Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Suck

The year is about to come to a close and I'm no closer to my goals than when it started.

The handful of stories I submitted were rejected.

Productivity was down -

I've made very little progress on the novel.
Started 4 shorts - finished one.
Handful of flash
A couple crummy haiku.
An unplanned five month break in blogging.

Since writing equals ass plus chair, Santa better bring me some crazy glue for 2010.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

House of Games (1987) and Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

House of Games is David Mamet’s directorial debut. The story follows psychiatrist Maggie Ford (Linsday Crouse) as she is led by a smooth-talking grafter (Joe Mantegna) into the shadowy but compelling world of stings, scams, and con men. Mantegna is charming as con man Mike. Mike Nussbaum is good as elder con man Joey. And there are smaller roles for Mamet staple Ricky Jay and veteran character actor JT Walsh. Acting-wise, the weak link is Crouse, which is unfortunate considering she’s in just about every scene.

The various cons pulled during the flick are fun, but I saw the big twist coming 20 minutes away (which is saying something considering the movie is 102 minutes long). The ending was a bit unsatisfying. For fans of Mamet or the heist genre, it’s a good time. Otherwise, I can’t really recommend it.

Devil in a Blue Dress is a mid-90’s noir based on the Walter Mosley novel of the same name. Denzel Washington stars as plant worker turned private eye Easy Rawlins. Rawlins is hired by DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore) to find Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), the missing fiancĂ©e of a mayoral candidate. Rawlins quickly finds himself pulled into a milieu of murder, corruption, and racism. One of the standouts in the cast is Don Cheadle as Easy’s friend Mouse.

One of the big questions I had was about Sizemore’s character. In the beginning, he’s very friendly with Rawlins and the other black characters. He goes so far as to threaten to kill someone in the verge of hurting Rawlins. But after Easy gives Albright some bad intel on the whereabouts of Daphne Monet, Albright hurls violence and racial epithets at him as easily as other characters do. Was Albright just playing early on? Or is he acting out in front of other white characters so they don’t look down on him for being friendly with the black characters?

While not perfect, Devil is a good flick. Recommended for fans of Denzel, Mosley, and modern noirs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Haiku Noir

I thought of posting this on successive days, but whatever. Now, it's just a winter haiku of five parts. Enjoy.

Gloomy winter comes again with
howling winds and naked trees.
The cold chills your bones.

Ominous clouds float
over an abandoned wheat field
The year's first snowstorm.

Dogs sniff in the snow.
It hardly seems necessary.
The blood paints it red.

A dead little girl.
I'm always a step too slow.
She will miss Christmas.

Her father's wet sobs,
fan the flames within my breast.
I will avenge her.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Woman in the Window (1944)


I read an article last week about early films noir. It claimed the term "film noir" was applied to American films in French film magazines in 1946, the year when The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), and The Woman in the Window were released in France. With such great company, I had to track this one down.

Directed by Fritz Lang and starring such noir stalwarts as Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, it tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley (Robinson). Wanley and his friends become obsessed with the portrait of a woman in the window next to their men's club. While admiring her portrait, Wanley meets the the subject, a Miss Alice Reed (Bennett), and strikes up a conversation with her. They end up in her apartment for talk and a few drinks. The woman's boyfriend bursts in, misinterprets Wanley's presence, attacks him. Wanley kills the boyfriend in self-defense and comes up with a plan to dump the body and help cover up the killing. Wanley slowly becomes a suspect as the police uncover more and more clues. To make matters worse, a blackmailer (Duryea) begins leaning on the woman.

Robinson gives a convincing performance as a middle-aged college professor. It’s obvious how easily he can fall for Bennett – who is dead sexy in the role. I can see how the film could be characterized as noir, but there are some un-noir elements in it. On the one hand, you have one mistake causing an ordinary man to fall deeper and deeper toward the bottom and the setting (city, nighttime, rain, etc). Bennett’s Alice Reed has the look and temperament of many a femme fatale, but her actions and her interactions with Robinson’s Wanley don’t fit the standard mold. Not to give too much away, but the ending is almost upbeat compared to the bleak ending of most noirs.

The cinematography is great. The story is tight. The acting is superb. If anyone else has seen it, let me know what you think. Noir or not?

Recommended.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Killshot (200?)


