Saturday, February 16, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 7

It can be the little things that help you along.

SMALL ADJUSTMENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE


Remember a week ago when I wrote about how WADING INTO WAR was getting purchased but the subsequent books in the series were not? My quick solution was to place links to the other books immediately after "The End," explaining the next book and where it fit in the chronology. I republished both the Kobo and Kindle versions of the ebook.

I checked the data yesterday morning and imagine what I saw? A sale of ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE, the second Ben Wade mystery?

Coincidence? Possibly, but I prefer to chalk up my small tweak as a win. If I got one new reader based on a small restructuring at the end of the book, then I'll follow through with all the other versions of the ebook published by Draft2Digital.

As a reader myself, I would immediately wanted to know what the next book of a series is. The Audible app does that with audiobooks. Why not ebooks? No reason. If the reader didn't like the story, they'd just close the electronic cover and never look back. But a road map? I'd want one as a reader, so I'm providing one as an author.

Interesting but unprovable observation: I made a sale of WADING and CHICKENS both on Lincoln's birthday. That's 12 February. WADING is more of a novella. I can't help but wonder if both of those sales were the same person. How cool would that be?

TARGETED ADVERTISING


On a corollary note, ULTERIOR OBJECTIVES is the first book to feature Sergeant Lillian Saxton, US Army. It's a thrill-ride of a book (probably my favorite to date) that was a joy to write and tell people about. It takes place in May 1940 so it qualifies as a World War II novel.

I own a Kindle and there's always an ad on the lock screen. I never gloss over what's on display because sometimes, you can find something you can use.

There is a book titled THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS by Pam Jenoff. It showed up on the lock screen and its great cover caught my eye. I read the description. Not only did it draw me, but it had a World War II connection. I downloaded the sample and am reading through it.

But as an author, I took note of the authors featured in the Also Boughts as well as the Sponsored Links. Seeing an opening, I quickly wrote down all those names and created a new Amazon ad with those author names as keywords. I let the ad go into the world. I think that was about ten days ago.

Well, something happened. The KENP pages read for OBJECTIVES went from 63 on 6 February to 493 the following day. This after weeks of nothing on the KENP chart. It seemed some eyes finally noticed my book, its cover and description, and took a chance. Now, there were no actual sales of the book on those days which might have showed the story was good enough for someone to buy and finish the book. Can't do anything about that, but it is certainly worth noting. There was one sale, on the eleventh so perhaps...

By the way, if you're not using author names as keywords, start now.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK #1: Practice, Practice, Practice


Dean Wesley Smith was at it again this week. On Tuesday, he dropped a video "Tip of the Week #57...I'm too young." Basically, it's his discussion about yet another myth, the myth of being 'too young' in the business. That is, too little time in the chair writing. His basic response is "Yeah, I might be better than other writers...but that's only because I put in the time practicing the craft." By his own admission, he writes north of a million words a year. James Reasoner does this, too, and has for over a decade.

Just imagine how good any of us would be at ANYthing if we practiced the equivalent of a million words a year. Imagine how much better our writing would be if we put in that kind of time.

RELATED QUOTE


A few years ago, I read a quote that got me off my butt and in front of the computer:

"A year from now, you will have wished you started today."

SELF-DOUBT IS A KILLER


When you look at successful authors ahead of you in this long game, you might feel yourself getting frustrated or depressed that you are not at their level. You might also think they've solved all the writerly problems.

Wrong.

In this week's "The Creative Penn" podcast, author Joanna Penn talked about her own self-doubt. Specifically, Joanna talked about her self-doubt in the process. Like she said in the intro, it doesn't go away the more successful you get. You just have to trust the process and move forward.

And try to avoid Comparisonitis as much as possible.

WHY WERE THESE IMPORTANT TO ME THIS WEEK


I'm in the middle of my own self-doubt on the current novel. It's not moving forward as briskly as I would have liked. In fact, ever since that health issue I had, I've barely touched the novel.

So I segued to a short story. It was the opening of a story I sent to Dean when I took his Depth in Writing workshop. The short story features...Detective Ben Wade. This one is different, however, because I'm writing it in third person. The three Wade novels are written in first person. The style doesn't matter. What matters most to me is getting back on the horse and writing.

