Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

I don't see the point of reveling into the wee hours of January 1 only to spend the first day of a promise-filled new year hung-over. New Year's Eve has never been a family tradition, but New Year's Day has (All the more reason to remain sober.). In case I follow my usual tradition of sleep when the ball drops, happy new year.

My Favorite Novel of 2009

If I made new year's resolutions, one of them would be to read more than I did in 2009. You don't need me to tell you reading keeps the imagination more active than watching TV or movies. I tired of mystery/crime fiction for a time this year, and for that time didn't read much of anything. Checking my blog, though, I did manage to read some of the year's new crime/mystery/thriller (Sorry.) releases.

As I've mentioned, Paul Levine and S.J. Rozan are two of my favorite writers. Paul's fiction took a decidedly dark turn from the Solomon vs. Lord series with Illegal, while S.J. brought back her famous duo of Lydia Chin and Bill Smith after a seven-year hiatus in The Shanghai Moon. I loved both books, but I knew I would, so my favorite novel of 2009, based in part on newness, is Ridley Pearson's Killer Summer. I was most impressed with Pearson's blending of high-stakes thriller pace with small town local color.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hunt at Year's End

I haven't read as much as I'd like this year, bowing a bit to the economy. Thankfully I had the first two Gabriel Hunt novels in store, and I'm glad to have closed out the year with them. As writer of my own adventurous C.J. Stone stories and a fan of Naughty Dog's Uncharted games, it was a pretty sure bet I'd like James Reasoner's Hunt at the Well of Eternity and Charles Ardai's Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear.

Reasoner's series opener is a search for the fountain of youth through Mexico's Mayan ruins. As I've set several Stone stories in Mexico, I had a preference for this book. Reasoner, of course, is a prolific pro, getting Hunt into and out of trouble with each chapter. Ardai's book takes Hunt on a quest for a real-life Sphinx. I enjoyed it for its sense of lore and insight into Hunt's background.

Like the Uncharted games and the Indiana Jones movies before them, the Hunt books make almost believable legends that have fascinated us for centuries. We read books like these partly because we want to believe. The hardest thing for me to believe was that a two-fisted hero like Hunt was around today. Then again, this means the Hunt series writers don't have to put up an added period pretense and can blend what happens tomorrow with what may have happened long ago.

I look forward to what the different writers bring to the series.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After

I was able to shoot some video with my Flip Mino, but no unwrapping footage as I'd hoped. With an extended family as large as mine the presenting of presents becomes more chaotic each year. I'll probably make JPEG stills from some of the video.

What did I get? Shirts, socks, a portable MP3 player, and a popcorn popper.

Friday, December 25, 2009

This Christmas

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not expecting much in the way of gifts this Christmas, thanks to the still-recovering U.S. economy, but already I'm grateful for the togetherness I had with friends just before Thanksgiving, for yesterday watching a personal selection of Christmas episodes (Check Twitter to see which ones), for midnight Mass, where our deacon reminded us that Christmas is only a beginning.

For Christians, it is amazing that God took human form, but as much as the infant Jesus is adored, the Jesus who grew to challenge ideas of power, success, and sacrifice, must also be acknowledged. This is, in our deacon's words, "not keeping Christ in Christmas but taking him out," following his maturation through to a death for the sake of others.

This Christmas, I've been reminded most of all how truly kind it is to give and do for others. When we do for others, we may be expecting repayment, but essentially we're taking the chance we won't be repaid. I'm grateful that humans have this in them, whatever else you believe or reject. Writers serve by writing for an audience, relating to others' experiences, articulating what others cannot. None of this can happen writing simply for oneself.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deck The Blog...

I'm a bit ashamed to say the only decorating I've done so far is on this blog. My father used to string lights on every tree on our property. Since my father's passing, my brother has decorated the walkway to our front door. This year, though, everything was set back about two weeks due to the season's usual bugs. The Christmas party will be at my aunt's house, so there's been no urgency to decorate ours.

