Saturday, April 17, 2010
Back in January 2009, Charles Ardai visited Houston. He bought prize giveaways (I won nothing), a PowerPoint presentation, and a nice, solid prepared speech where he talked about Hard Case Crime, cover art, and the then upcoming Gabriel Hunt books. I walked out of the bookstore that night completely satisfied. I received something I could not get in any other way.
Other authors have failed to impress. They show up, no presentation created, take a few questions, sign books, and get out of the store. And I'm enough of a book geek to know many of the answers being asked of the author. Rather disappointing, all things considered.
The talk. As readers, what do we really expect from authors at book signings? What should we expect? I'll admit, I prefer the prepared speech variety. My mother recently attended an author talk with one of her favorite authors. The author (I forgot the name) spoke about the writing life, what it's like to research and write multiple series, and gave sneak peaks at upcoming works. Then she took questions and, later, signed every book. My mom had a blast!
Book signings don't need to be rock concerts. But I do think they should provide the reading audience with something special, something they can't get in any other medium. What do you think?
Friday, April 16, 2010
The book is gone.
Out of my hands.
It’s a strange feeling. I start to pace the flat. Thinking about when I wrote, “The End,” how I had doubts and anxieties I couldn’t put into words.
I try and watch some TV.
I try to read.
The book in my hands makes me think about all the flaws in what I have just sent out. I know the premise, but did I do it justice? What about all those continuity errors? What about the voice? Is that voice strong enough? Are the characters properly rounded or just two dimensional morons who are more likely to depress the reader than intrigue them?
Have I lost it?
That is the question that haunts every time something goes out. It’s a precarious thing, this writing gig, especially if you want to make a living. What happens if you find that you just lose all the connection with your readers?
What happens then?
What happens if you can’t claw that back?
Lightning in a bottle. Can you capture a cliché like that twice?
I have to wonder.
Over the next few weeks I bury myself in another project. I think, this is better, and worry that I’m right, that what I’ve sent in is the wrong project.
Any use worrying?
Just bury into the new project. Hope for the best.
Days turn into weeks. I attend the day job. Lose myself in other dramas. Keep hammering at the new project. Watch my email and listen for my phone.
My heart hammers when I think about it. I imagine all the worst case scenarios. The most scathing criticisms. I appreciate honesty and yet fear it, too. Especially from someone whose opinion I respect.
These are the worst moments.
Not waiting to hear what the readers think. By then everything is out of your hands. But waiting to hear from editors and agents, all you can think of is: What should I have done to make this better? Are they going to finally see me for the fraud I am?
When the email comes, it says, “Give me a shout and we’ll talk about the project.”
Remember all the worst case scenarios.
But it has to be done.
Because the fear and the doubt are part of this gig. Because sometimes, you are going to get it wrong, but its better if someone can tell you that you’re going to. And then there’s that hope – that tiny, tiny little voice of optimisim – that says, you’ve done it before. You might have to some work, but you can do it again.
It’s the quietest voice that always wins out.
The quietest voice that reminds me why I do this. And why, in spite of The Fear, there is nothing else in this world I’d rather be doing.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
A sentence that is meant to attract your interest, often a fragment.
First full paragraph. Several sentences that are fraught with strong words that support the opinion of the poster. People who disagree start to get angry, look for ways to attack opinion. Another sentence filled with more vitriol. Attention of readers fully gained. Nothing of substance said.
Paragraph two. More toned down, thoughtful. Some thoughts are laid out. Usually a tpyo or to. Poster starts to back up opinion with one fact read on the internet (Wikipedia?) and more opinions. In book world agents, editors, the unpublished get trashed.
If group blog where people have time to worry about one post a week or two, poster goes on and on backing up more opinions with opinions. Blog post is nearly 4000 words long. Readers follow it, but start skimming. They have formed their opinion.
If solo blog, post ends here with a short sentence that relates back the first. Writer hopes to emit audible gasp from readers around the world. Actual hit count for the day? 42.
Always starts with "You hit the nail on the head."
"Great post!" (AKA I have nothing to add.)
Angry disagreeing diatribe. Opinion, opinion, opinion. Disagree, disagree, disagree.
Anonymous comment telling you how much your dog, you truck, your wife and your book sucked. Personal insult dropped here.
(Blogger immediately starts checking IP addresses.)
GREAT POST! (I HAVE NOTHING TO ADD BUT WILL USE CAPS)
Someone actually does some research, shoots blogger down. And hater.
Did you see Lost last night?
Original poster, happy he got more than one post comments again, trying to keep the hits coming. They don't.
