Saturday, March 17, 2018

Online Identity or What Kind of URL to Use

Scott D. Parker

I’ve been planning out the new 2018 changes for my writing business and a question came to mind: when it comes to our online presence, are readers more likely to remember an author’s name or an author’s publishing house?

I think the answer is self-explanatory but let me tell you why I’m asking.

Currently, I maintain three websites: a blogspot one (my first and the one I’ve turned into my western pen name site); my mystery one (, and one for my publishing company ( It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to maintain, but I’m considering streamlining everything down to one, perhaps two sites. Ditto for my mailing lists (I have two). Longterm strategy is to convert at least one of my sites into an online store.

The majority of authors have websites keyed to their names: James Patterson, J. F. Penn, Dean Wesley Smith, Russell Blake, Mark Dawson, etc. A few, however, use a publishing house to serve at the main online presence. Kevin J. Anderson comes to mind (, the fellas at Sterling and Stone, and a few more. If you google “Kevin J. Anderson,” the first link is wordfire, complete with a tagline indicating it’s the office home of Anderson. When you consider ebook links are all hidden anyway, the actual URL doesn’t matter. Plus, readers are, by and large, computer savvy, so they’d be able to find a website.

But it’s our job as author to make it easier.

So, what do y’all do? Have a URL with your name or promote your publishing company? Or both?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Good Girls

When I saw the previews for the new show Good Girls, I thought “Great, a TV series that should have been a movie.” How could anyone get a full season of television out of “hapless criminals rob a grocery store under a protection racket?” For whatever reason, I gave the first episode a shot, and before I knew it, I’d finished all three of the episodes that have aired. In spite of myself, I’m invested - and impressed.

Breaking Bad worked as well as it did because it started with a man who seemed relatable, in a situation so many Americans face. I’d also say it worked well because it was a drama. Good Girls takes a risk with similar subject matter in a comedic setting. What I love about the show is where it differs from Breaking Bad, through.

The show, true to its title, focuses on the issues that a group of three friends are struggling with. A mother living in poverty eleven years after becoming a teen mom, and trying to fight for custody of the gender non-confirming daughter her ex can’t seem to understand, a working class couple with a child suffering from a disease that can only be treated by a medication insurance won’t cover, and the suburban mom who thinks life is great until she discovers that not only is her husband cheating, but he’s blown all their money while she’s played the happy housewife.

All three need money fast. Their kids, their lives, everything is at stake. These are all incredibly American problems and, moreso, women’s problems. The show knows, without hitting the viewer over the head, that women are more likely to face poverty after divorce. The show knows that teen moms struggle long term in ways their male counterparts don’t. The show knows - and shows in heart breaking detail, how overburdened our healthcare system is, and how being black and poor means your doctor might not even bother to hear you when you speak.

The women in Good Girls don’t go traipsing into a life of crime because they’re bored housewives and need a thrill, they are desperate. In the second episode we see how insecure men confuse sex with power - through the eyes of the cheating husband facing the loss of his family, and through the eyes of one of the girls, who’s boss decides to use the knowledge of her crime to blackmail her into sex.

Even though the show is a comedy, the two scenes where he attempts to coerce sex from his employee are gut churning. The three friends continue to stand together and go deeper because the things on the line are unfathomable. Who could watch their child waste away waiting for an organ transplant? Who could let their friend be raped? Who could allow a dangerous criminal to show up at their friend’s home and interact with their children?

Some of my favorite crime stories feature hapless criminals, but the women in Good Girls aren’t hapless so much as inexperienced. Rather than counting on their lack of criminal experience for laughs, it pushes the characters further into trouble, backs them into a corner, and then delights in showing us how strong, fierce, and innovative they are.

It’s only three episodes in, and anything could happen, but I’m hopeful. The cast is great, the writing feels honest, and it’s a great crime story unfolding. I like seeing a woman led story dealing with real issues that can sill focus on being entertaining and funny while we contemplate what we would do if the American Dream fell in on is the way it has done to so many of our neighbors.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Audio Best Seller Lists

I've never been a fan of Best Seller lists. I read a John Grisham book once and enjoyed it.

I started some Dan Brown, but couldn't stand the way he doesn't get sentences. So I switched to audiobooks and enjoyed that. His stories are better if you don't look at them.

I listen to books, though not as much as I listen to podcasts. Still, though. Books. On audio.

