Saturday, February 25, 2023

Is Word Count the Best Way to Chart a Novel’s Progress?


Scott D. Parker

Words, pages, or scenes? What is the best way to measure progress when writing a novel?

When I wrote my first novel, I had zero idea about word count so I just stuck with scenes. They were as long as they needed to be.

After I met some fellow writers online, I learned that word count was also a method. In fact, it was often the preferred method publishers used to solicit stories and novels. So I switched and have been using word count as my standard ever since. I still let scenes do what they want.




Writing streaks are a great way to maintain momentum when you are on a project. I use them all the time as well. Since 2022 was a disastrous year of (non) writing for me, I resolved that I would start a brand-new project on New Year’s Day 2023 and keep going everyday until I completed the book.

I have written everyday this year. Yay! The book is coming along nicely, and its serving to remind me about the power and excitement of actually creating a story out of thin air.

During every writing session, I have managed to write 1,000 words or more. That’s kind of a doable benchmark I use that is a nice round number. It has enabled me to reach 64,000 words in the book as of yesterday, Day 55 of the year, so that’s really nice to see. Plus, it’s not as aggressive as the 1,667 words per day you need to write, a la NaNoWriMo, to get a 50,000-word book done in 30 days, but it is usually an achievable threshold, especially when I’m in that flow state.

But is it a good one?

There have been a few days this year when I’m writing a particular scene and I half wonder if I’m writing more words just to reach 1,000 words. I cannot consciously say yes, but the nagging splinter of that idea that I’m just padding the word count remains.

I guess that’s what editing is for.

What about you? How do you measure progress on a book?

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Books We Haven't Read (yet)

 My wife's Valentine's Day gift to me this year was to redecorate my office. 

She explained, "You spend like 80% of your time in there, so it should be as nice as possible", and, honestly, that's one of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. So we spent Thursday, nine inches of snow fresh on the ground, homebound, working in my office. Books were pulled off the shelves and the shelves were removed from the walls. Paint was applied, and old paintings and photos and pennants I'd collected over the years were consolidated and placed on a single wall, keeping the space directly above my desk blank, for now. 

It feels different in here. Because of her work, mostly, but also because, after the paint was dry, I worked in to the night, reshelving my books. 

That's always a magical feeling, placing your books back on the shelf, but this time, maybe because it was the first time I'd reshelved my whole collection without the stress of moving the whole goddamn house too, it struck me a little different. It's not that I was more critical of what I was shelving, but rather... distant, maybe. 

I'm sure a therapist would say it has more to do with getting older than a result of the redesigned space, but this time I was keenly aware that a lot of the books I was reshelving were, more than likely, never going to be pulled off again. Not to be read in full, anyway.

But instead of wondering why I am still keeping those books, instead of pondering the inherent power of a collection of books filling a wall, I started to think about the books I haven't read yet. 

Here are a few books from my shelves I have not read yet, and a brief explainer as to why. And when I hope to rectify that. 

Mystic River 

I think it was LOST that put this idea in my head. Desmond and his obsession for Dickens. I can't get into the convoluted nature of LOST here (to be honest, in part, I kind of don't want to remember), but there's a character on the show, Desmond, who has read everything Charles Dickens has ever read except for a single novel. That novel, I think it was A Tale of Two Cities, is the last novel Desmond wants to read before he dies. 

That's Mystic River, for me. 

Lehane was, and continues to be, one of my single greatest influences. His Boston is as much Gothic as it is a criminal Wonderland, his characters are always aching, always searching for something better, his plots are razor sharp, and his prose is immaculate. And if what everyone says is true, Mystic River is his masterpiece. I know I'll read it eventually, but I'm in no rush. Saving something for close to the end can only make it sweeter, right? I have no idea when I'll read this one, but just knowing it's out there is powerful, I think. Eventually, when the time is right. Maybe when I'm close to the end. 

