Sunday, January 31, 2016


by Kristi Belcamino

If you can't hack rejection—and you'd like someone else to publish your writing—you better get tough or consider giving it up right now.

Rejection is part of the publishing game.

I'm sure there are a handful of people who will say they have avoided rejection for most of their careers, but I'm not convinced they really exist or that they are really telling the truth.

It probably officially begins at the query stage.

Rejections are part of the process. Look at this way—every agent or editor who rejects your project means you are one step closer to success. Really.

Then, oh joy of joy, one day you are offered representation from a literary agent.

The agent then sends your manuscript out to editors.

For most of us, this means, yup, you guessed it, more rejections.

Eventually, if you are really lucky, one of these editors will like your book enough to publish it.

But, guess what? Yup, you're not necessarily out of the clear yet.

That editor has to sell the heck out of your book to the editing team and they might decide to give your beloved project the old heave ho. Rejection.

But say one day an editor loves your book, convinces her team to love your book and this leads to a book out in the wild! Wohoo! You've conquered rejection! You are home free!

Not quite yet.

How about reviews?

How about some nasty, vicious reviews. Get used to those, too.

I can honestly say that 99.9 percent of the time I find the bad reviews sort of amusing. I'm going to credit a career in newspaper with countless numbers of douchebags constantly weighing in on every little sentence I wrote. But it might be tougher for you. Keep working on that thick skin.

Wait? You say you're never going to read reviews? Good for you. You have more willpower than I do.

But the rejection game isn't over yet.

Do you ever want to write another book again?


Well, that most likely means ... you know it ... more rejection.

It's all part of the game.

I must say that after having four books published, the rejections don't sting quite as badly.

However, hearing that your writing isn't quite up to snuff or that you didn't quite grab the editor by the throat and not let go, well, sure that still smarts a little.

But it gets better as time goes on.

To survive in this writing business, you have to believe in yourself and your writing enough to not let the bastards get you down. Find your true friends. Support and encourage and cherish them.

Find an agent who bolsters you up during those shitty rejections, who believes in you.

Realize that rejection IS NOT PERSONAL. IT is part of the game. Every rejection you receive means you are one step closer to success!

Keep your chin up! It's worth it in the end!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cover Reveal: All Chickens Must Die: A Benjamin Wade Mystery

Scott D. Parker

A little over a year ago, WADING INTO WAR introduced the world to private investigator Benjamin Wade. He made a cameo in THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES, but now it's time for his second solo mystery.

Back in May 2013, I wrote WADING INTO WAR, Benjamin Wade’s first story. I went on to write a couple of book featuring a completely different set of characters. Late that year, I wanted to return to the world of 1940 and Benjamin Wade. Thus, ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE was born. At the time, I hadn’t written THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES, Gordon Gardner’s first novel. The ending of that book meant that I had to fix up a few things here in CHICKENS. It proved to be a fun challenge.

The title of ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE, however, proved elusive. Very elusive. For the longest time—up to and including when I delivered the manuscript to my editor—I had no title. I can’t even say for sure how the phrase “all chickens must die” entered my head, but it did. And it stuck. With a title that would have been at home on an old 1950s or 1960s pulp novel, I wanted a cover that matched. I love the two intricate covers of WADING INTO WAR and THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES but I wanted a different vibe for this novel. After examining all the old novels I have here in my office, the concept of a solid color “main field” and a secondary color/field at top gave me the old-school pulp fiction look I wanted. For the longest time, I had a stock image of a silhouetted man, kneeling, and aiming his gun off screen. I liked it. A lot. You’ll see it in the future I assure you.

At my day job, David Hadley is our company’s graphic artist. We have many similar interests—Star Wars being one—and we stuck up a good friendship. Along the way, I’d ask him design questions as I tried to train myself in the art of cover design. I showed him my first concept. He appreciated the old-school look and feel and offered a few suggestions. Then, one day, he asked if he could just work with an idea he had. No problem. I was eager to see what he would do. 

The cover was so much better than I had imagined. He used my kneeling man figure and introduced the arcing bullet you see on the cover. The kneeling man didn't really fit in this new scheme, so I suggested showing a man fleeing. Viola. Front cover done. He suggested the idea of the front and back covers showing one scene. He made it happen.

Presenting, the front cover of  


May 1940, the last days of the Great Depression, and private investigator Benjamin Wade isn’t exactly rolling in the dough. He doesn’t even have a secretary. So he’s in the unenviable position of taking any client that walks in his office.

Elmer Smith, a local farmer, has a problem: all of his chickens are scheduled for slaughter. He’s desperate to save his livelihood. He got a court injunction to slow the process, but time is running out.

Instead of laughing Smith out the door, Wade suppresses his pride to take the case. It seems like a simple, straight-forward paycheck. He zeroes in on a central question: What really happened the night police chased someone through Smith’s farm? Wade isn’t the only one asking that question, but he could be the only one who might die for it.

ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE is scheduled to go on sale Tuesday, 2 February, as an ebook. The paperback will follow later this month.

Friday, January 29, 2016


My dirty little secret is that, as far as crime fiction goes, I'm largely uneducated on the classics. I was a young teenager when Tarantino blew up. I talked my dad into renting every Robert Rodriguez movie I could find at the video store when I was at his place. My introduction to crime fiction came on VHS, and movies are my biggest influence when it comes to the genre. I only started on Elmore Leonard because Tarantino made Jackie Brown. The nineties were a pretty solid time for crime movies, and I don't really have any regrets (though it can get embarrassing when crime writers start talking about books I've never read, authors I know I should know).

Last week it came to my attention that Netflix had Roadracers - one of Robert Rodriguez's early efforts - one I had never seen. When I mentioned I was watching From Dusk Till Dawn (yeah, I'm bringing it up again, if I go too long without bringing it up I start itching) and someone suggested it. Well, it's been rec'd, I have easy access, and it's Rodriguez, so here I go.

I've mentioned before the sort of things I think make criminal protagonists fun to root for - the primal part of us longs to be selfish. The fact that most of us grew up being sold a version of the "American Dream" that doesn't seem to exist makes their greed satisfying. What Roadracers gets right is the other element - we like angsty motherfuckers who can't fit into a society that's trying to wring everything different about them out into the gutter. Rodriguez's protagonist, Dude, would rather live in the gutter than let them win. There's some real beauty in how the fifties setting works to highlight issues that still exist today (even if I did spot what appeared to be a Toyota Tercel in the background of one shot).

