Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Summer 2021 Box of Comics


Scott D. Parker

If there's one great thing about ebooks and electric comics is that you can carry potentially your entire library on vacation. 

But that wasn't always the case back in the days before Kindles and iPads. No, back then, you'd have to be judicious with what you wanted to read while on vacation because you'd have to carry everything. In my adulthood, I would spend almost as much time deciding on what books and magazine to bring on a vacation as I did on my entire vacation's wardrobe. I know I'm not alone here. I mean, as much as I enjoyed the 800-page, hard cover history book was I reading, there was no way it found it's way into my backpack for reading on a plane. 

Before adulthood, however, there was another factor that determined what we might bring on a vacation: our parents. I remember my youth in the 70s when we'd go on vacation, my parents would not let me take EVERY comic I owned. Even as an only child, it was just not feasible to bring them all. A friend of mine were talking this week and he mentioned his mom told him he could only bring ten comics on their annual trips. He always prioritized the 100-page giants and the like so he could maximize his reading experience. I did something similar. 

Most of the time, those issues would have a then-current story backed with multiple reprints ranging from the 1940s to the 1960s. In an era where back issues were few and far between, these issues rocked. Well, unless is some crappy story feature Prince Valiant or some Viking nonsense. Didn’t like it then. Still don’t. 

Summer 2021

One of my summer projects is to catalog all my comics. I’m almost done. A nice side effect was seeing all these old issues. Some of them have distinct memories associated with them. Others—many others—do not. In fact, I started culling many issues. “Why the heck did I buy that one?” I asked myself more than once.

Seeing all these issues made me want to read them again. Sure, I could keep all my long boxes in the front room all summer, but I think we know how that would go over with the rest of the family. So I made my own Summer 2021 comic box. I’ll probably go back and pull a few other issues, but mainly, the titles I want to read are in this box.

Those thicks ones are those awesome black-and-white reprints where you get 500 pages of comics in a single volume, the modern equivalent to those old 100-page giants.

I’ve been reading through the Master of Kung Fu collection for a little while, but I’ve sped up knowing the movie is on its way. The others are just hankering I’ve been having: 70s-era Marvel books I never read back in the day.

Marvel also published eight magazine-sized Doc Savage issues, all black-and-white. I have them all, but I’ve only read the first one.

This is one where I remember buying it but have zero memory of it. I like the 70s and 80s when comics artists and writers would just try anything, like apparently making a quarterback into a super hero. Sure.

I have a ton of Superman tiles, second only to Batman. But this Time and Time Again series is something that looks interesting.

Then there are titles like this. Have to read it for the historical value.

I discovered a few X-Files comics which are in the box, but that also led to re-discover this entry where the Dark Knight is abducted. 

This issue of Detective is one of the earliest I ever had. Can’t remember the story, but I will this summer. You can see the frayed edges of a well-loved book.

I’ve got a few novels lined up to read, but I think the Summer of 2021 will be comic heavy.

So, did your parents limit the number of novels and comics for your trips? Did you get to buy some on the road? And what specific comics can you remember reading during the summers?

Thursday, June 17, 2021

These Shoes

 By Jay Stringer

We never really know the inside of someone's head.

I was at a writer's convention, years ago now. I was in a much worse place mentally, and I hadn't yet figured out how to talk about it. Added to this, my career was in a weird place. I was out of contracted and being ghosted by my previous editor -after they had asked me to get to work on the very book they were ghosting me over. I'd been writing full-time for around a year, and had been struggling hard with the change from being surrounded by co-workers to being surrounded by myself. And with the added problem that the money wasn't working out. I needed a contract and...well, ghosted. I was facing up to the idea I would need to get a job again. 

My head and emotions hadn't been right since my previous day-job had caused me to have a mini stress-related breakdown a couple years before. I walked into that conference primed for some kind of disaster or other. I simply wasn't well. A few people knew me well enough to notice. 

I had also organised an event. You know the ones. They have a cool name. People read stories in front of an audience somewhere that sells alcohol. I'd organised the event -in a city I'd never been to, at a bar I'd never been to- from thousands of miles away with help from some writer friends. And I'd made the decision to prioritise platforming as many and varied voices as I could manage at a non-paying event before half of the writers were in town. I took myself off the bill to make space. 

