Monday, March 13, 2017

The Secret Origin of Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

This may take us a while so if you want to go get yourself a snack and a nice cold beverage before we start, go right on ahead. I'll wait. Matter of fact, think I'll go grab myself a Coke and a sandwich as well. See you back here in ten.



You back? Solid. Get comfy and we'll get started.

The Secret Origin of Diamondback begins with my desire to write what I have since come to describe as an “Urban Western.” Which simply means that everybody drives cars and uses automatic weapons instead of riding nags and firing six-shooters. But with some industrious rewriting, “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” could be told as a straight-up western. Matter of fact, there's a lot of Sergio Leone's “A Fistful of Dollars” in the DNA of my story. But the concept of a mysterious stranger who comes to a town ruled by warring criminal gangs and by pitting the gangs against each other through cunning, ruthless manipulation comes out the winner goes back further than that. There's Akira Kurosawa's “Yojimbo” from 1961 which many believe was inspired by Dashiell Hammett's classic “Red Harvest” written in 1929. “Red Harvest” also generally considered to have inspired Walter Hill's “Last Man Standing” which is basically “Yojimbo” set during Prohibition. “Lucky Number Slevin” and “Sukiyaki Western Django.”




Okay, so you get the basic idea, right? I had this idea to tell a western in modern-day drag. Not a terribly original idea, I agree, but one that I wanted to do and that's all I need to get me going. The only criteria I have for any project I take on is that it excites and intrigues me. I have to live with the characters and invest a lot of time in them and the story I'm telling and life is too short to spend it writing about about characters I don't care about. So, I conceived the story of Diamondback as one spanning three novels that was intended to be a further homage to Sergio Leone's “Dollars” Trilogy:

Diamondback I: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
Diamondback II: And The Devil Will Drag You Under
Diamondback III: Once Upon A Time In Denbrook

Only one novel got published, the first one:


It sold about as well as ice makers in Norway. Which kinda left me bummed out. I dunno why it didn't sell. Maybe because Diamondback Vogel was a completely different protagonist from Dillon, which is the character that most people associated me with. The philosophy of the concept behind the Diamondback character is simple and can be summed up in these lyrics from Billy Preston's “Will It Go Round In Circles?”:

I've got a story ain't got no moral,
Let the bad guy win every once in a while

Which is exactly what Diamondback Vogel is and I make it very clear: he is a bad guy, a right proper villain. In fact, it can be said that everybody in that first novel is a bad guy. I did that on purpose as I wanted to see if I could write a novel where every single character was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and still make the story entertaining and fun. The (very) few people who did read It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time let me know that I did succeed in that as they enjoyed it tremendously. But at that time (we're talking around 2008 or '09) I considered the book to be a failure, put away my ideas for the trilogy and moved on.

So why am I now revisiting Diamondback and rewriting the first book with an eye to completing the trilogy at last? Ten more years of experience and confidence helps, lemme tell you. I recently re-read the book in one sitting and saw where I could improve upon the story, expand some scenes, increase the level of characterization and action. It short, I could write a better book.

And I did write a book where every single character it was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and that one sold a bit better and everybody who's read it has indeed described it as entertaining and fun. I'm talking about my homage (some would say outright theft) to Hammer horror films:


I could also restore some stuff I had originally written but was persuaded to take out. The original version of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time had a lot more violence, some pretty racy sex scenes and harsher, rougher language. But by taking all that out it meant that it wasn't the story it wanted to be. It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time wanted to be raunchy, profane, deliriously violent and madcap in its exploitation sleaze and I had taken all that away from the book and on that level, it deserved to fail. Because it wasn't the story it was supposed to be.

But if we're good and faithful, we sometimes get a second chance and so I'm going to take another crack at Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. And you'll be able to accompany me on the rewrite as I intend to present the story in serialized form, just as it was originally presented long ago on the much beloved Frontier original fiction website. Details will be on my Patreon page if you're interested (and I hope you are) but if you're not, that's okay as well. We'll still be friends.

As always, I thank you for your kind attention and your tolerance in putting up with my ramblings and as always I urge you to keep track of what I'm doing both here and over at Usimi Dero which I where I spend much of my Facebook time. You can also friend me at my personal Facebook page. I'm a pretty friendly guy.


Peace!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...NICOLE KURTZ

Derrick Ferguson:Who is Nicole Kurtz?
Nicole Kurtz: I'm an educator, an author and a mother.



DF:What do you tell The IRS you do for a living?
NK: The IRS identifies me as an educator. I've been in the public school system for 15 years.

DF:Tell us about your background. As little or as much as you want.
NK: I'm originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, but I've lived all over the United States, from South Carolina to California. I have a bachelor's degree in Writing and a Master's degree in Education. I have been writing my whole life and can't remember a time I wasn't writing stories either on paper or mentally.

DF:How long have you been writing?
NK: I've been writing since I was 11 years old. My first payment for writing was an essay contest I won in 11th grade. I realized then, “Wait, I can make money from this?!”

DF:What's your philosophy of writing? Do you think that writers should even have a philosophy about the act/art of writing?
NK: My writing philosophy is simple—write your truth. Honor the story only you can tell. Don't worry about sales and genre when writing. Worry about those things after the story is written and done.

DF:Do you enjoy writing?
NK: I love writing! I write all the time, on notebooks and napkins, on the backs of bills and along the edges of envelopes. Writing is how I communicate best and how I process information.

DF:Do you write for yourself or for your readers?
NK: I primarily write for myself when writing fiction. When writing non-fiction (i.e., essays and blogs) I focus on the audience and how my thesis is supported.

DF:What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Nicole Kurtz?
NK: Great question! I write futuristic thriller, so my audience are readers who enjoy those types of adventures.

DF:Tell us about Mocha Memoirs Press
NK: Mocha Memoirs Press is a small press that publishes speculative works by authors of marginalized groups.

DF:Who is Cybil Lewis?
NK: Cybil Lewis is a professional investigator in the year 2146. Independent. Focused. Committed. She investigates violations in post apocalyptic D.C. Think “Blade Runner” with a female protagonist.


DF:How long has Cybil Lewis been with you and where can we expect her to go in future novels?
NK: Cybil has been with me for over 20 years. In the future, expect Cybil to continue to solve violations in her unique fashion and may, just maybe, get the air-conditioner in her apartment fixed.



DF:Where does the story of Cybil Lewis go from here?
NK: Cybil continues to investigate violations but her personal life becomes more of a challenge for her. In addition, her partner Jane continues to evolve and thus her relationship with Cybil will change. Those are going to be interesting interactions and impacts on Cybil's business and life.


DF:You're an outstanding voice in the field of African-American Speculative Fiction. Where do you see your place in this field and where do you want to go?
NK: Wow! Thank you. My place in the field is right alongside other authors. I've been writing Speculative Fiction for nearly 20 years. I would love to continue to write, publish and find new readers. I also like to inspire new authors of color, especially those that write thrillers.

DF:You are one of the most prominent of female African-American Speculative Fiction writers. Do you see AASF writers as creating a genre unto themselves due to their unique worldview as African-American women?
NK: I do believe that as an African-American woman, my vision is different from other authors not within that demographic. However, I don't think it is a genre unto ourselves. I write futuristic thriller, horror stories and dark fantasy. While most of my protagonists are black women, the story is still good and worth reading.

DF:Are there any drawbacks to being a AASF writer?
NK: There are drawbacks to being an AASF writer in that I find some readers who proclaim they can't identify with my protagonists. Yet those same readers can identify with a shape-shifting tiger or a blue-skinned alien. I write speculative fiction, which is still a predominately white male dominated genre. So my work is subjected to misogyny and racism in the genre as I am in every day life.

DF:And what are the positives?
NK: The positives far outnumber the drawbacks. The excitement I see on readers' faces when they see a protagonist that looks like them. Or the relief when they see that I, a fellow African American or POC wrote something speculative is more than worth the occasional racist. I enjoy sharing my stories with others and I love getting feedback on those stories from readers. Those are the positives that buoy me when writing gets tough.

DF:You've hosted a lot of panels. In your opinion what are the qualities one needs to have in order to moderate a successful panel?
NK: Moderating a panel successfully is hard! LOL! It is important to give each author or panelist an opportunity to speak. Equity of voice is key when moderating. If one can provide the discussion topics ahead of time, that makes for much more thoughtful discussions.



DF:Do you like hosting panels? Why?
NK: It depends! If it is a topic I am passionate about, I do not want to moderate because I want to talk! LOL! Otherwise, I don't mind hosting panels.

DF:What are your dream projects? If you had unlimited time and money, what would you want to do most?
NK: If I had unlimited time and money I would spend time writing Cybil Lewis novels and promoting her throughout the U.S.

DF:What is A Day In The Life of Nicole Kurtz like?
NK: In a word: Chaos!

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Nicole Kurtz:I love to laugh and I'm not nearly as serious as Cybil is about things. Your readers can find me online at Twitter (@nicolegkurtz), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/nicolegkurtz, and at Other Worlds Pulp (http://www.nicolegivenskurtz.com).







Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In Which I Get Smacked Around

Tommy Hancock interviewed me for his online magazine BIBLIORATI and I think it's a pretty good one that you can read and enjoy HERE.