Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wise Words on the Writing Life

by Kristi Belcamino

I'm up to my eyeballs in revisions for Blessed are Those Who Mourn. This fourth book in my Gabriella Giovanni mystery series is due to my editor Monday, June 1,

This fast turnaround times is one of the cool parts about being with the HarperCollins imprint I'm with. From what I've read, and my own experience, if someone likes a book in a mystery series they don't want to have to wait around very long for the next one!

But I've worked hard to make this happen.

This book comes out Sept. 29, which means I've published four books in 15 months. On Monday, after I turn it in, that will be the first time in ten months that I haven't been writing or revising a book.

I have a long list of items to do during this free week.

READ my friend's books!
Make biscotti!
Clean the entire house (it has been woefully neglected!)
Send out my author newsletter.
Weed the yard.
Go to doctor's appointments.

Anyway, in the meantime, while I'm finishing MOURN. 'll leave you with links to a few articles about the writing life.

My take away from both of them is that the key to succeeding in a writing career involves lots of hard work and being stubborn enough to never give up.

What do you think are the keys to success in this writing world?

This first article by Lea Wait is gritty and inspirational at the same time. If you want a career as a writer, you can't let the bastards get you down.

When Days are Dark (click on this link for the full article) is on Main Crime Writers

"And, over and over, people (often “pre-published” writers) told me how lucky I was. After all: I’ve had thirteen books published since my first was published in 2001, and I have contracts for more.
And, yes. I am lucky. I also do what most published writers do. I work hard. I do a lot of research. I write and re-write and re-write again. And, when a book is published, I visit bookstores and libraries and schools (and conferences). I blog. (Here I am!) I don’t do as much social media as some of my fellow authors, but I’m on Goodreads and Facebook. (Friend me, both places!) And if I’m not working on a book, and sometimes even when I am, I’m planning another one. Or two. I love my life … but I work seven days a week at my writing job, all year."

The second article, What I Know For Sure, by Rachel Howzell Hall, ran on Jungle Red Writers.

These two points she made really resonated with me. So much so that I am going to buy and read her books for sure. Here is even more from Rachel Howzell Hall on Dru's Book Musings.

      If you really want to write, you’ll find time to do it. A pox on that, ‘I really want to write but I can’t find the time.’ Malarkey. Balderdash. Did you watch the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones? Did you eat that entire pint of Chunky Monkey? Wanna know why? Cuz you wanted to. An hour and three minutes—every episode of GOT. An hour and three minutes—how long it takes to eat a pint Chunky Monkey. An hour and three minutes—how long it takes to write a decent chapter. If you wanna do something, you’ll do it.

      It’s never enough. I landed a book contract. Now, I want another book contract. I have ten book reviews, I want fifty more. I want to win a Rotary Club Certificate of Excellence, an Edgar, a National Book Prize, a Pulitzer, a Nobel Prize, and… and… God. I want to be God. Or Stephen King.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Now Available: The Phantom Automobiles

Scott D. Parker

Today, I get to announce that THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES, the second book from Quadrant Fiction Studio, is now available as an ebook. You can get it via Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble, depending on your preference. The new cover image over there on the right takes you to the main book page over at Quadrant’s website. The trade paperback will arrive in June.

It’s an exciting day. A much better book announcement than WADING INTO WAR back in February when my son’s successful appendectomy sidetracked my carefully laid out plan and gave me tons of perspective.

THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES features Gordon Gardner, reporter for the Houston Post-Dispatch. It’s 1940 in Houston, a few weeks after the events of WADING INTO WAR. When I wrote that first book, I wanted the hero, Benjamin Wade, to have a co-star, a partner, to talk with and aid in the completion of his case. Gordon was thus created.

And I liked him. Even as I was creating the first draft, I knew that Gordon was going to star in his own book. Early readers concurred. They thought he could carry his own tale.

Now, that tale is here.

Product Description:

Gordon Gardner, Ace Reporter!

There’s not a story he can’t crack. He’s got his finger on the pulse of his town. His dogged tenacity means no politician is safe. Even the U. S. Army keeps tabs on him to ensure he safely harbors national secrets. And he looks smashing in a tux.

