Monday, May 31, 2004


As an academic (Master's degree parlayed into a teaching job), I'll probably never outgrow the school year, leading me to relax in the summer and feel an extra prick of cold come September.

That said, I'm grateful that three of North America's summer months (counting May, with Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer) have thirty-one days. The thirty-first has often been a day to complete any unfinished business before heading into the new month.

My favorite 31st is in July, because it's deep into my relaxed phase while still having the whole month of August before the dreaded September. However, as this year brought my first extended time off from school, I'm finding May 31st not too shabby--a last day for serious thought before my brain shifts into cruise control on a summer-long road trip:

Baby, let's cruise
away from here.
Don't be confused,
the way is clear.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Justice League

By chance, I caught the three-part series finale of "Justice League" that just aired on Cartoon Network. In it, the Thanagarians (Hawkgirl's people) offer to help Earth fend off an alien invasion. Most of the Justice League is ready to cooperate, except of course, Batman. And of course, Batman (still WB Animation's favorite hero) is right. It's learned that Hawkgirl was actually assigned to spy on Earth to see if it could withstand an attack from the Thanagarians' archenemy, the Gordanians.

What even Hawkgirl doesn't know is her people don't plan to make a stand on Earth, but to sacrifice the planet to build a jumping-off point to attack the Gordanians. In short, for most of the episode, the League--especially Green Lantern--feels betrayed by Hawkgirl. By the end of the episode, even though disaster is averted (at the cost of GL's power ring and Batman's Watchtower), Hawkgirl resigns from the Justice League to go off on her own.

Beginning in August, Cartoon Network will air "Justice League Unlimited," featuring new characters like Supergirl, Green Arrow, and (gulp) Firestorm. In all likelihood, I'll be watching. For now, though, I have to tip my cap to this version of JL. It's not easy to manage big name players like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash. Bruce Timm and company did an admirable job.

Memorial Weekend Plans

Nothing scheduled this weekend, so I might have some time to finish the DetecToday read, DIRT by Sean Doolittle. On Monday, cousins are coming to visit for a week and USA is running a JAG Memori-All-Day Marathon. I wonder when it will start to feel like summer in my mind this year.

Friday, May 28, 2004

"A Little Trouble" the title of my third C.J. Stone story just published in Shred of Evidence, detailing how C.J. came to own the Grumman G21 Goose Miss Liberty. The May 2004 issue also features work by Stacey Cochran, Andy Miller, Ed Lynskey, John A. Broussard, and Stephen D. Rogers. My thanks once again to Shred editor Megan Powell. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

"Enterprise" Finale

In last night's season finale, the Enterprise destroyed a key sphere, saving the Xindi homeworld in the Expanse while Captain Archer destroyed the Xindi superweapon that threatened Earth. Finally, in a Planet of the Apes-style turn, Enterprise ends up in the midst of WWII, with a badly burned Archer found by Nazi Germany. For the last shot, the camera pans up to a sinister blue-faced alien. Ooh.

Shrek a Green Machine

On the heels of record-breaking ticket sales for Shrek 2 comes word that two more sequels are planned, the third bringing back Antonio Banderas as swashbuckling Puss in Boots. While I've loved Shrek so far, I hope they don't go to the well too often. Then again, unless you go one time too many, how do you know to stop?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"NCIS" Finale

"NCIS" finished its first season with Gibbs and company finally tracking down the Hamas terrorist whose first appearance at midseason shook them up. They close in only to learn that the terrorist (Ari) is actually a deep cover Mossad agent who earlier held Ducky, Kate, and Gerald hostage to prove himself to Hamas.

Tonight, Ari fakes a plot to kidnap the American and Israeli leaders, and one of his helpers is a blonde Swedish Muslim played by none other than Josie Davis (Sarah Powell on "Charles in Charge.")

It was a nice, twisty, never-what-it-seems episode, but a bit of a letdown to learn such a good bad guy was actually a good guy.

New Hardluck Stories Zine

The Spring Issue of Hardluck Stories Zine is now up. Just over three weeks ago, I began documenting my latest writing project, a story for Hardluck that I re-imagined and wrote in less than a week to meet the deadline. Though the story was not selected, I had a great time writing it, a sprint as opposed to my usual jog. Hopefully I can continue to run with ideas, next time maybe not so close to deadline.

