Friday, July 27, 2018

Book Bites: Angel Colon, author of Pull and Pray

Nobody does wild, crazy, fun, and yes, sometimes weird, noir like Angel Luis Colon. His latest offering to the crime fiction world is Pull & Pray, due out next Monday (7/30) from Down & Out Books. Read on as Colon shoots from the hip and tells it like it is.

“Tough, sly, and funny as hell; Fantine Park is a noir hero for a new century. With Pull & Pray, Angel Luis Col√≥n continues to show why he’s one of the finest voices in crime fiction.” —Nick Kolakowski author of Slaughterhouse Blues

What drew you to the genre you write in?

I write crime and horror (mostly crime now) and I guess what drew me to both wasn't so much the actual darkness of the subject but the idea of investigating that darkness. Why would people hurt or exploit one another? I've always been interested in what drove folks when they were at their most desperate. Whether that's in regards to needing money or power or simply to survive. It's obviously pretty fertile ground to work on and I thoroughly enjoy that; especially if I can find some levity in there too.

Are there any writers you’re jealous of?

As a whole? Not really. I think it's perfectly normal to feel professional jealousy at successes and events, sure. We all want to be signed or win an award. When it comes to quality or style I don't think it makes sense. Every writer's different and while I know I'm not anywhere near a brilliant writer, I also really like my voice and my style. It took a long time to find that confidence and I'd never undercut it by being jealous of someone else's style. I'd rather admire the stories I know I won't write or can't write. Hell, Jordan Harper's She Rides Shotgun is incredible but I'm not jealous of the book or his ability - he put the work in and deserves the accolades.

I AM jealous that he gets to work on LA Confidential, though, but that's as a fan of the cast they've lined up and the material!

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time?

I'd be running a hell of a lot more. I'd probably end up injuring myself again which only leads me back to writing. So ultimately, I'd end up in front of the keyboard again.

Were they any parts of your novel that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

Pull & Pray (out July 30th from Down & Out Books) was a slow write but it's the first project I didn't leave anything out of. I actually found myself needing to dig in and add two more scenes to flesh out a few character decisions without things feeling to abrupt. My last novella, Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult, I actually threw out a completed MS twice with that one. Not a lot of fun but the finished product is something I was very proud of.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?


That's it. There's nothing to be happy about, to fret about, or to be heartbroken about if there's nothing on the goddamn page. So you write. You create and you do what you love without worrying about what comes next. Next doesn't matter.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Juno-beans and Garden & Gun....

This past Tuesday I had the incredible experience of walking into my local Publix (the only grocery store around here, the only one I ever go to) and seeing the latest edition of Garden & Gun- containing my Good Dog piece on my dogs Vegas and Juno- right at the register. Sometimes things just work out, right? Garden & Gun is one of maybe two magazines I regularly read and to see Juno's story in its pages, available to the world... well, I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't pretty much a dream come true. Anyone who knows me at all knows how much my dogs mean to me. Hell, every book I've ever written (and most likely ever will) is dedicated to one of them. If you open up Walk in the Fire, you'll see Vegas' name right there, with an allusion to the very same The Little Prince quote referenced in the magazine, which is also a line that I have tattooed on my arm. To say that "Finding Juno" wraps up quite a few important things in my life right now would be an understatement.

Cheers, and Happy Reading.....

Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Bites: Sarah Ward, author of Aesop Lake

Today I'm branching out again by bringing you an interview with YA author Sarah Ward. Aesop Lake hits shelves next Tuesday (July 24th) and tells the story of two teenagers living through and grappling with the aftermath of a heinous hate crime in rural Vermont. Read on as Ward discusses writing for teens, NANOWRIMO, and creating a book that both embraces and confronts a timely, and difficult, subject.
"Emphasizing that there’s no shame in recovering at your own pace but no refuge from responsibility either, three illustrated Aesop fables punctuate the well-paced novel." -Kirkus Reviews

What drew you to the genre you write in?

Ever since I was barely an adolescent myself I wanted to write for young adults. This age group is always relevant, carving new paths into the way our culture thinks and behaves, and yet there is something so familiar to their experience that we can relate to the pain, and the sweetness, of moving from childhood into adulthood. As a parent of two young adults, and a youth group leader at a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, I have spent a lot of time talking with teens and early twenty-somethings. They are brimming with energy, passion and discovery. When I worked as a clinical social worker, my favorite clients were young adults, because they always came in with such bravado, but when treated with respect and kindness they opened up very quickly. I find that writing for them is just as satisfying. I believe that we shouldn’t “write down” to what we think is safe; we should challenge young adults with difficult topics and real-life situations. I also find that adults enjoy YA as much as the youth, as we have all been there, and can relate on so many levels.

