May 8, 2011

State of the Poem

The Long Dark Night

We work and we play,
Live in the light,
Rest till
The next day dawns;
Repeating the pattern
Throughout our lives,
Hoping to make
The days better
And the nights easier,
Shouldering the weight
Of more awareness
As we grow older.
Carefree delight
Maturing into
Thoughtful deliberation
As we ponder
Our descent into
The long dark night.

May 4, 2011

State of the Poem


I have a right
To a piece
Of the promised land

To my own share
Of the unyielding sand
And the unending strife

To earn my daily bread
By the sweat of my brow
And the fear of history

To rise through righteous
Indignation over the claims
Of my fathers brothers

To number my seed
As the sand where
Our dignity has fallen

To our knees
By becoming what
We abhor

To slay peace
For a place to
Huddle in the sand

To lay claim to
A wasteland only to say
I have a right

Apr 24, 2011

State of the Poem


He's looking for a cartoon cause
Something trite he can be against
An enemy with vivid color
Handsomely ugly and deliciously evil

Daily episodes must carry a consistent story
With unending twists and feigned surprise
For us to wonder if the hero will ever survive
Each chapter ending with the worst left unanswered

In order to strike the public's eye
There must be a villainous blackard
Somewhere to grab headlines followed
By news of the hero saving the day

More important, it has to be an easy task
To vanquish a foe he can crush underfoot
Loud and whiney without actual cost
Real issues need not apply

Weekly though, the story takes on color
And a life of its own, telling us of the hero
Magnanimous in his reign and patriarchal
In his counsel with a promise of more to come

Then back to swordplay with fools disarmed
By the strong line of jaw and withering look
We see what he's against but will he ever
Take a stand, or at least say that he believes in us

Apr 17, 2011

State of the Poem


In the landscape
Of my dreams
Chained to the rock
Of my faith
The ocean crashes
At my feet
Waves that embody
All my fears
Threaten to engulf
My sanity

Across the sea
Of bodies
Heedless of
Their grasp
Sails a lonely
Lovely vision
Like a promise
Of salvation
Come to see me
At my prison

Caged by fear
Of my limits
Shackled by chains
Of my regret
I cry defiance
At the thought
Of inaction
Suppressing my art
Without a chance
To be read

A sinuous rope
Floats over the sea
Like a snake
From my reader
Seeking connection
To the thoughts
Surging through
My fragmented lines
Painting portraits of
My self-possession

But I am
My own jailor
Holding the keys
To the chains
With which I
Bind my mind
To the glue
Of despair
Holding back my
Pen of creation

Apr 10, 2011

State of the Poem

A Dark, Feathered Dream

Fear preys upon one's mind like ravens upon a corpse.
They split their tongues on minor points and bleed their heartless truth.
The road kill of our best efforts is but an appetizer
For them to pick at, rip apart and feed their gluttony.

Sunlight is not enough to send these scavengers away.
They strut and boast of their right to destroy our last true hopes.
These inner critics split our infinite wisdom like so much kindling to
Feed the burning fire of self loathing and despair.

Rain will not chase these purificators from their worst efforts.
They sweep the floor of our collapse for morsels of our failures.
Lying, gasping, praying; for a miracle to survive,
We would sell our sanity to let the light pervade our thoughts.

Blighted hopes reign upon the throne of mindless repetition.
Our addiction to spewing forth our words bubbles forth to their delight.
We fight to quote our own macabre dance to win the cup of acceptance.
Saving our outer selves no matter how tenuous our grip on reality.

But darkness needs the light to make itself better known,
If naught but for the way to see the feeding of the flock.
A gasp, awake, the pencil there, a scribble in the night, then
Back to dreaming of the fears that run through a restless mind.

Apr 3, 2011

State of the Poem

Only Words

They're only words
Slung by candidates
Rooting for the dirt
That will prove a route
Over their own frailty.

Only words to lead
Faithful sheep away
From some other
Well meaning fools
With promises unfilled.

Words to pull wool over
Eyes blind to desire
Needing to want
Slave driven payment
For the illusion of status.

Words of fear and fences
Neighbor our limits
Define our tolerance
Paving our way through
A place we cannot reach

Only words can save us
Reach through the hurt
Sooth the pain of life
Heal breaches in our soul
Delivered by language.

Mar 27, 2011

State of the Poem

Maiden of the Press

They said I should go, relax, travel,
I'd been too long, too tense,
Needed to live to breathe,
Go see the sights, see some leg,
So they said.

Italy was great this time of year,
The travel agency had posters,
Planes to fly, Hotels to stay,
A car for the back roads,
So I went.

The plane ride seemed endless,
Customs had none,
The hotel was soulless,
The car my only salvation,
So I rode.

Campagnia was full of orchards,
Some were tourist stops,
Some were closed,
But one had a sign with no one in sight,
So I stopped.

There was only one building beside the house.
Where everything was lush and green,
Only one person to greet,
She asked if I wanted to see how they worked,
So I followed.

Inside I found more olives than I'd ever imagined,
Black and green,
Whole and mashed,
Standing at a vat, her arms deep in the oil, she struggled,
So I helped.

It was hot on that day, and her skin shone from oil,
Her breasts heaved with the effort,
My hands slipped along her arms,
The cog came loose, she asked how to thank me,
So we kissed.

It had been a long time for me, she was the guide to my tour,
Our hands spread the oil,
Our lips spread our heat,
Clothes slipped from us easily as we slid to the floor,
So we loved.

They were right to run me off, you know.
I got rid of the tension,
Learned how to breathe,
I sold my business, cashed in on my stock,
So I lived.

Now we have more help to run the orchard,
Three sets of hands,
And much more leg,
Our lovely young daughters have made our life sweet,
So I smile.

Mar 20, 2011

State of the Poem

Shifting Sands

The endless shifting sands of time
Cover the life of man and earth.
Like dunes moving under the pressure of wind
Man scatters and comes together
Buried by necessity and strife.

Each man makes his own way from the desert
Into society to trade, to profess, to love.
Yet the journey returns inevitably to the vacant lands,
Waiting and expecting the earth to shake,
For waters to rise, for a new time to begin.

New lands rise, new rivers are born,
Great pillars of wisdom are set up and torn down.
No bridge ties life together except the passage
Of time and experience of failure and dashed hopes.

As currents change
And the endless sands continue to shift
Man lifts himself up
And walks from the grasp of time
Into eternity.

