Saturday, June 4, 2022

A Few Recommendations for Summer 2022

Scott D. Parker

Every now and then when it comes time for me to write a Saturday post, a large, overarching one about a single topic, I realize I don’t have one. So I’m going to provide a few recommendations of things I’m listening to, watching, or reading.

Top Gun: Maverick

Now THIS is how to do a legacy sequel. Age up the characters in real time, address the passage of time, and provide a wonderful piece of closure with a legacy co-star. Oh, and incredible action sequences. Holy cow was this a great movie. I took my wife who didn’t necessarily want to see it but she emerged very entertained. Not as entertained as I was: now I want to see this film in IMAX.

And please tell me I’m not the only one who saw the movie and kept having to slow down the car while driving home.

Def Leppard: Diamond Star Halos

Taking a page from the legacy artist idea I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, Def Leppard released their newest album last Friday. Fifteen tracks (17 if you buy from Target) of classic rock goodness. Much like the modern band, The Struts, the Joe Elliott-led five piece band wear their influences on their sleeves, and it starts with the album title.

There’s a whimsical vibe to these songs from the opening chord progression of “Take What You Want” to open the album to the last few notes of “From Here to Eternity.” Allison Krauss lends her vocals to a pair of tunes but make no mistake: this is a rock/pop/metal album just like the band used to make in their heyday.

Lyrically, the guys know their age and acknowledge it throughout the entire record. This was an album I looked forward to ever since it was announced and boy did they deliver.

And yes, we listened to Def Leppard on the way to and from seeing Top Gun: Maverick.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

The third thing released last Friday, this is a Star Wars series I’ve been eagerly anticipating since it was announced as well. In fact, I even held off reading the old Extended Universe novel.

We knew what we were going to get from the trailers: an older, wiser(?) Obi-Wan, living on Tatooine, watching over a ten-year-old Luke Skywalker. What I didn’t expect was his sister, Leia. In fact, it is her plight that propels the series.

I appreciate the slower roll, just like I did for the Mandalorian. I have zero issues with the actors on the show either (so a certain segment of the Star Wars fandom can just go home).

As big a Star Wars fan as I am, I didn’t watch the animated shows so everything in Obi-Wan Kenobi is new to me.

Oh, and so great to see Darth Vader back to being the feared force he is. But I’ll say something that might make a few of y’all look at me askance. I’m fine with James Earl Jones voicing Vader, but how about some more intense inflection, huh? I mean Vader/Anakin finally lays eyes on Kenobi after ten years and it’s like their talking over tea. The last thing Anakin yelled at Kenobi in Episode III was pure hatred. Where’s that emotion in Vader’s inflection?

No Time to Spy by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens

If you like James Bond, might I point you in the direction of this trilogy of book by Collins and Clemens. The premise is pure fun: the main character is John Sand, a real spy who worked with Ian Fleming and the latter author based James Bond on John Sand. Sand, now outed as a spy, marries a rich Texas oil heiress. Despite his retirement, action and adventure follow Mr. and Mrs. Sand.

While I’ve not read all three books—Come Spy With Me; Live Fast, Spy Hard; To Live and Spy in Berlin—a compilation ebook is on sale *this weekend* for only $0.99. You read that correctly: for a dollar(!), you get three novels. Seriously, it’s an impulse buy at that point.

Here’s the Amazon link.

Roll With It by Jay Stringer

Yesterday, Jay broke the news that his latest novel is now available as an audiobook on Audible. As a person who primarily consumes books in that manner, this was great news.

But Jay went above and beyond and made available a few promo codes. These are US only—UK codes will be forthcoming—so if you haven’t had a chance to read his post from yesterday, head on over and see if any of those codes are still available.

Even if they’re not, the book is only 1 credit ($13.96 if you just want to buy it) so get on over to Audible and get a copy. Also, for you library folks out there, be sure to request your library to buy the book and help spread the word.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Roll With It Audiobook OUT NOW (free copies, apply within.)

 By Jay Stringer

I'm thrilled to say the audiobook of ROLL WITH IT is available on Audible RIGHT FLIPPIN' NOW. With great narration by Jennifer Pickens. I can't really do justice to how well Jennifer 'got' the book, the tone, the feel, and the characters. It's a perfect reading. 

