Recent Editing Projects

•   Click here for more info »


( No Comments )

Just Whose Story Is It? by Mark de Castrique

November 17, 2014 by  •
Very pleased to welcome Mark de Castrique to the blog. Mark is the author of two series—one featuring funeral director Barry Clayton, the other featuring former Chief Warrant Officer Sam Blackman—both of which draw heavily on their setting in the Appalachian Mountains. Today Mark is here to talk about just whose story an author is really telling. His latest novel, Risky Undertaking, is out now from Poisoned Pen Press.

Mark de CastriqueThanks to Elizabeth for letting me guest blog. I’d like to reflect upon what sounds like a simple question – one I ask myself with every novel: just whose story is it?

When I started my first series, I had a character and setting – Barry Clayton, funeral director in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Since my father had been a funeral director, I used some of his stories and my own imaginings of what it would be like to be in that profession to blend the “what was” and “what might have been” into a family story.

But as the writing process evolved and fictional events unfolded, the characters’ paths diverged from my original intentions and characters became whom they needed to become, distinct and individual entities. A friend of mine, writer Robert Inman, remarks that he knows he’s in his most productive zone when his characters start talking to him. I need to take it a step farther. I know my story has grown beyond me when my characters start talking to each other. It is no longer my story; it is my characters’ story.

Sometimes a story creates a new cast because the premise isn’t right for the ensemble of characters who have already come into being. My first experience with this change of “ownership” occurred when an elderly friend told me about his journey through the Jim Crow South transporting a body from Asheville to North Georgia. When he was ten, he and his father, both white, aided an African-American funeral director who had only a horse and wagon.

( 3 Comments )

Bullet Gal Graphic Novel Kickstarter Campaign

November 14, 2014 by  •
Andrez BergenIt’s no secret that I love the hell out of anything and everything Andrez Bergen is involved with—his novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (TSMG) is one of my all-time favorite reads. Now, following the smashing success of his Kickstarter campaign for Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat: The Graphic Novel, the amazingly creative Andrez is back with another killer graphic novel Kickstarter.

This time, Andrez is doing something very cool with his serialized, twelve-part comic, Bullet Gal. I’ll let him explain more:

Doing the Bullet Gal comic book was surprisingly liberating after four back-to-back novels, and it gave me a better chance to really hone in on the hardboiled, crime and film noir influences that shaped my brain as a kid. Being able to tweak these visually as well as through the story arc and rapid-fire dialogue was a joy.

Of course, things never turn out simple. These influences were then folded and shoved into a dirty sock drawer with mischief-makers like sci-fi, slapstick and superhero derring-do.

I didn’t expect the combination to work so well, or for it to get such positive feedback from people outside my own head space. And once I wrapped issue 12, finalizing a story around 280 pages in total length, I felt kind of sad. I’m going to miss this place. A sizable part of me is itching to get back in there! — AB

( 4 Comments )

Dedications by Benjamin Whitmer

October 13, 2014 by  •
Some authors tell made-up stories. Others tell about real life, it just happens to be in the form of a made-up story. Benjamin Whitmer is definitely one of the latter. His first novel, Pike, is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read; it easily made my Top 10 of 2011. So, it will come as no surprise to anyone who read Pike that Whitmer’s latest offering, Cry Father, not only builds on that first success, but takes it to another level. What many may not know, however, is the powerful, and sad, story behind something as seemingly simple as the book’s dedication.

Benjamin WhitmerI think about the dedications to my books a lot. I probably overthink them. They’re one of those things I can’t stop thinking about once I get started.

I was pretty proud of the original dedication to Cry Father. It was this:

For my children, with all my apologies. And for my parents, with the same.

If Cry Father is about anything, it’s about the failures of fathers and sons. And if I know about anything, it’s failure on those two fronts.

Also, it acknowledged that I have no right to claim any moral superiority over my characters. (Thinking about whether you think you’re better than your own characters is the kind of dipshit thing only somebody seriously prone to overthinking could do.)

But, then, last July, while editing Cry Father, one of my best and oldest friends, Paul Schenck, was killed in his house by a SWAT sniper.

( No Comments )

Characters, Violence and Shadows: Why I Write by Brandon Daily

October 3, 2014 by  •
Brandon Daily and his debut novel, A Murder Country, came to my attention via Grant Jerkins (The Ninth Step, At the End of the Road, A Very Simple Crime). Now, given that every book Jerkins has written has made my “Year’s Best” list the year it was published, I really didn’t need anything more than his recommendation to let me know A Murder Country was a book I needed to get my hands on ASAP. But you know what? Jerkins’s enthusiastic endorsement aside, A Murder Country—a story of violence, vengeance and the search for redemption in late nineteenth century Appalachian backwoods and small towns—stands just fine on its own two feet. My review will be forthcoming, but I wanted to go ahead and let Brandon introduce himself and tell you a little about the book and how he came to write it.

