Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things Like This Should NEVER Happen

Black Friday. That yearly day after Thanksgiving that many retail employees don't look forward to. Throngs of people lining lining up (okay, mobbing up is more appropriate waiting for a store's door to open. Believe me, people are absolutely ridiculous on this day, some of them lining up HOURS before the store opens. I've worked retail and I've seen the madness. And every year you hear about injuries to employees and shoppers caused by the stampedes of people. But this situation is truly unacceptable:

"A Wal-Mart worker died early Friday after an "out-of-control" mob of frenzied
shoppers smashed through the Long Island store's front doors and trampled him,
police said." (Read full article)

And the worst part of this situation was that other workers were also trampled while attempting to help the fallen worker and shoppers actually got mad when the store closed for a few hours because of the death. It's absolutely inhuman and at the same time very sad that people felt mad and inconvenienced at a store closing making them have to wait to get their holiday deals. Thanks to some of them, a family will be grieving the loss of a loved one because these shoppers just had to save a few dollars or get that hot new gift item.

And you know what? I bet after these people read all the articles about 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour (the unfortunate Wal-Mart worker), they'll either say they weren't involved or won't give it a second thought.

So as we all go about our holiday shopping and go to gather with our loved ones, we should keep in our thoughts Jdimytai Damour as well as his family and friends who have suffered a terrible and such unnecessary loss.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quote of the Week

"At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable."

--- Raymond Chandler

Sign of the Times?

Much like other businesses during these tough economic times, the publishing industry is also suffering. But has it truly reached the point that major NY publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt actually told their editors to "temporarily" stop acquiring manuscripts? (Additional NYT article here)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hodie EGO sum Centum (Today I am 100)

Okay, so I'm not 100, but this IS the 100th post here at Out in Writefield. (trumpets sound) And to kick things off, I'd like to announce the winner of Ken Bruen's latest book, Once Were Cops, that I offered to one lucky commenter on my post Cracking the Block. And the winner is....(opens envelope). Jake Nantz. Congratulations, Jake. Could you please e-mail me at with your snail mail so I can get your book off to you? And by the way folks, check out Jake's blog, The Pen-Ferno. Cool name, huh?

So let's move this party. You're probably wondering, "What's with the Latin in the post title?" Well, it goes along with my guest here today at Out in WriteField: Kelli Stanley. She is the author of
Nox Dormienda, a historical mystery set in Rome but with a noir feel. So please join me in welcoming Kelli Stanley to Out in WriteField.


RJ: NOX DORMIENDA. Can you give us the pitch?

KS: Well, first let me thank you, RJ, for the invite! It’s great to be here to help celebrate your 100th.

As for NOX … it’s a mystery-thriller and the first Roman Noir. A combination of ancient historical setting (first century Roman Britain) and the style of hardboiled fiction made famous by Hammett, Chandler, Woolrich and Cain. Arcturus—the governor’s doctor—has only one week to figure out who murdered a Syrian spy—and why … or civil war will erupt between the Roman Empire, and the small, wet province known as Britannia.

And of course there’s a woman involved. Isn’t there always? ;)

RJ: I've read that you're both a Classicist and a huge fan of noir. What made you decide to combine the two?

KS: An epiphany while attending Eddie Muller’s Noir City film festival in San Francisco. I’ve been a noir fan all my life. I wanted a lens for the book, something people could look through and say, “OK, I get it, Roman culture wasn’t all marble and togas, and it really does have relevance to the here and now.” For me, noir is that lens … it gives me a chance to prove that history can be just as tough, just as visceral, as a contemporary novel.

RJ: NOX DORMIENDA has been described by you and others such as author James Rollins, The Library Journal and Becky Lejeune, of, as "Roman Noir." What exactly is Roman Noir?

KS: Well, Roman Noir is a pun on “roman noir”, the French literary term for a detective novel. I thought it would be a good way to distinguish NOX from other historical mysteries on the market, and let people know that it’s something completely new. I’m very proud of the fact that the city and county of San Francisco—my homebase—awarded me a Certificate of Honor for my creation of a new subgenre.

