage until the end. An intense, gripping account of the dark side of showbiz, there is never a dull moment in Item Girl.

From the author of the bestselling Garbage Beat comes Item Girl, a dark crime thriller set in the psychedelic lights of Bollywood.

The author's sharp insight into Bollywood and its machinations brings to vivid life the motley characters in the story.

Quantam Siege by Brijesh Singh

This is the endgame. The terror group Lashkar has directly threatened the prime minister of India with 'never before' consequences, if referendum is not declared in Kashmir immediately. The UN Security Council has called for an emergency session scheduled to meet within two days to discuss the Kashmir crisis.

Rudra Pratap Singh and his team at the Anti-Terror Cell face their toughest challenge yet. Millions of innocent lives are at stake while India readies itself for a war, the terrorists' threat is about to actualize, and time is running out. Will they be able to neutralize the threat, trace the perpetrators and avert a war?

Set in the heart of a metropolis, this diabolical thriller will consume you in its labyrinthine madness.

A Convenient Culprit by Vibha Singh

Ace crime journalist Joy Dutta is killed, and his arch rival, Jagruti Verma, is accused of using her alleged connection with the dreaded don Chikna Ramu to commit the murder. Their mentor and ex-boss, Ammar Aney, whose exposés had earned him the respect of his fraternity, and whose enemies had conspired to destroy his personal and professional life, is forced out of retirement to get justice for both Joy and Jagruti. As he delves deeper, Aney realizes that the culprits and their motives are moredangerous than he could have ever imagined.

The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail* by Chetan Mahajan

What happens when a business executive is thrown into a jail in small town Jharkhand? He ends up with an education of a lifetime…
When Chetan Mahajan is wrongfully sent to Bokaro jail, he encounters a world completely different from his corporate life in Delhi. From picking the best prison ward, befriending the people who can get him mobile phone access and upgraded food, and training for his upcoming marathon in the tiny prison yard, Chetan soon learns to work the prison system. In the process he makes unlikely friends, and discovers what India’s underbelly really looks like.
A true story, The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail, is thought provoking, amusing and touching. It will show you the Indian prison as you have never seen it before.

Ghalib Danger by Neeraj Pandey

Kamran Khan is a cocky young taxi driver trying to make it big in Mumbai. But his life transforms when he saves a don called Mirza from being killed. What seems like a good deed however has a cruel payback and in a single moment, Kamran loses everything dear to him. This is when Mirza, in gratitude, takes Kamran under his wing and the young man gets drawn into the mafia boss’s dangerous world of cops and rival gangsters, eventually taking over from him. Kamran also inherits Mirza’s philosophy that all of life’s problems can be solved through Ghalib¹s poetry. Soon, the innocent taxi driver has cops, criminals and even cabinet ministers at his beck and call.
And he has a new name—Ghalib Danger.

The Tantalus Redemption by Yudhi Raman

Have you heard of Tantalus, Jurvir? He stole the ambrosia of the gods and was cursed by Zeus to be trapped forever between a bountiful fruit tree and a pool of water. Whenever he tries to eat, the branches rise away. When he tries to drink, the water recedes. It's the source of the English word tantalize. To be ever so close to the unattainable.'

When Jurvir Nair strikes the deal of a lifetime on the Lionhead mine, a tantalum deposit in Africa worth billions, little does he realize that it will lead him to Magan, a sinister figure from his past. Jurvir is a master of the high-stakes world of international finance, but nothing has prepared him for the clandestine blood-soaked trade in tantalum, an exotic metal without which the twenty-first century would come to a standstill. When Jurvir and Magan come face to face, their conflict spirals out of the boardroom into a battle of retribution that only one of them can survive.

A blistering, fast-paced debut novel set against the thunderous monsoons of Mumbai, the wild savannah of Africa, the trading floors of London and the bank vaults of Switzerland, The Tantalus Redemption is a rollercoaster tale of murder, revenge and destiny - and the blood lost in making your mobile phone.

The Avatari by Raghu Srinivasan

A mythical kingdom Legend has it that only those chosen by destiny can gain entry into Shambhala, the mythical kingdom believed to hold the ancient wisdom that humanity will need to resurrect itself from the inevitable apocalypse. They are the Avatari. An ancient artefact When Henry Ashton, a retired British Army officer settled in the Yorkshire dales, receives a letter from a monk entreating him to prevent a `hidden treasure? stolen from a Laotian monastery from being misused, he finds himself honour-bound to respond. Assisted by a retired Gurkha Sergeant, a high-strung mathematician from Oxford with a Shambhala fixation of her own, and an American mercenary on the CIA?s hit list, Ashton?s mission leads to an ancient map that dates back to the time of the great Mongol, Kublai Khan. A secret that must not be revealed The group follows the trail, risking the perils of the inhospitable deserts of Ladakh, turmoil in Pakistan and the rugged mountains of Northern Afghanistan, where the Afghan War is at its height. But they are up against a deadly adversary with seemingly unlimited resources, who will stop at nothing to get possession of the ancient secret ? a secret that, if revealed, could threaten the very fabric of human civilization?'

The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh by Patrick Bryson

Dominic ‘Biscuit’ McLeod is an expert in making the best out of a bad situation. As a visa fraud investigator at the Australian High Commission, New Delhi, Biscuit is legendary for his prowess in drinking beer, playing cricket, and swearing like a Dilliwallah, until the tragic death of a junior colleague forces him to become something else – a conspiracy theorist who can’t let go. Armed with only a hangover, a loathing for authority, and an inability to believe the lies that he is being told, Biscuit stumbles from crisis to catastrophe in a shambolic search for the truth. From the villages of Punjab to the cricket fields of Delhi, and the walled compounds of Gurgaon and Chanakyapuri, with dodgy visa agents, crooked cops, Aussies journalists, Afghani pimps and American spies for company, Biscuit never looks like solving the case, or leaving the party early. A bold comic debut, The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh is a novel about the things people will do to leave the places they don’t want to be, and the lengths others will go to try and stop them.

