Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Conversation with Rob Hart, Part I

By Alex Segura

I can't recall the first time I met Rob Hart - I'll wager it was probably at a Noir at the Bar reading in Manhattan, or an event at The Mysterious Bookshop. At first blush, he struck me as focused, whip-smart and sarcastic. I knew we'd get along. Like many people, I've had the chance to follow Rob's journey to becoming a published novelist through his social media and his regular Path to Publication column at LitReactor - from the highs of signing a book deal to the lows of losing it to the even higher high of finding a better home for said book, Rob's journey isn't as unique as you'd think. But it's all about the story, and how it's told.  Rob does this well.

  His first Ash McKenna novel, New Yorked, hits in June from Polis Books. (Full disclosure, Polis is the publisher of my two upcoming Pete Fernandez novels - Silent City and Down the Darkest Street.) New Yorked is a rough and tumble, dirty, raw and addictive read. Ash isn't a hero, per se - or even a detective. But mystery and crime readers will take to him immediately, and you'll be left scouring your shelves or ereader for the next book once you hit the end of New Yorked. It's that good. One of the strongest debuts I've read in a good, long while.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Rob briefly this week about the book, his career path, the music that fueled some of his writing and more. We'll continue the convo next week, too. Thanks to Rob for taking the time.

Rob, I know you're a comic book guy too - or at least aware of the tropes of superhero stuff. So, that being said, what's your origin story?
I don’t have a Crime Alley or radioactive spider. There was no defining moment. Maybe something more like the slow burn of an Irish Catholic upbringing, which instilled a strong distrust of authority. Now I make up stuff in my head and try to get people to pay me for it. Which is a little like religion. I guess I’ve come back around.

I do have one superpower, and this is something my wife will vouch for: Whenever I go to the movies, I always sit near the asshole who wants to talk through the entire thing. As superpowers go, this one sucks. 

Your first novel, New Yorked, is coming out in June from Polis Books. What's the elevator pitch?
People call Ash McKenna a private eye, but he calls himself a blunt instrument. Point him to a job, he gets it done. When the woman he loves turns up dead he goes looking for the killer, with all the grace of a wrecking ball. He runs afoul of a drag queen drug lord, a hard-boiled role playing game, and a hipster turf war, all while barreling toward the consequences of his own violent tendencies.

That counts as an elevator pitch if you are in a very tall building.

I'm a sucker for process pieces and influences. What's the genetic makeup of NEW YORKED? Which writers informed your own work, and how did it come to life in terms of the actual writing? Why was this the book you had to write?
This is a tough question to answer. It’s a mix. On one hand, I was playing at some of the classic hard-boiled tropes, with some nods to the masters, like Chandler and Hammett. But there’s also an element where I’m exploring my relationship with New York City. I’ve lived here my whole life, and like most natives, love and hate it in equal measure. So there are a lot of influences that weren’t necessarily books, but had such a singular vision of the city that they inspired me: the movie Shortbus, the music video for Girl Talk’s album All Day, which is one long dance sequence stretched across the five boroughs.

And then there’s In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer, which ruined me--it’s the best book ever written about New York City. I’m not even going to claim I attempted to do what he did, which was write something definitive. I’m just glad to have that influence in my life.

I know there's a lot of me in Pete, and I imagine there's a bit of your misspent youth in Ash. How hard is it, as a writer, to be mindful of keeping your own wish fulfillment out of the creation of a strong, standalone character?
There wasn’t a huge problem with wish fulfillment here. Ash is my id. He’s every bad decision I never made. And I don’t think he’s strong. Physically, sure. Developmentally, he’s been held back, both by tragedy and his own stubbornness. This series, which I’m hoping will be five books, is about him growing up and finding his moral compass.

That said, I definitely feel a little bit of my voice in his. Because he’s a wiseass, and I’m a wiseass. The difference is he’s usually goading people into something stupid. And I’ve accepted that I’m full of shit and don’t understand anything about the world. He still thinks he’s got it all figured out, as most kids in their mid-20s do.

One of my favorite things about your work - in addition to enjoying the hell out of the book - is how transparent you've been about the publishing journey. Tell us a little bit about how New Yorked came to be. What were some of the challenges and lessons learned?
Put on a pot of coffee.

I wrote the book, I thought it was done, an author I respect a great deal read it, and he told me I needed a page one rewrite. It was devastating news, but it was news I needed to get. That was strike one.