Brandon DailyThe other day, a parent of one of my students (I’m a high school English and Literature teacher) came up to me. She smiled and said, “I finished reading your book, and loved it” (this of course made me smile in return, and I thanked her for the kind words). But then her face grew serious and she asked, in the most straightforward tone I could imagine: “What happened in your childhood to make you write this?” I laughed at first, thinking it was a joke, but then stopped myself short when I realized her true concern. “Nothing,” I said. “I had a great childhood.” (And that’s true.) She smiled, said “Good,” and then shook her head. “But the book’s so dark, though. Where’d it come from?” I could only shrug my shoulders at the question.

Since then, I’ve thought a great deal about her question. Where did it come from? She’s right; my first novel, A Murder Country, is incredibly dark and serious. Unrelentingly so. The book is set in late 19th century Appalachia and is full of death and pain, vengeance and sadness marked with only the faintest glimmer of hope (if any). But that is not who I am as a public or even private person.

To meet me, I am kind and polite, fun and goofy—at least I try to be—but my stories (besides A Murder Country, I have had several short stories and plays published online and in print) are all marked with the same dark and serious intensity. Where does that depth of angst come from? The answer is simple, and I think it applies to all narratives (all forms) that carry any kind of purpose. The pain comes from the buried and repressed parts of our psyche. Every person has these questions and thoughts trapped within his/her mind, but there are only a few people who actually look into that psychological darkness and try to understand—or at least explain—it. (Call it bravery or stupidity, I don’t think there’s a difference.) I am one of these people.

( 4 Comments )

Life’s A Blog And Then You Die by Kevin Lynn Helmick

September 30, 2014 by  •
My editing schedule has me behind the eight ball somewhat on reading for pleasure, and subsequent reviews, but one of the books hovering at the top of the stack waiting for review is The Rain King by Kevin Lynn Helmick. I adored Kevin’s novella Driving Alone, and didn’t want him to have to wait for my review in order to give him a platform to help get the word out about his newest release. Hence, Kevin’s very honest guest post today about what blogging can feel like from the perspective of a writer still trying to make their figurative bones.

Kevin Lynn HelmickNot a big blogger. I have one of my own, but I rarely post anything on it. I think for me it’s mostly a place to vent and bitch my frustrations, which is why I avoid it altogether. And self-promotion—that fucking god-awful masturbatory necessity we little-known writers need to gain Google presence and get some attention to our soon to be doomed into nonexistence novels and short stories. Here today, gone tomorrow. Oh well.

Of course you have “the ranters,” the keepers of all that’s right and wrong with writing, publishing, editing, and how to do this, how to do that. Those fuckers love seeing themselves write, and none seem to have a best-selling anything. But every now and then their heads swell with praise from their followers—their 600 sheeple—and their mouths get big enough for a big ol’ boot to fit in…and they do; they choke on it once in awhile. But they’re only blogs, and there’s a safe distance between a fist and black eye there.

I say, what’s so wrong with getting a shiner when your mouth gets out of hand? It’s how we used to learn our social graces. I’ve seen a well-followed blog get too many, ‘Oh, yer so right, couldn’t have said better, once again, yer the greatest,’ and pow, out of nowhere, they decide they can do no wrong and they spew out an opinion so stupid, and so negative, that might involve another—who’s just a little bit better informed on whatever subject, and maybe they have ten times the followers—and, rabid bunch they can be, the fists start flying.

Wait. I kinda feel like I’m doing that now. Actually the only thing that gets flying are words, and that’s too bad. Usually the dumbass who started it shuts right up and publicly reports that they refuse to read their counterpoint rebuttal, their deserved E-shiner. Internet shiners come in the form of insults and attacks on the other’s writing. Which stings a bit, but doesn’t teach us much. Not like a good old fashioned fist in the face. Those are hard to say, ‘No, I won’t lower myself’ to.

But what of it? It passes soon enough, and everyone is on to the next and latest end of the world or whatever drama that pops up.

( No Comments )

Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken

September 22, 2014 by  •
“I can almost stand the bodies, even when they’re in pieces, but when they burn them…” – Matías Segura

Matías Segura, a member of the Policía Federal Ministerial in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has seen more than his share of dead bodies. From gang members gunned down in the streets in broad daylight to mass graves and scenes of unspeakable torture and brutality, dealing with the carnage that flows from the Mexican drug trade has become a part of Segura’s daily routine.

