Online Issue 18: Happy Thanksgiving

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It isn’t the turkey or the stuffing or the pumpkin pie that will make your Thanksgiving truly great. It’s the books you can buy on Black Friday, and we’ve got you covered with tons of recommendations! First, Jenn Stroud Rossmann talks about what engineers read, then Susanna Beard shares what she has lined up and Rusty Barnes talks about what’s overloading his Kindle. Barbara Winkes also drops in to talk about the books she’s reading and ones she hopes to get to soon (such as Vox, which sounds fascinating). Who’s reading Gary Philips? Who has Max Ellendale’s latest on their nightstand? Who is anxious for Nicole Chung’s memoir? Check out those TBR piles to find out.

In my latest review I look at Jenn Stroud Rossmann’s The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh. Lots of great insights about family, life and identity here, with appeal for teens and adults alike.

Need to escape all the family togetherness? Rusty Barnes talks about his latest novel, The Last Danger, and cross-border crime. (What could be a better gift for the wall supporter on your shopping list?)

And in case your family Thanksgiving is nothing but political squabbles and family drama, Susanna Beard has cuteness on tap with her two trusty author assistants, Cookie and Tipsy. Pictures here.

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Miss our latest issues? Issue 17 contents  – featuring Tom Leins, Paul Brazill, Kelli Owen, JL Abrama, JJ Hensley, Terrence McCauley, Barbara Winkes and more – can be found here.

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We’ll be back next week with CJ Lyons, Ovidia Yu, Wendy Webb and more.

Plus, December 1 I’ll kick off my Advent Calendar, covering a book, movie, TV series or something else I enjoyed from this past year and recommend.

(Not a ‘best of’ list, because I haven’t consumed everything so I couldn’t possibly say what’s best. And not a ‘best of stuff by my friends’ list either. Most or all come from people I have never met.)

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How Cookie and Tipsy keep Susanna Beard’s writing on track

Fun Fact:

“I fell down a crevasse in France, and survived uninjured.” – Susanna Beard

CookieI have two writing assistants, who both take their roles very seriously. They have a bed each in my office and supervise my working day. Cookie is a little golden Cairn terrier, who is sweet-natured, gentle and affectionate. He’s eleven years old now and is beginning to get a little slow. He loves his walks and sleeps for the rest of the day. Sometimes his assistant role involves sitting on my lap as I type – this helps for a short while, until my legs go to sleep.

TipsyTipsy is a cute Yorkshire terrier with a taste for squirrels and a piercing bark. She loves nothing better than a tummy tickle, and can often be seen in the park on her back with her legs in the air, waiting for an unsuspecting dog walker to give her the attention she deserves. She looks after my well-being, which involves barking at birds, squirrels and any unexpected noise outside the house. This all ensures I don’t get a stiff back from sitting down for too long.  

 

When I’m stuck with my writing, need to organise my thoughts or simply take a break, they take me out into the country for a refreshing walk. What more can you ask from your assistants?

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Check out what Susanna has on her TBR pile here!

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Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything. She aims to keep writing, and never to get old.

Online Issue 16

Lots of crime fiction and horror goodness with Eryk Pruitt, Lucy A. Snyder, Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts, plus a resurrected article on doing great bookstore events (with insights from someone who does this for a living!) and thoughts on authors and social media and toxic tropes.

 

First, an important public service announcement:

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Here on Toe Six:

Eryk Pruitt on truth and storytelling, reading bad books and the appeal of writing short stories

Eryk Pruitt talks about the appeal of writing short stories and how the process helps him focus on lean, mean writing, as well as the inspiration he took from a man with Parkinson’s and The Knockout Game.

The Journey to Publication, Axe Throwing and Tough Protagonists: Lucy A. Snyder talks, snakes, spiders and Garden of Eldritch Delights

Your female horror fix is in: Lucy A Snyder’s Garden of Eldritch Delights puts a lot of female protagonists into stories with titles like “The Yellow Death”, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” and “That Which Does Not Kill You” – just in time for Halloween.

Lucy A. Snyder’s Purrbuddy, Monte

Lucy shares about her author assistant, Monte.

Teeth of the Wolf authors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts talk spending eternity with Hermione Granger, Geysercon, fighting zombies with measuring tapes and hair clips and more

Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts talk about whether or not they relate to their characters and who’s tougher. Dan tells us, “Matiu would kick my butt with one hand in his back pocket, and still look chill while he does it.” Plus, Lee and Dan share their casting call for Teeth of the Wolf.

