Showing posts with label Roseanne Barr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roseanne Barr. Show all posts

12 January 2016

Made to be Broken

by Paul D. Marks

Well, it’s January 12th. If you haven’t already broken your New Year’s resolutions you’re running late. So get to it. Start by eating that Snickers bar or cutting back your daily jog from twelve miles to a quick walk to the corner buy that Snickers bar.

A couple of years ago Writer’s Digest put out 5 resolutions for writers ( ). I’d like to comment on them.

1. Resolve to make time for writing: This would seem pretty obvious. We all have busy lives, but are they really any more busy than when we had to till the ground working from dawn till dusk, before there were dishwashers and washing machines to do our dishes and clothes? Generally speaking we are as busy as we want to be. True, there are things that have to get done like work and dealing with kids or critters, but if one wants to write they will find the time. I hear a lot of people who claim they want to be writers. They have great ideas for the next best-seller or Academy Award-winning screenplay. They want to share them with you, have you write them while they take half the credit...and money. But they never write a word. So, apropos of Resolution five below, are they writers?

2. Resolve to embrace your personal writing style: The WD piece talks about embracing your style of being a pantster or an outliner. But I would look at this differently. When I first saw their resolution I thought they were talking about “writing style,” as in your voice, not how you go about your writing. And I would say, find your own voice. We all borrow from things we’ve read but you have to make it your own. The “worst” part about finding your voice is when some editor or someone else wants to water it down. That’s why I never use grammar checkers. They’re way too didactic, and some editors are too. They often want you to change your style to fit some mold or template that they like, which may be fine. But it’s not you. So you have to resolve to stick to your tone, your voice. Your style.

3. Resolve to self-edit as you write: They’re talking about “revising as you write in order to produce a cleaner manuscript that requires less revision on the back end.” I couldn’t disagree more. I’m not saying one shouldn’t do a little minor editing as you go along, but that often turns into major editing and going over the same ground ad infinitum. The best piece of writing advice I ever got was not to rewrite as you go along. If you do rewrite as you go you’ll just get mired in that quicksand and often never move ahead, or move ahead so slowly that it hardly seems like progress.

4. Resolve to step outside your comfort zone: Here the folks at Writer’s Digest suggest we branch out from whatever genre we mostly work in to other things outside of our comfort zones. For example, if you write fiction, try freelance articles, if you write cozy try hardboiled. Like that. I don’t have a real problem with this one...except to say who has the time to branch out? I have several “branch out” works in progress, but I rarely have time to work on them, much as I want to. And why not just try to break out of your comfort zone within your own genre/sub-genre? Sometimes the best novels are the ones that change the genre and stretch the boundaries of that genre. They also mention reading books you normally wouldn’t read. Fine. I like reading a variety of things anyway. As they say, variety is the spice of life, one just needs the time to enjoy those spices while trying to meet deadlines, earn a living, etc.

5. Resolve to call yourself a writer: Writers write. If you write you’re a writer. You may not be a professional writer, but you are a writer. Go for it. I’ve seen various arguments here and there as to who is and isn’t a “writer”. But why rain on someone’s parade? If they write, if you write, you’re a writer. Just do it. Learn as you go. Trial and error. We’re all at various stages of learning to write and we’re all still learning as we go. I come from a screenwriting background. Making the switch to prose writing had various learning curves, particularly in description and transitions. In screenplays/movies description is sparse at best. A beach is a beach. No glorious crimson sunsets dancing on the edge of a knife (well, you know what I mean...). And transitions are usually cuts from one scene to the next. The audience can figure out what’s happening. In prose writing one needs smoother transitions and more “transcendent” descriptions. In some quarters there’s a certain snobbery as to who’s a writer and who isn’t. But mostly I’d say you’re a writer when you put the words on the page, keep writing despite setbacks of one kind or another, including “endless” rejections. When you persevere and believe in yourself, then you are a writer.

6. And now a resolution of my own: Resolve to watch more shows on the Murder Channel, Discovery ID: like Homicide Hunter (Lt. Joe Kenda), Momsters: When Moms Go Bad (w/ Roseanne Barr), Wives with Knives, Web of Lies, Evil Kin, Vanity Fair Confidential, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones, On the Case with Paula Zahn. In fact, I plan to do nothing but watch murder shows on Discovery ID 24/7 to escape the horrid realities of everyday life.

