Saturday, July 6, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 27

Scott D. Parker

A short week at the day job proves timely for the writing job.  It a lot happened this week so this’ll be short.

The new book goes well. I started on Monday, 1 July, and I’ve written every day so far. Up to 8,553 so far. With this book not being a western or mystery/Thriller—it’s a slice-of-life tale—I’m having to rely on different muscles, namely the writing kind. When you’re writing a mystery, sometimes you can skate through the story as long as you have a Crime and a detective. Doesn’t mean it’s easier or that it can’t have character. It just means there’s a given narrative thread to follow.

Not necessarily so with this book. So far. I’ve already realized there is some tension between my lead characters and it’s already reared it’s head. Good. A little tension isn’t a bad thing.

Best thing is the excitement. It’s always fun starting a book. Just got to maintain the excitement through the rest of the month as the story progresses.

New Book, New Technique

For as many writers there are, there’s are that many ways to write. Many authors I’ve read about use the following method. Write a set number of words, the go back and review what’s been written, fixing words and things along the way. Then, when they reach the place where they stopped, they keep going from there. Repeat as needed. The theory is you keep going over your words in your Creative voice, and, by the end, you’ve got a pretty clean first draft. You’ll still have to edit it, but all the nit picky work will have been done.

I’m trying that way this time. It’s new for me. We’ll see how it goes.

I also read my chapter aloud and pick up a lot that way, especially with dialogue.

Fishing and Gunfire

The wife loves to fish but we don’t do it very often. Yesterday, we did. Out in west Houston, there are some stocked ponds. We went out there yesterday afternoon and spent the day fishing. Well, she fished and caught fish. I think she caught something like ten little fish. I fed worms to the fish.

Funny thing is the spot is within earshot if the gun range. So the “fireworks” continued on into yesterday afternoon.

Kinda funny.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Gets It

I enjoyed most of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. I saw neither of the Andrew Garfield ones. But I love Tom Holland's two movies not for the super-heroics--which are, nonetheless, awesome!--but for the Peter Parker parts.

Homecoming was basically a John Hughes film if Hughes did a high school super-hero movie. Far From Home is like when your favorite sitcom blows up in the ratings and they take a trip to Europe. I'm looking at you Family Ties Goes to London (or whatever it was called).

Far From Home is a hilarious romp of a film with super-hero stuff thrown in. All the razzle dazzle stuff is what you'd expect. But its the Parker stuff that really counts and has meaning. I went with my teenager and he really enjoyed it. I suspect he sees his own high school in the scenes because I certainly saw mine.

Character, character, character. It goes a long way to grounding a film and keeping the audience invested.

Well, like I said, this was going to be a short post. In the next few posts, I will discuss new marketing ideas I plan to try, and a new outlook for the second half of 2019.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

New Heroes.

Willem Arondeus

My attention was drawn, this week, by Doctor Robert Bohan (@RobertBohan), a scientist and artist on Twitter (by which I mean a scientist and artist who posts on Twitter and not that he is only those things on that platform) to a story I’d not known of before.

I write fiction. I tell stories. I’m gay. I knew I was gay for a long time before admitting it to myself, and one of the things I’ve grown to realise is how the absence of heroes who are like us can have a lasting impact on self image and self worth.

So reading, on July 1st about Willem Arondeus was something I found deeply moving and profoundly inspirational.

Arondeus was born in 1894 to Hendrik Cornelis Arondeus (a fuel trader) and Catharina Wilhelmina de Vries. He was a founder member of the Dutch Resistance & Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jewish lives. He was murdered by the Nazis on July 1st 1943.

He grew up in Amsterdam. When he was 17 he told his parents that he was gay and within a year, they had kicked him out for refusing to hide his sexuality. At aged eighteen Arondeus was forced to make a living for himself, all connection with his family having been severed.

Turning to his talents, he painted, created illustrations & wrote, and it was a full ten years after striking out on his own before his talent was finally rewarded and he was commissioned to paint a mural for Rotterdam Town Hall (1923), though money was still hard to come by.

By the early thirties, Arondeus had worked on artwork for a number of poetry books as well as producing the artwork for a calendar. However, money continued to be in short supply. He was a virtual unknown and lived in impoverished circumstances. In 1932 he moved to a rural area near Apeldoorn, met Jan Tijssen, the son of a greengrocer, and the two fell in love. They set up home together, and remained a couple through the thirties. 