Thanks to Jim Rollins, Becky Lejeune, and other reviewers, I’ve been able to get the word out about Roman Noir. Thanks to the support of readers, I have a good chance at expanding the series to the second, third and fourth novels. We’re trying to move to a larger publisher, so we’ll see.

RJ: I understand that you're also working on another series set in
San Francisco in 1940.

KS: I just finished it, actually. Right before Bouchercon (a large annual mystery convention). Not Roman, but definitely noir … and a much darker version than Roman.

RJ: Any possibility for a little insight into the series?

KS: Without giving too much away, the protagonist is a female PI, who gets involved in a case dealing with racial tensions between the Chinese-American and Japanese-American communities in the wake of Nanking. Sweeping book, very dark and very big.

RJ: Just for fun, what are some of your favorite noir films and books?

KS: My favorite noir films include Nightmare Alley, Gilda, Out of the Past, Double Indemnity and Touch of Evil … and of course the minute I say that, I think of Night and the City, In a Lonely Place, Sudden Fear, Woman on the Run, Thieves’ Highway … it’s virtually impossible to rank them!

As for books, I consider Chandler a noir writer. He’s my favorite author. I also hold Hammett, Woolrich, Elizabeth Sanxay-Holding, Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy B. Hughes, David Goodis in high esteem. James Cain. Jim Thompson was brilliant, hard as hell to read sometimes because he was so damn disturbing. I like a combination of aesthetic lyricism with a brutal subject.

RJ: Who were some of the biggest influences on you as a writer?

KS: All of the above, plus Hemingway, Steinbeck, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, the Brontes, Poe and a whole lot of other people. Lots of poetry. Shakespeare. Virgil, Catullus, Euripides in terms of classical literature.

RJ: You say that you're also a comic book buff. Name some of your favorites.

KS: I used to own a comic book store with my family, and have collected since I was a kid. Batman and Detective are my two main titles … I have every issue of Detective from about 1959 to 1989. Batman is, for me, the ultimate noir super-hero. I’ve always been a DC fan (and am one of those unfortunate souls who can name all the members of the Legion of Super-Pets).

My collection has ground to a halt since publication, but I collect Silver and Golden Age DC, Fawcett and Quality. I’ve always loved Plastic Man (Jack Cole), Will Eisner’s The Spirit (what a wonderful man Eisner was!) … and I’m partial to a few other heroes in the DC pantheon, including Green Arrow, Dr. Fate and the Specter. I adore Catwoman. I was never much of a Wonder Woman fan, though as an academic I published an article on how she reflects American cultural trends toward women.

RJ: Did any of them influence your writing as well?

KS: Great question! I’m sure comic books have influenced me … they’re like reading storyboards, and before I turned to novels, I wrote screenplays … gave it up because unless you’re in LA and are willing to knock on doors it’s too frustrating a business. Batman certainly influenced me … made me understand (and from a young age) the pain of loss and the anger at not being able to prevent it. And the desire for revenge … psychologically he’s a very complex figure.

RJ: What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

KS: Movies—I’m looking forward to Quantum of Solace. Usually I’m catching up on something from 1948 on DVD. J I love visiting historic places, watching ships come in under the Golden Gate Bridge, walking in parks, playing with the dog. I also like vintage radio shows—some great writing on shows like Suspense … full entertainment in a half hour. But the thing about being a writer is that you never *not write.* Even when you’re doing other things, you’re still writing in your head. Deep down, I never stop.

RJ: So, what's next for Arcturus and company?

KS: The sequel is called MALEDICTUS (Cursed). Set a few months after NOX, in the town of Aquae Sulis (modern day Bath). It deals with the health spa/snake oil atmosphere of the town, and the murder of a curse-writer … someone whose curses seemed to come true. I’m hoping to see the series picked up by a larger publisher.

RJ: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today.

KS: My pleasure, RJ, thanks for asking me!! And here’s to the 200th post!


