Saturday, November 4, 2017

Unfurl Your Writing Banner

Scott D. Parker

Never shrink away from proudly letting the world know you are a writer. Sometimes it might open a door for you.

I started a new job this week and, yet again, it isn’t Full-Time Fiction Writer. Someday. In the meantime, however, I am a…well, it’s a funny thing. You see, the job description used the title “Technical Writer IV” (I love the way that looks; like the fourth movie in a kick-ass movie franchise) but the internal job description uses “IT Content Advisor.” That latter title reads like a high-powered government job or something out of Silicon Valley. Actually, it’s neither. I now work at the main campus of ExxonMobil in Spring, Texas. The project is part of the unified IT initiative where I’m part of a team that consolidates scores of content sources and brings it all under one umbrella. Daunting and challenging, but very interesting. The commute is pretty long—45 minutes in the mornings and 65 in the afternoons; I’ve already adjusted to mental mindset of there’s no quick route—but I started listening to Dan Brown’s ORIGIN so I’m getting by.

What does this have to do with flying that writing banner proudly? It comes down to my resume. When I updated my day-job resume, I debated whether or not to include my writing credentials. By that, I mean my mystery and western novels and stories. I opted for inclusion. In my interview, after all the day-job-type questions were asked, my interviewers asked me about my fiction. It enabled the three of us to have a few moments of informality and ended the interview on a jovial note. I found out this week that the fiction was one of the things that differentiated me above other candidates. My history degrees were also a factor. The clients were looking for something a little different and my liberal arts degree* and creative fiction writing set me apart. Another writer started the same day and she has a behavioral science degree, so we both are not your typical technical writer types.

When I decided to include my fiction, I did so with little regret. My fiction is a part of who I am, and I’m damned proud of the accomplishments. And it helped me get my foot in the door. The pride is just a little bit more now.

So, fellow writers like me who have a day job, I recommend you always put your fiction on your resumes if you don’t already do so. In fact, that’s my question for the week. Do y’all include y’all’s fiction on your day-job resumes?

*The Art of Manliness podcast—one of my favorites; the main website is awesome, too—had an excellent episode entitled “The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education.” Host Brett McKay interviews author George Anders, author of You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education. In the episode, they discuss how creative people often possess skills that can be used in various fields and businesses. I had to smile because it came true for me.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NaNoWriMo: You Do You

By Steve Weddle

Yesterday, Holly West had some words to drop on you about NaNoWriMo. Last week, Thomas Pluck mentioned considering the push. A couple years back, Scott Parker took a crack. In 2009, Dave White talked NaNoWriMo.

For years, we've had tips and tricks. We've tried and made it, tried and failed. We've upped and downed with the best of them. You can check out the DSD NaNoWriMo thoughts here.

I have some suggestions, in case this helps.

First, sign up. That gets you community and badges and you can snag a discount on Scrivener.

Secondly, tell everyone. Post on FB. On Twitter. A few things will happen. Most folks don't care. Other folks will say "I think NaNoWriMo is dumb." Fine. Whatevs. I dig candy corn. Other people like Air Supply. So what? You use templates to write? You post your word count on Twitter every day? You share your writing playlist? Super. Whatever it takes. Unless you're writing your short story by carving the words into the backs of orphans, who cares? Do whatever it takes to get the words down. When you tell everyone, you'll also get a nice hunk of folks who will hug you. They'll share their NaNoWriMo account names so you can be writing buddies for the month. You'll get support. Tell folks. It's cool.

C, You'll want to listen to the recent Writing Excuses NaNoWriMo podcast. I've recently cancelled my XM subscription so that I can devote my ear time to listening to all the back episodes of Writing Excuses that I've missed. They do great work. Listen to this one & click the heart/like/subscribe.

4th, Have a plan already. If you don't have a plan, get one. A template. A guide. An outline. Something to guide you, so that you can spend your time getting the words down. Writer's Digest has a helpful guide for worksheets and cards and so forth right here. David Hewson has some handy Scrivener templates floating around, too. Those are just some of them. Google around for "novel template" and run. It ain't gotta be perfect, just done. Get to 50k.