Mar 13, 2011

State of the Poem

A Visit to the Apothecary

What would we do if we could use
An apothecary instead
Of the modern-day descendant
A pharmacist who gets their due
To sell us drugs made by someone
Else and prescribed by someone else
Would we tell them what to sell us
After having diagnosed our
Own dis-ease like so many of
Us when we go to the doctor
Demanding a prescription for
The latest cure-all medicine
We see on TV every time
We looked up at the tube last night
Or would we ask in humble voice
For a simple opinion
Of the apothecary’s care
What do to or what we should take
To ease our pain and make us well
Then let them grind their powders rare
And give us bags and poultices
Or powders for our warmed-up teas
Go home to rest their cures to work
And rise up well and go our way
Would we find ourselves better for
Our lack of fear about our health
The chemistry that helped even
If it was all sugar or if
Just an aromatic for us
To breath in good thoughts about the
Apothecary’s skill and work

October 17, 2010

Mar 6, 2011

State of the Poem

Saint Lucia

The hands of the Almighty
Can be a terrible weight;
Few have the spine of the saints

Love is the greatest of gifts;
And to whom much is given,
Much must be given in kind.

Promises made in His name
Should not be lightly broken,
Nor bartered for ill got gains.

So to the baronies of
Lammermoor and Ravenswood,
Came the right Earl of Lewis

To give his grace and judgment
On desperate acts of greed
And forlorn hearts torn apart.

Acts of the Blind
The maiden, Lucia, lost rein
As her mount tore across moor;
Heaven provided Edgar.

From over the River Dee,
He saved her at the cliff's edge
And fell into deepest love.

Their act went not unnoticed
By Normans, who'd spooked her horse
Brother Henry knew 'fore night.

Time and again on dark moors
Lover's met in secret vale
Drawn to a happy promise.

Edgar had to be away,
The Earl's missives to carry;
Pledges sealed with sweet kisses.

Already robbed all he could
From Edgar's faithful servants
Henry's greed hungered for more.

Arthur was sent proposal;
Henry would break Lucia's vow
For half Baron Bucklaw's gold.

Acts of Deception
Lucia's beauty was renown,
A flame to Arthur, heirless,
So to Lammermoor he came.

Henry knew to sway Lucia,
Edgar must seem the vile cad;
A forgery, another's vow.

The table sat, Lucia twixt
Conspirators plied sweet words,
But Lucia kept her own peace.

The Norman brought the false note
To the table with loud voice;
Lucia's cry drowned in hurrahs.

Henry pressed his advantage;
Lost with broken heart adrift,
Lucia gave in to her fate.

Arthur, proud to be the groom,
Set the date for the morrow,
Lest Lucia's willingness die.

The whole Isle was invited,
The biggest feast ever held;
Wedding two noble houses.

Acts of Regret
The wedding feast in full row,
Tables set, the wine aflow,
Liberties taken and giv'n.

Edgar arrived at ev'ntide,
He believed not eyes nor ears;
His love, married, was too much.

He spared no words for his scorn,
Told his love she'd pierced his heart;
He was true to only her.

When Lucia showed the letter,
Edgar knew she'd been deceived.
He sought Henry's heart with his sword.

Unable to bear the lies,
Lucia stabbed Arthur in bed,
Fled from scene and sanity,

Ran into a lightning flash,
Lost to all who loved and used,
To roam all of Lammermoor.

Edgar, vowed to join Lucia,
Fell upon the burning ground,
His sword placed there before him.

Be Resolved
The Earl placed his judgment seat
In the Ring of Callanish
Twas there he pronounced his words;

As God's justice for low men
Who seek to do sore evil
To each other and inn'cents

So they come to the devil's
Own end and find their dread souls
Cast into the selfsame pit.

The men of Lewis dug three
Days and tossed the bodies in,
Their titles buried with them.

Now the ev'ntide can sometimes
Be rent by the Lady's moans,
Wronged in life, barred from heaven.


Feb 28, 2011

Deliberate Acts

Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, then and now.

Once upon a time (1886), an ex-seaman from Japan, Charles Kame, opened a restaurant on First Street near San Pedro Street  Twenty years later, after Henry Huntington had finished laying the tracks for the Pacific Electric Railway (actually, 2000 Japanese immigrants (Issei) did the work and stayed in Los Angeles) his workers moved into the same area as the restaurant and it became known as Little Tokyo.  

These people faced intentional discrimination by the laws of the time; they were barred from becoming citizens, they could not own property, they were barred from most jobs and most neighborhoods.  Banks would not loan money to non-citizens, many wholesalers would not sell to any Asians, and their children could not attend public schools. 

The next generation, born here in the United States (Nisei), were American citizens by birth.  They were able to go to regular schools and when they grew up they could vote and acquire property.  They helped expand the original triangle of Wilmington to San Pedro to First into a large area that extended from Main Street, like the top of a hat between 1st and 2nd streets down to Los Angeles Street East to Market and South to San Pedro Street, then West to Azusa, down 2nd to Alemeda connecting with 1st and down to Garey St.  The East side went from Los Angeles Street to Market, then the South side of Alameda back to 1st.  

In 1936, Los Angeles City Hall was completed on Main Street in the block just East of Little Tokyo.  In its heyday, Little Tokyo had over 40 hotels, just as many restaurants, six churches, manufacturing, banking, employment agencies, garages, etc. 

Then there was the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The reaction on the mainland was immediate and sustained.  Japanese in the U.S. took the brunt of resentment in the form of bigotry, discrimination, loss of property and confinement. After the war, Japanese returned to their homes when they could, and gathered in Little Tokyo before dispersing all over North America.

The LAPD headquarters, Parker Center, was built in the early 50's between Los Angeles Street, 1st and San Pedro and a parking lot area was cleared between San Pedro and Central from 1st to Market, taking about a third of Little Tokyo.  City Hall Annex took up the land between Los Angeles Street and Main and 1st.  The Traffic Division took land from 1st to Jackson between Central and Alameda. Today's Little Tokyo is limited to the area of Los Angeles Street, between 1st and 2nd down to Central.

