Monday, March 30, 2015

Clean Reader app -- **shrugs**

The Clean Reader app controversy tornado blew through town. It struck me as an odd one but what the hell do I know, I'm not a writer.  Here's a couple of very random thoughts to fill my time here on this fine Monday afternoon.

-There are readers who will not abide violence towards children and animals. They will not abide profanity. Flat out. These folks also read a lot. A few years ago I went to Bouchercon in Baltimore and the first time I heard someone remark that they will not read a book that contains violence towards animals I chuckled to myself. By the time I heard it the sixth time I realized that this was a thing. The same with profanity. So it's easy to poke fun an someone who might want this app but I can see a reason for it existing. And people using it.

-There seems to be a group of writers that feel that any alteration to even a single word of their book alters if not damages the book. I understand that folks spend years writing their books and hold them dear but that argument strikes me as precious. I've skimmed enough books, for various reasons, to know that I can skip whole paragraphs and still get what your saying in the book.

-I grew up watching tons of movies that aired on Saturday afternoons on network TV. These movies were sanitized to  to make them fit network guidelines. No sex, no nudity, no profanity. Whole scenes cut for time. I loved these movies and still got what was going on in them. I'm pretty sure that Samuel Jackson's consent wasn't obtained when the "motherfuckers" in Jackie Brown were changed to "Maryland farmers".

-Thomas Jefferson (yes, that Thomas Jefferson) took a bible and cut out all of the supernatural elements of it because he didn't believe them. He wanted to get down to the essence of Christ's teachings and get rid of the Supernatural stuff that he didn't believe. For starters this meant that the miracles were cut out, the resurrection was cut out, passages indicating any divinity were cut out. You can buy a copy for your Kindle for a buck if you want. But my point in mentioning it is that Thomas Bowlder may have been marked down in history as infamous but this kind of thing has been done before.

-A lot of "classics" are published in an abridged format, particularly for kids. Did Melville consent to the abridgement changes to that Illustrated Classics edition of Moby Dick? Fuck if I know but my kids sure like the story.

None of this is coherent and doesn't make for a coherent case but those are my thoughts.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

In Defense of Jackie Collins

by Kristi Belcamino

I'm about up to *here* with people who feel they are superior.

In particular people who feel they are too superior to read certain books.

So here it is out in the open: I like Jackie Collins. I buy her books. I read them in one sitting.

Wait. That's not a confession. I already hinted at that a few weeks ago. I wrote a post about all the books I had pre-ordered so far this year. Jackie Collins' book, THE SANTANGELOS, was included in the post.

One anonymous reader felt turned off enough by this to comment "Yuk" or something similar.

At first I responded and then later, when I had calmed down, deleted my response. But now I figure is as good a time as any to address this.

I like Jackie Collins. I purposefully included her book in my post on this esteemed crime fiction blog. I am too old to be ashamed of my reading taste and frankly, too old to give a shit what anyone else thinks of it.

I read Jackie Collins because I love her heroine. Lucky Santangelo is an Italian-American ball buster. She is ambitious, successful, a rebel, drop-dead gorgeous, and will cut your nuts off if you cross her. My kind of woman. She also lives in a very exciting world that I love to read about. I've liked her since I was a teenager and I'm not going to stop liking her or pretend that I'm too cool to read a commercial fiction book because I'm now a published crime fiction writer.

See, it's utter bullshit that someone who loves crime fiction would look down on commercial women's fiction. Or romance. Or Sci-Fi. Or young adult literature.

A good story is a good story even if the writer doesn't write like Proust.

Literary snobs look down on crime fiction and say "yuk" about it. And you all know about that, and how that is a whole another discussion. So, why would I as a crime fiction writer, think I'm too cool to read Jackie Collins?

You may not like or read Jackie Collins, but I would bet you have your own "Jackie Collins" author who you read. Maybe one you consider a guilty pleasure. Maybe you hide those books and/or don't put them on your bookshelf.

And if someone doesn't want to buy my books or read them because I like Jackie Collins, that is fair.

Because if I'm looking for new readers, Jackie Collins' fans sound pretty good to me:

She recently asked her readers on Facebook who their favorite authors were. Here are some of the responses, but hands down the most frequent answer was HARLEN COBEN.*

You are probably saying STFU! That's right. Harlen Coben.

And believe me, I'll side with Harlen Coben fans all day long.

Here are a few tidbits about Jackie Collins:

* All 29 of her books have made The New York Times bestseller list.
* She has sold more than 500 MILLION copies of her books.
* Her books have been translated into 40 languages.
* Eight of her books have garnered either movie deals or TV series deals.

Give me some of that. All DAY LONG!

So, yes I read Jackie Collins. And I read Umberto Eco. And the Twilight Books, come to think about it. And when I get the new Collins' book, I'll read it and stick it on my living room bookshelf right next to OLD GORIOT by Honoré de Balzac. 

Okay. I feel so much better now. Now, your turn:

Here is your chance to shout out your JACKIE COLLINS-type author. Stand proud. Give it to me in the comments. 

Or not. 


* Besides Harlen Coben, Jackie Collins' fans listed these authors as their favorites:
Charlaine Harris
Stephen King
JA Jance
Agatha Christie
James Patterson
Janet Evanovich
Greg Isles
Danielle Steele

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thoughts on GOTHAM Now That I've Caught Up

Scott D. Parker
Well it took seven months--but only about three weeks of binge watching--to catch up with GOTHAM. That's 18 episodes if you're keeping score at home. Eighteen pretty darn entertaining hours, I have to say.

First things first: the MVP of GOTHAM is the person in charge of casting. Not sure who that is, but he/she deserves a medal. Or a raise. I have loved getting to see new spins on classic characters with new actors. Benjamin McKenzie as James Gordon is wonderful. McKenzie’s portrayal of Gordon’s goodness tinged with anguish over things he has to do is wonderful. He, along with most of the other, are actors of whom I was unfamiliar before GOTHAM so I’m coming with a blank slate. Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock, Gordon’s partner, is also good if not a little over-the-top in a more typical partnery kind of way. I’ve enjoyed the progression of Bullock into a true partner even if he didn’t agree or know where Gordon was heading.

David Mazouz plays young Bruce Wayne and he got my vote in the opening scene when, for the first time on film, he screamed after his parents were murdered. I mean screamed. Since then, he’s turned into a stoic lad who wants to know more but is only hampered by his age. But he can sure boss Alfred around. Sean Pertwee is an actor I knew but only from ELEMENTARY. Here, he’s a badass Alfred and he is great. I love the little subtle touches he gives to prove he’s scared to death at the prospect of raising a young, rich orphan. But this Alfred has some military background and that’s starting to come out.

