Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Dancing With Myself: DANA CAMERON interviews DANA CAMERON

Have you heard the news?  There's good rockin' tonight.

The sequel to Pulp Ink is to be published by the wonderful team at Snubnose

So far, we've had a heap of great submissions for Pulp Ink 2.  If you're interested in sending something in, you can follow this link and get onto the typewriter or whatever it is you use.  There's another month yet and there are still a few seats available.

A quick word for Crimes In Southern Indiana.  Ouch, it's good.  Painfully so.  Makes me even happier that I went for the hard-cover.  I'll put down my thoughts when I'm done (spent?), but you really should be buying yourself a copy of this one.

And today's Dance is from Dana Cameron.  Take it away, Dana.

1. You used to write about an archaeologist; you were an archaeologist. Now you write about werewolves, covert operatives, and sociopathic 18th-century tavern-owners. Can we infer that you...?

Infer nothing. I started with what I knew, then started playing around with bigger adventures and darker stories. Grateful as I am to EmmaFielding, my archaeologist sleuth, it would be pretty dull for me if I kept writing about stuff I had lived (professionally, anyway), and not the crazier stuff I can dream up based more loosely on those experiences.

2. There seems to be an emerging theme here: more violence, more dark emotions...

I know, huh? For a long time, I wrote Emma with a very strong sense of right and wrong, and it got her into trouble some might say she could have avoided if she'd been less ethical; very black and white. I wanted to play with characters who had strong moral codes, but of a different nature. Sometimes even two natures: Gerry Steuben is a werewolf, but his family, the Fangborn, fight evil in secret. Jayne, my covert operative (who'll debut in EQMM in June 2012), has a deeply moral sense, but it happens to think that if she has the skills to stop something bad from happening, she should do so, whether she has government sanction or not. Anna Hoyt's only code is to survive in the underworld of 18th-century Boston, at any price. Those gray areas are really interesting for me.

3. So what about the Fangborn? I thought that was just going to be one short story?

TheNight Things Changed” was meant to be a one-off. But I couldn't stop thinking about the Fangborn and that led to “Swing Shift” and “Love Knot,” and a Fangborn novel. Once I got over the idea that I had to conform to someone else's canon of vampire and werewolf lore, I kept looking for where the Fangborn might have inadvertently found their way into human history, in spite of their best efforts to remain hidden.

4. The archaeology thing again?

Well, yeah. You never fully recover from being an archaeologist. You always look at the world from a different perspective, which serves a writer as well. Plus, there are stories of shapeshifters in so many cultures; I really wanted to find a grand, unifying theory to explain that. Fictional, of course, but who doesn't want to rewrite history in her own image?

5. Megalomaniac much? What about the covert operative character?
I really, really wanted a kick-ass, Jason Bourne-type character who was a woman. I'm not a fan of the trope of the woman who only comes to action—and violence—only after her husband and/or family is killed. It seems to me these characters have to be unmade from the traditional role of a woman, before they can be action heroes, and that makes me nuts. I wanted Jayne to be as badass as Bourne or Reacher or Bond, and do what they do, not because she's driven to it, but because she thinks it's right. Also, it's fun to beat the stuffing out of the badguys and get away with it.

6. Okay, now you're worrying me. Quick change of topic: What are you listening to/reading/watching now?

The soundtracks to “Sucker Punch” and “28 Days Later;” I love movie soundtracks and make up playlists for every project I work on. I just finished reading THE ROOK, which was great, and I'm reading BABEL NO MORE, about language super-learners. I look forward to “Justified” every week, and am hoping “Mad Men” will live up to the wait. I've also been watching and rewatching the DVDs of the second season of “Sherlock” until my nose bleeds.

7. So you admit to being a “Cumberbi—?”
Don't say it; I hate that word. But yes, the reboot is incredible and I'll admit to being a little obsessed over this interpretation of the world of Sherlock Holmes.

8. And the actor who plays him?

Well...yes. But, actually, everyone in the cast is so accomplished. And, 

9. There, now. Doesn't it feel better to admit that?

No. And I hate you. Next question.

10. Moving on. What's next?

I'll be toastmaster at Malice Domestic in April —that's going to be a blast, with Jan Burke as the Guest of Honor and Simon Brett as the Lifetime Achievement Honoree. “One Soul at a Time” will appear in EQMM in June, and an Emma Fielding short story, “Mischief in Mesopotamia” is also forthcoming in EQMM. I'm working on a Fangborn novel, and I will be starting a new Anna Hoyt story, soon, and off to Bouchercon and Crime Bake this fall. And before my nosy alter-ego can come up with any other impertinent questions, thank you, Nigel, for inviting me!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Dancing Again: JOHN KENYON

So, it has been a little more than a year since you visited with us. What do you have to show for that time?

