LA Times Festival of Books 2017

The amazing Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will be here THIS weekend, April 22 and 23 at USC. I look forward to this event all year because it gives me the chance to hang out with a few of my favorite crime and mystery writers—and discover many more along the way. This year I’ll be doing three signings on Saturday, April 22:

  • Sisters in Crime—Booth #367 (10am to noon)
  • Rare Bird Books—Booth #125 (noon to 1pm)
  • Mystery Writers of America—Booth #377 (4pm to 5pm)

I’ll also be doing some recording for an upcoming episode of the Writer Types podcast that I co-host with Eric Beetner.

So if you’re at the event, come find me!

More info about the LA Times Festival of Books.

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S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Interrogation: Eric Beetner

Eric Author photo SMWho: Eric Beetner

What: Author of RUMRUNNERS, THE DEVIL DOESN’T WANT ME, DIG TWO GRAVES, WHITE HOT PISTOL, THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES, STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD & the story collection, A BOUQUET OF BULLETS. He is co-author (with JB Kohl) of the novels ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD and BORROWED TROUBLE and the upcoming OVER THEIR HEADS. He co-wrote the upcoming THE BLACKLIST with author Frank Zafiro. He has also written two novellas in the popular Fightcard series, SPLIT DECISION and A MOUTH FULL OF BLOOD.

Where: He lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts the Noir At The Bar reading series.

How long have you been writing? What/where was the first thing you published?

I’ve been writing in earnest since high school, though when I started writing it was screenplays and stage plays. I had an honorable mention in some young playwrights thing for a play I wrote in high school (which was terrible) and instead of a college essay, I wrote a script. It worked, I guess, since I got in.

rumrunnersI took one screenwriting class in college, which I didn’t care for. I wrote all the movies I made in college and finished my first feature script my junior year. Since then I wrote 17 full features and even made a few bucks along the way, although nothing I wrote ever got made other than a mid-length film I directed myself which played festivals.

I never thought I had the patience or the eye for detail to do a novel. Plus, I was just too movie obsessed. When I wrote my first novel in 2008 I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it since I wasn’t sure I would finish and I didn’t want to be that guy. But I did and I kept going from there. (that book, however, is permanently in the drawer, never to be seen. Trust me, it’s for the best)

Your new novel, RUMRUNNERS, is out in May 2015. The publisher, 280 Steps, describes it as “Smokey and the Bandit meets Justified and Fargo…” Is that an accurate description?

I love that they came up with that, and yes, I think it suits the book. People often tell me I’m funny when I write and I think it has that gallows humor I put in very unintentionally. It just sneaks in, I guess.

And yes there are car chases and explosions of violence, so I think the description fits quite well.

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@LA_SMB – BROODWORK

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Who: BROODWORK

What: A for profit, cross-disciplinary, social practice to investigate the interweaving of creative practice and family life founded by Rebecca Niederlander and Iris Anna Regn

Where: Based in Los Angeles

When: Founded in 2009

@LA_SMB is an occasional series showcasing some of the coolest small and medium-sized businesses from around the Los Angeles area.

A lot has been said about the intersection of art and commerce, but what about the intersection of art and family life?

This is the focus for BROODWORK, who have pursued this question through extensive work with creative institutions including OTIS College of Art and Design, The Santa Monica Museum of Art,  Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Design, and the Herman Miller Company.

“The convergence of family and practice is recognized by BROODWORK as a pivotal influence to produce profound and unexpected work,” said Regn. “How do we navigate extended families, transcontinental family extensions, the aging parent, the empty nest?  Each of these stages of family life, and each way a creative person approaches them is a part of what we address in BROODWORK.”

The following interview was conducted by email. Some of the responses have been edited.

@LA_SMB: What was the inspiration for BROODWORK?

I.A.R.: The project came together when Rebecca and I were relatively new parents. For a Sundown Salon at Fritz Haeg’s called The Young Ones, visual artist Joyce Campbell and I co-organized an event about the work creative parents make for their children. I had work in the show with Tim Durfee, and also asked Rebecca to participate.

In discussions afterwards, Rebecca and I continued to examine parenthood and how it affected our professional life. We realized that we were intrigued by the influence of parenting on creative work, but specifically from the parents perspective. Those conversations were the beginning of BROODWORK.

@LA_SMB: How has your business grown and evolved since you first opened your doors?