Dude takes a lot of heat because his girlfriend is Mexican. Rodriguez doesn't shy away from showing exactly how nasty people can be to Latina woman. The other women in the film don't hesitate to throw slurs at her, the men seem to feel entitled to grabbing her, kissing her, and then talking about her like she isn't there - the sad truth is, Latina women are at higher risk for assault like this. More likely to be viciously catcalled, more likely to see violence as a result of their defiance in such situations. If that's true now, I imagine Donna's situation in the film might actually be a little lighter than what a Mexican woman might have faced in an all-white town in the fifties.

Maybe her understanding of what it is like to be an outsider is what draws her to Dude, a dirty greaser in a broken down convertible who always seems to be in trouble. Most of the film centers around his feud with the local cop's son. We discover this cop has it out for him, because he had it out for Dude's absentee father. What I've always loved about Rodriguez's films is the way he quietly inserts big moments and profound thoughts into these violent, over the top movies. Sure, there's a scene where the two groups of teens are drag racing down Main Street and one of the women's hair is on fire - but there's also an expert juxtaposition of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dude's big dilemma. He wants to get the hell out of Dodge, but the anger in him, the lack of self respect, is driving him to continue this feud that's sure to end badly for all involved.

His instinct to be true to himself hobbles him at every turn. He has an almost Holden Caufield like disdain for people who go with the grain. At one point, he says, "I want to make music that scares the Hell out of people." Even as you watch him blow it for himself again and again, dammit, you want him to succeed. You want him to break free of the suburban bullshit  that's threatening to strangle him, the baggage saddled on him by his deadbeat dad, the doubts he has over his musical talent. More than anything, you want to see him beat the smirk off that asshole cop's son.

When shit gets real and the film turns, when we see the path Dude takes, it's hard not to be happy for him. I won't get into spoilers, because the movie is on Netflix and you really need to see it. The music is phenomenal, and in a true testament to Rodriguez's talent as a director, David Arquette is cooler than cool in the lead role (plus - Selma Hayek. There is never enough of Selma Hayek). What makes the movie special, aside from being an awesome rockabilly ride for folks who are into that, is that it hits on racism, police corruption, small town bullshit, shattered dreams, and so much more all while pumping you up with knife fights and drag races and all the shit that makes Robert Rodriguez movies so much fun to watch.

Maybe sometime I'll regale all of you with my favorite profound moment from the Spy Kids franchise.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Don't Tell a Soul

By Steve Weddle

Few years back I was working on an Oscar Martello novel based on the success of some of the short stories. Those stories had been anthologized here and there alongside some smart folks, and I figured it was a good idea to work on something a little more ambitious, to develop something a little bigger.

I figured I had a good idea, because I'm a big fan of conflict and tension to drive a story. Martello would find himself responsible for a small child, after the child's parents go missing. Something something details. So he'd have to do some investigative tough-guy work, while trying to arrange for day care. Tension on various layers, maybe some humor mixed in with all the killings. So I started working on it.

"What are you working on?"
"An Oscar Martello novel?"
"Nice. Good luck."

If only I could have left it at that I'd certainly have a novel series sold and a string of movies with that sweet, sweet Hollywood money.

Instead, I'm burdened with friends. This has always been the thing that's held me back, I think.

I'm talking to someone about the idea, and this friend says, "Oh, like Kindergarten Cop, huh?"
"Like who the what now?"
"That movie where tough guy Arnold has to take care of the kid. That was hilarious."
"No, not like Kindergarten Cop," I said.
"Maybe you could get Arnold to play Oscar in the movie."
"Uh, maybe you could, maybe your face could eat a big bag of shut up."
"Whatever. Good luck with it."
"Oh, yeah. Well, good luck with your big stupid face of stupidnesses," I said.

Honestly, people ruin everything.

So, yeah, that book ain't getting written. Neither will other stories I've told people about because they sometimes say, "Oh, sounds good. Have you thought about _____?"

If you send a few pages you're working on to someone, the last thing you want is to have your work hit a wall. You don't want people to slow your roll. You've got momentum. An idea. You're writing and, sure, you want to share it, so you do. And that's when it all goes testicles up. Because people ruin everything. They have ideas. They have THOUGHTS they want to share. This is how they'd write your story.

Look, you and I don't need people. We've got this writing thing down. When it's done, then we show people. But we have to get the thing done first, then the critical stuff, the editing and the pulling apart and putting back together stuff can happen. Anything too critical during the process is a killer. You're introducing a foreign object -- some other brain -- into the reaction.

David Foster Wallace was giving an interview about Infinite Jest and the interviewer asking him what he was working on after that.
DFW: "I'd rather not talk about it, thank you."
That's it. He went full-on Bartleby, the Scrivener on the dude. Hell, I didn't know you could do that.

There you go. What are you working on? A big stack of none of your business, pal. Now buy me another drink.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who Writes Short Shorts?

by Holly West

Over the weekend, I received my panel assignments for Left Coast Crime 2016. I'm pleased because neither of them focus on historical fiction. Not that I don't love me some historical fiction--I write it, after all. But sometimes I'd like to talk about other subjects.

I'm particularly pleased because one of the panels is about writing short fiction. The assignment took me by surprise because there are those in the crime fiction community who are known for their short fiction and I don't count myself among them. I'm not sure anyone else does, either.

Odd, perhaps, because I love my short stories. Writing them is difficult but the pain is short lived because they require less time to write. Unlike my novels, I don't outline short stories. I get an idea and begin to write before the story is fully-formed in my mind. After days or weeks of struggling, there is a moment when I realize "Aha! That's what this story is about." That moment is golden and oh, so satisfying. It's a wonder I don't write more short stories just so I can have it more often.

When I think back on all of the characters I've created, it kind of tickles me. In trying to identify a common thread about them, I'd say that none are cheerful people. Only one can be considered a hero in any sense of the word. Most of them are women who've made a series of bad decisions, often involving men. Perhaps it's my way of exercising the demons of my past, since a few ex-boyfriends might recognize versions of themselves within these pages. Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well for them.

It happens that I have a few short stories coming out this year, so maybe my panel assignment isn't as surprising as I first thought:

In 2015, editor Thomas Pluck included "Don't Fear the Ripper" in the PROTECTOR'S 2: HEROES anthology. Set in late Victorian London, it features a Whitechapel midwife determined to stop Jack the Ripper's killing spree. The same story will be re-printed in THE BIG BOOK OF JACK THE RIPPER (Vintage Books), edited by Otto Penzler, in Fall 2016.