As for the villains, I like that Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) works for the cops. Smith plays the future Riddler as a weirdo that wants to fit in but that no one likes. John Doman as Carmine Falcone conveys such gravitas that he fills the screen with his personality. I think that the choices Jada Pinkett Smith is making are fun in a comic-booky sort of way, but she still has the presence to make her scary.

Above all other villains is Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin. Oh my! He is my MVP of the entire show. I love the way he’s portrayed as a thinker, a pipsqueak who is not above getting knocked around because he’s thinking five steps ahead. Ten even. I’ve liked the Penguin in the comics because he’s a lot like Marvel’s Kingpin or even Moriarty: he’s a puppeteer who pulls a lot of strings but not ones that can be tied directly to him. Burgess Meredith was great for what he did but Danny DeVito’s version was a little off for me. Now, typically, Oswald Cobblepot is a rich orphan, one on par with Bruce Wayne, but not in GOTHAM. Here, he’s a low minion who has worked his way up the crime ladder and looks to rule the city. Taylor’s characterization of Penguin is shocking (he’ll out and out stab a guy with little thought) and funny, often in the same scene.

The stories are good and fun, successfully bridging the line between police procedural and comic book hijinks. We get disturbing storylines as early as episode 2 (with the abduction of children for a fate not named but implied) that are followed soon by ones featuring a guy who ties his victims to weather balloons and let’s’em rise...then fall. There are long-running story arcs--Gordon’s odyssey as a good man in a bad town is the prime one--but the Penguin’s is one of the better ones. He loves Gotham and will do anything for her, and it’s interesting to see how that plays out episode after episode.

I like that the writers are presenting characters wearing masks--goat mask, red hood--before Batman or other masked villains that we know show up. It’s neat to see them put forth the idea of the power behind a mask. It’s also fun to see nascent versions of the characters we already know.

It’s not all wine and roses, however. That very thing of showing early versions of the characters can be too much. The young Poison Ivy I’m not fond of much (and it was hard to find a good image to use today and not have her in it). She’s just a street urchin out of Oliver Twist. Young Bruce Wayne comes off a little too much like the current Bat-God--the modern version of Batman where he’s thought out every last thing to the nth degree that you can never beat him--and he still needs to be a kid. That’s why I like what they’ve done with Selena Kyle (Catwoman) and how the two of them get along.

There are a few little things but not too much to make me not like the show. I even watched 3-4 episodes on some days. It sucked me in and I enjoyed them all. Like I wrote last fall, I still would have liked to have seen Thomas and Martha Wayne on screen for awhile and I'd love to have seen GOTHAM become the universe where Batman doesn't have to exist.
The reason I haven’t watched until now is the time it airs: 7pm on Mondays. That’s family/homework time. CASTLE airs at 9pm on Mondays and I don’t have the time on Mondays to tape-and-watch. But I will definitely start now. I’m just happy to have a new Batman show on TV with interesting twists on the known canon.

Next up: catching up on The Flash.

So, GOTHAM watchers: what say ye? Like the show? Dislike the show?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Guest post - Tom Pitts - The Novella is Dead

image001Coughs, comes up to podium, remembers sage advice: Open with a joke. Open with a joke!

Um … The novel walks into a bar, followed by the novella.

Bartender says, "What's with the new guy?"

The novel says, "It's a long story."

(Stolen from @IsTheNovelDead on twitter)

A few years ago, when I tried to pen my first longer work—the piece that eventually became Knuckleball—a friend told me, "The novella is dead!"

image003I'm happy to say this friend (I'm looking at you, Joe Clifford!) was wrong.

Although, I'm not sure he was wrong at the time.

They're always proclaiming something is dead. God is dead! Rock'n'Roll is dead! Or my personal favorite: Disco is dead!! But there was something a bit more sinister at work here. The publishing industry really did their best to kill off the novella—the brunch of literature, the Opie-size opuses, bite-sized book, the orphan of the epic.

It wasn't really that reader's appetites for shorter works had died off. Far from it. The reality of printing skinny little hardcopy books that had to be shipped, invoiced, and stored (thus keeping the price close to what a full-length novel would be) made it tough to rationalize keeping them in the game. If a customer saw a big fat book for 12.99 and a thin volume for 10.99, they'd most likely pick up the bigger tome to get more bang for their buck. Who could blame 'em? The big houses saw their out and gave the novella the squeeze.

image006Enter the eBook—enter the era of the 99 cent book. Hate on 'em if you must, but the eBook continues to eclipse their older, heavier brothers with ease, convenience, and price. Now it's possible to crank out plenty of shorter works without the price-heavy network necessary to get novellas to the readers.

And the public responded. Turns out they dig novellas. In spades.

The publishers responded too. From Don Delillo's Point Omega to Eric Beetner's Dig Two Graves, the publishing world has been kicking out tiny tomes left and right.

johnsonI don't know about y'all, but when I'm trying out a new author I often want to dip my toe in the water. Get a taste. When I first tried out Denis Johnson, I bought Nobody Move, his noir novella. (Loved it, by the way, although a lot of his hardcore fans didn't. It did the trick. I'm now a fan. I went on to read Tree of Smoke and other longer works of his. Train Dreams, another tight little novella of his remains a personal favorite.)

I just finished, The Drop, Dennis Lehane's superb novella. It's perfectly balanced and great example of a shorter book packing a punch. Tough to argue with success via satisfaction.

In fact, when my own novella, Piggyback, was published by Snubnose in 2012, I felt like I was in the midst of a novella renaissance. A novella-lution. Okay, that phrase doesn't work too well, but you know what I mean.

One Eye Press answered the call in a big way and decided to put out a series of novellas—their Singles series. There're a few other publishers, both big and small, that have been doing the same thing.

You might say it's the shorter attention span of readers these days, or the ease of e-publishing, or the aligning of the planets. Whatever the reason, there's something nice and satisfying about a novella.

oeps-knuckleball-pitts-3dcover-bWhen I think about Steinbeck's the Red Pony or Of Mice and Men, or even the goddamn Great Gatsby—which by most folk's measurements would be classified as a novella—there's direct and concise quality about a thin tome that gets lost inside of a 500-page doorstopper.

So … here's to the novella.

Oh, by the way, my own novella, my first born, the piece that holds that special place in my heart, KNUCKLEBALL is out now and available from One Eye Press.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. His novel, HUSTLE, and his novella, Piggyback, are available from Snubnose Press. His new novella, Knuckleball, will be released by One Eye Press is out now. Find links to more of his work at:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Looking for Absolution

by Holly West

Bless me, oh Gods of Publishing, for I have sinned.

