Killer Nashville Writers Conference is going to be, well, killer

by G. Robert Frazier

This weekend is going to be killer for writers in Nashville.

The 11th Annual Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference actually begins today, and it actually takes place in Franklin, TN, just south of Nashville, but that’s beside the point.

KillerNashville_ClayStafford_CreditZachSims-200x250

Clay Stafford

Killer Nashville founder Clay Stafford has put together a star-studded lineup of best-selling authors, mid-listers, indie talent, newbies and industry professionals dedicated to sharing invaluable lessons with fellow writers, mastering the craft, and just talking books and writing.

The roster includes guests of honor Janet Evanovich and Kevin O’Brien, along with mystery-thriller luminaries William Kent Krueger, Anne Perry, Robert Randisi and Charles Todd. There are dozens of other notables also on the bill, such as Ray Peden, R.G. Belsky, Pushcart nominee Phyllis Gobbell, Debra Goldstein, Claire Applewhite and more.

Regional writing groups such as the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Nashville Writers Meetup will also be well-represented by the likes of Tom Wood, Ken Vanderpool, Linda Thorne, Robert Mangeot, Erica Wright, Kathleen Cosgrove, Jaden Terrell and Michael Guillebeau.

Heck, I’m even going to be on a panel.

But, name-dropping aside, one of the most exciting aspects of the conference is the timely and relevant slate of panel topics throughout the four-day event. Choosing which panel to attend won’t be easy for attendees, as five panels will run concurrently nearly every hour from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. And that doesn’t count breakfast, lunch, and dinner events, plus breakout sessions spearheaded by the conference’s most distinguished guests at the conclusion of each day.

I’ve spent quite a few hours just pouring over the schedule in an attempt to determine which sessions I will attend. Some I picked based on who is slated to speak, some according to the timeliness or importance of the subject matter, and some based on how the material may help advance or edify my own writing career.

I’d honestly love to attend them all.

Today’s pick, at least, is an easy one: Perry’s “Master Class on Novel Writing.”Killer-Nashville-Movie-Poster

Krueger kicks off Friday’s events with “What it Means to Be A Writer,” followed by a timely session on “Building Your Network at Killer Nashville.”

Another timely subject, “Writing Strong Female Characters,” follows.

After a break for lunch, it’s a toss-up between “Finding Your Ending,” a craft-focused panel, or “The Changing Face of Popular Fiction.” The former is of particular interest to me in that I struggle to reach the end of many of my stories or am oftentimes dissatisfied with my endings. The latter session, though, is topical in terms of what’s popular in today’s fiction market and knowing what today’s readers expect.

As if that weren’t difficult enough to choose from, a third session set for the same time that also holds interest for me is author Michael Ransom’s discussion on serial killers and free will. Ransom is the author of The Ripper Gene, which is nominated for Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Awards for Best Adult Fiction Book.

The rest of Friday’s lineup includes a panel on “Building Your Personal Brand” and a breakout session with O’Brien on “Writing the Bestselling Thriller.”

Saturday’s lineup includes an opening group session with Randisi, who is Killer Nashville’s 2016 John Seigenthaler Legends Award winner.

Randisi will join Stafford,  Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine regular Mangeot and others on another panel,  “Writing the Short Story.”

I’ll be on the panel hot seat at 2 p.m. Saturday to discuss “The Importance of Professional Book Reviews.”

From there, I’ll listen in as Evanovich, Gobbell, Baron Birtcher and others discuss the unique challenges of “Writing a Series” with recurring characters. Hey, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie featured the same characters from book to book, but times have changed. Series books today share more in common with TV series, with characters who grow from book to book or episode to episode.

Finally on Saturday, O’Brien will be back to discuss keys to “Writing a Marketable Book.”

Sunday’s group session focuses on “An Inside Look at Publishing,” after which O’Brien will be one of the featured panelists discussing how to “Find Your Plotting Style.”

The ins and outs of indie publishing will be the topic of the next panel I plan to take in on Sunday, followed by another timely session featuring Krueger on how fiction can be applied to real-life issues such as social injustice, mortality and more.

Lastly, Randisi is slated to host a session on how to be a more prolific author. He should know, as he averages almost a book a month.

Somewhere amid all of that, I’ll be volunteering a few hours on a fun aspect of the conference called The Escape Room. As I understand it, conference attendees will have the chance to enter a locked room and, working together, seek clues strategically planted inside the room that will help them get out. Should be interesting to see whether all these arm-chair detectives can work together to solve the mystery.

