Wednesday, December 30, 2009


If you look hard enough you can find negative reviews of James Cameron's Avatar, and I suppose some of the notes about cliches and obtrusiveness of theme are not inaccurate. For me, the sheer joy of Avatar as a moviegoing experience outweighs any of that, however.

It wasn't a scene of flying creatures that wowed me most. It's a long movie, and 3D had already become part of the landscape by the point the first mountain banshee appeared.

The subtle 3D use in a scene in which a crippled Marine is extricated from a cryogenic chamber piqued my imagination first and foremost. With floating orderlies and depth of field, it made the world on the big screen a little different than anything I'd seen before. That's really what's needed in our universe if the movie going experience is to be more than a marketing campaign for Blu-Ray sales.

It really felt like I'd been sucked into the universe of science fiction novels where zero G was a norm.

Flying creatures, jungle landscapes, spiritual indigenous humanoids and rampaging monster dogs only supplemented the experience.

They are really cool, though. It was like being in a fully imagined Edgar Rice Burroughs universe. It's clear James Cameron really did draw on all of the books and movies he experienced as a kid in crafting Avatar as he said in his Studio 360 interview.

It's a wonderous amalgamation, and as Roger Ebert states it's worth seeing if you can get to a theater to be part of the conversation.

I think it's good when we have an occasion for shared dreams, and if something gets us off the sofa, well that's staving off the couch potato universe of WALL-E a little longer isn't it?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christmas Meme

Got this on Facebook from a buddy of mine from way back. OK, way, way back, but I thought I'd bring it over here since these things are essentially blog posts and the blog allows for a little enhancement.

The original argument:
Here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy this entire note and paste as a new note on your Facebook page blog. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then tag this note to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you...'Tis the Season to be NICE! OK, if you're reading this, feel free to cut and paste for your own blog.

My answers:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Gift bags when I can make them work, wrapping paper as a last resort.

2. Real tree or Artificial?

It’s been artificial for a few years, but we have opened negotiations on a real tree for next year.

3. When do you put up the tree?

Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This year we were a little early.

4. When do you take the tree down?

Pretty quickly after the New Year, coinciding with the post-Christmas letdown they always discussed in "Peanuts."

5. Do you like eggnogg?

Yeah, but I may pass this year. We always wind up with a little left over in the carton.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Bonanza action figures – Ben, Hoss and Little Joe

7. Hardest person to buy for?

I do all right with everyone. The key is just not to put too much thought into the items you pick up from those novelty racks in big department stores. Unless someone I buy for is reading this. In which case, I put thought into your gift, just not the other gifts.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

My wife gives me a list, calculated to stay within budget, shipping excluded, though.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

One that’s been in my family for ages. The paint’s worn off the figures, but I like it. OK, truth to tell it's put up so that it won't have cats rampaging through it like Godzilla through Tokyo.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I’m going to go with e-mail this year, though a Christmas letter was planned.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

Let’s see which ticked me off more, the McDonald’s ornament I got as a gift at the office once, or the 59 cent compass I got in fifth grade.

12. Favorite Christmas Movies?

It's probably passé now, but it's "A Christmas Story.” I was flipping channels the first year that was on cable, encountered the “triple-dog-dare” scene and have been hooked on Jean Shepherd ever since.

I love "It's A Wonderful Life" too. Come on, what are you heartless? It's great.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

I had better get started, hadn't I?

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Not that anyone can prove without investigation and affidavits.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Either the duck or cornbread dressing. Tough to say.

16. Color of Lights on the tree?

Multi-colored enamel-coated C-7s. We’ve learned through experimentation this Christmas that four strands is what a single outlet can support.

17. Favorite Christmas song? This year, “Elf’s Lament” by BNL.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

We work our way back from relatives’ homes to celebrate at our house.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

Let’s see there’s Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Siegfried? ah, I know how to look it up if I need to.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

It’s an angel, kind of stylized glass with wings.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Well, some things have to be charged up or assembled on Christmas Eve so they’re ready for Christmas Day but generally it’s Christmas morning, a deviation from my childhood tradition. We opened family gifts on Christmas Eve. Santa's gifts were available upon waking Christmas Day unless they required assembly by my cousin who arrived around 11.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

I'm sure there's something about traffic and crowded stores, but I'm OK at the moment.

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color?

My parachuting teddy bear ornament. It’s a parachuting teddy bear, need I say more?

24. Favorite for Christmas Eve Dinner?

I don't have an official position on this.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

An iPhone 3Gs

26. What is your wish for Christmas?

I’ll defer to the Goo Goo Dolls: “Better Days.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Upsy Daisy

We're well over a year past the chronic renal failure diagnosis for my cat Daisy. The initial news was devastating, as you know if you drop by here often.

Daisy's been our pet since she was only weeks old.

Weeks following the diagnosis were trying as we struggled with our vet's help to stabelize her condition. Subcutaneous fluid treatments and appetite stimulants helped restore her to a better state.

I wrote a year ago about her first post-diagnosis holiday season. This season's beginngs brought a reminder of her condition. She threw up last Saturday. Apparently renal failure produces stomach chemicals that lead to nausea and vomiting.

She'd been doing so well that I'd become complacent, the knowledge of her condition pushed to a back room in my mind. Then, a while after dinner, she sat up on my lap with an odd look in her eyes. Never let it be said cats don't have expressions.

A few minutes after the odd look, she hopped to the floor and tossed up her dinner. She kept throwing up through the night, turning to dry heaves and continuing on Sunday, making me fear she'd begun some kind of drastic decline.

We pulled out some anti-nausea medication she hadn't needed in a while and began to give her doses. On Monday morning she began to eat again, and was perky when I checked on her on a break from work. The vet suggested keeping up the nausea medication a while before deciding if we needed to bring her in.

By evening she had resumed her usual behavior. She curled onto my legs when I went to bed, then after a while she began to trot out all of the acts in her repertoire.

Around 11, she got in a fight with our oldest tom, Monty.

Around 11:30 there was the cold nose on the face. It's her way of asking for fresh food.

A couple hours later she was crying out in a shrill voice. I thought it was the prelude to getting sick again and jumped up to discover her walking around with her favorite toy in her mouth. It's a Beanie Baby knockoff of a mouse, and she's known to walk up the hall with it, whining softly.

Now she'd chosen to do it at 3 a.m. or so.

If she could play a musical instrument, that would probably have been her next feat, but she let things i.e. me rest after that.

She's on Christine's lap now, a week later, dozing as I peck keys, though moments ago she was pacing back and forth across my keyboard.

That's another act of hers. I'm happy to have her for each show.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ding Dong Merrily

I usually wait until after Thanksgiving to kick off my personal holiday traditions, but I began a little early this year. Thanksgiving was a little late after all.