Reviews:

Review: Dead Man Running by Steve Hamilton  Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Review: Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger  Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Bonus:

Flashback Feature: Having a Successful Bookstore Event

Trying to figure out what will work and what won’t? Author Sarah L. Johnson speaks from experience – both as an author and as a bookstore events coordinator.

 

Over at The Big Thrill:

Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? How much value do authors place on social media? This week we’re joined by ITW Members Colin CampbellEllen ByronLee MurraySandra Ruttan and DiAnn Mills as they discuss authors and social media. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along!

What did we all have to say? Check out our thoughts in the comments and chime in with questions or insights. Initially, I’d planned to post a short response about most authors overestimating the value of sites like Facebook for selling books; however, recent events prompted me to expand. The other authors have weighed in as well. If you’re considering how to use social media as an author there’s plenty of food for thought.

And On Twitter:

I don’t need to rehash what was covered in my thoughts at The Big Thrill, so if you want to see what I think about the Caffeine Nights debacle and the Chuck Wendig situation, head on over to the ITW post linked to above.

However, I did see this particular gem on Twitter and thought it was worth sharing:

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And what may be the best book dedication ever goes to Megan Spooner. From her book, Hunted:

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Lucy A. Snyder’s Purrbuddy, Monte

Fun Fact: Lucy says, “People often assume that because I’m a woman author I write romances, but the only romance story I’ve written so far was for a level of an online game called Fish Wrangler.”

My husband Gary and I have four cats — all of whom try to “assist” my writing at some point during the day — but my main assistant is Monte. We’ve had him since 2002 when we still lived in an apartment. He showed up on our back patio on the first bitterly cold night of the year right around Thanksgiving. Monte was a little kitten, just a few months old, and he was completely feral and afraid of people. He was so small that we were worried he’d freeze out there. He ran from us whenever we went out there, but he kept coming back to the glass patio door because he was curious about my roommate’s cat Simon.

Monte

So, we sort of hid around the corner, opened the patio door a few inches, and used Simon to lure the kitten into the apartment. He came in, and we shut the door … and then spent the next half-hour trying to chase the little guy down so we could get him into a cat carrier. We expected him to fight us furiously, but when we got our hands on him he just went limp, purring.

EldritchDelightsHe’s a pretty old boy at this point and suffers from hyperthyroidism. This means that when his “stomach alarm” goes off, it goes off loudly. It also means that he needs to take a pill twice a day, which we hide in a bit of food that he loves. So he’s become very demanding of his meal/treat times. I’ll be at my desk working, and suddenly he’ll be up on my lap, yelling in my face. If he had a cane, I’m pretty sure he’d bang it on the floor.

But he’s a good boy, and a real sweetheart. He’s a beside-the-lap cat. When we’re watching movies on the couch, he likes to squeeze down between us and lie there purring loudly.

But most of the time, he’s just hanging out in my office, keeping me company while I write.

 

Check out our interview with Lucy A. Snyder here.

 

LucyASnyderLucy A. Snyder is the five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author of over 100 published short stories. Her most recent books are the collection Garden of Eldritch Delights and the forthcoming novel The Girl With the Star-Stained Soul. She also wrote the novels Spellbent, Shotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess, and the collections While the Black Stars Burn, Soft Apocalypses, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, and Best Horror of the Year. She’s faculty in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. You can learn more about her at www.lucysnyder.com.

Online Issue 15

 

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Darrin Doyle’s short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us, hit shelves this week and Darrin is here to talk about the common thread that ties these stories together. “A lot of fiction contains somebody doing something bad or wrong, but often they’re making bad decisions for themselves (or to themselves). My collection features many folks (mostly men) behaving in creepy, questionable, violent, or otherwise unseemly ways.”

I found the collection to be a celebration of the absurd and highly entertaining. Darrin also shares what’s on his TBR pile – including works such as Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, Christine Schutt’s All Souls, Christine Sneed’s The Virginity of Famous Men and Katie Chase’s Man & Wife.

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Hunter Shea admits his love for Real Housewives and talks about the scariest night of his life and inspiration for Creature. Hunter also talks about his cats, Iris and Salem, in this author assistant feature.

Judy Penz Sheluk talks about her writing companion, a pup named for a character from NCIS: Gibbs

James Oswald talks about writing from the female perspective, insights from social media and claims to be “rubbish” at performing one specific author task.

