Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Reading Resolution of 2016: Did I Hit the Mark?

Scott D. Parker

Back in January, I listed one resolution for 2016: read more broadly. One look at my Audible bought list, I think I hit that mark.

So, I don’t get a lot of time to read many physical things, Kindle or actual paperbound books. So audiobooks fill in the gaps. They allow me to do other things while still consuming great stories and non-fiction books.

A highlight in my fiction reading this year was Patti Abbott’s SHOT IN DETROIT. I wrote about it back in June (full review) but let me restate here my conclusion:

SHOT IN DETROIT is an excellent book and a nice change of pace from what some readers—me included—think of when the terms “crime fiction” or “suspense fiction” are bandied about. It’s not all cops and robbers, gangs and violence. Sometimes the best crime fiction can surprise you in ways you didn’t expect, giving you insight not only into the mind of a character but in yourself as well.
Do yourself a favor and add this book to your summer reading list. Pick your format. You're welcome.

On the science fiction side of things, REPLAY by Ken Grimwood was a standout. I read it as part of my SF book club. I didn’t pick this one, but all five of us really enjoyed this story about Jeff Winston, a 43-year-old man who wakes up in his younger self and can replay his life, knowing exactly what he’s already done.

REPLAY is one of the best books I’ve read this year. My historian self reveled in the minor details Grimwood changed. My reader self loved diving deep into a character’s mind and seeing him through many lives. I was also richly rewarded with the ending, the nature of which I’ll detail below in an “EPILOGUE.” There will be spoilers, so if you don’t want to know the ending, stop reading now. (Full review)

I lamented the cancelling of my favorite TV show, “Castle,” but was happy they ended the show with the two leads together. Much like the last season of the show, the latest Richard Castle novel, HIGH HEAT, didn’t live up to the high bar set by the previous installments in the series. But at least the novel series will continue a bit after the TV show. (Full review)

In non-fiction, William Shatner’s memoir, LEONARD: MY FIFTY-YEAR FRIENDSHIP WITH A REMARKABLE MAN was wonderful, especially the audio as narrated by Shatner himself. The Star Trek tidbits are great, but what’s even better is Shatner telling the dual biography of how he and Nimoy grew up in “the hardscrabble story of a working actor in the 1950s-2000s.” (Full review)

Lastly, are the westerns. 

I listened to Robert B. Parker’s APPALOOSA as read by Titus Welliver. Excellent narration to this tale of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, two lawmen who have to tangle with rancher Randall Bragg makes for a very enjoyable experience. 

Hey, I actually read a book! Well, an ebook. Brett Halliday, creator of famous PI Mike Shayne, also penned a few westerns featuring The Rio Kid. I read the first one over the summer when I vacationed in Big Bend, Texas, and it was the perfect book for the trip. (Full review)

And I’ve just recently finished my first two Longarm novels. I haven’t written the reviews for them yet, but I gotta tell you: I thoroughly enjoyed my first two adventures of U.S. Deputy Marshal Custis Long, grinning over and over at his action-packed cases. Heck, I even learned in one of the books that his middle name is “Parker.” 

In my current To Be Listened pile on my iPhone are a couple non-fiction titles:

  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (read by the Boss himself. Priceless!)
  • Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

So, I’d like to think my reading in 2016 was broad and varied. I didn’t even mention the titles I read half of then gave up on. Life’s too short to read bad books. 

How about y’all? Any great recommendations for favorite books of 2016?

Note: This is my last post for 2016. We here at the DoSomeDamages offices close shop during the last two weeks of December. I’ll be back Saturday, 7 January.

For whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope it’s a great one. And thank you for coming back each week and reading what we all have to say.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Year In Review...

This will be my last post of the year and I didn't sit down and think about that before it was time to write it, so excuse me if I fuck this whole thing up*.

*If I write a memoir, I'm going to title it Excuse Me If I Fuck This Whole Thing Up.

Fuck 2016 and fuck this month in particular. I've talked some about how our mental health and life troubles can get in the way of writing, and christ, has this year brought a lot of both. December, in particular, seems intent on crushing me. But I managed to write and get out and support other writers, and keep on keepin' on so really, get lost year.