Feb 27, 2011

State of the Poem

Crow Girl

Do you take your form
From the crow in your blood
From wings to fly in dreams
Or from your mother
Who bore you on her breast
Who would bear the weight
Of time through the eternity
Of journey from ancient
Days to here and now

Can you follow your heart
Through the rapids of love
Through the hazards of life
Or are you limited to the
Magic of shapes that shift
Magic that weeps for man
And the journey he mistakes
And the errors he makes
On the river of souls

Were you there to watch
The creation of the world
The experiment called man
Or did you miss that day
While raven conjured this world
While coyote stirred the pot
Did you see the future past
Did you feel our failures fall
In the short time we live

Have you shed your skin
Of feathers for one so bare
Of protection from the sky
Or can you count on strength
From something newer
From something else you see
Where we cannot see
Where we cannot believe
In the magic of you

Feb 26, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies

Dreamgirls, starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose in the title roles (and then Sharon Leal as a new third voice to replace the character Hudson plays) is the story of the motown sound and the way the music industry plays roughshod over the people whose wonderful talent was used purely as a means to the end of making the producers rich. The men in the cast do a perfect job of portraying their roles too: Eddie Murphy (wow, who knew he could sing like that), Danny Glover (as the old man of the business, whom others think is out of touch and who turns out to have the right way of thinking) and Jamie Foxx (leading man in a musical - you bet) are the pros in the background who bring believability to their roles.

But the big surprises here: Beyoncé can act and do it elegantly - she needs more big roles. Jennifer Hudson is just absolutely stunning, not only with an amazing voice, but with her presence on screen. And Anika Noni Rose (the assistant detective Grace Makutsi in The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency can sing, man can she sing and she did it again in the lead role in The Princess and the Frog, and she got a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical as Emmie Thibodeaux in Caroline, or Change) she can do it all. I want to see all of these wonderful actresses get more opportunities in big films.

Feb 24, 2011

Thursday with a Good Book

Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a great little book that demonstrates how our world as it is can be as horrifying as anything Hollywood can produce.  King is a brilliant marketer too.  You can get this story in several forms; hardback, paperback, eBook, Kindle or audio. (Kindle is available on Amazon's device or on any computer or phone - I have it on my desktop and my Droid).

The main character is a nine-year-old girl, named Trisha, who gets lost while hiking with her mother and brother.  The mother's excuse is she's a little distracted by the fact that she just got divorced.  The brother's excuse is, well he's a brother, he doesn't pay any attention to his sister.  When the mother finally notices her daughter is missing, she appropriately freaks-out and gets the authorities involved.  But Trisha, busily listening to her favorite pitcher on the Red Sox, Tom Gordon, shut down the other team, has gone so far off the trail that she can't find her way back.

The bulk of the story is about how far Trisha goes, trying to get back to civilization before whatever it is that's following her catches up and creates an ending that nobody wants.

If you're trying to cure insomnia, this won't do it.  If you're trying to prove you can stay up all night - this is the ticket.  It's a can't put it down type of read.

Feb 23, 2011

Wednesday on Writing

Point of view is not the same thing as narrative form.  Just because your character is the hero or heroine does not mean you have to write in their voice.  Though it is always tempting to write in first person, placing yourself, the writer, as the hero or heroine.  (Question: if a guy writes the heroine in first person, what does that say about the guy's feminine side?).

Not all narratives that are first person use the word, 'I'.  When you read a blog, you know whose opinion is being touted.  But when you tell a story the narrator may or may not be the character in the story.  In the Sherlock Holmes stories, the narrator is Dr. Watson.  So he 'tells' the story from his own point of view, but not always in the first person.  The third person is the reader.  So third person narrative involves letting the reader know things even if some or all of the characters don't know.  This is not nearly as hard as it might sound.  If you're writing about characters who lived during World War II, for instance, you, and the reader (generally) know about events that the characters have not yet experienced.  This creates a dramatic irony and suspense that you can present to the reader through revelation to the character who may be narrating their surprise or disbelief in facts that the reader already knows (and if they don't it's a good way for them to learn).

I've noticed a trend in writing today that uses first person to narrate the main character's point of view and third person to narrate everyone else's point of view.  This can be used to limit what the reader knows to the mind of the hero and the camera view which limits the reader to what the hero might see (if they are in the scene).  I am trying that with Deliberate Acts - might use it, might not.  I'll wait on a decision until I have both variations in a couple of chapters.

Feb 22, 2011


Every culture has two things in common: a creation myth and a flood myth.  Ok, before you all want to climb my case about using the word 'myth', let's get on the same page about what the word means.

According to Merriam-Webster, a myth is usually a traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.

Yeah, I know, that word ostensibly is sticking in the craw. Back to the dictionary, ostensibly means: to all outward appearances. So I don't have a problem with the word as it may be applied to your or my beliefs. In fact, if a story or 'myth', to all outward appearances explains our beliefs, it becomes a way of reinforcing what we may want to get across about what we believe.

To put all that upside down on its head; just because I write a new perspective of a mythical way of looking at something does not mean I am expressing my beliefs.



Now, back to the two common myths every culture has:

1. So do you believe in a 'Big Bang' or do you believe in an ordered set of events that took place over seven days? Is there a difference? If you believe that God can do anything, then I wonder if you stretch that to be a cover-all explanation of anything you just haven't taken the time to understand. Arthur C Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Don't like that magic word? So if you were able to go back in time say anytime earlier that about 1700 AD and you took two items with you; a ball point pen and a cigarette lighter, wouldn't you expect that the people of the time would wonder if you were performing magic? Maybe you should put those away, don't forget what they did to people who practiced magic. And that seven day issue? In two places there are lines in the Bible that bring the understanding of time into question: in the old testament in Psalm 90:4 it says, "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." And in the new testament in 2 Peter 3:8 it says, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."  (I'm using the Bible here because I am from the west - but don't forget that Islam also quotes from much of the old testament and between the two traditions I'm covering much of the world's beliefs - and these two stories appear in all the other traditions too.  No matter what you believe, remember that the written forms of these stories are as prone to editorial license as the oral traditions.  We are all merely men in the face of our gods.  Well, there are women too, but they tend to be better than us.)

2. The Flood - in case you haven't noticed any television or radio or newspapers over the last 100 years, there are lots of documented cases in every culture that exists or has existed on the face of the Earth about a flood. Somewhere along the line we evidently had no polar ice caps because all the ice was melted and covered the land. Or we had a meteor decide to take a vacation somewhere around Cancún, creating the 110 mile wide Chicxulub crater, possibly sending the mother of all tsunamis around the world (surf's up, Noah) and wiping some era of civilization out as it was known at the time.

Why do myths exist? To form a memorable way of handing down the best explanation of events through the oral history of a people. 

All of this is a way of saying that I try to pay attention to the common principles of myth when I write Lifeblood.

Feb 21, 2011

Deliberate Acts

Was it really easier during the second world war to hide from authority?  If it was, did this result as an extension of the Great Depression, when so many people lost their homes and their families and roamed the country as a largely nameless, homeless mass of humanity in the U.S.?