I’ll share highlights and lessons learned from the conference here on this blog and elsewhere in the days ahead. I may even tweet a time or two from the conference.

Until then, happy reading and writing.

 

 

 

 

Stephen King entertains, scares Ryman audience

by G. Robert Frazier

NASHVILLE, TN — Stephen King doesn’t let his scary side out. Instead, when he hits the road to meet and greet fans or to talk about his newest book, End of Watch, it’s Public Steve who shows up.

photo by Shane Leonard

Stephen King / photo by Shane Leonard

Fans typically want to see Scary Steve, the mind behind such classic novels as It, Carrie, and Salem’s Lot. But Scary Steve doesn’t travel. He works three to four hours a day holed up somewhere in the wilds of Maine coming up with ways “to scare the shit out of you.” If you’re Scary Steve, it’s what you do.

Home Steve is just a regular joe, hanging out at the house, watching ballgames on TV, going to the market, or cleaning up after the dog. Home Steve, as you might surmise, stays at home.

Public Steve is far better suited to book signings and lectures. He’s surprisingly entertaining, light-hearted, and fun. As King puts it, “Public Steve does a lot of deflection so that you don’t look for Scary Steve.”

King talked about the “three faces of Steve” while making a stop at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on his End of Watch book tour in June. The venue – known as the church of country music and birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry – was crammed with 2,300-plus of his constant readers on a night when downtown Nashville was abuzz with the annual CMA (Country Music Association) Festival and nearby Manchester was overrun with ‘Roonies (short for Bonnaroo fans), a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by the 68-year-old author.

“Everything is happening in Nashville this weekend,” he said, “and look at this place — full of people who read books.”

“If you have a gift, at some point it wakes up and it speaks to you and says this is what you’re supposed to do.”

— Stephen King

King received a standing O as he stepped on stage, remarking, “Well, it’s all downhill from here.”

In actuality, he was just getting started. Given the setting, King fittingly regaled the audience with stories about his own musical talent as part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of authors able to play a  limited number of musical chords and sing a few cover songs.

“I’m going to talk about writing, but I’m in the Ryman so cut me some slack,” he joked.

King is a country music lover at heart.

“For me, country music was shit-kicking music,” he said about growing up. “There was nothing on the radio but country music and Rush Limbaugh, so I started listening to country music.”

Thankfully, he didn’t hop on a bus and come to Nashville all those years ago to pursue some dream of being a country music star. Instead, he found his calling in writing horror fiction. In a box. In the attic.

“If you have a gift, at some point it wakes up and it speaks to you and says this is what you’re supposed to do,” King said.

For King, the writing bug inside him awoke upon reading some of his dad’s pulp novels found in that attic, specifically H.P. Lovecraft’s The Thing From the Tomb. “Whatever it was, awoke in me.”

Over the course of 40-plus years since then, King’s writing has resulted in countless bestsellers and sleepless nights for avid readers. He knows what scares you, as the saying goes. The secret, he explained, boils down to two things: One, make readers care about the characters, and two, make it real.

To drive the point home, he let Scary Steve out of the box for just a moment. He noted that many people in the crowd were probably so excited about being there, they’d forgotten to lock the car door. That maybe while they were sitting listening to him, some stranger was trying the door to their car. That some stranger was perhaps slipping into the back seat of the car.

“I guarantee when you go to your car tonight, you’ll look in the back seat first,” he said. In order to scare people, “you have to plant the seed first.”

King admitted he sometimes even scares himself.

“People ask me if I ever scare myself,” he said. “I get scared, but when I’m writing I feel in control. I’m behind the scenes.”

That’s not to say writing is easy.

“The voice I have on most days is, this is great, keep going,” he said. “But you also have days where you feel like you’re wearing gloves and nothing has texture to it. The trick is to keep going. Writing a novel, it’s no job for sissies.”

Quotable Stephen King:

  • On fans: “People sometimes tell me, ‘you’re on my bucket list.’ That’s so goddamn weird.”
  • On critics: “The critics initially hated me. I decided, I’ll just keep writing and pretty soon they’ll all be fucking dead.”
  • On politicians: “Listen, you politicians, you oughtta thank God you can flush after you go to the bathroom.”
  • On TV: “TV is in a place it hasn’t been in in years. They are doing things that movies can’t.”
  • On what you should read next: The Fireman, written by his son Joe Hill
  • On what he’s writing next: King is working on a book with son Owen, Sleeping Beauties, due out in 2017. The book will be published by Scribner.
  • On advice to writers: Secrets to success
  • New short story: “Cookie Jar”
  • More from the tour: An entourage of one

 

Change is good. My life reboot begins.

