Saturday, August 17, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 33

Scott D. Parker

What a difference a week makes.

If you tuned in last week, I wrote a "What's the point?" post in which I wondered why a creative (notice, not just writer) should keep working. I came around to my own conclusion.

We creatives all go through times like these where the urge to just throw in the towel is so dang strong. It would be so, so easy to just give up. And no one would notice.
Fight through those tough times. Persevere. Keep going.
Why? Back to Jay's first item: because you love it.
That's the point. 

This week, I remembered why I love storytelling so much. But I almost threw in the towel on one story.

New Thriller Story

A few weeks ago, I was invited to submit a crime/mystery/thriller story for a yet-to-be-named anthology. The deadline was 15 August. Sure, I thought, when I first got the invitation, I've got a story. It's already started. All I have to do is finish it. I'll have it way before the deadline.

But I didn't. The story remained elusive. I had the first half of the story already written, but it was listless. I was listless. I'd wake up at my morning writing times and chose to write a blog post. I just wasn't into the story. Even as I wrote my "What's the Point?" post last Friday, I was ready to email the editor and bow out. I hesitated, deciding to give myself Monday.

Monday came. Monday went. No good progress on the story. The deadline was Thursday. There was just no way to satisfactorily finish this story. Tuesday morning's session came and went. I got into the shower to get ready for work. I was going to email the editor later that day.

And something clicked. The thrill that passed through me as one small piece of the puzzle fell into place. It was the crucial piece, the keystone of the whole tale. I smiled in the shower. I wasn't going to email the editor at noon. I was going to move the story forward.

I moved it forward 1,450 words that lunch hour. I was on a roll. Then I had to get back to the day job. Later that evening, I read the opening to my wife. She liked it. A pretty good indicator considering she doesn't read this kind of story.

Wednesday morning and lunch came and went. More words. More progress. I needed to stick the landing, so I let my mind churn on it. I was done by Thursday morning's writing session. The lunch hour was proof hour. Came home and sent it to the editor.

It was the high point, creatively, for the week. I cannot control what any reader thinks, including the editor. Maybe this yarn won't even fit the vibe of the anthology and the story'll come back. All of that doesn't matter. All that matters was how excited I was to write the tale, how excited I was to read it aloud to my wife, and how excited I was to have completed another story.

And, perhaps, launched a series.

That is why I do this.

Then I got a reward in the form of another blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Expect Success

Please tell me you read Rusch's Thursday posts on here blog. For the past few weeks, she's been discussing licensing. This week, she took a break and focused on success, specifically the mental fortitude one needs to strive for success.

Boy, was it exciting. And sobering. And thrilling. And daunting.

But most of all, it was encouraging. It's not a magic potion. Being creative is work. Sometimes, like this week, the work is tremendous. Other times, like all those hours before Tuesday for me, it's frustrating. But it's still something for which to strive.

Toward the end of the piece, Kris talks about what to  do when we creatives face challenges. One is to print her blog and re-read it. Another is to purchase the book she mentions. I've bookmarked the piece and will come back to it whenever I feel like throwing in the towel.

She ends like this:

Maybe you should ask yourself what terrifies you the most about the possibility of success.
Expect success. And then work for it. Each and every day.

The Elementary Finale

Going in, I knew the tears would come. Even if the episode was just a mystery-of-the-week, saying good-bye to this version of Holmes and Watson was going to be difficult. Because I loved them. I'm not going to get into a tit for tat as to which version of Sherlock Holmes is the best. Jeremy Brett pretty much nailed the traditional version. The BBC Sherlock was a nice updating of the original canon. I also enjoyed Robert Downey, Jr.'s version quite a bit.

But Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes evolved. That's what it comes down to for me. And he was simply brilliant. He showed a broken man with immense mental gifts that were also a curse. He learned to broaden his self-centered life, even though it often proved very difficult. Miller's acting acumen was on full display every week. The seven-year arc of this version of Holmes was a joy to witness, and the finale was beautiful.