Perusing the stories that were selected takes the sting out of rejection. As the Syms commercial says, "These are names you must know," that have made the rounds of quality websites and small press journals: Plots with Guns Associate Editor Trevor Maviano, the ubiquitous Stephen D. Rogers, fellow Lynx Eye alum Andy Henion, crime fiction maven Sarah Weinman, Plots with Guns author Brandon Hebert, and noir newcomer Patrick J. Lambe.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Health and Science Update

A couple of AP stories I found fascinating: A combination of therapies helped regrow nerve fibers in lab rats; and a robot has been taught origami.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

"That's Gotta Hurt."

Last week, I blogged about Steven Culp doing double-duty on "JAG" and "Enterprise." His characters Clayton Webb and Major Hayes respectively were casualties of season-ending drama. Webb died on a secret CIA op, having lied to Mac about his location. Hayes died a hero's death, in a firefight with Xindi-Reptillians, having sent every other member of his team back to Enterprise.

Watching the "Enterprise" preview, I didn't think Hayes would survive. Webb's death was also telegraphed in the "JAG" finale. And now Culp is out two gigs in one week. That's rough. I wonder what's next for the fine actor.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Dean Cain as Conrad Dean

In the upcoming CBS series Clubhouse, Dean Cain plays the star third baseman captain of the New York Empires. The show actually spins on the exploits of a teenaged boy who takes a batboy position on the team.

Already, I charge this show with several counts of lack of imagination. "Empire" sounds too close to "Umpire." The Empire uniforms are blue and white with a logo that looks like a white Met symbol. Cain's character seems like a mingling of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. And the character's name: if his first name had been Dean, the creator would only be guilty of Tony Danza syndrome (Tony Banta, Tony Micelli, Tony DiMeo...). As it is, Conrad Dean sounds like a Bizarro version of Dean Cain, not to mention Conrad Bain.

"What you talkin' bout, Mr. D?"

Cosby on Ebonics

From IMDb:

Cosby Attacks Lower Class African-Americans

Comedian Bill Cosby embarrassed the National Association For Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP) at a gala on Monday - by attacking lower class African-Americans. The legendary star was speaking in Washington DC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling - which eradicated segregated schooling in America - but shocked organizers by using the platform to unfavorably compare sixties civil rights activists with today's youth. He said, "These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids - $500 sneakers for what? I can't even talk the way these people talk, 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!" Cosby then added his thoughts that petty criminals who are shot dead should not be a source of sorrow. He explained, "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, saying, 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

It's worth noting that Cosby holds a Doctor of Education degree. He is not speaking out against the developmentally-disabled, who have a harder time learning language than others. He is cracking down on the laziness and insecurity leading some people of every race to present themeselves not as well as they can. These people want to seem cool or they are afraid to improve themselves. Being educated does not brainwash people; it does not make them forget where they came from. It does present more options in life. It's then the individual's decision what to do next.

Pistons Pound Nets

The Detroit Pistons beat the New Jersey Nets 90-69 in the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. New Jersey's leader, Jason Kidd, went 0-for-8 from the field and was held scoreless for the first time in his career. In fairness, everyone knows Kidd was playing with pain.

Now we'll get to see the East's two most complete teams, the Pistons and the Pacers, face off. In the West, it's the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Lakers. I predict Detroit and L.A. in the Finals. If L.A. has Kobe, I give them the edge to win it all. Without Kobe, I think the Pistons will win, playing solid defense on fresher legs.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"Dude, Where's the General?"

From ETOnline, I hope this casting buzz dies like Nic Cage as Superman:

Sexy JESSICA SIMPSON might be slipping on some short-shorts real soon! Industry buzz that the singer is close to nabbing the coveted role of Daisy Duke in the movie version of 'The Dukes of Hazzard' is growing. At one point, BRITNEY SPEARS had been talked about for the part, but recently only Jessica's name has popped up in reports. ASHTON KUTCHER and PAUL WALKER's names have been bandied about as possibilities to play the Duke boys.

Speaking of "Enterprise" and "JAG"...

Steven Culp (CIA agent Clayton Webb on "JAG" and MACO Major Hayes on "Enterprise") revealed in a chat yesterday that he is an avid reader. His favorites include the works of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald.

Which Author's Fiction are You?

Dale Stoyer forwarded another personality quiz, this one asking, "Which Author's Fiction are You?"

My result:

Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker writes you, you wonderfully urbane,
witty boozehound, you.