Just across the border in El Paso, Texas, Detective Cristina Salas is all too aware of the atrocities occurring far to close to home for comfort. When in the course of her work with the El Paso Gang Unit she learns of a possible connection between the notorious Mexico-based Barrio Aztecas and gang activity in her city, she is determined to do whatever it takes to make sure El Paso doesn’t become another Ciudad Juárez-style killing field.

Caught in the middle is Felipe “Flip” Morales, a minor criminal who ended up in prison when one of his crimes took a turn for the unexpectedly serious with devastating results. Unfortunately for Flip, while in prison he became indebted to the Barrio Aztecas, who provided Flip with protection from the other gangs inside. Now free from confinement, Flip is far from free of the hold the Aztecas have on him. Though he has the support of a loving mother and the inspiration of a new girlfriend to fuel his desire to go straight, the Aztecas have other ideas for Flip’s future.

( 2 Comments )

Banned Books Week 2014: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 21, 2014 by  •
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to ReadToday is the start of Banned Books Week 2014:

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.”

For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, visit their official website.
( 2 Comments )

The Night Visitor by Dianne Emley

September 19, 2014 by  •
Dianne EmleyWe’re part of you, whether you like it or not.

Up-and-coming artist Junior Lara returns home one night to find all the windows open and his loft apartment filled with doves. As he makes his way through the dark rooms shooing the birds out and closing widows behind them, a deep feeling of unease overtakes him as he realizes something very wrong has occurred—all of his canvases are in tatters, ripped to shreds.

When he slips in a patch of something wet, but disturbingly sticky, Junior barely has time to comprehend he’s stepped in the blood of his girlfriend, supermodel Anya Langtry, whose lifeless eyes stare up at him from the floor, before he has a terrible sense of falling…and everything goes black.

And with that wonderfully eerie, atmospheric opening, The Night Visitor, the newest offering from LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley, is off and running.

Fast forward five years, where we learn Junior survived being shot in the head that night…if you call being in a persistent vegetative state surviving. We also learn that his girlfriend was an illicit one, and that in fact Junior had been engaged to Anya’s sister, Rory, at the time. The police have long since written off the events that occurred that evening as a murder/failed suicide, a theory that Rory and Anya’s family agrees with. Junior’s family, on the other hand, believes it was Rory who shot both Anya and Junior in a jealous rage upon learning of their affair.

Under the skilled and nuanced storytelling of Emley, the reader is taken on a journey that reveals the truth to be far more complicated that anyone could possibly have imagined.

( 10 Comments )

A Writer Wastes Nothing by Dianne Emley

September 17, 2014 by  •
Very happy to welcome LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley back to the blog. Well-known for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills) and Iris Thorne mysteries (Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover), Dianne’s new standalone novel, The Night Visitor, was released yesterday. Today she explains how writers mine even the most painful of life events for use in their creative material.

Dianne Emley“A writer wastes nothing,” a saying that’s attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, may not be true for all writers, but it’s true for me. It’s especially pertinent to my new standalone novel, The Night Visitor, which was released yesterday. It’s a tale of love, murder, corrosive family secrets, and the inexplicable mysteries of the human heart and mind. It was inspired by a tragic period in my life.

The protagonist of The Night Visitor is Rory Langtry, a young socialite and business executive who may have murdered her twin sister and shot her fiancé, Junior Lara, making it look a murder/suicide. Junior survived but has been minimally conscious and in a hospital subacute unit for years. He’s still accused of murdering Rory’s sister. While Rory has gone on with her life, Junior’s family maintains that she’s the shooter, protected from justice by her wealthy family.

As Junior finally nears death, Rory begins to have inexplicable visions and sensations—some terrifying, some wonderful—of things that only Junior could know and feel. She comes to the frightening conclusion that Junior has opened a mind/body connection with her and she’s doomed to die with him unless she can find a way out. Has Junior attached himself to Rory as a way of enlisting her help to find the real murderer before he dies or is Rory, consumed by guilt, losing her mind?

So, what prompted me to make a minimally conscious man a major character in a book? The short answer is: I know Junior’s world and its unique heartaches because something similar happened to my father and I felt compelled to tell the story.

( No Comments )

How To Survive The Munitions That Underlie Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth by Andrez Bergen

September 15, 2014 by  •
It’s always a pleasure to welcome author Andrez Bergen to the blog. You can catch up on all things Bergen that have previously appeared on the blog by clicking here. Today, Andrez is here to riff on the potpourri of inspiration that went into the creation of his latest novel, the amazing Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth.

