Saturday, January 26, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 4

Scott D. Parker

One of the best things about being independent is the ability to change on the fly.


Ever since I read this post by Dean Wesley Smith, “No One Cares,” I’ve been giving it some thought. It’s churned around in my brain, off and on, for two weeks now. And it’s allowed me the freedom to change—potentially—my publishing schedule for the year.

What I’ve said from New Year’s Day on is that this is the year of Calvin Carter. Yes, I will be publishing at least the five novels I’ve already written. Each of these six books will be published on the odd-numbered months. EMPTY COFFINS on New Year’s Day. HELL DRAGON on 1 March.

But what y’all didn’t know is my plan for the even-numbered months. I had a whole other schedule planned out.
What I realized this week—early on, actually—was that I wasn’t ready for 1 February. At least, not for a novel.

So I’m preparing a couple of short stories. They are modern crime fiction featuring a character named Anne Chambers. She’s a homicide detective for the Houston Police Department. One of the stories was originally published as part of Do Some Damage’s COLLATERAL DAMAGE anthology (2011). The latter was originally published at David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp blog. Now, they are paired together in a short collection.

In other words, when you are an independent writer and publisher and you haven’t made public your schedule, you can do whatever you want...because your company is agile.


I’m a member of Western Fictioneers, a writing group dedicated to western fiction. I’ve been a member since the group’s founding in 2009. We are a great group of folks who read each other’s works and collectively promote western stories and books.

We also help each other figure out how to promote our stuff and share marketing techniques. No matter how your stories are published, you simply must do the lion’s share of your own promotion. It is a constant learning process. For some, this process can be frustrating. For me, it’s a challenge, but one I actually enjoy. As much as I would love for there to be a “set it and forget it” solution, there simply isn’t one.

Which circled me back to Instagram this week.

I’ve been on Instagram for a few years now, but did nothing other than follow a graphic designer friend of mine, Mark Hamill, Neal Adams, and Kevin Smith. But after reading an internal Western Fictioneers email thread, I’m turning back to Instagram. I even uploaded my What do you call individual Instagram posts? Who knows? But I did it. And I plan on doing it more often in 2019.

Follow me on Instagram here. And if you’re of a mind, follow S. L. Matthews.


Do Some Damage alumnus, Kristi Belcamino, has a terrific deal.

I’ve subscribed to her newsletter for a few years now. She has forged ahead as an independent author and she is rocking it. She’s got her newsletter, her Facebook group, and her video channel where she talks about books, her own works, and the utterly charming “Coffee Talk Puppy Talk” series. You should subscribe to her channel. She’s at 95 subscribers as of yesterday. Let’s get her to 100 this week.

She’s got six books in her Gia Santella Crime Thriller series. With those six books, she has lots of options for promoting and selling them. And as of today, you can get all six books...for $0.99.

A dollar! Six books. Are you kidding me? You should buy that on principle. It’s a remarkable deal. Over 1,000 pages of crime fiction. And, as of today, she ranks as #1 in her fields. That’s how you marshal your books to your advantage.

If you are not following Kristi, you should. She’s a leader in what you can do as an indie writer.


I’ve got an early favorite for my song of the year.

When it comes to melodic hard rock and metal, Frontiers Music is leading the charge at keeping legacy acts in the public eye while showcasing new artists. To start 2019, they have a free sampler when you join their email list. It’s a list of twelve tracks by bands I’ve never heard of (save one: One Desire).With a hashtag of #RockAintDead, how can you go wrong?

You can't.

If you like hard rock with a melodic edge, go now to this site, sign up, and download this music. It is really, really good. How good? There’s not a bad song on this sampler. And how about this: I’ve already purchased two albums by artists featured on the sampler. One Desire’s self-titled debut and ALL RISE, an album by the band Perfect Plan. Both of these bands sit right in that wonderful pocket of taking old songs and styles and making them their own.

It is “In and Out of Love” by Perfect Plan that I find myself singing while washing dishes or folding laundry. Want to hear it?

