Saturday, June 1, 2013

Speed Writing

Scott D. Parker

As quoted by a modern American icon, “I feel the need, the need for speed.” I don’t suppose I’m alone in wishing for a little more speed in the writing output. When I read about the output the old masters like Lester Dent, Erle Stanley Gardner, and other great pulp masters, I get envious of their productivity. Granted, the motivation was helped tremendously by the mere fact that they were most likely putting food on the table based on their writing output, but you get the point. They wrote fast, yet they also wrote well.

In trying to get my writing chops honed up, I started writing a little short story. Said story is one that I expected not to take me too long. You know: get the idea fleshed out, get it written, move on to the next story, flex the imagination chops. Not so. The “little” story is taking on a life of its own. I’m almost done with it, but I’m at 12,000 words and I still have a scene or three to go. True, I’m not hampering where the story is taking me and I know that I’ll hack away at it when it’s complete, but I actually expected it to take less time. Mental note for myself: make sure the next one really does take less time.

The only issue is, of course, typing speed. I can only type so fast and I only have a certain amount of time per day that I devote to writing.  I’m carving out more time now that school’s out and I can wake up at the same time each day (6am) and have some additional time to write. That’s a great thing, you know? And I’m already using my speech recognition software to dictate notes, emails, and blogs (not this one today), but I haven’t managed to use it for an entire story. That’ll be later this summer. I'll let y'all know how that goes.

I guess my only other option is to type faster. Or make more time per day to write. Seems like there should be some sort of typing regimen you can take to speed up your typing. 

Are there any tips you know to write faster? Anyone you know of have success with dictation?

Album of the Week: Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

 I'll be honest: I can't say that I had never heard of this band before a fortnight ago, but it's close. NPR Music featured them recently and I then I listened to the streaming album on iTunes. This record hit me like a ton of bricks. I love it! It hits so many cues, from 1970s disco and electronica to 1980s synth pop. I'm not normally drawn to 80s music anymore--despite that being the tunes I listened to in my formative years--but this collection of songs is making me consider it. Daft Punk is a dance band consisting of two guys who always seem to dress up as robots. In listening to this collection of 13 songs, it can be kind of fun to name check all the echoes and homages and musical references: disco, Donna Summer, Steely Dan, Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Hall and Oates, Earth Wind and Fire, and the Apparat Organ Quartet, to name just a few. There are two highlights. One is a song where composer Giorgio Moroder talks about his past and early career while the music plays underneath. I'll leave it to Moroder fans to let me know if there are passages in this song (a nice, low-key, lounge-y groove that morphs into a jazzy, electric piano middle) that harkens to Moroder's work, but it's fantastic. In the center of the LP is a collaboration with Paul Williams. If he did nothing else, Williams' composition of "Rainbow Connection" from the 1979 Muppet Movie is more than enough for me. "Touch" starts out with some 1970s electronica/scary music/space music type thing, and then shifts to a quiet, somber section. Williams' voice is fragile, honest, yet can still bring it. The "waka waka" guitar signals the transition to a song that would have graced the top of the charts circa 1978, complete with brass section, soprano sax solo, and strings. 

It's only June, but this album is clearly the one to beat for my favorite album of 2013. Highly recommended.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Her Cheating Heart - - a video reading

I seem to remember that Her Cheating Heart was commissioned by Spinetingler Magazine although I can't remember what the reason was - - it was a special series of stories they were running that had to be around 1k words. Anyway, they asked and I delivered. It was a mood piece, really, and the the running joke behind my writing it was that there is no better soundtrack to murder than country music; all those broken hearts and dead flowers are just too good to waste.

Anyway, I've been meaning to record the story for a while now, so we set up a camera and did a quick and dirty shoot. I won't tell you whose room that is or why they have a Steve McQueen poster festooned with lights. But if this works, I might start thinking about doing more direct to camera pieces. Maybe actual posts and ramblings replete with my face in your monitor.

As of writing this, The Death of Ronnie Sweets (the collection this comes from) is free in Kindle. I think once this post goes live you'll have one more day of free and then its up to 77p or free to borrow for Prime Members (whatever that means). I love the stories in the collection. I love the character of Sam Bryson, who was a fore-runner to J McNee (the protagonist of my first three novels). I hope that you might, too. And I apologise profusely for the pimping.

Anyway, enjoy:


If you want to know more about Sam, check out Thrilling Detective

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Books for Troops

By Steve Weddle

When I was a kid, our bus stop was at a gas station that had a comics spinner. We'd load up on Icees and Thor and X-Men before school each morning. I say "we" as if I had friends, but it was mostly me.