I started playing my iPod holiday playlist in my office late last week, and for my morning cup of tea I've turned to my seasonal tea of choice, Red Zinger.

I suppose it's because I've been ready for a break for a while. I've had time for nothing but required reading since August. I've had great books to read, but there's something to be said for reading what you want.

There's something to be said as well for things like going to the movies. Christine and I went to see A Christmas Carol, not a bad flick for a holiday mood.

I also picked up Garrison Keillor's A Christmas Blizzard at the library as well. It's a slightly zany account of a Chicago millionare who finds himself by going back to his snowbound home in Looseleaf, North Dakota.

Sometime in the '90s, I guess, I realized the old Emerson, Lake and Palmer lyrics from "I Believe in Father Christmas" are true: "...the Christmas you get you deserve."

So as December creeps on, I always endeavor to make it feel like the holidays.

We started assembling our tree over the weekend, though a decision for more lights delayed the completion. Soon we'll have it in the window, and snow men and Santas are already dappling mantles and bookshelves.

It's my own personal celebration, but it works. Here's hoping it's a great season for everyone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brutality's End

I'm nearing the end of the semester. I knew this was going to be a busy time, but things have been brutal beyond my wildest expectations in my MFA program.

I suppose any program includes a bit of deconstruction. I passed that a while back, polishing prose and re-thinking scenes under an advisor's whip. Often I found myself combating my own hard-headedness.

I think I shook off my own form of writer's block this semester. I've long worried about writing scenes of too much brevity. I let go of that, and I agreed to reconsider the complex sentences I tend to love a little too much.

I reached the conclusion of my first draft on Saturday. I think I tied up all the pieces, though I have a great deal of revising to do. I need to move the beginning of one plot ripple back a little, and I think that will improve the overall pace of my story. Then there's the pruning of extra words and all of those other tweaks.

It's good to have an end in site, and good to have a moment to check in here and say hello.

Hope everyone's well, and that we can talk more frequently, at least for a while.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaching Theme

Interesting creative writing class last night. I called the segment my "Pulling It All Together" session. I originally conceived the class as a beginning writing course for retirees ready to pick up their pens, possibly for the first time.

My student makeup quickly expanded beyond that when it moved outside the junior college continuing education setting, so I have a mixture of people with varying degrees of experience. I've been working to make sure to show how the techniques I'm espousing relate to memoirs and creative non-fiction as well as fiction. Happily I have students honing creative non-fiction pieces that read like short stories.

I started with developing original ideas, moved through plot, character and the importance of polishing prose.

Theme, suspense and dialog seemed like the next points to hammer on the journey. Those seriously developing new works as part of class are at the point of adding nuance to some excellent works, so my goal was to suggest ways to hone the spirit of work so that it offers more than just a recitation of facts or events.

I quoted various sources in lecture, and we examined a story by John Cheever called "The Sutton Place Story" that's both suspenseful, thematically rich and reliant on characters. I was afraid it was a little esoteric, but it resonated.

Students asked if the class has to end in another week.

Oh yeah, it does, if I'm going to remain standing. But it was nice to have that response.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How Did it Get to Be October?

I'm making slow progress on many fronts. Blogging obviously hasn't been one of them for a while, but I thought I'd check in which a quick update and get back to profound updates when possible.

I have just two classes left in the teaching practicum that's part of my MFA. I've held onto about 10 students for five weeks now. I was worried since it was free I wouldn't get a commitment, but people are hanging in.

We're working on the art of re-writing outside of class and writing theory in class. Exercises, lecture by me and discussion of short stories and brief creative non-fiction. It's tough to do a lot of novels in six weeks, but I think short pieces have been helpful in exemplifying technique.

I've tried to give them a variet of readings including "An Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Marquez and Cheever's thriller-like "The Sutton Place Story." It's a great look at how character affects plot and plot informs theme. Or at least I think it is.

I found a Photoshop contest picture that was surreal and used that for a writing prompt and spurred some people to creativity that was wonderful.

On the novel front, I'm working on rewrites and polish and aiming toward a final draft for readers for next semester.

There's goodness in it at the moment, though it's not perfect.

Really wanted to get something on record since my Oliver film was my last entry. Hope all is well for everyone.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Oliver Flip

Got a new Flip Ultra for my birthday. Here's a quick test of it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Making Things Work

I have to teach a class in creative writing as part of my MFA requirement. In academic parlance it's a practicum. Every field has its jargon, I guess.

Bottom line, I have to teach at least three people for 15 hours. I called up the junior college in this burg a while back to see if I could do that in their continuing education program. I thought a class that was part of an established program would be more fun and more beneficial to me. I also figured since they had a marketing program in place it would go smoother i.e. I wouldn't have to do the marketing.

Turned out they hadn't had anyone to offer creative writing in a while, so they signed me up. But it seems the class didn't "make." That's another use of academic parlance. We all know what make means in the more colloquial parlance. Yeah, "make" is what I seem to be left with a big pile of for what seem to be a variety of Catch-22s.

Happily, sometimes things seem to fall into place even when make happens. I discovered three people in my day-to-day encounters who were interested in taking the class. When one of them called to register that's how we found out it had apparently been cancelled. I'd worried about that happening, but I really stayed pretty subdued when I got that word.

The potential participant noted almost instantly that her minister is extremely community minded and opens the doors to provide a venue for many different groups and issues, so I called him up, talked things over, and he said he was down with it and that he'd be the observer I needed for one session.

So, after a little coordination with the other guys who'd expressed interest, looks like we have a creative writing class for the month of September.

While I'm a writer, I can't deny the virtues of direct sales techniques.

The Lesson Plan
My plan is to focus on wringing the cliches out of ideas, look at how to build a story from the nucleus of a core idea then focus in-depth on character and plot development and how character and plot feed each other.

I'd planned to look a little at how John Goodman's character drives the story in "The Big Lebowski," but we may forego clips from that since the language is maybe a little indelicate for a church venue.

I'll start putting flyers around to see if we can attract a few more participants to, er, make things interesting.

With any luck, this project will turn out to be "The Make!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Twisted Tales: The Lime Works

My current MFA advisor has a reading list that was given to him by a professor of his, though he's refined it a bit. It's a wonderfully eclectic collection of titles, and I'm happy to have learned of a book called The Lime Works from that list.

It's a book that may not be to all tastes. It's a rather eccentric work, and I had to get it via interlibrary loan because it's momentarily out of print, thus used-copy costs have sky-rocketed, but I believe it's scheduled for re-publishing next year as a mass market paperback.

Originally published in German, it is the tale of Konrad, an eccentric scholar denied formal education by his parents but determined in later years to craft a masterwork on the science of hearing.

