NEW FICTION: Bourbon & Blondes has arrived!

From the bus stations of Rt. 66 to the smoky, neon-tinged jazz dives of the big cities, these wanton tales of longing introduce us to vixens on the fringe and those shifty men that drove them there.

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Watch: The 'Bourbon & Blondes' Book Trailer

Get your shot glass ready because you're about to enter a retro world of showgirls, drifters, barmaids and thieves.

The eternal question for scribes?

In this new social media landscape, the question becomes: Is blogging dead? It just may be...

Watch: The 'Front Page Palooka' Book Trailer

Read the pulp novella that one reviewer called 'A potboiler in the style of old school writers like Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler...'

Monday, June 28, 2010

REMEMBERING AN IDOL...

In life, we have many defining moments. Things we remember. Even as we sleep.

I was about 14 and in the basement at a performing arts school in my hometown. We were all practicing for a production of "Grease" and decided to take a break because "he" would be on soon.

We all huddled around around a small black-and-white TV perched on a folding chair and watched "Motown 25."

Little did we know that history was being made. I suspect by now you all know what I mean...

In terms of mania, there were perhaps only a few only times in modern history where the country -- as a whole -- was in sheer awe of the same pop culture figure. Rudolph Valentino was the first followed by Sinatra, that hillbilly from Memphis (who happened to marry me) and those moptops from across the pond that changed music forever.

But there I was. It was March 25, 1983. He snapped his fedora on his head and struck that famous stance — his right hand on his hat and his left leg bent. The crowd went nuts and a few moments later, he threw the hat aside.



But it was the during that musical interlude, however, that MJ executed a move that sealed his status as a pop culture icon. That night he became a legend.

It was the first time we saw him moonwalk and I got chills. The screams from the audience only solidified my awe. There I was, staring at the 14-inch screen huddled with the others. We never saw anything like it and, while I've seen it since hundreds of times, it never never fails to get me. He was the man.

When the telecast reran a few months later, I videotaped it and studied every move he made. Every twitch. Every step. The pause button was my best friend and. I mastered it. While kids in the neighborhood were busy popping and break dancing, I was the little white kid who danced like MJ at the roller rink every Friday night.

And it made me popular.

video

I delved into the man even more. All the the old records, the live performances -- I ate it all up and the moves came natural. Well, with LOTS of practice, of course.

For one of my performances, I remember paying a kid at the local high school 10 beans to let me wear his band jacket because it looked like the militray jacket MJ wore. On Monday morning, I heard he got into trouble for loaning it out but I didn't care.

# # #

Last year on June 25, I was knee-deep in putting our weekend section to bed at the newspaper when one of the managing editors strolled over to us.

"Uh, we just heard that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital," he said matter of factly with a mouth full of potato chips.

At this point, we were well aware of Jackson's ongoing health problems and we pretty much chalked it up to exhuastion. After all, he was embarking on the comeback tour of his life. This was the calm before the storm.

A few minutes passed. A colleague sent me an e-mail that gave me chills. It read:

"TMZ is reporting that Michael Jackson" is unresponsive at the ER.

Holy shit, I thought. I stopped what I was doing and prepped an entry to go online.

No sooner did I post something quick when TMZ reported that Jackson was dead. Fuck... My childhood idol had just died. No time to think about this now, Ant... I kept saying to myself. You have work to do.

I had to prep a new post to go up ASAP. My problem was that every time I tried to get information, I got an error message from Google that I never saw before. It was kind of as if the nation's cyber infrastructure was under attack. Then it hit me.

Michael Jackson just broke the fucking internet.

As the hour progressed more reports started to flood in and when the Los Angeles Times confirmed his death, I knew it was no longer a rumor. It was true. My head hung low.

Our front page was ripped to shreds and like every paper in the waking world, it was an all-Michael Jackson cover. Poor Farrah Fawcett, who succumbed to cancer that day, was taken off of page 1. Red swimsuit nipple pic and all. Like she never existed.

Driving home was surreal. Every station on the radio was blaring their MJ hits. On TV it was no different. MTV went into a virtual state of mourning. To them, it was akin to the JFK assassination. After all, in 1983, MJ helped build their house.

