Saturday, May 24, 2014

Google on Paper


Scott. D. Parker

I had a great first day at Houston’s Comicpalooza yesterday. It was the first of four days of fantastic vendors, awesome guests (Stan Lee! In person!), and great folks in costume.

One of the things high on my search list was an original copy of a Doc Savage pulp magazine. Here’s the cover. Ironic that I look for a Doc Savage mag and end up, because of cost, with a cover featuring Monk Mayfair. 

I went ahead and splurged for another one, Popular Western, February 1950, that featured a Louis L’amour story.

The surprising find was THE HERO PULP INDEX by Robert Weinberg and Lohr McKinstry, 1971. This is a short, 48-page book, all in typical courier font, listing all the heroes from the pulp era which, in 1971, was forty years ago. Here’s the TOC and first page to give you a taste.

In a world in which just about any answer is seconds away, minutes at most, to think that all the folks who made this book took months and years to compile and create. Granted, much of the content we find on the internet took time to compile, the delivery method--web browser--is so convenient. Imagine the pulp fans from 1971 and the difficulty in finding a book like the Index.

Sometimes it just boggles the mind how much pure information we have access to in  2014. That’s the main reason why I bought this little book: to remind myself how utterly good we have it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Writing Drunk

"Original, brave, and very moving." -- The Guardian

By Steve Weddle

The Trip to Echo Spring from Olivia Laing is an amazing book.

I was impressed with one of the early stories in the book, about how John Cheever and Raymond Carver tried to drink themselves to death when they were in Iowa.

What's so wonderful about this book is how it looks rather dispassionately at times at the drinking of authors, the impending and debilitating alcoholism. And, yet, how the book works in its own, "passion" isn't the right word, but feeling or caring -- rather, a connection to these writers, to the booze that holds them together and tears them apart.

The anecdotes are lovely, the sort of hilarious, terrible stories you're likely to share at, well, at cocktail parties or whatever it is you people do. Laing works in her own story, to a certain degree, which helps explain her fascination with the topic.

The subject matter is heavy, of course, and this book feels expansive and personal, an odd mix that works.
What lingers is the complexity of the problems that dominated these authors’ life and work, and how hard it is precisely to place alcohol in that emotional matrix, even if its physical effects became devastatingly clear.  -- NYTimes

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nine Book Experiences You Should Have Before You Die

by Holly West

I'm probably not the best person to write a post like this since I'm not nearly as well-read as I'd like to be. And given the crowd that frequents Do Some Damage, I'm definitely preaching to the choir. Still, I felt the need to reflect on some of the book-loving experiences I treasure most. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Develop a serious crush on a character.

My first literary crush was King Charles II as he was portrayed in FOREVER AMBER by Kathleen Winsor. It's no accident he's a featured character in MISTRESS OF FORTUNE. More recent characters that've enthralled me are Henry Winter in Donna Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY, Benjamin Weaver in David Liss's series, and Frank Mackey in FAITHFUL PLACE by Tana French. 

2) Read every book in at least one series.

Out of all of the long-running series' out there, I've only read all of three: Sue Grafton's Alphabet series, David Liss's Benjamin Weaver series, and Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series.

3) Own a signed first edition of at least one of your favorite books.

I have a few, but one of the best is WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES by Lawrence Block.

4) Troll used bookshops, eBay, or elsewhere for a copy of a favorite book from childhood.

Again, I've done this a few times but my best ever find was THREE WITHOUT FEAR by the late Robert C. DuSoe.

5) Pay way too much for that book.

I don't remember what I paid for it but it was in the $40 range. I know there are people out there who've paid a whole lot more for their favorites.

6) Stay up all night reading because you just can't put the book down.

My most recent book all-nighter was GONE GIRL.

7) Likewise, chuck your weekend plans and spend it reading for the same reason.

The first book I ever did this with (that I can remember) was KALKI by Gore Vidal. Most recently, it happened with JUNKIE LOVE by Joe Clifford.

8) Meet your favorite(s) author.

I've done this a few times now and it never gets old. One of the perks of being a writer myself.

9) Visit a city or country because you fell in love with it through reading.

I have two: London and New York City.