Though money was still in incredibly short supply, Arondeus refused to go on welfare, instead turning his focus to writing novels & biographies which - by 1935 - had begun to give him financial stability at last. 1938 saw him release two novels: Het Uilenhuis & In de Bloeiende Ramenas. These included his own illustrations.

In 1939 Arondeus published a biography of the painter Matthijs Maris & this helped him climb out of poverty. It is his best known work.

Arondeus at Home.

On May 10th 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and within five days the Dutch Forces, despite fighting bravely were outnumbered and – after Rotterdam had been levelled in a Blitzkrieg – surrendered to prevent more civilian deaths.

The Nazis now set about rolling out their Final Solution to annihilate the Jewish, LGBTQI & Roma populations in the Netherlands. As always with such murderers, they set about legitimising their murder via the use of legal structures. To this end they immediately criminalised homosexuality and set about gathering lists of ‘undesirables’, in this case via a registration plan for all citizens which required ethnicity, religion and other characteristics to be stated.

To achieve this goal, the Nazis offered a bounty to Dutch police and administration officials to locate and identify Jews, aiding in their capture. But, uniquely among all German occupied areas, the city of Amsterdam organized an industrial action to protest the persecution of its Jewish citizens.

Willem’s sense of justice informed his decision to join the Resistance. He was one of the first. In 1942, he founded Branderisbrief, a magazine intended to inspire his fellow artists to resist. He urged them to hide the Jews & use their skills to help forge papers. He was putting himself at great risk. He had realised that the registration of Dutch Jews & others was not for their safety, as claimed. Within a year the magazine merged with De Vrije Kunstenaar (The Free Artist) which was edited by the sculptor Gerrit van der Veen & the new publication began to explicitly urge mass resistance to the Nazis plans.

Arondeus put his own artistic skills to use by forging identity cards for Jews so that they might escape from torture & murder by the Nazis. However for the cards to work, the official Population Registration needed to be destroyed or the counterfeits would be easily identified

Frieda Belinfante
Willem, Gerrit, Sjoerd Bakker (a tailor), Johan Brouwer (a writer) & the lesbian cellist Frieda Belinfante formed a resistance council with others. Many of them were gay & their goal was to destroy the Registration Office.

Now, Imma stop here for a minute: A gay artist, a sculptor, a tailor, a writer  a Lesbian Cellist. Why is this not already a Hollywood blockbuster? Three Gays a Sculptor and a Lesbian Cellist versus The Nazis. Seriously: How?

On the 27th March 1943, Willem, his friend Gerrit van der Veen & the others disguised themselves as Dutch police. They gained access to the Municipal Office for Population Registration & blew it up.

The resistance council destroyed 800,000 identity cards & found 600 blank ones & 50,000 guilders. The resistance action saved many people from certain death. Sympathetic firefighters delayed turning up & used excessive water to also destroy as many records as possible.

The group were betrayed and Arondeus was arrested on April 1st.. He was tried on June 18th 1943 & sentenced to death in a sham trial. At his trial Arondeus bravely claimed complete responsibility for the bombing. Despite this, the Nazis executed 13 of the group.

Arondeus made a point of telling his lawyer to make the information that he, Bakker (the tailor) and Brouwer (the writer) were gay, and asked his lawyer to “Tell the people that gays are no cowards.”

On the morning of July 1st, Arondeus, in shackles, was driven to the dunes outside Overveen, and was tied to a wooden post. A hood was put over his head and he was murdered by firing squad.

Arondeus’ role, in one of the most important Dutch acts of resistance, was played down for many years in the Netherlands due to his sexuality. However with greater openness, his bravery was finally recognised by the Dutch government in 1984.

In 1986 Yad Vashem recognised Willem Arondeus as Righteous Among the Nations. This is a supreme honour for those who put themselves at risk to save Jews.

His name was Willem Arondeus. I can barely imagine how scared he must have been at so many stages in his life - rejected by his family and forced to fend for himself; living hand-to-mouth; risking ridicule to live and love openly; then the moment when he finally decided that he wasn't able to sit down and shut up, that he had to do something; the bombing; the arrest; the moment he finally stood, alone. With a hood over his face. And knew he was going to die.

Bravery, it's been said, is being scared, and doing the right thing any way.

Their names were Willem Arondeus, Frieda Belinfante, Sjoerd Bakker and Johan Brouwer. They were heroes and I wish I’d known of them before now, but now that I do I want to be more like them.