Which Author's Fiction are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I am urbane and witty, but I'm not a big drinker. To the "What are you drinking?" question, I answered "Lemonade."

"Enterprise" Goes up Against "JAG"

As the networks shuffle their shows for next fall, "Enterprise" will land on Fridays at 9pm, in the same timeslot as "JAG" on CBS.

My favorite show this season, "NCIS," retains the Tuesday 8pm slot at CBS, while ABC is dumping most of its comedies, including you-knew-it-wouldn't-last "I'm With Her" and "It's All Relative."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Angel Flies the Coop

Joss Whedon promised a big, dark finale for Angel, and I found it not that bad. Lots of fighting, a couple of good death scenes, but I didn't have the sense that things were over. Maybe I've seen too many overdramatic finales. This one was not overdramatic. In the end, Angel, Spike, Illyria, and Gunn were about to do battle with a massive demon horde. Quite fitting for an episode titled "Not Fade Away." Really, what more can you ask for than to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and go out in a blaze of glory?

Angel's parting line, "Let's go to work," reminded me of that final cell phone call from one of the 9/11 planes as the passengers prepared to put up a fight: "Let's roll."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Sports and Other Diversions

The MSG, Fox Sports and YES Networks have been unscrambled in my area for a few months now, and in addition to seeing more Yankee games on YES, I get to reconnect with another favorite sport on FSN, volleyball. The six-person college game was shown often as I recall, and the AVP Beach tour shows on weekends.

I learned to play volleyball when I managed the team at St. Mary's Boys' High (which went co-ed in my last year, not enough time to meet the girls), and later followed pros like Sinjin Smith, Karch Kiraly, Holly McPeak, and Jackie Silva.

Also on FSN is "Fox Sports One," a variety show hosted by luminous avid golfer Lisa Dergan.

RIP Tony Randall

The AP reports Tony Randall died in his sleep Monday night of complications from a long illness. He was 84.

I'll always have the images of Randall as Felix Unger spearing Oscar's cigar with his umbrella and developing pictures in his darkroom. Like Jack Klugman and Tom Bosley, Randall's was an unmistakable kindly voice. One more I'll miss.

New Books

My latest book order from eCampus:

Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom and Conqueror Worm; author Mignola blends just the right amount of ancient mythology with modern cynicism.

First Blood and Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell; the book that inspired the movies First Blood and Rambo was actually published in 1972 with Vietnam even fresher in people's memories.

I was turned on to Morrell with The Fifth Profession, the first book I read completely for pleasure. It was a great ride, and it should be good getting back to him. It should be neat, too, to read his fiction along with his writing philosophies in the latter book, as I've done with Lawrence Block.

Lost Light by Michael Connelly; I've been meaning to get back to Connelly after starting The Black Echo two years ago. I had been trying to read too many books at once. With this book, Harry Bosch becomes a PI. I'm intrigued.

"If You Don't Know Me By Now..."

...I wouldn't say you will never, never, never know me, but it may be some time before we meet. Like many readers, fans, and writers, I enjoy attending signings, readings, et cetera, but how often I can attend is another matter.

Since 1998, I've attended five signings at Partners & Crime: Robert Parker, Robert Crais, Lawrence Block, George Pelecanos, and Lee Child. I would have liked to attend more. I'm quite sociable (as I hope those who've met me will attest) and in good health (had a physical yesterday, causing me to miss Donald E. Westlake at P&C), but I'm also on Long Island without a car, often meaning "without a ride," with the nearest train station a forty-minute walk away.

Actually, I've done the walk and I don't mind it with good light, but all these factors have to work out...

Someday soon we all will be together,
if the fates allow.
until then we'll have to
muddle through somehow.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Keeping the Score

I'm a fan of TV theme songs, sometimes more memorable than the shows they preceed. Some of my favorites are "Magnum, P.I.," "Quantum Leap," "Spenser For Hire," and "Mission: Impossible." From a Hollywood Reporter article comes the following insight from Steve Bramson, composer on "JAG" and "NCIS":

"Navy NCIS" (CBS)
"Don Bellisario (the series' creator) wanted something that was distinctively different. He wanted to take a big step away from 'JAG,' so that 'Navy NCIS' would have its own identity. (Usually,) we score 'JAG' the same way a feature film is scored -- like a minimovie -- more traditionally, with an acoustic orchestra and strings and brass. For 'Navy NCIS,' we took a leave of the typical approach to 'JAG' (by making it) a rhythm-driven show, using drums, electronic sounds and pulses to drive it. It's more of an ambient feeling of energy and tension for different scenes, as opposed to using the traditional melodic and harmonic kind of music (normally used) for a film or TV show like 'JAG.' Don is also trying more contemporary ways of shooting and cutting the show, and he wanted the music to be in sync with that -- (it's) the idea of music working hand-in-hand with how he cuts the images. I think it's a good marriage and a good approach.

