Jan 082014
 

I’ve been promising to unveil my big news for what seems like forever (November’s big news became December’s big news, and, well, here we are), and it’s finally time.

This week, oh nobody, just the Wall Street Journal, broke the story on page one.

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NEWS: A new blog on how to be a prolific writer, at All That’s Written. Worth taking a look at if you’re an author.

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The article itself is humbling in and of itself, but the news is also big: I’m co-authoring a novel with none other than the legendary Clive Cussler, appropriately monikered the “Grand Master of Adventure.” It will be the next installment in the bestselling Fargo series, and I’m excited by the opportunity to work with a master of the genre.

My name will be on the cover, along with his. I’m arguing to make it almost all me, in raised, neon red lettering, but it remains to be seen how persuasive I am. As always, please, those at home, no wagering.

Why is this news significant, other than because it will be published by a Big 5 publisher? Because an indie author has been selected by a household name to collaborate on a novel. As you might imagine, someone like Cussler can have whoever he likes – he has authors begging for the opportunity.

But for him to have teamed up with lil ol me…well, you get the point. It’s a watershed moment for indies, because there has long been this sentiment that the reason authors are indies is because they can’t cut the quality at the trad pub level, and so have to release their material themselves. This handily rebuts that belief.

The truth is that there are plenty of terrible indie releases. And there are plenty of great ones. Just as there are plenty of good and bad in any of the arts. But with authors like Hugh Howey, Colleen Hoover, and H.M. Ward scorching the charts, indies have clearly arrived, and the market’s embraced them -  or at least, some of them.

I went the indie route because I’m impatient. I didn’t feel like waiting years to find an agent that would “get” my work, and then another year for a publisher to decide whether it fit in one of the slots they had for that season. Not to mention another year for it to actually reach readers. That just didn’t seem worth it to me. For others, it did, and I have no issue with their choice. I just didn’t see it as a productive use of my time.

When Amazon broke big with 70% royalties, I understood the game had changed. Now I could release books written the way I wanted to write them, on a schedule that worked for me, and I could keep most of the money, assuming I made any. After hearing about authors like Hocking and Locke breaking the bank and selling tons in this new paradigm, I decided to jump in. Now, 25 books in 30 months later, I feel like my decision was vindicated, not the least because I’m writing with one of the most successful authors in the world and having a ball in the process. If you’d told me years ago that I’d be writing with the author of Sahara and Raise The Titanic I would have laughed you out of the room. Now, not so much.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. 30 months of basically non-stop work on a crippling schedule of my own devising. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. No question. Will I keep it up? Not a chance. You can only run an engine in the red for so long, and it starts to come apart. 2014 will involve fewer Russell Blake releases and more attention to each, with forays into romance and NA as RE Blake (following my own counsel to brand different genre offerings differently so Russell Blake fans don’t mistakenly pick up an RE Blake “Lust on the Range” tome, or RE Blake readers don’t buy an Assassin or JET book and go, “Where’s the sex, and why is everyone getting killed?”) By branding each genre’s offering in an unmistakably distinct way with a different name, I hope to avoid that, and build a readership in other genres based on the merits of my stories. Only time will tell whether that’s deluded or brilliant.

The WSJ article is a must read. It’s a good capsule summary of some of the high points of my career, such as it is. I wish it had mentioned that I take considerable pride in the plot and prose, and not just the rate of release, but hey, everyone’s a critic. The only thing I dislike about it is that my privacy is now going to be harder to maintain, but I can always get plastic surgery or wear a fake nose or move to Ecuador or something. A sex change isn’t out of the question, either. Small price, I suppose.

Hrmph.

For those who are new to my work, I’d suggest taking a look at JET, which is my most popular series. Pure escapist action adventure with a female protag battling for survival. Think Bourne crossed with Kill Bill seasoned with a little Bond, and you’re not far off.