But there was another problem brewing. You see, a large part of all of our frustrations in publishing is expectations. We don't really know how the industry works from the outside, and even when we get in, our information is only as good as the people we talk to. I mentioned my career was in a bad place? Well, in many ways, my career was in exactly the same place as the vast majority of lower or mid list authors. Except we never know that going in. So we get anxious and depressed. Unless you're a person already prone to those things, in which case you get more anxious and depressed. 

In every 'real' job I've ever had, there's the induction period, or some form of official training or meeting, and then you're off onto the floor and things are taken over by the real staff who show you the ropes. You'll be told who to avoid. You'll be told how the systems really work. You'll be told which bits of equipment do what they should, and which you should never use. You get the real scoop. 

By and large in publishing that doesn't happen. If you have an agent, your scoop is as informed as they are. If you're indie, you have whatever preconceived ideas you came in with. And all of us are only ever getting half the story, and certainly never know all of the money. Publishing, by and large, is a collection of cargo cults built up into a pyramid scheme, but nobody tells you that. And a lot of the truly successful writers are people who manage to switch-off all the drama and politics that comes with that, and focus on telling good stories and connecting with readers. 

If you stand in a circle with ten other writers at a festival or convention, five of the people there will think they're failures for not having what they think you have. And four of the people there are too busy wrapped up in whatever career uncertainties they're having in that moment to even think about what they think you've got. Add into that, a lot of people are genuinely concerned with helping others and making more space at the table, but also live with their own crippling career worries every second. 

So not only did I walk into the convention -and that evening event- carrying around all my own bullshit, I was also a walking target for a few other people's bullshit, too. Not just my own expectations and fears of falling short off what I thought I should have, but also some people -who all things being clear were basically in the same place as me- judging me based on what they thought I had. 

And hey, I'd just had five books published in five years. I had two panels at the convention. I seemed connected, because I'd just organised an event and because I'm lucky enough to be friends with some very cool writers. So I get why Person A looked at me and wanted what I had, and I get why Person A felt that, by not giving them a space at the event, I was gatekeeping and not sending the elevator back down from wherever he imagined I had ascended to. But he assumed all those things and took it out on me in a verbal outburst. 

He had now way of knowing then -or now- that I was already on the edge of tipping into a bad place, but he walked right up and added to my problems anyway. Two other people added to my problems over the next day. They're not stories worth telling, and I hold no grudges. We're all carrying what we're carrying. But that weekend what I was carrying became too much. At a publisher-sponsored event a little later on I had the clear realisation that maybe I didn't need to exist. 

It creeps up on you, something like that. 

And I reached for the same emergency self-preservation tactic I'd used before. I drank. And I still don't remember the rest of that evening, but I do remember being conscious again walking down a nearby street at 2AM, now sober with the feeling of having been very drunk. And finding a few other writers who were still awake, and having a fun conversation, and everything feeling a little better again. 

I'm not here today to talk about me. I'm fine. Things would get bad again from there, and then eventually they got better. I learned how to handle my load, and I learned to share the load with people who love me. So I'm absolutely fine. But I'm writing this because I'm qualified to talk about my own mental health, and not to talk abut other people's. 

We're all carrying different loads. We're all coming from different places. Some of us have way more privileges than others, and are allowed to fuck up more times. But also sometimes people make assumptions about who we are, or where we are in a career, based on the way they think things work. 

Years before all of this, I met a member of one of my all-time favourite bands. He'd played a part in some of my favourite albums, featured in some of my favourite gigs. To me, he had a large slice of whatever it was I wanted in life. But when touring a solo album he stayed at my father-in-law's place, in the spare room, eating food my FiL cooked. Because that's what life is really like for 98% of touring musicians. I was lucky enough to realise early on that this was the music life, and decide not to keep chasing that dream. I knew that one would kill me. Most of the actors you see on TV are not living the lifestyles that the TV makes you believe. Almost every writer in the word has to have at least one side hustle. At least. Right now I have three side hustles. 

Now, there is privilege that comes with it. When my first book was published, my nan took a copy to her brother, and he burst into tears when he held it. The idea that someone from his family could do that. During that first year of publication, the last thing I wanted to do at the day job was talk about writing, and I dismissed every opportunity to do so. Until a friend took me aside and pointed out the simple truth that people were interested and I was the only writer they'd met. And in refusing to talk about it I was being an asshole. In moments like that, you realise that you're doing a thing other people dream of. You are living someone's dream even if it's not your own. When you find yourself standing in that group of ten (or however many) at a writers festival, you should try and keep your place in mind, and not be shitty to anyone or crap on anyone's expectations or impressions.  

