Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dear Mysta

We like to go antiquing now and then and I am always drawn to the dealers who keep postcards. Not for the side with the destination, but for the occasional note on the back. Funny how often there is no note though. Purchased in lieu of a photograph, I guess. But anyway, the ones that are written out are often interesting and generate story ideas for me. This week, I ran across a bunch from WW II. I guess the caught my attention because of the Ken Burns show. How sad to read these letters home from air, army and naval bases where men were being rushed through training to go to war.
Usually I prefer vacation communications though. Like this one I bought years ago dated 1912 and sent from Atlantic City to Brooklyn.
Dear Mysta.
I'm still intact. It's cold but fine, Yours, LC
Do you ever use things like this to generate stories?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Kevin at 10 months

We'd both forgotten just how busy at 10 month old is. Over a period of several hours yesterday and the day before, he never stopped moving. It's part of the code, I guess, to want to move and climb every minute. I actually heard Issac Asimov discuss it once in terms of eventually getting off this planet when we need to.
Whereas Kevin used to like to sit in laps and be read to, now he wants to throw the book and crawl after it. I was a mother a 22 and a good thing because it much harder for my son and his wife in the mid-thirties.
Hey parents of young children out there. Did you ten month olds never stop moving or do we have to worry about those alphabet prognoses?

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I have a new story at Demolition for those who aren't sick of me. The stories were accepted over many months. Little did I know they'd all come out in a week or two.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Cart Before the Horse

I woke up in a cold sweat last night and I'm on record from the outset that it's the cart before the horse kind of thing. Hell, the horse hasn't even come out of the barn yet. Maybe there is no horse in the barn at all. You get the drift.
This is what I fear: all the stuff that happens after you publish a book: the looking in bookstores that don't carry it; the checking of library sites to see if they have it and if they do have it, is anyone reading it, the bad reviews, the no reviews, the readings or no readings, the obsessiveness you must cultivate to succeed. Can I become this person? The one that drives around the country pushing his book so his publisher will take the next one? Can I make publicizing my book my life.
I have a good friend going through this now with a collection of terrific stories. Should she go into bookstores and ask them to order her book? Should she call and try to set up readings where no one is likely to turn up? How many calls should she make to newspapers? (Why does our local newspaper give no help to local writers?) Should she order a copy every week or so on Amazon to keep her numbers from going too high. Should she even watch those numbers at all or is it likely to make you crazy.
Sometimes writing short stories seems very safe. Maybe only a few people read them, but you're spared a lot of pain. I could just quietly file the novel away. I won't but it's a thought.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When One Man Dies

There are people you now get to know through the Internet in this strange new world we inhabit. There are voices that attract you more than others, ones that seem to jump off the blog.
Dave White has such a voice and although I've only read one short story by him, I know I'm going to like his first novel. His exuberance, naturalness, niceness has to permeate the pages. I know it will be steeped in those traits.
So give it a try with me. I'm betting we'll all love it.
(The appeal of a blog voice recently worked for me with reading Steven Torres' Concrete Maze. I knew I would like that book too. And I did. )

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shred of Evidence

I have a story up at Shred of Evidence:
(Thanks, Megan)

And I also took second place in the "Skeletons in the Closet" contest at Mysterical E.
Sorry to be about me, me, me today. Tomorrow we can talk about you.

One other things, do the checkers at Trader Joe's in your neck of the woods seem cult-like or is it just mine? (cult-like in a good way)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

King Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters

Okay, I told you I see everything and we were the only two people in the audience at the 4:30 show yesterday for this one. But Christopher Guest could not have written a better script. It was one of the funniest movies I've seen this year. The matchup of the arrogant, probably cheating Donkey Kong master of 1982, Billy Mitchell, with the sad sack, neglectful father of 2006, Steve Wiebe, was a classic. Did you know men are still playing these dinosaur games, still struggling to break records set 25 years ago? If it comes you way, give it a try. I guarantee you'll laugh and you'll cry for poor Steve Wiebe. The desire for excellence has no limits. And only men apparently seek excellence in video games. (Okay there was one woman playing)/
(This setup is made for a crime story).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Circling My Mother

In reading this fine book, I am again struck by how the generation of women who came of age in the 1920s through the 1940s seemed to be much more glamorous than the women who followed them. My mother's bureau drawers and closet were filled with mysterious objects, some never identified to my satisfaction. She had a scent, a regimen for getting ready to go out. She wore heels, dresses, hats--things foreign to me then and, even more, now.
Perhaps my generation gave up such things in exchange for other goals. Or possibly we have an aura of our own, but I strongly doubt that my daughter was ever caught up with her mother's mystery. My bureau drawers were dull--no undergarments not easily explained, no regime, no hats or heels, few dresses. In fact, I know she wasn't because she writes of women of earlier generations.
You can see some of this played out on Mad Men. People who weren't alive then believe the show to be an exaggeration. But it really isn't much of one.
This is the kind of post that get no response, but was your mother glamorous? Did feminism erase glamour? Did the sixties make me unwilling to spend much time on such things? Do I regret that I never learned to walk in heels or apply eyeliner with any skill? Maybe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two Weeks to Liftoff

