Saturday, October 2, 2010

Anyone watching CBS's "The Defenders"?

Scott D. Parker

As my wife will attest, the *new* show I was most looking forward to was CBS's "The Defenders." I'm hard pressed to give definitive reasons why this particular show sparked my interest. Jim Belushi is not a favorite actor of mine. He's okay, in a normal guy sort of way. I've seen the movie "Underdog" numerous times and grew to like him. At the same time, I always considered his recent sitcom, According to Jim, one of the reasons why sitcoms had sunk so low. Jerry O'Connell also is rarely on my radar. Nothing against him, but nothing really in favor of him either. To be honest, when I saw the casting, I was kind of like "Who put those two together?" And "Who greenlit this one?"

I had those thought up until I saw the preview. These guys have chemistry! Someone knew something I didn't. Guess that's why I don't work for a network. Belushi plays Nick Morelli, an attorney in Vegas. He's separated from his wife who looks after their young son (about ten years old I think). His partner, Pete Kaczmarek, is the young stud to Nick's blue collar workman. Pete's into fast cars, great clothes, and hot women, particularly stewardesses and the assistant DA, Meredith.

Even now, I know what you're thinking: yet another lawyer show in Vegas where the underdog defense attorneys fight the good fight against the big, bad DA. Yes, there is some of that. But, in the tradition of Matlock and Perry Mason and Alan Shore and Denny Crane, these guys know how to win. And, unlike those other famous television lawyers, Nick and Pete care about their clients as people, not just a paycheck.

I knew going in that there was going to be some fast talk, lots of references to gambling as metaphor, and general pretty-people-doing-pretty-things vibe. That stuff is in there and it needs to be to stay on the network. Also, I knew that Nick and Pete would be the heart in an otherwise heartless City of Sin. I mean, they are defense attorneys, not bigwig corporate lawyers. What surprised me the most is Belushi. More to the point, it is the brain of Belushi's Nick that has been a happy surprise.

Frankly, I thought Nick would use a lot of fancy courtroom tricks as the main method of winning his cases. There's a great one in the pilot (and previews) where he proves to the audience how a man would have been shot in the back as a defensive maneuver. It was Nick's thought process that was good, giving Belushi the gravitas to prove that he ain't just a jovial guy not to be taken lightly. He can be thoughtful and, most importantly, have that appearance of intelligence be true to the character.

O'Connell's Pete is a slick lawyer, one that would find a home on just about any courtroom drama. If I had to pick another show (that I've watched; never watched Law and Order) where he would fit, it would have been Ally McBeal with Boston Legal a close second. He's young, ambitious, and keen to have a good payout. And he has, so far, been on the receiving end of Nick's instructions. The best way, according to Nick, to determine if a driver could have seen a jogger (that the driver killed) is for Pete to run, in his fancy shoes, along the street while Nick drives behind him. To date, Pete's been the more comic relief character. I expect that to change.

Halfway through the pilot episode, I emailed a friend and suggested that The Defenders might fill the gap left by Boston Legal. In the two episodes aired so far, The Defenders went from "Let me check this new show out" to "I will take no calls during the 9pm hour on Wednesdays."

Here's the link to the CBS website where you can watch the first two episodes now (and probably all the others later on).

Does anyone else watch this show?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Guest Post -Why I Love Serial Killers

By Sarah Pinborough

While Russel sets out to see if it's true what they say about cats in America, we're taking the chance to get a few different voices onto DSD. First up, please welcome Sarah Pinborough. Sarah is the author of six horror novels and her first thriller, A Matter Of Blood, was released earlier this year.

Why I love serial killers.

After writing six horror novels, I've recently crossed the line into writing crime fiction, (A Matter of Blood, Gollancz March 2010), and I've been asked quite a few times what it's like to switch genres. I often say that it's been quite refreshing, but in fact of all the genres, horror and crime feel to me like the most closely related. If they're not quite brother and sister, then they are at least first cousins.

I was reminded quite strongly of this while watching the first part of the TV adaptation 'DCI Banks: Aftermath' of Peter Robinson's work. Without giving any spoilers, the graphic opening scenes involve a machete, blood, death and the discovery of a serial killer's lair replete with bodies. Take away the involvement of a detective (perhaps the only genre separator) and it could have been the opening of a horror film.

If horror and crime are cousins, then the serial killer is their love-child. He fits so perfectly into both genres (I chose to use a serial killer in A Matter of Bood, and had also used one in a horror novel). The serial killer is the embodiment of every boogie man under the bed or monster in the closet for those who are too grown up to believe in such things. I look at films like Seven or The Silence of the Lambs and I can't decide whether they're crime thrillers or horrors. They certainly both create horror in the viewer and it might not be coincidental that they both are centred around the work of serial killers.