It's on us, all of us, to not dump on someone because of our own misconceptions or expectations. But it's also on everyone else not to dump on ours. It's a we're-all-trying-to-manage thing. You never know when you might be the person to add that last bit of burden, based on what you think someone else has. 

Writer twitter has been fighty and savage lately. And there are many good fights to pick. But can we all....take a minute? Breathe a little easier? Look out for each other? The last year has been brutal. The three or four years before that were savage. For many people the whole lifetime before that has been triggering. And who knows what's coming next. Let's just.....breathe. 

Beau GoGoes there with The Go-Go's


This week, Beau takes a look at Murder-A-Go-Go's, edited by Holly West.

The Go-Go’s made music on their own terms and gave voice to a generation caught between the bra-burning irreverence of the seventies and the me-first decadence of the eighties. Anthems like “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “Vacation” are an indelible part of our collective soundtrack, but more than that, they speak to the power and possibility of youth. Inspired by punk but not yoked to it, the Go-Go’s broke important musical ground by combining cheeky lyrics, clever hooks, and catchy melodies, perfectly capturing what it feels like to be young and female in the process.

But beyond the Go-Go’s effervescent sound and cheerful pop stylings, a darkness underlies many of their lyrics and melodies, hinting at the heartache and frustration inherent in growing up. In other words, plenty to inspire murder and mayhem.

Net proceeds from Murder-a-Go-Go’s benefit Planned Parenthood, a crucial provider of women’s affordable reproductive healthcare.

With a foreword by Go-Go’s co-founder Jane Wiedlin and original stories by 25 kick-ass authors, editor Holly West has put together an all-star crime fiction anthology inspired by one of the most iconic bands of the eighties and beyond.

Praise for MURDER-A-GO-GO’S:

“I always suspected that twinkle in the Go-Gos’ eyes was a coded invitation to a darker world. In the hands of these 25 stellar crime fiction writers, ‘We Got the Beat’ and ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ become evil little gems. A totally rad read.” —Alan Hunter, Original MTV VJ, SiriusXM Host

“Shock and awe, that sums up my reaction to Murder-A-Go-Go’s. Shock to live in times when ‘The Whole World Lost Its Head’ and awe at the response of these gifted writers. Buckle up for a ride that will leave ‘Skidmarks on Your Heart.’” —Sara Paretsky, bestselling author of the V.I. Warshawski crime series

“Who knew those happy songs by one of all-time favorite bands, the Go-Go’s could inspire such dark, noir, spine tingling stories?!! It’s a collection of tales of distinctly female rage—the murderous kind and other wise—to keep you up at night!” —Alison Arngrim, TV’s Nellie Oleson and New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of a Prairie Bitch

Get it

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This Guy Again

It has been a very, very long time since I've engaged in team sports, yet here I is, over at DSD with the cool kids.

For those that don't know me, hi, I'm Angel Luis Colón. I'm a writer, editor, baker, and rabblerouser. I love crime fiction and horror, even if I'm usually not thrilled with the state of the genres.

This week's a bit of an intro to my column (for now, every other Wednesday, but this will become a weekly occurrence soon enough). What I was hoping to convey with this initial post is a bit of a mission statement. The focus for me here will be to toss a little light on the underrepresented voices in my favorite genres of fiction. Be that through interviews, reviews, or just inane ranting will change post to post, but I am hoping to continue some of the work I started when I was podcasting and when I tossed my hat in the editorial ring for a cup of coffee.

Big thanks to the folks at Do Some Damage for inviting me over to talk with you all and maybe expose you to something you haven't heard or thought about yet.

I'll try to keep the cussing to a minimum (that's a fucking lie).


Angel Luis Colón is the Derringer and Anthony Award nominated writer of 5 books including his latest novel HELL CHOSE ME. In his down time, he’s edited an anthology or two, hosted a podcast, helped edit the flash fiction site Shotgun Honey, and has taken up bread baking during the pandemic because why the hell not?

