Saturday, December 3, 2016

Picking a Cover With 99Designs...and a Request

Scott D. Parker

Let me just tell you how awesome 99Designs is.

Sure, back in September I wrote about the site that allows authors like me to interact with graphic designers all over the globe. It got me the cover of Ulterior Objectives, over there on the right. But I want to extol the awesomeness that is 99Designs again…and ask a little favor of y’all, too.

As a refresher, 99Designs is a venue where anyone who needs a book cover, logo, website landing page, or almost any other type of graphic can start a contest. With a written description of what you want including any images you may want to include as reference, designers will take a look. If they decide to give your contest a go, they’ll submit designs. Along the way, you, the contest initiator can interact with the individual designs via private conversations and star rankings. By the end of the qualifying round, you should have a pretty set of designs.

The book in question is Always Bet on Red: A Rogue Gambler Western. The main character is John Denton, professional gambler, who rarely is in one place for long. He lives on the road and by the cards. But he’s feeling the pull of home, and the closest thing he’s got to a home is in a little town in Texas where his best friend, Eli Jones, is sheriff. During a poker game, an agitated man bets the deed to a saloon he owns. Denton knows he has a winning hand, but Jones sees the saloon as a way to get out of the gun fighting business. Denton folds and Jones wins. Within an hour, Jones is dead. Denton saw the murderer, but the killer gets away. The next thing Denton knows, he’s being accused of the crime. The only way he can clear his name is to find the killer himself and bring him to justice even if it means defying the gambler code of honor.

I ended up with 71 different designs! Now, to be honest, some were variations on an original version or a designer taking into account feedback I delivered. But still. Seventy-one designs from which to choose. It’s an embarrassment of choices. Some were easily dismissed while others were fantastic. One of my friends in my local book club is a graphic designer and, in his words, “…you have an insanely talented batch of [designers]. These are pro level designs for the most part!  Some of these are so good, and clearly so time consuming, I'm blown away.”

I think a key aspect of this contest is that I chose a blind contest. What that means is the other designers cannot see what I’m seeing. They have only my description. Going forward, I’d recommend using a blind contest every time.

The possibilities ranged from traditional western to the untraditional, the cartoony to the photorealistic. I wrote to some designers that the book in question doesn’t match the cover submitted…but that I wanted to write the book that would fit some of these covers. I recently went to Barnes and Noble and examined the westerns and the covers of the paperbacks and hardbacks there. A few of the covers I received could easily be on the shelves in any bookstore.

Y'all wanna see some? All you have to do is click on this link. You’ll see 8 designs—in no particular order—and you can vote. I have to select the Top 6 by Monday, so if you’re gonna vote, please do it by Sunday, 4 December.

These are exciting times to be an author! Especially when you can get covers like these. 

If you have any other feedback, just leave me a comment.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Scott & Renee discuss The Hateful Eight (2)

This is part two of the discussion Scott Adlerberg and I had on The Hateful Eight. Part one is HERE. This half of the conversation is a bit more focused on the details of the film/filmmaking that part one. Enjoy.

