Saturday, December 1, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018 - Week 4 - Now What?

Scott D. Parker

Well, as of yesterday, NaNoWriMo 2018 came to a close. How did you do? Did you get to 50,000 words? Did those 50,000 words correspond to the end of your novel? Did you fall short? Don’t worry. I’ve done all those things and more. But you might be asking the obvious question: now what?

Well, two crucial things--on opposite ends of the spectrum--must now be done, depending on your answers.

First, if you finished, CELEBRATE! You have just written a 50,000-word novel. Celebrate. Tell people about it. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet your accomplishments. Open a bottle of champagne. Seriously on that last part, do it. Ever since I completed book 2, I have sprung for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. It is a monumental thing if you have written a novel, especially if it’s your first.

Second, if you did not finish, do not castigate yourself. Do not chastise and beat yourself up. Do not do those things. They do you no good and, in all honesty, they hamper your next writing effort. Believe me. I know this one all too well. It wasn’t until January 2013 when I again looked at the past year of not writing and finally turned myself around. I didn’t chastise myself like I had on previous New Year’s Days. Instead, I analyzed what had kept me from writing. Once those things were identified, I was able to skirt around them, avoid them, and I became a much more productive writer.

Now what?

Well, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo 2018 just to say you have written a novel, or did you do it because you want to keep writing stories? If it’s the former, good for you. Print it out, bind it if you want, display it proudly, and mark it off your bucket list. Mission Accomplished.

But if you found you enjoyed the process and keep doing it, you must keep writing. Seriously. Maybe NaNoWriMo 2018 took a lot out of you. That’s okay. Take a break for sure. Revel in your success. But make a plan--today--that you’ll start your next book on a certain day. My suggestion: New Year’s Day. Now that you know you can write a novel, do it again. What better way to start a new year than with a new novel. I’ve done it the past few years. It’s a great way to get past the inevitable doldrums I often get in January. It’s like the hangover for all the holidays we celebrate the last 62 days of a year. Make a plan to start a book, and then write that next book. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you decide to make January 2019 into a NaNoWriMo, but make a plan.

Ideally, you’ll finish your next book by 31 January 2019. Then, do it again. The best way to make it as a writer is to keep writing regularly. The ‘regularly’ is the key part. Writing is a muscle. It needs to be exercised to keep it in shape. And here’s the cool part: the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Even if you don’t do a true NaNoWriMo of 1667 words a day, shoot for 1000. In two months, you can have your next book written. Or a novella in 31 days.

Just keep writing. Make it a habit. If you do, you’ll discover the joy of writing, the ease of writing, and it’ll likely make you happy.

What about the book you just completed? Well, do you want to publish it? If so, get it edited. Ideally, you’d not get a friend to edit the book--unless the friend is a professional editor. Get it edited, make the changes, and then re-read the book yourself. Make those changes.

Now, get a cover. Write a book description. Create your metadata. Determine the price point. Determine your marketing strategy. Format your file. (For this, the company Draft2Digital is recommended because they’ll basically do all the formatting you need for any of the digital marketplaces.) Upload the file to the world.

But those are topics for different days.

Right now, revel in your celebration: NaNoWriMo 2018 is over. Congratulations. Now, don’t wait another eleven months to write your next book.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

What The Hell Is Punk Noir Magazine?

Paul D. Brazill quite possibly cements his place as one of the hardest working writers in crime fiction with his latest creation, Punk Noir Magazine. Paul stops by and tells us all about it. - David Nemeth

By Paul D. Brazill

And so it came to pass . . .

I started blogging around 10 years ago, mainly inspired by Cormac Brown’s late lamented blog. My blog called You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You? And it was fun. Around the same time I started reading flash fiction sites like Six Sentences and Powder Burn Flash. And I even started submitting yarns to those sites. Which was nice.

After a while, I had a few books published and moved over to Wordpress from Blogger. The focus then seemed to me more on pimping my own stuff than blogging. Which wasn’t as nice.

And so it came to pass . . .

I sort of lost interest in the blog, checking its stats every now and then, posting less and less frequently. When I did check, I saw that by far the most popular post were guest blogs, such as Alan Savage’s interview with The Sweet’s singer Brian Connolly and Sabrina Bramble’s piece on Gloria Graham. I got to thinking about collecting the guest blogs together, somewhere or other. And then Pulp Metal Magazine - which combined fiction with non-fiction went on a -possibly permanent- hiatus . . .

And so it came to pass . . .

So I came up with the idea of Punk Noir Magazine – a sort of alternative arts and entertainment ezine. The first thing I did was upload a load of the guest blogs from my own blog. And then I asked some friends- ok cronies- to contribute. And they did.

And what have we got at Punk Noir Magazine, you might well ask?

Well, I’ll tell you. There’s fiction from Graham Wynd, Tess Makovesky, Bill Baber and more. There are fiction extracts from Vincent Zandri, Les Edgerton and more. There’s non-fiction from K A Laity, Michael A Gonzales, and more. There’s music, and poetry, and news and, well, all sort of carryings on!

