Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thoughts on GOTHAM Now That I've Caught Up

Scott D. Parker
Well it took seven months--but only about three weeks of binge watching--to catch up with GOTHAM. That's 18 episodes if you're keeping score at home. Eighteen pretty darn entertaining hours, I have to say.

First things first: the MVP of GOTHAM is the person in charge of casting. Not sure who that is, but he/she deserves a medal. Or a raise. I have loved getting to see new spins on classic characters with new actors. Benjamin McKenzie as James Gordon is wonderful. McKenzie’s portrayal of Gordon’s goodness tinged with anguish over things he has to do is wonderful. He, along with most of the other, are actors of whom I was unfamiliar before GOTHAM so I’m coming with a blank slate. Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock, Gordon’s partner, is also good if not a little over-the-top in a more typical partnery kind of way. I’ve enjoyed the progression of Bullock into a true partner even if he didn’t agree or know where Gordon was heading.

David Mazouz plays young Bruce Wayne and he got my vote in the opening scene when, for the first time on film, he screamed after his parents were murdered. I mean screamed. Since then, he’s turned into a stoic lad who wants to know more but is only hampered by his age. But he can sure boss Alfred around. Sean Pertwee is an actor I knew but only from ELEMENTARY. Here, he’s a badass Alfred and he is great. I love the little subtle touches he gives to prove he’s scared to death at the prospect of raising a young, rich orphan. But this Alfred has some military background and that’s starting to come out.

As for the villains, I like that Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) works for the cops. Smith plays the future Riddler as a weirdo that wants to fit in but that no one likes. John Doman as Carmine Falcone conveys such gravitas that he fills the screen with his personality. I think that the choices Jada Pinkett Smith is making are fun in a comic-booky sort of way, but she still has the presence to make her scary.

Above all other villains is Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin. Oh my! He is my MVP of the entire show. I love the way he’s portrayed as a thinker, a pipsqueak who is not above getting knocked around because he’s thinking five steps ahead. Ten even. I’ve liked the Penguin in the comics because he’s a lot like Marvel’s Kingpin or even Moriarty: he’s a puppeteer who pulls a lot of strings but not ones that can be tied directly to him. Burgess Meredith was great for what he did but Danny DeVito’s version was a little off for me. Now, typically, Oswald Cobblepot is a rich orphan, one on par with Bruce Wayne, but not in GOTHAM. Here, he’s a low minion who has worked his way up the crime ladder and looks to rule the city. Taylor’s characterization of Penguin is shocking (he’ll out and out stab a guy with little thought) and funny, often in the same scene.

The stories are good and fun, successfully bridging the line between police procedural and comic book hijinks. We get disturbing storylines as early as episode 2 (with the abduction of children for a fate not named but implied) that are followed soon by ones featuring a guy who ties his victims to weather balloons and let’s’em rise...then fall. There are long-running story arcs--Gordon’s odyssey as a good man in a bad town is the prime one--but the Penguin’s is one of the better ones. He loves Gotham and will do anything for her, and it’s interesting to see how that plays out episode after episode.

I like that the writers are presenting characters wearing masks--goat mask, red hood--before Batman or other masked villains that we know show up. It’s neat to see them put forth the idea of the power behind a mask. It’s also fun to see nascent versions of the characters we already know.

It’s not all wine and roses, however. That very thing of showing early versions of the characters can be too much. The young Poison Ivy I’m not fond of much (and it was hard to find a good image to use today and not have her in it). She’s just a street urchin out of Oliver Twist. Young Bruce Wayne comes off a little too much like the current Bat-God--the modern version of Batman where he’s thought out every last thing to the nth degree that you can never beat him--and he still needs to be a kid. That’s why I like what they’ve done with Selena Kyle (Catwoman) and how the two of them get along.

There are a few little things but not too much to make me not like the show. I even watched 3-4 episodes on some days. It sucked me in and I enjoyed them all. Like I wrote last fall, I still would have liked to have seen Thomas and Martha Wayne on screen for awhile and I'd love to have seen GOTHAM become the universe where Batman doesn't have to exist.
The reason I haven’t watched until now is the time it airs: 7pm on Mondays. That’s family/homework time. CASTLE airs at 9pm on Mondays and I don’t have the time on Mondays to tape-and-watch. But I will definitely start now. I’m just happy to have a new Batman show on TV with interesting twists on the known canon.

Next up: catching up on The Flash.

So, GOTHAM watchers: what say ye? Like the show? Dislike the show?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Guest post - Tom Pitts - The Novella is Dead

image001Coughs, comes up to podium, remembers sage advice: Open with a joke. Open with a joke!

Um … The novel walks into a bar, followed by the novella.

Bartender says, "What's with the new guy?"

The novel says, "It's a long story."

(Stolen from @IsTheNovelDead on twitter)

A few years ago, when I tried to pen my first longer work—the piece that eventually became Knuckleball—a friend told me, "The novella is dead!"

image003I'm happy to say this friend (I'm looking at you, Joe Clifford!) was wrong.

Although, I'm not sure he was wrong at the time.

