Saturday, November 30, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 48 - The End of NaNoWriMo 2019

Scott D. Parker

Well, today is the last day of NaNoWriMo 2019. How did you do? Did you get to 50,000 words? I got mine earlier this week, but the book isn't done. So I'm charging ahead and I'll finish the book. I'd like to get it knocked out in a week, but we'll see.

But back to you. Did those 50,000 words correspond to the end of your novel? Did you fall short? Don’t worry. I’ve done all those things and more. But you might be asking the obvious question: now what?

Well, two crucial things--on opposite ends of the spectrum--must now be done, depending on your answers.

First, when you finish, CELEBRATE! You have just written a 50,000-word novel. Celebrate. Tell people about it. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet your accomplishments. Open a bottle of champagne. Seriously on that last part, do it. Ever since I completed book 2, I have sprung for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. It is a monumental thing if you have written a novel, especially if it’s your first.

Second, if you did not finish, do not castigate yourself. Do not chastise and beat yourself up. Do not do those things. They do you no good and, in all honesty, they hamper your next writing effort. Believe me. I know this one all too well. It wasn’t until January 2013 when I again looked at the past year of not writing and finally turned myself around. I didn’t chastise myself like I had on previous New Year’s Days. Instead, I analyzed what had kept me from writing. Once those things were identified, I was able to skirt around them, avoid them, and I became a much more productive writer.

Now what?

Well, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo 2019 just to say you have written a novel, or did you do it because you want to keep writing stories? If it’s the former, good for you. Print it out, bind it if you want, display it proudly, and mark it off your bucket list. Mission Accomplished.

But if you found you enjoyed the process and keep doing it, you must keep writing. Seriously. Maybe NaNoWriMo 2019 took a lot out of you. That’s okay. Take a break for sure. Revel in your success. But make a plan--today--that you’ll start your next book on a certain day. My suggestion: New Year’s Day. Now that you know you can write a novel, do it again. What better way to start a new year than with a new novel. I’ve done it the past few years. It’s a great way to get past the inevitable doldrums I often get in January. It’s like the hangover for all the holidays we celebrate the last 62 days of a year. Make a plan to start a book, and then write that next book. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you decide to make January 2020 into a NaNoWriMo, but make a plan.

Ideally, you’ll finish your next book by 31 January 2020. Then, do it again. The best way to make it as a writer is to keep writing regularly. The ‘regularly’ is the key part. Writing is a muscle. It needs to be exercised to keep it in shape. And here’s the cool part: the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Even if you don’t do a true NaNoWriMo of 1667 words a day, shoot for 1000. In two months, you can have your next book written. Or a novella in 31 days.

Just keep writing. Make it a habit. If you do, you’ll discover the joy of writing, the ease of writing, and it’ll likely make you happy.

What about the book you just completed? Well, do you want to publish it? If so, get it edited. Ideally, you’d not get a friend to edit the book--unless the friend is a professional editor. Get it edited, make the changes, and then re-read the book yourself. Make those changes.

Now, get a cover. Write a book description. Create your metadata. Determine the price point. Determine your marketing strategy. Format your file. (For this, the company Draft2Digital is recommended because they’ll basically do all the formatting you need for any of the digital marketplaces.) Upload the file to the world.

But those are topics for different days.

Right now, revel in your celebration: NaNoWriMo 2019 is almost over. Congratulations. Now, don’t wait another eleven months to write your next book.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Beau Tackles Nick Kolakowski

Today Beau Johnson brings you A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps from Nick Kolakowski and Shotgun Honey.


“Kolakowski’s got a gift of scratching his readers’ itch for pulpy, gut-wrenching narrative that moves a mile a minute and never lets you go. A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a hell of a yarn that sets the stage for what should be an essential series for fans of the genre.”
—Angel Luis Colón, author of No Happy Endings and The Fury of Blacky Jaguar

“Ruthless, off-the-wall and surprisingly heartfelt, A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is much more than a heist book, and showcases the skills of an emerging writer in Nick Kolakowski. Featuring memorable characters, a down-on-his-luck protagonist and a story that’s equal parts insane and sincere, Saps is the kind of book you read fast and revisit immediately to savor the experience again.”
—Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Dangerous Ends and Down the Dark Street

“A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a hell of a ride. Put on the Elvis tunes, or your best glittery suit, and enjoy Bill’s escape from the boys in New York. He’s trying to ditch his life of crime but it’s pretty hard to do when you have a bunch of stolen money in your trunk and a band of people on your tail. Maybe a woman could save Bill’s body and soul, and all that money? Whatever the outcome, Kolakowski’s fabulous writing shines and the twists and turns will keep you reading to the very last page. A wonderful, entertaining read.”
—Jen Conley, author of Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens


Bill is a hustler’s hustler with a taste for the high life. He pulls off big scores for one of New York City’s more vicious gangs…until he suddenly grows a conscience. However, living the clean life takes a whole lot of money, and so Bill decides to steal a fortune from his employer before skipping town.

