Today marks two anniversaries: this is the 1,000th post on my original and ongoing blog and this weekend is the 10th anniversary of the founding of Do Some Damage.
For a time, I didn't cross-post my entries, but I started to. Why not? There might be folks who only read what I have to say on one site and not the other. When I noticed the two anniversaries approaching, I made sure the two streams crossed today.
Ten years ago this summer, Steve Weddle invited me to join his venture. Since I was the only guy without a published book, I got the Saturday slot. I believe I had landed on the radars of both Steve and Jay Stringer via my own blog posts starting in 2007. I was putting myself through what I called the Self Education of Crime and Mystery Fiction. In checking the number of posts I made in 2008 (248), you can see how much I had written.
I enjoyed the idea of a weekly column. Still do. For a decade now, my family knows that if I haven't penned anything by Friday night, I'll excuse myself to bang out a post. If I'm traveling, I write the blog post ahead of time and schedule it to drop on Saturday. I cannot remember a time when I've missed a post, so that's ten years of consecutively writing a Saturday column, minus the end-of-year breaks.
It's been fun. Really, really fun. I've gone from a guy who thought he knew what he wanted to write about to someone tangentially different. I've gone from a guy who looked to traditional publishing as the only road to an independent author/entrepreneur running my own business. Never would have saw that coming. Hat tip to James Reasoner for putting that idea in my head.
Some weeks I don't know what to write. Others, I write a lot. This thing I've been doing all 2019--Year of an Indie Writer--is one way always to have something about which to write. I've enjoyed it, and I suspect I'll collect all these posts into a book one day. It would be an interesting exercise to add up all the words I've written just to have the number. I'm proud of both anniversaries today.
A decade is a long time, and 1,000 posts is a lot of words. I'm glad folks still read what I have to say and join in the conversation along the way. It's been a blast. There are exciting things in store I have planned, and I'll be writing about it all the way.
Now, onto the future...
Blog Post of the Week
BTW, did you read returning columnist Kristi Belcamino's column yesterday about her adventures in indie publishing? Why not? Do it now. Follow what she does because she's laid out a path for any indie writer to follow.
Discovery of the Week: Halestorm
On Thursday night here in Houston, I went to see Alice Cooper. I knew his show would be good. Had no clue about the opening band, Halestorm.
Last night, I went from "Who the heck is Halestorm?" to "Holy cow, you've got to listen to Halestorm!"
Sure, I could have looked up their music ahead of time, but I wanted their show to be new on the spot. So glad I did. This four-piece band is led by a charismatic lead singer/rhythm guitarist named Lzzy Hale. It's not everyday you see a female-fronted rock band that is this damn good. She, however, is incredible. Her singing voice is a unique mixture of gravel and clear, depending on what she wants to do with it. Her guitar playing keeps the band's music humming, but she can cut a solo pretty darn good. More importantly, she was having an absolute blast. Sure, she's snarl on some songs, but more often than not, when she'd leave the mic, she was grinning, like "Can you believe this is my job?"
The opening tunes were good, but by the end, I was sold. Heck, that last song, with its extended guitar solos, all but morphed into the chord pattern and rhythm of Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4." My ears may have been hearing what I wanted to hear, but I could have sworn part of the lead guitarists notes were homages to Terry Kath.
Check out Halestorm live if you can. You'll be standing and cheering by the end of their set.
Since I was last on Do Some Damage, my whole writing life has been turned upside down.
I went from being completely entrenched in the traditional publishing world to not really knowing what's going on there anymore.
It all began when I got dumped by my publisher after they published four books.
It kicked off my indie career and I've never been happier.
I'll tell you my story in case it happens to you.
For some reason, few people in the publishing world seem to
want to talk publicly about getting dumped by a publisher. Which is bizarre
because it has happened to so many
authors I know.
But it's not the end of the world, trust me.
I’ll start at the bright and shiny and
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the very
first book I ever wrote picked up by a Big Five publisher.
And not only that book, but three more after it.
Then I was lucky enough to be nominated for a bunch of cool
awards in the mystery community for those same books.
The best, hands-down most wonderful part of all, was having
people read my books and not just like them but love them.
I thought my books were selling decently. Two of my four eBooks sold more than 10,000 copies
But when my agent pitched book five in the series we were
told that while they “all loved” me—Really?