I got a chance to see the long delayed (and troubled) movie adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Killshot.

Armand "Blackbird" Degas (Mickey Rourke) is a hitman for the Toronto Mafia. He hooks up with a young, hothead crook named Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) for a shakedown of a real estate agent. The job doesn't go according to plan, and the two leave behind witnesses in Carmen and Wayne Colson (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane). The Colsons are forced into Witness Protection while Blackbird and Nix hunt them down.

Rourke and Lane give solid performances. There are some areas that are a little choppy, probably because of all the edits (including removing the entire character played by Johnny Knoxville).

It doesn't quite capture the flare of Get Shorty or Out of Sight, but it's better than some of the Elmore adaptions out there. The movie's not great, but it's not bad. It certainly deserved a better fate than it got.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Comings and Goings

The past couple days, I've been playing with a couple ideas for upcoming stories. I have two that I'm currently working on. One has about 500 words already, the other is merely an idea.

It got me thinking again on the idea of markets. There are a lot of good flash fiction markets out there, but these stories probably won't be flash. For noir, A Twist of Noir seems like a good one.

Along my travels in the past week, I stumbled on this site called Duotrope's Digest (probably clicking on a link on Paulie Decibels's website, then another link, then another...). The Digest says it is "a free writers' resource listing over 2475 current Fiction and Poetry publications". Doing some quick searches, it looks pretty good. You can search by genre, length, type (web or print), payscale, you name it!

Even if your work isn't accepted, it's a good way to find new markets to read and even find some new writers.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love Lost

Below is my entry for the latest Patti/Gerald/Aldo Flash Fiction Challenge. I hope you enjoy it.




There was something innately wrong about hotel bars. The lights were too bright. They were too nicely decorated. There was no reason to be bright and cheery when your primary clientele was traveling salesmen in cheap suits who smelled of desperation and women with dead eyes and inch thick makeup.

Kyle smiled and chuckled to himself as he polished off his third Sapphire tonic and ordered another. He was one of them now. He was King of the Losers. All because he lost Adrianna.

They met at a party in the fall. He found out later she had crashed the party. She had a habit of crashing parties. Kyle was grabbing an MGD from the fridge when she walked in. Adrianna was the kind of girl who when she walked into a room, you could feel it.

Kyle turned. Short black skirt. Spaghetti straps. Clasp bag in her left hand. They locked eyes. She crossed the room and jammed her tongue down his throat. She then whispered into his ear the two words that would change his life. Her ragged breath tickling his earlobe, sending shock waves through his body as she spoke that one simple sentence.

“Let’s dance.”

They spent the night bumping and grinding to the DJ’s beats. They spent the next two days in a hotel room bumping and grinding. Without music. And without clothes.

The things he would to for Adrianna just for the things he would do to Adrianna. Their second date ended with a night in jail. Their fourth, a trip to the burn ward. But, like a junkie, he rationalized that it was worth it. After a while, he recognized that continuing the relationship would be hazardous to his health, but her phone calls always had him jonesing for another fix.

Kyle surrendered himself to her. But then she stopped calling. She stopped returning his calls. He went to her apartment, but Adrianna had moved out. He broke in, just to get a faint reminder of her scent, but that was gone too. He cruised all their old haunts, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. The places they loved were all dull and boring without her by his side.

But then he found her. She had moved to another part of the state. She was now engaged to some mope named Scott. A weenie in khakis and shirts from Kohls.

Kyle finished his Sapphire tonic and walked upstairs to Ballroom B. The placard outside read “Wedding Reception for Scott and Adrianna Anderson”. He pushed the door open and and saw a room full of wedding guests. Buffet tables lined the one wall, leading to a four layer wedding cake by the large plate glass window. The evening sun was slowly setting over the lake.

Kyle saw the newly married couple dancing to Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love” in the center of the ballroom. The wedding dress what low cut and tight in all the right places. She wore her hair up. Why do they always wear their hair up?

She stopped dancing when she saw him. “What are you doing here?” she hissed.

“I’m crashing,” Kyle said with a grin.

“Please leave. You’re causing a scene.”

“A scene?” he said. “A scene? Look who’s worried about causing a scene all of a sudden. You never used to be worried about causing a scene. Remember the time you stripped naked and jumped in Ryan Thomas’s pool? Now that was a scene.”