Shameless Self-Promotion under the guise of almost relating to the topic. All I really want you to do is buy my books. There are only two left on Amazon! Order... something sort related to the topic. ORDER!!!!
This is my first time visiting your blog. It would be great to use this post in my thesis paper! I will return here again!
Original poster thanks comment 10 poster a ton. Can't believe he's going to be used in thesis. Did not click on link.
Post immediately forgotten about by everyone as the next unresolved, nothing will ever change, another FAUX ATTENTION GRABBING blog post has been posted.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
(Back from commercial. You didn’t flip channels, did you?)
Part Two is here.
Moncton, New Brunswick – Northup Home
Isobel was in the kitchen, pouring milk on cereal for Herbie and Sam was spreading peanut butter on a piece of toast when Jerry walked in and said, “Can you do the pick-ups today,” and Isobel said, “Good morning.”
She was dressed in her nurse’s uniform, a little morning sun coming in through the kitchen window and she turned and looked at Jerry and he said, “I’m sorry, but it looks like I’m going to be late tonight,” and she said, “You were late last night.”
Isobel put the cereal bowl on the table in front of Herbie and he started eating right away, spilling Lucky Charms all over the table. Six years old and he still couldn’t get the spoon into his mouth.
Jerry said, “Can you do the pick ups?”
“I don’t know, I’m on call tonight, I guess if nothing comes in I can get away.”
“Can your mother pick them up?”
“I don’t know, I’ll have to call her.”
Susie walked into the kitchen and Isobel said, “Honey, you’re not dressed,” and Susie, ten years old and standing there in her underwear said, “My red dress isn’t there.”
“You wear that dress every day, it’s in the wash today, you have to wear something else.”
Susie turned and walked out of the kitchen and Isobel looked at Jerry and was about to say something when Sam said, “Aren’t there any juice boxes,” and Jerry said, “Just what you see.”
Isobel said, “So, you are going to be doing all the extra work, all the extra hours, whether they promote you or not,” and Jerry said, “The work has to get done.”
And she said, yeah, of course, looking at him like she knows he’ll do it and not say anything at work, no matter what happens at home, and he said, “It’s just like at first, when you took over the emergency room, Doc Kovalchuck dragged his feet for a year before he finally officially made you head of the department, but you did all the work.”
“So there is a chance you’ll get promoted?”
Jerry said, “I don’t see it happening,” and Isobel said, okay, and looked at him for a minute and then called, “Susie, are you ready?” Then she said, “Herbie, put the bowl in the sink.”
And Jerry said, “We did fall asleep at the wheel a little with Bergeron and the bad guys did get out in front. We’ll be playing catch-up for a while.”
“That’s not your fault.”
“No, not really, but, you know.”
They looked at each other and, yeah, they both knew.
And then Sam said, “Susie, what up?”
Isobel said, “Oh Susie, come on, really?” And the naked Susie said, “My dress isn’t in the hamper, I can’t find it anywhere,” and Isobel was already dragging her out of the kitchen saying back over her shoulder, “Can you take Sam and Herbie and I’ll get this one there as soon as I can.”
Sam looked at his father and said, “So, where’s my lunch, lunch bag’s empty,” and Jerry said, “Forage the parking lot, graze the soccer field, come on,” and scooped up Herbie and they were out the door.
Moncton , New Brunswick – RCMP Offices
Constable Evelyn Edwards was sitting at her desk in the open concept bull pen talking on the phone, saying, un-huh, okay, right, and then she hung up.
Jerry came out of his office, one of the few along the outide walls, and Edwards said, “He’s meeting his supplier today,” and Jerry said, “In Montreal,” and Edwards said, no, “Just outside Edmunston.”
“Tell him now that he’s becoming such a good customer he’s got to meet the big boys in Montreal.”
Edwards said she’d tell him, but, “He’s not going to wear a wire.”
Jerry said, “Not yet, but he will,” and Edwards said, yeah, as she was getting up and walking out the door.
Jerry watched her go and then saw Ralph Whitney, another narco cop sitting at his desk poking at his computer and Jerry wlked over and said, “Hey Whitney, aren’t you suposed to be watching that fisherman, Clark?” and Whitney said, yeah, “But he didn’t come home last night,” and Jerry said, “So where do you think he is?”
Whitney never looked up from the computer, just said, “Could be anywhere.”
Jerry looked around the room like he couldn’t believe it and saw Alphonse Turcotte coming in and motioned toward Whitney. Turcotte just rolled his eyes and Jerry said, “So how about you go find him,” and Whitney sat there for a minute, thinking about it, before he stood up and said, “Yeah, I guess I can think of a couple places he might be,” and walked out of the office.