With a bag of cash in the trunk of his car, Bill heads west, ready for a new life. But all that money makes him a tempting target for some bad people he meets on the road—and if that wasn’t dangerous enough, some old friends are close behind him, and they intend to make a trophy of his head.

Pursued by crooked cops, dimwitted bouncers, and a wisecracking assassin in the midst of a midlife crisis, Bill will need to be a quick study in the way of the gun if he wants to survive his own getaway. Who knew that an honest attempt at redemption could rack up a body count like this?

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is a gonzo noir journey into obsession, violence, and the power of love.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dark Yonder

By David Nemeth

Jan Pruitt
The newly released anthology, "Dark Yonder", is more than a bunch of writers toasting the opening of Eryk Pruitt and Lana Pierce's bar, Yonder: Southern Cocktails & Brew, it is also a celebration of the work and life of Eryk's mother, Jan Pruitt, who died in January 2017. Jan "served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB)  from 1997-2016." The NTFB provides 200,000 meals every day to residents of North Texas. A portion of the money raised from the sales of "Dark Yonder" will go to the NTFB.

I don't know what spurred Liam Sweeny to suggest the creation of "Dark Yonder", but kudos to Sweeny as he managed to round up twenty-plus writers from California to Maine and release a smartly-done book within six months or so. Quite an accomplishment.

Many of you will be reading this post while celebrating Thanksgiving (U.S.). If you are getting ready to stuff your belly with turkey (or a vegan substitute) or are in some sort of food coma, why not spend a paltry $12.99 purchase a paperback copy of "Dark Yonder". Not only will you get some great tales of crime and mayhem, in a very real way you'll be helping feed people that are experiencing difficult times.

Below is the beginnings of my story, "Retribution", which is included in "Dark Yonder".

New York closed his eyes, smiled, and fell off his bar stool. The bartender leaned over the bar and scanned the drunk for blood and bones. None, all Eryk saw was New York passed out on the barroom floor. 
“Fucking New York." 
Eryk’s phone vibrated. Lana said that she’d be by after closing. He put his phone away and focused on the problem at hand: New York. He shook his head, turned off the music, and walked around the bar. When Eryk crouched down next to New York to check his breathing, he told the onlookers that he had him. 
“You sure?” someone asked. 
Another voice from behind, “You shouldn’t have over-served him.” Eryk turned and saw Bocce Ball, a bald guy who always paid cash and always, always complained that they covered up the bocce ball pit. Eryk couldn’t remember a time when he saw Bocce Ball playing bocce ball. He didn’t have the patience to deal with Bocce Ball tonight. Eryk stood and announced that Yonder was closing up early. “Sorry, y’all missed last call.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


"How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure."

  That is a quote from the greatest novel about the nature of righteous revenge ever written THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.
  Dumas's epic tale of Edmond Dantes and his quest for revenge reverberates with readers over a hundred years after it was first published because revenge, like love or hate is one of the great universal desires. Every man woman or child has at one time or another contemplated or actively sought revenge.

"Beware the fury of a patient man." John Dryden.

   There are philosophers, clerics, life coaches and "woke" individuals who will tell you that the best revenge is living well. They pontificate on the futility of vengeance. They will tell you to dig two graves or some other pithy statement. And in the larger scheme of things they're right. We should rise above the petty animalistc need to see the faces of our enemies awash with tears as everything they hold dear is reduced to cinders.
 But for a moment let's pretend that we are not so enlightened. For the crime writer revenge is on the Mount Rushmore of character motivation along with love, hate and greed. It's the visceral expression of rage and the literal repudiation of helplessness. For the crime writer, to paraphrase Gordon Gekko, Revenge is good.

"I will hurt you for this. I don't know how yet but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy and suddenly you joy will turn to ashes in your mouth and you will know the debt has been paid." George RR. Martin.

 Crime fiction is littered with novels about relentless fury that becomes unrelenting revenge.  Murder on the Orient Express is as close as Christie ever got to hardboiled but it's a masterful tale of revenge as the cold dish of yore and the lengths one will go to exact that pound of flesh. The solution to the mystery is of course fabulous but the motivation for the crime is heartbreaking. Mr. Ratchett got off easy if you ask me.
      Now for something completely different Sweet Sweetback Badass Song , often cited as one of the first blaxploitation movies is also a nice and nasty tale of revenge. Melvin Van Peebles imbues Sweetback with a hard won dignity as he seeks revenge not only against a couple of crooked cops but against a society that treats him like little more than a beast.

