Scott D. Parker
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Scott D. Parker
Friday, October 14, 2016
It sounds like I'm commenting on the election, but it really happened, I swear. The kids loved it.
|Not pictured: the poop|
I've said many times, to many people, that as dark and sometimes disgusting as crime fiction can be, crime fiction writers are the nicest, friendliest bunch of people you would ever hope to meet. It's like we get all our darkness out on the page and it allows us to be a bunch of jovial motherfuckers who like to have a good time. The last week or so, I've wondered if seeing the dark and disgusting play out on a national stage - and having it flood our social media, media, and conversations is draining me. It's less fun to write about criminals and madmen when we're watching criminals and madmen gaslight us on television every night.
I've put a moratorium on the news. I don't normally watch TV news anyway, but my other half likes to watch. Even he, used to the sensationalism and fear mongering, has had enough. I'd like to think we're going to wake up November 9th and the madness will have ended, but I don't believe that.
I've talked to a lot of my favorite crime writers about how crime fiction is really an exercise in empathy - writing or reading it. To write it, you have to empathize with the criminals you're putting on the page. When done well, it requires the reader to go places and spend time with people we'd often rather ignore. But what do you do when you feel like your body is a big, raw nerve, and the world is just poking it? How do you exercise that necessary empathy, then?
I don't have a solution or a suggestion - this week's blog is more an exploration of what's been draining me and poking my raw nerves. The big elephant in every room, whether you're sitting with likeminded people, people you can't relate to, or even just alone by yourself. Maybe the biggest problem is, regardless of your political leanings/opinions/experiences, there is a lot to be angry about. There's a lot to drain you of empathy, a lot to make you fall back on numbness or anger.
Is the answer to escape into reading and writing? I'd like to think so. Maybe for readers & writers that's the best bet. A trip to the zoo with a bunch of happy kids doesn't hurt, either.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
This is not work. This is not a job. I am not assigned a task by a publicist with a due date, nor am I required to promote a product. While I certainly respect everyone involved and feel thankful that I’m able to read well ahead of publication, a book for review is not a contract—something I’m very clear about in my review policy. More>>
Her post was in response to a former book blogger who had suggested charging for reviews, as time is money.
I started charging for reviews before I left the book blogging world. I started charging $50 per review and there was no guarantee the review would be favorable. I was still selling myself cheap at a rate of $5 per hour (again, assuming a 10-hour investment). Considering I almost always tweet quotes from a book while I’m reading it and talk about the book on social media it was pretty obvious the book was going to get exposure. Everyone balked. There was backlash from the book blogging community and people in the publishing industry were upset.If you're promoting a book you've written, would you pay for an advert? Would you pay for a review?
I eventually left book blogging. More>>
If you're interested in the discussion, head on over to RCR and jump in on the comment thread.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
But the stiff upper lip is the important thing. It's not innuendo, but the "mustn't grumble" steadfastness of those from the isles off the northeast of Europe, whence Brian Johnson (a Geordie through and through) hails. And it's a characteristic a writer must cultivate, because the profession is a daunting one.
I'm not one to complain about the act of writing or editing. "Look at a blank page until your head bleeds," really? We're not moving furniture with our minds. If you haven't been daydreaming your story before you sit down, and expect to conjure it between farts in your favorite chair, maybe it is like bleeding. No, the business side, the promotion, the nagging doubts about whether you're good enough or whether your current project will mean anything to anyone but yourself, those bother me more than a tough night of editing messy pages.
That's where the stiff upper lip comes in. Mustn't grumble. They really aren't the same, I know. But they go hand in hand, or lip in lip (also not innuendo). This is a tough career whether you go at it with or without a day job. One will have you scrabbling for freelance work, the other will have you fighting for writing time. So what's a writer to do?
A monthly get-together with likeminded writers will help. With Skype and Google Hangouts, the miles don't matter. You can get together and kvetch and commiserate and pat each other on the back. It's good to know you're not alone in the struggle. But that alone can lead to doubts? Why in hell are we doing this to ourselves? Well hopefully, because you love writing. You'd do it anyway, so you might as well put in the extra work and get paid for it.
Another way is to keep abreast (no innuendo) of publishing news. This can also be a downer, reading Publisher's Lunch Deluxe every morning and seeing how many writers who are not you getting significant deals. But that's the half empty view. The half full view is that books are bought and sold every day. One might remind you of what you're working on, and give you hope that there are readers out there who will love it. Can't afford the $25 a month for a Publisher's Marketplace subscription? Read the right blogs.