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, July 3, 2019




Early on in the film SUGAR HILL(1994) the film's lead Roemello Skuggs(Wesley Snipes) speaks to his dead mother telling her  "The boy you loved has become the man you feared." We know via a brief prologue that Roemello and his brother Raynathan watched their mother overdose on heroin in the kitchen of their Lennox Ave apartment. The fact that they have grown up to become the drug kingpins of Harlem gives Reoemello's brief soliloquy a tragic beauty. 
     I first saw Sugar Hill in 1998 as I sat on my cousin's couch in the wake of a house party gone awry. Amid the beer cans and shattered commemorative plates that we would have to explain to my aunt I watched a film that I found mesmerizing. Apparently I was the minority when it come to that opinion, As of July 3rd Sugar Hill has a score of 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. 
I can't tell you to ignore that RT score but I can tell you that there are precious few African American gangster films that have the atmosphere or poetic narrative that Sugar Hill has. Did the reach of the filmmakers exceed their grasps? Possibly but to this day Sugar Hill stands as a beautiful disaster that takes the hood movie motif  and tries  to inject it with a heavy  dose   of pathos. It's like someone watched King Lear  and Titus Andronicus and took out all the dismemberment and eye gouging and set it to a jazz score by Terence Blanchard. 

    Sugar Hill tells the story of drug kingpin Roemello Skuggs.  A former honors student Roemello and his brother the volatile  Raynathan , played with ferocious  intensity by Michael C.Wright  rule almost the entire drug trade in Harlem with the support of the Italian Mafia and capo Gus Molino. As a teenager Roemello gave up a scholarship to Georgetown after his father was beaten and shot by mob enforcer Sal Malino. A scene with a young Romello avenging his father by shooting Sal while wearing his private school blazer is both surreal and terrifying. The plot of the movie revolves around Roemello looking for a way out of the game and his brother Raynathan trying to desperately to hold on to his sibling. The chemistry between Snipes andWright is fraught with tension and affection. As is the relationship with many brothers. 
           When Roemello meets Melissa ,played by Teresa Randle , he decides to leave the criminal life for good. This decision sets in motion a series of events that ends in tragedy and tears but also ultimately redemption.  

     Sugar Hill is a gorgeously shot movie that boast incredible cinematography by Bojan Bazelli 
who also did the deed for The King of New York  and Deep Cover. He gives the film a lush hypnotic diaphanous look that contrast it's brutal and often shocking violence. Screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper structures the film like a play with characters delivering long sweeping monologues set against iconic New York City landscapes.   While his dialogue can seem overwrought  it's his themes that captivated the English major in me. Love , betrayal , death and friendship. Cooper creates scenes that are bombastic and emotional , mainstays of Shakespeare's work.  Other common traits and elements that define a Shakespearean tragedy are here on full display. The fatal flaw, the paradox of life. Ambition and revenge and finally catharsis. Other films have adapted and explored these themes with a bit more nuance but none of them had Wesley Snipes sporting a full length leather coat by Versace over a suit by Armani. Sugar Hill embraced the mythology of the drug kingpin as businessman then turned that myth on it's head with it's tragic ending. It showed how naive Roemello is when it comes to who he is and how he plies his trade. Raynathan is the Tybalt of this drama, all nervous energy and unbridled rage that hides a damaged soul. 
         For me as a young African American male in 1998 seeing Sugar Hill was a jarring experience. It showed a world(Harlem) that was as alien to me as the religious penitents I saw in Shocking Asia. I saw black men who weren't presented as the buffoonish sidekicks but were actually the principal characters with agency and attitude. 
That their story ends in despair was never the point. The point was and is , it was THEIR story set to the rhythms of one of the greatest writers to ever put quill pen to paper. Sugar Hill inspired me through it's magnificent failure. It showed me that stories filled with people who looked like me could try to scale that mountain that carries a film out of the valley of exploitation and caricature and into the land of true timeless art. 
For that young , stupid, commemorative plate breaking Shawn will always be grateful.