Help me out--I'm surely missing some great book experiences here. Tell me what else should be included on this list and I'll dedicate a follow-up post to the subject.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

National Post Afterword

Bit of a cop-out this week, I’m just going to link to a column I wrote for the National Post newspaper in Canada today:

The National Post has a very good arts section and publishes quite a few book reviews. The crime novels are reviewed by the terrific Sarah Weinman and they also have a feature they call “Guest Editor” which is what I’m doing this week.

Monday, May 19, 2014

CWA Daggers Shortlist

The shortlist for the Crime Writers' Association's Dagger Awards was recently unveiled.

Shortlist is here

Congrats to the nominees.

The CWA Debut Dagger:




THE FATHER, by Tom Keenan

MOTHERLAND, by Garry Abson


CONVICT, by Barb Ettridge

THE DOG OF ERBILL, by Peter Hayes

BURNT, by Kristina Stanley

DEVIANT ACTS, by John J.White

SEEDS OF A DEMON, by Anastasia Tyler

COLOURS, by Tim Emery

THE MOVEMENT, by Jody Sabral

Complete list of nominees is here.

h/t Crimespree Magazine

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How I Get in the Mood

I'd like to share a little bit about how I get in the mood. To write, of course.
Like most writers, I wear a few different hats throughout my week.
I’m a crime writer, a newspaper reporter covering crime, and an Italian-American mama.
That often means I shift gears several times in one day.
I have rituals to get in the mood for each role.
For instance, on my way into work at the newspaper, I listen to the police scanner. By the time I get into the newsroom, I know all the crime going on for the past half hour in the city I cover.
How do I get in the mood for being an Italian-American mama?
Haha. That was a trick question. There is no preparation for that. None. Whatsoever. The kids could get off the bus singing and shooting beams of rainbows out of their palms, or they could walk into the house with storm clouds hovering over their heads and lighting bolts shooting out of their fingertips. One never knows. There is no way to prepare.
The question I can answer, however, is how I get in the mood for writing crime fiction, and, let’s face it, that’s why you all are here anyway.
Here’s how I wake up in the morning and get in the mood:
Armed with a cup of coffee, I visit all of my inspirational online sites. I use to organize those websites. I learned about this super smart and efficient way to scan your favorite blogs after a stellar workshop put on by Michael Kelberer, a fellow member of my local Sisters in Crime chapter. Through feedly, I scan headlines on all my favorite blogs and click on those that seem most interesting.
Today, for instance, the sites I read included Jungle Red Writers, The Kill Zone, and Karen Woodward’s page. This not only gives me a chance to interact with my fellow writers, but also reading about writing gets me pumped up to WRITE!
By the time I’m done with feedly, I’ve read several posts on writing and the writing life and have injected myself with a concentrated dose of inspiration.
Even if it is a Write at Home Day, I always make sure to shower, put on makeup and get dressed for the day. Even though I could technically write in my pajamas and fuzzy slippers, there is something about getting ready that helps prepare me to work and gets me in the mood.
I don’t mix up my writing spot very much. I usually park my butt in the chair in one of two places, either on a stool pulled up to my kitchen counter or at my regular spot at the local coffee shop. Sitting down there means writing time. I really find that this ritual of putting my body in the same spot prepares my mind to do the same thing—write!
Every once in a while, my mind wanders and I find myself checking Facebook or Twitter or watching a dog attack a kid and then a cat attack the dog.
On those days, I turn to—and turn on—Freedom. This program blocks online access for a set amount of time. You decide how long. I usually block for about 90 minutes. It sounds like a weird psychological trick, but it works quite well.
And of course, using it at all means you—or rather, I—have zero self-control in staying offline, but that’s the way it is. I’ll take whatever help I can get to get my butt in the chair and words on the paper.
In addition, I always have a pair of headphones with me that I can plug into Spotify if the ambient cafe noise becomes too much. Usually it is conducive to writing, though. Occasionally, like on Friday this week, the screaming kids, the singing of Happy Birthday by 20 adults and the screaming kids ... oh, did I mention that, meant me and my writing buddies all took out our headphones simultaneously.
The last thing I do to get in the mood is have a realistic goal for that day. I’m a member of the Church of a Thousand Words that Brad Parks talks about. That means I don’t stop writing for the day until I have at least 1,000 words on paper. Then, if I’m still in the mood, I keep writing. If not, I call it a day.
For writing, at least.
And then prepare to shift into Italian-mama mode, which could involve tears or laughter, but will never be boring. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What do you do to get in the mood for your writing day?