"The most challenging for me was going from a show like 'JAG' -- which is entering its ninth season and is a well-oiled machine -- to coming up with a whole different approach. Even though I had direction, I had to find a way to make it happen. I am used to working in a traditional manner with pencils and paper and live orchestras. ('Navy NCIS') was all done at my home studio. We recorded 80% of the score with synths at home, then to add dimension we took that work to the scoring stage and sweetened it with a group of string players and a couple of guitarists. One of the good things about working this way is that the sounds are so dramatic; that's why (this technique) works so well with scoring. We are creating (scores) in a way that give a lot of character to the (music), which is part of the fun for me, too. It was fun to see how it would all really work together. For example, I had a scene that was quite long. It was a great visual scene, kind of a dark moment between two main characters. As the camera did a very slow circle around them that took almost two minutes in a very serious tone, I had this sort of ambient drone play all by itself with just a very sparse touch of something else. It was satisfying."
-- Ada Guerin

On Short Stories

On DetecToday, we've been discussing the differences between the novel and the short story. Sarah mentioned some of my onlist comments on her blog. I'm getting to it late myself, but this space allows me to share my personal account.

I was first drawn to short stories by their length, thinking they were more managable (in the annoying Michael Kay sense of the word) than novels. Though I probably wasn't aware at the time, short stories also spoke to my reading tastes. I enjoy the ideal of "no wasted words": dialogue that conveys imagery and subtext; exposition that draws the reader in; everything with a purpose.

Three eye-opening stories for me were "Fat" by Raymond Carver, "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl, and "Wants" by Grace Paley. I also enjoyed the short suspense work of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

And for those of you with stream-of-pop-culture consciousnesses like mine, I regard the short story as Obi-Wan regarded the light saber: "An elegant weapon from a more civilized age."

"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."

I started the day by watching (for the first time) one of the modern classic movies of the P.I. genre, Chinatown. I enjoyed the movie for its realistic portrayal of a PI firm (multiple ops, contracts), its unflinching use of tough language and sex crime, and of course, Jack.

It's one of those rare occasions when a character does everything I would do in his place. There was no need to rewrite Jake Gittes.

So now, as with Hellboy, I'm going to seek out all I can on "Mr. Gitts."

License to Read

Yesterday's birthdays included the current James Bond, Pierce Brosnan (51); Janet Jackson (38); and Angel star David Boreanaz.

I'm reminded that I haven't read all of Ian Fleming's original Bond books. When budgeting time to write and time to read, writing takes precedence because I always have something to read; I don't always have something to write.

Sometimes while reading I get the urge to write, like gazing out the window during a history lecture. In the first days of Font, one of the staff's favorite activities was watching movies. Now that we see each other less often, there are fewer movies and more meals with chances to chat.

Watching movies is passive, as my philosopher friend Matt Tedesco first pointed out. I do it when I'm in the mood to take in without offering something back. The same is true of reading. The best reading gives me something to write and still engages me enough to want to return and finish reading.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Road Trip

I took a road trip yesterday to visit my brother's godparents in South Hadley, MA. They live in a condominium complex called Pine Grove Commons, and their house is set up with two independent living spaces, so they never have to come up- or downstairs--a great benefit for the elderly.

After having lunch with them (Chinese food, natch), we drove two hours to Boston, only to be stuck in traffic in Copley Square. I saw a lot, but didn't visit. :( I did see the Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts supposedly across the street from Spenser's office. Yipee.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Flashback Friday

Sarah Weinman relays this link of the Top 10 Eightiest Movies, one man's opinion of the movies which typified the footloose and fancyfree decade.

Of the movies to make his list, I must say I enjoyed The Last Dragon, and Weekend at Bernie's is one of my all-time favorite bummin' around summer movies. (Now Weekend at Bernie's 2 was cashing in.)

