Friday, October 30, 2009

It Was Short, But Sweet.

I've moved Needle City over to Wordpress, and you can find the new Needle City here.

Please join me there. I was feeling that Wordpress was more user friendly. It might lose a little in the translation, but it will gain at the payout window, trust me.

See ya there.

And, you know? Thanks for reading me and this blog.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Can Confess Now: Yes, I've Read Joyce's Uylsses.

I know, this is a blog about noir fiction and writing. I just... just needed to get this out of my system.

I've read Uylsses. No, I do not think it was good. Why did I read it? Well, it's the book everyone talks about but I never could find anyone but one person who ever read the damn thing. You see, I had just finished reading Joyce's short story, The Dead. I can lay the blame for my decision right at the feet of this very paragraph, perhaps one of the greatest paragraphs ever written by anyone, ever:
"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

I mean, look at that thing. It's a work of art. That incredible alliteration: soul swooned slowly. It's lovely. The entire rhythm of, "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling..." isn't just literature, it's poetry, man. It's really so incredible, it chokes me up to read it.

So, I figured, yeah... I can do Uylsses.

Wrong. Now, I'm well aware of the reams of paper written on this novel. I came to it completely aware of its place in the canon. I opened it knowing that people have even graphed out the journey that Bloom and Dedalus take on that fateful day. I got that it was based on Odysseus. But, people, this book is just... well, the most convoluted piece of work every committed to paper. I had, in preparation for my journey, bought the Cliff Notes to go with it. Hey, I'm not proud, but when even Clif Notes tells you something along the lines of, "Well, even we cannot be sure what this chapter is supposed to mean, or its relation to Odysseus's journey", you know you're in for it. Outside of a few parts of the novel, including the final section from Molly's POV, the book is one of the most self indulgent things I've ever come across in art, and that includes The Phantom, Andy Warhol, and Guns n' Roses's Use Your Illusion 1 & 2.

However, that aside, I do feel it really is one of the most important things ever written. I can hear everyone throwing drinks at their screens, taking this blog off of their bookmarks, etc. Hear me out. It came to me one evening when I was ranting about the thing to my wife:

The book is not in and of itself great, but it is great because of all the doors that it opened for those that came after it.

Think about it. We wouldn't have Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Bukowski, etc. No Virginia Woolf or Getrude Stein, either. No novels that pushed boundaries, both in form and content. Joyce really blew the door in, and he did it at just the right time. Good? No. Watershed? Most definitely yes.

Anyway, I've read it. Now at least I'll always have something to talk about at parties.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm Feeling A Bit Strangled Today, So Here's a Blues Clip.

Yeah, so what with struggling with a plot that keeps growing tentacles that threaten to choke the life out of yours truly, and 500 new words that I swear would only make sense to a being from Galaxy 451 in the Nexus cluster, IF they were amped out on their equivalent of roofies and cheap Bolivian vodka, I decided to send you this great blues clip for your weekend enjoyment.

Mr. Furry Lewis, singing "When I Lay My Burden Down". It's so god damned good, it makes my heart weep for the beauty of it all. And hell, man, don't we all, at one time or another, wish that we could lay our burden down?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Character Development and You.

How do you develop your characters? Do you do a general outline of their life? Do you write about that tragic event that happened to them when they were ten or eleven?

I'm ashamed to admit it: I don't do those things. I just go for it, learning about my characters as the first draft grows, allowing their reactions to form who they are. That's probably why I go through SOOOOO many drafts. I mean, of course I have a general idea of who my main characters are, but I really let the story tell me the rest. Their reactions to the dramatic stresses that are the plot, that's where I do the work.

However, I remembered this one exercise I read about, quite awhile ago. I can't remember in which of the hundred or so books on writing I own I read it in, but it was a cool thing, and thinking about it made me post the question: how do you develop your characters?

Have you tried doing a diary, from their POV? Let them really go to town on whatever they want to talk or rant about? Like I said before, I'm not much for writing exercises; I'd rather just jump in and thrash about, hoping to stay afloat. However, this exercise sounded like fun so I thought I'd put it out there.

