Saturday, February 9, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 6

Scott D. Parker

Not sure what it means, but I have the opportunity to address it.


I downloaded the most recent sales spreadsheet from Amazon the other day and it revealed an interesting thing. Of all the books I've sold the past month, WADING INTO WAR leads the pack. That's the first book I ever published and the first book in Benjamin Wade / Gordon Gardner / Lillian Saxton series of stories. [Note: I'm gonna need a better name.] What I didn't see was sales for the second Wade novel, ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE. Same for the first Gardner novel, THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES. The Saxton book, ULTERIOR OBJECTIVES, has a smattering. 


Well, one obvious answer is that readers never finished the book. For those readers who found "The End," they didn't like it enough to keep on going. The way these ebooks are formatted, there's an end-of-chapter break after the last line of the book. Next in the ebook is the Author Afterward, then some Acknowledgements, and finally the samples of the other books.

So I wondered something: why not have links right there on the last page of the book that explained the next steps, the next books, all with live links?

I wondered if that would make a difference. I'm not sure, but I changed the Amazon and Kobo files yesterday. I guess I'll see if WADING is a good first book or if I should find a different on ramp.

Big corporate giants talk about agility in their internal processes. Well, when it comes to being a small-business owner--that's what we are--this kind of agility can prove invaluable. Only time will tell.


If you are a writer, you simply must read every post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. With decades in the business and multiple genres in her portfolio, her work ethic alone is worth studying. Yet every Thursday, she writes about the business of writing. Every week, there are golden nuggets of information to ponder and determine how it fits into your own business model. It is appointment reading every Thursday. I subscribe to her blog via Feedly, and I read it every Thursday. And all the links she includes will send you down multiple rabbit holes, but it’s all good. It’s like a graduate level course in college. Seriously.

This past week, she concluded her “Planning for 2019” series with a post entitled “Shifting Attitudes.” She focuses on two aspects of us as indie writers: as micro-influencers and as prolific producers of content. The entire post is important, but one quote slammed into the mental brick wall that I had somehow erected last month: “Consumers are already ahead of us on all of this. So let’s just go with it and enjoy this part of the future. We can relax and have fun telling our stories to the people who want to read that type of tale.”

Have fun.

Yes, we have to sell our work and strive to do it as best we can, but the key fact remains: when you sit down as a writer to craft a story, leave your business side in the next room. Don’t sit and wonder “Will this sell?” If you are excited about the story, write it. Chances are good there are other readers out there who will like it, too.


Houston's own Murder by the Book made a major announcement on the Facebook page this week: James Patterson is coming to the city's oldest--and only--mystery-centric bookstore. This is big. Patterson is the world's bestselling author. It's a major get. Congrats to McKenna Jordan and all the good folks at the store.

Fingers crossed I get one of the 500 slots.


On the 5th or 6th episode, there's a scene between the two main stars, Michael Douglas and Adam Arkin. They're talking on the phone. Douglas is in an Uber going to a bar. Arkin's at home watching the movie "Cocoon." When Arkin declines Douglas's invitation, he comments about the experience watching the thirty-year-old movie about senior citizens while actually being in the demographic.

That what I feel like watching this show. Granted, I'm certainly not Douglas's 74 or Arkin's 84, but the humor of older men is something I really dig. Jokes about getting older, being old, prostate health, forgetfulness, and the like are scattered throughout the episodes. And creator Chuck Lorre and the writers don't shy away from real life. There is death and how the characters react to it is poignant and heart-wrenching.

But most of all, it's hilarious and really well done. I recommend the show. And since Douglas won a Golden Globe for his role and the show itself won Best Comedy Series, there's even more proof it's a special show. Glad it's been renewed.

Oh, and don't read about the show on the internet. It's much more fun to see the guest stars when you're actually watching the show.


The Super Bowl has become the annual gathering of my wife's former co-workers. The game is shown on every screen in the house, including the garage with a giant screen. We all chat, catch up, and watch the game and commercials. Most of the ads were easily forgotten, but two stood out. The one with Jason Bateman as the elevator operator and the one with the old football players.

What were your favorite ads?

That wraps things up for the week. How did your week go?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Scarstruck - The kinky, queer, commie love story you didn't know you needed

The cover of Violet LeVoit's Scarstruck promises "PINKOS! SICKOS! CIGARETTE BURNS!" and it delivers that - and so much more. When Violet sent me the press kit and called it a romance, she had a hint of warning "It's out there," she said,  despite knowing I'm a long time reader of her work. Of course that kind of warning from Violet couldn't do anything but excite me. This erotic romance is kinky, queer, communist, and while it reads like Old Hollywood filth, the heart beating inside the unpredictable love story is strong. I found myself struck by lines like “The world puts you on a pedestal and knots a noose around your throat. Stepping down means snapping your neck,” and tearing up toward the end. It's hard to know what to root for or even how until Violet points you in the only direction that makes sense.

