Saturday, April 4, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 14 AKA Keeping Calm and at Home

Scott D. Parker

Second full week of physical distancing. For me, this is my third week of working from home. I know there can be a lull or a blurring of days. So far, here at the house, we've avoided that. Part of the reason is our appointment television. When you want to tune in to the new episode of New Amsterdam or The Curse of Oak Island (one of my wife's favorite shows), it helps to know what day it is. Also, I've taken to marking the days on my wall calendar with a big red X. Lastly, my watch tells me what day it is, so there's that, too.

This'll be the third weekend under Houston's stay-at-home order. In order to make the weekend days seem different, we have a different schedule. Naturally, I don't work and my son doesn't attend school. But he and I have taken to driving around--without getting out--and listening to an album. He's discovered quite a lot of music and, since his tastes run similar to mine, it's good to get out and drive.

Our occasional Friday Night at the Movies has been set in stone. Last weekend, we caught Damien: Omen II. Boy, that's 107 minutes I won't get back. Last night, we finished the trilogy. My son is expanding his viewing of classic horror films and now those are off the list.


I usually read on one of my two ereaders: the Kindle and the Kobo. I like them for different reasons, but I really love the obvious: I can browse on them and download samples. I especially appreciate both devices linking with my local library. I'm still reading Jedi Twilight by Michael Reaves. It's a PI story set in the Star Wars universe.

I also downloaded the Comixology app for my older iPad so now I can keep reading comics albeit in a digital form. I'm partial to trade paperback collections and I picked up the first set of DC's Starman (1994). I've heard good things and now's the time. I'm also working my way through the first volume of Master of Kung Fu. I bought this last year at Houston's Comicpalooza. Really enjoying this.


Now that I'm WFH, I have my collection of CDs readily available to me. I'm rediscovering some albums I haven't heard in forever. This week's highlight: Ska Island. It's a 1997 compilation from Island Records and it is fantastic. I'm not sure why I haven't spun it in a long time, but I've listened to it every day this week. Here's the link.


Through all the turmoil, I'm still writing and creating. I do it every morning when I wake up. With zero commute, I actually have more time. But I keep the world at bay and never check the news before I get in my daily words. No sense messing with the mojo.

The website project I had always intended to launch this year is still progressing. I want to get more of it finished before I make it public, but the idea of it is even more applicable in this new environment. I'm not sure what we're going to call the After Times (Post-Covid; Post-Coronavirus, etc.) , but it'll be different. Hopefully, the website I'm creating can find an audience.

Well, this isn't a long blog but it's a snapshot in time. Hope you are staying safe and healthy and doing your individual part and staying at home. You may think it's no big deal because you are one person, but if we all do it collectively, we can save lives and help our health care workers.

Until next week...

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Eating children and also some talk about a book

This week, Beau Johnson talks to us about eating children during the pandemic and S.A. Cosby's MY DARKEST PRAYER.

Whether it's working at his cousin's funeral home or tossing around the local riff raff at his favorite bar, Nathan Waymaker is a man who knows how to handle the bodies. A former Marine and Sheriff's deputy, Nathan has built a reputation in his small Southern town as a man who can help when all other avenues have been exhausted. When a local minister with grandiose ambitions is found dead, Nathan is approached by his parishioners who feel the local police are dragging their feet with the investigation. What starts out as an easy payday soon descends into a maze of mayhem filled with wannabe gangsters, vicious crime lords, porn stars, crooked police officers and a particularly treacherous preacher and his mysterious wife. Nathan must use all his varied skills and some of his wit to navigate the murky waters of small town corruption even as dark secrets of his own threaten to come to the surface.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Virtual Noir at the Bar

One of the great things about Noir at the Bar is how it continually develops new wrinkles and variations.  This week, it will be taking on a new form, thanks to Alex Segura and an idea he had: this Friday, April 3rd, at 7 PM, will see the first Virtual Noir at the Bar take place, with a great lineup of readers.

It's an event aimed at helping a great independent bookstore in Queens, New York, the Kew & Willow, a bookstore that has hosted Noir at the Bar events numerous times.  The owners of the store are great and always carry small and indie press authors as well as bestsellers and large press authors.  I've been there to do readings, attend readings, and, of course, just to browse, and it's pretty much everything a local, independent bookstore should be. With the store closed due to the global pandemic, this virtual Noir at the Bar is a way to support a place that truly deserves that support. And maybe if you hear something you like during the readings, you'll be tempted to order the book directly from Kew & Willow.  If you do, they'll ship it to you for only $1 in additional shipping.

So that's Friday, April 3 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. You can watch from your house, wherever you are in quarantine, and have a drink and enjoy a bunch of darkly entertaining stories.

The link to RSVP to the livestream is here:

Hope you can make it.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Ending Women's History Month On A High Note

What do you do when you know a plethora of smart, strong, and brave women? You ask who inspires them.