Finally, find a way to reward yourself, whether it's each day or each marker. I don't know what you like, but whatever it is, do that for yourself once you hit your word count for the day or when you hit your 5,000-word marks or for each three days in a row that you hit your goal. Whatever. Don't beat yourself up. Whatever you do, you're getting those words down. You're kinda awesome, you know?

By the end of the month you should have 50,000 words. But even if you only get to 23,836, you've got 23,836 words down. Either way you'll need to keep at it. So get to it. We're rooting for you.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Master of My Domain

by Holly West

When I first started writing seriously, I devoured every bit of writing advice I could find. Oh, how I loved those Buzzfeed-style lists of tips that, if I followed them, would magically turn me into a bestselling writer. Or, failing that, make writing easier, and hopefully, better.

Now that I have several years and a couple of published novels under my belt, I've kind of gotten over my addiction to writing advice. Not because I'm any better at it than I was when I started, but because for me, reading all those posts became a form of work avoidance, as though reading about writing was somehow the equivalent of actually writing. What began as a source of inspiration and motivation ended up being a time suck. I also got a little bored of it. So I quit, cold turkey.

Recently, however, I've been toying with the idea of tackling NaNoWriMo, which itself is problematic. There's something about the idea of hunkering down for thirty days and emerging with a terrible first draft that makes me all tingly inside. But my issue has never been the ability to write terrible first drafts. I can practically do that in my sleep. It's the revisions that get me. I lack the required focus to revise and polish a manuscript in a timely manner.

In short, I have no business doing NaNoWriMo until this current WIP is finished.

But I digress. The project I have in mind for NaNoWriMo (which I most certainly will not be doing) is a different structure than I've written in the past. Or at least I'd like it to be. Somehow, no matter what I endeavor to write ends up being a "whodunit." Which is okay, because I like "whodunits." They're just so damned hard to write.

All this to say that in my quest to write something a little bit different, I dipped my toe back into the pool of writing advice and found a couple of helpful things. Not that it matters, because I'm pretty sure I won't be doing NaNoWriMo.

Find a Master Work AKA What Kind of Book do You Want to Write?

When I first read this one, I thought, "well, duh." Of course you have to start by figuring out what kind of book you want to write. Usually, this pertains to genre, tone, et cetera, and the standard advice is not to chase trends and to "write the kind of book you'd like to read."

I can get behind that, but this particular tip went one step further and suggested a novice writer find one specific book--a master work (MW), if you will--to help you define what you want to write. I suppose you could also use two or more MWs, the way they do in pitches. Like HORTON HEARS A WHO meets BABY DRIVER, that sort of thing.

Anyway, it's not about cribbing from the MW (this sort of thing is frowned upon) or even following its structure. It's about identifying those elements of the book that excite you, inspire you, make you want to read it, make you love it. Those elements that make you want to take a stab at writing a book yourself. As you write, you'll develop your own voice, style, and plot, but using the MW as a loose guide, especially at first, will help you move forward.

In accordance with this advice, I've identified a master work for my next WIP (the one which will probably NOT be a NaNoWriMo project). I'm not telling you what it is, find your own if this advice tickles your fancy.

Neglect Everything Else

This isn't to be taken literally, unless you have very few responsibilities and almost no loved ones (which kind of describes my life but let's not dwell on that). Recognizing we're all busy, writers are often told to carve out an hour or two each day to write and keep that time sacred. So what this is really saying is neglect everything else during your writing time.

This is definitely useful advice, but I interpreted it differently for myself. For too long, I've been a dabbler. That is, I have my fingers in too many pies. And though it's well documented how much I love pie, I've come to the realization that I need to be more selective in my flavor choices. Limit it to two, or maybe three.

What the hell are you talking about?

Pie, in this case, is all the options life has to offer. What roles do I play? Wife, dog mom, writer, knitter, painter, house decorator, blogger, aspiring fitness model, etc. While I admittedly have far fewer obligations than most people my age, I'm still way too diversified. If I want to achieve my personal goals as a writer, I need to neglect pretty much everything else except for maybe the dogs and the fitness. My husband can take care of himself.