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Dec 202013
 

arnold lee drawingThe legendary Lawrence Block (who heretofore shall be referred to as simply, “The Legendary”) agreed to further sully his reputation by doing an interview with yours truly, having forgotten the furor, riots and lawsuits stemming from his last outing here. This glimpse into a literary icon’s process is fascinating, all the more so because, after more years as an author than I’ve been alive, he’s releasing his first self-published offering (hopefully not his last). Without further ado, let’s get to The Legendary and his latest triumph, The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons.

 

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NEWS: BLACK Is The New Black just went live! Get it while it’s hot!

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Russell Blake: Well, here you are again. You may not remember, but you were the subject of my very first Author Spotlight, just about two years ago.

Lawrence Block: How could I forget? That’s when my career took off. I figure I owe it all to you.

RB: And you’ve returned to express your gratitude. Very decent of you.

LB: To express my gratitude, and to let the Spotlight shine on The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. It’s the eleventh book about Bernie Rhodenbarr, burglar and bookseller, and the first in almost a decade. The on-sale date is December 25th

RB: —which should be easy to remember.

LB: You’d think so, but why rely too heavily on memory? The canny reader can play it safe and pre-order the book now from Amazon.

RB: I’d ask you to tell us something about the book, but you’ve already done so. Still, a couple of points cry out for further attention. I understand you wrote the book on a cruise ship.

LB: Holland America’s MS Veendam, on a five-week cruise this summer. Round trip from Boston, sailing the North Atlantic and visiting ports in Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, and, well, you get the idea. I’ve always tended to go away to work, sometimes to writers’ colonies, sometimes to a hotel room, and I like ocean travel, so I gave it a try.

RB: As an alternative to the retirement you’ve been nattering about in recent years.

LB: Well, I did honestly think I might be done writing novels. And the efforts I’d made seemed to confirm my suspicions, dying five or ten thousand words in. I didn’t intend to take up shuffleboard, I knew I’d be busy tending to my backlist and writing the occasional short story, but I feared I might not be up to the heavy lifting that a novel demands.

But I really wanted to do at least one more book, you know? So I decided to give myself optimal conditions—a cruise, all by myself (plus 1200 strangers, but let’s not count them). Food when I wanted it, ease, comfort. And internet access in the ship library—but not in my cabin, to spare me that particular diversion during my working hours.

RB: And you just sat there and wrote?

LB: I woke up every morning around five and went straight to work. A steward brought my breakfast around seven, and I paused long enough to eat it, then went back to work. I kept going until I made my daily quota, which was a minimum  of  2000 words. I rarely did much more than that—until the last two days, when everything was coming together and it was easier to keep going than to stop.

RB: Did you ever leave the ship?

LB: If we were still in port when my day’s work was done, I generally went and had a look around. But the work always had priority, and I kept at it seven days a week. I may have been afraid that if I stopped I’d never get started again.

And, by God, it worked. I boarded the ship July 13, started writing the following morning, finished up August 15, and disembarked in Boston two days later.

RB: And you’re publishing it Christmas Day. Self-publishing it, to be specific, which is a murky pond you’ve been sticking a toe in for a couple of years now.

LB: I’ve been republishing backlist titles ever since Kindle made that possible. And two years ago I published an original, a collection of Matthew Scudder stories called The Night and the Music, which has done very well for me as an eBook and a HandsomeTradePaperback.

RB: That’s all one word? HandsomeTradePaperback?

LB: I think it ought to be, don’t you? But I’m taking a big step with The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. It’s one that any of several traditional publishers would have been eager to publish. I could have pocketed a substantial advance, and instead I chose to be out of pocket and do it all myself.

RB: A fair number of folks might question your sanity.

LB: Well, it’s always been questionable at best. I sat down with my agent, who had read the book and loved it. He told me the advance he thought he could get for it, and asked me if I thought I could sell enough $9.99 eBooks and $14.99 HandsomeTradePaperbacks to match that number.

RB: And you said—

LB: I said, “How the hell do I know?” Because even an educated guess is still a guess. But I didn’t think it was unrealistic. And what he especially appreciated was that if I published the book myself it would be mine forever. I wouldn’t have some guys in suits hanging on to the eRights like grim death, long after they’ve stopped selling printed books.

