Advice to Writers

Are you familiar with the site AdvicetoWriters.com? If not, I highly recommend it. The Daily Quote of the Day is always a gem. The information on the site, “Writerly Wisdom of the Ages,” is collected by Jon Winokur. Advice to Writers also features interviews with writers.

jpg_writing400You can subscribe to email to receive a Quote of the Day, and follow Advice to Writers on Twitter @AdviceToWriters.

Another of my ‘go-to’ sites for writerly advice and inspiration is the interviews from The Paris Review. The archived interviews with authors date back to the 1950s. From Truman Capote to Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway to Henry Miller, and James M. Cain to W.H. Auden, The Paris Review interviews provide hours of fascinating reading.

Do you have a favorite site for writing advice and/or writer interviews?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Crime Movies in the Queue: Dennis Lehane’s The Drop (2014)

the-drop-posterThis movie was previously called Animal Rescue, the title from Dennis Lehane’s short story from the Akashic collection Boston Noir, which he also editedWhile the title makes complete sense once you’ve seen the film, it could be a bit misleading in advance, because the subject matter is more centrally bad and not-so-bad people. Apparently 3 different puppies played Rocco, named after the Italian saint and patron of dogs, and they are deadly cute. If you’re sensitive to animals in peril, though the pooch starts in a tough place, I think you’ll feel okay with how this plays out. I’m glad they changed the title to The Drop, and since then, Lehane’s expanded the story into an entire novel to go with it and also got to make his debut outing as a screenwriter for the film.

Three days after Christmas, a lonely bartender looking for a reason to live rescues an abused puppy from a trash can and meets a damaged woman looking for something to believe in. As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia; a man grown dangerous with age and thwarted hopes; two hapless stick-up artists; a very curious cop; and the original owner of the puppy, who wants his dog back. . . .

Boston-NoirI fear the movie’s release was a bit chilled by having the unfortunate distinction of being James Gandolfini’s last film appearance. (Maybe I’m wrong about that, and people flock for such reasons.) Gandolfini, as Cousin Marv, is very good, as are Englishman Tom Hardy as bartender Bob Saginowski (with a funny-pitched voice I liked) and Sweden’s Noomi Rapace as Nadia from the neighborhood (allowed to keep hints of her accent). Turns out another important character, Eric Deeds, was played by Matthias Schoenaerts, who is a Belgian, as is the director, Michaël R. Roskam, making his U.S. directorial debut. Unlike Lehane’s story, which was originally set in Boston (duh), the movie’s location moved to Brooklyn, which I think worked just fine. Hardcore, long-time Brooklynites might have quibbles, but having recently coped with seeing Coors on a “Boston” bar’s sign in Black Mass (also a recommended watch, but, um, NO), I’m feeling forgiving.

Lehane didn’t write the screenplay after his novel Mystic River, but director Clint Eastwood stayed very close to his source material. That meant lots of times when what was said wasn’t what was meant, where the simplicity of a statement was like the tippy-top of an unfathomably huge iceberg. The Drop is paced and told like that, too, a style which I really enjoy, because that’s what happens when people have painful enough history to speak in evasive shorthand about it. No one needs to say “As you know, when we did this thing at that place on such a date….” I always prefer mystery to be left in that kind of shared background, because it adds to the perceived import of whatever it was. Funnily enough, I think about what it meant that people at Hogwarts were so traumatized by the past they were afraid to speak Voldemort’s name. Bad times and bad people are like boogie men, and we can be afraid their names work like evocations. A life-changing moment or relationship may be reduced to “She left me.” or “He died by himself,” but that’s because we know words are insufficient. We barely sketch the outline for each other and require our shared humanity to fill in the rest of the significance.

The-dropThis movie is like that, told in hints and the looks crossing faces. The people in it are worth watching as they try to figure out who to believe, caught in situations where trust is in short supply. There are some darkly funny moments, too, and plot-wise, a couple of big surprises I really enjoyed. It was also nice to look at, because it was so regular. If they spent a lot of time masterminding a just-so production design, rather than just dropping into what is true-life for a lot of people, it didn’t look orchestrated. Having served my time behind the stick, Cousin Marv’s feels like a million local bars you could find anywhere across the country, and the streets and other interiors seemed that way, too. Even with genuine movie stars in it, the small, local ordinariness of it was very appealing. Experiencing a film less as cutesy, manipulative calculation and more just as being witness to a story can be a relief.

So, I’m recommending The Drop if you like such street-level crime dramas. The trailer gives a decent idea of the tensions at play, except the movie has much more quiet in it. It’s not relentlessly-paced, which makes the shocking scenes more dramatic and lets you know the characters and their lives better. So, add it to your queue, or tell me what you thought if you’ve seen it, too!

