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.

 

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Online Issue 8

 

On the book front…

Paul D. Brazill talks about Last Year’s Man while I weigh in with my quick take on Brazill’s latest

Anne Frasier is back with The Body Counter and she shares her music soundtrack with us

Do you know who Brian Cohn is? If you don’t, time to go buy a book! Brian talks about his latest, The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks, while I share my thoughts on his other book, The Last Detective

Reviews of Bearskin * Death of an Honest Man * Head Wounds

Did you miss it?

Brian’s latest Music Monday post is right here

I also shared some very personal things about my latest writing projects and myself over at Crimespree

Cages

It’s easy to sound like you have principles until you have to take a stand. A lot of my friends on social media have been saying that if you’re okay with children being kept in cages then unfriend them. This came to a head yesterday on Facebook when an author made a letter-of-the-law post about crossing the border being a misdemeanor and then went on to point out that nobody arrested gets to keep their kids with them in a cell.

Mr. Lofland then cried victim because some people unfriended him.

Look, if people on your friends list are saying ‘get off my lawn’ if you’re okay with kids in cages and then you make a post like that, you were asking for it. And for Lee to suggest it wasn’t political is asinine. Of course it was.

Journalism is as much about what you don’t say as what you do say. Making that post and failing to point out that when someone is arrested for solicitation or for being suspected of murder we do not take their babies and put them in cages. We don’t tell the staff who have to care for those children not to comfort them.

What also was not discussed was how these families were treated until a matter of months ago.

It wasn’t a post about the letter of the law. It was a post justifying putting those children in concentration camps.

Mr. Lofland has had many followers flock to his defense calling those who disagreed with him names in comment after comment. Meanwhile, Mr. Lofland has blocked myself and others.

And I’m okay with that. If you’re okay with kids being kept in cages then either have the common sense to keep your mouth shut about it if you don’t want to find out who has a moral problem with that or find the door. I suspect I’m not the author for you, because I have moral issues with things like that, and I have no interest voluntarily engaging with your warped world view.

And for some, it’s time to buck up or shut up. I really didn’t think I needed to say that if you’re okay with putting these children in cages best we go our separate ways. I thought that my friends list had been thinned out over politics already, but apparently not. Authors who have been railing against this policy can put their money where their mouth is and hit the unfriend button and boycott The Writer’s Police Academy.

The fact that Lofland blocked myself and others because we disagreed with him is more than enough to tell me his post had a clear agenda. But he wanted to come off like a victim and get sympathy in the process.

I’m not a victim for being blocked by him for simply stating my issues with his post (and not calling him any names).

The victims are children taken away from their parents and stuck in cages.

toesix6

 

Online Issue 7

Kevin Wignall talks about his new novel, To Die in Vienna, which is going to be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal and I weigh in with my review.

Chris Roy chats about his short story collection, Her Name Is Mercie, and his journey to publication.

Jo Perry has a big author event coming up this weekend – find out more here where she talks about her new work in progress and what Neil Diamond has to do with hell

Or learn more about Jo Perry’s upcoming event here, where she talks about the four-legged friends who keep her company when she’s in the office in her Author Assistant feature.

Plus: Reviews of Cult X and The Shadow Killer.

 

I could weigh in about the hated book of the week but really, what’s the point? Making posts about how it’s getting all the press and word of mouth just adds to its profile. The simple truth is that I think a lot of publicists and authors are lacking motivation and ingenuity to promote books. It’s easy to be jealous of the name that gets all the attention, but there are venues such as this one, Toe Six, and Underground Book Reviews and more that offer meaningful ways to raise an author’s profile. Would you rather people go to your website and see what you have to say about yourself, or see that you’ve been interviewed in different places? Doesn’t that make you look more important?

I have reached out directly to approximately 60 publishers and publicists asking specifically to interview an author or letting them know about feature opportunities here, which are free. All they take is a little bit of the author’s time.

My return rate for people taking me up on invitations or opportunities is down to about 19%. And the majority are authors. A publicist could get promotion for every book they have coming out in the months ahead. Instead, the odd few who respond tell me to go to NetGalley to get ARCs. (Man, I have ARCs out my wazoo and I can only read a couple books a month. And my priority is authors I’m interviewing here. I think I’ve officially reached the point where I won’t even ask an author for an interview if I have to contact a publicist, because my return rate there is 2% so it just isn’t worth my time.)

So don’t whine about not being profiled. Stop bitching about the lack of attention for small press books when there are places out there trying, and having a devil of a time getting authors interested in chatting about their books. It isn’t just about Toe Six. I was having a hard time getting people lined up for Spinetingler. My return rate there was sitting at about 30% before it ended.

The next time you want to post about how sad it is to lose places that publish short stories and how awful it is that only a few big books get the big press while these other good books get ignored? Places like Spinetingler and Toe Six live or die on the interest level. If nobody wants to be interviewed there isn’t much of a point in doing issues, is there? And if nobody is buying your short story collection when you publish it or investing in advertising on your site then how do you fund the issues?

