Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I'm in rainy Savannah/Charleston right now so be safe wherever you are.
Notify Mystery Dawg if you're going to post on his blog on June 4th. And send it along whenever you're done. No need to wait till the last minute if it's finished.
If you're posting on your own blog, send me your http if I don't already know it. Thanks much.
I have my flash written-it's not a thing of beauty but the word count is right and the wedding cake is there. See you soon.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
THE STORY OF ANVIL concerns the thirty-year attempt of a Canadian heavy-metal band to achieve the recognition the two lead members believe it deserves.
It's sad, funny, and yet joyous because these two heavy metal headbangers would probably take this life, one mostly of failure, over any other. even their families have not given up hope, despite playing at bars for crowds of a dozen head-scratching patrons.
It ends on an up note, a moment that is ephemeral at best. This brought me to the question-or questions. Who hasn't had the fame they deserved? Or who should have thrown in the towel long ago? This could be singers, actors, writer, politicians, athletes? It's an open field.
Monday, May 25, 2009
THE REAL MCCOYS reading scripts.
Should reviewers for newspapers, magazines and online zines and websites, decline requests to review books they know they will probably not like? In other words, should reviewers that prefer their crime hard-boiled agree to review a cozy? Should reviewers that hate noir take one on? Is it fair to writers to have an unreceptive audience for their work in these hard times?
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Techno music festival comes to Detroit (notice how often the plight of Detroit is referenced) Story from MLIVE.
If there's a common thread among acts at this year's Movement 2009 Detroit electronic music festival, it's that they want Detroiters to forget about economic uncertainties.
"We don't want no wall flowers," said Afrika Bambaataa during an interview. "We want people to get down and enjoy themselves. There's too much chaos in the world today. When you get to the festival just let it all go and party."
DJ Z-Trip agreed, saying Detroit has been hit so hard that residents could use a festival like this.
• Where: Hart Plaza, Detroit
• When: Saturday-Monday
• Tickets: $30 for an individual day pass, $60 for a weekend pass, $150 for a VIP pass at the gate. Discounted passes can be purchased online at www.wantickets.com. Movement Weekend Passes can also be purchased (cash only) at various locations including: 323 East in Royal Oak; Spectacles in Detroit; and Record Time in Roseville. VIP tickets can also be purchased at 323 East in Royal Oak and Spectacles in Detroit.
• Details: For more information, visit www.livenation.com.
"They definitely could use some relief," said Z-Trip, born Zach Sciacca. "That town has such musical roots. I think that's their escape, to have their sanity and be able to release some of that tension. That's one of the big reasons why I decided to play the festival. Musically, I've always loved what Detroit represents and where it comes from -- from Motown to techno to even some rock stuff, all the Ted Nugents and the Bob Segers. It all represents such big musical talent. To go there and be able to play some stuff and encompass all of those things, it's kind of what I'm about when I play."
Movement has become the ultimate stage for the city that founded techno music to showcase its electronic music muscle. Last year's attendance nearly reached 80,000 over three days on Detroit's Hart Plaza during Memorial Day Weekend, with fans enjoying 36 hours of their favorite electronic music artists and DJs performing on five stages, according to publicist Betty Kang. It was named "Festival of the Year" by the readers of URB Magazine.
The Prodigy will play the official opening party for Movement 2009 at The Fillmore in Detroit on Friday. Chuck Flask, Paxahau resident DJ, and Evan Evolution will be performing in the State Bar.Â The doors open at 7 p.m.
"We really try to put together a lineup that electronic and dance music fans will enjoy," said Jason Huvaere, festival director. "We have a real mix of local, national and international artists performing this year. There is a lot of great talent from the Detroit area. About half of the artists are from Detroit."
Techno godfather and Detroiter Kevin Saunderson said it has become tradition to perform at the Movement festival. He is celebrating his 20th year in music with "History Elevate."
"This general community expects it, you expect it as an artist," Saunderson wrote in an e-mail interview. "It's special how it started and how it evolved. It's gone through many controversial times, but it has survived because of the efforts of our great Detroit artists to keep this thing afloat. It's a chance to play in front of my family, educate people who've never been to the festival or experienced Detroit techno."
Huvaere explained tens of thousands of people will be able to experience Detroit techno this year because the price of weekend passes was set at $30 for an individual day pass, $60 for a weekend pass, $150 for a VIP pass at the gate.
"We are very proud of the fact that even in this tough economy, we were able to keep the weekend passes to Movement moderately priced," Huvaere said. "It's the largest electronic music event in the country and the experience we are able to give music fans is far greater than the price of the ticket. There is no place else where someone can go to see 36 hours of music on four stages being performed by world-renowned musicians at this ticket price.
"The reason we are able to keep the ticket reasonably priced is because all the acts and the vendors work with (organizers) Paxahau to create a great event for Detroit without charging too music, allowing the prices to be lower, so a larger audience is attracted," added Huvaere, who did not want to speculate on attendance figures.
Z-Trip added that it's important to keep the ticket prices reasonable.
"Especially with the economy and, there of all places, you have to come with that kind of prices," he said. "If not, you're not going to get anybody. That place was one of the places that got hit the hardest."
This is probably the music I like least but I'm glad to see fans here. When asked to describe it, one of the organizers said it was about the future. But what that means, I don't know.
Visit Travis for more My Town Monday posts.