So much of what we have available to us these days are the recordings of people who wanted to point out a particular problem.  As a result our view of these two consecutive periods in our history are pretty dark.  I don't want anyone to think these were easy times, but there had to be happy people somewhere in the United States from 1929 to 1946.

Ok, so big business bought out failing farms, clear-cut the land and robbed the land of its natural protection against the wind, creating the dustbowl.  During these years the unemployment rate topped out at about 25% and did not fall below 10% until 1941 when everything was gearing up for our entry into the war.  War dead for the U.S. was around 418,000 or less than 1/3 of a percent of our population  Of bigger impact was the sheer number of citizens in the military during the war, 16 million or 11% of the population, most of which were to return to civilian life back home after the war at about the same time.

Yet puppies and kittens were still born during this time, people still got married and had babies. That other 89% of the population still found ways to live their lives.  In the worst of times we still find ways to have the best of time.

Feb 20, 2011

State of the Poem

Direct Deposit

We allow Tom, Dick, Harry or any other
Employer, customer, utility or con man
To put money in our bank accounts;
We call it direct deposit.
Don’t give me a piece of paper
That I have to take down and sign
Over to the bank, just put it right
In there where I have all there is
To my name, address and social
Life savings teetering on the honesty
Of myself, my friends and acquaintances
That I try to dupe out of their hard earned
Disposable income anyway I can.

What if we happened upon Mr. Wells’
Time Machine? Would we use it to further
Our schemes for wealth and power or
Would we let well enough alone
Refusing the opportunity to make a buck
Out of an advantage? What if we could
Propose a sale of something we didn’t have
And go back in time to buy it when it was
Cheap to acquire, hide it where we could
Keep it safe and return to the present
For our own gift and sell it at current prices?

What if we could not resist the addiction
Of easy money made time after time or
Would that be time before time? Perhaps
We would not be able to handle the volume and
All the jobs it takes to make something grow
Large with largess and so we would have to
Add someone else to take care of the store
While we constantly ran back in time to
Save time while we bought up what could not
Be bought if you sought it out now. But
What if we developed a simple but easy
Superstition, a jinx out of sorts with the idea
Of looking at the place where we would hide
Whatever we were going back in time to get?

What if that was our tell, our giveaway that
Let our helper think they could help themselves?
Maybe we would be too consistent in our pattern
Of always looking in the same place for our loot
Thinking that we understood how this all worked
Or at least that we wouldn’t look too closely at
The walls, lest they be glass and we fall against
Our shattered hopes and superstitions.

What if we ventured into a time and place
When times weren’t so safe as we supposed
Where no matter how much we prepared
No matter how well we watched out
When maybe we should have been looking in
To what our ego was warning us about,
Something went wrong, terribly, awfully,
Completely wrong and we could not ever
Come back to the present.

What would our assistant do when we did not
Return to the store, or return to our hidey hole?
Would they simply go home, find another job,
Become a soap opera revivalist, grow their hair
Long time for a good time, or would they be
At least a little tempted to look, to see whether
Or not Schrodinger’s cat was hiding in the hole
And think at least a little bit about what it might
Mean if they found a tiger instead?

Feb 19, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies

We tend to watch movies we get from Netflix, an easy and cheaper way of seeing movies compared to seeing them in the theater when they are first released.  I admit that when we do go out to see the movies, we tend to hit the matinee.  So we often do not see a movie until it has been released on DVD.  Of course now we can see some of these movies without the DVD by watching them over the internet, which is amazingly good at streaming the 'film'.

We watched Alice in Wonderland with Johhny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Mia Wasikowska as Alice.  We wanted to see it as soon as it was announced on the strength of having Depp in the role of the crazy as a fox Hatter.  Work and other things, irrelevant in the scheme of time but pressing in our mundane lives, got in the way and the next thing we knew the movie had fled the theaters for more profitable markets.  So instead of spending $15 on tickets, we got it along with other movies for half that cost.  Our popcorn is cheaper by the bucket than at the concession stand as are the candy and the liquid refreshments.  The movie is a beautiful combination of live action and seamless animation.  Of course I would expect nothing less from the director, Tim Burton.

Feb 17, 2011

Thursday with a Good Book

The Weight by Andrew Vachss introduces a new character, Sugar, that is somewhat reminiscent of the Parker character in the Donald Westlake novels.  Sugar is a professional thief and the emphasis is on professional.
"I'm a professional," he says, "not a punk with a pistol. You'll never see my picture on a security camera sticking up a bodega. Or jacking some guy in a suit while he's standing at an ATM."  This is a guy you wouldn't miss; he's big and has eyes that are different colors.  When a woman 'identifies' him as her rapist, he takes the charge for the simple reason that what he was doing at the time the rape was supposed to have occurred was robbing a jewelry store.  It's give up his cohorts or take the rape charge.  For him it's no decision, take the weight.

But that's not the end of the story.  Sugar does his time.  When he get's out, he goes to see the guy who planned the job, the guy who's holding his share.  But there's a catch.  It seems that one of the guys came from another planner and that planner has died.  Loose ends are something that can't be left lying around.  So Sugar is persuaded to go find the other guy and take care of things.  Although things are never what they seem.

This isn't Burke and the theme is not about the regular Vachss subject.  But it's a damn good book and like all of his books it's a quick read.

Feb 16, 2011

Wednesday on Writing

The process behind writing changes for each writer.  There are tons of books out there that give you different approaches (variations on too few themes) based on different writers of varying levels of success.  I prefer to read those books by authors whose fiction I like.

A B Guthrie (Pulitzer for The Way West) in his book on writing, A Field Guide to Writing Fiction, he explains that the reason you should read yet another book on writing is that he has some experience in the field since he'd been making his living for about 40 years writing.  The book is tiny and yet is one of the best books on how to write you can find.    One of the lessons he teaches by example is a scene where a young man is made to pay for his crime in the old west.  He's shot and killed the town's storekeeper for a dollar and some change.  When asked if he has any last words before they hang him he says, "Please don't tell my mother what I did."  Everyone is human, no matter how good they are they have a dark secret and no matter how bad they are, they still have some good in them somewhere.

Walter Moseley (Devil in a Blue Dress, Always Outnumbered), in his book. This Year You Write Your Novel, starts off with the best advice, "The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday."

Stephen King in his audio introduction to On Writing, says that what a writer needs most is ass glue.  Stay in that chair and write.