—they couldn’t offer me another contract because, well, to paraphrase them, my
sales numbers sucked ass.
To be honest, I was slightly shocked. These books were
Anthony, Barry, and Macavity finalists—which come to think about it just proves
that means nothing.
And I thought that selling 10,000 copies of one book was
pretty damn amazing.
Not so much.
I was told not to bother writing book five because no
publisher in her right mind would buy a book in a series that began at a
different publisher. (I’ve since realized that’s not quite true, but whatever.)
So, I wrote other books to keep me busy while my agent got
me the MASSIVE BOOK DEAL IN THE SKY for a new series. When that didn’t happen,
I “parted ways” with that agent and got a new one. During one conversation, I
told my new agent I had this book that I loved, but that I wasn't sure it was a good fit for the Big Five. My character drank too much, smoked a lot of weed, and fucked strangers she met in a bar. I thought I should self publish it.
My agent said she wanted to take a look at it first.
After reading it, she said she had been surprisingly touched by certain parts of the book but that she agreed it was not a book for the Big
Meanwhile, I had written the fifth book in my traditionally published series anyway, even if I’d been told no publisher would ever buy it.
You see, after receiving dozens of emails from readers asking
about the next book in the series, I thought, what the hell, I’ll just write it
and publish it myself. So, I did.
That damn book sold better than the first four books in the series.
And the best part? I got every flipping cent of royalties. What was this
madness? Who knew this was even possible?
I started studying self-publishing and learned that series
do best so I decided to take that one book—with the train wreck character—and
make a series of it.
After we disagreed about another book, I parted ways with my
second agent and decided to not look for a third agent.
I have to say, I’ve never looked back.
Full disclosure: If a publisher offered me, let's say, enough money to retire, I’d sign a
But other than that, no publisher could possibly entice me away from self-publishing.
Why is that, you ask?
Um. Let me think ... oh yeah, that's easy ...
There I said it.
In one month—one of my best months, I admit—I made more
money in that month than I had in four years with four books at a traditional
publisher. Enough about that.
EVERY SINGLE book I publish has the cover I want, the storyline I want, the editor I want, and I get to decide when and how and where to publish it and promote it and advertise it!
I hated not having control of my books.
For instance, to this day I CANNOT FUCKING STAND the cover
of my second HarperCollins book, Blessed are the Meek.
Do you know that blog
posts have been written about how butt ugly that cover is? Reviewers have
confessed they initially wouldn’t read the book because the cover was so
hideous? Do you know that once I went to a book club and started to tell the
story about how traditionally published writers don’t have control of their
covers and the group burst into laughter? (They then confessed that during one
meeting they had to discuss cover design, they held up my book as an example of
an awful one?)
I am not making this
The Indie Community.
Let me preface that by saying initially this post was going
to be about how some people in the mystery community gave me the cold shoulder when I began
But then I realized
I no longer cared about it enough to write an entire blog post on it. However,
I’ll sum it up by saying that people have given me the cold shoulder now that I
no longer have some book people in New York validating my writing ability.
(Speaking of cold shoulder is it true that Indie writers
aren’t welcome at Bouchercon anymore? If it IS true—that’s pretty fucked up. Either way, I
quit going years ago because as fun as it was, there was no ROI in spending a
lot of money to drink booze with other mystery writers in different spots across
Back to the Indie Community.
What a supportive
group of writers—everyone genuinely wants to help
each other. It’s insane. And wonderful. And I love it so much.
found my tribe. And we are building each other up every day, sharing
the ins and outs of running a small writing business (cause that’s what we’re
doing). I’ve never worked harder in my life but I love every minute of
it. And you know what, like many blessings in disguise, I can
honestly say I’m truly happy I got “dumped.”
I don’t think I would have had the guts to venture into self-publishing
without have the rug ripped out from under me.
Can you believe it? Do Some Damage is a decade old today. We've been doing this thing for ten whole years. They say doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity. I say it's the definition of practice. I think the site has spent a decade giving platforms to a variety of authors. Established and new. Indie and traditional. The online crime fiction community has changed and evolved a lot over the last ten years, but DSD has been here for all of it.
I sat down with the site's co-founder, Steve Weddle, to talk about how it all started, and and how the conversation has evolved along the way.