Stalked by Girvani Dhyani

Tara Bakshi is a young lawyer with a difficult boss. No matter how hard she works, how many all-nighters she pulls, he is never satisfied. When she starts work on the top-secret assignment, Project Emerald, Tara discovers that someone had been tampering with the files and her boss asks her to find the culprit. As time ticks and Tara uncovers one evidence after another, someone starts stalking her every move. He shadows her on the street, in the parking lot, in her own bedroom; nowhere is she safe from his prying gaze. The only clue she has to his identity is a Zippo lighter with a serpent carved on it.

As events turn darker with back-to-back murders, Tara teeters on the verge of a collapse. What does the killer want from her? Is he hiding behind a familiar face? Even as her life turns into a whirling nightmare that pulls her into its web, Tara must discover the truth before he strikes again …

A riveting thriller that will keep you guessing till the end.

Compass Box Killer: An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller by Piyush Jha

This book is a crime thriller, set in the by-lanes of Mumbai. One muggy afternoon, a senior police officer is found murdered at his desk. When Inspector Virkar from the Crime Branch arrives at the scene, he finds a cryptic note that spills out of a student s compass box. Then begins a series of killings and in each, a telltale compass box reveals more clues.

Accompanied by the attractive, ambitious TV reporter, Raashi Hunerwal, Virkar has to race against time to catch the Compass Box Killer before the bodies pile up. As the investigation shuttles from Mumbai to Khandala to Belgaum, Virkar is taken deep into a labyrinth of backroom deals that lead to shocking revelations about the ruthless killer s motives.

Slick plot twists and high-adrenaline action mark the first of the Inspector Virkar Crime Thrillers part of the Mumbaistan series. Tough, daring and relentless in his pursuit of justice, Inspector Virkar is a policeman one wishes every city had.

The Butcher of Benares by Mahendra Jakhar

The shocking and brutal murder of a young American woman rips apart the peace of the ancient city of Benares. She is found to be a research scientist working with the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. Hawa Singh, a senior inspector from Delhi crime branch on a visit to Benares, gets embroiled in the case. He finds that the murdered woman had been researching the Bhrigu-Samhita, an astrological classic dating back to pre-Vedic times, believed to be lost. The FBI sends in Ruby Malik, a Pakistani-American to investigate the murder. Soon, more bodies are found with bizarre connections to both the Bhrigu-Samhita and Christian orthodoxy. The Vatican seems to be carrying out a clandestine operation, seeking the secrets of Hindu astrology in the city most sacred to it.Secrets that the Vatican would kill to know. Hawa Singh, hardened by many gunfights, and with a bullet already lodged near his brain in a previous encounter, teams up with Ruby Malik to unravel the mystery. Nothing is the same any more. The temple bells fade in the perpetual winter fog. There is blood on the streets of Benares, which becomes a battleground where faith and science collide. The worlds of astronomy and astrology come .Hawa Singh and Ruby search the opium dens, and the domains of Naga sadhus, Aghoris and Doms in the cremation grounds, hunt a cannibal lurking in the maze that is Benares, and clash with the figurehead king of the city, Kashi Naresh Maharaj Abhay Narayan Singh. The killer could be anyone. Only Hawa Singh and his beautiful co-runner on the chase, Ruby Malik, possess the mindset—and the indomitable courage—to find the murderer at the heart of this mystery. And in the process, find themselves.
Dongri to Dubai* by S. Hussain Zaidi

Dongri to Dubai is the first ever attempt to chronicle the history of the Mumbai mafia. It is the story of notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, but above all, it is the story of a young man who went astray despite having a father in the police force. Dawood Ibrahim was initiated into crime as a pawn in the hands of the Mumbai police and went on to wipe out the competition and eventually became the Mumbai police’s own nemesis.The narrative encompasses several milestones in the history of crime in India, from the rise of the Pathans, formation of the Dawood gang, the first ever supari, mafia’s nefarious role in Bollywood, Dawood’s move to Karachi, and Pakistan’s subsequent alleged role in sheltering one of the most wanted persons in the world.This story is primarily about how a boy from Dongri became a don in Dubai, and captures his bravado, cunningness, focus, ambition, and lust for power in a gripping narrative. The meticulously researched book provides an in-depth and comprehensive account of the mafia’s games of supremacy and internecine warfare.

Mumbai Noir came out a couple of years ago as part of Akashic's noir series. I'm not familiar enough yet with Indian crime fiction to say how good the selection is or how representative it is of the genre but certainly it is worth a look.

A couple of observations jump out. The first is that a number of the books are thrillers. The second is that there is a relationship with Bollywood. Bollywood film makers write books and in others Bollywood story telling elements become apparent. This suggests that getting a film made is certainly a goal of some of these writers.

The crime fiction world is large and I love finding new parts of it explore.

What do you think, do any of these Indian crime fiction titles sound interesting to you?


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Noir at the Bar St. Paul

by Kristi Belcamino

This week I had the honor of participating in my second Noir at the Bar.

I read the first chapter of Blessed Are Those Who Weep (out April 7), the third book in my Gabriella Giovanni series. It's not a cheerful passage.

My mother-in-law made that clear during my reading at Bent Brewstillery in St. Paul. As I read I could hear her gasping and exclaiming about the story.

