Saturday, November 18, 2017

Writing Within the Guardrails

Scott D. Parker

Do you like driving inside the guardrails?

Earlier this week, I watched The Terry Kath Experience. It’s a documentary about one of the founders of the band Chicago. Kath was the only guitar player and he sang lead. I’ve long zeroed in on Kath as my favorite member of the original group of seven guys who made up the band with Robert Lamm a close second. This despite me, a kid who ‘discovered’ Chicago in 1985 and wondered why their ‘newest’ album was named ‘17.’ Anyway, when I learned Kath’s daughter, Michelle Kath Sinclair, was making this documentary to learn more about her father, I couldn’t wait to watch it. I thought I was going to have to purchase the DVD, but the channel AXS aired it. Lo and behold I actually get that channel and viola! I got to watch this wonderful film.

When you trace Terry Kath’s life, you see a truly remarkable musical genius. If you listen to any studio album, you can hear Kath’s intricate soloing. His talent for lead guitar playing was even more on display on any of the live albums featuring the original seven. With the advent of YouTube, I have been able to see live footage from the 1970s and the manic energy Kath brought to the fore as the only guitar player in the band. One of the all-time best shows available is the 1970 concert from Tanglewood. They open with my all-time favorite song, “Introduction,” and the group rarely slows down.

Speaking of “Introduction,” one of the reasons I love it so much is that it is track 1 of side 1 of Chicago’s first album. It’s the ‘mission statement song,’ the one song that encapsulated what Chicago was back then. In the documentary, there’s a segment that I hadn’t heard before. You see, Kath couldn’t read music, at least back then. He enlisted trombonist James Pankow—the third member who helped shape the sound of the band in the beginning(s)—to write down the chart for everyone. When Pankow complied, he was astounded that a song as intricate and complex as “Introduction” was all there…in Kath’s mind.

Many folks might chalk Chicago up to a band who excelled in mid-tempo hits in the 70s and ballads in the 80s. That’s true, but that isn’t how they started. For the time, they were a progressive band, their song often involving intricate arrangements and constantly shifting time signatures. Guys like Lamm and Kath loved that part of the early tenure of the band. But fame and fortune did the same thing it did to many artists: it began to suffocate them. The more hits the band produced, the more audiences expected to hear certain songs. Where Kath was able to put “Free Form Guitar” on the first album (a 6-minute track with just Kath, his guitar, and the amp) and the band opened side 1 of Chicago VII with a bunch of experimental instrumentals, gradually the pressure to play “Saturday in the Park,” “Just You n’ Me,” and “If You Me Now,” every single night began to weigh on him.

As the documentary relates, by the last tour, Kath was all but ready to bolt. He missed playing whatever he felt like playing. You get the impression that Kath’s mindset was akin to “Look, I’m gonna play what I’m gonna play, the audience be damned.” In that spirit, he’s in the same boat as Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix to name just two. Chicago did that for the Chicago VII tour…and they’ve never done it since. They saw the audience reactions to their long solos and instrumentals. It wasn’t why audiences came to their shows. They wanted the hits and little else.

Thus, we have the age-old conflict between artistic vision and commercial expectations. Sure, you can play whatever you want on an album, but if you don’t give the listeners what they want, then you’re albums sales will fall and your concerts will be less attended.

The very same thing applies to us writers (and artists and other creative types), too. We can be perfectly happy to write some genre title that no one has ever seen, but you have to put yourself out there and suffer the consequences. Sometimes, you can strike gold and be an outlier. For the majority of us, however, it seems like we need to drive within the guardrails already laid out by writers before us. Some days, you might chaff at the guardrails, but they’ve been laid by not only writers but readers. They are there to help steer you straight.

I count myself in this latter group. And I’m perfectly happy to be there. Are you?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Manson is Dead, Long Live Manson

Charles Manson is dead.

Good news, right?

I know we're not supposed to take joy in the deaths of others, no matter how evil. I know some would say that makes us "as bad as them." I don't know that I'm feeling happy Manson is gone, but it's the end of an era, isn't it?

His influence on our culture is deep, and it's permeated in part by the news stories about his possible nuptials, his health, parole hearings, and any statements he makes during these times. It's ridiculous to think Charles Manson's influence will disappear with him, but at least it will stop growing and wrapping itself into our popular culture.

The people still fascinated with him, who attempt to send letters, try to get on his visitation lists, and otherwise speak of him like a misunderstood demi-god will have to move on, or at least focus their efforts on the past, rather than the present.

