Saturday, March 16, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 11

by
Scott D. Parker

This was almost Week 3 redux.

QUIET TIMES


Back in Week 3, I mentioned that there would be down weeks. It happens in just about every profession you can imagine, and it certainly happens in the writing life.

It was Spring Break here in Houston. Fewer people were actually in the office at my day job and the traffic was wonderfully light. Except for Monday when I took the day off, I woke at my usual 4:45 am (getting used to daylight saving time means no 4:30 for this week), exercised, and then wrote. It made for a quieter-than-normal week.

And it was nice.

ANTIQUING FOR RECORDS


On the day off, the family and I traveled north of Houston to Spring and the giant antique store up there. A few years ago when we last went, a book dealer with shelves was there. Well, it's not there anymore, but that was okay. There were about five dealers with hundreds of records.

And we looked through most of them.

I came away with only one LP: Chicago XI, Terry Kath's last. The wife purchased two, while our boy took home four. Yup, the teenager bought more records than his parents combined. Go figure.

It's a funny thing when you have a teenager and he wants a turntable. Now our game room/his fun room has a turntable to go with the stereo system. We can all jam to records while playing video games.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF WHERE YOUR STORY GOES


The new Ben Wade story is inching its way up to novella territory. Novelette for sure. It's up to Chapter 10 and I've got the big finale to finish with the obvious denouement afterwards. What struck me during the process of this story is that it's definitely not like the three Wade novels I've already finished. I mentioned in week 7 this novella is written in third person, not the usual first person POV. That's just a prose choice. What I'm finding interesting is the style. It's a shade darker than the three novels. Things happen that actually move Wade along in his character development.

It also means I'll have to publish Novel #3 first before this story goes out into the world.

Which means I'll need another short story ready for 1 April.

CASTLE IS NOW TEN YEARS OLD


The big news this week was one I actually missed last Saturday.

"Castle," one of my all-time favorite TV shows, turned ten on 9 March. I wrote a lengthy post about it, and received some of my best feedback. I got lots of comments from folks over on my main author blog. It was really nice to revisit all that I love about this show.

BOOK OF THE WEEK


Speaking of Castle, out of the blue, a new Richard Castle novel, CRASHING HEAT, was published on Tuesday. I had pre-ordered the audio and started listening on day one. Within seconds, I was back in the groove with Niiki Heat, Jameson Rook, the prose of "Richard Castle," and the narration of Robert Petkoff. He's got a great knack of getting the nuances of Fillion's voice without actually mimicking him.

The Castle novel put APOLLO 8 on the back burner for a couple of days, but I got back to it yesterday. What I enjoy about simultaneously listening/reading both non-fiction and fiction is being able to go back and forth depending on my mood.

In the chapter I listened to yesterday, the mission of Gemini 7 was described. Can you imagine spending two weeks in space inside a capsule little bigger than a Volkswagon? Yeah, I can't either.

MOVIES OF THE WEEK


I saw both Captain Marvel and Bohemian Rhapsody this week. I reviewed them both.


How was your week?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Summer of Noir




By David Nemeth

I'm proud to announce that in this summer I will be organizing four Noir at the Bars to be held at Stoney's Pub in Wilmington Delaware. The Summer of Noir series will be held on four separate nights of May ?? (tbd), June 9th, July 21st, and August 18th. These Sunday night Noir at the Bar events will begin at 6 PM and end 8 PM. The Summer of Noir series will give between 24 and 28 different writers an opportunity to read their best short fiction in front of an audience thirsty for dark crime fiction and British beer.

And you guessed it, we are looking for writers to read during the Summer of Noir series. One of the great things about Stoney's Pub in Wilmington, Delaware is that is located just off of I-95 and is about 2 hours from New York City, Washington, DC, and the Delaware beaches. By having the Summer of Noir series on a Sunday night this will hopefully allow non-Delaware writers the opportunity to come and read.