R.E.N.: We’ve become even more clear about the importance for BROODWORK to reach audiences outside of our initial creative and familial community. Public art is a great framework for this because it allows us to bring our message to a wide and diverse population. It also allows us to actively engage with the city.

As such, we are delighted to announce our participation as part of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s “The Next Starts Now” pre-approved artists list for 2014-2016, so expect to see more public art in our County that reflects the family model. We are also collaborating with other like-minded artists including Christa Donner of Cultural ReProducers in Chicago and Jill Miller of ArtReach in the Bay Area in a new group called C3. We see these collaborations as critical to the furthering of our mission.

@LA_SMB: Why do so many artists find it hard to keep producing once they start families?

R.E.N.: Two things: One, because the existing models of creative practice are often all about giving 100% to the work. But I am a more productive artist now that I have a kid. I know that the time I have must be spent doing specific work. I often tell people though, that the early years are really only a tiny piece of the years of a creative practice. Once babies are in pre-school, and then kids in elementary school one has much more time.

This leads to the second thing, and a thing that BROODWORK does much advocacy for, flexible work time. The ongoing discussion we all have about work time flexibility, and the need for companies to acknowledge that telecommuting and flextime make for happier and more productive people would help creative families quite a bit.

@LA_SMB: Where will Broodwork be in 5 years?

I.A.R.: For one thing, we are working on a book. We expect to continue supporting the community we named in even greater capacity. Before we founded BROODWORK, we had – together or separately – worked with many of the City of LA’s agencies including Department of Cultural Affairs, Metro Arts, Los Angeles World Airports, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, as well as most major local museums, and many universities, colleges, high schools, and elementary schools.  BROODWORK requires the ability to negotiate multiple methodologies, and use them to solve problems.

R.E.N.: This business has always existed outside the normal parameters of either a non-profit, the regular for-profit business, and a not-for-profit social practice within the art world. We are constantly defining and exploring with others how to be both socially responsible and fiscally strong. We expect that as the larger nomenclature of how business gets done expands, our model will become more of the norm. At least that is what we are working for, as this will be better for all and allow us to continue to support our families and our communities.

@LA_SMB: Why is your business a perfect fit for Los Angeles?

I.A.R.: Los Angeles County is an incredibly open place; we both came to Los Angeles in the mid-90s, and fell in love with all of the ways in which possibility manifests itself here. This openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things, which attracted us initially, continues to inspire us today. We imagine Los Angeles like a strong teenager, full of adventure and the belief that anything is possible. We’re honored to participate in shaping the region’s future.

R.E.N.: Since we are both transplants to Los Angeles, neither of us have any extended family within even this time zone, so we have worked to make a community amongst trusted friends and neighbors. Our experience is a common one here, where immigration is the norm and urban streets are often named for the crops that grew there as recently as 50 years ago. When we say we see city as an extension of family, it is about inspired connections amongst former strangers.

As a practice that continually explores the relationship between the professional life and the personal, BROODWORK continues to learn from how Angelinos navigate this terrain. We don’t think we would have invented this practice anywhere else.

@LA_SMB: What unique challenges does BROODWORK face?

R.E.N.: BROODWORK has now existed for five years influencing and encouraging this familial connection, and fostering an advantageous communal space that will stimulate innovation in others. Given the breadth of what we do, we find that a multi-layered community-based model that includes talking, blogging, designing, site-specific object creation, event-making, and curatorial installations works well. The diverse modalities of this project provide BROODWORK with a unique ability to bring together disparate communities through this lens of Family.

I.A.R.: BROODWORK is founded in the notion that family has a distinct place in making creative work. We see what is off-handedly referred to as an impediment to making good work as an inspirational and democratic impetus to creativity. Our works is focused primarily on adults and we are correspondingly family friendly, a fact which sometimes gets misunderstood as programming for children.

REN: Indeed! We often get requests to do programming just for children, and we usually decline those.  When a proposal is about promoting the intergenerational community, then we get excited!

Previous @LA_SMB post: Jeffrey Weber – Stark Raving Group

Steve Coulter is a marketing guy, writer and drummer living in Los Angeles.

If you have suggestions for future @LA_SMB features, please send Steve a message on LinkedIn. Include the name of the business, a short description and a link to their website. Steve is a one-man band, please keep it brief and expect a slow response.

Full disclosure: Steve is friends with and/or has worked with many of the businesses featured, at least for now. Thank you for reading to the bottom of the page.

