Monday, September 24, 2018

Breaking Wind at the Crime Fiction Community Clubhouse Meeting

Years ago, Allan Guthrie was reviewing something I'd written and called me out for being melodramatic. Now, that isn't my normal style, but it did make me realize something.

I'm a sucker for melodrama. I cry at Canadian Tire Christmas commercials. Pop some video on Facebook about a person adopting a dog or rescuing a cat and I'm bawling like a baby. Why I don't have stock in Kleenex is beyond me. The emotional stuff gets me every time. When the kids were younger and we'd go to a movie they'd start watching me. "Are you crying?" I was asked.

"NO, I'M NOT CRYING AT TOY STORY III, DAMMIT, SHUT UP!" Of course, I couldn't say that. But it was noted that I was the first one to shed a tear at anything the slightest bit mushy or emotional.

I think a lot of people in crime fiction circles might be surprised at that, because of my reading tastes and my tendency to write characters that are tougher. It's probably stemmed from a degree of self-deprecation; I want to make logical decisions instead of emotionally reacting to things. Want to.

And yet, there are times when emotions get the better of me.

This happens to the best of us. Even people who aren't overly emotional or typically swayed by emotional outbursts or displays. Anyone who has ever felt the need to defend themselves has been feeling something.

And there's been a lot of defensiveness going around lately in the crime fiction community.

This is delicate territory, and my intent isn't to offend anyone. (Except for the people who are racist and/or sexist. I couldn't possible care less about what they think of what I'm about to say.) But... it's an emotional topic. So hopefully, everything comes out as intended. And is taken the same way.

Now, before I really get into the dirt here, this isn't all about Pelecanos. It's about much, much more than women in publishing. Bear with me.

First, something happened at Bouchercon. Now, I wasn't at Bouchercon. However, people who were there, and specifically some who were in the room when this "something" happened have referenced it on social media, including this group blog here.

This means that far more than just the people who went to Bouchercon are aware that there was an incident. 

Prior to Bouchercon there was a push for an anti-harassment policy and some authors made public pledges to be available to anyone who felt harassed or threatened or uncomfortable in any way.

Why mention this? Just to underscore that no community is 100% perfect. Anyone telling you it's all love and happiness inside X community is delusional.

So, to get on with it, Jim Thomsen wrote a piece this weekend about George Pelecanos' latest book. Part of me loathes referencing it, only because Pelecanos needs no extra attention. He's getting profile in the New York Times and elsewhere, and I would rather send a shout out to someone who might actually benefit from gaining readers.

However, Jim's piece is about far more than Pelecanos' book and is well worth the read. It should be a must-read for crime fiction authors and publishers. It cuts to the heart of a lot of issues in the United States, and globally, right now. It touches on problems in the crime fiction community that aren't easy to talk about, either. There are things here that need to be said, and need to be examined. Much of it he says so well already, there's nothing for me to add. However, there are a few points I want to expand on.


[Jim referenced] recent controversy involving Pelecanos, who did a “By The Book” Q&A with The New York Times in which he cited only male authors and their novels as inspirations and recommendations, and took a needless swipe at a female author, Harper Lee. That drew a swift rebuke from author Lauren Groff, and a few female crime-fiction authors. Said M.J. Rose, on Groff’s thread: “(So) damn typical. So many men have similar lists and I’m sick of it.” But, by and large, crickets from the some of the loudest voices in the crime-fiction community, which is often paralyzed by the notion that speaking ill of others is tantamount to exile from publishing (I’ve already accepted that). It’s as if most of the members of the crime-fiction tribe stood silently in the same room, looking fleetingly and self-consciously at one another, faces wrinkled in “who farted?” expressions.
I’m taking aim at the male-driven machine that seems bent on making him into an avatar of the Male Resistance to the Female Takeover of Crime Fiction, in somewhat the same way bad male actors are trying to push their way past #MeToo and back into the spotlight they feel they deserve after all-too-short periods of cultural exile.
As The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino put it, sardonically: “Women have had their ‘moment,’ their unprecedented time in the spotlight of cultural favor. The gravitational pull of male power is exerting itself, turning our attention back to the place where it has been trained to linger: the hero’s journey of men.”
Well, I certainly had something to say in the wake of all of this. And I'll be blunt. There are people who are often seen as the spokespeople for the genre. They're the ones writing regular articles, maintaining websites that touch on the regular happenings in the genre. They talk author news. They're the ones who are positioned as reporters covering crime fiction.