Lonesome Dove 

Well, first, it's so goddamn long. Just looking at that book on my shelf, I can feel the weight of commitment grabbing my shoulders. But I know it's good. It has to be. And (check my other blogs in you don't believe me) I've had Cormac McCarthy on the brain for years and years and years now. Someday, it's going to be incredibly pleasant to get a different picture of the West in my head; something to replace The Kid and the Judge and the barren, baking, hellscape of the desert. And if that only lasts while I'm reading the book? That's fine. It'll still take quite a while. I'm hoping I can read this one this ear. 

What about you? Do you have any books you can't wait to read, but you're holding off, waiting for that special time? If so, tell me about them below, or reach out on Twitter @pauljgarth 


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Death at an Old Mansion

A few months ago I wrote here about the excellent Japanese mystery novel, The Honjin Murders, published in 1946 by Seishi Yokomizo.  It's a classic honkaku mystery, defined by Japanese crime author Saburo Koga as "a detective story that values entertainment derived from pure logical reasoning", usually, if not always, a mystery of the locked-room or impossible variety.  I've really been into reading these Japanese books for a couple years now, but I didn't find out till recently that there's been a movie adaptation of The Honjin Murders. It's called Death at an Old Mansion and came out in 1975, directed by Yoichi Takabayashi.

In brief, the plot revolves around the deaths of a bride and groom on the night the two wed. Both are found bloodied, stabbed by a sword, inside a locked room. The sword is found outside the room, however, and on a wall inside the room is found the bloodied handprint of a three-fingered person. Amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi, working with the local police inspector, tackles the case, and the investigation proceeds in the small town in rural Japan where the deaths occurred.

The Wikipedia description of the film says it's a horror film, but this is not accurate.  Death at an Old Mansion is a pure mystery, like the book, presenting a puzzle and a collection of suspects and an ingenious, complicated solution. What the movie does do, perhaps earning it the appellation of "horror film", is emphasize the book's macabre aspects quite a bit, while downplaying some of its humor.  The movie is less lighthearted, less playful, than the book, which serves at once as a superb mystery and a commentary on mystery stories.  One note: the brother of the dead groom, a  member of the eccentric family Kindaichi is probing with questions, is in the movie like in the book a detective fiction aficionado, and this makes for lively conversations in the film about the difference between crime in "real life" and in detective stories.   

I'm not sure why this film, at least in the US, is a bit obscure, but I'd say that for those who feel they've seen all the good traditional mystery story films there are to see, who are enjoying the current small resurgence of classic-style whodunnits on film, this is a film that would probably be up your alley.

And it's available to see on You Tube if you look for it, with subtitles, in a lovely print.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Springsteen, Showing Your Age, and Knowing Your Truth

Scott D. Parker

“I’m getting a certain vibe here,” my twenty-one-year-old son said as I drove my car on the streets leading to Houston’s Toyota Center. With less than thirty minutes before showtime, the traffic crawled and the sidewalks were jammed with people heading to the arena to see the 2023 version of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Yes, there was a vibe. Lots of middle-aged people, many with all-gray hair and loose, baggy clothes worn to hide bodies no longer as thin as fit as they were when The Boss ruled the airwaves in the Seventies and Eighties. Some wore concert t-shirts from ages past while others sported more modern Springsteen attire. A decent number of the concert goers were like me: attending the show with a younger person, hoping to introduce what it was like to see Springsteen the Showman fill an arena with sound and lead the fans in singing his songs. I chuckled as my son and I made our way to our seats. So many people my age and older crowded the hallways. Not like when he and I saw the band Ghost in early 2022. Then, I was in the age minority.

But there was a moment before the lights dimmed and the music started when I looked around at the people who sat near us and lots of the people we had seen coming into Toyota Center: they were old, or at least they looked old. But if they were old, that meant I was old, too. Right? I’m not one who takes my age into account on any given day. Looking out of my eyes, I’m like a perpetual twentysomething person. Looking in the mirror, I see the truth. Looking at all these older Springsteen fans, I see their truths.