The text messages and e-mails from friends long ago, started to blast my inbox. They all wanted to know how I was... The little guy who danced like MJ...

So on this first second year anniversary of his death, I find myself thinking about Jackson all over again.

Elephant man bones and oxygen chambers aside, the charisma of his performing still takes me places even after all these years.

One Two years later, MJ's death doesn't hurt any less. In fact, considering most fans have gone back to the music, it may just hurt a little more.

Friday, June 25, 2010

THE DEATH OF A LIVING MUG SHOT (flash fiction)


Looking at the body, I'd give anything to be in my bed watching stupid re-runs of "The Bachelor" with my wife.

This wasn't happening. I wasn't watching my friend's body twitch away into lifelessness staring at the cold, hard ground. The gun pierced in the left side of my rib cage like a dull spear told me otherwise and I was just waiting for that pop -- the last sound Bobby J ever heard.

* * *
I'd been talking to Bobby J on The Living Room, a new social network where you invite friends over to your virtual living space - like big 3D room. I pimped mine out with all sorts of corny sports and gangster movie knick-knacks and I had the illusion that this ridiculous site was my cyber bachelor crash pad. All sorts of people would drop in from new work friends to old school chums I haven't seen in years. Yes, it was all very odd and at times, kind of juvenile but it passed
the time.

Then Bobby J found me. You know the type. That one guy you've known your whole life back to when you both barely stopped pissing your pants? Your oldest friend but not necessarily your best? The one who, as you've matured, just seemed to regress back to those days of piss-stained overalls? Yeah... That was Bobby J.

When I saw that he rang my virtual door bell, I sighed. Now I knew what Seinfeld meant about the dreaded "pop in." When my wife heard me groan from the other room, she wanted to know what the big deal was? She never met Bobby J. and I explained that we were "like this" growing up.

"You never mentioned him. He didn't come to our wedding. How good of a friend could he have been?" she asked in that half-snarky tone that I hated.

"Yeah, well, your're lucky he didn't show. He prolly would've fucked a cocktail waitress, knocked out one of my ushers and stole a car from the valet.""Sounds like a real winner," she said.

I didn't answer her. She didn't get it and I didn't feel like explaining anything further. Women just don't understand the intricacies of male friendships and I wasn't about to start schooling her.

* * *
After a few weeks of dodging him, Bobby J. finally nagged me enough to agree to meet for a few cocktails during happy hour after work. Well, after my work. Bobby J. said he was on disability. For what, I couldn't tell you.

We decided to meet at an old bar that we used to hang at called Spinners. I parked my Honda outside, down the block and judging from the amount of graffiti, I'd say the neghborhood wasn't what it once was. It seemed to have gone from working-class Italian and Irish to downright vacant.

The bar, though, was still filled with college kids. After all, it was still a college town and the semester was in full groove. The bar was still the same and just the smell of the beer-stained linoleum brought me back.

During school, I'd cram for finals in the back in one of the booths and Bobby J would run numbers and scam the WASPy kids every Sunday during football season. It was always
something with him.

I snagged our same booth and when I saw Bobby J. walk in, he was almost unrecognizable. Most guys our age, get fat and go bald. Bobby J. was skinnier now then back when we copped our first feel. His hair was greasy. Long. In his eyes.

He looked like one of those guys in those meth ads -- the ones who age in mug shots. I was staring at a mug shot personified. My heart ached. That's when I first wanted to be home.

"So..." he said scratching his arm furioisly. "Whatcha been up to, man?"

* * *
We talked and caught up. I knew half of what I was listening was bullshit but what was I gonna do? Three Bud Lights, two Jacks and an order of Buffalo wings later, Bobby J. asked me for a lift home. Fuck me, was all I thought. Then I remembered the neghborhood.

"Sure, Bobby. Least I can do..."

Walking towards the Honda, Bobby kept rambling about who blew him where and under what stoop. All I was fixated on was the double-parked Escalade on the side that pinned us in. We
weren't going anywhere. I felt those buffalo wings rumble in my stomach.

Before we were at the car, the biggest one punched Bobby J. hard. I never heard a jaw break, but of I did, I'm sure that was it. I watched Bobby moan with blood spurting out of his mouth as he spit out a few teeth. I didn't know where the fuck I was.
"Don't you know if you don't wanna be found, you ain't supposed to let your butler tell people where you're gon' be," the Big One barked.

