Friday, August 20, 2010

Blasting Myself Out of a Jam

BOYS 'n' TOYS: The Tommy-gun-totin' feller on the left is author Steve Martini. I've got the H&K MP5 at the right. We were at firearms display at last year's ThrillerFest.
I write, therefore I shoot.
Or is it the other way around?

Doesn't matter. When I'm stuck in a beaver dam of words, I need to move. Not just metaphorically, but physically. So I walk. Lift weights. Mow the grass. Fix something around the house.

But mostly, I shoot.

There are several good gun ranges within a half hour of my house, and I take full advantage. Pistols, mostly; both revolvers and semiautos. I love the snick of the hammer. Stroke of the trigger. Blast and careen of gunpowder exploding, bullet leaving the barrel, splatting onto the (paper) target. The smell of burnt gunpowder curling out of the barrel and into my nose.

Big bangs cleanse the mind right fiercely.

Some of you don't like guns. You wonder why I'd write about "evil killing machines good only for murdering poor innocent children," let alone admit to liking and using them regularly.


First, I'd be a big ol' hypocrite if I didn't. They're in every single book I write. They're in every crime book I read. Most books you read, too; c'mon, admit it. You wouldn't be here at CM if you didn't like crime novels.

Second, guns are a tool. It's people that make them bad (armed robbers) or good (cops). To say guns cause murder is to say cars cause DUIs. Just 'tain't so.

Third, it's fun. Shooting is a mental, physical and intellectual exercise. Think not? You try putting a fiery hunk o'lead into a bullseye the size of your big toe--100 feet away--then tell me it's easy. It takes enormous hand-eye-head coordination to line up everything so the hole appears where it's supposed to.

Fourth, it's a free country, and I can.

Enough of that. What shooting does for my writing is significant: the noise and the jump and the ritual make me focus. It gets rid of the monkey brain that occurs when I'm in the throes of writing. All other things fade to nothingness while I'm in the arena. That lets my subconscious shoot away at that tangled beaver dam of words. When I'm done firing a couple hundred rounds of ammo, my writing problems have been blasted to smithereens.

And the smell of coffee curling into my nose on the drive home is sweet indeed.


Gretchen said...

And it's cool! The Tommy gun is my favorite even though it's heavy. There's hardly any recoil and it's made out of metal. Definitely not a toy, well kinda.

I have 't worked up the courage to get myself to a local gun range yet, but it't near the top of my list. Now that I hear it might be a way out of the gridlock my brain sometimes cooks up I'm doubly incentivized.

Meredith Cole said...

You look good with a gun, Shane!

The NY Sisters in Crime chapter did a field trip to a gun range, and I was glad I got to go. I had never held a gun before, and it was quite an experience. I learned that they're heavy and that it's really hard to hit a target. I will never laugh again at those movies where the bad guys fire off tons of rounds and never hit anyone...

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Meredith, you're too kind! You're right about bad guys shooting a bunch and not hitting anything. Happens to cops, too, unfortunately. Without tons of regular training and practice, the athletic skills needed to shoot accurately go out the window when your brain and body go into screaming adrenaline dump during an attack.

Shane Gericke said...

Hi, Gretchen. It IS cool. Tommy guns are terrific pieces of sculpture--one of the most iconic guns ever made--but at more than 14 pounds loaded are waaaay to heavy for me to want to shoot. Hope you get a chance, though: everyone should fire one at least once. Yes, please get yourself to a range. It's a totally safe environment, and with an instructor, you'll pick up the skills you need quickly. Shooting is a lot of fun, and the feedback from seeing a small group of holes in your target bullseye is exhilirating.

Sophie Littlefield said...

i'm going to learn to shoot next month!!! i am going to the writers police academy for my birthday, and i'm the first to admit that i am a *giant* hypocrite because i think *NO ONE* should own a gun, ever, except the person who is going to teach me to use one, especially if he does that hot thing they do in movies where they stand behind you and sort of wrap their arm around you while you aim at stuff. yee haw.

Kelli Stanley said...