And when Bruce himself got on stage and started the evening with “Night,” his face was broadcast on four screens hung over the stage. We had decent seats, but it was nice to have the professional camera folks giving us close ups of the Boss and the members of the E Street Band. When the camera often zoomed in on Springsteen’s face, you could see his truth as well.

The man is seventy three. Yes, he’s aged well. I hope I look as good as he does when I’m that age. Yes he has access to medical and dietary resources that help him age gracefully, but you can still see the age on his face, his eyelids, and the wrinkles around his face. You can tell that he’s not as animated as he used to be when he ran across stages, sliding on his knees, and leaping into the crowds.

But he was still thrilling, and he still put on a helluva show.

And yet I never expected to tear up at a Springsteen show. Well, I should have expected it, but when it happened, it actually moved me.

Every rock star I discovered in my youth, teens, and twenties have aged right along with me. Of course they have, you say. We’re all human. Yes, we are, but when you spin a record that came out in 1992 or 1982 or whenever, your mind can time travel back to that year and you can remember how you felt hearing those songs. In those moments, you can be that age again, even if you’re driving an SUV and taking your kids to band practice.

We got that sense of time travel on Tuesday evening with Bruce. So many of those songs are all time travel songs. That’s what they’ve become. Some songs never get old. “Born to Run”, sung at full volume with the house light up, everyone punching the air with upraised arms, will never, ever get old. But twice on Tuesday, mortality and truth entered the room and reminded us that time never stops.

In a long, spoken introduction to “Last Man Standing,” Bruce told us about he was the last person who was still alive from his first band, The Castilles. It was in this story that Bruce uttered a particularly great quote: “Death’s great gift is expanded vision.” None of us knows how many days we have, so it is necessary to make sure the lives we live are the best possible version.

The final song was just the two of us. By that I mean it was Bruce, on stage with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, singing to everyone but, in reality, he was singing to each and every one of us like it was just him and us in a room together. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is a song about mortality and aging and loss. But it’s also an inspirational ode, especially with the line “For death is not the end and I’ll see you in my dreams.”

On the record, it’s the last track and the last time he says those words, he talking, to us, individually and collectively. On stage, the same vibe could be felt throughout the arena as the crowd was mostly silent, listening to Bruce Springsteen tell us that he’ll see us—his fans, his friends—in his dreams. The implication is that when he finally calls it a day and stops touring, he’ll have dreams about the fifty-plus years he’s experienced life on stage.

And we’ll have memories of concerts like this as well.

When I listened to that song on the record back in 2020, I wondered if those last few words would be the last time I’d ever hear a new Bruce Springsteen song. I should have realized that his restless spirit will always create new material even if he doesn’t tour it.

When I listened to that song live in 2023, I wondered if that would be the last time I ever heard Springsteen in person. Maybe. Maybe not. But if it was, what a way to say goodbye, not with a loud, bombastic anthem, but a quiet, gentle song about aging and mortality yet filled with hope, joy, energy, and the truth that shows like this will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

With a Twist by Cathi Stoler

Scott's Note: Today Cathi Stoler guest blogs.  Cathi is a fellow New Yorker who I've done a number of Noir at the Bars with, and she's one of the most prolific mystery writers I know. Today she talks about her newest book, With a Twist, the fourth book in her Murder on the Rocks series.


by Cathi Stoler

I’m the kind of person who believes a change of scenery will do you good. Traveling to new countries and cities, interacting with interesting people, and experiencing a variety of cultures and cuisines are enticing and exciting.

But for Jude Dillane, my protagonist in my Murder On The Rocks Mystery series, not so much. Jude rarely leaves her East Village neighborhood, where she owns The Corner Lounge on Tenth Street and Avenue B. She has everything she needs right there: her boyfriend Eric Ramirez, her friend and landlord Thomas ‘Sully’ Sullivan, her customers, and her cozy apartment above The Lounge in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building.

Born and bred in New York City, Jude’s faced a lot of adversity in her life and has finally found a place where she feels at home. Her neighborhood is her comfort zone, and she doesn’t like to venture too far from her bar. 