RB: Of course if you self-publish, he doesn’t get a commission.

LB: Yes, he does. He’s selling the book overseas, he’s making the audiobook deal—and he gets his commission on the book’s earnings irrespective of who publishes it. That’s been true ever since The Night and the Music, and it works for both of us.

But it was still a hard decision. Publishing it myself meant giving up store sales, for the most part. It meant a smaller sale to libraries. It meant some media wouldn’t review it. It meant there wouldn’t be a hardcover trade edition.

RB: You’re doing a deluxe hardcover limited edition, however (cover reveal below – second one).

LB: I am, and it should be quite beautiful, signed and numbered and limited to 1000 copies. It’s selling nicely, and we’ll wind up making money with it, in addition to supplying collectors with a really handsome volume.

Will I do as well overall publishing the book myself? Things look very good at this point, but the question’s still unanswerable. But, you know,  that’s almost beside the point. Another consideration led to my decision.

RB: I bet you’re about to tell us what it was.

LB: How well you know me. It’s pretty simple: the desire to publish the book myself was largely responsible for my getting the book written in the first place. Once it was finished, and once it had turned out to be a better book than I’d dared to hope, how could I turn my back on the very impulse that had propelled me through it?

Look, if this venture falls short financially, I’ll regret the dollars I’ve lost. But I won’t lose sleep over them, and the regret won’t burrow very deep or last very long. But if I didn’t give it a shot, I’d regret that failure of nerve for the rest of my life.

I’ve come to believe that, when I face that kind of fork in the road, I’ll regret whatever choice I make. So it’s a question of which regret will be easier to live with. Once I looked at it that way, it was clear that self-publication was really the only way to go.

RB: And you’re not regretting it yet?

LB: Not for a second. I’ve been a professional writer for something like 55 years, and in all that time I’ve never been as busy as I am right now. And I’ve never had anywhere near as much fun.

And I don’t have to wait a year and a half for the damn thing to be out there! In my first Author Spotlight interview, I was whining about the fact that I’d finished Hit Me in November and it wouldn’t be coming out for fifteen months. I’m of an age whereat a prudent man doesn’t buy green bananas. You think I want to wait fifteen months for a book.

RB: So you evidently like it here on the dark side. Plan to dig in and stay awhile? Or is a return to retirement the next item on your agenda?

LB: I don’t seem to be very good at retirement. I’ve got a couple of books coming next year from a pair of very classy publishers—Subterranean Press will bring out Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf, and Borderline, a pseudonymous work from 1962, is being resuscitated by Hard Case Crime. (A good thing, too, as it was barely suscitated in the first place.)

There’s a writing book of mine, Write For Your Life, that’s long out of print, although it’s been eVailable for a while now. But I found 25 copies of the original edition in a storage bin and put them on eBay last week, one to a customer, and they were all gone three hours after my newsletter went out. God knows how many I could have sold. So that suggests I really ought to do a print-on-demand edition, and I’ll get on that sometime after the first of the year.

RB: A HandsomeTradePaperback, I suppose?

LB: You bet. So there are all these things to bring out, including a new collection of reviews and essays and such, and that should be enough to keep me out of mischief. But I can’t get away from the fact that I’d like to write another novel, and I even have the sense of what it might be. It’s early days, it’ll be months before I’m ready to sit down and get to it, but sometime in the spring or summer I think I’ll find a way to do it.

RB: And will you publish it yourself?

LB: It does look that way, doesn’t it?

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Sep 052013
 
By Steve Weddle

Folks have been really nice about sharing the recent Publishers Weekly review of COUNTRY HARDBALL. If you haven't read it, here you go. I was too anxious to read the whole thing closely, but I'm told it says that purchasing the book will make parts of you bigger where you want and smaller where you want and help you live a better life and get to Heaven and stuff like that.

Here's the thing that happens when you combine your need for promotion with the kindness of people -- they help promote you. I have found, at least in my case, that people have been far nicer to me than I deserve.