Awhile back, Eric Beetner approached me about writing something for a crime fiction anthology in which none of the crimes involved guns. The story I wrote, "Peep Show," is about a developmentally disabled man who doesn't know the strength of his own fury, leading to tragedy. It will appear in UNLOADED (Down & Out Press), available on April 16, 2016.

A third story will be published this year in FORTY-FOUR CALIBER FUNK, edited by Gary Phillips and Robert J. Randisi. This one, entitled "Queen of the Dogs," is set in 1970s Los Angeles and features a pretty young Guatemalan woman who snags what seems like her dream job working as a live-in maid for the producer of blockbuster films--as long as she doesn't mind dealing with her employer's advances and his wife's drug and alcohol habit. She gets her thrills at the disco, but when she hooks up with a foxy stranger on the dance floor, she doesn't guess where it might lead until it's too late.

So yeah. I guess I am a short story writer, and proud of it. I'm looking forward to discussing the subject with fellow panelists, Sarah M. Chen, Rob Pierce, and Dharma Kelleher, with moderator Susan Cummins Miller.

I'm also moderating a second panel called "An Unusual Job for a Sleuth" with panelists Susan C. Shea, Mark Stevens, Ray Daniels and Eloise Hill. Again, no historical fiction! This one should be fun since each of these authors have protagonists with--you guessed it--unusual jobs. Moderating is more work than simply being on a panel, but, control freak that I am, I like to be in charge.

I hope to see many of you at Left Coast crime this year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rooting for the Economy to Fail

by Scott Adlerberg

Over the weekend, I went to see The Big Short.  I haven't read the Michael Lewis book, but the movie, directed by Adam McKay, written by Charles Randolph and McKay, I thoroughly enjoyed. The cast is excellent, the pace fast, and the writing funny and sharp. It's the last film anyone might have expected from the director of Step Brothers, Talladega Nights and the two Anchorman movies (all of which I like but, come on, we're talking about low comedy material and nothing with the heft of the 2008 global financial meltdown), but it turns out that Adam McKay's comedic approach is suited to the subject matter.  Seems a little counter intuitive, but what better way to handle a saga that is crammed with greed, incompetence, and callousness?  Without laughs - dark ones but they are laughs - you'd only want to scream in anger and maybe, just maybe, kill some of the movers and shakers behind the catastrophe.  Anyway, we all know what happened in 2008 and we're still feeling the repercussions, so this is not a story that needs to go out of its way to stoke outrage.  The earnest, heavy-handed approach would turn the movie into a slog.  It might become something preachy. McKay and company take the opposite tack entirely, and while I was watching, I was reminded of a line I always loved from a Muriel Spark novel, Loitering with Intent, where her narrator says of a book she's writing: "Now I treated the story.....with a light and heartless hand, as is my way when I have to give a perfectly serious account of things."  The Big Short follows this tonal strategy to a tee.

So the movie's fun.  Very much so.  But what's particularly curious, and instructive from a storytelling viewpoint, is how it works at creating viewer identification.  The movie gets you to root for certain characters even though you know that if these characters are right, if they win so to speak, millions of other people will lose.  And we're not talking about losing figuratively, like a loss of ideals or the loss of belief in a system.  We're talking real loss, life-changing loss, the loss of jobs, savings, homes. The people who come out on the short end here are merely the millions the financial crisis touched.  And yet...

As it's set up, the group of characters who pursue credit default swaps, counting on the housing market to collapse when nobody else believes such a thing possible, are the story's non-conformists. This endears them to the viewer.  Christian Bale's character, Dr. Michael Burry, is socially maladroit but great with numbers, a guy who runs a hedge fund while barefoot and listening to death metal music in his office.  Steve Carell's Mark Baum is neurotic but righteous; he and his small team are of the financial world but rail against its fraudulence and stupidity.  The two young investors involved are shown beginning their financial dealings working out of a garage (a pleasingly archetypal American image if ever there was one), and the experienced trader they get to help them, Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), expresses frequent disillusion with the banking industry and in fact has left the game when we first see him, preferring to garden and grow seeds.  It's a colorful and rough-edged group; of the players betting on the housing market to fail, only Ryan Gosling's character carries himself with the air of what you might typically think of in a Wall Street guy - smooth, cynical, never afraid to express his obvious self-interest.  But these guys are the bright and focused ones in the story, capitalizing on the inattention, stupidity, and smugness of the banks around them.  In effect, the movie is something of a caper film, and as with any good caper film, it's difficult not to pull for the guys who've come up with a brilliant plan.  In the world they inhabit, it's almost as if they deserve to be rewarded for their intelligence, foresight, and balls.  When the economy starts to tank as they predicted but this does not at first turn into the profit they envisioned, they and the audience smell a rat; of course the banks are not playing fair and it irritates you as it irritates them.  Dammit, I was thinking, are they not even going to get what they should be getting. This caper has to pay off.  "It is possible we're in completely fraudulent system," Burry says, echoing what the average person watching the movie may very well feel about the U.S. economic system.  The story's superb construction has you on the iconoclasts' side and you can understand and smile when the young investors, in their excitement over success, start dancing. It takes their mentor Brad Pitt to remind them that they are rejoicing over what in essence will be the collapse of the US economy.  Not that Pitt's character, or the chastened young pair, refuse to take their profits.

What happened in the end?  We all know.  Exactly one banker went to jail, the banks remained intact, no substantial reforms occurred. The Big Short doesn't let you forget any of this, and it darkens in tone enough at its conclusion to leave you with the appropriate feelings of anger and disgust.  But along the way, there are the many laughs I've mentioned, and the movie is indeed a fascinating study in how to engage an audience and direct their rooting interest, regardless of the story's overall consequences.  Like with any movie or book, set in any milieu, you root for the people with the most guts, the funniest lines, and the brains to take advantage of a system too dumb and too arrogant to take them seriously.  The Big Short is the kind of movie that has its cake and eats it also.  There are no genuine little guys in its Wall Street world, but in its specific context, the outsiders win.  Outsiders, not heroes, as Ryan Gosling's character makes clear.  Through its meticulous and clever structure, the film lets you appreciate their victory while never letting the system as a whole off the hook.  In a way that's rare, I left The Big Short feeling buoyant and infuriated at the same time. Well done.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Crime Song - (Pardon Me) I've Got Someone to Kill

Thinking about using my Monday space to post crime songs. Was listening to a little Johnny Paycheck yesterday and heard this gem. I don't see this one mentioned too much, if at all, when the discussion of crime songs pops up.

