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.

Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.

 

Stuart R. West’s Beloved Pit-Bull mix, Zak

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Fun Fact: “A decade or so ago, I was in a “country-funk-alternative-comedy-improv” band. We actually achieved a bit of notoriety in Kansas City for our short shelf life. I took the stage in pajamas, ate cereal and kitty litter, wore a variety of hats, sung, and “tried” to play the saxophone.

 

Many authors have a trusted four-legged friend who supports them (or disrupts them) during their writing day. Tell us about your author assistant.

0618171158-00Oh, man, you had to ask this question. Yes, I used to have a four legged assistant. Zak was special. From day one when we adopted him (found rummaging through a trash bin), he stole our hearts and the upholstery on our furniture. As a half pit-bull terrier, he had an uphill struggle, much prejudice wherever we walked. But he never bit anyone. (Well, there was that one cable guy, but he SO deserved it).

I became a full-time writer five years ago, sorta dropping out of society. Zak was my loyal, loving companion, always at my feet through eighteen novels. Yipping at me when he deemed a walk was necessary. I knew him better than anyone and he knew me and my schedule.

Last year was rough. He tore a ligament in a back leg that couldn’t be healed. Six months of operations, constant watch, and keeping him confined didn’t pay off. He lost the leg. For two months after that, he was happy and healthy again. Then it happened to the other leg.

zak with haremStill a healthy dog, we put him through another operation to repair the ligament with bolts and surgery. Again, it got infected.

The saddest day of my life, we had to put him down. For six months, I couldn’t write, not without him at my feet. I still mourn, still cry over my lost writing companion. But he lives on in my heart and I’d like to think somewhere else as well.

I miss you, buddy. Please raise a glass to my faithful friend, Zak. “Tink.”

Check out Stuart’s interviews about Secret Society and Ghosts of Gannaway

_MG_0556 - Version 2Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because…well, it’s Kansas. But it’s great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his books. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers, horror and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences.

If you’re still reading this, you may as well head on over to Stuart’s blog at: http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/

(Psst…for those easily bored, read this aloud in a Morgan Freeman voice. I promise we’ll get through it easier that way.)