08 February 2016

You're Reading What?

by Jan Grape

As I've spent time watching the Super Bowl I've tried to come up with a worthy subject to write about. Nothing has bubbled up from the sub-conscious and my time is getting shorter. The muse finally stirred and asked "What are you reading?" At that moment I realized what I could write about. Then turn around to ask my readers what they are reading?

A couple of months ago I noticed the title of a book by James Lee Burke, called House of the Rising Sun. I loved the song with that title for many years and books by Mr. Burke almost as long. This story has a little known character named, Hackberry Holland. A retired Texas Ranger. Yes, I know this is the fifth book, James Lee has written with Hackberry. It's just that the Texas Ranger isn't a well-known as Dave Robicheaux novels or even the Billy Bob Holland books.

True to all of Mr. Burke's books, Hackberry is a realistically drawn character. Full of Piss and Vinegar as my pappy used to say. The book ranges from Mexico to south Texas as the ranger tries to reconnect with his estranged son, Ishmael, a captain in the United States Army.

Hackberry comes into possession of a stolen artifact, believed to be the Chalice of Christ. Along the way the Ranger is in trouble from a cruel Austrian arms dealer who grabs the young Army Captain in order to claim the precious Chalice. Three extraordinary women, Ruby Dansen, Ishmael's mother, Beatrice DeMolay, the madam of a house of ill repute and Maggie Bassett, the sometimes lover of the Sundance Kid all trying to help Hackberry.

The next book I've been reading is The Ex by Alafair Burke, who is the daughter of James Lee Burke, in case you are unaware of that fact. Alafair is a former prosecutor and now law professor in Manhattan where she lives with her husband and two dogs. Ms Burke doesn't lean on her dad's name she has written eleven novels on her own and has reached Best Selling status. She recently was asked to join in a collaboration with Mary Higgins Clark and the co-authorship has produced two titles.

In The Ex, Olivia Randall is one of the top criminal defense attorneys in NYC. Her ex finance, Jack Harris, whose wife was killed three years ago, is arrested for a triple homicide. Jack's daughter, sixteen year old, Buckley Harris calls Olivia for help. The problem, one of the people killed is the brother of the young man who killed Jack's wife. The police don't seem to believe Jack's wild story alibi but Olivia agrees to help the man who she had callously hurt twenty years ago. How could the man she cared about ever commit murder?

My third offering is by Halan Coben and titled Fool Me Once. Coben has penned eight consecutive Number 1 New York best-selling thrillers and this one doesn't detract from his legacy. If you like strong female characters you will appreciate former special-ops pilot, Maya Burkett.

Maya's husband Joe was brutally murdered two week earlier and her best friend convinces her to set up a nanny cam in her living room to watch after Maya's two year old daughter and nanny. After watching the replay from the nanny cam one evening Maya is shocked to see her husband Joe, playing with their little daughter, Lily. Maya now has to discover if she can believe her own eyes? One thing she knows for sure is that if Joe is still alive. How can she not hope that somehow her husband really is still alive? How do you deal with thinking you know the truth? And finding out the hard truth is you know nothing.

House of the Rising Sun, by James Lee Burke, came out December 1, 2015 from Simon and Schuster.
The Ex by Alafair Burke was just released January 27, 2016 from Harper Collins.
Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben is due for release from Dutton on March 22nd.

Now why don't you readers write and tell me what you're reading?

07 February 2016

Florida News

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard Tis Febrrruary, the season of hearts and flowers, of birds and bullets and funeral bowers.

Wait! What? Ah, it’s Florida and long past time we caught up with the happenings in the nation’s maddest state.

Till Death Do Us Part

Milton, FL.  You’ve turned thirty and finally found that special someone. What can be more romantic than a marriage and honeymoon in Florida? That’s what a couple planned, a pair who made their living invading homes, kidnapping, robbing, and stealing cars. This darling duo made their way to the Sunshine State where they parted in a blaze of hyperbole… or perhaps a little less. Self-styled Bonnie and Clyde, Brittany Harper and Blake Fitzgerald, eloped on a crime spree from Joplin, Missouri through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, then Perry, Georgia before they ended up in a shootout in the northwest corner of the Florida panhandle. Bonnie survived, Clyde did not.