I happened to spin by an amazon site for a writer I've read and liked with a book coming out in two months . Although the book had no professional reviews posted yet, it had a bunch of negative reviews from people from something called Amazon Vine already posted. Is this fair? It's bad enough that people can trash a book once it's in the stores, but this far ahead?
Are these people getting ARCs of the book to do this? Maybe publishers are getting a little too generous with sending out ARCs with the demise of so much newspaper reviewing. But at least with a newspaper review, someone stands behind it. What do you think?
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Never once did this man in his eighties show signs of having done this a million times and being bored with it. And not once did his very gracious son, show impatience with how little attention was directed toward him. The crowd, which would have been ten times the size, if the bookstore had thought to even place a poster in their front window, grew over the hour and I was relieved to see some of them were buying Peter's book too.
A good time was had by all. Especially me. Who have you seen do this sort of thing especially well?
Patti Abbott, THE CLUE: THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE, Lawrence Treat and George Hardie
Paul Bishop, LYNX, Julian Jay Savaria
Bill Crider, THE CHISHOLMS, Even Hunter
Martin Edwards, TRIAL AND ERROR, Anthony Berkley
Ray Foster, IN MY SOLITUDE, David Stuart Leslie
Cullen Gallagher, THE HOTEL MURDERS, Stewart Sterling
Ed Gorman, THE KIDNAPPER and THE WILL TO KILL, Robert Bloch
Jenn Jilks, RAISIN WINE, James Bartleman
Randy Johnson, LEGENDS IN BLUE STEEL, Spider Page
George Kelley, GUNNER CADE, by Cyril Judd (C.M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril)
Alan Orloff, THE UNORIGINAL SINNER AND THE ICE CREAM GOD, John Powers
Stephanie Padilla, RESOLUTION, Denise Mina
Scott Parker, HARD REVOLUTION, George Pelecanos
Eric Peterson, THE WORDSMITH, R.G. Taylor
J. Kingston Pierce, SNOWBOUND, Ladd Hamilton
James Reasoner, TABOO THRILLS, Orrie Hitt
Kerrie Smith, THE LITTLE WORLD OF DON CAMILLO, Giovannu Guarsechi
Michael Walters, PUTTING THE BOOT IN, Dan Kavanagh
Friday, May 22, 2009
Here comes the author of the new book, HOTDOGGIN. Make room for it on your bookshelf next to last year's exciting YELLOW MEDICINE.
Take it away Neil Smith.
THREE WEEKS AGO…
He hoped she would show up. Things had gotten worse than he ever expected, but there was not a damned thing to do but play his part like a true Enforcer and hope this link to the outside world would keep him sane.
It was lucky she lived in Detroit, because that made it easier on Lafitte. He’d swore never to come back here again, but when the leader of the biker club who just saved your ass from starving said “Hey, we’ve got to make a Detroit run this weekend”, you mounted up and said, “How fast, sir?”
While the marathon dogfights raged, along with hogdogging--although Billy was disgusted enough by the latter, this weekend they were using basic farm pigs, not even boars, not even giving the pork a fighting chance--he slipped around the fringes waiting for Patti. They were supposed to have cleared out by two AM, the deal having been made and Steel God not up for the carnage, but he was tired. More tired than usual. He decided to let things go til morning.
She’d been a voice of reason before, telling him to ease up on the temper or take a chill pill before cracking skulls. Like the little voice that should be in his head instead of the bastard he was stuck with.
Then, as if in a dream, she stepped out of the fog, hands deep in her jacket pockets. He cringed at her expression, which told him he must look either bad or very different than last time. He turned off the motor but stay on the chopper, not sure how this would go.
She said, “What’s with all this cloak and dagger stuff?”
He shrugged. “Just felt like it. Kind of retro, don’t you think?”
“Tell me about it.” She rolled her eyes. “Like with my daughter, everything’s ‘1940’s this’ and ‘Mid Twentieth Century that’, as if anything past the Beatles is so unhip. Newsflash, kids. Obama won. The government isn’t listening to your cell phone calls anymore.”
“That’s pretty naïve.”
“Maybe, but it’s cozier.” Patti let out a big yawn. “Now get to it. Why am I out here at the break of day?”
Lafitte turned away from her, listened to the clanging and growling of the crowd. Then, “I’m not so sure I made the right choice this time.”
“You mean with your Halloween costume here? Is that even a real motorcycle? Jesus, Billy. Like you worried about your choices back in Minnesota.”
“I know, I know. That was then, that was Yellow Medicine County. Two people I cared about were killed over me. So you’d think I would’ve learned something.”
Patti tsk tsk-ed and shook her head. “Wow, you’re selfish even when talking about redemption, aren’t you?”
“Do you know how worried we all were about you? Leaving us hanging like that at the end of all that mess? I couldn’t believe it when you called. I thought you were dead.”
He let it drift in the air a moment before saying, “No you didn’t.”
She huffed, then grinned, embarrassed, maybe. “You didn’t seem the suicidal type, I have to say.”
Another roar from the crowd.
“How can you stand it around those people? They’re just killing poor dogs and pigs for fun over there.”
Lafitte said, “And money. That’s what it’s really about. Money. And pride. Guys take pride in their dogs.”
“By treating them like shit?”
“Sometimes…you know…I see it in their faces. It’s stupid, and it’s heartbreaking, I know, but, it’s hard to explain.”