His latest assignment is a basic police blotter piece: a pedestrian struck dead by a car. As a reporter who is second to none, Gardner’s disappointed. How could a simple accident be worthy of his considerable talents when there are so many other more interesting stories to cover? Even his pairing with a beautiful photographer doesn’t lighten his mood.

His editor wants the piece yesterday. The police already closed the case. But then Gardner asks a simple question: why would a seemingly normal person willingly dive in front of a speeding car? Witnesses said the man went crazy just moments before he leapt to his death. What he alleged made no sense: he said the cars on the street didn’t exist and there was only one way to prove it.

He was wrong. Dead wrong.

Now, Gordon Gardner, in defiance of his editor and the police, resolves to investigate the mysterious circumstances behind the dead man’s life and uncover the real truth behind the phantom automobiles.

Exclusive! Included in this volume, a heretofore unpublished action mystery from the golden age of pulp fiction!


So, there you go. This volume also has a preview of the next book coming out this fall.

There is also a deal: offer up a review on any of those sites above and you'll get the next book published for free and before wide release. Two books for the price of one.

Can't beat that.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

So you want to do a reading

By Steve Weddle

A thousand years ago, when Country Hardball first hit the shelves, I had a calendar loaded with readings and signings. People were very nice, those who invited me into their places of business and those who took time out of their Thursday night to drive into the city to see me talk about me for 45 minutes at Fountain Bookstore. the Mysterious Bookshop, One More Page Books, and elsewhere.

I screwed up a few things, of course, but I also had people who were kind enough to warn me of some potential problems. Here are a few tips and tricks I hope are helpful to you new authors.

1) Don't bring books to readings to give away.

Giving away a copy of your book at your reading seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’ll want to turn the brain back on for a second, though, and consider what would help the venue most. Are you having the reading at a bookstore? Maybe you’ll want to pony up for a gift certificate to the store. When I launched, I gave away a cap and a t-shirt and some other goodies. I knew, for a true fact for serious, that most folks that night would be buying my book, so I wasn’t too worried.

Steve Weddle and Ben LeRoy at Fountain Bookstore
I’ve been to readings where not too many folks buy my book, and I’ve been to readings where the author doesn’t sell any books. So book sales aren’t always guaranteed.

Eventually, I realized that I wanted to give away a copy of a book by someone not me at events. So, I tried to do that when I remembered. Gift cards are great, too. You can always talk to the bookstore owner or manager and ask what would be a cool giveaway.

If you’re holding the reading in a bar, maybe give away a booze gift certificate or a bar t-shirt. Bowling alleys, brothels, hardware stores – gift cards make good giveaways. Support the folks who support you.

2) Get sticky notes for the books you sign.

Someone with you (the store manager or your spouse or a random Lithuanian ventriloquist from the neighborhood deli) needs to place sticky notes on the title page of the books to be signed with the person’s name right there. FOR SHERRI. FOR MATT. Whatevs.

I was signing books one night for some folks and I just kept blanking. I’d look up at people and couldn’t remember names. I mean, for Cliff’s sake, it’s a stressful time.

Me: So who should I make this out to?
Her: Just to me. I’m so proud of you.
Me: Um, so your name here?
Her: Yes. I can’t wait to tell everyone.
Me: Yeah, so, uh, like the spelling? I want to get it right.
Her: Oh, just the normal spelling.

This went on for seven minutes, this back and forth. Seven minutes doesn’t sound like much, but good gracious it was. Eventually, my Aunt Edna realized what was going on, but it was painful for us both.

3) Send signed copies to your blurbers, you goofball.

I nearly screwed this up, but I think I ended up OK. A couple of folks who blurbed my book came to a reading and bought the book there, and I wasn’t sure what to do at that point. Send a thank you note? It’s probably what Joelle would do. Instead, I just bought extra copies of their books for giveaways here at DSD and elsewhere.

But, for the most part, once I got the hardbacks in, I wrote a ‘thanks’ in the copies and mailed it off to the folks who were kind enough to take the time out of their lives and say nice things about my book.

Honestly, blurbing can be quite a favor. You’re saying to someone, “Hey, would you take time away from your family and your job and your own writing and spend some time, not just reading my book, but coming up with something nice and clever to say in order to help me out? Kthxbye.” Really, it’s asking quite a bit of people, and the least you can do – the very friggin least you can do – is send them a copy of the book with something nice scrawled in there with your signature.

