Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Busy, Busy

It's been a week between blog posts here, but on Boomtron I've been reviewing four shows a week (Hawaii Five-0, the two NCIS's, and The Big Bang Theory). I've also been prepping the ebook version of The Lineup #4, due to go on sale October 1.

Speaking of e-reading, last Sunday I returned to Nasty. Brutish. Short. with a review of "Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case" by S.J. Rozan, whose latest Lydia Chin-centered book, Ghost Hero, is just out.

Also, my weekly poetry site, The 5-2, is booked through November, and NoirCon 2012 has announced a poetry contest I had a small part in developing.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Robert Parker and the P.I.'s Sidekick

Earlier this month I stumbled across Jochem van der Steen's interview with Max Allan Collins on the P.I. fiction blog Sons of Spade. Of particular interest were Collins's thoughts on the P.I.'s sidekick as popularized by Robert B. Parker's Hawk:

I was asked about this on a panel and said that my protagonists do their own psychotic dirty work. Parker was and is an important writer in the field, and he made it possible for other writers -- like me -- to write private eye novels when the form might otherwise have died out...he's like Spillane in that regard. But to me the Hawk character is inherently a racist conception -- the black guy who does the white guy's dirty work. And the character itself is lifted from blaxploitation movies. That this aspect of Parker's work had such an impact -- with writers as popular as Mosley and Crais imitating it -- is frankly bizarre to me.

I'm a Parker fan, and I liked Hawk when he debuted in Promised Land, but I agree with Collins that, in the course of the series, Hawk too often excuses Spenser from difficult moral choices. Without Hawk's number in his Rolodex, Spenser would have to do his own dirty work. Without Hawk, Spenser would be a stronger character, and so would Elvis Cole, Patrick Kenzie, Myron Bolitar, and so on, and so on.

At a panel last Saturday morning at Bouchercon, Robert J. Randisi said Parker's legacy was giving the P.I. novel an unexpected setting, not California or New York, but Boston, opening the door for future writers to evoke the nuances of any place they chose. I'd say the avenging sidekick is part of Parker's legacy in the negative sense.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Short Fiction Matters

I attended a couple of panels at Bouchercon that mentioned the scarcity/difficulty finding quality markets for short fiction. After a chat with multi-genre author R.T. Lawton, I decided to create a discussion list to help writers, editors, and publishers spread market information, including anecdotes of specific markets' editorial taste.

This list will tap into members' experience sustaining and submitting to markets. Announcements of published stories will be allowed not for self-promotion, but to show what types of stories a market accepts.

If this no-nonsense approach sounds good to you, join us at Short Fiction Matters.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back from Bouchercon

Thanks to a family caravan, I'm home from Bouchercon, having left St. Louis early Sunday morning and stayed overnight at a cousin's in New Jersey.

I described this B'con to a friend as very like attending a superhero convention, after which I had to slip back into my inconspicuous public identity.

I arrived at the con hotel a tad late and missed the first half of the first panel I wanted to attend, "Laughter of the Clowns", moderated by Jeremiah Healy, a great speaker and author of my favorite P.I. series, but all the panels were recorded to MP3 and CD I believe for the first time, so I'll be picking up many of those.

The first person to recognize me was Anita Thompson. I had dinner with Anita, Dennis Tafoya, Scott Phillips, Stacia Decker, Declan Burke, and John McFetridge during B'con '08, and since then she'd become quite a fan of The Lineup. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart and invited her to check out The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly.

That afternoon, I bought a 15.2-ounce juice at the hotel Starbucks for $4.26 while chatting with Jack Bludis and Debbi Mack and decided to look elsewhere for subsequent sustenance.

At 4:00 P.M., I attended the short story panel moderated by Gary Bush and featuring Debbi as a panelist. Afterward, I chatted with fellow SMFS member R.T. Lawton and Art Taylor while waiting for a Derringer presentation that didn't happen (I've learned this was because Derringer Award-maker and Chicago law enforcement officer Jim Doherty had unforeseen extra 9/11-related duty).

At 9:00 P.M. (yes), I attended a raucous, raunchy panel with Scott Phillips, Christa Faust, and others.

All my panel choices were excellent, actually, and by chance I attended many of the same ones as Graham Powell, my colleague at the review blog Nasty. Brutish. Short. Graham treated me to two overpriced Sprites at the bar Thursday night. I treated him to lunch at a deli Friday, and went on to have burgers for dinner with fellow NBS-er Steven Torres.

As part of my circuitous travel arrangements, I had to leave the con abruptly Saturday afternoon. I wish I could have spent more time with more people, but it meant a lot just to smile and wave to so many familiar faces rushing off to their own plans. In these gestures, I was aware of all their work, and they were aware of mine.

My thanks to the many and multi-talented Jordans, Judy Bobalik, Jeremy Lynch, and everyone who helped put on the con.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jim Winter's ROAD RULES Road Trip Pulls Into Chatterrific

Jim Winter stops by my chat blog today pondering whether his ebook Road Rules can be called a P.I. book.