That rewrite got me an agent, Bree Ogden, and she sold the book to Exhibit A. Four or five months later the imprint got shut down and I got kicked to the curb. Strike two.

Now I’m with Polis, and to cap off this cheesy baseball metaphor I’m building up to—I feel like I hit a home run. I couldn’t be happier with how things are going. Jason is brilliant, and he works his ass off, and he gets results. He’s got the reach of a major publisher with the soul of an indie house. It’s a great place to be.

It was a long and stressful process. I tried to figure it out recently. Something like five years, from first draft to pub date. I learned some important lessons.

First, patience is a virtue. Especially in publishing. Nothing happens with any sense of expediency and it’s very easy to get yourself worked up. You have to take a deep breath and channel that energy into the writing. Put your head down, do the work.

Second is, just because things suck doesn’t mean they’ll suck forever. When I lost my first deal, it was easy to feel like that was the end of the world. Then I got over it and did the work.

Third, nothing about this business makes sense, and anyone who says they understand it is a liar or naive. Best to not worry about it. Put your head down, do the work.

That’s the biggest lesson: This is work. Fun, cool, and awesome, but work nonetheless. You get out what you put in.

Best bit of advice you've ever gotten - about writing, life or anything?
Here’s one my favorites: I used to work for a politician who chaired the New York City Council Finance Committee. So he’s a powerful guy. We were at another politician’s campaign headquarters, and while all the other politicos were bullshitting at a table in the corner, he sat down with the grunts and sealed envelopes. Someone told him he didn’t need to do that. He shrugged and said, “Everybody works.”

Translation: No one is too good to do anything, especially when there’s a job that needs getting done. So don’t be the asshole who sits in the corner.

I personally don't listen to music while writing, but play a ton of music while thinking about writing. What albums remind you of New Yorked? What's on the book's soundtrack?
I listened to a lot of punk in preparation for this, and during the writing process. Bands that played at CBGB, or around that era, because that was the feeling I was trying to tap into. So, the Ramones, the Dictators, Iggy Pop, Cock Sparrer, Stiff Little Fingers. Ash has a punk-rock sensibility--not overtly, but he’s got a very strong “fuck authority” mentality.

Then, too, there’s Neon Golden, an album from The Notwist, which is the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I used to listen to it at the end of the night to wind down, after doing silly things in the East Village until 4 or 5 in the morning. That’s another feeling I wanted to tap into--that transitional period from the roaring 20s to the chilled-out 30s. Neon Golden always brings me back to that period of my life in a very visceral way. 

Come back next week for part II of my conversation with Rob Hart.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Racing to the End

by Holly West

I don't like endings.

I don't mean endings in the big, grand scheme of things. Life milestones, events,  and such. Some of those I like and some I don't, depending on what's ending. What I'm talking about are the endings of books, specifically, those of the crime genre.

Yesterday, Jay talked about novel structure and how basically, he's all over the place. One Act? Two?Five? He argues that novelists should forgo the "straight jacket" of the ubiquitous three-act structure and take charge of your story. He says it better than I do, so go ahead and read it if you haven't yet.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the three-act structure. Without following it pretty closely, I might not've met the deadline for my second book, MISTRESS OF LIES. Okay, if I'm being honest, I did have to ask for an extension on the first deadline, but damned if I didn't make the second, all right? So as a writer, I'm definitely an advocate of the three-act structure.

As a reader, maybe not so much. This gets me back to my initial statement: I don't like endings. In the three-act structure, we have, loosely, Act 1, Act 2 (usually broken into A & B), and Act 3. I'm totally fine with Acts 1 & 2--there are certain benchmarks--or turning points--that should happen in those acts but the author is free to define them as he or she sees fit. To me, they're much less generic than Act 3.

It's Act 3 that gets on my nerves. Act 3 usually contains the resolution and climax of the story, so it should be the most exciting part of the book, right? It's the culmination of everything your characters have worked for. In crime fiction, particularly, traditional mysteries, Act 3 usually begins with the protagonist FINALLY understanding what's going on. Who did it and why. But that doesn't mean he or she is scot free. No, once these details are revealed, the protagonist must engage in a Final Battle with the antagonist and, usually, achieve that one Final Victory.