4) Give some people two copies

You’re going to send copies of your book to people. And, yeah, you’re probably going to reach high for a few copies.  As Bob Browning wrote: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"  You’ll write “Dear Mr. King” on the title page or “To Ms. Evanovich.” (You’ll likely be so nervous you’ll screw up a copy or two before you get one you feel OK sending off. (Or so I’ve heard.))  That’s cool. Take your shots.

That said, you’ll have some people – mentors, professors, friends, magazine columnists you met once at a party, ministers – who you want to send a copy to. You might think about sending an extra signed copy with a sticky note inside suggesting they give it to someone who might like it. Essentially, you’ve just created a small army of hand-sellers. (It’s a cool trick I stole from someone on the Internet.)

Anyway, do what you want, of course. Read from the book. Don’t read from the book. Plant people in the audience to ask questions you want to answer. Hire a streaker. Give out chocolates. Whatever.

Basically, what I’m saying is that you want to be nice about it and make things easier for folks. These things can get pretty painful in your soul, can cause you to sweat right through your fancy $89 new sport coat from Kohl’s and spend the rest of the night hoping no one notices that you’re not lifting your arms.

Relax. Plan a little. And, of course, don’t try to do any of this without substantial pharmaceutical help.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Confidence Game

by Holly West

I'm up against a deadline for a story I'm really excited about. Quite unexpectedly, I came up with a concept that has some real potential--maybe even something I can expand into a novel or series in the future. But developing the story has been a real challenge for me so instead of being cool and confident about turning it in on time, I'm a little bit freaked out.

No worries, I have a week left and a fairly clear schedule. I can do it.

Which leads me (sort of) to the topic of this week's post: Confidence.

One of my author friends, James Scarantino, posted a link to Dennis Lehane's 10 Rules for Making it as a Writer and one of the rules resonated with me.

There's nothing wrong with a titanic ego
People I've met who have big egos about the work are he people I want to work with. They know why they're in the room. They're not insecure, they're not going home filled with self-loathing and making that everyone else's problem. The people with the worst egos are people that suck at their jobs.
Perhaps because my own ego is not so large, I've always considered those people who I perceived to have big egos as being a bit dickish. Sometimes, a lot dickish. But clearly, it doesn't have to be that way. There is a difference between, as Lehane says, "knowing why you're in the room," and being a jerk. And just because I might be intimidated by someone with more self-confidence than I have doesn't mean that person is a dick.

Let me just point out that knowing I'm insecure doesn't mean I think I suck at my job. The one thing I rarely question is whether I can write well, because I know I can and I do. Does that make me a dick? Nope. And if you feel the same way about your own work, whatever it might be, it doesn't make you one either.

I guess I just needed someone with a whole lot more experience than I have--Mr. Lehane--remind me of that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Inspiration from The Boss

I felt a post on Springsteen on Memorial Day was fitting. Don't see the connection? Stay with me.

The other night, I stumbled across an old documentary on Bruce Springsteen. It was near the beginning, and quickly caught my attention. Here was a guy who skipped his own high school graduation, who they talked about being socially awkward.

And we all know how successful Springsteen has been.

I mean, can we even agree on his best song? For me?

Rolling Stone ranks it #28 of Bruce's top 100 hits.  I never seem to be very mainstream.

Brian might say...

#3 on that Rolling Stone list.

It wasn't just the music that caught my attention in this special. It was the substance. With two teenagers, one of whom has already been in the, "I hate school" state for what seems like forever, and the other has been feeling stressed and unhappy at school and socially lately.

They actually said they'd consider switching schools. And believe me, that's a sign that things are bad.

I rewound the program and started recording it, thinking that perhaps the kids would find some encouragement in knowing that someone who's gone on to be as successful as Springsteen wasn't always Mr. Popular.

Instead, the program took my respect for him to a whole new level, got me thinking about Memorial Day, and actually reassured me creatively.

Memorial Day, because in the wake of 9/11, Bruce Springsteen picked up the phone and called widows in New Jersey, and listened to people. He internalized all of that loss and the impact of that horrific day, and produced a remarkable album, that's been my favorite Springsteen for years.

