New Story: “Shoot the Dog” in All Due Respect

Check out issue #7 of All Due Respect, the award-winning crime magazine — it features my new story “Shoot the Dog.”

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Helsinki Noir

Helsinki Noir, a collection of crime stories set in Helsinki, is available in both English (Akashic Books) and Finnish (Like).

My contribution is “The Silent Woman”, a satirical tale that takes the most prototypical noir storyline imaginable (a femme fatale, a fall-guy loser and murder for money) and transplants it to Helsinki. I wanted to see what would happen if you were to play out that age-old story in the Finnish social environment. It’s mainly an excuse for dark culture-clash comedy, as the narrator is a self-absorbed, self-pitying Brit. The reviews are all over the place, as could be expected, with one newspaper reviewer selecting it as one of the best of the collection and another singling it out as one of the worst.

I’ve been slow to post about Helsinki Noir due to the death of the editor, James Thompson. RIP, good buddy.

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Familiarity vs. Originality. Or: One Two Three Four! Let’s Rock!

I don’t worship originality. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, a story is not what it’s about, but rather how it’s about it.

I believe that there’s a time and place to retell old stories with new words — to let your hair down and rock out with your cock out.

A good basic genre story is like a three-chord pop song: simple and to the point, with something about it that makes the familiar fun again. Too much innovation can break the comfort-food pleasures of genre in ridiculous ways, like a prog musician mistaking complexity for depth. (I’ll take The Ramones over Yes any day.)

One of my ongoing projects is to write riffs on familiar genre stories to see if I can wring a few fresh drops of blood out of them — some of them are tongue in cheek, with the familiarity of the tropes as part of the joke.

It’s a fun thing to do. Pointless, of course, but most fun things are. So why not.

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Writing on the Edge of a Volcano

There’s a feeling I sometimes get when I jog in the dark woods after midnight – a brief sense that there’s someone at my heels (but it’s only echoes of my footsteps). For a split second, I feel like a child again. It’s both wonderful and disconcerting. Our lives are full of such moments. Here’s another example: when, all of a sudden, I realize that I’m doing something without conscious thought, simply out of habit. The realization is like being shaken awake. 

When that happens, I become aware of the layers of my own consciousness – of the fact that the rational self is a rickety shack on the edge of a volcano.

Great works of art have a similar effect on me. They knock away, if only for a moment, the illusion of the self that’s accreted over the years.

We’re not here for very long. Stay awake. 

H.R. Giger, the master surrealist, has died. His work both unsettled and inspired me. I dedicate this post to him. R.I.P.

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When There’s No Time to Write

They say you should write every day. It’s good advice, but there are times when it’s simply not possible. I wish it were, but it isn’t. I’m a freelancer. December to March is my busiest season (I do loads of financial reports). Since Christmas, I’ve taken one day off. That’s the way it goes. Summer is usually quiet, so I have to make some money when I can.

So — very little fiction writing gets done during Q1. Due to the nature of my work, I get this long-ass writer’s block imposed on me every year. However, during this time, I usually mull over potential writing projects.

And in the past two months, I’ve worked on editing my novel. That’s something, anyway.

Still — as the weeks go by, the itch to write gets worse …