26 April 2018

April Miscellaney

by Eve Fisher

Between April 14th and April 18th we got 22-24" of snow.  This led to a lot of eating, drinking, and calling April a drunk who wouldn't go home.  But now it's almost 70 degrees, and 99% of the snow has melted, and people are back out in t-shirts and shorts, and if you think we're all back in a good, trusting relationship with April you're crazy.  We're just humoring her until May gets here...

It did give me plenty of time to catch up on the news:

Don't you wish these baboons succeeded in their escape from a bio-medical research facility?  They baboons moved a large barrel, climbed over a wall, and ran for it:  (See  Baboon Escape).   Apparently, the facility has been cited "multiple times for animal welfare-related issues, including some deaths".   

Calling Caesar - it's time to show up and rescue.

Caesar, with a rifle and Nova behind his back, on a horse with the film's logo and "Witness the End July 14" at the bottom.And, while he's at it, if he'd take care of Mr. Slager, who is horrified to find out that he's in the middle of the first case of someone testifying at their own murder trial, in which a Woman Burned to Death.  (Well, not quite - there's a Renaissance Italian lady who did, but that's another story, for next time).  Anyway, Mr. Slager and his girlfriend, Judy Malinowski, were arguing on Aug. 2, 2015, when he doused her with gasoline and set her on fire outside a gas station in Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus. “I never knew that a human being could be so evil,” Malinowski said in a videotaped interview on her deathbed. “He just stood there and did nothing. God, please, please help me.”   I hope they hang the bastard. 

Domestic terrorists went on trial in the town of Liberal (you can't make this stuff up), Kansas, before an all-white jury.  The 3 militia members plotted to detonate a bomb at a housing complex in western Kansas where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped.  The men stockpiled guns and composed a manifesto about their anti-Muslim motives.  “Their rhetoric and their speech have revealed a hatred for Muslims, Somalis and immigrants,” an FBI agent wrote in affidavit related to the case, and that is an understatement, to put it mildly:  you can read some of it at the Huffpost Article here:  Domestic Terrorism.  None of it is fit to print.  Thank God, they were convicted.

The tragic part, the absolutely totally completely EFF-ED UP part of it is that they got all their ideas from conservative news:  Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, raving on Breitbart about "civilizational jihad"; Fox News' Monica Crowley raving about the same on The Washington Times; Ben Shapiro, Frank Gaffney, and John Bolton all have spread at least some of what got these men to decide that they had to blow up every Somali in sight.  (See Charles Pierce for further links here:  Right Wing Paranoia.)  And that's without going to the kool-ade crazy Alex Jones...

But there is good news:  The New York Times reported that on April 18, 1930, the BBC's evening bulletin was surprisingly brief: “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news,” and followed it up by 15 minutes of piano music.  (I'd wax nostalgic and all that, but I know what came next.)

No news was NOT the case for the United States on that date:

The BBC may have had no news on April 18, 1930, but The New York Times did.

Once the snow was melted enough to get out of the driveway, we took a few days off from the daily grind and spent the weekend visiting the kids and grandkids in Colorado.  We also left behind our cell phones, and totally ignored the news, on or off the internet.  It was great.  We played endless games of "Settlers of Catan", and I only won twice.  We went for walks.  We ate a lot.  We saw the sights.  And we talked, talked, talked, talked, talked.

That's what an early spring vacation, or a long summer vacation should be.  That's the way it was when I was kid, when we played Canasta, Sorry, Chinese Checkers, and Gin whenever it rained or got too dark to run around capturing fireflies in glass jars.  Even back then the news loomed large and seemed dangerous, but it faded over a couple of days, and we had time again to talk and run around getting mosquito bites and grass stains everywhere, and then back for more lemonade and beer (for the adults, of course) and more talk.

Very relaxing.  Days where nothing much happens, except you're there, together.