In response to this, here are my lists of the Good and Bad of the 80s:


10. Risky Business
9. Wall Street
8. Lethal Weapon
7. Die Hard
6. Three Amigos!
5. The Empire Strikes Back
4. Top Gun
3. Ghostbusters
2. Stand By Me
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark


10. Tango and Cash
9. Splash
8. Rambo: First Blood Part II
7. Weird Science
6. Star Trek V
5. Cocktail
4. Dirty Dancing
3. Dead Heat
2. The Karate Kid
1. Mannequin

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Bugs Bunny Under Siege

From IMdb, this report of a bizarre standoff:

Cartoon Star Burson in Police Siege

Bugs Bunny star Greg Burson has been arrested by detectives after barricading himself inside his Los Angeles home for six hours. The 54-year-old cartoon actor - who provides the voices for children's favorites Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Yogi Bear - screamed a stream of nonsensical words at cops who were alerted to his home after two women rang them claiming he was holding his roommate against her will. Armed Special Weapons And Tactics teams joined the stand-off which eventually ended when a seemingly inebriated Burson surrendered following hours of negotiations. Cops later discovered a collection of guns in his home. One officer says, "He was so drunk we couldn't tell if he was trying to do one of his voices or was just slurring his words." Officer Rudy Villarreal has confirmed all three women involved in the incident - who were unharmed - lived with Burson.

Calling all Firefly Fans

Like any proud owner of the Firefly DVD, I've been tracking the progress of the Firefly movie, SERENITY. Dale Stoyer offers a link to the latest

Dale also found this Firefly Personality Test. I'm a 61% match for the man they call Jayne.

The Big Finale

One of the first things I blogged about was the WB's cancellation of Angel. I wrote that I had given up on the show after its fourth season and looked forward to seeing the cast in other roles. With only the series finale yet to air, I've lost major interest in the show, haven't watched it since Cordelia's one-episode return/sendoff. I've taped it but am in no hurry to watch those tapes. They seem to be wrapping up various storylines with the biggest bang possible. And I don't mean that in a good way.

I'm only slightly less annoyed with season finales, which have become synonymous with cliffhangers. Remember when season finales were merely "action-packed" and not "heart-stopping"?

Let's look at the past few finales of JAG:

Season 6: Harm's Tomcat hits bad weather on his way to Mac and Mic's wedding and crashes into the ocean. Will he be rescued?

Season 7: After the rest of team thwarts a terrorist plot to launch a nuclear missile on America from a Russian diesel sub, Bud steps on a land mine in Afghanistan, blowing off part of his leg.

Season 8: After quitting JAG to rescue Mac from a spy mission gone awry in Paraguay, Harm is forced to crash-land.

And in next week's Season 9 finale: Harm suffers a personal loss, Mac receives devastating health news, and the Admiral makes a life-altering decision.

I guess I don't mind amping up the drama for final episodes, but some of the effect is lost because we know in advance when the amping-up will occur. From there, it's only a question of what shocking scenario the writers can imagine. And we all know writers can imagine quite a lot.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Some Thoughts atter Watching THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002)

One of the last movies Ben Affleck made before his hiatus in J-Land was 2002's THE SUM OF ALL FEARS based loosely on the book by Tom Clancy. This past Sunday, after treating our moms to Ayhan's Shish Kebab, Henry, my cousin Alan, and I screened the DVD.

Alan asked a fair amount of questions about how the movie compared to the book. My frequent answer was "None of this happened in the book," and to me it was a good thing. THE SUM OF ALL FEARS is the longest and worst Clancy book I've read, about Arab terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb at the Super Bowl.

Some Clancy fans on IMdb strained to reconcile the Harrison Ford movie CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER with this one. Good luck. I'm well past wanting movies to be faithful to books. I say do what works best for a movie. In the case of the Ryan franchise, the best thing to do was "retcon" Ryan (That's retroactive continuity for non-comics fans). In SUM, Ryan has been with CIA for fourteen months when the Russian president dies and is replaced by someone Ryan has researched for a paper.

Ryan goes to Russia on an American weapons inspection tour and discovers three Russian nuclear scientists are missing. He teams with John Clark (played superbly by Liev Schreiber)--called back into the field from a desk job--to locate the scientists and find out what they've been doing.

