31 March 2018
by John Floyd
by John M. Floyd
Those who know me know I like to write--and read--mostly mystery stories. As for the writing part, my "genre specialty" is made easier because almost any story involving a crime can be considered a mystery.
Today, though, I want to tell you about two pieces of fiction that I recently discovered from other genres, and they're stories that I found exceptional. One's a western and one's science fiction, but both are chock full of crime and deception; does that mean they could be loosely defined as mysteries? Probably not. But I liked 'em anyway.
The first is a Netflix Orginal series called Godless. And I need to clarify that a bit. A lot of TV shows that I've watched lately, like Goliath, True Detective, Fargo, etc. (and unlike Longmire, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, House of Cards, and most others), have been what's become known as "limited-series" presentations--stories that are told start-to-finish in one season. There might be some degree of similarity and continuity between seasons, but mostly the story ends when the season ends, and you wind up with what amounts to a single seven-to-ten-hour, full-character-arc movie. I usually binge-watch them.
Godless is a western, and one of the best I've seen. It features a few familiar faces like Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston and a bunch of lesser-known actors that have become better known as a result of their being cast here. The story involves a legendary outlaw in pursuit of a former friend who betrayed him, but the strangest thing about the show is that it takes place in the fictional La Belle, New Mexico, which is a town of mostly women--all the men have been killed in a catastrophic mining accident. I won't get into too many details here, but this seven-episode series is truly well done, in every way. The writing, the acting, the direction, the cinematography, everything just works. By the way, any of you who might still think of Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber or Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey will barely recognize them here. Daniels is as good in this as he was in the HBO series The Newsroom, and that's saying a lot.
My other recent discovery was a novel called Artemis, by Andy Weir (who also write The Martian). I loved The Martian--book and movie--and I thought this second novel was just as good. The protagonist, a young woman named Jasmine (Jazz) Bashara, is as tough and resourceful as any hero/heroine I've seen in a long time, and outrageous as well. At the start of the book Jazz is a wannabe tour-guide for some of the attractions around Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, and since she can't seem to pass the test to become a guide she makes a living smuggling certain items when they arrive from Earth to her customers here in space. Long story short, because of her lack of funds and need for employment she finds herself a part of a get-rich-quick scheme that instead gets her into deep trouble, including dealing with hitmen who are sent from Earth sort of like the four gunmen in High Noon. You'll wind up cheering her on, while you learn (or at least I did) a lot about life on the Final Frontier.
That's my sermon for today. And don't get me wrong, I've watched a lot of other good movies lately--Wind River, Baby Driver, Arrival, Logan Lucky, Gerald's Game, Hell or High Water, No Escape, Wonder Woman, Bushwick, Mudbound, The Last Jedi, Get Out, Blackway, Bullet Head, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri--and I've read some other good novels too--The Cuban Affair, The Fireman, The Girl from Venice, Dragon Teeth, Home, Gwendy's Button Box, World Gone By, Blackjack, Mississippi Blood, Sleeping Beauties, Goldeline, Fierce Kingdom, El Paso, The Midnight Line, Paradise Sky, The Big Finish, A Column of Fire, etc.--but I believe these two stories were as good as any of them, and better than most. If any of you have seen Godless, or read Artemis, please pass along your thoughts.
I also wouldn't mind some recommendations. I've been devouring collections of short stories lately, mainly those by Bill Pronzini, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, Richard Matheson, Fredric Brown, Annie Proulx, and (believe it or not) Tom Hanks. I need to get back into some novels.
Meanwhile, happy reading, and viewing.
27 May 2017
Huh? Me, the scribe of mob comedy, write Chicklit? Romance? Okay, can I make it funny, I asked? Luckily they went thumbs up. And so WORST DATE EVER comes out in September this year.
More on that later. This column is about something else.
Point being, all this writing-out-of-genre got me thinking. Crime has always been my thing. I write about a mob goddaughter who doesn’t want to be one. Her inept mob family never gets it right.
What would happen if Gina Gallo, the original mob goddaughter, were to be dragged kicking and screaming out of crime, and plunked right down into another genre. Or three. So here goes.
(on a stage coach near you)
Gina: “Please move over. You’re taking up two seats.”
Bad guy Cowboy: “Hey little lady. You can sit right here on my lap. What’s a pretty little thing like you doing with that mighty big revolver, anyway?”
Gina (demonstrating): <BLAM>
Cowboy drops to the floor.
