Saturday, October 12, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 41 - Writer Up!

Scott D. Parker

For those of us in Houston, we are still in baseball season. Our Houston Astros are in the American League Championship Series with the New York Yankees. A trip to the World Series is on the line. Being a Houston sports fan, I am conditioned to expect the worst and be happily surprised when we win. Even two years ago, when the Astros won our first World Series title, it went seven games. Ditto for the Houston Rockets in 1994 because nothing is easy for Houston sports teams.

Now, our Astros got into a bit of a hitting slump during games 3 and 4 of the divisional series against the Tampa Bay Rays. But what does any hitter know in his head and try to do when he's in a slump? Just make contact. Good contact, and put the ball in play. Hopefully he'll get a single, maybe a double, but just make contact. Get on base, and then see what happens next.

[Here comes the transition from baseball to writing that you knew was coming.]

I've been in a writing slump for a few weeks. Tried a bit, didn't like what the fingers spit out, and grew frustrated. How the heck am I supposed to write the next novel when everything I write reads like crap?

One simple answer is: Write the next sentence. It is literally that simple. Just write the next sentence of a paragraph. Then the next one and the next one. Just keep going.

Easy to say. Really hard to follow. I know. You know. We all know because we've all been there.

But if "write the next sentence" is the writer equivalent of "make contact with the ball," then what's the equivalent of a single in baseball?

A short story.

In an effort to get outta the slump, on Monday, I started a short story. I gave myself few guidelines other than...have fun with it. Just write a story and finish a story by this coming Sunday. That's a week. Even with a day job, I often carve out an hour before I get ready for the day and another at lunch. With two hours per day plus some on the weekends, surely I can finish a short story in a week's time.

Well, as of today, I'm about 95% done. Had a little issue mid week that knifed into the writing time (both mental and physical) but I got back on track.

With no care as to the idea of selling it in the future (but I will), I just wrote with a funny grin on my face most times. It was a blast and it reminded me of two things. One, I'm pretty good at this. Two, I love telling stories.

Guess what happens this coming Monday? I start the next one. I plan on writing a few short stories in a row--one per week--to get my mojo back. Once I've hit a few singles, I'll be aiming for a double, a triple, and a home run in the form of my next novel.

Batter up! Er, actually...

Writer up!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blog Tour: Call Down the Thunder

Today we've got a sneak peak at the new Dietrich Kalteis novel. Check the schedule at the end of this post to find out where to go tomorrow!

“Set in Depression-era Kansas, this colorful, character-driven crime novel pits desperate small-town folk against racists and thugs. Kalteis does a fine job of scene setting; the reader can practically smell the horehound candy at the general store and feel the grit in the air at Sonny’s farm. Fans of historical crime fiction won’t want to miss this.” — Publishers Weekly

Blog Tour: Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis 


Sonny Myers narrowed his eyes against the gust, felt the rush of cold, the air crackling: static electricity churning and hellfire flashing inside the mass of black looming high over the flat land. The yard a frenzy of whipping sand and debris by the time he got his mule and car in the barn. Felt like the end of times coming. Through the boiling wall of sand, Sonny made out two sets of headlights approaching on the county road. Could be coming for shelter from the duster, but something told him no. Going to the house, reaching inside the door, he took the shotgun and stepped off the porch.

Coming to the door, Clara wanting to have a look.

“Just a blow.” He told her to stay inside.

“What you gonna do, shoot it?”

His eyes slits, Sonny stepped into the yard, forcing his steps, having to lean into it, going toward the headlights.

Photo by Andrea Kalteis
Looked like two pickups stopped down by the mailbox, lights dim against the blasting sand. Doors opened and men got out. Nobody he knew. Best he could tell there were six of them, pulling hoods on. Two going to the bed of the first truck, pulling a long cross from the back. Sonny smelling kerosene and oil from where he stood, halfway to the house. A couple of them fanned to his left, heading for the side of the house, flanking him.

Sonny fired in the air, the only warning they’d get, popping in another shell. Leaving the ones by the trucks, Sonny went after the pair going wide around the house. Couldn’t see twenty feet ahead as the duster bore down. Hurrying around the side, his eyes searched for them somewhere ahead of him. One hand against the boards, he made his way around the back, staying low. Expecting an ambush. Ready to shoot if he had to. Getting to the far side before he smelled the smoke. Thinking it was the burning cross. Then he caught figures moving ahead of him.

“Halt,” he called, wondering what kind of thing was that to yell. Couldn’t shoot, knowing Clara wouldn’t stay inside like he told her. No point in shooting his wife. Catching sight of the flames, the cross burning down by the mailbox, the sound of car doors shutting, taillights pulling away.

