Thursday, December 21, 2006

I'm Flashing

My first flash fiction is up here.

Thanks to DZ Allen, a great website.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Brazilian Signifier

I hope you can't tell from my writing, but I once took a bunch of creative writing courses in university. One of the things I learned was this idea of the signifier and the signified. Symbolism.

Okay, so many years later I'm writing a crime novel and in it one of the characters is going to decide if she's willing to take it, "all the way," into a life of crime. I figured I could use something to signify this, some signifier like my profs used to talk about. What should it be? I remembered all the examples they gave us, the yellow sweaters and the going on trips alone and all that stuff. But I wanted something different.

So she goes and gets a Brazilian wax.

I was lucky enough (oh so lucky enough) that my wife went and did this bit of research for me. And she wrote up what happened as a little story. It appears almost word for word in Dirty Sweet, but here it is as my wife, Laurie, wrote it:

Her regular place wouldn’t do it. Regular bikini only. So she checked a couple of places on the internet. One of them had a price for bikini-plus so she phoned.
“Only one of our estheticians does that and she only works on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
So she booked a lunch hour appointment for Thursday.
“And I’d like a half leg wax too.”
“You’ll have to come at 11:30 because the brazilian takes a full hour.”
Gulp. “O.k.” A regular bikini was $20, a brazilian was $50.

The day before, someone phoned to confirm. “11:30 with Maryanna.”

She walked in. It had the typical day spa look, like a doctor’s office had stocked up on make-up and hair care products. She could see a middle aged woman in a white lab coat cutting linen strips at one of the manicure tables. “Maryanna?” only she could see on her name tag that it was spelled Mirjana – definitely eastern European.

Mirjana said, “I’m ready for you.” and lead her back to one of the tiny rooms: a little cart of vials and bottles, a gurney-style cot and beside it a hotplate with a quart paint can of goo sitting on top. This place boasted that it used pine resin instead of wax, all natural except for the green colour. There was paper on the cot instead of the usual sheet and she remembered it would be because of the wax dripping down. Mirjana asked her to undress and get on the cot and she’d be right back. She felt stupid for picking out special underwear when of course she’d just be hanging them on the back of the door. She remembered to take off her socks for the leg wax then climbed up on the paper.

Mirjana came back in and started tsking as she shook baby powder on her pubes. “Is very long. You should have cut.”
“Oh, I thought it would be better a little longer. Get a better grip.”
“No is better shorter. This is much more painful.”
Mirjana dipped up some wax with the tongue depressor and smeared it in the crease of her leg. “O.k. ma’ dear.”
Dip. Smear. YEOW.
Dip. Smear. YEOW.
Dip. Smear. YEOW.
Dip. Smear. YEOW. YEOW. YEOW.

“How ya doing?”

Mirjana worked her way around to the tip of the pubis and the wax felt extra warm on barer skin. YEOW. She thought of that Madonna movie nobody liked where she and the YEOW guy had sex with hot wax. Man, no wonder everyone YEOW thought it was weird. Maybe if she thought about sex it would YEOW take her mind off it. But what if something YEOW happened down there and Mirjana could tell. Wouldn’t YEOW that make her look really sick, YEOW like this was turning her on?

“You’re going to have to help me. Hold here to pull the skin.”

Man, it was like some YEOW torture scene where they asked YEOW the victim to crank the generator. She noticed that YEOW Marjana was sometimes surreptitiously YEOW wiping away spots of blood.

Mirjana showed her the inch square knots of hair that were sticking to the linen strips. “A lot of hair in a little space.”

She couldn’t help thinking YEOW that this must be easier for the strippers who YEOW could all do the splits and put their feet YEOW behind their heads.

“I can only pull the hair that grows in one direction and this hair grows in all directions.”

Mirjana finished all the upper hair YEOW and started up the crack of her ass. She was holding her legs open YEOW like some insane yoga class when she remembered her meditation technique. Look through YEOW your forehead for the white light. It was better.

Except that every once in a while she’d feel the hot wax on a tender part and think, “This is going to YEOW!” Dip. Smear. And by that time it was too late to say, “You don’t have to do there.” YEOW!

Mirjana seemed to sense that she might not be a repeat customer and started the pep talk. “The first time is the worst.” YEOW
“All my customers who get brazilian are very brave.”

Her palms on top of her chest were sweating right through her shirt. She thought about after, when she’d be done, hairless, smooth. God help her if she liked it and was willing to do this again. Mirjana spritzed a disinfectant spray over the whole thing.