The serial killer is the adult's nightmare, in the way ghosts and vampires (the old-school sort anyway) should scare children. So maybe, in a lot of ways, the genre of crime is for grown-ups who like horror. Certainly more women write crime than they do horror and the whole world knows we're the more grown up of the sexes! Also, the women writing crime are writing some quite horrific stuff – I visited a friend of mine yesterday, who told me he'd been reading a Karin Slaughter novel. He paled slightly and said 'she doesn't pull any punches, does she? That is some really graphic shit.'

So if I'm honest, although I've met some really lovely new people through moving to crime, I don't feel like I've moved genres at all. It's more like I've gone to stay with relatives for a while.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hi, I'm the Mayor of Nick's Bar & Grill

Have any of your used Foursquare?

It seems to be a pretty polarizing piece of social networking. Either people find it addicting or completely ridiculous. It's a website or an app where you "check in" to a place. Usually a store or a restaurant. Your friends can check in as well and see where you are.

I've been thinking . . . is there a way, authors or booksellers can use this to their advantage?

At first, I couldn't come up with anything useful. People check in, that's it. You can be the mayor of a place (meaning you're a regular there, pretty much).

But lately, I've noticed something new in Foursquare. "Specials." They're coupons for people who "check in" to certain places. Ben and Jerry's offers a deal on scoops of ice cream. A bar in Hoboken offers a free plate of wings to the mayor.

Stuff like that.

I think indie booksellers could take advantage of this. Offer a discount. Ten percent off for the mayor. Or "buy one get one free" for a person who checks in. It's something that could gain the attention of young people. It would pull people who normally "check in" at Barnes and Noble to your bookstore instead. I know I'm more likely to check into a place that offers a special.

As for authors . . . how can we use this app? The same way indie booksellers can. As advertising. Check in to your local indie. Make sure people know you're still frequenting bookstores.

Help sell books.

It's just an idea.

What do you think?

PS: I checked out our very own Joelle Charbonneau's book signing at Partners and Crime in the city the other day.

I checked in.

So did a lot of other people.

Well, they showed up at lest.

Good luck to her--and Hilary Davidson--on their new releases!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crime Machine by Giles Blunt

John McFetridge

Seems it's book review week here at Do Some Damage (or maybe I'm just too lazy to come up with an original post) so I'm going to link to a review of fellow Canadian, Giles Blunt's new novel Crime Machine that I wrote for the National Post newspaper here.

They headlined the review, "More Than a Whodunnit," which ordinarily would annoy me as it sounds like a negative comment about genre fiction, but I used the phrase myself in the review. Here's what I said:

Blunt’s last John Cardinal novel, By the Time You Read This, opened with the death of Cardinal’s wife, so it isn’t a spoiler to say that in this fourth novel in the series he’s still dealing with grief. In fact, the new novel is an exploration of people’s need for human connection and family — from Cardinal and Delorme, to the young woman and the married man having an affair in the opening scene, to the American reporter in town with her own theories about the murders, to an elderly man being held hostage, even the members of a Charles Manson-like family, the crime machine of the title.

Without that unifying theme, Crime Machine could have become lost in its myriad subplots and red herrings. But this is more than a whodunnit.

And I'm sticking by it. It is more than a whodunnit (not that there's anything wrong with just a whodunnit).

This is the fourth novel in this series and while it's probably a good idea to start with the first one I think it's fine to start with this one. This is a terrific book.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Skating And The Damage Done

By Do Some Damage

Get up. C'mon. Out of bed. Or off the pot. Or wherever it is you read this daily slice of snarky crime goodness. Today we only have one job for you.

Skating Around The Law, by our very own Joelle Charbonnneau is released officially today. That means you can go into stores and buy it. While you're in the store, why don't you also drop one into the basket of the person in front of you. They'll enjoy it. Just tell them we said it was alright.

Here's the official sales pitch for the book;

Rebecca Robbins is a woman on a mission---to sell the roller rink she inherited from her mother and get back to Chicago. Fast. However, when she discovers the dead body of the town’s handyman headfirst in a rink toilet, potential buyers are scared off. Now Rebecca is stuck in a small town where her former neighbors think she doesn’t belong, living with her scarily frisky grandfather, Pop, and relying on a police department that’s better at gardening than solving crimes.

