Pirate’s Alley — oil technique

By Toni I’m playing with various techniques within Photoshop. This is a relatively easy one — I took this shot July 20, pretty early in the morning. When I loaded it into the computer, I HDR’d it with Photomatix Pro 5, then popped it into Photoshop and fixed the necessary lens corrections. (When you’re shooting with a […]

Via: Toni McGee Causey

    

Innovation

By Toni Innovation. One of the things that all the hoopla surrounding Amazon vs. Hachette is obfuscating is that the internet isn’t just changing publishing–it’s changing every type of commerce. I’m not all that interested in the controversy surrounding the negotiations, for all the same reasons that I wasn’t interested back when Barnes and Noble did the […]

Via: Toni McGee Causey

    

The ideal creative writing course format

By PD Martin

What is the ideal creative writing course format? Is there even such a thing? Writing courses come in all shapes and sizes—from a three-hour workshop to a full-time course. What’s best? What course will help you improve your writing the most?

I’ve taught quite a few different course formats –the shortest would be a six-hour workshop and I’d class my longest as being my mentorship role in the tertiary system. What works best?

The truth is, there are advantages and disadvantages of different course formats. One of my favourite courses was the Year of the Novel course I taught at Writers Victoria in 2012. I loved the fact that I could help people improve their writing over time, and I could see their projects taking shape. This course was one Sunday a month for eight months. However, while the eight-month time frame held many advantages, there were also disadvantages. Part of my teaching ethos is to drive my students to write more and finish their novels. Which meant that in my eight-month course I set word counts that I wanted them to achieve before our next session. Problem? I couldn’t possibly fit all the writing craft, character development work and plot development work into the first day of the course. Of course, I’d structured the course to feed the relevant craft info into key points, but still, there are definitely advantages of doing a more intensive course upfront before you start writing the next novel (or while you’re writing it).

I’m now also running intensive, week-long novel writing sessions at the Abbotsford Convent. Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm. These are designed to set up writers with the knowledge and tools to start and finish their novels. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages of this format. On the plus side, after only one week I’m confident that these students will know everything they need to know to make their novel the best it can be. To increase their chances of getting a publishable novel at the end of the day. It’s also handy for my interstate students, who can take the week off work and fly in once and know they have improved their craft exponentially. But it is pretty intensive and there’s no room for workshopping a novel, chapter-by-chapter.

The ideal format? I think a short course of 4-8 days over a shorter time frame (e.g. all the days in a row or weekly) followed by a longer course/program to ensure you’re putting all the craft knowledge into action is the ideal combination. The longer program could be in the form of a detailed manuscript assessment, workshopping group, or a course. Or even giving your manuscript to a good editor. I’ve learnt a lot from seeing the skilful edits of my Aussie, UK and US editors.

It’s also important you choose a ‘good’ course. Of course, choose a teacher who’s a published author, and someone who’s an experienced teacher. One of my students who did one of my Writers Victoria courses (five-day course over five months) said she learnt more in those five days than she did in her one-year, full-time creative writing course. And while that’s incredibly flattering, it also appals me that a full-time course can’t deliver the goods. So choose wisely and research the teachers!!

Via: P.D. Martin

    

An American in Harrogate

By noreply@blogger.com (Alexandra Sokoloff)

This time of the summer I’m almost always at Thrillerfest. It felt weird to miss it, but my brother was getting married that weekend so obviously, priorities!

But I wasn’t conference deprived, far from it. As befits my new transatlantic lifestyle, the weekend after TFest I ended up at what is in many ways the UK equivalent: the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival.

I’ve always intended to go to Theakston’s Old Peculier (which most people understandably shorten to “Harrogate”), since a good number of my favorite authors are British, and I can always use the UK market exposure, and of course there are the accents. This weekend was the first of many to come, now that the conference is only a four-and-a half-hour train ride away from me. Craig and I flew back from the wedding in California and had just twenty-four hours layover at home before we took off again (just enough time to reunite with our abandoned cat and promptly leave him again. Anyone know a good feline therapist?).