That’s the update for Week 4 of 2019.

How has your 2019 been going?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Bundy's Back, Baby

Awhile back the sparse details of the Zac Efron fronted Ted Bundy move came out and I wrote a little about my concerns here at DSD. Reading that, you may have thought I had no intention of giving the movie a fair pass, but the trailer came out today and...

Fuck me, it actually looks good. Like, really good. The title is still absolutely stupid, but I'm a little excited to see this. My big concern with the movie is the same thing that excites me - and its that it's going to show Bundy as the charmer, the loving boyfriend and father figure. On the one hand, stuff like this can serve a purpose. Elizabeth Kloepfer probably stayed up nights wondering how she let this man into her life, into her daughter's life. People in the circle of monstrous criminals are often saddled with an unfair guilt. I like the idea of showing how even the people Bundy was kind and loving to were victims.

What I don't like is the uncomfortable knowledge that, as I predicted in the first post, this will almost certainly revive the Ted Heads. Ted Bundy fan girls have existed from the moment he was arrested. Everything from women who believed his innocence to women who were seduced by the knowledge he was a killer. The younger Ted Heads bother me on a deeper level though. He's been dead longer than most of the young women who see the movie because Zac Efron is hot and it looks entertaining have been alive. He'll be a character like Joe on Netflix's YOU. While everyone was writing think pieces about whether  its okay to have a crush on the character, the main element was often forgotten. Joe is a character. He's not real, his crimes never happened, and his victims didn't exist. Ted Bundy is real. People affected by his crimes are real. The little girl in the movie, that he raised as his own daughter - she's real. 

I don't have a profound statement to make on why that should matter to the masses, and it's definitely not a call to pass on the film (I'm going to see it), but I'd like it so much if we started treating true crime a little more carefully. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Newsletters and podcasts, revisited

By Steve Weddle

I don't know how you ingest your news. How could I? I know so little about you.

As you may know, we have a podcast called "7 Minutes With," in which we chat about the big screen, the small screen, and music. (

If you have listened -- or haven't -- and have some ideas about what you'd like in the next season, please let me know, either her or via your email machine.

We've had various other podcasts in the past, a series in which three of the OG -- Russel and Dave and Jay (all gone) -- chatted about Doctor Who.

We've also done many, many interview with author podcasts.

One of the ways we fed that out to folks was through RSS, via Google Reader, also gone.

In my own life, since you were wondering, I've replaced Google Reader with Feedly.

Feedly instead exactly the way you want to consume your podcasts, of course.  Feedly is one of the two big ways I get my news. Email newsletters are the other.

If you're a reader, you might subscribe to authors' newsletters. For all I know, you might read some of them. As I've said, I know so little about you, which is fine.

Feedly aggregates news for you, and many folks went over there when Google Reader died.

If you want to have the morning (or evening) newspaper delivered to you, you might want to use an aggregator such as Feedly.

Of course, you might want to get your news via Facebook and Twitter. Who knows about you?

In Feedly, you pick your sources and the feeds are refreshed throughout the day, peppering you with all the news from io9 and hacker2600 and the Los Angles Book Review and whatever else you want. Your mileage may vary, of course.

That's the way I get a couple dozen new sources into my brain mass throughout the day. You probably do something similar.

But let's get back to newsletters. We joke about author newsletters -- and not without reason. The publishing world thinks authors will be more successful with a large newsletter base. They think authors will be successful if they have a name for their fans. Sweeties. My Darlings. Weddle's wankers. Whatever. Mary Oliver's Army. Who knows about such things? They think authors will be successful if authors push out reading schedules and edit updates and little person tidbits about the author. Someone decided that if readers see that authors are real people, the author can sell more books, making the author another dollar per sale and the publisher another nine dollars. Isn't publishing wonderful? Why did you purchase the new novel by Anne McAuthorface? Well, she's been sharing these videos of her and her cat and I love cats. Yes, that makes perfect sense. Wonderful plan. Keep it up.

from this morning's Axios newsletter

Warren Ellis, for example, has an amazing "author newsletter." You can read a sample here. While he might talk about his own writing, he more often talks about his own reading. Or listening.