My problem is that once I learn what's really going on (which, as I've indicated, usually happens around the beginning of the third act) I pretty much lose interest in the book. Take the novel I'm reading now. I've really enjoyed it, but now that I've come the Final Battle I'm rushing through it. I'm not even really paying attention. I can't blame this on the book itself because I almost always feel this way, no matter what I'm reading. It's like that with films, too, which makes sense because most of them follow the three-act structure now.

When I turned in MISTRESS OF LIES, my editor said the climax needed more tension. That was because I totally rushed through it, wanting to get to the end as quickly as I could. This is funny when I think about it because I essentially did the same thing I do as a reader--once the story was wrapped up I just wanted to get to the end. I didn't really care about the Final Battle all that much. Don't worry, I added a whole bunch of that much-needed tension in my edits, but that initial draft was all like, "Okay, I know what happens now, aren't we done?"

As a writer, I clearly need to figure out a way to make my endings satisfying while not falling prey to the usual Act 3 Final Battle cliches. As a reader, maybe I need to take a break from crime fiction for awhile. I have to admit that the first two books I read this year were non-fiction and I devoured them. Or maybe I just need to work on expanding my attention span. I find that as I grow older, I don't have as much patience with books as I used to.

Is that the problem? Am I just old?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Not To Write: Part One: Structure.

By Jay Stringer.

I don't give out writing advice often, and when I do, I like it to be wrong. So for my next few blogs here on DSD, I'm going to be giving some tips. Run for your lives.

First of all, I'm going to let you laugh at me. Here's a thing that I actually said, straight-faced, to a friend at the London Book Fair;

"If five-act structure was good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me."

Yes, I know, I'm a dick. 

But here's the thing-

There is one piece of writing advice that has become so fundamentally accepted, so adopted as 'the way it is,' that it's even accepted as fact by people who don't write.

A story has to have Three Acts. A beginning, middle and end. 

And you can see it in the writing. Many books stick to this, many screenwriters drive themselves into the ground trying to fit their story to that simple idea. The end result? A lot of books that feel similar, and a lot of unsold screenplays. 

I spent a long time trying it. 

The dirty secret -which I've shared on here before- is that my first novel only really had two acts. At the time, I felt that was wrong. I thought I'd failed as a writer. I spent some time in the re-edits trying to fake it; I moved a few things around to give the impression of a third act. 

My second book, Runaway Town, was written with the intent of doing it right this time and I tried hard to stick to Three-Act structure (but, shhhhhh, don't tell anyone, it has four.) My third book, Lost City, has four.

I went through a phase when I would say "well, I write in three Acts, but my second act is broken into two distinct chunks." Which is, really, the cowardly way of saying, "this book has four Acts." When I was writing Ways To Die In Glasgow (due out in August, and available here in the UK and here for the US, pre-order is your friend) I found that my storytelling had evolved to fit neatly into a Five-Act structure.  

(And I don't mean neat as in tidy, a tame, boring story.  Nope. There's sex, drugs, jokes, blood, death, maybe a little swearing....seriously....PRE-ORDER IS YOUR FRIEND.)

The book I wrote last year was called CRIMINALS. It, too, had five Acts. Though I was still pretending it had three. I would say to people at that point, "yeah, I write in three acts, but I write the second Act in three chunks." I know, right?

Here's the thing. Not every story is the same. But if you only have one Act-Structure in mind, you're going to end up driving each story down the same road. The turns are going to become familiar, we'll learn how to pace ourselves to hit each traffic light at the right time. 

Ultimately, through our stories we're revealing character. Each Act-Break marks a step in both the external and internal world of our characters. Something life changing has happened, or they've reached a moment when external forces are acting against them, or they've changed their mind, or changed their emotional reaction to something. 

There's been a change

And if we insist on only having one structure, then we insist on all characters having the same amount of changes. Which is bull, because everybody's lives are different. Some lives are One-Act, some are two, some are probably seventy six (I'm guessing that can be the only way Alan Moore's upcoming novel is so long.)

This, I believe, is one of the reasons so many writers struggle when they're in the middle third of their book. Because they think of it as the middle third. They've set up and opening Act, and they're working towards their final Act, but then events in the middle slow down, or gather together, or become a mess of treacle and failure. "Well, somewhere here I need to have a mid-point...but is it the scene I'm on now, or do I need another one? And, help, I've lost my sub-plot."

If, instead, that writer was thinking, "hey I'm in Act three of five, I'll have an Act-Break to hit soon, then another, then the final stretch..." things might be easier to manage, and the character arc might be more defined as a result. 

This isn't to say a story can't be three Acts. Some need to be. Some don't need to be. The important take-away from my shitty bit of writing advice, is simply to free yourself from the idea that a story has to be three acts. Looking back now, I know it's okay that my first book only had two Acts, because it was only a Two-Act story. The character wasn't ready for the extra development and learning he would have taken in a 'correct' third act. It would have felt fake. 

And this also isn't to say all books need to be done to my current structure (and I do have a Five-Act guide that I'm experimenting with, but I'm not ready to share it.) Hell, not even all of my books are going to be five from now on. Some will be three. some will be four. It depends on the characters and the story.

The reason I'm writing this is that I think Three-Act Structure has become a straight-jacket. It's something we're all told, and it can be damaging. It can hold back aspiring writers, and it can make career-novelists start to crank out work that is repetitive. You are in charge of telling the story. You get to make the big decisions, and your character gets to go on a journey, and there isn't only one way of getting there. Does your story really need to be told in three acts? Cool, have at it. But maybe it doesn't, and it's that 'maybe it doesn't' that I hope people take from this.

That, and the fact I'm a dick. 

If you're struggling on your current WIP, and you've always been writing with three acts as the rule, take a step back. Have another look. You might be surprised. 

Next time, I'll be talking about dialogue. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

To Be or Not To Be

That is the question that can put a writer in the hot seat. A choice to kill - or not kill - a character can prompt a backlash that can affect the future of a series, show or writer's career.

The other day, a friend asked me if I ever got really upset about character deaths on shows. The reason for the question?

(This is where I'll warn you that there are going to be spoilers for many shows, most of which are not currently airing, but shows referenced include Grey's Anatomy, The Wire, Orphan Black, Justified, Lost, Breaking Bad, Water Rats... so be warned before reading on)

Grey's Anatomy. I don't watch the show, but I've heard via radio and my husband that they killed McDreamy. While I'm not even exactly sure who that is, it sounds like a lot of people are upset about it, and that prompted the question from my friend.

Do I ever get upset about a character death?

Yes. If a character is well drawn, compelling, and their death is done right, there will definitely be an impact on loyal readers or viewers. I think many people who read this blog would think of many of the same character deaths that have gotten people talking.

Wallace from The Wire.

Omar Again, from The Wire.



What do I think is the best death on TV ever? All of the above would be on my short list, but there are always a few other deaths that come to mind. Rachel, from Water Rat is one that stays with me.

Jin and Sun from Lost.

More recently, the Walking Dead death of Tyreese, which was a beautiful death. I'm not sure if you can appreciate it even from this longer clip, but the whole episode was gutting and exceptional.

And Mr. Eko from Lost. That whole episode is brilliant, and devastating.

There are also the deaths that have offended fans. Remember the death of Stringer Bell, and the posted hopes that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest?

As David Simon said, it wasn't that kind of show.

There are other kinds of deaths too. The deaths that made us cheer. Remember why we love Slim Charles? The death of Cheese. And most fans of Lost rejoiced at the deaths of Nikki and Paulo, made extra sweet by the fact that they were buried when they weren't even dead - just paralyzed temporarily - and that means they watched themselves be buried alive.

For super-hated characters like Nikki and Paulo, that was an extremely fitting death.

Great writers know when, and how, to take out a character. As seen in the death of Hank, the death of a character should impact other characters, and it should be fitting for the tone of the show, and advancing the plot. When those things work together, the death of a loved character can be crucial.

In contrast to most stories, Orphan Black begins with a death. It's risky, because it's hard to care about the loss of a character when you don't even know them, and they haven't said a single word, but given the context, the death of Beth definitely gets your attention and sets in motion a chain of events that give meaning to Beth's death.

And then, there are the lives of characters that offend us.

In the wake of the end of Justified there are definitely those who felt the show missed the mark by letting pretty much everyone live, including villain Boyd Crowder.

One of the main complaints I've seen is that Ava Crowder lived. People seemed to love her or loathe her, but rarely were they indifferent to her.

Personally speaking, I think I'm one of millions that felt ripped off by the fact that Father Gabriel from The Walking Dead is still drawing breath. They might have pulled that off as acceptable in the season finale this year, but I'm still giving it to them grudgingly.