Adrianna quickly walked over. “Stop it. Kyle, it’s over. It’s been over between us for a long time. Why can’t you just let it go?”

“Let it go? Let it go?” Kyle said. “How can you say that? All the good times we had together? We belong with each other”

Kyle pulled up his shirt to reveal a “Property of Adrianna” tattoo across his stomach. Adrianna’s hand shot up to her mouth. She said, “My God, Kyle. What did you do to yourself?”

“Nothing you yourself wouldn't do. Didn't you say it would be hot to have each other's names on our bodies when we were in the sack? That's right, Scott. I fucked your wife.”

“You need help, Kyle.”

Kyle said, “Oh, come on. This is just some elaborate prank, right. You're having a fake wedding to show how lame the whole concept is.”

Adrianna said, “No, Kyle. It's real. I love Scott and he loves me. I've grown up and so should you.”

“We belong together. You and I are the same.”

Kyle looked at all the faces staring at him. Shock, disgust, loathing. Then he looked at Adrianna. Was that pity he saw in her eyes? She was pitying him? He pitied her. Marrying a worthless schlub like Scott. He had to save her.

“If that’s the way you want to play it, fine. Just remember, you can’t have a wedding without a cake.”

Kyle broke into a run. His heard neither the yelling nor felt the people lunging or him. His whole world now was the cake and the window. His hands grasped the cold metal of the cake cart. He watched the cake smash through the window. The miniature couple on top of the cake wobbled, but didn’t fall.

Kyle felt more alive than he had in ages. He embraced the freedom of the skies until he felt a sickening crunch, bouncing off the cake cart that had fallen the two stories before he did.

The cake landed right side up in the center of the road – a pile of confectionery carnage.

With cracked and bloodied lips, Kyle smiled. “Fuck that bitch.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black Lizard's Ross Macdonald

I've started buying the Black Lizard reprints of Ross Macdonald to fill the gaps in my library. First off, I love Black Lizard. Second off, these new editions are awesome. I've always loved Lizard's designs for books (all my Chandler books are from their collection), and the new Macdonald books are no exception.

FaceOut Books has pictures of the covers and a nice behind the scenes (including some rejected covers). Here's a quick look:



(hat tip to swierczy).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In Which I Write

I just finished the first draft of my story for the latest Flash Fiction Challenge. The theme for this one is a wedding cake in the road. The first idea I had would've been a humorous story in the vein of Douglas Adams. Though, that kind of thing really isn't in my wheelhouse. Along the way I had a couple other ideas, one of which I actually stared writing. I got about 400 words in and the thing just collapsed like a poorly made cake.

Then I hacked out 3/4ths of the words, recast one of the characters, and think I found something. It may or may not be what I use on June 4, but it's a good start.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Week of Welles part 6

On the concluding day of the Week of Welles, Orson on his World War II experiences and which films would he save if there was a flood and he could only save two films.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Welles-Day

Today is the actual anniversary of Welles's birth. He continues to talk about his adventures as a youngster, including a run-in with a young Adolph Hitler. Cavett also asks Welles about the most interesting person he ever met. He tells a story of Cornelia Lunt who knew everyone and knew lots of stories from the grand old days if Victorian England. I also like his story of what kind of a man George Marshall was. Welles was not only a great visual storyteller, but this story of Marshall shows how great a personal storyteller he was as well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Week of Welles

Today, Orson has some nice words for Harry Cohn. He also talks about Cole Porter, writing a memoir, and his childhood.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Orson Welles on Dick Cavett

In honor of the 94th anniversary of Orson Welles's birth this week, I'm going to do a Week of Welles. One of my recent YouTube finds is this interview Welles did with Dick Cavett. I'm not sure what year this takes place, but I'm going to guess the early 1970's.

This first clip is some light banter between Welles and Cavett then Orson talks about how Harry Cohn "ruined" the shootout at the end of The Lady from Shanghai. More from Orson on Cohn in tomorrow's clip.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Duke Ellington


Today is the 110th anniversary of the birth of Duke Ellington. Called by many America's greatest composer, Ellington was born April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C.. Ellington lead his band, one of the most successful in history, from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington continued the band until his death in 1996 when Duke's grandson Paul Ellington took it over.