Glad you asked. I edited an ebook anthology (Grimm Tales), published the first issue of a magazine (Grift), finished the first draft of a novel, started another and published a few stories along the way.

Wow. When do you sleep?

I get that a lot. Add in the full-time day job, the family with two young boys who try on a daily basis to run me ragged, recreational reading… Let's just say I couldn't begin to tell you who is on "Dancing with the Stars." Or "American Idol." Or what a "Real Housewife" is. Or apprise you on the comings and goings of the Kardashians (did I spell that right?). When I do watch TV, I'm usually on the treadmill – two birds, one stone.

Last year you shared some resolutions with us. How did those go?

I resolved to get more work published, to eat right and exercise, and to attend Bouchercon. Let's just say mission accomplished on two fronts, and I'm still working on the third (see above comment about the treadmill).

Short stories have taken a bit of a backseat this year, though I still have some things in the pipeline at Beat to a Pulp and Needle that will make it look like I'm working harder than I am.

Bouchercon was an absolute blast; an eye-opening, career-defining experience. I will be back. Get ready Cleveland.

So, I can't turn around without hearing about Grift. What's the story there?

I first floated the idea for the magazine in this very space in February 2011. It took me months to get the idea off the ground. I decided I needed to have something to announce at Bouchercon to drum up interest, so I zeroed in on the name Grift, printed up business cards so I'd have something to stick in people's hands when I met them, and set about making a nuisance of myself in St. Louis. Then came the hard part: wading through dozens of great stories in search of the greatest, and working with writers to come up with kick-ass content that would set the crime fiction world on its ear.

Ed Gorman called this "the most ambitious and extraordinary first issue of any kind" he's ever seen. How'd you do it, and what's next?

Those were very kind words from the guy who helped to bring Mystery Scene into the world. In truth, it wasn't that difficult. I've formed relationships with many exceptional writers over the years, and I asked a handful to write essays for it. No one turned me down, proof positive that the crime fiction world is made up of amazingly good-hearted people. Dozens of writers submitted short stories, and several of those left on the cutting-room floor would make a good publication in their own right.

As for what's next, more and better. I'll open submissions at the end of March for #2, and I hope to see more non-fiction: reviews, interviews, essays, etc. I love short fiction, and that always will be the backbone of Grift. But given the response to this issue, it seems others share my desire to read and learn about the genre as much as they do to read the work of those in the genre. My goal is to provide more context for that work, to enrich it and enhance enjoyment.

You did a lot of work over the past year getting the work of others out in the world. What about your own writing?

As I mentioned above, one novel is done – the first draft, anyway. I'm revising it now. I started a second as a palate-cleanser, but set it aside once revisions started on the first. I'm also chipping away at a novella-length work with the hope of adding to a certain pugilistic series.

The biggest news is that the fine folks at Snubnose Press have agreed to publish my first short story collection, The First Cut. That gathers the cream of the past few years of my writing, and will be out later this year.

Given what you know now about publishing, where are things headed?

This time last year, I had a handful of stories available through web publications. Now, I have an ebook out, a print publication and another ebook on the way. Would I like to have a hardcover on shelves with the logo of a Big Six publisher on the spine? Of course? Can I carve out a comfortable career without it, if that's the way things go? Definitely. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is the work that matters.

I look at the experiment Reagan Arthur Books did with George Pelecanos' What It Is as a great example. When they announced a new Pelecanos ebook for 99 cents, I bought it within seconds. I later learned that they were coming out with a $10 paperback and a high-end, slip-cased hardback. Three formats to meet the desires of three different types of reader. All released on the same day. I think that experiment is going to become the norm in the not-too-distant future. You can debate ebooks vs. print, free vs. cheap vs. too expensive, hardback vs. paperback, ad infinitum. Here is the truth: Get the words into readers' hands, and everything else takes care of itself.

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Anthony Neil Smith’s ‘All The Young Warriors’ (UK) is a little like one of those bullets that leaves a small wound on entry and exits the body to leave a gaping hole.  Opening with small town events it expands to deal with war, world politics and piracy and doesn’t miss a beat along the way, making this a novel worthy of a place on the shelves of noir fans on the one hand and of an airport lounge on the other.  Any justice and it might even make it to the DVD shelves somewhere along the line.

In order to create the pull needed to get you in, a strong opening is required and Smith does this like he’s the world’s strongest man. 