This amazing group of women got together recently and enjoyed an evening of discussion with Pam Stack over at Authors on the Air. Please give it a listen:

Holly West

Holly West is the Anthony Award-nominated writer of the Mistress of Fortune historical mystery series. She was nominated for the Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared online and in numerous anthologies, and her latest story, “The Best Laid Plans,” appears in Florida Happens, the 2018 Bouchercon anthology. Editor of Murder-A-Go-Go’s, a crime fiction anthology inspired by the music of The Go-Go’s. Proceeds from which go to Planned Parenthood. Her novella, The Money Block, is out right now and available where books are sold.

“I was a thirties radical,” Doris Bartlett said.

My neighbor divulged this information only after I’d revealed my own politics, which are liberal. Her words lacked gravitas because I didn’t know what a thirties radical was, but the statement marked the beginning of a treasured friendship. I was in my early-thirties, she was in her late-eighties. Before her death at ninety-two, she let me in on a few more of her secrets. Read Holly's entire essay:


Shawn Reilly Simmons

Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer, and of several short stories appearing in various anthologies including "Burnt Orange" in Passport to Murder: the 2017 Bouchercon Anthology (Down & Out Books), and "The Prodigy" in Mystery Tour, the Crime Writers' Association Anthology (Orenda Books).

Growing up, Julia Child was often on our TV, an odd yet comforting voice in the background of activity that was my mom’s kitchen. My sister had decided she wanted to be a chef when she was eight years old, and my mom always supported whatever path we chose whole heartedly, so we spent a lot of time cooking and learning as much as we could from Julia Child’s show The French Chef. 
Read Shawn's entire essay:


Cindy Rosmus
Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash; and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of the Webzine Yellow Mama.

I’ve always been a big Carson McCullers fan. She was transgender before her time. I read somewhere that, deep down, she always knew she was a man. She loved men, and women, and knew so much about love, and loss. Read Cindy's entire essay:


Sandra Ruttan
Sandra Ruttan had her first newspaper column at the age of 13, studied journalism and education in college, and has gone on to have several crime fiction books published. Clive Cussler described her writing style as spellbinding. Her works have been translated and published overseas. She also founded Spinetingler Magazine and was among the first to publish many rising stars in the crime genre. She is a full-time writer and freelance editor. 

Hindsight can make it easy to see that a person is a hero or a leader. The truth is, there are many inspirational women making a difference every single day right now, and one of those women is Alicia Elliott. Read Sandra's entire essay:

Mia Manansala
Mia P. Manansala is a writer from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture.

Her debut novel, LOVE, LOSS, AND LUMPIA comes out 2021.

I have a thing for warrior princesses. Oddly specific, I know, but they appeal to the part of me that appreciates a really nice tiara as well as the side that wants to f#*$ things up.

One of my faves is Urduja, a legendary warrior princess from the Philippines who was quoted as saying that she will marry no one but he who defeats her in battle. Other warriors avoided fighting her for fear of being disgraced. Sounds like my kind of woman. Read Mia's entire essay:


Renee Asher Pickup
Renee Asher Pickup is Marine Corps vet and mellowed out punk living in Southern California. Renee writes fiction about bad things happening to flawed people, nonfiction that is critical of the status quo, and truly believes From Dusk Till Dawn changed her life. She is an acquisitions editor and publisher, a frequent writer of short stories, and loves to talk. Her novel with Andrez Bergen: Black Sails, Disco Inferno is available now from Open Books.

Sir Lady Java is a woman who made history but seems to be fading from it, even as she lives and breathes in Southern California. Born in the 1940s, Lady Java was a black trans girl who started her transition before she hit her teen years – something that is controversial now, but was almost unheard of at the time. A gifted performer with amazing costuming, she hit the nightclub circuit in New Orleans as a teenager and had set up shop as an in demand celebrity in Los Angeles by her twenties. Decked out in outfits ranging from full white feathers head-to-toe to sequined bikinis, she was so hot she was hanging out with Sammy Davis, Jr and performing at Red Fox’s club before long. Read Renee's entire essay:


Dharma Kelleher
Dharma Kelleher writes gritty crime fiction with a feminist kick and is one of the only openly transgender voices in the genre.

She is the author of the Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter series and the Shea Stevens Outlaw Biker series. Her work has also appeared in anthologies and on Shotgun Honey.

I’ve been inspired by so many women. But the one who inspired me most is Kaay Grosso.

When we first met, I was only a few months sober, following a suicide attempt. She ran an informal group of women that met on a weekly basis called Garden Club. But it wasn’t flowers or other plants we were growing. We were growing ourselves. Read Dharma's entire essay:


Jen Conley
Jen Conley's short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Crime Factory, Beat to a Pulp, Protectors, Pulp Modern, Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and many others. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Review of Books and is a former editor at Shotgun Honey. She lives in New Jersey.

There are so many women I admire, but I think the one who really inspired me was Judy Blume. As a kid, I devoured her novels. She had a special kind of magic that just drew me in and kept me up for hours. I could read the first line, and boom! I was hooked. Her characters were regular kids, nothing special, nothing extraordinary, but they were real and I connected with that. I read her books five, six, seven times, and I can’t tell you exactly why I did that other than I felt at home with her characters and their struggles. Read Jen's entire essay:


Sarah M. Chen
Sarah has worked a variety of odd jobs, from script reader to private investigator assistant. She's published numerous short stories and a children's chapter book. Her noir novella, CLEANING UP FINN, with All Due Respect Books, was an Anthony finalist and IPPY Award winner. She's the co-editor of THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, a "novel-in-stories," with E.A. Aymar and is a sometimes contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books. 

