Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Tale of Two Trailers

Scott D. Parker

Two movie trailers dropped this week, both for movies I’m really looking forward to paying money to see. One thrilled me with euphoria, the other, frankly, fell a little flat.

The first long trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke on Thursday. I saw it just after lunch. I was in my office/cube and had only access to my iPod and earbuds--which I blasted.  I’m not ashamed to say that I got goosebumps as soon as  the force theme played across that vast desert landscape. Then, when Luke Skywalker himself spoke, those bumps multiplied. The image of Vader’s burned mask was a surprise but, in retrospect, probably not. Then the images of all the new characters who I will meet in December. Then, after a fade to black, the voice millions of kids adored: Han Solo himself said, “Chewie, we’re home.” And Chewbacca warbled his response.

I was over the fourth moon of Yavin with happiness. And was that some sort of dust in my eyes? I won’t hide the fact that I got a little misty. Think about it: those were voices I hadn’t heard in 32 years. Thirty-two years since the last words spoken at the end of Return of the Jedi, when Leia told Han that Luke was her brother. (Odd when you think about all the remaining moments of the film and there were no words.) Thirty-two years since I had heard from some old friends who helped to shape my childhood and the childhoods of millions of kids over multiple generations.

Just take my money now. Some worry that the hype won’t live up to the expectation, that JJ Abrams can’t deliver on the dreams of millions. I think he will. Now, I’m fully aware that nostalgia plays a big role in this. Understood, but the look, the feel, the vibe of the trailer tells me that we are in good hands.

The other trailer was leaked footage on the internet. It was for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, still a mouthful of a title. I don’t care that court cases don’t use the ‘s’ in vs.,’ they should have used an ‘s’. Anyway, I watched the footage as shot by a hand-held camera. And it was dark. Very dark. Both in tone and in visuals. A day later (Yesterday), the official version was released. The visuals were not as dark as the hand-held footage but the tone remained the same.

Lots of night shots, the better to hide the full look at Ben Affleck’s Batman. No vocals from Superman, which is a shame. I like Henry Cavill in the role. He can convey a lot with his face and those nuances go a long way to making his a good Superman. And, from what I saw, Affleck’s Batman looks really good. He’s even got the white eyes that we’ve seen for decades in the comics. And the robotic, modulated version of his voice was a nice addition. The Flash, on TV, modulates his voice and it’s a good effect, the better to avoid the Christian Bale growl.

By the end of the trailer, Batman and Superman meet, Supes hovering in the sky, Bats in armor on the ground. And they’re gonna fight. And they’re gonna be friends in the end so that they can form the Justice League. The question that entered my head was this: Can’t we just skip ahead to the friend part?

I get that BvS is going to be a reaction to the wide-scale destruction from Man of Steel. This is a post-9/11 world after all. I get that. I get that Bats will stand in for humankind and confront Superman. I get that. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I just hope that the battles between the two will be somewhere in the middle so we can get some smiles and sunshine in this movie. As I wrote on Jay’s Facebook page: “I love Batman and I can find good things in just about every property out there re: Bats. Now, yesterday, we had the Star Wars trailer and that sent me over the moon. Euphoria. This morning, I saw the leaked BvS footage. I clicked with high expectations. I was...I'm not sure. I'm not sure why it is that trailer almost did nothing for me. Yes, I like the themes (i.e., voiceovers) presented, and I liked Bats's metallic voice. But... after the bright excitement of Star Wars, all I'm seeing is dark, dark, dark. Yes, I will see it, without a doubt. I don't hate MoS. But what does it say about that movie and/or franchise when someone like me is almost indifferent? What it just poor timing? Will future trailers reveal more? Why the heck do heroes ALWAYS have to fight?”

Still, there was that moment, the moment when Superman and Batman were on screen, live action, for the very first time. That was indeed tres cool.

Another Facebook friend started a new thread saying “This is my Superman.” It started with a picture of Christopher Reeve and a Harlan Ellison quote. Here it is.

After that, I got to thinking: if Snyder is re-imagining Superman for the 21st Century--and the 1938 Superman/1950s TV Superman/1978 Movie Superman say one thing about him and us as a society in those respective years--what does MoS and BvS say about us now? Is this who we've become?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hilary Davidson Always Tells

By Steve Weddle

Hilary Davidson has been a guest, a subject, or a topic at DoSomeDamage 836 times in the last five years. That’s not surprising, of course, as she has a hardback or paperback book dropping every three months.
Hilary’s debut novel, The Damage Done, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel. The book was also a finalist for a Macavity Award and an Arthur Ellis Award. The novel’s main character, Lily Moore, is, like Hilary, a travel writer. While their personal lives have little in common, they do share a few things, such as a love of vintage clothing, classic Hollywood movies, and Art Deco design. The second book in the series is The Next One to Fall (Tor/Forge, 2012) and the third is Evil in All Its Disguises (Tor/Forge, 2013). Read the reviews. Hilary’s first standalone novel, Blood Always Tells, was published by Tor/Forge in April 2014 and released as a trade paperback in March 2015.
On the occasion of the paperback publication of Blood Always Tells, Hilary took a break from racing across the airport to answer a few questions.