There are also the loud voices who have usually spoken out about issues relevant to gender and stereotypes in crime fiction that seemed to stay silent. I was watching Twitter for a couple of days, looking to see who would respond. If anyone of any position of real influence within the genre did, other than M.J. Rose, I missed it. (Now, there was more commentary on Facebook. But Facebook has different privacy settings than Twitter. When you say things on Twitter you speak to the masses. Facebook depends person to person... so I can't necessarily cite those as public statements.) On Twitter, the overwhelming majority of the commentary was driven by writers from outside the genre, and it was as though almost everyone within the genre stood shoulder to shoulder to not let anyone know we were all plugging our noses because someone farted in our clubhouse.

This is bigger than just how women in crime fiction are treated. Look, I've read Pelecanos. I've watched episodes of The Wire that he wrote. He's a male-oriented writer. That is neither good nor bad. It just is. I guess I'd say he's a man of his time, and for me, for my personal entertainment, that doesn't really fit my interests currently. I love me some male protagonists (Rebus) but I'm far less interested in men of a certain era who view women a certain way. I'm really interested in the men of the next generation, who have a far more inclusive view of the world and are secure in their masculinity so they aren't threatened by strong women, gay men or anyone else. So bring on those authors and those protagonists. PLEASE.

The thing is, we aren't saying enough about diversity in the genre. Jim said about the crime fiction community that it's


Kellye is quoted as saying, "We need to stop treating diverse writers as a trend and start treating them as the status quo.”

All of this brings me around to the most important question. What can I do to promote inclusion?

This year I have run reviews of books by diverse writers, such as Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, and I've profiled writers such as Chanel Hardy and Willie Davis.

In my own reading, I've been emphasizing works by women and diverse writers. This has included reading works by Willie Davis, Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel and Rebecca Roanhorse.

There is still a very long way to go.

The thing is, each and every one of us who is serious about inclusion must make a conscious effort to read diverse writers and to talk about diverse writers. Unfortunately, that puts a certain burden on diverse writers. I have emailed several about doing author features for Toe Six. I only get responses from a fraction of the people I reach out to, across the board, regardless of race or gender. (Women are the hardest group, actually.) Within crime fiction I have a bit less than a 1 in 5 return rate. I expanded to horror and the horror community has a 3 out of 5 return rate. I haven't looked at things in terms of race or gender; however, I am aware that this presents me with a specific challenge. I have to work harder to try to ensure that I am being inclusive... and the trouble is, I only have so much time to devote to this. 

And all y'all who don't have email addresses or ways to contact you? Pffft. I can't even try. So, sometimes I'm hunting down a website or the person on Twitter and they don't allow messages and don't have a public email. And it's not right to call people out on blog comments or Twitter feeds. I don't want to do that, so guess what? I can't even invite you for an interview.

Someone I wanted to email today... isn't getting that email. I wish I could feature them, but I can't. I have an even worse return rate for reaching out through publicists for interviews. It sucks. But I also hate it when people give out my email address without permission. Sometimes it works out fine, but I have an email address on my website that people can use. It isn't my main account but stuff will get to me. Nobody needs to give out my main email address if they have it. I keep things in different places for specific reasons, and my sanity is one of those reasons.

I'm not asking anyone for an author's email address. Even if it's a person who blogs here at DSD. 

Authors, if you don't have a contact form or email system in place, you don't know what you're missing out on. Even if you do have a publicist. I guarantee you. 

I would call on reviewers to focus more on novels that:
  • are written by diverse writers
  • are written by women
  • feature non-white protagonists
  • include LGBTQ characters 
Now, this does put a certain burden on diverse writers, because we can only interview them if they are available. (And like I established, some aren't. Not via email. Not unless you know somebody.) 