Then Clara screamed from the porch, stumbling down the steps, hand on the porch rail, she moved along and found him, pointing to the barn. Sonny catching the flicker, another man running from it and crossing the open ground, heading for the trucks. Putting the stock to his shoulder, Sonny fired.Pretty sure he winged the son of a bitch, reaching in his pocket for another shell that wasn’t there. The man chased after the trucks and disappeared.

The dry boards caught fast, flames flicked to the roof beams and spread, the straw floor alight and swirling around. Bats flew around the rafters, chickens getting out of there. The mule screaming.

Handing Clara the shotgun, Sonny jumped down along the west side, swatting and kicking at the burning straw with his shoe. The heat like a wall, pushing him back. Slapping at the cuff of his overalls as it caught. No way to get to the back. The heat was too much. Couldn’t get to the screaming mule and pull her from the stall. Taking Clara, he turned her for the door.

Driven out, both of them choking from the smoke, blinded by the sand. The flames shooting from the roof, long fingers reaching across to the house. The triangle clanging like mad from the porch post. Wrapping his arms around her, Sonny got her across the yard. A picket struck his back and knocked him down. Clara tugged him to his feet. Getting to the porch. The sand blasting so hard, they could barely see the barn, both getting inside the house. Praying it wouldn’t catch fire too.

Excerpted from Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis. © 2019 by Dietrich Kalteis. All rights reserved. Published by ECW Press Ltd. 


Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal, 2017 IPPY, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, and Poughkeepsie Shuffle. He lives with his family on Canada’s west coast. 

on twitter @dietrichkalteis

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


There is a famous scene in the first Matrix movie where Neo is going to meet the Oracle and he sits in her waiting room/apartment. As he sets he speaks with  a few children who might be the One as they practice One type activities. A little boy is bending and unbending a metal spoon apparently telepathically. When Neo inquires as to how he is able to do this he says(I'm paraphrasing)
    "I'm not bending the spoon. There is no spoon."

 In the context of the Matrix the young man is giving Neo a piece of wisdom. The entire Matrix is a false construct so there is no spoon. No apartment, no cities, no agents. No limitations. The only limits to Neo's abilities exist in his own mind. 
This crossed my mind as I thought about Todd Phillips this week. 
Mr. Phillips is the director of the new film Joker. Previously he had made his bones directing ribald if not outright risque comedies like The Hangover and Old School. He said in an interview that he was glad to be leaving comedy behind because "Woke culture has ruined comedy." He seemed to be insinuating that the new , activist audience made it impossible to truly push boundaries in comedy. Now Mr. Phillips isnt' the first person to state this opinion but he is the first one to my knowledge to sight it as his reason for tucking tail and running. 
     This comment made me think about the limits or lack there of in writing and art. I write crime and mystery stories. My stories tend to be violent bloody affairs. I like to say it's not an S.A. Cosby story unless someone is getting cracked in the face by a wrench. However I've never felt there was an arbitrary barrier to my creativity like the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition busting into my writing room and slapping me with a pendulum when I write about skewering someones eye with a hat pin like a gum drop. 
    There seems to be this new pervasive attitude that is permeating popular culture that because someone complains, calls you out or comments on something in your book or movie or stand up routine you ability to create art has been stifled. You freedom of speech is falling under the jackboots of SWJ's and snowflakes. 

Bovine fecal matter. 

     Let's return to Mr. Phillips for a moment. 
  He said that comedy is dying yadda yadda yadda. Really...? 
I watched the new Patton Oswalt stand up special where Mr. Oswalt minded humor out of the tragic death of his wife and the attempts of he and his daughter to deal with their grief. Not only is the joke side splittingly funny (google Polish Women Of Doom) but it is also bitterweet and heartwarming. 
   Is there anything darker , more sensitive than the death of one's spouse? Yet Mr. Oswalt is able to find the humor in the grief process. He, as my mother used to say, laugh to keep from crying. 
Now why can't Mr. Phillips find a way to mine a similarly dark area for humor? I don't know. Far be it be for me to say he isn't talented as Mr. Owsalt. But maybe , just maybe he isn't as driven. Because squeezing a laugh out of death is hard freaking work. 
But I can hear someone saying right now..
"Yeah but I bet some snowflake out there is offended by Patton's joke and went to tweet about it on the Internet blah blah blah." 
Guess what...
That's okay. In fact that's more than okay. It's actually a good thing. 
  When I was a kid I use to watch old black and white movies on our local stations late night movie showcase. In some of these movies black actors were depicted as overly superstitious , cowardly , stupid and untrustworthy. Black people in the forties and fifties didn't have an appropriate outlet to express their displeasure with such depictions. But now they do So do women. So do LGBTQ individuals. So do many other marginalized people. 
 If you want to write about controversial subjects go right ahead. If you want to use racial epithets in your work have at it. The First Amendment guarantees your right to do so. It also guarantees everyone else the right to comment on it. 
  When I hear people like Todd Phillips or Shane Gillis or Sarah Silverman or Quentin Tarantino or S.Craing Zahler or Lil Duval or Dave Chappelle or Dan Mallory or anyone else complain that people are too sensitive nowadays or that people are trying to make certain subjects or words off limits all I hear is. 
    "I want to say whatever rude crude maybe insensitive possibly racist misogynistic homophobic thing that pops in my mind and I'm too much of a gossamer skinned cotton candy boned baby to take the back lash."
    There is no goddamn spoon. There are literally no  limits on what you can say in pursuit of your art and your version of your truth. There are however consequences and repercussions. But until the day that someone comes to drag you off stage like Lenny Bruce or put you in jail like Oscar Wilde save your complaints. A little social media condemnation isn't the same as being in prison for saying words. 
  Speak your truth even if your voice quakes. Then be man ,woman or person enough to deal with the consequences. Art is not for the weak of heart. 