There's more to life than just author newsletters, of course.

In addition to using Feedly more for news, I've been getting a good deal of my news through newsletters. Chances are that your favorite news source already has at least a half-dozen newsletters available. I get the Axios newsletter, delivered between 6 and 7 eastern (US) each morning. I dig the Washington, DC news, and this is a good source to start with. They've added a sports one this month, as well. Casey Newton over at The Verge does a good tech newsletter, which you might like if you like things like that. NY Mag also offers a number of newsletters. I've found the Intelligencer to be perfectly readable.

I have a few rules for email newsletters.

1. I use a dummy email account to receive the newsletters, and have them forwarded to my main email account. That keeps them segregated, so that I can easily locate just newsletters, as opposed to updates from LinkedIn and Indeed, which otherwise dominate my main email account, much like a CVS receipt. Also, this keeps my main email address out of the hands of those who might monetize spam.

2. If I skip reading two in a row of any newsletter, I unsubscribe. This is for much the same reason I give up on a novel if I'm not grabbed after 20 pages.

3. I delete the newsletter immediately after I've read it. It's still in my email trash for six days if I want to go back and remind myself of something, but it's best to keep my email inbox down to zero.

I was going to tell you about some podcasts I'm enjoying at the moment, such as Dan & Eric Read The New Yorker So You Don't Have To, but I've lost interest in my own nonsense. Maybe you have, too. I don't know what your tolerance is. How could I?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Gorey Crime

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs...

If you know the next line, you know Edward Gorey. If you don't, get yourself to The Gashlycrumb Tinies posthaste! You probably know Gorey's work anyway, if you have ever watched an episode of Mystery! on PBS. He created the opening titles. He also designed the stage sets for the Broadway production of Dracula in 1978, which are unforgettable. I am reading Mr Gorey's biography by Mark Dery, Born to Be Posthumous. The funny thing is that Gorey never sought fame, but he didn't dodge it when it eventually came. He kept working. doing exactly what he wanted, finding publishers who either understood his vision or were glad to let him pursue it without meddling. He struck up a partnership with Gotham Book Mart (RIP) bookseller Andreas Brown, who kept his books by the register, and published some. Gorey also started his own Fantod Press (the "fantods" are a 19th century term for the willies) and published his own work in the format he preferred, small postcard-sized books that fit one frame per page and could be read like a silent film, often with the prose on the left, like titles.

(this is from The Year of Halloween blog)

Poor Xerxes. Devoured by mice is a bad way to go. Edward Gorey grew up on mysteries and loved Agatha Christie in particular. He sends up the genre as only a lover can, in The Awdrey-Gore Legacy, which contains cards depicting characters, sleuths, murder weapons, and a list of clues that the murderer overlooked. And predicting the fan theory regarding Jessica Fletcher, "I did it, I killed them all" is scrawled on a card!

He drew Christie, as well. Gorey is a true transgressive outlier. He loved the 19th century aesthetic, the Edwardian period in particular. He devoured the old "instructive" children's books that threatened death, dismemberment, and eternal torment for misbehaving children, and often mocked them with his alphabet books such as Gashlycrumb. He used his art as a purgative; a true crime fan, when confronted with an evil he could not comprehend, he slew them with banality. The Loathsome Couple is his most divisive work. Bookstores sent it back! But he flays the serial killer myth long before Silence of the Lambs made pop-psych serial killer chic so popular. Evil is boring, killers are rarely interesting, and usually aren't that smart. He based the story on the vile Moors Murders.
The drawing room mystery sensibility fills most of his work outside of his nonsense books. Gorey tends to be lumped with the horror crowd, but he's his own genre. Surreal period pieces influenced by mystery and Gothics. But there's a lot in his bibliography for mystery and crime fans. His stories may be spare but they speak volumes with his incredibly detailed ink drawings, all meticulously cross-hatched and filigreed with patterns and motifs, whether on wallpaper, clothing, or decor. Just look at the work it took to create the shabbiness of the room in the image above. The accompanying text? "When they tried to make love, their strenuous and prolonged efforts came to nothing."