And now we're back, and I've caught up on the news.  Most of it is the same old wars and rumors of war garbage we've been dealing with since Cain decided that Abel was dissing him and his vegetables.  But there's also the shining moments:

Image result for duchess of cambridge

The Duchess of Cambridge had her baby boy.   Most of my friends are amazed that she walked out of the hospital 6 hours later in high heels and a dress, but apparently an entire team of hairdressers, make-up artists, and a maid were there to make her look good, and I suspect drugs to give her the ability to walk while feeling that most of her is inside out.  And I'll bet - and I don't blame her a bit - that she went home, handed baby to a nanny and had a stiff drink in bed.   

There's a great article on the NYTimes about "The Synchronized Swimming of Sea Monkeys". The video of them is absolutely hypnotic, but then my husband always dreads it when we go to the zoo in Omaha and I stand in front of the transparent jellyfish exhibit and watch them floating, up and down and up and down and up and...

And, from the NYTimes, this man saved God only knows how many lives at a Waffle House in Nashville, TN, from yet another mass shooter with an AR-15.

James Shaw, Jr., 29 year old electrician, saw the shooter, scuffled with him, and grabbed the rifle, and hurled it over a countertop.  He was grazed with a bullet, and the barrel was hot, and it burned his hand, which is why it's bandaged in the photo.

In classic asshole style, the shooter cussed him out.

Mr. Shaw:  “He was mad at me.  I was just trying to live. I wasn’t trying to get no money from him, I wasn’t trying to do anything from his standpoint. I just wanted to live, and he was, like, astonished, that I wanted to live.”

Typical:  the shooter couldn't understand why his victims wanted to (or should) live.

Wonderful:  Mr. Shaw was there to stop him.  God blessings, and a speedy recovery!  I hope you get all the electrician work you can handle in Nashville, and may you be blessed in your children and grandchildren forever.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are still tense, jellyfish. 














25 April 2018

Trouble (Ben Affleck's "The Town")

David Edgerley Gates


In between his two Dennis Lehane adapations, Ben Affleck made a picture called The Town, which feels like a Lehane story, but it's based on a book by Chuck Hogan, yet another Boston guy.

I admit I've never been a big Ben Affleck fan. I liked him in support, Good Will Hunting, Shakespeare in Love, didn't like him in leads, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor. (Reindeer Games is Frankenheimer's last feature, so I'd overlook Troy Donahue if he were in it.) But then he surprised me as a director, with Gone Baby Gone. Very solid picture. Lehane was well served the first two times around, with Mystic River and Gone Baby. He wasn't third time lucky: Live by Night went flat. I think Ben Affleck miscast his own film. He wears the clothes beautifully, the drape's to die for, but his character's an empty suit. And after Brendan Gleeson exits the first act, the pacing limps to the finish line in cinderblock shoes.


So, that being said, I didn't have the highest expectations going in, but The Town is a knock-out. It begins with a bank job in Harvard Square, which is my old stomping ground (Ben Affleck was raised in Cambridge), and that got it on my good side. Speaking as a local boy, too, there's an interesting visual consistency in the movie, not strictly necessary, but reassuring - they'll use an establishing aerial shot, and then drop into the neighborhood, and they match. This isn't always the case, and it's obvious that Ben the Director, as distinct from Ben the Actor, is going the extra distance. Fenway Park from a chopper, Fenway Park backstage, under the stands. Bunker Hill Monument? On the ground, the streets around Monument Square. From above, the Old North Church. The chase after the armored car robbery is in the North End. They don't fake it. They don't fake it when they could, when most people wouldn't know the difference between Coolidge Corner and Savin Hill. It shows a genuine appreciation for the right landscape.



There's a vocal landscape they get right, as well, the cadences. And easy to get wrong. It's not just Ben Affleck, who slides familiarly into the voice, but Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively, not a Valley Girl locution between them. Not that she gets a lot to do, but she does a lot with what she gets. Renner seems to do even less, with more. It's not the accent, quite, as much as it is usage and speech patterns, the mouth feel of the language. He's got the St. Vitus Dance, ants in his pants, a delivery that's one step behind, as if he's puzzling out his own train of thought. He stretches his hesitations and clips his words short, the silences are eloquent and threatening.