And just to walk the walk, here's a little bit from Mallen's diary, the protag from my latest book(s):

June 1, 2008

I never thought I’d be someone who would bother with a diary, or journal. Like there’s a difference between the two, yeah? I couldn’t even tell you–… and who are “you”, anyway? Who is this person I’m supposed to be writing this to? God, why the fuck am I doing this?

Oh yeah, I remember now: rehab. Or, to be more precise, my failed rehab. Fuckin’ rehab, man. What a joke. No, it’s not, it’s not a joke; it’s some serious shit with serious people trying to get seriously well. No joke, man, remember that.

So, who the fuck will I write this to? He told me I was supposed to write it to somebody, but who? Mom? Nah… she wouldn’t want to know I’m an addict. Chris? Shit, she wishes she’d never met me or had a kid by me. I bet she wishes she could open up her beautiful head and rip that bit of nasty memory right out of it, man. Yeah, I bet that’s what she wants. And fuck it, man, she’d be right, yeah?

And then there’s Anna.

Anna knows. She fuckin’ knows, man. What does that knowledge do to a little girl, anyway? Knowing that your dad/daddy/pops/old man/whathefuckever is a junkie?

Should I write it to the old man? To old “Monster Mallen”, the scourge of The Fillmore? The most bad-ass cop that ever rode for the S.F.P.D? The bastard that broke open a backdoor to a coke den with his bare hands by ripping the motherfucking Master padlock off with a roar that legend tells scared the piss and shit out of everyone in a four block radius? Should I write this to him?

I don’t want Anna to know this stuff. Or Chris, really, even though she’s seen some of it. Well, a lot of it. Fuck it, I’ll write it to Pops. Monster Mallen. He might understand some of it, the pressures, etc. He never broke, but maybe he’ll understand how his son did.

And maybe, maybe he won’t hate me too bad for it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crime Writer Quotes Tuesday.

Some of my favorites to help you through your day:

“When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”
- Raymond Chandler

"If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is to tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors or mounted policemen." - Dashiell Hammett

"Readers are what it's all about, aren't they? If not, why am I writing?" - Evan Hunter (Ed McBain)

"Ideas come to people who are receptive to them." - Lawrence Block

"I start with the story, almost in the old campfire sense, and the story leads to both the characters, which actors should best be cast in this story, and the language. The choice of words, more than anything else, creates the feeling that the story gives off. " - Don Westlake

“It's a damn good story. If you have any comments, write them on the back of a check.” - Erle Stanley Gardner

Monday, October 19, 2009

You must read this guy.

And I totally mean that. Dennis Tafoya, a new hardboiled thriller writer, wrote this incredible book named Dope Thief. I'm reading it now, and it's impossible to put down. The protag, the setting, tone, are all spot on. And it's Tafoya's debut!

Here's what Kirkus had to say about it:
"An impressive debut by a writer savvy enough to understand that the way to a reader's heart is often as not through flawed characters."

I'm tellin' you, this is a book you don't want to miss. I'm really floored by Tafoya's writing. It's gritty and real, and as you can tell, I'm in love. It's about two guys who pose as FBI agents and rip off drug dealers, and what happens when it all goes very, very bad.

Buy it. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It Was The 3rd "Trilogy Saturday" at Our House Today

I decided a few months ago we needed to view all the "big" trilogies in film since Star Wars, one a month, on every third Saturday (I think it was my way of making the end of summer keep moving for me). Today was the Bourne Trilogy: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum. It was a blast, as these are three really great films to watch, especially all at once.

We started a few months ago. Here's the menu we've been following:

Aug: The Matrix Trilogy. If a trilogy ever tanked faster, you find it and tell me. Such a great start, such a great tank. A perfect way to start.
Sept: The Pirates of the Carribean Trilogy. SO much fun, but it sort of starts to heave under its own hubris.
Oct: The Bourne Trilogy. Rocks, rocks, rocks. Really, one of the top trilogies in film.
Nov: The Star Wars Trilogy. Yes, the first three films, not the second three toy commercials.
Dec: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This had to go here, as this is our annual Xmas-day thing. We sit down and watch about nine hours of Middle Earth, every Xmas day. It's a brilliant way to spend the holiday, especially when it includes a coffee table laden with picnic foods and wine.