Jan 252015
 

Jessy Randall

Darkhouse Books wants mystery stories set in vacation areas. Here's the call, deadline March 31, 2015:

Darkhouse Books is seeking stories for “Destination: Mystery”. A collection of mystery and crime stories set in locations popular for vacations. We are looking for stories residing on the cozy side and that highlight the attraction and appeal of the setting – though please, no puff-pieces. We prefer stories with locations where average people vacation, including sandy resorts along Lake Michigan, log cabin lodges in the Adirondacks, quaint, coastal towns on any coast, and legions of other places forever enshrined in generations of family photo albums. Since we want the locations to be recognizable, stories should not be set prior to mid-twentieth century. The submission period is now open and will remain open through 11:59pm (PST), March 31st, 2015. We are seeking stories in the 2500 to 7500 word range, though if it’s truly knockout material, we’ll consider any length. The anthology will contain between twelve and twenty stories, depending on the overall length. Authors will share equally fifty percent of royalties received. We accept MS Word .doc and .docx files. Submissions must be in standard manuscript format. Links to formatting guides are available here. Previously published work will be considered, provided the author has the power to grant us the right to publish in ebook, audio, and print versions, and that it has not been available elsewhere more recently than January 1st, 2014. Submissions may be sent to submissionsATdarkho usebooksDOTcom. Please leave “Submission-Destination" in the subject line and add the name of your story.
Andrew MacRae
Darkhouse Books

Jan 232015
 

The post Genre Blending for Rebels appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Deadly Spells by Jaye WellsI dare you to read this essay by Jaye Wells and not fall under her spell. This Texas-raised, USA Today bestselling author grew up reading everything she could get her hands on, and it shows in her passionate argument for blending the conventions of crime fiction with tropes from other genres. Wells’s forthcoming novel is called Deadly Spells, and Orbit Books will publish it on February 10th. You’d do well to pre-order a copy.

“You can’t do that.”

This sentence had been the driving force behind most of my success as a novelist. See, I write books that are a blend of genres. I like to mix things up, but I’m also pretty stubborn. So if someone tells me that I can’t, say, mix fantasy with crime fiction, it’s pretty much a dare that I will take every time.

The pitch for my Prospero’s War speculative crime fiction series is The Wire with wizards. I got the idea while binge-watching that show. I thought the show was awesome but couldn’t stop thinking it would be cool if Omar and Stringer Bell were wizards.

But, people told me, that’ll never work. For one thing, they claimed crime fiction fans don’t like any hocus pocus messing up their mysteries. Oh yeah?

What if magic is a metaphor for drugs? What if the covens of wizards who sell addictive magic potions are more dangerous and resourceful than drug gangs? But what if the cops who are trying to break up the covens are as hamstrung by politics, budget cuts, and regulations as real cops?

Some people might not see the point. I mean, we already know there’s a war on drugs. People already know cops are hamstrung and that there are lots of problems with the justice system. This is where combining fantasy with the crime becomes important.

See, the beauty of fantasy stories is that they filter the world through metaphor. By using symbols, archetypes, and, yes, magic, these stories allow us to test drive our world in an imaginative way. This metaphorical language of imagination helps us see the problems of humanity and our world in a new light.

So while it may seem simple to use clean and dirty magic as a metaphor for pharmaceuticals and street-level narcotics, it also allows us to explore the issues in non-threatening and expanded terms. Suddenly, we’re not talking about crack and meth anymore. We’re also talking about human nature’s tendency toward addiction in general. We’re able to discuss the false dichotomy of good versus evil, and think about the roles of policing and the struggles facing our cities in new ways.

Or not. Because that’s the other beauty of fantasy: it allows us to not explore those issues at all if we don’t want to. We can read the story and simply enjoy the action and suspense without being forced to face the gritty reality of our own world. In short, we can decide how shallow or deep our reading experience will be.

So when people tell me that it’s a waste of time to expect crime fiction readers to want to read books about magic junkies, I just smile and say, “Wanna bet?”

Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. Deadly Spells, the third book in her Prospero’s War series, releases on February 10.

The post Genre Blending for Rebels appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Jan 182015
 

Marilyn Thiele

 Ah, the wonders of the digital age! I can see all the movies I want from Netflix for $7.99 a month, listen to all the music I want for free from  Spotify (or for $9.99 a month without the pesky ads) and now, I can read 24 hours a day from a library of 700,000 books for another $9.99 a month from Kindle Unlimited.  In other words, I can be entertained in any way I want for as long as I want for less than I spend on coffee in a month.