And wouldn't you know it, the more I'm writing this short story, certain lines of creativity have opened in my brain. Not only is the story coming along swimmingly, but I'm starting to think about the novel and what the logjam in my brain is. So, when I get Wade's little tale done, I'll likely jump back onto the novel.

Trust the process. Trust what I've done before, knowing I can do it again. Same for you. There are always struggles. Heck, I sometimes struggle in the day job writing. Happened this week, but I worked my way through it.

For more on this topic, check out some of the comments on Dean's Tip of the Week.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK #2: Jason Bateman's Speech


In case you didn't see Bateman's acceptance speech at the recent SAG awards, it's well worth your 2-3 minutes. What he says about work and the next job is priceless. Apply it to your writing.

JOY OF THE WEEK: Alan Alda's Clear and Vivid podcast


Growing up, M.A.S.H. was that show my dad watched in reruns when he got home from work and watched live on CBS. I didn't understand all the humor and war conditions, but by the end, I was old enough not only to tape the final episode and watch it more than once, but I cried just about every single time. It is a powerful piece of TV that stands the test of time.

Alan Alda hosts a podcast called Clear and Vivid. It's about good conversation and how we can better communicate with each other. A couple of episodes ago, he brought together the surviving members of the MASH cast, including Loretta Swit, Mike Ferrell, Jamie Farr, and Gary Burghoff.

Let me tell you: within moments, they were laughing. They reminisced, told stories about their time on the show, the cast who have passed away, and generally what the show meant to them.

The warmth, the humor, the camaraderie are all on display for your ears. It is so good to hear them talk with each other and be the fly on the wall. It was the best thing I heard all week.


How was your week?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 6

Not sure what it means, but I have the opportunity to address it.

AGILITY IS A SUPER-POWER

I downloaded the most recent sales spreadsheet from Amazon the other day and it revealed an interesting thing. Of all the books I've sold the past month, WADING INTO WAR leads the pack. That's the first book I ever published and the first book in Benjamin Wade / Gordon Gardner / Lillian Saxton series of stories. [Note: I'm gonna need a better name.] What I didn't see was sales for the second Wade novel, ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE. Same for the first Gardner novel, THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES. The Saxton book, ULTERIOR OBJECTIVES, has a smattering. 

Why?

Well, one obvious answer is that readers never finished the book. For those readers who found "The End," they didn't like it enough to keep on going. The way these ebooks are formatted, there's an end-of-chapter break after the last line of the book. Next in the ebook is the Author Afterward, then some Acknowledgements, and finally the samples of the other books.

So I wondered something: why not have links right there on the last page of the book that explained the next steps, the next books, all with live links?

I wondered if that would make a difference. I'm not sure, but I changed the Amazon and Kobo files yesterday. I guess I'll see if WADING is a good first book or if I should find a different on ramp.

Big corporate giants talk about agility in their internal processes. Well, when it comes to being a small-business owner--that's what we are--this kind of agility can prove invaluable. Only time will tell.


BLOG POST OF THE WEEK

If you are a writer, you simply must read every post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. With decades in the business and multiple genres in her portfolio, her work ethic alone is worth studying. Yet every Thursday, she writes about the business of writing. Every week, there are golden nuggets of information to ponder and determine how it fits into your own business model. It is appointment reading every Thursday. I subscribe to her blog via Feedly, and I read it every Thursday. And all the links she includes will send you down multiple rabbit holes, but it’s all good. It’s like a graduate level course in college. Seriously.

This past week, she concluded her “Planning for 2019” series with a post entitled “Shifting Attitudes.” She focuses on two aspects of us as indie writers: as micro-influencers and as prolific producers of content. The entire post is important, but one quote slammed into the mental brick wall that I had somehow erected last month: “Consumers are already ahead of us on all of this. So let’s just go with it and enjoy this part of the future. We can relax and have fun telling our stories to the people who want to read that type of tale.”

Have fun.