Speaking of Jeremy Renner, the two serious relationships in the picture are between Renner's Gem and Affleck's Doug, and between Doug and Rebecca Hall's Claire. Gem is a silent partner in Doug and Claire's relationship, besides, not that she knows about it, because if there's the slightest chance of Claire ratting out their crew, Gem will cap her without a second thought.



Which brings us to what Jon Hamm's FBI guy calls, "Your fuckin' Irish omerta." The Town is a heist picture, and the town in question isn't Boston at large, but Boston in small, specifically Bunker Hill, Charlestown. It's a movie about clannishness, about class loyalties, about family in the larger sense, of immersion, of race memory. It's specific about place, and place experienced as density. A sudden phrase beings it back, a sharp smell, a retinal afterimage. The place of heart's desiring. The fact that these guys are a criminal family, a crew, a marriage of convenience, misses the point. This is the air they breathe. This is what they know. This isn't something you can change out of, like a pair of pants.

The robberies themselves are set pieces, kinetic and tense, adrenaline and endorphins, wound up tight. The personal scenes have a dark energy, what's said, what's held back, a dangerous edge. Here's a for instance.
Doug goes to see Gem. "I need your help. I can't tell you what it is. We're gonna hurt some people."
Gem waits a beat, looks up. "Whose car we gonna take?"

Ray LaMontagne's Jolene plays over the final credits. It's a killer.
  Held you in my arms one time
  Lost you just the same

24 April 2018

When an Amateur Writes a Police Procedural

by Barb Goffman

I'm not a sheriff, and I've never played one on TV. So when it came to writing mystery short stories, for a long time I avoided writing police procedurals. There were too many ways I could screw things up. Too many important details I'd need to research, and more important, things I might not even realize I was getting wrong. And that's still the case today.

But a few years ago, I heard a fictional sheriff talking to me in my head. So, with misgivings, I started writing her story. To try to ensure I didn't make any mistakes, I imposed some rules on myself. The most important: the story had to be solved quickly through interviews and observation, not using blood work or DNA or other modern investigative methods with which I could easily make mistakes. In this way, my sheriff would operate kind of like an amateur sleuth, relying on her wits, but with the benefit of knowledge the sheriff would have and the power of her badge to induce folks to speak with her and to get warrants when needed.

This approach worked well and resulted in my first story about Sheriff Ellen Wescott. "Suffer the Little Children" was published in 2013 in my collection, Don't Get Mad, Get Even. I've now brought Sheriff Wescott back for a second case in "Till Murder Do Us Part," which was recently published by Wildside Press in the new anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies.

In this new story, a man who runs a business putting on weddings in a converted barn on his farm is murdered. The body is discovered on a Sunday morning. The day is important. I didn't want to have to deal with the sheriff getting phone records and other CSI-type evidence to help solve the case. While a judge's warrant could be secured on the weekend, I figured it would be harder to get a phone company to act quickly on a Sunday. I also wanted all the characters I needed to be believably and easily available. On a weekday, some of them would be at work, but on a Sunday, it would be much easier for them to gather.

So my story is set on a Sunday, and my sheriff and her deputy--through interviews and investigation of items found at the crime scene--try to piece together what happened. That's the basics. I don't want to reveal any more for fear I'll give away too much, but I will address one point: Does this tale sound a little dry to you? It does to me, just explaining it. I don't like dry stories. I like to introduce pathos or fun (maybe both) into my stories to make the reader want to turn the pages. So it helps that law enforcement officers often enjoy black humor, as I do.

That's where the cows come in. You see, every story in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies involves crime and critters. We have several stories involving dogs. They were the most popular animal in the submitted stories and in those accepted. But we also have animal diversity. We have stories with crows, cows, crickets, and cats; rabbits, ferrets, an octopus, and rats. And fish. Mustn’t forget the fish. My story is the one with the cows.