I have a confession to make. It's a long time coming and I hang my head with shame as I write it, but perhaps my admission will give me the peace I'm so desperately searching for. Either that or the commiseration of other writers who are in the same sinking boat I am.

It seems I have become a "non-finisher." In the past year, I've written no less than one hundred thousand words on two separate projects. Project One has been started and re-started three times. Project Two, which I spent the entire summer writing at the expense of Project One, was abandoned somewhere around forty thousand words. Oh, I plan to pick it up again. I just don't know when.

Neither project is anywhere close to THE END. Should I even mention Project Three, a historical mystery set in post-WII Philadelphia that I started writing before Mistress of Fortune was even published? I laid that one to the side because I just can't figure out the story I want to tell.

I turned in the manuscript for Mistress of Lies in November 2013, which means I haven't finished a book in over a year. After completing MOL, I had these grand visions of starting my next project--a stand alone novel set in contemporary Venice, California--and finishing it within six months. Such hubris! I am not that writer and never have been. The only thing that pushed me to write MOL in less than a year was a giant sword etched with the word DEADLINE hanging over my head.

But in spite of this, I come from the Chuck Wendig School of Finish Your Shit. I don't want to be a writer who hops from project to project, always writing but never completing. It mortifies me to admit that I can't seem to pick a project and stick with it to the end.

To me, not finishing projects is just another form of work avoidance. Oh, I can understand the occasional starting of something then realizing it just doesn't have legs. It happens to all of us. But at this point, I'm just f*cking around. Writing words because in order to call myself a writer I have to write but not doing the real work that FINISHING entails.

I've never been a writer who writes for the love of writing. Oh hell no. I write for the love of finishing. That's where the satisfaction is for me. I write because I love to read and I endeavor to give other readers some of the same pleasure I've received from books over the years. I can't do that if I'm not finishing.

(Is it just me or did this conversation somehow turn a little bit sexual?)

Here, then, is my solemn pledge. I've just re-started my current project--that stand alone set in Venice--for the fourth time. I WILL FINISH IT BY JUNE. If it's good enough, I might even send it to my agent. I don't expect you to hold me to this because I know you've got your own shit to worry about, but maybe saying it here will reinforce the deadline in my mind.

Thank you for listening. I'm ready for my flogging now.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Birthday boys and their reading habits

I'm going to tie together a couple of thoughts, badly I might add. But this is what's been on my mind over the last day or so.

One of the most basic bits of writing advice is "read, read, read", to read widely, and to learn to read deeply or critically. Yesterday was Louis L'amour's birthday and to celebrate it I thumbed through what may be his best work, and is one of my favorites by him, Education of a Wandering Man. This is a memoir he wrote about his life, about being an autodidact, and about his reading life. The take away is that L'amour was a voracious reader who always had a book in tow, and who didn't read just one type or mode of book.

Recently Jedidiah Ayres was interviewed by Gabino Iglesias and gave the following answer:

And at this point there is so little money involved that it’s not an incentive to work faster. I read much more than I write. Hell, I watch movies (I guess you’ve noticed) much more than I write, and I think that’s the way it should be (for me). If I had to give up reading or writing, I’d drop writing last week. And yeah, I could think of a dozen other things off the top of my head I’d prioritize above writing. That said, I’ve got a half dozen novels I am currently working on. THAT SAID, I’ve been working on most of them for years.

I have a long internet memory and remembered hearing another writer give a similar answer. Facebook tells me today is Declan Burke's birthday and years ago, over on his blog, he wrote the following:

There’s a question in the regular Q&A that I run on Crime Always Pays which is for me the one that gives the most insight into a writer, or as much insight as can be gleaned from a 10-question Q&A. It’s the one about God appearing, and saying you can only read or write, and which will it be. For me, it’s a no-brainer - I’d read, because the books I want to read are better than anything I’m capable of writing. And, given that I’m a failed writer, Beckett’s dictum on failing and failing again better notwithstanding, the last thing I want to be reading is a book not fit to lace my own books’ shoelaces, if you’ll forgive the mangled metaphor.

I wonder if the answer that they both give is the common one? I'm tempted to say that writers would say writing, but obviously have nothing to back that assertion up. So maybe instead we can ask, What does it say about these guys that they choose writing?

Another question that I've been pondering lately that I'll throw out there: If you are a writer and you are only reading the books that your friends and acquaintances are publishing  are you doing your own work a disservice?

That's as far as I've taken the train of thought for today. What do you think?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Letter to Desperate Author Dude ...

by Kristi Belcamino

Hey, Author Dude, if you hop on my Facebook author page and comment with a random link to your author page or, even worse, your Amazon page, in the comments of one of my own posts, I might ignore it the first time.

The second time, you're banned.

Annoying, but in the scope of things, not that big a deal. And yet it still makes me wonder:

Hey, Author Dude, did you really think that was going to garner you some random book sales? I mean, really? Is that little snippet of description and that picture of you so incredibly compelling that all of the 2K plus people on my Facebook page are going to click on and then rush to buy your book?


Which brings me to my point, many of the methods that you, oh, desperate-for-sales-author, use can't possibly be effective. There is no way.

I get where this writing business can make you feel desperate. I get that. This is a tough business, full of ups and downs and heartbreaking moments of self-doubt and despair. Believe me, I get that.

But the only thing you can really do to increase your books sales is to continue improving as a writer every single day of your life and then maybe this: lay off the hard-hitting sales and stop acting like a dick. Unless you really are one, and then you're out of luck. Or maybe that schtick will work for you.

But my point is that in this writing world, your behavior on social media shouldn't involve selling your books, it should involve selling yourself.

Let people know what you are like and let that lead them to your books.

If you are sweet, be sweet. If you are snarky, be snarky.

Be yourself and that will lead your true readers to you and your books. And that's what you want, your true readers, who like you and hope that your books are like you. When the two match, then, bingo, you have a genuine reader you can thank your lucky stars for every day.

And that one reader who loves your books is worth more than 500 lukewarm-about-your-books "friends" on social media.

Because I see you there friending as many people as possible on Facebook and then following just as many on Twitter.

Here's a little hint for you:

This really doesn't work. Those numbers don't translate to book sales.

Yet, I see you do it again and again.

And when you are on social media, STFU about your book for 90 percent of the time. If people like you enough, they'll find your books on their own. If something cool is happening, then you can talk about it 10 percent of the time without coming off like a douche.

By the way, when you are making social media friends, please don't do this creepy, stalkerish thing where you methodically go down my friend's list and send friend requests to everyone I know, including my family and friends.

And, yes, it's going to be obvious you've done this when I go to your Facebook page and find that our mutual friends include my neighbor next door and my relative across the country.