Don’t Mess With Mom

Hialeah, FL.  Armed carjackers, frustrated when one woman simply drove away, tried to steal another woman’s car with her two children in back. Mom tore one guy out of the driver’s seat, ripped off his face mask, and was about to kick his ass when they sensibly, if belatedly ran off. Notice the lady’s mother-hen strut as if defying them to return.


Everyone Knows It Takes a DeLorean

Pensacola, FL.  Dude in his muscle car hit subsonic speeds and crashed through walls of a tax business and a casket company, the latter a thoughtful touch in case something went dreadfully wrong. The driver told police he was trying to accelerate fast enough to time travel. Methinks he’ll get plenty of time.


Judge Not Lest…

Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Lest ye be judged, according to Matthew, Matthew Destry, circuit judge in Broward County. A character in my story ‘Swamped’ was based on a real judge, albeit an unstable one, not unlike this man of the bench. In Lauderdale, Judge Destry is known for his wild and unusually harsh sentences.
  • A defendant was hospitalized at the time because of a suicide attempt. The judge tore up the woman’s plea agreement of one year, and sentenced her to ten years for missing a court date.
  • Destry has a reputation for severely punishing defendants who ask for trials rather than seek plea deals. The judge gave a sixty-year sentence to a non-violent felon on parole stopped for a suspended driver’s license, having tinted windows and a loaded magazine (but no gun) found in a car. Sixty years.
  • The judge also has a reputation for arbitrary pettiness. Known for starting his day late, he kept staff, witnesses, and lawyers in court until nearly midnight on Halloween, denying families the right to spend the evening with their kids.
  • Strangest of all, he allowed one prosecutor to sit on a jury in the same trial his fellow prosecutor was litigating. In most places that’s called a conflict of interest.
Eat Smart at WalMart

Lecanto, FL.  Poor WalMart is unfairly targeted for the weird people who hang out there. Too few stories reach the liberal press about its fine dining opportunities– wine, sushi, rotisserie chicken, and delicious hot cinnamon rolls, all with comfortable seating plus a uniformed chauffeur, courtesy of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department. That’s what happened when a woman, high on meth and mad with munchies, appropriated a motorized cart and raided the food aisles, scarfing down the good stuff. I trust she chose a lively sauvignon blanc for the sushi.

Tastes Like Chicken

Melbourne, FL.  A burglar managed to elude police, but he couldn’t escape destiny. He stumbled into the quiet cove of an annoyed alligator in the unfortunately named Barefoot Bay Lake. Said burglar is no more.

Dr. No, No, No

Boca Raton, FL.  Professor James Tracy is a Sandy Hook shooting denier, as well as a 9/11 denier and even a JFK assassination skeptic. According to him, it’s all part of an Obama conspiracy, but the sad part has been his harassment of the little victims’ “alleged parents” (in his vernacular). Florida Atlantic University finally had enough and fired him. The conspiracy reached far vaster proportions than the professor imagined– everybody detests him.

Electric Hybrid Vehicle

Crystal River, FL.  Dude got pulled over although he was far below the speed limit… and below the door sill of an SUV and below the “You have to be this tall” signs in theme parks. The little feller was only three, but he handled his big rig better than motorists from Boston, New York, Canfield, Ohio and that Back-to-the-Future musclehead above.

That’s the news from the Sunstroke State.

06 February 2016

International Westerns


by John M. Floyd


I have, for some reason, been writing a lot of Western stories lately. They're still suspense stories, I suppose, and they certainly contain a fair amount of lawbreaking and wrongdoing. Let's call them historical crime fiction.