@LA_SMB – Stark Raving Group

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Who: Jeffrey Weber, founder of Stark Raving Group, along with three part-time employees and a dozen freelancers on a project by project basis

What: Purveyor of short novels by NY Times bestselling authors, Pulitzer Prize winners and other award winning authors

Where: Virtual offices, based in Los Angeles

When: Founded in 2013

@LA_SMB is an occasional series showcasing some of the coolest small and medium-sized businesses from around the Los Angeles area.

The novella may not be a dominant literary art form these days, but Jeffrey Weber is aiming to change that.

A successful music producer and avid reader, Weber founded Stark Raving Group in response to a couple of big challenges that he sees facing the publishing industry – books are too expensive and consumers have less and less time to read.

“Regardless of what publishers and authors will tell you about publishing, the public has their own opinions. And they differ markedly from the publishing industry,” Weber said. “The public may love to read, but who has time to sit down and read four hundred and fifty pages.”

Stark Raving sells all of its 25,000-35,000 word novellas for $2.99 each and today boasts a roster of eighty-five authors. Weber believes that this approach will help to “re-ignite the love and thirst for reading” by offering quality writing in several genres including mysteries, crime fiction, action/adventure, thrillers, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, horror, women’s literature, romance and non-fiction.

“We treat the authors with respect, dignity and value their input. We’re partners in the truest sense of the word,” Weber said. “By 2020, we expect to have close to one thousand authors on our roster and will be publishing more than 200 books per year.”

The following interview was conducted via email. Some responses have been edited.

@LA_SMB: Why novellas and not novels?

J.W.: Novellas can supply the entire arc of the reading experience in a shorter time frame – one that’s designed to fit into the lifestyle of today’s society. The great thing about a novella is that once you complete a novella, you want to jump right into another one. When you finish a lengthy novel, you are satisfied, to be sure, but you want to catch your breath and take a breather. With a novella, you can pack all the intrigue, romance, capers, and action into an hour or two and feel re-energized. You’ve just gone on a mini vacation.

@LA_SMB: Why is cover design such an important part of your business?

J.W.: I have specifically commissioned illustrators that work, for the most part, outside the book industry. Our covers are bold, colorful, over the top, compelling, in your face, aggressive, and yet inviting. We have illustrators from Madison Avenue, the music industry, the comic book world and many of our illustrators are simply legends. The purpose of the cover is to make a consumer stop in his tracks and focus on the book long enough to pick it up or find out more about the title. That we are publishing ebooks only makes the impact of a cover even more important. The cover represents the front door of our house. If the front door of our house looks terrible, it’s a good bet that the rest of the house looks like crap.

@LA_SMB: How has your experience as a music producer informed your approach to publishing?

J.W.: What I have taken from my experience from the music industry is the need to activate the peer to peer recommendation engine. That has become the only way to sell music, and by and large it is becoming the only way to sell books. As with the music industry, you can have your book available to anyone on the planet with a smart phone or computer within three weeks. You don’t necessarily need a publisher. That’s not the battle anymore. The war is to rise above the “noise” (32 million songs on iTunes and who knows how many millions of books are available on Amazon) and grab the attention of the consumer to somehow convert his attention, his interest into a purchase.

@LA_SMB: What are the similarities and differences between the music and publishing industries?

J.W.: Music and books are products of a creative mind and designed to take the participant on a journey. Both take extravagant amounts of time to create and often the road to their creation is tortuous and yet cathartic at the same time. A great song can be listened to hundreds of times, and to a lesser extent, so can books. There is a certain rhythm to all music, and the reason we love a specific type of music is that the rhythm of our bodies is sympathetic to the rhythm of the songs we love. There is also a rhythm to writing, and if that rhythm matches the rhythm of the reader’s imagination, then the journey of the reader and the writer merge and are propelled to intense satisfaction.

@LA_SMB: What challenges is your industry facing?

J.W.: Awareness is our biggest challenge. Competition for the time, energy, focus and money from the consumer is all encompassing, and in order for us to succeed, we have to be aware of the fact that we have become a niche based society. Within that niche is a very powerful community, and within that community is purchasing power. Awareness and access represent our challenges.

@LA_SMB: Why is your business a perfect fit for Los Angeles?

J.W.: Because we fit in with the pace of L.A. Lots of choices, quality at every turn, and extremely cost effective.