This Old Hollywood romance might not be for the faint of heart or the prude in sexuality, but it's a good, fast, heart breaking read where you can't help but hope the characters you encounter manage to figure it all out.

I asked a few questions of Violet and she was kind enough to answer.

All three of the characters we spend the most time with are outcasts, even in the Hollywood, where they came to reinvent themselves. It seems to be a story about the cost of denying one’s true self, and about the different kinds of love people can feel for one another. What drew you to this time and place for setting? 

That's exactly it. This book is a hybrid of a psychological novel and a romance (but I make no bones about that it is absolutely, primarily a romance – more about that later.) The setting is strictly a love for Los Angeles and the era, especially through a James Ellroy-esque lens: the contrast between LA's mythologies and its reality, if the place can be said to have a reality. I love Los Angeles because it's like a faerie zone in a fantasy novel – a charged place where the veil between truth and untruth is very thin, because it's built around the movie business that is, essentially, a manufacturer of fiction, which is another way of saying lies. There's a lot of the movie L.A. Confidential in this novel, a little Mad Men, a little Kenneth Anger (another son of LA and the movie business).

Did you find it challenging to keep in the headspace of Old Hollywood? 

Staying in this headspace wasn't hard – it was honestly a delight. I've been a film critic and film journalist for over 15 years now, and before then I was an autodidact film historian, starting from childhood. I love the look and mood and history of the 1950s. I did some research about the realities of being queer/kinky in Hollywood during that time, including Gay LA by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, and The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hoffler.

Ironically, the setting is part of why this book was a hard sell. I didn't know going into it that the market for historical romance is entirely either for books set from the Regency period to World War I, or for books set in the present day. 1920 to 2005 is a blank space with no market. Who knows why? But had I known that, I still would have written this book exactly the way I did.

SEX! The sex scenes are intense and get deep into what might be considered a sort of proto BDSM. It’s not always “safe and sane” although it seems everyone enjoys themselves to some extent. Did you find it difficult to write sex from the perspective of Ron, with his many hang ups and sometimes brutality - or at this point in your career is it harder to get into the more tender and “normal” scenes?

It was super easy to write Ron's POV, since most of his fetishes are mine. (But I have more fetishes than Ron, and I've already said too much, so if you're not currently in my bed I'll just keep the rest a mystery.) I've had male readers tell me that I get into the headspace of male characters very easily, that they recognize themselves on the page in a way that's different and more personal than the standard "male" lens of our culture – which, after all, a lens is not the reality of being someone.
Writing female characters is something I had to grow into, partly because they are more autobiographical – it's not something people would guess from how raw and explicit my books are, but I am actually a very private person for whom it's hard to self-reveal. Writing male characters is just enough of a mask that I feel more comfortable revealing my inner self. (There is a female character in this book whom I am just in love with, though. She is the best character I have ever created. I have no "I love all my children" illusions about that. She's the best.)
Even though the house style for many trade paperback romance publishers is to have a "he said, she said" POV that alternates between chapters, I don't think readers expect a romance to be about a man's emotional life. But men love too. I would like one of the ripples from this book is for writers to think more about romance as a legitimate genre that explores important and vital themes about the human condition, just as legit as any other genre fiction.
As far as the BDSM in this book goes, I wrote it from the POV of someone who's gripped by these fetishes that are deeply embedded in a sexual map that started forming in childhood, and because of his shame and the era he's in he's not part of a community or a public dialogue about best practices, and he's just making it up as he goes along. Sex scenes in an erotic novel should be like musical numbers in a musical – they can't just be boning each other just because. Their coupling is about something just like how a song is about something. And so when there's a sex scene – and there's a lot of them – I used them as an alternate way to express a deeper theme in the character's lives, and where they are on their journey.
But this is the first time I've written about tender, unabashed love, and those scenes were harder to write because a) the line between passionate and stupid is very thin and I didn't want readers to break their suspension of disbelief by snorting at the kind of lines that romance fiction is pilloried for ("My loins are aflame with need, my tempestuous minx"). But at the same time you have to express the intensity of that feeling, of being completely overtaken.
Andy Warhol once said that he loved America because when you see the Queen of England drinking a Diet Coke it's not like she's getting a better one because she's the Queen. It's the same Diet Coke you can have. And falling in love is like that – everyone has the same experience of it, no matter who you are. And it's simultaneously a very unique, rare, exquisite experience that's only yours, and an experience everyone can relate to, if they've been blessed to find it. So that's a delicate thing to write about, and I wanted to get it exactly right.