By G. Robert Frazier

I recently posted on Facebook about how I was going to change my ways. Specifically, I mentioned that I intend to become a morning person. But it’s more than that. I’m talking a total life reboot, and this blog post today officially marks day one of my reboot plan.

I believe the goals I have laid out for myself–I’ll elaborate on them in just a bit–will make me a better, more productive, happier person.

So, what brings this on, you ask?

 

Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton

A large part of the credit, or blame, has to go to Wil Wheaton. Yes, Wil Wheaton of Star Trek fame. Wil Wheaton with an “h”, as Stewie on Family Guy likes to point out.

 

Last October, Wil posted on his blog about how he intended to reboot his life. Wil had fallen into a rut. He didn’t like the way he looked, the things he was doing, or the effect his choices were having on those around him. He didn’t like the way he felt on a daily basis.

Things needed to change.

To that end, Wil drew up a seven-point list of target goals: drink less beer, read more, write more, watch more movies, get better sleep, eat better food, and exercise more. Before you jump his case about watching more movies and reading more, understand that as an actor and a writer Wil is specifically interested in studying each medium to better himself in his chosen field. He goes on to explain each point and its importance to him.

Every month since his initial announcement he’s posted an update to let folks know how he’s doing, as well as to hold himself accountable.

He has inspired me to do the same.

My goals are slightly different and more specific to me, as yours should be if you decide to do a reboot as well. Writing these goals down and announcing them in this way is part of making the reboot an official action plan, not just an unvoiced wish to change things. Thus, here are my reboot goals:

  • Become a morning person
  • Exercise more
  • Eat healthier
  • Drink more water
  • Spend less time online
  • Have more fun
  • Finish writing projects

Each goal interconnects, just as Wil’s goals did. They are equally important in relation to the total reboot equation. But if I had to put a priority on one goal above all the others, it would be to finish more writing projects. For me, that’s what this reboot is all about.

But, let’s look at each goal and I’ll offer an explanation or two as to why it is a vital goal.

Become a morning person

Those who know me know that I have always been a night owl. Late to bed, later to rise.

Much of that had to do with my former job as editor of a local newspaper. I’d often be at work scurrying to meet final deadlines at 11 or 12 at night, or later in some instances. By the time I got home, there was no way I could go straight to bed. I was too amped up and my mind was swirling with thoughts about the news of the day or thinking about the next day’s slate of news coverage. It would take a good hour to two hours to wind down so that I could get to sleep, which meant it was late morning by the time I woke up.

When the newspaper was “restructured” three years ago—Gannett employees or former employees know what I’m talking about—and I was unceremoniously sent packing despite my long tenure as an accomplished, well-regarded editor, my affinity for late nights stayed with me. I didn’t have anything to get up early for, after all.

I also mistakenly believed I could use the lateness of the hour to work on my writing, unfettered by TV and other distractions. But, honestly, whenever I did try to work on a story or novel into the wee hours of the morning, I grew immensely sleepy. My energy level had already been drained. Used up during the course of the day, though on what, exactly, it’s hard to say.

In short, my best intentions never seemed to be getting me anywhere. My novel stalled. My short stories went unfinished. I found myself spending more time surfing the net or watching late-night TV than using the time to write. Procrastination has me firmly clenched in its jaws.

Recently, I was listening to an online presentation by Jay Papasan, an author and motivational speaker as part of Chandler Bolt’s Self-Publishing Success Summit. He spoke about the advantages or being a morning person and how studies have proven that people who start their day earlier have more energy, more creativity, and more of a propensity to get things done. I’m sure there will be others who will argue against it, but from my personal standpoint, it’s clear the late-night schtick I’ve grown accustomed to isn’t working.

I know becoming a morning person isn’t going to be easy. Today, I got up at 8:30. That’s a good start, considering I often don’t wake up until 9:30, 10 or later. I’d like to get to the point where I can wake up at 6 every day. It certainly isn’t going to happen overnight. Papasan, in fact, says it will take 66 days before such an adjustment becomes a habit.

So consider this Day One.

Exercise more/eat healthier/drink more water

I’m lumping these three reboot goals together for obvious reasons. This is all about taking better care of my body, and as an offshoot of that, my mental outlook. I want to feel better about myself and that means losing weight, toning up, exercising more and eating better.