In a way, it hasn't mattered. I've still been of good cheer and listened to my share of Christmas songs. I haven't expected any great gifts from my extended family for years, but especially in this economy. I can't bring much to the party myself, but I will bring a spirit that welcomes the day's priceless joy and surprises.

UPDATE: I helped my mother hang wreaths on the front door, and she put out some fiberoptic trees. It's nice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Steve Weddle Mem'l Airport Flash Fiction

Today is the due date for this self-explanatory flash fiction challenge. The title of my contribution is oddly not a reference to Steve Weddle:

So Long, Stevie

by Gerald So

I cabbed to LaGuardia in a downpour only to discover departure had been emergency-switched to JFK. Another cab took me there, and I boarded with half an hour to spare. Middle seat, last row, Coach.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard American Airlines Flight 1855 to St. Louis. I'm Captain John Smith. Honest. The weather is tricky at the moment. We're having you stay aboard so we can take off as soon as a spot opens up."

Great. Last week I decided I didn't want friends thinking I was too distraught to see Stevie off. This is what I get for booking late.

The rain kept pouring. Half an hour became an hour. Two. Three. I didn't mind. I became more patient as others became less. I had a lot to think about. Damn eidetic memory.

I'd met Stevie six years earlier—spring semester, junior year. Dan caught me singing "The Impossible Dream" before Journalism.

"What's that song from Don Quixote about a woman?" he asked.

I stopped singing to say, "It's The Man of La Mancha, not Don Quixote."

"Whatever. The song, is it 'Carla'?"


"Yeah. You should sing that for Stevie."

I looked up at Stevie. And kept looking up. She was six-one with red hair in long curls. After class, I called Mom and asked if it was okay to marry outside our religion.

When I worked up the courage to ask Stevie out, she gave me the "just friends" talk right there. Shortly after which she began dating Dan. My memory didn't go there, but it could have.

I had to let Stevie go. Look her in the eye, say goodbye, and not think about her serving two years in Nigeria with the Peace Corps.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've begun descent into St. Louis's Lambert Airport. Please fasten all safety belts, and make sure all seats and tray tables are in their full upright and locked positions. Local time is 1:30 A.M."

Five hours behind schedule. At least five hours until the next flight to Denver, then an hour bus ride to Boulder. A whole day gone.

My legs were still asleep when we landed. I forced myself up and got my carry-on from the overhead bin. The man from the aisle seat brushed past me and ran forward. Maybe he forgot which way the restroom was.

The woman from the window seat slipped past me, too. She tackled and handcuffed the man from the aisle seat.

I was still processing what happened when she shouted, "Sir!"

"Me?" I asked.

"I believe this is yours." She held up what looked like my wallet.

My pocket was empty. I checked the wallet. Yup, mine.

"Thank you, Miss..."

She flashed a badge. "Federal Air Marshal."

I let her get a few steps ahead of me escorting her detainee. I'd seen her license for two seconds:

DOB: 12-03-78

So long, Stevie.



Growing up, I'd take any chance to go to the airport. I couldn't help but imagine where the people had been or where they were going. This story was inspired by an actual five-hour delay on my way from New York to Denver. Fortunately I had two friends along, and we managed to keep each other entertained.

By the way, Federal Air Marshal Alice Oleynik was inspired by the roles of Alicia Coppolla, especially obsessive-compulsive JAG lawyer Faith Coleman.


Others Tackle the Topic

Patricia Abbott, "City Airport"

Cameron Ashley, "Airportopia"
Paul Brazill, "Warsaw Dawn"
Chad Eagleton, "My Airport"
Kevin Fenton, "Here is a Heaven"
Kent Gowran, "Holiday Stitches"
John Hornor, "Bangalore Shell Game"
Dorte Jakobsen, "Take-Off"
Dana King, "Shoeless Joe"
Chris La Tray, Untitled
Evan Lewis, "Skyler Hobbs and the Man Who Couldn't Fly"
Matthew McBride, "The Cleaner"
Fester McFardle, "Transgressions"
Dan O'Shea, "Two-Phones"
Bryon Quertermous, "Cinnamon's Last Dance"
Keith Rawson, Untitled
Kathleen Ryan, "Victims of the Night"
Kieran Shea, "Behind the Curtain"
Beatrice Underwood-Sweet, "The Airport"
John Weagly, "The Resurrection at Hasenpfeffer Field"
Steve Weddle, "Terminal"
Chuck Wendig, "Airport Bar Before Boarding"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My YouTube Debut