Toward that end, he thwarts a cousin's efforts to prohibit his purchase of a vast, abandoned lime works and moves his invalid wife to the dark, cold plant to conduct hearing experiments to contribute to the perfect book he's convinced resides inside his head.

Author Thomas Bernhard tells Konrad's story in a manner that virtually puts the reader inside the character's twisted mind, though it's not a point of view story exactly. Instead the virtually stream-of-consciousness narrative is the amalgamation of several accounts compiled by an insurance man after Konrad's murder of his wife, which occurs on the opening page.

It's a twisted, dark tale of obsession, madness and one of the worst cases of writer's block ever. If you see a copy for under $40 grab it, and immerse yourself for a little while in the chilly, shadowy world of the lime works.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Cooking Shows And the End of Life

I think the gist of Michael Pollan's New York Times Magazine piece "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch," which coincides with the release of the Meryl Streep movie about Julia Child, Julie and Julia, is that more people are watching cooking shows than actually cooking.

Sometimes that's not a bad thing.

I do a fair amount of culinary work at home, so I might not fit the pattern described, but I had occasion to watch The Food Network a good bit a few years ago. It helped pass the time as I sat with my mom in hospital rooms on a few different occasions, and I recalled that as I perused Mr. Pollan's article.

My mother was a home economics teacher for most of her career, an expert on food preparation, and sewing. Her memory had faded by the time she neared the end of her days, so I sought things that might seem familiar to her such as food preparation.

She never really developed much of an interest in the shows, but I sat watching, whiling those endless hours between doctor visits as she fought one condition or another. In a trapped situation, any diversion becomes more engrossing.

It winds up being an oddly fond memory now that she's about a year gone, not the best of memories by far, but a pleasant moment. Sitting with her, watching Emeril prepare a chicken dish or one of the other hosts dishing pasta or barbecue rubs.

Watching those shows provided peaceful lulls between the strife-filled moments. They were just entertainment, not instructional shows. They were something we could share in a strange way, something my mother might once have appreciated but couldn't fully on her slow journey toward the end.

I printed out some of the recipes from the web later. They're in the folder with all of our recipes, but I've never attempted any of them.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Podcast Episode - Flash Fiction By Brett Williams And More Podcast News

After a quasi-hiatus, Fear on Demand is back for July with a new episode.

Brett Williams aka @crucify_brett on Twitter contributed the brief and chilling flash piece, Cambion, that's now live at Fear on Demand. Check out more about Brett on his website,

Brett's story is read by Julie Hoverson a writer and actress who is the creator of the fabulous and award-winning audiodrama podcast 19 Nocturne Boulevard.

Julie and I met online because she heard my Southern accent on a FOD introduction and asked me to play a gambler in a weird Western installment of her show.

Age of the Zombies
The second episode of Age of the Zombies is currently live, featuring me wearing a different hat. I'm the voice of Jake, ex-Master Sergeant and current and future zombie-fighter. Again, the Southern accent is serving me well.

I've just learned AOTZ is a finalist for a Parsec Award for speculative fiction in podcasting, which is kind of exciting.

You can listen to any and all of the stuff mentioned above online without an MP3 player though it's also fun to download them and take them with you.

Necropolis Studio Productions, producers of AOTZ, also have a new podcast coming soon, Call Me Jack, a show about THAT Jack.

Check them all out and enjoy, but be warned, they're not for the squeamish.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm Back

Great week at grad school last week. Came home yesterday. Will probably write more, but for now, let me say it was all fabulous overall.

Walked the beach listening to Sting's Songs from the Labyrinth, watching waves pitch and gulls sail.

Attended great seminars, joined friends for the workshopping of two different plays--read in one because a Southern voice was needed.

Met my new advisor, Ryan Boudinot and participated in the examination of three short stories, element by element in our advising group.

Great conversations, great ideas, loads of fun. Inspiring as always.

Worked out a couple of plot problems on my thesis novel while sipping chai.

Wonderful week. Wonderful world.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Art of Revision

My MFA advisor and I have had a mini-debate about revision. Nothing serious. It's been intriguing.

As roughly the midpoint of the book I'm working on as a master's thesis made its way down my fingertips, some epiphanies about the main character occurred that meant some changes would be required earlier in the narrative.

He's in the midst of solving a mystery while trying to pick himself up from a failure and cope with what prove to be strange surroundings, secrets and ghosts.

My advisor and I have agreed a slightly different approach in how he goes about things will strengthen the narrative. It's not drastic, but it means some manuscript surgery, and all surgery is major isn't it?

For the defense
My thought was that I should push to the end of the manuscript, solve the mystery, then work on the changes. Both practical and philosophical considerations led my advisor to disagree.

My advisor promised to fight whatever prevailing opinions might arise in faculty meetings on my behalf, but urged that I think about reworking now. The program I'm in requires a change of advisor after two semesters in order to get a fresh set of eyes on a work.

The rebuttal
Practically, the change in advisor without change in manuscript would mean a reader coming to the material cold without a full understanding about how it was "gonna" change, save with a lot of talking to him or her.

On the philosophical front, my advisor felt the final stretch of the work whether sprint, hike or long haul, would benefit from adjustments made earlier in the tale.

I resisted because I've always written first and revised later. A first draft for me is like a minutely detailed outline. (I heard Joe Lansdale say something like that once, but I agree with it.)

After a while, I relented, though. From a pragmatic standpoint, it makes sense to hone now so that over the next several months as I approach a finish, if the universe is willing, the manuscript will be closer to complete and ready for the second reading to really fine tune.

My advisor was right, in part about the benefit.

It's a bit exhilarating, I must admit, to be making some of the surgery now. It's not as easy as having the whole piece to hammer and carve, but, as always with revision, I'm finding small tidbits in the narrative that I can utilize in later chapters. A wink here, a twist there.

In a way, it's like creating an alternate reality or a parallel timeline to the original vision, but that's not so bad. Eventually I should be able to pick and choose the recast scenes, hopefully crafting a stronger and more meaningful work.

It's also a little terrifying. A work of fiction is after all a house of cards. A millimeter change at one point could throw something off at another. To mix in another meataphor, the flapping of a butterfly wing....

Happily that only means more revision, and since "more meaningful" has been a key goal for me in this endeavor, the experimentation is worthwhile. It also demands a little more devotion from me, and challenges additional commitment.

That's a little angst inducing, but, as Christine notes, good things, and creative growth, don't come easy, so a little more commitment from me, meh, couldn't hurt.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Checking In

My writing energy has been focused on the MFA novel/thesis of late, hence the dearth of blog posts.

Sometimes there are just so many words in the fingertips, and writing with the help and attention of mentors makes for a different experience than working alone under contract or not.