Writers are a somewhat lethargic lot. We’re more comfortable sitting in front of a computer than we are pounding the pavement or hitting the gym. But if I’m going to achieve better physical health, I’ve got to get physical too. I read somewhere that a good rule to follow is to work for 50 minutes, then take a 15- to 20-minute break. So if I walk the dog or go a few miles on my stationary bike in that window, I’ll get in more exercise and, hopefully, re-energize myself for another 50-minute writing block.

As for eating better, that means fewer fast-food combo meals. I’ve already cut back to some extent, but I know I can do better. It’s hard because my former job made me grow accustomed to that fast-food fix at any hour of the night. I plan to eat meals when meals are supposed to be eaten, including a good breakfast which I have tended to skip). Late-night snacks will hopefully become a thing of the past under this plan. And, when I do get a knack for fast food, I plan to stick with the smaller size rather than up-sizing to medium or large or king-size.

Along with that will be a change in drinking habits. While Wil had an affinity for beer, I have an affinity for diet colas. There’s ample evidence out there that diet drinks are less healthy than once believed, and can actually be detrimental to your waistline. I don’t plan to go back to drinking non-diet colas (I just don’t like the taste) because that isn’t healthy either. And, I don’t plan to go cold turkey. I’m an addict to diet colas, so I’m going to have to ween myself off it more slowly. I’m already swapping out every other cola with a bottle of water and I drink a glass of V-8 with each meal. Hey, that’s the equivalent of one complete serving of fruits and veggies, which also satisfies my “eat healthier” plan!

Spend less time online

This goal is huge. I love to read, I love to learn about new things. Every day I find myself scouring my Facebook feed, not so much as to check in on what everyone is doing and talking about, but to discover new articles about the writing craft. Many of you are familiar with my Around the Web posts on this blog where I share links to some of the interesting articles I come across.

I am a constant learner.

But, truthfully, there is a time when enough is enough. There is a time when you need to put all you’ve learned into use, or what good is it really? That means closing the book on Facebook, closing the web browsers, and putting my ass to work on my writing.

I know I won’t quit scrolling through my Facebook feed entirely, but I plan to at least limit the amount of time that I spend online. Perhaps to one or two of the 15-minute breaks I mentioned earlier. Once in the morning, once in the evening. The time I save by being offline is time I can easily apply to my writing tasks.

Same goes for reading my emails and other online distractions.

Finish more writing

All of the above, of course, directly relates to and influences this goal. But unlike Wil’s plan, which is to simply write more, my plan is to not only write more but finish more of my writing. I have way too many projects in various stages of incompletion. Ideas I started with a full head of steam only to see stalled halfway through. Stories I’ve finished writing but never bothered revising to perfection.

I have already updated my writing calendar for the remainder of the year, assigning each month to a specific project. It hasn’t worked so far, but I didn’t have a plan to reboot my life either. Now I do.

Along with finishing my writing projects comes this caveat: submitting them. It does no good if the myriad number of stories I’ve got in my file cabinet never see the light of day. If I’m going to really, truly make waves in the publishing world, that means being proactive and persistent about submitting my works for publication. I have only rarely sent my works in, usually to just one magazine or market at a time, then sat waiting for the inevitable rejection slip. My plan now is to submit something every week.

It will be difficult, I know. But I’m determined to make a go of it.

Have more fun

My final goal is self-explanatory. I’ve always wanted to write fiction because I love stories and I love writing. It’s fun to dream up dire situations for my characters and see them fight their way out of the worst predicaments I can put them in. So, while all of the above sounds like work, and it is, I also want it to be fun.

I’ll let you know every month just how much fun I’m having.

Around the Web: More advice and articles for writers and readers

by G. Robert Frazier

Every once in a while I like to share some of the stories and advice articles on writing I come across in my wanderings around the interwebs. So, for better or worse, here’s this month’s collection of links for your reading pleasure:

Columnist Riki Cleveland offers six habits of prolific writers and how to make them yours on litreactor.com.

“Writing is an act of thievery,” according to Khalid Hosseini, author of Kite Runner. “You adapt experiences and anecdotes for your own purposes.” For both the memoirist and the novelist are inevitably inspired by the people they have met, and will make use of them to suit their purposes. This may not strictly be plagiarism, but it is similar territory. Read more about how writers will steal your life and use it in this excerpt from How to Write Like Tolstoy (Random House) by Richard Cohen for fiction here.