So let's look at interviewing, shall we?

I've done some interviews. People have asked me questions. I've asked them questions.

Here's a list of some of the times people have asked me questions: Interviews with Weddle.

I've talked via video with people, on the phone, on the email machines. Radio and podcast. Print and dig.

And I've interviewed people, both during my newspaper time and my blogger-ing time.

I've had the pleasure of chatting via telephony with Frank Bill and Hilary Davidson and Lynn Kostoff and others. Those are available at the DSD Podcast.

I've done video interviews with folks, including JT Ellison.

I've been on both ends of the emailing of TEN questions and/or answers. Or one at a time.

All this to say, I have had ample opportunity to see how to screw this up in every single way you could think of.

Maybe you're interviewing people. Maybe you're being interviewed. Lately, though, I've had the experience of being interviewed, so I thought I'd share some thoughts I kinda wish I'd had a while back.

Know The Format

Is this a conversational interview or a straight Q and A? I'm more of a conversational guy, in that I tend to look for connective tissue in everything. An interview can be a string of thoughts flowing into each other, building and collapsing throughout the hour. Or an interview can be more of an informational gathering process. Informal or informational? Shit. Prolly shoulda used that as a header somewhere.

If you're in a conversational interview, keep it loose but on-track. I've heard far too many interviews in which the whole thing jumps the track, plows through the water tower and into the orphanage. Don't do that. The kids. For the love. If it's conversational, you'll want to engage the interviewer and, by extension, the audience. No matter what side you're on, this isn't all about you. If you're a jerk like I am, then you're still convinced it's mostly about you. But you'll want to talk with your chat companion, not at him/her. If you're asked about the best book you're read recently, you probably don't want to put your interviewer on the spot by saying "Chris F. Holm's BIG REAP. Have you read it?" Because, you know, maybe she hasn't. Maybe you say the thing about Holm, but say "It's about a war between Heaven and Hell, kinda. I like book with big themes that seem grounded in the personal" or something along those lines, to which your interviewer can say something about Holm or, on the off-chance that he/she hasn't read, something more general. But you're engaging, at that point.

Let me be clear, here. Do or don't do. Whatevs. I'm not saying that you should say this thing or not. Just, you know, something to think about. That's all. It's your interview. Do whatever you want. Just offering some ideas. K? K. *hugs*

If it's more the "here's a question-give an answer" kind of interview, you'll definitely want to review the types of questions the interviewer asks. Are they big questions? Are they the same for each interview? I used to have this thing where the last question I asked was always about the favorite room in the person's house. When I was doing reporter-y interviews, it was always whether golf was a sport, because ha ha.

With my book (there goes Weddle again. it's all about him.) the bigger questions tend to be about economics in the rural south. That's from people who have read the book. If people haven't read the book, they can ask "Tell us a little about your book."

Either way, figure out which type of interview you're lined up for and give it some thought ahead of time.

Of course, if the person is emailing questions instead of doing so in real time (phone, skype, etc) then forget everything I've said. (Pause. Wait for joke.)

Have a thing

John Locke, who sold a gazillion books and was a darling until some people got the angers about paying for reviews, said you'll need to communicate one thing when you're doing an interview. That's good advice I hadn't considered.

If you're doing an interview with someone, you'll want to wrap up something nice and hand it over as a present. Maybe it's a particular anecdote you want to share this one time with this one audience.

I don't have the maths, but many of the questions you'll get as an author are the same from interview to interview. "What's your process?" "Do you enjoy editing?" "What are some of your influences?" "Do you find toothbrushes as gross as I do?" "What are you working on now?"

Interviewers and readers can get Interview Fatigue. Engaging the interviewer is one way to beat this, but so is dropping in something fresh. Have a story in your pocket that you want to convey to people. A thought. Maybe you want people to know that you wrote the book in just under ten years. Or that proceeds are going to help train-wrecked orphans. That all kinda lead to our next and (checks clock) final point:

Know Your Audience

People read books differently. Some people will read a book and see an aging headmaster trying to hold on to control after one of the students he's failed tries to take over the world. Others will read the same book and see three wizards coming of age. You have to figure out what your interviewer and his/her audience will see. You have to connect before you connect. Hmmm. Something like that.