The words drip with despair and strip the killers of all dignity. Gorey himself claimed to be asexual, though he presented as flamboyantly gay--dressing in full length fur coats and Keds, rings on every finger, both ears pierced when a single earring was considered "code," a lifelong obsession with ballet, and "crushes" on male friends that burned bright and turned to ash--perhaps the gay community was the closest to where he fit in, if anywhere. We are more accepting of aromantic and asexuals today, after decades of snorting and winking and assuming them closeted. Some critics lambaste Gorey for his privacy, for never coming out, accusing him of lying about being asexual. He admitted to one sexual encounter in his youth that turned him off. Personally, let him be himself. He told us what he was.

Perhaps he doth protest too much, but his unique gaze allowed for masterpieces such as The Curious Sofa, a spoof of pornographic literature as it was in the '60s, one of the funniest books of all time:
You can probably find the whole text online, it is perfectly work-safe and hilarious. It's like a mockery of human sexuality written by an alien who's been forced to observe the species against his will. Part of what makes Gorey's work so fascinating is that there's really nothing else quite like it. His influences came from 19th century England and Heian period Japan--he adored the novel The Tale of Genji--and he's beyond the playful morbidity of Charles Addams, taking the memento mori of the Victorian era to the extreme.

If you haven't read him, where to start? The Amphigorey collections, though they break the "silent film" format of his little books, are the best way to find his work. Still in print, and probably at your library. His work is also short enough that it's easily viewable online with a Google search, but where's the fun in that? Pick up one of his little books from the library and read it in a quiet room with a cat on your lap, and you'll want to poison the idle gentry or drop an urn on them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Dana King on Ten-Seven, His New Novel

Dana King guest posts today, talking about his new novel, Ten-Seven. It is the fourth of his Penns River novels, books set in a small Pennsylvania town, and to discuss it, Dana tells us a little about himself, his upbringing and why bars have played, in a way you might not expect, a big role in his life.

Debating noir vs. hard-boiled is a popular panel subject at conferences. I think it’s a false choice. Noir is a genre, a type of story; hard-boiled is a writing style. Much noir is hard-boiled, but it doesn’t have to be. If we consider noir to be a story where the protagonist comes to a bad end, often through his own ill-considered actions, then Hamlet is noir, as is Richard III. Shakespeare’s writing was a lot of things; hard-boiled was not one of them. 

I’ve struggled for years with hard-boiled as a description of my writing. Not that I take it as a pejorative; far from it. It’s used as a compliment far more often than not. It’s the term itself I don’t care for. Strikes me too much of dames and gams and gats and yeggs and things that were written for pulps by writers who were often more interested in being pulpy than good.

I was on one of the panels mentioned above when moderator Ted Fitzgerald used the term I like best: tough. “Hard-boiled” too often shows evidence of the effort the author put in to make it so; “tough” just is. Not that I always achieve that, but the real work is in expending as little effort as possible to write what seems natural. That’s not to say one types up a first draft and sends off whatever dreck results. The heavy lifting is shaping that first draft into something worth reading while retaining the seeming effortlessness that comes with whatever your imagination brought to mind, warts and all; you remove the warts while leaving no visible scars.

My favorite and most durable quote about writing, my go-to quote when I feel I’m missing the voice, is from James M. Cain:

I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hardboiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort.

You can’t try to write like anything or anyone. That’s what it will sound like: trying. It’s easy to spot writers who have spent little or no time with working-class men in bars when they try to craft dialog for working-class men in a bar. What I object to most strongly in what I call “bestseller style” is dialogue that reads like how people think other people talk instead of how people actually talk. That’s why I’ll never write a book (or even a scene) about teenage girls talking among themselves; I don’t know what teenage girls say among themselves when I’m not around and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. I could take a guess. Might even get away with it until one of two things happens:
1. Someone who actually does know reads the book;
2. Anyone who has read Megan Abbott reads it.
It’s a losing proposition for me, not unlike Danny DeVito playing volleyball or Tom Waits singing opera. Both men are substantial talents, just not in those fields.