Were there any parts of your novel that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

Yes, in the first several drafts, Aesop Lake was told from three perspectives: Leda, Jonathan and Marcia. Marcia is Jonathan’s mother, and I felt strongly that her perspective on the hate crime was important, and that she could bring in the voice of the community. However, my editor felt that Marcia’s voice wasn’t necessary, and that it was a little odd to have an adult tell part of the story in a YA novel. So, I talked with my daughter, who was seventeen at the time, and she agreed with my editor. I had to cut ten chapters, shift the important pieces into Leda & Jonathan’s story, and then write four new chapters to make up for the gaps in the story line, all on a three-month timeline. Whew! Not only was it painful, it felt like a herculean task to take on over the holidays, but I did it!

Have you ever given up on a writing project?

Yes, my first attempt at a novel fell flat after fifty pages. I was listening to a web-cast that suggested outlining the novel to help you write it faster. But as soon as I completed the outline I was bored. I couldn’t keep the intensity going in my storyline, and the characters felt shallow, as if I were trying to make them do what I had written in the outline. I learned a valuable lesson from that experience, and never outlined again. This novel, Aesop Lake, was written during National Novel Writing Month 2015 (NANOWRIMO), where you spend the entire month of November trying to pump out 50,000 words of a novel. You can’t critique yourself, and you have no idea what is going to happen in the story. Every day you are just doing the best you can to get to a specific word count, and at the end of that magical month Aesop Lake had a first (horribly written) draft! And then the work began to shape and craft what became the final product.

Do you have a set routine as a writer?

No, I sometimes wish that I was one of those writers who could get up at O-dark-thirty, to write for an hour before the rest of the world stirred or stay up late every evening and pull prose from the dusty corners of my office, but I can’t. I like to sleep in to six-thirty and I don’t have an office in our small condo. I mostly write on the weekends, sometimes in the library, or at a coffee shop, or Panera, if it’s not too crowded. When my daughters were young I would squeeze in thirty minutes of writing while they were at a music lesson, or when I was waiting for their lacrosse practice to end. I called this “stealing time” and it worked really well. Now that they are older, and I don’t need to cart them around, I have to be more disciplined about finding time to write. I like to go away for a weekend retreat to a friend’s house, or a cabin in the woods and get as much done as possible. For over a decade I had a strong writing group that met once or twice a month, but we have drifted apart and their goals changed. Now I get together with my best writing buddy, Tammy, and we keep each other on track. Until I can give up the day job, I will just keep fitting it in and around the rest of my life, but it seems to be working.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

This past spring, I was at the 2018 American Writers Programs (AWP) conference, and I sat in on several panels about writing for young adults about challenging subjects. My new novel, Aesop Lake, takes on a hate crime against a gay couple, and one of my main protagonists, Leda, who witnesses the crime, has to choose between doing the right thing, or protecting her boyfriend and family. I asked one of the panelists, Sarah Aronson, how does she cope with negative reactions to her topics, since I'm assured that some will judge my book as too violent, anti-Christian, etc (even though it is not), and Sarah's response was, "as soon as this book is released, start writing the next one. Don't get focused on any negative press, or the haters, because they don't really matter. What matters is getting back to work, telling the next story that is ready to be written, and putting your energy into the creative process." I can't wait to do just that, as I've been thinking about my next novel for six months. I'm ready to go.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Interview on Covered

Many thanks to Harry Marks and the Covered podcast (which I highly recommend for anyone interested in learning more about books, authors, writing and the publishing world) for hosting me and letting me ramble on about everything from the trials of writing a trilogy to why I love the storytelling in video games. Cheers and happy listening!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Book Bites: Gale Massey, author of The Girl from Blind River

Today, I've got a local fav stopping by to chat. Gale Massey, author of The Girl from Blind River, also hails from St. Petersburg Florida and her debut novel- out next Tuesday!- is a knock-out. A dark, complex and gritty tale of family loyalty gone wrong, The Girl from Blind River is an unforgettable read.
The Girl From Blind River is a part coming-of-age, part redemption story with a razor sharp edge... The plot is twisted and the prose nuanced and graceful, but it's the characters that stick with you... Stellar debut!"
―Kate Moretti