I wonder, too, if with his death we will see a brief resurgence of fandom for him. If there will be flowers and photographs left at Corcoran prison. I imagine there will be. The talk of the Tarantino film drew a lot of conversation, and I imagine there will be TV movies, documentaries, and more going over his life. In some ways, the people who loved him will probably only love him more now t hat he is gone. We won't ever be rid of him - but for a moment, he is dead, and we are rid of him.

People like Manson hold a strange, uncomfortable place in our public consciousness. If we cannot stop people like him from existing and doing damage, then perhaps we can at least feel relief when they are no longer able to actively participate in our culture.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Big Ol' Texas Book Tour

by Eryk Pruitt

When a lot of people think about Texas, they think of crazy people chock-full of beef brisket and state pride. I was born and raised in Texas, and recently returned for a two-week book tour to promote my latest novel What We Reckon and I can tell you first hand…

…all that shit is true.

Yep, Texas is a place like no other. There have some of the friendliest people in the country, but also some of the strangest. From tacos to barbecue to kolaches to spare ribs and sausages, the varying cultural influences can be felt in their "native" cuisine all throughout the state. And speaking of culture, Texas sure lays claim to some top notch literature.

Which is why Texas is the perfect place for a small book tour.

1. INTERABANG BOOKS: 10720 Preston Rd. Ste. 10009B – Dallas TX

The newcomer to the Dallas lit scene has announced its arrival with a wallop. Featuring Big D's best stocked mystery section and a lively social media presence, it's a no-brainer for a crime fiction author to try and score a reading here. General manager Jeremy Ellis has a top-notch event staff working for him, including Carlos (who's guiding hand helped launch Wild Detectives into a south Dallas literary powerhouse the past couple years) and Tom, who knows how to make an author feel like a movie star.
Michael Pool (Debt Crusher, Texas Two-Step) co-hosted the event with me and provided plenty of questions and material to introduce my work to the audience which included some of my best friends of all time, as well as my first kiss, my junior high girlfriend, my former boss, and my high school bully. 
As of this writing, there were still autographed copies of my novel on their bookshelves. Order here:

2. NOIR AT THE BAR: Texas Literary Festival Edition – Weather Up, E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX

Mike McCrary is STILL waiting on a drink.

Imagine the hipster-est bar of all time. Staff it with guys too busy waxing their facial hair or muddling their basil. Sprinkle in a healthy dash of DGAF and you have the location of Austin's Noir at the Bar, held during the Texas Lit Festival weekend. BookPeople's Scott Montgomery was the perfect host as he introduced a packed house to the dark fiction stylings of Gabino Iglesias, Meg Gardinier, Bradley Spinelli, Jeff Abbott, myself, and the aforementioned Mr. McCrary. What a crowd! They reacted perfectly to every reader with a mixture of laughter, gasps, and revulsion and the only other thing they needed was a goddamn cocktail.

3. BOOKPEOPLE: 603 N. Lamar, Austin, TX

Once again, Scott Montgomery was the perfect host, but this time with a panel discussion inside Texas' largest independent bookstore. Scott curates the mystery section—known as MysteryPeople—so he knows how to partner authors for fun and exciting literary discussions. This time, he treated the audience to a conversation about noir and hardboiled fiction with Down & Out Magazine editor Rick Ollerman, Steady Trouble author Mike McCrary, and myself. An enthusiastic audience was encouraged to participate, and afterward, Scott organized a book signing.
Autographed copies of mine and McCrary's books can be found on the shelves or online.

4. MURDER BY THE BOOK: 2342 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX

Houston still recovers from the damage Hurricane Harvey caused, as well as the hangover from their World Series win, still less than a week old by the time I arrived to promote my book. Still, the folks that made it out on a Tuesday night asked plenty of questions and showed genuine interest. It's no wonder, since the shelves at Murder by the Book are stocked with the local Who's Who of crime fiction. A noir author will find plenty of his friends on the wall and event coordinator John Kwiatkowski and Sam Mayer were very generous hosts, especially for directing us to the neighborhood bar for pre- and post-event cocktails.
They brought plenty of stock for me to sign, which can be found on the shelves at

5. THE BOSSLIGHT: 123 E. Main St., Nacogdoches, TX

I finally found the building I want to haunt when I die.
It's a gift shop, a bookstore, and a community gathering space all nestled inside a historic, quaint, downtown Nacogdoches storefront. Owner Tim Bryant—himself an accomplished fiction author—hosts a perfect evening and bought several copies of What We Reckon, Dirtbags, and even a Southern Gothic anthology (New Lit Salon Press) featuring my 2014 short story, "Them Riders." I was in the middle of signing books and lively conversation with Bryant's guests when I look up to see the Piney Woods poet laureate Joe Lansdale had joined us. The Stone Fort's hotel bar provided an excellent atmosphere for a nightcap in this otherwise wild and raucous college town. Nacogdoches is the perfect stop between the larger cities during a book tour.
Of course, they have autographed stock on their shelves, as well as a full library of Mr. Lansdale's work, including a T-shirt!