If you're being interviewed on Wake Up, Metroville, then you're going to want to connect with whoever the hell is up at 5 am. Worker people? Stay-at-homes? Invalids? I dunno. Whoever that is. Maybe watch the show. Do they do consumer tips? Local history? Somehow, you'll want to tie in to the things they talk about. "You know, Annabelle, I saw your segment last week about preventing pick-pockets and it reminded me of this scene in my book." Um, maybe not that obvious.

If you're Joelle Charbonneau and you're writing the Glee Club Mysteries, your responses are going to be much different if you're talking to the Chicago Tribune or the Valleydale High Glee Club Newsletter.

My book has baseball, mills, convenience stores, VCRs, meth, an elephant, a funeral, deviled eggs and so forth. If a cooking mag wants to talk to me about all the food in the book, I'd better know the difference between paprika and nutmeg.

Mostly, I think, it comes down to knowing that each interview is different and preparing accordingly. Don't just show up and figure you don't have to do any work if you're being interviewed. You spent years writing this book, yeah? Don't screw it up now.

And be nice to the interviewers. Their time is valuable and they're hella nice for bothering with you at all.
Jun 162013
 

In December 1987, to promote her latest and last novel in the Julie Hayes series The Habit of Fear, Dorothy Salisbury Davis talked with Don Swaim for his “Book Beat” segment on WCBS Radio. Regrettably, the full 30-minute interview with Swaim — one of the best book journalists around, who interviewed dozens and dozens of authors during the 1980s and early 1980s — appears to be offline, or at least inaccessible. (I’ve made inquiries; we’ll see if anything comes of them.) But two extracts that comprised two different “Book Beat” segments that aired on March 14 1988 are accessible. They give a flavor of Davis’s voice, manner, and subject matter. (At one point she describes herself as a “little old lady with white hair and a raincoat.”)

The Habit of Fear doesn’t shy away from tough subjects, and includes a brutal rape scene made more so because of its brevity and plain prose (when I read the book recently, I was knocked out by how much that scene, and the aftermath as it plays out over the course of the novel, got to me.) Of writing violence, Davis said: “If I have to have blood, it’s going to be blood. It’s not going to be colored iodine.” And on the rape scene itself, Davis added:  “While it’s violent, it’s as brief as I could make it to have it credible.” Without giving too much away, it’s the same ethos that runs throughout “Lost Generation”, the story of hers I reprinted in Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives.

In the second “Book Beat” extract, Davis talks a bit about finding out she was adopted at the age of seventeen and why she waited many decades more to sleuth out her biological parents and family history, an experience she also drew on for Julie Hayes’ search for details on her own father in The Habit of Fear.

Jun 052013
 
My Bookish Ways: What do you enjoy most about writing crime fiction?
Lange: I choose to write about the people and situations I write about because it allows me to deal directly with issues like race, class, power, crime, and corruption without having to pussyfoot around too much, while at the same time entertaining my readers with a story that draws them in and keeps them interested and introduces them to characters they might not normally get to know.
Mar 112013
 
Arthur Magazine: Life itself is a first person experience, most novels you read are third person experiences, but video games themselves, as a method of storytelling, are in the second person. It's all about pointing at you, the player.
Austin Grossman: That's exactly the sense of the title, that's exactly the weirdness that You tries to grapple with. The storytelling of videogames is something that the closer you get to it, the weirder it is. Is a video game telling you a story? Is it telling itself a story?
Dec 142012
 

Lawrence Block’s forthcoming novel, Hit Me, brings Keller back into a game he thought he had left behind: contract killing. What would Keller rather be doing with his time? Stamp collecting, for starters. Block even designed a souvenir sheet of stamps to accompany a special edition of HIT ME:

Stamps from the Keller Collection

In an interview with Thomas Pluck, Block discusses Keller’s philatelist proclivity:

Pluck: Keller’s stamp collecting has become almost as intriguing as his hits. . . . I never collected stamps, but I did collect coins, then lost my collection to some unscrupulous movers. A pristine 1945-S Mercury dime will be my Rosebud, I imagine. There’s something about stamps, coins and bank notes besides the art and their monetary value—they’re tangible icons. I was a numismatist, and you’re a philatelist. Which both sound like kinky perversions, and to a degree they are. What stamps do you collect? Does Keller have your dream collection?