He sits two cops in a car.  It’s snowing and there’s not much happening.  A car drives past erratically and the cops go in to investigate.  All should be sweet and smooth.  The lady cop, pregnant by one of her colleagues (Bleeker), goes along against her better judgement.  Turns out they’ve stumbled into two young  Somalians (Jibriil and Adem) off to fight for their homeland.  One of them, slightly crazy and fuelled by his commitment to the cause , pulls out his gun and starts firing.  It’s the end of Holm and Poulson and the end of Bleeker’s chance at fatherhood.

This is so well written that it instilled in me a powerful sense of the need for justice. Jibriil, the man responsible , had to pay.  Had to be tracked down.  Needed sorting out for good. 

Fortunately for me, Bleeker happened to agree with those sentiments.  It became all he had to live for.

Out of need, Bleeker teams up with Adem’s father, ex-gangster and reformed hard-man, a man who set himself on the path of the straight and narrow so that his son might follow along. 

Here is a buddy team that’s perfect for the ride.  They conflict in their religion, culture, status and motivations in a way that means there’s always an edge to what they do.  On the other hand, they have enough in common to cement their relationship, enough to make me care how things panned out.

Jibrill and Adem provide another buddy team.  They also have conflicts, but the only cement they have is history.   When they reach Somalia - a madly hot, anarchic place - the two switch roles.  Jibriil finds himself in his element, Adem like a fish out of water.

The first half of the book has a hell of a pace, the action moving swiftly on, yet all the while there’s an undercurrent of thoughtfulness, ideas that need to digested no matter how unpalatable.

Just before the mid-point, things settle for a while.  Smith centres the action by immobilising Adem and Bleeker in different ways – one wrapped in bandages like a mummy, the other hiding away in his ice-fishing hut.

It’s almost like the story has formed a chrysalis for a while.

When it emerges, it is as a new and wonderful creature.

Adem finds himself using his skills to become a negotiator for Somalian pirates and takes us into that bigger world I mentioned at the beginning.   However the book was to pan out from that point, the gaping hole in someone’s back was inevitable.

Not only did I really enjoy this one, I was very impressed by the writing.  Crisp and sharp from beginning to end it paints pictures that are vivid without over-describing at any point.  The horror of situations is real and very immediate.  Smith had me right in the middle of the action one minute then taking me further back to soak up the view from a new perspective the next.

The contrasts are huge right through, from hot to cold through black to white.  They do the job tremendously well.

I don’t know how much research was done for this.  It’s not easy to tell.  I did come out of the other end feeling like I knew more about what happens in the world than when I went in.  I also came out fully satisfied. 

It’s a great piece of work from the off and should go down as a must buy if you’ve not done so already. 


Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Time For Romance

Old poems are like old photographs.  They fade, too.

Inside Her

There’s sea inside her

As she’s inside the sea.

And indeed that’s how she came

In wave after wave after wave after wave.

I dissolved like sugar in tea.

There’s fire inside her

And she’s inside the flames.

They flicker just behind her eyes

She rises and lights up the sky,

And all my inner beasts are tamed.

The wind’s inside her

And in the breeze she lingers.

Around the hills as different weathers

Light as air and wild as heather

Her hair a mosaic of salt and my fingers.

There’s earth inside her

And she’s inside the land.

Lava pulses through her veins

Rocks and pebbles her domain,

The world spins softly in her hands.

And I’m inside her

And she’s inside of me.

It grows and grows and grows this thing

Just how long is a piece of string?

And how close this to symmetry?

Busted Flat is free just now.  Mostly it's of the faded variety.


Friday, 23 March 2012

Dancing With Myself: BEN SOBIECK interviews BEN SOBIECK

Well, you know the free thing?  I'm doing it again with about as much understanding as I had before (ie little).

This time it's mainly kid's stuff - poetry and illustrated stories.  You may not want to look, but if you have children under the age of 7, one of them might appeal (The Day My Coat Stuck On My Head might stretch to older children in places).  There's a more grown up collection of poetry around, too.  You'll find them here (US UK), here (US UK), here (US UK), here (US UK) and here (US UK).  And I am Murder Wink as well as Lotta Floss, but if you want to send hate-mail, please look them up in the yellow pages.

Today, we're running with super cool and nicely warm in the form of Ben Sobieck.  Welcome Ben.

* Who are you and what do you want?

Well, self, we've been trying to answer that question for some time, haven't we?

* So what's this I hear about you writing dark- and light-hearted crime fiction? Are you confused?

Yes, totally confused. I write dark, serious fiction ("Cleansing Eden - The Celebrity Murders" novel) and crime fiction humor ("5 Funny Detective Stories - A Maynard Soloman Collection"). I like switching back and forth. Keeps things fresh.