In the first book in the series, Bar None, Jude travels to the Bronx, a borough away, and reluctantly goes undercover at the Big City Food Bank to solve a murder. In books two and three, Last Call, and Straight Up, Jude pursues and is almost killed by the New Year’s Eve Serial Killer, who’s been living and operating in her Lower East Side neighborhood for years, proving the theory that trouble can find you wherever you are. Even close to home.

Setting is very important to my stories. I think of it as the element that brings plot, characters, voice, and action together while giving the reader a true sense of place. The Lower East side is rich in history and character, which I wanted to share. There’s a lot to see and do there and I hoped whoever was reading my stories would see it through my words. 

But for book four in the series, With a Twist, I felt that Jude and my readers needed a change of scenery and a new setting, so I sent her on a cruise, a very exclusive and luxurious one on a small, but magnificent ship, The Allure. As opposite from the Lower East Side, as you can get, this was a Mediterranean cruise to die for.

When her boyfriend, Eric Ramirez, offers her this trip, which he received from a grateful business client, she initially refuses. As tempting as Spain, Italy, and Greece sound, they are not the Lower East Side, she points out to him. Eric finally persuades her to go and when she tells her employees about the voyage, they react with surprise that she’d actually leave The Lounge, even for just ten days.

When Jude and Eric reach The Allure, the newest ship in the Wanderlust Cruise line fleet, things begin to look up, especially when she meets her old college friend, Monica Delmar, the Director of Passenger Services. It’s luxury all the way, from the spacious suite to the fabulous food and drinks, to the number of passengers—a mere two hundred and fifty. Two ports-of-call on The Allure include Barcelona and Rome. I wanted to portray these beautiful cities with as much life, excitement, and energy as the lower East Side. Barcelona is a magnificent city with spacious plazas and gorgeous buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi. And Rome, with its ancient buildings and rich history, captivates from the first glance. At least, I hope my reader thinks so.

Once onboard The Allure, Jude finally begins to relax, but the good feeling doesn’t last for long.  An unfortunate dinner with the obnoxious Captain Brigman, who somehow knows about Jude’s unfortunate history with a serial killer, is just the beginning. When Monica discovers the body of the assistant purser, Jamie McFarland, lying in a pool of blood, everything changes. Jude’s romantic getaway quickly becomes complicated by a murder that may be tied to an international gang of jewel thieves.

Monica, who is under suspicion, asks for Jude’s help and she agrees. As Jude works to unravel the mystery and identify the killer, and the leader of the jewelry theft ring, her own life is put in danger. She knows she has to figure out who’s responsible for turning this opulent cruise into a death trap. Are the theft of a valuable diamond ring and the discovery of a cryptic notebook related? Jude makes waves as she looks into everyone, from Monica’s close friend, Chief Officer Damian Carstairs, to the ship’s photographer to a smarmy casino host, to discover who is responsible for the crimes.

Complicating matters even more, in Barcelona, Jude recognizes someone from home, Tony Napoli, her old friend, and protector, a former undercover cop who’s fled the country to protect the woman he loves from going to jail. Torn between her loyalty to Tony and her sense of duty, Jude goes to the American Embassy to report seeing Tony.

All this happening outside her comfort zone is quite a departure for Jude. It’s definitely a change of scenery, and Jude faces it with the determination and snarky attitude readers have come to know and love. 


With a Twist, a Murder on the Rocks Mystery, is out now and you can get it here. 

Cathi Stoler is an Amazon Best-Selling author and Derringer winner. The four novels in her Murder On the Rocks Series, Bar NoneLast CallStraight Up, and With a Twist feature Corner Lounge Bar Owner, Jude Dillane. Other books include the Nick Donahue Adventures, and the Laurel and Helen New York Mysteries. Cathi is a member of SinC, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. Find Cathi at:, or email her at:

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Poker Face and the Spiritual Reboot


Scott D. Parker

Poker Face had me at Rian Johnson. But had I not known it was his brainchild, the show would have had me at the title font. 