As I said above, "Till Murder Do Us Part" involves murder in farm country. It also takes place during the worst heat wave since the state began keeping records. What happens when it's really hot and there are cows around? Yep, they explode. Or they can. But don't worry. I don't just use the cows for black humor. They play a role in the plot. I won't say more because I don't want to give things away, but I will add with delight that New York Times bestselling author Chris Grabenstein--who kindly wrote the introduction to the book--called my story "extremely clever," and I think it's because of how I used the cows.

To read my new story, and the twelve other great stories in the book, pick up a copy of Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies. It's available in trade paperback or e-format directly from the publisher by clicking here or through Amazon or independent bookstores.

If you'll be at the Malice Domestic mystery convention later this week, the book will be available in the book room. In fact, most of the authors with stories in the book will be at the Wildside Press table in the convention's book room at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday to sign books. And if you'll be in the Washington, DC, area on Sunday, May 20th, please come to our launch party from 2 - 4 p.m. at the Central Library in Arlington, Virginia. But you don't have to wait until then to get some goodies. If you see me at Malice, ask me about my cow tails. I might just have some candy on hand for you.

And speaking of Malice Domestic, let me get in one last plug for the five short stories nominated for this year's Agatha Award. I'm honored to have my story "Whose Wine Is It Anyway?" from the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet up for the award. You can read it here. The other finalists include my friend and fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor, who is always stiff competition, and three other authors I'm proud to call my friends: Gretchen Archer, Debra H. Goldstein, and Gigi Pandian. You can read all their nominated stories here through the Malice Domestic website. Just scroll down to their story titles. Each one is a link. You may not be able to get a lot of reading done before the voting deadline this Saturday, but I hope you can read all the short stories.

I'm looking forward to seeing many of you writers and readers at the convention, which starts in just two days. Malice or bust! But in the meanwhile, getting back to police procedurals, I'd love to hear about your favorite authors writing police procedurals today, especially ones who don't have law-enforcement background but still get the details right. Please share in the comments.

23 April 2018

Living on the Wild Side:
Or, How to Create a Believable Villain

I met Charles Salzberg last October when we were on a panel at Bouchercon in Toronto.

Charles is the author of the Shamus nominated Swann's Last Song, as well as Swann Dives In, Swann's Lake of Despair and Swann's Way Out. His Devil in the Hole, was named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine. His novella, "Twist of Fate," is included in Triple Shot, a collection of three crime novellas, and his novel, Second Story Man, was published in March by Down and Out Books. He teaches writing for the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member and he is on the board of MWA-NY. He also has my undying envy because he co-wrote Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times, the memoir of the late great Soupy Sales.

Usually when I invite a guest to write for us I give the following example: "Don't write 'Buy my wonderful book.' Write 'How do you make a convincing villain? In my new book…'" When I read the terrific piece below I was afraid Charles had taken my example as a command, but he assured me it was what he wanted to write about anyway.

— Robert Lopresti

by Charles Salzberg

I’ve spent most of my life trying to stay out of trouble. As a kid, I left that to my brother, who spent a good part of his life in the principal’s office. Periodically, my mother would be called into school and presented with a list of my brother’s wrongdoings. Nothing serious, you understand. Just enough to get under the teacher’s skin.

Me, I coasted through under the radar. I was the good one. The one who never got into trouble. The one who spent his time trying to please adults. Obeying the all the rules. Speaking only when spoken to. Keeping my nose clean. Yeah, that was me.

On the social scene, I was a dud. It was the “bad boys” who got the attention, especially from the girls. The only thing that prevented me from disappearing completely into the woodwork was that I was good at sports.

I always wondered what it would be like to be one of the bad boys. You know the type. James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Marlon Brando in The Wild One, who when asked, “What are you rebelling against,” answered, “What’ve you got?” Paul Newman in Hud. Sean Penn in just about anything.