He wagged a finger at her. “I didn’t say I approved. I’m just saying it’s complicated. When a dog dies, I hate it. Fucking hate it. But the owner hates it more. But then you have to ask, yeah, why train it to fight if it just breaks your heart? Right? But when I ask, they give you some bullshit like, ‘Well, if war comes, you’d hate for your kid to go off and fight, but you’d be proud’ or some shit. Nothing’s as easy as we want it to be.”
“You’re full of it. That’s garbage.”
He didn’t take the bait. “Could be worse. Could be in Federal prison. How’s that supposed to make me a better man?”
Patti crossed her arms, pouted her lips like she was thinking about it for a minute. Then she said, “I can’t tell you what you want to know.”
“And what’s that?”
“If there really is a chance you can fix what you’ve broken.”
He nodded. “That’s what I was afraid of.”
She reached over, laid her hand on his shoulder. “But as for these people…I would tell you to steer clear, but I know you won’t. So just roll with it. See what happens. And if you have the chance, make the best choice for yourself. Don’t leave us hanging again.”
“Well,” his lips went all sheepish. “Not so sure I can deliver on that.”
“At least stay safe.”
He didn’t respond. Neither of them looked at the other. The crowd had quieted, began to disperse, and engines of all sizes from hogs, crotch rockets, and muscle cars roared to life, a better wake-up than coffee.
Patti said, “What’s next for you?”
“Steel God said something about putting on a motorcycle rally. That sounds fun.”
“Have you ever been to a biker rally?”
“No, but that’s what’s so fun about it. It’s better when you don’t know what’ll happen next.”
With that, he kick-started the chopper, gave it a good loud rush, then rolled off into the fog, leaving Patti shivering, wondering if she’d ever see him again.
Award Winning author Patricia Abbott is a short story machine, publishing over fifty now online and in print, everything from literary fiction to some pretty grim noir. And the connecting factor behind each one, to me, is the atmosphere she creates. She makes me feel that I already know her characters. And I feel bad for them when they fuck up.
At Plots with Guns, we have one of her pieces, “Like a Hawk Rising”, that roped me in from the beginning. Something about this couple’s bickering made me want to keep reading:
“I can think of a shitload of things you could be doin’ instead of that.” Marsha’s voice was a buzzing in Bernie’s ear and unconsciously he fanned her away without taking the binoculars from his eyes.
“You could fix the bathroom faucet. Or,” she paused, softening her voice, “you could come up with a plan to get us some cash. The balance in our check book is looking piss-poor.” He looked up in time to see her yank her hair back into a virtual ponytail and then release it, lowering her raised shoulders in a shrug.
He put down the binoculars. “Or maybe you could help us out.” His voice was even quieter than hers. Marsha didn’t flinch; the issue of her working had been laid to rest years ago.
“You oughta at least take up some kind of hobby till your knee heals—that’s all I’m saying.” They both looked down at his cast, one of those bumpy plaster ones from the middle of the last century. The doctor who’d fixed him up was from that time too.
Reminded me a bit of Ray Carver for some reason. But then the story twisted and wound its way around, full of surprises, making me smile over and over.
But then you read some of her other work, the smile disappears and you’re left with foreboding, like in the most classic noir. For example, in “The Instrument of Their Desire”, reading how Jim “rented out” his mentally-challenged older sister in 1931 in order to save the family home sets up the atmosphere for the rest of the story. How much worse can it get? How can these characters live with themselves?
And with my soft spot for creepy Southern religious stuff, Patti’s “Tongues” really got to me:
At Karin’s church, parishioners speak in tongues, give testimony and lay on hands. Karin likes to tell her personal salvation story. It happened in a Thunderbird on a country road as she was weighing the sin in letting her boyfriend unhook her bra.
Does everyone who speaks in tongues use the same language? Can they talk to each other? Were they born knowing “tongues” or did it come to them like a taste for artichokes came to my father months after he returned from Korea? I never find the right words to ask Karin this.
It’s spooky listening to her, knowing she’s pacing her cell-like room and talking gibberish for hours. The syllables seem to rush out of her mouth and bang up against the wallboard. If I put my palms on the wall, I can feel the vibrations.
So thanks, Patti, for all of this great work. I don’t know what to expect each time I read something by you, but I know that almost every time I’m going to feel the story close in around me like the fog I wrote about, and not let up until the story is over.
And where’s the one about the woman who took photos of the dead? I know I rejected it, but I still can’t stop thinking about it.
So, will Lafitte take Patti’s advice? You’ll have to pick up Hogdoggin’ to find out. June 1st, HOGDOGGIN’ MONDAY. Let’s make some big noise in bookstores (virtual and brick both, but especially all the indie stores I’m visiting in the next two weeks) so that no one has a “case of the Mondays”. Yuck.
Tomorrow…is that a Raven? A killer ape? A Black Cat? No, but it is Edward “Philly Poe Guy” Petit bringing the 19th Century to our modern day Rally.
On someone’s I-pod: Boomtown Rats, “Up All Night”
Nelson Mandella reading.
Next week: vacation--at least for me
June 5th-Forgotten Non-fiction book week.
A few may go up later--or never.
Alan Orloff's debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, is due out April 2010 from Midnight Ink. He blogs at A Million Blogging Monkeys (http://alanorloff.blogspot.com/) and InkSpot (http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/). You can learn more about him (and his books) at: www.alanorloff.com.
THE UNORIGINAL SINNER AND THE ICE-CREAM GOD, John Powers
Can a book be "forgotten" if it was never really "remembered" in the first place?
