Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Opener

The last season at the current Yankee Stadium begins this afternoon with a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. I can't be there, but my friend John Ricotta is going to three games this week.

John (center), with his bandmate Andrew D'Amato, and me in a Stadium luxury box for John's bachelor party, August 9, 2003. With Andy Pettitte opposing Gil Meche, the Mariners beat the Yanks, 2-1.

UPDATE (2:30 PM): Due to rain, today's game will be made up tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Different profiles on different blogs on one Blogger account

It occurred to me that while readers of If You Want to Know About My Life... naturally want to read more about my life, readers of Gerald So's Desk should probably see more of my professional credentials (B.A. from Hofstra, M.A. from Queens College, taught at Hofstra...), and readers of Chatterrific probably want to read more about the lists I moderate. Also, in all honesty, my catchall Blogger profile was dangerously close to the 1,200-character limit.

Chatterrific and Gerald So's Desk use the same font and line spacing for the profile as for the blog entries, so I followed Peter Chen's instructions.

To customize my profile on If You Want to Know About My Life..., I created an HTML widget that calls on style declarations used by the default Profile widget to display my name and location (profile-data), author photo (profile-img), and information (profile-textblock).

Alternatively, you can go into your template, following Vin's instructions, and type your own information where Blogger calls for your default data:aboutme/ but that requires you to save changes to your template whenever you want to change your information.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WENN: Lucas: Don't Get Your Hopes Up About Indy

George Lucas is clearly concerned that Indiana Jones fans may have built up unrealistic expectations for his upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. "When you do a movie like this, a sequel that's very, very anticipated, people anticipate ultimately that it's going to be the Second Coming," Lucas told USA Today. "And it's not. It's just a movie. Just like the other movies. You probably have fond memories of the other movies. But if you went back and looked at them, they might not hold up the same way your memory holds up." In fact, he added, when expectations rise to such heights, "You're not going to get a lot of accolades. ... All you can do is lose."

While there's some truth to what Lucas says, one reason for the anticipation is he's waited twenty years between movies. I for one am not expecting much. Part of me thought if he couldn't make a sequel within three to five years of Last Crusade he should leave well enough alone. Still, given Indy's relationship to history, reconnecting with him at any time in his life is appealing.

Monday, March 24, 2008


I'm one of five bloggers tagged by Megan Powell to:

a) Go back through your archives and post the links to five of your favorite blog posts.

1. Link one must be about family: Whadja get?
2. Link two must be about friends: Quantum of Solace
3. Link three must be about yourself: Holding Back the Years
4. Link four must be about something you love: I don't love many things, or many people, but I Just Like Her.
5. Link five can be about anything you choose: Incessant Internal Song of the Day

b) Then tag five other bloggers. At least two of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances in the blogosphere, so that you get to know each other better.

If you read this entry and want to do this meme, leave your link in the Comments.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Week

As a practicing Catholic, no time of year resonates more with me than this one. At services, I get to feel some semblance of what Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, and finally Easter Sunday must have been like. It's the best time to get answers to what I believe and why I believe it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Variety: Raimi, Paramount revive Jack Ryan

By Michael Fleming

Paramount Pictures is in negotiations with Sam Raimi to spearhead a franchise revival of Jack Ryan, the Tom Clancy-created CIA analyst character who drove four hit movies for the studio.

When shall we three meet again?

This October Robert B. Parker follows up Now and Then with the almost as lukewarmly titled Spenser novel, Rough Weather. This immediately made me think of Robert Crais's next Elvis Cole novel. I may not have been the only one. Previously titled Perfect Night, it's been retitled Chasing Darkness.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lucky Day

I finished grade school at St. Brigid's in Westbury, where I wore green, gold, and plaid and crushed on an Irish lass.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I present my 2006 flash fiction piece inspired by a mugshot, "The Luck of the Irish", as well as a Nasty. Brutish. Short. review of "One Serving of Bad Luck" by Sean Chercover.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Value of Voice

Last week, Dave White blogged about the process of finding one's voice as a writer:

Elmore Leonard used to say that writers just starting out should try to imitate their favorite writers and eventually their own voice would shine through.

...Do you have to work to make a voice your own or should it come naturally?

I commented:

Anyone entering any field begins by mimicking those with more experience. If you never choose to move past this stage, you will never develop ingenuity and never reach your full potential.

