Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Speed of Everything

Scott D. Parker

In many ways, things are really moving fast down here in Houston. Guess it’s just the way things go for an independent publisher.

When Easter hit last week, it marked the end of Lent. Not coincidentally, the Lenten period was the exact time that I published WADING INTO WAR as I uploaded the book on Ash Wednesday. When you are giving up something, Lent can be a long time. When you publish a book, it goes by in a flash.

The only thing I’ve been having an issue with is the print copy of WADING INTO WAR. It’s a small book, to be sure, but it’s my first and I’d like to have a hard copy for myself, my parents, and those readers who don’t use an ebook reader. The interior file is fine, but it’s the cover that proving more challenging than I expected. Mainly that’s because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my own material. Like it or not, folks will judge my books next to book by traditional publishers and I’m doing my darnedest to make the comparison as favorable as possible. That means I’ve rejected two proof copies and will be making a third. Heck, the hard copy of WADING might not be ready before the next book drops.

Yesterday, I turned over the manuscript of THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES to the editor. Now, for the month of April, she’ll be working her magic to make the story better. In the meantime, I’ve developed the initial mock-up for the cover. I purchased Adobe’s Creative Cloud so I now have access to InDesign and Illustrator. I still don’t have the artistic talent to make cover art so I’ll be using my friend Ike again, but, to decrease the number of review cycles, I’m doing a mock-up in Illustrator so I can show him exactly what I am needing. I’ve never used Illustrator before, but I want able to knock around enough to start the process. Next, I’ll use InDesign for the proper cover for WADING and PHANTOM. It really is exciting.

What is also proving challenging is juggling the needs to edit already finished work while also writing new material. Yet again, the hours in the day and the time needed to spend on the fun work are never equal. Ain’t that always the case? But I again proved something to myself: when I have a plan for a story, I can bust out the work. Upon reading PHANTOM, I realized I needed a last chapter so I sat down to write one. Boom! In under two hours, I busted out two chapters. Someday I’ll learn that me + plan = writing efficiency.

That’s the news from the offices of Quadrant Fiction Studio. I hope you had a good week.

Current Audiobook: The Thief by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott, as read by Scott Brick. This is one of the Isaac Bell adventures and they are splendid! Historical (this one is set in 1911 or so) and enthralling. Scott Brick is one of my all-time favorite narrators. No, actually he’s my favorite. I love his cadence and his touches of whimsy. No matter what he reads, you can bet it’ll be great.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Born to Run

It was such a nice feeling, typing those two words – “The End.” I don’t think a lot as a writer can top it, in terms of just putting in the work and getting a reward. A few things come close: getting that first box of books, doing a great event, maybe winning an award. But I get a kick out of finishing a first draft, printing it out and holding it in my hand. It exists. It’s real and is a product of my work.
But, like many things, that feeling is fleeting. I know that at some point, I will return to the draft (of Dangerous Ends, the third Pete book, to be specific) and make changes. Lots of them. This draft is just about getting to the finish line. There are plot holes. Character problems and probably lots more. But it’s done and I’ll let it simmer for a while before pulling out my revision toolkit. At some point, I may even let it leave the house and be read by other people.
So, there I am – basking in the glow of a finished draft. Head to pillow, in the quiet moments before falling asleep, I start thinking about the book. How it ends. Where it leaves Pete. What it means for the series. I manage to get to sleep, but not before realizing that I have another book in me with these characters, one I’d set aside while writing #3.
Shit. It never ends. But that's part of the rush, no? The reason we do it, etc?
I’m hesitant to even call it a book – it started as a short story I was working on to avoid writing about Pete. Then I figured it’d be cool to let Pete cameo. Then Pete started interacting and bumping into stuff and well, look, now he’s thrown up in the plant. You get the idea. Characters do what they want, we just let them on stage and chronicle what they do within the constraints of the world we’ve created.
As much as we’d like to plan as writers – whether it’s outlining, plotting our careers or coordinating detours from the things that we see as our “bread and butter,” most of it is out of our control. All we can do is make the time, even during peaks (“I finished my draft!”) and valleys (both writer valleys and real world ones), to put in the work and get better. Oh, yeah - and be kind.
Allow yourself a night off to toast to what you’ve done when you feel you’ve earned it. Then pop open your laptop the next morning. There’s more to be written.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Funk Immersion

by Holly West

Today's post will be short because I'm just beginning research into entirely new territory for me: 1970s funk culture (Funk Culture? Hey, I think I just coined a new phrase! Googling. Okay, maybe not).