I've also been watching a lot of Westerns, but that's nothing unusual. I of course love the classics--Shane, High Noon, The Searchers, Unforgiven, Once Upon a Time in the West, Lonesome Dove, The Wild Bunch, Dances With Wolves, The Magnificent Seven--but I've stumbled across a few new ones that I enjoyed as well. For those of you who like that kind of thing, here are five excellent Western films that came out fairly recently. The one I liked best is listed first, down to the one I liked the least--but I thought all of them were well done.


1. The Salvation (2014) -- This is an action-packed, revenge-driven movie filmed in (believe it or not) South Africa, and starring actors from France, England, Wales, Sweden, Scotland, the U.S., South Africa, Germany, and Spain. Last but not least, the director, lead actor, and most of the crew were all from Denmark. Featured are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sir Jonathan Pryce, and an extremely spooky Eva Green. Directed by Kristian Levring.

2. Bone Tomahawk (2015) -- The plot in a nutshell: four men from the frontier town of Bright Hope set out to rescue a woman kidnapped by a cannibalistic Indian tribe. The cast includes Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson, David Arquette, and Richard Jenkins. Authentic and ultra-violent (the villains here would give Hannibal Lecter nightmares), and filmed in California. Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler.

3. Tracker (2010) -- An overlooked and visually stunning movie with British actor Ray Winstone in the title role. Filmed entirely in New Zealand, it's a story of the evolving relationship between a hunter and the man he's hunting, and features a truly satisfying twist ending. Directed by Ian Sharp. (Not to be confused with The Tracker, an Australian film from 2002.)

4. The Homesman (2014) -- If there is such a thing, this is a "literary" Western. A great performance by Tommy Lee Jones, as a drifter rescued from the hangman's noose by pious widow Hilary Swank and then hired to escort her and a wagonload of insane women to an institution run by, of all people, Meryl Streep. (How could this movie not be good?) Jones also directed and co-wrote. Filmed in New Mexico.

5. Mystery Road (2013) -- The only present-day Western in this list, with the bleakest setting I've ever seen and an almost unknown cast. The only actors I recognized were Hugo Weaving and Jack Thompson, and they aren't exactly household names. The plot: a detective returns to his home in the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl. Filmed in Australia and directed by Ivan Sen.


That's it. Let's hear it for horse opera, both here and abroad. Now, back to reading and watching mysteries . . .





05 February 2016

Confessions

by Art Taylor

The landmark anthology Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories includes Lucas Cooper's extraordinary "Class Notes," a piece of flash fiction which originally appeared in 1984 in the North American Review. As the title suggests, the story is presented as one of those class updates that you find in the back of college alumni magazines, and it all begins in just that tone of chatty news: "Ted Mecham may be the first member of the class of ’66 to retire." But these particular class notes quickly take some unexpected turns: "Richard Endergel phoned a few weeks ago from Houston, under arrest for possession of cocaine" is one tidbit, for example, and further along, "Violence is no stranger to Bill Nast. His wife turned up in terrible shape at Detroit General Hospital two months ago, the victim of Bill's hot temper," and then further along, "Sue Zimmerman was a 1978 Penthouse Pet." While many of the items indulge some dark sensationalism, toward the story's end the briefs begin to linger over quieter, more private moments, glimpses into troubled inner lives: "Frederick Mandell weeps uncontrollably in his crowded apartment in Miami Beach. Joel Reede lives in self-destructive anger in Rye, New York.... Odell Masters cries out in his dreams for love of his wife and children."

On the one hand, the story can be read as a playful poke at the relentless pride and hearty optimism of class notes as a genre—and I've seen similar things done with the genre of the annual Christmas letter. But on the other hand, the story strikes me as much deeper and with a rich awareness of the human condition. To my mind, the effect is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

I thought about this story in the wake of a couple of recent events—the first of them a Facebook status update in which a friend discussed her awareness of "the curated nature of our Facebook posts," followed by an admission that some aspects of her life were, right then, pretty crappy.