Creepy. Stalkerish. Desperate. Futile.

And when you follow me on Twitter and I follow back, please don't end it before it begins by sending me a direct message telling me about your book or your author page. Because I'm going to immediately unfollow you. When you post your books and links to them on my page, I'm going to ban you.

And of course, you don't really care if I unfriend you or unfollow you, because I'm just one of the faceless masses to you. You see your biggest fault is seeing potential readers as masses instead of individuals. Because to you it's a numbers game -- throw your book at as many eyeballs as you can and see what sticks.

Hope that's working for you, Author Dude.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Quertermous, Laukkanen and Joy at Houston’s Murder by the Book

Scott D. Parker

Slowly but surely, I am meeting each one of my fellow DSDers in person. I’ve met Joelle and Russell and now Bryon. He arrived at Murder by the Book last night with two other authors: David Joy and Owen Laukkanen. The fourth author, Duane Swierczynski, couldn’t make the trip from Philadelphia on account of the weather.

It’s always a funny thing to see a person in the flesh with whom you have corresponded over the internet. But he looks just like his photo over at his website. In Arizona, he wore a Flash T-shirt. I was wondering what hero garb he’d wear in Texas. Turns out to be Deadpool. (Pondering a hidden meaning…)

The Murder by the Book folks, led by owner McKenna Jordon, run these author events like a well-oiled machine. As they prepared for the talk, I chatted with author Bill Crider. It’s been awhile since I’d seen him and it was good to catch up.

McKenna moderated the panel with five questions that each author answered. She started with each man’s writerly routine. Bryon likes to get away and write in a McDonald’s up in Michigan where he lives. It’s the only place in town without WiFi so he can work uninterrupted and work on his words. Speaking of words, Owen strives for 5,000 words per day. And I’m officially very impressed. David’s words come when they come. He wrote his debut book while holding down two jobs. So to all those folks who say they don’t have time to write, I’ll give you David as Exhibit A.

When asked about the genesis of their books, Bryon said that he struggled a lot but that these characters (in Murder Boy) kept talking to him. Then a thought occurred to him and it acted like a revelation: “The Great American Novel can’t be a murder mystery.” David got the group laughing when he mentioned that he literally burned early drafts of his book. Owen, while lobster fishing, had a lot of time to think and he started wondering about telling the story of sex slaves from the POV of the slaves themselves.

In regards to writing approaches and how they might be different for different kinds of books, David confessed that he’s not good at anything else but writing. Owen touted his YA novel where he allowed himself to be as over-the-top as possible and it resonated not only with his agent and editor but one of the folks last night. Bryon tried to tell the story of Murder Boy as a short story, short play, full-length play, and then finally novel. Through it all, he managed to wrangle the text into the novel that’s out soon. (Psst! If you were at the event, they already had the novel available so it pays to go to author events!)

Writing heroes was another topic discussed. Owen studied the Da Vinci Code to help his own dad write a thriller. He also name dropped Thomas King, of Cherokee descent, who helped Owen understand the important of looking at your own work with a critical eye. David named a lot of authors he enjoys including Larry Brown, William Gay, Ron Rash, and Jeneatte Winterson. Bryon centered on two books as the actual sparks he needed to get Murder Boy written: Duane Swierczynski’s The Wheelman and Victor Gischler’s The Pistol Poets. He also extolled a love of late 50s/early 60s pulp fiction and specifically mentioned Hard Case Crime, something with which I can wholeheartedly concur.

Lastly, McKenna asked the superpower question: which one would you like to have. Bryon started off with ‘wealth’ partially because he gravitates to the non-powered heroes in comics but also because he could then buy the gadgets to help people. David didn’t read comics too much, but he has a fascination with fish so he went went the breathing underwater power (to which Bryon commented on the New 52 version of Aquaman, another thing I can vouch for). Owen, dreading the 5am flight he took this morning, craved teleportation. He also wanted the drug from the movie Limitless so he could write more books.

It was a swell time and I look forward to meeting more of my fellow DSDers someday. But the best thing about an event like this with multiple authors is the very thing you can only get from a bookstore like Murder by the Book: you get exposed to books and authors outside your normal range.

So get to a bookstore and browse and discover something new.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crime fiction panel

By Steve Weddle

Next week I'll again be teaching a short story class over at LitReactor. We read short stories, talk about how they're crafted and why they work, and work on putting our own together.  I have not gotten a notice that it has sold out, so you've still got time to register.

Speaking of me and short stories, Art Taylor was kind enough to include me in his brilliant discussion of novels-in-stories over at the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine blog. If you have a few minutes, you should check out his take on the subject.

As you know from Holly's post yesterday, last weekend was Left Coast Crime, a crime fiction convention in Portland, Oregon.

This week is the Virginia Festival of the Book, which is held each year in Charlottesville. On Saturday, I'll be moderating a panel for crime fiction -- Crime Wave: Private Eyes & Ink-Stained Wretches. (Sat. March 21, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm; Omni Hotel - Ballroom C; 212 Ridge McIntire Road, Charlottesville, VA)
Hear authors Reed Farrel Coleman (Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot), Brad Parks (The Player), and Andy Straka (The K Street Hunting Society) share stories of their private eyes and journalists caught up in crime.

I met Reed at NoirCon 2010 in Philly and had the chance to hear him opine on noir finding itself coming back to early twentieth century Los Angeles, even by authors who are writing at the moment.

I met Andy when I moderated a panel a few years ago at the state library in Virginia.

I met Brad Parks in the parking lot of the Levittown Flea Market, where a vendor was selling Italian ices and Taylor Swift tickets.

All of these guys write series characters, which is what we'll mostly be chatting about.

Whether you've been to 20 crime fiction panels or none, you've probably got something you'd want to know from talented writers such as these. If you'd like to drop a question in the comments, I can see what we can find out from these guys on Saturday. Or, if there was a great panel question you heard recently, feel free to share.
Either way, I hope to see you in Charlottesville this week for the book festival.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Library Sales: The DIY Approach

by Holly West

I attended Crimelandia - Left Coast Crime 2015 this past week and on a scale from one to ten, the conference was an eleven. So. Much. Fun.

You might recall that my novel, MISTRESS OF FORTUNE, was nominated for the Rosebud Award for Best First Mystery Novel. Being a nominee was pretty much the greatest thing ever. Okay, actually winning the award might've been greater but they gave me this plaque so I still feel like a superstar.

Allen Eskins won for THE LIFE WE BURY. I'm looking forward to reading it, as it's also nominated for several other awards, including the Edgar.

As usual, I came home from the conference with loads of new ideas. Library sales, specifically, how to get them, is number one on the list. This isn't wholly the result of attending Left Coast Crime, but after attending a panel on how to market one's books, I'm newly energized to pursue the goal of getting my ebooks into as many public libraries as I can.

