I spent my lunch break today in a seedy Indian diner while it was raining outside. It was a very noir scene, which was helpful considering I was writing some crime fiction as well. I’m working on the next book on my contract and it dawned on me after lunch that I actually forget sometimes that I have a book of my own coming out soon. This is kind of awesome.
Because of the slow speed of publishing, it’s easy for an author, especially one as obsessive as myself, to focus on the minutia of the publishing process and freak out over everything and get really, really impatient. But aside from a few rookie chump moves I made that Jason gently discouraged me from repeating, I’ve focused on writing the new book and forgetting about the current book. A big part of this as well has been having the bulk of my attention focused on getting my Exhibit A list up and running as well as keeping the existing list running smoothly. It’s been a really enjoyable experience but it’s very consuming time-wise and mentally which hasn’t left me much energy for freaking out over my own book.
I’m sure as we get closer to release and things like the cover and the galleys start becoming a reality I’ll get more and more freaked out (good and bad), but for now I’m quite happy to focus on the next book (as well as working out the kinks and polishing what I hope will be Book Three) and let my capable editor and publisher freak out over the details.
Today in my From the Editor post over at Exhibit A, I’m talking about adding photos to blog posts and whether it really makes a difference. I’d love to hear your thoughts. There’s also a special guest photo model for you.
I’m instituting a new letter from the editor feature over at the Exhibit A site today and my first topic is the stupid myth of publishing gatekeepers. This is of course drawn from my experience this weekend at Love is Murder which turned out to be a great conference for me, but for none of the reason I expected it would be. I may have weaseled a free(ish) trip to Italy out of the whole thing as well, which is cool.
Now back to finishing up all of the work I wasn’t able to get done over the weekend because I refused to pay the ridiculous price to get WiFi in my hotel room (though I have to say, the showers in that room alone were awesome enough for me to almost forgive the WiFi price).
I continue the great carnival bark that is my life lately over at Hey There’s A Dead Guy. Ben LeRoy lent me his spot to talk about Exhibit A. I chat about some of the cool books we have coming out as well as the difficulty I’ve faced trying to balance the desire to spread the word about my new job and Exhibit A without over-saturating the market and coming off as a spamy asshat.
I’m grateful to Ben for the opportunity and I think he’s one of the best practitioners of this brand of weird voodoo sales stuff. He reminds me of the Santa from Macy’s in Miracle on 34th Street who send customers to Gimble’s for items that are out of stock. He’s a great champion of good books whether published by himself or by someone else.
I’m talking about myself, again, over at the Exhibit A blog but this times it’s about my history as an editor rather than as a writer.
Check it out.
So the guts are over at the Angry Robot website, but the reason I was jetting all over Europe was to meet my new employers. As of last week I am taking over the Angry Robot crime fiction imprint Exhibit A. I’m tweaked and excited and overwhelmed and generally just feeling magical. This is pretty much a dream job and I’m ecstatic they chose me for the honor.
I’ll slowly be putting my own stamp on the imprint, but I’m very happy with the infrastructure they’ve built and I get to build on all of the hard work Emlyn and Marc put in getting the imprint up and running.
I’ll have a longer post tomorrow about what exactly I did while I was over in the UK and I’ll also be making an introductory post at the Exhibit A site. A full day of blogging all around then.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a second to mention my thanks to Angela James and the crew over at Carina Press. They’re doing good work over there too and I’ll miss being part of their crazy family.
One of the things about working from home full-time is that my engagement with the outside world, and particularly with adults in the outside world, is minimal. This is mostly okay with me, but every once in a while I start getting antsy to engage with co-workers etc. Today I had the chance to do that and it was interesting.
I was working onsite for a temporary web content project at my old university and for the first hour or so I was working in cramped office with one other person and that wasn’t any fun at all, but then we moved to a conference room with everyone else who was working on the same project and that was awesome. We were bouncing ideas off of each other and joking around and doing some good work as well. It’s as close as I’ve experienced to what I imagine a writers room for a TV show would be like. It was nice to be able to wear jeans and tennis shoes instead of the traditional khakis and grown up shoes normally required in an office environment.