(in a seriously spooky old manor)
Fiendish male character, rubbing hands together: “You’ll never escape me, my pretty. Never!”
Gina (looking around): “Are you sure this isn’t a set for The Rocky Horror Picture Show?”
Fiend: “Enough! You’ll be my wife with or without the church.”
Gina (extracting knife beneath skirt): <THWOCK>
Fiend drops to the floor.
(at a slam poetry evening)
Male Poet: “Stop.Cry.Laugh.Love not war.Peace not profit.Climate change.Capitalists.Love crimes.War crimes.Killing oceans.Killing whales.Every other cliché you can think of.Pain.I’m in pain.A pain so great.
Poet is out of pain, and so is everyone else.
To be continued…(or not, if someone takes out the writer first)
Just released! THE BOOTLEGGER’S GODDAUGHTER, book 5 in The Goddaughter series“…the work of an author at the absolute top of her game” Don Graves, Canadian Mystery Reviews
19 January 2015
by Jan Grape
by Jan Grape
I've had crud before and dang if I haven't had it again. I know none of you want to hear my litany of complaints so I won't enumerate them. Suffice it to say my crud hasn't been the flu or even rotten enough to carry me off to a doctor, thank goodness. I just wish I owned stock in Aireborne, Zinc, Vitamin C and Slippery Elm tea and Allegra D and whatever brand of sinus medicine I can find that does NOT have Tylenol in it because I take a pain medicine that has Tylenol. I've learned you just don't want to add too much to your system. I'm finally on the road to recovery and strangely enough everyone I speak with or read about on Facebook or run into at the grocery store or drug store have been fighting some form of the crud. Hope you've all been healthy.
I've managed to get quite a bit of reading done and one of the best new books was A SONG TO DIE FOR by Mike Blakely. You may not have heard of Mike before, but he's a local singer/songwriter/musician who also writes historical westerns. If you haven't read him, look for COMANCHE DAWN as that one blows me away. He's won Spur Awards from Western Writers of America for SUMMER OF PEARLS. He also won a spur for a song, "The Last of The White Buffalo," which was the first Spur ever given for a song. A few years ago he did a book with Willie Nelson, titled A TALE OUT OF LUCK. Last year he did a book with Kenny Rogers, titled, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES.
A Song To Die For is the closest to a mystery as you can get from a western writer.. It's set in 1975 and features a guitarist/singer Creed Mason who is hoping to ride the wave of new Austin style music. His last hope is to team up with a washed-up legend named Luther Burnett. If you enjoy Music lore and a little romance and mob-killers from Las Vegas, give this one a try.
One thing I read about this week and it's been my stand-by for a few years, when you're asked to do a reading at an author event, please don't just read from your work. I mean, you can and should read from your work but read a little, then stop. Talk a bit, about where that particular scene came from or the trouble you had with it until you finally realized a solution came from. Then you're ready to read a bit more. You don't want your listeners eyes to glaze over do you?
No matter how interesting your own writing sounds to you and I know you love every word you have written, but to just read can be way too boring. Another thing if you can...use a bit of acting expressions as you read. When you use a male voice (and you're a woman) lower your voice a bit. And if it's a female voice then speak a bit more in a feminine voice. If there's action going on, then make your voice sound excited. If it's a quiet and reflective scene, read it quietly but try your best to not read too many lines of quiet.
I think this is something I learned early on, maybe even before I read any of my own work. But a writer who came to my bookstore, Judy Jance (aka J.A. Jance) brought it home to me and to a couple other writers who attended the book signing. Ms Jance read a bit, then talked a bit, the read a little more. Everyone in the audience seemed to hang on every word. And she made everyone there want to read her book.
Book signing events can be a lot of fun or a real drag if you're at one of those big chain stores. If you've been asked to do a reading, try to make it as interesting as possible. If you're just sitting at the front of one of those big box stores, try to catch people's eye and engage them in conservation. A large number of writers are basically shy and have a hard time speaking in public. Most would rather just stay home and write. But you have to do something to help get your name out to the book buyers. If you are shy, try to imagine that you're an actor who has taken on a role of a writer. That you will act out this book signing event as a role you're playing and once it's over, you'll quietly go back to your office and write. It's not the easiest thing if you are shy, but you do want to sell your books.
Okay, class, that's all for this time. Hope you're not suffering from the crud and if you are, that you're over it soon.