Then she put on some weird headgear that looked like a welding mask only it had jewelers goggles. And she started pulling the stragglers with tweezers. If anything this was worse. The short sharp pain, very fast and steady. No break for the dip and smear. “You should use only natural products to sooth. You have natural products? You must not use chemicals down there.” Pluck, pluck.

My god, she thought, I’ve had lovers who weren’t down there this long.

A final spritz with the disinfectant and Mirjana asked if she wanted powder or oil. Powder. And silk underwear. Mirjana handed her a mirror. She hadn’t seen herself without hair there since she was 12. And boy was it red.

“Now the legs.” The pain in her crotch kept her from minding the pain in her legs. When she flipped over for the back of her legs, she practically fell asleep. Until Mirjana spread her cheeks and did the top of the crack of her ass.

She tipped Mirjana $10 for thoroughness and took her card.

All that afternoon she moved very slowly. Her underwear seemed to stick and everything hurt.

The girls reminded her to exfoliate every day to try and avoid ingrown hairs.

It took two days for the red and soreness to die down. And the hair started growing in within a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Great Lines

At the last Bouchercon I was on a panel with other "hard boiled" writers, talking about "tough guy" books. One of the questions was, "What's the best tough guy line," and one of my fellow panelists quoted something from, I think, a private eye novel:

"Lady, just because you give me a hard-on that doesn't mean you can lead me around by it."

Everyone agreed it was a great line.

I don't know. I can't really imagine someone saying it out loud to another person. It sounds like a writer's line, something a writer would write.

Or is that just me?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

Probably everyone who has thought of writing crime fiction in the last twenty years has read some Elmore Leonard. Most of us have probably read his "ten rules of writing" at least once.

But for me, it's always a good idea to read them more often. If only because of, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." And all that stuff about keeping the writer invisible, making the story about the characters and letting them tell it.

And only use "said" and never modify it in any way.

Works for me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fact or fiction

Three of my favourite authors - Denise Minna, Christopher Brookmyre and Ian Rankin - all have a scene in one of their books in which someone is tied to a chair and killed. In the Rankin the guy tied to the chair manages to get to a window and jump out, but he's impaled on a fence.

Now, all three authors are Scottish and the books came out around the same time, so I'm wondering, was this account based on a real event?

What I found really cool was how all three had very different backstories for the crime that all made sense.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What can you learn about me from my fiction?

When I sat down to write Dirty Sweet I didn't think about selling it. I just wanted to write a book for me - pure escape. I'm a stay-at-home dad with two sons. When I started the book my oldest son was in junior kindergarden five mornings a week and his little brother was in a playschool three mornings a week. I figured soon enough both boys would be in school all day and I'd be back emptying garbage cans on movie sets. But for now, I had three - two hour sessions a week. I wanted to get as far away from diapers and mashed bananas and Bob the Builder as I could. So, I started writing about crime - adult crime. Internet porn, sexy women, shady bad guys, cool cops. Nothing like my real life at all.

But I didn't have a lot of time for research and it turns out the internet porn used up most of it. So, when I went to create the main character of Vince, I used a lot of my own background. I just made him a hell of a lot cooler. So, Vince and I were born in the same year, we both grew up in a working class nieghbourhood of Montreal and we both dropped out of LaSalle High and moved to Alberta when we were seventeen. And we both worked as night janitors at the Sears store in the Chinook Mall and we both got arrested. Then things get a little different. I was one of two guys on that night shift to be let go with no charges being laid. Vince, though, he went to jail.

That was the inspiration for the book. It's all about opportunity - how some people see it everywhere and some people don't know when it's slapping them in the face. I never saw it. Vince sees it. I wondered, what would have happened to me if I'd gone to jail? Would have been a whole different life. Of course I would have become an internet porn entrepeneur, a millionaire, a guy who doesn't lose his cool when people point guns at him. Sure, I would.

No, I moved back to Montreal and went to Concordia University.

But Vince and I like the same music, we saw the same movies when we were teenagers. It was just easier to write it that way. Vince moved to Toronto after he got out of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison. I moved to Toronto when I got married. I'm not going to make any jokes about that.

Now my boys are in school all day - grade one and grade three - and I'm still at home. My second novel, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere will be published next May and there's no one in it like me. I have more time for research now.

Some people have asked me how I knew so mch about that Brazilian wax Roxanne gets in Dirty Sweet. For that, you have to ask my wife...