They're always proclaiming something is dead. God is dead! Rock'n'Roll is dead! Or my personal favorite: Disco is dead!! But there was something a bit more sinister at work here. The publishing industry really did their best to kill off the novella—the brunch of literature, the Opie-size opuses, bite-sized book, the orphan of the epic.

It wasn't really that reader's appetites for shorter works had died off. Far from it. The reality of printing skinny little hardcopy books that had to be shipped, invoiced, and stored (thus keeping the price close to what a full-length novel would be) made it tough to rationalize keeping them in the game. If a customer saw a big fat book for 12.99 and a thin volume for 10.99, they'd most likely pick up the bigger tome to get more bang for their buck. Who could blame 'em? The big houses saw their out and gave the novella the squeeze.

image006Enter the eBook—enter the era of the 99 cent book. Hate on 'em if you must, but the eBook continues to eclipse their older, heavier brothers with ease, convenience, and price. Now it's possible to crank out plenty of shorter works without the price-heavy network necessary to get novellas to the readers.

And the public responded. Turns out they dig novellas. In spades.

The publishers responded too. From Don Delillo's Point Omega to Eric Beetner's Dig Two Graves, the publishing world has been kicking out tiny tomes left and right.

johnsonI don't know about y'all, but when I'm trying out a new author I often want to dip my toe in the water. Get a taste. When I first tried out Denis Johnson, I bought Nobody Move, his noir novella. (Loved it, by the way, although a lot of his hardcore fans didn't. It did the trick. I'm now a fan. I went on to read Tree of Smoke and other longer works of his. Train Dreams, another tight little novella of his remains a personal favorite.)

I just finished, The Drop, Dennis Lehane's superb novella. It's perfectly balanced and great example of a shorter book packing a punch. Tough to argue with success via satisfaction.

In fact, when my own novella, Piggyback, was published by Snubnose in 2012, I felt like I was in the midst of a novella renaissance. A novella-lution. Okay, that phrase doesn't work too well, but you know what I mean.

One Eye Press answered the call in a big way and decided to put out a series of novellas—their Singles series. There're a few other publishers, both big and small, that have been doing the same thing.

You might say it's the shorter attention span of readers these days, or the ease of e-publishing, or the aligning of the planets. Whatever the reason, there's something nice and satisfying about a novella.

oeps-knuckleball-pitts-3dcover-bWhen I think about Steinbeck's the Red Pony or Of Mice and Men, or even the goddamn Great Gatsby—which by most folk's measurements would be classified as a novella—there's direct and concise quality about a thin tome that gets lost inside of a 500-page doorstopper.

So … here's to the novella.

Oh, by the way, my own novella, my first born, the piece that holds that special place in my heart, KNUCKLEBALL is out now and available from One Eye Press.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. His novel, HUSTLE, and his novella, Piggyback, are available from Snubnose Press. His new novella, Knuckleball, will be released by One Eye Press is out now. Find links to more of his work at:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Looking for Absolution

by Holly West

Bless me, oh Gods of Publishing, for I have sinned.

I have a confession to make. It's a long time coming and I hang my head with shame as I write it, but perhaps my admission will give me the peace I'm so desperately searching for. Either that or the commiseration of other writers who are in the same sinking boat I am.

It seems I have become a "non-finisher." In the past year, I've written no less than one hundred thousand words on two separate projects. Project One has been started and re-started three times. Project Two, which I spent the entire summer writing at the expense of Project One, was abandoned somewhere around forty thousand words. Oh, I plan to pick it up again. I just don't know when.

Neither project is anywhere close to THE END. Should I even mention Project Three, a historical mystery set in post-WII Philadelphia that I started writing before Mistress of Fortune was even published? I laid that one to the side because I just can't figure out the story I want to tell.

I turned in the manuscript for Mistress of Lies in November 2013, which means I haven't finished a book in over a year. After completing MOL, I had these grand visions of starting my next project--a stand alone novel set in contemporary Venice, California--and finishing it within six months. Such hubris! I am not that writer and never have been. The only thing that pushed me to write MOL in less than a year was a giant sword etched with the word DEADLINE hanging over my head.

But in spite of this, I come from the Chuck Wendig School of Finish Your Shit. I don't want to be a writer who hops from project to project, always writing but never completing. It mortifies me to admit that I can't seem to pick a project and stick with it to the end.

To me, not finishing projects is just another form of work avoidance. Oh, I can understand the occasional starting of something then realizing it just doesn't have legs. It happens to all of us. But at this point, I'm just f*cking around. Writing words because in order to call myself a writer I have to write but not doing the real work that FINISHING entails.

I've never been a writer who writes for the love of writing. Oh hell no. I write for the love of finishing. That's where the satisfaction is for me. I write because I love to read and I endeavor to give other readers some of the same pleasure I've received from books over the years. I can't do that if I'm not finishing.

(Is it just me or did this conversation somehow turn a little bit sexual?)

Here, then, is my solemn pledge. I've just re-started my current project--that stand alone set in Venice--for the fourth time. I WILL FINISH IT BY JUNE. If it's good enough, I might even send it to my agent. I don't expect you to hold me to this because I know you've got your own shit to worry about, but maybe saying it here will reinforce the deadline in my mind.