That yellow font on the title card, the year represented by Roman numerals. What decade are we in? Well, the headspace of creator Rian Johnson was the 1970s and 1980s with shows like Colombo and The Rockford Files. I suspect he gets nostalgically triggered when he sees the title cards of those shows and others and wanted to bring sensibility forward to the 2020s.

What sensibility is that? A traditional crime-of-the-week series. But not just that: a new crime every week with a whole new cast. Which brings me to another 1970s TV it reminds me of: The Incredible Hulk. Both feature a lead who is being chased across the country, meeting new people every week.

Now I know what you’re thinking: there are plenty of crime-of-the-week shows from Law and Order to Castle to all those shows on CBS I don’t watch. That’s not new. No, it’s not, but the laid-back aesthetic is a refreshing return to a modern TV landscape full of season-long streaming shows to modernized takes on old tropes.

Both of those things are fine, and I enjoy them, but I also appreciate the slower paced TV shows that used to dominate networks with stakes that are not really that high. And I very much applaud Johnson for channeling that vibe into something new rather than a modern reboot of an old franchise.

He could just have acquired the rights to, say, Colombo (the obvious ancestor to Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie Cale) and created a story around Colombo’s grandkid who is a rumpled detective just like Peter Faulk. I’d watch that and chances are, you would, too. But we’d constantly be comparing the new actor/actress to Faulk, much to the detriment of the new show. Also, we’d probably have the admittedly fun “sequel” to some random episode that no one remembers save the dedicate Colombo fans.

No, what Johnson did was take all those elements and, crucially, made something new, unique, and his own. That last bit is probably the key factor for Johnson. Given the opportunity, he’d probably make a Colombo sequel or adapt some Agatha Christie novel in to a movie, but with Poker Face and Knives Out and Glass Onion, he gets to revel in all the stuff he loves while playing in his own sandbox.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Art Taylor on writing with range

Guest Post by Art Taylor

I debated fiercely about the subtitle of my new book: The Adventure of the Castle Thief and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions, due out February 14 from Crippen & Landru, a publisher specializing in collections of short mystery fiction. 

In an informal and very limited poll (my wife Tara, our son Dash, and Jeffrey Marks at Crippen & Landru) “and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions” was the unanimous winner among several options, and I hope readers ultimately find it more catchy than cumbersome. But my mind keeps circling back to the subtitle I’d originally been considering: “Stories Light and Dark”—a tag which would’ve served two purposes, not only description but also (frankly) disclaimer.

In an interview several years back, Ed Aymar mentioned the range of my stories (a nice compliment, I’d thought!) but then he asked if I ever worried about branding, which . . . which honestly I hadn’t considered before in terms of my own work . . . and maybe I should’ve? I’m an avid reader in the mystery genre—everything from traditional mysteries to domestic suspense to hard-boiled and beyond—and I’d enjoyed writing across a similar spectrum, even crossing some genres within a single story, a bit of speculative fiction in the mix, for example. 

But are other readers equally broad in their tastes, or are they more focused in what they like and don’t like? With a collection, does that phrase “something for all readers” (you’ll find that idea in my book’s description) also carry the suggestion “oh, well, you can’t make everyone happy all the time”?  

The title story, “The Adventure of the Castle Thief,” is a traditional clue-driven mystery: a college study abroad in Ireland, students suffering a series of small thefts, and a professor and his star student setting out to solve the case discreetly and return order to their once-happy little group. This one’s at the lighter end of the spectrum. 

And at the other end . . . “The White Rose of Memphis” focuses on a hotel which has made a tourist spectacle out of the legendary assault and murder of a woman on her wedding weekend; the story follows a modern-day couple paying to recreate that experience, which hardly goes well. Do Some Damage’s own Steve Weddle originally published this one in Needle: A Magazine of Noir—with emphasis on that subtitle, noir at the core. 

Truth in advertising, the book jacket for my new collection explains that range, and I’ve ordered the stories within mostly with an eye toward increased darkness as readers push ahead—and increased dipping of my toes into speculative fiction as well. 

