Saturday, April 29, 2017

There Must Be Balance

Scott D. Parker

I’m a Star Wars geek so of course I’ll quote Yoda.

“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”

How does this relate to writing and the business of writing? Let me paraphrase:

Always two [components to a writing business] there are, [a lot] more, no less. [The Writing] and [Everything Else You Need To Do]

If you recall last week’s post, I halted my writing so that I could revamp the website ahead of my Business Anniversary on Monday. I am republishing my western titles as written by “S.D. Parker” and they go live on Monday, 1 May. More western short stories and novels will follow throughout the summer and beyond.

Anyway, since I like to start new writing projects on the first days of the month, so I’ve actually had some downtime. I’ve kept my writing business active by reviewing the third Benjamin Wade novel (it now has a tentative title of The Missing Wife), solidifying the images I’ll use for the revamped covers for my mystery books, and purchasing a USB microphone that I’ll use to start recording audio versions of my stories and books. It has been busy.

But I’ve not been writing. And I don’t like it. I certainly appreciate the downtime, but I’m already antsy for Monday to get here so I can start writing again. I have big writing plans for May 2017: short stories. Then, in June, it’ll be back to novel writing again. One thing I’m learning about my process is that variety is key. Whether it be length of stories or types of stories, I think I work best going back and forth.

Plus, I’ve been away from my character, Calvin Carter now for two weeks. I miss him. :-) I’ll be ready to return to his adventures in June.

How about y’all? Do y’all write the same character/types of books over and over again or do you change it up?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Edgar Winners Announced

April 27, 2017 New York, NY - Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the Winners of the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2016. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 71stGala Banquet, April 27, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Hachette Book Group – Grand Central Publishing)


Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Random House – Penguin Press)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (W.W. Norton - Liveright)


"Autumn at the Automat” – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Lawrence Block (Pegasus Books)


OCDaniel by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)

"A Blade of Grass" – Penny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)

"The Truth of the Moment" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by E. Gabriel Flores (Dell Magazines)


Max Allan Collins
Ellen Hart


Dru Ann Love

Neil Nyren
* * * * * *

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Awful good reviews

I've often said three-star reviews are the worst to get.

One-star reviews are written by assholes. Five stars some from friends or people are often too excited.

When I look at reviews, I discount the fives and ones. But if I see a book heavy with three stars, that's a book I might not care about. One-star people care. Five-star people care.

A three-star review says  "Meh. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. Whatever." Who wants to read that book?

And then there's this kind of review, one that says the book was great and the author did great work, but it wasn't exactly what the reader wanted.

What the heck are you supposed to do with that?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doing It All Wrong

How many successful writers do you know who do it all wrong?

Joanne Harris and Roxane Gay are not only outspoken on social media, they engage with nearly every troll.

Joe Lansdale writes different genres, wildly dark or funny stories, all under the same name.

Who writes in the second person? Begins with the weather? Writes what people skip? Kills the dog?

Try any of those things and the answer will be, "well, you're not Roxane Lansdale Harris." (Good name for a character, that). And they're right. You're not them. You're you.

This isn't to say "rules are meant to be broken," but there is no magic formula.

If you listen too carefully, you'll never be you. That is not to say ignore editors and beta readers. They are there to fine-tune your work and give you perspective. Sometimes you miss the mark, and need to finesse it. Sometimes, it's a delicate dance.

Be aware that being you sometimes means being less popular than vanilla. Maybe you're pistachio. Sometimes I'm the guy who orders the old-ass flavors like butter pecan, maple walnut, and salted turnip, because I feel they don't get enough love. (Right now, there's a pint of rocky road in my freezer that I wish was closer, if you're wondering where this tangent came from.)

The rules you should try not to break are write fearlessly about what you love, persevere, and behave politely and professionally. And even that first one can be broken, if you want or need to write for hire. We all need to make a living. And many of these rules get penned by people living off family or spouses or day jobs where you have the luxury of principles. Behaving professionally in business matters will open doors for you. And behaving unprofessionally or with difficulty will close them. Don't eat shit, but don't shit where you eat, either.

And never kill the dog.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Scorecard

It's gotten bad.  No joke.  It's gotten so bad I need a kind of scorecard to keep track of where I am from TV series to TV series.

But the scorecard looks something like this:

Hinterland - A dark Wales set procedural that has strong no-nonsense plots and an abundance of atmosphere.  Is there a countryside more brooding and austere than the Welsh one?  I watched the first season and have two seasons to go, though only seasons 1 and 2 right now are on Netflix.  It's been a couple months since I finished season one, but I do want to return to the show.

Black Mirror - A great show.  Often brilliant.  The show that put Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out on the map. I've watched everything up through San Junipero (one of the show's very best episodes) in season 3.  Saw San Junipero months ago and have been meaning ever since to watch episodes 5 and 6 of season 3, which would bring me up to date.

Atlanta - That eccentric Donald Glover. He seems to be a guy viewers either really like or can't stand. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the distinctiveness and tonal shifts of the first two episodes, but somehow got sidetracked after that watching other things and need to go back and re-watch those and then continue on to watch the other eight episodes. Come on, I tell myself.  Do it.  They're only 30 minutes each, perfect as a way of winding down after a night of writing.  They await me on I-Tunes, where I bought a season pass to the show.