I don’t know what exactly I expected of Harrogate, visually speaking, but I was surprised to find a lovely little Georgian-era spa town with elegant stone mansions and Victorian gingerbread flourishes, gorgeous flowering gardens and ubiquitous hanging flower baskets, hilly cobbled streets lined with restaurants, pubs, tea rooms, mouth-watering boutiques… and a startling number of bath houses. The respectable kind, at least so it seems from the outside of them. Which meant that all weekend long I was dying for a Turkish bath, but because of the crazy traveling we were only there for two days of the festival as it was. So the Turkish bath will have to wait for the next trip. As will, alas, the obviously excellent shopping.
Or maybe missing out on the shopping is a GOOD thing….

To catch you all up on the conference I’ll give an American version of Craig Robertson‘s Sixteen Wonderful Things about Harrogate U.K report (which you can read here on Crime Fiction Lover) and start by focusing on some key differences between Harrogate and some of its U.S. equivalents:

1. — US: the host cities and hotel venues tend to change for every conference (except for Thrillerfest, which is now permanently housed in the Grand Hyatt in NYC)
— UK: Harrogate is permanently in the Old Swan Hotel. (photo right)
(I know, how much more British does it get?).
2. — US: Except for a few headliners, authors generally pay to go to U.S. cons, and most authors who pay their conference fees on time are given a panel spot, which means there are a lot more panels on and the quality of those panels varies wildly.

— UK: Authors are invited to panels by a programming committee, and they are paid both for the panel and for travel and accommodations. Obviously I’m in favor of this “authors are paid to appear” thing.

3. — US: Conference attendees pay for either day passes or a full conference pass and then can attend as many panels/events on that day or days as they can handle.

— UK: attendees pay for individual tickets to events of their choosing. So you can choose what you attend and how much you want to spend.

4. — US: There are lots of panels on at any given hour and people tend to panel-hop, and it’s perfectly acceptable to move in and out of panels, which is kind of great.

— UK: There’s usually only one event going on in the one huge double event room (capacity about 500 people). So you can conceivably see the entire program, and the conversation in between events tends to be focused on one event, which is also kind of great.

More specifically about Harrogate:

5. The Old Swan is really quite small compared to big US downtown hotel venues, and the event hall and the bar and the lawn area (which hosts a bar tent and a signing/bookstore tent) are all right up against each other, so despite the impressive 15,000 tickets sold for various events over the weekend, it feels like you’re at one four-day long party of about 400 people.

6. As usual, I didn’t make it to many events, but I absolutely loved the Domestic Noir panel, featuring my new author friends Helen Fitzgerald and Julia Crouch, plus Chris Ewan and Cath Staincliff, chaired by NJ Cooper, who asked great questions like: “If some people are in fact biologically born bad, does that make them less guilty of their crimes?” (Discuss!) If you ask me, we need more panels like this at every crime conference.

I was also really thrilled (at the spy panel) to learn the backstory of screenwriter Terry Hayes’ huge success with I Am Pilgrim. Hayes is living proof of what I am always telling my ScreenwritingTricks workshops: If you want a better chance at getting a film made, write a book, not a script. And what a lovely thing it always is to see a writer of a certain age making such a brilliant second career. And being so perfectly jolly about it all!

7. There was a quiz, traditionally hosted by the always hilarious Val McDermid and Mark Billingham. To put it in British speak, I am rubbish at quizzes, so I only peeked in. The questions were really, really hard. For all the reading I do, I don’t seem to know much about crime fiction. I did know which director directed the first Columbo episode, though. (Go ahead, guess…)

8. It was really, really wet. I’m told that’s not usual – in fact I was promised sunny days lounging out on the expansive hotel lawn. Hah! Instead it rained like hell half of the time and the other half it was so humid it might as well have been raining. Luckily there was a bar tent up on the lawn (although… those metal poles during a lighting storm? Hmm….) But I’d just had a lot of sun in California, and rain promotes its own kind of intimacy. It was all good.

9. There is much, much, MUCH more smoking in the UK. Some electronic cigarettes but a lot of old fashioned cancer sticks. My lungs were cringing in horror. On the other hand, there was much less pot. At least that I could see (smell).