Duke, along with Billy Strayhorn and members of his orchestra, wrote and popularized many hits such as "Mood Indigo", "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)", "Sophisticated Lady", "In a Sentimental Mood", "Caravan", "Perdido", "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart", "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me", and his most recognizable hit "Take the 'A' Train".

As they do every year, Columbia University's WKCR is celebrating Duke's birthday with 24 hours straight of Ellington music. Click on the link to stream the live broadcast.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Day at the Men's Hair Styling Salon

Taking a page from Stephen's book, here's a video of Orson to finish off the week. Here he shows off his comedic chops alongside Dean Martin and Jimmy Stewart. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Orson Welles on Merv Griffin

It was something I'd always tried to find, but never was able to find. Until now. Here is Orson Welles from Merv Griffin's television show on October 10, 1985 - the day of Orson's death. The Great One appears to be in an expansive mood this evening. He rarely talked about the women in his life (especially ex-wife Rita Hayworth), but he openly answered Merv's questions.

Take a look:

Friday, April 10, 2009

It Was 40 Years* Ago Today...


Forty years ago today, Paul McCartney left The Beatles. All four formerly Fab members achieved success as solo artists, but never reached anywhere near the heights they did as a group.

I always say The Beatles are the greatest rock band in history. Not only because I love them. Their sound influenced a generation and still influence musicians to this day. All four can stand on their own as great musicians.

Gossip about possible collaborations between Paul and Ringo is still greeted with breathless anticipation.

There will never be another band anywhere near their level of impact.

*Actually 39. But I was going for a Sgt. Pepper reference.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nightmare Town

I finished Nightmare Town over the weekend. It’s not a complete collection of Dashiell Hammett’s short stories, but it’s a good cross-section. There are quite a few Continental Op stories and three Spade stories.

One of the more interesting inclusions is the first 10 chapters of an early draft of The Thin Man. It’s more in line with the dark, gritty stories Hammett was famous for in the pulps. Nick and Nora Charles are not present. Instead, our hero is a world-weary private eye John Guild. In these 60 pages, we have murder, attempted murder, a missing person, a double life, embezzlement, fraud, and a suicide. As great as the finished Thin Man is, this story is a tantalizing preview of what might have been.

Hammett fans are advised to pick up the volume.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Road Dogs

No, this is not an April Fool's joke. It's real. Harper Collins is having a book trailer contest for Elmore Leonard's latest book Road Dogs. The winner will get an autographed copy of the book and a Kindle loaded with the complete Elmore Leonard library.

To inspire you, EW has an excerpt of the book up on their site today. Read On.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Raines on Hulu


I've talked several times before about the tv show Raines - another brilliant but canceled show. Imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across it this weekend on Hulu! They have all seven released episodes up for your viewing pleasure. If you never saw it or just miss it like I do, do yourself a favor and check it out here.

I still love the opening of the pilot episode. Quote the Goldblum:

"Maybe I read too many detective books when I was a kid. Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald. All the great California guys of the '40's and '50's. Even tried writing a story once. Couldn't get past page one...."

Here's a direct link to the ep. Goldblum's narration goes through the first 1:15 and it's awesome.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Raymond Chandler

It was 50 years ago today that Raymond Chandler died. Arguably the most influential crime writer, he left behind seven completed novels and roughly two dozen short stories. There are some who prefer Hammett or Ross Macdonald, but I’m a Chandler guy all the way.

I read all the novels in order and all the short stories and essays I could get my hands on. I was barely 50 pages into The Big Sleep when I ordered the next two Chandler novels from Amazon (all Black Lizard editions). When I decided to start writing again, it was Chandler’s style I tried to imitate. It was like watching a whale knit.

Some out there dig Hammett more because his writing is spare. They think all of Chandler’s similes are silly and his description superfluous. But they made the stories more meaty and resonant. There are many times while reading a Chandler novel that I smiled at a great line. Sure, it took me out of the story briefly and made me think about the author for a second. But, by God, I was sure enjoying what I read.

Here’s a smattering of links for you on this Chandler day:
An excellent article on the literature side of Chandler from the Telegraph
essay: Writing The Long Goodbye by Mark Coggins

A little peek at my bookshelf:

(the big fat washed out one is The Long Goodbye.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Clean Slate

I’ve got the self-loathing part down pat. I haven’t been working on my novel as much as I should and continually beat myself up over it. For some reason, I’m just not feeling it. I think the story is good, but I’m not satisfied with the execution. A couple short story ideas popped into my head recently, so I was going to spend this past weekend working on a couple that I would target to the usual markets for these types of things.

