Anything New?

 

Yeah, it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything here, but don’t worry. I’m still alive and still giving glorious birth to crime fiction laced with danger and bad decisions. In fact, I’ve been too deeply immersed in my writing to foltypewriter-5065594_1920low the news. Anything new happen since my last post of November of 2016?

No, nothing? Okay, here’s what I’ve been up to:

My noir-ish monologue What a Real Punch Sounds was produced by Ragged Foils. I think Joanna Simpkins did a splendid job. See for yourself here!

I wrote and produced a neo-noir audio drama called Cosmic Deletions that asked such all-important questions as: What if that telemarketer is actually an assassin? and What if the world was actually the creation of a software company? Show some love, Copperheads!

Also, hey look at me playing the ukulele! Who says quarantining is boring?

Check out this month’s Short Blast of Pulp at Shotgun Honey!

 

As a longtime fan of Shotgun Honey’s hard-hitting fiction, I’m thrilled to have my own story join the ranks! Check out A Chance to Prove it!

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Most folks would have called the police when they came home and saw the door like that. All half-ass open, lock scuffed-up – from a crowbar maybe? A screwdriver?

Somebody wanted inside – might have still been there…

 

Read this piece with your ears

The transition from journalist to crime novelist

Bruce DeSilva's Rogue Island

dread lineA lot of people think that daily journalism must be a great training ground for novelists. I tell them that, for the most part, it is not.

As someone who worked as a news reporter and editor for forty years before writing crime novels, I was never comfortable with the bad writing habits and journalistic traditions that make most news writing unnecessarily turgid and tedious. In fact, I spent my career at The Providence Journal, The Hartford Courant and The Associated Press rebelling against those traditions and the editors who enforce them.

I wanted to write about real flesh-and-blood characters, but most news stories are populated by stick figures identified by little more than name, age and job title. I wanted to set my stories in real places, but most news stories use street addresses in lieu of a sense of place. I wanted to write yarns with beginnings…

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Monday’s Writer Confession: I Don’t Like Research (Except When it Doesn’t Feel Like Research)

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I’ve written fiction and I’ve written non-fiction. And I prefer fiction. Why? Because non-fiction writing is so damned hemmed-in by reality. Simply put, you can’t just make stuff up.

Reality can have a similarly dampening effect on fiction. It can intrude on the storytelling process in a way that make your stories less compelling, less suspenseful and less entertainingly weird.

And so familiarizing yourself with reality is an unfortunate part of storytelling. For a crime fiction scribe that means spending valuable hours understanding things like how guns shoot, what happens when you get arrested and how long it takes for a corpse to rot.

And I don’t like it. Telling the story is my favorite part of the storytelling process. Research feels like homework. It’s tedious and a lot less fun than describing somebody getting shot in the abdomen.

But I’ve discovered a loophole, a way to get around spending hours reading about something you’re not interested in.

The secret: Write stories about things you are interested in. Take those hours you’ve spent knitting or skiing or reading Steven Pinker’s science or Doris Kerns-Goodwin’s history and turn them into stories.

And no, it’s not cheating. Everything you’ve read, everything you’ve consumed, every conversation you’ve eavesdropped on counts as research. As an armchair anthropologist, endlessly curious about how humanity works – and how it often doesn’t work, I’ve spent much of my life ‘researching’ things like shifts in social mores, moral philosophy, crime, the dark side of humanity and jazz.

Maybe that’s why I write noir-ish tales of shifty characters who privately seek redemption and not police procedurals loaded with details of forensics and investigations of DNA. The research is just more fun.

 

 

Today’s Lunch Break Crime Read: Nothing to Kill or Die For

john-lennon-1091161_1280Nothing to Kill or Die For

By Copper Smith

It was the weirdest job I’d ever taken. No double-crossed thugs, no unpaid loan sharks, nary a cheating spouse to be seen. Just a creepy loner who needed a bullet to the skull before he could carry out a sick plan to make the world a lonelier place.

And damned if I’d ever had to do that much travel before. But they told me the payday would be worth my while so I sailed off strapped with a 9mm. and a head swimming with 80s nostalgia.

***

Fighting off a stiff December breeze I wove through the Manhattan streets, eager to find my mark and get the job over with – but good luck fending off the distractions of that gorgeously insane place. The sidewalks were a freak show, alive with coke-fueled madness and the promise of dangerous sex.

I spent my first ninety minutes spinning deeper into that breathtaking web, absorbing everything. The sights – even the subway graffiti was somehow beautiful.

The smells – real food, made by real first generation immigrants.

And the voices – Deborah Harry cooing, David Byrne hiccupping, Joey Ramone whimpering, Grandmaster Flash cutting, scratching, reinventing the beat.

How could I not lose track of time? Shit.

I raced from the subway, determined to get across town to The Dakota before it was too late.

It was too late. A cloaked figure – arms extended – closed in on his target rising from a limousine.

“Everybody get down!” I shouted, and both bodies dutifully dropped. I waited for the gunfire. But it never came. The autograph seeker turned, his face frozen. Unfamiliar to me. He wasn’t my mark.

I slipped into the shadows, chagrined.

Then I heard steps and the gun being loaded. But saw nothing.

“Get down!” I wheezed, no voice left after the false alarm. I still saw nothing, but tried again: “Somebody’s got a gun!” Smirks all around. Who’s the wiseguy? they had to wonder.

My head swiveled, swept the shadows, the alleys, behind the dumpster. Nothing.

Another click. A hammer yanked back. No more steps. A silhouette emerged, stepped into the moonlight.

“Mr. Chapman?” I asked.