-

10. There is more drinking. I wouldn’t say much, much, MUCH more, but still, it felt like more. But I always feel like a lightweight in a UK drinking crowd. As for the all night partying (which it was), I’m usually up for anything from two a.m. karaoke (Anchorage Bouchercon) to after-midnight absinthe (Romantic Times New Orleans) to drag queen bingo night (Thrillerfest) to a hike through Mayan pyramids on a blazing Caribbean day (Florida Romance Writers’ Cruise With Your Muse), or dressing up as God knows what at Writers for New Orleans or Romantic Times, or a midnight Jacuzzi party (any number of cons in every genre) but after five straight weeks of traveling and accompanying jet lag I was in bed by a reasonable 1:30 a.m. both nights, therefore blissfully unhungover in the mornings. Next year, however, I intend to organize a Turkish bath party (and I have a fair idea of which of my new U.K. friends will be up for it).

11. There were no bloody battles between indie published authors and traditionally published authors (that I saw); in fact I had a very civilized conversation with a Big Five publisher who shall remain nameless, but who was quite open to hearing about why so many authors I know are happier with the way Amazon treats them. I hope all of this enmity is on its way to dissipating, because the important thing is that authors now have all kinds of ways to make enough money to keep writing great books.

12. In the UK, they call the readers “punters,” which I know is affectionate… (she says hopefully) but which I still find a little shocking. (I have a mouth like the Berkeley hippie child I am, but Brits can outswear me by ten words per sentence.) We’re all readers, aren’t we? Isn’t that the point?

13. Some things are exactly the same. Friday night was the publisher dinners, and I had a fabulous time at a restaurant called the White Hart meeting my new Thomas & Mercer colleagues: authors Helen Smith, Jay Stringer, Louise Voss, Mark Edwards, EM Powell, Mel Sherratt, and Daniel Pembry, and our charming T&M hosts Emilie Marmeur, Sana Chebaro and Neil Hart.

14. The main reason I didn’t make it to many events was that just like in the US I kept getting caught up in chats, I knew a lot more people than I expected to, not just Americans like author Laura Lippman and editor Kelly Ragland but quite a few Brits (and Irish) authors and readers I know as regulars to Bouchercons and Thrillerfests and World Fantasies and World Horror Cons, like Sarah Pinborough, David Hewson, Martyn Waites, Mark Billingham, Stuart Neville, Kevin Wignall, Simon Kernick, Russel McLean and Martyn James Lewis. We Americans really should be ashamed that the Brits are so much more willing to travel to the U.S. festivals.

I also realize I’ve met a fair number of terrific UK writers and readers and bloggers during my not very long residence in Scotland, like Helen Fitzgerald and Sergio Casci, Julia Crouch, James Oswald, Chris Carter, Mari Hannah, Rhian Davies, Danny Stewart, Lisa Gray, Graham Smith. And I met a whole slew of wonderful new people who are now part of the ever-growing and forever circle of conference friends.

15, Just as with US conference attendance, it’s hard to quantify what good it does for your visibility as an author. I wasn’t on a panel (this time!) but even so the networking is gold. You meet bloggers, reviewers, agents, publishers, conference organizers, other authors, and READERS. It certainly will not get you the book sales of an online promotion (far from it!) but personal connections make for the most loyal readers – readers who are happy to talk you up to other readers. I think there’s a ripple effect to attending conferences that pays off in millions of ways that you’ll never fully be aware of. And face time with your publishing people is invaluable. I always think it’s worth it to attend a conference that’s nearby (to reduce travel expenses!).
16. And there’s one more thing that’s also always golden: the massive creative inspiration. I’ve come away every bit as fired up to write as I am after any U.S. conference. I woke up this morning and wrote five pages on the first book of my new series without even getting out of bed.
Magic is magic, in any accent.

Next up: I’ll be launching the first three books in in my Huntress Moon series at Bloody Scotland, September 19-21, and then Bouchercon, Long Beach, November 13-16,

And I can’t wait to see people again on both sides of the pond.

- Alex

Via: Alexandra Sokoloff

    

Review: AN APRIL SHROUD by Reginald Hill

By JD Rhoades

An April Shroud (Dalziel & Pascoe, #4)

An April Shroud by Reginald Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Andy Dalziel, the older, louder, fatter, and cruder member of one of crime fiction’s oddest couples, is pretty much on his own for most of this fourth installment in the series, and that’s not a bad thing. With his more cerebral and often annoying younger partner off on his honeymoon with his equally annoying spouse, Dalziel finds himself on holiday and at loose ends. When he stumbles across a curiously aquatic funeral procession, Dalziel quickly finds himself drying himself and his rain-soaked belongings in an English country house with an assemblage of incessantly bickering oddballs who seem strangely unaffected by the recent death of one of their own.

