Saturday, October 26, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 43

Scott D. Parker

Who's doing NaNoWriMo?

This coming Friday is 1 November, the month associated with National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days, 50,000 words, no looking back, just charge ahead.

I'm gonna do it. Pretty sure. I wrote in this column a few weeks ago about writing short stories to get out of the slump. That's fine, but I think I'm better at writing novels. Longer works, because even my short stories are rather long. The short story I submitted to an upcoming anthology came out to nearly 8,000 words. Is that long?

So I'm looking at starting a novel this Friday. I've done NaNoWriMO before back in 2015. I've done a "NaNoWriMo" in multiple other months. Averaging 1,667 words per day can seem daunting if you've never done it before, but when you get in a groove, the words fly. My plan is to average around 800 words per writing session: one at 4:45-6:00 am and another at lunch time. That's for weekdays. Weekends should likley be early morning sessions each day.

The biggest decision between now and Halloween night will be to decide which tale to tell. I've got three in the hopper: one modern mystery, one modern slice of life story, and one...thriller. I think. I've come up with the idea for the story--based on a song, no less!--but I'm trying to figure out its style. Good thing about not planning ahead: the style will reveal itself during the writing process.

Looking forward to having some fun.

Truth Told

Do Some Damage was founded in part to discuss the writing process. All of the writers who have posted all have our own takes on the subject of writing and creativity. It's one thing to hear how we writers who are not as famous as other folks say what we have to say, but its something quite different when a person as famous as Christopher McQuarrie weighs in.

In a 24-part Twitter thread, McQuarrie speaks truth upon truth upon truth. Most of it is difficult to read, especially if you are betting on the 'lottery' [his term]. I zeroed in on Tweet #8 because it echoed what I've always called "Control the Controllables":

8. The secret to success is doing what you love, whether or not you’re being paid. The secret to a rewarding career in film (and many other fields) is focusing entirely on execution and not on result.

Read the whole thing. Print it and tape it to your writing desk.

The Great Kevin Smith Watch

In case you missed some of my other posts, I made a decision this summer: watch all twelve of Kevin Smith's films leading up to the thirteenth coming out this week here in Houston. This past Wednesday, I posted my twelfth review for Yoga Hosers. This coming Wednesday, I'll be seeing the new film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, at a special event here in H-Town. Smith and his friend Jason Mewes are traveling with the new movie in which they show the film to the audience and then do a question and answer session.

I'll be posting my review of the new film on 6 November, but as a placeholder, this week I'll be posting my ranking of Smith's films. I instantly knew my top three, the fourth one, and the one in dead last. What I didn't know was what film would get the top spot. I sat with a piece of paper and started putting the movies in my own order. When I finally realized which film I liked best, I looked forward to publishing the list. It's unconventional, but easy to understand if you know me and what I like.

Any ideas?

TV Show of the Week: Evil

Two Thursdays ago, my wife suggested we watch episode four of the new TV show Evil on CBS. I had seen the previews all summer long while watching Elementary. Initially it looked like something not in my wheelhouse, but I gave episode four a try.

Intrigued. Very intrigued.

Then I watched episode one. Hooked. All in.

I've now seen episodes five and two. Just have to see three and I'll be caught up.

Anyone else watching this show?

That covers it for the week. As I write this, the Houston Astros are up 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Hopefully when you read this tomorrow, the team from H-Town will have a World Series win in 2019.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The twist in the tail

I've written my whole life, and been a published author for several years now, and every time I think I have the whole thing locked down, the universe sort of twists. Sometimes, it shows me something shitty about the whole writing thing that I had been unaware of, but others - more often, to be honest - it shows me something brilliant that would never have happened to me if I hadn't written a book, sent it out into the world, and allowed myself to say "I'm a writer."
One of those amazing things is the sheer volume of friends I have acquired since I became a writer. I was never exactly friendless, but I have found, in writing, my tribe, and it's my tribe that sent this blessing my way.

You see, back in July my dear friend Paddy Magrane (author of the brilliant Chase Thrillers Disorder and Denial) was doing some work in Israel at a charity called Safe Haven for Donkeys.

Safe Haven for Donkeys was set up in 2000 to help the thousands of working donkeys in Israel and the West Bank. They provide life-long care to around 200 unwanted and abused donkeys of all ages but the charity’s work does not stop at the sanctuary gates.

Each month, their mobile clinic helps around 1,000 working donkeys, mules and horses across the West Bank and they also have a permanent clinic in the city of Nablus, where my friend Paddy was working.

In early July, Paddy, at the clinic, met a donkey who’s leg had been broken

Now, a donkey with a broken leg is of little use and if the owner cannot afford vets bills and / or decides that the cost of feeding and healing the donkey is more than he’s willing to bear, the animals can be abandoned. Cast aside the way you or I might chuck a broken vase in the trash.

And that’s what had happened to this donkey. He’d been found, by the outreach people at Save Haven For Donkeys, abandoned in the street in Hebron. Left to starve.

And so they took him in, and by the time Paddy met him, the donkey had made a full recovery. One small problem remained. He had no name. As a visitor, Paddy was given the huge honour of naming him.

It was the third of July, Paddy was far from home, but he knew that the day in question was my birthday, and so he christened this donkey – the one who was left to die, and who got lucky and lived –  Derek.