It's likely not a surprise to anyone who's social-media literate that what people post on Facebook or elsewhere is at best just a glimpse—and likely a "curated" glimpse, to use my friend's word—into a much more complex life. The genre of the Facebook post may, to some degree, demand something performative of us—and it's easy for FB posters simply foreground the good news and bury the bad. (I recognize that exact opposite may also be true for other Facebook users—a type of Eeyore-ness about those online lives.) From the side of the reader scrolling through updates about selfless spouses, brilliant careers, and exotic vacations, the response might be anything from irritation at how one's fellow friends and acquaintances cross the line between "sharing" and "boasting" (see this letter in the Miss Manners column) to actual depression about how their own real lives compare to their friends' and colleagues' online ones (see this from the Harvard Business Review and this from a University of Missouri study). Facebook doesn't cause depression, no, but there's a pretty definite link between the two, via "social comparison," according to the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (cited here in Forbes). And going back to the class notes situation above, I'll admit to catching myself at times browsing through my own college alumni magazine and wondering, "How do I compare to...?" and "Why haven't I...?" and "Oh, I wish...."

The second incident that had me thinking about "Class Notes" was the announcement, earlier this week, of this year's finalists for the Agatha Awards, a time of great celebration in the mystery world and, as it turns out, right here in our immediate SleuthSayers family. It was such a thrill to see my fellow  bloggers Barb Goffman and B.K. Stevens represented on the slate: Barb for her short story "A Year Without Santa Claus?" in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Bonnie in two categories, with the short story "A Joy Forever," also from Alfred Hitchcock, and with her YA novel Fighting Chance: A Martial Arts Mystery. I was pleased to be among the finalists myself with my first book, On the Road with Del & Louise, as a contender in the Best First Novel category. As you can imagine and some may have seen firsthand, Facebook and Twitter and various other virtual communities were abuzz with the news, with announcements and congratulations and conversations—and I'll add a congratulations again to the finalists not only here in our SleuthSayers family but across the board!

Though I was grateful, of course—immensely grateful—both for the honor of having been named a finalist and for all the goodwill coming my own way, in the midst of it all I couldn't help but feel slightly self-conscious about the attention and undeserving in several ways, couldn't help but wonder at what point these types of posts risk crossing the line between "sharing" and "boasting" (to borrow that phrase from the Miss Manners letter) and, more to the point, I found myself fretting about the "curated nature" of the whole thing—though I was heartened immensely by a posting Barb Goffman herself made, which she's given me permission to reproduce here:

We writers often toil alone, wondering if what we write is any good, if anyone will read it, let alone like it. So receiving validation through an award nomination means the world. Thanks to everyone I've heard from today about my nomination for an Agatha Award in the short story category for my story "A Year Without Santa Claus?" Thanks to everyone who listed my story on your nomination ballot. Congratulations to all the finalists, especially my fellow finalists in the short-story category, Edith Maxwell, Terrie Moran, Harriette Wasserman Sackler, and B.K. Stevens. And I want to give a shout-out, too, to all the authors who had wonderful books and stories published this year whose names don't appear on the Agatha shortlist—being published is no small thing and is to be celebrated as well.

I couldn't agree more with Barb's comments—which speak of the best aspects of the mystery community in general: thoughtfulness, generosity and inclusiveness, with celebrations and recognition for us all. Those opening comments struck home, about writers wondering if what we write is good, if anyone will read it, if anyone will like it. And echoing that closing shout-out to other authors: Having twice judged the Edgar Awards, I know all too well how many fine books and stories are published each year, how few get to step into the spotlight, and how many others were equally deserving of that spotlight.

I've been about as fortunate as any writer could ask to be—something that I recognize and am grateful for every day—and I use that word fortunate specifically, with its echo of luck, a huge factor always. And I feel thrilled and humbled by the new honor this week and by the support I've received from fellow writers and readers. But in the spirit of how I've titled this blog, "Confessions," I want to admit that even as the celebrations were unfolding on social media and email, I confessed to a friend that the news came at a time when I've been struggling mightily with my writing for a variety of reasons—not just with finding time to write (always an issue) but with lack of direction, lack of confidence, poor productivity, and more.