Bobby J. really didn't have a butler. The Big One was talking about The Living Room. You get a virtual butler, letting people know what you're up to when you're offline.
The rest was a blur. I mean, there was lots of shouting about money owed. I mean, how much could it have been? Was the Big One Bobby J's drug dealer? Pimp? I kept my mouth fucking shut and before I know it, the Big One shoots Bobby J. as if was Grand Theft Auto.

* * *

I remember pissing my pants. It was warm and they were soaked through and through. The others next to the Big One mocked me.

"Give me your wallet," The Big One snapped.
I tossed it his way and he gave me back my money, but kept everything else. He perused my pictures and studied my driver's licence. "Eagle Ridge Drive..." The Big One said. "Nice area."

I nodded.

Before handing my wallet off to one of the others, The Bog One said, "Now hold the gun."

And there it was. He just placed me at the murder scene. After a few seconds he snatched it back using a plastic bag, making sure not to touch it.

"You wanna live?" The Big One asked.
I nodded.

"Good. Cuz I ain't gonna kill you," he said laughing low. "How else are we gonna get rid of this here body?"

One of the others dug for my car keys and popped the trunk. They dumped all my fishing gear on the curb along with my son's soccer stuff.

My heart sunk as I watched The Big One order his guys to dump Bobby J's body into the Honda. My car dipped low towards the ground and I had to remind myself that it wasn't the time to worry about the shocks.

"Now you make sure Bobby J. don't get found. If you go to the cops, we go to your house. That simple. You tell anyone, and this gun pops up mysteriously. We clear?"

I nodded again.

* * *
I watched the Escalade blur into the stoplights 10 blocks uptown and I sat in my Honda. I didn't know where I was going or how I would see Bobby J. off. Do I just dump him at the side of the curb? Do I bury him? Do I toss him down a ravine?

Driving away, all I thought that this was the kinda shit that happens to schmuks in movies.

I couldn't say if I was driving too fast or slow but when I saw the siren light in my rear view, I knew one thing for sure -- no good could ever come from social networks and the blood splatter on my oxford shirt proved me right.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

THE TEN ESSENTIAL PENGUIN CLASSICS

PENGUIN CLASSICS has compiled a list of the top ten essential Penguin Classics every person should read. Each of these ten great works—ranging from poetry to plays to novels and non-fiction—has lasted and enlightened audiences throughout the ages, and they all still have something relevant to say to readers.

The list is as follows:

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

"The Odyssey" by Homer

"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

"Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville

"Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

"Oedipus" by Sophocles

"Walden" by Henry David Thoreau

"The Inferno" by Dante Alighieri

To celebrate these books, Penguin has produced a twenty-minute video showing what happens to a hapless young suitor who hasn't yet read the Essential Classics. The trailer and clips for all 10 books are below.



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CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS ANSWERS A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION


Christopher Hitchens is one of my favorite authors and journalists.

The Brit-American's career has spanned more than four decades, making him a public intellectual, and a staple of lecture circuits and talk shows - notably HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."

He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation and Free Inquiry. Of late, he's a contributing editor and columnist for Vanity Fair. His latest book is entitled "Hitch-22: A Memoir," and was published this month.

In the video below, he's not talking about finding mass graves in Iraq, the Middle East arms race or the growing rebellion in Iran.

Nope... he addresses something far more personal and interesting.



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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FROM THE CRADLE TO THE BRAVE, WHAT MAKES A HERO?


Heroes.

For most of us scribes, they are the very basis of our work. I want to share an interesting video that I posted on my Facebook page a few weeks back because I think it' effective on many levels.

In it's simplest form, the video is merely a one-minute teaser for the FX drama "Rescue Me." While I've never seen the show (I always have meant to jump on board), I've heard nothing but good things about it.

It centers on the professional and personal lives of a group of New York City firefighters in the fictional Ladder 62 / Engine 99 firehouse. The star of "Rescue Me" is veteran firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and his ever-troublesome family as they deal with real-life issues, be it post 9/11 trauma or domestic problems. Great premise.