Oddly enough, as a teenager, I'd fallen into the trap of perceiving him as jingoistic, and a little too "ra ra America" for my tastes. Perhaps that's something Americans can't fully understand, but the American psyche and patriotism is something I've explored in my marriage, and my day to day experience, and is something for another post, another day.

It takes really reading the lyrics to appreciate the message.

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "son if it was up to me"
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said "son don't you understand now"
Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there he's all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go

It isn't the jingoistic anthem some believed it to be. It's a work that runs much deeper, that explores a failing of a society towards its own citizens. It's hard to see it as validation of the American dream; if anything, it seems rather hopeless upon examination of the lyrics. Although Springsteen did not fight in Vietnam because he failed his medical, he's carried some sense of understanding of the price of war on those who have, and it's been reflected in his music.

What's curious is that the same album produced songs like Dancing in the Dark, and one of my other personal favorites, Glory Days - another song that's nostalgic, yes, but hardly idealistic and optimistic.

I think one of the things that really struck me about Springsteen when I was watching the documentary was how diverse his music is. I should know - I do not own Born in the USA (though I should) but I do own Devils and Dust, and The Ghost of Tom Joad.

And my personal favorites?

In light of recent events, how could anyone talk about the problems in Baltimore and Ferguson without thinking of this Springsteen classic?

When I listen to Springsteen, there is a sense of nostalgia. Not because the music has aged. Rather, it's got a timelessness to it that makes it as relevant today as it was when it was recorded and released. The nostalgia is for the delight of walking to town and going to the furniture store, which had a selection of records (yes, records!) at the back, and coming home with that new prize. It was for the incredible sense of discovery of the B sides, the songs you weren't hearing on the radio, that curiously almost always seemed to resonate with me even more than the singles.

It reminded me of how much I appreciate an artist who has depth and range, who doesn't produce different versions of the same album over and over again. Springsteen may not have been hanging out with the cool kids in high school, but by digging deep within himself and baring his soul through his music, and not being afraid to write and sing about issues that were important to him and his convictions, he's been able to connect with a far greater audience worldwide.

I found the show inspiring, and reassuring.

You see, for quite some time now, the only projects I've been dabbling with have fallen well outside of my main genre focus, and I've struggled with that. I'd never want crime fiction fans to feel I have anything other than the deepest respect for them, but I also want the freedom to explore new themes and to do that through other genres where appropriate.

When I watched the special on Springsteen, I remembered that a career is made of much more than top 10 hits, and it all has value. People are more than one interest, more than one style, more than one show or type of music they like. We're a collection of pieces that somehow mesh together. I can love Bloodlines and love Orphan Black and The 100, and there's nothing contradictory in saying that, because people are complex.

Oddly enough, Victor Gischler posted something on Facebook that resonated with me, and ties in to my thoughts for this post:

One of those days where I look at my body of work and wonder what the hell am I doing career wise? Don't get my wrong, not a pity thing or self doubt thing. Nothing like that. But I'm all over the damn place. Crime, satire post apocalypse, pulp sci-fi, relatively straight forward fantasy. It's like I'm daring readers to keep up with me which is probably not the best business model.

Somehow, through all of this, I realized I didn't have to try to 'fit in' or feel restricted by genre. I can push the boundaries. Heaven help me, I don't mean transcend the genre, because I don't feel crime fiction is second to anything. I just mean move outside what's typically expected and incorporate elements from anything appropriate.

After all, if we feel trapped inside expectations, don't we run the risk of being stagnate?

I think the only crime is producing something predictable.

And perhaps this feels like a series of disjointed random thoughts, but in my mind before I sat down at the computer, my tribute to The Boss was grander, and it all connected for me.

Tonight our bed is cold
I'm lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he's sure of

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Party!

By Kristi Belcamino

I had a wonderful turn out at my favorite bookstore Once Upon a Crime for my book party for the release of the third book in my mystery series, Blessed are Those Who Weep. (My offering of Dead Man Cookies, wine, and aranciata may have had something to do with the good turn out.)

Here are what some people have said about Blessed are Those Who Weep:

The opening chapter of Blessed Are Those Who Weep is one of the best I have read. I defy any crime fiction fan to stop reading this book after finishing that very short, but impeccably written chapter.” – BOLO Books
“Ms. Belcamino has written a stunning book … She is on the cusp of being included in the same breath of America’s best mystery writers. For my money, she has hit the big time.” — Dick Barbuto, Mystery Book Reviews and Discussion

Here are some pictures! (Basically a bunch of pictures of me hugging people!)