So usually I look at Audible when they tell me I have a credit to see what I want to get. The picks selected Just For me are always shit, because I've made some bad choices in my life. Honestly, you use an Audible credit on one goddamn Joe Abercrombie book and it's nothing but blades and breasts as far as the ear can hear. (The Abercrombie was fine, btw.)

Well, now, ON THURSDAY MORNINGS WHICH IS RIGHT NOW (unless it's not), the NYTimes is publishing its audio best sellers list.

The New York Times to Launch Monthly Audiobook Best-Seller Lists

03/05/2018NEW YORK, March 5, 2018 – The New York Times announced today that it will publish monthly Audiobook Best-Seller Lists for the first time, featuring the top 15 fiction and top 15 nonfiction audiobook lists, based on sales from the previous month.
The lists, which combine digital and physical audio sales, will debut online on Thursday, March 8, and in print in the Sunday Book Review on March 18.
Moving forward, the Best-Seller Lists, which previously published online on Fridays, will now publish on Thursday mornings.
“The vibrant growth of audiobooks in the industry has created a need for an impartial, reliable source for tracking and reporting the top-selling audiobooks across the country,” said Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review. “The Times recognizes the increased reader and listener interest in audiobooks, as well as in the Book Review's increasing depth of coverage of audiobooks, and we’re thrilled we’ll be able to provide them independent data they can rely on.”
The Book Review will continue to publish in print the Combined Lists and Hardcover Lists each week. The third page will highlight other Best-Seller Lists on a weekly rotating basis, including the following categories: Paperback (Trade Fiction and Paperback Nonfiction), the four Children’s Books lists, and Audiobooks.
The Children’s Books Lists and Paperback Lists will continue to be updated and posted weekly online, and in response to reader interest, the Paperback Lists will now expand from 10 books to 15.
The Times’s Best-Seller Lists are based on a detailed analysis of book sales from a wide range of retailers who provide The Times with specific and confidential context of their sales each week. These standards are applied consistently, across the board in order to provide Times readers our best assessment of which books are the most broadly popular at that time.
The Times’s Best-Seller Lists are the gold standard because of their painstaking and careful methods of tracking sales. The Best-Seller Lists, while independent from our core news report, embody the same ethical standards and values as The Times newsroom.
All Best-Seller lists are available at
So there's another place to search for what's hot right now, if you're into that sort of thing. I don't know if the NYT is really late to the audiobook game or if audiobooks are just hot now.

Have we had a Death of Ebooks story this week? Are audiobooks the Netflix of IPAs now? I can't keep up.

Anyway, I'm still mainly a podcasts in the ears guy. Vox's podcast WEEDS is my current listen. FiveThirtyEight does good stuff, too. You can Google them if you want. You have the same internet I do, lazybones.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

On Black Panther, 'tho I Haven't Seen It

I'm so glad I was poor in the 90s.

To be black in America is to always be at risk of the collective head fake. Go for self and fulfill your own leanings to any success and you'll meet charges of being skin-folk rather than kin-folk. On the way up, however, it's all about getting that money. Once you get it, other folks start counting it and seeing how much of it you use to do some good in your community. Depending upon who is authoring the indictments, you'll either get props for paying faint attention to kids or the poor, or lambasted for selling out which, quite honestly, is just being black, rich, and minding your own damned business. There's really no way to win, and even in its most casual presentations that should be obvious.

Take Black Panther for instance. Its box office is near-universally regarded as a bold indication of the collective cultural, political and economic possibilities of black Americans. See, it has something to do with black folk, hence it just can't be a movie. It has to be a movement. A movement that makes boatloads of money for very few and raises the bar way too high for everyone else who doesn't enjoy the windfall. So, yeah, pretty much like most of our movements.

Yes, the bar has been raised. Everywhere black American parents push STEM camp on their kids. Everyone is getting a 23andMe kit. Customer service is going to be swamped with calls. "So I'm looking at my pie chart and I'm not seeing any Wakandan DNA." Everyone is all up in their Black Pantherness. Twitter names are all "T'" whatever, which really looks goofy next to so many pre-existing apostrophes. Like, for real, you can T'Challa your name but maybe you should take off the D' before Vondre. To be T'L'Danian is just going to confuse people even more.