On the bright side, the amazing Andrez Bergen released our novel based on the comic Trista & Holt (where I got to write a guest issue). Never in my life has my name been on the cover of a book, but that happened this year and it happened because Andrez is a machine. I couldn't be happier with  Black Sails, Disco Inferno and my part in writing it.

I made it to my first Boucher and met so many of you awesome motherfuckers I can't begin to list everyone. Make new friends, keep the old, just like the Girl Scouts song. I can't tell you how awesome it was to be surrounded by all my favorite degenerates in one of my favorite cities for four straight days. I came back intent on spending more time with the crime writing community and I think the LA guys can attest I've followed through on that. And not only did I hear great readings, take part in great conversations (and even hear great music, because if there's one thing SW Lauden can do besides write, it's throw a book party), I got charged and pumped up every time. I finished a fucking draft this year. For most of the bloggers here at Do Some Damage, that's an average Saturday, but it's been a real struggle for me to put together something I feel like has to potential to be my first (I know, Black Sails is my first, but that was a collaboration. A baby with a daddy. This is all single mom shit now).

Another writing community I'm so lucky to be a part of is the San Diego Writer's Coffeehouse. Check it out if you're local (if you're not local, check out your local area). This is a fun, positive, supportive group focused on the business side of writing. And it's an excuse to hang out and drink coffee with other writers once a month. Jonathan Maberry hosts the San Diego chapter and he is a ray of sunshine that delivers no bullshit. A true rarity in this world.

Dirge is Dirge, man. I've talked a little about my writing there and last week I let you know I would be hanging out on the Dr. Susan Block show. You can hear the audio of that HERE, but you can't see me spank someone with a book unless you subscribe to Dr. Suzy's website. My Dirge fam is a great group and it's exciting to close another year with them and move on to next year with bigger and better plans.

I didn't try to list people off because where would I even start? But I'm so grateful for the crime writing community and the way we all come together and support one another. I'm so grateful for all the kickass books released this year (even if I'm way behind on reading all of them). I'm grateful for my LitReactor family, too. This gig is rough and thankless a lot of the time, but we've got some of the best people out there, in here.

Hope you all have a great Holiday season and a fucking killer New Year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Virtual Lunch: Eric & Holly's 2016 Book Wrap-Up

by Holly West & Eric Beetner

When I lived in L.A., Eric Beetner and I would occasionally have lunch together, during which we'd talk about books, gripe about publishing and shoot the shit about life in general. I've missed those lunches since I've moved, so when Eric suggested we get together to write a post about our favorite reads of 2016, I happily agreed.

During these meals, I learned, among other things, that he doesn't eat french fries. Not because he doesn't like them, but because, HEALTH. While this isn't an entirely foreign concept to me, it is one of the key ways Eric and I differ. When given the option, I take the fries.

Eric is, in all things, a more disciplined person than I, but if that's obvious from our food choices, it's even more so in our reading and writing output. Eric reads at least six books and probably writes more than ten to my one. I could probably figure the exact numbers but math is hard and I've got this blog to post.

So here they are, in all their glory, our favorite books of 2016:

HW: I'm gonna start with the last book I read, IQ by Joe Ide. It's a unique take on the modern P.I. novel--Isaiah Quintabe (known as IQ) is an East Long Beach-based high school drop-out and former criminal whose intelligence and observational skills would make Sherlock Holmes stand up and take notice. IQ solves neighborhood crimes, charging his clients whatever they can afford, but to pay his bills, he has to take on higher profile cases.

Calvin Wright is a drug-addled rap superstar, who, much to the consternation of record company execs, can't seem to get his latest album recorded. Someone puts a contract out on his life, hiring a lunatic hitman whose first attempt at murdering Calvin involves a monstrous attack dog. Definitely haven't seen that before, and to be honest, the dog-breeding stuff in the book is an interesting side-topic. As for who hired this guy, there's no shortage of suspects, from a bitter ex-wife to two former bandmates turned glorified assistants/lackeys.

IQ is a mystery novel that doesn't read as a typical who-dun-it. It's urban setting sounds and feels authentic, which isn't an easy thing to pull off without falling on stereotypical language and attitudes. I loved the book and thought it was a fresh take on a sometimes tired genre.

EB: I've heard good things about IQ. Glad you liked it. I had a good year of reading. I read 83 books and I'll probably get to 85-86 by year's end. Not my best year, not my worst.