If you're from the Delaware area and you don't know what the whole Noir at the Bar thing is, come out to Stoney's on April 15th when I'll be putting on a Noir at the Bar which is part of Ed Aymar's infamous Noir at the Bar Crawl.  The Wilmington Noir at the Bar, which begins at 7 PM, will be hosted by Meghan Burns and have readings by Jason Beech, Robin Hill-Page Glandenm, Jeff Markowitz, Joanne M Reinbold, Chris Rhatigan, and myself.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm looking for between six and seven readers for all four nights this summer.  Reach out to me via email (david.nemeth@gmail.com) or on Facebook or Twitter. All spots are currently open, so please reach out to me. Stoney's Pub is a great place to bring the family to eat and are very supportive of hosting the Noir at the Bar events.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

50 Blog Tour Post Ideas for Crime Fiction Writers

Scott's Note: Richie Narvaez guest blogs today, giving some ideas on how authors, particularly indie ones like himself, can up their blog tour game.  Richie's doing the blog tour thing himself now because his debut novel is out - Hipster Death Rattle. 

Richie's a guy who grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an area now known for trendiness and hipsters.  Into this mix, in his book, Richie puts a person who is using a machete to kill various hipsters in the neighborhood.  This can't be good for Williamsburg's reputation.  Hipster Death Rattle is a sardonically told crime novel, with the mystery playing out against a backdrop of gentrification, very high rents, and class tension.  It's an engaging read, quite well-plotted, with sharp social commentary.

But anyway, here's Richie with his ideas on authorial self-promotion.





50 Blog Tour Post Ideas for Crime Fiction Writers
by Richie Narvaez

Publicizing your new crime fiction book doesn’t have to be murder. With my debut thriller out in the world — Hipster Death Rattle (Down & Out Books, 2019), available on IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Buy it! Buy it now! — I have to find the optimal ways to publicize. 



One of the easiest and least expensive ways is the blog tour, in which a writer, much like a movie star rounding the chat shows, takes a virtual tour of a number of blogs, writing about topics that directly or indirectly play up his/her cozy, procedural, noir, what have you, all in the hopes of generating interest and of course sales. 

Now, coming up with topics to write about can be difficult — it took enough out of you just to write the damn book! So I’ve taken the liberty of listing some ideas for you here to try to make your next blog tour that much easier. 

1. Blog Tours Are Vital to Your Publishing Success
2. Why Blog Tours Are a Waste of Time
3. Why You Need an Agent
4. Pshhaw! No One Needs an Agent Anymore
5. Getting to Really Know Your Agent
6. Why Sleeping with Your Agent Is a Not a Good Idea 
7. My Agent Stabbed Me in the Back — Which Gave Me an Idea for My Next Thriller!
8. How a Night in Prison Inspired My Whodunnit
9. Being Married to a Police Detective’s Distant Cousin Made Me a Better Crime Writer
10. How My Cats Inspired My Gritty Noir
11. So Long, Sam Spade! Private Eye Novels Are Passé
12. How to Interview Real Serial Killers for Your Book
13. Uh Oh, Are You Being Stalked?
14. Talking to Real Life Private Eyes and Security Experts 
15. Need to Change Your Identity and Live Off the Grid?
16. Welcome Back, Chandler! Private Eye Novels Are Back
17. Start Your Writing Career by Writing Short Stories
18. Why No One Reads Anthologies Anymore
19. Setting Could Be Your Procedural’s Most Important Character
20. Why a Cat Could Be Your Mystery Novel’s Most Important Character
21. Say What? How to Create Realistic Dialogue
22. Why Your Dialogue Can’t Be “Too Real”
23. Don't Overthink Dialogue. You're Not a Playwright, You Know
24. Writing Careers Are Tough on Marriages
25. Just Leave Me Alone and Let Me Write Already!
26. Can Your Relationship Survive Your Writing Career?
27. 10 Steps to Researching How to Commit a Murder
28. Why You Should Learn All You Can about Forensics
29. Where to Hire a Hit Man
30. 5 Steps to Clearing Your Browser Search History
31. A Cat Is a Writer’s Best Companion, Cheerleader, and Beta Reader
32. How to Come Up with a Third Act Twist No One Will See Coming
33. Why Do People Marry Serial Killers?
34. How to Create . . . Wait . . . Wait for It . . . Waaaaait . . . Here It Is: Suspense!
35. How to Plot Your Cozy in 5 Steps
36. How to Plot Your Cozy in 10 Steps
37. How to Let Your Cozy Plot Itself
38. Your Mystery Won't Sell without a Cat in It
39. Make Sure to End Your Book with a Surprise!
40. How to Write an Honest Book Review
41. I Give All My Friends 5 Stars on Amazon, No Matter What
42. 5 Reasons Why Crime Fiction Is Really Fantasy Fiction
43. 10 Reasons Why Crime Fiction Is Really Horror Fiction
44. One Reason Why Crime Fiction Is Really Crime Fiction
45. Why Serial Killers Don't Make Good Roommates
46. How Can You Make Your Villain Likable?
47. Get on Social Media to Sell Your Suspense Novel
48. Why Social Media Is Passé
49. Why No One Reads to the End of Your Blog Posts
50. Why a Human Sacrifice to the Cat God May Be Your Only Hope for Crime Fiction Publishing Success