           "They're all dead. They just don't yet." James O'Barr The Crow..

One of my favorite modern takes on the idea of dark justice is Adrian Mckinty's Dead May I Well Be.. Mckinty combines a tale of illicit love with a story of grim and implacable revenge. The scenes of Michael Forsythe, an Irish gangster, crawling across the Mexican desert the only thing keeping him alive his desire to kill the crime boss who betrayed him will leave you breathless.

      The idea of revenge is taken to the Nth degree by the comic book character The Punisher. Frank Castle becomes the walking embodiment of Nemesis when he sees his family brutally murdered by the Mob. The Punisher is both a thrilling adventure and a cautionary tale. Frank is so consumed with vengeance and punishing the guilty he becomes a bit of a benevolent serial killer. The skull he wears on his shirt doesn't represent the deaths of his enemies so much as it represents the death of his soul.

           "Your knife my back. My gun your head." Final Episode, Asking Alexandre

The Hunter by Richard Stark is one of the great minimalist tales of revenge. Parker's partner and his wife tried to kill him and stole his cut of a robbery. Parker is quite perturbed by this so he goes about getting his money back and killing those who have wronged him. The story has a cool clinical atmosphere and the inevitability of Parker is like a force of nature. He is the rain washing away his adversaries. He is the sea swallowing up their lives.

    "If you hurt that lady you'll never be dead enough." Danny Costanzo Running Scared.

           Two films that have stuck with me for a long long time that explore the toll vengeance takes on all of those involved are Oldboy and Unforgiven. In both there is not catharsis. There is only pain and violence and blood. The guilty are punished because we are all guilty and no one escapes unscathed. As William Munny says. "Deserves got nothing to do with it."

         "Fool that I am" said he" that I did not tear out my heart the day I resolved to revenge myself." The Count of Monte Cristro

       In the end for all the toe curling satisfaction that revenge can bring as we live vicariously through imaginary characters seeking redress of imagined slights the truth is in this drab and plain reality revenge and the seeking of it rots us from the inside out. It twists us into vile things that cannot be trusted with our own emotions. In the real world the best revenge is better left to karma.
    That being said you hurt someone I love and there is no Hell deep enough to protect you from me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And Thanks Goes To...

With Thanksgiving coming up, I figured I'd mark the occasion here by writing down a few of the lines about writing that have stuck with me over the years.  These are points about writing that either struck a strong chord in me when I encountered them or taught me something I can always refer to. They are writing mind cleansers if you will.

So here goes:

Thanks to the novelist and my old college professor John Gardner (who I had for part of one semester at Binghamton University till he died in a motorcycle crash) for emphasizing in his great book The Art of Fiction that good fiction should be "a vivid and continuous dream" -- a point I've never forgotten since I first read it over 35 years ago and something I try to achieve every time I write a story or novel.

Thanks to the novelist Muriel Spark for her line in Loitering With Intent, where her narrator, who is writing a novel, says that she treats a story "with a light and heartless mind, as is my way when I have to give a perfectly serious account of things." This is an approach, a way of looking at things, that happens to agree with me, and serves as a reminder that being all heavy and somber in fiction doesn't necessarily mean you are being more "serious" or more truthful than a writer handling things quite differently.

Thanks to Clive Barker for something he said in an interview I read years back (I don't even remember where) -- that the more brutal and horrible the events he's describing on the page become, the more elegant he makes his prose. I've always loved this idea of turning on the elegance, the burnished style, during the moments in a story when the things depicted are disturbing and atrocious. Let's say you can create a real frisson in the reader.

Thanks to Jorge Luis Borges who in one of his essays says something to this effect: why write a novel of four or five hundred pages when you can say everything you need to say in six or seven pages?  Of course, not everyone, and certainly not me, can pack as much into six or seven pages as Borges can, but I take his words as a constant prompt to condense, shorten, keep things tight.  So many novels you read absolutely do not need to be as long as they actually are.

And finally, let's end this by thanking that tireless office worker, Franz Kafka.  Something of his that I've taken a lot from is this line (quoted, by the way, in Paul Bowles' novel, The Sheltering Sky).  It's a line that's a bit enigmatic and yet, as applied to giving oneself to writing, somehow makes perfect sense: "From a certain point onward, there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached."

One could go on with a list like this, but let's leave it here.  There's plenty, I think, to chew on from these five greats.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Yippee kay-ay!