* Now wait a minute. Didn't you just release "4 Funny Detective
Stories - Starring Maynard Soloman?" You trying to scam someone?

I'm a confused scammer, what can I say. Each time a new short story in the Maynard Soloman series comes out, a new collection featuring every short is on its heels.

I do this to double the exposure of the new release (most recently "Maynard Soloman Legalizes Gay Knot Tying") and to offer readers a better bang for their buck. Compared to buying five shorts for a buck each, they get extra value with a collection priced at less than a Lincoln.

Since these collections are in the Amazon Select program, it also means more chances to read "Funny Detective Stories" for free. Everyone wins.

* What other scams are you pulling?

I recently bundled my crime novel, Maynard Soloman short stories, my serious short stories and a couple true crime stories (including one true crime ghost story) into a single collection. It's called, "Pick Your Poison: 1 Nefarious Novel & 12 Stirring Short Stories."

That brings my total e-book count to 10. Eleven if you count the one that is only available at my website, .

* Do you think you're better than everyone else just because you have an extra kidney?

No, the person who gets to be holier-than-thou only has one. I'm just a humble recipient.

I use my platform as an author to shamelessly promote organ donation. I got a kidney two years ago from a living donor who is happy and healthy to this day. I'm writing crime fiction today only because that person selflessly donated an organ. I hope my testament can persuade people on the fence about whether to donate now or after they've no use for them.

* So now you're scamming people out of money AND kidneys. How many times has your griftin' arse been to jail?

Actually, quite a few. I was a newspaper crime reporter before landing at my current job with a large non-fiction publisher. I spent a good deal of time in the bowels of justice.

* Speaking of bowels, what do you want to eat after we're done here?

The weirder, the spicier or the Polish-ier, the better.

* You ever been to Poland?

Yes, and I enjoyed every pierogie-gobbling, Żubrówka-guzzling minute of it.

* Where else you been?

I like being outside. Inside with a keyboard or e-reader are the next best things.

* You also like being on your own with this whole self-publishing thing?

Very much so. There are great publishers out there (heck, I work full-time for one), but this is the best fit for my fiction. I know what I want, how to create it and where it needs to go. I've been with two small publishers, but I didn't find the same satisfaction that comes with going solo.

That isn't to say I've ruled out contracting with a fiction publisher again. I'm always open to working with other talented people.

* Can I have 10 bucks for booze?

No, we don't drink anymore on account of that kidney thing. Remember? Our sins now are ice cream and hot sauce.

* But you said Żubrówka and I just bought apples.

I wish.

* Where do we live again? 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Dancing With Myself: OLIVIA LENNOX interviews OLIVIA LENNOX

Why on earth become a writer?

Why on earth not? I sort of feel it was my destiny. I come from a background of repressed creatives. I hated seeing all the talent and creative energies of my parents and relatives go to waste so I thought “I HAVE to try and make my talents and strengths work for me” even if nothing ever happens, at least I know I haven’t sat back and let me energy go to waste.

How did you get started?

Really, it was in my college days. I’d gone there to study Literature and was doing Creative Writing as a sideline. In the end, the creative side of things took over my degree and instead of doing a dissertation on “Did the type of breakfast cereal Jane Austen ate affect her writing ability?” I wrote a screenplay. It sort of happened like that. I felt more relaxed and able to open up in a classroom full of writers than I did in a classroom full of 18th century novel studiers. By the way, the answer to the dissertation question is “No. She ate toast”. It’s a good job I didn’t have to spin that out for another sixty thousand words. Anyway, after college had ended I realised that although I’d loved writing the screenplay I’d really rather focus my attention onto story writing and novels – with the odd bit of article writing thrown in.

How did you find your niche? Your style?

I guess I’d like to call myself a humorist, so I fell into comedy writing pretty naturally. For a long time I harboured a desire to be a stand up comedian (Which gives me an excuse to use the old line: “When I told my Mother I wanted to be a stand up comic, she said “Don’t be silly dear, people will only laugh”) but quickly realised although I could do it, it was hard on the ol' ego. I began experimenting with blog writing - short, satirical pieces sending up news stories or lame women’s magazine articles on “The Thin Air Diet” and such. By doing this, it gave me a chance to hone my funny side in short bursts and also really be harsh with the edit button. Once I’d done this for a while, I decided to try moving onto longer pieces – short stories and creating ‘proper’ characters I could give back stories to, again by blogging them or getting them into local publications or entering competitions, even winning a few.

While you’re honing, you still have to earn money – how did you cope financially?