Anyhoo, you don't see comics in spinners so much these days. You see paperbacks. Well, I do. Maybe you do. They have spinners of mass market paperbacks down at the library. Leave one and take one. They have shelves at another library. Leave two, take one. Paperbacks are a great form of entertainment you can just pass along to someone else.

In fact, groups are set up to do just that for our soldiers overseas. Here in the states, we just honored our fallen soldiers with Memorial Day. Other countries have similar days of remembrance. In Australia it's called Anzac Day. In Canada it's Armistice Day. In the UK, I think it's Boxing Day or something like that.

So, now is a great time to talk about helping out our soldiers overseas by sending them books to read. Jason Boog over at GalleyCat posted a link on How to share books with our troops. I'd suggest checking that out and sharing any other book-sharing charities you know about.

(For some reason, the post's title says "books & ebooks," which is some weird distinction. Also, the BooksAMillion folks have selected about a dozen books you're allowed to donate through their program. Would be nice to know how publishers got their books on that list. But those are for other posts.)

So, if you've donated through one of these programs, let us know how it worked out. Or if you use one of these or another program, please share that, too. I think I'll slip in a few Beta Ray Bill Thors as I'm putting a box together.

As the child of a veteran, I can tell you that those fighting for our country love getting stuff from home and love reading. So, have at it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Based on a True Story

You get your inspiration from life or from art.

Sometimes the spark comes from something I read in a novel or something I see in a movie and sometimes the spark comes from a true story.

Writing is what you do with that inspiration, how you make the points you want to make, draw the conclusions you want to draw or just to leave the questions you’d like to leave with the reader.

Nothing new there, writers have been doing that forever. Standard Operating Procedure, as they say.

And yet, once in a while I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of fictionalizing real people and their personal situations.

The next book I have coming out, Black Rock, is based on three true stories – what we call the October Crisis in Canada, the bombings, armed robberies, kidnapings and murder that went on through the 60s and came to a head in October 1970, the story of a serial killer named Wayne Boden who killed four women between 1969 and 1971 and the murder of a teenaged girl in 1975.

When I started the research, not sure if it would be a book or not, I’d never heard of Boden or his victims. I started with the idea of a murder not getting enough attention because of the huge investigation into the terrorism at the time. I thought that resonated with the world today enough to be relevant. For the murder, I didn’t have a particular one in mind, but I figured with all that police attention on the terrorists there had to be something that wasn’t getting enough attention.

I remembered a murder that took place in 1975. I remembered that one because the victim was a girl my own age, in the same grade I was in but at a different high school. Her name was Sharron Prior. She left her house in the early evening on a Saturday intending to walk a few blocks to a restaurant to meet her friends. Somewhere between her house and the restaurant she disappeared. I remember the searches over the Easter weekend and the story in the paper the next week when her body was found, a small story at the bottom of page five. The front page headline that day was, “Pincers near panicky Saigon.” I delivered that newspaper to about 60 houses that morning.

My intention was to fictionalize that story, move it back a few years and make it the murder that didn’t get enough attention because of the October Crisis.

But that murder is still unsolved. And Sharron Prior’s mother, Yvonne, is still doing everything she can to get it solved. There is still a reward for information.

So, as writers do, I felt that fictionalizing the story was invading peoples’ personal lives.

Would it be too much of an invasion?

Of course, there’s no definitive answer to that question, it’s different for every writer and every situation.

Then as I was researching the October Crisis I discovered Boden and his victims. Again, small stories buried deep in the paper. So, I felt if these murders weren’t getting much media attention it was easy to make the connection they also weren’t getting enough police attention.

I was (and still am, frankly) wondering about still fictionalizing the 1975 murder because it’s still an open case. I’m not sure I believe there is such a thing as “closure,” but I’m certain that an open murder investigation is still an open wound.

So I talked myself into the idea that maybe fictionalizing Sharron Prior’s murder would bring a small bit of attention to it, that it might help.

Ever go a week without a justification? (name the movie)




Monday, May 27, 2013

Next gen book blogging and some Star Trek stuff

Feeling a bit rambly this week. Here's some things on my mind.

-What's next for book bloggers - We've talked here before about blogging dying and should it be. I've been writing online since 2006. I've had my ups and downs and lately I've been feeling it. I find it hard to write anything that resembles a book review. And given the limited time I have I'd rather read the next book then write a review for the one I just finished.  Now I'm more of a book talker. I love talking about books and still do a lot of shorter book related posts on social media.  I admire the ability of the daily and near daily bloggers who have been at it awhile and show no signs of slowing (Jen Forbus and Elizabeth White come to mind).