Eager to move forward with her life, Rebecca begins investigating the murder herself, reluctantly accepting help from Pop and his extensive social network, which includes a handsome veterinarian and a former circus camel named Elwood. Nevertheless, someone isn’t happy she’s looking into the case, and their threats will have her questioning whether playing sleuth was such a good idea after all.
Here's our unofficial sales pitch;
It's awesome.
Can't go wrong, right? To hear more about it you could check out our latest podcast through the itunes. Joelle chats to us about the book, about writers block, and about which Star Wars movies count. The next episode should land at the end of the week, too, with Reed Farrel Coleman joining us to talk poetry and Prager.

While you're picking up Joelle's book, you could also check out The Damage Done by friend-of-the-blog Hilary Davidson, which is also released today. It has all kinds of awesomeness, like a dead body in a bath tub and a missing sister, not to mention some real sharp writing. 
And to make things easy for you, both Hilary and Joelle will be in the same place at the same time tonight. They'll be backed up by their
personal bodyguard
fellow author Joshua Corin, who'll be there to tell you all about his own book, While Galileo Preys.
The shindig is at Partners & Crime, 44 Greenwich Ave, NYC. They'll be there between 7 and 9 tonight to sign books, tell tall tales, and demonstrate the best way to kill someone. Head on out. (Ask for Babs.)
Congratulations to Joelle from all of the moody noir guys here, and we hope the event goes well. Go get 'em.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Advice: What THEY Won't Tell You

By Steve Weddle

The blogosphere is flooded with writing advice. Ten Points About Thrillers. Seven Things Your Query Must Have. Three Drinks to Drown Your Rejection. Eighteen Ways to Cook Bacon.

I've read some good stuff the past few weeks. Over at KillZone, Jordan Dane had a good one about suspense/thrillers: TEN TIPS on Pace and Structure in a Thriller.

The first tip -- Start with a BANG and explain later -- is worth the price of admission.

That said, there's some pretty terrible advice out there, too, from folks who have no business offering advice. Folks who haven't sold novels are giving advice on how to write novels. People who have never sold a story are telling you how to plot stuff. Folks who don't know blurb from jacket copy are offering marketing advice. "Use Twitter and Facebook to build a fanbase." Really? Use the Internet? Wow. Thanks.

People with no track record for writing are telling you how to write. That's like having JD Salinger give you advice on writing an adult novel networking.

Heck, sometimes I even offer advice when it's pretty clear I don't know what the hell I'm doing. You want to know how to spit out a tooth after catching a fist with your face? I'm your guy. Getting completely and horrendously and contortionally narded while attempting to navigate a subway turnstile? That's me. Write a best-seller that gets made into a movie starring Natalie Portman and that dude from that cop show? Um, not it.

And, yet, even advice meant as a pure goof can be useful, I think.

Check out the #pubtip and #writetip discussions on Twitter.

Some speak to style:
jaystringer: Your agent query letters should all be written in iambic pentameter#pubtip

Some speak to marketing:
brianlindenmuth: Get a picture taken with a famous author at a signing event then tell everyone it was a joint event #pubtip (this really happened)

Some speak to nudity:
keithr34When meeting a prospective publisher for the first time, pants them and then point and laugh at his/hers genitalia #pubtip

For me, all advice is helpful. I love everyone. I am grateful for each person who has ever offered any help. People don't have to do this. People are busy, yet they take time to offer comments, compliments, criticisms and so forth. And, quite honestly and all kidding aside, authors are some of the nicest, most generous folks I've met -- especially those authors in the mystery/crime fiction community.

So I was surprised to get this note from Johannes de Silentio about advice to writers. I had said that all authors are nice and this de Silentio guy disagreed via email. I'll leave you with his thoughts as I'm busy reading a book someone suggested to me last week -- HOW TO WRITE LESS CRAPPIER.

Johannes de Silentio's NOTES ABOUT WRITING ADVICE -------------

Steve, let's be clear, here. You're so naive. Most writers want you to fail. It's crowded out there. Every writer hates you because you're taking away a chance for them to succeed. Only so much room on the shelf, right? So you should always keep that in mind. Published writers all want unpublished writers to always fail all the time.

Let's look at some of this advice.

1. Be patient.

That old advice to take your time? Haha. Nice one, published author. You'd like that, wouldn't you? Yeah, me working and working for decades while your book sells. Pretty clear you're scared of my awesomeness of awesome. I will not hide from you. Who the hell do you think you are? I will finish my manuscript as quickly as I can. I will send it out immediately. Let's be honest here. Big book companies hire proofreaders, so why should I take any time to do that? I have to write the sequel. Let the editors and readers and agents proof. I am a writer. I write. And drink coffee. I don't have time to be bothered proofreading.