Renee: Definitely no pressure going into the second half of this discussion after getting a response from the first!
We covered some heavy stuff, so I'm going to take the opportunity to lighten it up a little. A couple weeks ago I went to see the twentieth anniversary release of From Dusk Till Dawn in theater, and before the movie they did an interview with Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. My favorite anecdote from that, was Rodriguez saying that while they were shopping at around people kept telling them, "We can't do this, it's two movies in one." After Pulp Fiction came out, they'd take it around and people would say, "Oh this is so great! It's two movies in one!"
I'd venture that Hateful 8 is three movies.
First, you have this act that's very 90s Tarantino. Basically a crime film set after the Civil War. Then you end up in this closed room murder mystery, and then, seemingly out of nowhere it's a horror film. Personally, I loved it. I watched it with my husband who didn't love it as much, but I always thought that Tarantino's films always veered to almost horror. This movie seems to take it to the next level. Of course, if it's a horror movie, then Daisy is the monster, and Warren and Mannix are the final "girls." Scott: How Tarantino plays with narrative and story and chronology has always been one of my very favorite things about him. No exception here, as you say. In this case I read one or two reviews before seeing the film, which I regretted because if you knew nothing going into the movie, the whole Agatha Christie like mystery section would have come as a twist out of left field. I really liked that turn, and that suddenly there's a narrator, who after telling the viewers what they need to know, drops away. Tarantino's not afraid to use whatever technique will work to suit his narrative, conventionality be damned. We shouldn't overlook, too, that the "investigator" during the mystery section, the one using his powers of deduction and questioning the suspects, is Major Warren, so I guess he qualifies as one of cinema's black detectives.
The last section - I hadn't seen it as a horror film, but you're absolutely right. The movie does become that. And that's a great way to put it, where two quite masculine men are the "final girls," the ones who survive the monster's carnage. Great inversion of that trope. And seriously, Tarantino should do a full out horror film one day. He helped do half of one, I realize, with From Dusk Till Dawn. It's a genre he obviously loves and he could make a great one.

Renee: I went in with no spoilers at all, so that moment with the coffee was really great. I saw a few people making a heavy criticism of the narration bit, but I agree with you - it's Tarantino's willingness to do whatever he has to do to tell the story he wants to tell.
And I would kill for a Tarantino horror movie! He's got the gore elements down already. You can see how he gets so close and then backs away in a lot of his films - which is fun because they aren't horror movies, but to see him go all out Kill Bill style "I'm going to do whatever I want with this" would be a spectacle for sure.
My big question, though, and this is more on the fun side than anything else. Do you think Mannix was really the Sheriff of Red Rock? As the movie progresses we learn that almost no one in the room are who they say they are, or at least, aren't there for the reasons they say (exception being Daisy) but we never get a moment where Mannix's truth is laid out cleanly. The only hint is when he says "So you finally believe that I'm the Sheriff of Red Rock," to Major Warren, but Warren dismisses that. Scott: Yeah, that is a tough question. I was wondering exactly that myself re-watching the movie the other night. I'd have to say, no, he isn't the sheriff. Partly because, as you've said, it would be consistent with the deceptiveness of everybody there, and finally, he just didn't seem like a sheriff. There's always that wonderful slightly weaselly quality Walton Coggins brings to a role, and if it can be said, he just doesn't carry himself as a sheriff, I felt. At the very least, after the coffee poisoning deaths, you think he'd try to take command of the scene and do the questioning himself. He's awfully passive when Major Warren takes over that role. Did you think he was the sheriff?

