Learning How To Read

I did a Lit Crawl LA:NoHo reading last night at the Laemmle Royal in Santa Monica. Probably my fourth or fifth such reading in public. Got another one coming up next Wednesday downtown. It doesn’t make me want to vomit the way it did a couple of months ago—so that’s progress.

I’ve got a ways to go before I’m “good” at it, but I’m starting to figure a few things out. For one, it’s clear to me that the goal should be to read from memory. Looking down at the page for most of the reading, with only the occasional awkward peek up at the audience, just isn’t cutting it. That’s going to take some serious work.

The other thing is laughter. Whether I’m the one doing the reading or I’m in the audience, hitting a comedic moment in a reading is a real ice breaker. Sometimes that can be the actual text, but a lot of the time it’s in the delivery. Those moments when the author reacts to the gruesomeness of their own work, tries to read in a challenging character voice or does a funny hand gesture at just the right moment.

The story I read last night was called “Fix Me,” and at 1,300 words it was probably the longest thing I have read out loud to date. What I discovered is that once I was into the story, I kind of lost all sense of time—like I didn’t know if I had been reading for a minute or twenty minutes. It made me a little self-conscious, worried that I was boring the crowd. And then I reached a funny point in the story, I got a couple of loud laughs, and everything was alright.

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I guess the main thing I have learned, both as a reader and as an observer, is this: writing is solitary, but reading is performance. The two might be related, but need to be approached differently.

Lucky for me, I’ve gotten great advice from a couple of pros. Check out these interviews with Eric Beetner and Johnny Shaw for tips on how to deliver a memorable reading of your work.

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 by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Interrogation: Frank Portman

PORTMAN 1Who: Frank Portman (a.k.a. Dr. Frank)

What: The singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Bay Area punk band Mr. T Experience and the author of three young adult novels including most recently KING DORK APPROXIMATELY, a sequel to the coming of age cult classic KING DORK.

Where: San Francisco

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

You published your debut novel, KING DORK, in 2006. What made you want to write a Young Adult novel at that time? Do you think you will ever write a non-YA novel?

In 2004 my band released it’s final/most recent album and attempted to tour on it and promote it in the usual way, not realizing that in the time since the last time we’d done that the world’s music consumers had all gotten together and decided not to buy records anymore.  The tour disintegrated at the end as they always do, leaving me at a loose end and running out of ideas now that recording another essentially valueless album and touring to promote its valuelessness was out of the question despite it being pretty much the only thing I knew how to do.  Writing a YA novel was suggested to me by an agent who was a fan of my songs and who thought the sensibility in them could work in fiction.  I had nothing but time so I gave it a shot.

King_Dork_coverThere’s a lot of arguing over “what is YA” these days (similar to the “what is punk?” trope that used to bedevil me way back when.)  Teen fiction is certainly where I feel most comfortable, and is a logical place to go from rock and roll, which is teenage music if it’s anything.  As a frame for fiction, exploring the teenage self coming of age has a quite a bit going for it, as I am certainly not the first person to note.  And this tradition is a long and great one that I’m pleased to be a part of.  That said, what makes a book YA is that it is marketed that way.  I’m fortunate that this marketing has worked so well for my books, but even in a different marketing category I’d write them the same way.  Which is a roundabout way of saying, I guess, that I don’t see the great gulf between YA and “non-YA” that the question assumes.

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“New Yorked” Is Out Today

unnamed-1“New Yorked” is easily one of the best debuts I have read. The characters are smart, funny and damaged, and the plot takes some truly interesting twists without tying itself in a knot. Most of all, I liked the tone of this novel, which captures the heart of crime writing in a thoroughly modern way.

I was lucky enough to connect with the author earlier this year. Here is an excerpt from my interview with Rob Hart.

One of the many interesting things about NEW YORKED is the ongoing battle between “old New York” and “hipster New York”. How prevalent is that in real life? 

There’s some goofy shit in this book—like the guy who’s name is Ian but stresses that it’s pronounced “Eye-Anne.” That’s a real thing someone said to me once. I’m worried people are going to say a lot of this is ridiculous, not realizing I’ve seen and heard a lot of it. I’m endlessly fascinated by the new v. old clash. This place really will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not strong enough. People who’ve lasted wear it like a badge of honor, and really disdain people who show up out of nowhere and act like they own it. At the same time, New York is a city where people flock to live out their dreams and fantasies. It’s by nature a point of refuge. I’ve never read a book where I saw that play out, so I thought it would be a fun arena to play in.

hart1Is NEW YORKED a crime novel in your eyes? How important is genre to you as a writer?