I know you'll excuse me if I say goodnight
I've got a promise to fulfill
Thank you for listening to my troubles
Pardon me, I've got someone to kill

I warned him not to try and take her from me
He laughed and said if I can I will you know I will
So tonight when they get home I'll be waiting
Pardon me, I've got someone to kill

I know I'll surely die for what I'm about to do
But it don't matter I'm a dead man anyhow
This gun will buy back the pride they took from me
And also end this life of mine, that's worthless now
By the time you tell the sheriff, it'll all be over
He'll find me at their big house on the hill
He'll find a note explaining why I killed us all
Now it's time to go, I've got someone to kill

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Inspiration: Apply within

by Kristi Belcamino

This month I am surviving - scrabbling and fighting to survive -  my twelfth winter in Minnesota.

The land of cold and little sun.

It has not been pretty. I've been in a funk and everyone else I know who lives here feels the same way.

We look at each other and say "January."

I've been obsessively reading writers who put my writing career in perspective.

And my life.

Namely two writers who are friends and share each other's writing frequently:

Chuck Wendig


Delilah Dawson

Luckily, reading blogs by these two writers is pulling me through the slump.

Here is Chuck on Mid-career authors, which I realized, Hey, I'm one of them!

I’m going out on a limb here and say that, as an author grows into a career, that author starts to realize that a lot of the branding and platform talk he listened to early on is at least half a sack of monkey shit. What I mean is this: your writing career is predicated on writing books — it’s very seductive to believe that Our Every Movement Online will somehow be The Crucial Detail that sells our books. So we curate a persona and work very hard to say the Right Things and not the Wrong Things and to Demonstrate Our Social Value As A Content-Delivery-System but at the end of the day people want a book they like. They want a book they enjoy for whatever definition they have for “enjoy.” The author matters, but the author is secondary to the book. It has to be that way. You’re not an online personality. You make stories for a living. And it’s tantalizing to assume the story you should be making is YOUR OWN, but I find that at the end of the day, it’s a very big distraction and will pull you away from doing the thing you should really be doing.
Two rules here prevail:
Don’t be an asshole (and if you are, try to fix it).
And be the best version of yourself online.
That’s it. Beyond that, write books. The best you can.

How to survive the creative life: You keep going, even when the going is slow. Care for the body, care for the mind. Laugh a lot. Read more.
Here's Delilah on surviving in general - depression and anxiety and how it kicks our butts in the winter sometimes.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Can Teach Writers

Scott D. Parker

Rip Hunter is on TV.

For those that don’t know who he is, Rip Hunter is a time traveling character from DC Comics who debuted in the 1950s. (1959: thank you Wikipedia.)

He is a deep bench character, one who even this life-long comic book reader wasn’t too familiar with by the time I started reading comics in the mid-1970s.It wasn’t until the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline in 1985 that I even knew his name. I very much remember him from the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon where the writers brought out all the deep bench character to team up with the Dark Knight.

But that’s a cartoon, a mere step away from a comic book. Now, in 2016, Rip Hunter is a character on a live-action TV series, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The new show is a spin-off of the Arrow and The Flash TV shows. All air on the CW Network. In Legends of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter travels back in time and recruits eight heroes—six actual heroes and two villains—to battle the immortal Vandal Savage. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have their fates tied to Savage wherein he gains immortality each time he kills them. For millennia, the pair get reincarnated and find each other and the cycle repeats. Firestorm (actually two people merged into one figure, for those of y’all counting at home), White Canary, and The Atom round out the heroes. (BTW, he has the best reaction when the twist occurs in episode 1.) Captain Cold and Heatwave are the crooks and scene chewers par excellant. (“And this bunch must somehow form a family…”) Together, they’ll fight in various time periods of the DC universe, enabling other DC characters—still deep benchers—to have a turn in the spotlight. It’s already been announced that non other than Jonah Hex, the bounty hunter from the old west, will be on the show. It's awesome!

So, to recap, there’s actual live-action television show featuring super-heroes fighting an immortal villain…through time. Rip's up there. Far left. For a comic book person, this is a fantastic time to be alive and watching shows like this. For a comic book person, I never thought there’d be a Green Arrow show, a Flash show, and a Supergirl show. But, these latter three are basically well-known, or known enough to launch series.

Not Rip Hunter.

Again, Rip Hunter is on TV. Heck, if you want to get really deep, the villain King Shark—think a huge man with a shark’s head—showed up on an earlier episode of The Flash this year. I’m well-versed in comic lore, but even I had to Google “Flash villain shark man” to get King Shark’s name.

The point I’m trying to make here is this: the folks behind Legends of Tomorrow—Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer—wanted to make a show where time-traveling super-heroes fight bad guys through time. And they did it. They weren’t afraid to pitch the story. They probably said, “Hey, you know what would be cool? Time-traveling super-heroes!” “Yeah,” another one chimed in, “and we can play in the DC sandbox!”

They were fearless in their love for the show. They had to be, because they sold it. And it’s on the air for everyone to see.

What does this mean for writers and other creatives? If you love something, do what you’re passionate for. Infuse that project with all the joy you can muster. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little out there, a lot wacky, or something weird. Do it, for yourself and for those out in the world that love what you love. They’re out there, but it starts with you.

Write Fearlessly! 

Rip Hunter is on TV.  Is anything impossible?

Friday, January 22, 2016

James Deen, Making A Murderer, and Who We Are Not

Just before Christmas I met a friend for coffee and the conversation turned to the allegations made against porn star James Deen. At home on my computer, I couldn't go thirty seconds without Deen's face staring back at me underneath a headline about the growing number of sexual assault allegations raised against him. People at once condemned him and praised the porn industry for reacting swiftly, and for once, most people were talking about the sexual assault of women in the sex industry as victims who needed to be heard, respected, and see justice.

That seems like such a long time ago.

Where are the headlines now? Where is all this "action" the industry was going to take?

AVN planned a historic panel on consent in the industry, that was to include one of Deen's accusers, but it mysteriously disappeared. Now that the heat is no longer on, and the public's attention has shifted to the latest crime-as-entertainment event (Making A Murderer, obviously) the industry is quiet even as Stoya, Deen's ex-girlfriend and first accuser, contemplates leaving the industry that supposedly did such a great job at responding to her allegations.

I hate to harp on the same topic two weeks in a row, but what good does the public's fascination with true crime do anyone if we run wildly from one crime to another without any follow through? If we can't get a sensational perp-walk and a filmed trial we move on, bloodthirsty for the next big thing. In the meantime, the victims (who are so rarely acknowledged at all) and their families are left in the wake.