To celebrate the release I'm giving away five free downloads to you, my loyal reader (and four of your friends, I guess...) These codes are for the US market only. I'll give away UK codes at a later date. 

First come first served, and I'll delete the codes later today. If you enjoy the audiobook, please spread the word about both my work and Jennifer's. 


Please enjoy one free audio review copy of Roll With It: A Crime Novel, now available on Audible. Redeem the one-time use code below at



Please enjoy one free audio review copy of Roll With It: A Crime Novel, now available on Audible. Redeem the one-time use code below at



Please enjoy one free audio review copy of Roll With It: A Crime Novel, now available on Audible. Redeem the one-time use code below at



Please enjoy one free audio review copy of Roll With It: A Crime Novel, now available on Audible. Redeem the one-time use code below at



Please enjoy one free audio review copy of Roll With It: A Crime Novel, now available on Audible. Redeem the one-time use code below at


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Beau loves LOVE


This week, Beau spotlights Love and Other Criminal Behavior by Nikki Dolson.

The collection starts with "Georgie Ann" a tale of kept women, betrayal, fake friends, and oh, so much blood. Nikki doesn't pump the breaks before throwing the reader into the ring in "Take the Hit," where Kendra must go back into the boxing ring and throw a fight if she hopes to fulfill her dream of having a family.

In "Sunrise," Nikki takes us to the desert to die. But not before unwinding the lost loves, regrets, and complicated relationships all plaguing one family, as two cousins try to decide whether they'll let their beloved Uncle join his late first wife.

"Our Man Julian," is about a washed-up actor who is cultivating a wild San Diego garden, and a lifetime of loneliness and regret. Hit with the reality that he will die soon with no savings and nothing to offer the daughters he loves but barely sees, he plans an outrageous kamikaze mission. But can a man who's survived it all really turn off that survival instinct?

Love and Other Criminal Behavior will keep your heart pumping fast, right up until it's broken.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Lessons (Re)Learned While Writing THE LOW WHITE PLAIN

This is kind of a big deal for me, so, I apologize in advance if my level is a bit too much for you, but... 


Publishing something is such an odd feeling. There's excitement, of course, but also a sense of resignation, too. You know the world isn't going to stop spinning on account of little ol' you, and nothing makes that more clear than that midnight email from Amazon letting you know the book you wrote, that you've read more times than you can count, that you poured yourself in to while drafting, then tore pieces back out while editing, is available. "Your Amazon Order" it says.

Months of work reduced to a generic order confirmation. 

Still, writing a book is seriously hard work, and I'm proud of myself for having gotten this over the finish line, so today I want to talk about five things I learned while writing "The Low White Plain" (which, if I haven't mentioned, is available now!). 

Maybe it will give you some insight in to my process. Maybe you'll find something useful. Maybe I'm just a bundle of anxiety and energy. Let me know! 

1. Do the Hard Shit  

When Frank Zafiro emailed me, asking if I wanted to write an entry for his Grifter's Song series, I almost said no. I'm not a big fan of series or series characters, and I'd never really written about cons. I understood why he thought I'd be a good fit - the story of mine he'd read, The Hope of Lost Mares from "The Eviction of Hope" has a couple of rather intense betrayals in it - but I wasn't convinced. It seemed too outside my wheelhouse. Too large a task to take on while already in the middle of a couple other big projects. But I also knew that, if the pretty girl asks you to dance and you say "no," she's not asking again. So I said yes. And I'm so glad I did. 

That we learn and grow by trying unfamiliar things isn't exactly new knowledge, but it's undeniably true. Do the hard shit. Do the shit you don't think you can do. Don't be afraid to let people down if you fail. Chances are, if you have the self awareness to know something is going to be hard, you've got the smarts to figure out a way to make it work. So do it. 

2. Your Work is Your Work 

This is related to my first point, but it bears repeating: I never imagined I would write a series featuring established characters. The whole time I've been writing, I've been very conscious of writing character-centric fiction. Yeah, I write crime fiction, where violence and twists are to be expected, but as a reader, if I didn't care about the characters, I didn't give a shit. So how was I going to figure out a way to make these characters, already established in 20+ other novellas, interesting? To the reader, or to me? 

Turns out, it's wasn't really that hard. Anything you write, anything that comes out of your fingers, that's you. My version of Sam (and Rachel, but especially Sam) is a bit different than most other interpretations of him so far. More paranoid. More filled with anxiety. Longer in the tooth. Is this because I changed him to fit the plot? Of course not. Frank would never allow that. It's because that's where I am as a writer right now. It's because those are the themes I feel myself being pulled towards. 