Can you imagine what it must be like for a black person who chooses not to identify with that movie's themes and notions? Can you imagine how it must feel to be the only black person in your community who isn't, or even refuses to be, so Wakanda'd out? I still haven't seen it. I've been busy. Once I do, I'm pretty sure it'll be good, but not quite good enough to justify how mean black Americans have been to everyone else since they announced it. We've been so buck wil' over a comic book movie, you wonder when we're all leaving for Africa. We see a teaser trailer and, all of a sudden, we don't have to worry about white folks anymore. Like, who is coordinating travel, and may I use rewards points or my Costco membership to get a better deal? I'm saying, once that bad boy is on Blu-Ray and Disney streaming and no longer front page news, we're gonna hear about all that Wakanda Forevering we've been doing in the lunchroom and in our cube suites on the job. Folks left the movie theater as if they were unplugged from the Matrix, except there wasn't a Morpheus to help you upload kung-fu into your cortex and explain how they woke you up to fight against the oppressive forces who ensure your enslavement.

More like it's your group manager Gary who almost gave you a good performance review until a few weeks ago when you started wearing African tribal garb to work although it's against the posted dress code (and although it ain't your culture.) They could've let that slide but then you kept crossing your arms and fists in solidarity with all the other blacks in the office and now the Director is raising questions about your ability to project manage a diverse multi-disciplinary team.

The idea that we are 'the black community' irks me to absolutely no end. We're no different than anyone else in America. We form tribes with far more specificity and granularity than the skin we're in, and we hold fealty to our tribes so long as they serve us individually. Yep, black folk, too, and not just those who actually uphold and defend tribal distinctions, such as NFL fans. Oh, and street gang members. What I mean by that is we're all colluded in this American mess, even black folk, and yes, even in our own suffering and oppression. A quick tale I'm telling out of school: We rarely acknowledge our mutual blackness unless we're surrounded by a perceived risk of anti-blackness. That lovely bit of physical code the thinkpiece writers describe as The Nod? Try getting one from another black person if you're the only one lighter than a paper bag, or you're on college fraternity/sorority turf and you didn't pledge. Or if you can't relate to anything in a film that appears to be a wild billion-plus box office success because it's easier for black Americans to go see a superhero film with African cultural window dressing than it is to vote. Didn't need an ID or anything.

A recent encounter with a friend of mine at the local car wash—a friend who isn't black—resulted in a call-out for me not having seen Black Panther. Now, I'm the type to flip the bird against any criticism of being out of step with the zeitgeist, but when a white guy chastises my black ass for not letting a Marvel movie change my worldview, that's taking things a bit too far. Perhaps it was frustration at my people over their euphoric nearsightedness (don't you ni**as still have a drawer full of Karl Kani, Fubu and Malcolm X medallions??) I may have been disbelief at our short memory, as this whole marketing-as-movement happened before and our condition—and the manner in which we regard each other—hadn't improved then either. Thing is, we were at a car wash, and only one of us was going home to deal with the existential issues black Americans face, so the only appropriate response at the time was comedy:

"Just so I'm clear, there is a direct analog of slavery in the MCEU, right? Pretty much the same slavery, just like it's the same NYC and Washington, DC, yeah? Bet. So then Wakanda would have known we were being led out in chains and some dood in a mask would've been, "Not our problem," and Wakanda would've been, "Aight." Same kind of enslavement situation, right? And none of us in the US could be Wakandan because they weren't enslaved by the west, right? Wouldn't have been any Wakandan Americans, I'm sayin'? Like, no one's is sayin' "13% Wakandan DNA," that's what I'm talkin' about. So, essentially, the root of Wakanda's black fabulousness is no reflection on our blackness as Americans, right? We got plenty of black Americans in the cast and crew, which is lovely, but they're playing characters who ain't really been checkin' for black folk in America, right? I mean. Skinfolk, though not kinfolk. Am I off with that? No? Aight, bet. Like, I know we got a lot of L' and D' names, like L'Marcus and D' Vondre, but that's not the same as T'Challa and M'Buku, right? Naw, dawg, I ain't trippin'. I'm sayin', I'm just tryin' to go see this flick without having to AncestryDNA first. I ain't tryin' to buy, like, a kufi and carved walking stick 'n shit. It's a superhero flick about a cat who rules a country that didn't want anything to do with black folk in America up until just recently, when it was convenient for them, right? So, basically the MCEU in general, yeah? Okay, great. I'll see it. Maybe they have it on at the barber shop."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Scott’s note: Patti Abbott is here today to talk about her new short story collection.  With more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print, and in various anthologies - not to mention two novels, CONCRETE ANGEL (2015) and SHOT IN DETROIT (2016) - Patti really needs no introduction. So let's get to it - Patti talking about one of the stories in the new collection, a story that sheds a very odd light - a dark light - on opera singer Enrico Caruso.