Thank you so much to everyone who came out and to those who ordered the books to be shipped!

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Your Own Style Sheet

Scott D. Parker

Last week at press time, I mentioned that I had met with my editor and received her markups for my current manuscript. Well, this week, I made the changes.

Whew! There were a LOT of them. But that’s okay. It’s expected, even. Any writer who thinks they can write a draft that needs no editing, well, I’d like to meet’em. I want them to tell me their secret.

When I made the changes for WADING INTO WAR, I picked up a few things I consistently did throughout the manuscript. I put them on a list and, when I’ve read other manuscripts since then, I refer to that list and identify things I can preemptively change before the editor sees it.

Now, I have even more. Boy do I. When I see a particular edit she is repeatedly marking, I’ll flip to my cover page and make a global note. Sometimes, it’s for a character name. “You said ‘Joe’ on one but you wrote ‘Joseph’ elsewhere. Be consistent.” Or “You refer to every other character by a last name except the two heroes. Why did you name this bad guy by his first name?”

See what I mean? Good stuff. Stuff I often miss since I’m deep into the story.

Then there’s the grammar. I can string words into sentences and paragraphs pretty decently but there are seem quirks I need to address. One: I don’t need to use the word ‘that’ so frequently. Over and over again, I’ve seen ‘that’ slashed by red ink. Eek. Two, and this one I do way too often. It needs an example.

“No, I didn’t,” he said, taking out his notebook. “What for?”

“No, I didn’t.” He took out his notebook. “What for?”

You see how the revision punches up the prose. The original isn’t wrong and might be good to throw in every now and then for a change of pace. But, holy cow, was I *only* doing to original style all over the place. I’m almost to the end of the book (chapter 25 out of 27) and I’ve knocked off almost 500 words from the original word count just tightening things up.

Boy, is it great to have an editor.

Anyway, do y’all use edits and comments from editors and/or critique groups and create your own style sheet for common mistakes you make?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Are You Authorpanuring Yourself Enough?

By Steve Weddle

So folks are the internet out there are working to help authors --

I mean, I like the idea of helping. I really do. I don't know what an "AUTHORPRENEUR" is, but it sounds cool. Maybe it's an author who does nails and hairstyling during writer's block.

AUTHORPRENEUR. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? 

According to the article about being an AUTHORPRENEUR, you need an email list for a few reasons. Honestly, I don't know how I've gotten by without an email list myself. I get up each morning before sunrise, brew some coffee, open the moleskine, and write. (Proof is here,)

A pen, a notebook, and a novelty mug of coffee. I have one from the Big Lebowski. I have one of banned books. I have one from a real car dealership that exists in the county I'm writing pretend stories about. I have so many mugs. I've gone to so much trouble with the thinking and the writing and the buying 100-year-old high school yearbooks and rare government pamphlets and all sorts of stuff. You'd think I'd have enough sense to have exported my friends and family into a database I can use. 

The experts, and the AUTHORPRENEUR in particular, say I need to have an email list so that I can reach my "target audience." 

Not only will I have readers who are "anxious" for my next book, but I have a "pool" of people waiting to beta-read my next book. So, with this list, I have a group of people I can send my book to so that they'll read it and tell me what they think of it? Don't I already know these people? Don't I email with them anyway? I need people who are kind of interested in what I do, but not so interested that I chat with them regularly? Isn't that called "family"? I don't know. 

Do people use beta-readers? Do they hyphenate themselves? I guess the idea is that you would spam, er, launch an email campaign asking your prospective consumers if they'd be interested in serving as your focus group? Then what happens? A couple dozen people email you back -- or complete a Survey Monkey form -- telling you the strengths and flaws of your book? That does not sound like something I would enjoy.

Keep in mind that the internet has, at my latest Googling, just over 1,837,119 posts about how to market yourself as an author. Which is good news if you enjoy reading posts about how to market yourself as an author. Oh, my bad. I meant to say, "as an Author." Or AUTHORPRENEUR.