6. WILD DETECTIVES: 314 W. Eighth St., Dallas, TX

I'm a sucker for a good Noir at the Bar.
Since Wild Detectives serves coffee and booze as well as books, it was the ideal choice to host Dallas' second Noir at the Bar. This incarnation delivered gritty, gripping fiction from Big D's own Harry Hunsicker, Kathleen Kent, and J. Suzanne Frank (and myself),but also fellow Texans Max Booth III, Michael Pool and, once again, Mr. Mike McCrary, who's selection from Genuinely Dangerous killed both nights and gets better each time I hear him read it. WD had books on hand for buyers to purchase, and will buy you a drink if you order the book from them:

One thing I took away from my trip to Texas is that moderation is highly overrated. Don't order a half-pound of BBQ when a full pound is available. The liquor tax is lower there, so go ahead and buy the 1.75 liter bottle, and don't visit one bookstore when you can visit them all.

Holler at me for dinner recommendations.

Getting Political

By Sam Belacqua

What the actual fuck is going on, America? Could you fuckers do any more harm to everything? Roy Moore. Trump. Tomi Lahren.

What is this world coming to? Well, have a glance at MORE ALTERNATIVE TRUTHS,  a book that owes its title to CrazyAss Conway.

More Alternative Truths is an exploration of the potential consequences of today’s politics in our daily lives. More than our individual lives, but our American identity. 
This exploration defines this anthology. So many of the stories ask what has America become? What will it be in the future? Will it devolve into a Russian style oligarchy, or will we rise to the challenge and use our hearts, our minds and our votes to return to a rational democracy, of, by, and for the people. No one knows for sure. But these top-tier talented authors from around the world, from Philip Brian Hall to Bruno Lombardi to Jane Yolen give us their visions.
You will find the witticisms of Jim Wright exploring Donald Trump as Moses after presentation of the Ten Commandments. The mental genius of Edd Vick and Manny Frishberg as they give us Trump, tweeting his way across the solar system. There is much to laugh about.
There are serious visions as well. Brad Cozzens’s brilliant poem “America Once Beautiful” reaches poignantly from today’s reality into some salvageable vision of tomorrow that borrows from yesterday’s values. The poets in this volume, be they Brad, Jane Yolen, Gwyndyn T. Alexander or C.A. Chesse, bring new meanings to words and leave you thoughtful.
If you want a fun romp, jump to “,” by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, as she explores how important it is that political hacks not annoy witches. Or, if you prefer, K.G. Anderson’s, “The Right Man for the Job,” in which a post-corporeal LBJ rides to the rescue. 
There is something for everyone. Coping. How do we cope? This painful question is explored by three of our best and brightest. Jill Zeller, a woman who won’t write of Elves, has given us “A Woman Walks Into a Bar,” an affirmation of our own choices. Coping is also explored brilliantly by Karin L. Frank and Kerri Leigh Grady in their stories “HMO” and “Final Delivery.” 

This collection features "Remembering the Bowling Green Massacre" by DSD's own Steve Weddle. It's called a "poem," but it doesn't fucking rhyme so I don't know what the fuck it is. Some poorly spaced story, I guess.

To find out more, check out what Susan Macdonald said.

Buy your own fucking copy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Let Me Help You Make it Beta

by Holly West

I've been doing some beta reading recently.

Sure, it takes away from my own writing time, but it's not as if I don't get something in return for it. I'm not talking about the good will it fosters, although there's that. As I read someone else's early draft, I never fail to learn something I can apply to my own writing.

The first few times I read someone else's manuscript for the purposes of critique, I was rubbish at it. I kept trying to re-write their work, saying things like "I'd word it like this," then I'd re-word whatever it was they'd written according to my style. So rude. It took me awhile to realize it wasn't my job to re-write anything--I was there to let them know when things were confusing, or to point out when someone says something out of character. Make a note of places the plot slows down. Developmental stuff. Beta readers are not copyeditors (I say this, and yet I often can't help myself from doing a little copyediting as I go. I figure every little bit helps).

