Saturday, May 23, 2015

Editing with a Kindle

Scott D. Parker

In advance of the release of THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES next week, I did a thing I’ve heard about: read the book on my Kindle Paperwhite.

It’s really a no-brainer when you think about it. A Paperwhite will likely be the primary device through which PHANTOM is consumed. Mobile phones are next on that list. I have my Kobo Glo and my Nook SimpleTouch, but if you read it on one device like that—a dedicated e-reader, my preferred device for reading—you’ve read it on all of them.

Besides, the Kindle Paperwhite has one killer feature: you can take notes AND export said notes. You can take notes on the other devices but you cannot get them off the reader. Paperwhite makes a “MyClippings.txt” file where you notes go. It wasn’t until I downloaded that file—via connecting the Kindle to my Mac—that I realized the files contains *all* notes in all books. No big deal, but I still had to search for “Phantom” before I found the list of notes.

Mind you, I’ve edited this book, my editor gave it a thorough review, and I implemented all the changes. I still found over a hundred things to change. Some of it was further tightening of the story (kill your darlings, right?). Others was me realizing passages often flowed better with further modification. So I’m making them and the book should hit virtual shelves by the end of the month.


This Memorial Day weekend, Comicpalooza lands in Houston. I went on my first of three days yesterday and brought home a modest haul. I found some pins related to the FLASH TV show, a nice, bright, gaudy, really orange Aquaman t-shirt, and the following paper items.

The Phantom Detective is a facsimile edition complete with the ads. The Batman title further completes my collection of those titles (I already had the 50s and the 70s) while the Man-Thing volume (#1) helps me understand the stories in #2 that I already owned.

The Detective Fiction Weekly pulp is original, dated 21 March 1931. It ain’t in great condition but I didn’t buy it for that. I bought it to read. You’ll notice there’s an Erle Stanley Gardner story in there, a Sidney Zoom yard. I’m not familiar with him, but there is a pricy, out-of-price collection of Zoom stories out there. They had another issue with a Gardner cover story—Lester Leith—but at a much higher price. The dealer had a few Doc Savages, including the original #5 tale, Pirate of the Pacific, but I didn’t get it. But I might tomorrow. It’s a rather tempting pull for me.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On collaboration

By Alex Segura
A few weeks ago, I got a box of books in the mail. You know the drill – and the buzz you feel when you open something that contains hard copies of your work. This was a little different, though, as the box consisted of copies of APOLLO’S DAUGHTERS, a sci-fi prose anthology. I have a short in there, “EarthNight: Last Passage.” 
I’ve always loved sci-fi. Even wrote a handwritten, 100-page Star Trek novel in middle school English class. No, I won't send you a copy (it was called Star Trek: Mosaic). 
So, yeah. This was very exciting. The big difference was that the story was a collaborative effort. I’d co-written it with my good friend and comic book scribe Justin Aclin. This piece, along with another tag-team short story I’m working on with a fellow author (tease, tease, tease!) got me to thinking about collaboration – the challenges, the potential landmines and the great benefits that come from teaming up with someone else to create a piece of fiction greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve always been open to working with other people. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in comics, which is a hugely collaborative field that involves many players. Whatever the reason, I’ve found most of my collaborations – be it with another writer, an artist or as an editor – to be greatly informative and useful to my other, solo work. Here are some tips that you may find helpful if/when you find yourself jamming on something new with a fellow creator:
Be open. The entire reason you’re collaborating is so the end result will be something different. So, don’t get itchy if the process is different. Change can be good, especially if you’re set in your ways. The best part of collaborating with another writer is exploring your differences and seeing how they can help your own writing down the line.
Pick your battles. This goes hand in hand with being open to things. At some point, you won’t like what someone is doing – in terms of execution, style, format, whatever. Say your piece. Keep communication open. Be direct. But, for your own benefit and reputation, speak your mind when it’s worth it. Don’t declare war because they put two spaces after a period. Do declare war if they use adverbs more often than “the.”
Make it count. Working with someone is no fun if you’re doing all the heavy lifting or, on the flipside, if you’re just along for the ride. Make it a unique experience and equally unique product by bringing your talents into the mix as you would with your own, standalone work. Treat it like it’s all yours, even if you’re sharing it with someone else.
Be professional. Working with someone is very different than chatting at the hotel bar, or shooting the shit at an author event. Ideally, there’s money involved and there will definitely be deadlines involved. Do your part to the best of your ability and communicate if something goes wrong.
Don’t be a dick. This is a great rule for all aspects of life, but worth repeating here. Be kind, be helpful, be understanding and be communicative. You’re more likely to work with someone again if they’re all those things to you, so why not preemptively return the favor?
Hope these help. Have you collaborated on something? How’d it go? What advice would you share? Sound off below.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend Books

by Holly West

It must be book week on Do Some Damage because I logged in to find that a few of my esteemed colleagues have also used their post time to recommend books. You can find those posts here and here.

