Saturday, May 19, 2018

Do You Facebook Live?

Scott D. Parker

(A funny thing happened when I went to Audible to download the fifth Travis McGee novel, A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD, by John D. MacDonald: I learned it was twice as long as the previous four. With my commute being an hour one-way (yeah, really; life in Houston), those first four books were all completed by Friday afternoon so I could write about them for my weekly DoSomeDamage column. Well, not today. As of this writing, I have about three hours left and, as much I would love to comment on the story, I haven’t reached the end. And, if a couple of the previous books are any indication, the endings of McGee novels can hold more depth than is true of a typical novel of this kind. I’ll write about A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD but it won’t be published today.)

So y’all get a post on Facebook Live. To date, I’ve been a big fan of the concept where a user launches the Facebook app on their phone (usually, but desktops work just as well), writes a short intro, and then starts broadcasting. I’ve been able to watch bits of live music, awards ceremonies at schools, news reports, or just a person I like riffing on, say, their thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War. What’s even cooler is that the video itself is stored on the Facebook feed. That way, I can re-watch something I already watched or catch up on something I missed. It’s a great feature.

And I’ve started doing it myself. To date, I’ve only done it via my Facebook author page (Scott D. Parker: Storyteller) and it is super easy. Most of the time, I use the small microphone plugged into my phone, but the standard earbuds on my iPhone work just as fine. I just prefer the clarity the mic gives me. The only weird thing is that the images are mirrored. I discovered that when I shared a short video about an article in the latest issue of MEN’S JOURNAL about the new Kevin Costner western series, “Yellowstone.” I’m not sure if there is a button I can push to un-mirror the image or not, but if not, I’ll try to have as few text items as possible.

Why is this important to authors? For the simple reason that we cannot only communicate to our readers and friends to tell them about a new book we have on sale. In my opinion, we must let our readers know we are real people with real interests outside of just writing. Other than the “Yellowstone” article, I’ve given my thoughts about the movie “A Quiet Place” and shared one of my favorite Batman comic stories by Dennis O’Neil. What I envision is for a dialogue, a back-and-forth between folks and me. A general conversation. I have many more ideas that I’m looking forward to sharing, including possible live reports from next weekend’s Comicpalooza here in Houston.

Authors: Do you use Facebook Live? If not, you should start. If so, what do you talk about?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Trashy, but trying.

I’m headed to the biggest little city in the world this weekend (Reno, for those of you with a whimsy deficiency), and it’s been fun talking to people about their concepts of the town. Rae, my cohost on Mandatory Happy, compared it Vegas saying that Vegas is “trashy but it’s trying” and Reno is “just trashy.” She said this as a reason for why she loves Reno, by the way. I’ve heard “Vegas’s dirty little brother,” and came across an amazing Trip Adviser review of the city titled “Filthy, Unfriendly, Nothing but speed traps, and crime.” If that’s not the start of a beautfil Reno themed crime anthology, I don’t know you people anymore.

Personally, I haven’t been to Reno in at least ten years, if not longer. But I have family there and one summer’s break worth of memories roaming Sparks (Reno’s suburb) with my cousins. I’ve never been a gambler, so the assorted gambling towns in Nevada have never been overly tempting to me. I love Vegas for it’s kitsch, but I still don’t want to spend more than a weekend there. But Reno is this whole different animal. A place that tried to be Vegas but turned into it’s own little unique heap of casinos, cigarette smoke, and cheap shows. Perhaps the warm feelings I have for the city are purely nostalgia based, or maybe it is a deep knowing that the jokes about how trashy, dirty, and sad the town is are completely true.

Vegas may be full of sparkle, but Reno knows what it is. Vegas hides the broken dreams and empty wallets behind flash, bright lights, and showgirls, but Reno doesn’t hide it at all. I respect that.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tours, Blitzes, and Getting The Word Out

Do you have the particular set of skills to publicize your book?

Last week there were several books released but you might not have noticed, because Alex Segura’s latest Pete Fernandez mystery Blackout was released and Segura was everywhere: here at Do Some Damage, Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds, Criminal Element, LitReactor, and SleuthSayers. There were a couple of reviews last week and some articles the week prior to Blackout's release. But Segura doesn’t need to apologize for getting the word out about Blackout, it’s kind of Marketing 101 and since publicity work was his day job for years, he's good at it.

But what if you don’t have Segura’s particular skill set? 

