Mar 112015
 
By Steve Weddle

Once you've done your research, gathered your notes, and you've put your butt in your chair, does the internet keep you from writing?

You just have to look up a street name REALLY QUICK and before you know it, you're looking at Travelocity and daydreaming about a trip to a Greek island in five or six years.

Well, how would you like to write easily, without distraction?

Handwrite in notebooks? But then you have to type that sucker up, right?

 (But, wait, there's more. Um, actually, no. There's less. Which is better. Trust me.)

Instead of using your laptop or tablet and running one of those BLOCK THE INNERWEBS apps, what if you could just type up the words and then load them into your document when you're done? Kind of a NaNoWriMo experience year-round. Just write. Without distractions.

Well, Laurance Friend has been posting about AlphaSmart keyboards.


Read about his experience here.

And, as Mr. Friend suggests, you can find out more over here at the AlphaSmart discussion page.

Is there a video of someone using one? Sure. Here you go:



Get off the internet and write. Good luck.


Time to vote

 Steve Weddle  Comments Off
Mar 052015
 
By Steve Weddle

Looks like it’s awards season for the crime fiction community? How do I know? I have a Facebook account. And an email account. And Twitter.

Turns out, 83 of my 96 online friends have books eligible for some sort of award. That's great. Heck, I've read a large number of those books and liked quite a few. And there are more awards and nominations coming.

Barrys.
Edgars.
Hammetts.
Hugo.
Anthonys.
Neros.
The list goes on and on.

Seems as if everyone I know is nominated for an award named after one dead white man or another.

The presumption, of course, is that winning an award is useful to a writer's career. If you win the award, then you can add that to your bio. If you don't, you can hope again next year or swear the awards off as too political or a popularity contest, of course.

Having that award helps you stand out from folks who don't.

James Jimjam, Edgar-winning author of THE FUNAMBULIST'S DAUGHTER'S CONSPIRACY, will be reading tonight at the Booke Shoppe on Main Street.

Sometimes the problem with being a professional writer is less with the writing and more with the acting professionally.

A few years ago, I was somehow nominated for something and unsure how to, um, well, you know, get people to notice so they'd think I was cool? As Joel McHale would say, ANYWAY, someone suggested using the old "Congratulations to my fellow nominees" construction. Which is great. You draw attention to yourself, but it looks as if you're congratulating other people. Flawless.  Who could fault you for that? I didn't give it much more thought.

OK. Let me take a second before we go further to give some space to the usefulness of these awards. To me, the awards you don't have to explain are awesome. He won the Pulitzer. She won the Nobel. Then you have the other awards, the ones you have to explain. She won the William T. Nulon Award, given annually to outstanding work in the field of microbiotics. His novel was chosen for Oprah's Book Club. She spoke at the Roundhouse Colloquium, a group of philanthropists devoted to conserving soil in south Alabama.

Different awards carry different weight, I suppose, but each award is a way to separate yourself from other books (the losers) and a way for people who might not see your book to notice it.

You see, there are those lists that come out with the awards. Here are the six books that made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, they'll say. Some people may see a list like that and buy books based on it. Or they may track down a book simply because it won a prize. I don't, but some folks might.

Also, some awards come with money. You can have all the book cover stickers -- the circle ones with all the points -- that you want. Those are great. Hand me an award with a check.

Hang on. Before we get much further (GAWD, how much further is there?) I should say something about the folks who work their asses off getting these awards together, sorting and reading through everything. Thanks to them. They're the ones who have to run back and forth to the post office to pick up the books your publicists sent. They're the ones who have to collate a billion emails, who have to set up spreadsheets to keep vote tally straight. The people who run these awards work as hard getting this stuff done as we do writing the books. And there ain't an award given out to the people who do all the award work while we're sitting in our fancy clothes waiting on something glass to put on the shelf. So thanks tons to those folks.

Can winning award help your book's sales? I've heard some people saw a slight bump, while others saw nothing. You know what helps a book's sales? Being a good book sometimes helps, though not always. Having the movie based off your book win an Oscar? That helps a book's sales. There's the award you want, pal.

So, let's say you want an award for your book and you need to get nominated or voted on. What are you to do?

Well, sending out an email to everyone in your list probably isn't the most subtle way to go. A couple of years ago, there was a bit of a discussion about someone who emailed out a "Vote For My Book Because It Is The Best" blast to everyone, including other people who were nominated in the same category. That didn't go over too well, but I understand the idea of wanting people to know that they can vote on the thing and that you're eligible. I mean, we want good thing for our friends.