Feb 15, 2011


Lifeblood deals in great part with the philosophy of religiuos ideas and the integration of intellectual thought. Was the universe created as some random event of inevitable contraction of force and mass that finally became too unstable to maintain, resulting in a 'big bang' eplosion, scattering matter throughout the universe? Or did some intelligense, some being, have an original idea and form the universe, even if they did it in what seemed like the same manner, gathering the stray matter from the void we call space into a single ball of volitility and waited for the inevitable explosion.

I once had a biology teacher explain why he did not want to teach the first six chapters of the textbook because he did not agree with how it presented evolution. He said that based on the text, he should be able to put all the parts to an alarm clock in a paper bag and assuming that both he and the paperbag could last throughout the process, that if he shook that bag long enough, even if it took millions of years, he should eventually end-up with a working alarm clock. He did not think such an event should happen. This was one of the least reasons his students loved him and the next year when he did not return, we were worried that the school ssystem did not approve of his independent thinking. But that was not the case. He had decided to serrve his country as a medic. Unfortunately he did not return alive from Viet Nam.

So if intelligence was involved, the next logical question is simply who? But that may not be a simple question at all. Rather than get in a debate about which God or gods are the one and only true God, I am choosing, in Lifeblood, to take a writer's prerogative and make up my own mythos of how the universe came to be and how are world was made and the things therein - including other standard mythical characters.

Since the 'idea' is called Demiurge by Plato, the beings who have this idea must be the Demiourgos, from a mythological passage in the Timaeus to the creator God.  In Gnosticism the Demiurge was the creator of the material world, not God but the Archon, or chief of the lowest order of spirits or aeons.  According to the Gnostics, the Demiurge was able to endow man only with psyche (sensuous soul), the pneuma (rational soul) having been added by God (therfore does this mean the Demiourgos came before God?).  The Gnostics identified the Demiurge with the Jehovah of the Hebrews (which some scholars speculate is the same as Jesus).  In philosophy the term is used to denote a divinity who is the builder of the universe rather than its creator.

So here do I too use it to denote the builder(s) of the universe.  Those who separated Chaos from the void and used it's material to build all that we have in the material world.  Taking a bit more of that writer's liberty, (and influenced to the wonderful bending of language by Robert Aspirin), I chose to take the name Demiourgos and adulterate it into the name we give to those beings of suspect nature and intent, Demons.

Feb 14, 2011

Deliberate Acts

During World War II we, the people of the United States, in order to preserve our fear of the unknown and listening to people who ranted as a form of entertainment, took away the livelihood and homes of over 100,000 people simply because they or their ancestors came from Japan. We only did this on the west coast; half of the States of Washington and Oregon, all of California, and the lower 1/3 of Arizona. In Hawaii, where there were over 150,000 people of Japanese descent, 1,800 were interned. 62% of those kept behind fences were American citizens.
In 1924, the "Oriental Exclusion Law" blocked Japanese immigrants (issei) from attaining citizenship. Of 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the continental United States at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 112,000 resided on the West Coast.  About 80,000 were nisei (Japanese born in the United States and holding American citizenship) and sansei (the sons or daughters of nisei). The rest were issei (immigrants born in Japan who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship).
We tend to be a prejudicial country of peoples for no good reason.  Most of us are the descendents of the interlopers in this land. Unless your ancestry is purely from one of the tribes that was here before the arrival of the Europeans and the Russians, before the call for labor with land as an incentive drew the immigrant from all over the world, then you too are a type of sansei.  Yet even within the overwhelming mix of peoples that form the U.S., we fight for a higher rung on the ladder of whose group is best.  And in that fight we look for any excuse to take from other groups.
That is what happened to the loyal citizens who happened to be Japanese during that terrible war.  Too much fear was raised by those who stood to gain and families lost everything.
I'm not in any way implying that what we did to people in the U.S. is comparable to what happened in other countries.  There were Japanese and German prisoners of war who were astonished at how well we treated prisoners.  And there were soldiers of Japanese descent in our Army.
This is part of the story in Deliberate Acts, a time and place where unfortunately, prejudice trumped civilized behavior.

Feb 13, 2011

State of the Poem

Training Wheels

He drives down the sidewalk,
Wobbling with confidence,
Frightened of the freedom
He so desperately desires.

Others have dared do this,
He knows he can too, but
The distance to the sidewalk
Seems so dangerously close.

They've given him a helmet,
Pads to protect in case of falls,
But nothing softens the staring
Whispers while he struggles.

The aluminum bars are shiny satin,
The grips are gray and firm,
A flag waves wildly above it all
To help make motorists see him.

Some watch with wonder,
Knowing one day they too
Will need to grip gray handlebars
And take that first big push.

Once we really learn to try
They say we won’t forget
But walking never seemed so hard
Till training wheels led the way.

Feb 12, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies

The Joy Luck Club based on the novel by Amy Tan was wonderfully rendered on the big screen.  The daughter of a Chinese immigrant woman, upon the death of her mother, learns much her and about the other three women whose similar heritage bonded them for life.   Each has a daughter and each has had their difficulties, both in the old country and in America.  Each story is heart rending and brings a maturity and understanding to the daughters that they never had before.

I loved the cinematography and the blended time frames in each story as reflected in China with the mothers as young women struggling to survive unfair and very harsh circumstances, with the daughters in America dealing with what they saw as the unreasonable insistence on old ways and old values, and with the gradual understanding that their mothers really were special people overcoming extraordinarily hard circumstances to give their daughters a much better life.

How often do we hear about how a group of immigrants from somewhere that life is not as good as it is here in the United States, coming to our country and 'taking' our jobs?  This is really not the case at all.  Some of the people who come here are so used to a much more strenuous life, that when they simply apply themselves in our country they achieve relatively dramatic success - becoming business owners, property owners, etc.  All with the American dream of making life better for their children.  While people sit on their backsides and point at this hard work and say "unfair."

Well, here's to hard work and having it pay the dividends that make dreams come true.

Feb 11, 2011

Friday Free for All

First the Free Stuff:
OK, I may be diverting readers to somewhere else with this one, but there is a website devoted to freebies and frugal people (who isn't frugal these days) called, wait for it... lots of free stuff, contests and discounts and they do free stuff every day.