You can get Hipster Death Rattle right here.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The 3 Essential Principles of Storytelling

I’ve been actively pursuing a career in writing for more than a decade and have read countless books on writing. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules, and was a devotee of Lawrence Block’s column on fiction writing in Writer’s Digest.

plants growing out of a manual typewriter
Photo credit: Shelby Miller on Unsplash
In all that time, I’ve boiled down what I’ve learned into three general principles. The overarching idea is to keep the reader reading.

The reader wants to be entertained. If your story does that (and your reader is hoping it does), then you will reap the rewards.

But all too often, a writer will violate one of these three principles, and the reader gets pulled out of the story. They stop reading.

When that happens, they don’t leave glowing reviews. They don’t recommend it to their friends. And they don’t buy your next book.

So before you submit your book to your publisher, or hit publish on KDP, take time to ask whether your story passes muster on these three points.

Principle #1: Don’t bore the reader.

Life is short. There are too many great books out there for your reader to waste time on a boring story. So you better make damn sure your story isn’t boring.

a bored man sitting in front of a taxi cab
Photo by Julian Howard on Unsplash
Elmore Leonard said he left out the parts that readers skipped over. He didn’t want to bore his readers. Which is why he would sometimes sum up bits of dialogue with a line of narration. Because maybe we already know what the characters would say.

If Raylan Givens tells a cop who just showed up on the scene what just happened, we don’t necessarily need to hear three pages of Raylan recounting what we already witnessed as readers.

So Elmore Leonard might instead just say, Raylan told Officer Jones what just happened, leaving out all the boring parts.

Info dumps also tend to be boring, especially in the middle of a scene. It’s like racing down the street and suddenly killing the engine for no reason. The action abruptly stops. The thrill is gone, baby. The reader tosses the book aside. Next!

Without giving the readers a full accounting of our character’s histories at the beginning of the book, we’re afraid we will pull the readers out of the story. But doing so can put readers in a coma.

The best way to fix this is by identifying the absolutely critical elements in the info dump, intersperse those bits into action and/or dialogue, then toss the rest. Because readers are smarter than you think. They are used to figuring things out from context. And what they don’t figure out right away can introduce a sense of intrigue that will keep them reading.

Also, look at how you describe characters. Does the reader need to know that the receptionist in the office has blond hair? Or is it more revealing that his clothes are rumpled? See what I just did there? You were assuming the receptionist was a woman, huh?

Describe characters in ways that reveal who they are, not just what they look like. Jim Butcher is especially good at this. He can tell you three things about a character, and you know as much about their personality or history as what they look like.

Okay, enough on this principle. You get the point. I don’t want to bore you.

Principle #2: Don’t insult the reader or their intelligence.

a woman with shocked expression staring at a laptop
That whole thing about writing what you know? It's bull hockey! Well, to an extent.

It's okay to write about things you don't have personal experience with, provided you do the proper research. This applies to writing about space exploration, police procedures, and locations you've never visited.

One of my pet peeves are scenes where someone’s house has been broken into and the cop says, “The lock doesn’t appear to be picked. There are no scratches on the lock.”