Yes, we have to sell our work and strive to do it as best we can, but the key fact remains: when you sit down as a writer to craft a story, leave your business side in the next room. Don’t sit and wonder “Will this sell?” If you are excited about the story, write it. Chances are good there are other readers out there who will like it, too.


EXCITING NEWS FOR HOUSTON MYSTERY FANS

Houston's own Murder by the Book made a major announcement on the Facebook page this week: James Patterson is coming to the city's oldest--and only--mystery-centric bookstore. This is big. Patterson is the world's bestselling author. It's a major get. Congrats to McKenna Jordan and all the good folks at the store.

Fingers crossed I get one of the 500 slots.


TV OF THE WEEK: THE KOMINSKY METHOD

On the 5th or 6th episode, there's a scene between the two main stars, Michael Douglas and Adam Arkin. They're talking on the phone. Douglas is in an Uber going to a bar. Arkin's at home watching the movie "Cocoon." When Arkin declines Douglas's invitation, he comments about the experience watching the thirty-year-old movie about senior citizens while actually being in the demographic.

That what I feel like watching this show. Granted, I'm certainly not Douglas's 74 or Arkin's 84, but the humor of older men is something I really dig. Jokes about getting older, being old, prostate health, forgetfulness, and the like are scattered throughout the episodes. And creator Chuck Lorre and the writers don't shy away from real life. There is death and how the characters react to it is poignant and heart-wrenching.

But most of all, it's hilarious and really well done. I recommend the show. And since Douglas won a Golden Globe for his role and the show itself won Best Comedy Series, there's even more proof it's a special show. Glad it's been renewed.

Oh, and don't read about the show on the internet. It's much more fun to see the guest stars when you're actually watching the show.


FAVORITE SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS

The Super Bowl has become the annual gathering of my wife's former co-workers. The game is shown on every screen in the house, including the garage with a giant screen. We all chat, catch up, and watch the game and commercials. Most of the ads were easily forgotten, but two stood out. The one with Jason Bateman as the elevator operator and the one with the old football players.





What were your favorite ads?

That wraps things up for the week. How did your week go?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

History in the Present Tense: THE FIRST CONSPIRACY by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Never forget: We know what happened. We know how the story ends. We’re living in the story today. Yet there are stretches in THE FIRST CONSPIRACY: THE SECRET PLOT TO KILL GEORGE WASHINGTON when you breathlessly await the next chapter, wondering if the general of the American army in the Revolution will live or suffer a more dire fate.

That’s the beauty of this book by thriller and comic book writer, Brad Meltzer, and his co-author, Josh Mensch. Meltzer and Mensch weave together the various plot threads in such a way you are sucked in from the first page and the story never lets go. It is paced and structured like a thriller, with short chapters, but there is one crucial thing they did that brought this story to life.

The words, the entire book, were written in the present tense.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the brilliant Scott Brick, and it took me a minute or so before I realized the prose was not changing. As a historian, I’m used to reading and writing about history all in the past tense because, well, it all happened in the past. It’s over. It’s done. But with this one stylistic choice, Meltzer and Mensch take you on a journey into a little-know pocket of American history. I hold two degrees in history and even I barely knew this tale.

In the spring and summer of 1776, the Revolution is still not quite that. The Declaration of Independence isn’t even written yet. Its author, Thomas Jefferson, doesn’t even step foot onto the stage of this book until close to the end. The person on the main stage is the man in the sub-title, America’s first president, George Washington. But when we see him at first, he’s still only a general of the Continental Army, the literal ragtag group of soldiers from far and wide, who were poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly paid, and poorly fed. It was Washington’s job to lead them, to bring them together into a semblance of a fighting force, to stand toe-to-toe with the largest and best trained military force in the world at that time, the British Army.

We stood no chance.

And thus is one of Meltzer and Mensch’s gifts. They reveal the ground level nature of what it was like to be Washington, some of his officers, and the various people in and around New York City who were involved in this conspiracy. The authors describe the smell, the food, the paranoia about who was a Loyalist and who was a Patriot. All the while, there is a great presence approaching: the British navy. Everyone knows the British are coming to New York. The only question is when are they going to get there.

