Saturday, January 18, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 3 AKA Are Blogs Outdated?

Scott D. Parker

Kind of an ironic question to ask in a blog post, huh? Well, I have my answer, but let me tell you why I pose it.

A Conversation

A good friend of mine recently opened a new online business here in Houston. Ever since, we both talk about our respective businesses. This week, I asked how his business is going. A trickle was his report. Ditto for me. He made an interesting observation regarding the magical secret to make his business a real income stream. He said the secret might be don't sell something millions of other people already do. Fellow authors: can I get a show of hands of folks who agree with this?

When he asked how my author business was going, my response turned into a single, long reply. It was culmination of weeks of thought about where my business is, where I want it to go, and what steps I need to take to get there. Now, when I say long, I'm talking just north of 1,300 words.

Bless my friend, he read it all. And responded.

I appreciated all his responses--some of which apply only to my own situation--but part of it I want to share today.

Are Blogs Outdated?

Let me summarize his points.

-All authors should have a personal website, not for being discovered by new readers, but for folks who are fans and want to keep up-to-date with what the author is doing.
-But a personal blog feels outdated.
-The Author Page on Amazon is probably good enough.
-Social Media is a better means for letting folks know what we're up to.
-90% of our potential audience is on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
**But everyone's on social media, and what is social media anyway but microblogs.**
-He follows creatives, but rarely checks out their sites.
-Via Social Media, he know the types of people they are, upcoming projects, and where to go should he want to purchase anything.
-If he likes their personality on social media, he'd consider checking out their stuff.
-"I don't visit blogs anymore. I don't know people who do."

The double asterisks indicate a concept I hadn't thought of. Interesting.

Now, my friend is a few years younger than my fifty-one. And he's only one guy in a sea of ideas and thoughts. But it got me to thinking: are blogs outdated?

A Defense of Blogs

I have been writing at my own blog since 2007. I have now published over 1,000 posts. I'm very proud of that accomplishment. At DoSomeDamage, I'm in my eleventh year of constantly publishing a Saturday column. Again, very proud of that accomplishment.

But is it worth it?

I still say yes.

My friend dubs blogs to be  time machines. And, as a degreed historian, I agree. I like that I have various markers based on date and specific events. What is my take on The Last Jedi or John Carter? There it is in real time for anyone to see.

And over time, my personality emerged via my blog writings, both on the personal site and at DoSomeDamage. Want to know who I am if you've never met me? Just take a look at the blog titles and the blogs themselves. It's all there.

Maybe it's my age, but I read through dozens of blogs a day. Granted, I don't read them all, but I have a feedly feed that collects all the blogs I want. Everyday, I scan through my feedly, reading the blogs whose titles intrigue me and skipping others. Skipping lots more than I read.

But yeah, I still read blogs. And in our short-attention spans selves, I think there's a place for long-form posts to go along with the microblogs of social media.

I might, however, be an outlier. What are your thoughts on blogs? Do you read them or skip them in favor of social media?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores

I've been meaning for some time to read more contemporary crime fiction from Italy.  Besides the Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, I've read very little of it, but recently, I received a Massimo Carlotto book to review, his 2017 novel, recently translated for Europa Editions, Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores.  When I requested the book to review, I was wondering to myself, Is Carlotto the one who...?  And indeed he is.  

There's a good documentary from BBC Four on recent Italian crime fiction which I watched a couple years ago and where I learned Carlotto's story.  I've included the doc here if anyone is interested.  It's an enjoyable hour, full of good interviews with Italian crime authors as they give their thoughts on Italian noir and how it has developed over the last 25 or 30 years.

But back to Carlotto's story: in 1976, during the "Years of Lead" in Italy, a period of violent political strife committed by both the Left and the Right, Carlotto was a 19-year-old student and left-wing activist.  A 25-year-old-student, Margherita Magello, was found dying in his home with 59 stab wounds in him.  Carlotto is the one who happened upon the body.  As he says in the doc, he went to the police to report the murder, but because he was a "political militant of the revolutionary left-wing movement", he was quickly arrested and charged with murder. Carlotto insisted he was innocent, and in his first trial he was acquited for lack of evidence by the Criminal Court of Padua.  Upon appeal, however, the Court Call of Venice sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a sentence upheld by the Italian Supreme Court. 