That’s a good joke, putting “coping” and “financially” into the same sentence. Unless you’re lucky enough to be JK Rowling or Dan Brown or whoever, you have to make money from other avenues while you louchely wait for some publishing house to recognise you weeping in the corner. I had to give up a lot of things, holidays, looking for the latest Caribbean cruise deal, running my car as frequently, breathing etc. I took on lots of jobs over the years in various fields. Since I was eighteen I’ve been a secretary, typist, worked in social care, worked in libraries. I even trained as a teacher too, as I thought if all else let me down I could teach others how to fail at writing too (that’s just another little joke). The best writers have had varied careers and seen what life has to offer. These jobs shaped the way I write today. However, I began freelance writing as a sideline some years ago, to earn extra income, writing articles, blogs and getting paid for it too – very often I was lucky enough to be able to write in the style that suited me best (comedy, in case you were wondering) and it helped because it gave me some extra money and got me to practice my skills.

How did it affect the people round you?

I have nobody around me anymore. I’ve alienated all my friends and family. I live in a world of strangers. Kidding. Not really. Luckily my family have been incredibly supportive of what I do. Though they were concerned at first how I’d make ends meet and so on, now they see me working hard, earning some money for freelancing and that I’m properly preparing a novel – they think it’s paying off. It’s tough sometimes when you have a bad day and you wonder to yourself “will this EVER work for me?” but as corny as it sounds you do have to believe in yourself and what you do – and I think (I hope) that my relatives and loved ones feel the same when they read my work.

Who or what are your cultural cornerstones?

Well, lots of things. I think that having lots of different interests, hobbies and cultural crutches is so important in terms of shaping your work and the things you write about. For instance, I am passionate about all things historic and vintage, so I like to write pieces that are influenced by the past times and centuries I love so much. If you can get under the skin of a period in history – even if it’s relatively recent, it can open up so many avenues to explore – how people thought, how they looked, the things they said and did and how they reacted to events that were happening around them at the time. In terms of the stuff I like to watch I am hugely influenced by vintage silent film and comedy, class acts from the past that still resonate so much today. Obviously because of wanting to be a stand up comedian originally I have a passion for watching good comedians at work. Listening to their patter and seeing how they observe life gives me angles on how to attack my own work.

I also read, I read a lot and I read as varied a mix as I can. Classics, history, biography (biographies are a brilliant way of getting skin deep into a character…anyone who writes should automatically add biographies of any kind to their reading list) and as many newspapers/magazines as I can, for up to date news and information – and the sort of real life stories that can truly only be made up…

Finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Don’t give up. Simple as. Take the knocks, take the bad stuff, pick yourself up and carry on. Believe in yourself and what you do – even if you’re convinced no-one else does. That self belief is probably the most important thing you can have to carry you through the writing experience. Lots of great authors had countless bad times before they hit lucky. You will too if you truly do have the talent and the nous. It’s taken me years of freelancing, dedicated short story writing and nearly to the completion of a first novel for me to believe any of what I just said, but it IS true.


Courtesy of interviewer (and interviewee!) Olivia Lennox, a professional writer who now lives in the UK.

Check out a few samples at the links below:

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Free Book Syndrome

I was in a bookshop on Thursday.

That shouldn’t sound shocking, but it’s been a while.

The reason for the visit, the launch of Hit And Run – the new novel from the excellent Doug Johnstone.

If you’ve never read one of Doug’s books or seem him at an event, I’d like to recommend both to you.

Hit And Run sounds like it has all the ingredients for a fast-paced noir thriller and the first chapter certainly has got me hooked.  The opening has a partying trio taking the long way home to avoid running into the cops on drink-driving watch.  Unfortunately for them, they run into something else, and there’s a sense that things are just about to move from bad to really bad with the next turn of the page.

Excellent stuff.

Not only that, but Doug sang a couple of songs.  The first I liked, the second was a real humdinger about Bjork and car-crashes. 
On top of that there were laughs aplenty, so it was great entertainment all round.  Make sure you get yourself a ticket for him for the Bloody Scotland festival if you're around for that.

Walking out afterwards, I had a look at the shelves.  There was something warm and familiar about them, packed full of books as they were and in neat order.

It was only when I got to the front door that I realised that there was no FREE BOOKS table.

No free books?  How do Waterstones (without the apostrophe these days!) expect to survive if they’re not giving everything away?

It’s an interesting idea, the Kindle Select programme.  Put in your book, let it be borrowed and be paid for that and have access to the facility of the giveaway.