Recently, I was asked to contribute to an funk-themed anthology. Actually, the theme is somewhat broader than that but regardless, it's a setting I'm not all that familiar with. I was a child in the 1970s and my parents did not participate in any of the various movements happening at the time. Or if they did, I didn't know about it, which might be a good thing, depending upon the movement.

So today begins my immersion into the 1970s. The worlds of Shaft, Superfly, Serpico, Travis Bickle, Donald Goines, Kent State, Timothy Leary, the Women's Movement, the continuing Civil Rights Movement... so many topics to choose from. But it all starts with getting the zeitgeist of the time right. And for that, I'm gonna need to watch some movies, read some books, and troll the Internet for awhile.

Funny enough, I find this whole thing to be a supreme challenge--much more so than writing about 17th century London. That was easy compared to this. The reason? I think it's because everyone who experienced 17th century London first hand is dead. There's no one around except pedantic historians to call me out on my mistakes. But 1970s urban culture? Who do I think I am?

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine gave us this painting and for this project, she is my muse:

This is gonna be fun.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Upcoming releases

Near the end of last year I highlighted some 2015 releases I was looking forward to, here are some more.

Words to Die For by Lynn Kostoff (4/15/2015)

The year is 1986 and fall is declining into winter in a small Midwest city where ten-year-old Tina Brackett languishes in a coma caused by tainted fast food chicken produced by the Happy Farms Co. Raymond Locke, operative for the high-flying public relations firm that represents Happy Farms, is damage control central. But tragedy begets opportunity, and everyone is angling for a game-changing piece of the action surrounding Tina’s impending death. Among the players in this Darwinian battle for survival are the District Attorney looking at a possible murder charge, a reporter working on the story of his career, a high-minded crusader against corporate greed and malfeasance, and Tina’s enigmatic single parent, Ken Brackett. Pitted against these sordid foes, Raymond Locke is trying to save his job and his marriage, crumbling beneath the weight of caring for an autistic son. A noir journey into the heartland of America and the American psyche, Words to Die For evokes a shadowy, Mad Men-like world were the truth is less important than the spin.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer (4/15/15)

Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise "Lou" Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she's too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It's an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well... they're not wrong.

When Lou hears that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate. Lou fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their spirits than ensure they get home alive, but it's the right thing to do, and she's the only one willing to do it.

On the road to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, Lou will encounter bears, desperate men, a very undead villain, and even stranger challenges. Lou will need every one of her talents and a whole lot of luck to make it home alive...

From British Fantasy Award nominee Molly Tanzer comes debut novel Vermilion, a spirited weird Western adventure that puts the punk back into steampunk.

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson (4/14/15)

In order to save her mother, a teen is forced to become an indentured assassin in this sizzling dystopian thriller.

No one reads the fine print.

The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?

Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy’s list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own. Since yarn bombing is the only anarchy in Patsy’s past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren’t strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy’s list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.

Delilah S. Dawson offers an absorbing, frightening glimpse at a reality just steps away from ours—a taut, suspenseful thriller that absolutely mesmerizes from start to finish.

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace (5/5/15)

Wasp's job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-long ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They're chosen. They're special. Or so they've been told for four hundred years.

Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won't survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.

The Cartel by Don Winslow (6/23/15)

From the internationally best-selling author of the acclaimed novel The Power of the Dog comes The Cartel, a gripping true-to-life, ripped from the headlines epic story, of power, corruption, revenge, and justice spanning the past decade of the Mexican-American drug wars.

It’s 2004. DEA agent Art Keller has been fighting the war on drugs for thirty years in a blood feud against Adan Barrera, the head of El Federación, the world’s most powerful cartel, and the man who brutally murdered Keller’s partner. Finally putting Barrera away cost Keller dearly—the woman he loves, the beliefs he cherishes, the life he wants to lead.