Jerry stood there watching him go and Al came over and said, “What do you expect,” and Jerry said, “More than that.”
Al nodded, rocked on his heels a little. He was older than Jerry and he’d found his comfort level running the office, not bothered seeing guys get promoted past him if they knew what they were doing. He said, “You sure?”
Jerry said, “How bad has it been here,” and Al said, “We’ve been making plenty of arrests,” and Jerry said, yeah, sure, “Street dealers, bottom rung guys, nickle and dime crap.”
“That’s our job.”
“We’re not keeping up. We should be going after bigger guys, wholesalers, inporters. What was the biggest shipment we busted in the last five years?”
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
“Come on, we’re so far behind we’ll never catch up.”
Al said, look, “You’re a good copper, Jerry, but you have to play the game.”
“Yeah, that’s what Henry did best, wasn’t it, play the game.”
“The politics are important, you have no idea what he kept us out of.” And he looked right at Jerry and said, “What he kept you out of.”
“Maybe we should have been in it more.”
“Like you’re doing with Edwards and Leonetti, picking up that kid, putting him to work for you?”
Jerry said, yeah, “Going after the big boys. They’re moving in here from Montreal everyday, there’s more product passing under our noses down into the states everyday, going to Boston, New York, all the way down the coast. We know they’re bringing in coke offshore, we know there are some big grow ops here.”
“You think we’re BC now, you think there’s New Brunswick Bud?”
Al was laughing but Jerry said, “It’s not so crazy.”
“Just remember, Henry knew all this, too, but he knew what he was up against. Out there, and in here.” Al looked right at Jerry and motioned a little around the office and then gave a kind of thumbs up and said, “All the way to the top.”
“Do you? Henry had us making good, steady arrests, our numbers were always good, everybody was happy.”
“That’s the problem, everybody was happy, the dealers, the growers, everybody. Maybe it’s time people weren’t so happy.”
Al was nodding then, agreeing but worried. “Just don’t try too much too soon.”
“Anything is better than nothing.”
On that, they agreed.
Moncton, New Brunswick – Hospital
Isobel parked her Toyota Echo and walked towards the hospital, passing by a group of people standing the twenty feet form the door they needed to be to smoke and felt the craving again, something she hadn’t in quite a while, thinking it must be the stress, Jerry working all these extra hours, no extra money coming, no sign of any changes and then she saw someone she thought she knew, an overweight woman wearing track pants and a sweatshirt, smoking and leaning on a wheelchair, a severely handicapped girl maybe ten years old in the chair.
The woman looked at Isobel before she could look away and she was caught. They did know each other and as the woman kept looking at her Isobel realized it was Melody Goodwin so she said, “Hi, Melody?” Making it a question.
“Yeah, Isobel McClintock, right.”
“I go by Northup here, my married name.”
“Wow, it’s been a long time.”
Isobel said yeah, high school, “Long time ago,” and Melody said, “You married a cop, didn’t you?” And Isobel said, yeah, and she almost said, the one who’s going to arrest your son, but she said, “We’ve got three kids now.”
Melody said, “The kids I’ve got. You remember Mickey, I brought him into school when he was born, you remember what Mrs. Johnson said?”
“I just remember what a good looking baby he was.”
“He was freakin’ huge is what he was. Eleven pounds. And I have Madison, she’s out west, and Summer here.”
Isobel looked at the girl in the wheelchair, her head drooping to one side, no real expression on her face and said, “How old is she,” and Melody said, “Eleven,” and Isobel realized that Melody Goodwin had probably been bringing her little girl to the hospital her whole life, the whole eleven years and Isobel’d been working there even longer and she’d probably walked right past her dozens of times and not even noticed her. She’d only recognized her today because Jerry mentioned Mickey Goodwin and brought back all those memories.
Melody said, “The doctors said she wouldn’t live past five,” and Isobel said, well doctors, “What do they know,” and they shared a smile over that.
Then Melody looked at Summer and said, “Yeah, we’ve seen enough of them, that’s for sure.”
Isobel said, yeah, I guess, and then it was really awkward, she just wanted to walk away but Melody was looking at her, saying, “So, you work here?” And Isobel said, yeah, “I’m a nurse, emergency room.”
“You always wanted to be a nurse, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t know there was anything else I could be, nurse or teacher, right? And I sure didn’t want to put up with kids like us all day.”
“That would suck.”
And they were both smiling so Isobel said she’d better get to work if she wanted to keep the job and Melody said, yeah, “I’d better get going too,” and Isobel was happy neither one of them had said anything about seeing each other again.