The teaser below starts out innocent enough -- as we see our heroes in vintage-looking clips "from the cradle to the brave" As it builds, it wonderfully displays our heroes juxtaposed against a baseball training camp and future Yankee Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. * Be sure not to miss the World Trade Center as the ball players jog through their camp. Oodles of subtext.

While it's easy to see Tommy Gavin and company watching Jeter hit one out of the park in the firehouse, it's Jeter, who, while driving by, thinks these guys are life's real heroes. And justifiably so.

The cherry on top is the incredibly '70s retro Alicia Keys tune "Empire State of Mind."

It all works so please enjoy... It's the product of stupendous editing and a great musical and visual hook.



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Monday, June 21, 2010

B&N HEATS UP THE READER WAR: SLASHES PRICE ON NEW NOOK


UPDATE 6/22: After Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its competing Nook device, Amazon has slashed the price of its Kindle e-reader to $189, down $70 from its previous price of $259. Amazon has lowered the Kindle's price several times since it debuted in 2007 at $399. Amazon also sells a larger-screen Kindle, the Kindle DX, for $489.

Earlier today, bookseller Barnes & Noble released a new version of its Nook e-reader that supports a Wi-Fi only connection and priced at a very inexpensive $149.

In addition, it also slashed the price on its 3G Nook to $199.

This new shift in pricing means that B&N has e-reader models priced below market leader, Amazon's Kindle, which retails for $259 in its cheapest model.

Tony Astarita, vice president for digital products at Barnes & Noble.com, the new Nook was built in response to customer feedback and market research.

He said that the new model is targeted at someone who may be a solid reader with a Wi-Fi availability at home or outside the home (like a Starbucks or Panera Cafe) and not so much a mobile a traveler who may need a 3G connection.

At $149, the new Wi-Fi Nook is competitive with the Sony Pocket Reader and the Kobe e-reader from competing mega-bookseller Borders. However, neither of those competing readers support Wi-Fi and the Sony product has only a five-inch screen compared to a six-inch display for the Nook.

Upping the ante is the fact that B&N offers free Wi-Fi access within its stores and allows Nook users to read any electronic book without purchasing it (within brick and mortar stores) as well as offer free content and coupon deals.



Other notable Nook features include the lending of books between almost any e-reader users. "Our strategy is any book, any time, any place," Astarita told PC World.

Plus, the new reader is a half ounce lighter than its heftier 3G kin and has a white, rather than gray, back panel.

Both Nooks offers complementary access to some 20,000 AT&T wireless hotspots across the country.

So the question remains, will this be a game changer for the e-reader market? Or with Apple's potent iPad, will this new Nook be as relevant as a Palm Pilot in a Smartphone world?

The device is expected to be available at the end of the week.

A comprehensive list of e-reader prices are available after the jump

Friday, June 18, 2010

PEEPING TOM'S PARADISE (flash fiction)

It was the night of my bachelor party, and my dad Nick reminded me that fate has a way of fucking with you when you least expect it.

"Take it easy," he said. "You remember what happened to me. My stag party was a disaster."

I smirked in that way of letting him know that bachelor parties were different now. Plus we didn't call them stag parties any more. What was with that?

Oh sure, guys still may get together and act like primates with all sorts of dick measuring, but I've never been to a bachelor party that felt... dirty. In fact, I've been to some groom send-offs that felt more like glorified man dates. They were almost gay. There was the five-course meal at the four-star racetrack bistro; the serene boat ride along the lagoon with microbrews and cognac; and then there was the chalet rental skiing the Vermont mountains with five of my best friends.

Flaming redheads with big bosoms didn't jump out of a cakes anymore and for the most part, none of us ever came home with lipstick on our collar. And if a go-go bar fell into the equation, believe me, it was such a buzzkill once the overpriced drinks and steep cover were factored in. Lets face it, I can see a girl shake her ass in a thong on MTV. I don't need my bachelor party for that.

In Nick's day, though, there was no Music Television and the hottest it usually got was seeing an outline of a possible nipple through Annette Funicello's bikini top in whatever "Beach Blanket" film she was starring in. Well, that and the pygmees in National Geographic. Proof positive as to why stag parties were an event.