Then….my hard drive crashed Friday night. Luckily, I frequently copy my writing to a thumb drive (so I can work at home and at the office) so I didn’t lose much of anything. So Saturday was spent getting a new hard drive and setting the computer up again. The good thing is that I’m taking this as an opportunity for a clean slate. A lot of the accumulated junk, I’m not going to get back. With a streamlined PC (little music, no movies, few bookmarked websites), I hope to spend more time on the important things….such as writing.

So, here’s a weekend inspired haiku to send us off:

Oh no! Hard drive crashed.
Diligent in your backups?
Rise like a phoenix.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Random Album Game

I saw this over on Stephen's blog. It's a lot of fun.

Here are the rules:

1: Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article that comes up is the name of your band.

2: Go to http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very LAST quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3: Go to http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
The third picture in the top row, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4: Use Photoshop or whatever to put it all together.

5: Post it.


Here's mine:


I got lucky because my random Wikipedia entry was actually a band name. :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Max Payne (2008)

I've mentioned before that I had high hopes for this movie since I am a big fan of the video game and its sequel. I finally saw it over the weekend and was severely disappointed. Of course, in any movie adaptation, the filmmakers reserve the right to change elements of the story. They did so, but in ways that didn't make any sense.

In the game, Max was a homicide detective. His wife and child were murdered. Max becomes an undercover DEA agent working against the Punchinello family. He goes to meet his fellow agent Alex Balder in the Roscoe Street subway station in the opening scene of the game. Alex is murdered and Max becomes the prime suspect. The rest of the game is Max hunting down the real killers, trying to clear his name, and uncovering a conspiracy behind his wife's murder.

In the movie, Max was a homicide detective. His wife and child were murdered. Max transfers himself to the cold case squad and goes out at night investigating their murders on his own. He gets set up for the murders of Natasha Sax and Alex Balder and has to clear his name.

There are some cool elements to the movie, but it doesn't capture the style or feel of the source material. There are only two big gunfights and two instances of bullet-time (the real fun parts of the game). The relationship between Max and Mona Sax isn't explored at all, and Jack Lupino has maybe three lines of dialog in the entire picture.

I was hoping the movie would be good and do well at the box office. Not only because I was a fan of the source, but also that it might push the game designers to finish the third installment of the franchise.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Flash Recap

I think Tuesday's Flash Challenge was a big success. All the stories were great. There are certainly a lot of talented writers in the group.

Patti has a list pairing each story writer with the writer of the opening paragraph. I got Scott Parker's and John McAuley got mine. After reading John's first sentence after my paragraph, I thought "great, he's going to turn Johnny Bix into a child molester." But, I dug the story he told. The ending of it put a big smile on my face. Job well done. Check out "No Pool No Car" at Powder Burn Flash.

Like I mentioned the other day, Scott's paragraph got me a couple story ideas. The first idea had a twist that probably would've seemed forced. The next couple passes were a flirty, Jack Foley/Karen Sisco in the trunk type conversation between Rod and the clerk (named Veronica). Once I introduced the line "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets", they degenerated into a Tarantino-esque pop culture laced conversation that felt a little hollow.

Then, somehow, the idea of Rod running and being ashamed of his cowardice popped in. It's not a high-energy story like most flash is, but I knew if I was able to find the right emotional notes to hit it would work.

Someone suggested that we use endings for the next flash challenge. I bet that would be a hell of a lot harder, but still loads of fun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Choices Made

If he survived the next ten minutes, Rod told himself, he was going to kill that cat. His girlfriend's cat, Lola, was out of kitty litter and his girlfriend had withheld sex in order to force him to go out and pick up some more. Now, here he was, hiding in the meat locker, while those thugs terrorized the shop clerk and took her money. At least they hadn't found him yet. No telling what they'd do to him if they did. Then his cell phone rang and he heard footsteps coming toward him.

The caller ID showed his girlfriend's name: Kelley. Rod thumbed the volume control, sending her directly to voicemail. Maybe they didn't hear it, he thought. He sat as still as a statue, breathing slowly through his open mouth. The coldness of the meat locker turned his breath into white puffs. The footsteps stopped outside and Rod saw the handle start to turn.