Reviews:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn reviewed by Theodore Feit

The Sinners by Ace Atkins reviewed by Theodore Feit

A Book To Look Up

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What is ‘voice’ anyway?

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Thoughts on Horror

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I suspect there could be as many conversations about what horror is as there are about what noir is. Laura Lauro’s tweets pointed me to the Aeon.co article by M.M. Owen, which is well worth a look.

“Horror is what anthropologists call biocultural. It is about fears we carry because we are primates with a certain evolved biology: the corruption of the flesh, the loss of our offspring. It is also about fears unique to our sociocultural moment: the potential danger of genetically modifying plants. The first type of fear is universal; the second is more flexible and contextual. Their cold currents meet where all great art does its work, down among the bottomless caves on the seabed of consciousness. Lurking here, a vision of myself paralysed in the dirt, invisible to those I love.”

 

Author Assistants: How Iris and Salem Inspire Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea Headshot 2016Fun Fact: Hunter says, “I yearn to be a long haul trucker because I love motoring down the highway so much.”

When you have two cats, nothing in your house is untouchable or sacred. It’s virtually impossible to keep them off of anything. Thankfully, my cats are very different from one another, each with their own specialty. How do they help me with writing? Hmmmm, let’s explore.

IrisFirst there’s Iris. She’s a 12 year old Calico (at least we think she’s 12. She was a shelter cat, so we can never be sure). She’s very small and quite agile. I’ve watched her leap onto my top shelf from a sitting position with no problem. She’s also a home wrecker, as in she delights in destroying our stuff. I try to keep her out of my writing room, but she always finds her way in. And when she does, she spends all her time knocking all of my horror memorabilia off the shelves, scattering them everywhere. Sometimes, the anger I feel towards Iris is channeled into my writing, so in that sense, she’s quite helpful. She also likes to attack people, especially in the dark and when you’re asleep. She’s the real monster in our house. Walking down our pitch-black hallway at night, tense because you’re waiting to see if your ankles will be scratched, is real fear. You have to experience fear to convey it with your writing. Thanks Iris!

SalemOn the flip side is Salem, a black cat as big as a cougar who thinks he’s a dog. He plays fetch, rolls over to be pet on his tummy and is the most gentle, yet clumsy, cat you’ll ever find. After a rough writing session, he’s right there, purring, waiting to be pet. There’s no better stress relief than petting a beloved cat or dog or even hamster. He’s also great comic relief. Being such a big cat, it’s amusing to watch him try to leap up to the window. He has about a fifty percent success rate. Salem is my bud, so much so that I wrote him into my book, The Jersey Devil. And yes, no harm befell my fictional Salem. I couldn’t do that to the big guy. One very good thing about him – he can’t get onto my shelves and wreak havoc. He’s more floor bound, and that suits us both just fine.

So yes, my two ‘writing assistants’ are quite different and inspire me in their own way. I’ve written articles and blog posts about them in the past, and for that they are exceedingly helpful. Just watching the things they do can give me inspiration or a break from the insanity of ‘people life’. They both have it pretty good in the Shea lair, and we’re happy they’re members of our family. Even when Iris bites our toes while we’re sleeping.

 

Hunter Shea talks about his latest novel, Creature, here.

 

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Hunter Shea is the author of over 20 books, with a specialization in cryptozoological horror that includes The Jersey Devil, The Dover Demon, Loch Ness Revenge and many others. His novel, The Montauk Monster, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. A trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum will find several of his cryptid books among the fascinating displays.

 

Author Assistant: Judy Penz Sheluk’s Trusty Companion, Gibbs

Fun Fact:  Some authors write in a coffee shop, others to classical music, country or rock. Judy writes to talk radio, even listening to weekend paid programming. She can tell you what to do or not do if you want to buy a car, how to hire an employment or injury lawyer, or invest in fancy colored diamonds.

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Gibbs is a three-year-old Golden Retriever, named after Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the TV show, NCIS. For those unfamiliar with the show, Gibbs is a former Marine turned special agent who commands a team with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

My Gibbs spends most of his days lying under my desk as I write. He’s even been known to listen to me practice an author reading, though I’ll admit his feedback is minimal. But perhaps his greatest role is that he gets me out walking, and it’s on those long walks that I often come up with my best ideas.

Finally, I love that the U.S. Marine Corp’s motto is Semper Fi, which means “always faithful” in Latin. Perfect, right?

 

pnp3Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons in the Attic; Past & Present). Her short stories appear in several collections.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto/Southwestern Ontario. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.