Everyone’s heard of the self-publishing success by authors such as Andy Weir (The Martian) and Hugh Howey (Wool), so it’s also refreshing to see a literary agent like David Fugate taking note of self-publishing books. “I’m a huge fan of self-publishing (in all its myriad forms) and what it has done for both authors and readers. I think it’s amazing that it’s no longer a question of if your work will be published, but how,” he said in a recent interview with Reedsy. “My advice for anyone who wants to self-publish first is: do it well. And if you’re unsure about whether you want to traditionally publish or self-publish my advice is often to try traditional publishing first. If you approach it the right way, you can figure out very quickly if it will work with a traditional publisher. And if not, you can always self-publish and all you’ve lost is a little time. However, for anyone who wants to self-publish their book first, the key is to make sure you really go for it. Don’t just put it out there and hope that readers will somehow discover it. Have a marketing plan and pursue it with more of an entrepreneurial mindset. That can be difficult for some authors, but given the amount of noise out in the market, if you want to really give your work a chance to do well, you have to do what it takes to let readers know it’s out there.”

What Walt Disney knows about storytelling

The 2016 O. Henry Prize Stories are out. Some of these stories are available to read online (just follow the links), while others will have to wait for September’s publication of the annual O. Henry anthology. Speaking of the O. Henry Prize Stories, reader Kelly Luce shares some insights gained from reading every short story published in 2014-15 in search of the top twenty for the anthology.

Apparently, in New York, in the latest transgender equality law, you can be fined by not calling a person by the pronoun they wish to be called by. If a person wants to be called “ze,” for instance, instead of he or she, and an employer or business professional refuses to honor that wish, they can seek legal recourse. This could make for some interesting written exchanges in your stories and screenplays.

If you weren’t all that thrilled by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and a lot of people apparently weren’t, you might want to seek out the books on this list of Superman comics you must read.

Author Matthew Norman posted a column that’s gotten a lot of attention from authors: What to do when no one shows up to your reading. I haven’t had the pleasure of that situation yet, but one thing I would do is try to work the bookstore crowd beforehand. Approach the book buyers and give them a bookmark and ask them to come to your reading. At least that’s better than just sitting in your car twiddling your thumbs hoping someone shows up.

The most enlightening article I’ve read on what makes fiction literary, as explained by author and literary agent Donald Maass (who else!).

And, just for a laugh, novelists warned about drug-resistant strain to writer’s block.

Lithub is now aggregating book reviews from across 70 sites into a sort of Rotten Tomatoes, called Book Marks. Here’s how it works.

Columnist Jane Friedman puts recent news about declining ebooks sales in favor of print into perspective with this column. Buyers who are shunning higher ebook prices from traditional publishers, an increase in adult coloring books, and the rise of indie publishers and self-publishers are the keys to the fluctuating numbers, she says. Nielsen reports that about 12 million coloring books were sold in 2015. Compare that to just 1 million in 2014. The increase is so dramatic that coloring books alone can account for the increase in print sales in 2015.

The WGA (Writers Guild of America) has unveiled a new diversity database. Writers can opt to identify themselves by race, sex, age, languages they are fluent in, and, of course, sexual preference. There’s even an opt in to identify whether they have a disability. Producers or filmmakers in turn can search the database to find writers matching their needs. The whole idea is in response to the continuing outcry over the lack of diversity in Hollywood, both on screen and off screen. Not everyone is rushing to embrace the “list,” however. TV comedy writer Susan Hurwitz Arneson tells ScreenwritingU Magazine that she’s not about to “out myself on something that may be perceived as a negative, or might prevent me from getting staffed.”

The first books in James Patterson’s new Bookshots series of shorter, more digestible books are hitting stores and available to purchase online now.

Author Erik Larson recounts how he looks for fascinating, complex real-life characters to bring his historical books to life.

The Atlantic published an interesting article this week on why women are writing the best crime novels.

Feel free to add any links to writing and reading articles you may have come across in the comments section.

Around the Web UPDATE: TN governor vetoes plan to make Bible official state book

By G. Robert Frazier

From time to time, I like to share and/or comment on interesting stories about writing and reading that I come across on the web. Here’s a few such stories to chew on:

UPDATED: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed legislation that would have made the  Bible the official state book. Had the measure been approved, Tennessee would have been the only state in the country to name the Bible as an official symbol. Critics argued the proposal is unconstitutional, since the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state. The Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says it is “a thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions” and urged Haslam to veto it. But proponents cited the “historical and cultural significance” and noted the importance of Bible publishing to Nashville and the book’s use as a genealogical record. Harper Collins Christian Publishing is headquartered in Nashville.