I'll go back to the start of my year and a book called MONTANA 1948 by Larry Watson. It's older - from 1993 - and  honestly I don't know what compelled me to pick it up at a Goodwill, but something about the time and place spoke to me so I tried it for a dollar. Man, I really loved it. It has a crime in it but it's not a crime or mystery novel, really. I seldom read straight up literary books, but this one really did the trick for me. Watson's writing is so simple and direct that I really got deep into the narration. There are secrets being kept, societal proprieties that must be met, a coming of age and a solid family in a trying time. All of this wrapped in a story with a deep sense of time and place.
I loved it so much I ended up reading four Larry Watson books this year. AMERICAN BOY was another standout.

HW: This is where I admit I haven't read a printed book in well over a year, although I do still occasionally buy interesting out-of-print books when I find them. Most recently, I purchased several "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" volumes at a local antique store.

But since you've gone old(er) school with your first pick, I'll do the same. Published in 1973, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT by Sidney Sheldon is an over-the-top potboiler, but nevertheless, a page turner and thoroughly entertaining. Sheldon was never an author I aspired to read, but this book was mentioned as an example in a non-fiction writing book I'd agreed to review and since I was looking for mainstream, popular fiction to read at the time (for research purposes, mostly), it seemed a good choice. I won't argue it's literary merits, but the story, which focuses on lives of Catherine Alexander and Noelle Page, takes place before, during and after WWII. Beyond calling it pop fiction, it's hard to nail down its genre--it's not a love story exactly and there's certainly crime and suspense, revenge and death. The Noelle Page character is particularly interesting since she's basically a sociopath who achieves worldwide success as an actress just so she can gain revenge on a lover who jilted her. As you do.

EB: Ah, Sidney Sheldon. One of those writers forever classified as a guilty pleasure. I've never read him, I'll admit. This year I tracked down one of those writers I'd heard of but never got around to buying the book, and I'm glad I went for it. Steph Post is a current writer and her debut, A TREE BORN IN CROOKED, was great. Southern noir done right. Backwoods crime, family drama, great action. I dug it and when I was able to get an advance copy of Post's next book, LIGHTWOOD, due out in January, I ended up liking it even better. LIGHTWOOD is going to be on several best of lists next year, mark my words. Definitely in my top five for this year, and next year as well.

I'll admit, part of what I liked is that it seemed so much like a book I would write. Not sure what that says about me, but Steph ended up reading my book RUMRUNNERS and felt the same thing. We have very similar sensibilities and I keep telling myself it's not narcissistic to feel that way about a book.

I will take this moment to mention that this was the year women went dark. Maybe it was just happenstance but several books I read by women authors were much darker and more in the noir vein than ever. Neliza Drew in ALL THE BRIDGES BURNING, Marietta Miles with ROUTE 12,  Sarah M. Chen with CLEANING UP FINN. I've struggled in the past to find books by women to recommend on the hardboiled or noir spectrum, but after this year I have several.

Did you read anything from outside of America?

HW: You beat me to the punch in mentioning Neliza Drew's ALL THE BRIDGES BURNING. It was one of the best debuts I read this year, particularly because I love her protagonist, Davis Groves. She's a woman with a troubled past (to put it mildly) whose managed to make a life for herself but is forced to confront said past when the little sister she's always felt guilty for abandoning is accused of murder. Sure, we've seen that sort of storyline before, but it's been awhile since I've read such a compelling character and Drew's take on the subject matter is absolutely unique as a result. I'm looking forward to seeing where she takes the series. Beyond that, Drew is a terrific writer who, if I'm being frank, can write circles around me.

Since you asked, I did read one book from outside America: BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty, set in Australia. In spite of Moriarty's bestselling author status, I'd never heard of her until a friend recommended it when we were discussing the pettiness and competition among parents that sometimes crops up in school communities. In BIG LITTLE LIES, this dynamic takes an exceedingly dark turn, which intrigued me, though not having kids myself, I've never actually experienced it. Turned out, I loved the book and I'm now looking forward to the HBO series based on it.