However, all of us can make a choice to read more diverse authors and talk about their books.

This isn't about who's at the top of the publishing heap. This isn't about maintaining the status quo. This isn't about accepting the way things are and playing the politics.

This is about the world we want to leave our kids. Do we want to leave them with gender bias and racial stereotypes and exclusion? Or do we want to help usher in a new era of inclusion?

If you are an author or a book-related reporter or editor/publisher and you aren't pushing yourself to read more diverse authors and female authors and books about non-white characters and stories about LGBTQ characters, you are facilitating the current problem in publishing. 

Do we all have the right to read what we like and want to read? Sure. But when this is your business, when you earn bucks from writing or editing or publishing, you are an influencer. You are a person who can shape the industry and the future. Maybe all you do is make someone feel like they belong, or that they have a chance to be published. Maybe all you do is inspire a writer who is black or Indigenous or Hispanic to pick up a pen. It's still something. 

And I'm sorry to break that news to you, but it's a reality. Man, when I started Spinetingler 13+ years ago I just thought about promoting what I loved and sharing what I was passionate about. Eventually, it became clear that there was much more to it. I think one of the first things that really made me aware was an uproar back then about focusing on female writers. And I don't think I took it seriously at all. We did have us some blog spats, back in the day. I recall counting our short story publication numbers by gender and writing about that to someone, or somewhere... I see now I should have treated the issue more seriously than I did.

We will not fix our problems if we don't admit they exist. 

A few months ago, there was an article about how shocked the publishing world was that there were people who didn't live in New York City. There was talk of the scramble to get something published that would interest these peculiar people who'd previously been invisible.

The thing is, as of 2017, 50.8% of the people living in the United States are women. Almost 40% of those people are mixed race or Indigenous, black or Hispanic. 

That means that more than half the country is female and almost half the country identifies as a minority. There is absolutely no way that the overwhelming majority of books in any genre should be primarily written by white men or should be mainly about white men. 

What else can I do?

Obviously, I'm white. I cannot express to you how much I love Middle Eastern and Native American music. There's something in it that calls to my soul, although I have no reason to think that I have any ancestry that is anything but the typical Irish, Scottish, English, French, German mixed bag. I can't change that.

I started searching. Back in April I started an email journey, to find out if there was a directory for Indigenous authors in Canada. Cleo Big Eagle sent me some information and I've continued the journey from there. Now I'm in touch with the HQ Reference Library. I hope to be able to profile more Indigenous authors regularly with the resources they've directed me to.

My writing. My latest book has a protagonist named Moreau who is part white, part Aboriginal. Dana King recently asked me if I was concerned about accusations of cultural appropriation, but as I said to him, "We don't live in androgynous, monochromatic worlds. In order to truly represent society we need to be able to incorporate people with different backgrounds."

What's key is doing this with sensitivity and respect. Moreau's boss is black. Moreau herself faces discrimination and harassment throughout the story, which is intended to show what people actually experience. Some of the stuff I wrote that was directed at her was awful and it bugged me to write it. But I was also really, really pleased when The Masked Reviewer said Moreau was "admirable." 


I also wrote a story about a post-op trans woman that was published in The Dame Was Trouble. I wrote it because of a family member who is trans. ("Crossing Jordan by Sandra Ruttan doesn’t feature murder or a shoot-out but does get us inside the head of a trans sex worker as she tries to unsuccessfully kill herself. But it’s not just A Man Called Ove done up in high heels.  It is a story of persistence and strength in the face of misunderstanding, rejection, and violence. A story that will stick with me.")


These are, to me, the greatest compliments I have received as a writer. To have people embrace Moreau as an admirable character, to say, "I look forward to reading future novels about the adventures of Kendall Moreau in the RCMP....  I have confidence in Moreau's ability to handle all the situations that might arise in the course of her career, and Ruttan's ability to portray them." 

That means a lot to me. It's such a small thing, but one can only hope that if people want to spend time with characters who are mixed race that they will welcome diverse writers too. That they will look to the heart of the story. That they will help usher in an era where we aren't just seeing books about white people in white communities. 