Granted most people aren’t as familiar with lockpicking as I am (long story for another time). Thing is, unless a burglar is a complete klutz, they won't be scratching up the outside of the lock. The picks go INSIDE the cylinder.

If you don't want to look like a fool, do your research and have an expert in the field beta-read your story to check for glaring errors. Because readers will tell you when you screw up and ding you in reviews. Better to learn about it before it goes out to the world.

woman holding a rainbow pride flag
Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
The same goes for writing about marginalized communities of which you are not a member. As an outsider to that community, you are missing a lot of context—lingo, cultural references, and social taboos, just as an example.

So if you are writing about a transgender woman, do your freakin’ research on what it’s like to be transgender in this day and age. There are lots of YouTube channels from trans people who share what they face on a day-to-day basis.

I can’t count the number of poor representations of trans characters I’ve read or seen on the screen. Trans women stumbling around in heels or the trans hooker trope, that kind of crap. It just turns me off.

Once you’ve done your research and have written as authentic a character as you can, have a sensitivity reader take a look at it. Not only will they help you avoid alienating readers, but they will help you create a more nuanced, authentic character.

Principle #3: Don’t confuse your readers (at least not for too long)

Stranger Things logo
It took me three or four episodes before I had any clue what was going on in the Netflix series Stranger Things. A lot of people quit watching after one episode because it was too confusing. Eventually, I caught on and fell madly in love with the show.

I also struggled quite a bit reading the first book in Jim Butcher’s Cinderspire series because the world was so different than what I could relate to. And I’m a big fan of his Dresden Files novels.

If you throw so much at your readers at once that they get completely confused, they will stop reading.

A little confusion is okay and can generate intriguing questions in the reader’s mind, propelling them through the story. But if you push it too far, they will toss the book aside. Readers don’t mind figuring things out from context, but don't make them do advanced calculus along the way.

I struggled with this a little bit with my outlaw biker series. There is a lot of lingo that is foreign and confusing to non-bikers. What’s a bitch seat? What does it mean to ride sweep? What’s a cut? What are twisties? What does it mean to scrape the pegs? I knew what they were because I'm a biker. But most of my readers are not.

So much of this is a balancing act. You don’t want to bore the readers or insult their intelligence by overexplaining things. At the same time, you don’t want them so confused that they throw your book at the wall in frustration. So how do you know where the happy medium is?

Get feedback from critique partners or beta-readers, especially people who may not be as versed as you are on the topic.

Final Thoughts and Parting Shots

Your book is a partnership between you, as the author, and the reader. Your goal is not only to tell a story, but to tell it in a way that keeps the reader reading. Because if they stop reading, they probably won't leave a review. They won't recommend it to their friends. And they won't buy or read your next book. So keep the readers reading. Follow these three principles.


photo of dharma kelleher
As one of the few transgender authors in crime fiction, Dharma Kelleher writes gritty stories for misfits, oddballs, and eccentrics. 

She is the author of the Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series and the Shea Stevens outlaw biker series. You can learn more about Dharma and her work at https://dharmakelleher.com.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Book Launch

By Claire Booth
A Deadly Turn had its official launch last night.

I read a short passage, which I do at every signing. This one was much more difficult to choose, however. I usually stick pretty close to the beginning, but this time I had to go further into the book to find something that would work. That's because the very start of A Deadly Turn is pretty intense. I didn't 1) want to give that away, and 2) turn the whole event into a downer.

Once I found a good spot, I marked the hell out of it. I've found that doing this beforehand helps me with reading aloud.
One of the keys to a fantastic event is the location. As you can see below, I had that. My local independent bookstore is called Face in a Book, and it's the most welcoming, reader-centric place you can imagine. (And wouldn't you kill to have those kinds of bookshelves in your home? I would.)

After all the writing in a quiet room (i.e. no human contact), it was wonderful to share the results with people. And I can't thank everyone who came enough. It might have been just one evening, but your support (and I think I can safely speak for other authors on this, too) gets me through years of slogging along on a manuscript. Thank you.
How could I not end with a shot of happy readers?