Saturday, December 15, 2012

Loaded Thoughts

Naturally enough, I can't stop thinking about the school shooting at Sandy Hook. And at Chardon, Virginia Tech, Red Lake, West Nickel Mines, Westside and of course, Columbine. The list is sickening, and it keeps growing longer...

And that's got me thinking about guns.

A gun, any weapon really, is a force-multiplier. Pure and simple. Stick, knife, brass knuckles, assault rifle or fighter jet, the point is that your weapon does more damage in your hands than your hands do alone.

One thing about guns: any damn idiot with a trigger finger can do a lethal amount of damage.

This random, horrible, murderous urge is, I hate to say, universal and very human. I imagine it has to do with the effects of social pressures, rage and hopelessness on marginal, borderline personalities.We have seen it in modern China. We see it in the cafard of Polynesia, the mal de peleo of Puerto Rico, the Navajo iich'aa and the Philippine/Malaysian syndrome whose name our language adopted, running amok.

Some folks just melt down. And when that buzzing starts in their heads, they go on a killing rampage. The only thing that changes are the available weapons.

Which brings me back to guns. Some poor bastard loses the plot and takes after a bunch of kids with a knife, he gets tackled and subdued. Yes, seven deaths is seven too many, but he only got those because of the shock and delay onlookers experienced at the sudden attack. And that shock and delay WILL happen in that situation. (You concealed-carry advocates may be sitting there with Diehard scenarios running through your head, but even with extgensive and specialized training, violent surprise will cause you to lose a step.) Point is, grownups went, "Hey, that guys stabbing kids" and tackled his ass to the ground. Imagine if instead he'd opened up with a pistol or shotgun, or an assault rifle.

Obviously, the US has a LOT of guns- 89-90,000 per 100,000 people. My new home New Zealand has 22,000 per 100,000 still one of the highest on the planet. Thing is, while we certainly have our share of amok here, we don't get school shootings. We don't get workplace shootings. Even our own Aramoana Massacre only claimed four lives.

Why? Kiwis certainly aren't nicer than Americans, or less prone to violence. Every darkness that dwells in the human heart dwells in us, and we certainly have our fair share of guns.

So what then?

Near as I can figure, it's that here they have gun control. Real, live gun control. Nothing illegal at all about owning a gun, or a lot of guns if you like. But you do have to be licensed. Not a criminal. Not mentally ill. You MUST have effective safeguards, gun safes, etc. The more guns you have, the more secure your home had better be.

And the cops actually come out to your house and CHECK! They visit, to make sure you haven't gone mental. To check out that gun safe/cabinet/etc. and see who has access and are they licensed too. They will check your alarms and such, because they don't want guns in the hands of criminals, naturally.

And you know what? Cops here don't carry either. If guns are called for, there's something called the Armed Offenders Squad, specialists like a SWAT team who take care of any shooting needs doing.

We/re not perfect here. We're human. We don't get it right all the time. Bad things happen, and will happen in the future.

But by limiting the ACCESS of the mentally ill and unstable to deadly weapons that require little more than to point and click to unleash hell, we do live better, happier, safer and more secure lives.

How many more dead does my birth country need before it finally takes action??

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bass Ackwards

One of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes is something along the lines of 'you never really learn to write novels- you only learn how to write the novel you've just written'. (Except, of course, probably better phrased than that, since he is, after all, Neil Gaiman...)

Certainly true in my case. Over the course of a dozen-ish novels (including the graphic novels) I have plotted and pantsed. I've thrown my carefully crafted plots out halfway through. I've outlined a scene or two ahead so that I'd have an idea where the words were headed. I wrote my first graphic novel from an outline on a single page of notebook paper, from an idea I got while face-painting children at a public pool.

I've pounded out pages on a 1920's Remington typewriter, tippity-tap-tap-tapped them on a variety of laptops, once even forged my way through some ugly writer's block by slowing down enough to use a 19th century dip pen. A. Dip. Pen. 