For this, I need your help.

Recently, I asked a couple of family members to contact their public libraries and request that they order MISTRESS OF FORTUNE and MISTRESS OF LIES. As a result, both books are now part of the Yolo County Public Library collection. Even better, MISTRESS OF FORTUNE is currently checked out. 

For my part, I'm contacting as many libraries as I can myself. I've written a pitch letter that includes a brief synopsis of each book, a couple of blurbs, and a mention of my recent award nomination. For example, there was a librarian at Left Coast Crime who participated in the "Buy My Book" marketing panel. I wrote to her directly, explained that I'd seen her speak and that I was a nominee. She replied today saying she planned on buying both of my books.

Some libraries, however, do not allow me to make a purchase request unless I'm a library card holder at one of their branches. And so I must impose on you to take a moment to contact your local public library and make the request for me. All you need to do is go to your local library's website, find the instructions for how to make a purchase request, and enter the pertinent information. To make this task easier for you, here is the relevant information:

Author: Holly West
ISBN: 9781426897979
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: February 3, 2014
Format: ebook
Synopsis:Isabel, Lady Wilde, a mistress to King Charles II, has a secret: she makes her living disguised as Mistress Ruby, a fortune-teller who caters to London’s elite. When a prominent local magistrate seeks Mistress Ruby's counsel about his unwitting involvement in a plot to kill the king and is found brutally murdered shortly thereafter, she takes up the investigation and discovers a dangerous political conspiracy that leads all the way to the throne. As she delves deeper into the mystery, not even the king may be able to save her.

Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: September 29, 2014
Format: ebook
When a beggar girl shows up at Isabel's home claiming to be her niece, Isabel is skeptical because she always believed that her brother, Adam, had died, without wife or child, of the plague. But after the girl reveals that Adam was in fact murdered, Isabel is compelled to take up an impossible task: discover the truth about her brother's death, twelve years after it happened. As she learns about her brother's dark secrets, she begins to wonder whether the past is better left buried--especially when uncovering the truth could lead to her own funeral.

I'm sure I'm not the only author who can benefit from such a grass roots effort to get our books into libraries. I'm happy to make requests on your behalf to my own public library, so contact me in the comments if you'd like me to do so.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Picking A Side

By Jay Stringer

 (None of this post really has anything to do with crime fiction, but I'm a crime writer, that's enough of a connection)

I've been thinking a lot about place and belonging lately. Long time readers will know I'm a football/soccer fan. I support Wolves, and they've been my team since I was six years old.

I know there was a time before, when I didn't support them, and I know there was a time after, when I built my week around Wolves games. What I don't know, really, is what made the change. What was the moment when my brain flipped, and I developed the attachment that would define my sporting tastes for the rest of my life.

How do we define these things? How do we choose?

I grew up a Wolves area. But it's never cut-and-dried. I was born in Walsall, a town that has it's own football team, and they were higher up the football league at the time I made my choice. I grew up on the border between Darlaston and Wednesbury; Darlaston is very much a Wolves area, Wednesbury tends more towards supporting West Bromwich Albion. My family is split pretty evenly among the three teams. The house I lived in at the time of my "choice" was exactly halfway between the stadia where Wolves and Albion play their home games (5.4 miles in either direction) and only 2.5 miles from Walsall's stadium. In a fun quirk of the public transport system, it was easier for me to get to Molineux (where Wolves play) than the other two. There was a bus at the bottom of my road that would take me almost straight to Molineux, but I needed two buses (and a long walk) to get to a Walsall game, and the bus that would take me to see Albion was a longer walk than the one that took me to Wolves. The logistics of public transport don't play a part in a six year old's decision making, though, and it was much later when I came to appreciate that benefit.

So, what was it? Given that I had a pretty strong claim to support any one of three local teams, how Did I choose one? And how did I choose one so strongly that, afterwards, the very thought of supporting Albion would make me break out in a cold sweat?

I have no idea. How does it work for other people?

Sure, often it's family. Or a local connection. Maybe, in some cases, your religion or ethnicity plays a part. But even then, even when the decision is all-but-made for you by other factors, how do we know which team our heads and hearts will decide to cling to?

Is there someone whose entire family were Celtic fans, but as a boy he/she simply enjoyed watching Rangers more? And what wins out, the tradition and history, or the personal enjoyment? Is there a Liverpool fan somewhere who comes from an entire family of Evertonians, but his/her heart leapt a little higher at the sight of the team in blue?

The answer to both, of course, is 'yes.' Those fans do exist. It happens. And maybe we'll never know why. It's probably best that we don't. Following a football team shouldn't come down to a cold mathematical decision, and we don't need to know all of the reasons for our choices.

But I'm a writer, so I can't help questioning it.

It's in my mind because I made the decision to support a MLS team this year. I have tried -and failed- in the past to develop an attachment to a 'second team.' I've just never been wired to do it. I can get a short term attachment, and become interested in a clubs history and local area, but that wears off. I'm a Wolves fan and that's pretty much it, my attachment to them seems to preclude any lasting bond to another sporting team.

But I like to try and change. If I see something about myself that seems 'hard wired,' I like to try and change that wiring. I'm always interested in proving that I can decide to change my nature. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.

But this had me trying to think how I would develop an attachment as an Adult. Without even knowing how it happens as a child, I was trying to find that special ingredient, that thing that made me latch on to a team.

I talked about it beforehand with some American and Canadian friends, and they suggested a few teams. DC, Toronto, Portland, and Seattle were the teams they shortlisted. And, given my freakish love of Manhattan, I put NYCFC on there.

Then I set about reading through the team histories, trying to see if there was anything that grabbed me. It seemed that Portland and Seattle were the two that most resembled European football teams, in the crowds, the chants, the overall supporter culture. And NYCFC was clearly not going to happen for me.

I have friends in both Portland and Seattle. I have friends who support the teams. Crucially, I reckoned, I've been to Seattle. I've stood outside their stadium, and I like the city a lot. On the other hand, The Replacements have a song about Portland....

I realised it wasn't going to be something I could simply decide. I needed to watch some games and form an attachment. I watched the first weekend of MLS fixtures and, once again, it came down to those two teams. I'd been drawn in by Portland's opening game, a 0-0 result, and the crowd had been full of songs and chanting, I liked that. I really didn't enjoy Seattle's opening game that much; they won 3-0, but the style of play they use is too direct, it's something that English teams have been gradully moving away from for 20 years. (As a rough example for British football fans, Seattle could be managed by Sam Allardyce.) But -and it's a big BUT- I loved the Seattle crowd. It was the kind of atmosphere that fans used to generate at Molineux in the 90's, before too many disappointments and too-high ticket prices started to stifle things.