Like any good story, the hero needs a villain. Here, it is Royal Governor William Tryon. The historical record seems to show it is Tryon, who flees the city and takes up residence on a British warship anchored on the river who hatches the plot to kill Washington. Not only that, the governor recruits spies to recruit additional colonists to turn on their fellows and fight on the side of the crown. Some of those recruits are part of the Continental Army.

In addition, Tryon’s plan is scheduled to launch just as the masts of the British Navy appear on the horizon.

You see? Sometimes history really is just as good as an action/adventure novel by Clive Cussler or the latest summer popcorn movie.

That, my friends, is exactly the point of THE FIRST CONSPIRACY. Meltzer loves stories. His thrillers like last year’s THE ESCAPE ARTIST proves it. So does his series featuring the Culper Ring. But sometimes, the truth is more exciting than fiction, especially when it comes to our own American story.

I was in graduate school when David McCullough’s TRUMAN biography was published. It was a bestseller. I read it and it’s utterly engrossing. But that book read like a novel, and some students and faculty seemed to dismiss the book as popular history.

What’s the problem with that? You want Americans to learn about history, why not make it more accessible? Why not write a book detailing something so extraordinary like this conspiracy to kidnap or kill George Washington in a manner folks will actually enjoy reading?

For that’s what Meltzer and Mensch have done. They have taken a small fragment of the life of one man and put it under the microscope and examined it from every angle. Along the way, you learn just how tenuous America’s struggle for independence truly was. It wasn’t the foregone conclusion we think of it today. It was harder than we could possibly imagine. And if it wasn’t for George Washington and what he did back in 1776 when he discovered the truth about the conspiracy against his life, then the world would be a very different place.

THE FIRST CONSPIRACY does all of that in a remarkable book that has my highest recommendation.

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 5

Sometimes life throws a curveball.

HEALTH ISSUES REVEAL…

Ideally, when we write, we writers would like nothing more than to isolate ourselves in a room and have little of the outside world invade our minds. That never happens. In fact, most of the time, outside things are banging around in my head, even when I’m in the zone. True, when I’m in that writing flow state, very little of the outside world invades my imagination, but it’s not an impenetrable wall.

In the mornings when I write, one rule I adhere to is never to check the news before I’ve got my daily writing accomplished. I’ve done it before, and nothing will kill your creativity—to say nothing of a valuable chunk of writing time—than to “just check the headlines” only to get sucked in. That part is mostly easy.

What isn’t easy is when life intrudes.

I had a physical a little over a week ago. When I left the doctor’s office, her words echoed in my head: “You’re in really good health.” Works for me. She ordered an EKG and, since I’d never had one, it would be the baseline for the future. Even then, the worse was having the nurse rip off the monitors from my chest. Remind me again why waxing is a good idea?

Well, imagine my surprise when the EKG was returned as abnormal. Say what? Well, that put an initial damper on my mood. Natch. But I did a remarkable mental feat: I didn’t worry. Sure, the proposed problem was listed and I looked it up, but then I stopped myself. There’s nothing worse for us non-medical professionals than to go down various rabbit holes on the internet looking up medical info. Let the professionals do it. I did.

I met the cardiologist. We talked. He listened. He shrugged. Sometimes the machines return an “abnormal” when, in fact, everything is fine. Such was my case. If you thought the grin on my face after leaving my regular doctor was big, you should have seen the one after leaving the cardiologist. I even blasted KISS all the way home.

Why do I bring this up? Because while I didn’t necessarily worry about that meeting with the cardiologist, it affected my writing.

JANUARY WORD COUNT

I’m not sure where I first learned writers keep track of word count, but I’ve done it for years, dating back to 2013. I enjoy having legacy information to review and compare. Basically, I have a spreadsheet. The various pieces of information I keep are the following: Actual words per day, Actual time per day (in minutes and converted to hours), Average word count per day (and per hour), Total words per month, and a rolling Average per Week. I also have a column with a common number: 1369. That’s the number of words per day a writer would need to reach in order to write 500,000 words per year. It also adds up daily and I compare my actual numbers to what I think of as the 500K Standard.