7. And one more resolution of my own: Resolve not to do much BSP in the coming year: But wait, it’s time to break all those resolutions, so please check out Vortex, my noir-thriller novella (which means it’s short—you can finish it quickly!). And if you’re eligible to vote for the Lefty Awards from Left Coast Crime, I hope you’ll consider it for—here it comes and it’s a mouthful: “Best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographic Region (Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii)”. Vortex definitely fits the bill. Set in L.A., Venice, CA, Hollywood, the Salton Sea and on/at the Shakespeare Bridge in Los Feliz/L.A. Ballots are due by January 15th. And right now the book is still on sale at Amazon/Kindle for a mere 99 cents, which means it’s cheap—it won’t break the bank. Hell, you probably have 99 cents in change in your pants or purse or on the dresser right now that you just don’t know what to do with. I know what you can do with it—Vortex calls.

And Happy New Year to all ye merry SleuthSayers and our Cherished readers.

Hour glass credit: photo credit: Grains via photopin (license) 

01 December 2015

Happy Murder. Happy Murder?

by Paul D. Marks

Many of those who read this blog are mystery writers of one subgenre or another. Most of the rest are mystery readers or people interested in crime. There are lots of theories as to why people read mysteries. One of the most popular is to see justice win in the end, which it often doesn’t in real life. Of course, this doesn’t apply to noir where almost everyone meets an unhappy end, but then there are exceptions to every rule.

I often wonder if there really is more crime today or if, because of the ubiquitous media, we just know about it. In the olden days if you lived in Los Angeles and a crime occurred in Atlanta it’s unlikely you heard about it unless it was the most sensational crime imaginable. But today with the 24 hour news cycle and competing media outlets looking to fill all that time we hear about every little pin prick. And the local news, at least here in LA, often leads with every drive-by, road rage incident and other crime they can find. After all if it bleeds, it leads.

But what’s a person to do in the middle of the day or the middle of the night when you’ve got that jones on for murder? Well, we here probably hope you’ll read one of our books (see end of this post). But what if you want the real thing? Well, let’s say the real thing once removed. You turn on the tube and look for the Murder Channel, I mean Discovery ID. Murder, Mayhem and Madness 24/7. Who could ask for more in 21st Century America?

A few years ago when my wife and I were watching TV and a commercial came on we’d flip to the Home and Garden Channel in the interim. (Yeah, I know.) Then we started flipping to various “murder shows” on the commercials. They hook you. You’d watch three minutes and you were in for the duration. They grab you the way a good novel does and, I hate to say it, maybe more so because they’re real. Real lives at stake in every episode and a new cliffhanging episode beginning at the top of the hour to give you your fix and keep you hooked.

I sometimes tell myself I watch these shows to get ideas, not only for overall plots, but for specifics of how to carry out crimes and “get away with them” in my stories. I lie. I watch because they hook me, like heroin does an addict. And like an addict I want more. I want to see what happens next, to try to figure out who really done it. Is it really the husband? He seems like the most likely suspect. Or is that too obvious? The red herring?

And I get annoyed when one show does the same story as another. I want fresh blood.
These shows are not just good for story ideas, but also as a fascinating look at society and human nature. It amazes me how little people will murder over, whether over a small financial amount or a perceived insult. It’s hard to understand how someone can do these things to another human being—even if the marriage is on the rocks or the person cheated you in business or fired you from your job—is it really worth it to do that? And how can you go to that extreme measure and be that cold blooded? Yeah, it’s worth ruining my life and going to jail for twenty years because I want to buy a new boat or car or XBox and need that life insurance money. Or I don’t want my boss to find out I embezzled money. And how many people choose murder as the way out of a bad, or even not so bad, marriage, because they want money, freedom or are having an affair or whatever? Haven’t they heard of divorce? Yeah, there’s alimony and all that, but it’s better than sharing a 6’ X 8’ cell with Bubba.

I have to admit watching these shows makes me a little insecure sometimes. So I turn to my wife and
say, “Just divorce me, don’t kill me.” If she asks to up my life insurance or gives me a sweet green drink that she says is Kool Aid, but there’s an empty anti-freeze container in the trash, I know I’m in trouble.

And, of course, almost always, the person murdered is the most wonderful, sweetest, kindest and most beautiful person in the world, male or female. It’s pretty rare that someone will come out and say that John Doe was a bastard and deserved to die. But I have to admit I do wonder sometimes if the families of the deceased are upset when the actors portraying their loved ones are not as attractive as the real people...