* * *
When it was time to bid farewell to Nick's single life, his buddies spared no expense. The beer would be Löwenbräu. The music Charlie Parker and the premium hooch would be Canadian Club. Dad's half wit cousin Noodle said that he would supply the entertainment in the form of a little black and white gem called "Peeping Tom's Paradise." Dad told me that all night Noodle bragged to the guys that he had to order the nudie flick from a tiny store in Chinatown.

"In the back room," Noodle would boast as of that actually meant something.

The tradeoff to such stag party riches? The guys couldn't afford a hall so again, cousin Noodle (thinking he was using his) convinced Nick to ask my grandmother if it was okay to have their small soirée out back in the garage. She said that as long as they kept it down and none of the boys got rambunctious, it should be fine.
* * *

And so it came. Dad's big night started out just like thousands of other stag parties of the day. Cigars were smoked over sports scores and 10 pizzas were on there way be there just in time for Noodle's Betty Blue film.

Beforehand, though, Nick got a few presents and was even shocked that Noodle gave him a wallet. Nick wondered what Woolworth's he stole it from and after examining it, jammed the billfold into his back pocket.

By the time the natives were on their second slice, it was clear that Cousin Noodle didn't know a good goddamn about loading an 8 mm projector. After some razzing and propping the projector on my grandfather's old workbench, the guys were in for their treat.

As "Peeping Tom's Paradise" flickered to life on a dirty bedsheet perched along the garage door, mouths were agape.

"Man, is she built like a brick shithouse," Noodle said to the gang, many of them agreeing and nodding silently to themselves.

The poor man's Bettie Page -- Betty Blue -- didn't find much success beyond skin mags like "Adam" or "Escapade." Within them, however, she was indeed the star and shutterbugs like Russ Meyer would turn her into an enchanting temptress who blurred the line between innocent and sophisticated.

The stupor from a trifecta of Canadian Club, pizza dough and stogie smoke made the guys pretty numb. So numb in fact that no one smelled smoke.

And even though the stag film clocked in just under three minutes, it took only half of that for the projector to be engulfed in flames. Noodle missed a few sprockets feeding the film into the projector and the super thin cellulose nitrate was incinerated by the projector's bulb.

The growing fire was a heat catalyst sitting on my grandfather's workbench which had all sorts of turpentine and paint products. Everything burned quickly and the flames were extra dangerous because cellulose doesn't need oxygen in the air to keep burning.

The guys scattered and Nick darted inside to fetch his mother.

Four alarms and a few hours later, my grandmother's house was reduced to smoldering embers and while no one was hurt, Nick became known as the boy who burned his mother's house down.

And his fiancée certainly didn't want to marry that. Nick got married a few years later and I was born after three older brothers.

* * *

"Just be careful," my dad said. "Watch out what you do."

" I just think we're going to dinner, Dad. Maybe hit the bar after."

"Trust me," he said. "And whatever you do, if someone gives you an empty wallet, throw that fucker out. It's just bad luck..."


* Click after the jump for the actual short film "Peeping Tom's Paradise," starring Betty Blue. Obviously it comes with a minor NSFW warning since the flick is no more than PG-13 by modern standards.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NY TIMES WRITERS AREN'T ALLOWED TO USE 'TWEET'

Yup, the 'ol Grey Lady has a little problemo with using "tweet" in a news story.

I work as an online editor at a daily paper and we use 'tweet' all the time. I guess we're not as
sophisticated as America's 'Newspaper of Record' whose staff is forbidden to utilize the word "tweet" as both a noun ("a Twitter message") and a verb ("to send a Twitter message").

In a memo leaked to The Awl, New York Times Standards Editor Phil Corbett advises not to use the word, writing "outside of ornithological
contexts, "tweet" has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles."

So what are his suggestions for an alternative? He says, "deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update."

The buzz is that newsroom scribes replied to his memo defending the use of the word "tweet."

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

WILL APPLE BURN OUR BOOKS?

As writers (and creators) should we be afraid of Apple? While that may sound a tad melodramatic, it's not that ridiculous of a question.
That's the question, I posed the other day and people seemed to respond strongly. Michael Solender, non-fiction editor at Full Of Crow offspring On The Wing, wanted to pick up my piece.

It's a great and thought-provoking site that features essays, opinion, columns and more on issues that matter.