Three men: an editor, a photographer, and a journalist are covering a political convention in Miami. They decide to walk up and down the beach during their lunch hour. Halfway up the beach, they stumbled upon a lamp. As they rub the lamp a genie appears and says "Normally I would grant you three wishes, but since there are three of you, I will grant you each one wish."
The photographer went first. "I would like to spend the rest of my life living in a huge house in St. Thomas with no money worries." The genie granted him his wish and sent him on off to St. Thomas.
The journalist went next. "I would like to spend the rest of my life living on a huge yacht cruising the Mediterranean, with no money worries." The genie granted him his wish and sent him off.
Last, but not least, it was the editor's turn. "And what would your wish be?" asked the genie."I want them both back after lunch," replied the editor, "the deadline for tomorrow's newspaper is in ten hours.

This week I am starting Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin.  In The Aeneid, Vergil'shero fights to claim the king's daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire.  Lavinia herself never spoke a word throughout the poem.  Now she has a voice in a world when Rome was a muddy villiage near seven hills.

Writing Status:
Slow start to the week, but it ended well - added a chapter to Deliberate Acts, added an installment to Lifeblood, and finished the first Act of Staying Alive.

Feb 10, 2011

Thursday with a Good Book

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling, is the latest installment in the Hainish or Ecumen Cycle  and is a prime example of this fabulous storyteller's art.  On the planet Aka, the current ruling society overly transformed the world with technology, and uses that to try to wipe out all remaining references to their once rich culture.  Sutty, an observer from Earth discovers that there are outcasts who live in the wilderness, off the grid and stick to the old ways to pass on their heritage and ancient religion.  Intrigued, Sutty joins a group of them on a pilgrimage into the mountains and discovers that her own beliefs are in danger of changing.

I have always loved Ms Le Guin's writing.  I remember reading the Hugo Award winning The Word for World is Forest, just before taking a trip through the rolling hills of Tenessee's Natchez Trace and being struck by the imagery I saw before me.  On every rise of the highway all I could see for miles was the forest.  It made me realized just how good she was at making the book seem so real.

Feb 9, 2011

Wednesday on Writing

Three essential points my book on Business Continuity teaches:
• Thinking about what could go wrong and devising a preventative is good.
• Having a plan for what to do if things do go wrong is good.
• Knowing how to go on even if everything goes wrong is priceless

It is important to take care of the inexpensive backups to business and equipment so that minor disasters are prevented in the first place. Every critical piece of equipment in a business should have a battery backup. These devices are not intended to keep you running for any kind of a long time. You need a backup generator to jump in and keep the main electrical supply alive. But generators do not start in milliseconds, so the battery backup has to keep you going until the generator is online. It may only take 30 seconds, but without that battery, you would be down before the generator kicks-in. This is just one of the things you can do to keep a minor event from becoming a disaster.

Having a plan for people to walk through your business and take stock of what survived and what did not survive a power outage is important too. Do you have other equipment that did stay running? Is the down equipment damaged, or is there a protocol in place for bringing it back online and checking it? How long does it take to exercise such a plan and get everything back up and running? Did some of the batteries fail? Why? Do you have spares? The idea here is to get back up to 100% as fast as possible.

Even more important, if the reason the power went down was something outside of your company location, how long will that generator last? Do you have alternate locations where you can perform your company's business? Do you have sharing agreements with competitors or similar businesses where each of you can use some of the other's resources in such an event? Do you have insurance to cover all the additional expenses? Do you have a backup plan to your backup plan? When it's all said and done you have to be able to do business the next day. Keep that income flowing so your company is able to keep pace with the industry.

Feb 8, 2011


In the story of the world's lifeblood, our hero is a younger member of a race of beings called the Demiourgos, the initial Platonic artisan-like figures responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe.

However, the story starts before our hero is born.
1. The Beginning – Chaos and Time split which creates the material from which the stars and the planets can be made. The idea, the demiurge, attracts intelligence and that becomes the basis of the Demiourgos. They who are the craftsmen, the artists who seek to create beauty and so create a place to work called Earth. For this ability they are reviled by the other intelligences that come anyway to see what they have done.
2. Primordia – the initial ages of the Earth – and the Demiourgos, those whom we call demons and diplomats – conception of the idea of a garden.
3. Prôtogenoi – Protagonos and the initial making upon nature of darkness and compulsion, day and night, the land, Gaia and with her created the mountains and islands, and Ouranos, and the two aspects of the air, then from them Tartaros. This is before the war.
4. Theogony – Gaia is not happy and has her son Ouranos torture his brothers and sisters for being lazy. Then she takes him as her husband and bares the Titans and their sisters, the Titanides, the Kyklopes and Hekatonkheires, the Furies and the Giants. Ouranos was not satisfied with his offspring and Gaia is still not happy.
5. Okeanos & Tethys – two of the Titans come together in harmony to control weather, Okeanos with the power of the oceans and Tethys to control the sky and rain.
6. The Planting – the Demiourgos make plant life and cover the world in a forest
7. The Flowering of Life – the making of flowers and insects
8. From the Depths to the Heights – the making of fish and birds
9. Rebellion – the children of Ouranos and Gaia try to overthrow their father
10. New Generations – the birth of Jupiter and his siblings
11. Castaway – the banishment of Ouranos into Chaos
12. The Rape of Ninlil - Gods of the Fertile Crescent 
13. Between the Rivers – the birth of Man

There will be installments about the Egyptian Gods, Persian Gods, Celts,  Hindi, Germans, etc. Then we will get to the discontent that breaks out into war between these pantheons leading the Demiourgos to create others of their own kind and begin educating them in the making.

Then we get to Cob.

Feb 7, 2011

Deliberate Acts

Chapter 1 teaser:

It’s late at night, four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor – two brothers, Dickie and Handy Shultz, sit in a car in an industrial area of Los Angeles. Dickie keeps talking about the women he has bedded or wishes he could. He repeatedly slicks his blond hair back and he uses a penknife to clean and trim his nails. He thinks his clothes look good, but they’re a khaki green worker’s clothes, clean and pressed, but still the dress of a laborer. Handy is bigger than his brother, thicker through the chest and two inches taller. His scalp is scarred and red, so he covers it with a hat no matter what the weather is like. He sweats a lot. He put on a fresh suit just before they left tonight, but it is already wrinkled and wet beneath the arms. Born and raised in the U.S. to German parents, they’ve never been part of anything, even though they knew some people in the American-German Bund who wanted to recruit them simply because they’re big, tough-guys. They liked the idea of lording it over other people, but they were unreliable, showing up only when there wasn’t something more interesting to do and they liked victimizing people too much and caused more problems for the bund than they solved.