I was thinking about it wrong. It was never about me stepping in to Sam's world, it was about bringing him in to mine. My work is my work. Even if I tried to hide it, who I am is still going to bleed through to the page. Knowing yourself, your mission as an artist, your voice, and your concerns? That is the key. If you're dialed in to those aspects of yourself, everything else will follow. 

3. If You're Stuck, You're Not Being Weird Enough 

I had the initial idea for "The Low White Plain" pretty quickly after my invitation email came, but when it came time to write it, I found myself stuck about thirty pages in. The idea was sound, but it wasn't yet clicking. I knew Sam and Rachel were going to be stuck between a gang of Neo-Nazis and someone running for Governor, but it still felt kind of dry. Not bad, really, but like a hamburger that's missing a few ingredients. 

Then, while flipping through Reddit one snowy afternoon, I saw an infographic discussing the different kinds of Satanism. Specifically, it mentioned the Order of the Nine Angles. I've been aware of those assholes for a while (reading about different occult groups is a weird hobby, but it's one of mine), and I knew, in an instant, that's part of what I was missing. I was playing too straight, keeping my ideas of plot and character too in-the-lines. But most people aren't in-the-lines. Especially not the ones we want to read books about. So I took all my weird interests, things like fascist occultists, psychogeograhy, money laundering in the art world, UFOs, my honestly over the top fascination with extreme weather, and my sincere shock at how bloody local politics can be, and I threw all of that in. And suddenly the book came to life.  

4. Don't Kill the Mood 

Jordan Harper has written about this more eloquently than I can ever hope to (seriously, if you're not reading his indispensable newsletter, Welcome to the Hammer Partyyou need to sign up for it this instant), but great advice deserves to be shared as often as possible. 

In any kind of fiction, the thing that sustains, the things that sit with the reader after they've closed the book, are not the plot or the action or the character, but the mood in which the action and the plot and the characters are conveyed. If you have an incredibly tense gunfight in a bank parking lot, you're not going to remember the gunshots themselves, but rather the sweaty fingers and the glare in someone's sunglasses as they try to find their next target and the heat of the sun and it's oppressive hold on someone as they lay bleeding out on the ground. Jordan calls this "Not Breaking the Dream". Using the ephemera within scenes to create a continuous bleeding from scene to scene that establishes the exact weight of the reality the story is taking place in. 

I'd been doing this, or something similar to this, for a few years now (there are a LOT of water references in the beginning of Paper Boats for example), but "The Low White Plain" was the first time I made a conscious effort, from the beginning of a project until the end, to not break the dream. To not kill the mood. And it has become an essential part of my toolkit. If there is one piece of advice you take from this post, please make it this. 

5. It's Your Party (So Scream If You Want To) 

Do you have any idea how many books come out each week? 

No. Seriously. I'm asking. Because I don't know the exact average. What I do know is that it is staggering

Which leaves you with two choices: You can either look at the marketplace and decide, "yeah, I'm happy just to be here, to be a drop in the bucket" or you can push your book. Scream about it from the mountain tops. 

I have to admit, there's a part of me, the shy, don't-want-to-make-a-fuss part, that feels a little weird pushing "The Low White Plain" so hard. It's the 27th book in a series, a series in which I have absolutely no creative control now that my part is done. It's not a full length novel (though I think it's the longest book in the series so far). And they're not my characters. 

But, honestly, fuck all that. They are my characters. At least in this book they are. It's a series, yeah, but it's a series I was scared to write for because of how many fantastic writers have contributed entries. And, sure, I don't have control over what comes next, but I had total control while writing my entry, and that's what matters. 

So it's not a flashy hardcover. It's still MY BOOK. You better believe I'm going to celebrate that, generic Amazon Order Confirmation emails be damned. I did the work. I'm thrilled with it. No one else can give me that same feeling OR take it away. 

