Sunday, April 29, 2007

Funny How...

we now get invested in the lives of people we don't actually know but whose blogs we read. I'm thinking mainly of David 's Molly, who I don't know at all but am sick about. I am also worried about Christa's move to SC, Anne's new home in an MTM house, whether Bryon's girlfriend is treating him well, how the Killer Year Books are doing, what happened with Megan Powell's Shred of Evidence, where Tribe has gone, if Sandra is writing again, if Daniel can get to the US soon, if Ken will kill off Jack Taylor, and on and on. I've only met two of these people but it feels like they're just around the corner.
We now share the intimacies of our lives with strangers. Except they are not strangers after a bit, are they? May all of you in blogland have a wonderful year and life. I'm rooting for you. I'm worrying about you.

Hot Fuzz

It may well be that I don't have the necessary references to draw upon for a complete enjoyment of this film For instance, the two films it continually referenced: Bad Boys 2 and Point Blank are blanks for me. As is Reno 911 and all the Police Academy movies. I did get the references to horror movies though.
But I didn't find this film as funny as I expected. I did find it smart, well done and literate-if you know the literature. But shouldn't I have laughed more at a comedy as I did with the fabulous Shaun of the Dead? There were very few minutes of pure glee. And the ending went on forever--I mean it. Thirty minutes of mayhem may be too much.
If I hadn't love Shaun I would put it to age, but I don't think it was...quite. Or maybe watching the entire cast over 50 get smacked upside the head played its part.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Good Week if You Don't Have Allergy Issues

It's been a very good week. I've had stories accepted at Thuglit, Demolition and Murdaland, Issue Three. And the one on The Thrilling Detective will soon appear. That one is my all-time favorite story so far. Or the protagonist is my favorite character. And if I ever finish this book, I will try to expand that story next. (33 K and going strong) My son-in-law is going to read it for me this week. I can't ask Megan. She read the last one that sits in my drawer. The one I only sent to ten agents before giving up. Just lost the heart for it.

I still have not recovered from not placing a story in Detroit Noir either. When I saw the list of contributors, I was almost okay with it. Almost all of them are very distinguished writers, and probably wrote better stories than I did.

One of them, however, is the person who so discouraged me in my first writing group seven years ago that I almost gave up writing. That story that he told me to burn was the one in Murdaland, Issue One. I hope his story is a very good one. Cause he took my spot.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Real people use cliches all the time. But when I write cliches for my characters to use in dialogue, I always feel guilty. I feel I should do better by my characters or better by my old writing professor at least. No cliches in the narrative, but cliches in the dialogue as its suits the characters. Right? Or do you omit them entirely?

Check out the great artwork on the link to the right that says PatrickDostine. It will brighten up any room and he's ultra reasonable for we poor writers.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Story Gathering

What's your policy on writing stories based on incidents that happen to people in your life? Or stories that people in your life tell you about their friends or relatives? Or stories where a character is clearly Aunt Harriet or Uncle Bob? If you know they'll never see it does it change things?Where do you draw the line? What's the proper protocol here?

The Black Book. I really, really disliked this movie. It played out as one long chase with intermittent scenes of torture, degradation.
There were so many wildly improbable incidents I stopped counting. The director clearly is indicting the Dutch and all of mankind as black-hearted scoundrels. Unfortuntately, so is he.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Historical Fiction

One of my deficits as a reader of literary and crime fiction is that I am unable to read books set very far in the past. It seems too much of the text is taken up with the presentation of arcane material on how people lived in that time.As a former history major, I am embarrassed at this failing. Is there a series or even single book that does this job very well, balancing crime and a evocation of the time period? I would like to read something different this summer and maybe this is the time for historical fiction. I am talking about a book set before 1900 and probably even earlier.

Hoax. Couldn't get past Richard Gere in this film to truly appreciate it. He gives the same unnuanced, dull performance in every film to my mind. I also thought Marcia Gay Harden was awful. And so many scenes with coporate types who are always portrayed the same way. Did I miss something because Rotten Tomatoes has an 87% approval rating.?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some Random Thoughts

I said a few days ago that I became a man when I got up and walked out of a dental cleaning that was too painful to endure. But last night my dentist left a message on my machine asking me to call to discuss the "incident." I don't wanna call him. I don't wanna talk to him about it. I have my therapist for talking about things.
But my husband says if I'm a man, I have to call him back. What do you think?

After bemoaning the critiques of my writing group for 24 hours, I rewrote the first chapter and guess what, it's better. I was locked into the idea that the novel had to start where the short story did bit it made no sense to start there in light of 200 pages to work with instead of 20.

Hats off to Laura Lippman for What the Dead Know, a terrific book. I read it more quickly than I've read anything in a long time. Compelling yes, but also pithy, meaty and beautifully written.

The Sopranos. What a sad and touching death for Johnny Sack. Only The Sopranos' writers could make you mourn the death of a scumbag. Although his love for his family always made him transcend the rest of them.
Last week I thought Bobby might take Tony out. This week it could be Chris who whacks him.

Monday, April 16, 2007


This a concept I can't quite get a handle on. Is it entirely satirical? Is the whole idea a critique of the Bush Administration's. Or is it something more? Does it exist outside late night humor. Is it a beltway term? What the hell is it?
Could you use it in a sentence for me? And not a sentence that requires me to know the meaning to understand the sentence. In other words not, Charles Colert invented the term, "truthiness." Or "you'll know truthiness when you see it." 'Cause I won't.