I think that's the hallmark of a really great character. The point is that people feel strongly about them, whether good or bad. If you've been able to prompt an emotional response from viewers or readers, then you've created a character that people connect to or respond to, and that's never a bad thing.

As you consider whether to take a knife to one of your creations - or the termination of a character you love - consider whether the death is true to the consequences of the characters' actions, fits the tone of the work, and advances the development of other characters and the plot. If the death checks all those boxes, then it could be one of the most significant defining moments of the story. A character can live on through the impact of their death, and although we may miss them, a story may be richer for their loss.

Isn't that what's making us all curious about season 2 of Bloodline? I know the loss of the character will be felt... and I can't wait to see how.

I've touched on many deaths that I think people will agree were compelling, and memorable, and amongst either the most significant or controversial on TV.  What's my #1 pick?

Well, the runner up spot centers on a death that was expected. It was a guest character who appeared in only six episodes, and you don't even see the death itself, yet the death of Kerwin from Rectify is one that stays with both Brian and I, and for a guest role for only six episodes of a show, that says a lot.

My top pick isn't really surprising. And is wasn't that I was necessarily sad about the death of the character. Lizzie had long been on the crazy train, and her murder of sweet Mika made her execution essential. The reason the death is so compelling, and so exceptional, is that the writers took pains to make her death have so much significance. Without the death of Lizzie could Tyreese have forgiven Carol? We will never know, but what we are given in the death of Lizzie is was a stroke of brilliance, because the death of one child has such a significant impact on the people who were left behind.

From that death, forgiveness.

There are undoubtedly many other worthy deaths I haven't mentioned. For you, who were you sad to see go? Or perhaps more appropriately, who were you mad to see live?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fifteen Things I've Done That You May Not Have Done*

*or may not want to have done
PS These are only the ones I would let my mother read.

By Kristi Belcamino

Sometimes I feel like I've lived many lives. Here are some of the odder things that have happened in my life. So far.

1. Got up close and personal at an autopsy of a drug overdose. Smelled the dead guy later for hours as I went about the rest of my day.
2. Attended several barbecues at the morgue. The deputies liked to grill in the oversize garage where the big body vans parked. We’d grill and then carry our meat back past the big freezers and through the autopsy room into the morgue offices. I always worried meningitis germs or something else would jump on my hamburger before I got it in my mouth.
3. Flew in an FA/18 jet with the Blue Angels over Big Sur. Click link for video of it, but be warned it includes barfing footage.
4. Had Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson ask to be introduced to me once while I was eating breakfast at a restaurant because he liked a newspaper article I had written about a man who crashed his car while naked and masturbating.
5. Lived with Beck and his family in a Mara Salvatrucha gang neighborhood in South Koreatown L.A.
6. Shook hands with President Bill Clinton while he was in office.
7. Raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca Raceway.
8. Had Jerry Seinfeld roll his eyes at me. For no good reason.
9. Was with San Jose homicide detectives during the first twelve hours of their murder investigation, including going into the living room of a house to notify parents their son had been murdered.
10. Had a K9 save my life. He jumped on a man with a knife running toward me in an empty parking lot. When the dog attacked the man, he killed the dog with the knife and it gave me time to get in my car and lock the doors. The cops arrived seconds later and surrounded the man, guns drawn, right in front of my windshield.
11. Got a message on my phone at the newspaper from Clint Eastwood where he talked about an unfortunate printing mistake in the local weekly that gave him a HUGE bulge-y shadow in a particularly unfortunate (?) spot on his thigh.
12. One night in L.A. my job was to escort porn star Traci Lords around a rave at the Shrine Auditorium.  (I also got to talk to Dennis Leary and Pee Wee Herman as part of the event coordinator for this fundraiser rave.)
13. Was in the lead cop car in a high-speed police pursuit on a San Francisco Bay Area freeway. Trust me when I say my life flashed before my eyes.
14. Slept in my hatchback car in a parking garage in Jersey City. For three nights. Each morning washed up with the homeless people in the bathrooms at the transit station before I went into NYC for the day. (Give me a break, I was broke and young and wanted to visit the city.)
15. Spent hours talking to a serial killer and received dozens of phone calls and letters from him, which spawned the idea for my first book.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Creating Drama When You Know The End

Scott D. Parker

There's a moment in the musical "1776" a little over halfway through the film where the delegates are debating the wording of the Declaration of Independence. The issue is over the inclusion of slavery in the document. The Southern delegates want it out of the final draft, the Northern delegates want it in, and Thomas Jefferson, the author and a slave-owning Virginian, is caught in the middle. They are at an impasse, neither side willing to budge, and the South threatens to walk out of the convention. John Adams and the North calls their bluff and the Southerners walk.