While the severity of the consequences for gay sex/kink/communism and the other traits and behaviors that our characters exhibit may not be as steep as they were in Old Hollywood - I found myself struggling to think we’ve necessarily come that far. How do you think the themes you work with in Starstruck translate to the modern day?

There are people everywhere right now struggling with their sexuality. It's gotten better for certain groups of people – queer people, kinky people, poly people – but there are so many people wishing they didn't have the fetish they have, or the fantasies they have, or the subject of their desire, or how they want to express those desires. They're everywhere. Let's be clear – just because you have a desire doesn't mean you should act on it, especially if acting on it means inflicting real lasting harm on a vulnerable person. But I think anyone can come to some kind of self-acceptance and peace and equanimity with who they are. And nobody has ever had a better life hating themselves than loving themselves. So that's what I want.

 Pitch this book to someone who’s never read your work and may or may not be a prude:

First of all, I never try to sell anyone on my work. I know all my books are so intense and explicit and speak frankly about so many taboos that I never want to inflict them on anyone, and in fact if I'm making chit-chat with someone and they express an interest in reading my work, I warn them right off the bat that my writing is not for everyone. (I just did the audio book for my previous King Shot Press book I Miss The World and we had to record the last twenty pages twice because the audio engineer didn't notice it had stopped recording, because he had his face in his hands thinking "oh my god oh my god" the first time he heard the ending.)
But having said that, I think there are a lot of people out there who believe the romance genre is not for them. And I would like readers who want to challenge that assumption, that it can be more than pre-feminist ravishment fantasies. It can say something about the human condition, and the subtleties of how we come to love a person, and it can do it while being very sexually explicit, kinky, pansexual, and polyamorous. I guess an open mind is all I ask.

Thanks again to Violet for the opportunity to read Scarstruck and share it with all of you, and the great interview. Preorder Scarstruck for it's Valentine's Day release.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Scams, shams, and hams: Welcome to 2019

By Steve Weddle

What a year we've had in publishing this week.

We had the Dan Mallory lunacy, on which I already did a funny.

And Jill Abramson.

Jason Heller, whose publication credits include NPR, the Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker, suggested this week that you should probably quit your job and follow your dream of being a writer.

Perhaps he knows you and thinks that this is a good idea. I don't know you, and it isn't.

Some folks, such as Gretchen McNeil, manage to write while also making that sweet, sweet bill-paying money. Maybe you like being able to go to the hospital for your annual exam, a task I dreaded much less prior to the recent onset of the "bend over" years. Perhaps you like being able to clothe your children before sending them to school. Perhaps you enjoy food. Or your spouse does.

Heller received 2,428,934 (estimated) replies to his suggestion. The majority of replies echoed McNeil's above RT w/ comment & were of the "Uh, that's a negative, Ghost rider" variety. To wit:

It's Twitter and it's terrible advice, of course, but this is Chinatown, Jake. 

At least Heller (no relation) seems to be enjoying his fifteen minutes:

In looking at the week, I thought today I'd look at Mallory and we'd do more funny takes. 

And, perhaps once the funny takes are over, we can look at the more serious aspects of what the Mallory story touches on:

Perhaps you and I can keep our eyes open for more of those stories and share them and engage with and, maybe, do some digging and helping of our own soon.

Today, though, I wanted to look a little at some other unbelievable nonsense -- the idea of going into debt to get your novel edited.

Keidi Keating, who runs an editing business, suggested this week on Twitter that author should pay an editing business, even if the author can't afford it.

Maybe you've taken Heller's advice and quit your job. Now you can't afford Keating's editing services. Keating is the author or The Light: A Book of Knowing: How to Shine Your Light Brighter, which is published by the Light Network.

For whatever reason, I was not familiar with Keating's work with Light and Knowing and Shining. According to her author bio, she is a "spiritual mentor" who was visited by a ball in her bedroom one night:

I haven't much interest in making light of her bio here. I, myself, likely would have passed something like this off as indigestion, more "gravy than grave" as Mr. Dickens might have put it. Keating, however, has turned this into books and business.

As for her business, she suggests the following for writers who might have a manuscript lying about:

I'm not terribly interested in picking apart the ethics of this. I don't know you, but it seems getting a loan to have your manuscript edited is a terrible, terrible idea. Editing can cost thousands of dollars. Do you expect your book to bring you that back soon? When you're paying off the loan (a $5,000 loan with reasonable interest paid back over two years) at $250 per month or so, are you expecting your advance to cover that? Royalties? Maybe you think you're just one copy edit away from a movie deal. (You aren't.) Please, please be realistic. This idea of taking out loans to follow your dream is bad, bad, bad.