When the accused suffers some professional consequences and sees no legal ramifications, when the women making the accusations are swept under the rug just as quickly as they were supported with hashtags, when we simply find other things to care about - what are we saying? Do Some Damage's own Jay Stringer pointed out that although Making A Murderer was happy to use the murder victim Teresa Halbach's photo in their promos, she's missing from the docu-series. Early last year I was asked to cover the Slenderman Stabbing for Dirge Magazine and was surprised to find that the victim was alive. When I mentioned it to people who I knew had followed the case, I found I wasn't alone.

This pattern repeats itself over and over. The only victims that can manage to get any attention at all are the ones who go missing, and they only get attention if they fit certain expectations about their looks, lifestyle, and family life. Once the bodies are found, the attention goes straight to finding the dirtiest, most sensational details. The crazier the better. The more sex involved the better. The more we can get worked up in righteous indignation at the criminal, or at least pat ourselves on the back for being so much smarter - the better. Remembering the fact that real human beings were assaulted, raped, or murdered at their hands takes a lot of joy out of all of that.

I really question what the media is doing in sensationalizing real crime only to push one case aside for another as soon as something more exciting comes along. I question the role of the viewer, and whether the media's presentation of this stuff is the chicken or the egg.

I get that for most people, the allegations against Deen seem distant. When we hear about really horrible stuff, it's natural to form a makeshift security blanket out of the ways we are not like the victims. We are not porn stars, so James Deen will not rape us. We are not men with sordid histories like Steven Avery's, so the police will not frame us for a crime. We don't associate with men like Steven Avery, so if he is a murderer, he won't murder us. We are not overly trusting young girls. We are not desperate single mothers. We are not dumb enough to hitchhike.

We are none of these things, so when the next big crime story comes along, it's all too easy to shift gears and obsess over it like a good TV show.

Except - we are all of these things. Not a single one of us is "above" being the victim of a serious crime. Not a single one of us is better than the media's forgotten victims.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The books I'm looking forward to this year

By Alex Segura

I did this as a combo post last year - meaning, I listed my 2014 besties with my most anticipated for 2015. This year, I figured I'd split them in two. Not sure why, but here we are.

I've read a handful of these already - and they did not let me down. I very much enjoyed the new Ian Rankin, Rob Hart, Dave White and Reed Farrel Coleman novels - definitely check those out.

One note - I tried to include Scott Adlerberg's latest, Graveyard Love, but Riffle wouldn't let me. I've also read that one and loved it. You will, too.

So, here they are. The books I'm most excited about this year, so far. It's gonna be a good  year for books...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Leveling Up

by Holly West

When my four year old nephew is ready for dessert (which is pretty much always), he asks what he has to do to level up. Usually, it requires eating a few more bites of salad or whatever vegetable is still on his plate. Beat that boss and you can have a cookie.

As a writer, I think about leveling up a lot. Leveling up is a little different from writing the best book you can. Presumably, we all aim for that with every book we write. But how do I get to the next level as a writer? My current WIP, which I'm now revising, isn't leveling up so much as it's breaking free of the historical mysteries I've published so far. I'm proud of this book and I love it, but the next book I write will be a stab at something more ambitious. A "bigger" book, if that makes sense.

In the mean time, I'm always looking for books that represent what leveling up means to me. Simply put, they are books I wish I'd written myself. Books that make me suspect that no matter how long I do this, I'll never reach that story telling level. Bosses I might never beat but, damn it, I'll die trying.

Over the last couple of years, I've read several books that fall into this category. This doesn't necessarily mean that the book is a leveling up for the particular author. It only means that when I read it, I got a sense of the type of book I'd like to write. A book that inspires me to take more chances with my own writing. A book that reminds me why I want to be an author in the first place.

Here they are, in no particular order:

I'm always looking for more leveling up books, so tell me, what books have you read lately that represent leveling up to you?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Three Letter Word Starting with F.

by Scott Adlerberg

A couple nights ago, at a Noir at the Bar in Manhattan, I had a talk after the readings with a crime writer who's written many books, had a strong career, won an Edgar Award for Best Novel (among other awards she's won), and without question has a high reputation.  I asked her what she's currently working on and she told me, a project that sounds fascinating.  Then she asked what's up with me.  I told her I have a new book coming out soon, on February 1st, and that there's a launch party planned at the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. 
"Excited?" she asked.
"Yeah," I said. "Very."
"Excited, a little nervous..."

An experienced hand at the book launch thing like her - nothing I had to explain, obviously. 
We kept talking and at some point I told her about my current book, which I'm about halfway through.  I told her the overall premise.  It made her laugh and she said, smiling, "That sounds great." I laughed also, and then she asked a question that came out of left field and completely surprised me, though I had no difficulty answering it.  
She asked, "Are you having fun with it?"
Just to be clear: when I told her what the current book is about and where I am with it, and though she seemed to genuinely like the premise, she did not ask me about any of the following:
1)  Do I have an agent for the book? 
2)  Do I have a contract with a publisher for it?
3)  Do I have any sort of deal with any publisher?
4) How many words I have done in it so far and what I anticipate my final word count will be?
5) Why I write? I mean, as an existential question.

She simply asked, koan like, am I having fun with it? 

It just amazes me how rarely I hear this word, "fun", used by writers in relation to writing.  "Pleasure" and "enjoyment" are two other words that pop out rarely.  I'm not trying to be naive. Everyone wants to make as much money as possible from what they write, and of course some stories you write are stories filled with ugliness and pain that you have to get done to purge your system of them.  You write certain things as a kind of self-exorcism.  These are not stories, books, essays, whatever that are  "fun" to write in the usual sense we mean by fun.

Still, yes, please call me naive.  I still find there's almost nothing that gives me greater excitement than getting that tingle you feel when you hit upon the kernel of a good story idea.  It's like having a thrilling dream.  You have that kernel of an idea in your mind and then you start to develop it, tease it out, play around with it in your thoughts.  The fun that comes with this process - can it be denied?  Then you have to start writing. Okay.  Now the fun involves sweat, anger, near despair,  the acknowledgement of your limitations.  The fun includes realizing you will have to let go of the work at some point, even if it's not perfect. (Of course it's not perfect.  This is writing and you wrote it).  Fair enough.  I'll grant all of these. But the writing process itself, that developing a story from scratch, making something from nothing,  reworking, layering, polishing, living with a story for months and months, waking up every day thinking about it, trying to create a narrative that's a vivid and continuous dream, making yourself laugh as you write, pleasing yourself because every so often you're capable of a halfway decent phrase - I don't know what else to call all this but fun and I'm always happy when I encounter a fellow writer who has no shame expressing the basic concept.  As I see it, when you're working on a story and wrestling with it, playing with it... agents, publishers, contract deals, incessant word counting, the ultimate meaning of why we as a species write - who the fuck cares?  You're enjoying yourself, you're dreaming while awake, you're trying to write the best story you can. For most of the time you're actually writing, does anything else truly matter?