Check out my link and others, HERE.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

KILLER NEW TRAILER FOR HBO'S 'BOARDWALK EMPIRE'


Who said writing blogs have to ALWAYS be about writing?

In any case, this is the one we've been waiting for... Home Box office has released a new trailer for the Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese-created Prohibition-era gangster television series "Boardwalk Empire."

This new trailer focuses on Steve Buscemi's character, the undisputed ruler of Atlantic City and town Treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson. Thompson was "a political fixer and backroom dealer who is equal parts politician and gangster and equally comfortable in either role."

After watching the new trailer, it's obvious that the cable network is setting up this lavish new drama as its flagship program.

High pedigree here, folks...

Inspired by portions of the non-fiction book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City" by Nelson Johnson, the show delves into the goings-on in Atlantic City, circa 1920.

The town itself is a main character. Because of its strategic location on the seaboard (in New Jersey), the bustling seashore city is a hub of activity for rum-runners, minutes from Philadelphia, hours from New York City and less than a day’s drive from Chicago. And Nucky Thompson takes full advantage of it all.

Along with his brother Elias (Shea Whigham), the town’s Sheriff, and a crew of Ward Bosses and local thugs, Nucky carves out a niche for himself as the man to see for any illegal alcohol. he's an equal opportunity gangster, doing business with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Big Jim Colosimo (Frank Crudele), Lucky Luciano, (Vincent Piazza) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

Watch the killer new trailer after the jump

Monday, June 14, 2010

FICTION WRITING: 20 UNDER 40


I tell people that I'm 18 with 24 years of experience. Why?

Because it always freaks me out how some writers can be filled with such bonafide talent at such a young age.

Don't get me wrong, I wrote lots of things in my younger days, but in re-reading them now, I just cringe. Quite simply, I didn't possess the tools or the wisdom to create anything substantial.

The June 14 issue of The New Yorker -- one of the premiere showcases for American fiction -- features their annual list of "20 Under 40" — that is, 20 accomplished writers under the age of 40.

According to the editors, the purpose of the feature is "to offer a focused look at the talent sprouting and blooming around us," in particular the talent of these "young fiction writers who we believe are, or will be, key to their generation,... the ones our grandchildren and their grandchildren will read."

So check out this link for Gary Shteyngart's story "Lenny Hearts Eunice" as well as many Q&S by the young scribes and abstracts of their stories.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

THE KILLER IN ME (flash fiction)

It wasn't working.

She'd been in my life -- let's call her Jane -- for the better part of a couple months and despite a great beginning, she just wasn't giving me what I needed anymore. She was so fucking one-dimensional.

Oh sure, she was hot but that only goes so far and it certainly went with the terrain. And yeah, while she seemingly got along well with the others, something didn't click within me. Maybe it was because she had nothing intelligent to say and that I wanted to be so proud of her.

Despite my hesitation, I gave her a few more chances by putting Jane into certain situations. I wanted to see if she could hold her own and impress me.

She didn't.

Jane was lame and it was becoming increasingly clear as to what had to be done. She served no more purpose and alot of our groundwork would have to be redone once she was gone.

I started to think about how it should be done. I mean, there were the others to think about here. Should I make it a surprise? Should she just disappear? Would it be quiet? Violent? Who would do it?

I decided that I would allow the others make the decision for me. Let it organically happen.

* * *
So that night, on the way up to my attic, I started to think about Jane. Would I care when she was gone? Meh... Call me cold but I've been down this road before and have seen everything from bloody and gruesome to clean and quick. For Jane, it would all depend upon where we last left off.

The door creaked open and now was the time to deal with Jane one last time.

As I flipped up the laptop and opened the novel, there she was, another failed character who served no purpose. The book sucked with her in it.

Perhaps this murder would enliven it.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

MY INTERVIEW AS PART OF 'AMERICAN WEEKS'


Prolific Canadian blogger and writer Cathy Olliffe has been doing a wonderful job highlighting American writers at her site Life on the Muskoka River in a special series that she is calling American Weeks.

In addition to such varied and talented material by the authors, Cathy conducts spectacular and thorough author profiles with meticulous attention to detail. It's always fun finding out more about my fellow bloggers and Cathy's rich interview pieces provide such great tidbits.