Ever since we missed out on visual evidence of the Lineup reading at KGB Bar, I'd been eying a Flip Mino. My brother Henry gave me one as an early Christmas present. I'll get to Lineup content, of course, but for now...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Nature of the Beast?

On Naked Authors today, Paul Levine (one of my favorite writers) asks, "Why Are Brilliant Writers Often 'Monsters at Home?'" He points to Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Carver, and Robert Altman, concluding:

Why are so many creative people self-centered and self-destructive? Alcoholics and drug abusers. Self-pitying and self-loathing. Unfaithful spouses and indifferent parents. Is unrepentant narcissism part of the creative gene? Or is it learned behavior? you disagree with my premise? Are these the exceptions?

I commented:

I don't claim to know enough to disagree with your premise necessarily, but I think one reason many writers seem monstrous off the page is that we hear about the monsters most often. Monsters are more newsworthy than law-abiding, upstanding people.

Also, it's possible that writers--who by definition get to act any way they want through their characters and fiction--are frustrated by the relative restrictions and monotony of life. For a writer, nothing gives the same high as writing. If they are unable to write for whatever reason, they try to replace that high with another.

I don't think this pattern of behavior is limited to writers. All of us would like to keep doing what we love most, and it's difficult to adjust to downtime or forced retirement. It's difficult, not impossible. I wish some of my favorite performers had made the adjustment.

While modesty forbids calling myself brilliant, I have my dark places as everyone does, and writers explore those places daily, not just for crime fiction or crime poetry, mind you, but for anything that involves conflict. By the same token, everyone has hopeful places. I write as much humorous stuff as I do dark stuff. As dark and crude as my poetry and fiction get, I won't resort to cynicism or insult here or in public. Despite disappointments, difficulties, and missed opportunities, I choose to be hopeful. Anyone who makes pessimism a life choice may as well check out now.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Next Year's Lineup

On behalf of my co-editors, I'm pleased to announce the contributors to The Lineup 3, which will go to print in April 2010:

Patricia Abbott
Joe Barnes
Henry Chang
Reed Farrel Coleman
Sarah Cortez
Michael A. Flanagan
Anne Frasier
James W. Hall
David Hernandez
Amy MacLennan
Carrie McGath
James M. McGowan
Kristine Ong Muslim
David S. Pointer
James Sallis
Jackie Sheeler
Wallace Stroby
Larry D. Thomas
Francine Witte

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge

I just completed a challenge, but I'm always up for more. This one is the brainchild of Dan O'Shea at the request of Steve Weddle:

Give me your flash on airport life in these benighted times. Same deal, 800 words, give or take.

Let’s aim for Dec. 15 so we can read up in preparation for the holiday travel season. Probably give the good folks a the TSA reason to stick a few of us on their naughty lists. Sign up through the comment box here, let me know where to find your entry, and I’ll post the links come the 15th.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chapbook Update

The twenty-four poems that made it through my elimination rounds aren't falling into any book structure I can see. I have a theme and a few solid poems to go with that theme. I plan to use those few poems as inspiration for more. If I don't make the contest deadline of January 31, 2010, I'll consider the time and work I've put in part of my development as a poet.

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Yes, I've decorated my blog for the holidays. Ironically, I promised myself I wouldn't be like your local mall and do it before December 1, but it turns out I decorated last year on December 8. Oh, well. I'm feeling festive early. Why not decorate when I'm genuinely in the spirit?

I do promise you, though you may see my mental playlist on Twitter, holiday music will never auto-play when you visit my blog.

Come, butler, come bring us a bowl of the best,
And we pray that your soul in heaven may rest,
But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
May the devil take butler, bowl, and all.