Like the other books in the series that I’ve read up to now, the plot is a little slow and plodding, and it doesn’t pack much of an emotional charge. Also, the book was originally published in 1975 and a couple of the characters are seriously dated.

What makes the book (and the series) entertaining is the character of Dalziel himself: acerbic, outspoken, cynical, boorish, drunk a fair amount of the time, and generally not giving a rat’s hindquarters about what anyone thinks of him. It’s worth a read just to chuckle over his observations on the cast of characters around him and on life in general. I want to party with this guy sometime.

Recommended.

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Via: J.D. Rhoades

    

Review: N0S4A2, by Joe Hill

By JD Rhoades

NOS4A2

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great horror novel needs a great villain, and Charlie Manx is one of the greatest: creepy, nearly invincible, with a seductive reasonableness in his alleged motive for doing the horrible things he does. It’s all for the sake of the children. Right? RIGHT?

Brrr…

Everybody knows by now that Joe Hill is the son of mega-best-selling horror novelist Stephen King. It’s true that Hill uses some of the techniques his old man made famous, most notably the use of cultural icons to tether the fantastic and bizarre plot to the real world (let me just say, you may never hear Christmas music the same way again, and if you hated it before, you’ll be terrified by it after this).

All that said, Joe Hill has his own strong, tough, idiosyncratic voice and a real feel for character that makes you ache for the damaged people pitted against the powerful Manx. There were several times in this book when I heard myself whispering, “Oh, no, no, no…” But in a good way.

Pity, fear, and eventual katharsis. You can’t ask for more.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Via: J.D. Rhoades

    

Review: JERICHO'S RAZOR, by Casey Doran

By JD Rhoades

Jericho's Razor

Jericho’s Razor by Casey Doran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, full disclosure time. Casey Doran and I both have the same publisher, Polis Books. But I’ve never met the man, and in any case, whoever the publisher may be, I don’t review books I don’t actually like, because I don’t finish books I don’t like. And I liked this book. A lot.

The idea of an author who’s horrified to find out that a killer is using idea from his novels has been done before (IIRC, it’s the original premise of the show “Castle”). But Casey Doran puts a new twist on it: Jericho Sands is not only a best selling crime novelist, he’s the son of a pair of notorious serial killers who admits that, to some extent, he trades on that notoriety to sell books. But apparently that’s attracted a vicious killer whose first victim is decapitated with a chainsaw in Jericho’s garage.

That’s how the book starts, and the pace never lets up after that. There are a couple of moments where the thread my disbelief is suspended from got a little frayed (there’s one point early on, for example, at which Jericho would have certainly been locked up and is inexplicably allowed to go free). But the book moves so fast, and Jericho’s narrative voice is so compelling, that I couldn’t help but keep reading. This is a great debut and I look forward to the next book in the series. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Via: J.D. Rhoades

    

Look, How Wrong Can You Be?

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

The office was cramped and cluttered, with dusty posters of old TV personalities on the wall: Edward R. Murrow, Howard K. Smith, Walter Cronkite. The single window behind the desk was half open, letting in the noise from the street below.