Here's what I've found, though. You're in danger of preaching to the choir with your tweets and status updates. And, if you're stuck doing the "I hate to mention this and I hate self-promotion, but" thing, then you're probably not going to get too much traction. Look, everyone hates self-promotion. Many countries have banned it. But if you're going to do it, I have a suggestion which you can take or leave.

1) Make a thing people can share
2) There's no 2.

You can make an image. A song. A flier. Whatever. If you post a status update on your Facebook wall, your friends will see it. Maybe they already voted for you. Or maybe they're voting for themselves. (Many of my friends are assholes like that.) So, you probably want to reach your friend's mother or proctologist or high school pal. Make a thing that can get shared. Show your book. A blurb. Say it's been nominated and how to vote for it. If you care enough, make an advertisement for your book and get people to share it.

See, the thing is, you want to reach outside your circle -- and you never know what's going to catch on.

The other day, The Atlantic posted a thing on Facebook about cats, so I made a throw-away joke. I tweeted it, which maybe two people who follow me retweeted. I think I mentioned on my own Facebook wall, which a few people probably saw. And I made a comment on the original post on The Atlantic's Facebook page.


More than 100 people I don't know liked my comment and some replied. If I engaged with those replies, I guess there's the chance the response would grow even more. Now, 100 likes isn't the point here. I'm saying that, in my experience, reaching outside your circle for new people is generally your better bet when you're looking to increase coverage.

Another thing to do would be to promote our fellow authors instead of ourselves. I mean, you can do what you want. You don't need me to be your conscience (seriously, I'm a jerk and you don't want that), but I'd be much more likely to vote for James Jimjam if Becca Mason told me why his novel was great, wouldn't you? I say we make an effort to do that. Now, for me that's easier than for some of you. I'm not nominated for squat, so I don't lose any self-promotion time by promoting others. The time you spend helping others is -- and always will be -- up to you.

Anyway, here's to the best books winning the best awards. 

Feb 052015
 
By Steve Weddle

In keeping with Holly West's "I posed a question on Facebook" idea,


 here's mine:

What's a good way for a third party to start a war between two crime families?

I've gotten Dashiell Hammett's RED HARVEST, as suggested, and am diving into that.

So, you want to get the two families fighting. You make one think the other one did something. Went to the cops. Cheated. Killed the wrong person. Is about to combine forces with another family or group.

From the Romulans to the Corleones, this has been a big factor in crime fiction.

So you kill a Hatfield and blame a McCoy and let them fight it out. I'm thinking, if you're plotting this out in a story, you would have your protagonist come into conflict with a Hatfield, then have a situation in which he/she kills the Hatfield. Then blame a McCoy, That moves things along nicely. You can raise the stakes after a bit by having the McCoys begin to figure out that your protag is really to blame. Or maybe the Hatfields start to figure that out. More killing!

OK. Red Harvest is a good example of groups going against each other. If you have other examples or suggestions, let's hear them.
Apr 032014
 
So here's what I asked:

What tips do you have for disposing of a body? A dead one, preferably. 

http://degeorgiskara.blogspot.com
I mean, if it weren't dead, step one would be "kill person." So let's just go with disposing of a dead body. I think dismembering it is key, as is speeding up the decomposition. If you're trying to protect yourself from detection/prosecution, you either want to remove anything that could be a "clue" or plant clues that would lead elsewhere. 

I'm thinking you'd want to disassemble the jaw, making sure to crack all the teeth in order to prevent identification. 

You'd want to peel off the skin of fingertips, too. What else? Is burning the body a rookie move?

Acid? Not too popular. Sinking the body? Yes and no. Mushrooms?

Here. Check for yourself. I've made the post public:

How to get rid of a dead body

Popular suggestion: Reading DEAD PIG COLLECTOR from Warren Ellis.

Of course, wood chippers and soylent green are favorites, too. 

I'm still considering lye vs acid, too.