"The Cape" from

I don’t often write a story for a specific anthology unless I have been asked to do so. But when I saw the call for stories for two anthologies—one combining history and fantasy and the other history and mystery, (HISTORY AND MYSTERY, OH MY) I was interested. I hadn’t written many stories with an historical setting. It always seemed like a tough task, bringing an era I never witnessed to life. But the challenge intrigued me. When an Italian-American friend told me the story of Enrico Caruso’s famous cape at a dinner party, I had a subject. The era would be the turn of the last century, the setting, the lower east side of New York where I had recently taken a tour. The Tenement Museum is a fascinating look at what life was like for the recent immigrants into that teaming neighborhood circa 1880-1910 or so.  The setting was entirely appropriate for the story so I was set.
Briefly, Caruso was arrested for fondling women in the monkey house at the Central Park zoo in 1906. So intent was he on his mission, he had a special cape made with slits to allow his hands a quick and hidden exit. He was eventually caught and tried and suffered only a hand slap because of his power among important city figures.
The story didn’t work though when I tried writing it from Caruso’s viewpoint because I had no real insight into why such activity appealed to him. I also tried writing it from the viewpoint of the woman who eventually called him out. But once again, I wasn’t happy with the results. So who to make the protagonist?
The tailor who made the cape? His voice worked for me. It would be the story of an immigrant striving hard to make a living in New York and his delight when a wealthy man came to him to make his beautiful cape. And his surprise when he found out what those strange slits, the man had requested, were for.

There are only two stories in I BRING SORROW with historical settings but they are perhaps my two favorite stories in the collection.



Monday, March 12, 2018

Quality Over Quantity

A few months ago I was talking to Brian about whether or not to accept all these page like invites on Facebook. He said to accept them all because it affects FB algorithms for what you see in feeds, friend suggestions, etc.

And with that realization I've come to the conclusion that technology is damaging art.

I remember when we started Spinetingler almost 13 years ago. In the beginning you want to get a lot of content. More content meant coming up in more searches which boosted our ranking in search engines and raised the profile.

Comparable to how I guess those FB algorithms work.

The problem is that you have to maintain standards. Let's say I'm really interested in seeing content about cat mysteries on social media. I'm invited to like pages by 100 different authors. 5 write cat mysteries. 10 write hard-boiled stories. 30 write science fiction. 40 write romance and the rest write Westerns and self-help books.

Is friending all of them going to boost the amount of cat mystery content I see? Nope. 95% of what I'd see would have nothing to do with cat mysteries.

That may seem simplistic but the applications are broad. I once thought Netflix had, of all the streaming services outside HBO, the best original content. One can't deny the quality of early seasons of Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. There were awards and nominations and streaming was no longer treated like self-publishing used to be. Streaming services gained respect.

But then something happened. For every Stranger Things there was a Between. Sometimes, there was more than one dud.

Netflix, it seems, has gone for quantity over quality. And while my habit used to be to log into Netflix first I have been turning to Hulu and Amazon Prime more and more for programming.

I actually questioned a few months ago if we needed to continuously maintain our Netflix account. It's the streaming service we've had the longest... But suspect decisions have undermined its dominance in the streaming world.

I'm not the only one to take note of the trend.

The thing is, this isn't about Netflix. It's about a philosophy with any type of artistic production. If you're publishing short stories then if readers find that you tend to have 15% great stories, 35% decent stories and 50% bad to just forgettable stories they are not going to pay to read an issue of stories you put out. Now, you have to allow for some subjectivity. Taste is a factor. But we're talking ballpark. If you consistently put out material that's filled with typos, missing words, logic flaws and underdeveloped plots and characters people will notice.

And as a writer, everything you produce sells your next work.

There's a temptation early on to want to add to your publishing credits but that won't benefit you in the long run if what you produce isn't good.

Sometimes, waiting to invest in the right material is the best way to build a reputation. There's plenty of crap out there already. As a writer and editor I'm looking for what rises to the top. There has to be something about that story that I really want to tell.

The rest is best forgotten.