Saturday, February 12, 2022

It’s Okay to Adjust Your Goals

Scott D Parker

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a post about finding time to write? The thrust of the piece was that there are lots of little chunks of any given week to devote to writing. I stand by that assertion, but two things happened in the past week. I realized I wasn’t leaving time for all the other things an indie writer needs to do, and I was getting worn down.

When do I edit my stuff? When do I create covers for my stories? When do I do the website upkeep? These activities are crucial to being an indie writer/publisher in 2022 and I simply wasn’t giving myself time to do any of it. Why would I? Doing those things meant I would write less.

But, but, but I have a minimum word count of 1,000 words. How am I supposed to do all that other stuff and still get in my thousand?

I’ve been trying and doing reasonably well. Actually, that may not be entirely accurate. I have been working in the editing and the cover creation, but doing it by sacrificing sleep. The Olympics didn’t help because of the time zone difference, I’d be up watching live coverage prime time through 11pm yet still getting up at 5am. That, of course, wouldn’t last, but it crystalized just how much time in the day I had at my disposal. It is finite and there are things I need to do, and keeping myself healthy is high on the list.

But what about that minimum word count? What about hitting that thousand? Well, if the words are crap and you’re just writing to hit a number, then what’s the point? I intuitively recognized my internal self was stretching out scenes just to meet some arbitrary number. For example, the short story I’ve been working on is nearing 10,000 words. Are they all needed? A critical edit will tell me the truth, but there’s a sense I’ve been padding the story to reach that 1,000/day threshold.

But to do this, to accept that I’d be doing less in the given time allotted to me, I’d have to give myself permission to downshift and try something else. That’s a big mental hurtle for many of us, myself included. We want to be super productive, but if that productivity either ruins our health or delivers sub-par writing that you’re going to have to fix anyway, what’s the point?

Better to be efficient even at a slower pace than the opposite.

So I gave myself permission to drive the writing career at a slower speed. My goal is to create better content at a consistent pace without sacrificing my health, both the body kind and the mental kind.

What also helped me reach this conclusion was this week’s post from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. She links to an article ostensibly about “Covid Cloud” and how we can overcome our concentration issues, but the author, Jessi Gold, makes a point about doing less. “Normalizing doing less feels uncomfortable, vulnerable, and might even make us feel like a failure. This is because we often measure our success by our productivity.”

Yup, that was me. And it’ll still be there, truth be told, but I am trying something different. Still writing everyday, but allowing myself time to breathe and do the other things required of me, like re-reading a novel to determine next steps.

Do y’all ever have moments like this? What do you do?

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Hard Place

By Paul J. Garth

Here's my introduction: 

My first piece of fiction came out in the spring of 2014. 

Eight years ago, almost. Holy shit, time flies, doesn't it?

When I was first starting out, publishing my first stories in Shotgun Honey, making my list of markets I wanted to submit to, writing with the fervor only recently converted acolytes can attain, Do Some Damage was required reading. More than the algorithm juiced communities of Facebook or Twitter, here I found new authors I wouldn't have heard of otherwise. Heard of new magazines that featured the kinds of stories I was drawn to. Learned so much about what publishing is, the pitfalls, and how to avoid them. Learned to be a better writer.

And now, eight years later, here I am, sharing my first post. The first post of what will be a semi-regular Wednesday space for me. 

Things have changed in those eight years since I published my first short story and was reading DSD daily. To start, I've written a hell of a lot more stories. And a couple of novellas. And a few novels (One, you might actually see someday). The stories come slower these days, but they're better I think. 

Second, I've also somehow become an editor as well. At two places. One is the very first place I ever placed a story, the legendary Shotgun Honey. The other is (and I'll admit my bias here, but fuck it, I think it's true or I wouldn't say it) what I think is the best Noir magazine going: Rock and a Hard Place

At RHP, with every issue, we confront and then try to answer one of the most persistent questions in this space: What is Noir? 

For my first post, I thought I'd share the foreword to our most recent issue, written by the insanely talented Libby Cudmore

If good writing is capturing the Truth of a fleeting feeling, Libby not only captures the feeling of noir, but also answers why it is important. Now, maybe, more than ever. I hope you dig it, and, if you haven't already, check out Rock and a Hard Place. I truly think we're doing something special over there. Read Libby's foreword, below, and see if you agree:


A mentor of mine once told me that noir is “bad things happening to bad people.” He would know, he was a piece of shit who flushed his life and writing career down the toilet for a couple bottles of drugstore rum and the implied promise of grad-student pussy. It’s an easy sentiment to reach for. A cheap one even, mired in the mortal fallacy that if you stay behind the line that they’ve drawn – the cops, your boss, God – you have nothing to worry about. 