Now, I’m a mean guy.  Mean in the saving money where I can way.  Truth is I have to be if I want to be able to pay for my children to have some of the brilliant experiences that are on offer to them – theatre, cinema, music, football, workshops, soft-play, swimming club, Rainbows and Brownies, you may know the kind of thing.

In the supermarket, if it has a reduced price sticker on an item because it’s on the verge of disintegrating in the fridge, you’d have to hold me back to stop me putting it in my basket.

Same goes for books. 

Books are my biggest indulgence these days.  My shelves are packed to overflow and regular culls don’t seem to make any difference.  They’ve been stocked by titles from Amazon, charity shops, car-boots, jumble-sales for as long as I can remember.  Not even becoming a kindle user has completely changed my habits and I still can’t resist the odd tree-book now and again (take Dead Harvest by Chris F Holm, for example, how could the electronic version do that cover justice?).

Now I have a couple of new syndromes. 

The first is called ‘Free Kindle Download Syndrome’.  I see a book I want or think I might want and press click as soon as I see it’s going for nothing (not even for a song!).

The second is ‘Giveaway Syndrome’ where I keep having the urge to give books away for nothing.

I have another title going for free today.  I’ve enrolled ‘With Love And Squalor’ again to the Select Programme and it can be downloaded for nothing over the next 3 days.


To be honest, I’m not even sure myself. 

In part, it’s down to the desire to be read by as many people as possible.  More downloads should equate to more readers even if only a fifth of them are actually opened.

Another part is the sheep mentality.  Everyone else is.

I’m also keen to sell books.  My fantasy is that at some point in the future I’ll be able to swap my hugely stressful and demanding  teaching job, a job that is killing me softly, for a part-time one that allows me space to write, the two complimenting each other so that I can make enough money for the roof, the food and all of those clubs.

The idea, give some or lots away for free, sell a few and maybe get some traction.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those things.

I do wish I could be more like Pablo D’Stair and his idea of just giving it all away for nothing for as much of the time as possible.   I admire his views and his writing.  Thing is, that leaves me in the ‘killing me softly’ job for eternity.

My worry about all of the free books thing is one that’s no doubt been aired all over by now.  If every book is free for a certain period of time, won’t people eventually stop paying for books?  It’s not stopped me yet, but if I manage to reign in my enthusiasm at some point surely the rational thing is to do that.  Stop buying.  Be canny.

I guess Amazon know what they’re doing from their side.

If a book has 20,000 giveaways and everyone raves about it, then the book will have to be bought in retrospect.   But won’t it be available for free to the Kindle Prime folk?  And won’t that persuade us all to join it eventually?

So, the big books will be borrowed and the best-selling authors will do fine.

And that leaves the less well-selling folk.  Maybe they’ll do OK, but not as well. 

Then others will fall by the wayside.

Isn’t that the way it’s always been.  Is this a speedy evolution back to some form of the status quo? 

There are differences, I know.  The status quo didn’t have the self-published before.  There might have been a more diverse platform in terms of where people shopped.  We had to move and mix in the world to buy our books and chat to people in the shops and find out what was going on in the book-world of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still embracing the e-book world and its possibilities, I just get nervous about it all from time to time.

If you’ve seen an analysis of this that makes sense, could you please drop in a link in the comments for me.  I really would like to find some informed opinions.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Redemption Songs

Dutch author Jochem Vandersteen writes the Noah Milano crime stories about a reformed Mafioso trying to go straight. He tracks the comings and goings of PI fiction on his blog, The Sons of Spade, and is the founder of The Hardboiled Collective .

His newest novelette, Redemption is on sale right now.

Here are a few of his thoughts.

All writers know one of the questions they get asked the most is “Where do you get your ideas?”

Well, there’s a billion places they can come from. Mostly, it’s all about “What If”.

I’ll let you in on a secret… The whole idea behind the Noah Milano series is “What If Xena, Warrior Princess was a male PI in LA.” Seriously! The whole theme behind a bad man trying to make up for his past sins was inspired by that cheesy but entertaining TV show.
And talk about inspirations coming from cheesy TV shows… The inspiration for my new novelette Redemption came from watching an episode of Dr. Phil where we saw how parents confronted the woman that killed their son. I thought “What If Noah Milano was hired to protect the killer from those parents?”
It worked out pretty well. The whole redemption theme has been a strong and popular element of the Noah Milano stories. Mixing the dark past of the killer with that of Noah’s created an interesting story.

Sometimes, like for The Alabaster-Skinned Mule , in which a young girl unknowingly smuggles drugs for Mexican criminals., ideas come from watching somebody walk down the street… Yep, the femme fatale in that novelette actually exists. Well, her likeness, anyway. She’s not really a drug mule. Not that I know of. The rest of the story was inspired by a news story about drug mules. That’s one hell of an advice to new writers… Watch the news, choose a juice news item, add your protagonist and see what happens.