One suggestion would be to look into a blog tour for your book. Blog tours are an organized set of reviews, book excerpts, interviews, and author-generated content over the span of one or two weeks with one or two different book bloggers taking part each day. I’ve seen some blog tours last up to a month and others as short as a few days with four or five bloggers each day. The last is called a book blitz. Yes, it does cost some money to have a publicist (usually a book blogger) run it for you, but then you are removed from the heartache and hassle of scheduling and herding the cats that book bloggers are.

Earlier this week, I participated in my first blog tour as a reviewer for Richard Godwin’s Android Love, Human Skin. The tour started on May 9th and ended on the 15th. With three book bloggers a day, Godwin’s book got publicity at twenty-one different book blogs during one week. If you’re not Alex Segura, how many blogging mentions did you get during the week of your book's release?

The price for a blog tour isn’t outrageous, some start around $60. If you think about the amount of time you would need to collect a list of book bloggers, send out emails and try to herd them to publish on assigned dates, then $60 bucks doesn’t look that bad at all. (The Godwin blog tour organizer also followed up with me to add my review to Amazon – that already makes it worth the price, doesn’t it?)

As a book reviewer, there are two things I like about a blog tour. First is that I’ve committed to reading and reviewing a book for a specific date. Usually, my reading and reviewing system is a bit fluid, okay, it's a puddle of water in a thunderstorm. Right now I know I have to read and write a review of Simon Hall’s The TV Detective for May 25th. The second bit is I get to connect with new book bloggers with every tour I participate in. Trust me when I say this, I follow a lot of book bloggers and there are some bloggers in the tours I am participating in that I’ve never heard of.

Of course, any of this work should be done in conjunction with your publisher.  In fact, what are the publisher's publicity plans for your book? Do they just drop and run? What are some things you need to be doing to help the publicity along?

The biggest draw back in a blog tour is your book needs to be ready six to eight weeks before the tour kicks off. If you and your publisher work on a deadline days before the release of your book, first that’s stupid and second a blog tour might not be what you need, you and your publisher have other issues.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fra-gee-lay: Major Awards, Honesty, and the Validation Trap

Awards aren't fragile, but writer egos can be
Last time I was here, I wrote about how not winning or getting nominated for awards shouldn't change your writing.
Today I'm here to tell you that getting nominated or winning awards shouldn't change your writing.

"The things we have to watch out for are that kind of approval seeking that sneaks up on you. Every writer should be wary of the ways they seek approval from an audience." -Alexander Chee, interview with Fold Magazine
Alexander Chee is the author of two critically acclaimed novels and the new collection of essays, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. His essays are stunning pieces of work, and if he hasn't won major awards for them, he will. But his advice above, specifically aimed at the validation we get from social media, also applies to awards and nominations, whether they are voted on by fans (like the Anthony or Hugos) or curated by peers, such as the Edgars or Shirley Jackson Awards.

This isn't to say they don't mean anything. It is wonderful to get recognized, but as Mr Chee says above, we should strive to improve our craft without writing for awards or audience validation. That is not how great stories get told. They get told when you dare, when you make it personal and stick a pen in your heart so the feelings flood on the page, like Mick Jagger says. Hey. it's only crime fiction, but I like it.

And that rarely coincides with trying to make people happy. If you live for the validation of others, you are going to be disappointed eventually. If you want to read the most honest self-appraisal in some time, check out thriller writer Owen Laukanen's post about self-honesty at his Project Nomad blog, where he talks about the emotional rollercoaster of a writing career. This is a guy I've been cheerleading for some time, I saw his books in airports, I thought he "had it made." He gives us the cold wet slap of reality with this post, and every writer ought to give it a read. There is no gravy train with biscuit wheels.

So, it's time for me to be honest.

I've been a critical jerk to writers I consider successful who have struggled, like Owen has. Because I ass-umed they were on the gravy train, and there's nothing worse than seeing someone grumbling about having it better than you.

But they don't have it better. They have it different. So I'd like to apologize to authors who have been honest about the tribulations of their writing careers, like Owen and John Hornor Jacobs, who I have called out. I liked to say I was looking out for them--that they were being hurtful to their audience and less-successful peers--but I'll be honest, I was angry that they found greater success than I have, and yet didn't seem "satisfied." That was my mistaken impression. They were being honest about their fears, struggles, and troubles in the writing business, and I was shaming them for it.

Shame on me.

We can't all approach the level of introspection--especially publicly--that Owen is brave enough to share with us, but introspection is an important part of not being an asshole, and we all have blind spots. I'm good at locating sources of my own fears and misogyny and attempting to root them out, as I have written about in the past, but I am not good about confronting how competitive I can be. I've always considered myself noncompetitive, easy-going, and my first taste of nasty ego-protecting competitive lashing out was when I started fight training. My high school friend Peter has fought amateur in Japan, and is now a personal trainer. He's a better fighter than me. Better technically, and more experienced. But I'm stronger, and outweigh him by several weight classes. And there's a reason there are weight classes. I have a distinct advantage, especially in grappling, and when we roll... people stand back and watch, because we tear shit up. He gets me with a rear naked choke or a triangle, but I always have to rely on my "cheat" of sweeping him to half guard, stretching out his rangy limbs and forearm choking him with my full weight on his jugular. It's legal, but I can't beat him otherwise. Oh, I can, and have, performed a abdominal crunch and gone to full standing when he's tried to pin his 185lbs on my chest, and smashed him into the cage, dragged his head down the chain links, just to show him I can do. I still lost, he choked me out. But I had to show him I was stronger.

Same with his triangle- his signature move- unless he gets it perfectly, I mash his knee to his nose. You know all that did? It perfected his triangle. I didn't improve, he did. I kept using the same old moves, and sometimes they worked. But he kept getting better, and when he won, I shrugged it off instead of forcing myself to struggle to improve moves that would work better. It was easier to use my advantages and make excuses when he defeated me.

It terrifies me that I would do that with my writing. I have taken challenges, self-imposed. I don't depend on brutality like I did when I started. I was known for "gut punches" and emotionally wrenching stories, and it was a crutch. I've gone after more nuanced subjects somewhat, with "The Big Snip" and "Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind," and even "Deadbeat," which explore the rage instead of simply depicting it for the visceral catharsis it provides. I wrote a novel, in edits, that I jokingly call a cozy, which really does satisfy the off-screen violence and sex requirements, because I didn't want to rely on my strengths, which are action scenes and the expression of the rage of the wronged. This story is about a heel who comes off as a hero, and how he wrestles with it. It's about the friends who want to make him better, who won't give up on him. In a noir story he would give up on himself and embrace the easy failure, because he's good at fucking up. This isn't a noir story. Which is scary for me, changing gears. Trying a new move I may not be good at (this is not to say I've "mastered" noir at all-- it's just how I know to please an audience; give them a violent, righteous protagonist).

I've digressed some here and gotten personal. I'm thrilled that Bad Boy Boogie nabbed an Anthony nomination for best paperback original. Congratulations to all the nominees. The next Jay Desmarteaux novel is a lot different, and the nomination won't make me go back and change that. I'm striving to improve. I may fail, readers may hate the next book. But I'll "fail better" as Mr Beckett says. I won't give up. And I won't disrespect my readers. I'm grateful for the nomination, but I know it's not a validation of everything I did in the book. It could've been better, and I'll do my best to make the next one better. Maybe it won't be better than She Rides Shotgun or Bluebird, Bluebird-- two damn good books that I wish I'd written, they are that good-- but I'll keep striving. And when I struggle, like those honest writers John and Owen, I will be honest about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Where Was I Again?

So, just a quick scorecard this week. I don't want to get confused:

1) In the Troubled Man (the final Kenneth Branagh Wallander, which I saw for the first time this past weekend), the great detective solves his last case and retires from the force because his mind is going. He's been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.  He faces what could be a fearsome future.  He will have his daughter, though, to take care of him, and he has a grandson who loves him.  His future will be tough but not entirely bleak.  Nothing more to keep track of here.  Series over.

2) Westworld is becoming a bit like Lost in some ways, it seems to me.  It keeps revealing unexpected zones and regions.  Now we've been made aware of the India Raj-era world.  As of today, I still need to see episode 4, the most recent one, though I'm not expecting it to answer any more questions than episodes 1-3 this year have.  Still, I enjoy the show almost every week, and it always looks great.  It's a luxurious puzzler.  And I enjoy the challenge each week of trying to remember exactly where the previous week's episode left off with Thandie Newton's character and Jeffrey's Wright's and Ed Harris' and Evan Rachel Wood's.  I really should watch this show with a specifically designed Westworld scorecard at hand.  Lots to keep track of all the time, and you get the sense the show will only get more convoluted.

3) I saw season one of the Danish procedural The Eagle (which aired from 2004-2006) several summers ago when The Scandinavia House in Manhattan showed two episodes a week of the eight episode first season.  That was on a movie-size screen.  The series follows a newly formed international criminal investigative team operating out of Copenhagen.  The team lead is a woman named Thea, played by excellent Danish actress Ghita Norby (who was in Lars von Trier's The Kingdom), and the Eagle is main investigator Hallgrimsson (Jen Albinus).  It's a well-produced show that jumps around from Denmark to Norway to Sweden to Russia to other countries, and the criminals include biker gangs, former KGB agents, possible terrorists and other threatening characters. Sometimes the show flashes back to Iceland, where Hallgrimsson grew up and experienced a childhood trauma.  What precisely that trauma was hasn't been made clear yet, though it's obvious that the Eagle has little affection for his Danish father. (His mother was Icelandic.)  Anyhow, since years had passed since I saw the first season, I had to look through Wikipedia's list of season one episodes to catch myself up with what happened earlier before I could get into season two.  To avoid that problem again, I'll probably jump right into season three when I'm done with season two.  That's the smart thing to do at least.  But who knows whether I'll do that, with so many good shows available?

4) I've been meaning for awhile to get to seasons 2 and 3 of Hinterland, since I did enjoy season one.  It's a bleak show and uses the Welsh landscape to evoke mood beautifully.  But again, I'd have to do a little work to reacquaint myself with where I was in the evolution of DCI Mathias.  Each mystery he handles on the show stands alone, but there does seem to be an unfolding narrative about him and his mysterious past, which is gradually being revealed.

5) Gomorrah of course I'm waiting to hit Netflix, season 3, with all its characters and internecine wars going on...

I could go on.  Just writing all this down is making me realize how much brain space I'm using to keep track of these various narratives.  And I wonder why I can't remember things in my day to day life as well as I used to?  It's not only age (and hopefully not incipient Alzheimers like Wallander has).  It's all these damn shows I'm trying to stay up with.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

"Smile, you son of a bitch." - Chief Brody, JAWS

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”
Eudora Welty

More than ever social media is key to developing or expanding your audience. Facebook and Twitter presence is necessary, a web site is suggested and a great author photo is important, if not essential. Or, so I'm told.

As a person who treasures the anonymity writing fosters, the idea of a photo is simply...gross. However, if a publisher is willing to print and promote my book, I will do what I must and sit still for a few seconds while someone steals my soul.

Before I commit, however, I need to know. Do author photos actually matter? I've tossed this question to several friends, writers and readers alike, and received very enlightening important? When I was a kid I never knew what my favorite author looked like. Now there is such an n a goo


Meriah Crawford is an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, writer, and editor with an MFA in creative writing and a PhD in literature and criticism. Her writing includes literary fiction as well as mystery, fantasy, and science fiction, and she has collaborated with other authors, as well as with artists and musicians. Her scholarly work has included encyclopedia entries about Virginia authors, a hypermedia analysis of part of James Joyce’s Ulysses, and a re-definition of point of view, with particular focus on the second person.

"I like seeing photos of authors myself. I think it gives us the illusion of knowing the author just a bit--and sometimes we can learn something meaningful from a picture. I think more often than not, we learn trivial things: That the author hired a great photographer, or thought the photo was important enough to have her makeup done, or that he looks good in blue. We also learn that some people are more photogenic than others--and that, of course, has no relationship to writing ability. I think more than anything, though, I'd like to see photos of authors' pets. What could be better?"


Paul Heatley is a prolific author who writes brutally honest fiction. His short stories appear online and in print for publications such as Thuglit, Horror Sleaze Trash, Spelk, Near to the Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, the Pink Factory, and the Flash Fiction Offensive, among others. His books The Motel Whore, The Vampire, and The Boy, available on Amazon, form a very loose trilogy all set in the same nameless town and featuring recurring characters. His tales tell of misfits, plans gone wrong, and the darker side of humanity.

"I'm in two minds. It shouldn't matter what an author looks like, all that should matter is their work, that it speaks for itself. Of course, saying that, I think I know what every single author on my bookshelf looks like (with the exception of Thomas Pynchon). However, for indie authors, I almost feel like they're a necessity. I hate to use the term 'brand', but it's all part of the sales process. Readers may find it easier to find an author's books, especially online, if they can spot a recognisable face. The work goes together with the writer. For instance, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Amazon, my face goes next to my title Fatboy. If someone reads Fatboy and they enjoy it, well my face is also next to the front cover of An Eye For An Eye, of The Motel Whore, and so on. For indie authors, your face becomes another form of advertising."


