Saturday, April 13, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 15

Scott D. Parker

Sometimes the day job can get you down.

Day Job Writers Have Security...

I think many a writer also holds down a separate day job. Mine is actually marketing/technical writing, so I'm constantly writing. And sometimes it drains the creative mind of some of its energy.

I'm not the only one. On Thursday, David Nemeth commented his day job is kicking his ass and it is sapping his creativity. He asked for some tips on how to cope. I offered my own:

"Wake up early and write before the day job. Set a time in which you have time to wake, pee, get coffee, exercise at least 5 minutes (I do jumping jacks, run in place, lift dumbbells, all with a timer), and then have time to write. It's worked for me pretty well. 4:30 am is my wake up time, but I adjust it depending on how late I stay up.

Oh, here's a new thing I've started on workdays since the first Monday of February: no snooze. If you have to adjust because you stayed up late, then adjust. But don't snooze.

If you get a lunch break, take that time to write. Or read. Or basically not to the day job. Helps me every day."

That last bit is my island in the middle of the day. It's my time to turn off the concerns of the day job and return to 1940 (my Ben Wade story) or some blog I'm writing. Plus there is nothing like the thrill of driving to the day job knowing you have already written. It also helps when the day job throws you a curve ball.

...But Still Have to Deal with the Day Job

My company is in conference and trade show season. Lots to do. Lots to think about. And, despite my best attempts, I've found my lunch hours gradually shrinking this past week. Sometimes, it's a 1pm meeting I have to prep for. Other times, it's an 11am meeting that run right up to the noon hour. Either way, the lunch hours grew shorter this week. Bummer, but, like David on Thursday wrote, the work has to get done.

Make Believe is Supposed to be Fun!

In her weekly Thursday column, veteran writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch reminded writers of why many of us first took up a pencil, a pen, or a pixel. The fun and joy of make believe.

So many of us writers constantly strive to learn more about marketing, selling, and doing the little things it takes to run our small business. All important, yes, but when it comes to the act of writing, have a blast! Don't think about selling. Think only of make believe!

A great reminder this week as I found myself getting behind on producing the next story.

An Improptu Shazam-Themed Week of Blogs

Last Friday, I saw the Shazam movie. Loved it. Then I scoured my bookshelves and found a treasury sized comic and read it. I kept going, all the way back to 1941 and the Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial. Next I shot back to the 1970s and the Shazam TV show. I finally ended up in 1994 and Jerry Ordway's The Power of Shazam graphic novel.

In hindsight, I should have expected my interest in Shazam to be rekindled and read up ahead of time. I've done that in the past, but I actually enjoyed the way I did it this week. Everything Shazam-related thing I consumed I was able to compare to the new movie as well as each other.

By the way, I enjoyed Ordway's comic so much that I'm going to flip through my long boxes and see how many individual issues I bought back in the 1990s. Hopefully more than a few.

Aztec Sword Arrives Soon

In the next week, I plan on finalizing the text of the description of the third Calvin Carter adventure. I'm still proofing the text and dang if I don't enjoy this book pretty well. This one is part an old-fashioned treasure hunt/find-the-maguffin story. Here's the funny part: it's been a minute since I last read the book that I've kind of forgotten the ending. I wonder if Carter gets out of all the scrapes I put him in?

Guess I'll have to read and find out.

How was your week?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Working For The Clampdown

By David Nemeth

For the last four months, work has been kicking my ass instead of the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I'm killing it from 9 to 5, but in reality, it's more 7 to 6. The hours aren't the problem, shit, anyone can do the time, no, the issue the work is sapping any sense of creativity or brain-drive, for lack of a better word. On the plus side, obviously, work is engaging and I'm paying for my mortgage, so I got that going for me. On the negative side, reading and writing have taken a back seat.

I'm ain't looking for sympathy, we've all got it hard and some of you probably have it harder than me. I figure that this is a phase and even if it continues, my body and brain will adjust soon enough so that the freedom of my off-hours will return. In the meantime, since this is the internet and y'all got opinions, you got any thoughts on a way forward for me?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Keeping It Real....crime writing edition. 

Crime and mystery authors are unique among the various purveyors of literary articulation in that they are the only writers of fiction that routinely have their credentials challenged in respect to their authenticity. No one thinks GRRM grew up battling dragons. If perchance you do then I know a good therapist. I doubt many people think Stephen King has vampires and demonic clowns playing UNO in his basement.  And I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that very few people thought Tom Clancy was a deadly merc with a high confirmed kill count. But time and time again I've watched as folks will question crime writers about their two fisted adventures. Here are some actual questions I have been asked about my own work.