Put another way, I need to do a better job of prioritizing my life. Let's start now. Priority 1: I WILL NOT DO NANOWRIMO THIS YEAR.

(Actually, I will be doing a modified version of NaNo, during which I'll finish revising and polishing my WIP).

But enough about me. Will you be doing NaNoWriMo this month? What kind of planning do you do prior to starting a novel? Do you ever choose a "Master Work?"

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Addiction in Fiction

Earl Javorsky guest blogs today, talking about addiction in fiction and how this relates to his two Charlie Miner private eye books.  The second in the series, Down to No Good, has just come out, and....

I'll let Earl tell you.

Addiction in Fiction
by Earl Javorsky

They say once a junkie, always a junkie, but this is ridiculous. I haven’t been dead more than a few hours and I already need a fix.

And so begins Charlie Miner’s second chance at life in my first book, Down Solo. A sad-sack, strung-out PI, Charlie took a bullet to the brain while riding a bicycle on a warm summer night, high and clueless as to the dangers of the case he had just taken on. Now he wakes up looking down on his body and it draws him in, awkward but still workable. His mission: to get a fix and then find out who killed him.

Having survived the relentless trajectory of addiction, I am perpetually fascinated with consciousness—enhanced, compromised, obliterated, or otherwise. And addiction—oh, my!  It’s a disease. No, it’s a behavioral disorder. No, it’s a crisis of loneliness. No, it’s a rational response to stress, depression, and despair. I love all this bickering: it’s how a culture evolves in the petri dish of ideas.

And so Charlie—hapless, strung out, and inexplicably reanimated—popped into my brain.  Addiction has its own logic, internally consistent but entirely foreign to the non-addict. When all normal motivations are subjugated to achieving and maintaining the required chemical state, priorities like showing up for work, having sex, or even showering or eating are shunted aside. This presents a problem when writing a novel, as motivation is key to characterization (and vice versa). The impetus behind a protagonist’s actions have to be plausible, or you’ll lose the reader, and drug-addict decision-making is inherently implausible. In order to make Charlie believable, I found it necessary to write in the first-person and the present tense, because only from inside his head and right now do his thought processes track as weirdly reasonable.

In my new Charlie Miner book, Down to No Good, Charlie teams up with a homicide detective whose drinking problem combined with Charlie’s opioid fixation makes the two of them a pair unlikely to get anything accomplished. And yet my goal (maybe I didn’t know it as I was writing) was to make them plod onward in their attempt to solve a string of murders and to succeed not only in spite of but because of their unhinged conditions.

This last is—besides the odd supernatural component—what I believe sets the Charlie Miner books apart from other drug novels. Most of the time, the drugs are simply detrimental: they are the cause of setbacks that are either insurmountable or require willpower and abstinence to overcome. There are no notable successes due to heroin use in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting or Hubert Selby’s Requiem for a Dream. Both Jerry Stahl’s memoir, Permanent Midnight, and James Frey’s embellished personal history, A Million Little Pieces, lead the reader to one desire for resolution: Get clean, get a real life! These are all fine works, but the characters are throughout impeded by their addictions; I wanted to show characters propelled by them. The point is to get the job done, solve the crimes, and if the tools at hand are self-destructive, that’s fine, as long as they keep you moving.

My favorite drug novel is David Benioff's The 25th Hour, in which the best of intentions are thwarted by intoxication. The inevitability of this is the addict's constant dilemma.  Charie Miner's consciousness is full of holes.  His quest will take him backward to the rediscovered memories and forward to new danger, furter loss, and, finally, possible redemption.  Down Solo and Down to No Good borrow from the supernatural genre only to the extent that, generally, people don't reanimate their bodies and continue with daily life.  Otherwise the novels are more or less straightforward mysteries (we said we would 

My favorite drug novel is David Benioff’s The 25th Hour, in which the best of intentions are thwarted by intoxication. The inevitability of this is the addict’s constant dilemma.  Charlie Miner’s consciousness is further compromised by the fact that there’s a bullet in his brain and his memory is full of holes.    His quest will take him backward to rediscovered memories and forward to new danger, further loss, and, finally, possible redemption.  Down Solo and Down to No Good borrow from the supernatural genre only to the extent that, generally, people don’t reanimate their bodies and continue with daily life.  Otherwise, the novels are more or less straightforward (well, slightly convoluted) Chandleresque mysteries.