And if you're going to transport the body, put down some tarp. Do it!
Mar 302014
 
By Kristi Belcamino
I’m just going to say right off the bat that I’m a little bit intimidated to even attempt to fill Joelle Charbonneau’s shoes on this amazing blog.
Why? Well, because she’s a rock star.
Joelle is one of the most dedicated and talented writers I know. And for some reason, I’ve been lucky enough to have her in my corner for the last few years. Damn lucky.
We first met when she judged a contest I entered. She wrote her name on my judging form, and asked me to keep in touch. Ever since that day, she’s been one of the most supportive and nicest writers I’ve ever met. And as I got to know her, I soon realized she was by far one of the hardest working writers out there, as well.
So when Joelle asked me to take her spot here at Do Some Damage on Sundays, I was floored, flattered, and thrilled at the same time. She’ll be back to guest post and I made sure to tell her if she ever changes her mind, this spot is really and truly always hers.
By now, though, you’re probably wondering who is Kristi Belcamino.
I’m a crime fiction writer, Italian mama of two feisty little girls, and a part-time newspaper reporter living in Minneapolis. My first novel, Blessed are the Dead, goes on sale June 10th. It’s inspired by my dealings with a serial killer when I was a full-time cops reporter working the San Francisco Bay Area crime beat.
When my editor and publicist found out I’d been asked to join Do Some Damage, they immediately suggested I reveal the cover for my new book here first. (Just shows how respected and beloved this blog is.)
Steve Weddle was gracious enough to give me the thumbs up on revealing my cover as part of my first post and the stars aligned.
Before I do so, I want to thank Steve and Joelle and all you loyal readers for allowing me to take over the Sunday spot on this blog. I’ve got a bunch of ideas for posts, but am also very excited to hear what you’d like to read about, so feel free to shoot me an email at kristibelcamino@gmail.com and tell me your thoughts and ideas. You can also find out more about me at my website, www.kristibelcamino.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kristibelcaminowriter.
Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of Do Some Damage!
Here is the back cover copy for my book, Blessed are the Dead

To catch a killer, one reporter must risk it all...
San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter Gabriella Giovanni spends her days on the crime beat flitting in and out of other people’s nightmares, yet walking away unscathed.
When a little girl disappears on the way to the school bus stop, her quest for justice and a front-page story leads her to a convicted kidnapper, Jack Dean Johnson, who reels her in with promises to reveal his exploits as a long-time serial killer to her alone. Gabriella's passion for her job quickly spirals into obsession when she begins to suspect Johnson may have ties to her own dark past: her sister’s murder.
 Risking her life, her job, and everything she holds dear, Gabriella embarks on a path to find answers and stop a deranged murderer before he strikes again.
Perfect for fans of Sue Grafton and Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series!

If you want to preorder a copy of the book you can do that here.  
If you don't want to wait, keep an eye on my Facebook page. You might just have a chance to win an early copy. 
And (drumroll please) here is the cover:




 Posted by at 6:00 am

News Ketchup

 Steve Weddle  Comments Off
Mar 062014
 
By Steve Weddle

First off, let's catch up with some things, shall we?

Dana King, friend of the blog, has been running a swell series of Q&As with authors. Check it out over at his site: OBAT.

I'm finishing up FEDERALES, a novella by Chris Irvin. I think you'll like it, as it's about a Mexican federal agent, drugs, and politics. Hop on Twitter and tweet:
"Check out #FEDERALES by @chrislirvin #DSD" something along those lines. I'll look for the DSD or Federales hashtags and give out a couple copies of the book by the end of the week. Also, check out Chris's site HouseLeague Fiction for more about the book.

Meanwhile, our own Holly West has her MISTRESS OF FORTUNE book doing well. I read this one a while back and will be posting reviews soon. Let me tell you, this is one surprising book. I wasn't entirely sure I'd enjoy what looked like "palace intrigue" and all, but I trust Holly. Turns out, this book is pretty damn amazing. The history and mystery meld so well that, a few days after I'd finished, I felt as if I were remembering a movie instead of a book. So, if you haven't checked it out, now is a good time to do so. And if you have, now is a good time to leave a review somewhere.

Also, I'm teaching a 4-week short story fundamentals class at LitReactor starting next week.

Steve Weddle is the author of the novel-in-stories Country Hardball—called "downright dazzling" by the New York Times—and editor of the award-winning short fiction magazine Needle: A Magazine of Noir. And in four weeks, he'll teach you how to write compelling, original short fiction (with skills applicable to longer works of fiction, too).
This class will give the opportunity to hone your skills, using your voice and vision as you craft vibrant, original fiction ready for publication.
Through weekly readings, lectures and assignments, this class will delve into character, dialogue, setting, and plot and will provide you with a range of techniques as you continue to craft your own stories.

Sign up here.

So, last week I visited Centenary College of Louisiana, where I had been an undergrad twenty-something years ago. They'd chosen to use COUNTRY HARDBALL in their English classes this year, and I had the opportunity to chat with students in classes from the freshman level to the 300-level about the book.