That said, it's my turn to borrow the keys to Cathy's blog and take it 'round the block. I hope you enjoy. I know I certainly enjoyed participating Cathy's interview.

Please check my interview and two pieces HERE. Small caveat, the interview is a tad long, I sort of rambled in my answers to Cathy. Hey, it was my first one...

And also please feel free to read the other stateside scribes profiled in the American Weeks series. They're a talented bunch.

Peggy McFarland
Mark Kerstetter
Carrie Clevenger
Eric J. Krause
Shannon Esposito

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NOIR DREAMS (poem & podcast)


Please click play to enjoy an audio reading


NOIR DREAMS
I imagine snapping the brim
of a non-existent fedora after
I find the Benny Goodman
tape somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Only then do I shut my eyes.

After a moment, I check my
father’s pocket watch and
hope the shirt-tail is properly
tucked. I do this much after
the fact but nevermind that.

I’m ready.

As I prowl Sunset amidst a sea
of Caddie fins and crackly neon,
the Benny Goodman stops and
reality socks me in the snooker
hard with a Louisville Slugger.

Here in The City of Night, I’m
chasing noir dreams that deep
down I know are pure figments.

I long for palm trees and
all I get are dead shrubs;


I yearn for Ava Gardner or
Betty Bacall – or some grand
dame with killer eyebrows,
a quick wit and a thirst for
the good life and all I see
is Sally who looks like
lunchmeat on a Thursday;

I want to dine at the Brown Derby
and all I can afford is the cardboard
they peddle at 3 Brothers in Venice;

I need a double-breasted Zoot Suit yet
all I can muster are premium Dickies
straight outta the Sears Wishbook;

I want spit-shined wingtips,
black and white, and ready to
kill roaches and I get these
busted up Chuck Taylors;

I salivate for single-barrel scotch
and I all get is this bathtub gin;

I look around for George Raft on his
way to the commissary and all
I see are

the tattooed,
the pierced,
the depraved

and I shake my head as to where
we’re all going and wonder what
happened to the glamorous life?

I’ll never know cuz I never lived it.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

AGENT ORANGE (flash fiction)

By 1967, I was buried deep in the bowels of the Bureau at Quantico -- with shitty clearance to boot.

I was a clerk in the Records Management Division. Oh sure, I was an agent for what it was worth. Basically, it came in handy at bars. Every chick within a 10 mile radius wanted to fuck a bonafide FBI agent and I helped them with that.

I started when I was discharged from Korea. A guy in my unit had an uncle who's friend was a G-man. I figured that I had enough Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity to serve my country overseas so why not stateside. After training, it was no time before the conformity of the day turned me into a working schnook and I found myself working as a glorified librarian.

You see, when Special Agents - the real guys - need information for their field agents, I get a either a wire or a phone call. I would pull thousands of case files -- everything from the militant "New Left" to homegrown Communists to the KKK. We feds were on it all.

But there was this one file called "Agent: Orange" that kept creeping across my desk. As conduits of information that often dealt with national security, we were forbidden to open them. And closed circuit cameras made sure we kept our peepers front and center. The rumor I kept hearing, though, was that The Pentagon was developing a new herbicidal warfare program just in case that conflict in Vietnam got any worse. "Agent: Orange" ... they said this was its name.
The file kept getting thicker and I thought nothing more of it.

* * *
A year or two went by and truthfully, I was starting to get bored with the day-to-day doldrums of the job. I wasn't a young agent anymore and any chance I had at a normal life with a family was quickly evaporating. In fact, the sacred information that I doled out on a daily basis was all I had. The files were my kids and I would watch them grow and mature.

I loved them.

* * *
And then it happened. A horrific nor'easter wiped out one of the national grids and I was alone in the records room. Until power was restored, there was no chance of getting in or out since the door was on a magnetic timer. Moreover, the cameras were out. This was my chance. I would finally get to meet one of my babies.

Out came the flashlight and the first child that I saw was that infamous "Agent: Orange" file. Imagine the shock when I found out that the folder was not named for a classified weapons initiative but a person.

Out came my baloney sandwich, I combed through every line on every page and soaked up every photo.

The file centered on a particular FBI Agent - deep undercover - who, among many things, persuaded mob insider Joseph Valachi to spill the beans about the structure of La Cosa Nostra -- the American "mafia."