1. Have you ever killed anyone.

I love answering this with an enigmatic "No comment."

2. How many fights have you been in ?

Now for me this question is somewhat justified. I have had my chair of alcohol inspired confrontations. But I am the exception not the rule. The master of hard boiled noir fiction Raymond Chandler was a failed oil executive. I dare say he probably never gut shot anyone with a 1911 Colt. His contemporary Dashiell Hammett actually had some legitimate investigatory experience. But for my money Chandler's story are a lot more fun.

3. Can you pick a lock? 
I wish the answer to this was yes. 

4. is your main character you?
If I did half the stuff Nathan Waymaker does in my debut novel not only would I end up in jail my mother would die of embarrassment.

5. Can I write crime fiction if  I'm not a real tough guy/gal?

 This question always makes me a little sad. Sure real world street cred and an intimidating reputation are cool. (Let's not fool ourselves and say otherwise) but they are not required. The imagination is just as important to the crime writer as it is to any other scribe in any other genre. William Irish was an agoraphobic alcoholic with mommy issues. Yet he was able to write some of the darkest most morally complex thrillers in the history of mystery fiction.  Robert B. Parker looked like he could kick your ass but he was also known as a gentle gourmand who was more comfortable cooking for friends than busting heads. 
  The art of crime writing does not require a hands on apprenticeship. There is a famous story about Sir Laurence Olivier on the set of the Marathon Man. During one scene a haggard Dustin Hoffman comes on to the set. He informs anyone that will listen that since his character was up all night being tortured he had stayed up all night as well. According to the legend Sir Laurence had looked at Mr. Hoffman and said:
"My dear boy why don't you just ACT."
If I can paraphrase Sir Laurence. 
Just write. No tough guy/gal  certifications required.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Attractions, Distractions

Unlike many, who mourned its end as if a friend had died, I didn't get all that angry when FilmStruck ended last October.  I mean, I loved FilmStruck with their library of Criterion and Turner Classic Movies films, but it posed yet one more distraction from writing - all those great films streaming and available at any time, not to mention all the stimulating extras.  I had enough work to do and enough recent films and television series to catch up on without being lured by such extraordinary film libraries.

Then, to my chagrin, in mid-November, just a few weeks after I'd breathed my sigh of relief over FilmStruck's demise, came the announcement that the Criterion Channel would rise.  Just when I thought I was safe, I thought, and against my better judgment, I signed on to the new channel as a charter member, making myself eligible for a bit of a discount on the yearly subscription.

Well, yesterday, the Criterion Channel launched.  As I feared, it looks marvelous.  There's a library of over 1600 films and loads of extras. The curation, which was one of the best things about FilmStruck, remains, clearly, at a high level.  And according to what I read, the channel intends to refresh itself constantly by showing "Hollywood, international, art-house and independent films from major studios and dozens of independent distributors".  Damn!  I live in New York City and there are theaters where I can watch these films on a big screen. I'm not starved for cinema here. A number of revival houses thrive.  Do I need a streaming service to add to my list of potential visual distractions, fun things to do that are not writing?

No, I do not. But no also, sadly, as far as my having any plans to surrender this subscription.  For one thing, look at what they're offering right off the bat with their Columbia Noir collection: Fritz Lang's The Big Heat, Joseph H. Lewis' My Name is Julia Ross and So Dark the Night (Lewis the director of Gun Crazy, by the way), Richard Quine's Drive a Crooked Road (with a never better and dead serious Mickey Rooney), and Jacques Tourneur's lovely Nightfall, adapted from the David Goodis novel.  And there are others, including Irving Lerner's minimalist absurdist hit man masterpiece, Murder by Contract.

You know them when they're there.  People who don't mean well.  In this case, insidious peddlers of glorious cinema who couldn't accept defeat when the big company that owned FilmStruck cut off that niche service!  Wow. These dedicated peddlers had to go and start their own film channel and make doing other stuff in life, during what little free time I have, that much more difficult to get to.

What can I say?  I'm all in.

*Footnote: Just searching through what the channel has, I saw that its streaming The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.  This is not the Terry Gilliam film from 1988, but an animated Czech film from 1962, made by the brilliant Czech filmmaker, Karel Zeman. I liked the Gilliam film, but the Czech film is a much better version of the story about the intrepid German adventurer aristocrat from the 18th century.  It is a charming, lovely, beautiful film filled with wonders.

Why am I even writing anymore? Time to sign off and go watch something.