These are things that I don't post on Facebook: anxiety, self-doubt, a recurrent fear of failure, and then real failures—the stories languishing on my computer because of rejection after rejection.

I recognize the potential dangers in admitting this—the danger that it might come across as whining from someone who really, truly has nothing to whine about. I've said before and I'll say again (and again) that I am blessed in many ways and couldn't/shouldn't ever ask for anything better. My point is never, not intentionally, to take on a woe-is-me attitude amidst an overabundance of riches.

But I do think it's important to pull back the curtain a little to reveal how much all of us may struggle, at whatever stage of our careers, at whatever level of success or seeming success. As Barb pointed out, we writers "toil alone"—a level of interiority is indeed central to our craft—and in the midst of that interiority, in that aloneness, sometimes as that aloneness verges into loneliness, it might prove seductive to wonder why the progress or the success that comes so easily to others is so difficult coming to us.

The friend I wrote to, confessing my own struggles, wrote back that she too has had a rough patch lately—over several years—a fine writer and former Agatha finalist herself. And then another writer I mentioned this to, a writer I've always perceived as immensely productive and invariably successful, admitted that she hadn't written anything in months, admitted to her frustrations about that and to the fear that there might simply not be any next plot coming. Other writers I know, some with long and acclaimed publishing success, have no trouble with craft but are struggling with sales and contracts and the various shifts in the publishing world. Closer to home: My wife, Tara Laskowski, has a book coming out in the spring and just earned some advance praise from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist—but in the midst of celebrating that boost, she's also been uneasy about troubles with her next project, the daunting task ahead of her, the fear that she's simply not writer enough to ever bring it off. (She is, I know she is, but right now she doesn't believe she is, and that's the point.)

Not all writers are like this, I recognize. Maybe I'm just the fretful sort, I tell myself, because I see those other writers who seem to know where they're going and get there without fail and make it seem so easy and.... But then that's just proving the point too. Not all writers are fretful, no, but at least based on my small anecdotal evidence, my small corner of the writing world, many of us likely are, perhaps more this way than the other—even those who don't look it on the outside...or on whatever social media platform they spend most of their time on.

As I've been working on this post, I've kept thinking that I need to find some way to bring it to a rousing close—some moral or message. Keep on writing! Everyone struggles, but the struggles will pay off! Or simply: You're not alone in the world! But ultimately too much of that seems pat and simplistic and maybe even condescending. It's also (updating this post here) unrealistic and maybe even empty; as one writer commented to me offline after this post went live, there are writers for whom the hard work might not pay off—writers who might ultimately give up because they haven't found that success or even publication. This happens, far more often than it should.

So maybe what I'm aiming for is something closer to the "Class Notes" story that I opened with and the comments on the "curated nature" of Facebook posts, the idea that what's flattened out in those respective genres may ultimately mask something more complex and more human in real life, part of some deeper struggles that we all sometimes experience, whoever or wherever we are.

In any case, I hope some of it might be not unuseful—and to bring all this from some over-lofty armchair philosophizing back to more practical matters, how about a question or two for the writers among us: Do you ever feel similar worries or crises? And if so, how do you deal with them?

Share if you can. We're all in this together, after all.

04 February 2016

Max Bialystock is Dead

by Eve Fisher

The six finalists for the Edgar Awards have been announced, and each and every one of them is fantastic.  Go read them.



The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam's Sons)
The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr (Penguin Random House – A Marian Wood Book)
Life or Death by Michael Robotham (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House - Dutton)
Canary by Duane Swierczynski (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
Night Life by David C. Taylor (Forge Books)

But, while these six are basking in hope and glory, I'd also like to bring to your attention some other damn good books that came out in 2015.  