I never have problems getting ideas. The hardest part is choosing the most promising to work with and finding the time to work them all out.

Where do you get yours?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dancing With Myself: JAY HARTMAN interviews JAY HARTMAN

A few things before the interview today.

I was delighted to get through to the semi-finals of the Favourite Crime E-book tournament over at Spinetingler, and gutted to be knocked out.  All the same, I was so pleased to see Ray Banks and Patti Abbot in there (Doc Noir would have given me a smile, too) that I quickly got over it.  

In the end, it was Dead Money that came out on top by a very narrow margin.  I'd say there were no losers in that one.  Well done to all involved.

I was also really pleased to see a couple of posts over at Do Dome Damage

The first outlined the reasons behind the choice of 'Plastic Soldiers' by WD County.  It was my favourite short of last year, so its inclusion was pretty straightforward in lots of ways.  I do wonder how many out there would have been brave enough to put it out given the subject matter.  Well done to Brian for his decision.

And a lovely piece of news from Dave White - congratulations on both counts.

Followed by a curio from Steve Weddle.

Also a note about the release of Jochem Vanderstein's Redemption and 4 Funny Detective Stories from Benjamin Sobieck.  Should be good reads those.

Finally, Dirty Old Town (and other stories) sold its 1500th copy yesterday, so old-man-style cartwheels in my bedroom last night (ouch!). 

Now on to the interview.

Jay Hartman.  What a good guy.

E-book pioneer.

Hugely professional.

Great man to work with.

Head of Untreed Reads.

I've been lucky enough to have a couple of things out with the publisher.  First off, 'Into Thin Air', a short story that has been in the Waterstone's Top Ten short stories on and off for the past 4 or 5 months now (though their charts are in a bit of a mess just now - sort it out WS. please), and as part of the wonderful 'Grimm Tales' which has sold really well into American libraries.  However they manage it, I'm glad to be on board with them.

And if you're a writer or a publisher of e-books what more could you ask for in a blog post (answers on a postcard, please)?

Take it away, Jay...

Q: Geez. Wasn't this interview supposed to have happened ages ago?
A: You know, it's perfectly possible that I feel guilty enough about not getting it done sooner without my inner consciousness giving me grief about it too. And considering how much time I spend talking to myself, you'd think you'd have figured all this out by yourself.

Q: Well EXCUSE me! Sheesh. Somebody didn't have their coffee today, did they?
A: As a raving caffeineaholic, yes...I can be rather testy when I'm running low on brew. There's no venti soy sugar-free vanilla latte in sight at the moment. However, I've got some pumpkin spice brewed up so maybe that will mellow me out by at least halfway through this interview.

Q: So I know that Untreed Reads came about after spending 15 years writing commentary about ebooks, and that you're one of the founders of, which was one of the first websites to ever cover the ebook industry. Since that's kind of a yawner, do you have anything INTERESTING you can tell folks about the road to Untreed Reads' existence?
A: Well, at KnowBetter we helped do the market research that eventually led to the creation of ebook divisions at both Random House and HarperCollins. It was a pretty exciting time as everything was emerging. I still remember the first time Barnes and Noble tried doing ebooks, then shut down the division and left everyone hanging. I remember when Amazon didn't have ebooks and the electronic publishing space was ruled by the independent publishers. Those were good times. Still, I wouldn't trade the last two years of developing Untreed Reads with my business partner K.D. Sullivan for anything.

Q: You sure have a lot of authors writing with Untreed Reads. But some of these people normally write about erotica and I see they're writing mystery or sci-fi at your place. What's up with that?
A: I've never been a believer that authors should be pigeon-holed into a specific genre. A good author has great ideas that can span multiple genres, and I don't think it does the author any justice to be limited in what they write. So, I love having the opportunity to give a voice to all of these folks in whatever kind of story they'd like to write. It's not for me to tell an author what to write, but rather to showcase their work the best way I can.

Q: It seems like everywhere I turn I'm seeing Untreed Reads titles. How do you manage that?
A: Early on, we decided distribution was going to be one of the most important things to focus on. It wouldn't do us much good to have a bunch of titles that were only available to US markets. People love reading all over the world, and with the explosion of ebooks in the library market it was even more important to be available through as many channels as possible. We've recently opened up our distribution network to other small publishers and self-pubbed authors to help them get out to the rest of the world too. Pretty exciting stuff.