Genre discussions make me go cross-eyed. If I was pressed I’d say it’s a little noir, a little literary. But I’m firmly in the class of: A good book is a good book, and I don’t care if it’s YA or poetry or literary or crime or a cookbook.

How did your experience as a former political reporter and a commissioner for the city of New York influence the novel? How did you make the transition from politics to writing fiction?

I was a reporter for four years, two of which were spent as a political reporter, then communications director for a politician, and after I left politics got a call to sit on a redistricting commission, as a commissioner. I got two things out of these gigs: Brutal efficiency and life experience.

The efficiency is—both reporting and politics are professions where if someone has to ask you for something, it’s already too late. You have to be able to do twelve things at once, and be fast and accurate and good at all of them. And I got to do and see some cool stuff that informed my writing. I like writing about New York, because I know a lot about it. The second book, set in Portland, was a little tough. I’ve been there half a dozen times, but I don’t know the beat of it. Which helped, a bit, because the narrator doesn’t either. But it really showed me how much New York is my comfort zone. As for making the transition—I’ve always been writing, it was just hard to find the time. My productivity exploded after I took the job with MysteriousPress.com, because suddenly I wasn’t working 24/7.

Read the whole interview HERE.
Buy NEW YORKED HERE.

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Quick Quotes—The Week In Publishing

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“The Internet has ruined our collective mind for being able to rationally deal with news and issues. You need to come up with ever more vile headlines to get a few more clicks from the other 400 news outlets and sites that are doing the exact same story based on the same tiny bit of information.”—Ken Layne at Los Angeles Times

“Throw in several big-deal, massively popular series that are really single works split into volumes—a small platoon led by Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard—and it’s tempting to proclaim this the era of the Very Long Novel (VLN).”—Boris Kachka at Slate

“For me the great lesson was that what we do during the day bleeds over into what we do during the night. The immersion online is always in some ways shadowed, if you will, by this constant reminder that we should be doing something else, too; that our email is just a click away; that there is this almost incessant feeling of ‘Well, I should go faster,’ instead of ‘I should immerse myself.'”—Maryanne Wolf at NPR

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“One thing I really like about our books is the variety – on the face of it there’s little in common between Den Bleyker’s deep, intense psychological noir and Stateham’s hardboiled pulp thriller. The only real connection is intelligent, quality writing about crime.”—Christopher Black from Number Thirteen Press

“I do think I can get a lot more kids reading. The mission is simple. Any kid who finishes a Jimmy book will say, ‘Please give me another book.’ ”—James Patterson at New York Times

“If there’s a Raymond Carver of short crime fiction, Art Taylor would be him—but, you know, without the chain-smoking and boozing.”—Keith Rawson at LitReactor

“While we’re sad to discontinue the print edition of Print Lovers Magazine, we’re very excited to see how the advantages of digitizing will benefit our publication.”—Lucas Gardner at McSweeney’s

“Now I’m a pretty grounded cat. Outside of writing and make-believe worlds. High strung, sure, but grounded. Yes, I talk to myself. Yes, sometimes I answer myself. I had a brief bout where the state declared me mentally unstable in the mid-90s, but I bounced back from all that. Growing up is hard to do.”—Joe Clifford at Candy & Cigarettes Blog

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.

Interrogation: Christopher Black & Matt Phillips

Redbone_CoverThis week we’re interviewing a publisher and one of his newest authors at the same time. Should be interesting. Let’s see what happens…

Who: Christopher Black & Matt Phillips

What: Christopher Black is a noir writer of little note and editor-in-chief of Number Thirteen Press—a project to publish thirteen quality crime novellas, one on the thirteenth of each month for thirteen months. He is passionate about crime fiction and films with a special interest in all things noir.

Matt Phillips’ short fiction has appeared in Pulp Metal MagazineFlash Fiction Offensive and Powder Burn Flash. REDBONE, from Number Thirteen Press, is his first short novel. A new novella, MESA BOYS, will be published this year by Severest Inks.

Where: Christopher Black lives in London. Matt Phillips lives in San Diego.

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

Number 13 pressChristopher, how did you come up with the concept for Number Thirteen Press?

