Showing posts with label herrings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herrings. Show all posts

16 May 2018

Five Red Herrings, Tenth School


by Robert Lopresti

1.  Derringer Days.  Yesterday the Short Mystery Fiction Society announced the winners of the Derringer Awards and I couldn't help but notice that I was one of them, specifically for Best Short.  "The Cop Who Liked Gilbert and Sullivan" appeared in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #23.  You can read what I had to say about it here and here.  Congratulations to my fellow winners, Brendan Dubois, David H. Hendricksen, and Earl Staggs.  But let's have a big round of applause for the winner of this year's Edward D. Hoch Memorial Gold Derringer for Lifetime Achievement.  That went to our own John M. Floyd!  Well deserved, too.

2. Free pictures!  It's always nice to find a new source for public domain illustrations.  (We bloggers love them, anyway.)  The Library of Congress very kindly sorted out the pictures on their website that are free for the taking.  (See the one below.)  Enjoy.


3. Underpaid through the ages. The University of Missouri Libraries has done a great service for anyone writing historical fiction.  Prices and Wages by Decades links you to actual government publications from the 1700s forward reporting on how much things cost and how much people were paid.  

4. Man With The Axe.  Last time I did one of these gather-alls I mentioned Lowering the Bar, which talks about the odd side of the legal biz.   I have to point out the story above which informs us that in a single incident a man in New York was charged with:
driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs, no license plates, unregistered motor vehicle, uninspected motor vehicle, operating without insurance, no front windshield, and no safety glass.

But on the bright side for him,  it turned out there is no law in the Empire State against driving around with an axe embedded in the roof of your car.


5. Shanks does Japan. According to an automatic translation app, the title of the book at the right is Sunday Afternoon Tea With Mystery Writer.  Could be, but in English it's Shanks on Crime. First time I have ever appeared in Japanese.  I wish Shanks a long and happy visit there.



18 April 2018

Five Red Herrings 9

by Robert Lopresti

1. Little gun, big noise.  This weekend saw the announcement of the finalists for the Derringer Awards, presented by the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Once again, it was a good year for the Notorious SleuthSayers Gang.  In the Flash category Travis Richardson was shortlisted for "Final Testimony," which appeared in Flash Fiction Offensive (ed. Hector Duarte, Jr. and Rob Pierce, July 10, 2017) and Elizabeth Zelvin scored for "Flash Point,"  in A Twist of Noir (ed. Christopher Grant, March 20, 2017).

Paul D. Marks is a finalist for the Novelette zone with "Windward, from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea  (ed. Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks, Down & Out Books, January 2017)

And I made it into the  Short Story category with  "The Cop Who Liked Gilbert and Sullivan"  Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #23, (ed. Marvin Kaye, Wildside Press, October 2017)

Congrats to all my fellow finalists, SleuthSayers or not!  


2. A Nonfutile, Nonstupid Gesture.  I recently watched the Netflix original movie, A Futile and Stupid Gesture.  Some of you may recognize that title as a line from Animal House.  The movie tells the story of Doug Kenney who (with others) created National Lampoon, Animal House, Caddyshack, and a hilarious little book-length parody called Bored of the Rings.  The flick is narrated by Martin Mull playing an older version of the main character.  ("I'm a narrative device," he explains.)

The reason I bring this flick up is that at one point Mull points out something in the movie that is not true to life and then announces that they are going to provide a list of other inaccuracies.  It rolls up the screen quickly in tiny print but you can go back at the end and read them all.  They range from "Characters A and B met in a party, not in a bar," to: "Everyone was much more racist and sexist."

I loved this.  Whenever I see a movie based on true events I wind up going to the web to see what was real and what wasn't.  (I knew that tube scene in The Darkest Hour  was fake.)  Bravo to the folks who made Gesture, which, by the way, is definitely worth seeing.

3. You call that Justice?  Lowering the Bar is a wonderful blog about the quirks of our legal system.  The most popular piece last year was the true story of a lawyer whose pants literally caught fire while he was summing up the defense of his client, who was accused of arson.  This is the sort of thing that drives fiction writers to despair, because you couldn't put it in fiction.