Rod only had a handful of seconds to figure things out. Maybe he'd just give the thugs his money and they'd leave him alone. Maybe he could disarm this one, sneak up on the other one, and be a hero. The door opened a crack and Rod knew what he had to do.

He sprung from his crouch and exploded through the door. The thug was knocked down and his gun slid across the slick linoleum.

Rod turned left and ran out the emergency exit. His shoulder immediately rammed into the dumpster across the alley and he turned. Dodging trash cans and puddles, he sped down the alley. The thick soles of his boots thudded along the wet pavement. His ears were filled with the zip-zip sound of his arms pumping inside his ski jacket.

The alley spit him out onto Harrison and he beat two more blocks to Nassau before he slowed down. His body gave out and Rod fell to his knees next to a blue USPS mail box. The bitter night air was colder than that inside the meat locker. Snow fell like ash from the end of a cigarette. Rod hurled.


The next day, Rod wandered the streets of town, replaying the night in his head. Maybe he couldn't have been a hero like he thought, but at least he and the clerk would've gone through the robbery together. Being in that situation with somebody else must be better than going through it alone. Instead, he acted like a coward.

Rod shocked himself with the harshness of the word: coward. But that’s what he was. The shock of the word woke him up from his reverie. He had wandered his way back to the store. He figured his subconscious was telling him to go back and make things right.

The store seemed none the worse for wear. The aisles were cleaned up and there was no police tape anywhere. Rod grabbed a bag of kitty litter and went up to pay.

The clerk from last night stood behind the register. She didn't look up as Rod approached, but that was fine with him. He couldn't look her in the eye after abandoning her last night anyway. She was a cute young woman with a smallish build. Her black hair was slicked down and held in place by clips. The thugs had done a number on her, though. She had a fat lip and a black eye. A half inch red cut jutted perpendicular to her left eyebrow. It was held together by a great number of stitches.

Rod reached down and put a pack of Chewlies gum on the counter so he wouldn't have to look at her any more. The shame he felt at abandoning her to those jackals was unbearable. He was glad she was ok, but the urge to leave grew stronger with each passing second. He wanted to get out before she recognized him.

Rod slapped his money on the counter, scooped up his purchase, and headed for the door. He had to will himself not to run.

"Hey," the clerk shouted.

Rod's spine stiffened. He knew she recognized him. He was the only customer in the store last night and he abandoned her to the hands of a couple hoodlums. He wanted to keep walking. Pretend he didn't hear her call. But he stopped.

Rod turned around and took a couple steps back to the counter. His mouth opened, ready to spew out an apology. To say he was sorry for abandoning her.

Before he could speak, the clerk said, "You forgot your receipt."

Rod took the receipt, jammed it in his pocket, and left.


Note: Since I saw the name of the cat, I desperately wanted to use the line "whatever Lola wants, Lola gets" somewhere. It made it into the early drafts, but those didn't quite work. Then the idea came to show the aftermath of the robbery instead of the actual event itself (and a darker tone).

Patti has links to everyone's stories for this challenge here.

Hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sesame Street Is Not How I Remember It

I found these videos the other day. You can tell the impact Sesame Street has on young viewers. Now that they're all grown up, people are doing parodies.

Example one: Pot Cookie Monster


Example two: Cookie Monster rapping

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welles Update

Apparently, there was a screening of Orson Welles's unfinished The Other Side of the Wind at a Bay area event celebrating the "Unknown Welles." Here is our obedient servant Lawrence French's comments on the event at Wellesnet:

The two programs Stefan presented lasted over five hours, but I was personally most delighted to see the rough cut of The Other Side of the Wind that was shown in a special “after hours” session for a select group of Welles scholars.

So, in the grand tradition of Arthur Bannister, here is an Auto-interview about The Other Side of the Wind:


Do you think The Other Side of the Wind is a potential Welles’s masterpiece?

In my own personal opinion, I would say the answer has to be a resounding YES! There are scenes that far exceed anything in Welles work after Chimes at Midnight.

You must be kidding? I thought it was considered far too experimental, or even worse, quite boring by most people who have seen it.