Stranger Things - I've heard nothing but great things about this Netflix series. I like the whole 80's throwback vibe, and my 11 year old son, who knows next to nothing about the 80's, loved it.  But I've only managed so far to watch bits and pieces as my son was binge watching it (usually when I was busy doing housework or cooking), and then alone one night a couple weeks ago, I started episode one but quickly got sleepy (it was about one in the morning on a weekday night) and had to stop. If I could only get about 8 hours of free time at once, I'd binge watch this thing myself.  I know it's right up my alley.

Bosch - Yes! Finally! Up to date on something. But wait, not exactly. Season 3 just started streaming on Amazon.  So here's yet another show I'm behind on.  Whatever. I'm eager to rejoin Harry because I enjoyed the first two seasons.  Solid show through and through.

Fargo - Is this starting season 3? It is.  Damn, because I haven't gotten past the first episode of the first season, which I bought on Amazon awhile back.  I found that premiere episode merely okay, and my attention span feels so put upon now, I never felt compelled to return to the series  But based on all the raves I've heard from people I know, I suppose I should?

Gomorrah - Just finished watching season one on Netflix.  Season two will start this week on Sundance. This is a series I will without question keep up with.  The question here is whether to watch it on Sundance now, with commercials, or to buy a season pass through I-Tunes so I can watch it without the ads. Alternatively, I could buy it on Amazon when it's available there or wait to see it on Netflix for free, though that may mean waiting for months. Decisions, decisions.

The Last Panthers - I saw Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers, the excellent documentary about the Balkan jewel thieves who inspired The Last Panthers, but still need to start watching the show.  It's a fascinating tale, how this group of robbers formed after the Balkan Wars of the 90's, and it's got John Hurt in one of his last roles.

The Night Manager - Le Carre adaptation, Tom Wilkinson, and yet I still haven't started this. Why not?

Shetland - What the hell was I doing starting this series just a couple night ago?  Don't I have enough that's unfinished on my TV viewing plate?  And yet, this past Sunday night over dinner, I watched the first two episodes of this show based on the Ann Cleeves novels.  As with Hinterland, much of the pleasure for me in this procedural comes from the starkly beautiful setting and the mood evoked by that setting.  Here it's the titular Scottish archipelago.  I've always wanted to travel to Scotland but haven't yet. This is the next best thing.

Hap and Leonard - Who's not glad Joe R. Lansdale got adapted to TV?  Still, this didn't quite hook me. When it premiered last year, I was eager to jump into it, but I stopped about halfway through season one. Now season two is underway.  I own season one through Amazon, so it's there waiting for me, but it's low on my priority list.  Maybe I'm just less interested in East Texas and its landscape than I am in Scotland or Wales? Could be that.   If anything draws me back, it'll be Michael K. Williams.

Marcella - Saw season one, eagerly awaiting season two.

The Eagle - A Danish procedural from about 13 years ago that had a three season run.  I've seen the first season. Need to see the other two. The main character is half Danish half Icelandic, and he's part of an investigative team that combats international crime across Scandinavia and Russia. His group takes on drug rings, financial fraud, terrorist threats, human trafficking and other stuff.  A slick, well-made, tense show, with a compelling central character who suffered some sort of traumatic incident as a child in his native Iceland. The show flashes back often to that childhood, so that there's a developing mystery in the past as the plots in the present progress.

And I could go on.  I haven't even mentioned the shows not involving crime of any kind.  But you get the point.  There's so much good stuff, it's maddening.  I think it's clear why a TV viewing scorecard, at this exhausting point, is necessary.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spinetingler News

Interrupting regular blogging to share with you the news that Spinetingler will have its first issue in years this fall. We're currently accepting fiction submissions, scheduling author interviews, selling limited ad space and pulling things together.

For more information, you can check out the site.

Spinetingler has always been a labor of love, and primarily self-financed. As a result, our output has varied over the years. Jack Getze and I would like to thank you for your ongoing support throughout the years.

PS: Several stories have already been lined up for the issue. If you're polishing a short story, don't take too long to send it in. Submissions for the issue will close once the issue is full.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Different Realities of Memory

I heard a song on the radio earlier this week, and I was immediately transported to a boat in the middle of an almost frozen lake, with snow on the rocky shore and the wet tang of an approaching storm in the air. It was a wonderful memory. But it never existed.
The song was from a OneRepublic album that I listened to repeatedly when I was writing the first part of The Branson Beauty. My sheriff has to coordinate the rescue of passengers from a crashed showboat in the middle of an Ozark lake as a winter storm blows in.
Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri. Credit: Table Rock Condos at The Majestic
I hadn’t heard any of the songs in years. But as I listened to "Made For You" play on the car radio, everything came back. Not the actual memory of me sitting at a keyboard and staring at a computer screen. What I recalled was the cold and the water and the feeling of expectancy that my character had as he boarded the showboat in the biting wind. That’s my "real" memory, and it made me smile for the rest of the day.
What songs do you have that are linked to a specific memory – whether it’s from the real world or the world of a book?