Then Barrera gets out, determined to rebuild the empire that Keller shattered. Unwilling to live in a world with Barrera in it, Keller goes on a ten-year odyssey to take him down. His obsession with justice—or is it revenge?—becomes a ruthless struggle that stretches from the cities, mountains, and deserts of Mexico to Washington’s corridors of power to the streets of Berlin and Barcelona.

Keller fights his personal battle against the devastated backdrop of Mexico’s drug war, a conflict of unprecedented scale and viciousness, as cartels vie for power and he comes to the final reckoning with Barrera—and himself—that he always knew must happen.

The Cartel is a true-to-life story of power, corruption, revenge, honor, and sacrifice, as one man tries to face down the devil without losing his soul. It is the story of the war on drugs and the men—and women—who wage it.

Without the Moon by Cathi Unsworth (7/9/15)

Hush, hush, hush

Here comes the Bogeyman ...

London during the long, dark days of the Blitz: a city outwardly in ruins, weakened by exhaustion and rationing. But behind the blackout, the old way of life continues: in the music halls, pubs and cafes, soldiers mix with petty crooks, stage magicians with lonely wives, scandal-hungry reporters with good-time girls - and DCI Edward Greenaway keeps a careful eye on everyone.

Out on the streets, something nastier is stirring: London's prostitutes are being murdered, their bodies left mutilated to taunt the police. And in the shadows Greenaway's old adversaries in organised crime are active again, lured in by rich pickings on the black market. As he follows a bloody trail through backstreets and boudoirs, Greenaway must use all his skill - and everything he knows about the city's underworld - to stop the slaughter.

A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball (7/21/15)

From the author of Silence Once Begun—one of our most audacious and original writers—a beguiling new novel about a man starting over at the most basic level, and the strange woman who insinuates herself into his life and memory.

A man and a woman have moved into a small house in a small village. The woman is an "examiner," the man, her "claimant." The examiner is both doctor and guide, charged with teaching the claimant a series of simple functions: this is a chair, this is a fork, this is how you meet people. She makes notes in her journal about his progress: he is showing improvement, yet his dreams are troubling. One day, the examiner brings him to a party, and here he meets Hilda, a charismatic but volatile woman whose surprising assertions throw everything the claimant has learned into question. What is this village? Why is he here? And who is Hilda? A fascinating novel of love, illness, despair, and betrayal, A Cure for Suicide is the most captivating novel yet from one of our most exciting young writers.

Ways to Die in Glasgow by Jay Stringer (8/1/15)

A violent drunk with a broken heart, Mackie looks for love in all the wrong places. When two hit men catch him with his pants down, he barely makes it out alive. Worse still, his ex-gangster uncle, Rab, has vanished, leaving him an empty house and a dead dog.

Reluctant PI Sam Ireland is hired by hotshot lawyers to track Rab but is getting nothing except blank stares and slammed doors. As she scours the dive bars, the dregs of Glasgow start to take notice.

DI Andy Lambert is a cop in the middle of an endless shift. A body washes up, and the city seems to shiver in fear; looks like it’s up to Lambert to clean up after the lowlifes again.

As a rampaging Mackie hunts his uncle, the scum of the city come out to play. And they play dirty. It seems that everyone has either a dark secret or a death wish. In Mackie’s case, it might just be both.

Lament for the Afterlife by Lisa L. Hannett (8/4/15)

No one knows when the war against the greys began. There are theories, speculations, but the only certainties are air-raids, abductions, and inner city explosions. Assaults are endless, swift and lethal; the enemy's stealth unsurpassed. Whispers have circulated for centuries, thoughts spinning from minds in visible wordwinds, clear for all to read, to wield, to steal. Where are the greys? When will they next strike? How can you attack something you can't see? And secretly, fearfully: Are the greys even real? Spanning decades, Lament for the Afterlife follows one man as he negotiates the hostile territory of life after combat. Peytr Borysson comes from a long line of soldiers, but isn't born for fighting. His 'wind is better shaped for poetry than bullets. Even so, at sixteen he follows the local boys into battle - and never quite leaves. Interweaving Peytr's struggles with those of his family, Lament for the Afterlife takes readers to the frontlines and far beyond, telling a story of ordinary people persisting in extraordinary circumstances. A novel of human survival, guilt, and the devastating power of memory, Lament for the Afterlife examines the physical and psychological distances we travel when beliefs are threatened - or held too tightly.