Andrez BergenThe best feedback to my latest novel, published in July? A mate said it was like The Catcher in the Rye — for girls. I can certainly live with that.

But this is also a yarn that additionally throws in a murder mystery, a sprinkling of gothic horror, surrealism, and dialogue heavily influenced by both Raymond Chandler and Angela Carter. I’m hardly claiming the strength and agility of any of these — yet there you go.

One of the things I like to do in my books is lob in hundreds of additional nods and the occasional homage to things I dig and cherish, or that may have had a role in developing my peculiar psyche.

Some of this fodder is just plain obscure, and Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is no stranger to these things.

I’m therefore going to skim the surface here, in order to give prospective readers a vague idea of what to expect in the book between the lines — and if you have read it, these tarnished nuggets may add flavour.

For starters, the old truck in which Mina hitches a ride — a World War Two era, canvas-backed General Motors lorry — featured in The Great Escape. It has the license plate ‘JJZ-109’, which was the number plate on Steve McQueen’s Mustang in Bullitt. Hip-hop DJ Clive Campbell is a direct reference to DJ Kool Herc (same real name), considered by many to be the ‘father’ of hip-hop.

Much of the new novel focus on music, especially that created in the 1980s. When creating character names, I couldn’t resist the winks. Margaret’s boyfriend Danny Murphy is an amalgam of Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash, the singer and guitarist from British gothic rock band Bauhaus, while Mina’s form teacher Roslyn Williams spins out of Rozz Williams, who formed American band Christian Death in 1979. Glenda Matlock, the school counsellor, comes from Glen Matlock, the Sex Pistols’ original bass player before Sid Vicious joined the band. Police constables Copeland and Andie Summers are based on members of The Police — the band — namely Stewart Copeland (drums) and Andy Summers (guitar).

( No Comments )

Always Judge A Book By Its Movie Poster by David James Keaton

September 12, 2014 by  •
Pleased today to welcome David James Keaton back to the blog. Those in the crime fiction community will no doubt know David from his work in places like Noir At The Bar, Beat To A Pulp, Needle, Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey and Thuglit, among others. His collection of short stories, Fish Bites Cop!, was well received by both readers and critics alike. Today, David is here to talk about the evolution of the cover for his newest release, The Last Projector (Broken River Books – October 31, 2014).

David James Keaton“Always judge a book by its cover.” – Dave’s dad.

So Broken River Books recently unveiled the cover art for my upcoming novel, The Last Projector, and since it’s gotten such a great response (the cover, I mean) and I’ve fielded more than a few email inquiries about the artist and the strange cover concept, and because Elizabeth White has a great venue for these kinda guest musings I figured I’d throw down some back story for the curious on this artwork’s long, strange journey to completion.

Initially, because of the novel’s obsessions with movies and videos, when J. David Osborne and I brainstormed ideas, we considered a schematic for a film projector, like one of those exploded blueprints, and/or some sort of swirl of videotape. I was also a big fan of Matthew Revert’s cover of Stephen Graham Jones’ The Last Final Girl and how it had those seams on the image to remind people of the traditional “four-sheets” from the heyday of movie posters.

This started me thinking less about the more obvious “projector” idea and more about movie posters. Because thinking about movie posters is way more fun. So we talked and talked about how we thought movie posters had taken a nosedive as far as creativity, almost always cashing in on the fame of the star with what I called the typical “giant famous head” design (see any Tom Cruise film for examples of this). But before the invasion of the heads, movie posters were amazing.

Also affecting the design was Broken River’s new venture into hardcovers. Mr. Osborne wanted this to be their first hardcover, and thought of this release as more of event, a more collectable work of art. Not to take away from his distinct paperback covers, and the Matthew Revert designs for their first dozen publications which had already made their own splash. He just thought a hardcover should look a little different to justify its existence. And I had fond memories of dust jackets that were almost as action-packed as those movie posters way back when.

Well, maybe some softer scenery, and maybe not quite the heroic poses, but there definitely used to be a lot more going on, wasn’t there? Looking around at my ‘70’s and ‘80’s hardcovers, Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline and The Great Santini had a movie poster feel, I thought, even though it was more respectable heads leading the charge in the image rather than war-torn, cigar-chomping soldiers or grizzled cops. V.C. Andrews covers were fun, too, with those die-cut false fronts and the spooky faces waiting behind them like an evil curtain call, the art casting weird shadows, like they had flashlights under their chins ready to scare you over the campfire. Stephen King’s hardcover for The Shining was a good example, too, although at some point publishers must have realized his name was all they needed.