Meet Me in St. Louis

My drive to Bouchercon in St. Louis begins tomorrow at four A.M. As you can tell by some of my timestamps, I'm quite used to waking up early. If you'd like to meet me, here again are the panels I plan to attend. I should be back Sunday night, in time to begin my coverage of the fall TV season for Boomtron.

Yesterday, Do Some Damage's Steve Weddle discussed why we attend cons in the age of ebooks and social media.

I commented:

B'con 2008 in Baltimore was my first convention, and I was lucky enough to be picked for a panel on crime poetry moderated by Reed Farrel Coleman, with Sophie Hannah, and John Harvey--a great spontaneous panel. 
My favorite part of the con was meeting and having a chance to talk with people...also quite spontaneously. Three friends and I had just published the first issue of THE LINEUP: POEMS ON CRIME, and I was pushing that (giving away copies). I think I balanced being a writer and a fan well, but I look forward to just going as a fan this year. If, after getting to know me, people want to buy my books, it's a bonus.
Proximity to New York increases the likelihood I'll attend a con, also if I know the organizers and like what they've done. Ruth Jordan and Judy Bobalik did a great job in '08 and I was looking forward to meeting David Thompson, one of THE LINEUP's biggest supporters.

David was the first bookseller to carry The Lineup, based only on my description of its concept in 2008. Today is the anniversary of his sudden death in 2010. We had been in talks for his Busted Flush Press to possibly increase The Lineup's distribution. In the weeks and months following his passing, Busted Flush's announced merger with Tyrus Books fell through. My co-editors and I scrambled for a new plan, but nothing came to fruition.

I am glad that, before we had to close shop, we were able to dedicate the last issue of The Lineup (April 2011) to David.

Monday, September 12, 2011

THE 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly

My new crime poetry site has published its first poem, "Smack" by Nancy Scott. A new poem will be published each Monday at I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

May 4, 2001

I could tell you again how I was home on 9/11 and heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center from a friend's instant message. Not much of a story, nothing compared to what others went through that day. How can I relate?

My memories of before 9/11 are hopelessly gilded. I felt so safe here in the U.S. I will never feel that safe again. You can tell me it's for the better; I ought to be aware of what could happen. I can't dispute that, but don't we all want that feeling of safety back?

Here's how I relate. Four months and one week before 9/11, my father died from a recurrence of pancreatic cancer. It had weakened him over several months, to the point he'd never again be the symbol of steadfastness and strength he was. I had come to terms with his death, realizing it was the end of his pain we had all prayed for, but it still hit me hard when it actually happened:


rattles through his lungs
hissing like fizz from a can
deafening, echoing
'til the only thing
I want to hear
is the ticking of his watch.

--Gerald So

I remember thinking no one else's death would hit this hard, make me cry this much:


I wanted my father's
funeral to end,
so I could go home
to the rock garden
in our backyard
where he always escaped.

--Gerald So

During the attacks on 9/11 and in the days following, I took solace in the fact I wouldn't lose my father again. He wouldn't see the fear clouding over the country. My memories of him would always be part of that time before, that feeling of safety.

I will never feel that safe again, but I do feel safer now that bin Laden has been eliminated. Threats are still out there and always will be, but bin Laden himself will never attack anyone else. There is and should be a different tone to today's memorials now that the impetus behind the attacks is gone.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Offer from Jim Winter

Jim Winter is offering readers advanced copies of his newly e-formatted first novel, Northcoast Shakedown, featuring Cleveland P.I. Nick Kepler:

So here’s the deal. Anyone who buys Road Rules this weekend, between now and 11:59 PM Eastern Sunday, can have the newly formatted Northcoast Shakedown gratis. Take a screen shot of your receipt (the email Amazon, BN, and Smashwords send to confirm your purchase), and email it to me or message me on Facebook, along with which format you prefer for your book.  Come Monday, I’ll email the copies out to you.

“So, Jim, what’s the catch?”

Glad you asked that, blog sock puppet.

Along with Road Rules, you have to order another book. It can be one of the following:

Hogdoggin’ by Anthony Neil Smith
Time’s Enemy by Jennette Marie Powell
Wild Bill by Dana King
First In, Last Out by Gerald So

That’s right. I’m spreading to love.  And if you want Northcoast for ree, you’ll spread it, too. The nice thing is it won’t cost you a lot.

So if I see one of those in your email, along with Road Rules, you get Northcoast Shakedown for free and before anyone else gets it.

And if you bought one of the used copies on Amazon for $68, I reserve the right to laugh at you and make fun of your mother.

So that’s it.  99 cents for Road Rules, anywhere from 99 cents to $3.99 for one of the other books, and you get Northcoast Shakedown.

So what are you waiting for? Get downloading now!

