Saturday, June 22, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 25

Scott D. Parker

This week, I got to fly.

See ya next week.

Naw, I'm just kidding. But I really did get to experience the one super power most people would select if given the choice.

A Great Father's Day Gift

My wife, boy, and parents all pitched in a bought me two flights at iFly, the indoor skydiving place just up the road from where I live. I had always wanted to try it, but never got off high center. Then, a few weeks ago, I commented that a friend of ours did a tandem jump as part of his bucket list. The wife quickly nipped that in the bud--I am the bread winner of the house--by signing me up for the indoor, safe version.

And it was a blast! If you want to read the entire story, here you go.

Brides of Death Review Complete But...

I finished proofing the fourth Calvin Carter novel. Today, I'll be formatting it and uploading it to the various bookstores. As a reminder, I go with Amazon and Kobo direct and leave the rest of Draft2Digital. Part of me thinks I ought to just use D2D, but I like the ability to use Amazon ads and I don't think you can do it without going direct with them. If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

In proofing the book, there were large sections I particularly enjoyed. Yeah, I know it's my book, but I hadn't read it in awhile. I was pleasantly surprised with some of the twists and turns. I especially liked how Carter himself was further fleshed out.

But what I realized was I think I titled it incorrectly.

Now I'm faced with the prospect of not only re-titling the book--not a huge problem because I haven't uploaded it--but having to go back and revise all my previous books. Again, with the ebooks, it's just some busy work, but not difficult.

The issue will be the paperback covers. Not the revising of the cover image, but it's the cost. At Amazon, I merely have to re-upload a new cover. No charge involved. But for IngramSpark, there will be a charge. A monetary penalty for me not reading the book sooner and knowing the title was wrong.

Lesson learned.

Reading and Learning and Taking Notes

I've been listening to THE SCAM by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg and I'm soaking in the story and the structure. I listen every morning as I get ready at home and my morning commute. Scott Brick narrates the book. I could listen to him read the phone book or algebra formulas. I love spending my mornings with him.

When I hit a passage that want to remember, I send myself a reminder on my phone. Then, when I get to my office, I do two things. I pick up the paperback I keep in my car and mark notes on the actual passages. Then, I write the notes in my Simplenote file on my computer. That way, I have notes on what I liked and what worked and how the story is told. At the end of a book I enjoy or thought was written well, I create an outline in which I place all the notes I took.

Constant learning. It's how I progress as a writer.

Do you have a way to read and learn from books you read?

Batman '89 Week

Starting tomorrow--forever Batman Day in my mind--I'll be having a few entries about the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman. I re-watched the movie last night and will have some 2019 thoughts on the film. And more.

Come back, read, and enter the conversation and the reminiscences.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Take me to the River (again)

So I just finished a novella.

It’s a new Danny Bird story and Fahrenheit press commissioned it for their new Tete-Beche 69 imprint (they’ve been talking about it on the Socials, so I guess I’m allowed to share it here) and it’s going to be back to back with a new story from one of my favourite writers (and favourite people) Jo. Perry.

And the writing of my novella – which runs slightly longer than a novella (I know: Me being overly verbose! Whodathunk) – was an absolute blast. It was funny and fun and it brought me back to the early days when I wrote with no idea that publication was even a thing.

But then, when it was finished, I found my brain went into overdrive, like the act of focussing on the book had held me back from thinking for a few days (okay a few weeks cos I write slow and there were redrafts) about the state of the world, the state of my bank account, my father’s upcoming eightieth Birthday (happy birthday for yesterday, dad), the looming fourth anniversary of my mother’s death, a planned but not at all ready for visit by my brother and his family to stay with me for two weeks, a trip with my husband and my dad to Harrogate. Then there’s my birthday (yay me, I survived another year on the dumpster fire that is life today), a friends birthday, various events, gigs, the rise of the Far Right, Nazis, Homophobes, Transphobes, violence in the streets, the unshakeable feeling that the bullies and liars are winning again, and my ever widening waist.

Yes, I know most of the above list is nice stuff, fun stuff, stuff I should (and do) look forward to, and where it’s not, is tuff I’m sort of limited in my ability to influence, but my brain’s not wired that way. My brain is wired to stress, to fear, to find the opportunity to convince the rest of me that there is no joy in any of that list, to feel guilt at not fixing the world and anxiety at everything else.