Although most of the books I read are crime fiction, I enjoy a good book in just about any genre--science fiction, horror, mainstream, how-to-sneak-vegetables-into-your-kids'-meals. And every once in a while, I fall hard for a good coming-of-age novel. So I'll step out of my usual genre and talk about one of my favorite coming-of-agers, THE UNORIGINAL SINNER AND THE ICE-CREAM GOD, by John R. Powers.
I don't know where I found this book. Usually I'll pick a book based on a recommendation--from a friend, a relative, a guy on the bus, even a reviewer. Once in while, an intriguing cover will sway me. In this case, I suspect it was the unusual title. (Whenever I recommend this book to friends, I usually get a blank stare, followed by a "Huh?" when I repeat the title. Here, I'll just refer to it as SINNER.)
SINNER follows THE LAST CATHOLIC IN AMERICA and DO PATENT LEATHER SHOES REALLY REFLECT UP? in the Powers "trilogy." Both of those feature Eddie Ryan, boy Catholic, dealing with the obstacles a Catholic boy faces growing up in a colorful Chicago neighborhood. (You don't have to read the books in order. I devoured both after reading SINNER and enjoyed them, even though I'm not Catholic and I don't wear patent leather shoes).
SINNER tells the story of another Catholic Chicagoan, Tim Conroy, a student at commuter college Engrim University (a "paperback college: somewhat cheap, occasionally amusing, slightly educational, and totally disposable"). There he tries to make sense out of life, but winds up with more questions than answers--about friends, about God, about his purpose. Most of all, he struggles to make sense of his relationship with his girlfriend, Sarah.
In addition to a handful of quirky friends, Conroy keeps company with Caepan, a walking oracle who owns a gas station (natch). Caepan serves as Conroy's sounding board, dispensing often cryptic (and existential) advice to his young disciple. The way Powers adroitly describes his cast of characters leads you to believe you'd actually find friends like that in every neighborhood in America. He makes them human; moreover, he makes you care about them.
Bursting with humor, SINNER reads like a comedian's monologue, if the monologue had great characterization, spot-on description, and a plot--with an underlying tender spot. Powers heaps one wry observation upon another:
"In sixth grade, I read in a magazine that the chances of a kid eventually making it to the major leagues were one in ten thousand. At that age, I weighed less than the wind, had the complexion of a bedsheet, and possessed eyes that looked like they lived at the end of a tunnel. I wondered what the other 9,999 were going to do for a living."
To top it all off, I never anticipated the gnarly twist at the end of the book.
If you like 'em funny and if you like 'em poignant (and especially if you like 'em funny and poignant), give THE UNORIGINAL SINNER AND THE ICE-CREAM GOD a whirl. I think you'll be glad you did.
Ed Gorman is the author of the soon-to-be released, THE MIDNIGHT ROOM (Leisure)
THE KIDNAPPER and THE WILL TO KILL, Robert Bloch
"This is a thread that runs through all of my mystery/suspense fiction," Bloch has pointed out. "The terrible inability to understand the irrational behavior of certain human beings, what is it that impels that sometime senseless sadistic cruelty, and I tried to familiarize myself with it because I can recognize that, deep down within, there are certain of those aspects within myself which I probably manage to exorcise by way of the typewriter."
Last night and this afternoon I read The Will To Kill by Robert Bloch. When you pair this one with his novel The Kidnapper you discover that in his own quiet way Bloch was writing horrorific noir fiction way back in the mid-Fifties, the same kind of fiction so much in vogue today. While I've seen both novels compared to Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich, Bloch told me once that he'd never read Thompson, though he readily acknowledged the Woolrich influence. But these two short books are unique in voice and storyline and are, in some respects, two sides of the same story--the man who fears he's a killer and the man who revels in being a killer. They're both claustrophobic as hell. You're completely inside the mind of the man narrating the stories. The Kidnapper should be easy to find. It was reprinted in the late eighties by Tor. Will is hard to come by but well worth the search.
The Clue: ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE: Can You Solve the Mysteries of the Tudor Close? (Lawrence Treat and George Hardie. (No cover allows downloading so imagine it)
I wonder where this little paperback came from. I found it cleaning out my attic. It's a graphic approach to the story-telling. Detectives/Suspects from the board game CLUE solve a number of mysteries. It dates from 1983. I'm guessing this was Megan's but my son also loved what were called mysteries at the time. Still does. Maybe Todd will enlighten us on its history.
Stephanie Padilla is Editor-New Mystery Reader
Resolution by Denise Mina
Maureen O’Donnell returns in Mina’s third outing featuring this most
appealing of characters. Maureen has hit hard times having spent most of an
inheritance, and now finds herself selling smuggled cigarettes to pay
back-taxes. When one of her fellow stallholders dies a suspicious death,
Maureen can’t help but become involved. All the while she must also deal
with her father’s return, and the birth of a new baby girl into her family.
Fearing her father will repeat his sexually abusive behavior, Maureen
teeters on decisions that could forever changer her life.
With more than enough surprises and twists, this literary achievement will
delight the most hardened mystery fan. But the true value comes from
Maureen herself. She is perhaps one of the most finely rendered and
sympathetic characters in mystery fiction. And although you might not
always agree with her methods, you will certainly appreciate her
motivations. Having never been to Glasgow, I feel I know it well as seen
through Mina’s eyes. Her Glasgow is a dark city, along with its
inhabitants, yet both exposing brilliant flashes of beauty that touches
deeply. And though some readers who have not read the first two in this
trilogy may find themselves a little lost at times, don’t let this stop you.