DSD: You've had hardbacks and ebooks and paperbacks and anthologies and magazines come out with your name in them. How is a paperback release different from the others? What makes it special?

Hilary Davison: I get excited over any book release, but paperbacks are near and dear to my heart because that's what I grew up reading. Part of that was convenience — from the time I was 12, I had at least two hours a day of commuting time, and I spent it reading. The other part of the reason was financial: why buy a hardcover when I could buy two or three new paperbacks with the same amount of money? So when a book of mine comes out in paperback, I feel like it's reaching an entirely new audience. I'll buy paperbacks by authors I've never heard of, just because they sound interesting. Hardcovers, no. More than anything, I'm excited to get the book into more readers' hands.

DSD: You just did a Noir at the Bar recently. By my count, you've done 87 of these. Do you find them much different than when you read by yourself in a bookstore? How are these different?

HD: I love doing events with other writers. I know it's not the same as musicians jamming, but there's a similar collaborative spirit behind it. Everybody brings something to the table, and you never know what's going to happen, or how it will all turn out. It's different from doing solo bookstore events, because those don't change much from town. At a Noir at the Bar, I can read whatever I want because I'm not trying to sell anything!

DSD: We're coming up on crime fiction conventions and conferences from now until, heck, December, it seems. What kind of panel would you most like to see and what sort of authors would you want to see on it?

HD: I was just at Left Coast Crime, and I love that conference's mix of serious panels and fun ones. I was on one panel about violence in crime fiction, and another that was basically a game show. Both were great. One change I'd like to see is more genre-mixing on panels. By that, I mean don't put all the cozy writers on one panel and the hardboiled/noir ones on another. One of my favorite panels at LCC was the Cozy-Noir Summit that Katrina Niidas Holm moderated. Mixing it up is a great way for readers to discover new authors, and it makes for lively conversations. Also, I think audience members should be able to throw things at panelists who set their books in front of them. It's a panel, not an infomercial.

DSD: Do you start with a scene and work out? Do you start with an outline and follow it? Are there points you want to hit – a climax at the end of act two, for example.

HD:  All I've learned from writing my books is that I can't outline. The upside is that the endings of my books are a surprise to me as much as anyone. That's also the downside. It's a tough way to write, stumbling blinding in the dark until I hit on something that makes sense. Honestly, it makes for a lot of false starts and wasted words. The one thing I hold onto is knowing the emotional arc of the story. I know what my main character is struggling with, and what demon s/he will face. That was definitely true of BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS. I knew the words Desmond Edgars was going to say in the last scene, even though I had no idea how I was going to get him there.

DSD: Do you feel as if you have become a better writer throughout the Lily Moore series and would you have done things differently in the early books?

HD: I think writing is one of those jobs where the more you do it, the better you get. I know there are exceptions to this, but it's generally true. What I struggle with is wanting to do new and different things with each book, so I feel like my learning curve is steep. The standalone I'm finishing now is largely narrated by a man who killed his wife. I've told plenty of short stories from a villain's point of few, but it's much tougher with a novel.
There's probably nothing I would change about the characters or the emotional arcs of my early books, even though I'd love to go back and clean up the writing. The ending of THE DAMAGE DONE will always break my heart. The first part of BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS has the same effect. There are legit reasons for certain characters to die, but that doesn't make me feel any better about killing them.

DSD: You recently won a Derringer Award for your short fiction. What’s it like to be a winner? (asking for a friend)

HD: Winning the Derringer meant so much — in no small part because writing short fiction is my true love. Novels break my brain and cause me no end of angst. They're satisfying when they're done, but until that moment, late in the game, they're actually kind of hellish. Stories are different. Writing short stories is more like a game of "What if?" I have the opening scenario in mind when I start writing, and then I follow it wherever it goes. The genesis for "A Hopeless Case," the story that won the Derringer, is awful: when I was in high school in Toronto, I walked down to a subway platform just as a woman jumped in front of an incoming train. But writing about a person in that scenario makes me process it differently. Instead of being horrified by what happened, I'm creeping under the person's skin, trying to understand them. Even when the subject matter is dark, it humanizes it.