I don’t actually use any of these services, for various reasons. Out in the middle of nowhere, where I live, high-speed internet connections are still primitive and unreliable. I’m perfectly satisfied with what is available on cable TV and old-fashioned DVDs. I find the choices on Spotify or Pandora overwhelming; too much to pick from leads to dithering and agita, so I actually buy the music I like. And anyone who has read my posts over the last three years doesn’t even need to ask about Kindle Unlimited.

An article in The New York Times on December 28 (“Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses”) prompted me to do a little investigating of the pros and cons of unlimited services in other areas. I learned from talking to subscribers that Netflix seems to remove content regularly and that there is a lot of original programming, some successful, some not, and TV shows. Apparently, the licensing agreements Netflix makes with the creators (or controllers) of films impacts availability. Spotify does not seem to have this problem; the catalogs of artists are controlled by the big three labels, and they and Spotify have a secure contractual relationship. The much publicized pullout of Taylor Swift from Spotify apparently only drew more listeners to the free service (any publicity is good publicity). One source said it would take twenty Taylor Swifts taking the same action to have any impact. And those who wanted to hear Taylor Swift switched to YouTube, which pays even less. So much for not allowing your work to be devalued.

Consumers are thrilled by the concept of getting unlimited fare for a small monthly price (even free if you’re willing to listen to ads). In the case of music, it seems most everything is available. Discontent surfaces quickly when the offerings are limited by outside forces, as in the case of Netflix. How is this going to play out in the world of books?

One argument I have heard frequently in Amazon’s favor is that authors have been able to self-publish easily, find an audience, and actually make a living without jumping through the hoops that success (or even publication) requires in the traditional system. Imagine 70% royalties! Those money grubbing old-school publishers have just been cheating authors all these years! But with Kindle Unlimited, these royalties have been cut drastically, and are now apparently arbitrarily set and changed. Those who quit their day jobs are under some stress. It is not mandatory that an author self-publishing on Amazon participate, but most are afraid that if they do not, their books will not be promoted. And if they are on Kindle Unlimited, they are exclusive – no sales through other channels.

These authors are beginning to feel exploited. Amazon was their friend! They were appreciated, paid well, and given opportunities never before available. And now they’re stuck with declining incomes and limited options. There is suspicion that these books are being used as loss leaders, to draw readers in and promote other items to them. It occurs to me that perhaps independent booksellers  were not so foolish last year in declining Amazon’s generous offer to allow them to sell Kindles and Kindle books and earn a commission. After the two year contract, Amazon would have the customer lists, and the booksellers would have nothing.

Amazon is a business. The objective, not unique to them, is to make money. Although their earnings don’t reflect much success on the money-making front, they seem to be good at long term strategy. Locking in a large contingent of writers and then using them to promote the overall company is not a bad plan. Anyone who thinks a business is giving away rewards without some plan for future benefit is delusional. Their job is not to promote the arts; it’s to enhance the bottom line.

So what’s an author caught in this trap to do? Since compensation seems to be “per view” of a book, some are breaking down novels into 5 or more parts, a series, multiplying the number of times the work will be viewed by a reader who is interested in the story. Some are writing more and faster. Some may have to get day jobs again, and write, if it is their calling, in their spare time as so many authors have before. One complaint about the growth of on-line self-publishing has been that there are too many books vying for the readers’ attention; with hundreds of thousands of books out there, there is too much competition. Perhaps that problem will resolve itself when the monetary rewards are limited.

In the music industry, many artists who do not have the standing of a Taylor Swift live with the fact that the royalties they receive are miniscule but hope that exposure on Spotify or other services will lead to greater success and earnings in the future. I am sure some will find an audience this way. Similarly, a truly talented writer may rise above the crowd, gain a following, and succeed in a more traditional environment. Unfortunately, though, it looks like the party is over for the vast majority.

 

Jan 142015
 

Josh Getzler

I was talking to The Redoubtable Danielle this afternoon, not long after she got back to the office after having coffee with an editor from one of the bigger publishers out there. This editor had passed on one of Danielle’s submissions, a cozy mystery where the amateur sleuth is a sommelier, because it was too edgy. Danielle was frustrated—not so much at the editor, who liked the book (with good reason—it’s excellent!); but at the prevailing sense that the ability to sell these kinds of books is more and more difficult, and the requirements more and more specific.

“She told me that the only cozies she can sell are with crafts and knitting and cats and polite murders in book clubs,” she said.