But I want to tell you about this piece  which has everything for the SleuthSayers audience: a mystery, law, grammar issues, snark, and Sherlock Holmes.  The main topic is this portrait which resides in the Massachusetts Supreme Judiciary Court, but no one knows who it is.  That's the mystery.  The rest comes from the newspaper quoting the Chief Justice urging the public to "put on their Sherlock Holmes’ hats " and try to figure out who is pictured.  Kevin Underhill, who runs the blog, is outraged:

So. “Sherlock Holmes” is not a plural noun—unless you’re talking about several men named “Sherlock Holme.” If such men exist, and they have hats, and you collected the hats of more than one such man, then, my friend, you would have in your possession “the Sherlock Holmes’ hats” (that is, the hats of the men named “Sherlock Holme”). “By Socrates’ beard,” you could say then, “I have here all the Sherlock Holmes’ hats!”

4. Comic Sans and Brimstone.  This is a public service announcement. I just want to warn you do not go to the website Clients From Hell.    It is a hilarious time suck.  Anonymous people (mostly graphic designers)  report on horrifying encounters with horrifying customers. Here are some of the main categories (as judged by me).
The vague: "Make it more modern and traditional."
The clueless: "I can't find the ENTER button on my screen."
The Arrogant: "My friends  at NASA says this is a terrible website design."
The Holy: "We won't pay you but you will be working for God."
The Unholy: "Take out the pictures of Black people.  Our customers are White."
The Crooked: "Just copy it off our competitor's website."
The Greedy: "You're a freelancer.  I thought that meant you worked for free."

Stay away from this page, I beg you.  It will consume many hours of your life.

 5. Stop the Presses!  Do you remember how in newspaper movies they would announce that they had to stop everything and tear out the front page because of breaking news?

I had to throw out the last item I had set up today because it was just announced that my book WHEN WOMEN DIDN'T COUNT has won the Lane/Saunders Memorial Research Award.  That's the big prize for scholarship in government information.  The Government Documents Round Table said a bunch of nice things about the book here.  I would be happy to say some nice things right back.






19 July 2017

Five Red Herrings 8

by Robert Lopresti


1. Maybe I've been here before.  Five years ago in this space (wow, we've been doing this a long time, haven't we?) I wrote a piece about incidental music in movies and TV, (and by incidental I mean it wasn't written for  that show and is not being performed by a character).  The inspiration was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" showing up in yet another TV show.  I wrote: "It was about five years ago that I concluded that the FCC had passed a new rule requiring every TV show to feature 'Hallelujah.'" I now have evidence that I was right (not about the FCC, but about the frequency of that song's appearances.)


I am reading The Holy or the Broken, a book by Alan Light that is entirely about you-know-which song.  It reports that the first appearance on TV was in Scrubs  in 2002.  There were five more visits in 2003 and seven in the year after.  Each performance pays in the $50,000 range, with half going to the author (and his publisher) and half to the performer (and the record company).  Not bad.

By the way, the whole book is fascinating.  If a writer of fiction tried to make up the story of Cohen's "Hallelujah" she would have to sell it as fantasy or magic realism.  It involves two generations of singers dying young, an animated children's film, TV talent contests, the 9/11 attacks...


Meet the new boss
Blonde as  the old boss
2. Blonde on Blonde. Going even further back in my blogging past, in 2008 I commented on my affection for the British TV show New Tricks.  I noted that there seemed to be a rule that all shows about cops working on cold cases (New Tricks, Cold Squad, Cold Case) had to be led by a blonde woman. 

I recently discovered new episodes of New Tricks and all but one of the  characters had been replaced, including the leader.  And yes, the new one is a blonde woman.
from Gratisography


3.  Getcha pretty pictures right here.  Some of us here at SleuthSayers HQ find ourselves from time to time looking for illustrations that we can use without fearing the Long Arm of the Copyright.  The website Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes has a very helpful list of four websites with images free for the using. 


4. Steven on Sherlock.  The latest issue of Strand Magazine (February-May 2017) has a very interesting interview with Steven Moffat, co-producer and co-creator of Sherlock.  Even if you don't watch his show, Moffat's insights into the great original are interesting.  To those who complain about his making the characters young and modern he replies that when Doyle invented Holmes and Watson they were young and used the newest technology available.  They aged into period pieces as Doyle wrote about them for forty years.  He also points out that people don't complain about the James Bond movies yanking the character out of his time period, although Fleming's character was a World War II vet.  Definitely worth a read.