Trouble was, I didn’t think I’d ever find out, because that obey the rules thing seemed to be branded into my DNA. I couldn’t be bad, even if I wanted to.

But, as it turns out, I was wrong. I can be bad. All I need is someone else’s name and a blank sheet of paper.

That’s probably why I take so much glee in writing villains. But anyone who’s tried, knows it isn’t easy. What I mean is, anyone can write a villain, but to write a good one, one that isn’t the stereotypical bad actor, like Hannibal Lector, for instance, one that jumps off the page and haunts your dreams, takes skill.

You’d think it would be difficult for someone who was the “good boy,” all his life. But it’s not. In fact, it comes surprisingly easy and, I should be ashamed to say this but I’m not, it’s fun.

Writing villains isn’t easy. A true villain isn’t just someone who does bad stuff. A true villain, one that stays with the reader, is a complex character and the evil he or she does emanates directly from that character. I’m not talking about the “I’m gonna blow up the world” guy who hates everyone. Or the guy who cheats and steals for personal gain. Or the woman who betrays every man she comes in contact with.

Look, no one gets up in the morning, stretches his or her arms, rubs his or her chin, and says, “You know what? I think I’m going to be a badass today. I’m going to step all over anyone who gets in my way.”

That’s not a villain, that’s a stereotype.

A true villain, or at least a believable villain, thinks he or she is justified in whatever he or she does. It’s more about self-interest, I think. Greed. Selfishness. A blatant disregard for the feelings (and rights) of others because, you’re more important than everyone else.

I like to think I write complex and flawed characters. Probably the baddest character I ever wrote is Francis Hoyt, the master thief of Second Story Man. He’s brilliant, manipulative, athletic, arrogant, and mean. He uses people, then tosses them aside. But he’s got a history and it’s that history that helps explain who he is and why he does what he does. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t justify what he does. It explains it. You can tell from the first line of the novel when he utters, “Where’s my fucking money?” Right away, you peg him as a bad guy. He doesn’t say, “You know, you may have forgotten about that money you owe me, and I could sure use it now.” Nope. He says, “Where’s my fucking money?” There’s a threat implied in those four words and from those four words you know he’s not kidding around.

The other two characters in the book, Charlie Floyd and Manny Perez, are far from perfect, but they’re certainly not villains. They, too, are complex human beings capable of doing wrong. But Francis Hoyt, well, he’s in a whole other league. I’m proud of Francis Hoyt and I loved writing him and hearing him speak. But I certainly wouldn’t want to meet him.

And so, finally, after all these years, I’ve managed to be the “bad boy,” even if it is only on the page.

22 April 2018

Kranky Kalls
Telemarketing Tales 2

by Leigh Lundin

Last week, Elizabeth wrote about a New Jersey telemarketer phoning Hawaii at 3am to sell siding. Her comment presaged my own brush with wall-to-wall telemarketers.

As mentioned previously, I worked nights but was responsible for answering a business tech support line any time of day. I had little patience or mercy for phone solicitors. When the calls came, the games began. A handful of Disney cast members suggested I write up the dialogues.

Kustom Kottage Kolouration and Kraftmanship

With a stucco house, siding should mean nothing to me, but when awakened, surprising opinions surfaced.
Judy Hopps © Zootopia
Zootopia • Judy Hopps © Disney
“Good morning, sir. Kustom Kraft would like to tell you about our Salubrious Siding products, each government approved by HUD, FHA, FTC, FAA, and PTA. Today only, we can make available our entire product line at 63% savings for fine customers like yourself. How does that sound to you, sir?”

“Timely, yes, timely. I’m grateful you called. I’ve been thinking about siding after a visit to the Southwest.”

“Thousands of happy customers from the American Southwest love our Salubrious Siding. All our products use patented, copyrighted, trademarked, UL-underwritten, GSA-approved Elastomeric©™ technology. We can provide any kind of siding, any kind at all.”

“That’s great news. I want cowhide.”

“Wuh? Did you say cowhide?”