First of all, Phantom Angel by David Handler (Minotaur Books).  I love a good mystery, and I love it even better when it's funny.  Really funny.  This one is.  PI Benji Golden is hired by Morrie Frankel, who's putting on a $65 million musical adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" (yes, Emily's cheerful little romance).  If you're thinking Max Bialystock and "Springtime for Hitler", so was I.  And I was not disappointed!  Max, I mean, Morrie is killed, money vanishes, and Golden's real problem is sifting through Broadway gossip as high as a NY skyscraper to find the killer.  This was a truly FUN read.  It's also the second in this new series by David Handler - the first was Runaway Man.

For those of you who love the long slow burn...

A Pleasure and A Calling by Phil Hogan ((Picador) is classic British creep show.  You know.  The kind of story where everything is normal, perfectly normal.  Until one day, you notice that the ivy is twining the wrong way, and the next, the garbage can shifted, and later, who turned on that light, and why are you in the attic...  Well, in this one, we have Mr. Heming, real estate agent.  Wonderful man.  Friendly, helpful.  First to call.  And has keys to every house he has ever sold. Who likes to drop in, when nobody's there. Who likes to see how people live.  Who is very, very particular.  Who has motives that no one has ever dreamed of.  Who may have fallen in love.  Or not.  Who finds himself in a situation.  And knows that there is always, always, always a way out...  He's done it before...  Seriously, check it out.  You'll stay up for a while.

And now for something completely different:

The Lost Treasures of R&B by Nelson George (Akashic Books).  Nelson George's professional bodyguard D Hunter is on the job protecting rapper Asya Roc at an underground fight club in Brooklyn.  But the rapper has arranged to buy some illegal guns; an old acquaintance named Ice is the courier; a robbery is attempted, a shoot-out follows.  Who were the gunmen?  Why did they want those guns?  And who was being set up - the rapper or the Ice?  D tries to figure all of this out and, at the same time, to track down the rarest soul music single ever recorded.  The voice of this book is very real, and the whole mood of the book is an R&B rapper High Fidelity noir thriller, and I loved it. Nelson George, knows his music:  a former editor for Billboard Magazine, columnist for the Village Voice, R&B, currently co-executive producer of VH1's Hip Hop Honors and executive producer of BET's American Gangster.  He also knows Brooklyn.  The Lost Treasures of R&B is the third in the D Hunter series:  the other two are The Accidental Hunter and The Plot Against Hip-Hop: A Novel.


A brand new series to keep an eye on:

The Magician's Daughter by Judith Janeway (Poisoned Pen Press).  Magician Valentine Hill always introduces her act by announcing “Reality is an illusion. Illusion is reality, and nothing is what it seems.”  She learned that, and many other things, from her grifter mother, who is still on the loose, and her magician father. From both she learned a whole lot of tricks that will come in handy as she struggles to deal with wealthy socialites, car mechanics, cab drivers, and FBI agents.  Most of whom are also ruthless criminals, psycho killers, and seductive gangsters.  And, of course, her amoral, abusive, never-retired mother who is still on the con, and still very, very, very dangerous...

And everyone needs a good spy thriller:

Nobody Walks by Mick Herron (Soho Crime).  Tom Bettany is working at a meat processing plant in France when he gets a voicemail from an Englishwoman he doesn’t know telling him that his estranged 26-year-old son is dead.  Liam Bettany fell from his London balcony, where he was smoking pot.  Bettany goes back to London to find out the truth about his son’s death.  Because Liam might have been a druggie, but Bettany isn't just the quiet butcher he's been for the last few years.  He's been around, he knows a lot, perhaps too much, and a lot of people are afraid of his return, from incarcerated mob bosses to high powered bosses of MI5.  None of them appreciate his return.  Or did someone arrange to get him back, literally in the worst way possible?   Stylish, noirish, a don't trust anyone read that will definitely surprise you.