There are shows for every taste and every location, from Evil Kin and Momsters: When Moms Go
Bad (w/ a smiling Roseanne Barr...) to Swamp Murders and neighbors from hell on The Nightmare Next Door, which sounds like a bad horror movie title, but these are real horrors. There is one show that I don’t like as much as some of the others, Disappeared. And the reason is because there is often no resolution. People disappear, never to be heard from again and it leaves one, at least this one, with an unsatisfying feeling. Another show that I don’t watch much, if I remember the name, is Twisted. It’s just too twisted.

Obviously I’m not the only person that likes these shows as evidenced by the multitude of them popping up all the time (see list below). People are fascinated by murder. And maybe this is part of why murder mysteries and crime novels are so popular. We want to understand—even as we are repelled by the idea. And if I’ve offended anyone with my attempts at black humor in this piece I’m sorry. Gallows humor is the only way I know to handle these things.

Some Discovery ID Titles – Let the titles do the talking:
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Alaska: Ice Cold Killers'"
American Occult
A Crime to Remember
A Stranger In My Home
Bad Teachers
Beauty Queen Murders
Behind Mansion Walls (currently airing under reruns)
Blood, Lies, and Alibis
Blood Relatives
Breaking Point
Catch My Killer
Cause of Death
Cold Blood
Cry Wolfe
Cuff Me If You Can
Dangerous Persuasions
Dateline on ID
Dates From Hell
Dark Minds
Deadline: Crime With Tamron Hall
Dead of Night
Deadly Affairs
Deadly Devotion
Deadly Sins
Deadly Women
Death By Gossip with Wendy Williams
Did He Do It?
Do Not Disturb: Hotel Horrors
Evil Twins
Evil, I
Evil Kin
Facing Evil with Candice DeLong
Fatal Encounters
Fatal Vows
FBI: Criminal Pursuit
Fear Thy Neighbor
Frenemies: Loyalty Turned Lethal
Happily Never After
Handsome Devils
Hate In America
Hell House
Homicide Hunter
House of Horrors: Kidnapped
How (Not) To Kill Your Husband
I (Almost) Got Away With It
I'd Kill for You
In the Line of Fire
Indecent Proposal
Injustice Files
Inspire a Difference
Karma's a B*tch!
Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen
Last Seen Alive
Let's Kill Mom
Momsters: When Moms Go Bad
Most Evil
Most Infamous
Most Likely To...
Motives & Murders
Murder Book
Murder Comes to Town
Murder in Paradise
My Dirty Little Secret
My Strange Criminal Addiction
Nightmare Next Door
Nowhere to Hide
Obsession: Dark Desires
On the Case with Paula Zahn
On Death Row
Over My Dead Body
Poisoned Passions
Pretty Dangerous
Pretty Bad Girls
Scorned: Love Kills
Secret Lives of Stepford Wives
See No Evil
Serial Thriller: Angel of Decay
Serial Thriller: The Chameleon
Sex Sent Me to the Slammer
Sins and Secrets
Southern Fried Homicide
Stalked: Someone's Watching
Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets
Surviving Evil
Swamp Murders
The Devil You Know
The Killing Hour
The Mind of a Murderer
The Perfect Murder
The Worst Thing I Ever Did
True Crime with Aphrodite Jones
True Nightmares
Twisted Tales of 9 to 5
Untouchable: Power Corrupts
Unusual Suspects
Vanity Fair Confidential
Very Bad Men
Web of Lies
Wives with Knives
Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?
Who the (Bleep)...
The Will
Wicked Attraction
Women in Prison
Young, Hot & Crooked
Your Worst Nightmare
But never fear, if you’ve already seen everything on Discovery ID there’s several other channels that play murder shows off and on all day long, but of course only Discovery ID will serve your 24 hour jones.

*** *** ***

And now for the usual BSP stuff:

Down and Out Books is putting a whole bunch of great books on sale for 99¢ for the next two weeks, including Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea, with mystery stories from such luminaries as 4 Time Edgar Winner and Co-Creator of “Columbo,” William Link • Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Bill Pronzini • Scribner Crime Novel Winner William G. Tapply • Shamus Winner Paul D. Marks • EQMM Readers Award Winner Bob Levinson • Al Blanchard Award Winner James Shannon • Derringer Award Winner Stephen D. Rogers • Sherlock Holmes Bowl Winner Andrew McAleer and other poisoned-pen professionals like Judy Travis Copek • Sheila Lowe • Gayle Bartos-Pool • Thomas Donahue

And my new noir-thriller Vortex is also on sale in e-form for 99¢.

“…a nonstop staccato action noir… Vortex lives up to its name, quickly creating a maelstrom of action and purpose to draw readers into a whirlpool of intrigue and mystery… but be forewarned: once picked up, it's nearly impossible to put down before the end.” 

—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

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