Not that I am particularly tough, either, but I grew up working class and almost literally in a bar. My mother worked as a cook and sometimes had me behind the bar in a bassinet when I was an infant if her work schedule didn’t quite mesh with Dad’s. In high school when I needed a car for something and Mom and Dad both worked evenings, I’d drop Mom off and meet Dad and his friends at the bar to leave a car for Mom. Dad and the boys drank a few beers and I drank a couple of Cokes and got a truly immersive experience in bar talk.

It’s plain-spoken language with rough humor and not all that concerned if someone’s feelings are ruffled; those with excessive sensitivity can drink at home. We call it bullshitting, but actual bullshit is rapidly and sometimes pointedly called out. It’s a euphemism-free zone. People don’t drink too much; they’re drunks. They don’t pass; they die. They may even fucking die. It’s not language for the faint of heart, but neither is it put on. It is what it is.


*  *  *

Dana King has earned Shamus Award nominations for two of his Nick Forte novels, A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window. He also writes the Penns River novels, of which the fourth novel in the series, Ten-Seven, came out from Down and Out Books on January 21st. His work has appeared in the anthologies The Black Car Business, Unloaded 2, The Shamus Sampler 2, and Blood, Guts, and Whiskey. You can get to know him better on his website, blog, or Facebook page, which he promises to update more often.

Dana's book is available here.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Short Stories...Like Stepping Stones

 Punk Noir Magazine

Why Short Stories Matter

In 1948 The New Yorker published Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” After years of anger and confusion regarding the story, “The Lottery” became one of the most important and recognized narratives in American Literature, eventually, thankfully, brought into the classroom as curriculum. Stephen King and Richard Matheson cast Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery” specifically, as influence in their craft.

“The Night They Missed the Horror Show,” by The Godfather of American-Fiction, Joe Lansdale, won a Bram Stoker in 1988 and made NPR’s top 100 Favorite Horror Stories in 2018, thirty years later. Mr. Lansdale’s brutal, in-your-face take on rural horror placed a red-hot spotlight on racism and misogyny; dragging the reader along for the ride on the horrible night, making them complicit, and playing with their emotions like a cat with a mouse.

“The Yellow Wallpaper.” "The Reunion." “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” “A Good Man Is Hard to Find?” “The Body.”

Short stories and flash fiction can send you into melancholy, make you laugh, and frighten you into insomnia just as a novel might. Within those few, but busy pages there is social commentary and personal tragedy or transcendence. They stake a claim in American Literature. Yet, these days it seems that publishers and readers alike are only interested in full length novels, and the longer the better, but, with luck and open minds, we may be entering a golden era of short stories.

Short-form fiction can benefit greatly from the continuously evolving digital age. Back when the only market was the paper market a short story or flash piece would not be cost-efficient to publish and distribute and short story collections were often only for the most popular writers. With digital publishing, length becomes less of an issue. Kindle. Kobo. Nook. Readers can discover new writers or new shorts by favorite authors by looking online.

Authors can also reap great benefits from changes in how we create and publish. It’s important for a writer to learn how to complete a story. Exposition. Action. Climax. Fall. Resolution. Shorts afford more opportunity to begin and complete a story. As well, submitting shorts and flash is also great practice for submitting a full-length manuscript. Publishing with online magazines can help build a following and offers advice and tips from talented and respected editors.

Two of the most prolific short story writers in our growing community, Bill Baber and Beau Johnson, share their thoughts on the future of online magazines. 