Many thought the stunt casting of Lucy Liu was just that. Hogwash. She took what was traditionally side-kick role and made Watson equal to Holmes. She learned, she excelled, and she often beat Holmes to the deduction. And she always had her partner's back. Always. From the jump, I loved the idea of the gender swap. It was something different. Creator Robert Doherty re-imagined Holmes, Watson, and the canon. The show was not slavishly trying to mimic the canon. It was inspired by it. The show lived and breathed

Many also predicted Holmes and Watson would hook up. I never figured it would happen, and glad it didn't. What emerged was a deep love between two characters that needed no romance. The finale showed that to the full extent.

Season 6's finale was all but perfect. Season 7's was just as good. All the tears. All the feels. All the love. I will so miss this show, but I'm so glad it went out on a high note before the quality started to drop.

As I wrote on Twitter:

Perfect casting from day one. Perfect ending. Incredible writing for a complex pair of characters and actors who love each other deeply. So well done. That is how you create a fulfilling finale. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019


I finished and delivered my last book back in early June.

It’s a novella which Fahrenheitpress commissioned and are due to publish some time soon.

I then went off to Theakstons Old Peculier Crime festival in Harrogate and had the time of my life. While there I accidentally* pitched a standalone psych thriller I’ve had hanging around to an agent who asked me to send her something.

So I repolished the submission package and sent it off.
And those two posts rang so many bells with me. I'm not anxious because I hate all of this. I'm anxious because I want to be better, I am allowing the 'not good enough' voice I've had since childhood to overshadow the knowledge I have of late that I'm really fucking good at this stuff. (and typing that made me cringe; not because of the profanity - you know me by now, right? - but because saying it aloud - typing it even - wakes that voice up and i await the who-does-he-think-he-is?)

Then I had an idea for a new book. A new standalone. One that came almost fully fleshed out plotwise. I know what happens. I know what the book is about. I’m not entirely sure how to write it without making the plot twists obvious so I need to do some thinking.

I have another idea – for the next in my series – which is also exciting and almost fully formed and in fact my only issue should really be deciding which of these two to work on first.

Things should be tickety-boo.

And yet, of late, I’ve been – as the man in the chair in Drowsy Chaperone might have put it a little blue. “You know, a little anxious for no particular reason, a little sad that I should feel anxious at this age, you know, a little self-conscious anxiety resulting in non-specific sadness: a state that I call ‘blue.’”

I took sometime today to think it through and what I came up with was this: I’m tired. I’ve been writing or editing or planning or blogging or newslettering or tweeting or social media-ing or furiously hustling (and you ain't seen nothing til you've seen a short middle-aged Irish homosexual hustle furiously) for what seems like years, and it’s FUCKING EXHAUSTING.

But you probably knew this already.

Then I re-read the blogpost that Jay Stringer put up here a week or so ago, and the one that Dharma posted on Monday. Jay talked about doing this because you love it (and I’ve been very clear to people I’ve mentored that you’re very unlikely to be able to do this because it pays for your house in Capri and your apartment in Manhattan, so Love is at the very least an believable rationale) and I realised that I needed to be reminded of this more often.

And Dharma - whose post made me cry - talked about progress not perfection, about the fear of not being good enough, of impostor syndrome.

I feel obliged to have all of those things – the blog the newsletter the flashes and whizzbangs – and truth be told I enjoy having them and writing for them. But I don’t enjoy the craziness of doing a full time job (Up at 0530. On train at 0630. At my desk for 0730. Home again by 1900 and then spend some time with the husband before bed and repeat til death retirement or enough money to pay for that place in Capri and Manhattan) whilst hating myself for not having a more robust structure around my writing.

Today was the 2nd birthday of my third book “Death of a Devil” being first published, and I mentioned this fact on the aforementioned social media and was then advised that the book is “humane. Benevolent. Lovely. Inspiring. And yes, beautiful,” and reminded by my readers that they eagerly await the next book in the series, and any questions about what the point of doing this sort of went away.