According to one of the posts -- which I am certain is sincere and meant to be helpful somehow -- the key to being a successful AUTHORPRENEUR is "building relationships." That makes sense to me. In my favorite short story, "Hills Like White Elephants," the relationship between the man and the woman is key. What does he want? What does she want? Where's the conflict between them? Excellent. 

Oh, wait. There was more to the post.

Building a relationship with your readers, where they can respond to you and communicate with you as an author, is advertising you can't buy.

Oh, sweet lord. I can't unread that sentence. A relationship with readers is great advertising? What in the name of Frank friggin Norris does that even mean? 

Let me tell you who these people are. Ugh. I've been trying to be generous here. But that sentence. I just can't go on like this. Look, these are the people who talk to you at parties until they realize that someone on the other side of the room can better help their career. Then they flitter off to that person. These are the people who post sticky notes on their MacBookPros telling them the proper ratios of marketing tweets to personal tweets. (They say 1:10. I say they're dopes.)

A relationship with your readers isn't advertising. Are these the people who say the penultimate chapter in this book satisfies the reader for THIS book, but the last chapter makes them hungry for the next one? I can't keep up with the helpful formulas on being a writer.

Yes, building involves marketing. I have business cards with my book cover on it, so that when people ask about my book, I can hand them a card. I think taking the card helps them feel as if they've done something, some transaction with me, so that they don't have to ever buy the book or read it. I don't know. I should probably do a better job networking through my LinkedIn page if I want to be a real AUTHORPRENEUR. After all, I want to build that relationship with readers, don't I?

Are your readers your customers? I don't know. I'm not writing for my customers. I'm writing to make this paragraph sing. I'm writing to tie these threads together. I'm writing because I'm kinda interested to see what the heck happens with these people in this cabin.

According to the people who read "the experts" in the field, "the experts" estimate that "readers need to be exposed to your product up to seven times" before they consider completing a "transaction."

If you're attempting to complete a transaction by exposing your audience to your product over and over, then you're at the wrong damn blog, pal.

I've subscribed to many author newsletters, I don't always read them. I read some of them, but I don't always have time. I'm interested in seeing where my favorite authors are signing or hearing about upcoming projects. I like "keeping up with" the authors I enjoy reading, as well as the authors I personally know and like. That's cool. But I've never, ever bought a book because an author emailed me a newsletter.

Think about the last book you bought, the last novel you enjoyed. Did you complete the transaction because of marketing tweets and email newsletters?

I'm no stranger to spreading myself around the internet from MySpace to Reverb Nation. And maybe I could do a better job marketing my writing via newsletters and cleverly using the hashbrown symbol on Twitter. If you're on the internet off and on all day and you're reading posts at Medium about seven things you need to do to be a better Author, and all seven are how to sell your book, well, I don't know, I think you could get lost in that.

My guess is that people like to feel as if they're in control. What have you done today as an Author? I sent out an email thing to people. I updated my website. I had an author photo taken. I gave a reading. I joined a Twitter promotion hashbrown thing to expand my reach. Yeah, that feels like doing stuff. I've done that stuff. Those are things you can write down in your calendar. That's great. Those things are comforting because they feel like accomplishments. They feel active.

Writing is hard. You get 20,000 words into a novel and realize only the last 1,000 are useful. You get done with your 100,000-word story and it dawns on you that you should combine two of the characters. That's you and your story. That's tough. You can write all day for three weeks and then, on Day 22, notice a gaping plot hole you'll never fix. There's no real checklist for writing a good book. Each book is a damn snowflake, ain't it? You can write three novels that are huge successes and sit down to write the fourth and feel as if you've forgotten how to be a writer.

But you know what? If I've read and enjoyed your book, then you're a writer. I have a relationship with your book. I've put it on my shelf. I've gotten you to sign it. I've bought copies of your book for friends. You worked your tail off on the book, and it shows. Your book is great and, honestly, you're pretty awesome. Because you know how to write a damn book, you know? Heck, I might kick back with your book this weekend and read parts of it again. Especially that chapter where he's having the dream about the bird with the broken wing. Damn, that's beautiful.

If you're an AUTHORPRENEUR, then I saw the eblast (the subject line, at least) that you sent out about the Twitter campaign you're holding next Tuesday. Good luck with it. Hope you're able to move some product.