Saturday, May 11, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 19

Scott D. Parker

This was one of those weeks when the day job's activities outweighed the writer job activity. It was a light week, all things considered.

A List of Favorite Podcasts

This week's theme on the blog was some of my favorite podcasts. I started off the week with a look at The Ralph Report by Ralph Garman, then followed that up with a review of Fatman Beyond with Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin. After a quick review of The Empire Film Podcast, I ended the week with a pair of podcasts devoted to KISS: PodKISSt and The KISS Room.

And that is basically what the writing week was like. Didn't get a ton of fiction writing done this week.

The highlight of the week was finally getting to see The Struts! Talk about a great show! Luke Spiller truly is a rock star. We saw them in the House of Blues, but the next time he comes through town, the venue will be larger and I'll be further away.

It was a low-key week. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. Especially considering the summer I've got planned.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Writer's Complaint (In Memes)

By David Nemeth

Last week, Abby Hargreaves wrote a post in Book Riot and it got some writers upset as they don't like getting tagged in social media about negative reviews.

Here's a little play in memes about writers, social media, and negative reviews.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of wonderfully bright and energetic college students about the wonderful, wacky , soul crushing world of writing. Specifically about how one goes about getting published. One of the comments I heard over the course of this invigorating event that really stuck with me was this.
    "When are we getting rid of big publishers? When are we going to make publishing more accessible for everyone?" 
       One of the other writers who was attending the event fielded this question and explained that in China they have a unique system where individuals serialize their work and if a publisher likes it they approach them about collecting the serialization into a book. This may be one possible evolution of the publishing dynamic. Another person within earshot talked about self-publishing and the avenues that had opened. Another person mentioned writer collectives and communal publishing entities. But none of these answers seemed  to satisfy the person who posed  the initial question. 
     "Why can't everyone just get compensated equally for their writing?"  
   To be honest that last sentence is a fair bit of paraphrasing but essentially the person who posed the original question seemed to be asking why couldn't  they write whatever they wanted and get paid a lot of money. A sort of socialistic infrastructure but with capitalistic rewards.
   I didn't address the issue at the time because frankly it took me awhile to order my thoughts in a way that didn't involve screaming and gnashing of teeth. But now after some reflection and some wine let's try to address this query. 
 The idea is a noble one isn't?  Anyone who fancies themselves a writer should be able to put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard and ignore all criticisms and editorial suggestions and have mysterious financial benefactors toss millions of dollars at them. Don't we all wish that was the case? But if wishes were horses beggars would ride. 
    Now before we go any further let me be clear. The current business model in respect to publishing has it's share of problems. As a black man who writes rural crime fiction I have had many doors slammed in my face. Hell, I have a lot doors that never opened to pay me the courtesy of then slamming in my face. However there is a dirty little secret in the arts. One that some of us, like the person who posed the question at the conference I attended never want to confront. 
     Some people are better at their chose art than you are. 
Art is inherently subjective. Beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder. What one person thinks is remarkable another person wouldn't use to line a birdcage. However one would never say a fish is less of an important part of the ecosystem because it can't climb a tree. Thus we should accept the conceit that some of us are better at writing than others. And I am including myself in this axiom. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of authors whose work leaves me in awe and whose skills I know fare outstrip my own. I accept that. It doesn't diminish me as a writer. But talent is only one part of the equation. 
     Gabino Iglesias is a writer I admire for his talent and his drive. He is always hustling. Always signal boosting. Always trying to get better as a writer and an author. Hustle, drive, hard work can level the playing field for writers. Yet if we accepted the model that the person who posed that question wants us to adopt I feel as though hard work and talent no longer matter. Everyone regardless of skill or desire or drive would receive the same amount of monetary and literary adulation. 
        That to me in a word is insulting. 
    I know I am not the first or the last writer, of any genre, who has worked hard. The concept is inexorably tied to the endeavor. Writing can be gratifying. It can be exciting. It can even on rare occasions feel easy. But don't fooled. It is a mind searing, lonely difficult job that required discipline, dedication, education (and I'm not just talking about an MFA) and skill. It is an almost magical alchemy of imagination and grit. And not everyone can do it.  
     The same person who posed the question also remarked that they couldn't find the time to write.
I find that those two ideas are often time entwined. Give me a lot of money but I don't really have the time to write. But when I do write don't dare share with me anyways that my writing could improve. 
 The harsh truth is there are no participation trophies in this game. And lest you, gentle reader, think that this is a screed against Generation Z or millennials the person who posed the question was older than I am. And I'm no spring chicken. 
   Stephen King has a lot of great quotes about writing but the one that sticks with me the most is this 

                                                 "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness , excitement , hopefulness, or even despair- the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenchedand your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take names , You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again. you must not come lightly to the blank page. 

