The 411

Simon Sez is the online version of my long running e-newsletter. The blog will focus on my life as an author, my trials and tribulations as a foreigner in America and the oddities I discover along the way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

SHELF LIFE: Going Dark at Bouchercon

SIMON SEZ is dark this week as I’ll be emceeing this year’s BOUCHERCON.  See you in a week.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Little Something For The Weekend

Because it's my wedding anniversary next week.
"'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that 'I do' is the longest sentence?"
~George Carlin

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

HUMP DAY: Peevish!

Maybe it’s because it’s Guy Fawkes Day that I’m in peevish and rambunctious kind of mood at the moment.  I could be quite Zen about it all and let go of my irritation, but I don’t want to.  Sometimes bottling these things up and tossing them overboard isn’t enough.  Sometimes, you just have to rant.  So here are a few of my pet peeves:
1.      The pronunciation of caramel. It is pronounced cara-mel, not car-mall.  A car mall is where I go to buy a vehicle, not to enjoy a delicious confection.
2.      People who jaywalk when there's a crosswalk ten yards away.  That is a capital crime in my book.  Executions should be held on the spot.
3.      Bacon!  WTF!!  I don’t get why people go overboard about bacon.  It’s nice but it’s not nirvana.
4.      Blockbuster movies splitting themselves into two parts or three in the case of The Hobbit.  This is a pretty thinly veiled attempt to squeeze and extra ten bucks out of everyone.  Hollywood, you’re not fooling us.
5.      While we’re on the topic movies, I don’t like PG-13 movies.  PG-13 has been the bane of movie going for the last 20yrs.  As the go-to classification to pull in as many punters as possible, it’s been excuse to dumb down thriller, action and horror movies. There's nothing wrong with the classification per se, but filmmakers instead of playing up to the restrictions and played down to it.  If you want a lesson on working a classification to its hilt and still making a good movie, go watch the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Still creepy after 35yrs and it was only a PG.
6.      Enough with people putting pranks on YouTube.  Prank shows lost their appeal in the 80’s.  Maybe these things will end when a prankster gets killed in the street when they stage a fake crime.
7.      Can we stop calling things ‘hacks’ for doing mundane things?  Telling me how to open a can differently or that sticking one foot out of a bed to help me stay cool isn’t a life altering or radical way of doing something.  It’s not even interesting.
8.      People getting excited over the latest cell phone or tablet.  I have no idea why people went mental over the iPhone 6 release.  It’s a cell phone, albeit slightly different to its previous incarnation.  It wasn’t the cure for cancer.  Let’s keep it in perspective.
9.      Finally, my number one pet peeve is the Uber car sharing service.  It’s a glorified gypsy cab service with a phone ‘app.’  If it weren’t for the phone app feature, it would be spurned by every city in the country, but instead, it’s a multi-billion dollar company.  I’m waiting for everyone to catch up to my way of thinking.
Oh wow!  Boy, do I feel better.  The power of venting is very cathartic.  You should try it.  If you have any pet peeves, feel free to let them loose here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

SHELF LIFE SPECIAL: Help Me Help WriteGirl

As people are aware, well I hope they're aware, I am the toastmaster at this year’s Bouchercon (aka the World Mystery Convention) to be held in Long Beach, California next week.  With every Bouchercon, the convention supports a couple of local charities.  This year, it’s the Long Beach Library Foundation and WriteGirl.
I’m doing my best to support both these auctions.  Last month I auctioned off a poster of me from my motor racing days that went for $350.  The proceeds went to the library foundation.  Now, I’m doing something to benefit WriteGirl, a charity that encourages creative writing and mentors teenage girls.
So between now and the Bouchercon live auction on November 14th, I will donate the royalties from the worldwide sale of the first Aidy Westlake novel, DID NOT FINISH.  This applies to the paperback, eBook and audio book and isn’t restricted to where it’s bought. 
If you haven't read the book, I hope you'll buy a copy.  If already have the book, I hope you’ll give it to someone.  At the very least, you’ll share this message or direct people to this post.  You’ll be making a difference in someone’s life.
Thanks to all.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little Something For The Weekend

Your spooky thought for Halloween.

"The world's an inn, and death the journey's end."
-John Dryden

Monday, October 27, 2014

SHELF LIFE: The Good, The Bad & The Educational

Great fiction can teach a writer a lot about their craft, but so can bad fiction.  I don’t go out of my way to find crappy stories, but if I come across one, I won’t trash it, I’ll examine it. 
A few years ago, I attended the Alameda International Film Festival on Halloween night because the organizers were showcasing a number of short horror features.  It was held at a great little community movie theatre located on a quiet neighborhood street.  In a previous life, the theatre had been a church.  Now the pulpit served as the projector room.  The pews had been replaced, but instead of theatre seating, it was all threadbare sofas and la-z-boys.  Neat!
That was the good side of the evening.  Sadly, only a couple of films were entertaining.  Most were lacking and a couple were damn right awful.  I didn’t go in with high hopes, but I was hoping for something to stand out.  However, the night wasn’t a washout.  Each of the films taught me something about my writing.  Several of the stories lacked subtext, and were nothing more than a series of events daisy-chained together.  Others blew my suspension of disbelief because they lacked credibility and/or suffered logic problems.  A couple had complex stories that were unsuccessfully told.  A couple of stories had conclusions come out of nowhere, while others were so obvious that I knew what to expect moments after the opening credits.  One was technically perfect from a story standpoint, but suffered from awful dialog. 
I walked away from the night with a head full of pointers.  The movies made me conscious of my own work.  Had I committed any of these cardinal sins in my current batch of works and in my past stories?  Because of what I’d seen, I gave a couple of my "finished" short stories another going over just to make sure I hadn’t committed the same literary sins. 
The problem is that after a while, it’s easy to get complacent.  I’ve gotten comfortable with my writing voice and if I don’t pay attention, my writing will get worse and not better.  Seeing someone else’s mistakes makes me think about my own potential clangers sticking out from my manuscripts.
A truly great story can inspire and educate, but it can’t demonstrate the mistakes.  For that, you have to look at the imperfect.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Little Something For The Weekend

That explains all those people with flatulence problems.

"He that lives on hope, dies farting."
~Ben Franklin