"Hey, Jimmy," I said, "I won a Bullet Award."
(Pause on the line as Jimmy opens another beer and lights another cigarette)
"Well," Jimmy said, "I guess we'll read all about it on the blog."
Jimmy knows me pretty goddamn well.
I was informed (via Shotgun Honey editor Ron Earl Phillips and an FB post) that I'd won a Bullet Award (taking third) for the month of August and my noir flash fiction story "One Good Reason," appropriate links here:
Very exciting. Made all the better because I'd written the story specifically for Shotgun Honey and, to be more precise, to win a Bullet Award.
As you can see Bullet Awards are given to the top crime flash stories on the web (1,000 words or less). Don't really know who does the judging (the Bullet Award site only says "panel of top crime fiction experts"). You don't win money or anything (this is writing, silly!), but it's another way to get your name out there and noticed (you hope) by this latest wave of big noir players moving the current scene, the Stacia Deckers, Frank Bills, Seth Hardwoods, Phillipses, Keith Rawsons, Todd Robinsons, et al. It's not that big a world, this crime/lowlife fiction, and since deciding to put my memoir writing on the back burner and focus more on what I went to school for, namely to write mysteries/thrillers, old (and new) school noir, whatever you want to call it, I've been inching my way up its broken-runged ladder. Awards like this one only help my cause. On the one hand, it's just a list of a few writers who've written a few stories, posted on a blog. But, for what I/we are trying to do as writers of this genre, it's much bigger that. All these writers who get published by Shotgun Honey or Crimefactory (whose stories aren't eligible for BAs, because they are longer than 1,000 words) are already being judged by the best names in crime fiction; they get published by them, read by them, acknowledged by them. And a lot of them have book deals or are on the brink. When I first read "Fucking Cold" by Todd Robinson (on SH) , it was because of the Bullet Awards (and a congratulatory message from agent S. Decker up at Donald Mass). I'm a big fan of Todd's, and quickly became an equally big fan of Shotgun Honey; I read a slew of stories on their site and the terrific authors they host. And I wrote "One Good Reason" to be included among them.
If you've been following this topic (and let's face it, I have about four revolving topics on this blog: my kid, writing, mental illness, and fucking hating hippies), you know this idea of actually reading the magazines I'm trying to get into was treated like selling out (at least at first). Strange, I know. Not even sure why I viewed such an obvious strategy as somehow kowtowing. Of course you should be reading them! But there's this weird, unspoken edict among most writers not to tailor your pieces in this way. Local writer (and friend) Sean Craven had this to say on the topic, or you can read the quote I am about to drop in its complete context at http://seancraven.blogspot.com/2011/08/passing-it-on-blogs-i-read.html:
Let's start out with Candy and Cigarettes by Joe Clifford. Yep, he's the guy who runs Lip Service West, where I've read twice and have another piece in the hopper. Nepotism rocks. His blog covers his experiences as a new father, his memories of the good/bad old days, and most importantly, his efforts to push forward as a writer.
Honestly, the man has a direct, workmanlike approach to the situation that's provided me with a lot of good ideas already. He decided to target specific markets and write to them directly. This is the kind of thing that raises my artistic hackles, but you know what?
His work improved dramatically, he placed all his stories...
It's true. It's worked. I've placed everything I write by targeting a specific magazine. By actually reading them. But at what cost? I raised a man's hackles.
Actually, the cost is nothing, and it's self-evident, and no artistic integrity has been spared. I don't know where this aversion to compromise comes from, if that's even what it is. Personally I'd call it common sense, even if I was guilty of violating its tenets before. I think it's inbreed, a collective artistic unconscious, or maybe it's simply bad advice that gets passed down unchecked, part of the "live your dreams" and "you can be anything you want to be" and "never stop believing" crap shoved down our throats. These mandates are nice. In theory. But to keep trying to be a pitcher for the Yankees when you are pushing 40 and can barely crack 80 mph, is pretty stupid. Like we said yesterday:
Then again how do you explain Freddy Garcia?
This is the good. The bad would be what Jimmy pointed out, my need to make sure everyone knows I won a Bullet Award. The ugly would be when I run into old friends named Sam in the Whole Foods that I need to make sure she knows I now have a big house in the hills, because she knew me (God forgive me for using this expression) "back in the day" when I was a little worm. But it's all the same. I need everyone to know I rose from the swarth and squalor, that I'm not the same skinny kid eating pizza crusts from trash cans, ripping off dealers, begging for a cotton; I don't hang out with ex-cons and pushers and killers. Now I just write about them.
And it's getting me noticed. I think. I hope. I fucking need.