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?