I'm mainly endeavoring to weave in a significant character thread that's come up as part of the crafting of the work, while moving forward as well. I probably have another 30,000 words of new material or so to finalize the first draft. Piece of cake, right?

Just means staying focused on writing and away from anything other than 140 Tweets to expel random bits of material in my brain that don't really go anywhere else.

The benefit of the revise and move forward method at the same time should mean the manuscript should wrap up around the time that it needs to, if all goes well, knock wood.

Happy Fourth Everyone. Stay tuned to the Tweet column at right for the random expulsions of thought plus the occasional interpretations of what my cats are thinking.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Podcast Episode - My Story Good Kids

The June episode of Fear on Demand is now live. It's Episode 7. I'm kind of pleased to have made it this far. My grad school advisor observed that a podcast seemed like an open-ended, sort of living anthology, and I suppose that's a good analysis.

A few more stories and we'll make it to 10 episodes, which has kind of been the goal in the back of my mind. If I make it to 13, that would be an interesting number for a horror podcast as well. I think I'm technically better yet again on this episode, though I do say "uh" a lot in the intro. Sorry, I'll work on that next.

Good Kids
This month's story is "Good Kids," one of mine, and it was originally recorded by Thayne Multimedia for a planned audio-anthology of non-supernatural horror stories. It was going to be a follow-up to the War of the Worlds adapatdation I wrote (available at right from iTunes), but it was delayed by various factors so Troy Thayne agreed to let me use the story, and two others, for the podcast.

Original publication
The tale originally appeared in an online magazine called "The Boneyard." It was written in the nineties and was interestingly sort of the inspiration for a novel.

I described the tale of good students facing a bully to my then editor.

"What if the supernatural were involved?" she asked. "What if one of the kids were a witch and what if things with her got out of hand?"

That nucleus became my young adult novel, "New Year's Evil," which appeared under the pseudonym Michael August. Happily that was one of my books that was later translated into German. (Apparently used copies can be had for about $1 from Abe Books.)

It followed a group of students who enlisted a witch's help to thwart persistent aggression from a troublesome kid. She helped deal with him, but then she turned out to be an evil witch who was out of control.

"Good Kids" is quite different, a dark tales of misguided young people pursuing relief and revenge.

It's out there now. Hope everyone likes it if you drop by and give a listen.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Back from Up: Verne and Doyle in Motion

(Warning: Some content could be considered spoilers.)

(Oops, in the first iteration of this post, I was partially asleep apparently and attributed The Lost World to Verne and not Doyle)

Christine suggested Up for a weekend movie. She is more selective about what she wants to see than I, checking reviews first and weighing the quality of the experience against the time viewing requires.

I read reviews after movies. I pretty much see everything if I can, if not in the theaters, well there's Netflix, but it's always good if she wants to go to the movies. Saves me the persuasive speech.

We both agreed Up was incredible, an offbeat, often funny and wacky adventure that's infused with the spirit of the pulps and the memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. What more can you ask for from a summer flick?

A really warm and sweet love story? It has that too, perhaps the best surprise--that in an animated feature you have an elderly hero still in love with his wife's memory. Happily and in bittersweet fashion we see their married life unfold, all before balloons hoist the old man's house heavenward.

Both the elderly hero, Carl, and his wife, we learn, were enamored in their youth with newsreel reports of an adventurer of the grand scale, Charles Muntz, who brought back fossil evidence of a giant bird from a plateau in South America. Sound a little like Conan Doyle's The Lost World?

Faster than you could say Professor Challenger, that evidence was questioned, and Muntz set off in a Jules Verne-like Master of the World style airship crewed by hounds--ya gotta loves dogs in this movie--to find more evidence, leaving the young Carl and his wife longing to head for the same destination.

It's a path Carl pursues only in later years, and there's lots of fast-paced excitement, fun and perfecto plotting along the way once he takes off.

Meshing a new Disney/Pixar flick with the roots of Verne adventures past seems a wonderful homage while unfolding an all-new, colorful story that's unlike anything else, as fresh in its own way as WALL-E.

It's imagination unleashed, and it proves how a unique story can soar.

It's well worth the time and has a wonderfully sweet and complementary animated short attached.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Semester's End - Forgive Yourself Your First Draft

I sent my in the final packet of the semester for my creative writing program at Goddard College Wednesday, putting me at about the halfway point on my manuscript/master's thesis/novel and the program for that matter.

As I mentioned to my advisor in one of the five writing packets of the semester, it's like writing a novel as a serial or at least it's working on a first draft with at least one person watching you.

It's an interesting way to do things. You get constant feedback and discussion and have opportunities to discuss--in writing--plot points, themes and characters. For me, it's proving to be a very positive experience.

Writing and Reading
Reading and critical analysis of other books is a significant part of the effort as well, and as you know if you come here often, I've been doing a lot of that too. I heard going into the program that it's a little like that old Far Side Cartoon in which a scientist has an equation sprawled across his blackboard. Numbers and symbols lead step by step through a theory up to step 4 which reads: "Then a miracle occurs."

It's not quite a miracle, but there is something in the process that brings enlightenment, and it's not easy to define. It's not just reading and writing, which I've always done. It's the mixture, with the analysis and the discussion and the periodic gatherings for residencies, which are kind of like extended coffee houses with clusters of writers.

Somewhere around that last packet, it really hit me, and it exorcised some of those demons that torment all of us with fingers on keyboards.

In part, I was reading a book, and a good one, by an author I've known for sometime. I don't think he likes me very much, but that doesn't really matter. It might not matter that I know him, but perhaps it did, knowing he's a flesh and blood guy and not a theoretical Great Writer laboring somewhere with quill and cup of tea.

As I read, I had the epiphany -- the brilliance wasn't all accomplished in the first draft. Every supporting character wasn't as crisp and multi-faceted the first time around. The action at the midway point didn't fall right into place at first. The plot probably wasn't as perfect and precise as he wound things up.

But he got there. He finished the race with a hell of a novel, an achievement both popular and literary, entertaining and thematically rich.

"Forgive yourself your first draft," my advisor told me as we had coffee in one of our official meetings as the semester began.

It's something I've learned even Wilkie Collins might have said. Apparently there was a serious plot/timeline issue with the serialized magazine version of his brilliant page-turner The Woman in White. That was corrected when the story was published in book form but speaking of working in public...What a challenge that must have been.

I knew that fact about first drafts. I've lived through that before, but now I KNOW it, and I understand it in fresh ways, and it's coupled with all of the discussion of character development and through stories that have come from the the time in the trenches the last few months.