Quite the opposite, let it motivate you to go out and get the first two and
read them as quickly as you can, you won’t be sorry.
J. Kingston Pierce
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Two things are bothering me about this much ballyhooed series.
First off, the British, great actors thought the are, make little attempt to make this series seem Swedish. It's one thing to stick to their regular accents (as they always do even when playing Nazis). But couldn't they at least refrain from using British colloquialisms and dressing and looking like Brits. It takes me right out of the setting when they say "brilliant" or any number of other British phrases. They may think their culture is interchangeable with whatever one their production is set in, but it is not.
Second. I thought FIREWALL, the second in the series was fairly ludicrous. Midway through what seems like domestic murders, it turns into an international thriller. And the pace doesn't work well despite the high-speed driving. I think a plot like this needs to announce itself before 2/3 through. And we never quite learn how these three people are seduced, sufficiently enough to go along with what they do, by a man we never see until the last two scenes. How alienated do you have to be to fall for his plot.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Now I'll stop wasting your time. Good night.
This is for my western fans, who I assume know the ending to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. If not, you might want to pass this up.
It's fighting the embedding process, so you'll have to click.
Sissy Spacek reading.
Last Thursday I went to a Wayne State University Press spring gala for their fiction and poetry books. I was especially interested in hearing Michael Zadoorian read from his volume of short stories (The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit), and in saying a few words and getting a book signed by poet, Keith Taylor (If the World Becomes So Bright).
Megan took a few classes with Keith Taylor at the University of Michigan and she's always claimed he taught her whatever she knows about writing. He got a kick out of Megan's mother tracking him down. First time, he'd met a student's parent, I think.
However the point I am coming to today is I've been reading TIKI PALACES, a much darker book than Zadoorian's recent novel, THE LEISURE SEEKER, which I loved and featured on here a few months back.
The other suprise was a flash piece (I don't know if he'd called it that, but it's just two pages "East Side") about a man standing in front of a wig shop and imposing his image under various wigs in the window and the crowd that gathers and begins to do the same. No surprise ending here. No twist. We don't know anything else about the man. We don't know if wigs have any special meaning for him. We don't need to. The temptation for many writers would be to take himhome where his sick mother is in bed, making it a cancer story.
But that doesn't happen. It's a snapshot of a moment in time and it has all the tension a story needs. I don't think I can pull this off for the Cake idea but I'm going to try it this summer. Do you ever read flash fiction that is not crime-oriented? For all the raps a flash fiction piece takes, it can slam you right into a wall before you know it. And sometimes it is just the writing or insight that does it.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Finally broke down and purchased an MP3. Before my husband fills it with Bach and Haydn, what should I download? I like Feist, Theolonius Monk, Dave Brubeck, Leonard Cohen, Tom Watts, Jo Stafford, Shelby Lynne, Lucinda Williams, Keren Allan, Niko Case, Johnny Cash, the Wainwrights. I'm pretty open to anything new.
What's out there? I don't know what I'm doing either.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Harvey Keitel reading.
Another post on flash since it's causing me some chagrin right now.
Last week, Sandra Seamans had some advice from various sources on her blog about writing flash fiction. One piece of advice that I usually adhere to is the twist ending. I wonder why this seems important to me in flash. Do I feel that the short length demands a greater payoff?
Does it need an ironic close? What do you think? Do your flash stories end with a kick in the teeth?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Put a wedding cake in my sight and I become all girly. I wanted to illustrate just how hard flash fiction can be by putting up my first try. I have completely discarded this piece-especially the ending. Even my husband who usually likes what I write went, "Huh?"
And it may turn out that my wedding cake will merely be something caught in a blink of the eye. You can't trust me to get closer to wedding paraphernalia. Obviously.
Here it is: tell me where I went wrong.
THE WEDDING CAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
The 459 skidded on a patch of black ice that day, and although she was somewhat preoccupied with a book, Lena glanced up in time to see a small cake sitting in the middle of the road. Its improbable location made her giggle—just loud enough to disturb the drowsing passengers. She tilted her head toward the road, but by now the cake was no more than a pale glimmer in the rearview mirror.
“Oh, you missed it,” she said. “Pity.” The heads around her bobbed in unison as the bus moved bumpily toward town.
Later, at her workspace: fifth row, fourth desk, she thought about it—who’d put a cake in the middle of a country road? And why no box to protect it? It’d be ruined it in no time. On the way home, the road was empty of things other than imploded tires, Big-Gulp cups, and discarded shoes. She remembered the spot perfectly though: a stretch of birch trees stood across from it, a well-tended farm lay just ahead.
Two days later, the cake was there again, and it had grown. It was now a two-layer cake with the same silky white frosting. A trail of pink roses circled it. It rested on a pale blue plate. A birthday cake perhaps? A surprise for a child on the way to school? Again, no one else seemed to see it. Was the cake meant for her alone?
The cake was three-layers next. A pale green vine etched the pastry. A layer of thick cream topped it. She didn’t really want to share it, but her finger darted out before she could stop it. A schoolboy looked up, followed her finger, and made a face. His finger circled his head. Daft. Maybe she was daft.
Pillars held the three layers up soon. The cake was quite tall now and she wondered how the bus driver managed to miss it. The blue plate had been replaced by a silver tray. It was raining but the cake seemed impervious to the damp. It merely glistened a bit more than usual. The woman next to her gave a start, and for a minute, Lena thought someone else had the eyesight or attention or imagination necessary to see it. But the woman sneezed instead. “Bless you,” Lena said.