Can you get up early to write before the job? After? Can you knock out a hundred words at lunch? Can you carve out an hour each day to write? Don't quit your job.

Can you find a writers' group to join? Swap beta reads with other writers? Find sites online where you can join critique groups? Can you do that for your draft instead of going into debt for an edit?

Sometimes, doing a swap with an editor might work. It worked for editor Jim Thomsen:

(An "armoire," as it turns out, is some sort of cabinet thing found in France.)

So, you know, maybe that works for you. At least that way, you're not going into debt. Asking someone for money -- whether from a bank, credit card, or "someone wealthy who believes in you" -- seems to me to be a terrible, bad, no good, horrible idea. 

Consider: Do you need to have your manuscript edited before you 1) query an agent? 2) before you self-publish?  My thoughts are 1) probably maybe not and 2) yes, yes, yes, please.

Later in his Tweetday, Thomsen said he's had authors with Big Six/Five publishing contracts who have asked for his editing services, because the editing services offered in-house were rather rubbish, according to the authors. Maybe you need outside editing then.

Editing -- professional editing -- is very, very important and should be priced accordingly. Pay an editor $500 for your 150,000-word novel, as Thomsen suggests some authors want? Hahahaha. That ain't going to be good editing. How long did it take you to write that? How long do you think it will take a professional, talented editor to help you work through the problems and strengthen it? Yeah. What's that worth?

Do you need a professional editor for your book? As Jason Pinter points out, it isn't on some sort of check-list you're required to complete before publishing.

Will it help? If you hire the right editor, sure. Is it worth it? That's a thing you'll have to consider, isn't it? To clarify, as Ben LeRoy says:

Again, editing is important and, if you want professional work done, you should consider whether you want to hire a professional.

Neliza Drew wrote one of my favorite books of 2016, All the Bridges Burning. Drew worked with professional editor Elizabeth A. White on that book, so I asked about the process.

I asked Drew how she came to the decision to hire a professional editor.

Neliza Drew: It was more an emotional decision than a financial one. Financially, it was stupid. I rationalized it by doing the cover art myself with cheap stock images, formatting the inside myself, and doing the coding for the e-ARCs myself.
Me: How did you decide on White?

ND: I hired Elizabeth White because Josh Stallings liked her work. I was told if I was going to hire a pro I should query it again. I'd already queried it several times. I probably should have stuck it in a drawer and just written something about dystopian vampires at boarding school, but I didn't.

Me: Did you consider or use beta readers?

ND: All this talk about "beta" readers means you have to talk other busy people into working for free and that might mean you're either taking writing time away from people who tell stories you want to read or your're relying on people whose opinions you might not trust. If you're like Josh Stallings or Chris Holm and you have a reader you trust who lives with you and is wiling to devote their time and expertise to improving your work, that's great.

Me: Did you consider writing groups with locals?

ND: I live in an area without good writers' groups. I've tried several and sat through critiquing rambling poems about "shafts of power" and stories about happy fairies finding hope in a tree nook. A lot of the established mystery writers down here either are former journalists or retirees with the money to buy editors (or have their own clique).

The end result from Drew's writing and White's editing work, All the Bridges Burning, was amazing and you should check it out.

Should you do what Heller says and quit your day job to "follow your dream"? Please don't.

Should you sell a kidney to hire an editor? Probably not.

Should you hire an editor at all? You should darn sure consider it.

Should you remove Dan Mallory from your Christmas card list? You know, I don't have all the answers. I'm still just trying to figure out what questions to ask.

Should we follow our dreams? My dudes, my dream last night was about the dishwasher's relocating itself to the other side of the kitchen, which wasn't exactly our kitchen, but more like the police station from Adam-12, even though the dishwasher repairman was Hawkeye Pierce and, as it turns out, it wasn't really a dishwasher, but a sink, which I knew I shouldn't urinate into, but I really had to go, despite my lack of pants. I mean, my dreams are weird and not something I'd want to follow. Of course, I've never had a dream about a ball of light in my bedroom, so maybe there's still time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Stories Matter. And never give a sucker an even break...

Sometimes I wonder about the point of writing stories when there are so many, and mine are unlikely to be remembered a few years from now, and much less likely to stand any test of time. That sort of thinking leads to madness. However, we can take heart in the fact that crime stories matter, for good and bad.