My mother was my first role model. Growing up, I watched her put herself through school, earning her A.A., her B.A., and eventually her M.A. Despite being the oldest student in her class and having to essentially raise a child by herself, she found a way to achieve her dream. Read Sarah's entire essay.


Ann Abel
Allison A. Davis writes poetry (Three Rooms Press Annual Dada Magazine, Maintenant 12 and 13), short stories (including anthologies Dark Yonder (Nov 2019) and Shattering Glass (June 2020)) and is currently shopping her novel, “But Not For Me.” A background in journalism and art criticism, her day job is a senior partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, a national law firm.

Leadership. And tenacity. What woman do I admire most? I admire all the women who taught me, equipped me, supported and prepared me, nurtured me and schooled me to be successful. This recent primary got me thinking about women’s leadership. Why are men so reluctant to let go of power in this country? What is leadership by women? What difference would it make? What do I know about it?

Read Ann's entire essay.

Ann Abel on Women in Leadership


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Let Me Choose What to Do With My Books

So lots of books are suddenly being offered free. This is fabulous. Children’s authors are giving permission for celebrities to read their books, so any kid can go online and have a story read to them. Publishers are opening up whole catalogs to promote wider access. Writers are giving away hard copies and digital copies and probably printed-off-their-home-computer copies. And we’re all asking anyone who can to patronize an independent bookstore, one of the hardest hit categories of small business right now.
BUT. There is one entity that is trying to opportunistically capitalize on this moment in time. By stealing. An outfit called the Internet Archive has, for years, been scanning and putting content online. Some are works in the public domain (like Hamlet, or Edgar Allan Poe). Those are absolutely allowed to be given away for free. But others are books, plays, or poems still under copyright. Which means you need permission and that’s something the Internet Archive has, in many instances, not gotten. The one limit they’ve placed on things is that there are only so many “copies” and you need to wait in line to read something.
That is no longer the case. Internet Archive announced this week that it has suspended its waitlist requirements. Anyone can check out a digital/scanned book from their “collection.” They’re calling it the “National Emergency Library” and trying to sell it as some sort of socially responsible act.
One of my books, The False Prophet: Conspiracy, Extortion and Murder in the Name of God, is listed on this website. The site isn’t lending out a hard copy that it bought, which would be fine. It isn’t lending out an e-book version that it bought, which works like a physical version and can only be loaned out once at a time. Instead, it is lending out a scanned version. And as far as I understand it, with the elimination of a waitlist, it’s essentially creating additional e-copies of my book out of thin air without my permission. This violates my copyright.
So why would I be upset if this potentially gets my book in the hands of readers? Here's why:
1. They didn't ask first.
2. In the Internet Archive’s blog post on this, it says: “The books that we’ve digitized have been acquired with a focus on materials published during the 20th century, the vast majority of which do not have a commercially available ebook.” I call BS. Because guess what? My ebook is commercially available, a fact that Google can tell you in under two seconds. One friend found eight of her books, both fiction and non-fiction and all very much still commercially available, on this website. That’s almost her entire writing life’s work. Another looked up his name and found one of his novels that still has the Boston Public Library sticker and bar code on the cover. If someone found that at a used book sale and plunked down a dollar for it, good for them. They can then do what they want with it—except run off multiple copies and sell them. This is exactly what the “National Emergency Library” is doing.
3. I’m getting no compensation for what should be multiple sales of my book.
4. My non-fiction ebook costs $7.99 (and I don’t even get that full amount). I think that's a fair price for the four years it took me to report, research and write. But heck, if you the reader can't afford that and get in touch with me directly, I'll gladly and cheerfully send you one for free. At least then I would be the one deciding to give away my work.
Here’s what the Authors Guild organization had to say on Friday:
IA is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors. It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.
Also Friday, the Association of American Publishers said this:
We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
Publishers are working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; offering complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages. 
It is the height of hypocrisy that the Internet Archive is choosing this moment – when lives, livelihoods and the economy are all in jeopardy – to make a cynical play to undermine copyright, and all the scientific, creative, and economic opportunity that it supports.
I think it’s important to point out here that I love, love, love legitimate libraries. I use them regularly as a reader, I’ve done programs there as an author, and I donate to them as a citizen. And I’m in awe as to how they’ve stepped up during this pandemic. They’ve increased their digital access capabilities while having to shut their physical locations. They’ve extended due dates. They’re running kids’ story times online. They’ve coordinated with online tutors in different subjects. And probably done a dozen more things I don’t even know about.
Internet Archive does finally say (in the second-to-last paragraph of their “National Emergency” announcement) that it encourages those who can to buy books through independent bookstores. It also encourages us authors to donate our books if it doesn’t already have a copy. THAT should've been where they started this whole thing. Ask first. Authors are some of the most generous people on the planet. We'd probably say yes. Instead, these people are taking away the one sure thing we have in this tough business--our copyright.