I only count fiction. Probably should include non-fiction (or at least do a separate spreadsheet), but I don’t. [Now that I think of it, that might be interesting, too.] By the end of January, I’ve only written 16,791 new fiction words. Pitiful by standards I’ve previous set. But, and here’s the key thing for us writers who rarely have a “boss” telling us what to do, that’s okay. Those were words I didn’t have outside of my brain on New Year’s Day. Just nod and resolve to make February more productive.

NEW STORIES…AND A LIGHT BULB MOMENT

I mentioned last week about the agility of being an indie writer. As such, my February publication is a pair of short stories featuring Detective Anne Chambers of the Houston Police Department. The title story, “Katrina Standoff,” appeared on David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp blog under another title. I paired it with a second story and published it yesterday.

During the latter half of 2018, as books and stories I’ve written but not published piled up, I debated release schedule. This was before Dean Wesley Smith’s “No One Cares,” blog post. Nevertheless, I came up with the idea of publishing something every month. With two different pen names, the proposed idea was for “S.D. Parker” to get the odd numbered months and my full name fills the even-numbered month slot. So far in 2019, that’s the plan. Thus, “Katrina Standoff” is by Scott Dennis Parker.


The light bulb moment came to me while I was uploading the files to Kobo. Thinking ahead to the Calvin Carter series, I knew I needed to prep HELL DRAGON for 1 March...and if I knew that every odd-numbered month was going to be a Carter novel, why not just pre-publish them all? The benefits are many. I wouldn’t have to stop new writing every month to upload new files. The pre-orders would be live for months. When readers read the early books, they’ll be ready to immediately jump to the next book and pre-order. But most importantly: all the URLs would be live. No more opening up an old, published book, inserting the links, and then republishing them. I’ll have to do that for EMPTY COFFINS, but I aim to get the remaining five Carter novels ready for pre-order before 1 March. Why didn’t I think of that before?

LIKE BATMAN?

Forty years ago, Len Wein scripted a run on the Batman comic. They stand as among my favorites of all-time. So, I thought it would be fun to re-read and review them. This past Thursday, I posted the review of BATMAN 307. Here’s the link.

NEWSLETTER SECRET

I have a goal to increase my mailing list by at least 60 new members in 2019. That’s only 12 a month, but it’s a goal I think I can reach. Well, imagine my thrill when I counted up the new members...and the number was 24! Twenty-four new subscribers to my newsletter. As a thank-you gift, I sent them a secret link. At that link, I gave them the entire “Katrina Standoff” story. Again, the agility of being independent enables us writers to get creative in how we interact with each other and our readers.

Want to see the secret link? No problem. All you gotta do is subscribe. You never know what secret thing I’ll be offering in February. 


Well, that’s about it for the week.

How did your week go?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Len Wein's Batman: Batman 307

As a kid in the late 1970s, comics were one of my go-to things (Star Wars, KISS, and early Star Trek fandom were the other main loves of my life) and Batman was my favorite. Still being a young kid in late elementary, I didn’t pay attention to the names of the writers or artists. I just bought the books and read them, ingesting the stories over and over again.

When I review the covers of my issues of Batman, it turns out some of my favorites were all scripted by the same guy: Len Wein. Unknown to me at the time, Wein had already co-created Swamp Thing for DC and rebooted the X-Men over at Marvel, including the co-creation of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. Nope, all I cared about was good Batman stories, and for a stretch there in late 1978 and all through 1979, Len Wein was the monthly writer (mostly) for Batman.
With the cover date for Wein’s first issue being January 1979 (although it hit the spinner racks a month or so earlier), I thought it would be fun to re-read Wein’s Batman run forty years later and see how it holds up. Spoiler: his run is among my favorites of all-time. In fact, Wein wrote one of my favorite all-time comic stories, Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk. But that’s for a later post.

Speaking of holding up, Batman and Bruce Wayne in the 1970s is my favorite version of the character. Dick Grayson is off to college, leaving Bruce to move out of Wayne Manor and into Gotham City proper. He takes up residence at the Wayne Foundation building, and operates there for most of the decade. It is one of the neatest buildings in comicdom, what with the giant tree in the middle of the building, which secretly houses an elevator to the basement where the Batmobile is kept. For a young boy like me, this was the coolest thing ever.