As they sit in the dark car, the man they were waiting for, Yoshiro Sato, walks into a fenced yard around a trucking company. He is working the graveyard shift, a phrase Dickie thinks is funny. They plan to go to his house and steal anything of value they can find while he works. They leave and drive to a close-by neighborhood and park at the end of the street. Most of the lights in the houses are dark and they wait for the last lights to go out. They wait a few minutes more, get out of the car and walk casually to the front door of a house. Dickie looks up and down the street while Handy jimmies the door and lets them in. Minutes after entering the house there is a woman’s voice. They did not know he was married since his wife never leaves the house. There is the sound of a fist hitting flesh and a muffled cry followed by sobbing followed by grunts then silence. Something breaks and a woman’s voice shouts out in Japanese. A man curses and a woman gasps. There are more words said in anger, then nothing. Later the men emerge, carrying a large case and walk back to their car. Dickie says, “I told you we should've waited until this weekend, then all of them will be out of their houses and it will be easy pickings.” “Shut up,” Handy says, “You liked her too.” They get in the car and drive away.

Dickie questions Handy about how they’re going to evade the police because of the woman. Handy tells him he was right, they needed to wait until the houses are empty – he thought there wouldn’t be enough left to steal, but it would simply be easier if they could depend on no one being around. Then he thinks about what these people would leave behind and wonders how much they’d pay to get some of it back. He says to Dickie, “How would you like to get paid by the Government to steal?”

Feb 6, 2011

State of the Poem

A Lycanthropic Apology

It was all a misunderstanding.
No matter my troubles, or trials, or tests,
No matter my fame, or fear that I strike,
He had rights to our joy and to feel well met.

I was typical of the mortals of my day,
Might and fear, my staff and emblem.
I who reigned in Arcadia feared none.
Not men, nor beasts, were my problem.

We sat at our meal, my family and friends.
A victory over our hated enemies, the Moors.
With song and shout, we ate of their courage.
A knock rang out and He was at our door.

His regal acclaim, the disguise fooled us not.
My maidens fair I gave to this assignation,
His eyes held the fire, His voice the thunder,
I invited him to join in our simple celebration.

The cook obeyed his orders to bring out the best.
The plate stacked high with thigh, foot and breast.
But the God was not pleased, He ranted and raved.
Then he burned down my house, a traitorous guest.

I alone survived and slunk to the forest thick.
He gave me a tail, a coat of heavy fur for my endeavor.
He was not through, my blood price would I pay,
And a curse to plague me, to pass on forever.

It matters not whom I bite or I scratch,
I care not if they're the great or the least,
Each month I hunt for an advocate,
Each man I touch to howl for my release.

Even a man who is pure in heart,
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms,
And the autumn moon is bright.

-King Lycaon
Final stanza from The Wolf Man (1941)

Feb 5, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies

Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Brendan Fraser @sillybrendan, Josh Hutcherson @jhutch1992 as his nephew (The Kids are All Right, American Splendor, The Bridge to Tarabithia) and Anita Briem @Anita_Briem (The Tudors).  Fraser, playing a professor, goes for one last try at finding out where his father and brother disappeared.  They were following legends looking for a path to the center of the earth similarly to how Heinrich Schliemann searched for Troy. His sister-in-law reminds him he is supposed to babysit his teenaged nephew when the critical piece of evidence falls into place. To confirm this, he travels to Iceland, dragging his nephew along, to visit Professor Ásgeirsson only to find he is no longer alive. His daughter becomes their guide to an accidental discovery of the way down. What proceeds is an amazingly good set of visuals through H.G. Wells' adventure. Good family fun and a cute ending.

Feb 4, 2011

Friday Free for All

Free stuff first:
Looking at OPP (other people's posts) I noticed a lot of free endorsements of free software out there and I thought I would let my readers know about some of the free tools I use.
  • Cute PDF - this is a pseudo printer that you can add to your computer that prints to PDF files.  You get two files to install (Ghostscript and CutePDF) and then when you want to create a PDF file, you just print to it.  Go here to get it:
  • DropBox - this is using the cloud - Dropbox becomes a folder on your computer - all your computers, if you want, and when you save the file (actually when you close the file) it copies the file into the cloud and all the coumpters you use get notified the next time you log in.  It comes on the Droid, too - all for free.  Go here to get it:
  • Textpad - this is notepad on steroids - you can have a virtually unlimited number of text files open, including html, javascript, txt, log files, etc. all at once and easily switchable in a single window.  You can set it up to use common Microsoft keyboard shortcuts and it has the ability to do block highlighting (as opposed to just line at a time).  Go here to get it:
OK - these people actually sell things with writer's humor on them: zazzle like "I'm a writer, 10am IS first thing in the morning" and "Instant editor - just add coffee"
I'm working my way backwards through two of Charles de Lint's books: Seven Wild Sisters and Medicine Road.  Good magical reads, even if I am reading while going up the down staircase.
Counting both sketchwork and draft - roughly 5000 words this week - only 4600 as draft. Yes, writers do sketchwork. We try out voices and descriptions, dialog, perspectives, etc. How else do you think we come up with characters who can be seen as well as heard? We herd them all up in the corral of sketchwork we've played with and then choose the best sounding version we can find - or we make more.

Feb 3, 2011

Thursday With a Good Book

Another book by Charles de Lint - I can't help but pick one up if I haven't read it. This time it's a quick little read called Medicine Road and involves a further adventure of two of his characters from an earlier book titled Seven Wild Sisters. Both are illustrated by Charles Vess whose pen and ink works fit like a glove, providing perfect images to reinforce the memory of the story.

It starts off with a beautiful poem/song about Red Dog chasing Jackalope. Where it goes from there involves the sisters playing their music, a man who thought he'd never fall in love for real and a deadline before he and a woman he was chasing a hundred years ago pronounces the end of everything for them both.

A master storyteller who keeps the magic on every page. Loved reading it and you will too.

Feb 2, 2011

Writing for Free

Like many writers hoping to find the door to 'making a living writing', I write on a daily basis and involve myself in writing sites on the internet to try to refine my skills and grow my audience. This puts some of my writing in an off-limits bucket for many publishers. They only want to publish what no one else has seen before - and I can't blame them, they are trying to build their business and deserve to tell their audience that what they're about to read is original, never before seen material. So they only pay for exclusives.

In the meantime, I write for free, or nearly, since small presses don't exactly have the budgets to make any of us rich.

Back in the days of William Dean Howells who was an editor for The Atlantic Monthly from 1866-1876, a short story sale to that magazine could support a writer for a year or two. Ah, for the good old days. Boo on inflation. Still wouldn't live in those times for any reason, not the least of which being I'm not so sure I could survive.