The Hollywood Reporter says a long-running feud between John Steinbeck’s heirs and Hollywood has prompted a new court filing. The battle over copyrights may affect Stephen Spielberg’s planned adaptation of Grapes of Wrath.

Best-selling author James Patterson has been selected by AASL President Leslie Preddy as the 2016 Crystal Apple recipient. The honor is awarded to an individual or group that has made a significant impact on school library programs and students. A staunch school library advocate, Patterson has dedicated both time and funds to promote the ways school libraries transform a child’s educational career.

Patterson is launching a new line of short novels that he hopes to sell at supermarket checkout lanes. There’s a growing trend for shorter works, thanks to the attention-starved world we live in now. I’m actually not against the notion. Some of today’s bestsellers that number in the 500- to 600-page range or more are just grossly overwritten.

DBW features a great interview with author Hugh Howey on the state of publishing and the advantages of self-publishing over traditional publishing. While many people still look at traditional publishing as the means to legitimacy, authors like Hugh Howey are proving that self-publishing today is making huge inroads in that regard. More control over your works, the ability to publish quicker and the lure of bigger royalties over traditional publishing are certainly factors to consider. But regardless of which route writers choose, there better be a damn fine book to read in the end. That’s how writers will ultimately make a name for themselves.

Read any good articles lately? Share a link in the comments section.

 

Around the Web: A roundup of articles on reading and writing

by G. Robert Frazier

As you know, I occasionally like to list a roundup of interesting articles about reading and writing. I’ve been meaning to add a new list for a while but have been busy writing, so the list just kept getting bigger and bigger. Herewith, then, is my latest collection for your reading enjoyment. Feel free to comment about any of the items that strike you or post links to articles you’ve come across. 

President Obama will nominate Carla D. Hayden to be the Librarian of Congress; Hayden would be both the first African-American and the first woman to hold the position.Speaking of diversity, blogger Jenny Bhatt wrote this interesting article on

Speaking of diversity, blogger Jenny Bhatt wrote this interesting article on diversity in publishing. The publishing industry should certainly encourage and promote diverse authors when it can, especially based on the statistics, but what we don’t need is a box on submission forms asking the writer’s color or sexual preference. Let’s let our words speak for us, not the color of our skin.

James_Patterson

The LA Times Book Prizes will honor U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and novelist James Patterson. Additionally, five finalists were announced in 10 categories. Patterson is currently sponsoring a contest in conjunction with his online master writing course in which he pledges to co-author a book with the winner of the contest. The catch is it costs $90 for the course and your chances of winning are probably as good as winning the next Powerball jackpot. Still, could you imagine what it would mean to have your name on a book alongside Patterson’s? Talk about a career highlight! I am very tempted to give it a shot. It’s only money, right? And, at the very least, you do get the benefit of learning in his writing course.

The Horror Writers Association has announced its final ballot for its annual Bram Stoker Awards. I so want to read all of these books. But more importantly, I want to be on this list some day. I’ve got a horror novel in the works that I hope to dust off in the next few months.

While we’re talking about genre, which is more important? Literary or genre fiction. Join the debate here. Personally, I’m a genre writer. I like characters that do things, action and mystery. I feel you can explore plenty about the human soul by putting your characters in unusual and moral situations while still being entertained.

The PassengerNPR talks the latest trend in crime thrillers: The ‘Girl’ in the title. Even more interesting are the comments at the bottom of the article, so be sure to read through. I just finished reading a “Gone Girl” type novel called The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz. See my review at BookPage.

If you missed it when it was first posted, here’s Christopher Walken reading “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.

The New Yorker recently cited T.S. Eliot as offering this advice on What Makes Great Detective Fiction.

Here’s a great way to get to know your characters. Interview them and ask these probing questions that CEOs sometimes ask on new hire interviews.

I’ve been saying it all along. There’s just something more to like about an actual print book than a bunch of digital letters flashed on your e-reader. According to a recent study, 92 percent of students agree.

Any sci-fi writers reading this? If so, have you ever wondered what it means to be a science fiction writer in the 21st century? That’s what author Charlie Jane Anders asks in this article over on io9.gizmodo.com.

Author Jo Nesbo has the perfect writing room. He never uses it.

To the sensory cortex in your brain, reading is the same as doing. The words you choose not only have the power to change your readers’ minds. They can also change their brains, according to new neurological research.