So I took it to the second weekend. Portland had another draw, 2-2 with the biggest and best team in MLS. I enjoyed the game, I still liked the sound of the crowd,  and all thing being equal I would have become a Timbers fan. But an odd thing happened. I watched Seattle Sounders lose. They were 1-3 down at one point, and spent the last ten minutes chasing a way back in. They pulled it back to 2-3, but couldn't find that third goal. The crowd were as loud as they'd been before, and I still don't like the style of play, but in seeing a team chase a game and lose, I somehow found myself supporting them.

I needed to see how a team lost, I guess, before I could decide whether they were my team.

Go figure.

(And they would totally have won that game with a more patient, possession-based game plan.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Knocked my socks off

Short, late post today.

I've had a couple of things knock my socks off recently and thought I'd share (since I needed something to fill my Monday time). 

Rectify - This is a show that airs on The Sundance Channel and seasons 1 & 2 are currently on Netflix. We just finished season 1 and started season 2. This is a stunning, evocative, sweeping, beautiful, affecting, mournful, contemplative, thoughtful show that goes against the current trend of anti-hero leads. Rectify is unlike anything else on TV right now, not only in how the drama unfolds but in how it is shot and how it looks. If you like fiction that slowly builds to gut punch and heart punch moments, this is for you. Those six episodes of season one are damn near brilliant. It remains to be seen if it will sustain through a longer season two but, if those first two episodes are any indication, nothing to worry about. The final scene of the first episode of season two is one of the best things I've ever seen on TV. Which is funny since the show's creator, Ray McKinnon, stars in what I consider to be the greatest scene in modern TV history (McKinnon was the preacher in Deadwood).

Fortitude - The first season of Fortitude is currently airing and has four episodes left so it could totally go off the rails before the end. But right now, it is a really interesting show. It takes place in a small isolated Arctic town and plays out like a mix between a small town drama and a murder mystery. Then things subtly get weird.If this thing goes full weird, like it is threatening to do, it could wind up being one of my favorites of the year.

My Life As A Foreign Country by Brian Turner - This is a war memoir that is everything American Sniper should have been. Turner uses his time in war to reflect on the military service of his past relatives, on America's past wars, on his own experiences in the war, and trying to re-integrate back into society. Page after page contains sections that you re-read, write down, and want to remember. Hell of a book.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pinterest for Interest

by Kristi Belcamino

Part of the fun of plotting and researching a book includes using Pinterest as a storyboard.

I've created several different boards on my Pinterest page, including a board for each of my four books, Blessed are the Dead, Blessed are the Meek, Blessed are Those Who Weep (April 7, 2015) and Blessed are Those Who Mourn (WIP Oct. 15, 2015)

I use Pinterest in a few different ways, including the following:

* A way for readers to "See" the locations in my novels. For instance, the opening scene of the book I'm writing now, Mourn, takes place here:

My main character, Gabriella Giovanni, lives in North Beach, the Italian section of San Francisco:

A scene in my second book takes place at the Marin Headlands, former military outpost:

And a scene in my third book takes place at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco:

* I also use Pinterest to post pictures of who I think might play my characters in a movie! (Dreaming big!)

I've always thought George Clooney's ex, Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, would make a great Gabriella :

And that Colin Farrell could play Detective Sean Donovan:

In my second book, I thought former San Francisco attorney Kimberly Guifoyle could play Annalisa:

And her ex-husband, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, could play Mayor Adam Grant:

* I also use Pinterest to mention OTHER things, in my books like the Italian horn and malocchio:

Or the best dessert around, affogato:

Or philosophies or sayings that my characters might say or believe:

Or on another board, ITALIAN

But I also have a board called La Dolce Vita (living the sweet life) because who doesn't need a little bunny or coffee and a good book or inspirational saying every once in a while?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Searchin' for the Groove

Scott D. Parker

Last night, the Energy City New Horizons Big Band—in which I am a member, playing alto sax—performed our annual spring dance/concert at my church. It’s a fun gig and this is, I believe, the third year in a row we’ve been the music for a dance. The chairs in our contemporary worship space, The Well, were pushed to one side to allow half of the area to be open for dancing. It’s no surprise that we do attract some older folks for whom this music was their music. It’s wonderful to hear their audible response when our director announces a tune from, say, Glenn Miller. It’s a thrill.

The band was about as tight as we’ve ever been. We don’t just play the old oldies. We mix it up, throwing in some 60s Latin tunes (The *Boy* from Ipanema on account of our lady singer), 70s rock (Chicago), 70s funk (Earth, Wind and Fire) to go along with timeless standards (My Funny Valentine). It was a 27-song setlist so there was something for everyone.

We’ve been playing together…well, I think it’s been six years or so. Maybe longer. I can’t remember. The jazz band only rehearses when we have a planned gig. That leaves those of us in orchestra or other various ensembles freedom to attend those rehearsals. Whenever the jazz bands assembles, however, it doesn’t take long to get back in the groove.

How does this pertain to writing? I’m glad you asked. Now that WADING INTO WAR is available as an ebook, I wanted to make sure those folks who prefer a paper copy the opportunity to read the book. I am going through CreateSpace and, while the steps necessary to create an ebook is rather straightforward, the process for creating print ready PDFs is something quite different.

You see, like my jazz band getting back together to play a gig and not taking long to find the groove, the ebook formatting is not difficult. I can get into that groove pretty easily. Once I’ve done everything there is to do in publishing and distributing WADING INTO WAR, I’ll have done everything a first time.

And boy am I looking forward to that second time. I’m in Year Zero with this publishing adventure. I’ve learned a ton of things and have a list of Lessons Learned that’ll make the second, and third, and fourth, and all subsequent times easier. I am looking forward to the publishing process to be like playing with my jazz band: get in the groove and play everything tight.

Displaying photo.JPG

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Going to Church

By Alex Segura

With apologies to my friend Kristi Belcamino - I can’t stand the term “Church of 1,000 Words.” Maybe I'm just a grouch when it comes to phrases. But here's the thing:

It’s spot-on. You have to write. Every. Single. Day.

Let me zoom out a second. I am just now coming out of what I’d like to call a “transitional” period as an author - my first book had come out and I was now fielding questions from friends, family, fellow writers and fans about “When’s the next one coming?” On top of that, though, we (my agent and I) were trying to find a home for not only the next Pete Fernandez book, but the third and the first. A challenge, I think - but my agent nailed it, and now I’m happily part of the Polis Books team.

“Nice plug, bro, but what does that have to do with writing?”

