Back It Up!

IMG_5761Everything was perfect. My family was going on a long road trip without me while I started a new job. The plan was to spend every minute of free time working on my second novel—sequel to the forthcoming BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION. This meant a lot of late nights and early mornings for a week-and-a-half. It also included an ambitious “10,000 word Saturday” during which I wrote 8,000 words over the course of 12 hours. Not bad for a hunt-and-peck guy.

I had sketched out some test chapters a few months earlier, but decided to start from scratch. I typed word one of the first chapter as my wife and kids pulled out of the driveway. The word count was at 28,000 when I left that Friday to join them for the final weekend of their trek.

I woke up on Monday morning and posted an author Q&A on this blog and left for work, like usual. Everything was fine, until my wife texted me later that afternoon to say that “something was wrong with the computer.” I rebooted the MacBook after dinner that night only to be greeted by the news that my hard drive had crashed and needed to be rebuilt. Almost all of my photos, music and documents are backed up in various ways, but a search for my new manuscript revealed that I was going to need some serious help. That was the one document that I never managed to save to the cloud.

Luckily, a close friend is an IT guy at a local university. He assured me that he had successfully saved files in similar situations many times before. After a couple of days of doing his damnedest, he texted to say that he was handing my machine over to some experts at work. By the end of the week he told me that he was enlisting the help of a company in Studio City called “$300 Data Recovery”. Guess how much it cost to have them extract my data?

Wrong! $382.

Right now I’m sitting at my desk, waiting for the external hard drive with my recovered data to arrive. The drive in my MacBook had crashed so hard that most of the files they recovered no longer had names. The only hope I have is that one of the hundred or so anonymous Word documents might be my manuscript.

I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out, but in the meantime please be smarter than me and back up all of your files. Regularly.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Interrogation: Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara
Who: Naomi Hirahara

Where: Pasadena, CA

What: Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series including SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, GASA-GASA GIRL, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, BLOOD HINA and STRAWBERRY YELLOW.  Her new mystery series, MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE, features a female twentysomething LAPD bicycle cop and was released with Berkley Prime Crime in spring 2014. Her next in the series, A GRAVE ON GRAND AVENUE, will be released in April 2015. She also has penned a middle-grade novel, 1001 CRANES, which was chosen as an Honor Book for the Youth Literature of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in 2009.

Interview conducted by email. Some answers have been edited.

Big BachiI just finished SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI and found Mas Arai to be one of the most interesting and original mystery heroes I have encountered. How did you develop that character?

My father and other Japanese American men like him were the inspiration behind Mas Arai. The Sixties and Seventies were the heyday of the Japanese American gardener in Southern California. That many of them, unknown to their customers and strangers, had these amazing experiences was the impetus to make them heroes of a detective story.  Of course, since many gardeners were born in the US but raised in Japan, language was not their strong suit. My challenge is to move the unfamiliar reader into Mas’s world. The mystery genre turned out to be the perfect container to build these stories.

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Interrogation: Ian Rose of QuarterReads.com

ian roseWho: Ian Rose — Author and founder of QuarterReads.com, “a new way to buy and sell short writing.”

Where: Portland

What: QuarterReads is a lightly curated market for short writing. When a writer submits their work to QuarterReads, it is reviewed by a human reader for technical quality. Each story on QuarterReads costs one quarter, 25 U.S. cents. Readers who sign up with QuarterReads pay $5.00 for 20 reads. Every time they decide to read a story, the reader spends one of their reads. Of that 25 cents, 22 are paid into the writer’s account.

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I think it’s important that people know QuarterReads was founded by a writer. Let’s start there. How long have you been writing and publishing?

I’ve been writing all my life, and publishing in the broadest sense since about 2007. That’s when I first had someone else publish something I had written, an embarrassingly clunky poem on a great little poetry site called Chantarelle’s Notebook. It was another few years before I got paid for a story, and it took me until this year to publish my first pro-paid story, a short in Daily Science Fiction. I write very part-time, and probably always will.

What is the last thing you published?

The last thing I published was a story called “You Wouldn’t Download a Mom” in the June/July issue of Plasma Frequency – they’re a great market that has been working hard to pay their writers more. It’s the story of a girl trying to replace her mother and realizing that as she ages, her concept of motherhood and family has changed.