I'm not the fastest reader, so I don't tend to recommend that many books here (although I aspire to). But since we've got a three-day weekend coming up, many of us might have some reading time on our hands (and if you don't, for God's sake, make some).

My Number One Recommendation and So Far the Best Book I've Read This Year:


Phelan Tierney helps people who hope to start their lives over. When Jacquelina Garza, a young woman he’s taken under his wing, disappears, the former lawyer devotes himself to finding her—despite her secretive and puzzlingly unhelpful family.

Jacqi has been to hell and back. Abducted by a child predator when she was eight years old, she still, years later, bears the scars of the incident and its very public aftermath. Her life takes an even steeper downward spiral when she witnesses the murder of a man it seems everyone wanted dead. But no one, not even the police, wants to hear her version of what actually happened.

Can these two wayward souls find redemption amid the convenient lies and difficult truths that have followed them for so long?

This novel just has so many layers. Corbett is truly a master of character development, and though I hate to do that writerly thing of analyzing how other writers write, I can't help it with this book. I just keep thinking, "how does he do it?"

Then I throw myself on the ground and flail about, lamenting the very real possibility that I might never achieve such skill in my own writing.

So yeah, read this one.

A Great Debut:


As a cop on the night shift in Hopewell Falls, New York, June Lyons drives drunks home and picks up the donuts. A former FBI agent, she ditched the Bureau when her husband died, and now she and her young daughter are back in upstate New York, living with her father, the town’s retired chief of police.

When June discovers a young woman’s body impaled on an ice shear in the frozen Mohawk River, news of the murder spreads fast; the dead girl was the daughter of a powerful local Congresswoman, and her troubled youth kept the gossips busy.

Though June was born and raised in Hopewell Falls, the local police see her as an interloper—resentment that explodes in anger when the FBI arrive and deputize her to work on the murder investigation. But June may not find allies among the Feds. The agent heading the case is someone from her past—someone she isn’t sure she can trust.

As June digs deeper, an already fraught case turns red-hot when it leads to a notorious biker gang and a meth lab hidden in plain sight—and an unmistakable sign that the river murder won’t be the last.

Like THE MERCY OF THE NIGHT, character development is this book's strength. June Lyons, Cooley's protagonist, is a well-drawn, multi-dimensional character, especially as she deals with the lingering grief of her husband's death from cancer. 

With Cooley's second book in the series, FLAME OUT, released just this week, I know what I'll be reading this weekend.

Yes, that's right, I've only read two books in the last month. Well actually, I read three, but the last one I don't feel like recommending. If you're curious, it was DEAD WAKE by Erik Larson. I generally love Larson's books and I liked this one, but I can't really gush about it. It's not that sort of book. I did feel like I learned something, considering I knew literally nothing about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania except for it's name (seriously--I didn't even know it had sunk, which is shameful, but there you have it).

Have a great weekend, folks!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I’d Like To Buy the World a Coke


Okay, I’m going to write a little about Mad Men. I love the show. Lots of people smarter than me have already written lots of smart things about the final episode, and about the entire run of the show, so I’m just going to say that I loved the ending. Sure, even though we knew from the first episode that the whole thing was a man’s search for identity we probably also hoped for something more profound than, “accept who you are.” Or maybe we hoped that the real Dick Whitman was something more than a guy who makes advertising.

Because I can’t be the only person who has lived in fear of finding out my true self is a shallow jerk. Who wants to accept that?

In the late 70s I went to a hippie-dippie college called The New School (it was a branch of Dawson College in Montreal) and the goal there was to become “self-actualized.” We started the day with something they called “band” but unlike Dana King’s band there were no instruments. We sat in a circle and talked. Honest, that’s what we did. In the 70s. Well, everything happens a little later in Canada, even the 60s were ten years late…

Of course, seventeen years old is not a good age to try and become self-actualized. I only lasted a semester and a half before I packed up and, as the song says, headed out to Alberta because I heard there was work there (I like the Neil Young version).

And there begins the most cliché of all stories, the journey to find yourself. As Don Draper says,“It'll get easier as you move forward." And as Stephanie replies, “Oh, Dick, I don't think you're right about that."

There’s a lot of literature to back up Stephanie in this discussion, so many stories of people trying to outrun their own pasts and not being able to.