I'm about two-three weeks from the start of trying to find an agent, writing the dreaded query letter, shaping the winning synopsis. If anyone has a word of advice, a website they find valuable, a book that helped them, any of that I'd be eternally grateful to hear about it before I make an unecessary mistake. It's a 70,000 word psychological suspense novel with a female protagonist set in Detroit. Thanks. I'm shaking in my shoes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Death at a Funeral

I've seen this movie twice now, don't ask why. Everyone we know assumes that we will see any movie out and they are usually right. But I saw this movie alone in Chicago a few weeks ago. There was a movie theater across the street from our hotel and I couldn't resist seeing something while my husband presented his paper. Three people were in the theater. None of them laughed much and I didn't either. The movie seemed obvious, trite, jejune. I gave it a 5.
Saturday night I saw it again. The theater was packed with guffawing people and suddenly it all seemed quite funny. What seemed obvious three weeks ago now seemed charming, a shared experience. The people we were with, Scottish, were quite enthralled. I enjoyed their enjoyment.
Am I driven by my peers of the moment, or is a comedy especially dependent on the audience? Have you had this experience? Have you changed your opinion of a movie based on the place, people, time you saw it? Am I a sheep, led by the masses? This time I'd give it a 7. That must mean I'm 20% influenced by those around me. Don't do the math.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Has This Happened to You?

Reader # 1 looked at draft#2 and said, I'm 95% there. What's still missing is the protagonist's soul lay bare. Okay, they're my words, but that's what she meant. In a short story, there is no time for this but it's essential in a novel unless I want my protagonist to seem like a sociopath, which doesn't make sense in light of her actions. She's dark but not that dark.
I am finding this very difficult to do. Do your characters ever elude you to the very end of the book (story)? Do you feel you know them but can't quite find a way to imbed this information artfully? First reader says to write (by hand) a monologue where she tells me about herself, all walls down. Ask her questions and write her response.
How do you get the inside out with your writing or is it only me who finds this difficult?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pulp Pusher

I have a new story at pulppusher. It's the tale of a overly protective father. Hope you like it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Michigan: A Midwest Mystery

Can someone tell me why a state that's elected two Democratic Senators, a Democratic Governor and voted blue in the last four presidential elections is in a permanent tax revolt? It started in the seventies and has had the state by the throat ever since. In a time of a failing automoile business, and thus falling state revenues, the legislature continues to get rid of things like the business tax and will not raise other taxes to cover the shortfall. An entertainement tax, which few would have even noticed, was gunned down a few months ago by these maniacs. We are about to go down in flames here. These idiots talk about cutting fat; the only fat is on us and so is the joke.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Cringe Factor

In my reading group last night, the discussion of On Chesil Beach kept returning to how much the book made each woman cringe.
I think McEwan was doing this on purpose. By dwelling so emphatically on a wedding night disaster, he was forcing the reader to experience his characters' shame and horror. He did this through some very specific and relentlessly fulsome details.
Making a reader or viewer cringe drives something home. And I am thinking here of the TV show The Office, where Michael's antics often produce a cringe. A few nights ago, in his workshop on diversity Michael managed to offend everyone in the room. All in the Family did it well too.
I'm sure other books and movies do it too. I don't think I could write it though. Fail to pull it off and the writer looks like a racist instead of someone holding racism up for our ridicule.
Who else does it well?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"What's Left Behind"

is a story of mine in the new Mouth Full of Bullets (
B.J. Bourg is trying something new this month. He's going to a print journal for all the new stories. I applaud his chutzpah in a time when most print journals disappear after one or two issues. So if you want to read this exciting story about an aged couple who find a fun way to entertain themselves in their retirement in Mississippi, you'll have to buy the issue for $6.

Speaking of which...With the exception of the eclectic The Spinetingler, it seems like all the other crimes zines have a definite preference for really hard-boiled stories. I sometime write stories like that but at other times I write stories that are not so...tough. I wish someone would come along and start a zine for the other sort of stories. Not necessarily cozies, but for stories where heads don't have to fly across the room.