Previous @LA_SMB post: Greg Danylyshyn – Go Big! Entertainment

Steve Coulter is a marketing guy, writer and drummer living in Los Angeles.

If you have suggestions for future @LA_SMB features, please send Steve a message on LinkedIn. Include the name of the business, a short description and a link to their website. Steve is a one-man band, please keep it brief and expect a slow response.

Full disclosure: Steve is friends with and/or has worked with many of the businesses featured, at least for now. Thank you for reading to the bottom of the page.

 

@LA_SMB – Table One Marketing

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@LA_SMB is an occasional series showcasing some of the coolest small and medium-sized businesses from around the Los Angeles area.

Who: Table One Marketing – Carrie KommersPresident

What: A one woman culinary marketing consultancy

Where: Los Angeles

When: Founded in 2011

Clients: The Culinary AgencyVisit CaliforniaChefsInsight.com

Carrie Kommers wanted to have her cake and eat it too.

Image“I love the food world in a big way and wanted to be a part of it without working nights and weekends,” she said.

A former pastry chef and caterer, Kommers set off on a marketing, brand management and PR path early in her career. In 2007 she became the founding Director for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s dineLA program, where she stayed until she opened Table One Marketing in 2011.

These days, Kommers enjoys a healthy stream of referral business while always prospecting for new opportunities.

“Over the last few years I’ve been able to better target initiatives and companies that intrigue me, and pitch my value in a way that allows me to do the work that I’m most interested in,” she said. “I think the universe has an idea of what I love and just keeps it coming.”

The following interview was conducted via email. Some responses have been edited.

@LA_SMB: Why is Table One Marketing a perfect fit for Los Angeles?

Carrie Kommers: Los Angeles is a food city. It’s one of the things we do best. And the culture is deepening beyond just restaurants and events. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this growth? It’s thrilling.

@LA_SMB: What is the most unique thing about your business?

C.K.: The “culinary marketing” space is slowly becoming more crowded, but I feel like I was at the front of it in LA. My business is me – my relationships, my perspective, my creativity. There may be others wanting to serve the same needs, but there’s only one of me. It’s up to the client to decide if that’s valuable or not.

@LA_SMB: Who are your partners?

C.K.: Great question. Collaboration is huge in what I do and “clients” often end up being other agencies or freelancers who need to diversify and add fire-power to their deliverables. My most valuable partners are those who are curious to see what else is possible and like to try new things.

@LA_SMB: What is the most gratifying thing about being a small business owner

C.K.: Spending most of my time in jeans and sneakers. That and being able to make choices about the nature of work I want to do and the people I want to do it with. At the end of the day I’m ultimately responsible for my own happiness and that’s pretty cool.

@LA_SMB: What is the hardest thing about being a small business owner?

C.K.: Always cultivating new prospects, regardless of how slammed you are.

@LA_SMB: Where will Table One Marketing be 5 years from now?

C.K.: In five years there will be more structure to the Table One brand. There will be one, possibly two, internal business entities that Table One will develop and own on a b2b platform.

@LA_SMB: What challenges is your industry facing?

C.K.: Too many options. Restaurants, food festivals, you name it. LA is saturated in culinary culture right now. It’s great for consumers, but tough for operators and promoters who need to capture and HOLD attention. In LA many diners consider themselves “regulars” at a restaurant they may only actually patronize a few times a year. There are just so many choices. I feel like the evolution of local restaurant concepts have shifted to address this – smaller, more accessible and more tied to a neighborhood than a city. Hyper local. On a different note, the state’s drought is killing operators when it comes to food costs. Profit margins have always been slim in this business, but it’s going to be interesting to see how most adjust to stay afloat.

@LA_SMB: What’s next for you?

C.K.: A b2b initiative that I’ve had in my heart since I left dineLA in 2011. It’s the reason I went out on my own and it’s been a bear to build. I’m not giving up though.

Previous @LA_SMB post: Ed Donnelly – Aderra Inc.

Steve Coulter is a marketing guy, writer and drummer living in Los Angeles.

If you have suggestions for future @LA_SMB features, please send Steve a message on LinkedIn. Include the name of the business, a short description and a link to their website. Steve is a one man band, please keep it brief and expect a slow response.

Full disclosure: Steve is friends with and/or has worked with many of the businesses featured, at least for now. Thank you for reading to the bottom of the page.