Shane, m' darling, you look so natural with a Tommy gun!! :) I want to cast you in Chicago or at least the next "Public Enemies" type movie! :)

Shooting is so exhilarating ... we had rifles and a .38 around the house when I grew up, and I used to practice with my dad, mainly trying to hit fence posts. :)

At the range near SF you can try to hit zombie vital parts instead ... but wait--do zombies have vital parts??

Anyway--on a trip to said range with our local SinC chapter, I rediscovered how much I like the smell and the smoke.

I admire a well-made gun as I do any piece of fine craftsmanship. And I hope one of these days I'm able to get a Baby Browning ... Miranda's favorite secret weapon. :)


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Shane, you have the coolest brainstorming activity! No writing on ivory parchment with a feather quill, no drawing lines and arrows, no namy pamby web surfing, just hot metal and gunsmoke and loud percussions. That is the kind of manly we've come to expect from the Shanester!
Great post!

Shane Gericke said...

Don't worry, Sophie, we'll bring you over to the dark side before you know it. You'll love shooting, I guarantee, and before long you'll want to get your own shootin' iron yourself. If California still lets you, that is :-)

Thanks, Rebecca. If I had feather quills I'd undoubtedly drip the ink all over myself instead of on the parchment where it belongs! It IS nice to bring out my Inner Shane every now and again sending heavy metal downrange. Plus, it gave me an excuse to run that cool picture of Steve Martini ...

Kel, I know what you mean. Dad was a cop so we had guns around the house as a kid, and my uncle was a big hunter. I grew up thinking of them as tools to accomplish tasks, not as political statements. They were fun to shoot, and they kept Dad safe at work. What was not to like?

Shane Gericke said...

Oh, and Sophie, the imagery of the instructor cloaking his arms around you ... it's kinda like that Demi Moore movie Ghost, except Patrick Swayze is helping her squeeze a .38 instead of wet clay ... or maybe he's squeezing her 38s ... it was that kind of movie, y'know ...

Terry Stonecrop said...

You do look good with a gun. Why are guns so sexy? Maybe the phallic thing.

Anyway, great post! I'm a terrible shot, that's why I own a 12-guage:)It was a Miami SWAT team weapon.

jeff7salter said...

I live (just barely) outside the city limits on 23 acres which have been in my wife's family for over 200 years.
Directly behind my house, in about 5 acres of woods, is an area with a large horseshoe-shaped, natural earthen berm some 25 ft high. I cleared out an area in the middle of it and have a trail leading in. I usually shoot from about 30 ft, but the 'range' (all surrounded by the berm) would accomodate approx. 50' if I wanted it.
I can shoot all day if I want, with no range fees.
I prefer revolvers, but others who shoot with me like semi-auto pistols.
P.s. I sometimes practice shooting left-handed. I've been asked why.
My answer: "if you ever really need a firearm in an emergency, what's to say your primary hand will be accessible / functioning?"

Shane Gericke said...

You guys flatter me too much. Then again I love it, so keep it coming :-)

Terry, it's definitely a phallic thing. That's why I'm holding the short-barrel weapon.

Jeff, I greatly admire your shooting setup. I'd love to have a big outside place in which to ramble and shoot. But I live in a large suburb, and shooting is prohibited in city limits. Something about next-door neighbors not wanting lead in their soup. Gee, I can't imagine why that would annoy them ...

Excellent point on practicing cross-handed: You never know. That, in fact, is what one of my character cops found himself doing in TORN APART. He was shot by narcotics dealers, forcing him to return fire (and reload his Beretta twice) with his "bad" hand. That he managed to do so is testament to his having trained himself to shoot with either hand. Also a rare moment of smartness for the writer-guy :-)

Gabi said...

I read the title of your post this week and immediately envisioned you stuck in a honey pot with your friends all around debating the physics of pooh bear removal. Now, I'm seeing Winnie toting an 9 mil. The 100 Acre Woods will never be the same.

FYI -- I'm not scared because it turns out I'm a really good shot.

Shane Gericke said...

Pooh uses honey to grease his Uzi, Gabi. And he only lets Tigger uses a toy gun cause he's, y'know, so overcaffeinated :-)

Cool to see that so many CMers shoot already, or are learning. I knew I lived in an excellent neighborhood.