I would love to be able to hang a shingle up at Toe Six and say it exclusively focuses on small press, indie and diverse authors. I won't... not any time soon. The only reason is because I'm limited by what returns to me, and if I say that's what I'm about then I am not going to touch anything from big presses. Current limitations aside, there are some up-and-coming authors who are with bigger presses who still can benefit from promotion, too, because they're the small guys swimming in big ponds. But I am going to be putting my emphasis on the small press, indie and diverse authors wherever I can. This year I have read far more books by women and am increasing my numbers of diverse authors.

And I'll be paying a lot more attention to reviews that focus a lot less on the conventional bestseller list and seek out those undiscovered gems that deserve our attention. We have to give our print to what we want to see more of. I'm not always going to succeed, but that's what I'm going to try to do.

Now, about that incident at Bouchercon...

I don't know what happened. I don't need to know. However, I am going to put this out there for the people who do know. Clearly, there's been enough of a ripple effect for some people to feel they needed to address it on social media. And everything I have seen has avoided specifics.

Please. If you were involved or witnessed it, personally go and document the events and keep a record of it.

Why?

The fact that people are aware something happened will lead to gossip and speculation. Like I said, i wasn't even there and I know something big went down. I know what panel it was at. I know some of the people involved.

And my husband and I have had a whole conversation about it.

It begins and ends there and here for us. However, for each person who may know this little tidbit or that supposed fact, there will be stories swirling. This may be a community, but it's a community of associates, some of whom are friendly and some of whom are friends. Make sure you have you account of the facts in case you need it some day. You never know when it may matter to an agent or a publisher or when you may need to address slander that follows in the wake of some drama. I have the kind of mind that connects dots and it's a curse. I have picked up on crazy stuff from small changes to a person's social media account. Stuff my husband was completely oblivious to, and I was proven right. So you do not even want to know what I started thinking as info started coming my way about what happened at Bouchercon. I can only hope I'm wrong.

It makes me very uncomfortable with the idea of attending a convention again. Without understanding what happened it just leaves you to worry that you'll save your vacation money to go to a convention and be attacked when you're on a panel and have a really bad experience. And there are so many other ways I could spend any vacation money I ever have...

The people who need to be paying attention to this are the convention planning committees. Not hte ones who handled this past B'con. The ones who are planning the next one and the one after that. Measures should be put into place that ensure that whatever happened doesn't happen to anyone else in the future.

That involves dialogue. But not publicly. Not on social media. Not with me. With convention organizers.

Here's hoping they're paying attention.

So no, things aren't perfect over in the crime fiction community. It's a real community, filled with real people, which means there are some real problems. But you know what? There are a lot of really great people who are trying to move things in the right direction and things are starting to change for the better. It may be slow, but it's happening. We can celebrate that. We can also see that we still have some work to do, and each of us can ask ourselves what we can do. 

Hopefully all voices - big and small - will start to pull together instead of putting career interests or kissing ass first. Until then it will be baby steps. 

But at least there are steps. Pledge with me. Read more diverse authors. Read more female authors. Read more LGBTQ authors. And talk about their books. The NY Times has the likes of Pelecanos covered. Spread some love to those who have potential and that you want to see still publishing five years from now. 








Sunday, September 23, 2018

Forensic Art 101


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear from one of the most interesting people in the crime fiction business. Robin Burcell is a bestselling author and a former police officer, who is also an FBI Academy-trained forensic artist. She spoke at a Mystery Writers of America event about that job and some of her cases. The information was not only fascinating, it was very useful for a room full of writers!
Camille Minichino, Robin Burcell, Ann Parker, Barbara Holmes and Tom Williams
Sketches of suspects are used to eliminate, not to identify, she said. So, looking at a sketch of a blond, thin-faced suspect, you can eliminate the dark-haired, chubby cheeked guy just happened to be near the crime scene. If you find a blond, thin-faced man, the sketch isn’t definitive proof that he’s your criminal, but it’s one element a detective can use to prompt further investigation of him.
The other thing I think will be particularly useful for my writing is how Robin described the interview process. When she would sit down with a victim of, or witness to a crime, she would talk with them in a very specific way. The questions need to be open-ended? “What stood out to you?” instead of “Was his hair curly?” As an investigator, you don’t want to suggest anything to witnesses, she said. You want the description to come only from them. I plan on using this frequently when I write interview scenes.
We had a good crowd of mostly Central Valley, California-based writers and readers. A few brave souls trekked from the Bay Area, and it was great to see them.
Catriona McPherson, Robin, and me
Robin’s latest book, The Romanov Ransom, just hit #1 on Publisher’s Weekly’s bestsellers list! It’s part of the multiple-bestselling Sam and Remi Fargo series she co-writes with Clive Cussler. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Shadow: Partners in Peril