Renee: I really don't know. My first viewing, it didn't really concern me, I was caught up in what was going on, but on the second watch it became a more interesting mystery. If he's lying about being the sheriff, then surely he'd be in hot water once they all arrived, but we never get there, so there's no way to know for certain. I totally bought Tim Roth as the hangman, he seemed to know what he was talking about and had opinions that seemed formed through experience. Then we learn the truth about him, and it does kind of turn everything on it's head. If he's not really the hangman, despite being incredibly knowledgable and opinionated on hangings, then maybe Mannix is the sheriff, despite not acting like a sheriff at all.
I thought it was an interesting way to present a character, especially after everyone else's lies and secrets came to the front. The question was left hanging there, but not in a way that made the viewer feel cheated for an answer.
I think we've proven there are a lot of things in the movie to think on long after the viewing, so this was almost like an Easter Egg - once you've picked apart all the lies and subterfuge, and considered all the issues brought up in the room, there's still something to chew on, even though it's of little consequence.
My assumption is that it was intentional. The last remaining mystery. You also have to consider that the final scene makes a good case that it didn't matter at all who Mannix and Major Warren actually were, in the end they were in the same position and suffering the same fate. They were even able to put aside deep seated differences to bond.
I also question whether Major Warren really met the General's son. He had a clear motivation for telling that story, it fit with what he said in the coach about the Confederate soldiers coming after him for the bounty, but it was almost too perfect. And we know Warren is capable of saying the right thing to people to catch them off guard and get what he wants. So maybe his story is just a story. When the General says "If he did what he went there to do, he'd have come home" it's easy to assume he meant that he went to kill Warren. But it doesn't exactly fit with the small show of respect the men give each other right before Warren tells the story.
Did you wonder about that at all?
Scott: I definitely wondered whether Major Warren's story was made up. He could have told that story just to upset the General as much as he could because he hates the man, or he could have told it to provoke the General into pulling his gun so he could have an excuse to shoot him. Even that small show of respect they share, how much of that was feigned by Warren to give him the excuse to get close to the General to tell that story? And what the nature of the job the General's son had in Wyoming was a mystery to me. Could have been he went to kill Warren or maybe something entirely unrelated. There are indeed a lot of little mysteries within the movie.
Thinking about it now though, this whole aspect of characters who say they are something but may in fact be something else. Maybe what Tarantino's getting at is the whole idea of self-invention. I mean, that is an idea so central to the whole US character and identity. In this country, supposedly, with all its fluidity, you can be what you want if you play the role and set your mind to it. It's the frontier, and if you go someplace new in the country, you can be someone new. Tim Roth's character sure does sound like a knowledgeable hangman and Mannix is or would like to be sheriff and Warren claims he secured a letter from Lincoln himself. American self-mythologizing and reinvention of self. In that way, by showing all these freewheeling unapologetic tall tale tellers, maybe the movie actually contains more optimism than is apparent on the surface.
Renee: Ah, that is a great point. Tarantino said something in an interview I saw awhile back about how he's really writing about deeper themes in all of his films, but he does it through a totally different lens that what we might consider a "deep" movie. I think there's a case for the movie being about re-invention and self-mythologizing, for sure. That's especially interesting when paired with the point you made early on about the "alternate history" movies in his oeuvre being about revenge and creating a better (or at least more just) past.
Though, if everyone is putting forward what they want to be, rather than what they are, it does raise some interesting questions about Joe Gage's book and his relationship with his mother!
Speaking of family, Daisy's only real shows of emotion are directed at Jody (Channing Tatum). Another amazing piece of acting by Jennifer Jason Leigh, the look on her face when she realizes he's there says so much. We see a lot of sibling pairs in fiction and film, but it tends to be same sex pairs. There was something really amazing about how much was implied about their relationship in such a short timeframe.
There is some optimism, or at least some depth, in that as well.
You might have inadvertently convinced me that this was a "feel good" movie.

Scott: Haha. Tarantino's very violent, obscenity-laced feel good epic. That's as good a way as I can think of to describe this movie as we wrap up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dark Fissures - Interview with Matt Coyle

by Holly West

One of the best things about being a crime fiction writer is being part of the crime fiction community. I count my friendship with Matt Coyle, the Anthony Award-winning author of the Rick Cahill mysteries, as a particular highlight--although you'd never know it to hear us banter with one another.

He's got a new book, DARK FISSURES, coming out on December 6, just in time for your holiday gift giving needs. Tell 'im I sent you.

HW: DARK FISSURES is the third book in your Anthony Award-winning Rick Cahill series. Tell us what it’s about.

MC: Rick is in a tough spot as the book opens. He’s now working solo as a P.I. and about to be foreclosed upon by the bank. He needs money quick and takes a case trying to help a woman prove her husband was murdered and didn’t commit suicide as ruled by the Medical Examiner and backed up by the police. Unfortunately, the [dead] man had been a cop under Rick’s nemesis, police Chief Tony Moretti, who suspects Rick may be responsible for the missing part of a missing person.

HW: Rick Cahill is a man deeply haunted by his complicated past but in DARK FISSURES, he manages to creep forward just a little. Understanding he’ll never be truly free, is Rick finally ready to leave his past behind? Perhaps more importantly, will his enemies let him?

MC: I’m glad you noticed he’s moving forward, even if you had to measure his progress with a magnifying glass. There’s hope. I’ll probably stop writing him if he ever becomes truly healed.
Rick will always have enemies. He’s good at making new ones.