And so when, in the middle of all that stressing, my best friend suggested we go boating, it put me in somewhat of a quandry. You see, he’s my best friend, and I want to spend time with him, but also: MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE, DUDE! I CAN’T ADD ANOTHER THING TO THE LIST OF STUFF BANGING  AROUND IN IT. ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME HERE?

So of course (because the fear of causing offense was higher than the fear of having a meltdown or – in fact – the fear of drowning, which is in itself, quite high), I said yes, and we went boating two weeks apart.

The first trip was a narrow boat on the Wey river. My friend C and I, along with four other students and a crew of three teachers – travelled along a glorious stretch of water with nothing but green fields filled with curious cows on either side. The Wey has a river / canal structure, and some hand-operated locks that meant I needed to learn to tie the boat up, operate the locks, and use the tiller to steer the vessel along. When I shared the photo above on Facebook with some comment about having been up the Zambezi people were actually convinced that such beauty had to be somewhere exotic.

The second trip was last Saturday. The two of us – C and I – hired a motor boat (electric motor, top speed of 4mph) and pootled (what? That’s a verb. Well it is now) from Datchet down past Windsor and Eton, pausing for a picnic at Dorney Lake (where the 2012 Olympic rowing competitions were held) and on to the fabulously named Monkey Island (an Agatha Christie location in waiting, I think) before turning around and pootlling back to our home base at Datchet.

There was steering, low bridges, ducks, swans, herons, boats, boys, boys in boaters, and  there was – on both days – a need to focus, to see the river ahead, to check the bank for any immediate dangers – trees sticking into the river, sudden cuts or bends in the course that might hold crafts that would bolt out or alligators that could attack our vessel (kidding about the alligators) – and to be present, entirely, in the now.

Locks needed to be dealt with, ropes thrown, loops held, prows and sterns adjusted with the water flow.

And – for those few hours – everything else went away.

I think, as writers, we’re probably conditioned to always have a billion plates spinning in our brains; to have day jobs and creative projects, to be aware of and (perhaps) disturbed by the world around us. I know I am (though whether that’s because I’m a writer, or whether I’m a writer because writing helps me make sense of these often overwhelming feelings I do not know). But I also think it’s really useful to switch off sometimes, to literally go sailing (or pootling, since neither of the two boats I was in had sails attached), and to focus on one thing, to let everything else go for a while.

I think – even though I’m back on dry land – I’mma try to keep that messing about on boats feeling going a bit longer. How do you all handle overwhelm? What are your secrets for not letting it all fry your brain? I’d love to know.

Derek Farrell is the author of 5 Danny bird mysteries. “Death of a Diva,” “Death of a Nobody,” “Death of a Devil,” and “Death of an Angel” can all be purchased from the usual e-stores or directly from the publisher here. The fifth, “Come to Dust,” is available exclusively as a free download from his website .

His jobs have included: Burger dresser, Bank teller, David Bowie’s paperboy, and Investment Banker on the 80th floor of the World Trade Centre.

He’s just delivered a sixth Danny Bird mystery and is going straight into a new book as otherwise he tends to fret.

He’s often on social media and can be found at.
Twitter: @DerekIFarrell (
Instagram: Derekifarrell (

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Baby You're a Superstar!!!

Recently I met a fellow writer who wanted some advice on a novel they were working on. Let's call this writer  J. J. sent me a rough draft of  their novel. They wanted advice on tone and pacing and character. I read J's manuscript and gave some gentle advice about the MC and their motivations. I advised J. to get their book edited professionally. Not a necessity mind you but something that has worked for me in the past. After reading my genial critique J responded 
   "This sounds like it's going to take a long time. I don't want to wait until I'm old to be famous." 