I’ve so much stuff lined up that I won’t be opening up for submissions officially for a while but if anyone has something they’d like to send then fire away!

Bio: Punk Noir Magazine editor Paul D. Brazill’s books include Last Year’s Man, A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick. He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, Polish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Case Against Linda Fairstein, w/ Nick Kolakowski

David Nemeth hit me up this morning with something brilliant from New York writer Nick Kolakowski, who clarifies mystery writing's intersection with one of the most tragic failures of the American system of justice. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, North American Review, and Carrier Pigeon.

Please add his erudite take to Attica Locke's call for honesty about the world we inhabit and the damage prestige and celebrity brings when it isn't balanced with the needs and concerns of our organization's constituency. My own clarion call appears after his fine work.


Members of the Central Park Five, left to right - Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana (2012) Photograph by Maysles Documentary Center (CC BY-NC-SA)

Earlier this week, the Mystery Writers of America named Linda Fairstein as one of its Grand Masters for the 2019 awards ceremony. Attica Locke, author of the excellent “Bluebird, Bluebird,” unspooled a Tweet thread that questioned the organization’s decision. “I am begging you to reconsider having Linda Fairstein serve as a Grand Master,” she wrote. “She is almost singlehandedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five.”

In addition, Locke added, “[Fairstein] has never apologized or recanted her insistence on their guilt for the most heinous of crimes, ‘guilt’ based solely on evidence procured through violence and ill treatment of children in lockup.”

Here’s the whole thread for your reading pleasure:

When those young men were released, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office questioned the confessions that sent them to jail in the first place. “In many other respects the defendants' statements were not corroborated by, consistent with, or explanatory of objective, independent evidence,” read a statement issued by the office. “And some of what they said was simply contrary to established fact.” [Emphasis Danny Gardner]

Fairstein oversaw the sex-crimes unit of the DA’s office during the case, and she’s insisted over the years that she did everything by the book. “I don't think there is a question in the minds of anyone present during the interrogation process that these five men were participants,” she told The New Yorker in 2002, an assertion vigorously contested by the Central Park Five’s attorneys. (The Village Voice has a lengthy rundown of the whole case, including the original rush to convict.) Although the crime took place nearly thirty years ago, “Central Park Five” has evolved into the shorthand of sorts for overzealous prosecutors railroading suspects.

And that’s not all, as the late-night infomercials say. Years later, Fairstein reportedly helped out Harvey Weinstein’s legal and PR team when the heat began to build over his alleged sex crimes. In an interview with NPR, New York Times reporter Megan Twohey (who co-authored a piece describing Weinstein’s decades of sexual misconduct) stated:

“And it's interesting to see in that situation there was a whole team that swooped in to help Harvey fight that in a counterattack effort. There were private investigators who were dispatched to basically dig up dirt on her. There were stories planted in the tabloids to basically disparage her background. There were high-profile attorneys who stepped up to Harvey's side, including Linda Fairstein, the former sex crimes prosecutor here in Manhattan, who was willing to facilitate introductions to the current sex crimes prosecutor who was handling the case. And within weeks that case was dead.” [Emphasis mine]

Fairstein has pushed back against insinuations of deep involvement in the case, telling the New York Post that “she was never hired by Weinstein and that her only action was making one phone call for long-time pal Abramowitz [a Weinstein attorney], introducing him to Bashford [head of the DA’s Sex Crimes Unit].” (Which aligns with what Twohey said if you parse her NPR statement carefully.)

Safe to say that the Mystery Writers of America fell face-first into a minefield with this one; if you’re not bothered by the “wrongful incarceration” part (and you should be), we have the furor around Weinstein and #MeToo just to make things extra explode-y. I imagine it’d be hard for her to remain Grand Master, and speak about crime and punishment to a room full of crime-fiction writers when a portion of the audience believes that she participated in a miscarriage of justice. And just in case you thought Fairstein was going stay silent, she fired back at Locke on Twitter, basically by accusing the Central Park Five of other crimes:
I bet whatever committee that decides the Edgar Awards is swigging whiskey straight from the bottle at this point. As John McClane said: Welcome to the party, pal!

Thank you, Nick.

Danny's Take:

With her berating of the concerned on Twitter, Fairstein has proven resolute in her views, which marginalize African Americans and are aberrant in the current zeitgeist. It is clear whatever forces saw fit to name her Grand Master are not in accord with the change that was signaled by Attica Locke's win, which she should be enjoying, rather than investing as capital in the fight for crime-mystery-thriller to look more like America.

This is a show-stopping mistake.

The Mystery Writers of America is dangerously in need of new leadership. We authors require leadership that can build upon Attica's glory, which was supplanted by a straw-man argument from a woman proven to be hostile to the African American community. It is my opinion Ms. Fairstein has disqualified herself by failing to stand up for her work and, instead, tried muck-raking with a current Edgar winner. This decision must not stand, and those responsible for it must move on from leadership for the good of mystery writing's future.