Publishing...and Other Forms of Insanity is a good one that covers all genres including literary and commercial fiction. Sandra Seaman's blog lists anthology calls and keeps track of genre publishers, tending toward crime fiction. It's a must for short story writers. What I'd advise against, is reading social media all day. While this might feel like a great way to stay in touch, because of the nature of promotion, it can feel like a whirlwind of ad copy devouring you, like Tuttle's demise in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. I find it draining rather than energizing. The monthly writer chats energize me, going to readings and book signings energizes me, seeing my friends succeed energizes me.
Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Finishing Touches by Thomas Tessier (1986)
Nine truly weird tales make up this collection from an unjustly obscure British writer. It's obvious that Samuels is well read because his stories bear the influence of everyone from Arthur Machen to Franz Kafka to H.P. Lovecraft to Jorge Luis Borges to Thomas Ligotti, but like all writers of vision, he uses his influences to forge stories that are definitively his own. His writing is polished but quite crisp, and the stories read quickly. He's good at creating strange nightmare scenarios where the line between what is real and what may not be real is blurred, and he excels at evoking a sense of the uncanny in modern urban environments. Each one of the stories in this book is rich in mystery and a feeling of the otherwordly.
This book is recent, and there is nothing overlooked about it. But I just wanted to mention it because I like it so much. Victor Lavalle, who's from Queens, New York, sets this novella about sorcery and monsters in Jazz Age New York City, and it works as a brilliant subversion of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, specifically "The Horror at Red Hook". The racism prevalent in Lovecraft, especially early Lovecraft, is inverted in LaValle's tale about Charles Thomas Tester, a black musician and sorceror who uses his power to summon Lovecraft's Old Ones in Red Hook for his own righteous reasons. Lavalle, in effect, channels Lovecraft in a way and for a purpose that would have made the man from Providence roll in his grave. Yet what makes this incisive examination of the Lovecraft universe work so well is the author's clear admiration and liking for Lovecraft's work, racial hang-ups and all. The Ballad of Black Tom functions as both a critique of Lovecraft and a respectful acknowledgment of his influence, and that Lavalle can accomplish these two things at the same time is impressive. One of my favorites reads this year.
Monday, October 10, 2016
A woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him.
The Good - The middle section of the movie is pretty strong. Dan, Jane, and Bill are under siege. They have to prepare the homestead for battle, then defend it when it happens. Tough talk and gun play is on display here. And even if it all feels a little familiar, it all works nicely.
The Bad - The film utilizes a simple flashback structure to flesh out the parts of the story that you need. The flashbacks serve to tell us more about the Dan and Bill characters; and since Jane is connected to both of them, we learn more about her too.
The first Dan/Jane flashback works because it establishes, briefly, the foundation of their relationship in an economical way. The rest of Dan's journey is told in the present and augmented by flashbacks. These Dan only flashbacks serve the story well. The additional Dan/Jane flashbacks doesn't really add much more to the story that we already know. The flashback basically serves as setup for a line later in the movie and both scenes fall a little flat and don't land the way that they were probably intended to.
The beginning is too rushed. I understand that an in medias res start was desired but this one was too rushed.Since we know nothing of the Bill character from the moment we meet him, and he is bed ridden and recovering from being shot in the entire present timeline, his flashbacks come off really well and give us VERY necessary character development and relationship development.
The Weird - There are two things that, historically, have shot well in westerns: landscapes and men's faces. Both are on full display here. Jane Got a Gun was shot in New Mexico and the exterior shots are gorgeous. The scope, scale, and beauty are are all wonderfully captured.
The second quality of westerns, one that rarely gets discussed, is how westerns are great showcases for men's faces. This about some of your favorite westerns over the years, some of the best westerns over the years. Now think about those faces. Weather beaten faces with crooks, crags, crevasses. Unshaven faces with scruff, mustaches, and beards. From John Wayne and Ben Johnson to Robert Ryan and Woody Strode to countless others. When you think of the best character actors of all-time the list will be dominated by western actors. The western is so kind to the male face that it even does wonders for non-traditional faces like Jack Elam. There are tons of modern equivalents too: Sam Elliott, Jim Beaver, Clint Eastwood, Sam Shepard. Jane gives us two good male faces. Noah Emmerich has a pockmarked face meant for the rough living conditions of the western and Joel Edgerton has an interesting face and a full natural beard ( I hate fake beards).
Conclusion - The first 15 minutes or so of the film are rocky, the middle siege section is strong, the end is a little to pat. Jane Got a Gun is streaming on Netflix and is recommended.