Lately, mostly for bad. The big wake-up call was when the idiot President blathered plot points from Sicario: Day of the Soldado as reality in his useless crusade to build a wall on the U.S. southern border, a technology that didn't work thousands of years ago when China tried it against actual invaders. Every scrap of cloth found along the border became a "jihadi prayer rug" to scare the ignorant, when his drug-war scares stop working. Migrants don't bring drugs. Semi truck trailers do. To quote Don Winslow, one crosses into the U.S. from Tijuana legally every 15 seconds. I used to work for a shipping terminal, and one of our vendors was a security firm that you can thank for the red light cameras that scan every license plate so the police state can run your license and pull you over with probable cause, fund local town coffers, and search our car for drugs or cash to seize so they can throw a big barbecue this year. That company also made gamma ray scanners to check trains, shipping containers, and trucks for people, drugs, and explosives.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. The sheer volume of cargo moving back and forth over our borders is too massive to scan completely. If you've watched Breaking Bad you have an idea how difficult it is to find contraband. But Sicario 2, written by Taylor Sheridan, thought it would be a wicked cool story to suggest terrorists were coming over the toughest border crossing into the U.S. instead of using their visa from our "ally" and Trump family friend Saudi Arabia to simply fly in. Now, who cares what some badly researched movie uses as a plot point?

Well, it matters when the President is watching. Now thousands think it's truth. Never mind that toddlers with unsecured handguns have killed more Americans than terrorists have after 9/11, toddlers with guns don't sell books. Scary foreigners do. But hey, you gotta pay the rent, so go for the easy villain.

Just like we embraced the myth of the "superpredator" and gave every D.A. who liked locking up young black men a book deal, after 9/11 we gobbled up thriller fiction where swarthy foreigners with accents were coming to kill the white womens. My personal favorite predates 9/11, when Dan Brown created a Middle-Eastern assassin with a rape fetish for Angels & Demons. I'm not sure if this character also dined exclusively on live puppies, but I wouldn't doubt it. That superpredator myth exploded with books like Slow Motion Riot, which undid all the humanity given to kids lured into gang life in books like Clockers.

Needless to say, lazy writers have always used mental illness, child abuse, drug use, and foster parenting to justify why their villain likes to eat puppies. Make sure they are poor and lust after the middle class protagonist's perfect home, to seal the deal. (And only working class men hit their kids or their wives, because they wear stained "wifebeater" shirts)

So remember, if a suburban white kid uses drugs or falls in "with a bad element," make sure it's the kid who got into their school on a scholarship from a working class background. As I write this, I overheard a story about a young white boy from an affluent family who supplements his allowance by selling Juul weed vape pens. He must have gotten them from his friend on the basketball team who's there on a scholarship, right? He can't be leveraging his privilege to be overlooked, like the total non-genius Ted Bundy did.

This isn't to say that crime is not often driven by desperation, or that the less affluent are saints and salt of the earth, that's another stereotype we were fed by stories.

So when you come up with that great plot twist where OMG the killer is trans or was in foster care as a child so they are angry and want to kill Sweet Polly Purebred, single white lawyer, maybe don't.

How does this tripe get published? Publishing is largely white and homogeneous, sheltered summer camp kids all growed up and easily fooled. There are exceptions who prove the rule, of course, and there are plenty of good people in the business, just like there are great cops and honorable mechanics.

If you don't believe me, read this scathing "profile" of Daniel Mallory, con man extraordinaire, who bluffed his way into an executive editorial position, and got his employer to bid seven figures for The Woman in the Window--yes, Mallory is "A.J. Finn sounds like Gillian Flynn LOL"--which seems to have been copied, not kidding, from a '90s suspense film called.... COPYCAT. I mean, brass clanging balls on this guy, but how did he get that far? Yes, he leveraged his privilege to get everything he wanted, used Tom Ripley as a model, and was the grandson of a media executive at RKO General, but have these people never smelled bullshit?

The story begs belief. I mean, we've all known a fraud or two, people who get a newsworthy chronic disease whenever they need to defend against their feckless behavior, but Mallory was particularly egregious and knew exactly how to fool people of his class. Say you have a doctorate from Oxford and talk in a faux British accent because you spent six months in London (oi, I knew one of these types, and it's not Madonna). And of course he must have an ironclad contract of some sort because he's from money, and won't have to give back a dime like the last thriller plagiarist, Q.R. Markham, aka bookseller Quentin Rowan, who used the cut & paste method to get himself a three book deal. I saw "Markham" at a book signing with two actual writers. He was a smug asshole who seriously looked like a grinning kid showing us his peepee. He made it obvious he was pulling one over, but no one noticed until after publication. He even put "mark" in his pen name!

And then there's Lee Israel, the subject of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, who forged correspondence between famous writers to pay her rent. At least she did it for the money, but there's something to be said about a community that smug con artists love to target. As the old bear joke goes, "You don't come here for the hunting, do you?"