Shawn "S.A." Cosby is an Anthony nominated author and essayist. His first novel MY DARKEST PRAYER , published by Intrigue Publishing, is available from You can find out more about his work at his Facebook page "S.A. Cosby Author". 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

American Spy

For the time being, I'm taking a break from fiction reading, mainly because I have a lot of film books to read for the summer film talks series I host Monday afternoons in Bryant Park in Manhattan.  But I did want to mention the last novel I read, a few weeks ago, because it's one I enjoyed and that has stayed with me -- Lauren Wilkinson's American Spy

Written in the first person, American Spy is about Marie Mitchell, a black woman from New York City who during the 1980s works for the FBI.  Needless to say, she stands out in the bureau, both as a woman working in that old boy's club and as an African-American.  Wilkinson makes it entirely clear and plausible, though, why Marie has chosen this career: her father was a New York City police officer, and most influential was her older sister, a compelling figure with whom she had a complex relationship.  Since childhood, Marie's sister was somewhat obsessed with the idea of becoming a spy, and as an adult, she wound up joining the CIA. Her sister's example is one Marie followed in her choice of profession, and her sister, who died in a mysterious accident, is never far from her thoughts.  By 1986, after several years working for the FBI, Marie finds that her career is floundering, so when she gets an offer from the CIA to join them temporarily to help them with a particular mission they say she is suited for, she takes it.  But what specific job would the CIA need a young, black woman for? The answer: to get close to and help them discredit the president of the African country Burkina Faso. This is the real-life figure Thomas Sankara, a revolutionary leader of the time, who is sometimes called "Africa's Che Guevera".

In 1983, at the age of 33, Thomas Sankara took power after a popularly-supported coup d'etat in the former French colony of Upper Volta.  Sankara renamed the country Burkina Faso, which means "Land of Incorruptible People".  A Marxist and Pan-Africanist, he immediately set about introducing literacy and vaccination programs and pushing hard for equality for women in the country.  He resisted foreign aid, sought debt reduction from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and nationalized much of Burkina Faso's land and natural resources.  He was an energetic and very charismatic figure, popular in many parts of Africa, and naturally, considering his policies and rhetoric, he was not exactly regarded as a friend by the United States.  Again, this is 1986, during the Cold War and the Ronald Reagan presidency.  (It's also true that the former colonial ruling country, France, didn't take to Sankara either, but American Spy focuses on the American efforts to undermine him).  What became of his presidency is shown in the book, and of course, if you don't know what happened going into the book, you can always look it up before you reach the book's end to find out.  This is one of those novels where fact and fiction are blended and you know that part of the story has to end in a certain way, but Lauren Wilkinson's skills are such that the more you know about the historical record, the more you experience suspense while feeling a sense of deep melancholy.  At least, I did.  

American Spy is a number of things, and it succeeds on each level. It's a first-person character study and a political novel. It's a love story. It's a story about memory and history and the passing down of historical truth (Marie is telling her story, in 1992, to her two young sons).  It deals with race and gender both in the United States and Africa, and as the title indicates, it does all this while telling an espionage tale.  Lauren Wilkinson's novel is that rarest of things, a spy novel with a black protagonist.  There are precious few, and aside from Sam Greenlee's 1969 book, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, none spring to my mind.  It's remarkable though that so few have been written.  Perhaps this is because spycraft in the United States (and in European countries as well?) is so predominantly the province of whites?  In any event, the phenomenon of black identity and double consciousness, an idea explored by so many writers going back to W.E.B Du Bois, is one that melds perfectly with the spy novel. What does it mean to be an American, a black American, a woman who is a black American, a woman who is a black American who takes a job to bring down an African leader devoted to building a black nation that can be free of western imperialist control?  What face do you present to your parents, your teachers, your friends, your professional associates, your children, and, finally, yourself?

American Spy is a rich book and a lovely, propulsive read.  No wonder it's sticking with me.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Steve Lauden Puts It In A Letter

Today we have a special treat. 

You know Steve Lauden. S.W. to readers. Author of the Tommy and Shayna series; CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES. The Greg Salem series. BAD CITIZEN and GRIZZLY SEASON. 

Did you know it’s his (belated) birthday? 

To celebrate we’re having pizza and root beer over at Do Some Damage so grab your red solo cups and pull up a chair. Steve’s been nursing his A&W and has a few to say to his younger self.


Dear Me

By S.W. Lauden

Dear Twenty-Year-Old Steve,

I know you’re probably busy scraping together quarters to buy another twelve pack of Lucky Lager, but pay attention—this is important. I'm writing you because yesterday was our fiftieth birthday. Yep, we're still alive.