A groom stood atop the cake the next day. Lena strained to see him. He was very handsome and wore the traditional attire but seemed lonely. He held out a hand as if waiting for a bride to join him. She rubbed her eyes but he was still there. Waiting.
On Saturday, Lena went shopping in town. The bridal shop was only a few doors from the shoe repair store so she stopped in. She tried hard to imagine what his bride might wear but there was nothing suitable. It was all too modern.
Her last stop was at the Thrift Store. She had a bundle of her mother’s clothes to donate. It was there she saw the dress—in a section at the very back of the store. The sign over the rack said, “This is just what you’ve been looking for.” And it was. The dress was in perfect condition because, of course, it had only been worn once. She tried in on; it fit perfectly. The price tag was missing and the clerk let it go for a song. “I hope your day is as special as your dress,” the woman told her. She didn’t correct her. She didn’t know what the dress was for. What the day was.
It seemed odd to wear her dress on the bus. She covered it with a coat despite the warmth. She rang the bell as they approached the birches and the well-kept farm. “Here?” the bus driver yelled. “You want me to let you off here?”
“If you don’t mind,” Lena said, walking down the aisle. Nobody noticed either her dress or the heels she wore on her feet. Not the gloves, not the flowers she’d tucked into her bag. Nor her. No one ever had.
“Sure you got the right spot,” the driver said again. “There’s nothing here but an old farm.”
“It’s the right place for me,” she told him, feeling surer of it all the time. As the bus drove off, she worried for a moment that the cake wouldn’t be there. But when the fumes cleared, she saw it. It had a canopy now, and small birds perched upon it. As she neared the cake, she saw the groom was still there. In his black tux with a red rose in his lapel.
“I’ve been waiting,” he said, holding out his hand to her. She took it and climbed up the layers very carefully, taking her place beside him. “The dress is perfect,” he said. “You are perfect.” She smiled. The two of them looked out into the growing dark.
Todd Robinson's second anthology (Sex, Thugs & Rock & Roll) comes out today and I am fortunate enough to have a story in it.
Give Todd and Thuglit some love if you have any jingle left in your pocket. He sure has worked hard at producing a fine zine and two rockin' anthologies.
With an intro penned by Sarah Weinman, followed by a love letter from Big Daddy Thug, the collection includes stories from the broken keyboards of Patricia Abbott, Jonas Knutsson, Jedidiah Ayres, Justin Porter, Albert Tucher, Joe R. Landsdale, Scott Wolven, D.T. Kelly, Marcus Sakey, Steven M. Messner, Hugh Lessig, Lyman Feero, Gary Carson, Matthew Baldwin and Jason Starr.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Did this ever happen to you? Did you ever witness the actions of someone who was almost positively a criminal? Or even evil?
Sitting in Paneras. The fortyish man next to us, there with his mother, is all over the little girls at the table next to him. Their grandparents, as it turned out, are ordering food at the counter. He has slid his chair across the floor to be in touching distance. He is trying to attract their interest. Telling them how much he likes their dresses. His mother is unconcerned. She's sampling the freebies and telling a stranger about her arthritis. He is up and about now. Telling the returning grandparents how lovely the girls are. Moving too close to them. Sauntering up to other parents and their children.
I am repulsed. I know he is a pedophile. But what can I do? Can I report a man for being too interested in a four and six year old. Help me! Have you ever come this close to something like this? I can't even write about this incident. I need to bury it.
Friday, May 15, 2009
THE SUMMING UP, FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2009
Paul Bishop, Morgan's Assassin, John Whitlach
David Cranmer, The Way Some People Die, Ross McDonald
Bill Crider, The Child Killer, Edson & Hamill
Martin Edwards, Testkill, Tex Dexter
Ray Foster, Gun Feud, Frank Arnside
Cullen Gallagher, Pick-up, Charles Willeford
Ed Gorman, The Corkscrew, Dashiell Hammetet
Andy Henion, God is a Bullet, Boston Teran
George Kelley, Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy, Diana Wynne Jones
Kathryn Magendie, The Book of Fred, Abby Bardi
Todd Mason, Blood Runs Cold, Robert Bloch
Eric Peterson, King Suckerman, George Pelecanos
Andi Shechter, I See By My Outfit, Peter S. Beagle
Kieran Shea, Beaituful Losers, Leonard Cohen
Kerrie Smith, From Doon to Death, Ruth Rendell
Michael Solender, One Nation Under Blog, David Wallace
Friday, May 29th, vacation day.
Friday, June 6, Forgotten non-fiction books.
Find a list all forgotten books here.
Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for the Charlotte Observer and is a contributor to Charlotte ViewPoint. His fiction has appeared online at 6S, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Flashshot and Dogzplot (soon). He blogs here: http://notfromhereareyou.blogspot.com/
Ethical Responsibility in the Blogosphere
David Wallace’s One Nation Under Blog challenges political bloggers toAndy Henion can see Canada from his backyard, making him an expert in foreign relations. He recently stopped chewing his nails after his four-year-old daughter picked up the habit. He thoroughly enjoys muffins and R.E.M. and dogs that jump and slobber on him (fuck all that behavior training). His work has appeared in Hobart and Spork and Plots with Guns and, most of all, The Jargon
embrace a higher standard in cyberspace.