Goal for the fall: learn the names of all the characters on The Office. I realized last night I still don't know the name of the older, thin, white man who lurks in the corners. And I'm also not sure of the older woman (not Phyllis) who appears less often. I am worried that these names are coming more slowly because 1) I am too old now to learn 12 new names 2) because they look like real people and not movie stars so I find them difficult to sort out. Either way, it sucks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

In Celebration of The New TV season

Shows you wish you'd watched but didn't : Heroes, Friday Night Lights, The Shield, Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, Smallville

Shows you wish you hadn't watched but did: Desperate Housewives

Show you wish you'd stayed with: Deadwood, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Rome

Shows you're glad you ditched: John from Cincinnatti, Nip-Tuck, 24, Prison Break, Studio 64 on the Sunset Strip

Shows you got just right : The Sopranos, The Wire. Big Love, The Brotherhood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, Life on Mars

Shows good for an occasional viewing but you'd never tape: Monk, The Closer, Damages, House

Shows that shouldnt have been cancelled but were: Arrested Deveopment, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, Firefly, Sports Night and a whole slew probably I never even got around to sampling

Shows that jumped the shark this year: Rescue Me, Entourage, 24, My Name is Earl

Shows too soon to tell: Burn Notice, Mad Men, Thirty Rock, Flight of the Conchords

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Just Tell Me What's Wrong With It?

Maybe I'm the only one who has stories like this. Stories that I like, like even like more than stories that have been published. And yet, they sit on my hard drive, gathering dust. With me, they tend to be humorous stories. Or stories I like to think of as humorous. Do you have stories like this? Stories where you can't pinpoint the problem? Stories that you send out over and over.

But once in a while, someone finally gets it. That happened to me this week with a story I really liked but sent to about 15-20 literary outlets over the last two years. This week Storyglossia took it and the editor's comment was, "Boy, you really understood irony here." So finally, someone's head and mine were in the same place. Or maybe we're both a little off.

I still have at least a dozen stories nobody ever got. Maybe I need to send them out again. Maybe my sense of humor has come into vogue finally.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jumping the Shark: Can You Turn it Around?

As many have pointed out, a number of TV shows have jumped the shark this season. I am thinking of Entourage and Rescue Me to name two. Nip-Tuck jumped last year in perhaps the Evil Knivel of all jumps.
Once the shark is jumped, do shows ever recover their mojo? I think Saturday Night Live had several recoveries but only by hiring new casts and writers. There are also shows that had so-so years amid better ones. Certainly Dallas had a novel way of wiping out a disastrous storyline.
But I can't really think of a good show that deteriorated and then returned to its full glory. Can you?
Interesting to see if 24 can pull it off next season.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I Wake Up Screaming

afraid that I have wasted a lot of time writing a novel that won't be published when I could have been writing short stories that usually do get published. It's a chance that should only be taken while young perhaps. I mean how much time do I have to screw around with this idea--that this novel will ever see light.

As I do the second draft, I'm trying even more to force all internal thoughts into external conversations and action. Since I am reading old books at the same time, this seems crazy. The characters in Willeford and the other mid century writers let you roam around in their characters head for half the book. I like being in their heads. It's easy to follow the action from there. You know what's up with them. But I know this won't work in this style of book--which I now define as a psycho-noir suspense novel.
I wonder if some of this problem with internal thought relates to the disdain for Freudian thinking. Action not rumination is what counts.
Three people have read this book and one of them says it's too rough (my mother), one says not rough enough (my husband) and one says it's okay on the roughness quotient at least (daughter). I guess I should discount my mother . But how rough is too rough when the roughness comes from your protagonist.

Anyway. I do wake up screaming.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pick-Up by Charles Willeford

When was the last time you read a book so compelling you couldn't put it down? What was it?
For me, it was this novel. It takes a long time in Pick-Up for the reader to understand the protagonist and what he's all about. Why he's in the fix he's in. Maybe you won't understand the full story until the last line. And yet, Willeford is able to tell his story lucidly, making even the most mundane details riveting.
This is basically a story about two drunks. Why does it work so well? Better for me even than Kennedy's drunks in Albany. Because the characters are interesting, the narrative pull inescapable, the writing excellent.
Even when the plot turns a bit unlikely in the last third--the characters remain true to themselves, so you go along with it.
What turned you on this much?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

My Kind of Town

Three days in Chicago to attend the American Political Science Association with my husband. Have you ever had dinner with eight political theorists? How many political theorists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: An infinite number because none of them would ever notice they were sitting in the dark.
And yes, Chicago is the most fantastic US city.
But that's not what this is about. This is about ineptitude. In four days, I never got my laptop functional because suddenly the piece that allows me to add on a keyboard and a mouse and a flash drive would not fit into any port. And still won't.
Also my new cellphone kept sending me messages to set up my voice mail and telling me to hit the pound key, which I did. Then it advised me to seek advice on what the pound key was. Isn't this the pound key ######.
Then four of us went to Oak Park and were give ipods to do an audio tour of Frank Lloyd Wright land and the snotty tech guy warned us that people like us (read old) liked to hit just any old button and if we did hit any old button he couldn't be responsible if we had to listen to the tape in Japanese. So keep your fingers away from this button, you old f****.
Every day I get just a little further behind in the tech war. Skip one step, let one thing pass you buy and you're dead. Of course, you are anyway.