Though as she walked into the hospital she realized they probably would – as much as they probably had in the past but now they’d have to say something to each other. Shit.
Trans Canada Highway – Degelis, Quebec
Just across the border into Quebec Mickey pulled into the parking lot of an Irving gas station, looking like every other Irving station in the maritimes, big roof over the pumps and a restuarant, Irving the last chain to hold out against putting in a fast food outlet.
He saw the Audi A4 already in the lot, parked a few cars down , went inside and there was Marcel Dagenais sitting in a booth eating soup.
Mickey sat down across from him and said, “You’re early,” and Marcel said there was no traffic, said, “It was an easy drive.”
The waitress came to the table and Mickey said, “That’s okay, I’m not hungry,” and Marcel said, you sure? “This chowder is really good,” and Mickey said, yeah, “I get enough seafood,” and Marcel was looking at him so he said, “Maybe a cup of coffee,” and the waitress said, okay, and walked away.
Then Mickey said, so, “I think I can move more product.”
Marcel ate a spoonful of soup and said, “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, I was thinking maybe double up.”
“Two a month?”
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“You have the customers?”
“Oh yeah, every one I got now is asking me for more.”
Marcel said, okay, maybe, but, “The price is the same,” and Mickey said, “Yeah, sure, of course,” and then thought he agreed to quickly, he should have tried to make a deal, the second kilo should’ve been cheaper, shit.
The waitress came to the table then and put down the coffee and when she left Marcel said, “Okay, we can do something next month,” and Mickey said, okay, “Great.”
He poured cream and sugar into the coffee, his hands shaking a little, and drank, trying to steady his nerves and said, “I really appreciate you meeting here, you know, halfway like this and everything, but maybe next time I could come up to Montreal, you know, I’m going to be a bigger customer I could get some of that Montreal service.”
Marcel leaned back in the booth and smiled a little, saying, “You don’t have hookers in Moncton,” and Mickey said, man, “Not like you have in Montreal. I still remember that chick, when I got out of slam and partied with you guys? She was something else,” and Marcel said, “Yeah, I guess she was.”
Mickey drank more coffee and tried not to look right at Marcel, but the guy just said, “Yeah, okay, we’ll set something up,” and Mickey said, “Hey great,” hoping it didn’t show how relieved he was.
He finished his coffee and walked back out to the parking lot, walking past his minivan and going to the trunk of the Audi. He opened it and took out a grocery bag and dropped in an envelope, walked back to his minivan, got in and drove off knowing no one noticed anything.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
By Jay Stringer
The Spinetingler 2010 awards are still open for voting as I type. If you haven’t been over and voted yet, now is as good a time as any. Hell, they even inspired the British government to call an election out of jealousy at not getting any nominations. They wanted in on the act, they wanted a ballot, a campaign, they wanted to kiss babies and woo the ladies. Personally, i think it will be in vain. No matter how hard they try, they wont be good enough to sit with the Spinetingler nominees.
You won’t catch me trying to canvas votes in anyway. Never. Not a chance. Although, if I WERE going to make a few suggestions, they might go something like this….ahem…
I’ve already told you how good Russel’s The Lost Sister is, so you could click in that direction for the NEW VOICE category.
I’ve already told you how good Russel’s The Lost Sister is, so you could click in that direction for the NEW VOICE category.
The short story section is full of stories that I enjoyed. Can’t try and persuade you one way or another, but many of them are familiar names to readers of DSD and good luck to all of them.
If you’ve been around here for a while, you may remember my love letter to the comic book Scalped which finds itself in something called the “GRAPHIC NOVEL” section. It’s in some fine company, Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of The Hunter was gorgeous and would also be well deserving. But I’m too scared to crass Dash or Chief Red Crow.
Anyone who swears as much as The Nerd Of Noir deserves a few extra votes when it comes to reviews.
And while I’m rounding up, let’s not forget that Al Guthrie’s awesome Slammer is on the list as well for it’s US cover. I love that edition. So simple, so stark, so right.
Now, all joking aside, everyone on the list deserves to be there. So head on over and vote for whichever titles and authors you feel need rewarding. And we’ll pretend I didn’t try and have an influence. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…..
But wait, there’s a couple more. And here I really need to get down and drool.
Busted Flush Press is probably my favourite imprint right now. David and co just get it. By gawd, have you seen the covers to the new editions of the Moe Prager books? You have? Well, want to look again anyway? These things are great, from an imprint who know what they’re doing. Handily, they get a nomination in the IMPRINT category. They also, in a roundabout way, get a nom (don’t you hate that word? I do. When did that become a thing?) in the LEGEND category by way of Tower, by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman.
