Friday 29 October 2010

These days, it's all about the Ramones

I've discovered that one of the joys of issuing a short story challenge is that you get introduced to new writers and new blogs. Jeff Chon over at Chonsense has written a brilliant short called PET SEMATARY. Check out some of the stories and poems he has linked to on his blog. I loved STAY PUT.

And the lovely Rob Kitchin puts a whole new spin on things as he actually references the Ramones in his story DEATH OF ME. Great stuff.

I'll put a full list up on Monday and post stories people without blogs have sent me. Thanks all, for playing, I'm loving reading the stories :o)

In the meantime, since I'm not yet up to posting normal Scottish crime fiction news - and I've got carried away and written three Ramones stories - rather than post them all on Monday, here's a stupid one (really stupid), based on something I've done before (ie, it's cheating, but it fitted nicely with the title).


She was a three-eyed, dome-headed beauty from the planet Bolgan and I knew she was trouble. When she walked into my office that day I was sitting with one foot up on the scratched desk top, one resting on the upturned waste-paper basket, and the third tapping gently on the floor to the sounds of the Ramones - an ancient old time punk band from the planet Earth.

The bright red glow from the two Zogian suns outside the window of my office shone through the window, causing my visitor to narrow all her eyes and squint at me in that slightly accusatory way that the Bolgans have. At that moment, the famous old adage, 'Never get involved with a three-eyed, dome-headed Bolgan beauty' passed fleetingly through my brain. I wish it had stopped for a while, pulled up a brain cell, and rested its weary feet. They say hindsight's a wonderful thing. At least, they do on the planet Mirmar where they have eyes in the backs of their pointy little heads.

Anyway, when she walked into my office I was taking a pull on the bottle of Grogon juice that I keep there to while away time on the slack days. Unfortunately, this year has been 842 slack days long. You'd think as the only PI on the planet Zog, I would be inundated with work. But no. When they sent me down to Earth to live among the pasty faced ignorant humans for a while to pick my future career path, I should have remembered that there's no crime on Zog, and focused instead on nuclear physics. In popular Earth culture classes, when all my fellow Zogians were sniggering uncontrollably over episodes of Star Trek, I was devouring the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. I took up smoking, learned how to knit, insisted on being called Lord Peter, and bought a fedora. I should have bought two, since I have 2 heads, but, hey, I'm killing time by knitting myself another one from baby blue wool.

"Aratsafar Zabalagorian?" said the beauty. "Private Investigator?"

"Thatsh me shweetheart." I said through several almost immobile lips, with the slight lisp I'd cultivated (did I mention culture classes also included Humphrey Bogart films?)

I took another swig of Grogon juice and winced as it burned its fiery way down my throats. "But this stuff," I waved the glass at her, "is almost as much of a mouthful as my name. So I've changed it. My name I mean."

On my return from planet Earth, battered and well-thumbed paperbacks in hand (well, they would have been well-thumbed if I'd had thumbs, but, of course, being a Zogian, I don't), I'd decided to change my name - call myself something more in keeping with my heroic ideal of the rumpled PI with an eye for the dames, a cynical swagger, and a trusty .38 special.

"So?" she said. "What do I call you?"

"The name's Marple. But you can call me Miss."

The End (mercifully)

I'm so, so sorry, dear reader. And if you want to hear the song, it's here:

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Shorts, More Shorts, Sickness and Scott Phillips

Another couple of Ramones stories are up:

M J Nicholls with a dark and chilling take on BEAT ON THE BRAT - brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Rosemarie Keenan's witty and clever I WANNA BE YOUR BOYFRIEND.

And I've received a couple via e-mail which I will post here on 1st November, including one from my Dad (oh dear, oh dear).

I've been very remiss in telling you about DISCOUNT NOIR - a short story project I was honoured to be involved in, edited by Patti Abbott and Steve Weddle. There are some great stories in the collection. Here's the description and the full list of writers involved:

If you thought standing in line at your local warehouse store was murder, then you haven't been to Megamart. These flash fiction tales of superstore madness and mayhem will make you think twice the next time you hear "clean up on aisle 13."