With all of this circling around me I found this post by Tobias Buckell interesting, "The fate of today's book bloggers":

I’m seeing a lot of book blogs that I used to have bookmarked went and folded up shop. I imagine that was as a result of hitting a certain threshold of either of the two points I relayed, and not seeing a way through. Book bloggers are doing it for the love, they’re not making mad money. They’re enthusiastic spreaders of the word.

So what happens when a lot of that joy fades? Do they continue on momentum? Look to monetize the blog? Focus only on the books that they love, and risk losing the audience and community they created (because they’re interested in artist’s artists, or decrying the lack of originality, while readers who enjoy the books being decried decamp)? Get bitter and throw some bombs, which will certainly create debate and energy, but can also create pushback and enough argumentation that they get tired of the fighting about stuff (unless they’re trollish in nature, in which case they feed off the acid and you’ll always have that)?

From later on in the article:

I think book blogging is new enough that a lot of people are finding their way through some of the same issues I’ve seen over the last 15 years with writers (because, lets face it, blogging *is* writing, some of the lessons are transferrable). Writers have been lucky to have other writers a generation ahead passing knowledge back on down, but bloggers are going through it alone, it’s all new.
I don't know what's next for me but I'm feeling it. I've written hundreds of thousands of words over the years and I'm just fucking burned out.

(See also: Why Blogging is Dead and What's next & Sarcasm and Stars The Lowest Form of Reviewing?)

-Khan the cracker:

We saw the new Star Trek movie last weekend and I liked it a lot. As entertained as I was while watching it I've been almost as equally entertained by the criticism and discussions that followed.  One of the ones I've been the most intrigued by was the charge of Khan being white washed.

A brief side-note (as tends to be customary in Trek discussions) attesting to the level of my Trekiness (or not). I've never self-identified as a Trekkie, I've seen all of the movies, a couple of episodes of TNG, and TOS. The first episode of Enterprise. The entire DS9 series (which I liked). I don't know what that makes me or where I fall on the spectrum but there it is.

Within all of that I certainly know who in the hell Khan is. But what I never knew was that Khan was a Sikh. So when the charge of white-washing was leveled I was intrigued. I also had to wonder how many people knew that. Or does my placement on the Trek fandom spectrum mark me as a rube and everyone else knew this but me.

While watching the movie I felt that Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job in many ways. He certainly held my attention. One guy sitting behind us audibly said "Oh shit" during the Khan reveal, I envied him his ability to come to the movie fresh. Side anecdote. I remember going to the movie as a kid and seeing a teaser trailer for Robocop 2: Crime happening, car drives up, door opens, camera pans up to reveal Robocop. We all lost our shit in the theater. Ah the days of being able to be surprised. (I just went over to Youtube to try and find that teaser and am now wondering if the whole thing is a false memory. I'm clinging to it anyway)

Anyway, as good a job as Cucumberlatch did I found myself intrigued by some other possibilities. Like Naveen Andrews or Ben Kingsly in the role.

-Kirk's kinda death scene. I just wanted to take a moment to say that the death scene was done really well. When Kirk says to Spock "I'm scared", it was a great moment in this Kirk's development. It was a wonderfully acted, human moment that was really touching. 

Which isn't to say that the scene wasn't without its problems. But I thought it very good over all and just wanted to take a moment to say so.

Thoughts on any of this? What's on your mind this week?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why do you read?

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Yesterday, I attended a family graduation party.  I love hanging out with family.  There never seems to be enough opportunities.  During this party, I was lucky to have lots of time to chat with one of my younger cousins.  He admitted to me that he only read books written by me (thanks, Dylan!) or the ones that he was forced to read by teachers in school.  Another cousin mentioned that she couldn’t remember the last book she read.  She then looked at me and said, “I bet you’ve always been a reader and the studious type.”

Well, I have to admit –guilty as charged—about the reading.  Studious isn’t the word I would say always applies to me.  As I was driving home, I started thinking about my love affair with reading.  Because it is a love affair.  There has never been a year where I didn’t read at least 50 books or more.  Sometimes a heck of a lot more.  My mother likes to read now. (Hi, Mom!)  But she wasn’t a huge reader while I was growing up.  My dad was certainly not the sit-down-and-read-a-book type.  He was the go outdoors and work in the yard kind of guy.  So, I found myself asking….why do I read?

My gut answer is—because I can’t imagine not reading. 

That answer seemed strange to me because there are lots of other reason that I read.  I read because it makes me think about the world in different ways and makes me a happier person.  I read because I want to experience the world through eyes that are not my own.  I read because it is part of how I define myself.

The list is endless.  But my first answer stands.  I read because I can’t imagine not reading.  So it was interesting to me to talk to people I love and have so much in common with and find that many of them cannot imagine reading at all.

How about you? Why do you read?  And if your answer is that you aren’t typically a reader – why not?