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New Short Story Up on QuarterReads.com

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So I stumbled across this interesting website on Twitter. It’s called QuarterReads and it’s a NEW market for short fiction.

As the name implies, all the short stories posted there can be read for twenty-five cents (but readers have to buy credits in $10 blocks).

I was so taken with the concept that I submitted a short story, “Town Car,” which is now live. The first taste is free:

The young driver stood near the baggage carousel, shuffling his wingtips from side to side. His white shirt was pressed and his tie was straight, but his jacket was still in the trunk of the town car. 

The driver patted his hair down as blurry-eyed travelers straggled by. He stepped aside to let them pass, keeping his eye on the escalators in the distance. 

The name ‘Volkov’ glowed from the screen of his tablet computer. This might be his only passenger of the night, but everything had to go just right. His future depended on it.

‘Just get him to the hotel.’

The driver was checking his phone for missed calls when the passenger materialized. A puff of smoke would have completed the illusion. Volkov reached out and pushed the ‘home’ button on the driver’s tablet. 

His name faded to black.

“I don’t advertise.”

Read MORE at QuarterReads.com

I will also be posting an interview with QuarterReads founder and author Ian Rose later this week. Here’s a sneak peek from the Q&A:

“Readers benefit, we hope, from QuarterReads as a source of new stories that have been somewhat vetted, but that aren’t chosen based on editorial bias. We accept/reject stories, essays and poems on technical quality (spelling/grammar) and the basic requirement that they be a complete story. Then we let the readers do the picking and choosing after that. I like to think of it as a gate with a loose chain on it, that most stories can fit through if they squeeze and shimmy a bit, but not all. For writers, we offer the best percentage royalties anywhere I’ve seen, far better than self-publishing. We can’t yet offer the kind of exposure or marketing machine that the big self-pub sites can, but whenever they sell a story, they know that the vast majority of the money is going to them, not us.” — Ian Rose

In the meantime, please go check out my short story at QuarterReads and let me know what you think of both.

Interrogation: Joe Clifford

Joe-Clifford-275x300

Who: Joe Clifford

Where: San Francisco

What: Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books, managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive, and producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. Joe is the author of four books (“Choice Cuts,” “Junkie Love,” “Wake the Undertaker,” and “Lamentation”), as well as editor of “Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Stories Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen”.

Interview conducted by email. Some answers have been edited.

How long have you been writing and publishing?

I started writing and publishing in earnest when I returned to school in the early-2000s. I’d just gotten off the streets, cleaned up, and needed something to do with my time. One of the perks of heroin addiction is you don’t have to ask these questions like, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” You don’t grow up. You don’t get to “be” anything. Which is sad. But, in a strange way, it is also much easier. You can’t fail if you don’t try. When I stopped being a selfish fuck-up, I needed a direction, somewhere to pour passions. I’d always been an artist, even on the streets. Musician, whatever, had bands. I went back to college, professors liked my writing, and it took off from there.

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Interrogation: Travis Richardson

Travis Richardson_5x7_300dpi (1)Who: Travis Richardson

Where: Los Angeles

What:Incident on the 405” (from Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional “Girl Trouble”) was nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity short story awards this year. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in several online zines and anthologies. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime LA newsletter, reviews Chekhov shorts and sometimes shoots a short movie. His latest novella is KEEPING THE RECORD.

This interview was conducted by email. Some answers have been edited.

If you had to explain your writing to somebody who has never read your work before, how would you describe it?  
I call myself a crime writer. It’s the most consistent thing I write. I often dabble in noir and sometimes I write humorous or action-adventure tales, but I rarely write a straight up “who done it” mystery. I try to push my characters to extremes and have them react. Sometimes it’s funny and other times it’s tragic. Although I usually start stories with an idea in mind, once the characters start interacting, I just try to keep up on the keyboard.