I'm still not great at it, to be honest. As I read, I realize when something's not quite working for me, but it's sometimes hard for me to articulate exactly what it is. I find myself babbling in my comments, hoping I'll eventually land on my point, or at the very least, my note will notify the writer that something in the narrative tripped me up.

Still, understanding what's not working for me in someone else's novel helps me pinpoint what's not working in my novels. It's great practice for critiquing my own stuff.

There's also a learning curve to accepting feedback on your own work. Soon after I started writing my first novel, I took an online writing course that required students to read and give feedback on each other's work. It was the first time anyone had read my prose, and upon reading the critiques of it, it was my natural inclination to to explain or defend my writing in response. With the help of my teacher (Seth Harwood) I realized what I was doing, and once I stopped explaining myself, I was able to sit back and take the feedback in.

I don't make changes based on every bit of criticism I receive and I don't expect those writers I read for to do it either. That's another thing you learn from beta reading. My opinion is just my opinion, and yours is yours. As writers, we must sort out what changes fit what we're trying to achieve, even when a beta reader isn't on the same page. But first, you need to define what it is you're aiming for. If you haven't, that will likely come through in the reader's comments.

I treat beta reading as a part of my job. I schedule it into my work day, set a deadline with the writer and communicate if I'm not able to meet it. Beta reading isn't pleasure reading, even when I enjoy whatever it is I'm reading (for the record, I usually do). It requires a different mind set than pleasure reading does, at least for me. I can't leave it until the end of the day, when I'm in bed reading before I go to sleep.

If you ask someone to read for you, make sure you let them know when you need it back and that if they can't meet that deadline, it's okay, you'll find someone else. Unless you're on a completely open schedule, it's better to have these things worked out in advance. With that said, be flexible. The person is doing you a favor, after all.

At the end of the day, it's a nice feeling when one of the books I've beta read makes it out into the big, wide world. I might not have had much of a hand in it, but there's still some pride there. That's good enough for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

When a Character Strikes a Chord

You never know when a character in a book is going to strike a chord in you.  I just finished a novel where the main character did, and she happens to have been an 88 year old British woman from a book published in 1931.  Now, I'm no kid myself, but I can't say that I normally feel much of a connection with 88 year old women (or men) from anywhere at anytime.  Yet with this one, for whatever reason, I did.  The book is Vita Sackville West's All Passion Spent, and the character is Lady Slane.

Vita Sackville West came from an aristocratic family and lived quite comfortably her entire life, so she is definitely someone who today we'd call privileged. In fact, I'm pretty sure she was called that in her own day, and she was very well aware of this fact herself.  She lived from 1892 to 1962 and had a long writing career, but her most productive period was from the mid-1920's to the mid-1930's, which happens to be the period when she and Virginia Woolf were lovers.  The two read, admired, and discussed each other's works and explored a number of similar ideas.  As Victoria Glendinning says in her introduction to the edition I have of All Passion Spent, "There is a strong connection between the ideas of All Passion Spent and Virginia Woolf's two non-fiction books about women, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas....conceived at the time of All Passion Spent."

But anyway, what do I find so appealing about the venerable Lady Slane?

All Passion Spent begins in London with the death of Lady Slane's husband. He was a famous man in Britain, a diplomat during his life, a member of the House of Lords.  Lady Slane has six children (none younger than 60), some with children, and even grandchildren, of their own.  The book's opening scene shows the family gathered at the husband's funeral, and Lady Slane's children, in a way that is quite funny as presented, are all discussing what in the world to do with their mother.  You see, their mother has always lived entirely for their father, and though she has a competence they can't deny since she did raise all of them, they view her as someone who is just there, who barely has a thought or idea of her own.  Mother is mother, and was their father's perfect wife, but beyond that, there isn't much to say.  They plan to sell the main family house where she and their father lived, and they figure they will shuttle her around among themselves, each doing his or her part to take care of her for the rest of her life.

But Lady Slane, as they discover, has other plans.  It turns out she doesn't want to live with any of them and wants to use the money from the sale of the house to buy a small cottage she saw in Hampstead, a distant part of London, a sort of greenery filled suburb at the time.  She saw this vacant cottage, she says, 30 years ago, but she is positive the cottage is still there and available.

Her children think she has lost her mind (it must be the grief that's affected her), and besides, when 30 years ago did she ever go to Hampstead? They find it disturbing that she may have done something on her own that they had no knowledge of.  Still, she's their mother, and if she wants to go Hampstead, she can go. One of her daughters says she will accompany her there.  That's okay, says Lady Slane, thanking her daughter for the offer, but she will go there by herself.