Some of the students had questions about particular scenes, while some wanted to discuss more theme-oriented topics. I found out, for example, that while Flannery O'Connor and Steve Wedde both rely on southern churches in their books, O'Connor is more interested in religion, while Weddle is more concerned with congregations.
Photo by David Havird

In two days, I spoke with seven classes, one book club, one radio station, one newspaper, and gave a reading at a convocation. It was, you know, kinda awesome. And what it taught me, or what it showed me up close, is that while different individuals read books differently, different groups of people have different expectations. College freshman read a different version of COUNTRY HARDBALL than do people in a book group. Context is key, isn't it? I've read books for book groups and books for college classes. You think about different questions to ask, different topics. I was talking last night about the book and said that I try to write for a reader who is smarter than I am. I don't like to explain things too much, to hand over the meaning of a scene. I writer for readers who read closely, who will a passage more than once if they don't quite get it. I write for people who might read the book more than once, and I want to make sure that the book is layered enough for them every single time.

And, it turns out, I write for college classes, for book groups, for the woman in the cafeteria who only knew me as author and not as former student. I write for all of them, and they all read the book a little differently. All I can do is make sure whatever I write has enough in it for each of them. Because, you know, I am kinda concerned about all the congregations.


Jan 092014
 
By Steve Weddle

Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame voting is more of a joke each year. Maybe things will get better, but something has to change.

I'm not interested right now in arguing whether Jack Morris should be in, alongside Maddux and Glavine.

But what's going on is a mockery, which is often something I'm in favor of. Not this time.

You have reporters with Hall of Fame votes handing their ballots over to sports blogs. You have other voters turning in blank ballots to protest something something Steroid Era. You have voters who won't vote for Biggio because he played at the same Canseco was taking needles to the buttocks.

People have lost their damn minds.

Voting is a joke and the reward itself, being named to the Hall of Fame, is being pooped all over.

Which brings us to the week in crime fiction.

The Bookernet (as @bookriot calls the book folks who blog/tweet book conflicts on the internet) was on fire earlier this week and last as authors began receiving solicitations for nominations which went something like this: "Hey, I wrote a book called INSPECTOR DOLT SAVES THE DAY. It's eligible for a Stout Award. Can you click HERE and nominate it? kthxbye."

As someone who has done thoughtless, dopey things myself, lemme just say: Dude. Bad form.

Over the past few years, the Bookernet has talked about how book awards seem to be less about the most talented works winning, more about the most marketed book winning.

Of course, these are the same people who were super-duper rioty after a year went by with no one worthy of the fiction Pulitzer.

Look. I get it. You want your book to be noticed. It's a tough market. Being able to put a sticker on the paperback re-issue of your book would be hella sweet. But what are you doing to the process? She with the most email addresses wins? That's what you want to win for?

So I'd like to propose that each of the big awards for crime fiction immediately add some new awards. In addition to Best Novel and Best Debut and Coolest Reader and those, perhaps the committees for these awards can institute awards Most Solicitous or Most Soliciting? Best Marketing Campaign. Most Egregious Etiquette Breach. Most Self-Deprecating Grovel for Attention. Greatest Twitter #Humblebrag. Most RTs of Positive Review. Most Clever Way To Rile Up One's Own Fans To Offset A Two-Star Review. And so on.

Once we can get this done, then we get the baseball writers to select one of their own for Biggest Jerk. They don't even have to be very good writers to win.

After all, many writers seem to care much more about winning a writing award than they care about the writing.
Dec 192013
 
By Steve Weddle

Alex Segura's SILENT CITY will be sticking with me for a long time. In a way I was reminded a little of our own Dave White’s Jackson Donne, with an edgy Scudder twist, but Pete Fernandez is his own character.

The story opens as his life is falling apart, and things just get better from there. For the reader, at least. Pete doesn’t always fare so well. As a newspaper guy, I can tell you that the insider description of the newspaper was pretty spot on. You get the feel of the workplace and of the bar scene in Miami and the neighborhoods and the people.

From the music he enjoys to his slacker wardrobe, Pete is the kind of guy you can see right there, the sort of character you end up rooting for. Pixies. Talking Heads. What's not to like?

The trio of Pete, Emily, and Mike also works well. These people feel like old friends, the way they play off each other. Segura really puts you there, in the middle of the lives, their day-to-day existence. As Pete's life starts falling apart pieces at a time, you get to this points where you're hoping he won't take that next drink, won't do that next stupid thing.

And then his falling momentum begins to sync up with the plot's momentum, so that you're hurled forward in a story that gets more and more developed with each page.

The is a thrilling read that picks up speed with each page. This book was a fantastic debut in the mystery genre, and I’m ecstatic that Pete Fernandez has his own series.

Looking forward to more from Segura.

Check this out for more Silent City news from Alex Segura.
Sep 262013
 
By Steve Weddle

Recently, Brad Listi had Tom Perrotta on the Other People podcast. Perrotta talked about writing novels, as well as his new Nine Inches collection. Perrotta, best known for Election and The Abstinence Teacher, said that writing the middles of his novels is the best part of it.