From your vantage point fifty probably seems ancient and, some days, I must admit I still agree, but I'm happy to report that it's not nearly as dull and pointless as we once assumed. If nothing else, life’s exciting simply because it’s so totally unpredictable. What if I told you that Iggy Pop outlived David Bowie? And that The Rolling Stones are still on tour. Now do I have your attention?

I'm sure you've got questions for me, but let's get the basics out of the way first—life's pretty good. We're happily married and have two great kids. We have a challenging job and manage to maintain a comfortable, suburban existence (I know, yawn). Our body seems to be holding up, which is a little crazy considering what we put it through (Lucky Lager’s only the start). We've got less hair and we worry way too much about money and politics, but trust me when I tell you that we're very lucky.

That's the happy news. The sad news is that not all of our friends and family are still around to celebrate this big birthday with us. I won't name names, just make sure to enjoy the time you have with each other. Our life has naturally had some ups and downs, but friends and family have always been there to see us through, and we've tried our best to be there for them too. If nothing else, we've definitely laughed a lot.

What else?

By this point I'm sure you're wondering what became of our aspirations and dreams. Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news first. I'm happy to report that we've made a few records, gotten to tour parts of the world, and even managed to publish a few books along the way. Unfortunately, we did all of that without much commercial success. Just know it wasn't for lack of effort, dedication or hustle.

Which brings me to the best news—we're still making music and writing books. In fact, we published our sixth crime book, That'll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, a couple of weeks ago. And our latest band, The Brothers Steve, just released a new single through Big Stir Records (with a full album on vinyl scheduled for next month). Did I mention that CDs are dead and vinyl is back? You can’t make this stuff up!

I know, I know. A fifty-year-old still recording albums and writing books even though he never became famous? I can't blame you for thinking that's lame, but one thing you'll come to realize is that it's important to spend time doing the things you love. What's the purpose of life, otherwise? Sure, plenty of people will look at you sideways when you tell them what you do with your "free time," but it's really none of their fucking business. (By the way, we curse more than ever at fifty, mostly because we don't give two shits what other people think—so you can at least look forward to that).

There are so many other things I wanted to say, but I don't want to ruin any surprises. Just know that If I had it to do all over again, I would. Well, maybe I'd sell a few more records and books, but there's still plenty of time for that. And I might have bought stock in Apple or Amazon when it was still cheap, but otherwise I‘d do it all exactly the same.

I hope you feel the same when you turn fifty too. I’m here to tell you it isn’t so bad. So take care of yourself and try to make the most of everyday. You can start by upgrading from Lucky Lager. Might I suggest Meister Brau?



S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen CorporationGrizzly Season and Hang Time. His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossed Bones. A new novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, was released on June 18, 2019. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. More info at

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Word-of-Mouth Business

I wrote a review this week—not for a book, but for a service. We had some construction work done, and the company did a great job. I told the owner that, and he said, “Do you ever go on Yelp?” Because that helps tremendously. Reviews get the word out, he said. Lets people know that you provide a good service.
I had to laugh—for two reasons. One, because of course I checked reviews before I chose a construction company. I went on Yelp and Angie’s List, and I carefully read what people had to say. That helped me steer clear of unreliable companies and make a good decision. So me taking the time to post a good review for the next folks looking for a contractor is extremely valuable currency for somebody in a word-of-mouth business.
I’m sure you’ve figured out the second reason why I laughed. Guess who else is in a word-of-mouth business? Me. And all authors. We’re just as dependent on reviews as that neighborhood contractor is.
Taking the time to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads is one of the greatest gifts you can give an author you like. It doesn’t have to be lengthy—one sentence is enough. And it doesn’t matter where you read it. If you checked something out at the library (yes, please do!), you can still review it anywhere you please. Because the blunt fact is, the more the better. The higher the number of reviews for a book, the more prospective readers it attracts. Because they legitimately want to know if a book is going to be worth their money and their time.  
I had a conversation recently with a lovely lady in my book group, who was gushing about a literary novel she’d just read. She said no one she talked to about it had heard of it or the author. I asked if she’d written a review. She said no, because she felt like she would be going out on a limb because no one else was familiar with it. But think about how valuable your review would be, I said. A glowing review for someone who only has a few would carry a lot of weight. It would be like you recommending it to hundreds of book clubs, instead of just to our little group. This lovely lady lit up. She hadn’t thought of it that way. I haven’t talked to her since, but I hope she wrote that review.