Summer Reading Contest…

…AND  A CHANCE TO SEE YOUR NAME IN PRINT!
Here’s the deal: purchase a copy of my novella, NICK OF TIME, between now and July 4th, and send me a line from the book along with your name & email info and I will enter your name in a contest to be a character in my next Nick Donahue Adventure.
UnknownNICK OF TIME is a great summer read, an international adventure of a Blackjack player hoodwinked by a beautiful woman. If you want to enter my Summer Reading Contest, the Kindle edition is just $2.51 over at Amazon. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

On Re-Reading “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

I brought Flannery O’Connor’s collected short stories with us to the Cape last week and had the pleasure of rediscovering “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a tragic/comic crime story by a literary writer who died much too young at age thirty-nine.

The opening vignette: Grandma is trying to persuade her son not to take the family to Florida for vacation, but to east Tennessee where she has people she’d like to visit. The old woman is rarely silent—it would be easier to stop a river from flowing than to staunch the torrent coming from her mouth—and generally ignored by her son as well as her daughter-in-law, whose face is “as broad and innocent as a cabbage.” After the old woman’s grandson rudely asks why she doesn’t just stay home, his sister responds: “She wouldn’t stay home to be queen for a day.”

So here we have a toxic family scene marked by the kind of generational warfare that occurs in other O’Connor stories. As they set off on their road trip, Grandma, dressed like a lady in case she ends up dead in an accident, dispenses unsolicited information about the speed limit, the scenery, and good manners. While in real life, we wouldn’t choose to spend five claustrophobic minutes in that car, as readers we’re compelled to keep going. I won’t risk a spoiler by divulging more about the plot except to say that O’Connor provides an ending that’s both shocking and inevitable.

As writers of short crime fiction, we know that the conventional ending is the twist, the unexpected. What O’Connor did here, and did brilliantly, is  more powerful and also more difficult given that ‘shocking’ implies ‘unexpected’ and ‘inevitable’ implies the opposite.

Curious? Click here for the full text of the story; click here for a talk O’Connor gave on the story in 1963.

Thoughts about O’Connor, endings, crime fiction by literary writers? Please share.

 

Flannery O’Connor U.S. Postage Stamp

Author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) will grace a U.S. “Forever” Postage Stamp, set to debut on June 5, 2015. The stamp will also feature peacock feathers, since O’Connor raised peacocks on her family’s farm in Georgia.

This will be the 30th stamp issued in the USPS’s Literary Arts series.

WatercolorJoyce Carol Oates, however, does not think the watercolor painting resembles O’Connor.

The publishing firm Farrar, Straus & Giroux is holding a sweepstakes open to U.S. residents to win a complete set of Flannery O’Connor’s newly reissued Wise Blood, Everything That Rises Must Converge, The Complete Stories, The Violent Bear It Away, and Mystery and Manners (with covers illustrated by June Glasson and designed by Charlotte Strick), by subscribing to their FSG Work in Progress email news. The deadline to enter is 11:59 PM ET on Monday, June 22, 2015. There will be five grand prize winners.

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On Twitter, you can learn more about Andalusia Farm, the historic home of Flannery O’Connor in Milledgeville, Georgia; or “like” the farm’s page on Facebook.

Listen to a rare audio of Flannery O’Connor reading, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” ~ my favorite short story of all time.

Late-breaking news: Minnesota artist Chris Larson takes on Flannery O’Connor in opera, “Wise Blood,” by Gregory J. Scott in the StarTribune. If I lived in Minneapolis, I wouldn’t miss this production at the Soap Factory!

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Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Hint Fiction Contest

 

jpg_5936_Royalty_Free_Clip_Art_Happy_Pencil_Cartoon_Character_Holding_Golden_Trophy_CupThe West Hartford Libraries in Connecticut are holding a Hint Fiction contest.

According to their website: Hint Fiction Contest stories should be entertaining, thought-provoking, and evoke an emotional response. Stories both light and dark are appreciated – in 25 words. A positive, happier story just might stand out! 

Forty finalists will be selected by the staff of West Hartford Libraries. From the forty finalists, the Top Ten winners will be selected by three library-sponsored writing groups – West Hartford Fiction Writers, Connecticut Screenwriters, and the Faxon Poets.

PRIZES: Each of the top ten winners will receive a $25 CASH AWARD (provided by the library’s Thomas Kilfoil Bequest).

All 40 Finalists and Top 10 Winners will be notified via email on June 25, 2015jpg_letter4cash awards will follow by mail within three weeks. The return of any notification as undeliverable will result in disqualification and an alternate winner will be selected. No substitution or transfer of a prize is permitted.

Entries will be accepted until May 25, 2015. No more than three entries may be submitted per person – entries may be grouped together in one submission. All entries must be original, unpublished, and must not have been submitted elsewhere for any purpose. Participants must be at least fourteen years old on the date of submission.

Should you go for it, let us know ~ and good luck!

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Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Bleak and Brief: Noir at the Bar this Sunday, April 12th!

Noir-at-the-Bar-4-12-15-Shade-NYCI’ll be reading a very new (possibly, um, still being written) short piece during Noir at the Bar, held at the snug and copacetic Shade NYC on Sunday, 4/12.