So the novel begins, and the rest of the book settles in with Lady Slane in her Hampstead cottage. For company, she has her 86 year old French maid, who's been with her for 60 years, and she has the owner of the cottage and one or two other old men who visit from time to time to chat.  There is no late life romance in the story. Nothing like that.  It's not that kind of book.  Lady Slane wants merely to have the time to be herself as she always wanted to and never, because of marriage and familial and social obligations, could.  To quote Victoria Glendinning again: "...this novel reverses the usual order of things.  It is the children who are staid and narrow-minded, and their gentle aged mother who turns out to be revolutionary.  She will live her own life, for the first time, according to her own inclinations and her own creeds...She doesn't want her children to visit her, and she certainly doesn't want to see her grandchildren."  I should add that the entire book, witty through and through, is written in a fluid prose that you really don't want to stop reading.

But again, what do I find appealing about Lady Slane?  She's old.  I'm getting there.  She's a woman. I'm not.  She's wealthy and white and very British.  I'm none of these things.  I don't have a maid.  My wife is alive and well, and I enjoy spending a lot of time with my kid.  So it's not a specific thing about her.  And it's not because she has some money. It's - how shall I put it? - more of a general quality.  There's something about the idea of retreating from all the noise that I find irresistable.  She leaves behind the striving, the competition, the yammering of everyone in your ears.  She bids adieu to the everyday aggression and the phony smiles.  Of course she has the means to do that; that's a basic premise of the story.  But reading All Passion Spent now, in the age of social media, in a time when there's a constant bombardment of information, both from people you dislike and those you agree with, and it seems that everyone has an opinion that you simply must hear and if you don't embrace that opinion, you're nothing less than an enemy, I just felt, you know what, I wish for awhile, despite her age, I could be Lady Slane.  I wish I could be living in that cottage and doing nothing more than taking walks in pleasant parks and chatting with friends in a quiet place.  Funny, but a book written over 80 years ago by a person with whom I have nothing in common, about a character with whom I share few traits, filled a need and provided an escape from the grating and clamor of today.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday: It's about sex.

For the most part, the American take on sex-education has long stood staunchly conservative, with abstinence and social-conservatism as the foundation. This sits in juxtaposition to the hyper-sexual, almost dehumanizing, continent Hollywood seems to continuously bottle-feed the public.

Is this battle of ideals important to the larger national discussion of institutionalized sexual harassment and abuse?
Meet my friend Sarah M. Chen. Sarah has worked a variety of odd jobs ranging from script reader to bartender and is now an indie bookseller and private investigator assistant. Sarah's crime fiction has been accepted for publication by All Due Respect, Akashic, Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, Dead Guns Press and Betty Fedora. Her debut novel with All Due Respect Books, CLEANING UP FINN, is a Lefty and Anthony finalist and IPPY award winner. 
Please meet another friend, Susie Henry.  Susie is a respected poet and photographer. Her work has been published at Walking Is Still Honest and Clockwise Cat. She has contributed to Dames in the Dark Podcast and toiled as manuscript editor. Susie is currently working on a photography project.
Marietta: With regards to  views on sex, America seems caught in this strange tug-of-war with herself. There is still a large blanket of conservatism, at times puritanical, that covers our country. Yet, at the same time, there is this machine we call Hollywood, apparently built on a foundation of oppression and subjugation, pushing out unrealistic, sexed-up merchandise. 
Sarah: America is hung up on sex. Especially compared to the Europeans. Our movies are saturated with graphic violence but sex is taboo. Look at the laws and controversy when it comes to same sex marriages, with who can and cannot use a bathroom, or who can serve in our military. We, as a society, need to discuss it. To sit down and listen to each other. We need to not be so afraid or ashamed of it.
Susie: Hollywood has been profiting from the long-held puritanical and exclusionary sexual views of this country for decades. And the American people eat it up. We are voyeurs and consumers paying to fuel an ugly machine that should have been overhauled a long, long time ago. And we need to start understanding and embracing the value of people and relationships. 

We need to learn, as a society, real empathy for our fellow citizens, at home and abroad. Too many of us have long participated, whether passively or actively, in dehumanizing those who look or live differently. It's past time to think beyond our personal experiences and comfort levels, and truly care for each other. But I'm jaded enough to realize that it's highly unlikely this will happen. I still have to have hope, though. 