    I stared at my computer screen for a long time after reading that sentence. Intellectually I understood it's meaning. I was able to process what J was saying. I just couldn't believe it. Don't get me wrong if any of my books ever become a best seller I'm going to revel in that notoriety well past what it is considered socially polite. However I've never ever sat down to write a story or a poem or a book with the express goal of being famous. Or infamous. I just wanted, no I just WANT to tell a good story. A story that will engage my reader and let me enjoy myself. Fame is far down the list for me. However it is on the damn list. Let's not jump into the realm of complete fantasy. 
       I am one of those corny hayseeds that really believes it's not just about the money. Because let's face it most writers, crime or otherwise don't get rich from actual writing. A few of us might be able to make a decent living. The truly fortunate can afford to write full time. The truly blessed are  earing a salary with more than five figures I'd hazard a guess that if you asked those truly rare examples of superstar authors they would tell you the intention was never to be "famous"  The goal , the first goal is and always will be  to have someone read your work and not vomit immediately from the vastness of your ineptitude. 
      It would be easy to dunk all over J for being shallow, vulgar and avaricious. J. set themselves up to be posterized viciously. I'm not going to do that. J. is a good writer. They  have a lot of talent and a vivid imagination. Sadly that's not enough. Not now nor has it ever been just about talent. Determination, flexibility, focus , these are just some of the traits I think it takes to be a successful writer. Again when I'm using the word "successful" I'm not just talking about monetary compensation. I'm talking about success that is measured in the emails you get from readers telling you your book helped them as they sat in the waiting room of a maximum security prison while they waited for their son and their monthly visit.
   I asked J.
"Do you want to be a good writer or do you want  to be famous? People on the back of milk cartons were famous. " 
  J. didn't get the reference but they got my point. 
"Can't I be both?" 
 Yes you can. But if you are not the former you will most likely not become the latter. 

Unless you're Nicholas Sparks. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Blood on the (French) Tracks

You never know what you're going to get when a non-crime fiction writer takes a turn at what is essentially a crime novel.  Is the writer going to take an attitude of superiority towards the genre?  Will they keep things tight in the way a crime novel usually needs to be, and will they try to generate suspense?

I had these thoughts in mind when I picked up Marguerite Duras' novel L'Amante Anglaise recently.

Now I happen to like Duras very much as an author, and I've read a number of her other works.  In her books, which are always short and written in a spare but remarkably moody prose, you get emotional intensity to the max. But it's fair to say she doesn't tell stories reliant on plot in the way you'd associate with typical crime fiction.  Passion and lust run deep in her books, so the material is absolutely there for a crime tale, but Duras was never interested in the kind of linearity most crime tales take.

Yet here's some of the back cover copy from  L'Amante Anglaise: "A brutal murder is committed in a small town in rural France.  The dismembered corpse is dropped in pieces from a railway viaduct onto trains passing below.  The victim was a deaf-mute; the killer, her cousin Claire, may or may not be mad.  Claire, her husband, and a friend gradually reveal the story behind the crime."

As is clear from this, the book is not a whodunnit but, in essence, a whydunnit.  And it happens to be based on actual events that happened in France in the late 1940's, when parts of a corpse, without the head, were found in various train cars that eventually were linked to one viaduct all the trains with those cars had passed under.  As the back cover copy states, the book proceeds in three sections, with a  never named interviewer (basically the book's detective) talking to three major players in the drama: first, the owner of the town's local bar, then the murder victim's husband, and finally the killer herself.  It's a procedural for several voices, a crime novel told in dialogue, and as the conversations proceed, circling around certain events, jumping ahead in time then going back in time then forward again, the book becomes riveting.  It's a mixture of revelations and nagging questions, assumptions and enigmas.  And it goes without saying that in a story where you know who did the crime, the biggest mystery of all is the one that's most pressing anywhere you go -- the mystery of the human personality and what makes people act as they do.

L'Amante Anglaise is vintage haunting Marguerite Duras but also something unusual for her in its outright starkness and its matter of fact brutality.  I enjoyed it a lot. Here's a non-crime fiction author who wrote a crime novel with a feel and tone that could only be hers and that, at the same time, really works as a crime novel.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Writing While Trans: Cops and Corporations at Pride

Just over twenty-five years ago, I attended my first pride festival in Atlanta and was actually in the parade that wound through the midtown area to Piedmont Park. I was a newly out trans woman and was so excited to be surrounded by so many amazing queer people.

Why LGBTQ+ Pride is Celebrated

June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, fought back against cops after years of police brutality. The first gay pride parade was in honor of the one year anniversary of the riot.

When our right to exist is regularly challenged and politicized, when discrimination and violence are still a very real threat, the celebration of queer identities is a must in our ongoing fight for equality.

But for me, the local Pride festival and parade are no longer a part of that effort. I'd like to explain why.

Pride Has Sold Out to the Corporations

When I first attended Pride, it was not only a chance to feel safe and surrounded by my diverse, beautiful, and brave community, but it was a celebration of our culture. Parade floats and festival booths featured queer musicians, authors, and other creators of LGBTQ+ culture.

Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash
But that has changed dramatically. The cost for entering floats or renting a booth has skyrocketed so that the majority of booths and floats represent mega corporations hungry for the queer dollar.