HW: Rule breaking is an integral part of a P.I.’s stock-in-trade, and Rick’s not adverse to breaking a few rules himself when the situation calls for it. But in order to keep his demons (internal and external) at bay, he operates his personal life under a strict code of ethics. In DARK FISSURES, he reluctantly strays from it. Was this a deliberate choice on your part to develop his character or did the choice evolve organically as you wrote the book?

MC: Rick is deeply flawed and sometimes fools himself about his conduct. However, I didn’t intend for him to break the rule I think you have in mind. Secondary characters grow as I write them and force themselves deeper into the story. That’s what happened with Brianne Colton. She’s talented, beautiful and capable. She needs Rick’s help with the case, but doesn’t need to be emotionally rescued. That appeals to Rick. I think his decision to break a rule is a healthy choice and, in a way, aids in his need for emotional rescue.

HW: While your books are masterfully plotted, I think, at heart, they’re character driven. So with that in mind, how would Rick answer these questions from the Proust Questionnaire: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 

MC: Emotional weakness.

HW: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

MC: Being unjust…if that makes sense.

HW: For the craft geeks among us: DARK FISSURES is a well-plotted and fast-paced mystery that deftly juggles a couple of different story lines. Do you plot your novels in advance?

MC: Thanks for the compliment. I don’t outline. I find plotting the most difficult part of writing mysteries. I start with an inciting incident and then Rick’s and other characters’ decisions drive the action. Although DARK FISSURES is only my third book, I’ve been writing Rick for fifteen years, so I have a feel for how he’ll react to certain scenarios. I try to pick ones that will cause the most chaos, both plot-wise and emotionally.

HW: DARK FISSURES is a hard-boiled P.I. novel but there’s some police and FBI procedural mixed in. Hell, you’ve even managed to incorporate some mixed martial arts. How do you conduct your research and how important is authenticity? (Remember, it’s okay to say if you make shit up. I know I do).

MC: Authenticity is very important to me, but I’m not a research junkie. I generally only do as much research as I needed to make a scene or character seem authentic. That’s not to say that the only research I so is what comes out on the page. I try to talk to experts in their field and use the one or two things that makes the scene ring true. Of course, I’ve gotten things wrong a couple times because I didn’t do enough research.

HW: I know book one in the series, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, took many years to write and several drafts before it was published. Has your process changed over the course of writing the next two books in the series? Does it ever get easier?

MC: My process has probably gotten even more loose than when I started, but I’ve learned to trust it. That has been a big key for me.

I’ve found my first drafts have gotten a lot cleaner. I throw a lot less stuff out. However, the process itself is a mess. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Sometimes I’ll toss something into a scene that bubbles out of my subconscious. I may expound on it right away or come back later when my subconscious tells me what it means. I call that dropping anchors. Sometimes the anchors give the story and emotion a lot more depth. Sometimes they have to be pulled up and discarded on revision.

DARK FISSURES was probably more difficult to write than the first two because of the way NIGHT TREMORS ended. I had to deal with backstory from that book to satisfy my continuing readers but not spoil things for first readers. A delicate dance that I think I pulled off.

HW: What do you consider your greatest strength as an author?

MC: I think it’s being open to any possibility. Thus, the anchor dropping above. This can lead you into many corners that you have to work very hard to get out of and make the book better. However, it can also lead you into a corner that turns into a box that doesn’t work and costs you a few days of valuable writing time. It’s a dangerous, but exciting way to write. And, although I’ve had my doubts in every book, I still trust the process.

Matt Coyle grew up in Southern California battling his Irish/Portuguese siblings for respect and the best spot on the couch in front of the TV. He knew he wanted to be a crime writer as a child when his father gave him THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER by Raymond Chandler.