After I read, a friend put this on Facebook: "You were wonderful. Who knew such a gruesome story resides in such a sweet person."

This was the fourth Noir at the Bar held in the Twin Cities and although my passage might have been a bit disturbing, at least nobody walked out. (That I noticed.)

During the third Noir, a few people walked out on Jed Ayres reading, so he is the current King of Disturbing for the local Noir at the Bar scene. A badge of honor, I'm sure. P.S. It is a tradition to flip Jed off at Noir at the Bar, which is why you see everyone (except me) doing it in the photo below. I simply made a goofy face.

When I was asked to read at the third Noir at the Bar last year, I practiced reading my passages every single day for a month. I made sure to read under different circumstances to be prepared for anything that could disrupt my ability to read.

For instance, one day I had a migraine, so I practiced reading with a migraine.

One night I had a bit too much to drink, so same deal - stood in front of my mother who was visiting from California and read to her.

Because reading in public is not always something that comes easy to writers.

In fact, at my brother-in-law's wedding 11 years ago I nearly fainted when I had to go up on the altar and read a Bible passage.

Boy has a lot changed.

I'd like to say I took a Toastmaster class (which I've definitely considered) and that helped me become comfortable reading in public, but the reality is my confidence in doing something like this has come with age.

That is the most awesome part about your 40s—you don't give a shit anymore. I don't.

There are so many little things in life I no longer worry about and the most freeing one is not caring what people think about me. I mean, of course I care some, but for the most part I think maturity has made me realize that everyone else is so worried about their own shit, they don't have time to think much about yours.


And oddly enough, I've found that something that used to paralyze me with fear—reading in public—is now something I love.

Have you ever faced something that scared the dickens out of you and then found you loved at it and were good at it?

Here are a few snapshots of the night!

Kent Gowran, Daniel O'Shea, Frank Wheeler Jr., MC Paul von Stoetzel, me, and Jeff Shelby

The always huggable Dan Malmon from Crimespree Magazine:

Looking pretty Noir here:

Shelby reading from LIQUID SMOKE, a book I LOVE!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is James Patterson the KISS of the Publishing World?

Scott D. Parker

I discovered some new friends this week. I'm a big fan of the rock band KISS and there are a good number of podcasts out there. Up until now, my two favorites have been PodKISSt and Kisstory Science Theater. To quote Yoda, there is another.

Pods and Sods is technically a music podcast (a podcast for the musically obsessed...) but Craig Smith and Eric Miller are avid KISS fans. As such, a good chunk of the 82 episodes involve KISS. A fun thing they did last month during the “12 Days of KISSmas,” was cover, in detail, the first 12 KISS LPs, one a day and one an episode. They know their stuff and I found myself nodding to points they made and disagreeing with others.

But what utterly surprised me was how funny they are. The key to their humor comes with the intimate knowledge of the subject matter. With that knowledge comes the ability to look at the absurd nature of some of the antics the members of KISS have foisted on the public in their forty years. Craig's impersonations of Gene Simmons is hilarious! Some fans, you can imagine, take lots of umbrage with any humor at the expense of their rock heroes. Not so Smith and Miller. They see the absurdity for what it is and laugh at it *while still being fans.*

Now, I understand that being fans of a rock band like KISS and being fans of authors are different realms but I couldn’t help think about the similarities of the two this week while devouring 21 of the 22 KISS-centric episodes (that’s about 20 hours of listening, by the way) and reading about the latest news from James Patterson. Evidently, he’s trying to garner interest in his new book with his so-called “self-destructing book.” According to his website, 1,000 fans get a code to download an advance copy of his latest PRIVATE book and have 24 hours to read the story before “the book self-destructs in a spectacular fashion.” You can follow readers’ progress. Three readers here in Houston got the novel. The website claims it’s a revolutionary reading experience.

Yup, it is. And I’m totally cool with it. Why the heck not? Is it a stunt? Absolutely. It is unique? Unquestionably. It is fun? Yessiree bob. It it for everyone? Nope.

Neither is KISS. I know many who discount KISS because of their make-up, over-the-top shows (“They only do that because their music isn’t good”--to which I say just listen to some of their songs), and their unabashed salesmanship. That’s all true, but I’m one who learned about rock and roll through their antics. They are my first favorite rock band. Sure, I’ve come to love Chicago, Bowie, Springsteen, Genesis, Sting, and others, but KISS will forever have a special place in my heart. And they have a particular outlook on music and their role in it. They are entertainers, pure and simple. As the guys from Pods and Sods point out, there’s a whole lot of positive messages laced in KISS songs...if you can get past the clunky lyrics and debauchery.

Might Patterson be the KISS of the publishing industry? He’s unapologetically commercial. So what? It helps him get product out that the public enjoys. He's not the #1 best-selling author for nothing. He uses co-writers. So what? As the December issue of Vanity Fair points out, he has such a heavy hand in the writing that’s it’s basically his work by the time the books are published. As I’ve piled up manuscripts, I’ve often thought it would be nice for someone to take my first draft and clean it up -- while I write a first draft of a new novel and then come back around to revise the cleaned-up draft later. But that’s just me.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts for this week. I’ve also been working on my new website and I’m close to being done with it. News will be coming soon on that front.