It's an interesting journey. My feet are tired, but I will keep walking, because there another half a dessert to cross, one step at a time.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Woof Winners

I ran across a blog contest via Twitter and decided to enter for the fun of it. I had a little trouble with the entry form, so I think a few people dropped by to read a January post of mine instead of the piece on Ceremony and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it's always nice to have new friends, and the contest results offer links to some cool writing of many types.

WOOF Contest – Top Picks


Zorlone – “The Ice King's Vow” - "The message of the poem is slowly unravelled in exquisite lines. First it deals with thoughts and desires, then flows unerringly into the climax/denouement and finally the explosive ending or rather the chilling final lines..." -- JenaIsle

Jennifer M Scott – “Icicles” - A picture poem comparing ice to love.

Roy – “I Thought I Was Tough” - Another poem borne out of frustrations of not being able to beat what life has to dish out tome.

Zorlone – “Shy Guitar” - "Melodious, a story about love and music intertwined." - Strawberry Girl.

Dragon Blogger – “Icy Passion” - Challenged to write a poem about love and comparing it ICE without using the words heart or love, I came up with this poem about "Icy" love.


Ferox – “The She-Demon's Anatomy” - Part one of a demonic confrontation in a fantasy novel.

Webbielady – “What's the True Measure of Intelligence?- A recent call to two of her friends made Rogue question what is the real meaning of intelligence... Why? Why? How can we tell if a person is really intelligent? Can we really measure this thing?

Brought to you by PlotDog Press with the Serial Suspense Screenplay "Intervention

Presenting the finest of the writer’s blogs by the bloggers who write them. Highlighting the top posts as chosen by the May 29, 2009 WOOF Contest participants. Want in to join the next WOOF? The next contest ends June 12. Submit a link to your best writing post of the last 3 weeks using the form on this page. Participants, repost the winning link list within a week and you’re all set.

Other WOOF Contestants for 05/29/09


Sidney Williams – “What's on the iPod? - Montego Bay” - As I drove through another rainy morning cloaked with a grey, wet blanket, Bobby Bloom's Montego Bay popped up as my iPod shuffled songs.

About Writing

Izzy Daniels – “7 Things I Learned in High School that Can be Applied to Writing/Life” - Taking lessons learned from high school and applying them to writing.


Roy – “I'm A Bad Liar - A satirical poem about earning money online.

Jennifer M Scott – “Garnet Teardrops” - Inspired by a art created by a fellow blogger.

Dragon Blogger – “You've Got Mail” - Poem crafted from random words about a spam email.

Dragon Blogger – “Strength of Loss” - Memorial Day poem about losing a loved one in the service.

When I Wander – “European Patent Office (EPO) Experience, Cherished” - I have so many good things to tell about my previous colleagues and how I wish I still work with them. Now that I am in another company, all I can do is to thank each of them in a form of poem.

Deeptesh Sen – “Boatman and some love songs” - The divine, a girl and a boatman.......the air of surreal tunes.

Deeptesh Sen – “Angel of dark” - Surreal love and fear....and some soft magic!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blog Book Tour - Pamela K. Kinney and Haunted Virginia

Pamela K. Kinney, whose Cthulhu mythos story is featured in my horror fiction podcast Fear on Demand, has a new book called Haunted Virginia, and she's doing a blog book tour since the book's official release is today.

I'm happy to welcome her here as a guest here on my corner of the web today, and I hope you'll seek out her book. Part of my goal with Fear on Demand is to promote the authors who are contributors, so let's help make her appearance on the 'cast worthwhile. And of course, feel free to share this information with anyone who's interested in the paranormal.

Haunted Virginia sounds interesting. Apparently even Mothman, one of my favorite monsters, has put in an appearance within the state's borders.

From Pamela:
"Today, my new nonfiction ghost book, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales is officially released. You can find it at brick and mortar bookstores and online retailers (like Amazon). If it is not in the bookstore, they can order it for you.

So, if you like ghost stories, monsters, myths, legends, urban legends, little known myths of famous Virginians like Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington and much more, then this might be the book for your summer beach read.

Be prepared to take a journey into Pamela K. Kinney's fantastic dreams of horror, science fiction and fantasy, plus the ghosts and legends of two nonfiction ghost book, Haunted Richmond, Virginia and Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales."

From the back cover
ISBN: 978-0-7643-3281-4
256 Pages

Virginia is unique with haunting myths, legends, and yes, even true stories that may sound like legends.

Take a ghostly tour of this historic state to learn about the Bunnyman urban legend and what happens to mortals at his Bunnyman Bridge in Clifton at midnight on Halloween. Discover the myths that surround Edgar Allan Poe and other famous Virginians.

See why Natural Bridge is actually a haunted tourist attraction; and what makes the Great Dismal Swamp so creepy: Is it the ghosts or Bigfoot? Meet the Witch of Pungo in Virginia Beach.

Find out that Mothman and the Jersey Devil weren’t just seen in their own states, but actually visited Virginia at one time.

Read about witches, demons, monsters, ghosts, pirates, strange animals, and Civil War legends. Visit an amazing, frightening, and even intriguing Virginia that you never knew existed.

A little about Pamela
Pamela K. Kinney is an author of published horror, science fiction, fantasy, horror, poetry, and so far, two nonfiction books, Haunted Richmond, Virginia and Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales, both published by Schiffer Publishing. Using the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, she has published erotic and sweet paranormal/fantasy/science fiction romance, also poetry and a couple of erotic horror stories, including the current ones, erotic urban fantasy, Being Familiar With a Witch by Phaze Books and erotic Lovecraftian horror novella, Unwitting Sacrifice, by Under the Moon. She also has done acting on stage and in films. Find out more about her at:

or at either of her MySpaces: and

She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house and husband sometimes suffers for it!

Order now from these outlets:

Schiffer Books


Barnes and Noble



and -- this is Sid speaking again -- Powell's the City of Books is listing it too!

I hope you'll check it out and look for Pamela's other books and stories as well, and you can follow Pamela on Twitter as well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Giving Voice in Age of the Zombies

A long time ago, I mean that, a long time ago, I decided my artistic leanings such as they are, tilt toward writing rather than acting. A lot of people should probably appreciate that. The world's been spared me as a performer, until now. But as you know, as opportunities come my way I've been doing a little acting of late.

Not too long ago, I got a chance to do some voice acting. I'll be heard on an episode of the audio drama podcast 19 Nocturne Boulevard in the near future, and I'm Jake in a new ongoing audio series called Age of the Zombies.

I wrote an adaptation of War of the Worlds--$5.95 on iTunes--a couple of years ago, and that was recorded in the usual radio way with actors together in a studio, but digital audio and iPod popularity are making all kinds of new dramas possible.