I actually put off reading the book for a long time. I don’t know. I was nervous about it for some reason. Was it going to be too obvious? Was the blending of voices going to work? Would it be a novelty book?
Bottom line is, I’m an idiot.
The book is a taught and moving balancing act between two writers. It focuses, mainly, on the lives of two friends growing up in New York. They’re both from the wrong side of the street, they both have two many strikes against them from birth to really make it out in one piece. But the journey that Bruen and Coleman take them –and us- on is moving and visceral.
Nick and Todd have been friends their whole lives, until loyalty, love and duty start to twist them up inside and start a gentle tug of war for each others soul. And this little battle is played out in the prose, a friendly fight between the authors that helps elevate the book.
Bruen writes as if freebasing anger and coming down afterwards on pain. His character nick is twisted up inside, one of those noir characters who’s angry for the sake of anger. He’s a 70’s Springsteen song. Coleman is one if the best there is at writing grief and soul. Not enough crime writers today seem to want to tackle grief and regret as emotions key to how we face the world. But Coleman gets it. And he makes us get it. If Nick is angry for something he can never have, Todd feels to me like he’s mourning something he never had.
Reading it as an outsider to toe settings of the book, New York and Boston, it put me in mind a little of The Departed, which is not a bad place to be. The characters lie to each other and themselves, and you wait for them to run head first into their destiny. There are a few sucker punches in here that really knock the wind out of you, and that’s great writing.
And the edition, did I mention the edition? Another win for Busted Flush. Lovely little paperback with French flaps and a simple retro cover style. This book’s got talent all over it, from the authors, to the editor (a certain tartan ninja) and the publisher. Work like this needs to be rewarded.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Rejection well and truly sucks. Yep. No matter how experienced you are at this part of the writing process, hearing “No, thanks” or the dreaded “I’m not passionate about the project” stings. I have lots of those kiss-offs sitting in my drawers and somewhere on my hard drive. How about you?
As a professional actress/singer, I have received lots of rejections. (Lots is actually a serious understatement, but you get the point.) Yes, I’m a complete masochist in my career choices. I’ve been an actress, singer, model and now a writer. If there is a career field riddled with rejection, I’ve taken a stroll across it. That bizarre choice has sort of made me an expert in getting rejected. Which is good. Rejection exists at every level of the writing business. You have to develop a thick skin because rejection is never going to go away. Unpublished authors and published authors alike face rejections. Shall we count the ways?
1) The Great Agent Search: This quest for an agent often lands most authors the largest number of rejections because there are a lot more agents who accept unsolicited queries. The saying “finding an editor is easier than finding an agent” is often true. Of course, most editors don’t take unsolicited manuscripts so that door can be closed without an agent. A total Catch-22. Sigh!
2) The Even Greater Editor Search: Once you’ve scored an agent, or you submit to an editor that doesn’t require the agent connection, there are more rejections.
3) The Reviews: The grass always looks greener on published side, but published authors can get rejected over an over again on a published book. Be it major review publications or reader opinions on Amazon.com, reviews can be huge morale killers. I faced these as a performer and am already chewing my nails off in anticipation of the reviews on my first published work….and that is still five months away.
4) The “This isn’t your best work” or “We are going in a different direction” Rejection: Published authors often get these lines from their editors or agents who have in the past loved their writing. Yeah…these really sting.
And that is just the tip of the rejection iceberg. Have I depressed you yet?
Unfortunately, the rejection in the publishing industry is real and often very painful. But I’ll tell you a couple of secrets. The rejections can be great motivators to prove the naysayers wrong. I found that each rejection made me more determined to improve my writing and submit my best work and I became a much stronger writer as a result.
Rejection secret number two: often the rejection you receive isn’t even about you. If you are busy querying agents, I’m guessing that your ‘dream’ agents are the ones representing the big names in your genre. They have deals listed in Publishers Marketplace every week. They are awesome. They are also not looking for new clients…not really. Sure, they take queries from new authors and say they are looking. They might sign one new client a year. Often they don’t sign any. So they are looking for you to be a writer that they just can’t turn away for any reason…and they are going to look for reasons. Executive editors – same story. Sometimes the low person on the totem pole, who doesn’t have the flashy author, is the one you need to be querying. Even then, sometimes you just don’t have the marketing hook. You can’t help those things. All you can do is write the best book you can and wait for the stars to align.
And not to depress you further, but that alignment might take years upon years to happen. If you are going to survive in this subjective business, you have to learn to roll with the punches. And when the rejection is starting to get to you – bump off a character in particularly compelling and gruesome way. It’s cheaper than a therapist. Trust me. That’s what I do.