What are y’all’s thoughts on Patterson’s stunt? And if y’all like KISS or just in-depth music talk, I wholeheartedly recommend Pods and Sods 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hints through music

By Russel D McLean

As I write this, I am currently at work on something I hope will be the next novel. It is not a McNee. For now, at least, the series is on hiatus (because you don't know what happened at the end of CRY UNCLE, do you?). But I am working on something very different set on the means streets of... Glasgow. As usual, I've been listening to a lot of music writing it. With the McNee series, there was a lot of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Alabama 3, Dylan... with this book, the soundtrack has been a little more offbeat in terms of the way it connects to the material. Despite being set in Glasgow estates and schemes, I've turned to Blaxploitation funk and soul tracks for inspiration. So the inside of my head sounds a little like this:

(each track relates to a different section of the novel)

Prologue: The Other Side of Town (Curtis Mayfield) - all this might tell you is that the prologue takes place on the Other Side of Town (and if its not Curtis, its not Music)

Part One: Pay to the Piper (Chairmen of the Board)  - I mean, in every book, sooner or later, someone's going to Pay to the Piper (if they dance to the music).

 Part Two: Home is Where the Hatred Is (Gil Scott Heron) - the track that actually influenced the book. And Gil's father, of course, had a perhaps unexpected Glasgow connection.

Part Three: When I Die (Esther Marrow) - the version I knew first was by Blood Sweat and Tears, but this one fits the book better.

Part Four: Backstabbers (The O'Jays) - Why wouldn't you use this song in a soundtrack?

Part Five: By All Means (Alphonse Mouzon) - the track itself isn't quite representative in sound of the climax, but the title, oh yes, it most certainly is.

So there you are, some veiled musical hints of what the next book might be like. Or at least the tracks that influenced me when it came to writing it. I still don't know when, where, how the book might be around, but I'm quite exciting for it - much as I love McNee, its nice to leave his world even if just for a little while, and go to a place that surprises me on every page.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Conversation with Jess Lourey

This is the first in a new series of interviews I'll be doing here at DSD. Hope you enjoy the ride.

I don't think I formally announced this on the site, but a few weeks ago via Twitter I put the call out to authors who might be interested in chatting about their work here in my little piece of Do Some Damage real estate. My author friend Jess Lourey didn't ask, actually, but I was chatting with her about something else and I mentioned this was happening. She was keen to do it and here we are. I had the pleasure of meeting Jess in person at last year's great Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee event, and she was very welcoming to a newbie novelist (that's me!). She's a great writer, with a lot of invaluable information and advice to pass along. Probably best known for her acclaimed Murder-By-Month series of mysteries, Jess has also written YA, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for one of her latest projects and also manages to teach creative writing (among other things) at a college in Minnesota. So, yeah. Lots of stuff going on. 

I was most curious to talk to Jess about The Catalain Book of Secrets - a genre-blending novel that Jess funded via Kickstarter and self-published. I wanted to find out more about the challenges of self-publishing and balancing those efforts with a pre-existing audience/fandom in another genre. It also seemed like a lot of work, to be honest. Without the benefit of a traditional publishing setup, you have to do everything as an indie author -or outsource it to someone you supervise. Designing a cover, editing the manuscript, getting distribution...everything. It's daunting. Yet somehow, Jess makes it seem easy. She shares some pages from her own book of secrets below. 

Jess, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. What can you tell readers about your book, The Catalain Book of Secrets?

Thank you for having me! Let's see. The Catalain Book of Secrets is the best thing I've ever written, a book with magic in it. In the words of a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press review, it's "part thriller, part mystery, part magical realism." Because it doesn't fit neatly in a genre, I wasn't able to find a traditional publisher for it, though I got close enough to have phone calls with three different editors at Random House and Simon & Schuster. When I wasn't able to land a contract, against all social conditioning and self-preservation urges, I launched a Kickstarter campaign. It was successful, and allowed me to self-publish the book on12/12/2015. I just couldn't let the book die without seeing the world, you know? I'd started writing it in 2002, a reaction to the unexpected death of my husband, and in many ways, it's the idea that launched my vision of myself as a writer. Here is the very first line of The Catalain Book of Secrets:

Ursula was twelve years old when her mother asked her to murder a man.

That'd keep me reading, definitely. Now, you've gone outside the mystery genre a few times over your career, right? What is it about books like The Catalain Book of Secrets that hooked you as a reader and, in turn, motivated you to write one?

I self-published a YA novel, The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One (super-original title at the end, right?), in 2012. That book is about a brother and sister who realize they're living inside of the novel Tom Sawyer. They have to escape the book, and the ankle-eating evil of Biblos, to recover three items that will reunite them with their parents. I have yet to write the second and the third, though I can't wait to get back to them. I am attracted to that story for the same reason I am attracted to The Catalain Book of Secrets--they're both great stories that came to me from the ether, and they both look sideways so they can see the magic in our lives, whether it's the transporting magic of a story or the powerful magic of family.

What's the self-publishing process been like? Was this a novel you'd shopped around for a while?

Hmm. The self-publishing process. It has been an adventure--in humility, in highs and lows, in self-awareness. Once I had The Catalain Book of Secrets Kickstarter funding, I hired a cover designer, an interior designer, a proofreader, and a website developer. I also set up an account with IngramSpark, as I knew I wanted to make the book available to indie bookstores. In addition, I updated my Createspace account, because realistically, the majority of self-pub sales come through Amazon (though I've had wonderful support from indies on this book, and so my sales have been 50% indie, 50% Amazon, which I love). Then, I began to send out review copies: Kirkus and IndieReader (paid for reviews from both), Midwest Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Booklist (I waited too long on them--note to self: send review copy there first when self-publishing), Library Journal, and newspapers all over the country. I also made a review copy available through NetGalley, which seems to mostly cater to bloggers and librarians, a powerful bunch in the book world.