This anthology contains works by: Patricia Abbott, Sophie Littlefield, Kieran Shea, Chad Eagleton, Ed Gorman, Cormac Brown, Fleur Bradley, Alan Griffiths, Laura Benedict, Garnett Elliot, Eric Beetner, Jack Bates, Bill Crider, Loren Eaton, John DuMond, John McFetridge, Toni McGee Causey, Jeff Vande Zande, James Reasoner, Kyle Minor, Randy Rohn, Todd Mason, Byron Quertermous, Sandra Scoppettone, Stephen D. Rogers, Steve Weddle, Evan Lewis, Daniel B. O'Shea, Sandra Seamans, Albert Tucher, Donna Moore, John Weagly, Keith Rawson, Gerald So, Dave Zeltserman, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, Jay Stringer, Anne Frasier, Kathleen A. Ryan, Eric Peterson, Chris Grabenstein and J.T. Ellison.

And you can buy it from the lovely people at Untreed Reads (editor Jay Hartman deserves a pay rise, a promotion, and a stand-up comedy gig) by clicking on the wee banner thingy below, if I've done it right.

And you can buy it for the Kindle from Amazon here.

While I've been off ill (now officially upgraded to pneumonia for those keeping track of the Amazing Ever-Changing Diagnosis), I've not been able to read (aaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhh!) so I've been catching up on my TV viewing, watching series 2 and 3 of THE WIRE. Brilliant stuff. And I'm hoping that series 4 and 5 will be dropping through my letter box today. When I am fit to read again, I already have my first book lined up - RUT, by the wonderful Scott Phillips. I've been waiting far too long for a new one from Mr Phillips - I've been a big fan since reading THE ICE HARVEST, and his historical novel COTTONWOOD (which is like Little Whore House On The Prairie) is one of my very favourite books of all time. Not only does RUT look brilliant, but it's published by the Concord Free Press - a revolution in publishing. They give books away for free. Yep, totally free. All they ask is that you make a donation to charity of some description (and record it at their website) and, once you've finished it, you give the book to someone else. Hopefully, they will also make a donation. A totally brilliant idea. Which only has one drawback for me...I have to give away a Scott Phillips instead of keeping it on my bookshelves to stroke with glee and re-read from time to time. Tough, very tough.

Saturday 23 October 2010

'Reports of my death...' and all that

Dear Reader - apologies for the long hiatus between postings. I was hoping to send lots of fascinating and scintillating reports from my trip to Bouchercon in San Francisco, followed by a few days with my lovely friend Christa Faust and then a trip to Murder By The Book in Houston. However, the best laid plans of mice and Donnas and all that. Instead, I had a trip to Hospital A with suspected meningitis, decided I didn't like that potential diagnosis so came home, only for it to be followed by a swift trip to Hospital B with suspected pneumonia. I decided I wasn't particularly keen on that diagnosis either. However, I stayed in Hospital B until we had parlayed it down to chest infection, some sort of flu, and 5 day migraine from hell, amongst other things. As a result, I missed getting hugs from, and spending quality time with, some of my favourite people. Gutted, moi? Totally. Instead, I spent not-so-quality time in hospital with The Loud Family, Sweary Man, Biscuit Stealing Man and Totally Bonkers Woman.

I am now just about on the mend and back in the land of the blogging. Thanks to everyone who has worried about me, sent me e-mails and tweets and phoned me to see how I am. I apologise if I haven't answered your message, or sounded slightly incoherent on the phone. I will try and catch up over the next couple of days.

My enforced silence has also meant that I have been unable to bully...errrrr...remind you about the Ramones short story thing. But look at this - Douglas Lindsay, genius author of the darkly hilarious Barney Thomson series, has written me a short story! How brilliant is that? Read PINHEAD here. And it's a Barney story, too. Thanks Douglas, I'm beaming with joy here.

And a reminder of the earlier one from the charming Nigel at Sea Minor with MERRY CHRISTMAS (I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT TONIGHT).

The target date was 1st November, but if anyone who has said they are in - or, indeed, anyone who hasn't said anything at all on the matter - would like more time, no problem! And anyone who doesn't have a blog, I would love to post your story here (I already have a great one of those which was delicious fun to read from my dear friend Bobbie, with her first foray into fiction. So, Dad, how's about it?). On 1st November (or thereabouts), I will link to all the stories, and post the others here. And remember, the rules are few, and it would really, really help a girl get better.

Thanks again, all. It might be a few days before I can get back to proper news postings, but I'll be around to read comments and e-mails now.

Friday 8 October 2010

Who Do You Like?

Ian Rankin and the Mystery of the Milk. And how he 'slightly worried' Edinburgh's galleries.

A review of the audiobook of Denise Mina's STILL MIDNIGHT. And a great article revealing that she still thinks she's a waitress.