In short, all the best Clancy movie elements are here: the two superpowers grappling while spies on both sides keep the back channels open, Ryan's relationship with a father figure (Morgan Freeman in a James Earl Jones-esque role), his comparison with CIA field personnel (the professional Clark), all balanced with the everyman's desire to make a love relationship work.

I give it three out of four stars.

(Incidentally, I haven't read a Clancy book since DEBT OF HONOR, in which every link in the president's chain of succession is killed, allowing Ryan to step in, no doubt something Clancy can only dream of doing.)

"I'm a Little Bit Quixote, I'm a Little Bit Rock and Roll..."

Sarah Weinman's guest blogger Olen Steinhauer posted about translations this morning, and Sarah commented, mentioning one of my favorite books, Cervantes's DON QUIXOTE. We all know the anecdote of Quixote tilting at windmills, seeing dragons, and perhaps we've all seen the dental commercial replacing Quixote's lance with a toothbrush, but I find the genuine story all the more rich.

It helped that by the time I read it in a college class called "DON QUIXOTE and the Modern Novel," I had heard the original Broadway cast recording of Man of La Mancha, and had seen an episode of Quantum Leap in which Sam Becket leaps into an actor understudying to play Alonso Quijana. All that said, for my final two undergrad years at Hofstra (with no chemical assistance), I, like Quijana, decided to see the world and people around me not as they were, but as they might be--full of potential.

In the years following, like Quijana at the end of Cervantes's book, I've hung up the sword and armor, but every now and then:

Oh, the trumpets of glory now call me to ride...

Not Quite Red October

CNN reports a missing unmanned U.S. mini-sub was found on a beach in Norway. Submarines have always fascinated me, even bathtub subs. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and CRIMSON TIDE are two of my favorite movies. This does not mean I'll watch anything with a sub in it. Seaquest DSV didn't interest me in the least. I did watch the Kelsey Grammer comedy DOWN PERISCOPE twice (not in the theater).

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

Now that "Home" is out of my hands, I'm suddenly doing no writing (unless you count blogging and commenting). Even the shortest periods of inactivity can get to me, probably because I'm aware of how much time I spent doing no writing in the past. I'm talking months without a sheet of laser paper used.

They say if you wait for inspiration, you won't make a living as a writer, but there are periods where all one can do is wait on an idea. The key, then, is to cultivate several ideas--all at different stages of readiness. If one idea flags, don't call it a day, but switch to another idea, and another, and so on.

Every idea starts in a confusing fog that lifts a little each day until I can see the idea in its entirety. I take heart in that.

There's Cozy and then There's Casual

Yesterday I followed a thread from Sarah Weinman's blog, to Lee Goldberg's blog, to Jim Winter's blog, commenting on a New York Sun article by publisher Otto Penzler, wherein Penzler slams the cozy (subgenre of mystery where violence and death occur offstage), saying among other things, that cozies contain "not a scintilla of style, originality, or depth. They must have the texture and nuance of an infomercial, lacking only its philosophical power."

I haven't read cozies myself--I identify better with more direct, more graphic crime fiction--but I don't believe any book earnestly written by an author can be dismissed as Penzler does. I'm the first to admit I haven't read widely in any genre, including "literary fiction." Instead, I've sampled some of each and all have informed my writing.

More than any particular genre, I don't like the way certain books are marketed. I mentioned shopping for books at BJ's. The bestselling, most talked-about books are stacked there like any bulk product, a casual reader's paradise.

Casual readers lead to casual writers who try to produce the most book with the least work. I can't blame them. If my teacher gave me an A on my first assignment, I'd try to match, not exceed, that effort the next time out. If casual readers keep buying a writer's books, the writer has no incentive to change the most book/least effort routine.

Penzler believes cozy writers are casual writers. In fact, he has exposed himself as a casual writer who dismissed his subject as "throwaway" from the outset, and thus did not do enough research or fact-checking to support his premise.

Monday, May 10, 2004

What a Difference a Pad Makes

The other night we went on a shopping trip for the first time in two months. At Staples, I picked up a glorious new anti-static carpet pad for the office portion of my bedroom. My previous pad, ill-suited for carpet, had cracked in several spots and would slide slightly when I moved, eventually leaving my chair no room to roll.

Next at our local BJ's Club, I picked up three shirts and one pair of shorts for workouts, various cereal products. In the absence of LOST LIGHT by Michael Connelly, I settled for A BODY TO DIE FOR by Kate White, whose debut mystery was recommended on Reading with Ripa (which Regis Philbin calls the Beach Trash Book Club). I'll read any story well told.