Keep up with him on Twitter via @GoshDarnMyLife

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Crime Conn Express

I'm running around these days with a number of things to do, so writing a piece this week is proving a bit difficult.  Still, I guess I can use this occasion to mention something I'll be participating in, an event put on by the Mystery Writers of America New York branch.  It's CrimeCONN Express 2, so named for a crime writer conference normally held in Connecticut.  This year, for the second year in a row, it's virtual, with a moderator talking to three crime fiction writer (or publisher) panelists.

This coming Thursday, June 17th, from 7PM to 8PM, I'll be moderating a panel called "We Gotta Get Out of This Place.  How Changing Up Settings Can Free Your Imagination".  On the panel will be Timothy Hallinan, Cara Black, and Johnny Temple.  Hallinan has written a few series, including the Poke Rafferty series set in Thailand, Cara Black is 19 books into her Aimee Leduc Investigations series set in Paris, with a 20th book to come next year, and Johnny Temple, of course, has overseen the great Akashic Books Noir Series (Barcelona Noir, Addis Ababa Noir, Cape Cod Noir, Sao Paolo Noir, and so on).  


The description for the event reads "What we can learn from writing about places - or time periods - in which we don't live. It’s a big universe out there, and international crime writing has never been more rich and mind-bending. How learning about crime in Paris, or Stockholm, can inform your story set in, for example, a small New England town."

I'm looking forward to talking with these three and I'll do my best to keep things engaging and lively.  It's a free Zoom event, but you do have to register to watch.  

The link to register is here: WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE

If you have an hour free Thursday evening, hope you can join us.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Dharma Kelleher has done it again!

The next book in the Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter series is out June 18th. 

Bounty hunter Jinx Ballou, first introduced in 2018’s CHASER, has been hired to catch fugitive Blair Marshall, wanted for the brutal murder of a transgender woman. As a trans woman herself, Jinx is single-minded in her drive to bring this bigoted killer to justice.

But there is more to this crime than meets the eye; Marshall controls a giant media machine and Jinx is soon caught in a storm of media manipulation, disinformation, and fake reporting with each lie putting Jinx and those she loves in danger.

TERF WARS leads the reader through action and thrills while highlighting the issues of identity and intersectionality, oppression and responsibility.

Make sure you check out the three previous books all about Jinx.

Chaser (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter Book 1)

Extreme Prejudice (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter Book 2)

A Broken Woman (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter Book 3)

Once you’re all caught up on Jinx, you should meet Shea Stevens. Shea is an ex-con trying to escape from her outlaw past, but that is easier said than done. As a woman that plays by her own rules and follows her heart, Shea often finds trouble she feels compelled to fix.

Iron Goddess (Shea Stevens Outlaw Biker Book 1)

Snitch (Shea Stevens Outlaw Biker Book 2)

Blood Sisters (Shea Stevens Outlaw Biker Book 3)

Dharma Kelleher is a member of Sisters in Crime, the International Thriller Writers, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Visit Dharma at Amazon to discover her catalog. To learn more about upcoming events and features please visit

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Kill Your Darlings

By Claire Booth

I’m at the editing stage of my latest novel. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process. I love working on the word flow, and the phrasing, and the rhythm of things. I make sure I’ve adhered to the three-act structure—which I’ve been doing all along, actually. I don’t think you can have a book written and then shoehorn it into the three-act structure.* But once the whole thing is done, I can make sure that I’m hitting all of my beats as part of a whole piece—instead of one at a time.

I generally know where the problems are. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to fix them. For instance, right now I’m going back and seeding more information throughout the book about one particular character who turned out to be a bigger suspect than I’d first planned. And I’ve flip-flopped in different chapters about whether one fact is tied to another fact. I need to decide—yes or no?

Part of all this involves the really painful step of getting rid of things you love. Whether it’s a character, or a scene, or even just a paragraph (I just deleted one with a great joke about breakfast cereal; trust me, it was brilliant). Sometimes stuff just doesn’t fit, even if it’s great. Get rid of it. Kill your darlings.

Once this is done, I’ll hand the manuscript off to a few people who are kind enough to tear it apart for me. These beta readers tell me if anything is confusing, unnecessary, too wordy, or anything else that detracts from the high quality that I’m aiming for. They’re worth their weight in gold (which is a cliché I hope they would smack me for, if I used it in a book).

*Essentially, this is one-quarter of the book (Act I), then a turning point, then half of the book (Act II), then another turning point, then the last quarter of the book (Act III). There’s a lot more to it—one of the best guides is Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors.