Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How About Some Fiddling

Bad Movies That Deserve a Good Remake: THE AVENGERS

Loved the TV show and was so excited when I heard a movie was being made-I was a bit worried about the casting (Fiennes and Uma) and the movie turned how to be a real dud. I think a great movie can be made from this source material--but this script, this cast, and this director were the wrong choices. Try again, Hollywood. You can get the sixties vibe if you try harder.

What movie do you think had the potential to be great and wasn't.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How About Some Fiddling?

How I Came To Write This Story, Mike Miner (PLAN B MAGAZINE)

“The Little Outlaw”

It started with a radio.
Well, it started with a conversation. The seeds of this story were planted while talking to my parents, children of the '40s, about what they did at night for entertainment way back when.
They listened to the radio.
That was the big bang moment for this world. A world without televisions or cell phones. The only connection to the outside world, a big Crosley radio. I tend to avoid research whenever possible. Which is why most of my stories take place within the past forty years, why they tend to be set in places I've lived or spent a lot of time in. Partly I'm lazy, partly I crave authenticity in my work and the further I get from my own experience the harder it is to keep things authentic. But for “The Little Outlaw” research was unavoidable.
The radio turned out to be a great device for setting the stage. The music and the Red Sox box score tells us when this is. The late '40s. The news gives us the weather report, a storm is pummeling the state, houses are losing power, a local bank was robbed. All of these details will converge on this house. It was just a matter of getting everyone under one roof. Of course the bank robbers will show up. And once all of the guests have arrived, the real fun starts.
Mary, the little outlaw of the title, was a perfect set of eyes and ears to see and hear this world through. A girl just starting to get wise to the flaws of the adults in her world. By the end of the story she'll be wiser still.
The twist ending, like a lot of twist endings in my writing came to me as I wrote it, with no premeditation. I had only a vague idea of how the story would end. A lot of possibilities were available. I find things tend to work out better, especially in my short fiction, if I don't do to much planning, if I don't have a set finish line. When the ending of this one revealed itself it just felt right. And only then did I figure out the title.

Here is Plan B's home page: http://www.plan-b-magazine.com/

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How I Came to Write This Story: B.V. Lawson (In Plan B Magazine)


"The Least of These" (included in the same issue of Plan B Volume III as Patti Abbott)
is part of my series featuring Scott Drayco, a former piano prodigy whose playing days were cut short by an act of violence. Not one to dwell on what could have been, Drayco followed in the footsteps of his once-estranged father, forging a storied career first in the FBI and later as a private consultant.

I came up with the character of Drayco a decade ago, with my own music training inspiring Drayco’s backstory. Yes, you say, all well and good, but why write from the opposite-gender POV? I toyed with several possibilities, male and female, but the more I thought about Drayco, the more he came to life and demanded I write about him. That's the kind of person he is, though - not terribly flashy, but quietly brilliant, impressing bad guys and law enforcement types alike with his dogged dedication and almost mystical insights.

These traits are evident in "The Least of These," where he's taken on a private gig for an unnamed "alphabet soup" organization to infiltrate a party at the French Embassy in D.C. and turn up clues about the murder of an American secretary. Music often plays a role in the Drayco stories, and “The Least of These” has a denouement courtesy of a little Debussy to go with a little deception on Drayco's part. And the setting? Ever since moving to the D.C. area, I've always wanted to set a story in one of the embassies here, and my high school French made that choice a no-brainer. (My college German is much worse.)

After learning my husband has chromesthesia, a form of synesthesia where he sees music, sounds, and voices as colors, shapes, and textures, I gave that genetic trait to Drayco. This is such an integral part of the way Drayco experiences the world, it often forms part of his investigations (even though he’ll be the first to tell you it doesn’t make him a “Super Detective”). It's also one of the reasons he often uses the intricate counterpoint of J.S. Bach, a personal favorite of mine, to help him puzzle through complex cases, as he does in my debut Drayco novel, Played to Death.

The small Virginia coastal setting in Played to Death feels worlds apart from the highbrow embassy circuit, but Drayco finds that "humanity thrown together in the equivalent of a Petri dish under a microscope breeds malignant organisms as often as benign." I knew I wanted to set the first Drayco novel on the Eastern Shore of Virginia after several visits there. The old-world traditions of farming and fishing pitted against the encroaching world of modern development form the perfect recipe for drama, tension, and a little murder.

“The Least of These” and Played to Death may not have any plot elements or settings in common. But they both have a philosophy Drayco and I share: every victim of violent crime deserves an advocate willing to tell their story and to see that it ends with justice.

Now for a little plea: Plan B Editor Darusha Wehm has created an Indiegogo campaign to help fund future Plan B volumes and pay the authors, with incentives in various contribution levels. Check it out, and for as little as $5, help support some terrific short crime fiction by some of the leading writers in the genre today. At the $40 level, you can fill your e-reader with works by Plan B authors, including Played to Death and the Drayco story collection, False Shadows.

Indiegogo Link - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/plan-b-magazine-year-three

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Linda Ronstadt Week

How I Came to Write This Story: PONGO'S LUCKY DAY (PLAN-B MAGAZINE) Craig Faustus Buck

PLAN-MAGAZINE is currently pursuing funding for their zine through a indigogo kickstarter program, which you can find right here. The $3000 they are attempting to raise would allow them to broaden their publications in some important ways.To that end some of PLAN-B's writers have written about a story that appeared in Plan-B Magazine.

How I Came to Write Pongo's Lucky Day

This is a cautionary tale for writers about why it's never a good idea to get your news from online sources. Due to geographic happenstance, the L.A. Times is my daily newspaper.  I stress the "paper" part of the word over the "news" part because if I were to read the online version, I never would have stumbled on the two-inch item, buried deep in the back of the metro section, that would become Pongo's Lucky Day. These tiny bits of newspaper filler don't make it into online newspaper editions because online papers have no need to fill up a physical page.  And that is the cautionary part of this tale: consume your news from paper media or you'll miss juicy story ideas.

This particular item was about a man who'd gone to an ATM that spewed out more than $30,000 in cash. By the time the police caught up with him, he'd visited three casinos and gambled it all away.

I took the ATM-gone-wild part of the item and paired it with a not-too-bright 24-year-old ski bum named  Pongo Smith, who'd come to an Indian casino/ski resort for a snowboard competition. I'm not the outlining type, so I put Pongo in front of the ATM and let him run with it.

For a noir writer like me this is a pretty lighthearted tale, despite some sex and bloodshed, and luckily it hit just right tone for Darusha Wehm at Plan-B Magazine, one of the few outlets out there that actually pays its writers. She published it last September.

I'm was very pleased because it was one of my first published short stories. I'm currently up for an Anthony Award for another story called Dead End, winners to be announced at the Bouchercon annual world mystery convention on November 15, and I have another story called Honeymoon Sweet in the Bouchercon Anthology to be released at the convention. Both of these stories are based on tiny back-page items.

Anthony Award Nominated short story "Dead End"the prequel to Psycho Logica novella 

Go Down Hard (Brash Books, May 2015)
A dark romp through the worlds of aging rock-and-rollers, live Internet sex shows, abusive psychiatrists, Slavic mobsters, child molesters, emotional betrayal, deceit, arson, murder and estate planning. 

Craig Faustus Buck is an L.A.-based writer.  Among his six nonfiction books, two were #1 NYT bestsellers.  He wrote an Oscar-nominated short film.  He was one of the writers on the seminal miniseries V: The Final Battle.  His first noir mystery novel, Go Down Hard, will be published by Brash Books on May 5, 2015 and was First Runner Up for Killer Nashville's Claymore Award.  His  indie feature film, Smuggling for Gandhi, is in preproduction.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Linda Ronstadt Week

Hazel Boswell's illustrations

I am going to link first here to Brian Busby's blog where you can find out more about Hazel Boswell, the Canadian woman who wrote and illustrated TOWN HOUSE, COUNTRY HOUSE and LEGENDS OF QUEBEC.

I had never heard of Ms. Boswell when I came across these pictures, signed and titled on on the matting, which you cannot see here. They were cut from her book.
There were 40 or 50 at them at a rather amazing estate sale we went to on Saturday. We were drawn to them immediately but it took us a while to realize they were from Quebec City where we just had been. It was only the picture of the Chateau Frontenac  that finally tipped us off.