2. Write the best book you can.

Cuh-rap. You ever see a writer stop at one book? No. Never. Because they want to keep writing and getting those checks. If you wait to write the best book you can, you'll never do anything. And if your first book really is the best book you have in you, why write a second? No, these fancy authors living in their big Paris lakehouses are just trying to slow us down. No, this may not be the best book I can write, but it's better than most of the crap out there. I will send it out now because I want my check.

3. Worry about the book, not the money

Uh, right. That's why I write. That's why I spend a whole freaking two months of my life slaving away every lunch hour to write this book. Then I want to print it out and put it in my drawer. Because all I care about is the writing. Haha. You'd like that, wouldn't you, oh famous published writer giving out advice. Haha. No way. I want my check. I do not want a book in my desk drawer; I want my freaking check.

4. Having a bad agent is worse than having no agent

Oh, that's right, oh published author. Do you have an agent? Yeah? Why? Because an agent works with you and gets you your book deal? Because they're indispensable? Right. And you're trying to trick me into NOT getting an agent? Sure. Next you're going to tell me that having a bad book deal is worse than having no book deal.

5. Having a bad book deal is worse than having no book deal

You're kidding me, right? Yeah, I don't want a book deal at all, really. I just want to right the best book I can, right? What's a bad deal? Too small a press? They can't market me? Or too big and they won't? Yeah, that's what I thought. The only kind of book deal that's bad is one that you don't have. No one ever got paid anything without a book deal. And I want my damn check.

------- Here Endeth The de Silentio Lesson


Sunday, September 26, 2010

There's an OKLAHOMA reference somewhere in this post about fringe's but I'm too lazy to make it here

I don't know why, but I've always liked to start my blog posts with context. I like talking about where I am when I'm writing, what time it is, and why I was thinking about the particular topic. I always like reading this stuff in other blog posts and like to think there are other people out there like me.

God help us all.

So it's almost midnight, my wife is watching a recorded episode of ALL MY CHILDREN and the house smells like the dry rub I used earlier to grill some ribs. I've just returned from seeing THE TOWN. Good movie. Ben Affleck is an underrated actor and I hope his new writing and directing cred makes people realize he's got acting chops too. But this isn't about that movie. Not directly at least. It's about characters.

As I'm prone to overthinking things about what I do and why I do it, I've been thinking about the characters I like to read about and those I like to write about. Anyone familiar with my work in the short form probably has a good idea who I like to write about (and it's not just strippers and writers), but I noticed one real overarching theme: I like writing about people on the fringes.

This whole conversation in my brain was actually started several weeks ago with a post Dave wrote about when he returned from his honeymoon. He mentioned being on a cruise that made him feel like James Bond might show up. That got me thinking that I would never write about that cruise, or that type of character. I don't care much for perfect heroes or perfect characters. If I was going to write about a cruise, I would most likely write about the staff in the casino on board, or write about the restaurant workers or some guys who won the trip in a bar pool or something. Or even more likely I would write about a discount cruise. I'd write about one of those rundown river boat cruises full of old people and loud people who can't afford real cruises. This is the kind of cruise that I've been on. And that's when I realized I've always been a character on the fringe, which is probably why I like writing about them.

I grew up blue collar, in a nice area, but the sketchy neighborhood in the nice area. We always had nice things, but we had to work harder for them and usually got them later than everyone else. All of that turned out well for my parents when the economy collapsed and they weren't up to their eyeballs like everyone else, and it also formed my writing voice. I'm drawn to autobiographical stories and like dumping everything from my life into my fiction, so it makes sense that the sorts of things I experience (like discount cruises and sketchy spring break vacations and time share horror stories and other sorts of adventures that come with trying to scam the system) would form the heart of my repertoire.

Thus, crime fiction is a perfect venue for me. It's all about people on the fringes. Granted, most of the time they are the victims, but I like them as the heroes. I like fallen characters, or characters working for their dreams the hard way. I REALLY like characters who had their dreams and either lost them or gave them up. I realized I have a lot of characters who are former something or other or aspiring something or other. This of course comes from my experiences living the dream as a newspaper reporter and an editor in New York City, but giving them up for the exciting world of medical clerical work. Perhaps it's a subconscious message to myself that the one major dream I have now in my life is my writing career and that I need to be careful not to expect too much from it. But my fiction, as with the rest of my outlook on life, still has a healthy optimistic streak (except for a brief burst of stories with suicidal characters and characters looking to rid themselves of children). I find all of this odd considering I have such a romanticized view of everything else, but there you have it.

So let's use this as a springboard for discussion. I suspect the bulk of the readers here are fans of the fringe, but are there any out there who dig the giant heaping spoonfuls of truth, justice, and the American way? Anyone prefer Superman to Batman or Richie to The Fonz?