But what can I say? These are noir times we’re living in, through no fault of our own. And there’s a comfort, almost, in reaching for noir when life gets grim. Sort of like reading advice columns or relationship advice on Reddit. It puts your life in perspective. At least I’m not locked in a car trunk, as Leo Rosser finds himself in Jason Allison’s “The Trunk.” I’ve never found a dead body in a shitty motel bathroom, the way the characters in Rob D Smith’s “As Long As You Look Faraway” did. Maybe I can handle another goddamn Zoom meeting. Because we’re all good people, right? Okay so maybe we lie every so often. Maybe we go where we shouldn’t go. Maybe we do that little thing that our brain tells us not to do, because it’s wrong, morally or legally. But who’s keeping score, right? Everyone else gets away with it. No reason I shouldn’t too.

But if these days have proven anything, it’s that we’re all a little bad luck away from being the main characters in our own personal noir. You can be doing the right thing – protesting police brutality and violence against people of color – and some smug little shit will walk away clean after putting a bullet in your back. You get laid off. You get sick. You make a bad choice that seems like the only one to make in the moment, because you don’t have the gift of foresight. Anxious times. Last-ditch measures.

Noir isn’t about bad things happening to bad people. It’s about shitty things happening to desperate people.
And we’re all desperate sometimes.

God, that's just great, isn't it? 

Thanks to Libby for letting me run this. Thanks to the DSD crew for giving me my own little corner. Thanks to you for reading. 

Rock and a Hard Place Issue Seven is on sale now. You can get at the usual spots, but to make things easier for you, I've linked to the paperback version here. The Kindle is available at the same place, and for cheap, but that cover (designed by my brilliant wife!) looks especially menacing on your bookshelf. If noir is about bad decisions, I can promise, picking up that issue and displaying it proudly is about as safe a bet as you can make.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Inuit Crime

It's February and that means that if you live in a place where the winter is cold, you're probably sick of the low temperatures and can't wait for things to warm up. That's how I feel anyway, a typical February feeling.

But the frigid spell we just went through in New York prompted me to revisit a movie I saw years ago when it came out and found is available now on Apple TV.  It's Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, from 2001, the Canadian-made movie that was the first feature-length film to be shot entirely in the Inuktitut language.  The director Zacharias Kunuk is Inuit, the film's writer Paul Apak-Angilirq (who died of cancer before the film was finished) was Inuit, and the production company for The Fast Runner was primarily Inuit-owned.  The film did well and won awards from the time it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001, and I remember reading the great reviews and being eager as hell to see it.

It's so rare to see a movie that takes you into a world you are all but entirely unfamiliar with, and The Fast Runner, for most people, does that. And it tells a tale from Inuit legend that involves murder, jealousy, and revenge. It's about strife within a family and a community.  Inuit noir? Arctic noir? I'm sure some crime fiction-loving person somewhere has described it as such, but at this point, the use of the word "noir" is so overused it's virtually meaningless and I sometimes cringe on hearing it.  The Fast Runner is just a riveting tale that, as myths and legends often do, is rife with base human activity, and it is also a story about justice and how healing, despite the impediments and only up to a point, can be achieved.  It's a universal tale, in other words, and on all levels, visually and narratively, it's damn near unforgettable.  

Why that title, if you were wondering? The movie has its name because the main character, Atanarjuat, is literally a fast and strong runner. It's his speed and endurance that save him when he is being pursued by a gang of his enemies.  The sequence with him running naked and barefoot across sheets of ice below an endless Arctic sky, a long sequence done in a style documentary-like, no special effects, an actual man running naked and barefoot across the polar ice, is remarkable.

Whether you like the cold or not, whether you have good heating in your living space or not (and I hope you do), The Fast Runner is a perfect movie, though hardly a cozy one, for late winter.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Review: Reacher


By Claire Booth

Finally. After 26 books and a short (ahem) feature film career, Jack Reacher is finally getting the proper treatment. The new TV series, Reacher, premiered Friday on Amazon Prime and after watching a few episodes, I can say it has several things things going for it.

The first is arguably the most important—the physicality of the lead actor. Reacher is a huge guy. It’s not an incidental attribute to the character. As anyone who’s read one of the books knows, it’s key to everything. And the hulking actor Alan Ritchson fits. He also gets the deadpan element of Reacher’s personality: analytical but capable of cracking a jokeif he wants to.

“We were very lucky to find Alan. He nails it on every level,” Child said in an interview with Denver’s ABC 7 (he lives part time in Fort Collins).

Second, it’s a TV series and not a movie. The TV format is just better for crime fiction series. Remember the different beloved series that tried to for successful runs as movies? Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski, and Lee Child’s Reacher are some. Then think about the TV shows, where the characters have time to develop into an ensemble and the plots have time to twist and turn. Think Craig Johnson’s Longmire or Justified (yeah, I know that one was based on just a Elmore Leonard short story, but let’s not quibble when the end product turned out to be genius).

This season of Reacher gives us just one book (the first in the series, The Killing Floor), not an inexplicable mish-mash of several books and a resulting choppy narrative like the movies did. This isn’t to say that the show is a deep and profound look at loss or corrupt law enforcement or small town politics. It’s not. But it’s a head-butting, leg-breaking, no-middle-name good time. Just like the books.