I’ve heard the same stories, but I saw the film long after midnight and it held me in awe. It had scenes of lyrical beauty, great acting and is filmed in beautiful color contrasted with rich black and white. Now, you may also recall that Welles’s Chimes at Midnight The Trial and Touch of Evil also had the same kind of things said about them. The New York Times for instance thought that Chimes at Midnight was a total disaster! And every studio in Hollywood turned down Welles script for The Dreamers, one of the most poetic scripts I’ve ever read! So if we let the so-called “experts” like David Thomson decide that The Other Side of the Wind shouldn’t be finished, it certainly never will be.

So you you really think it can be edited and shown?

Of course it can! Given the footage I’ve now seen, and having carefully studied the script, which I regard as a brilliant piece of work, I not only believe it can be finished, but I regard it as an artistic crime that it hasn’t been finished!

more at Wellesnet...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Got It! (maybe)

Right before I left work today, I had an idea about the flash challenge (let's call this idea #4). I think this one is going to work. Let's see what it looks like on paper (or screen).

I love what we writers call "inspiration".

Flash Challenge

I'm involved in another flash challenge from the Patti/Gerald/Aldo group. This one has a bit different setup than previous challenges and should be very fun. I got my starter paragraph last week and started to do some work already.

So far, there are three different threads I'm thinking about. The first has the standard flash twist ending, but I'm not sure it would actually be plausible. The second and third have potential, but they are much different in tone than anything else I've ever written. And that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

We'll see what happens.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Prescott (part 3)

“Just like we rehearsed. You do anything stupid, I won’t hesitate to kill you. Comprende?”

The Mexican swallowed and nodded his head. His face was a bloody mess after my interrogation. He took the single step up to the porch and knocked on the door. A muscle-bound Mexican in a wife-beater answered the door.

I rushed from the bushes. I used the first Mexican as a battering ram to knock Guillermo down. I slammed the door behind me, turning the gun on the two thieves.

“Is your girlfriend home?”

The tight veins throbbed in Guillermo’s neck. The sloppy ink of prison tattoos stained his shoulders.

Silence was my answer.

The wood floor of the foyer shined with a hard polish. Rugs at the entrance and foot of the steps were Latin in color and pattern. The afternoon sun streamed through the accent windows behind me.

“Is – “

“No, she’s at work,” the first Mexican answered.

Guillermo stared at him. He obviously thought he was a tough guy. It was prison tough. All bravado and no brains.

There’s no reasoning with a man like that.

I wiped down the gun and turned my attention to the first Mexican. “In some ancient societies, thieves were punished by having their hands chopped off.”

His eyes, still glued to his friend’s corpse, went wide with horror.

“If you do exactly what I tell you to do, you can keep your hands.”



The Mexican did what I told him to do. He took the money to the cops and told them the story. He and Guillermo argued about splitting up their take. Guillermo attacked him, but he pulled out his gun and shot Guillermo. He was so tortured by his guilt he decided to turn himself in.

The cops didn’t completely buy the story, but took it anyway. It got them a clearance on a murder and a robbery without having to do any real work.

That night, while lying next to Rita in our shabby motel room, I dreamed of Giovanni Pezzino again.

This time he smiled at me.

This time I didn’t shoot him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Prescott (part 2)

The air was thick with dried sweat and desperation. You see this scene in urban areas across the country. Men with a limited grasp of English huddled in the parking lot behind a grocery or liquor store. Back East they would be huddled against the cold. Here it was the wind. It tore through the parking lot - sandblasting anything in its way.

The best workers went early. Now, it was the dregs. The ones too lazy or hung over to show up on time. The ones who usually have something else on the side. The ones I wanted to talk to.

It would’ve been easy to spot my guy back home. Gang colors and ink have a way of announcing who you are. Here I’d have to pick up on subtler clues. The guy by the dumpster. Designer jeans. Blue hoodie that hid his hands all morning long.

I shadowed him from the opposite side of the street. Not as much cover as the time I had to whack Don Alfonso, but doable. I followed him to a rundown house with a patch of dirt for a yard. This passed for a slum in Prescott.

I went around back and slipped in the kitchen. The floor was littered with empty beer bottles. Mexican brands I didn’t recognize. A garbage bag full of marijuana in the corner. They weren’t too worried about raids.

I heard the distinctive click of a hammer being pulled back. A voice said, “You’re in trouble now, esse.”