Check out the interview with Megan Abbott with Steve Allan right here:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Going Against Some Sound Advice and

my own instints I gave the first two chapter of the novel to Writing Group 2. They are accustomed to getting fairly polished if not finished stories from me. Stories where most of their questions get answered. Now there's a lot up in the air since there are another 200 pages coming, and none of us are used to this. None of us know when or if questions will be answered. Including me. They are not all readers of crime fiction either so there is that to consider.
I think I learned some valuable things today though and am on the whole okay if not happy with the outcome.
I do hope to wipe the term "degrading dialogue" from my head some day. This term was used by the playwright, the person who best understands good dialogue. By this he meant, the dialogue was less convincing in the second chapter than the first. I am using dialogue to get across information and it makes it sound wrong. He is the most brutal of us, yet he's fair and some of his criticisms in the past have produced better stories.
Probably I would be better off not sharing this manuscript at this point but I don't know how to write without a group to critique me, so I am forced to continue with this.
Like it or not. Not.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Office

Does this show just keep getting better and better or is it me? They certainly have the best casting office in the business. Every character they add brings more depth to the show. And I love how they are getting further and further from the notion that any business gets done in that office. Have you ever even heard Michael, the boss, tell anyone to get to work. And what show has people that look more real than this one?
I haven't liked a comedy this much since Seinfeld.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Today I Became a Man

Today I up and bolted in the middle of having my teeth cleaned. I have had my teeth cleaned four times a year for the last 20 years and twice a year before that. It hurt too damned much and it occurred to me suddenly that maybe some hygienists were in it for the pain. Maybe watching Minnie Driver on The Riches inspired this thought. I cried, the hygienist cried, and the clerk at the front desk cried as I headed for the door. I'm sure they saw the $$$ I had spent there over the years going with me. But still I left.

It's been quite a week and this event sent me home to multiple glasses of King Shag wine from Trader Joe's.

My story The Squatter had been reprinted in The Weathervane: An Online Journal for the Great Lakes. They sounded like a mythical organization but here it is. Thanks to Bryon Q. for first publishing it.

Off to the movies-my main source of painkillers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bayou Magazine

Bayou Magazine told me a year ago that they'd like to hold onto my story "At Sea." I was dubious that they would want to publish it a year later, but today I got word that they are. This is only the second literary story I had accepted this year. I haven't been concentrating on lit stories at all. But I am so glad to see this one in print. Sometimes good things happen. Especially when you asked whoever is listening for it. I work very hard at being a mediocre writer. Sometimes I get rewarded. Sometimes I don't.

Whatever Happened To?

Do you have a favorite writer you know is still alive and yet stopped writing at an early age? Beside from Salinger, of course. I'm thinking of a literary writer here, Jayne Anne Phillips who wrote Machine Dreams, Black Tickets and Shelter and then seemed to disappear. Does it get too much after a while? The grind of doing readings, worrying about sales, satisfying an agent, an editor, a publisher? The actual writing itself. Do you have a favorite writer who dropped out of sight?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Josh.

My son is 37 today. He was a delightful child and is a fine young man. I have never gone to bed ashamed of him or hurt by something he said. He always asks about my life, what I think about things, and he seems to care. To my knowledge, he has never been mean or cruel to other people. He is a fine son, a good husband, and this year, a terrific father. He studied hard in school and works dilegently as a prosecutor, seeing some of the worst crimes you can imagine.
Josh likes to read, listen to music, play tennis, play softball, watch sports on TV, go to movies, garden. He knows more about baseball statistics than anyone I know. He can remember the details of every Detroit Tiger game he's ever been to and that must exceed 200. He votes for Democrats. He supports the Michigan Wolverines.
I feel very lucky to have such a son. Happy Birthday, Josh.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The One Hundred Page Mark

Although my daughter says I have to learn to talk about ks rather than pages. But anyway, this is what I'm thinking and maybe you will comment. There are days when I walk into my office and have no idea what's going to happen next to my protagonist. Is this normal? There are other days when I know exactly. And when I look at the pages later, I can't tell the difference. The spontaneous action and the carefully planned action seem about the same. They both can suffer from a certain stasis and they both can seem fairly strong.
How often do you know exactly what you're going to write ahead of time? I'm not talking about an outline, just knowing in your head.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Namesake

I was a big fan of Jumpra Lahiri's book of short stories The Interpreter of Maladies, but much less so her first novel, The Namesake. The movie shares all the weaknesses of the novel, I thought. It was too episodic and too much a generic view of coming to America. It could have been any immigrant experience.

The acting was very fine and Mira Nair is a talented director. It also looked good, but it lacked an overall arc unless you count Gogol's troubles with his name. I also didn't think his first name would have been that unusual among his American when paired with his last name.

The most successful part of both the novel and the movie was the depiction on his parent's marriage. I found that by far the most compelling part, especially the isolation his mother experiences and how it plays out in a tragedy.

What did you think?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Breaking the Rule

I broke my rule last night and wrote a flash piece. Now this may not seem like such a bad thing, but as I was writing it I thought of several more ideas for flash pieces or shorts. It's like I opened the door on distraction here.
It's partly because I have not been able to make time for the novel in two weeks. A trip to NY last weekend and now Easter festivities will take a big chunk out of this one.
The flash piece was also pretty didactic, probably not what the flash sites want anyway.
How do you bite back the need to instruct readers in a story? Can the political and the criminal be combined in a 700 word piece effectively? Who does this effectively even in a longer piece?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Why do writers use the same gimmick over and over.

Watching The Big Fix last night (My husband is still working on his piece on radicalism in the sixties) and there was the old standby routine where Dreyfus walks up to a door that is ajar and, of course, the woman inside is dead. Is there ever a time when the door is ajar and the person is not dead or the place ransacked? How often in life is a door left ajar even on these occasions. Wouldn't a murderer shut the door to keep the crime from being discovered so quickly. So why use this stunt again and again? Is there an inherent drama in this set piece that makes its creakiness worth it? What do you think?