EB: One of the best books I read this year was also from Australia. GUNSHINE STATE by Andrew Nette is a crime thriller which launches from a story about a classic heist crew - always a welcome plot to me - and then veers off into a chase story and a revenge story. My favorite quality on a book is a narrative that moves forward constantly and GUNSHINE STATE did that. Expect unexpected turns and a main character who will appeal to fans of Parker and other anti-hero mainstays. And it was just foreign enough to be very intriguing and give the sense of being in a different place while remaining relatable.

NOTHING SHORT OF DYING by Erik Storey was another one that hits the ground running and never lets up. Pure thriller territory. Despite Storey having a tragic misspelling of his first name, this series appears to have legs, as they say.

I'll also mention two books that fall into the category of batshit crazy thrillers that I'll admit are not for everyone. IF YOU'RE NOT ONE PERCENT by Todd Morr and GENUINELY DANGEROUS by Mike McCrary are both gonzo, over the top crime novels I wouldn't recommend to your mother. Bloody, tense and relentless in pace, both books satisfied my inner Tarantino.

HW: I like how you wouldn't recommend these books to my mom, but you will recommend them to Do Some Damage readers. You know our audience.

My next pick is non-fiction. REACHER SAID NOTHING: LEE CHILD AND THE MAKING OF MAKE ME by Andy Martin. I've long been interested in learning about other writers' processes, even better if it's a best-selling author like Lee Child (plus, I just like the guy). I think it's because I'm forever looking for the magic formula which will make writing easier and me more prolific. I know the only real solution is to simply get to work, but I'll keep looking because certainly there's some trick somewhere that will suddenly transform me into someone more disciplined in practicing my craft.

REACHER SAID NOTHING gives a narrow look at Child's life and habits (a copious amount of cigarette smoking is involved) while he writes MAKE ME, the twentieth novel in the Jack Reacher series. Ironically, I've only read the first Reacher book and while I liked it well enough, I never made it any further. But this book about writing a book is enticing because it provides a glimpse of a life I think I'd like to lead--that of a successful crime fiction writer who takes summers off to travel and relax, who lives in Manhattan but also globally and seems to enjoy the existence he's built for himself. Lee Child's life isn't glamorous--he's nothing if not a "working" writer--but it does afford him opportunities that seem appealing, if only from a distance. Never mind the fact that in my old age I've become increasingly intolerant of my neighbors' noises (so that Manhattan apartment is out) and I'd much rather stay home, petting my dogs, than to, say, take a trip to Paris.

I just hope it's not the cigarette smoking that's the key to Mr. Child's discipline and success because, well, my ultimate take away from the book was to be concerned about his health.

EB: From what I understand it's not only cigarettes he smokes while he works.

You ever have those books where they hit your radar but you don't get around to them for years? Then when you do you're like, "Why did I wait so long!???!" That book for me this year was COLD QUIET COUNTRY by Clayton Lindemuth. I was aware of it since it's debut in 2012 and I think it sat on my Amazon wishlist since then. I finally went for it this year and holy hell did I love it. Definitely my favorite narrative structure is the 360 degree view of a crime. Writers like Urban Waite do this so well. Sam Gailey in DEEP WINTER, Peter Farris in LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING, David Joy in WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO.

COLD QUIET COUNTRY is one of those stories that keeps dragging you deeper. Loyalties shift as you root for the anti-hero and end up rooting against the cop on his trail. Although, the way Sheriff Bittersmith is introduced is one of the best I-know-all-I-Need-to-know character intros I've ever read. He's a first class son of a bitch and you even shift gears on him. I was just so engrossed in the story and the setting (1970 Wyoming in the winter) that I wanted that book to go on for longer, and let me be clear – I NEVER feel a book is too short. The fact it was a debut novel is almost infuriating. I'm amazed Lindemuth hasn't conquered the (publishing) world since then. But you and I are not bestsellers either so clearly people have no taste.

I'll also throw in another debut I just read recently that I adored – THE LONG FALL by Lynn Kostoff. Another debut that is such pure net-noir that it sat squarely in my wheelhouse. It's everything you want in a blood and bitterness-soaked noir tale. I've read others by Kostoff but this was my favorite by far.

HW: I'll admit you've convinced me I should read a few of your recommendations--both of Steph Post's books and COLD QUIET COUNTRY by Lindermuth are now on my list. So good job.