The cacophony of political ads that assaulted network and cable television
viewers in the waning days of the 2008 election was mind-numbing even for
the most interested undecided voter. One after another, the candidates and
their surrogates pummeled viewers with their message, often offering
contradictory claims and viewpoints.
Consumers of political perspective who turn to the internet, more
specifically the blogosphere, for their sustenance have no assurance that
anything they read is factually accurate, verifiable or even from an
identifiable or credible source.
One Nation Under Blog (Brown Books Publishing Group), written by U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council member and 3 term former
mayor of Sugar Land, Texas, David Wallace, takes dead aim at irresponsible
blogging. While not an advocate of regulating online freedom of speech,
Wallace builds a solid argument for injecting a code of conduct and ethical
responsibility into this exploding forum of information exchange and
Wallace shares first-hand experience of what unscrupulous bloggers can do to
reputations and how difficult it can be for those, even with means and
resources, to combat the negative and often vitriolic imagery created by
political enemies and those with axes to grind. He stays emotionally above
the fray as he recounts his 2006 attempt to get his name placed on the
ballot for the 22nd Congressional District, replacing retiring Congressman,
Though Wallace provides a detailed accounting of this experience and the
theatre that is Texas politics, complete with rebuttal response to several
charges issues against him, the treatment receives a mere dozen or so pages
and is not at all the focus of his work. Important context is provided
however, and the reader can better understand both Wallace’s motivation and
an underlying message of his book: Everyone has an agenda. One Nation Under
Blog deftly builds the case for a bloggers code of conduct by using
arguments that are grounded in fairness, a moral high ground, and plain and
simple journalistic standards.
Wallace lays his foundation by providing a basic primer on the history of
political blogging. Crediting the infamous Drudge Report, one of the
earliest political blogs, with the exposure of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair,
Wallace cites example after example of the growing influence this medium
plays in the never-ending 24 hour news cycle. Of particular note is the
recounting of the significant impact bloggers played in the downfall of
former House Speaker, Trent Lott, after the Washington Post downplayed his
seemingly racist comments at a gathering of well wishers for Strom Thurmond.
Far from mere outlets for unreported scandals, political blogs have played a
tremendous role in grass roots uses and garnering wide-spread candidate
support, particularly with fund raising efforts. Wallace’s treatment of
Howard Dean’s 2004 success through campaigns blogs make it easy to see why
President Obama so fully exploited this avenue in the 2008 presidential
Wallace employs a persuasive literary device in outlining his case for
civility, fairness in reporting, and do-no-harm approach to blogging. A
significant portion of his book is devoted to super-imposing the blogosphere
upon the Founding Fathers and other historically significant politicians in
U.S. History (including FDR, JFK and LBJ) and supposing how they may have
faired under the intense 24/7 glare of cyberspace.
He uses actual quotes and statements made by and about our earliest public
servants and modifies them into the forum of a contemporary blog on the
Internet. Each anecdote underscores one or more pillars in Wallace’s
proposed bloggers code of conduct.
Recognizing that unfettered conversational speech provides the very element
that makes blogging unique and a dynamic forum for political dialogue,
Wallace acknowledges that this can be the underlying Achilles heel of the
political blog if not held to more universal standard. Personal
responsibility, fact verification, blog monitoring for unacceptable content,
refusing to allow for harassing, stalking or threatening of others,
copyright infringement, and privacy violation all make it into Wallace’s
common sense code.
The irony of political railing against special interest groups is that each
and every one of us has our own special interests and perspective on a
myriad of issues that impact the citizenry. Perusing for outlets that share
our world view is nothing new and technology has made it both facile and
anonymous. Respect and civility however should not be casualties of our
insatiable need for our perspectives to be heard. One Nation Under Blog
eloquently makes this case.
GOD IS A BULLET, Boston Teran
About a decade ago I took a chance on a crime novel called God is a Bullet, the first offering from a guy named Boston Teran. The premise seemed interesting if over the top: A strai
Not even close. In fact, to this day Bullet remains one of the top five or six crime books I’ve read.
It’s not perfect. Teran gets carried away with description. The story occasionally drifts towar
d the melodramatic. At times, it's forced.
But Teran is so gifted it’s easy to overlook these flaws. He has a style all his own (and how many writers can you really say that about?). He’s a master at mood and atmosphere. His description of violence is so authentic and spot-on, you’ll grimace. His prose is driving, savage, yet still, almost, poetic.
I’ve read two of his subsequent offerings—Never Count Out the Dead and The Prince of Deadly Weapons—and found them lacking the debut’s raw intensity. But I’ll stick with Teran, hoping he returns to his former glory. Despite its flaws, Bullet is that good.
Kathryn Magendie is the co-editor of The Rose and the Thorn Literary Ezine. She is also the author of TENDER GRACES (Bellebooks). Visit her at Madden’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/kerrymadden
THE BOOK OF FRED, by ABBY BARDI
In Abby Bardi’s The Book of Fred, at times I felt as if I were lost in a room of fun-house mirrors, but in that deliciously entertaining way those wavery-reflectors have of making us see ourselves and the world about us in a different way, and sometimes in a way that isn’t flattering—for through the first person accounts of Bardi’s main characters: Mary Fred, Alice, Heather, and Uncle Roy, we see perspectives of lives filled with desire, addiction, pain, loss, loneliness, bewilderment, betrayal, and finally, hope. Abby Bardi handles delicate issues with a light touch, but not so light one does not deeply feel each of her character’s voices in a whole and unique way.