Ease into these waters—that’s the message. Not “Abandon All Hope Ye Who . . .”—at least I hope not!   

Coming back to titles and subtitles, I’m grateful to be here at Do Some Damage, and I want to focus on the site’s own subtitle/tagline: Crime Fiction Is For All of Us. In fact, it’s that combination that’s prompted some of these reflections. What kinds of “damage done” are readers here willing to accept in the fiction they read? How widely do you read generally in either direction? And for the writers, how much attention do you give to positioning yourself along that spectrum from light to dark—with an eye toward whatever reader you imagine? 

(These are real questions, I should stress—and I hope folks reading this might answer below!)

Order yours:




Art Taylor is the author of  two collections—The Adventure of the Castle Thief and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions and The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense—and On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. His short fiction has won three additional Agatha Awards as well as the Edgar, Anthony, Derringer, and Macavity Awards. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Beau recommends Rosson


This week, Beau recommends Keith Rosson's Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons


“With this excellent collection of 15 jagged, fragmented pieces, dark fantasist Rosson subverts expectations and challenges his characters and his readers alike to second-guess their preconceptions. Evil is just as likely to spring from daily life as to lunge out of the supernatural in these disquieting tales. . . . These powerful stories will leave readers unsettled in the best ways.” – Publishers Weekly

Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons is an unforgettable and often heartbreaking one-two punch of satire of and elegy for a decayed America.” – Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song

“Keith Rosson is a storyteller with magic and grit to spare. Mesmerizing from the first sentence to the last, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons is a phenomenal collection.” – Andy Davidson, author of The Boatman’s Daughter

“Effortlessly brilliant, entertaining and full of raw emotion, Rosson’s work takes you out of your comfort zone and into new landscapes of fiction. Literate, horrific, humanistic, sardonic. I’ve never read stories quite like Rosson’s and that is a great thing.” – John Hornor Jacobs, author of A Lush and Seething Hell

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Nanny and Dread

In the film Nanny (2022), which I saw recently, a Senelegese immigrant named Aisha works for an affluent white couple in their spacious New York City apartment.  She takes care of their young daughter, teaching her French, cooking her Senelegese food that the girl likes, and the nanny and daughter quickly bond. The parents, meanwhile, have issues, both personal and work-related, making life in this privileged environment a less than relaxed one. They don't always pay Aisha the amount they are supposed to on time, which is galling in and of itself but also screws up her plans.  She is trying to save money to bring over her six-year-old son in Senegal, where he is staying with her cousin.  Aisha is hardly timid in demanding the money owed her from her employers, but their excuses and self-absorption don't make things easy for her.  Meanwhile, Aisha begins to experience strange dreams and visions involving water and submersion in water and a West African mermaid spirit called Mami Wata.  The less I say about the plot from here on in the better, but suffice it to say that Nanny is an eerie and suspenseful movie that uses psychological horror to explore an immigrant's experience, her anxieties, hopes, and difficulties, the sacrifices and adjustments she has to make.   It's the first feature film by writer-director Nikyatu Jusu, and Anna Diop as Aisha, who is in virtually every scene, is very good. 

As the movie unfolded and Aisha had her disturbing visions, sometimes confusing reality with hallucination, one possible reason for these disruptions occurring to her struck me.  It's something that's likely to dawn on a lot of people watching the movie, a possibility for the film's outcome.  That outcome is confirmed by the film's end, news delivered toward the film's climax.  "It is that," I thought.  "Dammit!"  I wished it hadn't been that, but it makes utter sense and in retrospect, everything in the movie has been leading to this.  If you didn't foresee this coming, no matter; the final turn of the screw will still serve as a powerful punch.  But either way, it made me think about the difference between twists in stories and the use of dread, and how a story doesn't need a reversal or plot twist or an out of left field kicker to be effective.  You see those kinds of things so often, that strain for a final twist, that it gets redundant and forced.  In a genre like horror especially, dread is extremely effective.  A situation is set up, unease is created by what's going on, and there are any number of possible outcomes, one of which at least, without question, is an upsetting one.  You hope that outcome won't be the one chosen and you feel a sense of mounting dread thinking well, it may be that one after all.  No outlandish twists needed, no attempts at a stunning revelation.  Your dread just mounts and mounts and you hold out hope for the outcome not to be feared, which is also possible in this story, but if at the end your pessimistic expectations are met, you feel a release of your dread through emotion.  It's more of an emotional experience really than the intellectual one that the twist offers, the twist being something that appeals primarily to the mind in how it tricked you or threw you off track.  