“Of course. In Arizona and New Mexico, you see all these dwellings wrapped with hides. One quonset building sticks in my mind with beautiful tan and white cowhide. I made up my mind I wanted that look.”

“But sir, cowhide?”

“It has to be the right color combination, kind of a golden tan, not too brown and certainly not black. My wife will want to see samples. Is this afternoon suitable?”

“But sir, I don’t think we can purchase cow side hiding… I mean cow hide siding.”

“That’s a brilliant play on words, but let’s get this moving. When can you meet?”

“Sir, I’m not certain…”

“Am I sensing hesitation? If a customer gives you the business, you shouldn’t judge them.”

“No, no, but…”

“You can’t back out now. You claimed your company has extensive coverage in the Southwest, so you can obtain hide siding much easier than I can.”

“I… I’m gonna have to call you back.”

“I suppose if you must. Are we still on for this afternoon when my wife returns?”

“No, no sir. I have to run this past management.”

“I appreciate it. If you can sell me so easily, I bet you’ll impress your managers. You got my number, right? Hello?”
According to the YouMail Robocall Index, Americans receive in excess of 100-million unwelcome solicitation phone calls a week. This number is verifiably close to the FTC estimate.

Krafty Katalogue Kallers

Officer Judy Hopps © Disney Zootopia
Madness runs in the family. My brother Glen contributed the following examples.
“Hello Glen. How are you today?”

“With whom am I speaking?”

“I’m with your friends at Krafty Kunning Katalog Kompany and my name’s Patty.”

“Hello, Patty. How may I help you?”

“I’m calling to tell you about our latest promotion, an offer only our best customers can take advantage of.”

“Tremendous, Patty. What is your surname?”

“My… er, what?”

“Your last name.”

“I”m not sure I’m supposed to give that out.”

“Patty, you know my name and as you said, we’re all friends.”

“Well… okay, it’s Peón, Patty Peón.”

“Thank you, Miss Peón. What is your address?”

“Our company is located at…”

“No, no, your home address. You have mine, don’t you? You said we’re friends.”

“Er, yes, but I’m not allowed to give out my address.”

“Okay, what is your bank card number? That’s sixteen digits, plus the expiration date and the 3-digit code on the back.”

“What do you want that for?”

“You know my financial details, it’s only fair I know yours, seeing how we’re such good pals. Companies call it a reciprocal relationship. What is your home phone number?”

“Sir, I’m not giving that out. People I don’t know might harass me.”

“Irony isn’t one of your strong suites, huh? Patty, we’re such close friends, don’t let something like this spoil our relationship.”

“Sir, I’m not giving out personal information.”

“Sounds like sensible advice.”

*click*
Telemarketers hide behind ‘spoofed’ numbers, often appearing to originate in your area, but deriving from obscure corners around the globe.

Klogged Kolon Kleanser
Officer Judy Hopps © Disney Zootopia
“Sir, this is a courtesy call to inform you about the advantages of Kustom Kleanse Kolon deKlogger, the latest, space-age product to relieve those embarrassing symptoms of…”

(Glen with bored, condescending monotone) “Your billing info?”

“Er, that would be Burp-o-Lex Corp.”

“B-u-r-…”

“As I was saying, Super Kolon Kleanse brings you the latest innovation scientifically formulated…”

“-o-l-e-x, right? Your account number?”

“Er, what do you mean?”

(impatiently) “Your account number or a credit card number will do.”

“What? Why?”

“For billing $3.95 per minute or fraction thereof. The first four digits please?”

“I thought this was a private number?”

“Why would you think that? Anyway, we’re two minutes and nineteen seconds into the call. I’ll also need the credit card’s expiration date and CSV.”

“I don’t understand. What have I reached?”

“Sylvia Slattern’s Slinky Sex Salon, We do phone sex right. If you prefer Rod’s Leather and Chains…”

“You’re not actually billing me, are you?”