Hilary Davidson's Blood Always Tells is a twisted tale of love, crime, and family gone wrong, by the multiple award-winning author of The Damage Done and Evil in All Its Disguises.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Power of No

by Holly West

This might end up being a strange post, especially for a blog that's mainly about the writerly life. But I find it tedious to write about writing or about my writer's life week after week so today I'm making a slight departure. Except it's not that much of a departure because I have countless writer friends who, like me, suffer from depression.

I've discussed my own depression before. Since age 30, I've done a fairly good job of managing it with the help of talk therapy and medication. Prior to seeking treatment (roughly age 0 to 29) I was a pretty big mess. I don't even like to think about my childhood and early adult depression because, well, it's depressing.

Even though my depression is generally well-managed, I do have some downslides now and then. I'm not talking about the blues--I'm talking full-blown, I can barely function, depression that knocks me to my knees. The scary kind of depression that makes me question why I'm even alive, where making it from one minute to the next feels like an impossible task. Like I'm on the edge of an abyss and one wrong step will cause me fall into nothingness--and maybe falling into an actual abyss wouldn't be all that bad.

2014 was a bad year for my depression. Which is kind of odd considering it was the year I finally became a published author. The reasons for the depressive episodes over the course of the year varied (and to be fair, I did make a very big move at the end of the year that would've caused anyone anxiety) but altogether, I realized that maybe I hadn't been doing as good a job managing my depression as I had thought. I went back into therapy and combined with the fact that my life circumstances eased up somewhat, I felt a lot better. I had it under control!

Then 2015 came along and I found myself wallowing again. Those lessons I thought I'd learned just a few months earlier flew straight out the window. After a couple of bad weeks, I finally told myself, oh hell no. There is no effing way I'm going to let this continue. I'm TIRED and I'm DONE.

A hallmark of my own depression is thought patterns that circle around my mind's drain until I'm powerless to save myself. An obvious answer to managing the resulting depression is to nip these destructive thoughts in the bud, not to let them take hold--but for some reason, I'd never really tried to do that. If something bothered me I'd just think about it and let it fester until bang, I'm back on the edge of the abyss.

Somehow, it seemed that if I was worrying about a certain thing--it didn't matter if it was something I had any control over--I owed it to whatever it was to give it my time. I was beholden to those thoughts. Letting go of them (especially if they involved someone else) meant I was betraying them.

That's just not true.

After this last bout with depression, I decided that I'm not going to worry about anything that A) I can't control B) doesn't apply to my current life situation and C) involves other people's issues. Of these three, C is the hardest. Letting go of other people's issues feels like I'm letting go of them and finding the balance between caring/helping without losing myself in the process is a challenge.

My simple strategy is this: using the above criteria as a guide, whenever I realize that my thoughts are headed for dangerous territory, I tell myself "no." I pretty much have a zero tolerance policy at this point. I don't let the thoughts get started so there's no way they can take hold. I just don't allow myself go there, no matter how innocuous they might seem.

In the early days of this experiment, I was telling myself "NO!" probably every two or three minutes. Mostly silently, but often, aloud. It was exhausting. But I just kept doing it. I'd be driving down the road (solitary driving is an activity that triggers these circular thoughts for me) shouting "No, no, no!" over and over again at myself. A couple months into the practice and it's better now. My life has settled somewhat, which helps, but on the whole, I have to say "no" a lot less often because I've gotten out of the habit of worrying.

Worrying is a habit? It absolutely is, and it's a terribly destructive one, at that.

There will always be legitimate things to worry about in life. This isn't about putting blinders on and pretending that bad things don't, or won't, happen. But my own tendency is to worry incessantly about things--legitimate or not--and use that as an excuse for not taking action. Why do anything when you can just sit and worry about it? So much easier.

And worrying about others is pretty natural, too. Particularly if you have children. I get it. That doesn't make the "no" strategy any less valuable, however. The key is to decide what thoughts you're going to give priority to and throw the rest away as much as possible. How will you spend your precious brain-energy? Are you so busy worrying about "what-ifs" that you're not doing something that could actually help a given situation?

I'm sure that as soon as something in my life drops and ratchets up my anxiety again, I'll be screaming "no" at myself in the mirror a dozen times an hour. Or I'll have to come up with another tool to help myself function during the bad times. But this one has worked well so far, so I think I'll keep it in my arsenal.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Top 10 favorite current TV shows

There are often articles written about what the best show on TV is. I understand that it is usually a way to grab attention but why does there have to be only one? There is so much quality TV fiction out there that I thought I would challenge myself to making a top 10 list of my favorite current TV shows* for today's post.