That said, specific to writing, it seems to me developing a trademark voice is only useful when writing recurring characters. If you're writing different characters in different genres, there's no reason they should sound the same. They should instead take on their own personalities, and any overall narrative tone should hit the particular notes of the genre you're writing.

...[T]here's a part of writing that's unique to the writer because every person's perception of the world is different. If you give the same writing assignment to a hundred people, each person will have a different take on it. I don't know that this adds up to voice.

Dave replied:

I think every writer has a voice that comes through no matter who or what they're writing about. Not every character has to sound the same or act the same way, but I think a writerly voice often can be found when you read a writer's work... so you can tell it's Author so and so when you read.

to which I responded:

You would only detect the voice you're referring to if you read a lot of the author's work. If you have some idea of the author's tics, you know what to look for. And again, one of the reasons you'd spot these tics is that the author has written recurring characters whose voices are supposed to be consistent.

Does an author's perception of the world weigh enough that it would be detected in everything he writes, specifically fiction? Not necessarily.

Genre fiction isn't a good place to test because, on some level, a writer may be expected to bring some of his trademarks to a new project—to help sell the project.

I don't enjoy detecting one voice behind an author's entire body of work. In fiction, it dispels the illusion of a character's voice; in general, it counters the author's attempts at something new.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jesse Stone: Sea Change

I haven't read Robert B. Parker's book Sea Change because the paperback doesn't seem worth $9.99 for what I'd get. I have seen and recommend the movie of Sea Change, as evidenced by my DVD review for Crimespree Cinema. Thanks again to Jeremy Lynch.

A Christmas Special in March

Due to unforeseen events, John Rickards has had to cancel his planned flash fiction zine, Degeneration20. The story below was accepted to D20 and scheduled to run in January '08. Because it may lose some zing with further delay, I've decided to run it here and now. Feel free to comment.

Smithee Claus

by Gerald So

With the writers strike in its seventh week, Alan Smithee had lived in his car the past two. Last night he'd parked by a deli, so he could go for breakfast whenever he awoke. The woman in front of him ordered three dozen bagels and a gallon of O.J., and by the time Smithee walked out with his egg sandwich and coffee, his car was gone.



He didn't care. His most valuable possessions--watch, wallet, shoes--were on his person.

Smithee legally changed his name in 1979 to escape the ignominy of Lost & Hound, a series he created and shopped to the Big Three, only to be canceled after two airings on NBC.

Standing on the sidewalk, he ate his sandwich and drank his coffee. At the tolling of a church bell, he checked his watch, then traded it at a pawnshop for an imitation silver ring.

Breaking his last $20, he rode the subway and train to Newbury and stopped at the Barnes & Noble to have the ring wrapped.

"We're only supposed to wrap stuff you buy here," the girl told him, looking bored.

"Merry Christmas," he said, giving her a $5 handshake.

Smithee knew the area well. He'd met Robin at the Barnes & Noble six months earlier. She asked if he worked there, and he said he did, just to keep talking to her.

They'd gone on six dates since the strike began. As far as he could tell, Robin had no idea it affected him. Shaking the ring box, he promised to keep it that way just a little longer.

The clock in Newbury's town square read 3:05. Ten blocks from here to St Ann's Church. To make it in time for Confession, he ran the last five.

* * *

"No Confession today," said Alonso, the sacristan.

"Oh," Smithee said. He figured Oh was better than What?

"Father Jim was called away. Also we are rehearsing now for the Christmas pageant. Father will be happy to hear confessions after five p.m. Mass."

Smithee thanked Alonso and turned the corner before cursing his luck. He had to meet Robin at 4:30. He'd planned to be freshly absolved by then, ready to start a new life with her.

Feeling first snowflakes, he realized he'd mistimed everything. Robin's house had always seemed so close to St. Ann's.

On a clear day.

When he had a car.

Even if he managed to run to her house by 4:30, he'd look like he ran to her house.

What to do?

Walking around to the church parking lot, he spotted three minivans and two station wagons. A door on one of the wagons was slightly ajar. Smithee pictured a child anxious to get out and start rehearsal. Looking in the window, he saw the car was full of presents. He pulled the door back and saw enough room to worm behind the wheel.

"What am I doing?" he muttered as he wormed. "What am I doing?"

He thought he might have to call on his Lost & Hound research. Robert P. Barker had to hotwire two cars in the pilot.

But no, the key was in the ignition.

Smithee started the car and pulled out of the lot.

* * *

Answering his buzz, Robin said, "You're early."

Her porch light showed off her strawberry blonde hair particularly well.

"I know," Smithee said. "I'll tell you everything, but first I want to ask you something."

He pulled the ring box from his pocket. Robin covered his hand with hers. Her eyes lit up, and her mouth opened.

Smithee couldn't bear it. "Don't answer until I've told you--"

"What's wrong?"

He thought for a second. "Nothing. The car's full of presents for the kids at St. Ann's. Not mine. I'm just delivering."

"Can I help?"

He didn't think long about that, either. "Sure."

He hoped the rest of the evening would go as well.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lining Up Ads

It turns out The Lineup: Poems on Crime will cost less to produce than we thought, so Richie, Patrick, Anthony, and I have lowered our rates for half- and full-page ads in the book. Full details here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You keep using that word...

I do not think it means what you think it means.

Inigo Montoya introduces my latest comment on debut novelist Dave White's blog. Dave writes:

Been listening to THE FIRST COUNSEL by Brad Meltzer on my iPod lately, and it got me thinking about how bestselling thrillers are written. And by that I mean the marketable, cookie cutter, bestselling thriller. I'm actually really enjoying the novel as I listen, but some of the language in it is a bit odd.

...Especially in situations of down time. People are always "shoving" papers in his face, and he's always "racing" down the hall. He rarely jogs or walks. Nothing is ever just handed to him. Everything is completely urgent at all times.

Maybe it's the audiobook format, but I'm really noticing it with this novel. And I don't have the books to back up my theory, but I suspect it's like this in a lot of the other books that make the bestseller lists.


Because everything is urgent, even when there's no suspense, false suspense is created. It keeps you turning the pages. The reader is thinking "Oh the character is racing, something must be going on." It's always a moment of high tension. It's always exciting.

What kills me though, is at times it's false suspense. Much like the last scene in The Sopranos, nothing comes of it. It's almost a let down. Characters don't change enough and there's rarely a payoff.

But yet I already purchased THE ZERO GAME to listen to as well, so obviously it's working.

What do you guys think? Is there a certain vocabulary that goes along with a bestseller that you won't find in real life or even other suspense novels?

I commented:

I think it's a question of good and bad writing, not a distinction between bestsellers and other books. The authors may be trying to create tension, as you say in the original post. Then again...they may just not have the vocabulary to use different words in different situations. Not to say that one should vary vocabulary whenever possible (e.g. said, answered, asked, snapped, sniveled, shouted) because that's just as glaring.

...I don't think the quality of suspense depends on the payoff. If the suspense keeps you reading, it's good. If the payoff is a letdown, the suspense may have been for naught, but it was still good suspense.

Vader vs. Superman?

Last night I tuned into the first tennis match at Madison Square Garden in eight years, an exhibition between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras. It was a close match, with Federer winning 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (8-6), but the pre-game pageantry was a bit much for me. John McEnroe interviewing Patrick McEnroe, Justin Gimelstob interviewing Ivan Lendl and Billie Jean King, all over the Garden's P.A. system. Federer came on court to a band playing Vader's Imperial March, Sampras to John Williams's Superman theme. There were smoke machines. I just wanted to see some tennis.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

B.L. Stryker

Who else remembers this ABC Mystery Movie series from the late 80s? Jeremy Lynch has posted my DVD review of its first season to Crimespree Cinema.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spider-Man, Batman, and the Justice League

This morning I watched the premiere of The Spectacular Spider-Man on Kids' WB. The art/animation was a bit too cute for my taste, and I don't know if I can watch things unfold from the beginning again for Peter, Aunt May, Harry, etc., but I'll stick around to see who voices whom.

After Spidey, I watched the two-part The Batman: Lost Heroes, which involved super-powered members of the Justice League being abducted by an alien entity who siphons their powers into giant robots that attack Earth.

Here's my problem: Robots might be able to simulate certain powers (flight, strength, heat vision, speed), but others (Green Lantern's power ring) would be impossible. A Lantern's will and creativity tell a power ring what to create. An artificial intelligence might call on preset devices, but it wouldn't be able to improvise as fast as a human.

Batman defeats the robots with devices that take advantage of the heroes' weaknesses (e.g. Martian Manhunter's fear of fire, Superman's susceptibility to kryptonite, GL's ineffectiveness against yellow). But robots wouldn't have to have the same weaknesses. Why would kryptonite affect a robot?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hart Hanson Writing Myron Bolitar Pilot

From Harlan Coben's newsletter:

Hart Hanson, the creator and executive producer of the TV series BONES, is writing a pilot for Twentieth Century Fox studios and Fox network to bring Myron and the gang to a TV near you. The working title -- and this could very easily change -- is PROMISES AND LIES. Okay so let's hear your casting suggestions for Myron, Win and Esperanza. Keep in mind that this is a TV series, not a movie, so if you're thinking, say, George Clooney or Vince Vaughn, you're probably wasting your time. That's all the details I know now. As I know more, you'll know more. You can email your suggestions to casting (at) harlancoben (dot) com. Yes, I will try to read them all, though please don’t expect replies. Thanks!

Some possibilities:

For Myron, Eddie McClintock, who played quirky, basketball-playing Special Agent Tim "Sully" Sullivan on Bones. Or Marc Blucas: best known as Riley Finn on Buffy, he played shooting guard/small forward for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons from 1990-94, starting alongside Tim Duncan.

For Esperanza, Marisol Nichols, who played Nadia Yassir on 24 last season. Or Constance Zimmer, who played Dana Gordon on Entourage and Claire Simms on Boston Legal.

For Win, Brian Krause, Leo Wyatt on Charmed.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

2008 Million Writers Award Nominations Open

storySouth's Million Writers Award recognizes excellence in fiction published online. Nominations are open through March 31.

As Thrilling Detective Fiction Editor, I've nominated "A Saving Grace" by Patricia Abbott, "Circling the Drain" by Fleur Bradley, and "Piece by Piece" by Paul Sundeson.

Unfortunately, none of my own fiction from last year meets the award's 1000-word minimum, but good luck to all.


A European soldier (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) saves a Native American woman from a bloody death, and gets run through for his trouble. The grateful woman saves said soldier's life by means of an immortality ritual. He will not grow old or die until he is united with his soulmate.

And so the soldier witnesses the modernization of the New World around him. In present day New York City, he's a homicide detective by the name of John Amsterdam, and in last night's pilot he has a heart attack at a subway station, a signal that his soulmate is close by.

Sound familiar, Highlander, Forever Knight, Angel, and Moonlight fans? It is, but it wasn't played too cheesily. I'll watch tomorrow night's second episode, and possibly next Monday's third.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

AP: Brett Favre retires after 17 years

By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer

For me, no pro athlete exemplified love of the game better than Favre. Farewell to the kid and the warrior.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Crack that whip

My recipe for "Whipped Boyfriend" is now up at Nan Purnell's La Lune Bleue Planete. Enjoy.

How much is too much in fiction?

Dave White wonders, and I commented:

Any action or event (violence, sex, swearing, smoking...) should be there because it fits the character. If his morals are questionable, his actions ought to be questionable.

You never know what will offend people, but if they separate some action from the story's context or the character's personality and object to it, they aren't really your fans. Real fans would know a character's history. While they may not like the path he takes or where he ends up, both his behavior and its outcome would be plausible to them.

You should be concerned if, as writer, you're asking, "Would/Should my character do that?" Theoretically, a story's limits should be the character's own morals, but if you don't feel comfortable writing past a certain point of violence, sex, etc., you can imply such actions without fully showing them, and you'd probably pass a censor's standards as well.

Dave cited that the writers of Lost welcomed the strike's side effect of giving them a chance to see what viewers thought of the current arc before continuing that storyline.

I commented:

I understand Cuse and Lindlelof's perspective because TV shows have a narrower window than books do to hook and keep an audience. TV writers have to keep viewers consistently entertained each episode, not to mention each season. If viewers object to anything, they can stop watching. The effect immediately shows in the ratings, and the show may get canceled.

If readers object to anything, they can stop reading, but they've already bought the books, and that's the bottom line to publishers. Disgruntled readers may not buy an author's books ever again, but thousands of readers would have to share the same opinion to affect the author's sales. Thousands of readers might agree on what's good (i.e. a bestseller), but I doubt they'd agree on what doesn't deserve to sell, even after reading bad reviews.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lining Up

Patrick Shawn Bagley, Richie Narvaez, Anthony Rainone, and I have finished scoring submissions for the inaugural issue of The Lineup: Poems on Crime, which will be a 6x9-inch, 40 to 44-page chapbook of work by 14 poets.

For further details, visit the official Lineup blog. If you'd like to place a crime fiction- or poetry-related ad, contact me at the e-mail address in the left sidebar.