We went home with 3 of them at $3 each. And then began to look into Boswell and came up with Brian Busby's piece on her on his blog from four years ago. We headed back to the sale after reading about her, determined to grab a few more.

A man was standing at the table with the remaining prints in his hands.Would he buy the 15? After losing his bid to get a good price for the 15, he took ten and we grabbed the last five.

My attic is filled with artwork. None of it valuable but all things that spoke to me. And these charming pictures spoke to me. Framing eight of them will cost a small fortune and since they are valueless, it probably isn't worth it. But I love them and am glad to have spend only $24 on something I like so much. Hazel Boswell wrote and illustrated two books--one of growing up in Montreal, the other on Montreal folk tales.

Other than books, what do you spend money on? What do you collect--or your spouse?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Linda Ronstadt Week

Forgotten Movies: THE SNOW GOOSE

Watching CALL THE MIDWIVES for the first tine, it took me a few minute to remember Jenny Agutter, who plays a nun, in her youth. She is incandescent in the series and so she was forty years ago.

It was, of course, on HALLMARK that I saw it. When you look at the list of movies or series they put out in the past, it is remarkable. Nowadays they seem to rely on romances. 

THE SNOW GOOSE was a story, based on a folk tale, written by Paul Gallico and published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1940. It won the O'Henry Award that year. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Linda Ronstadt Week

Books About...

I love nonfiction books that talk about my favorite subjects: books, movies, tv. The three here are three of my favorites. What books have you enjoyed about your favorite subjects.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014



Friday's Forgotten Books, September 19, 2014

Boston Noir. edited by Dennis Lehane, 2009

Rather than trying to talk about the entire collection, let me mentiont three of the stories I liked most.

Animal Shelter by Lehane, is the original source fot the current movie THE DROP. In this story, a bartender at a drop bar in Dorchester comes across an abused dog left in a trash can. This leads him to Nadia, who lives close by. They form an attachment brought about by caring for the dog. Also in the action is Marv, Bob's boss at the bar, a man yearning to move up in the organization now run by Chechens, and Nadia's former boyfriend, a crazed sociopath. This is a terrific story and I think I prefer it to the script Lehane produced for the movie. It is lean and beautifully told. A gem

Oddly enough The Reward, by Stewart O'Nan also concerns an abandoned dog. In this case, a young woman, barely surviving on her salary as a taxi driver, hopes her rescue of the dog will reap her a reward. She is also in care of and bullied by her father. O'Nan is not a crime writer and in this one noir is more implied that explained. A very fine story though.

Lastly Femme Sole by Dana Cameron concerns the attempts of a woman to hold onto the bar in Boston's north end that her father has willed her. She runs up against a bunch of tough men, not least of them her abusive husband. She outfoxes them. Until...

I have read at or read entirely a lot of this series. Because they attempt to include local writers, some of the stories are by people who really don't have much experience writing short stories. Or local celebrities that may help sell copies. This means their quality varies considerably. This seemed like one of the better collections.  Patti Abbott

Sergio Angelini, SHOOTING STAR, Robert Bloch
Joe Barone, SHELTER, Harlan Coben
Brian Busby, A Look at FFB from our Canadian contributor
Casual Debris, THE UNDERPAINTER, Jane Urquhart
Martin Edwards, MURDER IN KENSINGTON COURT, Phillip MacDonald
Ed Gorman, SUSPENSE PATROLPhilip Macdonald
Rich Horton, TIME AND THE GODS, Lord Dunsany
Randy Johnson, FEATURING THE SAINT, Leslie Charteris
Nick Jones, THE BLUNDERER, Patricia Highsmith
George Kelley, SMOKE AND MIRRORS, Neil Gaiman
Margot Kinberg, A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE, Malla Nunn
B.V. Lawson, THE OXFORD BOOK OF AMERICAN DETECTIVE STORIES, ed. Tony Hillerman and Rosemary Herbert
Evan Lewis, THE PROUD RIDERS, Brian Wynne (Garfield)
Steve Lewis, DARK PLANET, John Rackam
Heath Lowrance, Four Elmore Leonard Westerns
Todd Mason, Some Suspense-Fiction Anthologies and Fantasy Fiction: Beyond and Alongside Tolkien: Among His PeerNeer, THE HAND IN THE DARK, Arthur J. Rees
J.F. Norris, ACT OF FEAR, Michael Collins
James Reasoner, THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE, Bill Pronzini
Richard Robinson, STAKEOUT ON PAGE STREET, Joe Gores
Gerard Saylor, I, SNIPER Stephen Hunter, CRASHED, Timothy Hallinan
Kevin Tipple, A VAMPIRE NAMED FRED, Bill Crider
TracyK, THE WINE OF ANGELS, Phil Rickman