Finally yesterday, Henry installed a glare-free light atop my monitor so the keyboard is well lit with no reflection off the screen. With natural light all day from my window and the 13-watt Ott Light lamp already at my bedside, I no longer need my previous incandescent track light. Energy efficiency rocks.

"I've Got a Preposition for You."

Today is Kenan Thompson's 26th birthday, which prompted me to click over to his partner Kel Mitchell's IMdb bio, where I found the following:

Kel is the middle child of two sisters. At the age of 13 he appeared in the Chicago theater production of Dirt. He has studied at Santa Monica College in California along with his buddy, Kenan Thompson.

This would have us believe a couple of strange scenarios:

1. Two sisters can give birth to a child.
2. Two sisters can share legal guardianship.

It is safe to assume (or is it?) that the amateur biographer meant Kel has two sisters, an older and a younger. The preposition between would save a lot of confusion (but not be as fun).

As my friend Dale Stoyer likes to point out, I can't stop editing.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

"Here I Am...Rock Me Like Hurricane."

I've uploaded the latest picture of myself (I mean taken today) to my various personal pages, including Gerald So - Just the Facts. If by chance you don't know what I look like, take a gander, and (gulp) comment even.

Bumming a Ride with My Characters

My Hardluck submission is officially submitted. Titled "Home", it follows a former Marine who faces a hard reunion with his sister after learning the aunt who helped raise them has died.

This is the fastest I've crafted a story from beginning to end, five days. I was encouraged upon reading that Guest Editor Charlie Stella writes fast. Up to now, I've mostly written stories a chunk-a-day over a week or two. Gearing up my pace, I stayed aware of the emotion of each scene as well as the story's momentum. I'm proud to have worked this swiftly but also thoroughly, and now I'll see where the story lands.

Hardluck's deadline helped me sharpen one of a writer's most important intangibles: openmindedness. I realized I couldn't achieve all my goals for "Home" following routes I'd chosen at the outset. All I could do was keep the final destination in mind and let the characters arrive by any route they wanted. With this temperament, I was able to recognize and implement changes more quickly and not mourn too long scenes I had to cut.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Looking at Lyrics: "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling

After writing the ending to my Hardluck submission, I played "Wherever You Will Go" from The Calling's debut album, Camino Palmero. I first heard the song's chorus in previews for the Star Trek prequel series "Enterprise":

If I could, then I would,
I'll go wherever you will go.

Way up high, or down low,
I'll go wherever you will go...

I then heard the song's opening verse on the second episode of "Smallville", in which Clark Kent battles a boy with enhanced insect abilities who has kidnapped Lana Lang intending to mate and kill her. Clark defeats Bugboy, but it's Lana's boyfriend who shows up to collect the credit:

So lately, been wond'rin'
who will be there to take my place.
When I'm gone, you'll need love
to light the shadows on your face.

The song was heavily requested after 9/11, perhaps due to the verses:

If a great weight shall fall, fall upon us all.
There between the sand and stone--
could you make it on your own?

And maybe I'll find out
a way to make it back someday,
to watch you, to guard you,
through the darkest of your day.

If a great weight shall fall, fall upon us all,
then I hope there's someone out there who
can bring me back to you.

A bit too optimistic, perhaps. Then again, illogical optimism is needed most when times are darkest. If it's accepted, you'll see my story's connection to the song as well.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Van Helsing

The initial reviews of monster-medley movie VAN HELSING are positive. I plan to see it with friends in a couple of weeks, and I'm just looking for a check-reality-at-the-door ride.

I'm sure many movie fans have noticed the tagline for VAN HELSING echoes one for 2002's SPIDER-MAN:

Peter Parker: "It is my gift; it is my curse..."

Van Helsing: "My job, my life, my curse..."

Friday, May 07, 2004

"Friends" Fanfare

The "Friends" finale aired last night, and I missed it revising my Hardluck submission. It's hard to believe "Friends" had gone ten years. I lost interest after the third season, losing track of the Ross-wants-Rachel, Rachel-wants-Ross arc.

I always thought Phoebe should end up with Joey, but then Joey couldn't move to Los Angeles for his spinoff, "Joey."

This much said, here are my Favorite Friends' lines, lyrics, and whatnot in no particular order.