by
Scott D. Parker

(Note: I encountered household plumbing issues last night. By the time y'all read this, I'll have the roto-rooter guy at my house and unclogging my drains. But that also means I have to post a re-run. Upon review of my past posts, however, I don't think I posted this one here at Do Some Damage. So, here you go, from January 2018. Besides, last Saturday of Batman Day, so what better way to celebrate that 'holiday' (a week late) than to present a story that inspired the first Batman story. Enjoy.)

Well, it took a while, but I finally read my first Shadow novel.

I think like most of us, I’ve known about The Shadow for a long time. I first discovered him back in the late 70s when my parents purchased some old-time radio episodes on cassette to listen to on vacations. Ten years later, some of those episodes were broadcast on local Houston AM radio on Sunday nights and I’d listen to them as I returned back to college in Austin. And I’d even began collecting the wonderful reprints by Vintage Library to say nothing of some of the comic adaptations. Actually, up until now, the only time I’d encountered The Shadow in print was the two times he guest-starred in Batman comics (my reviews here and here).

Interestingly, it was because of Batman that I first wanted to read PARTNERS IN PERIL. The good folks a Vintage packaged PARTNERS along with LINGO and commissioned a couple of article about how PARTNERS and The Shadow influenced Bill Finger and Bob Kane to create Batman. The historian in me always gravitated to the historical commentary before I read the stories, and this collection is fantastic with not only historical commentary by Will Murray and Anthony Tollin but an introduction by Jerry Robinson, co-creator of Robin and the Joker. But today, the focus is on this November 1936 story.

Reed Harrington calls the police with a desperate situation: he’s been marked for death at midnight. For over a week, Harrington has tried to evade the mysterious caller, but every time, the mystery man finds him. With no one else to turn to, Harrington asks the police for help. Detective Joe Cardona is assigned the case and he’s there in the room when Harrington receives a call just before midnight…and falls dead! In short order, Arnold King arrives at the dead man’s apartment with the same incredible story. What links these two men? Well, they both were former partners of the Milcote Chemical Corporation. Armed with police protection, King holes up and waits…until he, too, falls dead. King dies of electrocution; Harrington of poison.

Enter: The Shadow. He directs his agents to discover the identity of other partners of the company and land on three: Simon Todd, Thomas Porter and his son, Ray. But what complicates the mystery is that Harrington, King, and the two Porters all are former partners of the chemical company. Who would want them dead? Perhaps it is sinister agents of a foreign power out to discover the secret formula for the new chemical weapon created for the United States to use in the next war.  Perhaps it’s something else, but you know before you even read the first word that The Shadow will emerge triumphant.

THOUGHTS

First of all, I really enjoyed this story. I liked how the action played fairly quick and straight. I have since learned that the author of PARTNERS wasn’t Walter Gibson but Theodore Tinsley. In fact, PARTNERS is Tinsley’s first Shadow novel. I read he studied Gibson’s writing style and aimed to achieve a certain verisimilitude with the prose. Today, I can’t say if he did, but the prose flowed well. An aspect of the writing that was likely a product of the times was the omniscient narrator where you rarely got into the characters heads, much less The Shadow. That was likely intentional because Tinsley has us readers (and certain characters) witnessing a thing only to reveal later that The Shadow had already performed a different task. It was very much like the movie serials of the time.