What is your favorite Christmas movie? Home Alone? It’s a Wonderful Life? Elf? How about Christmas Vacation? When you think of curling up on the couch for a good cuddle and Christmas flick, with popcorn and hot cocoa, do you think of Die Hard?

There are plenty of people who consider Die Hard a holiday movie, but can we really put it in that category?

We’ve been divided for years, okay maybe two or three, over this hot button topic. Some believe that because there’s no Santa or reindeer, and the movie came out in July that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. However, the film takes place at Christmas. There are carols and trees. Holiday travel. 

To put this brutal debate to rest we’ve decided to take the question to some of the brightest minds in our community. 

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?


Ed Aymar


The Unrepentant

Reader, it is not.

Listen, I love Die Hard. I consider it a classic. But it fails to adhere to the one fundamental rule of being a Christmas movie - it doesn't NEED to be a Christmas movie. Die Hard could have just as easily have been set in Easter, or Thanksgiving, or New Years, or National Cat Day. A few jokes would have to be adjusted, and Grumpy Cat would obviously need to make a cameo (R.I.P.), but that's it.

If, say, Bruce Willis had teamed up with Santa Claus and Claus had been indispensable to the plot (Santa was packing and his bag of toys was filled with guns and bombs), then sure. Absolutely. Did they? They did not. The cowards.

Anyway, the point is, that carpet rubbing thing is great advice.

I don’t know!

Joe Clifford


Rag and Bone

The "Is Die Hard a Christmas" movie has always felt a little like a rock-and-roll question. I know. A little tangential. But hold on. It's like the Clash. I know I should like Joe Strummer better. He's way cooler than Mick. But I think Mick wrote the better songs. Same with Keith and Mick (Jagger). Same with Paul and John. John is cooler, but, frankly, Paul wrote the better songs. Which is a long way of saying that I WANT Die Hard to be a Christmas movie. I am on the side of those who think it is. Because that is the cooler answer. But ultimately? I fall on the other (less cool) side.


Nikki Dolson


All Things Violent

Friends, gather ‘round. It’s the holidays and yes Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

Christmas is for family and you know what John McClane is trying to do? Get his family! So, they can be together! Make amends before another year turns. He doesn’t want to be alone, like all those other holidays that wouldn’t work because Christmas is the most stressful family-oriented holiday on the planet and you know what? You show up anyway.

You don’t put the holiday on hold. You don’t watch the game afterward (Thxgiving). You don’t crash after a sugar high (Easter baskets). Christmas? You drive across the country, you buy last minutes gifts, you do whatever you hafta, even if that means making sure someone gets flung off the Nakatomi.

Christmas is about family. Die Hard is about family. Die Hard = Christmas.


Michelle Turlock-Isler

Noir/Crime Super-Fan

Just because a Christmas party was involved does not make it a Christmas movie. I am not a Christmas person so I do not hunt down Christmas related movies. Die Hard is just a good action flick. Great one-liners and suspense. Good guys... Bad guys. Just entertaining.


Eryk Pruitt



DIE HARD is most definitely a Christmas movie if, for no other reason, the opportunity of nostalgia it affords us. After all, is that not what the classic holiday flicks—like It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story—were all about? DIE HARD gives us that nostalgia when:

Sgt. Al Powell stands outside the gas station and reveals gasoline once cost .79 cents

Argyle boasts about his limo’s list of obsolete technology which, in 1988, was top-of-the-line: “CD, CB, TV, telephone, full bar, VHS…”

Ellis’ predilection for cocaine…I mean, how eighties can you get?

And don’t forget the redemptive arc for the policeman who accidentally shot and killed an unarmed kid.

All of this, and the movie ends with Vaughn Monroe’s version of “Let It Snow.”

You say “DIE HARD  isn’t a Christmas movie” and I say “Yippee kay-ay motherfu—“

Sunday, November 24, 2019

19 Crimes, or Wine with a Story

By Claire Booth
This weekend, I experienced a multimedia, full-blown, immersive, slightly unsettling history lesson--with booze. I loved it, needless to say. The wine is called 19 Crimes, after the list of offenses that got you forcibly transported to Australia by those heartless Brits in the 1700s and 1800s. And it has an app. Now, there might be lots of wine companies out there that have apps (I'm certainly not up on my wine marketing enough to know), but this hook is ingenious. You focus in on the wine bottle, and the mug shot on the front starts talking to you, telling you the convict's story in ghostly animation.

You can read about a few of the convicts here. And you can find out more about the quite good wine here. I wouldn't normally plug a company, but after giving me such a good old-fashioned storytelling experience in such a high-tech way, I think these folks earned it. If you end up buying a bottle, let me know if you agree.