Block: Keller collects worldwide, 1840 to 1940, which his British Empire collection extending through the reign of George VI. Me too. How’s that for coincidence? Keller, of course, has a much better collection, because he had the sense to pick a far more lucrative profession.

Read the rest of the interview, which ranges widely from New York City to getting paid as a writer. Hit Me goes on sale February 12th.

Sep 182012
 

This week, our friends at Marvel publish the Classified Edition of Incognito, collecting, with bonus material, the first two volumes of the acclaimed, hard-boiled series Joe Hill describes as “what the albums of the Black Keys are to rock and roll and the pictures of Quentin Tarantino are to film.”

Our celebration of this truly bad-ass bind-up continues with an exclusive interview with writer Ed Brubaker. Check back tomorrow for an excerpt!

The idea of a bad guy disguised in plain sight is something that is universally frightening, is this where the idea of Zack Overkill came from?

I think part of it actually came from trying to figure out what the flipside to my and Sean Phillips’s series SLEEPER would be. That was about a good guy pretending to be a bad guy, so this would be about a bad guy pretending… something. I wasn’t sure yet. I came pretty quickly to the idea of supervillain Witness Protection, which to me, seemed like for some of these guys would be worse than prison.

Megan Abbott said recently that the line from Double Indemnity “I did it for the money and the woman. I didn’t get the money. I didn’t get the woman.” sums up noir. Incognito certainly adheres to this formula, what it is about noir that is attractive to you?

I’m not entirely sure. I guess because all of us, at some time or another, feel like everything could just fall apart. Or feels desperate. And I like stories that play into that. And there’s a certain mythic inevitability to noir stories. You watch all the parts of the story moving, and you know they’re going to end somewhere bad, but you can’t look away. You hold onto some desperate hope that your “hero” will somehow get out alive, if not intact.  I think Double Indemnity is the perfect example of why noir works — at the beginning of the movie (I can’t remember if it’s the same in the book) you already know everything has gone wrong, and yet you just want to see what happens anyway.  So much of film and tv and books and comics these days are about attempts to surprise readers or viewers, and while that can be fun, showing the aftermath first removes that, and allows you to just write from the characters, if that makes any sense.

One of the great things about the INCOGNITO series how well it incorporates the shades of grey between “good” and “evil”—something quite rare in comics even today. Where on the spectrum would you place Zack at the beginning and the close of the story arcs in Incognito: The Classified Edition?

I think at the beginning of the story, he’s a bad guy. An amoral prick at best. It’s a black comedy in some ways, so I played it for humor, but he’s not a guy you’d want to know. His best friend is the office drug addict and thief, after all. I think by the end, he’s been dragged through the wringer to the point where he feels just used by everyone on both sides — the good guys and the bad guys.

You’ve said elsewhere that you’re a big Hammett and Chandler fan—what’s your favorite of each of their novels? Did you draw on these writers or the work of other novelists in writing INCOGNITO?

I think the only conscious influences on INCOGNITO would be old pulp mags – Doc Savage and the Shadow — and Philip Jose Farmer’s A FEAST UNKNOWN.

My favorite Hammett and Chandler — Hammett it’s probably the Continental Op stories, and I love Red Harvest, of course. With Chandler, probably the Long Goodbye, although they’re all good. I even love his letters, which have so much of his dark humor in them.

When we first meet Zack Overkill, he’s powerless—just another office drone fighting boredom. What was it like to write a character with a life so run-of-the-mill, yet capable of such extreme superhuman acts without the restraints placed on him?