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (9/8/15)

A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, international bestselling author Patrick deWitt’s new novel is about a young man named Lucien (Lucy) Minor, who accepts employment at the foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux.

Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. In the local village, he also encounters thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and Klara, a delicate beauty whose love he must compete for with the exceptionally handsome partisan soldier, Adolphus. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder.

Undermajordomo Minor is a triumphant ink-black comedy of manners by the Governor General’s Award–winning author of The Sisters Brothers. It is an adventure, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler (9/22/15)

Carter Sloan is a bioengineered agent in the far future, abandoned in deep freeze until the Nazi government awakened him and gave him a last assignment which will require him to fight and screw his way across the galaxy. Explosive and pulpy science fiction with lots of sex and even more swearing.


Beat Girls, Love Tribes, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950–1980 by Iain McIntyre, Andrew Nette (11/10/15)

The first comprehensive account of the rise of youth culture and mass-market paperback fiction in the postwar period, Beat Girls is a must-read for anyone interested in retro and subcultural style and popular fiction.

As the young created new styles in music, fashion and culture, pulp fiction followed their every step, hyping and exploiting their behavior and language for mass consumption. From the juvenile delinquent gangs of the early fifties, through the beats and hippies, on to bikers, skinheads and punks, pulp fiction left no trend untouched. Boasting wild covers and action-packed plots, these books reveal as much about society’s desires and fears as they do about the subcultures themselves.

Featuring over 300 pulp covers, many never before reprinted, as well 70 in-depth author interviews and biographies, articles and reviews, Beat Girls offers the most extensive survey of the era’s mass market pulp fiction. Novels by well-known authors like Harlan Ellison, Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain, and by filmmakers Samuel Fuller and Ed Wood Jr., are discussed alongside neglected obscurities and contemporary bestsellers ripe for rediscovery. More than 20 critics and scholars of popular culture contributed to this celebration of a fascinating body of work.

VHS Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s by Thomas Hodge (5/28/15)

Video cover art is a unique and largely lost artform representing a period of unabashed creativity during the video rental boom of the 1980s to early 1990s. The art explodes with a succulent, indulgent blend of design, illustration, typography, and hilarious copywriting. Written and curated by Tom The Dude Designs Hodge, poster artist extraordinaire and VHS obsessive, with a foreword by Mondo s Justin Ishmael, this collection contains over 240 full-scale, complete video sleeves in the genres of action, comedy, horror, kids, sci-fi, and thriller films. It s a world of mustached, muscled men, buxom beauties, big explosions, phallic guns, and nightmare-inducing monsters. From the sublime to the ridiculous, some are incredible works of art, some are insane, and some capture the tone of the films better than the films themselves. All are amazing and inspiring works of art that captivate the imagination. It s like stepping back in time into your local video store!

Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound and Its Legacy by Tim Newby (5/31/15)

With an influx of Appalachian migrants who came looking for work in the 1940s and 1950s, Baltimore found itself populated by some extraordinary mountain musicians and was for a brief time the center of the Bluegrass world. Life in Baltimore for these musicians was not easy. There were missed opportunities, personal demons and always the up-hill battle with prejudice against their hillbilly origins. Based upon interviews with legendary players from the Golden Age of Baltimore Bluegrass, this book provides the first in-depth coverage of this transplanted-roots music and its broader influence, detailing the struggles Appalachian musicians faced in a big city that looked down on their "poorest example of poor man's music."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Thanks Easter Bunny! Bok! Bok!

by Kristi Belcamino

I am hosting about three dozen people at my house today so this will be a short and purely self-promotional post! My third book in the Gabriella Giovanni series is out on Tuesday. I'm very excited to see how this book is received. Early feedback has left me flabbergasted. One reviewer told me he thinks this will be my "break out" book and I'm so excited he thinks so!

Here is a little bit about BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP and what some early reviewers have said about it so far:

San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.
But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella's obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …