Saturday, January 12, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 2

Scott D. Parker

The first full week of 2019 saw two interesting things. One was business related, the other involved writing.


The big news this week was the arrival of the paperback proof of EMPTY COFFINS. On sale in ebook form since 1 Jan, the paperback lagged behind, largely because of the holiday schedules of both me and the POD companies. But Ingram Spark did a great job at getting me the hard copy proof and it arrived Thursday.

First of all, as a writer, there are few things better than getting a paperback of your book in the mail. It never gets old. But as soon as the pride beamed through me, I inspected the book.

And found flaws. The text on the spine is not precisely centered. The text on the back cover is a tad too large. The cover, on the other hand, looks great and exactly as I planned it. Inside, I scanned the intro pages, then the back. Sure enough: I found a few errors. One of them was in the “Also by” section where I switched two covers. I also read through my “Origins of Calvin Carter” essay and found a few tweaks I needed to make. Oddly, on my “About the Author” page, I noted the actual links to my Facebook and Twitter feed were missing.

It’s all the little things.

As an indie writer and publisher, you are responsible for every aspect of your business. Sure, you can outsource some parts of your business, but you’d still have to QA whatever the third party did. Or not. You can trust the third party completely, but would you really do that? Wouldn’t you just want to make sure on your own?

I’ll be making the cover changes today. I made the interior changes on Thursday night in the Vellum program.


I noted the Call to Action in the paperback had my request to join mailing list and receive WADING INTO WAR as a free gift. Well, if you read my post from last week, you’ll know I’ve changed that. So I need to update all my ebooks. All of them. Four mysteries, six westerns, and EMPTY COFFINS. Eleven files in Kobo; eleven files for Amazon, and eleven files for Draft2Digital. Yes, this makes the case for having a service like D2D be the sole source, but as I wrote last week, there are reasons I want to keep a direct line open to Kobo and Amazon.

But this time, I’ll have my Call to Action be more generic, and direct all traffic to my webpage. Then, if I change what I offer, it’ll only be at the website, and not 33 different ebook files.


I am having great success writing this new book. Until late this week, I’ve been using my old draft as a jumping off point and using vast swaths of that content in the new draft. It works welluntil it didn’t.

Twice this week, I felt my new creative voice stymied by the urge to go in a different direction. Usually, these little nudges consisted of adding a sentence here or there. Very low key. But what was pulling me this time was a new direction for the story, a direction my newer, more seasoned creative voice was telling me I needed.

Turns out, the creative voice was correct. One thing it said was the story needed a prologue. That thought drifted into my head when I was writing chapter 7 and it went on for way too long. Something in the back of my head whispered a prologue could solve lots of problems.

So I wrote a prologue. Boy, did those words spill out. Almost in an entire session at lunch this week. And they were pretty good. I read the prologue to my wife—a fantastic first reader because she’ll call out anything that takes her out of the story. She liked it.

I learned to trust the creative voice and, from this point forward in writing this newly re-written novel, don’t be such a slave to the existing original draft. Let the story flow.


When it comes to writing, you can get a degree from a traditional college. For writing and selling fiction, however, there are tons of resources out there. Like I mentioned last week, I created my own curriculum in fiction writing by reading lots of blogs and listening to tons of podcasts by writers who are ahead of me on the writing journey.

Dean Wesley Smith is one of the best. A veteran of the writing business for over forty years, Smith has likely seen it all and written it all. In just the last decade, he has made the jump to independent publishing.

And he’s never going back. He lays out what he’s learned and how we writers can navigate this new landscape. He’s great for blowing up the myths surrounding the writing business—note the second word—and encouraging us writers to take ownership of our careers. His daily posts are almost the first things I read every day *after my writing is complete.* He had some great posts today, one of which I sparked. Smith’s blog is literally a graduate-level course. You could learn so much just from reading and studying what he himself practices.

Give him a read. 

How has your week gone?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Introduce Your Kids to Crime Early and Often

Writers talk a lot about which books or films influenced their passion for crime fiction, mystery, and thrillers. Maybe you picked up a Chandler book from your uncle's book shelf, or like me, ran across Elmore Leonard on a long afternoon at the library. Maybe your mom was a big Patterson fan and you read all the Alex Cross novels before graduating high school.

Or,  if you're a few years younger than me you say... Finding Nemo.

Oh, you don't? Maybe you say you're current favorite mystery is Zootopia?

Kids movies have been playing with big themes ever since Walt sent Snow White into the woods to live with a bunch of workaholic short men, and it's only getting better. Here's a short round up of some of my favorites.

Finding Nemo

Call me crazy if you must. A couple of my friends and I saw this one in theater when it came out - we were the only adults without children. Remove the adorable animation and you've got a gritty, sometimes stomach wrenching thriller. A father is knocked unconscious in a brutal attack and wakes to find his wife and all his children but one brutally murdered. The incident turns him overprotective, paranoid, and broken.

Then, one day, the unthinkable happens. His son is kindapped by traffickers and no one will help. After teaming up with a woman who suffers from severe short term memory loss he goes on a race against time battling everything from "reformed" serial killers to electric shock, not knowing that his son is on borrowed time, waiting to be turned over to a sadistic killer.

Yeah, you let your kid watch it because of cartoon fish, but tell me I'm wrong.

Shark Tale

This movie is literally about a gambling addict who gets in trouble with the mob. The layers aren't even hidden. Throw in an accidental death that looks like a murder, a dead mob boss, a faked death, and all the trappings of any other mobster movie involving Scorcese (yes, he does a voice in this one), you've got yourself one of the most blatant crime movies for kids. This one never really took off, maybe because we already had a fish-thriller we knew and loved before it came around.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

This one has it all. Fox is a career criminal turned straight by the love of his partner in crime, but, like the old trope goes, he can't resist the temptation to pull one last job. The job goes wrong, as they always do, which leads to another heist, that goes wrong in a different way. The very people they were robbing are after them and will stop at nothing. One of the farmers (clear allegory for mobsters) is wearing Fox's severed body part as a necktie to taunt him. The kids pull a heist - a kidnapping! Revenge plot! Chase scene! Murder!

In the end the only thing that saves Fox and family is their willingness to band together with the other victims of the farmers' (mob) rule over the land, and make a stand criminals vs. organized crime. A movie that makes you root for the criminals? Hmm. Sounds familiar.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

1923 Is Ours for the Taking

For the first time in twenty years, as the Atlantic points out, a whole year’s worth of copyrighted works will enter the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2019. Under the terms of the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, works first published in 1923 will enter the public domain, meaning anyone can re-publish them, or chop them up and use them in other projects, without asking permission or paying the old rights holders. You can record new versions of the musical compositions; you can show the movies for a profit; you can even remake them. Amazon can sell you the ebook and keep all the money, and Project Gutenberg can give you the ebook for free. (Lifehacker)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

To Boldly Remain

by Danny Gardner, author, A Negro and an Ofay

In Q3 2018, after an eighteen-month start-up phase, I quietly founded a publishing house with a brand-centric focus, rather than genre-centric, to respond to readers' desire for stories that are told according to the blended lives of mystery, crime, suspense, romance, and adventure we're already living. To publish at a standard high enough to earn our readers' respect and dollars, and return them to the creators they admire, all so the magic continues. A publisher of the people, for the people, publishing books for the children of the woods, mountains, desert, and concrete, delivering them to bookstores other folks wouldn't, handing them to readers many think we shouldn't. To start conversations across oceans of perception, we've chosen to be a publisher that brings people closer together, so the gaps may be crossed within the span of a few good stories, and if not, then we'll print more, as long as folks keep crossing.

The going canard is we're a diversity player, which is one way of viewing the venture. Bronzeville Books' founder is African American. Women such as Renee Pickup, Sara J. Henry, and Erin Mitchell, make up its publishing leadership. Our inaugural class of authors reflects much of this diversity, thus, "we good," as we say out Sout'.

We're excited to present to our readers the results of diversity, in function. You'll feel it in our choice of books to bring to market. Hooking up readers with great stories and the folks who create them, irrespective of the limits in perception, is what we do. Selling great books. Loving those who read them. Honoring and supporting those who write them. It's as old as publishing. Nothing untried and untested about it.

The seven of us who lead Bronzeville are in it for the work. We want the responsibility for rewarding readers and the authors who work hard for them. It's why I sacrificed personal possibilities in artistic merit to shift focus on the community. Our business intent is to establish new metrics based upon a commitment to not only write of a better world but contribute actively in creating it, a mission we'll achieve as long as we pluck the best and the brightest from the places where they're overlooked and place them upon our platform. If you're a writer, watch for our submission announcements. If you bring your best work and your courage, you just may achieve your dreams. To be an author is to have a hand in shaping folks' lives. A better person has a better bookshelf, and we want you on that better person's bookshelf, with the Bronzeville "B" on the spine.

Bronzeville was the neighborhood of my birth, and the place books first came alive for me. We want Bronzeville Books to make reading come alive for you. If you're a reader or a writer, and you feel ghettoized by those who currently set the tone, roll through Bronzeville. You'll see how beautiful the ghetto can be.

Danny Gardner, Founder
Bronzeville Books
An Allied Gardner Company

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Telling Lies to Find the Truth

Scott's Note: I'm happy to have S.A. Cosby here this week to talk about his debut novel, My Darkest Prayer.  In it, he introduces Nathan Waymaker.  Waymaker lives in a small Southern town and starts his tale by saying, "I handle the bodies".  He does, in fact, work in a funeral home.  He also happens to do a number of other things in his town, and as an ex-Marine, he's known as a guy who can help people whose attempts to get help elsewhere have failed.  In My Darkest Prayer, a local church minister is found dead, and some of his parishioners come to Nathan for help when they feel the town police aren't doing all that much investigating.  Cosby's book is a remarkably assured debut, but he didn't get to this point without a lot of work and sweat.  It's that effort to get this far that he talks about here.

Mr. Cosby, if you will...


If you were to ask my mother, she would probably tell you I was a fabulous liar. One of her favorite past times is regaling friends and family with anecdotes about me lying, getting caught in said lie then doubling down on that lie. It seems even from an early age I liked making up stories.

It took me a little while to find my niche when it came to this writing thing. I was always a fan of horror, sci-fi and fantasy. I idolized the greats. King, Asimov, Tolkien. My first forays into serious writing were gentle pastiches of the work of my favorite authors. These works were…. not good. I was trying to sing a song with someone else’s voice. A song that I wasn’t really that skilled at interpreting.

Crime fiction speaks to me in a language that I understand. It is the prism through which I can examine aspects of my own identity and the identity of those around me. But that doesn’t mean I thought I could actually write a whole book. I had tried and failed to finish a crime novel several times. To me writing a short story or a book is like finding a point of egress into a house. When it came to a full-length novel, I could find nothing but a locked door. 

I wanted to write a detective story that incorporated some of the tropes that defined the noir style while incorporating some of my own observations about race and class. I also wanted to move the setting from the fog-shrouded streets of the concrete jungle to the dusty, dirty roads of the rural South.  That's where I'm from.  That's my home.  A place of startling beauty and disturbing vulgarity.  One of the reasons I did this was to show that the South doesn't belong to the last remnants of the Confederacy holding on to a Lost Cause.  Southern heritage is not a battle flag.  It's the inexorably complex relationships and social constructs that define the land that bears America's deepest scars.

That doesn’t mean I stuffed the pages with a lot of overt messages and pedantic soliloquies. I’m a firm believer in the idea that if I have to tell you what I’m trying to say on the page then I’ve failed. It’s there between the bar fights and the shoot-outs. Some people will get the subtext and some people will just enjoy the action. Hopefully, you come for the ultra-violence and stay for the themes.

This book was a learning experience for me in more ways than one. My Darkest Prayer taught me about the artistic side of writing and the business side. I found a groove that allowed me to stretch my wings beyond the confines of the short story. It wasn’t easy, but about fifty pages in, I realized I was going to finish it. I didn’t know if it was going to be any good, but I knew I was going to finish it. When it was done, I was blessed enough to find an agent. And this was where the business lesson began. My Darkest Prayer was rejected a lot. Over 30 publishers passed on it. I was told it was too niche, too black, not black enough, too country, too rural, too southern. I got lovely ¾ rejection letters that praised the dialogue and the characters, then in the last ¼ lamented the fact it didn’t fit into their catalog. The agent and I parted ways(amicably), and I put My Darkest Prayer on the shelf. Metaphorically speaking. A year later I ran into some of the folks from Intrigue Publishing at a Noir at the Bar event and they decided to take a chance on me. I say all this to illustrate a point that was made clear to me by a dear friend.

Hustle beats talent every time.

I won’t beat that old drum about never giving up. That shoe doesn’t fit everyone. I just thought this was a story someone would enjoy. I poured a lot of years of love and hate into My Darkest Prayer. I’ve said before that I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel but I want to tell the truth. The truth about the South. About being black in the belly of what used to be the Confederacy. I wanted to tell the truth about crime and murder and what it looks like when everyone has a secret symbiotic relationship with everyone else within the county lines. Most importantly I wanted to tell the truth about the people who do the things you and I can’t. The ones who sometimes even the scales in the dark.

I sincerely believe any writer worth their salt is telling us a fabulous lie in an effort to show us an uncomfortable truth. I hope that people who read My Darkest Prayer will enjoy the lie and understand the truth behind it.

You can get My Darkest Prayer right here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Top Five Daddies in Crime Fiction


       1. Jedidiah Ayres
       Who better to top this list than the man who co-purloined Noir at the Bar from the Top Daddies of 2018, Peter Rozovsky? If you’re wondering why he belongs here, you obv haven’t seen him in his tightie-whiteys. Jed was the man who gave birth to some of the greatest noir collections of all time (D*CKED, Noir at the Bar Vol 1 & II) as well as his own hardboiled novel Peckerwood. For the last several years, his website Hardboiled Wonderland has been the go-to spot for crime fiction flick aficionados. Rawr!

       2. Steve Weddle
       Yes, this Country Hardball author is soooo cranky but that’s because we haven’t done enough to make him happy. Good luck getting this daddy to smile! His short fiction recently appeared in Playboy , but you can get all the Weddle you want and more on his Do Some Damage podcast. Plus, he’s a ginger and I have it on good authority that the carpet indeed matches the drapes!

       3. E.A. Aymar
       This host of DC’s Noir at the Bar chapter will get it done inside the Beltway. Just imagine those dreamy eyes and purty mouth telling you it’s time to go to bed with the lights off. Aymar also heads up The Thrill Begins, writes for the International Thriller Review and his latest novel, The Unrepentant will be published in March 2019. All of this PLUS his social media feeds are the daddiest jokes of them all. Here’s hoping daddy still has time for you!!!

       4. Benoit Lelievre
       This Quebecois book reviewer for Dead End Follies is the perfect daddy to cuddle up with during a snow day! No stranger to Canada’s brutal winters, Benoit can help weather the storm with his thoughts on some of the darkest crime fiction while he tucks you into your warm bed at night. And this papa will do it all with a French accent! Oooh la la!

       5. S.A. Cosby
       This newcomer to the crime fiction scene proves that you don’t need a kid to be a daddy. He divides his time between the mortuary and the gym, so while there’s a lot for you to love, it’s all rock hard muscle. Don’t blame yourself if daddy is hitting the sauce a little harder this month; it’s only because his debut novel My Darkest Prayer has just hit the shelves and has been received very well! Extra bonus: Cosby is from the country so he knows all the back roads. Daddy like!!

       Who do you think is the best daddy in crime fiction? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Things I'm Looking Forward To

By Claire Booth

Happy new year! Otherwise known as—the holidays are over, and now there’s a long horrible slog until things warm up and we see the sun again. This has prompted me to think about things I’m looking forward to during these dreary months.

Here they are, in no particular order:

On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’s follow up to 2017’s amazing The Hate You Give. This one’s about a 16-year-old aspiring rapper who has to make it in order to save her family from eviction. (Feb. 5, 2019)

The Wrong Boy. Cathy Ace’s new novel is psychological suspense, which is a departure from her two great detective series, which are lighter in tone and absolutely delightful. Her plots are always twisty and surprising, so I can’t wait to see what she does with this darker novel. (Jan. 9, 2019)

The Border, the final book in Don Winslow’s Cartel trilogy. Following The Power of the Dog and The Cartel, this one should also be bloody and brilliant. (Feb. 26, 2019)

The next season of Shetland. Fellow DSD writer Scott Adlerberg turned me on to this BBC series. It’s based on the fantastic Jimmy Perez novels by Ann Cleeves. I finally decided that I can’t wait anymore for this, so I am now a subscriber of the BBC/ITV channel BritBox, which means I don’t have to wait for it to show up on Netflix here in the U.S.

The Widows, a new historical mystery inspired by the first female sheriff in Ohio (which happened longer ago than you might think). Author Jess Montgomery will be stopping by next week to tell us more about it. (Jan. 8, 2019)

And finally, there’s A Deadly Turn, the third in my Sheriff Hank Worth series. I’ll have more to share about this as the release date get closer. For now, I’ll just say that I’m looking forward to getting it out into the world! (March 1, 2019)