“Of course, $3.95 a minute. Remember, Slinky Sylvia Slattern puts the oral in immoral. Now if gay is your way…”

“I’m not gay.”

“Don’t feel embarrassed, Queer Vibrations is only $3.95 a minute. Your credit card number, please?”

“I’m not gay and I’m not paying for phone sex.”

“Sir, billing started the moment you phoned. Remember, you called us, we didn’t call you. In the absence of a credit card, we shall directly bill your phone number.”

*click*
What are your favorites?

Kold Krafty Kallers will return.

21 April 2018

Mean Girls


by John M. Floyd



A few weeks ago I posted a column about female protagonists ("Let's Hear It for Heroines"), and in putting together my list of those I was a little surprised at how few female heroes have been featured in novels and movies. The same thing goes for female villains, but even more so--Hollywood doesn't seem fond of casting a woman as the bad guy. But I'm fond of those in the following list. I've ranked these evil folks backward, by the way, from least creepy (#25) to most creepy (#1). My opinion only.

NOTE: Evil, in this case, doesn't necessarily mean criminal. It means those who scared me the most. How many of these do you remember?


25. Eleanor Shaw (Angela Lansbury) -- The Manchurian Candidate

24. Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) -- Body Heat

23. Bellatrix Lastrange (Helena Bonham Carter) -- Harry Potter

22. Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) -- Snow White and the Huntsman

21. Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler) -- Hocus Pocus

20. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) -- Maleficent

19. Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) -- Friday the 13th

18. The White Witch (Tilda Swinton) -- The Chronicles of Narnia

17. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) -- Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

16. Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) -- From Dusk to Dawn

15. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) -- Sunset Boulevard

14. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) -- The Wizard of Oz

13. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) -- Gone Girl

12. Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter) -- Play Misty for Me

11. Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) -- Monster

10. Ellie Driver (Darryl Hannah) -- Kill Bill

9.   Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) -- Natural Born Killers

8.   Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) -- Rebecca

7.   Catherine Trammel (Sharon Stone) -- Basic Instinct

6.   Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) -- Mommie Dearest

5.   May Day (Grace Jones) -- A View to a Kill

4.   Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) -- From Russia With Love

3.   Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) -- Fatal Attraction

2.   Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) -- Misery

1.   Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) -- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Following up on that, here are ten female antagonists who weren't all that scary to me--but I just didn't like 'em. At all. I've ranked these from the least unlikable (#10) to the most unlikable (#1):


10. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) -- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

9.  The Warden (Sigourney Weaver) -- Holes

8.  Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett) -- Annie

7.  Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) -- The Goonies

6.  Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) -- The Help

5.  Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) -- The Graduate

4.  Regina George (Rachel McAdams) -- Mean Girls

3.  Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) -- Working Girl

2.  Cinderella's stepmother (Cate Blanchett)--Cinderella

1.  Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) -- The Devil Wears Prada



These lists don't include, of course, bad girls who are likeable--Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis), Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon), etc. But audiences are expected to like them: they're protagonists, not antagonists.

I also left out good/bad shapeshifters like Regan McNeil (The Exorcist) and Carrie White (Carrie), villains from TV series--Cercei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Sister Mary Eunice (American Horror Story), and a bunch of meanies from Buffy the Vampire Slayer--and animated female villains like Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians) and Ursula the Sea Witch (The Little Mermaid). And so on and so on.

As usual, I've included only characters from movies I've actually seen, which leaves out a lot of candidates. Who are some of your favorite female movie villains? Also (he asked, holding up a gender-equality sign), have you featured women as villains in your own writing?

I have. And it's fun . . .



20 April 2018

Quotes from writers

by
O'Neil De Noux

Quotes about writing inspire me, always have. I'm sure most of my fellow writers are familiar with these quotes but some many not and many readers may not. So here goes.