Excellent question, imaginary heckler. It has a lot to do with it, actually. Because as writers, we don’t just sit at home and crank words out 24-7 - we promote, we do events/conferences, we network, we pitch to press, we interact with booksellers, we take meetings and, let’s face it, most of us have day jobs. That does not leave a lot of time for the biggest part of the job, which is problematic.

While in this between-book-limbo, I polished off a draft for the second Pete book, Down the Darkest Street (which was required to get out of the limbo...and now coming in 2016 from Polis Books! Such a relief to say that.), I worked up a few comic book ideas and then...waited. I had about 40k words for Pete Book 3, but with no real sense of what was going to happen, I didn’t want to push further in case things didn’t go as we’d hoped and I’d have to pivot. So, short version - I was working on stuff, but not Working on Something, meaning a specific book. That means it was much easier to do other stuff. Play the guitar. Read a lot more. The urgency and deadline pressure that motivates me wasn’t around.

Still, like any kind of exercise, if you don’t go to the gym/workout for a while, your muscles get lazy and tired and your body just doesn’t want to do that painful thing anymore. Writing is like that. 

But here’s the thing, and I can’t speak for anyone else - when I’m not writing, I become pretty unbearable. It’s like there’s too much stuff in my head and if I don’t sit down and crank it out on the regular, my mood gradually dips. It was that realization more than any external pressures or decisions that got me behind the desk again and working on stuff - anything, really. I wrote a short story. Finished that comic pitch. Edited a sci-fi short I was collaborating on. I just cranked on whatever was in front of me.

And, once the book deal was locked, I sat down and had a goal: to finish a draft of third Pete book. I was already in shape, though - having warmed up on a bunch of smaller projects. So, when I did have to face the gigantic, frightening prospect of another novel, it didn’t feel so scary. That was mainly because I was attending The Church of 1,000 Words. Sure, I was sitting in the back with a hat and shades on, but I was there.

Which brings me to my question to the readers of the blog - what’s your process? Do you have a daily word count? How do you balance non-writerly writer things with the actual work?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Write without distraction - AlphaSmart keyboards

By Steve Weddle

Once you've done your research, gathered your notes, and you've put your butt in your chair, does the internet keep you from writing?

You just have to look up a street name REALLY QUICK and before you know it, you're looking at Travelocity and daydreaming about a trip to a Greek island in five or six years.

Well, how would you like to write easily, without distraction?

Handwrite in notebooks? But then you have to type that sucker up, right?

 (But, wait, there's more. Um, actually, no. There's less. Which is better. Trust me.)

Instead of using your laptop or tablet and running one of those BLOCK THE INNERWEBS apps, what if you could just type up the words and then load them into your document when you're done? Kind of a NaNoWriMo experience year-round. Just write. Without distractions.

Well, Laurance Friend has been posting about AlphaSmart keyboards.

Read about his experience here.

And, as Mr. Friend suggests, you can find out more over here at the AlphaSmart discussion page.

Is there a video of someone using one? Sure. Here you go:

Get off the internet and write. Good luck.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Motive–how important is it?


There’s a cop show on Canadian TV called, “Motive,” and the network’s description reads:

MOTIVE is an unconventional way to watch a crime drama unfold. Each episode of the new CTV Original Drama begins by revealing not only the victim, but the killer as well. It’s not a “whodunit,” it’s a “whydunit,” a question faced by spirited female Vancouver homicide detective Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman) as she begins to piece together the clues from the crime. How are the victim and killer connected? What is the motive? As the mystery unfolds, the audience navigates a complicated maze of clues alongside the detective and her team.

So, do we care that much whydunit?

I sometimes say that my favourite crime fiction song is I Fought the Law because it explains itself so directly wit the lyrics:

“I needed money because I had none.”

That seems like all the motive necessary but maybe we’re past that now. Maybe we’re more interested in the why than we are in the who (or at least equally as interested).

Maybe I’m just afraid of the too cliché motive, the childhood trauma that leads to adult serial killer (maybe I see that as too much of an easy out and a slight to all the people who have overcome childhood trauma or are battling the effects of it without hurting anyone else).

Maybe it’s different depending on the crime. I like a good heist story and usually the motive for the robbery is pretty thin and dealt with quickly so we can move on to the real story.

In my novels there are a lot of criminals who commit crimes because… well, because they’re criminals. I like that approach, the idea that someone has looked at the opportunities available and decided to break the law. One marijuana dealer I spoke to more than ten years ago told me that laws change, someday his business would be legal and he’d be as respected a distiller or a brewer.

So, when it comes to the non-murder crimes, the drug dealing and bank heists and art thefts, how important is the character’s motive?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Five Rules for Debut Authors

by Kristi Belcamino

Since my debut mystery hasn't even been out a year, I'm probably not qualified to write this post, but here goes:

1. The day your book comes out is going to be anticlimactic. Guaranteed.

That is not to say it won't be a great day, but besides getting carpal tunnel from refreshing your Amazon page, it's best not to expect too much on that first day.

The best thing to do is have zero expectations and then anything that happens is a bonus. And better yet, plan a small, private celebration for yourself to mark and celebrate this moment.

The highlight of my day was my husband bringing our kids into my bedroom that morning and saying, "Look at your mama, she's a published author."

There were other bright moments, including a bestselling mystery writer calling me on the phone to congratulate me and telling me his sad story about having high expectations on his launch day that didn't come true.

2. Do not compare yourself to other writers.

Don't compare yourself to other debut writers in the field. This is not a competition. There are enough slices of this pie for everyone. Jealousy will only hurt you. Your goal is to concentrate on your writing. Not on what everyone else is doing. There are enough readers in this world for us to support other writers.

3. Don't be broken-hearted if your baby doesn't win any "debut author" awards.

Don't get me wrong, awards are a nice stroke of ego and God knows I'll dance like a banshee if I am ever nominated for one, but the reality is, for me, I'm in this game to build a career. Awards are nice ego strokes, true, but probably don't make a huge difference in the big picture.

4. Prepare for negative reviews. If you can, appoint a "troll buster" to read reviews and pass along ones that might be helpful instead of just hurtful. Follow Don't Read Comments (@AvoidComments) on Twitter for daily reminders to not read the comments!

Be realistic. You can't expect every single person who picks up your book to love it or even like it. have you loved every single book you've ever picked up and read? I didn't think so. If you want a career in this business, now is the time to develop a thick skin.

5. Write that next book without delay and don't look back. Don't rest on your laurels. Successful writers never stop working. Your future depends on you keeping your butt in the chair.

