Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We Love Detroit

I was worried the film maker would run out of footage in this 2 1/2 minute film but he
didn't. Celebrate Detroit with me. You gotta
love a city that spends half of that time showing you its sports venues. Pity the Detroit Pistons, housed in the burbs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Some Tips from a Master

Hat tip to Rap Sheet who brought this to my attention.
A lot of this has been said before, but one thing stood out. Mosley suggests that on completion of your work, you tape the whole thing and then listen to it. He claims it will point out a myriad of problems. Has anyone done this? Was it helpful? I don't want to spend the 10 or more hours this would take if it isn't. Also how many people write three hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year? He also totes this as necessary.
I'm not the kind of writer that needs to be inspired but this does seem out of reach for anyone who isn't living off of their royalty checks and advances. But maybe most writers do this. What is your usual schedule?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Explication in Crime Fiction

I really liked I Married a Dead Man a lot. But it was guilty of something I have been trying to steer away from in my writing: the use of lot of explication to move the story along. Now it would be hard to avoid it in the Woorlrich novel. This woman is isolated for very unusual reasons and the only way the story can move forward is by Woolrich puttting the reader inside her head.
If this is the case, is explication permissable or should the author still find ways to convey information through dialogue and action?
My Reader #1 felt that was the main flaw with the first chapter of my novel--too much explication and I can easily omit a lot of it. By why did it work in I Married a Dead Man?
Is explication a dated technique in the novel?
Since there is so little traffic here, I guess I'll put this on crimespace too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Page Turner

The Page Turner was one of the creepiest movies I've seen in a long time. Directed by Deni Dercourt, it's the story of a child protege who's inadvertently put off stride at an examination. Unable to go on with music after this, she shuts her piano lid and puts away eveything related to music.

Years later, she takes her revenge on the woman who inadvertently caused her disgrace in the most subtle and unexpected ways. (It's like early Chabrol.) The two actresses, Deborah Francois and Catherine Frot are brilliant. Isn't it terrific when you can evoke an atmosphere that is terrifying without a single weapon on display. (Well, there's one but it's within keeping with the milieu) Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Away From It

Steve Allan mentioned his computer had a meltdown, which brought this to mind.

For years, when my husband was writing and I was not, I looked forward to any trip that would take him away from his typewriter (at the time) and let him focus on me (or the kids back then). Now both of us have trouble letting the work go for any extended time. Occasionally I take a laptop along but it usually doesn't work out very well. I can't get the proper focus or mood when I'm looking at a new horizon.

How do you feel about extended periods of time (say, more than a day or two) away from your writing? Does it make you worry that will never be able to work your way back into the story? Do you worry that the "voice" will be lost? Or are we just obsessives at my house?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Working in Detroit

I work at a university where I sometimes advise students. Today a new graduate student, fresh from Pakistan, asked me if I thought it was safe for him to walk to the Welcome Center (a ten minute walk on a college campus). Pakistan! Isn't the place where Obama wants to sent the military to hunt down terrorists? Where would you feel more safe? Detroit or Pakistan?

Thank You, Graham Powell

Do we thank Graham enough for keeping this whole thing flying. Other writers I know bemoan the fact that we have such a terrific way to get our blog read on crimespot. Weeks go by and they never get a comment and often give up blogging. Our ease in communicating here is amazing. And that wouldn't be true without Graham. Thank you so much.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Black Snake Moan

Someone recommended this on their blog recently. Then a friend seconded that review. I was initially put off by the woman in chains poster and the sadistic looking trailers. Boy, am I glad I saw it despite my misgivings. It was a good movie--plot, acting, cinematography, music. It reminded me of a Daniel Woodrell novel. The ending was perfect if enigmatic. Highly recommended. And I didn't know Samuel Jackson was such a great singer. Soundtracks seem to be getting better and better.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On Writing

When I was seven I developed a terrible case of insomnia. It got so bad that my parents eventually took me to the school counselor (I doubt she had any real training as a psychologist) and she told me to make up stories to tell myself and that would help me go to sleep. This worked on and off over the years. When I reached my late forties, I realized I had a thousand stories in my head and maybe I could write some of them down. So I took some classes, some workshops and eventually was able to publish some of them.
I still have a million stories in my head. My husband only has to say something like, "My father made us all get up at seven and watch a dog on the Today Show who was supposed to be able to talk" and I'm off. I can hardly wait to begin that story and find out what happened. That's why I love writing flash pieces and very short stories. You can be onto the next one in a week or two.
Is your head filled with stories? How did it begin for you?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rescue Me (and I mean it)

I know I should never have liked this show. It's clearly misogynistic. The main character has committed some questionable acts over its run, I admit it. My son and daugher-in-law took it off their rotation when Tommy raped his wife last year. But I've always liked Tommy's bad boy antics, thinking at heart, he's a good soul and that hasn't really changed. And I guess I'm not as easily offended by fiction.
What has changed for me is that it's become BORING. The story arc is more of a circle and we come back to the same set of issues over and over. Every sexual encounter is the same. The woman is predatory and Tommy is taken aback by her ardor. He never has to do more than lie there with his mouth open, uttering half-sentences of surprise. Tommy is heroic, Mike is slow-witted and maybe gay, Frank can't commit, Lou is funny, Janet is the world's biggest pain in the ass...tell me something new.
Come to think of it, every woman on Rescue Me is the same--irrational, crazed, predatory.

Maybe I should stop watching it. Maybe women are treated better
on Entourage, or The Sopranos, The Sopranos, Big Love, The Shield, or Mad Men. See what I mean. Oh for the days of Cagney and Lacey.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Laurel Hill Cemetery

My brother reminded me that I had been to Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philly in 2003 and he had the pictures to prove it. I do remember now eating a cheesesteak at a place near there. All of my memories of Philly revolve around cheesesteaks, the Schuykill Expressway and the Jersey Shore. Can anyone tell me why Laurel Hill is relevant to NoirCon? Was Goodis buried there?
These are my great grandparents. Thomas Morrison's father, a Welsh miner, died of black lung disease and Tom was sent to Girard College in Philly, which took in orphan children in the 19th century and gave them a fine education although their mothers had to relinguish custody.
Tom's mother was a lacemaker from Ireland. A sad story, yes, but Tom went on to Temple Law School and became the City Comptroller of Philadelphia before his death.
Thanks, Jeff for reminding me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Halo for Satan

Anyone know anything about this guy? When my local used bookstore didn't have Goodis, they sold me this. What do you think? Imagine four warehouse floors of books and not one Goodis (or any other other mid-century noir writers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Now That I Can Dance

Most of the time when I think about Detroit, I worry. I worry that the city will never find its way out of the morass that it sank into around 1967. I worry that Detroit will never head any list for more than its crimes and unemployment. I feel bad that it seems to be as racist as it was in 1967. I wish the Detroit Free Press was the newspaper it was thirty years ago. . I wish the car companies were doing better even though I drive a Subaru. I wish that the Detroit incinerator was not huffing its toxic air in my direction 24 hours a day.
But once in a while I feel good about Detroit. I feel good we have two Democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor, and that two of them are women. I feel good that we have three good sports teams. I feel good that we have a major symphony orchestra and a first-class art museum. I'm happy I can see indy and foreign films at four venues. We have every kind of ethnic restaurant you could name within an hour of the city. I am happy we have Aunt Agatha's Bookstore an hour away.
But today, I felt especially good as I watched thirty or so young people put on a sensational musical review for 1200 people. This was the sixth and last performance and I am so glad I caught it. The Mosaic Theater is a ray of hope for young people here, offering them the sort of opportunities that Motown purported to offer and didn't fifty years ago.
"Now That I Can Dance" was the story of the Marvelettes and Motown, one of Detroit's greatest contributions to popular culture. If any of those thirty twenty-somethings couldn't sing or dance I didn't hear or see it. And how nice to be in a multi-racial, multi-age, multi-ethnic audience in the newly restored DIA auditorium. We rocked baby, we rocked and we sailed home on a cloud of optimism.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What do you recommend?

Help me fill in some holes in my reading. What are your choices for the best Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, David Goodis and Charles Willeford? Guide my reading for the months leading up to Noircon. A native Philadelphian, I have to go. Thanks.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Sometimes when I read a sex scene in a novel, I begin to think "ah, that's what sex is like for that writer." That's what he/she thinks is kinky or hot or repressed or whatever. It's my telescope at their window.
Does a depiction of sex reveal a lot about a writer or is it just as imagined as a description of anything else? Or is it perhaps based on what the writer has read in other books? Somehow I feel like a writer brings his own experience with him/her here more with sex scenes than with other issues.
My "issue" here is that I just wrote a novel about a woman obsessed with sex and yet there is very little description of such sex. I know David from my writing group is going to nail me for this as soon as he reads it. Writing about sex seems too revelatory to me. You can't help but think "oh, does she really think she invented that. Does she really think no one does that every Tuesday night."
I'd rather just shut the door like they did in movies of the forties and fifites. You know what's going on behind the door, right? I don't need to tell you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"My Hero"

For all you Superman fans, here's a flash fiction piece on D.Z. Allen's Muzzleflash.
Flashes are so much darn fun to write. http://www.muzzleflashfiction.net/

Hey, Bryon, how about another challenge? How about one about murders taking place on planes, trains and buses?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mourning Might Becomes Electra But Not Me

I'm in mourning for those halcyon days when I could rush to the wp each monring and find out what'd happened to my protagonist overnight. What surprises she had in store for me, what strange and dark passages she'd taken while I slept.
Though I can still spend time with her, still wonder at her seductive ways and dark charms, there's never the rush of feeling, the wonder of what might occur. I have to maintain a blueprint by now, have to stick to the plan, the plot. There's no freedom in my fingers.
As much as I resisted writing a novel, I found much to love in it.
Will I ever find another love like my first one? Will anyone else ever allow me such entry into their soul? How do you let go? Please advise.
(For those who wonder, I have not gone off the pier. I just miss my summer mission).

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Hey, don't go away when you see that word because it's my contention that television--the non network variety--is the new film. The kind of films that Bergman and Antonioni made are more likely to be found on series tv. At least if you're talking about depth of character and atmosphere.
I see a lot of movies, at the theater and at home, and nothing lately compares to The Wire, The Sopranos, Big Love, Rescue Me, The Shield, Deadwood, Life on Mars and more recently Mad Men.
Burn Notice, Entourage and The Closer also merit the occasional glance. Television--the non network kind--has finally seen its strength--it can give the viewer a deeper, longer view into its subject. It can be just as sophisticated as film.

Mad Men, in its first two episodes, has more to say about how women were treated circa 1960 than any movie of recent years. I remember being considered fair game for the men in my Bell Telephone Company office and that was a decade later. It's also amusing and sad to see aerosol sprays come onto the market pitched as wonder products, knowing what we know now. Not to even mention, decisions made by these ad men on how to sell cigarettes after the surgeon general's first warning.
My Netflix envelopes are sitting on the coffee table for weeks now. Maybe I'll watch them when the network shows return in a month. Maybe...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Nana blogday

Although in a sense this entry is about communication.
Yesterday Kevin learned how to clap his hands and yell "yea" at the same time. We all did it with him a hundred times. And then he discovered if he did it first, we would do it back. Communication. It was like the scene in The Miracleworker when Annie gets Helen to understand the sign for water.
Think of the complex action Kevin has learned. He can bring his hands together, he can yell the same sound each time. He do it in response or do it to evoke a response. He can reproduce the same action.
I had my children at age 22 & 23 and this sort of revelation escaped me. I was just looking for the big moves. We only had Dr. Spock to guide us. Glad I'm old enough now to appreciate the small ones now. Yeah, Kevin.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Last Ten Pages

are upon me and I find I am very reluctant to wrap it up. In fact, I am actively avoiding it by constantly rewriting other sections of the novel.
I've come up with these reasons for my procrastination.

1) I've been in this woman's head for six months now and I don't want to let her go.
2) I fear the real work now begins in trying to find an agent, a publisher.
3) I am worried that the most important part in a crime novel, the ending, is not good enough. That the reader will be disappointed.
4) I have an alternate ending that I don't think is right for the character but is probably more splashy, more dark.
5) I'm not sure if I should leave the door open for a future novel with this character.
6) My daughter will read this now and I don't want to disappoint her. I mean, my God, would you want your writer-daughter to be disappointed that you, in fact, are not such a good writer after all.
7) I know there are things that will need to be changed, but this is a very tight book and that will be difficult.
8) I have to let my writing groups read this now and they will have lots of ideas that may make me lose confidence.
9) I think my character has changed over the course of 65,000 words. I know people change, but I am not sure I didn't soften her up unintentionally. Maybe I need to go back and darken her up.
10. I'm plain scared about what will happen next.

Do you share these sort of thoughts at the end of a project?