No two novel-writings have been alike. Maybe I'm still finding my particular groove. Maybe I'll never have just the one method. 

All I know for sure is, I've never had anything quite like this. 

I've been working on Paris Blues (not it's real name, I'm sure, but we gotta call 'em something) for some months now. I started as usual, vague idea of a plot arch, tapping at the laptop (well, HP mini notebook these days- easier to cart around) and well aware that my plots rarely go where I think they will. I was happy to roll along for the ride. 

Things got weird. For reasons I can't remember anymore, about 10,000 words in I found myself scribbling away in a blank notebook with a fountain pen. No complaints out of me: I find the shush of nib on paper, the glistening trail of ink to be the most sensual writing experience possible. And as sometimes happens, slowing down my hand speeds up my words. 

I was prepared for characters who seemed important in the beginning to fade as I went on. I was just as prepared to find new characters walking on with plenty to say, knowing they'd mean a pretty big rewrite at the beginning to fold them in. I was even ready to find that my gangster story was more of a murder mystery. Maybe. Or not. All part of the fun. 

What I wasn't ready for was the story to come at me out of order. I love Stephen King's analogy of writing a story as pulling at a buried thread. Well, this here thread seems to be one big tangle. I can see (kinda, sorta) where it's all going. Going-ish. Okay, so there's a sense of it all hanging together, but I keep getting scenes that DO NOT fit chronologically. 

On the one hand, I could leave them as they came, be the next Vonnegut, maybe win some kind of literary prize. More likely, I'm going to end up opening a second draft as I transcribe them into the laptop and start monkeying with things until the whole shebang makes sense. 

No Whitebread or Booker for me, but hopefully a story that's fun to read and hard to put down...

Sunday, October 21, 2012


(pronounced 'shall-ONGE', for any of you who were wondering)

So I've set myself a challenge: release four books before Christmas. Yup, that's right: not one or two, not even three, but FOUR separate titles in less than a hundred days!

I like my goals BAD: Bold, Ambitious and Doable. I'm sick and tired of sitting on all this unreleased work, and four out the door is a good start.

And as the blog title says, life ain't got but two speeds worth using, and it's high time I started burning asphalt again. :)

I started this about a month ago, end of September-ish. And it was harder to get in gear than I'd thought. Too much rust, too many parts fallen into disrepair. But I never let that stop me before, and it didn't now. And sure enough, as I've picked up the rhythm again, it's getting easier to open that throttle.

First up was a new novel, in THREE editions. With all the separate formatting for Kindle, Smashwords and then (the doozy) print, I was mighty damn tempted to call that three of my four. But I knew that would be cheating, so I ticked that one up and stepped on the gas.

Next up are a print reissue of my first graphic novel and a revised and expanded new edition of Crossroad Blues with a wonderful new cover by the magical Kate Sterling! I figured these would be easy ones, but formatting a graphic novel for print turns out to be just as big a pain as formatting prose, and none of the skills transfer over. I'm still tackling it at a pretty good clip!

Not sure what the fourth will be yet...

Likely candidates are a crime/suspense (BURIED), a flat-out Noir (MAYHEM) or a mystery still searching for its title (I've been calling it High School Gumshoe while I work on it lol). There are others, of course, in various stages of first-and second draftage. But these are closest to ready to go out, so they'll be sitting nervous in the back seat, looking out that open door and listening to the rush of wind.

Me, I have no doubt before this challenge is done I'll have the gas pedal mashed to the floor, bugs in my teeth and the engine screaming, the road ahead a blue tunnel.

Once I've hit 'Publish' that fourth time, THAT'S when I've earned myself a nice nap and a day off.

Before I do it all over again. :)

And in case you were wondering, yes, I will throw some posts up here to hype the new stuff! Later. Right now, I've got to get back to work!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Not Dead Yet...