A great blog post from Aly Monroe on keeping up the energy.

Apparently, Alexander McCall Smith writes like a wizard.

An article about the Play, Pie, Pint series at Glasgow's Oran Mor.

An interview with M C Beaton in which she reveals her five favourite cosy mysteries.

Lots of big name authors visit Chepstow Bookshop, including Alexander McCall Smith and Iain Banks.

And finally, an article in The Millions, about unlikeable characters in fiction. Personally, I love a nice, meaty, unlikeable character, and often find myself rooting for them at the end of the book - Ken Bruen's Brant, for example - racist, sexist chauvinist, absolutelyeverything-ist. He';s a great character, and I'd love to have him on my side if I had a problem. I'd also like to go and have a drink with him, but I'd probably end up throwing my drink all over him after about ten minutes. But what fun that would be. So, what about you, dear reader; do you have any favourite unlikeable characters? And what do you look for in a character?

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Ramones, Raith and Reviews

Look! We have our first Ramones entry from the lovely Nigel at Sea Minor. Marvellous stuff. Happy birthday, me. Cheers Nigel.

The New Zealand Herald reviews Kate Atkinson's STARTED EALY TOOK MY DOG. And Dorte reviews M C Beaton's AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH.

Alexander McCall Smith doesn't half get about.

A couple of great interviews. One with with Ray Banks at The Crime of it All, and one with Karen Campbell at the marvellously named High Heels and Book Deals.

Stuart MacBride interviewed by Die Deutsche Welle. But don't worry, the interviewer speaks perfect English. Stuart, on the other hand...

While Val McDermid was unveiling things at Raith Rovers on Saturday, I was sitting in the stands watching Motherwell beat St Mirren. Nobody asked me to unveil anything. Not even a pie and bovril.

Susan Hill in The Spectator on social media.

And finally, just in case you've never seen the Awkward Family Photos site...

Sunday 3 October 2010

'Everyday is like Sunday'

This weekend's film viewing was pretty good, if bleak and unsettling. Both films were, completely coincidentally, on the theme of people trying to escape from unbearable situations to something better.

First we saw the Dardenne brothers' ROSETTA. We've been on a bit of a Dardenne brothers kick, recently. Their films aren't exactly happy, showing desperate people on the fringes of society, and this one, about a young girl who lives with her alcoholic mother in a caravan park, is no different. Rosetta will do almost anything to get a job. Sometimes quite heartbreaking, but with little touches of humour.

Next was THE ROAD. I'm sure everyone but me has already seen this journey of a man and his son as they try and find safety and sustenance in a scary post-apocalyptic world. I've not watched it before because I don't like science fiction, books/films about the apocalypse, or scary films. However, I wish I'd watched it when it came out - it was grim, bleak and harrowing - but not totally without hope, and very touching. My science fiction fears were not borne out (there's no huge explosion at the beginning which shows the whole world being enveloped in smoke and flames, and no aliens with with Windows-based computers). It was, however, a bit scary. I'm not a big fan of gangs of rampaging cannibals. Not that I've ever met any in real life, you understand.

Fancy a writing retreat in Scotland? Here you go.

Ray Banks with a great essay on noir over at Mulholland Books.

There's an interesting new social network thingy which has been set up by Len Wanner. Called The Crime Of It All, it's a great resource for crime fiction interviews, reviews, and articles and essays. Excellent, depp and thought provoking interviews so far with several crime fiction authors, including Scots such as Russel McLean, Craig Russell and fat, pasty white jock Allan Guthrie.

The lovely Ayo Onatade over at Shots Mag has a full rundown on the ITV Thriller Awards.

The lovely Declan Burke reviews Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, a review of M C Beaton's DEATH OF A CAD, The Parrish Lantern with an in-depth look at Irvine Welsh's REHEATED CABBAGE, while The Globe And Mail reviews Val McDermid's FEVER OF THE BONE, and Murder By Type reviews Peter May's THE FOURTH SACRIFICE.

A Disorganised Mind looks at the first seven Ian Rankin books.

How Alexander McCall Smith has changed the world's image of Botswana.

Hear Andrew Motion, William Gibson and LouiseWelsh on BBC Radio 3's The Verb on 8th October.

More news on Sherlock Holmes 2.

Oh, how I wish I could get my hands on the unpublished novels of Douglas Lindsay.

And, finally, the always interesting Zoe Sharp over at Murderati talking about telling lies for a living.