The building shows up in Batman issue 307, but not before in intriguing two-page prologue. A beggar woman is asking for spare change. A man in a trench coat, fedora, and scarf approaches and gives her two gold pieces. The next page, she falls dead, right under the title, “Dark Messenger of Mercy!” The artist in this issue is John Calnan and Dick Giordano.


The first time we see Bruce Wayne, he is in his office, staring out the window. Next to him is Lucius Fox in his debut. I’m not sure the thought process Wein went through to create Fox, but the character has been around for these last forty years. Morgan Freeman played him in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. From the chit-chat between Fox and Wayne, however, it’s clear Wayne has not shared his secret identity. The two men talk about business and name drop a man named Gregorian Falstaff (love the name) who, according to Wayne, “He’s rumored to have have a fortune which makes mine look like so much lunch money.”

Darkness literally falls over Gotham in one short panel, and Wayne excuses himself. He tags up with Alfred who has the Batman costume at the ready. As he swings off the top of the Foundation building, Batman makes a comment to Alfred: “When I start making value judgements—deciding who’s important enough to avenge—it’ll be time to hang up my mask forever.” Here in 2019, with the recent passing of Stan Lee, many folks mentioned Lee’s strong streak of social justice running through his words. Here, in 1979, Len Wein does the same thing for Batman.

Meanwhile...at police headquarters, a man named Quentin Conroy is livid. He wants Gotham’s finest to help him find stolen property, gold coins to be exact. Unbeknownst to both men, Batman is sitting in the same room, legs casually crossed, fingers steepled. The Caped Crusader in convinced he can find Conroy’s missing money, especially since two of the coins turned up on that dead woman’s corpse.


Street level, Batman approaches a sleep bum and there is a funny couple of panels. In the boxed panels, Wein writes “Without question, the Batman is an impressive figure. His unexpected visage, looming large out of the darkness, is often viewed with admiration...or hostility...or outright fear…” “But rarely indifference.” This as the bum goes back to sleep. See? You can have humor in a Batman story. Anyway, an Irishman named Shamrock (natch) approaches and asks the hero if he needs helps. When Batman says he’s investigating the murder of the woman, Shamrock knew her. He volunteers to escort Batman down into the sewers to meet some folks who might have seen something.

What Batman sees is a group of people living in an underground tunnel, the area kept warm by the steam pipes. Here, Batman meets Slugger (from the ‘48 Gotham Giants baseball team), Poet (Shakespeare of the sewers), and Good Queen Bess. Through dialogue alone, Wein gives these characters their accents and particular ways of speaking. Shamrock always says, “Laddie,” while Slugger talks like a New Yorker: “Pleased to meet ‘cha!” Batman learns there have been other deaths...and Queen Bess actually has two of the coins with her. The Dark Knight Detective ascertains the gold coins are laced with a contact poison, absorbed through the skin.

No sooner does Batman make this discovery than a piercing scream fills the bowels of Gotham. Another woman is being attacked! It’s the man with the fedora and red scarf. Batman leaps to action. A fight ensues, and Batman gets himself whacked by Scarfman’s cane. In the melee, two things happen. One, Scarfman’s hat and scarf fall away, revealing a face the citizens of the underworld know. Two, Scarfman’s cane cracked a steam pipe. It’s about to blow. So Batman gets between the pipe and the people. It explodes, hurling Batman across the room.

Later, Batman’s “new tattered friends” say Scarfman looks just like one of their own: “Limehouse” John Francis Conroy, a man who used to sleep with them before just disappearing. Being the detective, Batman soon finds his way to Quentin Conroy’s house (because Batman can get into any room in Gotham, right?). Heated words are exchanged and Quentin confesses John Francis was his father. He kept the gold coins as a remembrance of his father, a man who ran out on his family while Quentin was a kid. The modern pressures of the world drove John Francis to the streets, supposedly dying in a gutter.

But Batman isn’t so sure.