Monday, April 8, 2019

What Not to Forget When Traveling Out of Country

One of my goals for the year was to attend one of the big crime fiction conferences. Since I had attended Left Coast Crime a few years back when it was in my home town of Phoenix, I decided to go with that.

As it turns out, this year's Left Coast Crime was being held in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Woohoo!

I'll admit, I'm not much of a world traveler. In fact, the last time I'd been outside of the United States was twenty years ago. But despite having turned into a bit of a homebody over the past couple of decades, I was excited about visiting our neighbor to the north.

And I was rather organized about it. I got my passport renewed in plenty of time. Hotel booked. Flights booked. Supershuttle booked. I'd called my bank and my cellphone carrier to let them know of my travel plans. I made a comprehensive list of things I needed to bring (including underwear and socks), and other things to do before I left. I was very organized.

All in all, I was looking forward to this little adventure.

Photo credit: simonlesleyphoto on Best Running  CC BY-ND
Sure, I was a wee bit nervous about getting through security. Kind of a crime fiction writer's dilemma. Secondary research can make one look suspicious, especially when you Google such topics as "the kill radius of one pound of C-4", "how to turn raw opium into heroin", and "how to defeat magnetic door locks."

Honestly, it's for research. Look! I have a concealed carry permit and a fingerprint card. I've already been checked out. To quote Eliza Doolittle, "I'm a good girl, I am."

But my concerns over being pulled into a room and questions by the TSA were unfounded, as it turns out. I wasn't on any "Do Not Fly" list. My passport wasn't flagged. In fact, I breezed right through security.

In fact, everything went great until I was in the air on my way to Calgary (where I would pick up a connecting flight to Vancouver.)

The flight attendant came down the aisle with the refreshment cart and asked if I'd like anything. I asked for a bag of granola bites and reached into my wallet to pull out my bank card. Which wasn't there.

Photo by johnhain
You know those scenes in movies where the walls start closing in? That's what it felt like. I was headed to Canada without my bank card. Let the panicking begin!

I dug through my bag and finally came up with a PayPal Mastercard. I paid for my snacks with it and the charge went through. Whew! So while in flight, I used the onboard WiFi to move some money from my regular bank account to the one that my PayPal account drew on since I had a zero PayPal balance.

I tried to breathe, but I was still a bit shaken up. Was that enough? Would I be okay?

When I reached Calgary, I got through customs okay and figured I better pull some cash out of the ATM before heading to my flight to Vancouver. I slipped in my card, tried to pull out a hundred dollars and...Transaction Declined. Resume panic attack!

I called PayPal. The customer service rep let me know I needed to authorize the card for use in Canada. I gave them all of the security responses and they authorized it. Great. I tried the ATM again. Transaction Declined. Crap!

The rep then explained I had a zero PayPal balance. I replied there was plenty of money in the bank account it drew on. He said he could transfer some money, but it would take three business days before it would be available. Ugh! Not helping!

Finally, I just said, "Screw it. In for a penny, in for a dollar. Or in this case, a loonie."

With the help of a friendly WestJet agent, I breezed through security and ran like an Olympic sprinter through the airport as they were announcing my name over the loudspeaker along with the words "Final Boarding Call."

Laurie Rockenbeck's Bound to Die
I just barely made it onboard my flight. Once in the air, I texted to my dear friend Laurie Rockenbeck, author of Bound to Die and Cleansed By Fire. She and I were going to be hosting a table at the Left Coast Crime banquet. Even as I sent her my panicky plea for help, a voice in my head was telling me I sounded like those FB scams where con artists pose as friends caught in a similar situation.

To let her know that my situation was legit, I included details about our books, previous interactions, and a very worried photo of myself on the plane. My biggest worry at the moment was how I was going to get from the Vancouver airport to the hotel. Did taxis in Vancouver take credit cards? And even if they did, would mine work?

Fortunately, Laurie responded, letting me know she was ready to help out in any way possible. It's so good to have friends.

When I arrived in Vancouver, I managed to grab a taxi. Yes, they did take credit cards. Whew!

While en route to the hotel, I called my wife and told her to send money from her PayPal account to mine. I also sent a panicked money request to a client that owed me a bit. She helped me out right away.

Bottom line, in the end, everything worked out. I was able to pay for what I needed to pay for. The conference was fabulous. I got to meet some friends who until then I'd only known via social media. I ate a lot of fabulous food. And everyone loved the panels I was on.