As I said before the publishing world has it's share of problems. Under represented groups not having the full support of publishers. Unequitable royalties and contracts. Shifting dynamics that seek to exclude some voices. But the one thing that I have seen in my short , short career. If you approach the work with seriousness and determination and a thick skin sometimes the cream will rise. This writer's life isn't for the faint of heart. It isn't for the dabblers. It's for the ones who apply their inherent talent and meld it with hard work. Who find the time to write. Who make the sacrifices. Who do not come lightly to the blank page. Those are the ones who get the rewards. Because they earned it. It's not for everyone......and everyone can't do it. But those who can are  few......

    A happy few. ….( with apologies to Henry V and St.Crispin)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Space for Darkness: Rock and a Hard Place Magazine

Scott's note: As Stanton McCaffery, New Jersey-based writer Roger Nokes has written one novel.  Published in 2017, it's called Into the Ocean, a tale that takes place in a suburban New Jersey town with its share of poverty, corruption, drug degradations, and violence.  I know Roger, and despite his proclivity for painting bleak pictures, he happens to be quite a nice guy, with a sense of humor.  He also happens to be industrious and willing to take a risk with his time and energy.  Over the last several months, Roger has been involved with a project he will tell you about here - a project that sounds well-worth supporting.

Here's Roger to tell you.

A Space for Darkness: Rock and a Hard Place Magazine
By Roger Nokes

“I don’t get it,” my wife says to me, “you have a clinical depression and yet you like the darkest and most depressing shit.”

We’ve been together for roughly twenty years and she’s posed that to me as a question multiple times each of those years. At first, I didn’t know. I would shrug and go and listen to Alice in Chains or read Edgar Allan Poe. Now, I think I have something close to an answer. It’s comforting.

This is going to sound cliché, I know, but it helps to know that I’m not the only person that feels the way I do. If I read something or listen to something that’s rosy, I try not to sneer like an insufferable curmudgeon, but I do often wonder if I live in an alternate reality from the person that created it.

And that’s why noir feels so right to me; it’s devoid of hope that so often feels forced and artificial. Working people suffering just like you and I suffer, making mistakes and doing the wrong thing - there’s something so validating about that. And I think there can be validation and comfort without there being a happy ending. After all, looking around, I see very few happy endings and I want the fiction I consume to somehow reflect or say something about the world that I live in, something genuine.

Ruminating on all of this, I thought late last year that it would be nice to create a place that lifted some genre restrictions on noir but kept some others - or maybe didn’t lift them as much as just blurred the lines a little. To me, a crime doesn’t always have to occur in a story to demonstrate someone in a miserable situation. It often does and I love those stories and recognize the importance of looking at characters forced to live outside of society’s rules, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like to lift that restriction a little.

Then I thought, well, I like horror too and I like weird fiction, so, what would it look like to create something that allowed for these things but asked that they all focus on people at the bottom? To me, that would feel real. Even if the stories were made up, they would be true.

I talked to some people, explained my idea. Most thought launching a fiction magazine was perhaps not the best idea. I’d upset people by not accepting their work or accepting it and then editing it. I wouldn’t make any money. I would increase my already high blood pressure.

Yeah, they’re totally right, but this felt like an itch I just needed to scratch. I needed to see if this idea could have legs. And plus, this would not be the first time in my life I ignored perfectly sound advice.

I talked to more people and eventually found a few good dudes willing to also take the risk with me. Each of us, I’m sure, has slightly different likes and motivations, but I think it’s safe to say that we each want to do this because we want to create something. Something that feels real.

What we came up with: Rock and a Hard Place Magazine.

We launched our website,, in March and then opened for submissions. “Rock and a Hard Place Magazine,” says the site, “is a cross-genre magazine publishing works of fiction that focus on the plight of marginalized, poor, depressed, and desperate people.” In a month and a half, we received over 160 submissions.

We’re still going through the pile and we haven’t finalized which pieces we will include in the first issue – due out in July – but I can tell you this: These stories are going to kick you in the gut. They’re going to make you feel.

Honestly, starting this project has reaffirmed my faith in the power of fiction. Just like it’s supposed to do, fiction about people in desperate situations makes me more empathetic in a way that non-fiction and biographies for some reason just don’t. It takes me out of my own head.