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

I heard Michael Koryta say, “Keep your head down and keep moving forward.” This bit of wisdom helped me get through the first draft. It’s easy to get distracted by craft books, writing conferences and classes. Those things serve an important purpose but eventually you have to put all that aside, assume you’ve learned enough to get through a rough draft, and get down to business. Of course, there has to be a story in there, a plot with twists, characters that possess depth, a setting that is fully realized. But none of that can happen if you don’t put your head down and write.

How important is the setting in your novel?

Well, it’s crucial really. In Blind River there are broken sidewalks, freezing rain, a diner, a pawn shop. There’s a river that smells of runoff from the town’s only manufacturing plant. Then there’s the Walmart on the highway just outside of town. I love using weather to intensify a scene. Snow and ice, rain, leads to runny noses, freezing fingertips. These things create a scene and an atmosphere for the reader to experience. Jamie feels ensnared by her family and Blind River, I want the reader to feel what she feels, so they’ll root for her to get the hell out of there.

Are there any symbols running throughout your novel?

I use poker and gambling to symbolize some aspects of American culture. Children in this country are sold a dream they can rise from the circumstance they are born into, that the American Dream will come true for anyone willing to work hard enough, that pulling one’s self up from the bootstraps is actually possible. But many people are born into circumstance they will never find their way out of and the dream of making a better life for themselves and their children really isn’t viable. That’s why the lottery system has seen such a crazy boom in the last three or four decades. People living in poverty, such as the kind I grew up in, know deep down that education alone isn’t going to pull them out of their circumstances, that dream jobs have vanished in the tumultuous economy – and matching five random numbers on a ticket bought at the 7-Eleven might be their only solution. Jamie sees poker as her only real avenue to get out of Blind River but the odds are definitely not in her favor.

What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

I have to mention two. Connie May Fowler’s Before Women Had Wings and Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone. I saw myself and my roots reflected in both those books and came to see that stories about girls were important to both our culture and also spoke to some deep yearning inside of me. I read a lot of books in between those two and eventually began to believe I had something to add to the discussion.

What do you wish more readers would ask you about?

Once the book gets out into the world (July10th!) I hope readers will notice and want to discuss the subtle degrees of sexual orientation experienced by a couple characters, and how that plays into the family dynamics. I’d love to discuss that more.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Great Fall Book Preview- 2018!

Here we go! All the upcoming books I'm most looking forward to for the rest of 2018. Thanks to everyone who provided suggestions and be sure to check out the Reader Picks at the bottom of the list. Also, take a look back at my Spring 2018 list for some of the fantastic books that have already hit the shelves this year. Ahh! So many books! Happy Reading!








The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker (July)
Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann (July)
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting (July)
Nightwolf by Willie Davis (July)
The Blurry Years by Eleanor Kriseman (July)
Assisted Living by Erin Murphy (July)
Pretend We Live Here by Genevieve Hudson (July)
The Poisoned City by Anna Clark (July)
The Hazard's of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland (August)
TV Girls by Dana Diehl (August)
Trust Me by Hank Phillipi Ryan (August)
Graffiti Creek by Matt Coleman (August)
Cherry by Nico Walker (August)
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter (August)
Presiding Over the Damned by Liam Sweeny (August)
When Rap Spoke Straight to God by Erica Dawson (September)
Red Hotel by Gary Grossman and Ed Fuller (September)
Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolakowski (September)
Dreamin' in '89 by Todd Monahan (September)
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (September)
The Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan (September)
A Certain Loneliness by Sandra Gail Lambert (September)
The Devil's Wind by Steve Goble (September)
The Last Danger by Rusty Barnes (October)
Adult Teeth by Jeremy Wilson (October)
The Scoundrel's Among Us by Darrin Doyle (October)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (October)
Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson (October)
One Small Spark by Jackie Minniti (October)
Nighttown by Timothy Hallinan (November)
Race, Nation, Translation by Zoe Wicomb (November)
Peach by Wayne Barton (November)
The Place You're Supposed to Laugh by Jenn Rossman (November)
Into the Night by Sarah Bailey (December)
The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke (December)