Marietta: There have been times, in books or films, where sex has been used as a way to show affection or closeness and it wasn’t necessary or even fitting. In most of the movies and entertainment getting pushed out to the consumer, to me, sex seems like an overused device. There are so many other ways to insinuate intimacy. Holding the hand of a dying loved one. Embracing a grieving, broken friend. Hugging a child till their fear slips away. Sex can be timeworn as a plot design.

Sarah: Stories can create conflict through sex: the promise of it, the hope for it, the refusal of it. What matters to me is the writer’s own unique take on sex or lack thereof. For example, if there’s a femme fatale character in a story, that doesn’t necessarily mean the writer is relying on a common trope. It’s how the writer attempts to tweak the trope. Or if a writer chooses to bring two characters together without it culminating in sex, then that’s OK too. If we speak our own unique truth, then that will hopefully translate into an authentic and compelling story.
Susie: I generally despise sex scenes in writing, especially if they are graphic, mostly because I do consider it lazy writing. It always seems like just a page filler, rather than crucial to the plot of the story. There may be some exceptions, but usually, inferred intimacy is more compelling to me. And varied kinds of intimacy make for richer, truer characters. 

Marietta: I remember reading a lesser-known book by one of my favorite big-name authors. I was caught by his portrayal of sex in this specific story. Particularly since the book's female protagonist was a rape victim and part of the story was her "recovery".

Are there writers you think get this issue right? 
Sarah: For me, two writers come to mind when I think of a realistic way to tackle rape culture and sexual violence in fiction: Marie S. Crosswell in TEXAS, HOLD YOUR QUEENS and Winnie M. Li’s DARK CHAPTER. Crosswell’s I’ve read and Li’s I’ve yet to read but it’s top of my TBR pile.
Crosswell explores the impact and aftermath of a murder that puts two female detectives on the trail of a serial rapist and abuser. It’s gut-wrenching, not only the crime itself but how it affects these two women and their relationship to one another in a male-centric profession. It’s a revenge tale, a police procedural, and a love story.
Li’s book is based on a real life sexual assault and rape that happened to her. Like I said, I haven’t read it yet but man, just based on the reviews and the buzz, it looks to be one of the most important and courageous books of 2017.

Susie: One book that stands out in my mind is I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, by Wally Lamb. The story deals with the sexual assault of the lead character as a young girl, and the repercussions of that trauma throughout her life. 

Marietta: With creative women getting more time in the sun we can hope they will steer storytelling in a more positive, less stereotypical, direction. Patty Jenkins’s ‘‘Wonder Woman." Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." Denise Huth's "The Walking Dead." Gillian Flynn. Paula Hawkins. Do you think we will see real change in the treatment and portrayal of women in the entertainment industry now that there is this bright spotlight shining on the issue of sexual harassment and abuse?

Sarah: I hope so but I don't know. I'm encouraged by this surge of women and men coming out and telling their stories. It's a great start. Maybe now Hollywood will take a second look at what stories they are telling and who is telling them.

Hopefully this will initiate dialogue. I saw on a talk show recently, I think it was Bill Maher, where he asked a female panelist the same question: do you think this will result in a change in Hollywood? She said no. Look at how long sexual harassment and abuse has been going on, not just Hollywood, but society in general. Look at Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. Normally I'm a cynic too, and no, it won't happen overnight, but this current wave feels different to me.
Susie: I am cautiously optimistic that we are slowly changing for the better. We are speaking up and speaking out more and more, which I hope will not only put pressure on those who would be abusive to rethink their actions, but also will empower their would-be targets to refuse to become victims. 
Visit Sarah at

Connect with Susie Henry 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Devil, The Details, and Me

They’re coming back to haunt me. All the little things I skipped over while writing my current book. They’re details I didn’t want to stop for – street names; what kind of guitar an aging country star would own; what time the sun sets in October in Branson, Missouri.
But now the book is done. I just need to insert these particulars to have it ready for my first round of readers. It’s not considered good form to hand someone a manuscript scattered with sentences like, “and he pulled into INSERT NEIGHBORHOOD NAME HERE, slammed the car in park and ran toward the house,” or “the kid had been enrolled since school started INSERT SCHOOL DISTRICT START DATE.”
I do it this way because I don’t want to stop the actual writing. It’s a good method to keep me cranking away at the actual plot without getting bogged down in research side trips that add to the book’s authenticity, but not to the plot itself. Because these side trips take time. A lot of it. I try for two verifications of every fact. And if it’s a judgement call between two things, well, that takes even longer. Who knows how long it will take me to decide on that country music star’s guitar.