The Catalain Book of Secrets has sold approximately 500 copies in the month or so it's been out. That's good by self-pub standards, terrible if you need to make a living at it (which I do). My tenth Murder-by-Month Mystery, February Fever, comes out in two weeks, and I'm hoping that will bump my self-pub sales.

So all told, here's my perspective on self-publishing: always try the traditional route first. If you don't get a contract, you can self-publish, whereas it's nearly impossible to do it the other way around. I like the freedom of self-publishing. I do not like the tremendous cost of doing it right (several thousand dollars for the cover, rounds of editing, marketing, interior layout; my Kickstarter campaign paid for half of it, for which I'm eternally grateful). I'm also not a fan of the fact that, with hundreds of thousands of books being self-published each year, it's difficult to be heard in the noise. That said, I have many friends who have wonderful self-publishing experiences, and I think it's good business to be a hybrid author.

Were there any challenges you came across that you hadn't anticipated? In terms of being a one-stop shop for your book, what skills did you feel you had to hone - publicity, marketing, etc?

My tenth traditionally-published book comes out in February, and that previous publishing experience was invaluable. I had connections with authors, reviewers, and bookstores. I had an idea of how the model worked. I'm pretty good at keeping records, I'd already formed an LLC, and I had an audience already. I wish I had a distributor, but it's just me, which makes it hard to get the book in bookstores (though B & N has a review process for stocking self-pubbed books, and organizations like IndieBound and MIBA want to work with professional self-pubbers, in my experience). Besides not being great at distribution, I'm a terrible salesperson--I'd ALWAYS rather hear the person I'm with talk than hear myself talk--and that's not going to change. Or maybe it can? Do you offer classes, Alex? :)

Hey, I'm happy to help whenever! We know each other via the warm and welcoming crime and mystery writing world and you have a long and successful career writing mysteries - why would this book appeal to that readership? Can you tell us anything about your upcoming mystery work?

Isn't the mystery community the best in the world? It's a real gift that I found my tribe. As far as The Catalain Book of Secrets appealing to mystery writers, I think that's an easy sell (but what do I know?). The story is centered around a murder, with a whole lot of magic, relationships, sadness, hope, and love to support it. As far as my upcoming work, I can say with confidence that February Fever (release date: 2/8/15) is the best yet in my Murder-by-Month mysteries (and Kirkus and Booklist agree, with a starred review from the latter), and that if you like funny mysteries, you'll enjoy February Fever.

But what I'm working on now is the most exciting project I've ever undertaken. It's a thriller, which I'm surprised to find is a perfect fit with the way I like to write and the things I like to write about (justice, strong women, the dirt and beauty of life). It's tentatively called Salem. Here's the working synopsis:

Salem and Izzy must uncover the connection between the Witch Hunt of the 1600s and the modern disappearance of single mothers all over the globe to stop the assassination of Senator Gina Kennedy, the first viable female Presidential candidate in the history of the United States.

That sounds intense. I'm in. As you may know, Do Some Damage is a blog where crime writers get to talk about their experiences at various stages of their careers. Can you share a few nuggets of advice to our readers (and fellow bloggers)?

Oh man, it's hard not to sound trite here, but here's the only truth I've found in the writing business: if, when you write, you feel like you're in the right time and place, never stop. I don't mean that writing ever gets easy. The opposite seems to be true--the more I learn, the more I'm confident I don't know anything. I write five days a week. Every single day, Each day, I play this "would you rather" game with myself, where I mess around on social media, clean my bathroom with a Q-tip, anything to not have to write. I pretend that that fear? crisis of confidence? hummingbird-attention span? will go away some day and I'll find myself racing to the computer on a regular basis, stories flowing from my fingertips. I know that's not true, though. Writing will always be the hardest thing I ever do. I will always give bad reviews 99% of my attention and treat good reviews as flukes. I will always feel like the redheaded stepchild when I'm on panels with the superstars. And still, I write. Because when I do, when I finally shut off the monkey brain and get to the work, I feel like I'm in the right time and in the right place. Every time. Without fail.

What have you been reading/watching/listening to that's got you jazzed or inspired?

I wish I watched more TV. I hear my friends talk, and it sounds like the best writing out there is coming from that sector. I love movies, but I have pedestrian tastes (Galaxy Quest is one of my top ten favorites of all time). And when I write, I prefer silence, so I rarely listen to music during the process. But I do immerse myself in books, their content always specific to what I'm writing. So, I'm writing a thriller now. I have a stack of 23 books (just left my computer to count) that are either on symbology/computer forensics, the European and American with hunt and the history of women in religion, or are thrillers themselves so I can internalize the pacing. I LOVE THE RESEARCH!!!!

And thank you for having me. :)

My pleasure! Thanks for visiting, Jess. You can find out more about Jess Lourey and her work at her website, including details on how you can get your hands on The Catalain Book of Secrets and February Fever.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Can Writers Learn From the Serial Podcast?

by Holly West


This post contains spoilers about the Serial podcast so quit reading now if you don't want to see them.

Now then:

Can we, as crime fiction writers, learn anything from the tremendously popular Serial podcast about the murder of Hae Min Lee? I think that yes, we can.

Before I go into that, however, I want to discuss my overall feelings about the podcast. My husband and I listened to most of it as we made our drive from Los Angeles to our new home in Northern California. We'd had an exhausting day finishing up packing and directing the movers, and we left LA that final time knowing we wouldn't arrive at our destination until after 11pm, our only welcome being a cold, empty house. As it turned out, our realtor and his wife not only met us at the house that night to give us our keys, but they'd kindly turned on the heat and left us with a gift basket that included two bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Realtors, take note--it was a nice touch.