So, if I love doing this and the rationale is not in order, why am I anxious of late? I think that the issue is less ‘why am I doing this?’ and more ‘how do I do this so it fits into - rather than banging against - my life?’

How I can make a more solid writing routine? I am a total binger and will happily spend all my spare time writing the book(s) but the other stuff needs to be done too and I think I need to include all of that into the plan so that it’s not just about carving out time to write but figuring out how much of the time I carve out will be writing, how much will be blogging / social etc.

I know some of us on here are way ahead of me on this road, so I would love to hear how you folks manage this. Hit me up (as da kids say**) in the comments.

(*the best type of pitch: I had no idea she was an agent; we were chatting; she was clearly a lover of books and of writing and asked what I was writing and I got really enthusiastic about this modern gothic thing I have and – because I’ve practiced it in my head so many times – went into pitch mode without even thinking about it. Well I say ‘best type of pitch’ but as I’m still awaiting her response I may be a little optimistic in that assessment. We’ll see.)

(**do Da Kids say that still? To be honest, I haven’t been a kid since the last century so what the fuck would I know? In fact, now I think about it, I'm pretty sure I wore tweed to my first communion so I suspect I’ve been in middle age since I was seven. Whatever, HMU in the comments.)

Love & Light



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 was going straight into a new book as otherwise he tends to fret. But, well, you've read the post above...

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Swim, and Die, with the Pigs

I'm just back from a week down in the Caribbean, and on my return to New York City yesterday, after taking a Jet Blue 6:00 AM flight from Fort Lauderdale, I had quite a busy day running around doing a number of things.  All of which is a way of saying I'm tired and that this post will be a short one.  Nevertheless, I'm hoping it can be of some interest as I share a travel story from my week just past.

But first, a photo: 

"What is that?" you ask.  Simple. It is what it appears to be - a pig swimming toward me in clear tropical water.  You see, they have on one of the Caribbean islands an experience they call "swimming with the pigs", and since it's apparently a popular attraction and since my son was eager to do it, I paid to go on this excursion.

What they don't tell you is that these pigs are not unlike the pigs bred and raised by Mason Verger.  

No need to explicate here, I'm sure, but just in case some people don't know, Mason Verger is the guy who in Thomas Harris' 1999 novel Hannibal raises wild boars to be vicious man-eaters.  Why does he do this? So that one day he can catch Hannibal Lecter, the man who manipulated him into disfiguring himself, and feed Lecter alive to his pigs.

And we thought, you yourself thought, that was all fiction.

The descendants of Verger's pigs live!

I won't belabor you with the details, but there's a place in the Caribbean where they tell you  that you can swim with pigs long native to the islands (brought by the Spanish centuries ago, they claim), and feed them and have a good time with them, when in reality, they are looking for you to be meals for these particular pigs.  If you don't come back from your tropical vacation, well...people do drown, you know. Friends and relatives will just have to live with that explanation.

How did I escape?  And escape with my 13-year-old son?  I don't want to reveal the details because they're gory.  And who would believe me anyway?  How could a Caribbean vacation attraction actually be a cover for feeding tourists to pigs?  No one would believe that. Still, it's true, and even though I'm glad we escaped alive and although at first I thought the entire situation horrific, I've since reconsidered certain things.  It's one reason I didn't make a stink about the incident.  I mean, people go to game preserves to hunt animals. Here's a place set up to reverse the scenario.  Not totally unfair really and a good reminder that not all crystal clear, sky-blue water means bliss for the tourist.

None of this has dampened my enthusiasm for the tropics, by the way.  I'll just be more careful, in the future, to thoroughly research the day tours offered online and in the travel brochures.  No more booking of anything before I know for sure what I'm getting into.  I'll use this experience as something to learn from, and of course, I'll always remember my fellow tour members from that day who didn't make it out from the pigs alive.