Vocal talent extraordinaire Glen Hallstrom, aka Smokestack Jones, who's doing intros and reading some of the stories for Fear on Demand, discovered the Age of the Zombies auditions and suggested I send in a tryout. They needed a Southern voice.

So, I sent in my mp3 files, and they asked me to be an ex-military guy in a world overrun by zombies.

The result is available now on iTunes or on the Necropolis Studios website, all for free. Glen's in the show, too.

It's really a cool zombie story, written by Dave Frizzell, and it's fun to play in his sandbox, participating in the storytelling by giving voice to a character he created.

Check it out for a great Romero-esque universe narrated by a young woman caught in the midst of the madness.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Horror Podcast Episode - Ashes to Ashes

We have a new episode posted at It's the first in our "Flash of Fear" flash fiction installments.

We're trying to keep to a monthly schedule, but occasionally, short installments will come along as mid-month bonus episodes.

This installment is from Amy Grech, and it's a ghostly little tale called "Ashes to Ashes."

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Wind-Up Ceremony And The Humanities

My critical paper is in the mail. Funny, for as much as I hammer keyboards and churn out words, sometimes it's tough to switch gears and slip into critical mode.

I spent the better part of a couple of weeks researching and contemplating Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and their diverse use of magical realism.

We'll see how the paper flies with my advisor, but regardless of the outcome or requests for second drafts, it's been an interesting experience.

The novels harness the incursion of magical elements into realistic settings in quite different ways, though both follow heroes on voyages, postmodern journeys to adopt the patois of academic speech.

Toru, hero of Wind-Up Bird is an unemployed thirty-year-old slacker in '90s Japan, a man out of step with Japanese culture given his laid-back style. When he's faced with finding a missing wife, he isolates himself at the bottom of a dry well and is drawn into a dreamlike world to rescue wife Kumiko, after discovering his marriage is not as mundane as he thought. Ultimately he's faced with breaking curses of many kinds from the past in order to save the present.

The Silko novel is about a different journey. Tayo, a native American veteran, is struggling to recover from his experiences on the Bataan Death March. He must meet with a shaman who has modified and modernized sacred Native American stories to help him heal from the modern witchery of war and loss. Ultimately he's drawn into the stories of his people and meetings with sacred, legendary figures that put him on the path to recovery.

Both books are great, immersive stories, and after reading my paper Christine had observations about the works as well. She'd read an article a while back about the dangers to the humanities in troubled times that quoted Yale professor Anthony T. Kronman:

“...the need for my older view of the humanities is, if anything, more urgent today,” he added, referring to the widespread indictment of greed, irresponsibility and fraud that led to the financial meltdown. In his view this is the time to re-examine “what we care about and what we value,” a problem the humanities “are extremely well-equipped to address.”

In Wind-Up Bird and Ceremony, Christine observed, the authors are looking into the soul and the core of what it means to be human.

It's certainly meritorius effort, and I'm glad to have spent some time working to understand the novels better.

Novels reject the pat answers, the party line, the rhetoric and the pablum of doctrinaires, and they explore the heart of existence, and those explorations should not be shouted down by the shrill voices that fill our universe and refuse contemplation while repeating tired mantras.

Kafka said we should read novels that wound and stab us. It's true, because they seek truth, challenge complacency and take us on quests toward questions that open new understanding.

Wrestling a week with words, I feel a little stronger.

I have come out the other side as I promised, standing perhaps a little straighter.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I'm Working on a Paper

As part of the MFA program, we have to write one long critical paper. It's a 20-pager. We all write 20 pages in our sleep, right?

Still it's a tough 20 pages to craft, must be thoughtful, analytical and meaningful.

I'm looking at how magic realism is harnessed in the books The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Ceremony. One is Japanese, and one is Native American. I recommend them both.

They're both great novels, fantastical and thoughtful, perplexing and engaging. Formulating all that into critical analysis is a little rough.

I'll be back when I come out the other side. In the meantime, like the protagonist of Wind-Up Bird, I'll be down a dry well confronting demons.

See you soon.

Friday, May 01, 2009

New Episode of Fear on Demand - Dark Eyes is now available

A new episode of Fear on Demand is live today. It features a great story by Pamela K. Kinney, and it's read by Sonia Perozzi who plays sparrow and Rachel Nolen on Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery audiodrama podcast.

Pamela is author of several books including Haunted Richmond and Haunted Virginia. Visit her website here. I don't want to give too much away about "Dark Eyes," because it's a really cool, Lovecraftian story with some surprises.

It reminds me of a female version of Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Checkout the Wormwood show as well. It's an excellent, ongoing drama that's loads of fun, and it has ghostly and horror elements.

Listen online or download here or via iTunes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wonderful World

Guess I can check "Be in a movie" off my Bucket List now. I haven't heard from anyone who's seen it, so I could be on the cutting room floor, but Wonderful World with Matthew Broderick premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last night. That's the flick in which I had the opportunity to work as an extra a while back.

(See some coverage of the premiere here or watch the trailer.)

I play a lawyer, so look for me in a courtroom scene. Shaved the beard, kept the mustache, donned a blue suit. Tried to look lawyerly. Had no idea there were magical realism elements though there appear to be in the trailer.

Here's how it happened
This all started because they were filming Stephen King's The Mist in Shreveport, known these days as SoHo - South Hollywood. Thinking it would be cool to pass through a scene in a Stephen King movie, I sent in my head shot and contact information, and didn't get anything.

Life goes on.

Flash forward to months after I forgot about The Mist. I was in Portland, ironically staying at a movie-themed boutique hotel, when I got an e-mail from the casting agency. They'd been trying to call me. While I hadn't been needed for The Mist, or a multitude of Feast sequels, they'd kept my pic on file, and they needed someone who looked like me for a movie with Matthew Broderick, written and directed by Joshua Goldin, who wrote Darkman. It was thus not without fanboy virtues.

The scheduling worked out, so about a week after I returned to Texas, I drove over to Shreveport one Friday evening. It was the last day of filming, so everyone was pulling an all-nighter.

Holding Pattern
I went to the extras holding area, a former guitar store, where they gave me my blue suit to put on, and introduced me to the other "lawyers." Then we sat for a while listening to people who had been in Feast 2 or 3 discussing running frantically from monsters for eight to 10 hours. I also picked up a story that some of the extras in The Mist passed out while wearing haz-mat suits in the Louisiana heat.

Sometimes, fortuity comes disguised as missed opportunity.

Got to know my fellow attorneys while we sat around. One was a professor, one a chaplain and one was in oil and gas. Everybody was pretty much there for the fun of it like I was. One guy had walked Kevin Costner's dog in a street scene in Mr. Brooks. Set in Portland, filmed in Shreveport.