Publishers Weekly posted a different sort of list recently: 10 books about loneliness. The cool thing being that in examining loneliness, they also serve as an antidote to it.

Here’s a take on the ever-raging debate of pantsing versus plotting from The Atlantic. It’s from a 2013 article, but still plenty relevant for writers wrestling over how best to approach their craft.

The battle lines have been drawn again against The Huffington Post over its policy of not paying writers for their work. Some interesting reads on the subject (and make sure you read the comments as well to further the debate) at Writer Unboxed, from Chuck Wendig, and Huffington Post UK editor in chief Stephen Hull.  For more on writers getting paid for what they do, check out Kristen Lamb’s blog.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these roundups, and a week since this happened, but it’s fitting that we pay tribute to Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose, who both passed away recently. In memoriam, BookBub posted seven timeless quotes from Harper’s book, while Eco left this advice for writers.

Have you come across any interesting reads for writers? Share a link in the comments section.

Review: A Better Goodbye takes look at gritty underside of L.A.

by G. Robert Frazier

A Better GoodbyeYou know how they always say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover? In the case of A Better Goodbye (Tyrus Books), this is one instance in which you certainly could. The cover of John Schulian’s debut novel depicts a brilliant yellow and orange sunset over the dark and gritty cityscape of Los Angeles. It’s a perfectly fitting image, as it represents the murky lifestyle Schulian paints beneath the brilliant sparkle and glamour of the movie capital of the world.

It’s in this milieu, right on the fringes of tourist-friendly Hollywood, that we find Schulian’sunforgettable cast of down-and-out characters. They’re not the sort of characters you’d want to associate with, but you can sympathize with their plight. And like any good noir novel, the lives of Schulian’s characters are irrevocably intertwined and destined to come crashing down in a bloody finale.

Read the full review at Killer Nashville.

Around the Web: More websites for writers, advice, and stories to read

By G. Robert Frazier

Regular readers of this blog know I sometimes like to share interesting stories I come across on the web. Some of these are about reading, some about writing. The more you know, as they say…

The Writer’s Life released its 100 Best Websites for Writers on Monday. The list is conveniently broken into seven categories, which is extremely helpful in finding just the site that suits you. Categories include: Blogging, entrepreneurship, creativity and craft, freelancing, marketing, publishing, and writing communities. I’m excited and a bit depressed to see so many different sites here that I have not visited before. Excited because I like discovering new things and reading new voices, especially if it can be helpful to me in anyway. Depressed because I really don’t have time to go exploring a bunch of new websites and keeping up with them. Hey, I’ve got writing to do!

CNBC posted an interesting article last Sunday about three publishers who are changing the comic book industry. And no, none of them is Marvel or DC. The article spotlights Dynamite, IDW and Boom publishers. I still collect comic books – a hobby I started in the late 1970s – but over the last decade my love of Marvel and DC comics has eroded. I no longer pick up books from either publication unless they are reprinted oldies that can fill gaps in my collection. I long ago grew tired of the endless crossovers, the over-proliferation of titles, rising prices, and deteriorating quality of work by the Big Two. My tastes have largely gone to the pulp side of comic books, as I follow new adventures of old favorites like The Shadow, Doc Savage, Tarzan, The Spirit, Conan, and Red Sonja. I also read Mars Attacks, James Bond, and The X-Files. I’ve always dreamed of someday writing comic books but never really attempted it, but thanks to a new Meetup group in town devoted to the comic book medium I’m actually in the process of fleshing out an idea and script for a graphic novel.

If you’re writing a memoir or true-life story, you might want to bookmark this Writer’s Digest guide to defamation and invasion of privacy. Guest blogger and attorney Amy Cook, who has focused on intellectual property and publishing law issues for more than 20 years, offers several constructive tips to help avoid potential lawsuits as a result of your writing that you’ll want to follow.

Texas Monthly featured an in-depth profile of author Joe R. Lansdale in its pages this past week. This was a really well-written story and an interesting look at the author. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series of books is about to debut on the small screen as a TV series March 2 on Sundance.

If you’re a writer, you are probably a procrastinator. Always putting off the writing for some other important project or another, like vacuuming the living room carpet, washing the dishes, reorganizing your book shelf, etc. The Atlantic has an interesting read about why writers are such procrastinators that you should read. Of course, the article was published in 2014 and I am just getting around to it.

Anyone watching the new BBC miniseries adaptation of War and Peace? You might want to read this story from The New Yorker. I’ve got a copy of War and Peace on my bookshelf but I’ve never read it. I’ve got the first couple of episodes of the miniseries on DVR to at least watch later.

