Sunday, January 29, 2006

No Good Deed Unpunished

This weekend, despite being laid up with a nefarious, fiction-hating cold, I managed to polish and send off a short story entitled A Simple Kindness. It is the story of a man who finds himself caught in the center of a violent, dangerous game, all because of a spontaneous act of goodwill. Though it's set in the present, the story is very much the product of my recent hard-boiled binge. At 2,391 words, it's short, taut, and full of plot. If I'm to trust my tried-and-true test audience, it's also pretty good, but seeing as how they are all, well, related to me, I guess the jury's still out on that one. It's out of my hands now, though. All that's left is to cross my fingers and wait. Oh, and NyQuil. Lots and lots of NyQuil.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


These past weeks, I've been editing down my novel, which means I've been dieting. All hard-boiled, all the time. In the past two weeks alone I've read Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block, 361 by Donald Westlake, and I'm smack in the middle of Hammett's Red Harvest. Meanwhile, Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretary sits unfinished on my coffee table, and I haven't even cracked Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard (take that, Strunk!) Now, a hard-boiled diet is a greasy, nasty way to go, all bourbon and cigarettes and murder, but it does have its upside. I'm writing a thriller (okay, editing, but bear with me). It stands to follow that it should be thrilling, right? Well, as anybody reading this can see, I tend toward wordiness. Not terribly thrilling. What I'd love is the economy of prose of the old pulp classics, minus possibly the references to doxies and fedoras. So that's what I'm reading.

Now, sentences that seemed perfectly acceptable before are about forty words too long. Commas become periods. Adjectives become flotsam. Book, hopefully, becomes thrilling.

The downside is that you read enough of these, and the whole world looks a little off-kilter. Murder and blackmail everywhere. In fact, I got a nasty little short-story out of it this weekend, complete with femme fatales, fall-guys, and double-crosses. But the diet is worth it, I think. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was one of my favorite reads of last year, but man, you should have seen the sentences I wrote while I was reading that.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


So. A new year. The holidays are behind us, the dust has settled, and things are returning to normal.

Thank god.

For three weeks, I’ve been shopping or wrapping or packing or traveling. I’ve been to Christmas parties, family gatherings, and even a wedding. Every waking moment not already swallowed up by the day job has been occupied, leaving me unfocused, irritable, and borderline-depressed.

Three weeks without writing. Without editing. Without any real progress on my manuscript. Doesn’t sound like much? Ask any writer.

So here we are. 2006. Time to get back to work.