You can get Down to No Good right here.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday: S. W. Lauden HANG TIME

My friend S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas, including CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast, manages Bad Citizen Corporation Blog Spot and still finds time to pound the skins. S W is, clearly, an avid L.A. devotee. 

This past week Steve (S. W.) shared great news with fans and friends when he premiered the cover for the third installment to his tough as nails Greg Salem series. 

Not familiar with the raucous crime series? Allow Will Viharo, Eric Beetner and myself to shine a little light.

First in the Greg Salem series...

BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONS.W. Lauden’s debut novel, was published in 2015 and got a lot of people talking. Readers were enthralled by main character Greg Salem, a less than perfect punk rocker and police officer with habit of getting into trouble. Complicated with a wicked origin, Greg Salem is a story within the story.

With his debut novel, S.W. Lauden charges out of the gate and ahead of the pack like a wild but determined champion horse pumped up on illegal steroids, racing straight from and right back to the dark depths of modern noir hell - which to crime fiction enthusiasts is better known as "heaven." His rep amongst the indie lit community and readers already well established via his celebrated short stories and popular author interview blog, Lauden makes good on his own promising talent in this deceptively sun-drenched, grittily sandy saga of a musician/cop staggering down the mean streets of L.A. in the torrid tradition of Chandler and Cain, but to a much more contemporary beat a la Elmore Leonard and Tarantino. From the beaches to the nightclubs to the strip malls to the seedy dives, Lauden deftly captures the dirty side of this sprawling, desperate city like a literary-musical hybrid of Bukowsi and Black Flag. Rock on.
-Will Viharo, author VIC VALENTINE: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MISERY and LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME. Columnist at Bachelor Pad Magazine. Founder and owner at Thrillville Press and Creative Copywriter at Digital Media Ghost.


Second in the series ...

With the release of GRIZZLY SEASON  Lauden didn't just follow up the story of Salem, he changed directions and shifted setting, pulling readers into a brand new mystery and set the path for more danger. Needless to say Salem and his pal Marco find themselves right in the heart of trouble, complete with sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

Lauden offers so much more than a standard PI read, he offers up a raw, gritty picture of the life of the PI, warts and all. Salem is no saint, but he is a man who has heart, seeks to do the right thing, and is looking to make the world a better place for those he loves. The fact that Lauden strips Salem down to the core and shows the reader his struggles to be a good friend, a good father, and most importantly a good father, while also allowing his insecurities and vulnerabilities to shine through is a huge strength to this book. Salem is a character worthy of a series and the ending to this great read will have you salivating for the next book in this series


And last...

The third book in the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. trilogy. "Hang Time" arrives January 16 from Rare Bird Books. Available for pre-order now. 

The thing I love about Steve's books are that they make so many unexpected turns. Greg Salem is not a traditional cop or a traditional PI. If you're looking to breathe some new life into tired genres, so is Steve. I'm always teasing him for the classic novels he's never read, but it works for him. He's not out to pay homage, he's writing from the gut and it takes the stories to some wild places.
-Eric Beetner, author of THE DEVIL DOESN'T WANT ME, DIG TWO GRAVES, SPLIT DECISION  and A MOUTH FULL OF BLOOD, and co-author (with JB Kohl) of ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD and BORROWED TROUBLE. C-host, Writer Types podcast. Editor, UNLOADED: CRIME WRITERS WRITING WITHOUT GUNS. Organizer and host Noir at the Bar series, L.A.


Q&A with S.W. Lauden

Do Some Damage: So you have a punk rock past? Sounds like you may have a few more dark stories bubbling. 

