Thursday, September 12, 2013
Billie's mother, Kay, has to return home when her marriage falls apart. Few women were able to support themselves and care for a child in the fifties. Kay could do neither.
When I looked at the novel as a whole, it seemed like I was beginning too early on in the narrative. I really wanted the novel to be about Billie and her son, Charlie, rather than start back with Kay and Adele in the late fifties. Kay was the kind of character that was better in a supporting role in a novel. A little of Kay goes a long way, in other words.
But I liked a lot of things about that chapter. I liked that both woman basically ignored Billie despite struggling over control of her. I liked that both woman had moments of strength and moments of weakness. I enjoyed evoking the house of my childhood, which was on a block of row houses where going to the back of your house without going through it could lead to a long walk. Divorced women in the fifties got little respect and the issue of pedophilia was practically unknown. I doubt anyone thought twice about leaving their child alone with a man for ten minutes. How did these women that married so early become an adult, and more importantly, a mother. Not always very well.
Writers: do you always know where a novel or story should start? I find that a difficult issue. I almost always end up cutting a lot of the early stuff in a story. It's like scaffolding I can eventually remove.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
HOW I WROTE THIS BOOK: The Same Mistake Twice
Monday, March 04, 2013
And this one was particularly simple because I merely wanted to establish an early introduction for my character to: photography, to men who want things from women, to tawdriness, to the things that would harden her. Essentially, it was a standalone chapter in the book. Not good for a novel but good for a short story.
As a teenager, Iris takes a job working the counter for Allure Furs, a seedy fur store stuck between a donut shop and a second run (or perhaps an adult) theater. Her duties grow when her boss decides she can do more than answer phones.
I sent the story to THUGLIT and Todd Robinson, its editor, thought it needed a bit more indication of just how sleazy the atmosphere at Allure Furs was. He was right. I was telling instead of showing the protagonist's encounters with men while modeling fur coats. The reader needed to feel her fear, and also her power, over the men who wanted to humiliate her. Hope it works for you.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Sunday, February 03, 2013
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Saturday, October 13, 2012
It was sparked by a years-old memory of seeing bruises on my own cousin's arm. When I asked him how the bruises happened, he wouldn't tell me, and he was very scared I might tell someone else. I had heard rumors his father was abusive, but unless he admitted to the beating, no one would believe me--especially since our relationship as children was contentious.
My cousin and I are on good terms now. He's married, has a good job, and owns his own home. If the rumors I still hear about his father are true, I would have turned my back, but my cousin is more compassionate, so his father remains an albatross.
I'm glad to turn this bad experience into a poem that will go to protect children. I'm also glad to tell you how my cousin is doing now. Thank you, Patti.
CHECK OUT MY REVIEW OF THE MASTER at Crimepree Cinema.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The Rhythm Of Life -BOTH BARRELS
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Pulp Ink 2
Before I left for Asia in 1998, where I would live for the next decade, I read a lot of Somerset Maugham. He's not much in vogue anymore, stuffy Mr. Maugham, and for good reason; but in his prime he wrote a shit ton of short stories romanticizing early 20th century British colonial life. Tell you the truth, I don't distinctly remember a single one. Debonair white folks in linens and pith hats drinking gin under swaying palms as the devious dark locals plotted and schemed, were recurring set pieces, if memory serves. I doubt those stories were particularly accurate even at the time, but to me, a Nebraska farm boy who'd never been outside the US before I got on that plane, they seemed fraught with exotic wonder.
The real Asia of the present day, of course, has zero in common with those hoary old stories. But reading them at such an impressionable time, they remained with me even as actual Asia made mincemeat of that old racist’s little fables.
Maugham may be a dead letter on this side of the pond, but several publishing houses in Thailand and Singapore continue in his vein, publishing tales of Western good ole boys on the loose in the dirty alleys and empty beaches of erotically exotic Southeast Asia. I've got a couple lying around somewhere; they have titles like Rough Karma and The Burmese Fixer and Bangkok Baby and inevitably, one or more of the characters finds himself, tie ajar, shirtfront stained with sweat, in a go-go bar swigging a Singha and smoking a Krong Thip cigarette.
"Glinty-Eyed Robert" is my attempt at a send-up of the whole genre. I tried to maintain a gentile, Maugham-esque air. It would never do to be uncouth, after all, even in a girly bar. The setting is real enough, I suppose, but the characters - pure caricature. The grizzled foreign correspondent, the stiff Southern wife, the sentimental professor, the cynical cabbie, the lithe and ruthless bar girl (who probably has a heart of gold, though we never get to find out): they're all there.
I strove to gift these stock characters some emotional resonance. Even cardboard cutouts need someone to love them, right? Chris & Nigel gave the thumbs up to the effort, and I couldn’t be happier that this slaphappy little pastiche made into Pulp Ink 2.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
All proceeds from PULP INK 2 go to a British charity for children.
How I Came to Write this Story: Thicker Than Water from Pulp Ink 2
About two years ago, when I was putting together the last issue of Dark Valentine Magazine, I ran across an arresting illustration by a Russian artist named Alena Lazereva—a mermaid tied to an anchor; a painting she called “Doomed.” It was one of those moments where a story just popped into my head fully formed—a tale of a young sailor whose life becomes an Ahab-like vengeance quest after a mermaid’s song lures his ship too close to rocks and he alone survives the subsequent shipwreck.
I liked the story but felt like the idea of the painting—you can’t drown a mermaid but you can starve her to death—deserved a darker and more modern story.
When Pulp Ink 2 was announced and the call for submissions was for stories blending noir with horror, I had another one of those “gift” moments. I saw a man floating in a shipping crate filled with water, a man who hadn’t drowned but had starved to death.
From there I started mapping out a story where such a thing would be plausible, setting “Thicker than Water” in the paranormal Los Angeles that’s the setting for my L.A. Nocturne tales. What I came up with was a story of a “surf war” between rival “shoals” of gangster mer-men.
Then I started fleshing out the details.
I looked up names that meant “fish” for my characters. I gave “The Carp,” the godfather of a local shoal of criminal mer-men, some great cryptic Japanese sayings for him to use in conversation. (“The jellyfish never dances with the shrimp,” was my favorite.)
I had a really, really good time splashing around in this particular setting.
In fact, I had so much fun with my world-building that editors Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan had to rein me in a couple of times. (They’re great editors, by the way, and every single suggestion they made improved the story.)
I wrote the first draft in one sitting and then went back and played with it for the better part of two weeks. I often use twist endings, but this story ends with a pun and I wasn’t sure if that was going to work tonally. I took it out and put it back in a couple of times. But at the end I thought—your character is part human and part shark and all crass; he’d say what he says. So I left it in. And Nigel and Chris left it in.
And that’s how I came to write the story. A picture was worth a thousand words.