So thanks, experienced pro, for asking me the perfect question when we talked about writing the other night.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Flash Fiction

I've been reading the anthology Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories that was published in 1992. It would appear that editor James Thomas created the term flash fiction with the publication of this book. Not the form, there's a long history of stories of a shorter length, just the term. I'm not aware of an earlier usage.

From the introduction:

Why Flash Fiction, as opposed to Sudden Fiction, which we have featured in two previous books? Answer: We did want to make a distinction between the two types of stories. The stories here are shorter (in terms of "limit") by a full thousand words than the stories in those books, and quantitatively there is a big difference between 1,700 and 750 words.


One of the original ideas for the book was to present stories that could be read without turning a page, assuming that there might be some difference in the way we read stories when we can actually see beginning and end  at the same time. So, envisioning a story on a two-page spread, 750 words seemed about tops for conventional, readable typography. Enthusiastically, we began searching for such stories, and called them "flash" fictions because there would be no enforced pause in the reader's concentration, no break in the field of vision."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Anticipation: 2016 To Be Read List

By Kristi Belcamino

This is the first year I've kicked off with a TBR list that makes me drool. This is going to be an amazing year of reading and I've already dug in.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Alex Marwood's THE DARKEST SECRET and it is brilliant. I just cracked Nicholas Petrie's THE DRIFTER last night - and I can tell you that if these two books are any indication, this is going to be a stellar year for crime fiction.

Here are the 2016 books I think we will be talking about for years to come:

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Going to "School" in 2016

Scott D. Parker

I'll admit it was a tough week for me. The death of David Bowie sent me into a particular type of sadness one gets when an inspirational figure from one’s youth passes from this earth. There wasn't a day this week that I didn't experience tears or a quavering voice. I'll get over it, I know, as time takes a cigarette and moves on.

What made this week of mourning challenging was the need to continue work on my current story. It's likely gonna be the first Calvin Carter story I release later this year so there's not hard deadline, but I needed to make progress nonetheless. I made some, but it as much as I'd have preferred. Life goes on. So does work.

Speaking of work, I've also been busy putting final changes in the second Benjamin Wade book. I'll probably have a cover and title reveal in the next week or so.

One aspect of publication is the book description, the sales copy that goes on the back of a book or an Amazon page. I don't know about you but sometimes this can give me trouble. For my Triple Action Western short stories, it's a tad easier. The opening scene is usually enough. Couple that with a $1 price tag and I either get the potential reader or I don't.

A novel has, to my mind, slightly different rules. It's supposed to be longer, but not so long to bore the reader. Weird, huh? I recognize I need some help on that regard so I'm going to school for just sales copy. I purchased Dean Wesley Smith’s HOW TO WRITE FICTION SALES COPY. I started reading it, annotating along the way. My goal is to get better at writing sales copy that entices readers to want to read my stories.

Speaking of Dean Wesley Smith, he’s practically a one-man school. He has lots of resources on his website and decades of experience behind it. I’ve been reading his blog for years.I even ordered one of his lectures.

Improving my skills is one of my two major writing goals in 2016. I realize I can produce new words with relative ease now, so I need to focus more on the business side of the ledger.

I know about Smith’s books and workshops. Are there other resources y'all use to improve y'all's business ecumen?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Are you not entertained?

Another day, another series of crime scene photos running across my screen.

The last few weeks I have been asking myself where the line between true crime and entertainment is, or if it exists. When I dive into another project exploring a murder case or murderer, I'm hoping to find something I can use to understand the world we live in, but it often seems like I am in the minority. Whether the latest hot case is a viral "Florida Man" or a high profile murderer being "analysed" on HLN, it seems a lot of people are in the true crime fan club for entertainment.

I get that a lot of the readers of Do Some Damage are crime fiction readers and writers - and it may seem funny to draw the line between getting your kicks reading about a criminal tearing through the world, taking what they want, killing anyone who stands in the way, and drowning it all in whiskey and a real life criminal. The difference for me, is in the crime scene photos.

When I wrote about Ted Bundy earlier this year, I didn't do it as a "TedHead", I didn't do it because I found him fascinating or the details of his horrific crimes particularly salacious. I don't have an ounce of sympathy in my heart for Bundy. But what has stuck with me, on a daily basis, since writing that piece has been Bundy's dead eyes staring back at me from Google Image Search. If you search for Ted Bundy, you will see his dead body. You don't get a choice in the matter. I understand why people get a hit of endorphin seeing a man like Bundy dead - for sure, for certain, dead as the women he victimized.

I do not understand why, when researching the Jodi Arias case, I stumbled upon the graphic autopsy photos of her victim, Travis Alexander, without looking for them.

I can take gore. I love horror films. I love watching Tim Roth bleed to death for two hours in Reservoir Dogs. I don't particularly love looking at photos of a man who was nearly beheaded by his on-again-off-again girlfriend after being shot in the head and stabbed nearly thirty times. I definitely don't love when it happens unexpectedly.

I won't lay down some ridiculous philosophical "are we any better than the murderers?!" question - because, of course we are (unless you're also a murderer, then it's probably a more case by case thing). But I do wonder how we blur the line between real tragedy and passing entertainment. I wonder how the more salacious details of a murder case get more attention than the life of the victim and the loss their loved ones feel.

Crime fiction serves a different purpose. Of course, we find it entertaining. Often, the anti-heroes speak to our more primal side - the part of us that wants to look out for our own interests without regard to the law or what others want or need. Crime fiction can serve to humanize the criminals we tend to demonize, or to cast a light on parts of our society we regularly ignore. I don't know if true crime, in it's most common state, serves any such purpose.

I'm certain that uncensored, freely distributed photos of the bodies of real people doesn't.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Everybody Let's Get Stoned

Guest Post by Jeri Westerson

Holly's note: Welcome to the my first guest post of 2016. It's rather appropriate that it's Jeri Westerson, author of the Crispin Guest medieval mysteries (and several other novels as well) since she's been kind of a mentor to me in my own career. Her latest Guest book comes out on February 1 from Severn House buy you can buy now on Amazon.

I'll let Jeri take it from here.

Medievally speaking, we aren’t talking about what Bob Dylan expected, or, to be more literal, getting a good stoning for some infraction. I am, however, talking about an actual stone, the “Stone of Destiny” to be exact, that features in my newest Crispin Guest Medieval Mystery, THE SILENCE OF STONES.