He turned. This was my mark. Sharing that demented grin, glassy eyes shinning on. Like the moon and the stars and the sun. I could see the marquee beaming in his head. He was there already, finished, famous, complete. Nothing left to do but add the exclamation point.

But I had to fuck things up by being a quicker draw. “The dream is over, motherfucker,” I said. And I shattered his face into a mess his mother wouldn’t recognize. Twice.

I dove back into the shadows and scampered away, the scene now bathing in stunned silence.

It was time to get back to where I once belonged, back to spring of 2016, a world that could now watch Yoko grow old with her walrus.

Imagine that.

THE END

I originally had this published by the lovely badasses at Pulp Metal Magazine. Check them out and show love!

 Tomorrow’s Lunch Break Crime Read: Mutiny on the Pimp Wagon.

Monday’s Confession: I’ve been a bad, bad ghostwriter

couple-1299677_640You probably know what ghostwriting is. It’s writing for somebody who pretends to be a book’s real author. Examples you may have heard of include presidential candidates, movie stars, sports stars, reality TV stars and others more skilled at being famous than constructing readable prose.

But the ghostwriting world is bigger than you think. It also includes folks who actually can write, but cannot, by themselves, keep up with the demand for their books. Readers of genre fiction often want several novels a year from their favorite author or series protagonist. And as most writers have families and lives and stuff, they need help. That’s where ghostwriters come in. They get paid – sometimes a lot, mostly very little – to write books other people get the credit for.

In the ghostwriting realm, I’ve written crime fiction, adventure, non-fiction and I’ve written those personality quizzes that annoy you on Facebook as well as dialogues to assist English as second language learners. But given the title of this post, you probably didn’t click this to get the low-down on any of those. You want to know about my naughty fiction. Here goes:

I’ve written ‘steamy’ romantic tales. Not quite porn, but not something you read to your twelve-year-old at bedtime. These are romance novels, but with a broader, more open-minded understanding of ‘romance’ than the bodice-ripping yarns your grandmother pretended she didn’t read. Tortured moans and quivering thighs are not uncommon in that world.

For a guy raised on Prince records and reruns of the Benny Hill show, the steamy element didn’t trouble me much. More troubling was the idea that I didn’t qualify as a ‘real’ writer. Romance novels were, at least according the stereotypes, for lonely housewives and the semi-literate. James Baldwin didn’t go there. Nor did Fitzgerald or Faulkner or Nobokov (and no, Lolita was not a love story).

I suppose I’d feel a lot less remorseful if somebody here could confess to having read several books of the genre. Or just one.

Anybody? Please?

Reading: Do People Still Do That?

Anyone willing to admit to being an audiobook reader? (listener?). For whatever reason I tend to lean toward non-fiction with audiobooks, but I am not all insulted by the thought of having my words listened to as opposed to read. In fact, I embrace the format, literary purity be damned.

What about you, crime fiction hounds? Is the experience different, richer, more vivid when your nose is buried in a book? Or when the words are brought to life by a skilled actor?

There are those put off by the passive nature of audiobooks. It’s not really reading, they shriek. And it’s not. But it’s the way we’ve told stories throughout almost all of human history. Literacy is fairly recent development in our world — and rare until very recently. Of course, that does make reading wrong or bad. But it’s tempting to fear that reading will ultimately prove to be a passing fad.

Think about it: once our cars and computers and household appliances have the technological wherewithal to talk to us, reading could become obsolete, as unnecessary an act as handwashing clothes or tanning a hide. And we’ll be left with our talking ovens and blenders. And our talking history books telling us about an ancient race of people that actually had to communicate through goofy-looking symbols on screen or, weirder yet, on something called “paper.”

But then again, riding a horse is, strictly speaking, an unnecessary act in the age of the automobile. Just like playing a musical instrument in the world of digitalized music. But that doesn’t stop me from taking great joy in playing my ukulele.

For now, I’ll take both. But today you get audio only. Here’s Woman Seeking Men. I wrote it and did the male voices. But Dawn Brodey is the star. Enjoy:

Monday’s Confession: I’m a writer because I’m bad at all the other things

I’ve always written. I’ve always written a lot and I’ve always written without much effort or inducement. To be clear, writing well is as big a challenge for me as it is for anybody else, but writing itself is just something I just do – pretty much all the time. It started as daydreaming when I should have been paying attention in math class or at football practice or at the dinner table. It then snowballed into writing the daydreams down. Fast-forward to today, and I’m the same dorky kid minus the Freddy Mercury-like overbite (no, I won’t share pictures) stealing an extra moment to scribble away the latest chapter from a story I’m working on.

When I hear other scribes frustrated by writers block, I almost feel embarrassed to admit that the pump in my head never needs much priming. My brain is constantly flowing with ideas, descriptions, plots, subplots, dialogues, monologues and punch lines. This is a good brain to have for a writer.

But it’s a bad brain to have for being anything else.

Examples include everything else I’ve ever tried to support myself with while pursuing writing: Telemarketer, cashier, assembly line worker, janitor, newspaper delivery boy. Yes, I was bad at delivering newspapers.

I’ve only been fired a few times. Mostly I would just quit and move to the next, hoping my drifting attention span wouldn’t mess that job up too. But it always did.

During the course of being really bad at things, I developed an odd affinity for the truly incompetthisoneent. I recall once feeling bad for an oil tanker captain whose ineptitude led to an enormous oil spill with untold damage to marine life. According to the conventional checklist of symptoms, I have Asberger’s-like levels of whatever it is people with Asberger’s have, but really this is just another way of saying I was meant to be a weaver of tales and not, God help us all, an oil tanker captain or an air traffic controller.

And that’s why I’m a writer. No collateral damage.