Thursday, September 18, 2014


1964 TV

1964 was far from a golden age in television. In fact, many of the shows premiering that year seemed sillier than what came before or after with GOMER PYLE, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE MUNSTERS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, MR. MAGOO, FLIPPER, and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND.These sound like kid's shows, but were not.We who lived through this era may have some fondness for these shows, but I doubt any else would.

But there were a few shows that bore watching for me: THE AVENGERS, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE M,A.N FROM U.N.C.L.E, THE SAINT, THE FUGITIVE, and perhaps PEYTON PLACE as the first try at a multi-night soap.

Middling show for me included MY THREE SONS and BEN CASEY. And a couple good westerns still saddled up: BONANZA and GUNSMOKE.

Was it the death of a President that made us so sensitive to anything more demanding? Did we need foolishness to get past it?

U.S. TV attempted to produce a version of the satirical British show THIS WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS in 1964, but Americans were in no mood to watch political satire. In a few years, the war in Vietnam probably changed that.


Any of these resonate for you guys?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014




Here it is. Thanks to Jason Pinter at Polis Books for making this happen and for working with me on such a gorgeous book jacket. Hope my words can live up to this cover. And thanks to those who weighed in on my choice. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Music from 1964-Oh, Pretty Woman


It's easy to see why the sixties is not regarded as a great era for U.S. films if you look at this list.

One of my favorites, and I saw it again a few weeks ago and perhaps mentioned it, was THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY with James Garner, Julie Andrews , James Coburn and and an amazing Melvyn Douglas, Billed as a comedy, it's actually a very dark film. Garner is having an easy time of it caring for the needs of top brass in Europe just before the landing at Normandy. A pretty cushy assignment until a few things change the game. Highly recommended.

What is your favorite movie from 1964? Click the link above if you don't remember the year's films.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Music from 1964: I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND

1964: Books

It is 1964 here this week to celebrate my trip next week to DC to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the class that graduated the year before me. (It is more a reunion of the cheerleaders for me). I attended a very small school in Wyncote, PA and my graduating class was 21. The class of 1964 was 14.

So I have been thinking of that year and what was going on. I am starting with the books that graced the NYT Bestseller list of that week. Only one way to gauge what people were reading, I know, but a handy one.

Four books especially the first, dominated the best seller list in 1964. THE SPY was the biggest seller of the year.

THE GROUP, Mary McCarthy
HERZOG, Saul Bellow
THE RECTOR OF JUSTIN, Louis Auchinclos

I was a big fan of all four of these writers but may have not read these books until later.
Some of the other dominant books that year were: THIS ROUGH MAGIC (Mary Stewart), THE HAT ON THE BED (John O'Hara), CANDY (Terry Southern) ARMAGEDDON, Leon Uris, several books by Ian Flemming, THE MAN, Irving Wallace, JULIAN, Gore Vidal.

John Updike won the National Book Award for THE CENTAUR. 

Many of the non-fiction books dealt with the recent Kennedy assassination.

Some of the crime fiction that debuted that year included: A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY, Agatha Christie, THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE, John D. MacDonald, POP 1280, Jim Thompson, FROM DOON WITH DEATH, Ruth Rendell, THE PERFECT MURDER, H.R. Keating

The Edgar went to  Eric Ambler for THE LIGHT OF DAY. 