When Mary Fred’s fundamentalist religion parents refuse medical treatment to their children, and two of her brothers die of treatable maladies, Mary Fred becomes a foster child and is sent to live with Alice, her daughter Heather, and Uncle Roy. Mary Fred has never been allowed to watch television, never worn any clothing that is not plain and brown, never read a book other than “The Book of Fred,” and further, believes that “the Lackers” (everyone who is not a “Fredian”) are doomed to a fiery end, while the Fredians will be spirited away to an everlasting garden of wonders.
Meanwhile, Uncle Roy holds a terrible secret tight, Alice tries to please everyone but herself and is unwilling to move on from her past, Heather pretends not to care about anyone or anything but herself and television, and Mary Fred struggles with her beliefs against the teasing pull of American Pop Culture. This “Family of Misfits” learns that things are not always as they seem, and that love, trust, sacrifice, and family are sometimes hard-won, but more beautifully, happiness and peace can come in unexpected and surprising ways. (As an aside, I would have liked to know what happened to Mary Fred’s remaining brothers, “The Littles,” but was mostly satisfied to know that she would try to find them later, for I understood that things were as they needed to be for the book without going into too many “tangents.” Still, I did wonder.)
There are passages and phrases in the book that made me nod my head and smile, or say, “Yes! She’s got it…” Bardi’s writing is hopeful, fresh, and quite good. I appreciate how each character struggles to remain locked in their own “status quo,” but with Mary Fred as the catalyst, Alice, Heather, Uncle Roy, and Mary Fred herself, at last find their way to redemption. The ending left me with a sigh, for I liked the main characters (although, I did enjoy Mary Fred and Uncle Roy’s voices the most), and wished them well— Abby Bardi's The Book of Fred did not disappoint me in that regard.
Ed Gorman writes crime and western novels. He is most recently the author of SLEEPING DOGS.
Forgotten Books: Corkscrew by Dashiell Hammett
Because it likely appeared as a "magazine novel, complete-in-this-issue," I'm taking certain liberties here with the definition of "novel" but so be it. Corkscrew is a novelette (in pulp terms) or a short novel (in literary terms). It was written at the time when hardboiled detective fiction was sometimes cast as western fiction. Black Mask thrived on this fusion early on. One of Hammett's best stories, "The Killing of Dan Odams," is in fact a western.
Corkscrew is the name of a lawless town in Arizona early in the last century. There aren't many farmers here because farmers are afraid to settle here given the violence.
Corkscrew has telephones and automobiles but it is otherwise of the old west. Our man was sent here undercover by his detective agency to try and resolve the town's chief problems one of which, timely given today's politics, what to do about all the illegals crossing into the United States. He will be the new deputy sheriff, the real sheriff being elsewhere. But the man who sent for him told everybody that he was coming and when to expect him. Some undercover. Hammett uses wry bits of business throughout this long story and they give it the bite of real life. Sometimes humor makes things sound truer than melodrama, at least for me.
The first set-piece is one of Hammett's finest moments, an extended and bitter poker game in which Slim Vogel and Mark Nesbit try to close each other out. Hammett gets everything just right--the men standing around the table, the other card players dropping out just so they can watch the rivalry and the escalating name calling between the two players. At first the names land like punches but there are so many of them and they come so quickly that Hammett slyly turns them into a comic comment on machismo. Monty Python later did something very much like this with in the insult-hurling Frenchman on the battlement.
The heart of the story is a murder mystery that is one of Hammett's trickiest puzzles. He hits us wham-bam with two murders in just a few pages and so we have to recalculate everything we've assumed previously. The prose is impeccable. Sometimes Hammett is a little too spare for me but here he's giving us this strange, dusty little town in careful, vivid detail.
This is one of those pieces of work that you can both enjoy and admire. You just stand back and look at a master do his work.
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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Mick Jagger reading.
I find out about almost everything online nowadays. I'm not talking about news; we still get a newspaper. But books, movies, music. I get more info here than anywhere else. Now before, I could find out about books and movies through the newspaper pretty easily. But where did I hear of new music? I just can't remember. Radio stations haven't played interesting music since-I don't know when. Does anyone remember their source for new music?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
There are only a few songs that take me back to a specific moment in my life. All of them were in my teen years.
Fingertips, Stevie Wonder-I guess I was fourteen. I was over a friend's house and we turned on American Bandstand prepared to dance, prepared to see if Carmen was still dancing with her boyfriend on the show. Fingertips came on. You couldn't dance to it. We stood frozen. We had never heard anything like it, nothing that long, nothing from a kid younger than us. The repetition of goodbyes at the end wiped us out. We were ecstatic. Exhilaration.
She Loves You. The Beatles. It was probably a year or so later. My dad has just got a new car. A Pontiac Le Mans, I think. Gold. We went out for a ride. He switched the radio on and there were THE BEATLES, singing She Loves You. My brother and I shared that moment. Discovering something entirely new. I don't think anyone not around then can imagine how different their sound was from Motown and Bubblegum Rock. Change.
Where Did Our Love Go? The Supremes. I am sixteen and miraculously I had persuaded my mother to let me spend the summer in New Hope, PA working at a restaurant called The Crystal Palace. I am rooming with my best friend. I am so free--I will never be that free again.
I am sitting in my room, each wall painted a different color--perfect for teenage girls. I look out the window and a car is coming down the street--a convertible--and Where Did Our Love Go is blasting from the radio. Chills. Freedom.
These are the songs I will always locate on a specific day and with a specific feeling. What are yours?