JS: So back in 2009, I was busy being funny on Twitter when I was contacted by Steve Weddle about starting a website. Steve, what gave you this weird idea?
SW: You're blaming me for this? I guess that's fair. I'd had lunch with our agent and she suggested contacting you when I told her what I had in mind. Wait, there was a part before that, though. The idea. Right. There were some group blogs out there that I was reading. First Offenders. Kill Zone. Hey, There's A Dead Guy. I loved these blogs because they were written by people who knew the business, who knew what they were doing. I guess I was interested in hearing from talented people, some with experience and, honestly, some who didn't have a clue what they were doing.
JS: That last line explains why Dave White was allowed to stick around for so long. I'm getting old and forgetful, who else was in that first crew, and did we ever get caught for the heist?
SW: We launched with me on Mondays and you on Tuesdays. John McFetridge took Wednesdays, Dave White on Thursdays, and Russel D. McLean was our Friday guy. Weekends were Scott D. Parker and Mike Knowles. So, it was all dudes, but we had a couple guys from the UK, two from Canada, two from southern states, and Dave White.
JS: 'Do Some Damage.' Where did that come from? Isn't it like a crime writers code that the title should come from a song? I'm pretty sure I suggested many fine Tom Waits lyrics.
SW: You suggested 37 lines and titles from Tom Waits songs, yes. As I recall, we’d come with some phrases and worked through what was and wasn’t available as a URL. I thought “First Offenders” was such a great name for their blog, as it was debut crime fiction authors, so you’re working on more than one level. And the DSD name was much catchier than “Have Someone Holding a Gun Walk Through the Door dot org.”
JS: I have a write-in question here from a Mr. Scott D Parker, of Texas. He says, "Am I the only original member left on his original day?" But I think Scott's just showing off, so we won't answer it.
SW: Not just on his original day. Scott’s the only old-timer still posting regularly at all.
JS: I don't know about you, but I loved those first few months. It felt like we all had something to say. The site picked up regular readers fast and some of 'em are still here.
SW: Back then, before social media was as big as it is, we met many other readers and writers and had conversations on the site itself. What’s changed, one of the many things, is that while we’re still getting our traffic each day, people are sharing the posts on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere and having conversations there. You go back to the old posts from 10 years ago and we’re 30 comments deep much of the time, as if we were all in the same room chatting back and forth and ordering pint after pint. Now you’ll see a line from a DSD post pop up on Twitter with folks replying back and forth on a thread there. Of course, most of those folks are some of the same readers from August of 2009.
JS: It’s been an interesting shift. The way the conversation has moved out of the site, into the socials. I wonder how that’s changed the nature of blogging? Back in the day, I was happy to ask some dumb, open, or ‘big’ questions knowing that the conversation was going to be in our own room. Would I be as open to doing that now? I’m not sure. I guess now you need to be clearer about your intent straight away, leave less room for misinterpretation?
SW: The “our own room” is interesting, because it did seem that we were all friends and friends-of-friends having a conversation and not being afraid of being wrong. Also, many of us were trying out chapters from our works-in-progress and people would chime in to say it stinks or it works or needs more salt. We tried more things back then, I think.
JS: I think in those early days we could still be anything. Like, some weeks we might run a two-parter long form interview with Scott Phillips, other weeks we might have some pictures of geese. Or you’d poke the Franzenbear. I guess that version of the internet was all about what we wanted to put out, to lead a conversation. Now it’s more about what everyone else wants to say, and a blog is part of the conversation. I’m definitely better at listening now than I was back then. Also, we looked a bit like an exclusive men only-club when we started. There was only Dave without a beard. (He made that fake one out of Taylor Ham, but then he ate it.)
SW: In early 2010, Mike Knowles dropped out, and we brought in Joelle Charbonneau and Byron Quertermous for that slot. That was also the first slot in which we started alternating authors, with Joelle and Byron posting every other week, as their schedule. We’ve done much more of this, which helps give us more and more variation and diversity, more voices for the site. Soon enough, we were putting out anthologies of our own, starting with Terminal Damage, launching a podcast, kicking off a book club on Goodreads, and so forth.
JS: I miss that podcast. Back in 2010, there was a lot of room to play in that field. Really, we’d only had Clute and Edwards, Seth Harwood. Then we turned up with our show, and the asshole hosts kept going off on Doctor Who tangents, totally missing the point of a crime fiction podcast.