His debut novel, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery, and the Ben Franklin Silver Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. His second book, NIGHT TREMORS, was named a top pick for 2015 by and was a Lefty, Shamus, and Anthony Award Finalist. DARK FISSURES, is the third book in the Rick Cahill crime series. Matt is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and lives in San Diego with his Yellow Labrador, Angus, where he is working on the fourth Rick Cahill crime novel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Hateful Eight: A Little Talk about a Possibly Relevant Movie

It's been out nearly a year now, but fellow Do Some Damage blogger Renee Pickup and I have finally gotten around to a discussion we've long meant to have - about Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. The funny thing is, I'm glad it's taken us so long to have this talk. I saw the movie when it opened and liked it well enough, though I did find it a little long. I rated it mid-level Tarantino, not top tier like Jackie Brown or Kill Bill Vol. 2, but better than Death Proof and Django Unchained. Rewatching it the other day in preparation for this talk, I liked it more than I did on first viewing, and the length didn't bother me at all. And in the current political environment, it seemed to me, the film had a certain resonance it didn't have last year.

Anyway, overall, both Renee and I are big Tarantino fans (or should I say, we remain Tarantino fans after all these years of debate pro and con about his movies), and speaking for myself at least, I quite enjoyed our discussion.

It's a two part talk, starting here and resuming Friday on Renee's day to post.

So, here we go...

Scott: So it's been almost a year now since The Hateful Eight came out, to overall good but maybe not great reviews. And in what's become a regular feature in Tarantino film responses, there were a good number of people who didn't like it at all. One of the criticisms, I recall, was that the film is filled with hateful characters (though that is the title) depicting a United States in the grip of all sorts of toxic divisions. It does take place soon after The Civil War of course. You've got racial and regional differences, to name just two, that are front and foremost. Really highlighted and nasty in a way you don't get in a lot of Hollywood movies. But does what may have seemed a little over the top in terms of divisions a year ago seem more relevant now, with all that's going on? What do you think of Tarantino's vision of the US and US history, at least as it's reflected in this movie?

Renee: It feels that way, doesn't it? I wanted to see this one in a theater, I'm a huge Tarantino fan, but with babysitting and all of that we didn't get to it before it was gone. So I finally sat down with this movie in the worst throws of the election - where we were seeing so much blatant prejudice toward race, religion, region, and sex (among other things). I thought, "Man I'm really excited to talk to Scott about this," because to be honest I didn't think Tarantino would have much to say about race, or even misogyny - but whether he said it or not, he showed us some things that viewed through recent events feel really relevant.

Just the decision to have Samuel L. Jackson's Major Warren in the same room with Bruce Dern as the Confederate General, you know it's going to get ugly. Every dance move the two pull off through the course of the film revolves around this knowledge they hate each other. I think a lot of us felt that way around the Thanksgiving table this year.

Oh yeah. It's been a tense holiday season so far, that's for sure. With Jackson and Dern's characters, I think you get something Tarantino's been exploring in his last three films - Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and now The Hateful Eight. In one way or another they are all sort of alternate history stories. Basterds most obviously. Tarantino catches all this flack for making movies that are just about other movies, but I don't think that's primarily what he's doing anymore. Of course he has all the movie references and the more you get them the more you appreciate that stuff, but the last three movies definitely indulge in fantasy revenge scenarios as if to undo some of the horrors of the past. The Jewish band of avengers in Basterds, Jaime Foxx's character blowing up the mansion in Django, and that scene with Major Warren telling the Confederate General what he did to his son. You could take that scene as risible or as "Man, if only these things happened."

That scene was so uncomfortable, so horrific, and so fucking satisfying. And I think that's exactly how it was intended.

Samuel L. Jackson was in rare form through the whole movie. I'm assuming we're avoiding spoilers here, but his speech about why he carries that Lincoln Letter was perhaps the most timely and relevant commentary in any Tarantino film, would you agree?

Totally agree. Tarantino has had a lot of great black characters in his films over the years, but Major Warren is, along with Pam Grier in Jackie Brown (who's totally different obviously), his most fascinating one. He's not contemporary so he really has to use his cunning, his wiles, to survive. And he's not a character like Jamie Foxx is in Django. Jamie Foxx has this contemporary attitude toward taking shit that I'm sure is intentional but makes him a kind of fantasy character. Jackson's totally plausible in how he has his dignity but can't get outraged or strike back every time racism pops up. He wouldn't last very long in that world doing that. If he has to take a racial insult he will, but he's always using his brains to negotiate through and do pretty well in a dangerous white-dominated world. If he has to lie a little bit, be a trickster at times, he will. Great character. And you're right. It's Jackson at his best, under total control.