The next night, we see Scarfman prowling about. He gives coins to a man who extends his hand...the gloved hand of The Batman! Oddly, Batman is wearing a sling, proof not only did the steam explosion hurt him worse than we saw three pages ago, but reminding readers the Caped Crusader is really just a man, a man who can get injured. A second battle commences, but Batman’s shoulder hampers him. Scarfman swings the cane too wide, allowing Batman to come in underneath him. A powerful punch to the mid-section topples Scarfman. The odd cast of characters are also there, cheering on Batman. Scarfman questions their motives. All he wants is to give these street people some mercy and peace. But “the peace of the grave” is something they shun. Just as they shun him.
Scarfman’s mind snaps. He accuses Batman of turning these “friends of his” away from him. His face is misshapen, resembling John Francis Conroy, but a few panels later, it is revealed to be Quentin all along. Quentin, looking almost like a young boy.

Wein wraps up the entire story in three thin panels. We see Quentin being led away and Commissioner Gordon asking Batman about the clue. It was the heels of Quentin’s shoes, something we saw a few pages before. Many of the 1970s stories had clues the reader could follow, and it’ fun to go back and notice certain things you might have missed the first go-round.

Wein wrote a pretty decent script. I enjoy the non-super-villain aspect of these kinds of stories. Kind of like a breather before we get to the next issue featuring Mr. Freeze. Wein brings Batman’s humanity to the fore, both in how he protects the homeless but also, at the end, when he hopes young Quentin will receive the help he needs. He’s a true hero to all, discriminating toward none.

What did y’all think about this story?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 4

One of the best things about being independent is the ability to change on the fly.

BLOG POST TO READ


Ever since I read this post by Dean Wesley Smith, “No One Cares,” I’ve been giving it some thought. It’s churned around in my brain, off and on, for two weeks now. And it’s allowed me the freedom to change—potentially—my publishing schedule for the year.

What I’ve said from New Year’s Day on is that this is the year of Calvin Carter. Yes, I will be publishing at least the five novels I’ve already written. Each of these six books will be published on the odd-numbered months. EMPTY COFFINS on New Year’s Day. HELL DRAGON on 1 March.

But what y’all didn’t know is my plan for the even-numbered months. I had a whole other schedule planned out.
What I realized this week—early on, actually—was that I wasn’t ready for 1 February. At least, not for a novel.

So I’m preparing a couple of short stories. They are modern crime fiction featuring a character named Anne Chambers. She’s a homicide detective for the Houston Police Department. One of the stories was originally published as part of Do Some Damage’s COLLATERAL DAMAGE anthology (2011). The latter was originally published at David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp blog. Now, they are paired together in a short collection.


In other words, when you are an independent writer and publisher and you haven’t made public your schedule, you can do whatever you want...because your company is agile.

ALWAYS LEARNING - INSTAGRAM


I’m a member of Western Fictioneers, a writing group dedicated to western fiction. I’ve been a member since the group’s founding in 2009. We are a great group of folks who read each other’s works and collectively promote western stories and books.

We also help each other figure out how to promote our stuff and share marketing techniques. No matter how your stories are published, you simply must do the lion’s share of your own promotion. It is a constant learning process. For some, this process can be frustrating. For me, it’s a challenge, but one I actually enjoy. As much as I would love for there to be a “set it and forget it” solution, there simply isn’t one.

Which circled me back to Instagram this week.

I’ve been on Instagram for a few years now, but did nothing other than follow a graphic designer friend of mine, Mark Hamill, Neal Adams, and Kevin Smith. But after reading an internal Western Fictioneers email thread, I’m turning back to Instagram. I even uploaded my first...post? What do you call individual Instagram posts? Who knows? But I did it. And I plan on doing it more often in 2019.

Follow me on Instagram here. And if you’re of a mind, follow S. L. Matthews.

DEAL OF THE WEEK...AND ANOTHER LESSON


Do Some Damage alumnus, Kristi Belcamino, has a terrific deal.

I’ve subscribed to her newsletter for a few years now. She has forged ahead as an independent author and she is rocking it. She’s got her newsletter, her Facebook group, and her video channel where she talks about books, her own works, and the utterly charming “Coffee Talk Puppy Talk” series. You should subscribe to her channel. She’s at 95 subscribers as of yesterday. Let’s get her to 100 this week.