The dateline of the case report hit me like a ton of bricks.

09 MARCH 1967
LAS VEGAS/WASHINGTON
OPERATION -- "AGENT: ORANGE"
FIELD AGENT: FRANCIS A. SINATRA


Fuck me.

The more I thought about it and almost choking on baloney, it made perfect sense. It was a genius cover. What better way to infiltrate the mafia than by grooming a young Italian singer into an international icon who would eventually travel in their circles and become one of their most trusted friends?
Oh sure, Hoover like to play up the fact that he was a gangster, but that was part of the cover. The Bureau even went so far as giving him a fake tough guy background by arresting him back when he was first recruited. All these years later, little do his fans know that there was a reason why he got away with everything.

But I couldn't figure out why they called him "Agent: Orange."
About two hours later, the power came back on. It was the only file I got through. And boy, the stuff I learned...

* * *
By the mid-seventies, I was retiring along with several other agents and an elite dinner was planned at the posh St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. Along with President Gerald Ford, the event boasted a who's who that included Alexander Haig, Donald Rumsfeld, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger.

Dreading the farewell speeches that were to come, I almost left but then I saw him at the bar and oddly, he was alone -- at least for the moment. I decided to make my move and as he drank his Jack on the rocks, I introduced myself and informed him that I worked in the Bureau's Records Management Division.

I winked. He stared.

I winked once more and Lord only knows where I got the courage to say, "I love your work... Agent Orange."

I winked. Again.

He'd clearly had it by this point and before he walked away,
leaned in and said, "What'sa matter, pal. You never saw a super spy before?"

As he sauntered towards the power brokers, it hit me. I knew why he was Agent Orange. It was his pocket square. I should've known that orange was his favorite color. Some agent I am...

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

JON FAVREAU: WHAT I'VE LEARNED (the creative bits)

I've long been a fan of actor-director-writer Jon Favreau and this month, he's featured in Esquire magazine's feature "What I've Learned." Here are some of the more noteworthy bits of his knowledge in regard to creativity and the biz...:

You have to create the quiet to be able to listen to the very faint voice of your intuition.

I had a writing teacher who said, If you want to learn how to write a screenplay, read The African Queen twice.

Storytelling relies more on instinct than intellect.

You get your Charlie Parker record and play it over and over again. You play it note for note, and eventually you find your own voice.

With Swingers, there was the exuberance of youth — of finally being heard. A lot of that comes out of adolescence, from the frustration of not being heard. When you finally get the conch shell, you want to shout out as loud as you can what's on your mind. We hit a note.

We didn't have a lot of money for lighting, sets, or costumes on Swingers. But it was amazing how much music could emotionally put a perspective on a given scene. It was wall-to-wall Sinatra at first, but we couldn't afford it. When we put a Sinatra song into Elf, it was a big victory for me. I could finally afford Sinatra. And boy, does it do the trick!

People want to hear the same song sung over and over again. So it's my job as a filmmaker and storyteller to tell an inevitable story in an unexpected way.

To read the entire piece, click HERE.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PULP MAGAZINES WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?

If they were still around, how many of us would be churning out tales for the pulps?

The inexpensive fiction magazines were published from around 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, a half an inch thick, and 128 pages long. Pulps were printed on cheap paper with ragged, untrimmed edges.

They coined their name from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Those printed on better paper were called "glossies" or "slicks." In their first decades, they were most often priced at around a dime while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece.

Although many respected writers wrote for pulps (Elmore Leonard, Philip K. Dick and Tennessee Williams) the magazines are best remembered for their scandalous and exploitative stories and sensational cover art.

Adventure stories catered to its overt male audience and featured glamour photography and lurid tales of adventure that featured wartime feats of daring, exotic travel or conflict with wild animals.

As for the inside, it was all very un-PC and filled with typically fictionalized or over-embellished stories of war, survival, crime, safari, and the Old West.

The adventure mags are generally considered the last of the true pulp magazines and had reached their circulation peaks long after the genre-fiction pulps had begun to fade. These magazines were also colloquially called "armpit slicks", "men's sweat magazines" or "the sweats", especially by people in the magazine publishing or distribution trades.

Enjoy the slideshow (which I did not make).



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