5.  Riding a trend?  But maybe the most interesting thing in the Strand (and my apologies to John Floyd and the other authors of fiction who appear therein) is a full-page ad for Ted Allbeury's novel The Twentieth Day of January.  There are plenty of ads in the magazine for books, but this one is almost forty years old.  So why bring it back now?  Perhaps the plot description holds a clue: 

"Seemingly out of nowhere, wealthy businessman Logan Powell has become President-elect.  But veteran intelligence agent James MacKay uncovers shocking evidence that suggest something might be terribly wrong with the election: is Powell actually a puppet of the Soviet Union?"

Timing is the key to success.







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.



19 August 2015

Five Red Herrings VII

by Robert Lopresti

1.  Critiquing a Grand Master.  If you are a fan of the late great Donald E. Westlake you owe it to yourself to take a look at The Westlake Review.  The blog's owner, one fredfitch, explains that his mission is simple: "Reviewing every book Donald Westlake ever wrote. Because I can."  

And these are not reviews in the sense of should-you-buy-it three-and-a-half-stars types.  No, he wants to discuss the  themes, the context, how it fits into Mr. W's ouevre and so on. As I write this the most recent work under the microscope is Comfort Station, in which Westlake, under a pseudonym, applies Arthur Hailey's Airport or Hotel style pomposity to the vibrant humanity of a public restroom in Bryant Park.


I don't know the author's real name; Fred Fitch was the luckless hero of God Save The Mark.  If you have read the Dortmunder chronicles and the Parker saga, you need this site.


 2.  E-book Mindfulness.  I'm guessing that most of you buy e-books from time to time.  But how do you do that?  Here are a couple of hings to think about.


When I want to buy an e-book my first choice is Kobo. You can purchase a Kobo reader if you want, but I read mine on my iPad.  I assume they work on the other tablets.  The reason I prefer Kobo is that they have a deal with the American Booksellers Association.  I go to the  website of my favorite independent bookstore, click on Search for E-books, and when I buy something part of the money goes straight to that bookshop.  My way of helping them stay in business.

If Kobo doesn't have the book - not all publishers play nice - I  buy a Kindle edition.  But I don't go directly to Amazon to do so.  There are others out there who have deals with Amazon, you see.

Kevin R. Tipple is an excellent book reviewer who also aggregates a lot of news about our field at his website Kevin's Corner.  His family has accumulated some horrific medical expenses for reasons  you can find on his page.  So I go to his site and click on the Amazon button there.  When I buy a book he gets a sliver of the dough.  It doesn't raise my price and I would rather he get it than the company one bookseller I know calls SPECTRE.

Before I found out about Kevin's case I used to buy my Amazon books through the Wolfe Pack page.  This is the official organization for Rex Stout fans and I was happy to put a few cents in their coffers when I bought an e-book.

I'm not suggesting you should make the same choices as me, but I do suggest you think about your e-book choices.  And let me know what you think in the comments.

3. To make you wonder.  I have mentioned Wondermark before.  It is probably my favorite webcomic, a steam-punk-friendly combination of Victorian book art with modern problems.  Here is one of David Malki!'s (yes, he includes the exclamation point in his name) recent comics that seems relevant to our website's subject:


And here and here are two more.

4.  I'm from the government and I am here to help you.  I may have mentioned a few hundred times that I am a government information librarian.  One of my colleagues, Daniel Cornwall, has created a guide to government information specifically for all the writers out there.

Here are a few random samples of the questions he offers to answer for you:

+ What are guidelines for reports of possible criminal activity involving foreign intelligence sources?
+ What are the symptoms of inhalation anthrax?
+ What are some of the relationship complications of pretending to be dead?
+ How can I find a name so rare, that it was only given to five or so babies in 1980?
 
Get your facts straight so readers like me don't whine at you!

5.  My two pages worth.  B.K. Stevens had (at least) two brilliant ideas this year.  One was to join SleuthSayers (yay!).  The other was to start her exciting new blog The First Two Pages.   Each week a different writer steps in to explain what he or she was trying to accomplish in the very beginning of a book or short story.  I am delighted that this week it is me, talking about my new novel GREENFELLAS.  Thanks for the opportunity, B.K.!