Holy cow, I thought for the briefest of instances back when I first watched the film, I wonder if they'll come back and resolve their differences? But then the obvious fact entered my mind the next instant later: Dude, you're living in the United States of America in then-1995. Of course they figure it out.

But for a moment, the movie had me.

Yesterday, I watched the new movie WOMAN IN GOLD and had a similar experience. The movie tells the story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian Jew, and her crusade to win back a painting stolen from her family by the Nazis. Helen Mirren plays the elder Maria circa 1998 and we get some of her story in flashbacks to 1938. At one point, she and her husband are escaping Europe and there was that moment when my palms started to sweat, my heart beat faster, and the “Will she get out?” question popped into my head. Dude: you’ve already seen her as an old woman in America circa 1998. Of course she gets out.

But for a moment, the movie had me.

It’s a pretty powerful film that can make you forget the real history and get caught up in the sweep of the story. The movie, WOMAN IN GOLD, is, by the way, quite well done. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried, and at a very specific moment. Yeah, yeah, I know: You’re asking “Scott, what film didn’t make you cry?” Quiet. I wear my heart on my sleeve when I give myself over to a story. And this story ensnared my heart and took my away.

What is it that makes you forget history and get wrapped up in the story? Is it the characters or is it the craft of the storytelling process?

What films/books made you forget the real history while you were watching/reading them?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Are There More Male or Female Editors at Literary Magazines?

The Litragger crew did some counting -> 
What percentage of work that a magazine publishes is written by men? What percentage by women? How many books reviewed are written by men? How many by women?VIDA asks these important questions. What we wanted to know: what happens when we ask similar questions about magazine editors who decide what to publish and who to review? So we we started counting editors >>>

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

by Holly West

Have any of you been watching The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore? The topic hasn't really come up in my FB or Twitter feeds and I'm curious whether the show is making any sort of impact.

To be certain, Larry Wilmore, the former Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show, had big shoes to fill when he took over Stephen Colbert's time slot on Comedy Central. And admittedly, the show isn't as good as the Colbert Report, but that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a place at the table. It's a different show with different goals. The question is whether it's achieving them.

First, it's a comedy show and yes, it's funny. I'm genuinely entertained by Wilmore and I like hearing what he has to say. Not everything he does hits the mark, but then that's the case with most comedy, I'd say. So goal accomplished.

What about its wider aims?

People like to say we need to have a "conversation" about race in this country. I think that's true, but nobody seems to know where to start. Personally, I think a good place to begin the dialogue is for white people to quit having knee jerk reactions to the subject of racism. Take a step back and really listen without being defensive. I assure you, black people know that not all white people are racist. You don't have to keep saying it. Just please listen to what people who've experienced racism first hand have to say and try to take it in.

Wait, how did this post become about me and my own views about race? That's not what I meant to talk about.

What I like about The Nightly Show is that Larry Wilmore is actually trying to have a conversation about race. The show isn't only about race, but the subject comes up rather frequently. It's focus is the news of the day with an emphasis on social justice and politics. There's no denying that the tone of the show is "liberal," but it's less divisive than say, Real Time With Bill Maher. It will no doubt offend a few of the more conservative among us, but there's no pleasing everybody, is there?

There are problems, of course, with attempting to address complex subjects in a half-hour comedy format. Often, it barely scratches the surface of topics that require some deep consideration from multiple view points. At best, the show serves as a starting point for discussion. At worst, it glosses over important points without giving both sides a chance to speak their piece.

It remains to be seen whether The Nightly Show will become a cultural phenomenon like the Colbert Report and The Daily Show. They probably need to up their game with more high profile guests before and perhaps dig a little deeper into certain topics without skewing the narrative too far to the left. Its strength lies in is its potential to ask hard, legitimate questions without being so polarizing that the opposite side shuts down.