Ward Howarth won 'Best Local Author with A New Book' in Richmond Magazine's 30th Annual Best & Worst Issue for River City Blues, his historical thriller set in Richmond, Virginia during World War II. He was born in Richmond in 1976 and lives here still with his wife and son. A broadcast professional by day, he is currently at work on his second novel.

"I think the emphasis on having a good author photo finds its roots in modern day transparency. Thanks to social media, the world is a little smaller these days (virtually, that is). And since we all have mini-computers in our pockets, we’re all constantly available. Even if we’re not, you know, available. And I think both of those ideas combined lead to accessibility. The idea being, that if you’re gonna write a book and want others to read it, you’re gonna want to be accessible, you’re gonna want others to find the book and maybe you, too, if you want to forge a bond with your readers. In an online sense, that is, through your website or Twitter feed. Another way to look at it is having a platform. That gets tossed around a lot these days. It’s not enough to write a book, you have to have a regularly updated website, you need to be putting out a newsletter, you need to be accessible and present. And part of that is showing the world who you are. And while tweets have significant currency these days, I don’t think it’s a stretch to put some effort behind a good author photo and show the world who you really are. Plus, having a good author photo is kinda badass. Take the time to get it right and then you’ll always feel like you’re putting your best face forward. Which reminds me, I really need to get a few of these taken for myself…"


Beau Johnson is the author of A Better Kind of Hate from Down and Out Books. Known as a prolific short fiction writer his stories can be found at Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. He is currently finishing his second book which will feature his popular anti-hero Bishop Rider.

"I can't say a good author photo does it for me. Can't say I've ever purchased a book because of one. They're nice, sure, you getting to see who it was you just read, but again, lowest rung of the latter is where author photos sits for me. What hooks me more is a great cover combined with an intriguing synopsis. Special needs, maybe, but hey, that's me!"


Benoit Lelievre is a tireless advocate for new writers. He's a book lover and straight-forward reviewer running Dead End Follies. DEF is a forum highlighting books, movies, music and pop culture in general. The content is beautifully dark and proudly diverse. In all honesty, a review, thumbs up or thumbs down, with Dead End Follies is an honor.

"It's an interesting question. Whenever someone wants to "get into writing", it's usually the first thing they do. Spend money to get that slick, professional "author" look. I find this convention to be trite and unimaginative, to be honest. If I want to get a good feel for an author, I'd hit the Googles and try to see what his/her daily life is like."


Jesse Rawlins is a former journalist who once held White House Press Credentials, her fiction has appeared in many of the same degenerate outlets that publish the likes of Beau Johnson, Bill Baber, and Rob Pierce. Mark Westmoreland at Story and Grit and Leopold McGinnis at Red Fez rely on Jesse to read, review and recommend while taking no prisoners. A fiction mega-fan she has a few thoughts on this issue which will be of interest and use to new writers.

"Books like HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE didn’t become best sellers because of author photos. These books sold well because the writers created characters and scenes that captured people’s imaginations.

I try to seduce readers into falling in love with my work—not with my photo. Especially since my author photo is essentially limited to what I call my “Trademark Feet.” And the mere idea that someone with a foot fetish is drooling over my photo while doing god knows what sometimes creeps me out. But I’d rather have someone obsessed with my feet than the rest of me. Especially because I’m single and I live alone. So you won’t find any photos that identify me splashed all over my Facebook page. I believe that “less is more.” A friend of mine recently asked me, “How old are you?” I replied: “I’m whatever age my readers want me to be.”

Some writers have great asses and other assets. They use them to promote their work. And I understand why. But I am a writer—not an object. And I have no desire to be “objectified.”

At this stage, I’ve yet to attempt having a book published. But as an amateur photographer, for any writer who thinks a good author photo would benefit them, I suggest talking to an illustrator or photographer whose work you admire and ask how they would handle this task. Because while a good author photo may not help you sell books—you only have one chance to make a good impression—and a bad photo could hurt you. A book with no author photo makes more sense to me than an otherwise attractive book with a crappy author photo."


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

If you are a mother,
If you have a mother,
If you've ever mothered someone ...
Happy Mother's Day.