Timeshares, banks, real estate companies, insurance companies, t-shirt companies, blah, blah, blah. Not even queer-owned business for the most part. And not always corporations with queer-friendly employment practices. But when booths cost $800+, who else can afford them? Certainly not queer authors like myself.

I am told that the money the local pride organizers charge goes toward LGBTQ+ charities and non-profits. And that is a very good thing. But the event itself has lost its soul. So I pass.

Uniformed Cops at Pride

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I am NOT a crook. Nor do I hate cops. I personally know several cops who are wonderful people. On the flipside, I am afraid of cops and for very good reason.

Photo credit: Rhododendrites
For starters, as mentioned above, the queer pride movement started as a fight against ongoing police brutality. Cops routinely raided gay clubs. Gay, trans, and other queer people were often brutalized, raped, and even killed by the very people charged with enforcing the law.

When I transitioned in the Deep (American) South in 1992, not much had changed. I had some scary encounters when stopped by law enforcement. Driving while Visibly Trans was a nightmare scenario.

But hey! That was long ago. It's not like that now, is it? I mean, we have Laverne Cox and RuPaul and Asia Kate Dillon on mainstream television.

And yet I regularly hear stories from my queer friends being harassed and bullied by law enforcement. And don't get me started on how we're treated by the TSA. And then there is the clear message from the Trump administration that queer people don't matter. We don't deserve to serve in the military. We don't deserve any protection from discrimination by employers or even doctors. We have no value as far as they are concerned.

Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue on Best Running / CC BYCopy
Just this past week, a deputy police chief called for the extermination of queer people. Our extermination!!! Police in Detroit led a band of armed neo-Nazis right to the Pride festival to harass queer festival goers. Why are we not allowed to celebrate our community and culture free from abuse and threats of violence?

When north Texas cops are caught sharing racist memes on Facebook, when cops threaten to kill a pregnant, unarmed black woman in Phoenix because her four-year-old accidentally shoplifted a doll, do you think I want these same officers showing up wandering around the Pride festival grounds? Hell no!

I know there are many wonderful law enforcement officers. But when you are part of a marginalized community that has been historically abused by cops and continues to be, I don't want them anywhere near where we gather.

Queer cops are welcome, but not in uniform.

Pride Should Be a Safe Space and a Celebration of Culture

I wasn't always so firm on this stance, but the recent events mentioned above, combined with my personal and community history, have changed my mind.

I want Pride to return to what it was, to reconnect with our roots. A declaration of our right to exist in peace and a celebration of our culture. Not a sellout to corporate America or a place where our oppressors refuse to give us a safe space.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Group of Crime Writers Walks Into a Bar . . .

Earlier this week, a group of people who make things up for a living decided to try sticking to the facts instead.
Eileen Rendahl, me, Mick West, Holly West, Ann-Marie L'Etoile and James L'Etoile holding our prizes for winning the true crime pub quiz--books!
A local pub was hosting its regular quiz night, but for the first time, the trivia had a true crime theme. How could a bunch of mystery writers pass this up? Eileen Rendahl and DSDer Holly West are huge true crime readers and podcast fans, including of the juggernaut My Favorite Murder show. James L’Etoile brought his considerable knowledge of serial killers, and I pulled from the hodge-podge of random details rattling around my brain. Our group was rounded out by civilians (aka non-mystery writers) Mick West and Ann-Marie L’Etoile. Individually, we all had huge gaps in our knowledge. Collectively, we were awesome.
We arrived early in order to properly hydrate.
We had perfect scores for the first two rounds, and on the third round only missed the real title of the Unabomber Manifesto (“Industrial Society and Its Future”).

We were feeling pretty good about ourselves until the fourth and last round, when “the wheels came off,” as L’Etoile put it. We only answered two of nine correctly. (For example, what well-known true crime writer co-authored And The Sea Will Tell in 1991? The answer was Vincent Bugliosi—we said Joseph Wambaugh.) We were growing increasingly more worried by the table next to us, which was full of librarians. Terrifying, knowledgeable librarians. Had they aced the fourth round while we were busy trying to figure out which area on the Mendocino Coast was the location of several different sensational crimes? (Geography did not turn out to be one of our strong points.)
In the end, we managed to eke out a victory, which we noted with some subdued, adult-like applause. Nope, that’s fiction. We really whooped and hollered like little kids. And then the librarians came over to introduce themselves. They were, as most librarians are, delightful people who were also funny and charming—but still terrifyingly knowledgeable about crime (there’s a novel in there somewhere, I know there is).