Writing is not a Zero Sum Game

AMZfinalWeird NoirI saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the virtual streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of publishing, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating ebooks, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated by flickering gifs…

All because they could not get a grip on a simple concept:

Writing is not a zero sum game.

JK Rowling’s popularity is not dooming you to obscurity. Nora Roberts does not bathe in the tears of would-be writers. Stephen King does not laugh at you from atop huge piles of money (probably).

But writing for exposure exposes your willingness to write for exposure. Every time you share a HuffPo link, you say, ‘I’m okay with not paying writers for their work’. The choices you make build the world around you. A world that is willing to settle for ‘good enough’ if it’s free. There are a lot of people who write ‘good enough’ and are desperate enough to see their name in print that they will accept not being paid to do so.

There is a revolution happening via ebooks, but ‘the revolution will put you in the driver’s seat’ and you have to take the wheel. It won’t just happen of its own accord. People have to be lured into change. Seduce them.

Writing is not a zero sum game.

It’s a community–that’s why we have the skulk here at Fox Spirit. Do you read as well as write? Do you write reviews? Do you rate the books you read? Do you leave the kind of reviews for books that you long to see for your own? Do you comment or share other people’s books? Do you promote other writers the way you wish people would promote you? Do you share the writers you love?

They’re not your competition.

Apathy is.

The ease of letting hours slip away on Facebook or Twitter is. The quick clicks that take you to Netflix or on-demand television or movies is. All the mindless media that allows you to be barely conscious, to idle the days away without effort — that’s your competition. Reading is more work — yet a joy for those who hunger for it. A great book makes you hungry for another, and another, and another.

Make them hungry.

Write the books you want to read, the books that aren’t out there. Don’t get caught up in how your stories get to readers, just try to get them in front of them and lure them into reading them. Don’t spend your time sneering at the kind of books someone reads. The people you might score points with probably aren’t the ones who’ll be reading your books. Share the stories that hooked you, inspired you and made you want to write. Try to convey that excitement. A hook might get you to buy a book, but it’s the story that keeps you reading even if the writing isn’t all that good.

We’re still sitting around the campfire, waiting for the magic to happen — for characters to come to life, for imaginary adventures to seem more real than the fire (or monitor or phone screen) in front of us, to fall through the hole in the page and into wonderland.

Make some magic. Write.

[with apologies to Allen Ginsberg and Gil Scott Heron]

What is Noir?

extricate ebook 72ppiBy Graham Wynd

What is noir? You can Google the term and come up with a bunch of answers, but as librarians will ask you, are you sure you have the right one? I always say I’m a ‘duck test’ sort of person — an out-dated Americanism for recognising ‘communists’ viz. if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck (though Senator McCarthy might have been wise to have looked into more stringent methods).

Most people who like the genre of noir will point to the films with their bleak cityscapes, inky shadows and sudden gun shots. Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart frown with worry, Lauren Bacall and Gloria Grahame show their gams, while Farley Granger looks lost. In novels, Patricia Highsmith’s slippery Tom Rippley worms his way into people’s lives while keeping his intentions hidden, or Dashiell Hammet sends the Continental Op to a seedy location and the blood spills red down the walls.

When I think of ‘noir’ I tend to think of women who don’t see the options and men who make bad choices. The very gendered split of that thought is what led me to thinking about Drag Noir and how people might play with that divide. In the noir world, people invest in the gender divisions because it brings them some certainty in an uncertain and dangerous world.

Buddhists say desire is the beginning of suffering: noir is all about the suffering. And the desire — whether it’s for money or sex or something less certain. Fred MacMurray lusting for Barbara Stanwyck: we know the Double Indemnity story so well. But what about Lily Dillon in Jim Thompson’s The Grifters? Especially as embodied by Anjelica Huston in Frears’ film, she’s hungry and restless as a shark, but nothing really fills it for long. Sometimes there’s a hunger that can’t be fed.

Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take

Till one day they just cut it loose
Cut it loose or let it drag ’em down…

Yeah, that’s noir.

Extricate is out now: buy it Amazon.

A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub.

Things We Learned from Cult TV: A Call for Submissions

oncemore
Fox Spirit Books secret origin story begins with music…

“Fortune favours the bold.”

It’s typical that what I learned from cult TV is a little wrong. I never get quotes right. I gave that quality to the main character in one of my novels (Owl Stretching) because it amused me. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer may recognise this mangling of the line from the chilling episode Hush, “Fortune favours the brave.” I like the Latin version which has been attributed to Virgil, Audaces fortuna iuvat. I say it to my students all the time.

They think it’s one of my ‘very intellectual things’ I try to cram into their heads.

The smarter ones soon realise that I am as likely to quote from Buffy as I am from Beowulf. In the end they’re similar narratives (hmmm, new course idea…): Heroes coping with monsters, calling on friends, fighting evil to make a better world. While the Anglo-Saxon poem may have more gravitas in our shared culture, more people are likely to have been inspired by the television series — partly because Beowulf is often so badly taught, but hey, tv+DVDs+streaming=a whole lot of fans.