NOTE! Before my successful cozy clients think that we are disparaging them: We are NOT. We love you. We sell you. You succeed. We are talking here about having the ability to expand what’s acceptable to be able to give readers a wider variety of books to read, so the market as a whole grows and there’s a bigger total readership for your books too. (Toni, we really do love you J)

Now mind you, cozies are only one type of crime fiction, as I’ve discussed before, and so have any number of other bloggers here on Hey Dead Guy. Terri Bischoff, whom I love and who publishes at this time four series I represent, just gave a very spot-on description of cozies this weekend, and is talking about other kinds of mysteries this coming week. There are procedurals, historicals, noirs (though, as my former colleague Dan Conaway told me many years ago, “noir will break your heart.”), and novels that don’t quite hit a formula head on.

But there are certain publishers, with particular imprints, that specialize in the cozies (many of which are mass-market paperbacks, and now many of which are e-first), and which, if you look at their New Release shelves at B&N, are indeed publishing one croissant-baker series after another carpentry series after a third driving school series (none of which are necessarily real series, but all plausible). They take place in small towns (a driving school mystery in, say, Boston would be too edgy, but not in Missoula), and they are comfortable.

Much of the time, they are also good. Again, that’s not my issue. My issue is that I think we’re glutting the market, and that cozy readers are going to become, frankly, bored.

So Danielle and I—after bemoaning the pass—started to spitball what would work, and here’s what we came up with.

We think there needs to be a chick lit for cozies—younger, more urban, maybe slightly sexier, maybe at times with greater darkness—aimed at the same market romance publishers were working toward with New Adult. We can call them the Hunger Games/50 Shades On The Subway readers (and yes, while it’s sort of funny to put those two together, they were the dominant books of that market for the past couple of years). It would allow for the post-grad-school sommelier solving a murder in Napa, or the actress in her first Broadway play whose rival falls off the rigging (did the hot stagehand do it?) or the young woman doing teach for America who has to deal with the disappearance of one of her students.

We feel like there is a model here that can work. We’re not trying to reinvent the industry. Just keep it from being wrapped in yarn.

One final word:  Again, please understand that this is NOT a screed against cozies. Far from it. It’s a plea for our creative colleagues on the Buy Side to break out of the box. Not a huge amount—just a little! But it could really make a difference.   

Jan 122015
 

Jeff Cohen

1. I will not follow your cat.

2. I will not follow you just because you follow me. I have to know who you are. I'm funny that way.

3. I will feel free to post about my books and urge you to buy/nominate/vote for them.

4. I assume you will feel free to ignore me if you don't want to read stuff like that.

5. I will use Twitter to say stuff I think is funny. If you don't, that's entirely your right.

6. I will occasionally say political stuff. Again, your option is to block, ignore or argue with me.

7. I will block you if you get personal in your arguing with me. I won't get personal arguing with you.

8. I still won't follow your cat.

9. I will follow famous people--if I respect their work--and try to get them to notice me. Isn't that what Twitter is for?

10. I won't follow people I know to be dead. 

11. I WILL follow some people I know to be fictional, if they're entertaining about it.

12. My baseball-to-posting ratio will be higher on Twitter than elsewhere. I'm an impulsive fan.

13. I do not expect you to follow me unless you want to. 

14. I will post about television, movies, sports (well, baseball), current events and things other than books. 

15. I will not post to anyone in my family, because none of them has a Twitter account.

16. I will check my Twitter account multiple times per day.

17. E.J. Copperman's account will be checked every once in a while.

18. Maxie Malone has a Twitter account. That almost never gets checked.

19. I will follow other authors, especially if they're actually friends.

20. I will not pay much attention to the number of followers I have. Perhaps I should.

21. I will follow the President of the United States. The fact that he follows ME confuses me a little.

22. I will block you if you try to impose your religion, political beliefs or sports affiliations on me. If you just want to state what they are, that's your business. Don't tell me what to do.

23. I will not always use "cozy" language on Twitter. I don't really have a problem with any word in the English language, depending on how it's used.

24. If you use one of those un-cozy words to insult or provoke me, I'll block you. I don't use them that way.

25. No. I'm not following your cat.

Jan 082015
 

Today I was asked if I thought there we substantive differences between cozy, traditional and amateur sleuth mysteries. An interesting question and certainly one to ponder. I think that definitions of sub genres evolve over time. Anyway, here is my answer - what do you think, dear reader?

 

I think that the differences are rather slight. The vast majority of cozy mysteries are amateur sleuth. No professional sleuth cozy comes to mind at all. But you do have professionals, usually privates eyes, in traditional cozies.