My gamble is that these stories and this idea do the same thing for other people, that perhaps by sharing stories of hurt and desperation and despair, we can help people feel like they aren’t alone. It’s a bit counterintuitive, I know, but I think a way to find light in the world is to look right at the darkness and to understand it.

Does something about this idea speak to you? Maybe you just like a good story. That’s cool too. Either way, we want your work and we need your help. We’re going to re-open for submissions in the summer. In the meantime, we want to pay the writers and artists we publish because we’d rather their lives not look like those of the characters in their stories.

If you want to help out, check out our Go Fund Me:

Any donation of $50 or more gets a copy of issue one signed by the editors. Any donation of $100 or more gets a special shout-out at our launch event this summer. Of course, what’s most important is that you’ll help us bring this project to life.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Writing While Trans Part 1: Bad Marketing Advice

I hear it time and time again in talks on how to market as an author.

"Don't talk about politics on social media because it can alienate potential readers."

Of course, this advice invariably comes from writers who are white, cisgender, and straight--people whose existence and identity are not already politicized. They're going after the "everybody who reads my genre" market.

The advice is well-intentioned, but for those of us in marginalized communities who have to fight for our right to exist, whose identities are already politicized, it simply doesn't make sense. In fact, it can be counter-productive.

I'm a transgender lesbian who writes gritty crime fiction. My very existence alienates some people.

Science has proven I didn't choose to be who I am. Nor was it my choice for politicians and political parties to viciously and relentlessly shame me for existing, spread misinformation about my community, and pass laws that make it more difficult for people like me to hold a job, get ordinary medical care, or use a public restroom.

So with all that, do you think I'm worried about alienating these same people as potential readers? Here's a hint: the protagonist of one of my series is a lesbian outlaw biker. The other is a transgender woman working as a bounty hunter. The bigots are not my target market.

As I said before, I understand the intention behind the marketing advice. Time and time again a writer or bookstore owner or small press publisher will say something that riles people up, which then impacts said people's business.

Let's take for example, the kerfuffle over Mystery Writers of America's plan to award Linda Fairstein the Grand Master Award. Turns out that "as the head of the Sex Crimes Unit, Fairstein was instrumental in the wrongful conviction of five black teenagers accused of raping a white woman jogger in Central Park in 1989," according to an article in the LA Times.

The announcement of the award drew an outcry from MWA members and other crime fiction authors who didn't want to reward someone involved in a shameful, racially-motivated miscarriage of justice. The MWA rescinded the award.

That decision also drew criticism. Otto Penzler, owner of New York's Mysterious Bookstore, wrote that the MWA's decision to rescind the award was the result of "the small coterie of frightened sheep caving to political correctness." Barbara Peters of Scottsdale's Poisoned Penn bookstore called MWA's withdrawal of the award "caving to the mob rather than standing by its decision." Yes, the "mob" of people who oppose rewarding a prosecutor who coerced confessions from black teenage boys.

You can find more details about what happened on a post from Shelf Awareness.

A lot of crime fiction authors I've spoken with have been appalled at being called "frightened sheep caving to political correctness" for speaking out against racism and abuses by police and prosecutors. Penzler's and Peters' statements are what the advice at the top of this post was intended to curtail.

But the problem isn't that their statements are political. The problem is that such comments are just wrong. They discourage speaking out against injustice. They support the white patriarchy's ongoing abuses of power against minorities. And sadly, the marketing advice of "don't be political on social media" only encourages that silence. Don't rock the boat. Don't speak out. Just pretend it's all okay.

Better marketing advice would be "don't be a jerk on social media." Don't be mean. Don't attack vulnerable people in marginalized communities. Don't be a racist. Don't be queerphobic. Don't be a misogynist. Don't spread lies and misinformation. And don't defend people who do. But do speak out against injustice, cruelty, and bigotry.

I will leave you with this quote from human rights activist Ginetta Sagan, "Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor."

As one of the only transgender authors in crime fiction, Dharma Kelleher brings a unique voice to the genre, specializing in gritty thrillers with a feminist kick. She rides a motorcycle, picks locks, and has a dark past she’d rather forget.

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

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Binge a Book!

By Claire Booth
There was a really interesting opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday about binging books. Ben Dolnick talks about how the experience of a novel is different when you read it in great chunks, instead of little bits. You get more of the subplots, the humor, the character development. So instead of binging a TV show, how about binging a novel once in a while? Disclosure: Dolnick is a novelist, so he's naturally biased. I naturally agree with him,which I'm sure surprises absolutely no one.
You can read his entire column here.