And so here, I suppose, we need to talk about me. Like I said, I write crime novels. They’re about – spoiler – crimes. But they’re also about family and friendship and love and compassion (but not, so far, about donkeys). But nothing prepared me for how emotional I’d feel at this naming. Cos I’ve often, in the past, felt broken and abandoned. Sometimes it’s been because I’ve broken and abandoned my self, but often it’s been because I’m hearing the voices telling me that people like me can’t do what I’ve decided I really want to do; and being told you’re not good enough – being told by the people entrusted to educate and form your spirit that people like you are worthless – can leave you feeling lost. Abandoned. Alone. So Derek the Donkey made perfect sense to me.

Last week, Paddy was back in Nablus, and sent me a picture of Derek, sprightly and spirited (and certainly more spirited than I’d be if I’d been left out by the trash with a broken leg just a few months previously).

Paddy was given the honour of helping put the named bridle on to my spirit animal. It’s not the first time I’ve been referred to as a donkey and had a bridle put on me but the previous time was in a long condemned club on Tooley Street in the late eighties, so we’ll leave that story for another time…

Suffice it to say that Derek and Doctor Studley Al-Vetski are doing well. Yes, I saw your eyes straying to Dr Studley. Isn’t it lovely when the people who help animals are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside? And that, I think, is where I will leave that one.

Many of the donkeys at Safe Haven are available for adoption. Chill: This does not mean they do a home visit and then send your donkey of choice around in a crate (though I am sure that some of you are now considering ‘donkeysbymail’ as a business venture). What it really means is you pay an amount, they send you a picture and a fact file and a cuddly  donkey toy and you get the joy of knowing that you’ve done something for something and someone else.

I highly recommend it. I’ve already adopted Daniel in honour of the titular hero of my series, and am negotiating a name change for a Caz so I can adopt the pair and have them as enduring mascots at book signings.

Derek Farrell is the author of 6 Danny bird mysteries. “Death of a Diva,” “Death of a Nobody,” “Death of a Devil,” and “Death of an Angel” can all be purchased from the usual e-stores or directly from the publisher here. The fifth, “Come to Dust,” is available exclusively as a free download from his website . The sixth - Death of a Sinner - is on Fahrenheit Press's fall 19 slate. 

His jobs have included: Burger dresser, Bank teller, David Bowie’s paperboy, and Investment Banker on the 80th floor of the World Trade Centre.

He’s never off social media and can be found at.
Twitter: @DerekIFarrell (
Instagram: Derekifarrell (

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Takedowns and Breakdowns.

All this reaction to Martin Scorsese (and Francis Coppola afterward) criticizing Marvel movies has got me thinking about the times artists take digs at other artists or artists state their dislike for particular types of work.  It's a time-honored tradition really.  And it also has me recalling times I've come across writers or filmmakers I like criticizing other writers and filmmakers I like.  I've always found this to be a source of interest, and quite often it's cause for amusement as well.

When I read that filmmaker Jean Luc Godard says he doesn't like the films of David Lynch (one of my all-time favorite directors) because every Lynch film is only about himself and that "On the enigma of dream, dream life, I prefer to read Edgar Poe," I had to laugh while admitting that Godard, 88 years old and no less cranky and opinionated now than he was at 28 years old, may have something of a point about Lynch.  But even if he does, this doesn't diminish my love for Lynch's movies.  Nor does it make me angry at Godard for saying what he did about Lynch.  Godard's films are still entirely his own (the great ones, the good ones, the inscrutable ones), and just because he made a comment about a filmmaker I revere doesn't mean I'm going to start denigrating Godard.  He's someone with a strong aesthetic sensibility of his own, and for whatever reason, that sensibility doesn't take to Lynch's sensibility.  I still like both. It's not an either/or proposition.

And speaking of Edgar Allan Poe: What about Henry James' takedown of him?  James is not an author I rank among my favorites (though I do really like The Turn of the Screw and some of his other shorter works), and he's someone who you might say does have something of a rarified sensibility.  Poe I've loved since I was a kid and I'm sure I will always love.  James said, "An admiration for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection".

So here James is going after not only Poe, but people who have the temerity past a certain age to still like Poe. In a sense, you could say he's insulting all adult Poe readers.  Again, though, so what?  All you have to do is read a little Henry James, with all his reticence and misdirection, to understand that there would be something profoundly unpleasant to him about Poe's stories.  It's the same with how James felt about Baudelaire (a poet I love), who he said had a "permanent immaturity of vision".  Harsh words.  Ostensibly, anyone who likes reading Baudelaire would share this "immaturity of vision".   I couldn't disagree more, but again, it doesn't make me think any less of James as a writer.  He doesn't think much of Poe and can't fathom why anyone over a certain age would like Poe, but how I would love to sit down with Henry James (Over tea or booze, his choice) and debate this with him.  And then I would go on reading Poe and Baudelaire and James.  

Perhaps my favorite literary takedown artist of them all is Vladimir Nabokov, another writer who'd I put in my personal pantheon.  He had strong opinions - as one of his books is called - on just about everything, and not the least of these was his loathing for Fydor Dostoevsky's writing.  Now I happen to think Notes from the Underground is brilliant, and I like The Gambler, Crime and Punishment and "White Nights" a lot.  What does Nabokov say? He writes of "Dostoyevsky's lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic...this trick his characters have of 'sinning their way to Jesus', or, as a Russian author, Ivan Bunin, put it bluntly, 'spilling Jesus all over the place'."

Okay.  Ummm....Nabokov is not exactly wrong about Dostoevsky, and of course, the way he attacks him - and there's more - is quite funny.  But is there a choice to be made here? Of course not.  I still somehow manage to love Nabokov, love Dostoevsky, and love Nabokov's takedown of Dostoevsky.

Nothing in the arts, for crying out loud, is sacrosanct.