Even in academia, the study of popular culture has a long history. It used to be primarily a way of feeling the pulse of the populace, but now as scholars embrace their own geekiness, they delve into the depths and breadth of popular culture across the world. But it’s the personal effect that matters most to me: all the times I have muttered to myself, “Fortune favours the bold,” when I hesitated from taking a step or putting myself out there. I wasn’t thinking of Virgil, I was thinking of Buffy. And I did it — I was bold. I dared. Thank you, Buffy (and Joss and Sarah Michelle and everyone).

Fox Spirit Books was founded on the power of cult TV: we suspect you know its power, too. So we had this idea to crowdsource a little guide from the skulk, THINGS WE LEARNED FROM CULT TV.

Have you got a little story or anecdote for us? Have you felt the power of cult tv? Share it here. Don’t be shy. After all, fortune favours the brave. Just add something short in the comments below (be sure we have a way to contact you) and we will be in touch.

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Note from Aunty Fox.. We will be running blogs under the ‘Things we learned from Cult TV throughout 2014 with a view to collecting them in an ebook in 2015.

Call for Stories: Drag Noir

Photo via Dangerous Minds (click to see original article)
Photo via Dangerous Minds (click to see original article)

“We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
RuPaul, Lettin it All Hang Out: An Autobiography

Drag is a broad concept; noir is a fairly narrow one. Drag can be a way of playing with gender or it can be a matter of survival. In the noir world, it can be almost anything: camouflage, deceit, truth — or a skin to be shed at will.

Otto Penzler has always been really strict in his idea of noir:

Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they’d be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let’s face it, they deserve it.

Pretty much everyone in a noir story (or film) is driven by greed, lust, jealousy or alienation, a path that inevitably sucks them into a downward spiral from which they cannot escape. They couldn’t find the exit from their personal highway to hell if flashing neon lights pointed to a town named Hope. It is their own lack of morality that blindly drives them to ruin.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but I think noir ends up being a fairly bleak place — one where any bit of glamour or adopted power can be worth the gamble of discovery. It may even be worth flaunting it.

Can you tell who’s Dressed to Kill?

As RuPaul advises,”When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent.”

That’s what we want for DRAG NOIR: this is a call for stories where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards. Maybe everyone’s got something to hide, but they’ve got something to reveal, too. Scratch the surface and explore what secrets lie beneath — it’s bound to cost someone…a lot.

Mercedes McCambridge in ‘A Touch of Evil’

 

An anthology is not a democracy; it’s a benevolent dictatorship. All editors have their tastes or quirks: if you want a clue to my sensibilities, check out my extensive bibliography and of course, read Weird Noir and Noir Carnival.

Stories should be:

  • Previously unpublished anywhere
  • Not submitted anywhere else
  • Length 3-8K
  • Formatted: Times New Roman, regular, 12 point; 1″ margins; 1 space after full stop; lines spaced 1.5; use paragraph formatting to indent first line not tabs; no header/footer
  • Identified with a title, your name (and pen name identified as such), working email address on the first page: file name should include your surname & the title
  • Submitted in RTF format via email to katelaity at gmail with your name, the story title and total word count included in the body of the email; make sure the Subject line includes “Submission: Drag Noir” + your name
  • Due by March 20, 2014.

We will ask for world-wide print & ebook rights for a year and pay £10 via Paypal plus a copy of the paperback. The fabulous Stephanie Johnson has been persuaded to create another fabulous cover image! We plan to launch the book in July 2014.

Butler Gender

Cover Reveal: Extricate by Graham Wynd

extricate ebook 72ppi

Va-va-va-voom! Here’s the fabulous cover art for the forthcoming noir novella by Graham Wynd, Extricate. Isn’t that Sarah Anne Langton something? I hear the author has been inspired to get right to work on a new novella just to get another gorgeous cover! I’m not saying you can tell everything about a publisher by the great cover artists they pull, but you can sure tell a lot!

‘EXTRICATE is a twisty- turny noir tale of dishonor amongst thieves that is skewered with hot lust and cold blooded murder.’

~ Paul D. Brazill, author of Guns Of Brixton and Gumshoe

‘Crime meets erotica in a fevered novella. Graham Wynd has written a fluid and tight story with vivid characters in situations that are inextricably charged with a sexuality from which you will find it hard to extricate yourself.’

~ Richard Godwin, author of One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising and Mr Glamour

Extricate will be out early in 2014.

Weird Noir Carnival at Bouchercon

WEB Final Noir Carnival AMZfinalWeird Noir

Fox Spirit is pleased to announce that we have arranged to hold a celebration WEIRD NOIR CARNIVAL at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany. For those unfamiliar with it, Bouchercon is a moveable feast celebrating the very finest in crime and mystery writing. Consider it the Woodstock for writers in the genre. It runs from the 19th to the 22nd of September in Albany, NY. Guests of honour include Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Tess Gerritsen and many many more big names (and small!).

Friday afternoon at 1:30 PM we will be holding the “WEIRD NOIR CARNIVAL” with readings, promotional items and some giveaways! Join editor K. A. Laity, and authors Jan Kozlowski and Chris L. Irvin (and maybe some surprise guests!) for the fun and get weird, get noir.

Follow Bouchercon on Facebook — and if you haven’t already done so, drop by our Fox Spirit page and give us a like!

Can’t be there in person? Join our live Google Hangout!