Carlotto fled, becoming a fugitive first in Paris, then in Central America.  After five years on the run, he was captured in Mexico - where police tortured him - and then sent back to Italy and prison.  This began a long legal battle to clear his name, a saga that involved a large segment of the public taking up his cause and many prominent Italian figures signing a petition on his behalf. Due to the case's many convolutions, Carlotto became, in his words, "the most prosecuted Italian citizen for a single crime", and the case made him into a famous case - The Carlotto Case.  The case dragged on for years.  Carlotto's health suffered, and he went through a lot of psychological stress.  Finally, in 1993, with public opinion on his side, the Italian President pardoned him, and Carlotto was released from prison.  

Il fuggiasco, The Fugitive, in 1995, was Carlotto's first book, a novel based on his time on the run.  That was made into a successful movie.  Now he's 15 or 20 books on, and I'll be getting acquainted with him through the one I mentioned, Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores.

Well, great title for a book and quite a background for a crime writer.  Can't wait to get started reading...

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Jess Montgomery's Historical Mysteries

This week, I’ve got a treat for you. Jess Montgomery joins us with a look at the second book in her historical Kinship Mystery Series. In the books, Kinship is a town in the Appalachia region of Ohio, and it has very unique law enforcement for the 1920s.
The Hollows will be released on Tuesday and I can’t wait to read it. Jess’s first book, The Widows, was fantastic. If you haven’t read it, Jess is offering one lucky Do Some Damage reader a free ebook of The Widows. Just leave a comment here, or on Jess's Facebook page, Do Some Damage's Facebook page, or on my own Facebook page--by the end of Wednesday, Jan. 15. She’ll draw the winner! –Claire Booth

By Jess Montgomery
In THE HOLLOWS, Sheriff Lily Ross is running for election as county sheriff in her own right in 1926. In real life, Ohio’s first female sheriff, who is the inspiration for my character Lily, became sheriff to fulfill her slain husband’s term. When she ran in her own right in 1926, she won by a landslide.
Of course, I’m not going to make the election quite so smooth for Sheriff Lily… (I won’t say here if she wins or not; you’ll have to read The Hollows to find out!)
In any case, Lily’s campaign is interrupted by a murder, an elderly woman dying near a train track in a remote part of the county. The woman is unidentified, and certain clues imply she is not from the area. But Lily is determined to investigate as thoroughly as possible.
As she does so, her friend Hildy Cooper is pulled into the case. Both women find their friendship tested during the investigation, and both must deal with past haunts and hurts—personal as well as in their hometown’s history—in the course of their sleuthing.
Hildy, a childhood friend of Lily’s, was a secondary character in my Kinship Mystery Series debut title, The Widows. In that novel, she served as a foil to Lily. Whereas Lily is brave, physically strong, and not afraid of confrontation, Hildy—who had been engaged to Lily’s older brother before he died in the Great War—has always been quiet, reticent, and (in modern parlance) a people pleaser.
While these attributes enabled her to offer great support and comfort to Lily in the first novel, I realized that I wanted to test Hildy in the second novel and bring her more to the forefront of the story. In The Hollows, Lily and Hildy are dual narrators. Some of Hildy’s decisions and actions in The Hollows would have surprised me when I was writing The Widows (had I known, of course, what was coming).
And that’s one of the aspects I love best about this pattern I’ve landed upon, if you will, for the Kinship Mystery Series. I anticipate that each novel will have dual narrators—Lily and another character we’ve met in past novels as a secondary or even minor character. In this way, I’m hoping to keep expanding the world of Kinship, with Lily at the center, and all the other characters interconnected with each other as well as with Lily. 

Jess Montgomery is the author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries. Under her given name, she is a newspaper columnist, focusing on the literary life, authors and events in her native Dayton, Ohio, for the Dayton Daily News, and is the former executive director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop.

You can order The Hollows through IndieBound , Powell's, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-a-Million.