Under the why didn't anyone tell me? classification of series:

Down Among the Dead Men by Peter Lovesey (Soho Crime).  Miss Gibbon, the most disliked teacher (of art) in a posh private girls' school vanishes in a Sussex town on the south coast of England. She is not missed, especially since her replacement is a gorgeous male teacher with a fancy car and some boundary issues. Meanwhile, detective Peter Diamond finds himself in Sussex, with the person he hates the most:  his supervisor, Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore.  She's been called to lead a Home Office internal investigation into a Sussex detective who failed to link DNA evidence of a relative to a seven-year-old murder case.  And she takes Diamond with her.  What she doesn't know is that Diamond knows the suspended officer.  And over time, he notices unsettling connections between the cold case and the missing art teacher. And there's also the mystery of why C.C. Dallymore was really called on the case in the first place.  I loved the plot, I loved the characters, but most of all, I loved the wit.  Why didn't someone tell me about Peter Diamond before?

Well, that's all for this week.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some catching up to do....




03 February 2016

Five Red Herrings, Numero 7.

by Robert Lopresti

1.  Thuglit.  You like mysteries?  You like short stories?  So, have you read Thuglit yet?  It is a good magazine, a paying market yet, and available in paper or electrons.  Eight stories per issue, very reasonable price.  I bring this up because editor Todd Robinson has announced that, barring an increase in sales, this will be its last year.  And that would be a shame.

How good is Thuglit?  It provided six of the Best Stories of the Week I reviewed at Little Big Crimes last year.  That's more than 10%.  Two of them made my Best of the Year; 15%. 

And we're going to lose it because you refuse to chip in two bucks an issue, 25 cents a story?  Buy it here.


2. The Big Squelch.  Imagine that you submit a story to a magazine and get any of these replies from the editor:

"Lots of suspense."

"A fascinating romp through primitive territory."


"Some beautiful moments here."

"Easy to read, had a good hook, kept me interested and I loved the characters -- all of them."


You would feel pretty good, wouldn't you?  But each of these was in a rejection note received by Eric Wilder.  And in his list he tells you which editor said what about which story.  Fascinating...

3.  Going Up.  And down.  A month ago I told you about my new desk which moves to a standing position at the touch of a button.  A few people asked me to report on how it has worked out - i.e. has it been sitting in the down position since the second day?

Well, I love it.  My goal is to use it standing up for half an hour and then switch, but often I am so comfortable standing up that I don't notice how much time has passed until one of my cats demands that I make a lap. So I highly recommend it for any middle aged backs out there.


4. Wuzza wooza buzzy fuzzy!  Chuck Wendig is a writer.  Apparently he often gives writing advice.  Last November he got a bit fed up with that routine.  The result is profane and hilarious.

That’s me yelling at the clouds and shaking my fist at trees, screaming: I EARNED THE RIGHT TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT WRITING. And then I hiss at birds. Stupid birds...

You should write in the morning unless you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t or whatever.

Be more literary! Be more genre! Be less this more that wait no the other thing.

This won’t sell until it does and then it sells a lot until it stops selling and nnngh.

You should do XYZ except unless ABC or 123 or wuzza wooza buzzy fuzzy.


Read it all.

5. The haunted bookshop?  I started this piece by inviting you to spend a few bucks on Thuglit.  Here is another suggestion for those suffering from too much moolah - especially if you live in my part of the country.

The Seattle Mystery Bookshop has been supporting readers and writers in our field for decades. (Attached is a photo of me at a signing  last fall with a couple of wonderful readers.)  Like a lot of small bookstores they need some help and happily they have the sense to say so.  There is a GoFundMe to raise some dough for them, and there are cool rewards for patrons.



02 February 2016

Some Friendships: A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

by Paul D. Marks

There’s a saying about friends, “We have three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.”

And as writers in the 21st century we’re supposed to work social media. And it is work, but it’s also fun. You meet people you never would have met otherwise. Sometimes you’ll even meet them in real life, at a conference or convention or even meet up just go out to lunch if you’re in the same town. On occasion it goes the other way, you meet someone in person and then friend them online. Some of these people turn into good friends.

And how does this relate to SleuthSayers? Because this is a crime and writers/writing blog and it deals with the writing side—an aspect of the social media side of being a writer.

Occasionally I notice that I’ve lost a friend or two on Facebook or Twitter. I guess that’s to be expected. People drop off for a variety of reasons. There are programs or apps that will allow you to see who’s dropped you. So far I haven’t installed any of them. Maybe I don’t want to know...