Q: What's the worst thing about being an editor?
A: Having to tell someone you can't give them a contract. It's like telling them their baby is ugly and can't play with the other kids on the swings.

Q: What IS your current acceptance and rejection rate? What sort of things make you turn down a work?
A: We run at about a 70-75% rejection rate. I do see a lot of manuscripts where people haven't taken the proper amount of time to really edit or proofread their stories. Overuse of adverbs is another big one that annoys me (he said, curmudgeonly). Not bringing anything new to an existing genre is also pretty much a killer. Telling the reader everything instead of showing them through descriptive narrative. Just like you wouldn't want to go into an interview without being dressed up and presenting yourself in the best light possible, you really should make sure a submission is as clean as it can possibly be.

Q: And now for a completely random question. I hear you're a Back to the Future fanatic. Why?
A: I've always had a thing for time travel stories. I remember seeing Time Bandits when I was a kid and being completely blown away. The Back to the Future trilogy was pretty much the same thing. I wish I had more time travel submissions come through, but I don't see too many.

Q: How's the caffeine headache doing? Going away?
A: Yes, but now I'm about out of time for this thing. I can only spend so much time talking to myself. How about throwing one more decent question at me and we'll call it quits?

Q: If a train leaves St. Louis at 6pm traveling at a speed of 45 mph...
A: Um. I said a DECENT question. Math is my worst subject.

Q: What drives you to keep working on Untreed Reads so many hours a week? I've heard you're a raging insomniac and get most of your work done between 7pm and 4am.
A: I genuinely love all of my authors and their works. Their passion, enthusiasm and support of all of us at Untreed Reads makes me want to turn around and give that back double. It's true, I don't sleep much and that makes it possible for me to get stuff done in the wee hours. But honestly? I'd work anytime day or night for these folks. Every time I publish a new story I feel like a proud father, and I think sometimes I've even more excited than the author as I see a particular story take off in sales. It confirms for me that I was right to get into this line of work, and every success we see makes me feel more confident. I'm surrounded by passionate people, whether that's my authors, K.D. Sullivan, our brilliant staff or the agents in NY that we work with. It's hard not to feel energized by these folks.

Q: I suppose this has been an enlightening interview. As your inner consciousness, most of this stuff is pretty much old hat. Hopefully someone else who reads this will find it interesting.

A: Stuff it, and pass the non-dairy vanilla creamer. This coffee was way too strong. I've really got to teach you how to brew better.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Gabriel Hill. Gabe. An unusual name for a story that’s out of the ordinary.

He arrives home one night, steaming drunk to find a body on his doorstep. The body’s been dismembered and it holding on to his missing organ. The body happens to belong to a paedophile who has been in a fight with Gabe that very night – and lost.

It’s not a good night for him, even though he has connections with the police.

Needless to say, he ends up as prime suspect.

Appearing that same night are animal carcasses pinned to trees in the wood. Reminds the folk there of some odd goings on 20 years earlier when there was a cult operating in the area.

Gabe’s brother happened to be in the cult. Was also into drugs and maybe doing things that were distasteful to get them.

Thing is, his brother’s just died and it seems that there are a lot of people after what he had, whatever that was.

A trio come to town to find out what Gabe knows and what he is doing with the goods, only now they’re split into a duet and a solo.  
They’re not nice. They know how to get what they want and exactly how to get it.

And there are others after the same thing.

The sensible thing for Gabe to do might be to give everything up there and then, only he hasn’t got a clue what they’re on about.

Nor is Gabe about to anything sensible, in spite of his post-grad degree.  He's a little too messed up, loyal and philosophical for that.

It’s a great read from the start.

All the way through, there’s a sense of menace in the book that means it’s not easy to settle as there’s no way of knowing what’s likely to happen next.

The people chasing Gabe share not only the motive for being after him, but an expertise in the exploitation of whatever means might be necessary to get what they want.

Gabe paints himself into corner after corner, forms alliances and breaks them in order to stay ahead of the game and to stay alive.
I like R Thomas Brown’s short fiction rather a lot and was nervous that this attempt at a novel might have stretched his skills too far.

Not a bit of it.

It shows him to be the craftsman he is. The plot is cleverly put together and the execution is bang on – tension, menace, humour and a constant energy made this a book I’m heartily recommendation.

Among the things that stamp this book out as unusual is the dialogue. It has a different quality to it, somehow. Like Brown is after something new. Somewhere between the conversations of fiction and real life and all the more curious for that.

He has also produced a cast of characters that have roots in tradition, yet who have grown into grotesque mutations once reaching the light above ground.

Totally engaging and worthy of any reader’s time.

Hill Country UK

Hill Country US