She’s got six books in her Gia Santella Crime Thriller series. With those six books, she has lots of options for promoting and selling them. And as of today, you can get all six books...for $0.99.



A dollar! Six books. Are you kidding me? You should buy that on principle. It’s a remarkable deal. Over 1,000 pages of crime fiction. And, as of today, she ranks as #1 in her fields. That’s how you marshal your books to your advantage.

If you are not following Kristi, you should. She’s a leader in what you can do as an indie writer.
Website
YouTube


ALBUM OF THE WEEK


I’ve got an early favorite for my song of the year.

When it comes to melodic hard rock and metal, Frontiers Music is leading the charge at keeping legacy acts in the public eye while showcasing new artists. To start 2019, they have a free sampler when you join their email list. It’s a list of twelve tracks by bands I’ve never heard of (save one: One Desire).With a hashtag of #RockAintDead, how can you go wrong?

You can't.

If you like hard rock with a melodic edge, go now to this site, sign up, and download this music. It is really, really good. How good? There’s not a bad song on this sampler. And how about this: I’ve already purchased two albums by artists featured on the sampler. One Desire’s self-titled debut and ALL RISE, an album by the band Perfect Plan. Both of these bands sit right in that wonderful pocket of taking old songs and styles and making them their own.

It is “In and Out of Love” by Perfect Plan that I find myself singing while washing dishes or folding laundry. Want to hear it?


That’s the update for Week 4 of 2019.

How has your 2019 been going?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 3

Of course there’d be weeks like this.
It’s been rather quiet this week at the home offices of Quadrant Fiction Studio. The biggest news was the approval of the paperback version of EMPTY COFFINS. It is now available for all y’all who like to feel paper under your fingers when you read a story.
DAY JOB BENEFITING THE WRITING JOB
I’ve been a technical writer/marketing writer for my entire career. I now work in the marketing department for an oil and gas firm here in Houston. The types of deliverables we generate constantly give me ideas on how to promote my fiction writing. SEO was the big lightbulb moment this week. A co-worker of mine gave me some instructions on how to best utilize proper metadata, tags, and keywords to promote effective SEO. I thought I knew what I was doing. Turns out, I was a little off base. As soon as I learned what she taught me, I started working it into the deliverables at work.
And also began working on it on my author website.
Every day is learning experience in life. It’s only how we apply it in our lives that makes each day a step better than the previous one.
WRITING LESSON LEARNED THIS WEEK
I wake around 4:30 to 4:45am and exercise then write until 5:50am. Sometimes, I get distracted in the morning or do some sort of busy work. I did that on Thursday morning, but figured I’d get in the words come lunch.
Until I got to the office, logged into email, and discovered I had to attend a meeting from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Well, there went the lunch writing time, leaving Thursday’s word count very low.
Think I’ll blow off the morning writing session again anytime soon? Nope.
AUDIOBOOK OF THE WEEK
Let me be frank: Scott Brick is my favorite narrator. I might even pay to have him read the phonebook. I have listened to many books he’s narrated, but two authors stand atop my list of great writers + great narrator = awesome experience. One is Clive Cussler, specifically the Isaac Bell adventures. The other is Brad Meltzer. I am listening to Meltzer’s THE FIRST CONSPIRACY: THE PLOT TO KILL GEORGE WASHINGTON. I hold two degrees in history and even I barely knew this story. Seltzer tells an utter engrossing story so well, you forget you know the end of the story. Seltzer’s words as spoken by Brick is magical. I’ll provide a full review when I’m done, but this is already the book to beat for Best Book of 2019.
BLOGPOST OF THE WEEK
Second-Hand Sales” was posted on Tuesday by Dean Wesley Smith on his blog. He discusses how it’s a good thing to have our books in print and available at used bookstores. Ultimately, if you have a decent back catalog and you earn a fan via a used copy of your book, it’ll give your writing career a boost.
Give it a read. Comment if you want. He moderates all comments but lets almost all of them through.
That’s it for this week. I’m already starting on the publication process of the next Calvin Carter book, HELL DRAGON. It’ll hit stores on 1 March. Ditto for my next standalone western, THE LAW ALWAYS WINS.