Is that even possible in a show that is, at it's heart, a comedy? Its predecessors managed to achieve it to a large extent, even if The Daily Show has been written off as being for college students and stoners. Regardless, I'd like to see Larry Wilmore and The Nightly Show succeed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Facts and Fiction–one more time

So, I saw this headline over the weekend:

FBI admits it fudged forensic hair matches in nearly all criminal trials for decades

Seems like a pretty big deal. What’s more shocking – or not surprising at all – was this part:

“Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favoured prosecutors in more than 95 per cent of the 268 trials reviewed so far..”

95 percent of the “overstated forensic matches… favoured prosecutors.”

It seems like such old news now, the authorities breaking the rules, cheating, lying to get a conviction. The science being manipulated – for one side, in 95% of the cases.

And yet, in popular crime fiction science has become the star. Years ago someone said, “I’m not really into forensics, so I don’t watch much TV.” For a while there it seemed like every other show had people in white lab coats solving crimes. Pretty much always honestly, always above reproach. It was science and science doesn’t lie.

Did crime fiction show too much faith in accepting science? Or in underestimating the lengths people will go to get what they want? (This is a pet peeve of mine, how a lot of crime fiction actually sees the world as completely honest – except for the fact that everyone in a small town could be a calculating, cold-blooded murderer, capable of not only committing the most serious crimes but also of going about their lives as if nothing has happened.)

Another article I saw this week was from about why The X-Files won’t work today. Reason #4 was, “The attitudes towards the military are from a different era,” and pointed out that, “Americans now trust the military more than they do religious leaders, doctors, or teachers. Whether you think that's fair or a result of media brainwashing, the fact remains that repeatedly involving the military in a dark television conspiracy today would be about as popular with audiences as aliens disguised as and played by cute kittens that needed to be slaughtered at the end of every episode.”

Reason #2 was that “The conspiracies are all real now,” and said, “while there has never been a time when the U.S. government's actions were 100 percent peachy, the '90s was definitely a low point for shady government activity. Now, compare this to today. In the last 10 years, we've learned that the government has gone to war for no particular reason, tortured innocent people in secret prisons, and repeatedly executed American citizens without trial. In theory, this should give the new X-Files some great plot fuel, maybe even enough fuel to melt steel, I don't know, the truth is still out there about that. In reality, though, I think it works the opposite way. After the last 10 years or so, the mind-blowing conspiracy theories we saw revealed on the X-Files seem kind of ... quaint, like a kid finding out for the first time why their parents share a bed.”

There’s a joke in Canada that we’re always on the brink of, “Coming of age,” and we never really do (one of our prime ministers once said, “The 20th century belongs to Canada,” and we’ve now revised it to, “The 21st century,” and I expect we’ll keep revising that forever) and that Americans lose their innocence every thirty years.

So now, according to, the 1990’s were a low point for shady government activity. I think maybe a new X-Files will work really well as it seems we’re almost due for another loss of innocence.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The "Wake with a start and grab a gun" opening

Was flipping through some western paperbacks the other day and read the opening to Gun Code and started thinking about certain types of openings. In this case it was the self-explanatory "get up and grab a gun" opening. Here are some examples:

"What it was that aroused him, Joe Edison didn't know, but he suddenly was wide awake and after a tense moment he sat up. The night was bright with stars and half a moon. He could see the homesteader's wagon quite clearly, and near it the blanket wrapped figures of the homesteader and his young wife. Not far beyond the wagon, three horses were staked out, his horse and the team that pulled the wagon. Nothing else caught his attention, but in what he had seen, something was wrong. The three horses were pulling back, straining at the stakes that held them.

Joe Edison's holster gun was under the blanket which had served as his pillow. He found it, tucked it in the waistband of his trousers, then pulled on his boots and stood up." -- Gun Code by Philip Ketchum
"Choc was having a quiet digestion dream of coffee and eggs when things started happening that brought the nightmarish Tulsa siege into his sleep. He woke with a frightened "Yeah!' and gripped the automatic that his Indian Pearl shoved into his hand." -- Pretty Boy by William Cunningham

"When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed. He heard the plop of a silence behind him as he rolled, and the bullet punched the pillow where his head had been.

He landed face down on the floor. His stubby, pregnant .32 was clipped to the springs under the bed like a huge black fly standing upside down, and Parker's hand was reaching out for it before he hit the floor." -- The Outfit by Richard Stark

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Interview with Lisa Unger

by Kristi Belcamino

I'm stealing this from ... myself. I did this interview with one of my all-time favorite authors, Lisa Unger, about three years ago.  Lisa's latest book, CRAZY LOVE YOU, came out in February.