A lot of fun, really. I loved making a normal life feel like a trap. And I loved that even after he got his powers back, he still had to go to the office everyday, which made it even worse. I think that’s what makes these stories work, in the long run, is seeing him in his “secret identity” in both lives. Like in Bad Influences, when he has to live in an apartment building and deal with nosy neighbors.

Jul 252012
 

By Steve Weddle

If you know anything about short stories and crime fiction, then you already know Sandra Seamans. Her blog, My Little Corner, is a must-read -- as are her stories.

COLD RIFTS, her collection from Snubnose, is on many digital TBR piles right. Here stories can be found all over the web. Here. And here. And here.

I've worked with Sandra on a couple of projects -- the very first Needle mag and the DISCOUNT NOIR collection Patti Abbott and I edited.

Sandra was nice enough to answer some of my questions about writing style and short stories and much more.

Steve: Your “My Little Corner” blog claims to be a place for your “scattered thoughts.” In fact, your site provides a great deal of real news about what’s going on in the fiction community. From new publishers to contest and anthology calls, your site is one of the most useful sites for short story writers. How did you get to this point?

Sandra: Pretty much by accident. I started the blog without any idea of what to do with one and no expectation that anyone would actually read it. Once I figured out how to post links I started linking to online zines to make it easier for me to find markets when I had a story to sell and also to find stories to read. When I decided to clean out my email files, I discovered a whole slew of zine links and market listings which I added to the blog. It seemed a shame to stop there, so I just kept adding new links as I found them.

I always appreciated when other writers shared markets with me, so the blog was a way for me to pass that kindness forward. It's also been a joy for me to watch other writers get published in those new markets. It's such a big world out there on the 'net that having links in one place makes it easier for writers to find the type of market they're looking for.
Along the way I realized that by focusing only on mystery markets, crime writers were missing out on other outlets for their work. That mystery/crime stories fit in all genres, especially in many of the horror markets. So I began adding anthology calls, contest, and writing advice links for all the genres. It's been a lot of fun for me and hopefully useful to other writers.

Steve: Benjamin Whitmer, another of my favorite writers, has called your COLD RIFTS “a fierce, sorrowful” book of stories. How did you choose these stories for this collection?

Sandra: With a great deal of hair pulling. I knew they all needed to be dark stories because that's what Snubnose Press publishes. Since most of my work has been published online I felt the need to make the bulk of the collection new stories. I had six new stories and a half-written novella (which turned into a novelette) in my files that fit the bill. Besides finishing the novelette, I also wrote two more new stories and lengthened a pair of published flash stories. The rest was just a matter of deciding which published pieces would compliment the new work.

Putting them into some kind of order was the tricky part. I spent hours writing down lists of stories, their themes, lengths, male or female protags. I finally wound up loosely putting them together in groups of four - two dark stories, one paranormal and one humorous. What I hoped for in this arrangement was to break up the intensity of the darkest crime stories so that readers didn't feel like they were being pummeled to death with disaster. One other thing I did was mix in a good dose of male protags so the male readers won't be overwhelmed with a feminine point of view. I didn't want the collection to appeal strictly to women, I wanted something for everyone to enjoy

Steve: At a recent Mystery Writers of America meeting, Snubnose Publisher Brian Lindenmuth talked about your book in addition to some of the others that indie press is publishing. How helpful has it been to be in a community of like-minded readers and writers?

Sandra: It's like having your own private cheerleaders. They're always there with an encouraging word and a helping hand when you need it.

Steve: You’ve had stories published nearly everywhere, at places that continue and places that have moved on – Shred of Evidence, Pulp Pusher, Scalped ezine. How has the market for short story writers changed over the past few years?

Sandra: The biggest change has come in the last year or so with e-publishing. More and more small presses are putting together anthologies and writers are getting a percentage of the profits. The amounts aren't huge but it beats constantly giving it away for free or having it sit in a drawer collecting dust.