C.B.: The driving idea was that I love novellas and short novels and see these as the perfect format for a certain style of crime/noir writing—think of THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? or THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, or the more recent work of people like Allan Guthrie. Novellas have been out of fashion in mainstream publishing for a long time, but with e-publishing they are suddenly back with a vengeance and I wanted in on the action. But I didn’t want an open-ended project that could fizzle out: thirteen seemed a good, memorable number, it gave me definite end date and one book a month provides an impetus while being something to keep readers interested and coming back for more.

Matt, what made you want to submit REDBONE to Number Thirteen Press?

M.P.: Number Thirteen Press is publishing thirteen crime novellas/novels in thirteen months, consecutively, on the thirteenth of each month. When I heard about this, I thought—that takes some balls. I mean, think of the work involved. Why submit? Here’s a simple answer: Quality. The books they’ve published are good, damn good. A more nuanced answer is that REDBONE, to me, was pure noir, but I thought it was just different enough from what Number Thirteen had already published—it’s sort of a murder ballad-noir. Last year, I had a novella rejected by Number Thirteen (now, that sucker is in a fourth draft).

So, I did what any real writer does, I sat my ass in the chair and wrote another book.

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Christopher, your most recent release, REDBONE by Matt Phillips, is the seventh—so you are half way through. What have you learned about publishing along the way that you didn’t know before? What has been the most rewarding part of this experience so far?

C.B.: The most rewarding parts are the beginning and end of the process: going through submissions and getting excited about a writer with a lot of talent and a story with potential, and then finally seeing the end product and how excited the author is to get their book out to the public. In between is a lot of hard work, but all the authors have been really up for it and produced some stunning stuff.

As for what I’ve learned: everything else, from typesetting to social media. In particular: e-publishing is easy but producing quality manuscripts and books takes an incredible amount of time and effort.

the-mistakeMatt, do you feel any special honor or burden being the seventh release in a thirteen book cycle? Other than your own, which Number Thirteen Press release is your favorite?

You know, any time your work is published, it’s an honor. Halfway to thirteen is pretty damn cool in this case. Like we say in California, I’m stoked. This is my first book, so I feel a huge sense of pride and disbelief. I mean, I actually did it, right? But also, it’s like, I made all this stuff up… in my head. And now it’s out in the world. Kind of a trip.

Alright, at the risk of being pummeled by my fellow thirteeners, I’ll pick two favorites: OF BLONDES AND BULLETS by Michael Young and THE MISTAKE by Grant Nicol. The first is Number Thirteen’s initial release and it sets the tone—hard-hitting noir about how a good deed can really put a guy in some shit. The second is so atmospheric and well-written… Noir at its best. And, for good measure, it’s set in Iceland.

Click here to read the rest of the Christopher Black INTERVIEW 

Click here to read the rest of the Matt Phillips INTERVIEW

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.

Quick Quotes—The Week In Publishing

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“As we’ve found with movies and TV shows, the most popular books set in each state can be pretty surprising. For every obvious To Kill a Mockingbird, there’s the unexpected appearance of a lesser-known novel, like Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress in Maryland.”—Kevin O’Keeffe at .Mic

“It might sound cheesy, but I think writing is a kind of a journey. For me, especially if I’m working on a novel, it takes at least a year of fumbling around before I really get anywhere. As you try to imagine yourself into this world, it’s a process of writing stuff, throwing it out, writing, throwing it out. You’re trying to create this place for yourself inside your head; it’s very hard to get to that place, and it takes a long time to get there. But then, finally, there is the sense that maybe you’ve arrived, though you’ve had to discard a ton of stuff along the way.”—Anna North at The Atlantic
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Five New Books From Double Life Press Today

Double Life Press First FiveDouble Life Press founder Craig T. McNeely is not a man with small ambitions. His company burst onto the Indie crime scene in 2014 with the quarterly pulp fiction magazine, DARK CORNERS. The formation of Double Life Press followed shortly thereafter, with the stated goal of publishing writing “without boundaries.”

So it should come as no surprise that his publishing company is releasing its first five books on the same day. They are:

  1. THE THRILLVILLE PULP FICTION COLLECTION by Will Viharo, Vol. 1-3, is a series of “double features” reprinting the best work of underground literary legend Will Viharo in new, definitive editions.
  2. TREVOR ENGLISH by Pablo D’Stair collects five novellas featuring the titular character in one volume as they were meant to be read. D’Stair is one of the most original voices in crime fiction, as well as a filmmaker and ten thousand other things.
  3. DEATH THING by Andrew Hilbert is a horror novella about a guy named Gilbert who converts his car into a death trap because he’s sick of people breaking into it at night. Its scary and mean and hilarious and unlike anything else you are likely to read this year.

