Noir

Noir (nwär)
adj.

1. Of or relating to the film noir genre.
2. Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
3. Suggestive of danger or violence.

I love movies and books in the noir genre. They are often gritty, dark in their settings, and have Imagehardboiled detectives in leading roles. A femme fatale is also a mainstay in the movies/books.

The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity are two classic movies that fit the genre. The more recent Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a Steve Martin comedy-mystery that is both a parody of, and homage to, film noir and pulp detective movies of the forties.

I always love the part where the narrator tells us of the dame who walks into the gumshoe’s office. She has a tale to tell. There are cigarettes and alcohol involved. We see it in black and white, and the music sets the tone.

ImagePulp fiction magazines of the thirties and forties also fit the bill. Those writers sure knew how to turn a phrase, and some of them are classic (although many are now politically incorrect). I’ve recently read several of Robert Leslie Bellem’s stories. He was a master at using slang and impact words. Typical fare for him would be – “I spooned him a helping of knuckle tonic.” “She slapped me a stinger across the chops.” “Moon’s kisser sagged open and his optics bulged like oysters being squeezed.”

Isn’t that last line so much better than my standard, “Her mouth hung open, and her eyes went wide.”

Ahh, the joys of the genre.

So, all this is a lead up to that guy. You remember him. Adam Sendek. By losing a baseball bet, I must talk about him on my blog every day this week. And I’m happy to do so!

What you might not know is that Adam blogs interesting topics and humor, but he also writes stories. One of my favorites is one he wrote that fit the noir genre well. Here’s the beginning:

“…so I’m sitting in this cafe, slumped over a (bleep*)-warm cup of dark roast coffee, casually tossing ashes into the tray at the end of the table.  The lighting is inadequate where I’m seated, making it difficult to study the entrees on the menu.

I pick up on a one-sided conversation coming from the booth adjacent to me, involving a pig-headed suit and tieyammering into a phone about a stock deal gone sour.  The woman seated in front of the man appears emotionally detached, which is indicated by her body language.  She ignores the man and blankly stares off at a young female clearing the surrounding tables.

I’m overcome with remorse for the woman and her situation, finding myself privately analyzing the dysfunctional correlation between the two. Clearly, she’s numb inside; another wandering soul, financially bound to some corporate meat head

The murmur throughout the diner adds to the endless chatter taking place in my head, but the humming is abruptly halted when, without warning …” GO HERE to read the rest of the story. It’s short, and the comments are fun, too. Add yours to the list!

What about you? Do you like the noir genre, whether it be movies or books? What about pulp fiction? Did you ever read any? Tell me what you think!

(*bleep – It’s a Maddie bleep. My blog is rated PG-13, and even though I probably could have allowed the word to stand, I opted to apply the bleep. Hop on over to Adam’s blog for the more colorful phrasing.)

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Book Covers and The Public Domain

ImageNow that National Novel Writing Month is over, I have a book in hand. I didn’t take the advice of experienced NaNo participants, and I did some editing as I went along – at least on the first half of the book. I finished writing last Monday, and since then, I’ve made a pass on the second half of the book.

My mother has finished reading it, and she has proclaimed it entertaining and a winner. That’s what mother’s are for, but she really did like it. We laughed over a few scenes, and she approved a few minor swear words that worked well in their context. My books really are pretty squeaky clean.

I usually cut out pictures, use glue, crayons, and markers to cobble together ideas for covers. I used the cover from Big Apple Hunter and started playing around with that yesterday.  Here was my first attempt. It is only being shown for humor purposes:

ImageThis is what I sent to my niece and asked her to work a miracle for me: ImageI want a Christmas tree that is mostly white -or- one that is very colorful; whichever looks best. I’m leaning toward a colorful tree. If I’m going Christmas on the cover, I may as well go all the way. I want a Chicago skyline, Susan in an apron while holding a cake, and I need a gorilla head! She also needs longer hair because Mick doesn’t want her to cut it. Men! It will be fun to see what Gillian comes up with based on the mess I sent to her. I gave her free rein to discard my ideas and go with something completely different if she wanted to.

This morning (Saturday), I double-checked the story I “used” in my book to be certain it was in the public domain. I spent most of my day reading about public domain works, and how they can be used for inspiration, or in your writing itself.

You may remember that I wanted to put Susan into a situation where she was seeing events unfold in the apartment building of Stephanie Plum. I wouldn’t mention any names from the Evanovich book, simply references of hearing gunshots, seeing a redhead lying in the hallway, men in black at her door, etc.  But, I soon found out that even if names are not mentioned, if a scene is recognizable, it is copyrighted.

I started reading books and stories in the public domain. I had the main storyline for my book mapped out, but I still wanted a sub-plot in the condo. I wanted Susan and Darby to have a parallel view of Imagesomething happening in another book. I finally found a short story in an old pulp fiction magazine.

It started out perfectly. The two of them saw the body, and they were questioned when the police arrived. It was all downhill from there. I only meant for them to observe and comment, but Susan can’t keep her nose out of anything, and she ended up smack dab in the middle of everything. I actually felt as though I had no control of the story at times. Writing still surprises me so much.

My book turned out better than I could have hoped by taking some elements of the public domain story and turning them into something completely different. I didn’t use any of the same names, nor did I use any text from the original story. Once Susan started snooping around the building, there were actually only a few original elements that remained.

That brings me to some of the things I’ve read as I’ve searched public domain books and articles over the past two months. It’s been fascinating!

Public domain is massive. There are more than 85 million books and stories in the public domain. In a nutshell, that means you can pretty much do anything you want with them.

If I wanted to write a book about Cinderella (the original Cinderella) traveling in H. G. Wells’ time machine to obtain some advice from Romeo and Juliet, I could do so. My new, original story would be copyrighted, but the characters would not. The characters will always remain in the public domain for others to use.

Many old fairy tales have been rewritten into modern day tales. Beauty and the Beast didn’t originate as a Disney movie. Look no further than Once Upon A Time on television, and you will see very creative use of public domain works.

You can borrow ideas, concepts, plots, and characters, and do Imagewhatever you want with them as you write them into your new work. Numerous beloved stories have been adapted. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a New York Times bestseller, a creation from the public domain, and it’s being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman.

My husband and I spent nearly an hour this morning chatting about the public domain, and discussing how so many books, movies, television shows, and music have used work from public domain sources to create wildly popular spinoffs, mashups, and new works.

Because there is still at least one Sherlock Holmes work of Sir ImageArthur Conan Doyle that is under copyright, the character of Sherlock Holmes won’t be released into the public domain until 2022. Start working on your zombie and vampire books now. The Sherlock Holmes fans will be gobbling them up.

Have you ever written a story, book, or song based on something that was in the public domain?

P.S. – The little cutie pie at the top of this post? She’s there because the first picture posted in the reader is the *BIG* one, and I couldn’t let that goofy cover with the gorilla head behind the Christmas tree be it, so you get to look at a little cutie pie.