Speaking of The Shadow himself, I enjoyed his disguises and his ability to blend into his surroundings. He appeared both as a young and old workman and Tinsley treated us readers to a classic sly wink as the disguised hero vacated a scene just as another character paused and frowned in odd recognition. A surprising aspect of The Shadow’s character was when he constantly seemed to be five steps ahead of events. Like Sherlock Holmes who knew, for example, the villain in the The Hound of the Baskervilles before he even left London yet sent Watson on errands anyway. The Shadow did the same thing with his team which consisted of Burbank, a man who communicated the plans to other agents, reporter Clyde Burke, and Harry Vincent, who acts as The Shadow’s second-hand man. Ironically, just like Doc Savage’s compadres, Vincent gets himself in trouble and The Shadow has to rescue him, but Vincent proves an able partner.

I listened to PARTNERS from a new all-cast recording up on Audible. It was fantastic and I got a definite old-time radio vibe. There were no sound effects,  but there was soft jazz music at the end of each chapter. A funny aspect of the narrator was his slight pause every time “The Shadow” was mentioned in prose. Another note on the recording: they edited out much of the attribution. Since I had the hard copy and there was a particularly great action sequence, I marked it to re-read and study. It was then, while the audio was playing in my ears, that I noticed they were leaving out some words. As an avid audiobook listener, I wish other productions would do the same thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed PARTNERS IN PERIL and I’ll be quickly moving on to more Shadow novels. THE SHADOW UNMASKS is the only other full-cast recording while THE VOODOO MASTER and THE BLACK FALCON are narrated traditionally.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Switchblade Event!

Switchblade Magazine has been putting out killer crime fiction and putting on killer events for awhile now, so if you’re unfamiliar with them, I’m not sure what your excuse is. I’ve got a story in Issue 2, every issue has been jam packed with your favorite crime fiction writers and voices you may not have heard, AND Stilleto Heeled, their all women, woman edited edition is coming out soon (I’ll be kicking myself for a year for missing that submission deadline).

So if you’re in Los Angeles next week, come see the latest Switchblade event at the Echo Park Branch Library at 6pm on the 27th. Not just because I’d love to see you there, but because we’ve got a killer line up. Featuring: Alec Cizak, Rex Weiner, Lisa Douglass, Rick Risemberg, Scotch Rutherford, and myself.

Be there or be somewhere infinitely less cool. 
Here’s a picture of my cat in the laundry because I can’t get Blogger to upload the flyer from my phone, and he’s pretty. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your Fight Scene Sucks, Fight Me!




When watching a movie, if I can, I'll fast forward through a fight scene, otherwise, I'll get all glassy-eyed until it is over. Don't even get me started on comic book movie fight scenes. When reading, I'll usually scan through the paragraphs of a fight scene to see if anyone happens to die and then I'll catch up with the story in its proper place. Why? Because fight scenes suck.

I probably should have said, "Most fight scenes suck because they are too long and there are usually no ramifications for the characters afterward." Characters need to get injured in their fights and these injuries need to be long lasting, not forgotten by the next chapter. Also, fight scenese are way too long. I really don't know if "way too long" even covers it. Go to Youtube and search for "street fights" and you'll see that most fights are only seconds long and usual end in some sort of grappling, fleeing, or one-punch knockouts.

What fight scenes should not be are chapter-length episodes that one might read in a typical New York Times thriller. Let's join Jack Reacher after 778 words of fighting and beating three opponents in "Night School": "By that point the clock in Reacher’s head told him the fight had been running a little over four seconds." That's almost 200 words a second! Yawn, so much yawn. And there are still five more bad guys for Reacher to take down. I'm aware that these superman characters are supposed to be all that but having a fight drag on like this is as boring as it is preposterous:
Reacher exploded at the guy and got there three inches into the bat’s forward swing, which gave him time to catch its sweet spot in the meat of his palm, and jerk it away, and add his other hand, and stab the knob of the handle at the guy’s head like a rifle butt, and connect, like a ferocious punch through a single knuckle.
James Bond is infamous for its crappy fight scenes.



# # #

But why do fight scenes suck? JD Stanley has an interesting article on this topic. Stanley breaks the problem down into three sections: No Injuries, Too Much Dialogue, and Most people aren't Rambo. Stanley also gives a few suggestions on how to make your fight scene work.