What I like too is how none of the other characters are totally color blind towards him. Which is also real, especially, I assume, for those days. There's a scale, from Bruce Dern's outright racist to the slightly patronizing but polite British attitude of Tim Roth's character to the fairly no-nonsense way Kurt Russell approaches him. A part I loved was how genuinely upset Russell's character is when he finds out the truth about the Lincoln Letter. It's like a grain of idealism in him was mistreated, and he almost gets emotional about it.

So we have all these men in the story and there's Jennifer Jason Lee as Daisy Domergue. First of all, I don't know about you, but I was very excited when I heard Tarantino had cast her in the film. She's one of my very favorite actors - so many great performances - and casting her sounded right in line with him writing plum parts for John Travolta and Pam Grier and so on. I was thinking how good it would be to see her back onscreen with a complex part.

Well, first, I loved Kurt Russell in this. We watch the Escape movies and Big Trouble in Little China a lot in our house and I felt like he was capturing what made him so fun and interesting in those films while also bringing a real menace to his character. And you're totally right about when he finds out about the letter. It's powerful because I think it shows more depth than we really expected from John Ruth, and also proves Major Warren's point to an extent.

His no-nonsense attitude really served the film well, too. Both in how he interacted with Major Warren, and how interacted with Daisy.

When the movie came out I remember a lot of uproar about the amount of violence Daisy suffers at John Ruth's hand. I found it really interesting, watching the movie, because I felt like there were some gems in there about misogyny and sexism. First, Jennifer Jason Leigh was amazing! I wasn't as excited about the casting as you were - I had total faith in it, because Tarantino does so well bringing actors that haven't been around much and getting fantastic performances out of them. Leigh captured the real brutality of Daisy so well. I never doubted that she was an awful, dangerous criminal. So when you pair that knowledge with the expected hard violence of Tarantino - it felt a little different than blanket "violence against a woman."

A lot of that is owed to Leigh's performance. She was scary. But there are those passing moments where the other characters ask Ruth how he feels about hanging a woman, and he doesn't acknowledge the part of the question they want him to. He doesn't get into any fantasy about the sanctity of women or a need to protect women, he is, like you said, no nonsense. She committed a crime worthy of hanging, and he was going to do his job. While everyone was debating whether the violence against Daisy was misogynist, or if all his films were misogynist (maybe a whole different post for a different time) they missed this subtle message, I think. There was something really precise about how the film dismissed the idea of "woman" being equivalent to purity, special care, or a certain set of personality traits.

Daisy was a bad motherfucker - dangerous, incredibly smart, equal to the men around her when it came to both cunning and propensity for violence. So it was interesting that of all the people in the room, her bounty hunter was the only one willing to acknowledge that having her hung was the same as having any man in the same position hung.

That's true. You could say Daisy got the respect and drew the hatred any male criminal of her stature would get. At the very end too, when her ultimate punishment finally comes, Major Warren basically says it should be by hanging, as John Ruth would have wanted, instead of perhaps the more humane way of just shooting her in the head. Like you say, no breaks for her because she's a woman. She's also an unregenerate racist so there's the clear irony of seeing a black man participate in what's basically the lynching form of punishment. Still, because it's so uncommon, I do have to admit, though I understood what Tarantino was doing, that it was a bit disturbing to see Daisy punched and elbowed and kicked around so much by men. You just don't see that in mainstream movies often - all stuff you know Tarantino is aware of as he pokes and prods his audience.

By the way, love that brief scene where she plays the guitar. As always with Tarantino, the worst sort of human being is given at least a little humanity. He's very effective at that. And it's telling how John Ruth at first likes listening to her play and sing, then gets really mad about it. I guess he doesn't want to humanize her too much in his mind.