It’s in Greenwich Village, 241 Sullivan St., and the whole thing runs from 6-9pm, plenty of time to get home on a school night.

Sure, if you’re a regular here, you may be bored to tears with my usual rap, but just check out the other, actually fascinating people who’ll be reading!

Gerald So – runs crime poetry blog, The 5-2, amid editing and advocating for short crime fiction. He promises verse for National Poetry Month!
Jeff Soloway -authors the Travel Writer mystery series for Alibi Books, as well as an, ahem, award-winning short story, “The Wentworth Letter”
S.A. Solomon – writes, edits, and bon vivants (if that’s a verb). Go check out her story “Live for Today” from Akashic’s New Jersey Noir
Julia Dahl– also works in crime journalism for CBSNews.com. Her 2014 debut novel Invisible City is Edgar-nominated
Alex Segura– does everything from Archie comics to crime novels, including his Pete Fernandez P.I. series just picked up by Polis Books
Dan Krokos – is the esquire of Kips Bay. With 46 thousand tweets and counting, he’s got plenty to say!
Rich Zahradnik– launched the Coleridge Taylor mysteries, set in 1975’s tumultuous NYC. The first novel in the series is Last Words
Joe Samuel Starnes– this week released Red Dirt: A Tennis novel. After competing as a teen in the eighties, in 2010, he played a 15 year-old girl in the world’s top 1000…and won
Thomas Pluck– organizes these events, plus writes, edits, interviews, reviews… he’s so enthusiastically productive I’m exhausted thinking about it!

Hope to see you at the bar!

If you can’t make it, please wish us all luck! I, for one, will need and very much appreciate your good wishes, and do have a great time wherever you find yourself!

Derringer Awards Announced, Congrats to Our Cathi Stoler!

SMFSLogo-10sq-300dpiEarlier this month, we congratulated all the wonderful writers who were nominated for the 2015 Derringer Awards for short fiction in 4 different categoies, including one author who we know rather well here at Women of Mystery.

 

 

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Well, we now have the especial joy to announce that the winner for Best Short Story (1001-4000 words) is our very own talented WoM Cathi Stoler, author of “The Kaluki Kings of Queens!” This story, about a young man who learns more than a game from his elders over cards, appeared in the anthology Family Matters, edited by this blog’s own Anita Page, and was published by Glenmere Books in partnership with the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the local organization where all of us who’ve ever posted here met. You see why it’s so special?! Besides Cathi, this year, the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Awards honor the following—

Best Flash: Joseph D’Agnese, “How Lil’ Jimmie Beat the Big C” (Shotgun Honey, May 12, 2014)

Best Long Story: Hilary Davidson, “A Hopeless Case” (All Due Respect #4, September 2014)

Best Novelette: Doug Allyn, “The Snow Angel” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 2014)

The Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement: James Powell

A public presentation of the awards will be made at the 2015 Bouchercon Convention in Raleigh, North Carolina in October. Congratulations to all!

Derringer Nominations! Congratulations to Cathi Stoler!

SMFSlogoThe Short Mystery Fiction Society has posted its 2015 Derringer Award nominations, and Women of Mystery’s own Cathi Stoler has been shortlisted in the category of Best Short Story!

 

 

 

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)

  • B.V. Lawson, “The Least of These” (Plan B Magazine, June 6, 2014)
  • William Burton McCormick, “Killing Sam Clemens” (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #13, July 2014)
  • Britni Patterson, “The Bad Son” (Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing, March 2014)
  • Mary E. Stibal, “A Friend in Brown” (Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, November 2014)
  • Cathi Stoler, “The Kaluki King of Queens” (Murder New York Style: Family Matters, August 2014)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)

  • M.H. Callway, “The Ultimate Mystery” (World Enough and Crime, October 2014)
  • Angel Luis Colón, “Separation Anxiety” (All Due Respect #3, May 2014)
  • Hilary Davidson, “A Hopeless Case” (All Due Respect #4, September 2014)
  • James T. Shannon, “The Missing Money” (Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, November 2014)
  • Cathy Wiley, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” (Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, October 2014)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)

  • Doug Allyn, “The Snow Angel” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 2014)
  • Doug Allyn, “Hitler’s Dogs” (Fiction River: Crime, March 2014)
  • Vicki Delany, “Juba Good” (Orca Books Rapid Reads, April 2014)
  • Trey Dowell, “Infernal” (Untreed Reads, June 2014)
  • Richard Helms, “Busting Red Heads” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March/April 2014)

Participating members of SMFS nominate the stories, then a panel of judges whittles it down to the shortlist, then turn it over to members again, who’ll vote by month’s end to decide the winners. This year, as always, there’s a fantastic assortment of authors and stories. It’s an honor to be among them, one which we happen to think, immodestly perhaps, Cathi richly deserves. We’d also like to offer our kudos to WoM Anita Page, who–most excellently, obviously–edited the anthology where Cathi’s story appears.

The group vote to determine the winners takes place March 1–30th. Winners will be announced March 31st.

Congratulations to all the Derringer nominees!