*don't care about platform (network, cable, Netflix, Playstation, etc and whatever); nothing canceled, nothing old. This is a current list, not an all-time list. Also, for a couple of days something like Justified would qualify, but in a couple of days it won't.

Better Call Saul - I had pretty much zero hope for this show when it was first announced. But it has turned out to be a great addition to the Breaking Bad universe. I do think it has a tiny bit of an identity crisis in its first season but there is a lot to like and a lot to love here. Funny, surprisingly touching at times, and, halfway through the season, you get one of the all-time great single episodes.

Bloodline -  Family Noir is getting tossed around in more then one place to describe Bloodline, and it fits. This is a dense, subtle show with possibly the most stacked cast on TV right now. The acting and some of the scenes are just staggering.

Bob's Burgers - I watch this show with the kids. The Belcher's love each other and all of their craziness and I love them too.

Fargo - You'd think that True Detective was the best thing evar last year based on all the press it got but don't sleep on Fargo. Fargo is a genuinely touching and human show that augments the Coen brothers universe. It's quirky and funny but also goes to some really dark places. 

Fortitude  - This show just ended its first season and is on a network that most people don't seem to have (Pivot) so I think a lot of people just aren't aware of it. I hope that changes when it becomes more widely available on Amazon Prime or Netflix (fingers crossed). This is a moody, atmospheric, and subtly weird show with great characterization.

Justified - Only one more episde left! Justified has some really great characters and the best dialog and character exchanges on TV right now. I'll be sorry to see this one go.

Orange is the New Black/Wentworth (tie) - A cheat I know. These show have some  broad stroke similarities but are not the same show. Orange is maybe a bit more richer in its secondary characters and Wentorth is darker and more violent. They are both exceptional shows in their own ways and deserve your attention.

Orphan Black -  This is a multi-genre (science fiction, thriller, cop show) show that moves with a quickness but never loses it's way.

Peaky Blinders  - UK answer to Boardwalk Empire? Sure, if that does it for you. This is a gritty UK period crime drama that might be the most gorgeously shot show going right now. 

Rectify - I had this one sitting in my Netflix queue for a long time and only recently got around to it. Now I'm kicking myself for waiting so long. This might just be the most emotionally devastating  show on TV right now with scenes that leave you gutted. I would say that Rectify is unlike any other show on TV right now. 

So what are your top 10 current TV shows?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Boundaries are a bitch

by Kristi Belcamino

In some ways, when the dream of being a published author comes true, the actual launch day is pretty anti climatic. Same old laundry to fold and bills to pay.

But over time something subtly changes. One day we realize that a life that - for the most part - is a extremely solitary one, has become exceedingly public.

And along with that a false sense of intimacy and familiarity is created.

I've been struggling with this a bit over the past year as a newly published author.

Normally, I have very good and strong boundaries in my relationships, but navigating this new world as a published author - in a sense a public figure - has been difficult.

There are so many wonderful parts about being published. I still pinch myself that someone who I'm not related to reads my books. And I'm doubly astonished when they end up loving my books.

I promised myself years and years ago that I would be an accessible writer to my readers.

My role model is Adriana Trigiani. When her assistant found out my book group was reading her books, she arranged for Adriana to call our book club meeting. I put her on speaker phone and said hello.

"How's it going, baby?"

She spent the next thirty minutes talking to us, giving us insider and background information on her book, asking our advice as to whether a character should marry another character or not, and then ultimately inviting us to be extras on the movie being made about her book.

So, yeah, I wanted to be her. I still want to be her. But it is a fine line to walk.

Like I mentioned above, having strangers read my books is the best. thing. ever.

But it is also a bit odd.

Because now these wonderful strangers feel like they know me. And I want them to know me and I want to know them because having loyal readers is a dream come true for me.

So for the most part it is a blessing and an amazing experience.

But sometimes people think the relationship is maybe more than it really can - or should - be between an author and a reader.

So, I'm struggling in how to establish boundaries. And for me, at least, it's not easy.

There are people I've met in this mystery community, this amazingly warm and welcoming group, that have truly become genuine friends. And this is more wonderful than I ever imagined.

And I have also become friends with some of the people who have read my books.

I want to be friends with people. I want to be kind and open to others. But I also am a writer who is a mother and wife and daughter and sister-in-law and sister and best friend, and writing group member, and I'm blessed enough to have a life that is very, very full.

So, I'm learning how to navigate those tricky waters of being an author who is really open and accessible to readers, without making promises that I can't keep, without falsely fostering a sense of intimacy I can't provide, and without overstepping professional boundaries that can end up in hurt feelings or misunderstandings.

If you have any advice on this, please share!