Saturday, October 4, 2014

Does "Gotham" Have the Guts?

Scott D. Parker

I’m a tad behind in watching “Gotham,” Fox’s new Batman prequel TV show. I’ve seen the first half of the first episode. I’ll certainly get caught up. Batman’s my favorite super-hero after and I’m pretty steeped in the lore. What I’ve seen so far is fun, but I have a couple of comments.

One: I would have really enjoyed having Thomas and Martha Wayne be walking and talking characters for a half or a whole season. We’ve got so little about them throughout the years. How interesting would it have been if they were main characters for many episodes, all the while knowing what’s coming for them? I think that would have been something new.

Speaking of new, I have an idea. Maybe it’s not new, but I don’t scour the internet like I used to. Here’s the basic concept. One can make the argument that the rise of Batman—in comics, films, TV, etc.—is the inciting factor that creates his various villains. Think about Detective Comics #27, Batman’s debut. He fought regular thugs. It took a few months before Joker was invented and then all the rest followed. So, to get the true rogue’s gallery, you need a Batman.

“Gotham” is a TV cop show. Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and the rest are cops. The rule of TV cop shows is that cops solve crimes. Week in, week out, the hero cops of TV put criminals behind bars.

Already on “Gotham,” you have the introduction of various villains that will one day earn a room in Arkham Asylum: Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Penguin (did he ever go to Arkam? He seems too normal for Arkham.) are the ones I’ve seen so far. Now, the premise of regular stories with Batman is that the Dark Knight Detective is the only one who can defeat the dastardly deeds of these fiends.

But this is a cop show, right. Which means that regular cops are supposed to put criminals away. Sure, Edward Nigma is some sort of CSI dude working for the cops and Oswald Cobblepot is merely a hired thug, so maybe they’re in the training stages. If “Gotham” were a regular show, you’d have Gordon and company jailing these guys every week. But these are Batman’s future rogues and, as we’ve seen, only Batman can do what it takes to capture the bad guys.

So we’re at a quandary: how can “Gotham,” a TV cop show where the cops always win jive with a set of characters that, in theory, can only be captured by a guy who will never be in the show?

The creators of “Gotham” are already taking liberties with the mythology and that’s fine. As much as I love Batman, even I could make the case that there’s too much Batman in 2014. (Well, actually, there’s too much of one kind of Batman: the brooder who is always ten steps ahead of everyone and who never has any fun, but that’s for another post.) Take as many liberties as you want. It’s a unique universe.

But I dare them to do one thing: Make “Gotham” a world in which Batman doesn’t have to exist. Take the TV cop show tropes—cops always win—and apply it to this world that we supposedly know. Let Gordon take down Penguin. Let Bullock put Nigma in his place, either before or after he becomes the Riddler. Let the two detectives nab the little teenaged future Catwoman. Let Alfred counsel young Bruce Wayne away from his future life by showing that the cops can actually corral the corruption in Gotham City.

How different would that be? How refreshing. A world without a Batman. A world where Bruce Wayne becomes a cop, a detective, with inner demons that cause him to bend the rules and get things done. A detective who is rich and could create a special task force specifically to combat the growing threat of odd criminals.

No, wait, without Batman, there are no super villains. Right? Right, in a world without Batman.

Why not go this route?  Give the audience something different.*

*Truth be told, I would have LOVED the premise Kevin Smith and Paul Dini created in a special Fatman on Batman podcast. That show—Bruce Wayne at Prep School—would have be awesome.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'll Be You

I’ve been thinking about my influences a lot lately. I picked up a copy of James Ellroy’s massive new novel, Perfidia and, just a few pages in, was reminded of how his terse, rhythmic writing inspired me years ago. I was in my 20s and lugging around a copy of Ellroy’s Lloyd Hopkins books - collected in one hardcover L.A. NOIR volume - and starting to cook up the first Pete Fernandez scene I’d ever write, which eventually ended up introducing readers to the characters in my debut novel, Silent City.

Like I noted last time, I got to meet Ellroy a few weeks back. That got me to thinking about my influences, too. Not just how great they are, but how the puzzle pieces click together and who is partially responsible for what, in a micro and a macro sense.

See, I don’t think influences are like vitamins you ingest and then reap the benefits of. We’re sometimes influenced by authors we may not even like, or react to authors we admire in ways that don’t necessarily involve aping them. I have a lot of influences I’m conscious of - but even that’s just perceptional and kind of like comfort food. Their work tastes good so I consume more of it and I want my work to taste good and be consumed, too.

I know, for a fact, I wouldn’t have written - or even attempted to write - Silent City if a friend hadn’t handed me a copy of George Pelecanos’s A Firing Offense. Or was it when I got to Dennis Lehane’s Darkness, Take My Hand? Did Laura Lippman’s Baltimore Blues help? Maybe it was when I cracked White Jazz for the first time? I don’t think there’s a definitive answer. However, I know in my gut which authors get me going as a reader, and it’s a safe bet that they’re the ones that I turn to when I want to get my own writing moving.