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Angel Colon on HELL CHOSE ME

Angel Colon is back at Do Some Damage today to talk about his new book, his first novel.  It's the one with the pig on the cover, Hell Chose Me.  I'm as eager as anyone to find out what that pig is all about, but in the meantime, here's what Angel wrote below to pique our interest in the book.

Stretching Them Legs
by Angel Colon

I don’t think I can say with complete certainty that there is a specific genre of fiction I enjoy most. Are there some genres that resonate with me less? Certainly, but none that I would say are “the best”.

I can’t say that for form, though. In my heart, short fiction is the best fiction.

So why in the hell did I decide to start writing novels?

There’s a shorter answer, but it’s worth exploring at length (in the spirit of this piece).

I’ve never believed the novel to be a “natural” form of storytelling. Looking back on our history—before we were as literate as we are now—storytelling was often a group activity and often vocal. Humans spent thousands of years telling each other short stories. Sometimes these were serialized and sometimes they weren’t, but we consumed them in perfect bursts—perfect little experiences that frightened, titillated, and engaged us. Not to say that the invention of the printing press and the increase in general literacy was a bad thing, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that technological advancement led to consumption of media in longer formats.

Anyway, how perfect is a short story? To get a full resolution within moments—to see truth spoken to power in poetic, beautiful ways that we often can’t match or properly express in lengthier formats. We see that beauty in the works of so many we call legends: Poe, Wolff, Saunders, Kafka, Marquez, Ballard, Le Guin, Christie etc., etc.

So, if this is my favorite form of writing (4 novellas and a short story collection stand as proof), then why bother with the novel? Why try my hand at what’s effectively more of a marketing apparatus—a means of conveyance whose worth is derived by the number of physical pages its words inhabit?
Well, because there’s beauty there too, it’s just a matter of learning and I’ll admit that I was terrified of learning to craft my work that way.

It’s that difference between making a chair versus making an entire sofa. There’s worth and merit to both but while one may seem easier (it isn’t), the other does require more time and patience (not always).

That patience part, that was tough. Short stories, at least for me, have been easy in the sense that I can get a first draft out with speed. Revisions can be where I falter and take longer to really get the pieces in the right place.

Novels? Oh boy, that was a different beast. That feeling I got with short stories would dissipate every few thousand words and I found myself wondering if I was writing pointless pages that were incapable of being salvaged and made bright by even the most vigorous of revisions.

When I finished my first draft of a novel that shall never know anything but the dark of the desk drawer to my right as I type this, well, it felt like a huge deal. There was still the idea that I had to revise (a lot) but that first hurdle was overcome—the mental block was shoved a few inches out of the way.

That led to the next try which became Hell Chose Me.

Coming off another novel, I was ready for the challenge and I was also more informed in how my preferences could lend themselves to the endeavor. I taught myself to treat the project like a sequence of shorts while trying my best not to evoke that feeling on the reader’s end. This is a lot easier said than done since treating the project as piecemeal is a little dangerous—and stalled several ideas that remain unfinished.

This was part of a bigger lesson, too. I began to realize that my preferences weren’t making the experience more or less of a challenge, it was merely the story speaking to me. The real challenge was my ignorance of the book/short/whatever we’ll call it speaking to me and letting me know where and when the hard stops are located.

The first novel and Hell Chose Me were content to be lengthy examinations of what could easily have been a shorter work. The shorter works were content to be just that: shorter pieces with different intentions.

Again, all of this should be obvious, but there are plenty of experiences one can have as a creative that make you want to smack your forehead and groan at its apparentness.

Hell Chose Me has been a five-year journey with as many dips and turns as the narrative. I’ve rewritten it multiple times, changed entire concepts and subplots, or added/removed characters. I’ve hated it, loved it, and given up on it. I revealed a little too much about myself and discovered things that I didn’t know were in my head. I learned how to write a first draft with purpose thanks to Hell Chose Me.

In short; this book changed me, and I hope readers can take something out of the experience.

Angel Luis Colón is the Derringer and Anthony Award shortlisted author of Hell Chose Me, The Blacky Jaguar novella series, The Fantine Park novella series, and dozens of short stories that have appeared in web and print publications like Thuglit, Literary Orphans, and Great Jones Street. He also hosts the podcast, the bastard title.

Keep up him on Twitter via @GoshDarnMyLife.

Oh, I actually do know what that pig on the cover is all about. But if you don't know and want to find out, you can read what Angel wrote about it recently on Elizabeth A. White's terrific blog: The Pig Story

You can pick up Hell Chose Me here.

Monday, February 4, 2019


A look at a few great anthologies.

Looking for fast, sharp action of the dark and fictional kind? Find below a compilation of titles recently or soon to be published. 