Bill Baber has had nearly fifty crime stories published and his stories have recently appeared in Rogue from Near to the Knuckle, Hardboiled Crime Scene from Dead Guns Press and Locked & Loaded from One Eye Press. His 2014 short story Sleepwalk was nominated for a Derringer Award. He has also had several poems published online- two of which garnered Best of the Net consideration- and in the occasional literary journal. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play was published by Berberis Press in 2011

When I want a quick read more often than not, I’ll jump on line and go to one of my favorite e zines. With the exception of one, they publish crime fiction. And that one started out in that genre and sometimes still leans that way.

For emerging writers- and established ones as well- they are a great place for your work to be seen. I write as a hobby. I have sold a few stories over the years to print anthologies, but the total amount wouldn’t pay the bar tab on a good Saturday night.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorites. And for the record, they are favorites because they have been good enough to publish my stuff!

I will always have a soft spot for Out of the Gutter. They published my first crime story almost ten years ago when Rey Gonzales was the editor. (Whatever happened to him?) I learned a ton when Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts were running the site and will always be grateful for their support and encouragement.

To me, Shotgun Honey still reigns supreme when it comes to short crime fiction. I was ecstatic when I had a story there. Ron Phillips is a prince and I still love him and the staff even if my recent subs have gone 0-23 there.

Since its inception, Near to the Knuckle has published cutting edge stuff. Rarely do I read anything there I don’t dig the hell out of.

For a long time I was intimidated and afraid to submit to Yellow Mama. The variety found there- both poetry and fiction is amazing. And if you know Cindy Rosmus you know what a sweetheart she is!

Spelk started out as a crime zine but has morphed beyond that. I love it because Gary Duncan and Cal Marcius have given me the opportunity to have stuff beyond crime fiction a home.

There are great sites that are no longer with us like Pulp Modern, Powder Burn Flash, and The Big Adios. But some great new ones have risen from the ashes. Dead Guns Press has been reborn and is always worth a look.

Story and Grit leans toward Southern crime and the stories are always entertaining.

Paul Brazil has recently launched Punk Noir which is a treat and includes content beyond fiction. I was chuffed (as he would say) when he asked me to contribute a story.

Again, these sites all feature great writing and give readers the opportunity to discover new writers.

Lastly, I need to mention The Five- Two, Gerald So’s site dedicated to crime poetry.

If you are looking for quick, entertaining reads and you aren’t familiar with these sites or haven’t visited in a while, check them out. I guarantee you’ll find something you like.

Look for upcoming stories of mine at Out of the Gutter and in the February issue of Yellow Mama. And here’s one from the gone but not forgotten Thrills, Kills and Chills.

Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers. His follow up to A BETTER KIND OF HATE, a collection of dark stories featuring loose-cannon Bishop Rider, THE BIG MACHINE EATS was released in November of 2018.

I like to write. When I’m not dreaming up scenarios and the body parts I will need to separate from people in order to achieve these goals, I like to read. I approach this in many ways. In book form. The city papers. But I also have some favourites that can only be found online. Ones which incorporate both short stories and flash fiction. They are, in no particular order, as follows:

1. Spelk ---an online mag from across the pond. In under 500 words or so, you can be sure each story is not the same. Some are light, some are dark, with many of them being a mix of the two. Better yet, they can be read in the amount of time you are pretending to still poop. Birthed by Gary Duncan, it is now spear- headed by Cal Marcius. Good stuff. Check ‘em out. Washing your hands first, of course.

2. Shotgun Honey---home of the famous Gauntlet! Run with an iron fist by Ron Earl Phillips, he and his three editors (this incarnation of the big G now consisting of Nick Kolakowski, Renee Pickup, and Hector Acosta) set the bar high and I myself have failed to make the jump on many occasions. They get the dirt though, and it’s not often I miss a story when they publish. If you like it tight and you like it to hum, this is the place to be.

3. Out of the Gutter Online---I might be a bit biased with this one, as it’s where I got my start. Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts ran it at the time, and as I have said many times before, I owe them both for the path I am now on. The Gutter has been in the hands of Hector D. Junior and Rob Pierce for quite sometime now, but nothing has suffered in the exchange. Tight dark tales can be found here, usually with revenge in mind.