What is the Stone and why is it important to my medieval tale of murder and mayhem? It happened in the later part of the 13th century. In the time of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace (yes, that William Wallace, but the less said about the movie “Braveheart” the better), when all the heirs to the Scottish throne seemed to die off one after the other. At one time there were fourteen claimants, but the two that had the best or at least loudest claims, were Robert the Bruce and John Baliol.

So they turned to Kind Edward I of England. He was known as Edward Longshanks because he was very tall. Later, he was to be known as “Hammer of the Scots” and not in a good way. They figured Edward was a king and a gracious knight and he could be relied upon to arbitrate. Edward said, “Sure I’ll arbitrate. But if I do this for you, you name me Overlord of Scotland.”

They kind of rolled their eyes, said sure, whatevs. Then the Scots ended up choosing John Baliol anyway.
Edward just wouldn’t seem to go away. He’s like the last guy to leave the party even when the hosts are starting to clean up. So he asked the Scots to provide troops for his war with France and they’re like, “Are you still here?” They’re so pissed off, in fact, that they allied themselves with France.

Now Edward is pissed off. And in 1296 he invaded Scotland and that’s when he captures the Stone of Destiny.

Just what the heck is the Stone of Destiny? The Stone of Scone? Jacob’s Pillow?

In Genesis 28, Jacob travels to Bethel, gets tired, grabs a stone, and uses it as a pillow—as one does—and dreams of a Stairway to Heaven. And it is this Stone that is taken into Egypt by Jacob’s sons. The pharaoh’s daughter, named Scota, where people believed the name of Scotland derived—except it didn’t because it comes from Latin, Scoti which means the “Gaelic regions”—supposedly took the stone into Spain, and then it ended up, somehow in Ireland where Irish kings were crowned. It seemed to be the thing to do to sit on the stone and be crowned. In Ireland, the stone was supposed to groan if you had the right to be king when you sat on it, and stay silent if you didn’t. That would mean a lot of instances where no one was king—until the smart guy hid someone in the bushes to groan at the appropriate time. And if that were the case, then he deserves to be king!

In the 6th century, Fergus Mor Mac Earca, King of the Picts, brought it to Scotland. Cinaed Mac Ailpin, 1st King of the Scots, left it at Scone (pronounced “scoon”) Abbey.

It’s grey sandstone, 27 inches long, 17 inches wide, and 11 inches high. With iron rings embedded on either side.

It’s stolen in my book THE SILENCE OF STONES, but it WAS never stolen…until young Scottish nationalists stole it in 1950. In 1996 Prime Minister John Major returned it to Scotland to appease the Scottish Independence movement. So now the stone lives in Edinburgh Castle with the proviso that it come back to England when a new monarch needs to be crowned. 

By the way, tests done on the stone in 1996 proved that the stone’s provenance was around Scone Abbey. So much for Bethel and Egypt and Spain. 

HOWEVER…did the monks of Scone Abbey really give Edward the real Stone of Destiny or did they pull a fast one? Rumor had it that they hid the Stone and gave Edward a lid to a cesspit, with rings and all. Even Edward wasn't sure and he returned to Scone to demand an answer--but everyone said that, yes, that is the real stone. So is it the REAL stone of destiny? Is the real stone still hidden somewhere in the abbey? No one will ever likely know.

All this talk of the Stone naturally leads us to the Coronation Chair that sits in Westminster Abbey. 

Now this is not a throne. This chair was strictly created for the purpose of crowning the monarch of England. Edward originally commissioned a bronze chair and it was always designed to house the Stone of Destiny beneath the seat as a symbol of England’s supremacy over Scotland. But the bronze chair was going to be too expensive so he settled for wood.

It is believed Edward II, Edward III and Richard II (the king who reigns in the Crispin books) were crowned sitting in this chair, but we aren’t certain. The first monarch we are sure of that sat in the Coronation Chair was Henry Bolingbroke, Henry IV.

There are exceptions as to who sat in the chair for their crown. None of these did so:
Edward V (one of the princes in the Tower). Richard III already took the throne before his nephew could be crowned.
Lady Jane Grey was only pronounced Queen and that only lasted 9 days.
Mary I, Bloody Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter. She sat in the chair but took another for the actual crowning.
Mary II. She ruled with her husband William of Orange, so she let him have the chair and they made another one just for her.
Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallace Simpson before he could be crowned.
Even Oliver Cromwell used the chair to become Lord Protector after the English Civil War.

Symbols. They can hold people together or divide them. The Stone in the Coronation Chair was designed to cleave England and Scotland together but really only served to divide. The medieval world was chock full of symbols of royalty and nobility, of the divine and the humble. Castles, cathedrals, crowns, badges of office. Crispin’s sword is the symbol not only of his past but—yes—of virility, an important aspect of the medieval man’s place in society. It’s the symbols that fascinate us about this period. That’s what draws us back again and again. And it’s what I hope draws you to the Crispin books.


You can find out more about Jeri, her books, see a series book trailer, use book discussion guides, and see some keen maps by going to Jeri’s website at

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Too Long on the TBR List

By Scott Adlerberg

With the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting recently concluded, I've come to realize that there's something of a similarity between how the Hall operates and how I operate with the books on my To Be Read list.  With the Hall, each voting cycle, a group of writers names no more than 10 eligible players whom they consider worthy of Hall of Fame honors.  A player must be named on at least 75% of the voters' ballots to be enshrined.  Players are removed from the ballot if they are named on fewer than 5% of the ballots or have been on the ballot 10 times without being elected.

It's this last sentence in particular that has relevance to my TBR list.

The pattern goes like this:

However I heard about it, I get all excited about a book and buy it.  Amazon and the Advanced Book Exchange are absolute dangers in this regard because they so easily allow you to give in to impulse buying.  No more hearing about a book and then needing to go out and find it in a store. Initial enthusiasm leads to a quick buy leads to the book being delivered to your house leads......oh no, now I have another book to add to the pile and I'll get around to it soon, except that, well, though I still want to read the book, another book has caught my attention in the meantime and I'm reading that. Or: that momentary desire I had to read a science fiction novel has given way in the few days it took for the book to be delivered to a desire to read the new crime novel by my friend so and so. Oh yes, and after that, I have a book to read for a review I promised and then a book to read for a blurb I promised. Weeks pass.  What was the book I ordered again? I'm sure it's great but I'm not quite in the mood for it now.