So a series of hardware meltdowns and my own dependence on stored passwords left me locked out of several email accounts, as well as blogger. As time went on, I got (and stayed) sidetracked. Until today. The 7th anniversary of Katrina, the advent of Isaac, my own mounting frustration with bulldozers and road cones... well, something in there made getting back into my blogger account important today. My New Orleans friends, I want you all to know you're very much in my thoughts. <3

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kaning It!

Well, for a change this blog has been quiet for a *good* reason: Kane's back, and just like last time, he's kicking ass in longhand!

I don't know what it is about that character (maybe that he's pretty old-fashioned and low-tech himself), but writing him goes quicker when I break out my trusty old fountain pen and a thick blank book.

Of course, that first draft is not all I'm up to. As usual, I keep my plate pretty full: I've got another short story about halfway done, a couple of workshops I'll be leading for New Zealand Book Month, a novel set in rural Georgia just getting its final touches before release and staying booked out about a month in advance for my tattoo work.

But every day I force a block of time to sit with Kane: It's two years after the end of Crossroad Blues, and he's been in Paris. He's got his own apartment, a regular gig at a small Blues club and some money in his pocket. An indie record label's showing some interest.

One night he sees a girl in a party dress go down a manhole and pull the cover shut behind her, and everything changes...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Successful Failure - a Year in Review

(Note: It's pretty damn late right now. I've got an early morning ahead of me tomorrow, but I've been putting off this post for WAY too long. I guess tonight's the night...)

So as 2011 wound down, I was looking back on my resolutions from last year, thinking about resolutions for the new year and generally checking my progress against my goals.

Basically, I was beating myself up. :)

Y'see, I didn't get a single damn thing I resolved done last year. To be honest, I can't remember half of my goals, and I can't be bothered going back and looking them up. There was some stuff about getting my back catalog in print, finishing new work, hell, I don't know. The important thing is, I'm one of those people sets goals and makes them happen. And in 2011... I didn't.

So there I sat, Brooding in my Vast and Forbidding Mansion (I'd had the parapets cleaned for just that purpose), when my brain had the nerve to actually wander back over the last year:

*One of my books spent a little time on an AmazonUK bestseller list. It didn't last, but I'll never forget the feeling of seeing my name sandwiched between titles by Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwall. Freakin' awesome!

*An earthquake destroyed my city. I mean, loss-of-life, no-more-heritage-buildings, downtown-is-rubble, drinking-bottled-water-and-pooing-in-a-trench-in-the-yard, seriously destroyed.

*That earthquake destroyed my business. The foundation cracked, water and sewage and silt came up, the building sits vacant to this day.

*I opened a new shop, painting and decorating and hauling furniture, helping dig my friends and neighbors out of their own flooding problems, writing at night and tattooing from home to help fund the reopening. And I did it all with a broken right hand.

*I spoke at schools who had to share campuses because their own buildings had been destroyed, and in churches where the rec center was the only thing that survived.

*Through 9500 aftershocks, repeated loss of basic services and the constant presence of liquifaction, a noxious mud that dries on sunny days and becomes a noxious windblown grit, I built my business back better than it ever had been.

*I got to go back to New Orleans, where among other things, I met some of the best friends a blogger can have. :)

*And this year I had somewhere to go for Christmas. No doubt a relief to everyone who received one of my drunken insane texts last year...

Well, I don't have to tell you, freshly cleaned parapet or not, looking at it that way sure put a dent in my Brooding. Which was just as well: I was having guests around for Mai Tais, Margaritas and naked Twister. It's been like this ever since I hung a disco ball in the Vast and Forbidding Mansion. It's hard to get a decent Brood on when someone's always trying to paint mustaches on the gargoyles...

So, yeah, I failed at my goals. But I'm not unhappy with my progress. The year was horrible, absolutely horrible. And it was also great.

It was a successful failure! :)

PS. I guess my resolutions weren't total failures: I did in fact finish a rough draft called Mayhem. It's marinating a bit before I start editing...