Me with Snopes's David Mikkelson

Me with Susanna Calkins, Julie L. Brown, and Lori Rader-Day

Me with Kellye Garrett

The moral of the story is twofold. First, when traveling, DON'T FORGET YOUR BANK CARD! Second, the Beatles were right. We do get by with a little help from our friends.

Thanks to my wife and all of my dear friends who made Left Coast Crime 2019 a wonderful experience. I can't wait to see you in San Diego next year.

As one of the only transgender authors in crime fiction, Dharma Kelleher brings a unique voice to the genre, specializing in gritty crime fiction with a feminist kick. She rides a motorcycle, picks locks, and has a dark past she’d rather forget.

She is the author of the Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series and the Shea Stevens outlaw biker series. You can learn more about Dharma and her work at

Sunday, April 7, 2019

People I Wish I'd Known

Today is another entry in my occasional feature PEOPLE I WISH I’D KNOWN. Fumiko Yabe Saito was born in 1923. She and her family were forced into the Tule Lake internment camp in Northern California during World War II. Afterward, she attended a highly selective music school in Philadelpia and became an opera singer. She and her husband then moved throughout the Midwest; she would join the adult church choir wherever they went, and start a children's one if that particular church didn't have one. Here is her story, or read more about her here
                                                              * * *
Fumiko Yabe Saito passed away surrounded by family on January 29, 2019. She was born in Sacramento, CA, December 21, 1923, to Tomoko and Kazuto Yabe, first born of four girls. 
From an early age, Fumi had a gifted voice. She learned how to cook and sew and was busy with voice lessons and rehearsals throughout her childhood and teen years. Fumi performed and won awards and recognition throughout Sacramento and northern CA. In high school and at the Junior College, she took voice lessons as a coloratura soprano at Pease Music Conservatory, at 14 placed first in the "Sing Queen" award, in 1938 won the CA State Fair Talent Show and performed to a crowd of two thousand, sang in front of Gov. Olson, and took second place (against 350+ entries) at the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition. 
As an American of Japanese ancestry, Fumi and her family were interned and it was in Tule Lake where she met and fell in love with her future husband, Perry Hitoshi Saito, of Aberdeen, WA. In 1944, she got out of Camp to attend the highly selective Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia for summer school. After she and Perry married, they attended Illinois Wesleyan University. They lived in IL and in 1951 moved to Beloit, WI. In 1954, Fumi and Perry moved to Stevens Point and stayed there until 1965.
Fumi fulfilled her dream to sing opera, taking the lead in Stevens Point's Central State College (now UWSP) production of Madame Butterfly in 1961. A year later she played lead yet again in "Taming of the Shrew". In 1965 they moved to Eau Claire and then returned to Stevens Point from 1971-1975 for Perry's stint as district superintendent for the North Central District of the United Methodist Church (UMC). He was later assigned to Wauwatosa UMC then to Neenah UMC. Fumi's husband Perry, passed away in 1985 and she returned to her beloved Stevens Point in 1986. 
Fumi was a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church and volunteered at St. Michaels Hospital for over twenty years. She was always affiliated with choirs throughout WI. If there wasn't a children's or youth choir at the church where they served, she would start one and she actively participated in their church adult choirs and many community choral groups. Fumi enjoyed the company of her P.E.O. sisters, having joined the sisterhood in 1953. 
Her passions were singing, sewing, cooking, playing bridge, travel, and her family. In addition to her singing and performing, Fumi was always stylishly dressed, sewing her own stunning dresses and outfits, coats and jackets, blazers and slacks. Fumi would knit sweaters and caps, sew placemats and table runners, usually brightly colored with unique cuts and trims. She enjoyed traveling in Japan, Europe, Canada and Mexico. In the 1950s-1960s, she and the family camped all across the U.S. 
Survivors include her children Patricia Saito-Stewart (Max Stewart), Lincoln Saito (Linda), Christine Laird (Otis), Deborah Saito (Mark Kretovics), Rebecca Saito (Delroy Calhoun), along with 13 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and her sisters Connie Washino (Davis, CA) and Lily Shimazu (Sacramento, CA). Her Husband, her Mother and Father, a Sister, two Great-grandchildren precede Fumi in death. 
A Celebration of Life service will be held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Stevens Point, WI, on April 27, 2019, at 11:00am with refreshments to follow the service. A time of visitation will be at the church beginning at 10:00am. Rev. Tim O'Brien will preside. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Fumi's name to St. Paul's UMC music ministry at 600 Wilshire Blvd. Stevens Point WI 54481 or to P.E.O. Chapter CB at 549 Ivan Dr. Kent OH 44240.