1. "Monica, they are cute; they are doctors. Cute. Doctors. Doctors who are cute."
2. "He's trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre!"
3. "My scone! My scone!"
4. "Stop being so testosteroney."
5. "How you doin'?"
6. "Gum would be perfection."
7. "My sandwich? You ate my sandwich? MY SANDWICH?"
8. "The correct answer is 'Chenandeler Bong.'"
9. "That's good. Just keep rubbing your head. That'll turn back time."
10. "You kept Joey's underwear? Why, why would you do that?"

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Silent Knight Rider?

From IMdb:

Hasselhoff's 'Knight Rider' Set Back

David Hasselhoff's dreams of taking his Knight Rider TV show to the big screen have hit a snag, after a dispute with his movie studio. The Baywatch hunk has spent years trying to resurrect the hit series about a talking car and had reportedly lined up a studio to make the movie - with Ben Affleck being touted to play Hasselhoff's Michael Knight character. But the 51-year-old has parted ways with the studios after an "artistic difference". A source tells American news site The Scoop, "The studio didn't want the car to talk. David was like, 'Hello?' So he's switching studios."

Speechless K.I.T.T. aside, think of it: Ben Affleck as everyone's favorite pseudo-cool bubblehead. Perfect casting.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Cinco de Mayo - Free at Last

On this day commemorating the independence of Mexico, I'm proud to announce I've finished the first draft of my Hardluck story, and should have it polished in time to meet the deadline. In the ecstatic words of BLUE STREAK's Miles Logan, "Viva las Mexico, and ah'm out!"

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

"You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned."

I have a treatment for my Hardluck submission, but the story isn't appearing line by line on my monitor. Akin to the Blank Page Syndrome is the Blank Screen or Flashing Cursor Syndrome.

Diagnosis: It's too early in the story-birthing process to use the computer. My solution? Go down to my basement Batcave and break out the PaperMate (medium point, black; shaken, not stirred) and legal pads.

"Luke, you've switched off your targeting computer. What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I'm all right."

Monday, May 03, 2004

Now Playing in My Head: "Kung Fu Fighting"

I've spent the morning working on my aforementioned story for Hardluck, and for some reason "Kung Fu Fighting"--Jamaican Carl Douglas's one hit from 1974--is repeating in my mental CD player:

It's an ancient Chinese art,
and everybody knew their part...

There's no kung fu in my story. Yet.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Beat the Clock

I aim to meet the May 10th deadline for the Summer 2004 issue of Hardluck Stories Zine, edited by Charlie Stella. For this purpose, I'm working on what I hope will be my darkest, lonliest protagonist yet. Further info when I come up for air.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Glenn Ford and Julie Benz

Today is a birthday for Western star Glenn Ford (88) and "Buffy" and "Angel" player Julie Benz. While I haven't seen many of the films for which Ford is famous, I did see him as Jonathan Kent in SUPERMAN (1978). One of his lines is the most memorable for me: "There's one thing I do know, son, and that's you are here for a reason."

For me, the most appealing aspect of Superman lore is not the power given to Kal-El by Earth's sun, but the values and lessons in humanity taught by Jonathan and Martha Kent. I was gratified to see the father-son chemistry between John Schneider and Tom Welling on "Smallville."

Julie Benz played Darla, the vampire who sired Angel (David Boreanaz) and was his lover for a hundred and fifty years until he met Buffy. Originally expected to appear only in the Buffy pilot, Darla appeared in half the first season's episodes, and "Angel" expanded upon her history. I found Darla and Angel's relationship more interesting because it wasn't "meant to be." I find many fictional meant-to-be relationships forced. (Buffy and Angel, Lois and Clark, Zach and Kelly, Ross and Rachel...)

In real life, Benz is married to John "The Crypt Keeper" Kassir.

Tipping the Fedora

In an effort to become a paying market and defray some of its web costs, Thrilling Detective has begun using the Amazon Honor System to accept voluntary donations. Similar to PayPal, Amazon takes a 30-cent surcharge and 2.9 percent cut, but the rest helps Kevin Burton Smith maintain Thrilling as a top resource for anyone interested in P.I. fiction.

Your donation will also help me as Thrilling Fiction Editor to attract more stories and keep the Fiction section a viable outlet for writers. Thanks in advance for supporting our work. (FYI, I've donated $30 to start.)