S.W. Lauden: Punk rock was the eject button from the heavy metal legacy my older brothers handed me. I was never the most punk guy at the backyard keg party, but it definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world that I never knew existed. All that anger, energy and art damage felt pretty good in my teens. My tastes evolved from there, but music kind of became my identity for the next couple of decades—along with many of the experiences and cliches that suggests. I think that's why music often plays a role in the crime fiction I write, even if it's just a song playing on the jukebox in a dive bar scene. I'll labor over exactly what song it is, even if readers skim right by. It's this big, important part of my experience so I tend to view the world through that prism, for better or worse. And, yes—there are plenty more dark stories to tell about the lives of musicians, the bands they form and the terrible decisions they make in the name of rock and roll.

Do Some Damage: Is writing therapeutic for you?

Escape might be a better word to describe it...on the good days. Other times it's like repeatedly getting my ass kicked by a rabid bear that lives inside the dark caves of my over-caffeinated mind.

Do Some Damage: If given the choice, would you rather write the dark and sordid tales ala Greg Salem or the edgy, but comedic stories of Shayna and Ruzzo?

S.W. Lauden: Hm. I'd honestly rather write both, or whatever else pops into my head and sticks around long enough to grab my attention. I've been told by people in the know that the publishing universe doesn't always reward these stylistic fluctuations—which seems logical—but, at least in my case, I think it helped me to spread my wings a little. Writing and publishing a lot of short stories was also beneficial for my personal development.

That said, the Greg Salem books draw much more directly on my own experiences. The stories are definitely fiction, but they are set in worlds parallel to ones I might have stumbled through myself. So, to continue evading your question, I probably needed to write the Greg Salem books more than the Tommy and Shayna books


Remember to pre-order S.W. Lauden's latest book in the Greg Salem series HANG TIME. While you wait for the January release I suggest you grab a cold one and begin the Salem binge. Next, check out Shayna and Tommy.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Revolt Against Sexual Harassment

There once was a show on Amazon called “Good Girls Revolt.” It’s a scripted series set in 1969 and 1970 that tells the story of several female researchers at “News of the Week” magazine who endured sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. It’s won plaudits, stellar reviews and a devoted following. It was not renewed for a second season.
There once was a head of Amazon Studios named Roy Price. He resigned earlier this month after being accused of the sexual harassment of one of the executive producers of an Amazon show and crude talk at work-associated events, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He was the one who made the decision not to continue with “Good Girls Revolt.” (You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?) When the show’s creator went to Price late last year to pitch a second season, he didn’t even know the characters’ names. She told The New York Times she believes that’s because he never even watched it. Feel free to conclude for yourself why the head of a studio wouldn’t bother to watch one of his own shows.
This is particularly infuriating because there once was a lawsuit filed by 46 women at Newsweek magazine. The 1970 lawsuit alleged that one of America’s top newsrooms discriminated against women in hiring and promotion. Women – “girls” back then – were relegated to roles as researchers or sometimes promoted to reporters. They were rarely made writers and were never able to climb the career ladder to jobs as editors, the highest positions at the news magazine. These 46 were the first women in the media to sue and became the first class action lawsuit.
One of those women was Lynn Povich. It is her amazing book, THE GOOD GIRLS REVOLT, upon which the Amazon series is based.
Fans of the TV show protested late last year when it wasn’t renewed. But now that Price’s alleged harassment is out in the open, the show’s stars are leading a much bigger, um, revolt.
“It was just so meta, or twisted, when we found out Roy Price had been accused of sexual harassment,” Anna Camp, who plays researcher Jane Hollander, told The New York Times. “So many frustrated fans were reaching out and saying, ‘Now that he’s gone, maybe the show could come back.’ ”
The stars as well as numerous female journalists are also saying loud and clear that with all that’s going on right now women finding the courage to come forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault by men who held professional power over them a series like “Good Girls Revolt” has never been more timely.
So here in my little corner of the world, I’m going to do everything I can to try to bring back a show that takes place almost 50 years ago, but says a whole lot about the world today. It shouldn’t be one man, who resigned his job in the face of a sexual harassment allegation, who gets to decide whether a show about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment continues to air.
If you’re interested, you can sign the petition at Or tweet to @AmazonStudios with the hashtag, #SaveGoodGirlsRevolt.
Full disclosure: In my other life as a journalist, I belong to an organization called Journalism and Women’s Symposium, which works toward equality and support of women in the field. Lynn Povich is also a member.