Months go by, years, and the book I once was dying to read falls off the TBR list completely, its chances of making it to my Hall of Read Books, so to speak, remote to nil.

Except of course I still have that book taking up space in my house.

Well, this year, all that is going to change.  This year I'm going to assign myself specific books I've been meaning to read for years.  Because in truth I want to read these books. I really do. I feel enthusiasm when I imagine starting a TBR list veteran. I open the book, thumb through it....and put it down for something else. Why I do this, I'm not quite sure; it's as if the idea of reading this or that book has become a pleasure unto itself, superseding the actual reading of the book.  Silly, maybe, but there it is.

So my plan: I'll keep it simple.  I'll pick six of the books on the TBR Veterans list and set myself the task of reading them this year.  That's a doable plan - one of the veterans every two months - and it leaves plenty of time to read other stuff.

The six I've chosen as my 2016 homework?

Senselessness by Horacio Moya

Over the holiday break, I spent a couple days down in El Salvador so this is as good a time as any to finally pick up this short novel by El Salvador's premier novelist. To paraphase the Amazon description: "A boozing, sex-obsessed writer finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to proofread a 1,100 page report on the army's massacre and torture of thousands of indigenous villagers a decade earlier, including the testimonies of the survivors."  One or two friends whose reading judgment I find impeccable have recommended this to me. 

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

I saw Tarkovsky's Stalker and recently read two other novels by the great Russian brother pair. No more need be said.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

Pushkin Vertigo re-issued this last year, and I've never read anything about it that makes it sound less than superb.  Plus, I haven't read a good Japanese mystery or crime novel in way too long.

Chasm by Dorothea Tanning

A surrealist novel by the great painter. It's described as a kind of Gothic that takes place in the American southwest. This has been on my radar longer than any other book here.

The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe

Everything I've read about this 1937 crime novel talks about how innovative it is, so it's about time I see for myself.

Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard

I've read a lot of Ballard but nothing for several years now and I'm feeling the need to get back to one of my absolute favorites.  All well-timed since, this year, the movie adaptation of High Rise will be coming out. In any event, Cocaine Nights is among the last novels he wrote and it's something of a mystery story apparently, so I can't wait.

I will check back with reports on these six books after I read each one.

TBR list veterans - this is the year you finally start to get the attention you deserve!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading goal: Read 200 short stories

Over on Twitter Gabino Iglesias challenged people to read 200 books in 2016. 167 is my best so I can't make 200. Every year I always have the same goal of reading a short story a day, I always fail to do so. Following on the heels of some earlier DSD posts about 2016 reading goals here is mine: I will read 200 short stories.

To date, I have read 9 short stories.

"Major Burl" by Jack Schaefer from The Collected Stories of Jack Schaefer

"Some You Lose" by Nancy Richler from Jewish Noir

"Perchance to Dream" by Charles Beaumont from Perchance to Dream : Selected Stories

"Black" by Annabel Lyon from Oxygen

"Basements" by David Nickle from Knife Fight and Other Struggles

"Martian Matters" by Rios de la Luz from The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert

"At the Funeral" by D Harlan Wilson from The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade

"Greenhorns" by David James Keaton from Stealing Propeller Hats from the Dead

"The Triumph" by Clarice Lispector from The Complete Stories

9 down, 191 to go. I'll check in from time to time with my progress.

How about you, any reading goals for 2016? Will you join me in the 200 short story challenge?

What's on your plate for 2016?

by Kristi Belcamino

Later this month, when I hand over the Shitty First Draft of my new standalone novel to my writing group, I'm going to finally have one month to let a draft of mine sit and simmer, as Stephen King recommends.

The past three books I've written have been on super strict publisher deadlines (basically six months from conception to submission to my editor). Now that I have the luxury of a month off, I'm debating what to write.

My first book, Blessed are the Dead, was inspired by my dealings with a serial killer while I was a reporter in the Bay Area. For more than a decade I've carted around dozens of reporter's notebooks with my interviews of him in jail or on the phone. In addition, I have a packet of letters he wrote me from prison and jail.

I'm thinking about writing a novella about this time in my reporting career.

My only hesitation is immersing myself in that ugliness again when I finally purged that fucker from my head. But I think it will be good to write the novella and then basically throw away this giant copy paper box, get it out of my basement and out of my house and out of my life.

Besides polishing my standalone and writing this novella, other projects I have planned for this year include writing the fifth Gabriella Giovanni book, "Blessed are the Peacemakers."

So it's going to be a busy year. I can't wait.

What is on your plate for 2016?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Reading Resolution: 2016

First off, no, I'm not copying Steve. His Thursday column was about reading more in 2016. Turns out, that's my resolution as well. I used to make writing goals, but I've discovered my groove with writing, so I no longer have to do that. Now, I just need to read more.

On the recent podcast from Kobo Writing Life, they interview Michael Connelly. He mentions that he would like to read more. Because, let's face it: when we writers are actively writing, we can sometimes let the reading half of our lives lapse. I know I do.

Up to now, when I write a new tale, I tend to read something similar. That's not to get 'ideas' but to stay in a certain type of mindset. When I write a western, I want to read a western. It would be a tad difficult to read a modern technical thriller while writing a novel about the Old West. I suppose some writers can do that, but I choose not to.

Having said that, it's nice that my upcoming writing schedule should enable me to read westerns, modern mysteries, and World War II thrillers. (That's what is called a hint at what Quadrant Fiction Studio will be publishing this year.)

But I want to read more broadly as well. Again, I tend to find those genres and authors I like and just stay there. I'd like to discover a new-to-me author this year. I'd also like to keep more up-to-date with the modern mystery and crime fiction field. My eyes see so many books in all the various sources from which I consume content that it all becomes a blur. Then it becomes overwhelming and I don't know where to start.

Well, thanks to my Kindle Paperwhite, I have one place to start. "Kindle First" is a program for Prime members where you can download one free new book per month. Now, it's not *any* book, but one of 6 the editors have selected. Fine by me considering I know where to find the books and authors I already know. This way, I will have 6 likely new-to-me books/authors from which to choose. Here's January's list.

I'm not going to pledge anything. Reading isn't like NaNoWriMo. I can't read faster than my already moderate pace. Plus, I don't have a lot of time for reading. But I will certainly read more books. And I'll keep track of them, likely on my author website. More details on that forthcoming. But I don't want to just add books to the To Be Read pile. I plan on actually reading them. I know I won't end 2016 having read all that I want to read, but I aim to keep the pile manageable.

So, surely Steve and I aren't the only ones who want to read more. What are y'all doing to read more books in 2016?