It's there. "The Low White Plain" is out in the world now. You can bet your ass I'm going to scream about it. And, maybe, if you're so inclined, you'll buy it too. Maybe you'll read it. Maybe you'll really like it. And if that's the case, scream with me.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Nostalgia as Narcotic

Scott's Note:  Voter suppression remains an issue of great concern in this country, so fiction on the topic is always welcome.  The Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume 3 anthology is now out with 22 stories of mystery and suspense that address the issue and that explore the question of what democracy looks like, and contributor James McCrone, who also contributed a story to Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume 2, is here as a guest blogger to tell us about it.

Here's James:

 Nostalgia as Narcotic

by James McCrone

We've been here before. 

When I settled on the title for my story, “Nostalgia,” my contribution to the Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume 3 anthology, I would hear Gil Scott Heron’s gorgeous, resonant voice from “B Movie,” booming in my head, telling me like it is. Eloquently calling into question Ronald Reagan’s so-called “mandate” in 1980, he notes ironically that “what this country wants now is nostalgia...not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backward—to a time when we gave ‘em hell, when the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it! To a time when movies was in black-and-white, and so was everything else...” 

Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume 3: The Color of My Vote arrived this month, with 22 stories that explore the unsettling reality of life at a global inflection point. It drew award-winning writers and writers who are being published for the first time from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences from around the globe. The anthology will donate $10,000 to Democracy Docket, which is “dedicated to providing information, opinion and analysis about voting rights and more.” 

And it couldn’t be more timely.

But we have been here before, and as Gil Scott Heron points out, nostalgia for the supposed good old days elides the very real ugliness of the past. And many of the stories contained in LDDV-3 address that history. My contribution to LDDV-3, “Nostalgia,” began as mob history seen through the present-day, jaundiced eyes of my young narrator, a petty thief; and the kernel from which the story grew was our national dysfunction—well, one of them—the strange, lingering belief that things were somehow better, fairer, more just in some bygone era. 

Living where I do, in South Philadelphia, I’ve actually overheard conversations about how things were better ordered, or made more sense when Wise Guys ruled the roost. And I’ve thought, “Wait...what?” The narrator of the story is both taken in and repulsed by these people trying to relive the past—“like they were all living together in some movie where the world still made sense.” And still falls victim to his own brand of myopic nostalgia. Until he doesn’t.  

As I worked on the piece I began to see the wannabe-mobsters in the story as not merely contemptible, but dangerous. It struck me that the root of reactionary efforts to suppress and disenfranchise voters might issue from a similar misbegotten longing for a time that never really existed, like those conversations I’d overheard. 

As the story came together, I found that I liked that something more-or-less benign, like nostalgia, could be a malignant, negative force. And with the thumping backbeat of Scott Heron’s “B Movie” pumping in my head I found myself pulling Docherty, by William McIlvanney, down from my shelf, chasing a quote I dimly remembered. Early in the book, the character Miss Gilfillan, unable to sleep, takes “a dose of nostalgia like a drug…” 

And I had what I needed to complete the story. Nostalgia as drug was more apt than I knew at the time. In “Nostalgia,” a reactionary group takes over the drug trade to finance its attack on the government, an American Taliban. Wannabe mobsters, dirty cops, and a petty thief trying to make his way—each character lies to himself about the way things once were, and about what lies behind the things they do now. 

Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume. 3, The Color of My Vote, features work by Anshritha, Eric Beetner, Stephen Buehler, Patricia E Canterbury, Sarah M Chen; David Corbett, Jackie Ross Flaum, Katharina Gerlach, Barb Goffman, David Hagerty; myself, Camille Minichino, Ann Parker, Thomas Pluck, Miguel Alfonso Ramos; Ember Randall, Travis Richardson, Faye Snowden, Misty Sol; DJ Tyrer, Gabriel Valjan, and Bev Vincent.


For Democracy Docket:

For Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume. 3:

#  #  #

James McCrone is the author of the Faithless Elector series novels—Faithless Elector, Dark Network, and Emergency Powers—“taut” and “gripping” political thrillers about a stolen presidency. His work has appeared in Rock and a Hard Place; Retreats from Oblivion: The Journal of NoirCon. His next novel, currently under review, is Bastard Verdict, a political thriller set in Scotland. He’s currently at work on a thriller set in Oregon’s wine country, a (pinot) Noir tale of corruption and murder.

He’s a member of MWA, Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, ITW, Philadelphia Dramatists’ Center and he’s the vice-president of the Delaware Valley Sisters in Crime chapter. James has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle. A Pacific Northwest native (mostly), he lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and three children.

You can learn more at