I read Northcoast Shakedown when it was first published and reiterate my recommendation. Thanks to Jim for including my books in the offer.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Seth Harwood's Kickstarter Campaign

Less than an hour into Day 2, Seth Harwood's Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of $4,000 toward the fixed costs of publishing five titles in the next six months. Seth was a great friend to The Lineup: Poems on Crime, featuring our poetry in three episodes of CrimeWAV. You're welcome to contribute more to his efforts and receive the remaining fan reward packages.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

What Work Is

For Labor Day yesterday, Murderati's Pari Noskin pondered the notion of work. I commented:

As you point out, work is a relative term, but I tend to stick with its clearer definitions: doing something, moving something from one place to another. Thinking is work only if it leads to doing. One can have thousands of thoughts in a day, but where do they end up?

Reading is more work than watching a movie, IMO, because it engages the imagination. Writing is more work than reading because we have to find our own words, not just take in someone else's.

Because I think of work simply as action, I don't attach negative connotations to work and positive ones to play. Some work can be fulfilling and fun; other work can be drudgery. I'd rather do something that requires creative thinking.

Incidentally, this entry shares its title with a poem by Philip Levine.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Is NCIS Finished?

I've been a fan of NCIS from the beginning, but going into its ninth season in two weeks, I wonder if there is any creative direction left to go. Season 8 ended with a disappointing serial killer arc and the death not of a series regular but of recurring character Mike Franks (Muse Watson). Franks had previously been shown to be a superheroic survivor, but at the end of Season 8, he spotted the aforementioned serial killer and instead of shooting him from a safe distance, he called him out to fight. Later it was explained that Franks had terminal lung cancer. Is that any reason to pick a fight he likely wouldn't win?

Since Kate Todd's death at the hands of Ari Haswari in Season 2, NCIS became known as a show that doesn't hold on too tightly to its regulars. At the end of Season 5, Director Jenny Shepard made a last stand against three shooters (as a ploy to bring viewers back after the 2007 WGA strike). Since then, however, no regular's life or position has been in realistic peril. If you're going to threaten Gibbs, as they did at the end of Season 7, I say just kill him. That would be a bold move.

Another sign of NCIS's age is the frequent use of guest stars as the regulars' family members. Ralph Waite first appeared in Season 5 as Gibbs's father, though in Season 2 Gibbs told a mobster his father was "long past". Okay, he may have said this to protect his father. Still, in the past two seasons, we've had Robert Wagner as Tony's father, Gena Rowlands as Gibbs's mother-in-law, even Wendy Makkena as the deceased Kate Todd's older sister. And Season 9 promises Lily Tomlin as McGee's grandmother. Do we really watch a crime show to learn all about the characters' personal lives?

The last story arc that grabbed me was Ziva leaving the team to return to Mossad in Season 6. That threw everything she'd done to gain Gibbs's trust into question. I thought she might join NCIS: Los Angeles to boost interest. Things culminated early in Season 7, when Ziva cut ties with Mossad to become a full-time NCIS agent and American citizen. Natural stopping point, anyone?

NCIS has had unparalleled ratings success for a show in its ninth season. I can see it going for another two seasons at least, even if the ratings dip. I'm just afraid it may lose all creative steam before then.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

"Home" Reviewed

"Home", the lead story in my ebook First In, Last Out, was reviewed in early 2005 on The Short Of It, one of if not the first blog to focus on short stories. The Short Of It was created by Robert W. Tinsley, author of eighteen stories featuring Navy SEAL turned P.I. Jack Brady, now collected in the ebook The Brady Files.

Of "Home", Bob wrote in part:
Tom Gregory is an ex-Marine coming home to see his sister after a prolonged absence. He uses the death of Irene, the woman who served as their surrogate mother after the loss of their own parents as an excuse to make the trip and possibly endure Lisa's scorn for his neglect.

I particularly liked the scene where Lisa finds Tom on her doorstep. Gerald shows the joy of reunion tempered by the resentment and anger brought on by what Lisa must see as his abandonment of her and Irene.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Crimespree for E-Readers

The Jordans' magazine of the crime fiction community, Crimespree, is now available for e-readers thanks to Down & Out Books. Their first offering is Issue 42 (May/June 2011), selling for 99 cents for the next thirteen days.

I mention this in part because Issue 42 includes my interview with Ace Atkins about continuing Robert B. Parker's Spenser.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Comparing My Characters

As I've published two ebooks of fiction in consecutive months, you may be asking how ex-Marine sniper Tom Gregory (First In, Last Out) differs from 1930s aviator C.J. Stone (Stones).

The Gregory stories are contemporary; the Stone stories are period.

Tom Gregory is a loner before and after the Marine Corps; C.J. Stone loves to tell and hear stories.

The Gregory stories are third-person action; the Stone stories are driven by C.J.'s unreliable narration.

I think the books have different audiences, but I'd gladly hear from readers who enjoy both.

Thursday, September 01, 2011