Thank you for listening. I'm ready for my flogging now.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Birthday boys and their reading habits

I'm going to tie together a couple of thoughts, badly I might add. But this is what's been on my mind over the last day or so.

One of the most basic bits of writing advice is "read, read, read", to read widely, and to learn to read deeply or critically. Yesterday was Louis L'amour's birthday and to celebrate it I thumbed through what may be his best work, and is one of my favorites by him, Education of a Wandering Man. This is a memoir he wrote about his life, about being an autodidact, and about his reading life. The take away is that L'amour was a voracious reader who always had a book in tow, and who didn't read just one type or mode of book.

Recently Jedidiah Ayres was interviewed by Gabino Iglesias and gave the following answer:

And at this point there is so little money involved that it’s not an incentive to work faster. I read much more than I write. Hell, I watch movies (I guess you’ve noticed) much more than I write, and I think that’s the way it should be (for me). If I had to give up reading or writing, I’d drop writing last week. And yeah, I could think of a dozen other things off the top of my head I’d prioritize above writing. That said, I’ve got a half dozen novels I am currently working on. THAT SAID, I’ve been working on most of them for years.

I have a long internet memory and remembered hearing another writer give a similar answer. Facebook tells me today is Declan Burke's birthday and years ago, over on his blog, he wrote the following:

There’s a question in the regular Q&A that I run on Crime Always Pays which is for me the one that gives the most insight into a writer, or as much insight as can be gleaned from a 10-question Q&A. It’s the one about God appearing, and saying you can only read or write, and which will it be. For me, it’s a no-brainer - I’d read, because the books I want to read are better than anything I’m capable of writing. And, given that I’m a failed writer, Beckett’s dictum on failing and failing again better notwithstanding, the last thing I want to be reading is a book not fit to lace my own books’ shoelaces, if you’ll forgive the mangled metaphor.

I wonder if the answer that they both give is the common one? I'm tempted to say that writers would say writing, but obviously have nothing to back that assertion up. So maybe instead we can ask, What does it say about these guys that they choose writing?

Another question that I've been pondering lately that I'll throw out there: If you are a writer and you are only reading the books that your friends and acquaintances are publishing  are you doing your own work a disservice?

That's as far as I've taken the train of thought for today. What do you think?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Letter to Desperate Author Dude ...

by Kristi Belcamino

Hey, Author Dude, if you hop on my Facebook author page and comment with a random link to your author page or, even worse, your Amazon page, in the comments of one of my own posts, I might ignore it the first time.

The second time, you're banned.

Annoying, but in the scope of things, not that big a deal. And yet it still makes me wonder:

Hey, Author Dude, did you really think that was going to garner you some random book sales? I mean, really? Is that little snippet of description and that picture of you so incredibly compelling that all of the 2K plus people on my Facebook page are going to click on and then rush to buy your book?


Which brings me to my point, many of the methods that you, oh, desperate-for-sales-author, use can't possibly be effective. There is no way.

I get where this writing business can make you feel desperate. I get that. This is a tough business, full of ups and downs and heartbreaking moments of self-doubt and despair. Believe me, I get that.

But the only thing you can really do to increase your books sales is to continue improving as a writer every single day of your life and then maybe this: lay off the hard-hitting sales and stop acting like a dick. Unless you really are one, and then you're out of luck. Or maybe that schtick will work for you.

But my point is that in this writing world, your behavior on social media shouldn't involve selling your books, it should involve selling yourself.

Let people know what you are like and let that lead them to your books.

If you are sweet, be sweet. If you are snarky, be snarky.

Be yourself and that will lead your true readers to you and your books. And that's what you want, your true readers, who like you and hope that your books are like you. When the two match, then, bingo, you have a genuine reader you can thank your lucky stars for every day.

And that one reader who loves your books is worth more than 500 lukewarm-about-your-books "friends" on social media.

Because I see you there friending as many people as possible on Facebook and then following just as many on Twitter.

Here's a little hint for you:

This really doesn't work. Those numbers don't translate to book sales.

Yet, I see you do it again and again.

And when you are on social media, STFU about your book for 90 percent of the time. If people like you enough, they'll find your books on their own. If something cool is happening, then you can talk about it 10 percent of the time without coming off like a douche.

By the way, when you are making social media friends, please don't do this creepy, stalkerish thing where you methodically go down my friend's list and send friend requests to everyone I know, including my family and friends.

And, yes, it's going to be obvious you've done this when I go to your Facebook page and find that our mutual friends include my neighbor next door and my relative across the country.

Creepy. Stalkerish. Desperate. Futile.

And when you follow me on Twitter and I follow back, please don't end it before it begins by sending me a direct message telling me about your book or your author page. Because I'm going to immediately unfollow you. When you post your books and links to them on my page, I'm going to ban you.

And of course, you don't really care if I unfriend you or unfollow you, because I'm just one of the faceless masses to you. You see your biggest fault is seeing potential readers as masses instead of individuals. Because to you it's a numbers game -- throw your book at as many eyeballs as you can and see what sticks.

Hope that's working for you, Author Dude.