The trick with influences is that you want the bits and pieces you collect from them to combine to form something new. Would I like my words to come together just like the work of Writer X, who is extremely successful, critically acclaimed and never seems to write a bad book? Sure. But then I’d be a great copy instead something unique.

I’ve given up trying to figure out which pieces of my writing machinery come from where - I know, based on the authors I go back to, who my influences are, and I’m grateful for them. My ongoing struggle is to do my best to live up to them. It’s an exciting and daunting challenge.

Who are your writing influences? Were there any that surprised you when you realized they were there?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Guest Post: Why Writing Cozy Mystery is For Me

by Julie Anne Lindsey

Holly's note: Julie Anne Lindsey and I share the same publisher, Carina Press. Yesterday, we both had books come out and to celebrate, I invited her to write a guest post for Do Some Damage. Take it away, Julie!

I’m a total genre jumper. Flaky. It’s true. Trolloping from YA to romance to mystery on a whim and back again. I’m shameless about it. Flamboyant even. I can’t be still. It’s in my nature. (There’s also a LOT of coffee in my nature). Regardless of the genre I read or write, I find that two things are ever-present in those that keep my interest.

1. Chemistry between a hero and heroine
2. A mystery.
Imagine my pure delight when I tried my hand at writing cozies. Did you hear the angel choir sing? I did. (It could have been the Keurig…. potato-potato).

Anyway - The third book in my debut cozy series, The Patience Price Mysteries, from Carina Press released on September 29th and I’ve already secured a contract for a new series I’m calling The Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder. As it turns out, cozy mysteries are the perfect match for my love of all things girlie, funny and mysterious, PLUS I can toss in a side dish of romance anytime I want. (Only a side dish, but really, who needs more than that with a community of conspirators and plenty of threats to keep a girl busy?)

If you aren’t yet convinced to love cozy mystery, let me share some of my favorite things about them:
1) Amateur sleuths are so much fun. They bumble and fall, dust off, and get back in there.

They learn as they go, and who can't relate to being miles away from their comfort zone? At least I never have a killer chasing after me while I figure things out... or a live audience.

2) The amazing set of friends and family who support the heroine, even when they don't agree with her, because they love her.

3) Fun settings

Or you know

4) Quirky, relatable heroines

5) Anything can happen. That's my favorite part.


Mayhem, murder and a sexy secret agent follow downsized FBI worker Patience Price as she returns to her sleepy seaside hometown of Chincoteague, Virginia. When two members of a traveling reality television show are killed in a room at the local B&B—a room usually occupied by Patience's FBI agent boyfriend, Sebastian—she finds herself on the case. Sebastian doesn't want Patience ruffling any feathers but, as always, she can't help herself.


Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She's a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day, she plans to change the world. Find her online at

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

There And Back Again.

By Jay Stringer

About three months back my brain went boom. I was angry. I was moody. I was getting sad. A lot. For no real reason. There were days when I'd come home at the end of the day-job and not be able to talk. My chest would be tight. I'd then sit in front of the keyboard to try and write -the thing I was supposed to enjoy- and find I had nothing left. I would sit up until four or five in the morning trying to find whatever I had lost.

In short, I was not fun to be around.

I realised I'd been feeling this way for a while. That I felt like I'd been having a slow heart attack for many months and that my my brain had felt neglected and decided to get in on the act.

I went to the Doctor, after a few weeks of refusing to seek help, and he told me straight away that I was all kinds of nuts.

I joke. He didn't say that at all. A Doctor wouldn't use the phrase "all kinds."

I was signed off from the day job and I've been off ever since. I'm due to go back next week and, in all honesty, I can't afford to stay off any longer.

For the first few weeks of being off, I made the mistake of trying to continue writing. I was treating it like a holiday and doing what I always do when I'm on holiday from the day-job; writing. I was still fighting with the blank page and still getting angry over something I didn't understand. After that, my better half pointed out that the Doctor had told me to stop working and that I hadn't done what he said. I wasn't on holiday, I was supposed to be healing.

So I finally let a few people in on what was going on, and stopped writing.

I filled my time with reading, sleeping, and cleaning the flat (though I'm overplaying how much of that I did, really.) The most important thing I did was starting to ride my bike. We live only half a mile from the River Clyde, and every day I would get out on my single speed (later, fixed gear) bike and ride. Ten miles at first, then fifteen, then twenty to twenty five miles a day. Along the river or through the city. On abandoned cycle paths or in crazy busy traffic. I could do more now. I could easily do thirty or forty, but I find the current amount is what I need.

After a few weeks of that, you start realise what's important. Perspective comes back, and your priorities snap back into place.  It's going to be different for everybody. I needed to get back to writing. I was itching for it. I got back at my desk and carried on with the current book, and with work that I owed to a few people. Eventually I remembered DSD was still here, waiting.

Why am I writing all of this?

Well, I'm a writer, it's what I do.