Today, I'm lucky if a story or poem brings in enough to buy lunch at McDonalds.

So I will continue to write my little rhymes, punch out my scenes and submit for comment and review on various boards - all for free. At least until I win the writer's lottery of writing something that rings the right editor's chime and they decide to send me a fabulous, cashable check for my next year or two.

Feb 1, 2011

Trivia Pursued

Whenever I read a book, a story or a poem, I am aware of the infringement of reality upon the narrative. Verisimilitude comes from the recognizable; I like Walter Mosley's books because I've lived in some of the areas his stories take place. I recognize places his characters stop at or pass along the way. It makes his stories more realistic to me. I like Charles de Lint's work because I recognize the mythical stories he bases his characters on - so when he invokes Raven or the Crow Girls, or Coyote Woman, I find resonance within the cultural realities. I try to do the same with my writing.

That leads me to research before, during and after the process of getting that first draft down on paper (even if it is electronic metaphorical paper). So as I write I check things out. Where did the people I'm mentioning live? Were they mostly in one specific neighborhood? Where did the more affluent members of that community live, the poor? What kind of transportation could they afford, what was their most common dress, how did their hair look? The one hundred plus questions that come-up as I write must have reasonable, defensible answers.

That leads to the pursuit of information that will never be used in my story; what are the common family names of this community, what do those names mean, what does that say about where they came from in the old country, how was their language different, etc., etc., etc. Do I need all of it? Probably not. Do I like reading it? Definitely. Does it take too much time? Absolutely.

Besides, who knows when it might come-up in a game of trivia?

Jan 31, 2011

Deliberate Acts

Often I think the task of writing seems like it gets out of my hands and into my mind, even though it should really be in both places.  There is a basic lesson in the structure of a scene that goes like this:

SCENE: the actions on stage - the conflict.
The fundamental pattern of a scene is:
a. Statement of goal.
b. Introduction and development of conflict.
c. Failure of the character to reach their goal (a tactical disaster).

Yeah, I know, why does the character have to fail? Simple, because if they don't the story is at an end. And then King George slew the dragon and they all lived happily ever after the scene was over - at least it was over as far as the dragon was concerned, and he probably wasn't too enthused about getting written out of the story so early and neither was the reader who would think, ho, hum, why read anything by this writer again?

Instead, try this; The King and his family appear in a beautiful meadow to have a jolly good picnic and up pops a dragon. Well the King does not have his armor or his trusty war horse and when his daughter spies the cute little lizard and asks if she can keep it, what's a father to do? He can't exactly stick a fork in the scaly creature and call it done. And as far as the dragon is concerned, the Princess is a little short on the filling the belly criteria and there are all those pigs and goats inside the castle grounds. So the King loses out on an all-day picnic, but life is looking like a picnic for the dragon. Now what are they going to do? And the story rolls forward.

But what about after the action ends and the players leave the stage? How do we get to that next bit of action and drama? It's called sequel, and yeah it's how the story leads us to round 2 and it goes like this:

SEQUEL: actions in the mind of the point-of-view character.
The character has an emotional reaction, thinks out a new plan and sets a new goal - to be sought after in the next scene.

So the King decides that in order to keep peace in the family, they'll all go back to the castle and once the Princess is safely in bed, well, he did need a new pair of dragon skin boots...

Don't forget the dragon has a say so in how things turn out too. He's thinking about how those nice, fat, barnyard animals are probably in wooden cages and how cedar roasted pig would taste so delicious. Once the King and Princess are in bed, well, a little midnight snack might be just the thing.

Sounds like an interesting scene to look forward to when we turn the page, don't cha think?

Jan 30, 2011

State of the Poem

A Fleeting Glimpse
She walked in the distance
Through the river of people,
Floating on the current
With the poise of a swan.

I pursued just to see her,
All other thoughts evicted,
Forgotten in the moment
Of a fleeting glimpse.

Though the day was ordinary,
And the crowd oblivious,
Sun followed like a spot
Of calm within the storm.

The end of this rainbow
promised more than simple gold,
A lifetime's bounty
In a fleeting glimpse.

Into a coach she climbed,
Raising its worth by her presence,
A dream, no more than
A fleeting glimpse.

Jan 29, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies

The Tourist, starring Angelina Jolie as Elise and Johnny Depp as Frank, is an engaging mystery of mistaken identity.  Both of these headliners are well known and superb and this films proves they work well as a team.  The premise is that Elise's lover, who stole over a billion dollars from a mobster, then had his face altered with plasic surgery, wants to reunite but also wants to throw both the mobster and the taxing authorities off track.  So he asks her to randomly pick out someone with roughly the same body build as his and convince everyone that she is in love with the decoy.  Of course she picks Frank, a school teacher on vacation in Europe.  

The supporting cast is really good too.  Paul Bettany, the tax inspector, has been in several big movies, perhaps most notably as the self-flaggellating priest in The Da Vinci CodeTimothy Dalton, as chief inspector, perhaps best known as Bond in License to Kill.  And Steven Berkoff who will be in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Best of all, this is an intense thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will surprise you at the end.

Jan 28, 2011

Friday Free for All

Free stuff first:
A rose by any other name may be an American Beauty, or a Double Delight, or...
Having problems coming up with names for your characters? Here are three name generators available on the web that you can use or just have fun making up names:
A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.
He decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, he saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.
"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."
A few moments later, as he ascended into heaven, he saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they:, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.
"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"
"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."
Reading - Two Penny's for your thoughts:
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny has a great opening sentence:
Kneeling in the fragrant grass of the village green Clara Morrow carefully hid the Easter egg and thought about raising the dead, which she planned to do right after supper.
Mix this with a little Haunting of Hill House and you have an excellent mystery written by the 2010 winner of the Anthony for Best Novel.
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney also sets the tone in the opening sentence:
The last time I saw Laurent Jammet, he was in Scott's store with a dead wolf over his shoulder.
She won the 2006 Costa (Whitebread) Book of the Year for this first novel.  She does a good job of mixing history, the far north and native american culture around a murder mystery.  Good stuff.
More for the writer's bookshelf; The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.  If you've read Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, this will be a very familiar approach to story telling.  If you haven't read Campbell's book yet, read Vogler's first.  He is a consultant to filmmakers and has 'fixed' several scripts that have gone on to be blockbusters.  His book has to do with story though, not medium. This is a must have for the bookshelf.