SW: And our “Seven Minutes With” podcast now doesn’t even mention crime fiction at all. We’re rubbish at this. That said, you ought to get the gang back together for a run at Doctor Who, at the very least. Also, didn’t you folks talk about the Bond movies?
JS: Bond, definitely. And comic books. I bet we were all wrong on so many things back then. It’s not like the internet holds grudges though, right? We got to interview a bunch of cool people on the show, too. Like Chuck Wendig, back before he was trying to destroy Star Wars with gayness.
SW: What’s nice is that we’ve had authors with a dozen credits, some with none, some critics, some bloggers, filmmakers, musicians. We’ve done book reviews and interviews since day one, and I’d estimate our review/interview count is somewhere in the gabillions, by now. I hope we’ve introduced people to a number of cool readers and writers along the way.
JS: I think one of my favourite memories was the Christmas Noir we did early on, a whole season of themed flash fiction stories. Looking back, we had some great writers chipping in on that.
SW: Yeah. We did quite a few flash challenges. When did that stop being a thing? I liked those.
JS: Are we volunteering to host one?
JS: It sounded like….
JS: Hmmm. Okay. Well, someone should host one. Not mentioning any names. We should also say, we’ve lost a few friends along the way.
SW: Yeah, I’ve mourned good people I wouldn’t have met without this blog.
JS: Well, it’s been a good run, but I guess it’s time to announce that we’re clo-
JS: ...carrying on for another ten years, yep, that’s exactly what I was about to say.
SW: At least another decade. But enough about us. What about all those other old timers who started out with us years back?
JS: Hey, wasn't I supposed to be the one asking the questions?
SW: Just answer it, Limey.
JS: Well, I'm excited to say, we've put together a small reunion tour. Can we hashtag that? #DSDReunionTour? I think we can. For the next eight days, we'll have a new post every day from a DSD alumni. Authors we've hosted here along their journey. (The real reason is, one of these people stole the key to the clubhouse's washroom, and we're bringing them all back to find out who it was. But shhhhhhhhh.) After that, we hand the keys (including the washroom) back to the current roster, as they kick DSD off into the next ten years.
Here's the schedule for the #DSDReunionTour
August 2nd: Kristi Belcamino
August 3rd: Scott D. Parker
August 4th: Holly West
August 5th: Steve Weddle
August 6th: Jay Stringer
August 7th: John McFetridge
August 8th: Dave White
August 9th: Russel D. McLean August 11th: Joelle Charbonneau
The past couple of months I've been reading nothing but non-fiction for the summer film talk series I do each year in Manhattan. Among the things I've read have been a book on the history of MGM musicals, Jennifer Fronc's Monitoring the Movies: The Fight Over Film Censorship in Early Twentieth-Century Urban America, and W.K. Stratton's entertaining book The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film. I never tire of reading movie books, and these weeks have been a nice break from reading fiction, on which, sometimes, you can get sated. I still have a few more film books to read as the film talks series approaches its end in August, but I'm looking forward to returning to fiction and plunging back into reading novels. Among the books on my shelf I expect to be getting to soon:
Have I never read this? Of course I have. But the high school my son will be starting in September has dictated he read this as part of his summer reading (in preparation for discussions when school starts, presumably), and since it's been years, maybe decades, since I did read it, I want to bone up on it and have it fresh in my mind so I can discuss it with him.
Jake Hinkson is among my favorite contemporary crime writers, and it's been a few years since he has had anything new appear here in the United States. I've very much enjoyed everything he has written thus far, from his novels and short stories to his illuminating volume on film noir called The Blind Alley. Dry County is set in the Arkansas Ozarks in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, and it focuses on a preacher who is blackmailed by a former lover. With its mix of religion and politics, desperation and secrets, it looks like it should be vintage Hinkson. Few writers get at basic human frailty as well as he does.
I haven't read Erica Wright yet, but I'm looking forward to this one, which is a mystery that has to do with the death of a reclusive retired film actress in a small town. I'm expecting all sorts of suspicious and double-dealing characters here, not to mention how the main character's past in old Hollywood should connect to the plot... Seems like we're back where we started, with movies. Is there no escaping them? Maybe not. Anyhow... CUT.