Is crime what you originally set out to write, or did your focus and style change over time?
I originally wanted to write literary short stories as well as screenplays. While my literary shorts were sincere, not much happened except that somebody was unhappy and didn’t do much of anything. Eventually I began to burn out on reading New Yorker stories about wealthy, unhappy people with first world problems. In a writing class in Berkeley, we were assigned the Best American Short Stories of the previous year and the first story was “Puppy” by Richard Ford. I wrote an essay about how I was tired of reading the same down tempo stagnant stories. This isn’t to bag on the Pulitzer Prize winning author, if anything I’m grateful for the epiphany his story (after many others) provided. It broke me from the monotonous literary rut I had been stuck in for years. Around that time I also finished writing the first part of a coming of age novel based on my Grandfather living in depression era Arkansas. The next part was going to require me to learn several musical instruments and reconfigure a carefully constructed family after a tragedy. I wanted to try something new, so I began a manuscript called The Prodigal Detective. After completing it, I discovered a wonderful community of crime writers through Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America…. and I don’t look back much.

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The Writing Process Blog Hop

Anthony Award nominee Travis Richardson tagged me to join “The Writing Process Blog Hop.” In addition to me, Travis also tagged Patricia L. Morin.

At the end of this post I will tag a few authors who will hopefully post about their writing process next week: Martin Langfield and Ken Layne. You can read about them and find links below.

Each of the authors will respond to the same four questions on the writing process below:

1. What am I working on?

I have been putting the “finishing touches” on my debut mystery novel, “Bad Citizen Corporation,” for several months now. I am lucky to have talented friends who are helping me edit and revise.

I have also been writing a series of short stories based on some of the same characters from the novel. I believe (hope?) that creating these backstories for my characters will help me flesh out their personalities in the novel.

I am stoked to announce that Akashic Books has agreed to publish one of my short stories, “Swinging Party,” as part of the “Mondays Are Murder” short fiction series in August.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing draws heavily on my experiences growing up in Southern California, and my life as a rock musician. I have met a lot of colorful characters in unique situations. When everything is working properly, the dual filters of a faulty memory and vivid imagination help me twist those experiences into a leaping off point for my fiction.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I want to write because I love to read.

My fascination with fiction started in my late teens, mostly thanks to Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler and Charles Bukowski. In the last five years I have really fallen for crime/detective/mystery fiction by Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, Arnaldur Indridason and others. Also, rock biographies and dystopian YA.

4. How does my writing process work?

I wrote my first novel a decade ago (mercifully unpublished) and it was a manic dash from word one to word 120,000. Then I talked about writing a second novel for nine years. Then I sat down and actually wrote a second novel for a year.

With “Bad Citizen Corporation” I started by creating a timeline of events and brief character sketches. The events in the novel morphed and changed, and the characters evolved, but I found it helpful to understand the basic parameters of the universe I was attempting to create.

My editing strategy has been to transfer the story from my head to the page before making several revisions myself. Then I let the people around me provide feedback about what is and isn’t working. Sometimes that process means giving the manuscript a rest for a week or two myself, and then reviewing it again with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

For short stories I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, usually starting with a hook and building around it.

Here are the authors for next week:

Martin Langfield 

mugshot beer garden      maliceboxcover

Martin Langfield is the British author of two genre-bending thrillers about alchemy, time and loss, “The Malice Box” and “The Secret Fire.” Young adults around the world especially like his work. He has been a foreign correspondent and editor with Reuters since 1987, reporting from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Madrid, Miami and London. He now works with the company’s Breakingviews commentary team. Martin majored in French and Spanish languages and literature at Cambridge University before studying indigenous literature in Mexico for a year. He has also worked as a drummer and an English teacher. He lives in New York.

Martin’s Blog

Ken Layne

cfa14dace52c0a7f023565.L._V177997737_SX200_      Dignity

Ken Layne has edited and written for many publications, including The Awl, Wonkette, Gawker, Tabloid.net, Sploid, Prognosis, UPI, and the LA Examiner.

About “Dignity”: A packet of hand-scrawled letters found in a stranger’s rucksack tells of self-sufficient communities growing from the ruins of California’s housing collapse and the global recession. In unfinished Mojave Desert housing tracts and foreclosure ghost towns on the raw edges of the chaotic cities of the West, people have gathered to grow their own food, school their own children and learn how to live without the poisons of gossip, greed, television, mobile phones and the Internet. Encouraged by an enigmatic wanderer known only as “B,” the communities thrive as more families and workers are discarded by an indifferent system. But this quiet revolution and its simple rituals cannot stay unnoticed for long, because the teachings of “B” threaten an entire structure of power and wealth dependent upon people toiling their lives away to buy things they don’t need.

Ken’s Blog

@LA_SMB – Stark Raving Group

Weber Head Shot 2

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.