Early this year, I read THE PASSENGER and HOW TO START A FIRE, both by Lisa Lutz. I loved them both but THE PASSENGER stands out among all the books I read in 2016. Tanya Dubois is an unreliable narrator from the minute she drives away from the house where her husband's body lies in the basement and she doesn't get any more trustworthy when she demands a new identity from a mysterious colleague. But over the course of the novel we realize that Tanya isn't a murderer so much as she's a victim of her past whose never known what it's like to feel secure in any identity. With the help of an equally questionable bartender named Blue, she navigates a world where it's near impossible to live off the grid. But they both have the guts--and desperation--to try.

EB: I've talked a lot about books that are older that I'm just getting around to, so let me mention some current reads that I loved this year. Two novels that are quintessentially L.A. are ALL INVOLVED by Ryan Gattis and A BETTER GOODBYE by John Schulian.

ALL INVOLVED is a multi-narrator account of the L.A. riots but it approaches it from the fringe and shows us a slice of life during that time of chaos and some of the criminals who took advantage of the lawlessness. It's about the voices. I listened to this on audio and I think it enhanced my enjoyment of the narration. In distinct first-person sections you get such a great sense of the lives swirling around the desperation in east L.A. and the sudden freedom of a 48-hour free pass from the law. It's frightening how savage these people become when given free reign, but it was a deeply involving read.

A BETTER GOODBYE is pure L.A. noir. A down-on-his-luck Everyman, a woman with some secrets, a desperate longing for connections in a city that too often separates people by its vast geography. This was a simple tale, elegantly told and one that drew me in like a modern POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. It's a love letter to Los Angeles, too, albeit the seedier side of L.A.

HW: Every year, I do a lot of "professional" reading to prepare for panels and interviews. In 2016 I was fortunate to read more than a few good ones. Stand outs were LAKE OF FIRE by Mark Stevens (the body of a reclusive environmentalist is found during a Colorado wildfire and hunting guide Allison Coil is thrust into the mystery), CORRUPTED MEMORY by Ray Daniel (Boston computer hacker Tucker finds a body outside his front door and learns it's the half-brother he didn't know existed), CITY OF MIRRORS by Melodie Johnson Howe (Aging actress Diana Poole is trying to make a comeback when her tempramental co-star is murdered), DOWN & OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS by Kathryn Leigh Scott (former actress Meg Barnes finds herself homeless thanks to a con man husband) and DESIGN FOR DYING by Renee Patrick (Legendary costume designer Edith Head as an amateur sleuth? Why didn't I think of that?)

EB: One last book that blew me away this year was HOUSE OF BLAZES by Dietrich Kalteis. It's the language in this one, a unique vibe almost like a fever dream telling of a tall tale involving the great quake of San Francisco and some stolen treasure and a whole cast of rogues, scoundrels and salty dames. Even the cops are corrupt. This one transported me and drew me into a sordid tale that is based loosely in fact, which I learned when I did a few reading events with Dietrich this year. I really loved this book even if it's hard to describe why.

Thanks, Holly for sharing your picks. And thanks for having me here to share some of mine.

HW: That was fun! We'll have lunch the next time I'm in town, but until then, I'll let you pick up this check.

That's me out until next year, folks. Have a great holiday and I'll see you in 2017.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Plastic Surgery Noir

Andrew Nette guest blogs this week.  Andrew has a new novel out, Gunshine State, a heist novel set in Australia and Thailand, and I can vouch for it being a fast, tense read.  Andrew knows what he's doing when it comes to constructing a crime novel, and in Gunshine State, he delivers the goods.  
But why plastic surgery noir? Well, this is where he will explain.

Guest Post by Andrew Nette
I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of plastic surgery in fiction and film. I’m not talking about a bit of a facelift or a tummy tuck. I’m talking about going the whole way and changing your entire appearance.
The idea that, for whatever reason, if things get too difficult you can change how you look and start a new life free of your previous problems is tantalizing.
As a plot device, I first came across it in the science fiction comics I devoured when I was young. The first movie I can remember seeing that used it was Delmar Davies’ 1947 classic, Dark Passage, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Becall.

Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a man falsely convicted of murdering his wife. He escapes from prison in order to prove his innocence but realising he is too well known to evade the police, seeks some illegal backroom plastic surgery. While he is recovering Parry hides in the apartment of a sympathetic young artist (Bacall), who he develops feelings for. New life achieved, except Parry can’t let go of the need to find out who killed his wife.
The best-known crime novel I can think of that uses plastic surgery is Richard Stark aka Donald Westlake’s 1963 Parker story, The Man With the Getaway Face, where, in an effort to escape the Mob, Parker gets a corrupt doctor to alter his appearance.
My second novel, Gunshine State, is a heist gone wrong story set in Australia and Thailand and I was determined to get a plastic surgery angle into the story. My main character is Gary Chance, a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. When his latest job working for an aging Surfers Paradise standover man goes south, Chance finds himself on the run and rapidly coming to the end of his options. Which is where the plastic surgery angle comes in. Chance’s boss, who is worried his employee’s problems will become his own, suggests Chance travel to Thailand, one of the world’s leaders in medical tourism, including plastic surgery, to completely change his appearance.
One of the things I like about Dark Passage is that we are 62 minutes into the 106-minute film before we actually catch a glimpse of Bogart’s face. Everything previous is either from his perspective or his face is obscured in bandages or shadow. But I find the ease with which the plastic surgery goes off very unconvincing.
It’s the same with The Man With the Getaway Face. Sure, problems arise when an employee of the doctor who did the surgery gets ideas about blackmailing Parker in return for keeping his new appearance a secret, but the surgery itself is relatively easy and very successful.
I found researching the plastic surgery aspect of my novel absolutely fascinating but writing it was hard. Not only because I wanted it to be realistic, but because I didn’t want Gunshine State to have a garden variety plastic surgery angle. I wanted things to go wrong. How wrong? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out, but let’s just say deeply fucked up wrong.
There’s actually a small but influential body of films that deal with the dark side of plastic surgery that provided me with a lot of ideas and inspiration while I was writing my own take on plastic surgery noir.
Here is my top five:

Eyes Without a Face, 1960
This French film, directed by Georges Franju, is pretty disturbing today so one can only imagine how people received it in 1960. An influential surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) causes a car accident that leaves his daughter horrifically disfigured. Wracked with guilt he kidnaps people, surgically removes their faces and grafts the faces onto his daughter’s damaged features. The failure of each attempt only leaves his daughter more psychologically traumatized and the doctor more desperate to make the next operation a success.

The Hands of Orlac, 1960
Stephen Orlac (Mel Ferrer) is a world famous French concert pianist whose hands are badly burnt in an accident. A last minute transplant using the hands of serial strangler, executed on the night of Orlac’s accident, holds out hope the pianist will play again. But Orlac begins to experience violent feelings, including the desire to strangle animals. Fearing for his sanity, he flees to the seedy port town of Marseille, where he bumps up against a criminally inclined stage magician (a wonderful turn by Christopher Lee), keen to use Orlac’s problem for his own benefit.

Circus of Horrors, 1960
1960 was obviously a big year for creepy films about plastic surgery. Circus of Horrors involves a criminal plastic surgeon who flees England for the continent where he operates on a circus owner's daughter, deformed by bombs left over from World War Two. He becomes the owner of the circus and gets his thrills transforming disfigured women into the stars of his show. The police get suspicious when the women, who want to leave the circus, start dying in freak accidents.

Mansion of the Doomed, 1976
A Los Angeles eye doctor, Leonard Chaney (Richard Basehart), is obsessed with reversing his daughter’s blindness, brought about by a car accident he caused. With the help of his assistant (Gloria Grahame, no stranger to the lure of plastic surgery herself), Chaney snatches people off the street and surgically removes their eyes to transplant to his daughter. Her mental health gets worse with each failed operation. Chaney imprisons those whose eyes he has taken in the basement of his house, with disastrous consequences. 

Johnny Handsome
The main character in this 1989 crime drama, directed by the king of the intelligent B-movie, Walter Hill, is John Sedley (Mickey Rourke), a disfigured criminal who lands in jail after he's double crossed by his partners (Ellen Barkin and Lance Henrikson). While in prison, Sedley is given a radical surgical procedure that leaves him looking like a normal person. He tries to go straight upon release but, given that he's the same hardened criminal on the inside, he cannot resist getting revenge upon his former partners.

Gunshine State is published by 280 Steps and you can find out more about the book right here.   

And you can buy Gunshine State HERE.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Author Break-ups

This week, something that's been 2.5 years in the making is finally going to happen.