Every once in a while I get a strange craving for cubicles and water coolers and rote office work, but that goes away after a while and I can’t say I’d ever want to do that again. But for someone in a creative field who craves structure, the occasional day out into AdultLand is nice. It’s also a nice reminder that things like traffic and parking and gas and weather suck and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with them in my every day commute.
So tell me about your office life. Anyone out there like me and actual enjoy it once in a while?
I have arrived in Milwaukee for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. This is a surprisingly beautiful view of the parking lot from our room. The most beautiful view though is of the gas station across the street that has gas for $2.99 a gallon. Go Milwaukee.
I’ve discussed here on a number of occasions my concern with the increasingly isolated short crime fiction community and the false claims of a short story renaissance. A few Facebook posts recently reminded me of one particularly depressing moment from last year that I think needs further discussion.
When I was in Milwaukee for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, I popped into the local Barnes and Noble and found a copy of the most recent Best American Mystery Stories collection. I have bought the anthology every year since 2003 and it is likely the single most influential publication on my current writing and reading interests. It opened me up to so much more than the mainstream crime fiction I’d been reading since junior high and introduced me to a community from which I’ve made a number of close friends. It was also a major factor in legitimizing online crime fiction. So every year I buy a copy and gleefully flip to the table of contents and to the listing of notable stories to see how many online stories made the cut. And last year, for the first time since I’ve been buying the anthology, there wasn’t a single online crime fiction story in the anthology or in the notable story listings.
My first thought was that there weren’t any stories selected from online crime zines because there weren’t any stories submitted by online crime zines. I’d noticed two trends that I thought played into that. First, the online zines had been moving almost exclusively toward flash fiction and second, these new crime fiction editors seemed content to publish only for a small group of readers that was mostly made up of other writers. contributors to one zine were editors at another and so on. I saw the same 10-15 names pop up in almost every crime zine as either a contributor or editor.
My thoughts about the first point were validated when Otto Penzler announced the line up for his flash fiction anthology and I saw a number of the more popular crime zines represented. But from what I’ve read and heard, most of those stories were found by Otto and his readers not from submissions from the editors or writers from those zines. I don’t know if it’s just that these editors don’t know things like BAMS or the StorySouth Million Writers Award exist, or if they genuinely have no interest in expanding their reach and content beyond a very narrowly drawn crime fiction niche.
Chad Eagleton pointed out in the comments on one of my previous posts that we have yet to see an online publication that offers the full variety of crime fiction styles like the big two print publication do. There are a number of valid concerns regarding Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines, but the lack of variety is not one of them. Both magazines have published more noir and dark crime fiction stories than these other magazines have published traditional or light crime stories.
But maybe I’m just an old man pining for the old days and readers and writers don’t care about stretching themselves or expanding their audience. I love being part of the mystery community and for the most part I have no qualms about how it operates, but I think short crime fiction is an area of high potential that has been woefully neglected and is need of new energy, new readers, and new ideas. And when the next edition of BAMS comes out, I hope to see the fruit of that new energy legitimized on it’s storied pages.
For stories published in 2013, send a hard copy to:
Best American Mystery Stories
58 Warren Street
New York NY 10007
You know, I’ve been blathering all over social media about my career change while I’ve neglected my one true love here. I’ll have some more Deep Thoughts about what led to the transition, but for now I’ll plunk my various status updates here for the permanent record for when Facebook eventually (hopefully) dies.
So I suppose now is as good a time as any to make my Big Announcement: As of September 1st I will be burning my khaki pants and going full-time as a freelance editor. It’s weird and scary and also very exciting so expect to hear a lot more about it as my last day in the cubicles mines approaches.
Also, please send me work.
And then just yesterday I posted this one.
With my full-time freelance lifestyle on the horizon I have gotten my hustle on something fierce. Starting to pitch for writing work as well as editing work. Ain’t to proud and all that. Pitched One newspaper chain, one magazine, and one agency so far. feel like I should be wearing stacked heels and a feather hat.