There you have it fols, your intro to Roman Noir and a great writer. So be sure to get your copy of Nox Dormienda. And in honor of Kelli Stanley stopping by, you can check out the first three chapters of Nox Dormienda in the chap book that I'll be giving away to a randomly selected commenter.


Kelli Stanley likes fog, which is a good thing because she lives in San Francisco. In addition to writing Roman noir, she holds a Master’s Degree in Classics. As a scholar, she writes and lectures internationally on a variety of subjects from Sallust to Superman, and her published work can be found in academic books and journals.

Her favorite film is Casablanca—she always gets choked up over the “Marseillaise” scenes.

She is currently working on her third Arcturus novel, and is researching a second series set in San Francisco in 1939.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Quoth the Raven "Nevermore....2009"

In celebration of Edgar Allan Poe's 200th birthday next year, the City of Baltimore (where Poe is buried), will hold a yearlong celebration known as Nevermore 2009. Some of the activities include:

* An Edgar Allan Poe tribute by noted actor John Astin (a Baltimore Resident) of “The Addams Family” fame. Mr. Astin will present a spellbinding hour of Poe’s most beloved works interspersed with comments and observations on Poe’s life.

Sample the wines mentioned in Poe's stories while enjoying the ambience of the Westminster catacombs. Witness Montressor luring Fortunado to a gruesome death in a theatrical
performance of The Cask of Amontillado. Enjoy characters from Poe's stories as they mingle among the living.

Beginning at midnight, join hundreds of people as a vigil is held at Poe's grave. Throughout the vigil, celebrities and members of the public will get a chance to read excerpts from Poe's works or just read their own tribute to Poe at his gravesite.

A horse-drawn funeral hearse will bring Poe's body from his home on Amity Street to the Westminster Hall for burial services. A drum and fife corps will lead the procession. The funeral service will include musical selections performed by a pianist, soloist, violinist and a choir. Guest speakers will include five people who knew Poe, "legacies" such as "Alfred Hitchcock," "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," "Charles Baudelaire" and "H. G. Wells" will present eulogies. Invited representatives from the literary, stage and movie industries will present their own eulogies for Poe. Tributes from ambassadors from many countries will also be read.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the narrator in The Tell Tale Heart? Did he stand trial? Was he found guilty or innocent by reason of insanity? Witness the chilling confession of the accused as he relates why and how he murdered an old man. A retired or sitting judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney and the arresting police officer will conduct the case. The audience will be the jury.

For a complete schedule of the events and other info, be sure check out the official site for Nevermore 2009.

Just a reminder: Next post I will be announcing the winner of the drawing for Ken Bruen's latest book Once Were Cops.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Michael Crichton passes away

The literary world has suffered yet another loss this week when best-selling author Michael Crichton died this past Tuesday (Nov. 4) after a bout with cancer. He was 66.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Quote of the Week

"A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."

--- Sir Winston Churchill

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cracking the Block

I'm sure this has happened to you. You're breezing along through your current WIP and all is right with your writing world. Then it happens. Your fingers hover over your keyboard and won't go back down. You've been blocked. You rack your brain, but the words just won't come fast enough (or even at all). Now what? Fortunately, today, we have award winning-author Ken Bruen to offer some advice as to what he does:

There's an old joke about if you are blocked, picture your bank manager and the words will flow. Then there is Chandler's advice, bring a man through the window with a gun
I'm a little more radical when I'm blocked
I kill someone
Usually a loved character, the impact of that will really get you moving
Or if not that, something to shock the hell out of yer own self, and if it shocks you, it will definitely shock the reader
take a real reckless chance, come out of left field, do something you never dreamed you'd do and watch the block dissipate

There you have it folks. Kill someone {on paper of course ;)} or shock your reader. So how about you all? What do you do to get past your block?

Everyone who comments in the next few days or so will be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of Ken Bruen's latest book Once Were Cops.


Ken Bruen was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and the Private Eye Writers of America presented him with the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003 for The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor. He lives in Galway, Ireland.

He is also a former regular at the grog Murderati. If you've never read his posts, you can do so here. They are well worth the read.