“So, you wanna be on the network news talk shows,” the man behind the desk said.
He was a big man with a florid, jowly face and a cigar stuck in one corner of his mouth. He had his suit coat off, and his short sleeves were rolled up. The name plate on his desk read, “Mort Nuttman, Talent Agent.”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “See, I’ve been writing this political column for years, and I think I know a lot about the subject. I was wondering if maybe I could be one of those high-paid TV pundits.”
Nuttman grunted. He opened the folder of columns I’d brought and scanned through them. After a moment, he set it down. He looked at me, up and down, for a long moment, without speaking. “The question is,” Nuttman said finally, “how wrong can you be?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Look,” he said, “You wanna make the big money as a guest pundit on the big shows — “This Week,” “Fox and Friends,” “Situation Room” — you gotta show that you can be completely wrong. Not just once, but over and over. Look at the heavy hitters — Bill Kristol, Dick Morris, The Cheneys, Palin, even John McCain. You know what they have in common?”
“They were all wrong?”
“You bet they were!”
“I don’t know if I can be like those guys,” I said. “I’m kind of center-left.”
He rolled his eyes. “Dear Lord,” he moaned. “Not a liberal.” “That’s a problem?” He shook his head. “Liberals are hard to work with, pal. They show up with facts, and figures, and” he made air quotes with his fingers and put a sneer in his voice, “reee-search.”
“Facts are bad?” I said.
“Facts make people change the channel,” he said. “I don’t need another Alan Colmes on my client roster.”
“Who?”
“Exactly. Now, if you were an actual liberal, you’d be dead in the water.”
“What about Rachel Maddow?”
He waved a hand dismissively “One show. One network. Plus, she’s a looker. The big money’s in being able to do a lot of shows, and it’s easier to do that if you’re a far-right wacko. More entertaining. We can work around the ‘center-left’ thing, like we did with James Carville and Bill Maher. But you’ve got to be willing to do what it takes to grab people. Now, yell!”
“What?”
“C’mon, yell! See if you can drown me out.”
I was confused. “Yell what?”
He handed me a piece of paper. “This script’ll do.” He began talking in a calm, measured voice. “One thing that makes the current border crisis more complicated is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush…”
I looked down at the paper and began to read at the top of my lungs. “WHEN IS OBAMA GOING TO STOP BLAMING BUSH FOR EVERYTHING?!” I hollered, doing my best to shout Nuttman down. “A COUNTRY THAT CAN’T PROTECT ITS BORDERS IS NO COUNTRY AT ALL! AAAAAAH!”
I stopped and looked up. He was nodding.
“OK,” he said, “good projection, just the right edge of barely controlled rage. We might have something here. But you still need to have been wrong a lot.” He sat back down. “So,” he said. “Were you in favor of the Iraq War? Do you still think it was a good idea?”
“Oh, God, no,” I said. “It was a debacle that should never have happened.”
Nuttman grimaced. “How about Romney? Were you predicting he’d score a landslide win over Obama as late as Nov. 6, 2012?”
“What are you, nuts?”
He pressed on. “Did you predict that Obamacare enrollment numbers weren’t going to reach predicted levels?”
“Nope.”
He sighed. “Sorry, pal. You just don’t have what it takes.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “The people who have been consistently wrong about everything get to pull down fat salaries on TV? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“What do you think this is, kid? News? This is infotainment. No one likes people who are right. Audiences like people who agree with them. Loudly.”
“Even if they’re wrong?”
“Especially if they’re wrong. People who know they’re wrong want someone to tell them they’re right, so they never have to admit it.”
I shook my head. “I hate to say it,” I said, “but you’re right.”

“Don’t let it get around,” he said.

Via: J.D. Rhoades

    

7.18.14 - On A Mid-Year Gut Check

By JT Ellison

Friday.png

Wrote 747 today – worked at the coffee house this morning with some delightful writer friends, got a facial, then couldn’t get back into it. Did a little, but not much. I was distracted by prep for RWA next week, and trying to get everything in order. Clothes are set out for the most part, shoe decisions have been made. I did get the itineraries printed, so that’s all set. I’m scheduled from here to eternity with breakfasts and lunches and dinners and cocktails and workshops and signings. The week will go by very, very fast. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new, and hanging with Catherine – who, by the way, is #2 on the New York Times list this week with her new Savich and Sherlock – POWER PLAY! I am so excited for her!

So since the fiction wasn’t flowing, here I am. I decided to do a mid-year gut check on my writing goals. As of today, July 18th, I’ve written 161,725 words, averaging 813 a day. We have 166 days left, so if this average continues, I’m on track for another 135,000, which would put me at 296,000, plus or minus. Which would be 196,000 OVER my goal for the year.

Last year I wrote 270,000 fiction words, and felt stressed throughout the year. I’m no less stressed, especially at the moment, with the looming deadline and a book that’s only halfway to where it should be by now, but the pace isn’t feeling as strained and desperate as last year. Which means I’m more organic — in other words, inspired — and that’s a good thing.

I had one of my favorites on the blog yesterday – check out my 7 Minutes With… interview with Jeff Abbott here. And have a lovely, fun-filled, good book weekend! Think of me toiling away whilst you play. Snif.

Via: JT Ellison

    

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