The only real piece of advice that matters in this post is this one: Keep writing.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

When the Whole World Knows

Scott D. Parker

This was THE week. This past week was when I announced to the world that WADING INTO WAR was available for purchase. I had timed the announcement via my new author website but wanted the far-ranging reach of Facebook to really get the message out. There was that moment, however, when I had the Facebook post cued and, with hand on mouse, I eased the cursor over to "Post."

And I hesitated. Only for a moment, but still, I hesitated. This was it. This was the moment of which I had dreamed and planned and prepared for running back to 2013. The moment that the world knew something that was wholly of my own creation was released into the world. There was no going back if I clicked that button. Did I really want to do it? Did I really want to put what I had created out into the world?

Years ago, when a friend and I wrote our first books, he expressed trepidation at the prospect of submitting his novel to an agent. "Then what the heck did you write it for?" I said.

Same question this past Tuesday for me. Did I really want WADING INTO WAR out in the public?

Heck yeah.

I clicked "Post" and the door was opened. I am a published author now. And boy is it a great feeling.

Now I just need to do it again.

For all you veteran authors out there, is this little bit of hesitation the authorial equivalent of stage fright? Does it get easier? Granted, it wasn't too difficult, honestly, aside from that moment. It's a complete thrill to know my book is out there. Moreover, I feel honored to have done something that Charles Dickens also did: publish a book independently.*

*Speaking of Dickens, have you read Edward Granger's (nee David Cranmer) essay on The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Oh, and he's got a nifty new story featuring Gideon Miles.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Time to vote

By Steve Weddle

Looks like it’s awards season for the crime fiction community? How do I know? I have a Facebook account. And an email account. And Twitter.

Turns out, 83 of my 96 online friends have books eligible for some sort of award. That's great. Heck, I've read a large number of those books and liked quite a few. And there are more awards and nominations coming.

The list goes on and on.

Seems as if everyone I know is nominated for an award named after one dead white man or another.

The presumption, of course, is that winning an award is useful to a writer's career. If you win the award, then you can add that to your bio. If you don't, you can hope again next year or swear the awards off as too political or a popularity contest, of course.

Having that award helps you stand out from folks who don't.

James Jimjam, Edgar-winning author of THE FUNAMBULIST'S DAUGHTER'S CONSPIRACY, will be reading tonight at the Booke Shoppe on Main Street.

Sometimes the problem with being a professional writer is less with the writing and more with the acting professionally.

A few years ago, I was somehow nominated for something and unsure how to, um, well, you know, get people to notice so they'd think I was cool? As Joel McHale would say, ANYWAY, someone suggested using the old "Congratulations to my fellow nominees" construction. Which is great. You draw attention to yourself, but it looks as if you're congratulating other people. Flawless.  Who could fault you for that? I didn't give it much more thought.

OK. Let me take a second before we go further to give some space to the usefulness of these awards. To me, the awards you don't have to explain are awesome. He won the Pulitzer. She won the Nobel. Then you have the other awards, the ones you have to explain. She won the William T. Nulon Award, given annually to outstanding work in the field of microbiotics. His novel was chosen for Oprah's Book Club. She spoke at the Roundhouse Colloquium, a group of philanthropists devoted to conserving soil in south Alabama.

Different awards carry different weight, I suppose, but each award is a way to separate yourself from other books (the losers) and a way for people who might not see your book to notice it.

You see, there are those lists that come out with the awards. Here are the six books that made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, they'll say. Some people may see a list like that and buy books based on it. Or they may track down a book simply because it won a prize. I don't, but some folks might.

Also, some awards come with money. You can have all the book cover stickers -- the circle ones with all the points -- that you want. Those are great. Hand me an award with a check.

Hang on. Before we get much further (GAWD, how much further is there?) I should say something about the folks who work their asses off getting these awards together, sorting and reading through everything. Thanks to them. They're the ones who have to run back and forth to the post office to pick up the books your publicists sent. They're the ones who have to collate a billion emails, who have to set up spreadsheets to keep vote tally straight. The people who run these awards work as hard getting this stuff done as we do writing the books. And there ain't an award given out to the people who do all the award work while we're sitting in our fancy clothes waiting on something glass to put on the shelf. So thanks tons to those folks.

Can winning award help your book's sales? I've heard some people saw a slight bump, while others saw nothing. You know what helps a book's sales? Being a good book sometimes helps, though not always. Having the movie based off your book win an Oscar? That helps a book's sales. There's the award you want, pal.

So, let's say you want an award for your book and you need to get nominated or voted on. What are you to do?

Well, sending out an email to everyone in your list probably isn't the most subtle way to go. A couple of years ago, there was a bit of a discussion about someone who emailed out a "Vote For My Book Because It Is The Best" blast to everyone, including other people who were nominated in the same category. That didn't go over too well, but I understand the idea of wanting people to know that they can vote on the thing and that you're eligible. I mean, we want good thing for our friends.

Here's what I've found, though. You're in danger of preaching to the choir with your tweets and status updates. And, if you're stuck doing the "I hate to mention this and I hate self-promotion, but" thing, then you're probably not going to get too much traction. Look, everyone hates self-promotion. Many countries have banned it. But if you're going to do it, I have a suggestion which you can take or leave.

1) Make a thing people can share
2) There's no 2.

You can make an image. A song. A flier. Whatever. If you post a status update on your Facebook wall, your friends will see it. Maybe they already voted for you. Or maybe they're voting for themselves. (Many of my friends are assholes like that.) So, you probably want to reach your friend's mother or proctologist or high school pal. Make a thing that can get shared. Show your book. A blurb. Say it's been nominated and how to vote for it. If you care enough, make an advertisement for your book and get people to share it.

See, the thing is, you want to reach outside your circle -- and you never know what's going to catch on.

The other day, The Atlantic posted a thing on Facebook about cats, so I made a throw-away joke. I tweeted it, which maybe two people who follow me retweeted. I think I mentioned on my own Facebook wall, which a few people probably saw. And I made a comment on the original post on The Atlantic's Facebook page.

More than 100 people I don't know liked my comment and some replied. If I engaged with those replies, I guess there's the chance the response would grow even more. Now, 100 likes isn't the point here. I'm saying that, in my experience, reaching outside your circle for new people is generally your better bet when you're looking to increase coverage.

Another thing to do would be to promote our fellow authors instead of ourselves. I mean, you can do what you want. You don't need me to be your conscience (seriously, I'm a jerk and you don't want that), but I'd be much more likely to vote for James Jimjam if Becca Mason told me why his novel was great, wouldn't you? I say we make an effort to do that. Now, for me that's easier than for some of you. I'm not nominated for squat, so I don't lose any self-promotion time by promoting others. The time you spend helping others is -- and always will be -- up to you.

Anyway, here's to the best books winning the best awards.