The question for me is should I invest in promoting someone else or my own book? And maybe all the time I spend doing this is best served sitting on the porch with my dogs. Ultimately, maybe people just want something to complain about. The same people upset about JP and BC’s book could instead be spreading the word about a great book they’ve read and liked, about feature interviews with authors on sites all over the internet.

Or the gripefest can roll on for a few more days.

Practice pitching. That way, when life hands you lemons you’ll have good aim and free ammunition. ~ Sandra Ruttan

In other words, life is what you make of it. And we could take that approach to publishing and turn it upside down. The real reason people don’t do it? I can only guess it’s because they’re still hoping for that mainstream acceptance and their day to have all the attention.

Want to do an interview or a feature? Email toesixpress @ gmail.com with ‘author feature’ in the subject line.

Online Issue 5

What is Furry Noir? You know you have to click now to find out.

Bill Kieffer talks about Mount TBR, what you’ll find there and bookcrossing.

Is My Colorblind Rainbow one of the best book titles ever? Chanel Hardy talks about her inspirational YA story.

Which protagonist is cranking up Ruth Etting, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong? Find out here.

What do Lisbeth Salandar and Arya Stark have to do with Secrets? Find out here.

Casting Call: Find out which SVU actor Barbara Winkes would pick for one of the lead roles in Secrets.

Don’t forget! Enter now to win a signed copy of Here and Gone.

Reviews:

Did you miss it? I’ve been trying to get Brian to blog more about music for a long time. He has his own system for finding obscure genius and up-and-comers before they make it big. His first music post installment is available here.

On Monday I blogged about using thematic writing to help enrich your books and to help you promote them more effectively. The timing was perfect. The Historical Novel Society just ran a feature on the latest books from Susan Meissner and Mindy Tarquini, who talk about using historical settings in their works. Both Meissner and Tarquini, who had short stories published by Spinetingler Magazine, placed their works during the influenza pandemic in 1918 and 1919.

Congratulations

Now that it’s public I can congratulate my sister on her new position as the cataloguer and collection development for a public library in Alberta. Yes, she’ll be working closely with other staff to decide which books to stock. No, I can’t give you here phone number. She makes this move after years of working as a media specialist in the public school system.

A Question For The Masses

Screenshot_20180507-155611_Twitter

Head over to Twitter to share your opinion. I have to admit it would probably appeal to me. I aim for short breaks and I have the attention span of a gnat when I’m strictly listening to audio. This doesn’t apply to music but years of tuning out teachers because I was 10 steps ahead in class and could follow instructions from a book conditioned me to zone out.

 A.P. Bio Renewed

I’ve found myself watching more comedies over the past two years. I credit the political climate for this trend.

Loving Patton Oswalt as we do, we decided to check out A.P. Bio. We hoped it could help fill the gap between seasons of The Good Place. It was a rough start but it has gotten better. The writers and directors need to understand something, though. The whole revenge storyline? Weakest part of the show. Beyond done with it.

One of the absolute gems? Heather. I’m not alone. More Heather. More students. Less stupid revenge story.

 

Opinion: No, We Haven’t Reached All Readers

 

 

There isn’t much you can say when the likes of Adrian McKinty don’t have a publisher in the U.K. except what the fuck? And there are a lot of reasons Gabino Iglesias is cussing at editors that he names. While my objective here isn’t to simply point to things I’ve said, this does bring to mind a recent discussion on Twitter about failings of the publishing industry and how far behind it is when it comes to understanding segments of our population.

The discussion centered on the response of the publishing industry to the popularity of Roseanne and the reasons behind the success of the show’s comeback. All of a sudden publishers realized there was a whole world outside of New York City where people thought differently and had other interests.

This is why I’m going to maintain that no, we have not reached all potential readers. There are people out there who would buy books or borrow books from libraries (and drive up demand because of volume of requests) if they found books that spoke to them. The publishing industry has had its head up its ass on some things and it needs to get its head out of its ass to survive. There should be books out there for everyone. People are more likely to buy and treasure and recommend books that speak to them. And if you’re only speaking to the population of NYC that’s very nice for them, but what about the rest of the country? Or even North America? Or Europe and the other continents on this planet? It seems to me that publishers would be far more effective with selling books and reaching new readers to increase profits if they hired some sociologists to break down the cultural groups within the country and the priorities of those cultural groups, as well as their typical beliefs and customs. Not all Americans think the same way. And, shock of horrors people, individuals who are part of a group that’s experienced racial or gender prejudice or discrimination due to their sexual orientation have specific interests. Male authors have been called out for how they describe women in literature. We need to start thinking about the way that we’re presenting pertinent social issues in our fiction if we don’t want to alienate readers. That doesn’t mean pretending that sexism and racism don’t exist but it does mean we need to make sure we aren’t glamorizing it. I’ll make a face about a lot of stupid jokes about Canadians but every now and again something just crosses a line for me. It’s a statement that’s so stupid it isn’t even funny; it’s just pathetic, particularly since something more accurate would have been more effective in its place. We all have lines and when publishers fail to realize this and exclude whole segments of the population they are reducing their potential book sales.