But something interesting happened to me recently. I lost a friend I thought I was pretty good friends with. I knew I lost her and I knew who it was. I also knew why. Here’s what happened:

Generally speaking, I post nothing overtly political or religious on FB. Remember what your mom said about not talking politics or religion in polite company. So I pretty much follow that dictum. I post a lot of articles and pix of La La Land (Los Angeles) and film noir and Raymond Chandler and his ilk. Some animal pix. Some are of my animals, some not. Some funny animal things and some serious ones about abused animals. But that’s about as political as I get, at least in my mind.

But a short time ago I posted a song/video that I thought was funny. It was a satirical song about the holidays and Christmas and such. And it offended someone greatly. She told me so and I apologized in public in a comment on the post. But I didn’t remove the video. We had a little back and forth in the comments and also in private e-mail and it was civil on both sides, though I believe she wanted me to remove the video which I wouldn’t do. Overall I apologized three times, but apparently it wasn’t enough. She defriended me and basically said “farewell” in a private e-mail.

She was upset not so much by the video per se, but that I’d posted it around the holidays. Any other time of year and she wouldn’t have been offended, she said. My whole reason for posting the video around the holidays was that it was a satirical view of the holidays that I thought was funny, related to and that I thought other people would too. And for the most part, it was about the secular/non-religious aspect of the holidays (obnoxious relatives, silly family traditions, etc.) although there may have been a very small reference to religion. To top things off, in a comment, someone else commented on the video and posted another video which was a little offensive by some standards and not something I would have posted and I think I also got blamed for that, which was beyond my control.

I try not to post things that I think will be offensive to others, but there is a point where you have to say enough—I have to be me. I can’t worry about everything I say or do offending someone or I would basically never post anything, including this blog which I’m sure will offend someone, somewhere, at some time. In fact if I was constantly worrying about offending someone I would probably not be a writer, because as writers we are always taking a chance that we will offend someone. In my noir-thriller White Heat, which deals with a lot of racial issues and uses some tough language, I worried about using the ‘N’ word. So much so that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book warning people to consider the harsh language in the context of the time and place where the novel takes place. So, I do try to consider people’s feelings and be respectful.

But I guess I committed an unforgiveable offense by posting the video and have now been banished from the island. But I find it rather ironic since this person has asked me on several occasions to write up bios, respond to questionnaires, and other things about myself so she could publish an article and/or interview about me. This has gone on for several years yet no article or interview ever appeared. Yet I spent a lot of time working on this stuff. I wasn’t thrilled that I had spent all this time for nothing but I never said a word. We were friends so I let it slide. But I committed the offensive act and that was the end of a friendship that I now realize was a mile wide but an inch deep.

It’s not the end of the world. And I know she was upset by the video. Personally I don’t see the
problem but I did apologize as I said. I often see things I don’t agree with, political or otherwise, from people I’m friends with but I let them slide. Agree to disagree. I don’t comment. I just move on. I asked her to do that with me, but she wouldn’t or couldn’t. But I guess it’s easy to be friends with someone you agree with 100% and more of a challenge to be friends with someone you don’t agree with on everything.  And as writers I think we need to challenge rather than agree on everything. I’ve been friends in the real world for 30 years, sometimes even longer, with people that I disagree vehemently with and they with me. But we agree to disagree and we’re still good friends. And that’s the way I like it.
5 Ways NOT to Handle a  Nasty Facebook Breakup. Click on link not photo to view video: https://www.facebook.com/YourTango/videos/10152523198102261/?pnref=story

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I’m going to be interviewed by Pam Stack on Authors on the Air, Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm Pacific Time. Hope you’ll join us there: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/02/04/paul-d-marks-talks-about-writing-and-more-on-authors-on-the-air-live




And I’m also guest blogging on author Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Fan Club page on Facebook this week if you want to stop by and check it out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sueannjaffarian/ 

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