I'm canceling Dish.

They put me off from day 1 because of their customer service. The fellow who came to install Dish was great, but there was a mixup with the order and when I called about it they blew me off and then hung up on me.

That's the trouble with service contracts. Free market my ass. Free market means I should be able to switch next month if I want to, but instead I was locked in for 2 years.

At the end of those 2 years I pushed about my continually increasing fees. New customer could sign on for 40% less than what I was paying. DirecTV was offering me rates even lower than that.

Dish gave me 3 months of HBO free and $10 off my monthly bill for 6 months.

It's always convenient to stay instead of changing. We had stuff in DVR we were trying to work through. And I'm sure that's what companies rely on.

A recent "upgrade" to the system pushed me over the edge. Since then, many if our programs on DVR are recording nothing or didn't record at all. We've paid extra to have Sundance just to watch Rectify and last week it recorded a black screen for an hour. We pay for DVR.

And a program that did record flashed up a message saying I had to verify my subscription to the History channel to watch it. Never have I had to do this before.

And last Thursday we paid $2 to Amazon so we could watch Rectify. It's worth the $10 a month and worth the extra but we shouldn't have to pay it.

Dish apologized for channels that had been blocked out for a contract dispute and offered a free movie as thanks for our patience. I followed the email instructions for my free movie.

They billed me for it.

I'm done. The Walking Dead has its mid-season finale tonight. Wednesday is the Survivor finale, and also the series finale of Rectify, but I won't be dvring it... because after last week I cancelled the Sundance package and told Brian we'd just pay Amazon. Since Dish has you pre-pay I'll be getting a refund.

Or so I was told. I got my bill today and they haven't canceled the channels as I requested or applied the refund. This is why I screenshot communications with companies... and this is why I almost always refuse to do business by phone.

Finally, I can make the call that's been 2.5 years in the making.

Companies shouldn't take customers for granted.

Neither should authors. I'm able now to walk away from a book, a TV show, a movie. Even a series I've loved. There was a series I really liked - 2 different book series, actually - that hit the point where I felt I was reading the same book over and over again.

Now, instead of automatically returning to a series I have to be won to the book. I'm still a fan of series books, more so than my husband, but nobody gets an automatic sale anymore.

And while I may fail spectacularly, I've realized as a writer I have to keep pushing myself. I don't want to be recycling. Maybe I'll never have another book published again in my life. But I already have a small collection of manuscripts I'm more proud of for how I've pushed myself to try something new to me... even if those items never make it past my beta readers.

Sure, maybe I'll put commercial considerations front and center and write something mainstream to try to get work into the public sphere again, but I will also be pushing myself on other projects that may never see the light of day, but will undoubtedly help me grow as a writer and satisfy my own need to develop my craft. I firmly believe that ultimately, that will pay off with a project that will be worthy of any reader's faith in my work.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Atlas Obscura

Every day, I look forward to what one particular, and peculiar, website has to offer me. It’s Atlas Obscura, and it’s the best thing in the world. Literally.
It finds the strangest, coolest, most unique things anywhere in the world and tells you about them. Which, as a curious person, is excellent. But as a writer, it’s priceless.
For example, yesterday’s “Place of the Day” was this:

Twenty-foot globes commissioned by King Louis XIV of France in 1681. 
(Kristina D.C. Hoeppner/C.C. By-SA 2.0)
And in case you’re worried that every place they show you is pretty, don’t be. Friday’s “Place of the Day” was this:
Philosophical reading room, Hunterian Museum, London.
Yikes. Looks like a horror novel waiting to be written.
Sometimes inspiration is hard to find. If you do the roughly the same thing every day, you might have already mined that vein of gold until there’s nothing left but some rock and a bunch of metaphorical holes that your spouse does not appreciate as the artistry they are.
If this is you, or if you just need new fuel for your daydreams, take a look at this site or sign up for the newsletter. If you “like” it on Facebook, you’ll also get links to stories from other sites, like newspapers, who’ve run articles on interesting quirky things. This week, it alerted me to the recently discovered piece of amber that contained the tail – complete with feathers – of a dinosaur.
Granted, the whole dinosaur-DNA-trapped-in-amber thing has been done. But … just imagine what else lurks out there in the vastness of the real world, just waiting to be turned into fiction.