A Time for Violence: Stories with an Edge by Max Collins (Author), Joe Lansdale (Author), Richard Chizmar (Author), John Russo (Author), Richard Matheson (Author), Bev Vincent (Author), Stewart O’Nan (Author), Paul D. Brazil (Author) Craig Douglas (Illustrator), Andy Rausch (Editor), Chris Roy (Editor). 

This anthology is an ode to the great anthologies of yesteryear. Stories by a variety of talents, packaged neatly and often connected by a singular theme. Coming soon, May 1, 2019.

Culprits: The Heist was Only the Beginning by Brett Battles (Author), Jessica Kaye (Author), Joe Clifford (Author), Manuel Ramos (Author), Zoë Sharp (Author), Gar Anthony Haywood (Author), David Corbett (Author), Richard Brewer (Editor), Gary Phillips (Editor). 

A hard-bitten crew of professional thieves pull off the score of their lives, coming away with seven million in cash. Like any heist there are some unforeseen complications, and unfortunately, they don’t get away without a few bodies dropping. Despite this, they get away with the swag. But that’s when the real trouble begins. In this unique anthology, we follow each member of the crew of culprits as they go their separate ways after the heist, and watch as this perfect score ends up a perfect nightmare. February 27, 2018.

Deadlines: A Tribute to William Wallace edited by Chris Rhatigan and Ron Earl Phillips. In 2017 we lost William E. Wallace who was a writer, a fan, and a friend to all who loved the crime fiction genre. All proceeds will benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, whom, like William, speak for the underdog and uphold freedom of speech.

Featuring: Preston Lang (Author), Jen Conley (Author), Joe Clifford (Author), Will Viharo (Author), Paul D. Brazil (Author), Patricia Abbott (Author), Rob Pierce (Author), Sean Craven (Author), Eric Beetner (Author), Sarah M. Chen (Author), Nick Kolakowski (Author), S.W. Lauden (Author), Scott Adlerberg (Author), Gary Phillips (Author), Renee Asher Pickup (Author), Eryk Pruitt (Author), Todd Morr (Author), Travis Richardson (Author), Anonymous-9 (Author), Sean Lynch (Author), Alec Cizak (Author), Greg Barth (Author), C. Mack Lewis (Author). September 28, 2018.

Death Toll 3: End Game by Matt Hilton, Douglas Stewart, Alex Shaw (Author), Charlie Flowers (Author), Stephen Edger (Author), Paul D Brazil (Author), Dominic Adler (Author), Paul Grzegorzek (Author), Jamie Mason (Author), JH Bográn (Author), Liam Saville (Author) and Harlan Wolff (Author). 

This anthology is an uncompromising, page-turning crime thriller that brings together crime writers based in eight different countries spanning five continents. This is the best short thriller fiction from today’s best crime writers. January 31, 2019.

Dirty Boulevard: Crime Fiction Inspired by the songs of Lou Reed by Jonathan Ashley (Author), Rusty Barnes (Author), Reed Farrel Coleman (Author), Alison Gaylin (Author), Lee Matthew Goldberg (Author), Cate Holahan (Author), Gabino Iglesias (Author), David James Keaton (Author), Erin Keaton (Author), Ross E. Lockhart (Author), Tony McMillen (Author), Richard Neer (Author), Chris Orlet (Author), J. David Osborne (Author), Rob Pierce (Author), Eryk Pruitt (Author) and Patrick Wensink (Author). David James Keaton (Editor). 

Inspired by the outcasts, outlaws, and other outré inhabitants of rock legend Lou Reed's songbook, Dirty Boulevard traffics in crime fiction that's sometimes velvety and sometimes vicious, but always, absolutely, rock & roll. Inside, you'll find stories from the fire escapes to the underground, stories filled with metal machine music, stories for gender-bending, rule-breaking, mind-blasting midnight revelries and drunken, dangerous, dark nights of the heart. September 13, 2018.

Murder A-Go-Go’s edited by Holly West Holly West (Author), Lori Rader-Day (Author), Hilary Davidson (Author), Susanna Calkins (Author), Thomas Pluck (Author), Lisa Brackmann (Author), Nadine Nettmann (Author), Diane Vallere (Author), Eric Beetner (Author).

Inspired by punk but not yoked to it, the Go-Go’s broke important musical ground by combining cheeky lyrics, clever hooks, and catchy melodies, perfectly capturing what it feels like to be young and female in the process. But beyond the Go-Go’s effervescent sound and cheerful pop stylings, a darkness underlies many of their lyrics and melodies, hinting at the heartache and frustration inherent in growing up. In other words, plenty to inspire murder and mayhem. Net proceeds from Murder-a-Go-Go’s benefit Planned Parenthood, a crucial provider of women’s affordable reproductive healthcare.