Short stories, he said, just get going when you have to shut them down.

The first part of novels are essentially laying out the ground-work, setting up characters and plot.

The ending is when the author has to tie it all up into a neat -- or not so -- bow. Or tie it off, I suppose. But, you know, certainly with the tie, Ty.  

I've written four books (one publishable) and I'm starting another.

I dig the research part of writing -- the part where you're reading and taking notes and learning so much. Billy Sunday? OK, let's read about him for a few days. Tenant farming in the 1930s? Why not search the internet for bookstores with old out-of-print books I have to have. Great.

And the first few thousand words, where you're just letting the characters talk and you're doing that scene-setting, that's good stuff. And maybe the ending, if you had one in mind, is a great spot to bring it all together.

But that spot that's 10-30% into the book, words 10k-30k if it's a 100k-word book, that's a rough spot, at least for me. And the 80-90% spot. I hate that spot, too.

The middle, as Perrotta said, is a good spot. Your characters are doing the stuff you want them to do, but they don't have to have everything line up perfectly, as they do in the last part. So often, if a character does a thing in the 80-90% part of your manuscript, that action has to mean something. It has to move forward and look behind. It's connective tissue with a purpose. You know, the connecting.

The first part is the setting-up. The middle part is the action, the story. The doing. And then the ending is, well, the ending. The End. Hooray.

The parts between, that's the hard slogging. That isn't the stained glass window or the beautiful oak door. That's the mortar, that's the part you have to get just right, so that everything settles in perfectly.

Maybe some writers hate starting books, but I can't believe that. Why would you keep writing? Why sit down to the desk in the first place? And everyone loves to finish writing, at least in that moment. Before a few days pass and you remember all the stuff you should have put in the book. The research you forgot about. How you'd meant to include a section about tenant farming, but forgot all about it once the sheriff shot that woman. Time to go back in and add a scene, I guess. Probably, of course, around page 40.
Sep 192013
 
By Steve Weddle

And speaking of time shifting, my chat with Alec Cizak airs today at KMSU at 10:30 am Central Time.

Why is it Eastern and Central and Pacific? Does anyone say Eastern and Western? Atlantic and Pacific? And what's what Mountain Time Zone? It's like that woman in the corporate meeting who has three things to tell you -- "First, I'd like to start with" and then launches into "and B, we need to" and ends with "and finally."

"The history of time in the United States began in 1883."

So one of the weird things being an "Author" and not a writer, aside from never again having to pay for books, alcohol, or housing, is knowing things you can't share.

http://heyauthor.tumblr.com/image/25641914783
When you sell your book rights to the French or the Venetians or the Czechs, you've got a lag time of when you can make that announcement. Your agent will call or email and tell you about it. You'll up it or down it. Then the deal will get nailed down. But you can't say anything until X happens -- papers get signed, proposals accepted, clauses struck, etc. So you're sitting on news you can't announce.

As a reader, I never noticed the lag or, to be honest, really gave two poops about it. But as an author, well, you want to post it up there for folks. You want to let people share the news with you. "Hey, people who are traveling with me on this journey, look at this cool building over there." Only, you're the only one who can see it right now. In a few weeks, you'll be allowed to point it out. "Pleased to announce we've sold Aleutian rights to CYBORG LESBIAN VAMPIRE ASSASSINS."

Or you'll get a nice review you can't share until the magazine is printed in a few weeks. Or you just talked to Marc Edwards at Dark Tiddlings Studios about a movie adaptation of your book to appear, possibly maybe, on the Ovation channel in 2016. Or a thousand other things.

As an author, you get excited and you want to share it with your friends and neighbors (Twitter, GeoCities, LiveJournal, Facebook), but you can't. Instead, you make vague references that might lead people to think you're either phony or a butthead. Or both.

It's weird.

And then you go out on book tours to talk about your "new" book that is out, a book you started writing seven years ago and finished two years back. And people ask you questions about characters you've forgotten. Or plot points.

Because you're writing the third book in the series and only the first one is out. And, in your mind, that waiter the interviewer is asking about died six months ago. Which, um, you know, you probably shouldn't mention.

Add to it that you're probably writing about a universe that doesn't exist in real time -- either it's an alternate now or it's 1863 Nebraska -- WHEN THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE STANDARD TIME.

But, you know, we already have Eastern and Pacific and Mountain time zones. Just add in Author Time.

Because the train for "Standard Time" has left the station. Or, you know, it's about to leave five minutes ago.