I was wondering if any of the stars would be showing up, when the oil man pointed out a guy wearing a Greek fisherman's cap as James Burton.


"You know, Elvis's James Burton."

Or guitar legend James Burton as the case may be.

"Oh yeah, he used to have really long hair."

Matthew Broderick passed through a little while later to shoot a DVD-extra interview in a back room.

After dinner with the crew served from catering trucks, we went down a couple of doors to Shreveport's courthouse to settle in to courtroom where second or third assistant directors put us in place next to Drew Waters now of Friday Night Lights.

Basically, I got to participate in storytelling in a completely different way than I'm used to, and I got a front row seat to watch Matthew Broderick shoot a major speech. I was kind of surprised at how subdued it seemed. On film, larger than life comes naturally I suppose. Theatricality is for the stage.

I pretty much memorized his speech as they filmed it from different angles, though I'll keep it to myself lest it be a spoiler. Kind of makes me aware of how things were for the judges in say The Cain Mutiny Court Martial on Broadway.

Like, I say, I don't know if I wound up on the cutting room floor or not, but it was loads of fun either way. Since I couldn't make it to the premiere ;-), I'll be watching local listings or waiting for the DVD.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Song Title? Cat's On the Baker's Rack

My cat, Oliver Littlechap, makes himself at home on the baker's rack just off our kitchen.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What's on the iPod? - M Roundtable at Twilight Blood

The other night, I was fortunate to join John Moore of Twilight Blood and Julie Hoverson of 19 Nocturne Blvd. in a discussion of Fritz Lang's M.

We had a great time dissecting the classic thriller and Peter Lorre's performance as one of the first serial killer's on film.

The discussion is now posted on Twighlight Blood's website, so drop by and listen there or check out Twilight Blood free on iTunes.

It's a very nice weekly podcast with horror news and reviews of books and movies.

John ribs me a little about Gnelfs in the discussion. Copies of Gnelfs can be found used at Abe Books.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Poem Found in a Tweet

With apologies to William Carlos Williams:

Christine's gardening
Left a red wheelbarrow
By the back door.

I'm not sure
what depends on it,
but it looks like rain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Making of The Apron Pic

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail the other day from Carole Lanham, The Horror Homemaker, inviting me to join her wonderfully wicked gallery of writers and artists in aprons.

My first thought was to do a quick photo in our kitchen wearing an old apron that my dad used to wear on Saturdays, the one day a week he fixed dinner. Steak and French fries!

Then I realized some cleverness was happening on the gallery page, so I decided I'd better do something a little more than just don the old Hot Tunes/Hot Pans apron.

I asked Christine if she'd participate. She agreed, asking only that I acknowledge that she indulged a whim.

Then I enlisted my buddy, Jeff, photographer extraordinaire. He recently completed his first online photo/Photoshop tutorial on making his girlfriend into a super hero. (It's much better than this one.)

He still had the handy green sheet he'd utilized as a backdrop, so we strung that up, put Christine in a chair and placed my hand strategically.

A few great shots by Jeff later, Phase I was complete.

After dinner, for Phase II, I slipped on the apron, grabbed a few props, and Christine took some shots of me. Selecting one with a slightly-less maniacal expression, I set to work.

Knocking out the green background and making some use of the magnetic lasso tool, I removed Christine's head, then dragged the head as a new layer onto my pic.

With a few tweaks using free transform, I adjusted the size a little. Then I touched up the relatively smooth neckline, so to speak, with a slightly jagged brush acquired long ago from deviantArt.

It was all oddly satisfying in a creative way, though there are far great Photoshop users than I.

The result along with many other fun shots can be viewed at The Apron Hall of Fame. Carole also has an invitation to other writers, so feel free to submit your own. Come on, do it. It's fun.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Was Zombie When Zombie Wasn't Cool Apparently

Word up is that zombies are all the rage again.

"Zombies are the New Vampires" by Lev Grossman in the new issue of TIME speculates that just as "Night of the Living Dead" symbolically served the Vietnam Era, zombies are now ready to serve our current era of uncertainty.

I've always been fond of zombies, those mumbling shamblers who offer nightmares as they long for brains.

I did a zombie graphic novel for Caliber Press once upon a time. I may have mentioned it here before. I tend to go on that way.

While it tipped the hat to "Night of the Living Dead" zombies, it was really more about voodoo zombies and New Orleans.

It was called "Sirens" because the central villain, Felicity Green, had co-opted voudon for her own, evil ends, and sent young women out to find victims to help her maintain eternal youth.

The hero, Jeff Delmer, encountered one of the "Sirens" and quickly found himself turning into a zombie. The story focused on his efforts to avoid that end. Helping him was a previous victim who wasn't mostly zombie, he was all zombie and shambled through the French Quarter in a floppy hat and trenchcoat to conceal his status.

The artwork by John Drury and Chuck Bordell had a wonderful noir feel., and it's an item on my backlist of which I remain quite proud.

Enjoy a few panels at the right, but don't mess with me. I've got a Creative Commons license.

I almost forgot. The audio drama for which I'm providing my voice is zombie-themed. I am in the midst of zombie. Details on that as they develop.

Addendum II
Apparently at least the second part of Sirens is available on ebay at the moment.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

My Life Counted In Pages Meme Entry

Memes take time so I've been avoiding most of them since the ubiquitous "25 Things," except for the "Which Doctor Who Are You?" quiz, which I took on Facebook. The Tenth Doctor, thank you very much.

"The Life Counted In Pages Meme" on Alan Baxter's blog, which I discovered via his Twitter Tweet about it, looked interesting, however. And, yeah, it looked like an easy way to get a blog post and stay in touch with everyone in the blogosphere. Sooooo here are my answers.

What author do you own the most books by?

Probably Edgar Rice Burroughs because I have most of his series, some inherited from a neighbor many, many moons ago. Ross MacDonald is probably high as well since I own most of the Lew Archer books and have never given any of them up. Ditto Raymond Chandler. Heavy contenders are Koontz and King as well. Then there's Thomas H. Cook whose work I love and respect a lot.

What book do you own the most copies of?

The books I have the most copies of are books I wrote? Need one? We can barter like Tao Lin.

What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Go with the first answer that pops into your mind right? This is from the '70s - Irma Arden aka Saturn Girl . She was Lightning Lad, or Garth Ranzz's girlfriend--at least back then--in the "Legion of Super Heroes." Lightning Lad was always my favorite Legion member. In the '70s we had similar hairstyles.

What book have you read more than any other?

I'm not big on re-reading books. I have thumbed and re-thumbed Chandler quite a bit, also "Heart of Darkness."