4. Story and Grit---Good stuff can be found here as well, and more people should be tuning into what Mark Westmoreland is putting out here. I know the sign says “stories with a southern twist” but that is not always the case. He picks the goodins, folks. Give his mag a try.

5. The Molotov Cocktail---a projectile for incendiary flash fiction. I can’t put it much better than that, and Josh Goller has been putting out consistent content for years. Compact punches to the jaw that at times will not let up. On top these stories, they also run quarterly contests and post them between regular issues. More bang, as it were, for your free online buck.

6. Punk Noir Magazine-- relatively new, Paul Brazill is posting some great stories, including short, flash, and micro. He also has reviews and author interviews for those so inclined. A hodgepodge of carrying ons, Punk Noir Magazine is a great addition to the online content available to all.

Anyway, these are just five of the places I frequent. There are many more, sure, but I think I’m supposed to leave room for Marietta to name a few. That being said, there is a washroom with my name on it and I’ll have you know a new Shotgun Honey piece just came out! What? Man’s gotta get his ideas from somewhere.

See you when I see you,

Southern fried crime


~ Short, sharp flash fiction

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Life-Changing Magic of Books

Let me confess this right upfront. I own a lot of books. I am actively looking for another bookcase. I dream that one day I will live somewhere with ceilings tall enough to necessitate one of those rolling ladders to get to the top shelves. 
Someday . . .                          Photo
So I had definite opinions when I heard about Marie Kondo’s stance on books. The author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up maintains that if an item doesn’t "spark joy," you should get rid of it. The book was very successful on its own, but since her Netflix show started streaming at the beginning of this month, she’s become a cultural juggernaut.
I didn’t take much notice of this until her stance on books hit my social media feeds. Kondo advocates keeping only those books that spark joy or will be beneficial to your life going forward; otherwise, get rid of them.
And boy, were people pissed off. Granted, many of those I know are writers and passionately in love with books, so their response wasn’t surprising. But the outrage extended even further. People of all sorts were highly offended at the thought of someone telling them they should keep only a chosen few volumes.  
In fairness, Kondo isn’t quite as draconian as that. She didn’t make the guy in Episode 5 get rid of his copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, even though he’d read it countless times. She encouraged the keeping of anything that provoked that kind of special "joy."
But then she said something that I’ve been mulling over ever since.
"Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values."
This statement can be seen in two different ways. The first, and the way I think she meant it, is that what’s on your bookshelves should reflect you. It should match who you are as a person.
"So by tidying books, it will show you what kind of information is important to you at this moment," Kondo says to the couple she’s helping in Episode 5.
So in essence, someone looking at your bookshelves should be able to tell that right now you’re an Atkins-dieting, sci-fi-reading father of a toddler? Or a Sudoku-solving reader of Regency romances who’s taking an accounting class?
That might be completely accurate, but good grief, how completely limiting. Shouldn’t your books be more than who you are?
I think the best book collections are the opposite of a reflection; they contain ideas that don't just echo our own opinions or knowledge, but rather push us outside our comfort zones—whether in the setting, the genre, the subject matter, the author’s cultural or ethnic background, the political viewpoint, or countless other aspects. The thing I hope people can tell about me if they look at my bookshelves is that I’m curious about the world.
The second way Kondo’s reflection statement can be interpreted has a broader and deeper meaning. I don’t think this interpretation is what she meant, and I think it’s where she misses the mark.
Books are a reflection of the value placed on reading.
Books, of any kind, show that value is placed in the written word and the knowledge that imparts.
Having books in a home—enough books where they are a presence, not an afterthought—means that everyone who lives in that home is exposed to that value. Every time they walk by that bookshelf. 
This is particularly true with children. Rigorous studies have shown repeatedly that kids who live in homes with books, and who are read to consistently, do better in school and enjoy learning more. That doesn’t mean you need the dream library with the ladder. If you only have the room or the budget for a rotating stack of ten from the library, that’s great. It’s still showing that the value of books is both individual and aggregate. And that both are precious.