There is no spoon......

Now if you excuse me I have to go finish a chapter where someone gets beaten to death with a shovel.......

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Everybody Lies in Hell

Scott's Note: Dave Zeltserman revisits this week to talk about his new novel, Everybody Lies in Hell.  It's a book that blends genres, part PI story, part psycho noir, part horror, and Dave will fill us in on what drives its characters, a human foible that is universal but that crime writers focus on like nobody else -- lying.

Here's Dave: 

Is there anything more noir than someone being damned to hell?

In my new novel, Everybody Lies in Hell, Mike Stone is not only a resident of Hell, but he could be Hell’s only working private eye, and other souls hire him to uncover truths that they already know. The only thing Mike’s clients can hang onto are those lies and self-delusions that they need to believe in, and even though they might not realize it, the last thing they can afford is to have those lies stripped away.

A staple of psycho noir is self-delusion. The most devastating moment in Jim Thompson’s great Savage Night is when Carl Bigelow (aka Charlie “Little” Bigger) is forced to confront the truth about the one moment of his life that he takes pride in. Then there’s Frank Dillon from Thompson’s A Hell of a Woman who’s buried so deep in his delusions that he can’t tell up from down. And in the brilliant noir movie Angel Heart, Harry Angel is led down a path of self-discovery that is damning. 

In my own novel, Killer, Leonard March having to face the truth about himself is the hell there’s no escape from.

Classic noir might not have the same level of self-delusion as psycho noir, but it is also filled with all the little lies noir protagonists must tell themselves.  In Cain’s Double Indemnity, Walter Huff convinces himself that he’s committing a crime for the money and the beautiful woman when he has an even darker, more cynical reason. In Cain’s Postman Always Rings Twice, Nick and Cora have convinced themselves they can commit murder for love and money and live happily ever after, when deep down inside they have to know that’s not true. This pattern of self-deception, delusions, and lies can be found throughout noir, and is really the path to Hell that these noir protagonists stumble down.


Paul Tremblay on Everybody Lies in Hell: “Mike Stone’s eternal damnation is a private detective’s office in a re-imagined Brooklyn. In Hell, the beautiful woman with a case opens a literal Pandora’s Box, and Stone is soon inundated by all-too-recognizable evils and lies of Hell’s tortured souls, powerful ancient demons and devils, and haunting personal ones. Classic pulp, noir, and horror—think James M. Cain and Bukowski and Palahniuk–are all ground up in a blender and the result is a nasty, wild, and ultimately redemptive novel that only Dave Zeltserman could write.”

You can pick up Everybody Lies in Hell here.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Value of Not Writing

I worked in the yard yesterday. We’re going to put in a brick planter as part of some new landscaping, and everything needs to be put into place. Grunt work, basically.
And I was glad to do it, because I’ve got a plot point that is proving to be particularly knotty in the novel I’m writing, and I need to figure out a way through it. So it’s the perfect time to go dig in the dirt.
If I have an activity that requires some physical movement and just the right amount of brain power (not too much, not too little), then the writing problems move to the back of my brain. And that’s usually where they work themselves out. Yesterday, two-thirds of the way through my line of bricks, I figured out what one of my important secondary characters will do next. I hadn’t even technically been thinking about it, but the solution popped into my head as I was pondering the curve of the planter.
I’ll continue with the bricks today, because the planter’s nowhere near done. Neither is my novel. But taking a big step with the rote task has helped me take a big step with the creative one.