I also love that print magazines are making a comeback. We've got Needle, Pulp Modern, and Grift which are publishing some great stories. And it's not just the mystery genre, there's new horror and sci-fi/fantasy print zines showing up.

The online zines are always in flux and I suspect always will be. What I have noticed is that some of them are starting to put together "best of" anthologies and e-pubbing them which puts the stories in front of a larger audience. Others, like The Big Click, Noir Nation, Spinetingler and ThugLit, are putting out new issues in this manner, which helps pay their bills and put a little jingle in the writer's pockets.

Steve: GRIMM TALES, an Untreed Reads publication, is a collection of stories in which top authors retell a Grimm tale in modern terms. How did your story come about?

Sandra: The minute John Kenyon put up the challenge to rewrite a fairytale into a crime story, I was in. Yeah, I’m a fairytale freak. I also knew I wanted to do something different. There are only so many variations of the usual suspects that you can write. I found a website that had many of the Grimm's published. Reading down through the list of titles "The Blue Light" caught my eye. It was the story of a Soldier who'd fought for the King and when he was wounded and not as useful, the King sent him away. Through a meeting with a witch he finds a way to get his revenge on the King - perfect setup for a crime story. I used the basics of the fairytale but turned the soldier into a cleanup man for a mob boss, gave him some rules he lived by and off we went. It was a fun story to write.

Steve: You’ve been writing stories for years, of course. Have your habits of writing changed? Are you quicker? More deliberate? Has it gotten easier?

Sandra: In some ways it’s easier. The blank page doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. I’ve also discovered that every idea that pops into my brain won't always make a good story, but the time spent writing and going nowhere isn’t wasted. Bits and pieces of those “useless” stories generally find there way into other stories that do work.

I’ve also learned to take my time, to think more about the character’s motives instead of just charging ahead into the action. The hardest part for me is setting the story aside for a week or two then going back. Setting the story aside allows my brain the freedom to mull over what I’ve written and consider other options or new scenes that would open the story up more or help explain better what’s going on. When I finally reopen the file, I usually have several pages full of notes and new scenes sketched out.

Each new story, at least for me, is a learning process. I’m learning to take my time instead of just banging away, then having to cut out half of what I’ve written. The hardest part is learning to trust my instincts. Inside, you know what is or isn’t working. You just have to trust that inner voice. Trust that it knows you're doing what’s right for the story when you hit the delete key.

Steve: In the Age Of The Laptop, the “room of one’s own” idea seems to be fading away. People write in coffee shops, of all places.. Do you have a favorite place to write or are you one of those people who scrawls down a complete story anywhere?

Sandra: I have a small office in the house where I work on my computer. I don’t have a laptop that moves from room to room but you’ll find notepads (junk mail envelopes make great note paper, too) and pens in just about every room where I’ve scrawled down ideas for new stories, bits of dialogue for the current wip, or random scenes that I think will take an old story into a new direction.

Living in the country, there’s no nearby coffee shops, so it’s just me at home with my Mr. Coffee to keep me company.

Steve: What short story writers should people be reading now?

Sandra: There's so many of them, it's difficult to choose, and everyone's taste in stories is so different. Some of the writers I've enjoyed lately are Charles Dodd White, Seamus Scanlon, and Misty Skaggs. These writers tend toward the more literary side of my short story reading. For the crime/mystery group I'd say Art Taylor, Thomas Pluck, Jane Hammons, Libby Cudmore and Jen Conley. And of course, there are a hundred others out there that everyone should be reading, just click on any online zine and you’ll find them.

Steve: What are you working on now?

Sandra: I'm always working on the next story. Recently, I was invited to submit a story to a charity anthology with an end of the world theme. I was stumped until I came across an old micro-flash that I’d written and believe, that with a bit of research, it will work into a good short story. One of the joys of flash fiction is that there’s always more story to tell.

I also have several “finished” stories simmering in their file folders that need to be opened. They just need a few more scenes added and a bit of polishing before they get kicked out the door. And then there's the Western that I’m working on. I know pretty much how it’s going to unfold, it’s just a matter of getting it from my head to the page.

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