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?
My most creative hours are from about 5 AM to noon.  However, I have a six year old daughter, who comes before everything else … and she also likes to get up between 5 and 6 AM.  Luckily, my husband is on board to help, but I like to be with her first thing, make her breakfast and see her off to kindergarten … so the early hours are hit or miss.  I write when she’s in school.  If I haven’t met my goals by the time she comes home, I work again after she goes to bed.  The writer/mother thing can be a difficult balance, and sometimes I need support in the afternoons. But mainly it works.  And I feel lucky to do what I love and still be present every day for my little girl.
2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?
I don’t believe in writers’ block.  I think that’s just fear, or perfectionism.  In The Lie that Tells a Truth, author John Dufresne says that writers’ block is you wanting to write well right now.  But sometimes all you have to do is writePerfection – or hopefully something close — comes in revision.
My singular struggle – in work and in life — is that there are not enough hours in the day. Writing is the thing that has always come most naturally to me.  And it’s harder for me not to write, then it is for me to sit down and put my fingers to the keyboard.  I live for the blank page.
3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?
Stephen King’s On WritingThe Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne, as well as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott all books that offer tremendous insight on the craft of writing.
4. Who do you read for fun?
I have always been a literary omnivore and have been influenced as heavily by popular fiction as by classic literature.  I don’t discriminate!  I have loved Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austen, Patricia Highsmith, The Bronte sisters.  But I have also loved Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, Joy Fielding.  My fiction love affair right now is George R.R. Martin’s Game of Throne series.  I am knee deep in book four, A Feast for Crows.  The series is simply a feat of brilliant storytelling and character development.
I have read widely across genre.  I love a great story and I think that can be found in every area of fiction.  One of my first and favorite thrillers was Rebecca by Daphne DuMurier.  I really loved that idea of the ordinary girl caught in extraordinary circumstances.  And it is a theme that has run through my work.
Some of my favorite contemporary writers:  Laura Lippman, John Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Kate Atkinson, Dennis Lehane …  I could go on and on.  I am currently also reading Lisa Gardeners Catch Me. (I always have multiple books going!)  It’s truly fantastic.
5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.
I don’t remember a time before I defined myself as a writer.  Making a living as a writer is really the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life.  It was a twisty road to that place, and there were times when I never thought I’d manage it.  So I’m very grateful.  It’s a dream come true.
6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
The best advice I can give aspiring writers is to write every day. Dig deeper every day. Be true to yourself. Think of publishing as an incidental element to the act of striving to be the best writer you can be, secondary to getting better every day for your experiences and dedication to the craft.
And read.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Study the people who are doing it best and learn from them.
7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?
Tenacity makes up for almost any shortfall.  Of course, you need talent.  You might also benefit from a little bit of good luck.  But without the drive and sheer never-say-die determination you won’t have what it takes to finish a novel, or to succeed once you do.
8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.
9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?
Rebecca was my first gothic thriller.  I love every word Truman Capote has ever writer – from Music for Chameleons to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  But it was In Cold Blood that had the biggest impact on me as a writer.
10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
I am sure every author feels this way, but I think I have the very best fans and readers.  I am connected with them every day at They are funny, smart, and so supportive.  So, I suppose what I’d like to say more than anything is: Thank you so much for reading and being a part of my life.
Lisa Unger is the bestselling author of 13 novels and several short stories.  CRAZY LOVE YOU is her latest release.  IN THE BLOOD, now in paperback, was a 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best Book, Amazon Best Book of the Month, Suspense Magazine Best Books of 2014, Sun Sentinel Best Mystery Novels of 2014 and Indie Next Pick.
Additional accolades include selections as a finalist for International Thriller Writers Best Novel Award, a winner of the Florida Book Awards, a finalist for Prix Polar International Award, Bookspan’s International Book of the Month, and a Target “Emerging Author.”  Her books are published in 26 languages worldwide and have been named top picks by Todayshow, Good Morning America, Walmart Book Club, Harper’s Bazaar, Family Circle, Good HousekeepingWashington LifePublishers WeeklyNew York Daily News, Indie Next and Amazon (Top Ten Thriller of the Year.)  She currently lives in Florida.

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!