Read any interesting articles about reading or writing lately? Share a link in the comments section.

Around the Web: Advice and trends for the writer

by G. Robert Frazier

I peruse a lot of online articles about writing and reading every day in order to further educate myself on the craft as well as stay up on recent trends. Some of the articles also provide entertaining reads. Because I’m such a swell guy, I occasionally like to share what I’ve come across in this blog. Herewith are some writing-related missives to fill your head:

I came across this interesting blog from Annie Neugebauer, who attended last year’s World Horror Con and asked some of the biggest horror authors in the game what scares them.  I have to agree with Jack Ketchum that Alzheimer’s is a scary disease to contemplate, both for the person experiencing the disease and for family members. But from a writing standpoint, losing all my stories to some computer virus or hard drive crash would rank right up there. Thank God for the Cloud!

Speaking of horror, the Horror Writers Association released its 2015 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot this week, with its members voting through February. Should be interesting to see which books rise to the top and eventually make their way to my never-ending reading list. Naturally Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams made the list, as did Clive Barker’s latest Hellraiser opus, The Scarlet Gospels, two books I am looking forward to reading.

If horror’s not your thing, the 2016 Edgar Award nominations were also announced this week. Winners will be announced at the 70th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 28.

Electric Lit featured this look at the debate about including cultural pop references in your novel versus trying to set your novel in the eternal present.

Any short story writers reading this? Here are some inspiring quotes about the art of the short story to fuel your head.

One of the most common pieces of writing advice you’ll come across is to write every day. But in this article, author Daniel Jose Older takes issue with that advice and believes that what stops more people from writing than anything else is shame. “That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be’, ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.” Older believes that “no one can tell you how to manage you’re writing process.” Everyone has to figure that out for themselves.

The Washington Post recently published an article about how used book stores are making a comeback. But author/blogger Kristen Lamb argues in a recent post that buying used essentially “robs” authors from getting paid. Salon responded that Lamb isn’t seeing the bigger picture of used book sales. As a writer, I can definitely see Lamb’s point. Writers don’t make much money as it is and for their work to be resold through used outlets with no remuneration doesn’t seem fair. But Salon’s point is also valid in that it could potentially lead someone to purchase other books in your canon. Personally, I buy new print books whenever I can as they are more presentable on my bookshelves, they don’t smell bad, and the pages are germ-free. But, from time to time, I will buy used, especially if a book is out of print or otherwise impossible to come by. I occasionally resell some books I’ve read at discounted prices on eBay, but I always try to sell them in a like new condition rather than one with bent covers, creases in the spine, or marked pages. The author might not be getting any kickback from the resale, but I don’t mind a few extra bucks going in my pocket here and there.

Finally, you know what they say about how writers should just type and not let their internal editor get in the way of their writing? That the best thing to do is just get your words down on paper as fast as you can? That a shitty first draft is to be expected? Well, here’s something else to consider: According to a research study at the University of Waterloo, if you want to improve the quality of your writing, type slower.

They may have a point, but I haven’t got time to type slower. I’ve got far too many ideas in my head that I’m trying to get down on paper. I’ll worry about prettifying my prose when I do my rewrites.

Garth Risk Hallberg, on the other hand, who wrote the giant 1,000-page City On Fire, maybe should have taken their advice to heart. If he had, maybe he could have avoided these truly cringe-worthy sentences that you just have to read to believe.

Review: Dig Two Graves a thrilling, suspense-filled debut

By G. Robert Frazier

Ethan Holt’s greatest accomplishment, winning the decathlon at the Olympics in his 20s, also proves to be his greatest undoing in Kim Powers’ thrilling, suspense-filled debut novelDig Two Graves (Tyrus Books).

Dig Two GravesNicknamed “Hercules” for pulling off the heroic task of being an Olympian, Ethan’s success on the field translates into a coveted teaching position at his ivy-school alma mater, where he’d just as soon as forget about the Olympics and get on with his life. His biggest challenge is simply relating to his teenage daughter, Skip, whose rebellious attitude tests him in more ways than any pole vault or long-distance jump ever could.

When Skip is kidnapped, Ethan realizes she is the most important thing in his life and he will do anything to get her back. To do so, however, means Ethan will have to push himself to his athletic, and academic, limits as he must solve a series of increasingly cryptic riddles and tasks at the behest of the kidnapper.

Read the rest of this review at Killer Nashville.