That's not to say Nanny ends on a total downbeat note, because it doesn't.  But it does deliver on the dread all while taking you completely into the world of its main character, Aisha.  I liked it quite a bit and it's on Amazon Prime, easy to see.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Noir at the Bar, Arizona Style

Are you going to Left Coast Crime in Tucson next month (March 16-19)? Start it off the night before with Noir at the Bar. I'll be part of a great line up. We'll all be reading from our works and enjoying an in-person (!) evening. If you'll be in town, join us!

Saturday, February 4, 2023

It’s Never Too Late to Restart Resolutions and Habits

Scott D. Parker

How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along?

I saw a statistic that said by today—Day 36 of 2023—a shocking 80% or more people have already given up on the resolutions they so fervently made at midnight on 1 January. Eighty percent. I think the figure is higher, to be honest. There’s even a holiday to help folks who waver on their resolutions. It’s called National Quitter’s Day and that was back on 13 January.

As I wrote back in December, I had certain personal goals—okay, let’s just call them habits, okay? That’s what they really are—that I wanted to do in January. I started re-reading the Psalms (one a day for 150 days), I re-read the Proverbs (31 chapters for 31 days in January), and have started to re-read Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic. Taking a cue from Bryon Quertermous, I bought a weekly planner and kept track of every habit I wanted to set.

So far? Success. It’s feels very nice to have reached the last day of the why-does-it-feel-so-long January and all my boxes were checked.

The other thing that also was checked? The writing habit. My writing goal for January was simple: start a new project and write on it every day. I had no word count goal but I tend to zero in on 1,000 words per session. Again, 100% success.

Now, it wasn’t perfect. There were a couple of days when I had to slog through the writing, but I sat down and did it.

By the 31st of January, I had amassed approximately 39,000 words on the new novel. That’s not quite NaNoWriMo speed (50,000 words over 30 days) but considering the dismal writing I did in 2022, I’ll take the win. You know how I knew the new habit was locked in? When on that first Saturday morning, I opted not to watch a movie before I finished my words for the day. That Saturday Habit has continued. That, my friends, is a fantastic feeling.

But what do you do if life threw you curve balls in January and you’ve had to catch them, dodge them, hit them, or let them hit you?

Start again. Seriously it’s that simple. Just start.

What’s great about February is that it has the fewest days of any month. If you’ve wanted to start a new habit and have fallen off the wagon, start again on Monday. Do the writing, do the exercise, do the reading, do the calling of your friends or family you haven’t spoken to in a long time. There are only 24 more days in February. It’s a nice, short length of time to get back to the habit you know you want to ingrain in your brain.

Start today or tomorrow and do that new habit every day for a week. Your reward? The Super Bowl. Then aim for the next week. You make it that far, you’ll only have ten more days until the end of the month.

You know you want to create that new resolution, that new habit. I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late. But you will have to do one thing:


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Happy Groundhog Slay



This week, Beau looks at this beaut of a story in MONSTERS

GROUNDHOG SLAY by Nick Kolakowski: It’s the summer of 1987. Around Lake Legionnaire, locals whisper tales of an unstoppable monster rampaging through the night, killing everyone in its way. But what if the monster’s just trying to stop something far worse—a threat that could destroy all existence? “Groundhog Slay” shows that not all heroes wear capes: sometimes they wear creepy masks, and they’re a little bit too skilled with a chainsaw…