He held the gun sideways in that stupid banger pose he’d probably seen in a dozen movies. He didn’t realize that pose decreased his accuracy by roughly 50 percent. And it got worse every shot after the first.

Guns have a finite range of efficacy. He was too close. One move and the gun was mine. I pistol-whipped him and he fell. He wiped his mouth and stared at his bloody hand.

“Did you rob the Tick Tock Diner last night?”

He stared at me.

I kicked him in the ribs. “Did you rob the Tick Tock Diner last night?”

“Si.”

“Who was your partner?”

Silence.

I pistol-whipped him again. He spit teeth like Pez.

“Who was your partner?”

“Guillermo.”

“Where can I find Guillermo?”

“No se.”

I hit him again and again, breaking his nose.

“His girlfriend’s. On Wildflower.”

“You’re going to show me.” I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out the back door.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Prescott (part 1)

“I’ll get it to you tomorrow. I swear.”

“You have no more tomorrows.”

He backed away. “Please. Have mercy. I’m begging you.”

“You know who I am. You know what I do.”

He tried to run - slipped. He struggled to get up, but couldn’t. The stack of plates he knocked over were like ice under his feet. He managed to crawl into the corner where he curled into a whimpering little ball.

I pointed my gun at his head.

The gunshot still echoed in my ears after I woke up. The echo faded by the time my eyes adjusted to the dim light. I rolled out of bed; the thin motel carpet scratchy under my feet. I threw open the blinds and stared out the window.

The smell of Rita’s shampoo wafted from the bathroom. We got to Prescott, Arizona two days ago. The money ran out shortly afterward. She left a few hours ago, searching for a job. She would have to be the bread winner for a while. There isn’t a checkbox for “killing people” in the skills section of most job application.

I was alone except for the ghosts.

Prescott was a little nothing of a town. None of the buildings were more than two stories high and the roads were almost always empty. All the blue sky and open spaces would make any native New Yorker uneasy.

I flipped through the Gideon bible you find in every hotel. Someone had tucked a five dollar bill inside. My lucky day. The page with the five had a verse underlined. Ezekiel 36:27: "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."

I slipped the fiver in my pocket and headed to a nearby diner.

Giovanni Pezzino borrowed money from Jack Lupino to open a new restaurant. It was somewhere on Hester, east of Mott. He served authentic Tuscan food - just like his father used to make before coming to the States. Pezzino’s restaurant quickly became a favorite spot for New Yorkers. It was just outside the main section of Little Italy, so it wasn’t overrun by tourists during the summer months. Lupino got his money back with a nice bonus on top. But then, Pezzino decided to stop paying for protection.

Why I dreamed about Pezzino after all these years was anybody’s guess.
Diners are different across the country. But they all have the same key ingredients. Hard booths and shiny table tops. The smell of stale cigarettes and staler coffee. Greasy food for cheap. Sixty cents for a coffee. Eighty for a bagel. Ninety if you wanted cream cheese. A far cry from Manhattan prices.

The bell above the door sounded, and I looked up reflexively. A cop walked in, went over to the register, and began talking to the man behind it. The man, most likely the diner’s owner, had a black eye. I thought nothing of it at first, but the cop was taking notes. I heard the words “Mexican” and “five thousand dollars”. The diner had been robbed.

I hate thieves. I killed dozens of people, but never anyone who didn’t deserve it. They all knew the rules. They knew what would happen if they broke them. Jack Lupino didn’t pull any punches. But thieves are bottom-feeders. You couldn’t trust them. They had no honor. They preyed on civilians who just wanted a nice, quiet life and the Mets to win a game now and then.

Rita and I said we had to stay under the radar. But someone had to pay.

Friday, January 2, 2009

He's Coming

I've always been intrigued by the idea of serialized stories - especially on blogs. Kevin Wignall did a serialized novel on his blog a couple years back (can't find the link any more). I toyed with the idea of doing that here a while back, but my schedule just seems too erratic. However, I am going to do a small scale test.

Starting Monday, Frankie the hit man (hero of my Shifting Gears story) will be making a comeback. It's a serialized piece, each chapter being a flash story in its own. Each chapter is less than 700 words. New installments Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

If this one week experiment goes well, I might try it again later down the road.

I eagerly await your feedback.