I do try to be careful with the discussion on the brutality she suffers because it's definitely uncomfortable. You /don't/ see it on film and I am definitely empathetic to people (especially women) that just can't stomach it. We started out talking about viewing the racial/regional differences through today's lens and I don't think you can view a man beating a woman outside of today's lens, either. These are bad men, and she's a bad woman - but if you're watching it and you're made uncomfortable that's understandable. I also think it's intentional.

Like the moment with the guitar! Every character beat has intention behind it. Watching Walton Coggins as Chris Mannix, you have to believe he'd take Major Warren's side, you have to believe they'd share that moment of camaraderie with the letter at the end - and you do! But would you believe Daisy ever saw Major Warren as anything other than a black man? I wouldn't.
Also, you opened my eyes a little about Ruth's reaction to the song. I thought it was a reaction to her line about getting away to Mexico (the idea she could still get away when he knew at least one person in the room was working toward that goal), but I think you're right, he was also angry that he was seeing something about her that made her human.
Speaking of Mexico, I find the oddest part of the movie - and it's another one with a weird resonance after the recent election - to be the entire flashback scene that shows how Daisy's accomplices arrived at the store before the blizzard. It's odd because the owner and main employee of the store, Minnie's Haberdashery, are two black women who seem very friendly and open to customers coming through on stagecoach, yet we hear from Major Warren how Minnie absolutely loathed Mexicans and refused to let them come into the store. For one thing, it shows Tarantino doesn't glorify any one group - blacks can have their racial prejudices too - but overall I found the entire segment a little strange and clumsy. What did you make of that part and the "Mexican angle"?
So I have to break this into two parts to really get my thoughts on it clear.
First: Minnie hates Mexicans. I had no issue believing that. I grew up in an area with a huge Hispanic and Portuguese population (I'm Portuguese) and everybody had blatant racist attitudes toward both groups, regardless of their own race. And within those groups, there were perceived hierarchies - obviously, who you thought was at the top depended on what group you were in. This played out toward the Asian communities and within them as well, but I wasn't experiencing that, so I hesitate to speak on it. But I definitely was involved in conversations where people "ranked" the Hispanic/Portuguese groups, and I saw how people who felt oppressed and discriminated against sometimes just needed to feel like "but at least I'm not a portagee". (Scott's Note: The word "portagee" is a racial slur with a gnarly history historically). You can kind of see this in race relations among the "white working class" we keep hearing about, too. You can kind of see this in race relations among the "white working class" we keep hearing about, too. Discriminating against other races, genders, sexualities won't bring them jobs, and I don't think they believe it will.
Second: That scene - yeah, it was a little weird. You have to assume they've never been there before, but it plays out like it's planned to the millisecond. Then, the decision to keep the General, but not, say, the new hire who fled, that might actually lend a "real" authenticity seemed forced.
A rare instance from Tarantino of just poor story construction. It's awkward also because we never actually see evidence of Minnie's distaste for Mexicans. Major Warren describes for us and the other characters in the film how Minnie felt about Mexicans, but nothing more is presented to us. It's all telling, no showing. But Tarantino clearly wanted to get in something about this particular type of animus, so it's there.
We'll stop the talk here and take an intermission.
The discussion will continue at DSD Friday.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Over the River and Through the Woods

We came back from Grandma’s (and Grandpa’s) house yesterday. It’s a drive that takes a little less than two hours, which is just about perfect. Not so long that you go crazy from being stuck in the car forever. Not so short that you barely get settled in before you’ve gotten where you’re going. It’s just the right amount of time for some serious brainstorming.
My mind wanders more on car rides than it does almost anywhere else. And for a writer, there’s nothing better. One random thought leads to another and another, and before you know it, you have an idea.  
And that, after all, is our bread and butter, isn’t it? Ideas. Some amount to nothing, some start out as brilliant and then fizzle, and some – those rare gems – become actual stories.
As we whizzed along on the interstate yesterday, I had an idea for a stand-alone thriller, pondered a different take on a short story I’ve been mulling for a while, and came up with more character development for my next Hank Worth book.
That’s a pretty good start to the holiday travel season.