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." George Orwell

"A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities." J.R.R. Tolkien

"The art of the novelist is not unrelated to the illness of multiple personality disorder. It's a much milder form. But the better the book, the nearer the padded cell you are." David Mitchell

"Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations." Ray Bradbury


"You fail only if you stop writing." Ray Bradbury

"All my characters write the book. I don't write the book." Ray Bradbury

"You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality." Ray Bradbury

"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, if by magic, we see a new meaning in it. Anais Nin


"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." Anais Nin

"Comedy is merely tragedy which has gone wrong and tragedy is merely comedy which has gone wrong." Peter Ustinov

"Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell." Charles de Lint
Elmore Leonard

"When I write a book I'm the only person I have to please." Elmore Leonard

"Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good. they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person." F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Action is character." F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one." F. Scott Fitzgerald

"I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within." Gustave Flaubert

"Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn't it such a relief to have somebody say that?" Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"Start as close to the end as possible." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor." Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"You must understand that when you are writing a novel you are not making anything up. It's all there and you just have to find it." Thomas Harris

Lillian Hellman

"Nothing your write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as your first hoped." Lillian Hellman

"However great a man's talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once." Jean Jacques Rousseau

"Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them wait." Charles Dickens

"My aim in constructing sentences is to make the sentence utterly easy to understand, writing what I call transparent prose. I've failed dreadfully if you have to read a sentence twice to figure out what I meant." Ken Follett

Ken Follett

"Enchanting the reader. Casting a spell. That's my main aim." Ken Follett

"A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave." Oscar Wilde

"You don't always have to take the editor's advice. Sometimes the way you see it is the way it should be." Stephen King

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." Robert Frost

"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short words." Stephen King

"The adverb is not your friend." Stephen King

"Write what you like; there is no other rule." O. Henry

Ursula K. LeGuin

"We need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art." Ursula K. Le Guin

"A writer never needs a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing." Eugene Ionesco

"To say a writer's hold on reality is tenuous is an understatement - it's like saying the TITANIC had a rough crossing. Writers build the own realities, move into them and occasionally send letters home. The only difference between a writer and a crazy person is that a writer gets paid." David Gerrold

A. S. Byatt

"Think of this - that the writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone with each other." Dame Antonia Susan Duffy, known as A.S. Byatt, English novelist and poet.

"A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about the writer." G.K. Chesterton.

"I own my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite." G.K. Chesterton

"There is no idea so brilliant or original that a sufficiently-untalented writer can't screw it up." Raymond E. Feist

"What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." Logan Pearsall Smith

"The historian records, but the novelist creates." E.M. Forster

"It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write." Sinclair Lewis

"It's story that counts, its heart, its feeling, its reality, its capacity of the written word to move you." Rod Serling.

Rod Serling

"If writing wasn't hard, everyone would be a writer." Rod Serling

"Forget narrative, backstory, characterization, exposition, all of that. Just make the audience want to know what happens next." David Mamet

"When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature." Ernest Hemingway

"I'm a professional liar folks. I write fiction for a living. I make up this weird crap and people pay me for it." Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison
"To say more is to say less." Harlan Ellison

"The only thing worth writing about is people. People. Human beings. Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line, insight by insight. If you do not do it, the story is a failure." Harlan Ellison

"The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer." Harlan Ellison

"It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world." Raymond Chandler

"It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the denouement." Raymond Chandler

"It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e. the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading." Raymond Chandler

"Know your characters well and the story will write itself." William Faulkner

"Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency ... to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ODE ON A GRECIAN URN is worth any number of old ladies." William Faulkner

"What would I do if I knew I had only had six months to live? Type faster." Isaac Asimov

"A writer is a world trapped in a person." Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo

Let's end with Victor Hugo. He had requested a pauper's funeral. There was no way the French would not honor their literary hero. No building in Paris was large enough for his wake. His coffin lay in state beneath the Arc de Triomphe and more than two million people joined his funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Pantheon. TWO MILLION. Hugo shares a crypt with Alexandre Dumas and Emile Zola. Nearly every large town in Franch has a street named for him. Vive le France.

Wake of Victor Hugo at the Arc de Triomphe

Funeral procession of Victor Hugo