What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

There was a book called "The Saturday Gang," I liked a lot. I was probably heavily into The Three Investigators books around that time as well. In those days they were Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators. They investigated ghosts and hauntings that usually turned out to be the schemes of evil-doers though they decided Bigfoot might be out there somewhere.

What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

I've been reading a lot of respected works for my MFA program. Can't say that I've read a bad one or really even one I didn't like.

What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Proably "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami. Intriguing, challenging, imaginative. Great all around. I read Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!" for the first time recently as well. Definitely inaccessible yet brilliant and ultimately exciting on an entertainment level. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Marquez is another great one that I finished in August.

What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

"Absalom, Absalom!" would probably qualify. Maybe other works by Faulkner. I've never tackled "Ulysses."

Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

Wow, I'm woefully short on the Russians. I like Dumas, Hugo. Go Musketeers. Go Hunchback. OK the French.

Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?

Definitely The Bard. I like "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and "A Comedy of Errors" is one of the funniest pieces ever.

Austen or Eliot?

Austen, I suppose. I rather liked "Clueless."

What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

I've read a lot of the classics, but there are probably plenty of gaps. Obviously the Russians also.

What is your favorite novel?

That's always a tough one for me. I'm such an eclectic. I like "The Big Sleep," "The Blue Hammer" and Thomas H. Cook's "Breakheart Hill," on the mystery front, Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" and King's "'Salem's Lot," in the horror realm. Also "The Ceremonies." Wayne Sallee's "The Holy Terror." The Faulkner I mentioned and Bradbury in general and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" in particular.William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition." "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins.

What is your favorite play?

"Amadaus," I suppose. I saw it on Broadway years ago then read it. Brilliant in many, many ways.

What is your favorite poem?

"The Hollow Men" jumps to mind. So does Frost. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Yeah, because of the "Paper Chase" episode. "The Red Wheelbarrow." I'll try to find ya some more and bring 'em to ya.

What is your favorite essay?

"Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police" by Martin Gansberg about the Kitty Genovese slaying. Read it in a college English class and it's stayed with me. There is another by Orwell about witnessing an execution by hanging. Both are compelling examinations of all of us and our humanity or inhumanity.

What is your favorite short story?

"A Rose For Emily" by Faulkner, "The Light of Other Days" by Bob Shaw, "Grail" By Harlan Ellison. I could go on and on.

What is your favorite non-fiction?

I wish I could recall a piece of poignant, meaningful nonfiction but nothing's surfacing at the moment.

What is your favorite graphic novel?

Pick one of the "Sandman" editions. Brilliant, genius!

What is your favorite science fiction?

Hard to pick a favorite. Maybe "Neuromancer" or Asimov's "Bicentenial Man" novella.

Who is your favorite writer?

Impossible to name just one. Poe, Dickens, Chandler,

Who is the most over rated writer alive today?

It would be kind of crappy to name one. Catch me when I'm not in as good a mood. I will say there are writers who catch on and become very, very popular with people who don't read much. Since these are people who rarely read novels, they read a book by fill-in-the-blank author only because it's what everybody is reading. Then it's pretty good and they think, "This writer is a god." When really the writer they're worshipping is imitating five better books. I could write a whole post about this. Stay tuned.

What are you reading right now?

"Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko. It's for my study of magic realism novels that's part of my MFA work.

Best Memoir?

Do the David Sedaris books count?

Best History?

Shelby Foote's "Civil War

Best mystery or noir?

Chandler and MacDonald as I've mentioned, anything by Jim Thompson plus "The Ice Harvest" by Scott Phillips. John D. MacDonald also.


I'll steal the note I read on Alan's blog to wrap up:

Consider yourself tagged if you’ve read this and like the idea. If you do copy it to your own blog, leave me a comment so that I can come and have a look. And leave any comments with your own answers to any of the questions above if you can’t be bothered to do the whole thing.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New Fear on Demand Podcast Episode Up

Episode 4 of Fear on Demand is now posted at This month's featured story is from Michael Laimo. It's a cool, ghostly story called Room 412, and it's read by a great reader named Gord McKenzie.

My portion's still not what I want it to be, but it's a little better than before. Guess I'll get there eventually.

Hope everyone who's interested has a chance to give it a listen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Some things you just don't argue about in our office.

This all started because we were talking about high heels. Apparently there are some women's styles in which the heels are pushing four-inches. I keep up with a lot of things, but that's not generally an issue that's on my radar.

I recalled, however, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Capt. Picard employed the holodeck to re-create a Dixon Hill private eye novel of the 1940s. Gates McFadden as Doctor Crusher had to don high heels for the first time and had trouble navigating steps in them. Apparently in the future they won't have high heels. Maybe that's science fiction.

"Yeah, that was like the one from the show with Kirk," one co-worker said.

"They didn't have the holodeck in the original series," I said.

"Yes they did."

"Where's Rebecca?" I asked.

We have one uniform-owning Trekkie. Yeah, Trekkie not Trekker, some of you know what I'm talking about, but I figured she'd be suitable confirmation.

She was out.

I went a little further up the hall and found our graphic artist. "You ever watch the Original Series."

"Of Star Trek?

I was willing to forgive him that. He's young, and I am confident he would know what I meant if I said something like: "These aren't the droids we're looking for. " If, you know, I were going to cross references.

"Of Star Trek.," I assured. "You can confirm there were no holodecks in TOS, right?"

"Right, they didn't have holodecks."

We went to the back of the building again where the debate was raging.

"OK," I said, hit it."

"There were no holodecks in the one with Kirk," said the artist dutifully.

"But when I watched with my father, they had them," my co-worker contended, refusing to concede.

We got the Boss.

"Holodecks? Original series?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"But they went into the past?" said the unrelenting co-worker.

"But not with holodecks. Besides on holodecks they weren't really going into the past...but that's a different issue. There were no holodecks in TOS."

"But what about...?"

"Wait a minute," I said. "Are you talking about an episode where they went back to the '30s and met Joan Collins by jumping through the Guardian arch?"


The Boss, the artist and I all responded in unison: "City on the Edge of Forever."

Written by Harlan Ellison," I added.

"You know who wrote it?" the co-worker asked.

"It's kind of a big deal. He and Gene Roddenberry used to argue..."

It's a little like The Big Bang Theory in here," our statistician observed. "You guys know episode titles? It's like Sheldon."

"I can remember a time I forgot the title of Balance of Terror ," I said defensively, trying not to sound too much like a nerd. Too late.

"You know, it's not part of the cannon, but the Guardian Arch did appear in the animated series," the boss noted.

I had to think for a second. Then I looked at him and nodded.

"Yesteryear!" we said in unison.

"Spock goes back in time to save his younger self," I blurted.

The argument was obviously resolved now.

The Takeaway: Never, never argue with even an aging nerd about The Original Series.

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