So what are some of your favourite journey of discover stories?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Some Recomendations

You know the old wedding rhyme "something old, something new..."? I'm going to start using a similar rhyme to recommend some books.

Something old (10 years or older): The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford - Ford, primarily known for his fantasy fiction, won The Edgar for this book. (It was an adventuresome year for The Edgars with this win and Brian Evenson nominated).  Great characters and Ford's inventive imagination fuel this one. Not to be missed, and, arguably, not your typical Edgar fare.

The Great Depression has bound a nation in despair -- and only a privileged few have risen above it: the exorbitantly wealthy ... and the hucksters who feed upon them. Diego, a seventeen-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, owes his salvation to master grifter Thomas Schell. Together with Schell's gruff and powerful partner, they sail comfortably through hard times, scamming New York's grieving rich with elaborate, ingeniously staged séances -- until an impossible occurrence changes everything.

While "communing with spirits," Schell sees an image of a young girl in a pane of glass, silently entreating the con man for help. Though well aware that his otherworldly "powers" are a sham, Schell inexplicably offers his services to help find the lost child -- drawing Diego along with him into a tangled maze of deadly secrets and terrible experimentation.

Something new (recent): Volcano Girls by Chris D. - Turns out musician Chris D. is a fan of noir, hardboiled, and pulp fiction and writes books at the intersection of these interests. There pretty damn good too, like old-school Gold Medal books. Hit all the beats you love with out dry humping the retro pulp corpse.

Half-sisters, schoolteacher Mona and junkie punk rocker Terri, are uneasy roommates while taking care of their sick mother, Consuela. When their boyfriends, deputy Johnny Cullen and killer Merle Chambers, clash due to labor struggles in their small town of Devil’s River, the two women are pulled inexorably into the fray. To make matters worse, jealous female sheriff, Billie Travers, decides Mona is intruding on her faltering love affair, and quiet small town life amps up into an apocalyptic nightmare of uncontrollable violence and destruction.

Something other (something not crime): Unicorn Battle Squad by Kirsten Alene - Fun and imaginative Alene takes less time then other fantasy writers to make the same point. The brevity and lived in feel serve the world building well.

Mutant unicorns. A palace with a thousand human legs. The most powerful army on the planet. A first world city on the verge of collapse.

In a city where teetering skyscrapers block out the sky, a city populated by lowly clerks, rumors have been circulating of a terror in the east. When Carl, the lowliest clerk on the negative twelfth floor, discovers that the city is indeed in grave danger, he sets out to warn the city's protectors: the Unicorn Riders.
Although Carl's missing father has left him a unicorn of his own, it is a small and sickly creature. Even worse, there is a crab claw growing from its side. But the Unicorn Riders need as much help as they can get, and soon every able rider sets out for the city's flooded perimeter in a steam-powered Spanish galleon.
An epic journey that spans desert and sea, through the bedchambers of a fearsome Eastern queen, and into the devastation of a conquered city, Unicorn Battle Squad is the story of a boy and his unicorn at the end of the world.

Something true (non-fiction): Old Sparky: The Electric Chair and the History of the Death Penalty - Only just started reading this one (due out in a couple of months) but am intrigued by it so far.

In early 2013, Robert Gleason became the latest victim of the electric chair, a peculiarly American execution method. Shouting Pog mo thin ("Kiss my ass" in Gaelic) he grinned electricity shot through his system. When the current was switched off his body slumped against the leather restraints, and Gleeson, who had strangled two fellow inmates to ensure his execution was not postponed, was dead. The execution had gone flawlessly—not a guaranteed result with the electric chair, which has gone horrifically wrong on many occasions.

Old Sparky covers the history of capital punishment in America and the “current wars” between Edison and Westinghouse which led to the development of the electric chair. It examines how the electric chair became the most popular method of execution in America, before being superseded by lethal injection. Famous executions are explored, alongside quirky last meals and poignant last words.

The death penalty remains a hot topic of debate in America, and Old Sparky does not shy away from that controversy. Executions have gone spectacularly wrong, with convicts being set alight, and needing up to five jolts of electricity before dying. There have been terrible miscarriages of justice, and the death penalty has not been applied even-handedly. Historically, African-Americans, the mentally challenged, and poor defendants have been likely to get the chair, an anomaly which led the Supreme Court to briefly suspend the death penalty. Since the resumption of capital punishment in 1976 Texas alone has executed more than 500 prisoners, and death row is full.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Writing for Writers

by Kristi Belcamino

What are your favorite books for writers?

Here are some of mine:



The Writer's Life