Grim as some of its details were, the Serial podcast was the perfect travel companion. It was compelling and interesting, but didn't require more intellectual capacity than our fatigued brains could handle. We swallowed it up hungrily like the Doritos and Red Bulls I'd purchased to get us through the trip, and like its producers (and probably every other listener), we went back and forth on Adnan Syed's guilt. Was Jay a reliable witness? Was Adnan's attorney incompetent? Did the prosecutors fudge the timeline? Yes, no, maybe. Yes, no, maybe.

We weren't able to finish the podcast until a week later, when we drove up to Oregon after Christmas. By then I was hooked--it didn't matter that by episode eight I couldn't see how Sarah Koenig could possibly reveal anything new that would prove Syed's innocence. All that mattered is that it made the driving time fly by and if I dozed a little bit here and there, well, maybe I wasn't missing much.

In the months preceding our trips up north, many friends had posted links to articles about the podcast, all of which I'd painstakingly avoided because I knew I wouldn't get a chance to listen to it until the move. But there was one post title that stayed in my mind (even though I didn't read the entire post at the time):

Serial Sucked and Wasted Everyone's Time

As we sped up I-5 to our new life, listening to the troubling account Hae Min Lee's murder and Adnan Syed's trial, I thought about this post title and wondered all the while if, in the end, I'd deem Serial to be a waste of time.

Let's face it. Serial ended where it began and took 12 episodes to get there. The problem for everyone, even the shows producers, was that nobody knew that nothing new would be revealed or proven until maybe the last few episodes, and by then we'd all invested too much time in it to quit. We had to see it through.

So, was it a waste of time? No, not at all. It made twelve hours of driving seem like a whole lot less. I've got no complaints. After all of it, however, I feel fairly confident that Adnan Syed did indeed murder Hae Min Lee. There are some good questions raised about the prosecutor's case and whether Syed received a fair trial, but those (oddly enough) are separate from the issue of Syed's actual guilt. Despite his repeated claims of innocence and no crystal clear motive, I think he strangled Hae Min Lee and, with the help of his friend, Jay, buried her in Baltimore's Leakin Park.

We got to know Syed through the Serial podcast and he seems like he's more or less a nice guy. He's intelligent and insightful. He's a productive and well-liked member of prison society. I don't want it to be true that he killed Hae Min Lee, but the fact is, someone did, and it was most likely him. Serial challenges us to see him as a person, not simply a murderer. It makes us question, at least to an extent, the true nature of evil and whether a good person can do something terrible and still remain good.

And now, finally, is when I reveal what writers can learn from the Serial podcast. For our purposes, we'll call the tale fiction and assume that Syed is our murderer. Our job is to make readers see him, as much as possible, as a whole person, and not just the villain. We do this by giving him real emotions, by making him scramble, struggle, and come to terms with what he's done. He might still lie, steal, and cheat to make sure he's not apprehended; he might kill again and again for reasons we can't possibly understand. But let him come fully to life--nearly as fully as we allow our protagonists to come to life. Real life is rarely black and white, it's mostly colored in shades of gray. Let us do that with our fiction, as well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Replacements Anthology - We're Comin' Out

By Jay Stringer

You've all seen the Bruce Springsteen anthology from last year, right? "Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen."

I should hope so, because some of our very own DSD'ers were involved in the collection and, well, you pay attention, right?

I'm teaming up with the guys over at  Gutter Books to put another anthology together, and really fucking pleased to announce we're doing it based around the best band in the universe for all time ever; The Replacements.

It's going to be the same basic idea. Each writer picks a song title and runs with it. There are a few details we're still to work out. We've not got a release date yet, or a finished title. The list of contributors is still be be ironed out (Is there a hint there? Maybe.)

What's really exciting about this, for me, is the difference between Bruce Springsteen and The Replacements. Springsteen's songs perhaps more instantly evoke crime fiction. Some of them are out-and-out crime stories. There's always a slight edge of romance beneath his words, whether it be the overt playful chemistry of two people, the hope that keeps the working-classes going until the weekend, or the doomed promises of a guy about to drive across the river for the one killer meeting. Bruce Springsteen, both with and without The E Street Band, has spent forty years touring the world sharing tales of hope, loss, darkness and redemption. There's plenty to play with there, and the anthology shows writers at the top of their games, running with the promise of the material.

But what about The Replacements? What about a dyslexic janitor, a shy painter, a depressive alcoholic and a thirteen year old boy who, somehow, combined to create brilliant primal rock and roll? They almost had no right to make music that good, and yet they did. And that is the point of bands like this. The pulse and energy of Raised In The City. The unrequited love of the lonely kid in Skyway. The progressive 'let 'em do what they want' plea of Androgynous. The out-of-nowhere Jazz in the middle of We're Comin' Out. The kid in If Only You Were Lonely, who thinks the only way he would stand a chance with the object of his affection is if she feels exactly as lonely as he does. The simple alchemy behind the guitar sound of Answering Machine, and the question, "how do you say 'I Miss You' to an answering machine?

It's permission to hope at the same time as permission to fail. An invitation to be yourself, and that whatever that leads to is okay.

The attitude that said, yes, a bunch of kids from Minneapolis can call an album Let It Be and it can be brilliant. They were a band who were briefly handed the keys to the kingdom at a major label, a company who wanted to turn them into an MTV sensation. What did the band do with this backing? They recorded two black & white music videos; one where they all sat on a sofa and did nothing, and one where we watch the song play through the speaker of a record player, with someone's foot tapping away in the foreground.

In industry terms, The Replacements failed. They didn't get the big hit. They didn't sell a bajillion records. They didn't care if the door opened when they threw themselves at it, as long as it rattled. They sang about the disaffected and the lonely. About losers and rebels. They failed by insisting on being themselves to the bitter end, and is there anything better than that? They just played, drank, laughed, toured and set about waiting to be forgotten.

The same year that The Replacements split, a trio from the Pacific Northwest conquered the world with a song for the disaffected, with Bobby Stinson's guitar tone, and an album title lifted off the 'Mats. What do we say to that? Never mind.

But that's what the band means to me. The fun of this anthology is going to be finding out what the music means to a whole bunch of people, and what stories the songs will inspire. So, watch this space. An anthology of crime fiction tales inspired by The Replacements? it's going to be great.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"re", favorites, and books

What a weird title.

I was thinking about the prefix "re" as an idea that creates favorites.

My favorite songs and albums are ones that I can, will, and do listen to over and over again. They are re-listenable.  In some cases there are albums and songs that I have listened to countless times for decades.

There are variations. I can hear a song on the radio, really like it, buy a copy and it doesn't hold up to repeated listens. The opposite is true also, I can hear a song, feel pretty meh about it, and upon repeated exposure it will grow on me. All I know is that I've stayed in the car, sitting in the parking lot, until "Lola" finishes. Hell, I've played the same album over and over again for hours, if not days, on end.

Think about movies. My favorite movies are the ones that hold up to repeated viewings. Not only do they hold up, but in some cases something new can be gleaned from repeated viewings.

I've watched movies, liked them, and have felt no desire to ever see them again. I've also liked movies then have them fall apart upon a re-watch.I've also had unexpected movies grow into favorites.

With movies you also get the "stop everything" movie. You know, you are flipping around the channels and you come across a movie, stop what you are doing, and watch the rest of it, regardless of where it is at in the movie.

TV shows from the last decade or so are even starting to develop a "re" factor.

But, does this apply to books in the same way?

For me the answer is surprisingly no. I can count the number of books I've re-read on, maybe, two hands.  A number of the books that I gave re-read I count as my favorites partially because I feel like they have earned their keep by passing the "re" test. But I do not regularly re-read books.


Is it as simple as getting caught up in the cycle of new-ish release reading that the internet and social media seems to engender. Is it because of the sheer volume of new books getting released? Is it something else?

Do you re-read books? if so, why? If not, why? Does "re" apply to books? Should it?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Journalism is not a crime

By Kristi Belcamino

Holly West's important post on the Charlie Hebdo attack inspired this one.

Like Holly, I worry I have nothing new to add to the discussion, but feel compelled, as a journalist to point out that sadly, the death of journalists for expressing freedom of speech is nothing new.

Yes, the Charlie Hebdo deaths were particularly heinous and shocking. And the outrage and protests are loud and powerful and heartwarming, and yet, I worry that nothing will change and that it is only getting worse.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that 1,110 journalists have been killed across the world since 1992.

Journalists are going head-to-head with terrorists, corrupt governments and warlords to shed a light on atrocities every single day. We need them out there risking their lives so we can do our part in protecting the weak and helping the innocent. We need them to risk their lives to tell us the true story of events around the world in the hopes that by revealing these inhumane acts, someone will be motivated to do something to stop them or change them or send help to those who need it.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 70 journalists died in 2013.

Deaths were broken down by the "beat" the journalist covered.

I cover crime for my newspaper. A lot of people have told me I'm brave to do that, going out talking to serial killers and gang bangers, but guess what? Covering the crime beat wasn't even one of the top three most dangerous beats to cover.

If you covered war, you were most likely to die on the job. After that, journalists who covered politics and then those who covered human rights.

To me, that is the most depressing statistic — that so many journalists covering human rights were risking their lives to help others obtain the basic rights that any person on this earth deserves.

Last year in Tunisia a "death list" circulated naming writers and journalists who supposedly were antagonistic toward Islam. It's surely not the only place where this has happened.

In addition to journalists being killed around the world, it is worth noting that they are also being imprisoned to squash freedom of expression.

In a January 9th post on CPJ's website, the organizations's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour, said this: "Iran has started the new year as it ended the old: by arresting journalists."

While I find the Charlie Hebdo massacre terrifying, what I also find horrific is the idea that journalists will be too afraid to get out there and tell the truth for fear of death.

And what, you might ask, does this have to do with crime fiction writers?

It has everything to do with us.

Can you say Salman Rushdie?

We are no different. We are a different medium, but I believe many of us write crime fiction to expose atrocities that take place in our world. Are we going to be silenced, as well? Are we going to censor ourselves when the day comes that a fiction writer is not only the subject of a fatwa, but is slain for his or her writing?

Rushdie spoke out this week while giving a speech at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

"Both John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela use the same three-word phrase which in my mind says it all, which is 'Freedom is indivisible,'" he said. "You can't slice it up, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You can dislike Charlie Hedbo. ... But the fact that you dislike them has nothing to do with their right to speak."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mixing It Up

Scott D. Parker

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to craft stories and I ran across one this week brand new to me.

Over on Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds site, he posted a piece by Douglas Wynne entitled “Five Things I Learned Writing Red Equinox.” Other than his take on writing who you love (nice twist), he wrote about tension in a book. Specifically, you can’t have too much.

Wynne namedropped Donald Maass and his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I’ve heard of that book before and even checked it out of the library a few years ago. I own Maass’s Writing in the 21st Century. Anyway, Wynne zeroes in on the edict of adding tension to every page. Sure, we’ve all heard that one before, but have you ever heard of this:

Now, maybe I didn’t end up with tension on every page, but at one point I shuffled a PDF of the manuscript and went through it in random order, looking at each page out of context, highlighting any tension, and asking, “what on this page makes you want to read the next one?”

It hurt. Nothing makes a manuscript look weaker than robbing it of context and momentum.

It also helped. Any changes that felt contrived, I dropped but the experiment taught me that you really can’t have too much tension or suspense.

Anyone ever done this before? Sounds like a great way to keep the momentum going. I may have to give it a go.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Win fame and money and a pony

By Steve Weddle

Fiction contests are cool like fezzes. Why aren't you busy entering a few?

In case you haven't noticed, the new year just started. Time for some fresh things to do, new ways to spread your fictions.

Here are a few right off the Googles:

Zoetrope (July deadline) -- Ben Fountain judged the last one. He's kind of a big deal, according to the internet. I read a great Karen Russell story the other week from a "Best Of" antho. The story had first run in the Zoetrope mag. That's a swell spot.

And here's a cool way to make millions. Write your story and send it in to a contest. Win the contest, which includes cash money and publication. Then the story gets grabbed up by a "Best Of" antho and you get more cash. As editor of NEEDLE, I've had folks email me to say that once their story from NEEDLE got picked up by an antho, they got a four-digit publication check and emails from agents. I mean, heck, get those stories out there in some good places, folks. Wonderful things can happen.

OK. Where else?

Kenyon Review has a story contest up in February. Literary? Meh, I guess. I don't even know what that means anymore. Hell, there's a damn mess of killing in most of the literary stuff I've been reading lately. Might as well give it a shot.

Let's have a caveat, shall we? Mmmmm. Caveats. See, you should probably check prize money against entry fee. Maybe there's a ratio/formula to handle this, but you want to make sure it's worth entering. If the contest is $20 to enter and the prize is $100, then I'm probably passing on that -- even if they give you a subscription to Eastern Idaho Literary Quarterly in the fee. If it's $10 to enter and the prize is $1,000 and judged by Person You Have Heard Of, then maybe you want to hit that up, I don't know -- I'm not a scientist. Just keep all that in mind.

OK. Another one? Sure.

Glimmer Train has shortshortshort fiction contest up and is currently open to subs.

Here's a solid listing of upcoming short story contests, though most are heavily literary.

Thoughts on contests? Know of some good crime fiction ones coming up?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I'm Not Charlie (But I Aspire to Be)

by Holly West

I debated whether to post this. These days, I dislike writing about any subject that's controversial because I don't have the time or the inclination to get into debates or arguments. Not that what I'm about to say is an argument, really, or even very controversial. I suppose the real issue is that I really don't feel worthy to comment on the terrible terrorist attack that occurred in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris that claimed the lives of twelve people. Do I have anything legitimate to say that hasn't already been said?

I've seen the stark black squares on social media declaring Je Suis Charlie. I thought about changing my profile pics to show my sorrow for the victims of the attack.  To voice my support for what they were doing. Because like most people I know, I am gutted when I contemplate what happened to them, simply because they stuck to their convictions and weren't afraid to offend, criticize, or to provide provocative commentary about the society in which we live.

I decided not to change my profile pics because in truth, I'm not Charlie. These people were courageous. I'm not. I prefer to keep silent when perhaps I should speak. I'm too much of a coward to enter the debate, even when it's a subject I feel passionately about.

While I don't necessarily aspire to offend or blaspheme, I do want the courage to voice my opinions, even when they're unpopular or might cause offense. I have strong feelings about religion and politics but I usually keep quiet, even when I'm enraged by the injustice and outright stupidity surrounding our political process. I might not want to create controversial cartoons, but certainly there must be a means for me to provide my own thoughtful commentary in a way that I feel comfortable with.

For a couple of years now, I've had a "don't talk politics" policy on Facebook. I'll probably continue that because really, I can't see the point of arguing politics on Facebook. My plan, instead, is to occasionally write blog posts about topics that I feel strongly about. Instead of declaring Je Suis Charlie, I aspire to be more like Charlie. To write with courage and authenticity without being afraid of who might be offended or argue against my point.

That seems a fitting tribute.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Present of the Book


There’s been a lot of talk about the future of the book. For a while I got interested in it, I was involved in conversations about ebooks and self-publishing and all that but I lost interest. There are a lot of ways to publish books these days and I expect many of them will continue to exist for some time.

And we’ll still talk about the future of the book.

Last year in Canada we had something called the National Forum on the Literary Arts. It was described as, “some 250 members of the Canadian literary community gathered in Montréal for 2 days of meetings and discussions designed to work towards a positive vision for the future of Canadian literature. The event was organized around four themes: creation, publication/production, dissemination and sustainability.”

I’m sure lots of interesting stuff came out of the forum.

A couple of days ago a Canadian writer who attended the event, Pasha Malla (I’ve read his short story collection, The Withdrawal Method, it’s excellent), posted his “27 Thoughts about CanLit.” It’s all very interesting, but what I wanted to focus on here, was his final thought, not about the future of the book, but about the present of the book. He wrote:

The book “…must offer something that other media cannot. Movies will always do a better job of showing-not-telling. The Internet will always allow for greater direct involvement and agency. TV will always make more money. And video games, thankfully, will always provide a better venue for murdering nerds. Despite that we can barely begin to guess what new forms of competition for public attention will arise in this new century, “the future of the book” seems to be the only thing anyone wants to talk about these days. Here’s what I want to know: what’s the present of the book? I’d like to talk about it.”

Are books now really just a cheaper-to-produce version of other media? If (maybe I should say when) the technology advances enough that we authors could sit at our desks and produce a movie or a TV show or a video game instead of a book, would we?

What does that say about the present of the book?