In the same way that little Susie and May want dolls that share their hair and skin color, readers want characters they can identify with. And if the entire world you write about involves white protagonists, black criminals and Chinese Americans who own Chinese restaurants then you aren’t presenting the world I live in. Or the world I want to live in.

P.S. Television has been on to this for a long time. And its enjoying another golden age. Publishing needs to get with the program.

Have You Entered?

final day enter 2018 international book awards

Today is the final day to get your entry in for the International Book Awards. Don’t miss out. Visit their website to find out about eligibility and how to enter.

Staying With That Wednesday Theme…

Screenshot_20180508-154850_Twitter

 

I can’t imagine how it’s going to end well on The Americans. Stan will be under the gun when it’s revealed he’s been chumming around with Russians for years, assuming he lives to face that discovery. And the stench of death lingers over Elizabeth, and not just because of all the people she’s killed. She’s expected to take her own life rather than be captured and that could be on the horizon for her.

And Paige… She’s going to screw up so badly she could be responsible for getting herself killed. Or her mother. With only a handful of episodes left we’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see how its all going to pan out. One thing is for sure – I’m really going to miss The Americans. And kudos to the crew because, while I’ll miss the show, that’s because they knew to end on a high note and not drag the show out just for the money, ala Walking Dead last season.

Thoughts On A Celebrity I Do Not Care About

While I hate to come across as though I’m setting up rules about what people are allowed to talk about, I am beyond sick to freaking death of hearing about Kanye Fucking West. Let’s not validate this whiny beeyatch by talking about him. Who the hell is he anyway? The guy who robbed Taylor Swift of her moments when she won some awards? The guy who’s always criticizing Swift? Does he make music himself or just bitch about everyone else in the world? Scratch that – I so do not give a shit so don’t answer.

But if anyone – anyone -is going to talk about Kanye and all his fucked-up-ness, then let it be Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Online Issue #1

Our first online issue is live now!

online issue 1 cover

Earl Javorksy, Gabino Iglesias, Andrew Nette, Tom Piccirilli, David Swinson, Alex Segura, James Sallis, Peter Watts, Stuart MacBride, Christine Mangan, Patricia Abbott, Joe R Lansdale and Kasey Lansdale, Dana King and more.

What’s the deal with online issues? Find out more here.

 

Review: Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Review by Gloria Feit
From the publisher:  “It’s about Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason, at one time the closest of friends, now wedged apart by a chilling secret.  They find themselves reunited in Morocco in 1956, where revolution is imminent, though it seems like the real warfare is between the two of them.  The dusty alleyways of Tangier have never felt so ominous.”
 
First things first:  “Tangerine” is what you are called if you are of, or from, Tangiers.  The chapters’ p.o.v. alternates between Lucy and Alice, fittingly enough. The first belongs to Alice, musing as she looks out the window at the streets of Morocco, thinking back to her days at Bennington College, in Vermont, where she and Lucy, both 17, were best friends and roommates [having met on their very first day at college.]”  And where she met John McAllister, to whom she is now married, although having decided not to change her name:  “It felt important, somehow, to retain some part of myself, my family, after everything that had happened.”  Trying “to not think each and every second of the day about what had happened in the cold, wintry Green Mountains of Vermont.”  It is now just over a year since that time.  (There are several references to “what had happened,” although the reader is not told what that “everything” was for quite a while, e.g., “It was perhaps too much to hope for, I knew, that things would simply revert back to how they had once been, before that terrible  night.”)
 
Lucy, who is a writer of obituaries for a local newspaper, first appears in Chapter Two, as she describes the intense heat of the city, where she finds “the promise of the unknown, of something infinitely deeper, richer, than anything I had ever experienced in the cold streets of New York.”  She has come to Tangiers for the express purpose of finding and joining Alice.  Born in a small town in Vermont, Tangiers is literally another world for her.  When she makes her way to Alice’s apartment, she finds it cluttered with books, by Dickens and others of that ilk, which is surprising to Lucy, as the Alice she had known was “not a big reader.  I had tried to encourage her during our four years as roommaes, but try as I might to interest her, she had only stuck up her nose.  They’re all just so serious, she had complained . . . she was made, it seemed, for living, rather than reading about the experiences of other lives.”  When Lucy re-enters her life, Alice is delighted to see her “once friend, the closest friend that I had even known before it had all gone wrong.”  The tale goes along this way, with fascinating insights into the two women, and into this stifling city, and its people and places, so completely foreign to everything they have known till then.  The writing is fascinating, and the mystery, when it is finally made clear to the reader, well worth the time it took to get us there.
 
Recommended.