Danny Gardner

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Back to Pynchon and All the Clues (Again)

For whatever reason, while idly looking over my bookshelves the other day, I found myself in the mood to pick up and re-read Thomas Pynchon's second and shortest novel, The Crying of Lot 49.  I first read it during my senior year in high school, when, on my own, I discovered Pynchon, and chose Lot 49 and V. to talk about for an oral presentation we had to do on an author we liked. A good part of the fun I had in choosing these two books was that I got to speak the Pynchon character names as part of my presentation - names, for example, like Stanley Koteks - though I remember my AP English teacher more rolling her eyes than getting especially upset when I mentioned these names to the class. 

I first re-read Lot 49 about seven years ago, when I had just finished reading Pynchon's Inherent Vice.  I happen to really like Inherent Vice, Pynchon's private eye novel, and after reading it, the inclination struck me to revisit the first of Pynchon's 60's era California-set novels.  As I recall about that second read, it felt a little odd as I flipped through the opening pages to read a book I'd read decades ago, when I was a teenager.  Pynchon's an author who has influenced my entire view of the world (Ah paranoia! Ah entropy!), but of course when that much time goes by, you don't remember many of the exact details of the book you're reading again.  So it was as if I came to a second reading of the novel with Pynchon in my bones, but then I had to rediscover the specifics of the surface.

The verdict then (and now, on this third read)?  Great (and great).  And each time I read it, I see the book even more than the previous time as a definite mystery novel.  There's amateur sleuth Oedipa Maas moving through a hallucinatory Sixties landscape as she tries to uncover anything she can about a shadowy sinister organization called The Trystero.  The entire novel follows the course of her improvised investigation.  But whereas a typical detective novel at some point answers the different questions it raises, tying threads together, The Crying of Lot 49 opens outward with more and more questions as it unfolds.  By the end, Oedipa Maas doesn't solve the mystery of the Trystero.  She and the reader actually have more questions at the novel's close than when it started.  A great anti-detective novel, then, no question, Lot 49 is.  Along with Paul Auster's City of Glass trilogy, it has to stand as one of the models of that particular form.  And I still don't think I've ever read a book that better exemplifies a dictum that comes from Jorge Luis Borges. Borges writes about his fondness for stories that end "with the imminence of a revelation".  Such endings can be effective and beautiful, Borges suggests.  And this is exactly how The Crying of Lot 49 ends. In the final scene, Oedipa Maas has come to the place where she stands ready to receive a probable revelation.

That this revelation is not actually produced for her or the reader? Well, that's the beauty of it.  

Monday, November 26, 2018

Make Small Business Saturday Everyday!

HALLOWEEN decorations next to BACK to SCHOOL supplies!
Stores open on THANKSGIVING!
Black Friday!
Small Business Saturday!

Perhaps the growing consumerism surrounding the holidays is not your cup of tea. I see the sentiment, but the fact remains; money is an important cog in the machine. It can change the quality of care PopPop receives in his golden years or affect the quality of the people who run our government. Money can be an equalizer.

The Evolving American Dream
Business Ownership

Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as a way to help small businesses bounce back from the recent recession. In 2012 American Express, creator of Small Business Saturday, increased their support for the movement with advertising and backing. That year an estimated 5.5 billion was spent at small businesses in the U.S. By 2015 16.2 billion dollars was spent on Small Business Saturday. The number of participants continues to increase.

The chance to make money evens the playing field for many people. It’s their door to greater opportunity. Because of this, the number of females and minorities starting their own businesses is increasing.

For example …

According to The Michigan Chronicle, ninety percent of small business currently operating in downtown Detroit are owned by minorities and more than 75 percent of those are specifically owned by women. As well, The Department of Labor states that almost all (99.9%) of women-owned businesses are considered small businesses.

Gainesville, Florida has seen a tremendous growth in minority-owned small businesses, progressing from only 20 stores in 2013 to 300 in 2017, said the city’s Small Business Administrator.

The future is looking brighter for minorities and women hoping to start their own business, but the change is coming slowly. TIME magazine reported, "twenty-nine percent of all small businesses were owned by minorities in 2012, but just over 10% of total sales revenue went to minority-owned businesses. Lower revenues of companies owned by women and minorities means that there’s fewer dollars left to pay employees, which can keep those businesses from advancing and growing."

People of color face unemployment at a much greater rate than whites. Gender and race gaps still plague wage equality. However, despite fierce challenges such as the inability to access start-up capital and a lack of network support, creating a small, community-based business might shrink economic divide and bring money and jobs to where both are most needed.

Small Business Saturday gives us hungry consumers a chance to further the fundamental growth of diverse businesses in our communities. While shopping. Why not go beyond Small Business Saturday and shop local whenever possible.

Sunday, November 25, 2018