But I think the real difference lies in their definitions. A traditional mystery, which cozy has its roots, has certain hallmarks:

  • No violence, bad language, or sex on the page
  • The cast of characters is limited and include the bad guy from the beginning
  • Generally set in a small town or something confining, like a boat or train
  • The emphasis of the plot is solving the murder and fair play – the reader has all the clues, plus a few red herrings, to solve the case as well

At one time, the words cozies and traditional mysteries were interchangeable. But at some point along the way, cozies began to evolve. Now cozies general have:

  • Little or no violence (the protag might be in some peril, but nothing too dark or scary), no bad language, and there is romance on the page. Usually between the female amateur sleuth and professional investigator/cop
  • Generally set in a small town or setting
  • There is some hook to the story – the protag is a jewelry maker, coffeehouse owner, scrap booker, auctioneer, pie shop owner, pet daycare owner, quilter, etc. Quite often these books are filled with recipes or designs.
  • The emphasis is slightly less on the plot and more on the character relationships

 

Agree? Disagree? Let's hear how you define cozy and traditional! If I remember, maybe next week I will talk about the other end of the spectrum. Or the entire spectrum!

Stay safe and warm out there.

 

Jan 052015
 

Jeff Cohen

New-year-2015

(That's me on the right!)

Personally, I have little to complain about with the year just ended. Yes, there are tweaks I'd have made here and there, not everything was perfect, but professionally and personally, I'd have to rank it among the better years, particularly of late.

But 2014 was a disastrous year for comedy.

In the course of those short 12 months, we lost (among others) Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Jan Hooks, Mike Nichols, David Brenner, Rik Mayall and possibly the most painful of all, Robin Williams.

Living comedians weren't exactly having the best of times, either. Ask Bill Cosby (who in all likelihood has not deserved to have great times for some decades now). 

The Colbert Report ended its nine-year run. Craig Ferguson left The Late Late Show with no immediate announcement that he will be continuing his incredibly subversive take on a talk show anytime soon. 

And late in the year, a relatively stupid stoner comedy from the guys who brought you Pineapple Express actually started a real international incident, to the point that the President of the United States had to answer questions about a Seth Rogen movie at his year-end press conference. There were threats of violence, although to date none has been perpetrated, thank goodness.

There were no comedy films (particularly non-animated ones) in the Top 10 of the year's box office grosses, according to a web site devoted to such tallies. There were all of three in the Top 20. Then you have to drop down to #34 to find another, and get to Dumb and Dumber To, which is a comedy technically in the sense that it isn't a drama.

Things were somewhat better on television, as has been the case for a number of years now. Discounting popular (if somewhat predictable) tired standbys like Two and a Half Men (who's the half-man now?), TV comedy has settled into a sort-of uncomfortable but sporadically interesting groove with such cool-but-funny shows as Veep and Transparent

But as with most things, once the TV business settles on what is the new exciting thing, it replicates that thing mercilessly until you're sick of it even when it's done well. Veep  begets Alpha House which is a variation on House of Cards which in turn leads to... who cares by then? I believe it was the radio comedian Fred Allen who once said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of television."

So with the end of 2014 comes a sincere plea: Let's hope there are more laughs this year. With everything else that's going on, we could certainly use them.

Happy new year, everybody!

Pitchers and catchers report in 46 days.

The Wrap Up

 Movies, Personal, reading, Writing  Comments Off
Dec 312014
 
Not to start this on too much of a downer, but it's no secret that on a personal level, 2014 sucked. I don't want to even think about how many friends and loved ones we lost, and far too many people we know went through the same thing. Add in Livia's broken arm and some lingering health issues affecting several people in the family, and you've got a pretty lousy year. But we're still here,
Dec 312014
 

July
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. A complete cheat, since I’ve read all but one of her novels, but I don’t think I’ll read a better book this year, so I make no apology. It’s not crime, but I don’t read crime fiction exclusively, and it does centre on the overwhelming and all too common crime of climate change denial. Everyone should read this book. It fulfils all my criteria of the best kind of fiction: characters with a life outside the book, a sense of place to die for, a story that keeps you turning the pages, and something important to say.

So since I cheated with my first choice, here’s a second. Resistant, by Michael Palmer. It’s one of my favourite sub-genres: David beats an especially wicked Goliath to a pulp. In this case David is a small-time doctor with major issues, and Goliath is a bunch of shadowy extremists who are both rich and powerful. A terrific page-turner; I was sad to find that the author died last year, but there’s a backlist I can explore.