Here's a fight scene that worked, it's from JJ Hensley's "Bolt Action Remedy" (Down & Out Books).
“I’ve talked enough,” he said as he raised a fist and stepped forward to put me within striking distance. 
Snapping my left foot forward, I managed to kick a heap of snow into the larger man’s eyes. He instinctively raised his hands to his face and I took one long stride and used my right arm to deliver a solid straight punch to his diaphragm. People engaged in hand-to-hand combat often make a mistake by focusing on hitting an opponent in the head. But if you ask any experienced fighter, he’ll tell you that he’d rather take ten punches to the head than one good shot to the body. 
The human torso contains all sorts of important organs and most of them are protected by little more than thin rib bones. But most importantly, every fighter needs one very important thing to keep fighting: oxygen. If you take your opponent’s oxygen, you take your opponent. I took Mark Letterman’s oxygen and it was going to take him a while to get it back.
The fight continues a little bit afterward, but Hensley has this fight end almost a quickly as it started which is one of the reasons why it worked. The other, it was basically over with one punch. Maybe the fight lasted two seconds long which comes out to maybe 90 words a second which as a reader I appreciated–my eyes didn't have a chance to glaze over.

The other week, Hensley also had a good piece about how to write a successful action scene over at The Thrill Begins. This guy knows what he's doing.
Every time I write a fight scene, I think of the judo class I took or my first experience with boxing. Every…single…time. Each time, I can feel the leather of the headgear on my face and see the white strings dangling from the boxing gloves. Details like that make action scenes more authentic and relatable to the reader. 
Are you writing a car chase scene? I bet at some point in your life you’ve smelled rubber burning and can describe it to the reader. 
Do you have [a] character being chased down a spiral staircase? What do the echoes sound like? What does the railing look like? What does it feel like? How hard is the character breathing? How can you relate?
So please when you are writing a fight scene keep it short, keep it realistic and for god sakes have people get hurt. Otherwise, I might just tell you that your fight scene sucks. ;-)



I reviewed Hensley's "Bolt Action Remedy" last month over at Unlawful Acts and Hensley's latest book, "Record Scratch" (Down & Out Books) comes out in late October. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Early Morning Flow

By Danny Gardner, Author
A NEGRO AND AN OFAY

I realize I may owe everyone some clarification. I've missed a few posts, one unintentionally and one or two an intended act of self-care, which is unprofessional, but until I get myself some staff for this sort of thing, it really was the writing equivalent of being on empty in a bad neighborhood waiting on AAA to find me with a gallon of fuel. Like, "Oh, no, ma'am. No need to keep me on hold. A nice team of Black Gangster Disciples have arrived. I'm sure they'll be able to help me."

Okay, perhaps not that dire, but sometimes things got mean, and I felt bad, and then I had doubts which so many of you helped me soothe with reassurance I could work through it for the good of my writing. Thanks for that, my friends.

Still, no one else is able to string a few no-call/no-shows together and keep their position. I'm aware I am repurchasing your attention with my account of two controversies of the past few months. Sara J. Henry, my editor for the next Elliot Caprice novel, is expecting a chapter per day. I got my marching orders an hour ago. I don't have enough time to lie or otherwise juice this up. I've got to hit it and quit it and get back to what matters most. Please forgive my stream of consciousness-style takes. I just want to close the matter on a couple of things in this space so maybe I can be less afraid to fill it.

THE ANTHONY AWARD-NOM DISQUALIFICATION

PLEASE NOTE: No official confirmation from the Bouchercon board for any nomination for my book was ever received. What I did receive doesn't seem unofficial, but it doesn't appear to be some communique from an organizing body. Just one of the really nice people who have a lot to do to pull off the conference for us every year. He or she may make themselves known if they see fit. Please just know they were trying to cushion the blow.