Did you read any of these before or later?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Special History with Rock and Roll -25 song meme

New Hope, PA 1966

My list is limited to songs in the sixties. Before that I only listened to my parents' sort of music.
In 1970, I had a child and my relationship with music became much more distant. I felt like I needed to leave rock behind and go forth to classical and jazz.

In the sixties, music was very important to me. As I looked through the list of songs from the years that I was 12 to 22, I realized I could sing many of them--maybe even half. I also realized that the songs I liked most often had a memory attached to it. So here they are and with some I have added a memory. I see they are mostly the music a young girl would choose. Not songs I might choose today.

If I misidentify a year, it doesn't really matter.

1) Gigi, Lerner and Lowe, well this is a year or two earlier than 1960, but my grandfather gave me my first turntable and this is the album he gave me to go with it. I definitely can sing every song on this album as well as songs all of the fantastic musicals from this era.

2) The Twist, Chubby Checker-This was the first dance that came along that I worked hard to master. We had dancing in our middle school at lunchtime and I really wanted to do it well. I practiced every day after school at my friend, Karen's house. We put on American Bandstand and danced the afternoon away.

3) The Theme from the Apartment, Ferrante and Teicher-The movie was important to me--giving me an insight into adult life before I was ready for it but yearned to know.. And with horrible misperceptions because I really never understood what was going on it that apartment. And the music was gorgeous.

4) Runaway, Dell Shannon.

5) Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Shirelles. I literally could put all of their songs on here. I think they spoke to young teenage girls better than anyone in the early sixties.

6) Runaround Sue, Dion. At our church on Sunday nights, we had an activity called Luther League where for some reason they allowed us to dance and flirt with each other.  I remember this song playing often.

7) Sheila, Tommy Roe, In the summer of 1962, I walked up on the boardwalk at Ocean City, alone for the first time, (visiting a friend whose father owned a bakery in OC, NJ. ) and this song was blasting from a pizza joint named Bob's.

8) Sherry Baby, Four Seasons-same as above. It takes me back to that summer when I poured a bottle of bleach on my hair, sat on the beach, and became a blonde until I went home and my mother had it dyed black within hours.

9) Where Have All the Flowers Gone-Kingston Trio-same summer (maybe Megan is right about being 14 your whole life) We went down to the beach one night and a group of strange people are strumming guitars and singing this song. I decide immediately to become a beatnik.

10) Be My Baby-Ronettes- I fell in love with a boy named Jerry the next year. This was "our" song. Or at least I thought so. We had a tumultuous romance because he found it very hard not to spend all of his spare time drinking and stealing cars with his male friends. It ended when my parents enrolled me in a private Christian school.

11) One Fine Day, Chiffons, (see above)

12) I Want to Hold Your Hand/She Loves You (or any Beatles' song) We are out in our new gold Chevy when my brother and I hear this. Lightening Strikes.

13) Where Did Our Love Go, Supremes. I have a summer job in New Hope, waitressing. This song wafted down the street every day of that summer. I am an adult. HA!

14) The House of the Rising Sun, Animals. Not sure I knew what the House was!

15) Louie, Louie, The Kingsmen

15) I Can't Get No Satisfaction-Rolling Stones. I meet Phil. This song and My Man by Barbra Streisand remind me of the summer of 1965.

16) Positively Fourth Street, Bob Dylan. It could have been many early Dylan songs but I remember howling this one with four friends, driving home from college in Massachusetts.

17) California Dreaming, The Mamas and the Papas. Love the harmony. Love Mama Cass.

18) You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, Dusty Springfield. another song to fall in love to

19) Light My Fire, The Doors. The sixties are now in full bloom

20) Different Drum, Linda Ronstadt, (The Stone Ponies) what a powerful voice

21) Respect, Aretha Franklin. What a powerful statement

22) White Rabbit-Jefferson Airplane but really Grace Slick. So surreal

23) Hey Jude, Beatles. I remember them singing this on THE SMOTHER BROTHERS. It seems like they sang it for fifteen minutes.

24) Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In, The Fifth Dimension- HAIR-finally a musical for young people.

25) Bad Moon Rising, Credence Clearwater-Love that pulsating beat.

So this is my list.