But it's also important to say some of this. We don't talk about mental health enough in any walk of life. And in ours, in this crazy writing profession we've chosen, the vast majority of us are holding down more than one job. Some of us get to really enjoy the other job, some of us get to really hate it. But regardless, on top of that, we also have families, friends, commitments. We have skin that would like to see the sun from time to time, and lungs that want to be out in the fresh air.

As writers, we have the odds stacked against our health. Chances are you're spending too many hours of your life sat down. Too much time staring at information on a bright screen. You're also spending way too many or your waking (and sleeping) hours letting the writing take over sections of your brain.

I see it affecting friends, and I saw it affect me.

If you're feeling in a bad way, talk to someone. And if you recognise any of the signs in what I've said, then make changes. For me, I'm done writing at weekends. Once my day job is done for the week on a Saturday afternoon, I'm done using my brain again until Monday. And I'll be out on my bike every day, whatever it takes to find the time to do it.

Whatever changes you need to make to balance your life out, start them today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Goodwill - my favorite used book store

My local Goodwill has been a source of some great book finds over the years. I've come to think of it as a good quality used book store rather then a place where James Patterson, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz novels wind up. I've found signed books and out of print books. Books by Jess Walter, Joyce Carol Oates, Ken Bruen, Duane Swierczynski, Terrill Lankford, Boston Teran, and many others.

One trend I've been able to capitalize on is paperbacks. Clearly my town is filled with guys (presumably) with large pulp, western, men's adventure, and Gold Medal collections which pass through the store a couple of times a year. This has happened so many times that I started to wonder why. One possibility is that it is a town in a rural farming county with older men whose paperback collections from 40+ years ago don't interest their kids and grand kids (those who might be cleaning out a house, attic, or garage) not interested in what is int he boxes or on the shelves.  Another possibility is that my town is more of a book town then the lack of book stores may indicate (One BAM at the mall, one used store). This could be the case because one of the main Random House warehouses and offices is here in town, employing a large number of people with access to different company functions (major authors have passed through town for some of them).

Below the jump are some of the best of my book loot (lots of pics)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Drawing from real life

By Kristi Belcamino

When BLESSED ARE THE DEAD first came out, several journalist friends contacted me and said they recognized the pesky reporter antagonist, May, as someone we knew mutually.

But they were wrong.

While May was loosely based on a reporter I knew (and let's be honest here, disliked and was never friends with), the character is more of a composite than a real portrayal of that grabby, sociopathic, backstabbing reporter—whoops, did all that slip out?—who now is doing quite well as an extremely successful reporter.

But I digress.

What I've found is that I do draw aspects of my characters from people I know in real life.

For instance, Gabriella Giovanni's best friend, Nicole, is a loose composite made up of parts of my real life beloved reporter friends, Claire Booth and Celeste Altus. But the majority of her character and personality comes from my imagination. She is a made-up person that has some cool traits from my close friends.

Readers say one of their favorite characters is the photographer, Chris Lopez, known as C-Lo. He is a bad ass photographer who saw some crazy stuff in Vietnam and lives and breathes journalism.

Although one of my favorite editors in the world is named Chris Lopez, he and my book's photog character are really nothing alike.

I've heard that people you know who read your books will see themselves in characters who are nothing like them and not see themselves in characters you've modeled after them. Does that make sense?

For instance, one author I know based a character upon his mother and then worried when he gave her the book to read. Her response? "I loved your book and boy was that mother awful!"

Go figure.

All this came up when a journalism friend wrote me to say she enjoyed BAD and asked about the characters and people we knew. I messaged her and told her she should know that book two has a character with a similar name to hers because I wanted to give the character a cool name and do a small wink/nod to her in doing so. I sent her the passage, a few paragraphs of the character with the similar name. But after I sent it and didn't immediately here from her, I freaked out because she is an awesome reporter and cool chick and I hoped she liked what I had done with the character who shared a similar name.

Thank God, she later wrote and said she was honored because that was my intent, to give a nod and wink to my friends and those I've worked with over the years. But what if she hadn't? Or what if someone thinks a character who is awful is based on them? Then what? Tricky stuff, huh?

Not to mention in August, I told my priest friend that an entire major character was based on him and I hoped it didn't get him in trouble with the Archbishop -- Thank God, he laughed and said not to worry and then started telling all his friends that he was in a book! Then, he had his nun friend read the book and find the parts with him in it. (Which was great until I realized the first two pages alone have 15 F-bombs in them. Sigh.)

Then, coincidentally, also today, I got an email from a dear friend of mine. She said I could share it here:

"Kristi:  thanks for our 15 minutes of fame!!!   I had to read real slow to make it last that long or I guess you can look at it that we will always and forever be characters in print.  When I read Canadian with spiky red hair i wondered and then knew for sure when her husband's name is Arnt and they come to surf every year.  Thanks for thinking of us.  Made us remember our first meeting with you two when you arrived in the little bug with the little tent and camped beside our big camp."

So, dear writer and reader friends, what are your thoughts on this?