Going on the assumption I was disqualified from the best first novel category, with apologies to the nominees in that category, I never said anything because I knew it wasn't my year anyhow. I never wanted the disqualification to get out because I knew Jordan Harper and Kellye Garrett wrote books that changed the game. The Anthony went to Kellye, and it was written all over her from the moment we met in person. My granddaughters have flipped through Hollywood Homicide, attracted to the beautiful black woman with the look of mischief on the cover painting. My daughter and Kellye met. They could've been cousins. Kellye made her feel welcome to be her friend. After she was off to the next get-down, Ashley said, "She's working hard, daddy."

I said, "Three times as hard, hm?"

Ashley nodded, slowly.

What truly matters is there was room for me to be disqualified and another book by an author of color win. That's a far cry for there only ever being one black author of the moment. We have a long way to go, but a way is plain, behind Kellye Garrett and her wonderful book.

There is no controversy. Y'all could've nominated Raymond Chandler. He'd have lost, too. Kellye Garrett's book changed the game. I have my predictions it'd be a hit to soothe me. I knew she was fast on the come up, and her vector is holding. Congratulations, Kellye! Best to your team and your family!

Now, if it's still of interest to anyone:

The Double Life Press edition, however brief in its life cycle, was the thing that denied me the Anthony nomination this year. As has been openly speculated by folks more hip to the game than me, it likely was the cause of the lack of a shred of a snowball's chance in you-know-where of getting on the Edgar shortlist for A NEGRO AND AN OFAY.

With respect to the Anthony, it's a blessing to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I received from my friends, fans, readers, and even some foes who respected my hustle, enough Anthony Award-nominations to have been short-listed for at least one category for my novel. It was a goal of mine to work hard enough and do enough good to be recognized with such an honor. Although rules are rules, and multiple publication dates are indeed grounds for disqualification, kind people backstage found me crying in my dressing room and told me I got a standing ovation and I should be proud.

I am. Thank you for allowing me to have that in my heart. It was a deep kindness and really soothes the hurt. I'll work hard to write another book worthy of the Anthony ballot. I agree with my disqualification and respect the matter as closed. Thanks for caping for me, y'all. It means everything.

A special note of thanks to my agent, Liz Kracht, and everyone at Kimberley Cameron and Associates, for going hard in the paint for me—all Liz on that one. She took every foul, and made every free throw. She was Scottie Pippen, basically. Last time I felt this supported, I lost the oratory competition at the ACT-SO awards in tenth grade. That was a really tough weekend. I saw one judge's scorecard. They dinged me on appearance. Prolly why I spend so much on clothes, now. Anyhow, my speech team coach wasn't nearly the help you were through all this, Liz. Not as tough, either. Thank you.

THE BOUCHERCON PANEL SITUATION

My one takeaway is it took a significant length of time for folks to consider I may have been hurt or felt attacked and needed to prioritize my own well-being and chose leaving a situation I tried improving for 35+ minutes because I needed a safer space. I have, at this moment, still not found that space within crime fiction. This part has to change for the good of all these people who are coming behind Kellye Garrett. They won't be white, either. We have to dialogue this out. I'm down for a beer summit, if you don't mind me having root beer. We have to start talking.

So, many thanks to Erin Mitchell and other Bouchercon insiders for offering to unpack my experience of the panel. For the record, my only experience is, after agreeing to sit on the panel as a trusted professional, I ended my participation prematurely and, thus, behaved unprofessionally.

I also neglected to recognize that Paul Marks was standing next to his spouse during our exchange at the base of the stairs leading to the lobby. I would not have wanted a member of my own family to look upon our discussion. For that, I apologize. I should have recognized it wasn't appropriate to continue, and excused myself.

Speaking to the mass body, crime fiction definitely has some things to talk about, but we seem to be talking, or attempting to talk. Thanks for your concern, whatever concerns you may have. Alas, I shall only add I commit to frank and honest discussion with the Bouchercon board as I serve them in an advisory capacity for issues related to award nomination policy. I shall also be assisting with solutions for diversity and inclusion. I graciously thank Erin Mitchell for her foresight and I'll strive to be useful.

I hope this clarifies things from my point of view. I'm willing to discuss further. I'm completing my next novel at a fast pace, so my responses may be somewhat delayed, but I'm present. I promise to respond in due course.


Love,

Danny


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For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.