Skin & Bones by Patricia Abbott (Author), Charles Ardai (Author), Lawrence Block (Author), Joe Clifford (Author), Angel Luis Colón (Author), Bill Crider (Author), Glenn Gray (Author), Tim Hall (Author), Rob Hart (Author) , Tess Makovesky (Author), Terrence McCauley (Author), Marietta Miles (Author), Richie Narvaez (Author), Stuart Neville(Author), Thomas Pluck (Author), Ryan Sayles (Author), S.A. Solomon (Author), Jason Starr (Author), Liam Sweeny (Author), Dave Zeltserman (Author), and Dana C. Kabel (Editor).

From a host of bestselling and award-winning authors come the stories from the darkest corners of their imaginations featuring one of the most abhorrent acts of mankind; cannibalism! Throughout history, human beings have feasted on human flesh. Whether it was to survive starvation or to horrify their enemies or to satisfy their own deranged urges, people have eaten other people for centuries. 


Strangers in a Strange Land: Immigrant Stories by Walter Koenig (Author), Linda Rodriguez (Author), Patricia Abbott (Author), Teresa Roman (Author), R.C. Barnes (Author), James B. Nicola (Author), Eric Beetner (Author), Katherine Tomlinson (Author), Heath Lowrance (Author), Kimmy Dee (Author), Mark Rogers (Author), Sheikha A. (Author), Mark Hauer (Author), Berkeley Hunt (Author), Manuel Royal (Author), Kathleen Alcalá (Author), Christine Mathewson (Author), Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw (Author), Zoe Chang (Author), and James L’Etoile (Author), Chris Rhatigan (Editor) and Katherine Tomlinson (Editor). 

From searing poetry drawn from a Native American perspective to essays chronicling the marginalization of LGBT people, to the crime fiction of new Americans and writers whose ancestors were brought to the country in bondage, Strangers in a Strange Land examines the intersection of hope and despair that defines the immigrant experience. January 25, 2019.

The Night of the Flood by E.A. Aymar (Author), Rob Brunet (Author), Sarah M. Chen (Author), Angel Luis Colón (Author), Hilary Davidson (Author), Mark Edwards (Author), Gwen Florio (Author), Elizabeth Heiter (Author), J.J. Hensley (Author), Jennifer Hillier (Author), Shannon Kirk (Author), Jenny Milchman (Author), Alan Orloff (Author), and Wendy Tyson (Author).   E.A. Aymar (Editor) and Sarah M. Chen (Editor).

Fourteen of today’s most exciting crime writers will take you to the fictional town of Everton. Whether it’s a store owner grimly protecting his property from looters, an opportunistic servant who sees her time to strike, or two misguided youths taking their anger out against any available victim, The Night of the Flood is an intricate and intimate examination of the moment when chaos is released—in both society and the human spirit.

Unloaded Volume 2: More Crime Writers Writing Without Guns by E.A. Aymar (Author), Kris Calvin (Author), Andrew Case (Author), Steve Cavanagh (Author), Bill Crider (Author), Chris Holm (Author), Michael Kardos (Author), David James Keaton (Author), Dana King (Author), Nick Kolakowski (Author), Jon McGoran (Author), Laura McHugh (Author), Lori Rader-Day (Author), John Rector (Author), Scott Loring Sanders (Author), Alex Segura (Author), Terry Shames (Author), Josh Stallings (Author), Jay Stringer (Author), James R. Tuck (Author), Dave White (Author), Lili Wright (Author), and James W. Ziskin (Author) and Eric Beetner (Editor).

The top priority in these stories is to entertain with thrilling action and suspense that readers know and love about a crime story. To do so without guns leads to some creative leaps from writers who spin tales of simians on the loose, androids with buried secrets, punk rock shows and tattoo shops.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Book Cover Challenge

Of all the accounts and credit cards and license plates that populate my life, there is only one string of numbers that I actually have memorized. The one on my library card. 
My very well-used library card.
I can type it in five seconds flat. And I do, very frequently. I’m always reserving books online or checking them out at the quick self-serve kiosk at my local branch. When I’m there, I see teenagers doing their homework and reading graphic novels after school; retirees working on family history through the free genealogy database access; community groups using the meeting room; and best of all, small children balancing tall stacks of picture books that they insist they can handle by themselves.
So I was delighted this week when the Sacramento County Public Library challenged me on Twitter to post a book cover a day for seven days. It was a fun task that had me looking through my books in a way I haven’t in quite a while, purely as a form of visual art.
Here are my seven covers. What do you think of my choices? And what covers would you pick?