August
You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, and Letters to My Daughter’s Killer by Cath Staincliffe. Two books, because I read them consecutively without first realizing that they had similar themes: a woman coming to terms with having a metaphorical bulldozer driven through her life. Cath Staincliffe is a small cheat, because I’ve read one of her earlier books, but I’d never heard of Jean Hanff Korelitz. Both books are immensely powerful, and drew me right into the middle of the situation. When I finished reading, in both cases I was left with a strong sense of lives going on after the story.

September
The Critic by Peter May. Clearly the US appreciates this guy more than his native UK does; this book was published over there seven years before someone saw the light over here. It was a strange experience. There I was, in a wine-producing region of France, reading about murder in... a wine-producing region of France. And you know what? I only had to drive a couple of miles to know he’d got it absolutely right. This is a writer who does his homework.

I also read Die Easy, the tenth (I think) Charlie Fox adventure by my good friend Zoë Sharp. I loved every page, every twist, couldn’t put it down, recommend it heartily, though since I’ve read the other nine, it lies way outside the first-time brief for this list. But I had to mention it anyway.

October
I’ve read a lot of books this month (when do I ever not!) but if I’m honest I have to say nothing by an unfamiliar author really made me stand up and cheer. Among the newbies, Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl is the stand-out title: an accomplished debut, all the more notable because of the author’s courage. She takes on three individual first-person voices, and a structure which far more experienced writers would back away from.

Best of a big bunch were two by authors whose work already graces my shelves. I’ve become a fan of Penny Hancock via her first two psychological thrillers, so the third, Trick of the Mind, was always going to be a treat; and I can take any amount of Elly Griffiths, even when she’s not writing about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The Zig Zag Girl is set in 1950s theatreland, so it ticks plenty of boxes for me; and hey, it’s Elly Griffiths.

November

They say good things come to those who wait; until the last week of the month, November was another month of OK, but nothing outstanding. Then I read The Moon Pool, by Sophie Littlefield, and was blown away. I knew fracking went on; I sort-of knew that it happened in the North Dakota I fell in love with on a brief visit twenty years ago. But I had no idea what life was like in an oil-boom town. This book drew me into the heart of that world in the wake of the two protagonists: mothers, in search of sons who followed the oil money and disappeared without trace. People who feel real, on a journey in a place which lives and breathes: what more do you need in a book? OK, maybe a bit of plot. There’s that too.

December
The month is only halfway through as I write this, and I confidently expect to read at least four or five more books before it ends, but in terms of authors I hadn’t read before, those four or five will have to work hard to beat Erin Kelly. I’m certainly going to be looking for more by this lady.

She has written the tie-in novel of 2013’s must-watch TV serial drama, Broadchurch – and unlike many TV tie-ins I’ve picked up out of curiosity, it’s every bit as good as the TV version. OK, I know she was handed the plot, characters and setting, so it’s no criterion of her ability to create them, but it takes skill, a lot of skill, to pick up a sheaf of dialogue and camera directions and turn them into a novel that held my attention as firmly as the original. Clearly Erin Kelly knows how to write, and that’s what matters most. I look forward to finding out how she handles the other elements of fiction.

A happy, productive and successful 2015 to one and all.

Dec 302014
 

Josh Getzler

 

As I do many years, I’m going to do a quick rundown of progress I made professionally this year. It was a very, very interesting year, 2014. For HSG, it was the year that we ceased being a startup and began a new phase: Going Concern. We had our frustrations, mostly involving either not getting love for submissions we felt deserved it, or not getting the kind of support for published books we thought could have done even better. We had great anxiety about the Hachette/Amazon fight, and felt some great relief when détente was reached in the fall (though not without apprehension as to how it will shake down.

 

On the good side, we made 13 deals in the past 12 months, the first time I’ve averaged more than a deal a month; and we expect to complete five deals in the first few weeks of 2015. We represented 18 books that were published in 2014, and we have 20 coming out in 2015.

 

Additionally, my redoubtable assistant, Danielle Burby, began to take on clients this year, and made her first deals as the foreign rights manager for HSG. And in the past month, we made our first expansion in three-plus years, when we hired a new member of the HSG, whom we will introduce in the new year. Finally, I got myself a new night gig (I know, I can’t stop talking about it), when I joined NYU as an adjunct to teach masters students about how to be a literary agent in these odd times.

 

Mostly, though, this was a year of hard work, lots of contact with smart, nice, people, and anticipation for an interesting, exciting, successful 2015. Happy New Year, everyone.