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Interrogation: Matt Coyle

Coyle Head Shot jpeg IIWho: Matt Coyle

What: Matt Coyle has a degree in English from UC Santa Barbara. He’s taken detours into the restaurant, golf, and sports collectible businesses. His first novel, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery, and the Ben Franklin Silver Award. NIGHT TREMORS is Matt’s second novel in the Rick Cahill crime series. Matt lives in San Diego with his Yellow Lab, Angus.

Where: San Diego

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

You set out to write the “great American novel” after college, but didn’t publish your first book until thirty years later. How did your publishing dreams and writing style change over the course of three decades? 

yesterdays-echo-225First of all, thanks for having me. I think dreams is a great choice of words because my preparation and expectations were unrealistic when I first started writing. First of all, I had to get off my rear end and consistently write. That took about twenty years to figure out. Then I thought writing was a completely solitary endeavor: You write in a cocoon without outside intervention because it’s your story. How could anyone else have anything to add to it? Once I finally had a first draft done, I thought, “Okay, time to find an agent, sign a big book deal and quit my day job forever.” Hard knocks taught me that the life of a writer is quite different than my dreams.

My writing style evolved as it had to for me to have any chance of getting published. I took novel classes at UC San Diego Extension and joined writers groups. I broke out of the cocoon and realized that readers my not be reading the story I thought I was writing. Plus, I starting writing in first person and found the voice of my protagonist, Rick Cahill. That changed everything.
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Quick Quotes—The Week in Publishing

rsz_screen_shot_2015-05-08_at_81939_am “There’s another advantage to being published by a traditional press that very few talk about or even acknowledge, and that’s the fact that your chances are good that your work will be soundly and professionally edited. And even traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be with editing, by and large.”—Les Edgerton at Electric Literature

“The best books deal with complicated, important, and often times controversial topics. Literature can be beautiful and unsettling all at once.”—Steven Petite at Huffington Post Books

“My reading of the report says that sanity is beginning to take hold in self-publishing and that the crazy days of unrealistic expectations are almost over. This is a very good thing.”—Derek Haines at Just Publishing

“When you are attempting to do something original, you are more likely to fail. However in my book, the attempt itself is success. Because when it works, you’ve created something that is entirely yours, that wouldn’t exist unless you had created it.”—Johnny Shaw at Boomtron

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“I love how a short story can be anything. However, I always feel a little stingy while I’m writing short stories, because I only have 4000 to 8000 words to explore the idea.”—Erika Krouse at Bad Citizen Corporation

“To make what we write any good at all, we must put ourselves fully into our characters. We have to feel what they would feel, so we can distill those imagined emotions into words on the page, words we hone over and over to evoke an empathic echo in our readers.”—Lois Leveen at The Millions

“It’s easy to forget the impact that a book can have on an individual—especially on a young, impressionable, marginalized, pissed off, typically male individual.”—Mike Harvkey at Publisher’s Weekly

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His novella, CROSSWISE, and his debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015 and 2016.

Interrogation: Erika Krouse

Erika Krouse med-res2MBWho: Erika Krouse

What: Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire.com, One Story, Ploughshares, and other magazines and anthologies. Erika’s collection of short stories, COME UP AND SEE ME SOMETIME (Scribner), won the Paterson Fiction Award, was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and has been translated into six languages. Erika’s new novel, CONTENDERS, was published by Rare Bird Books in March, 2015, and will also be published by Aufbau-Verlag in Germany. Erika teaches at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado, and works part-time as a private investigator for Title IX and sexual assault cases.

Where: Boulder, Colorado

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

Congratulations! CONTENDERS, was just selected for my office book club. I have already read it, but my ten or so co-workers haven’t. What do you want them to know about your debut novel before they even crack it open?

Yay! I’m so glad, and thank you for the interview. Re: what people should know before reading, that’s a great question, and I don’t know the answer. I hope the book can stand on its own, or I’m in big trouble.

Now I’m worried.

All joking aside, CONTENDERS was one of the most original books I have read this year. How did you develop the concept, voice and tone?

Thank you so much! That’s great to hear. When I started CONTENDERS, I had already been writing a completely different novel for a couple of years. After I realized it was irredeemable crap, I threw it out in favor of a four-word idea: “a woman who fights.” That’s all I had. I was training a lot of martial arts at the time, and was asking questions without finding answers, so this was my way of exploring further.
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