Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Best Of: "Vanity Kills"

I ask myself, "what price, Sheila? What price?"

Enough with the questions. I had to get out of the house and out of the city, that much was certain.

Unfortunately the epiphany that I was looking for came about nine minutes too late. I had become one of those people in the newspapers that I hold in contempt, because their reflexes override their common sense. Like when someone is crossing the street on a stormy day and wind snatches their umbrella from their hands. They turn around and scramble for their umbrella, not realizing that the light has changed and the bus is going to run the umbrella and them, over.

Or when a house is burning down and someone goes back into the house to retrieve the family photo album, only to have the ceiling collapse and snuff out their lives. My undoing was my vanity, which managed to betray me twice. My fingers were still burning as I sat down in my Subaru station wagon, the bleach and cleansers amongst other things had done quite a number on my hands.

Nor did I feel clean despite soaking in the shower until the water heater cried “uncle.” I could still feel the dirt from the backyard caked all over me. I grabbed the rear view mirror and looked back at my tired eyes. I looked every bit as old and worn out as Miranda accused me of being; “thirty going on sixty-five,” despite the fact that I’m four years younger than she was. She knew from the very first date that we had, that I hated aging and she made it a point throughout our relationship to push that button like some robot that tests a part’s durability so many thousands of times.

I took a deep breath and adjusted the mirror back to its original position. I had to get away from this house…I had to get away from this city.

It wasn’t really someone or something chasing me away, it was all me and the fact that I couldn’t complete one simple, solitary thought. I had become a creature of pure instinct with barely any reasoning left over to control my own actions. I did somehow manage to book a flight to Cabo San Lucas and I also managed to pack a bag. Beyond that, I was just a hot tired mess. I got all of six blocks away from our cozy little house, before I remembered that I had forgotten both my facial scrub and moisturizers. I didn’t want to stop at one of the malls along the way or pay through the nose at the airport for my favorite brand, so I went back home.

As I pulled up, there was Miranda right there at the front gate of our little hideaway and she started in again with how ungracefully I was aging. She was telling me how she was going to leave me for somebody younger whose tits weren’t permanently going south for the winter.

“Nobody’s going to want you, Sheila, except for some museum that might use you as a stand-in at a mummy exhibit.”

I kicked the gate open and walked past her. Once I was in Mexico, my thoughts and mind would be my own again. Two minutes later and I had the very products that kept the wrinkles away under my arms in two small carry-on bags…unfortunately that was about three minutes too many.

My brother, who loves to drop by unannounced, pulled up right next to my station wagon and honked. He had a brand new floozy with him and she wasn’t the typical silicone-enhanced cheerleader-type that he usually had dangling from his arm when he’s in town. She had a definite and deliberate air about her.

She was also more butch than Miranda and I put together, which made me dislike her instantly because that was the very type that Miranda seemed to like to cheat on me with, the most. My brother and his new girlfriend got out, and he didn’t close his door all the way, which I had not noticed at the time. Introductions were made, though I still can’t recall her name as I was preoccupied with how was I going to get them to leave and make my flight.

It was at that point that I wondered if her “definite and deliberate air” had the scent of a law enforcement background, because she reeked of being a cop. Suddenly my brother’s car door flew open and a German Sheppard leapt out and ran past me into the yard.

His girlfriend ran after the dog and my brother said, “Wow, Fritzi must have the scent of a dead squirrel or something. She’s training to be a rescue dog and he just goes nuts when there’s anything dead around.”

My brother went after them and I went into a slow backpedal, until they went around the back of the house, where I then got in my Subaru and sped off.

The rest I’ll just have to imagine, as I am now just pulling up on the freeway. No doubt, the dog is still digging through the three and a half feet of dirt that took me some six hours to dig up and he when he finally reaches Miranda, she’ll still have that hateful smirk on her face. She'll have that same vindictive grin that somehow survived that tumble down the stairs that we both took; her neck breaking and me having to drag her into the backyard.

“You know you are going to age twice as fast in prison” Miranda cackles at me in the rear view mirror from the backseat. She has that same venomous sneer on her now purple lips.

I just sigh, as I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ve lost my sanity as far back as last night, when I was digging her grave. I chuckle and say with what little defiance I can muster “even in death, you still can’t keep that big fat trap of yours shut, can you Miranda?”

I changed the first two sentences to point the reader in the right direction, but other than two word substitutions, this is the same story from last year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction with poll-chosen starter sentence

A haunting we will go
A haunting we will go
A haunting we will go

Yeah...uh, anyway, F-F-F #3 is here. The Baroness Von Bloggenschtern came up with the starter sentence: "There was no respite; the vivid, violent dreams that ruthlessly tormented her slumber had now relentlessly stretched the abyss, to envelop her during her day."

Here are the wonderful results!

Friday, September 25, 2009

"It's Chinatown, Robert"

The SF Gate/Chronicle had an interview with Robert Towne and he talked about his inspirations for the "Chinatown" script.

A couple of powerful flashbacks to the Los Angeles of his childhood persuaded Robert Towne to write "Chinatown."

One flashback came during a walk along the ocean in the early 1970s, when the quality of the light, the sea air and the smell of eucalyptus sent him into a reverie. "I remember thinking, 'I'm 11 years old again,' " Towne says, on the phone from his Los Angeles home to talk about the 35th anniversary of "Chinatown."

The other transporting moment was prompted by a newspaper article that focused on the 1930s and '40s Los Angeles of crime novelist Raymond Chandler and included photos of a period convertible at historic buildings.

"I'm very susceptible to the sights and sounds of the city," says Towne, who will turn 75 in November. "I realized all those parts of the city that I have loved and missed so much were still there to be had on film. I just needed the story."

He found his Los Angeles story in Oregon, where he'd gone with his friend and former roommate, an up-and-coming actor named Jack Nicholson, to appear in Nicholson's directorial debut, "Drive, He Said," released in 1971. Looking for a way to pass the time, Towne read Carey McWilliams' "Southern California: An Island on the Land," published in 1946. Still in print - "There's never been a better book about Southern California," Towne says - it contains a chapter about Los Angeles' infamous water scandal at the beginning of the last century, when shady if legal dealings allowed a core group of already wealthy men who controlled Los Angeles to become even richer by diverting water from the Owens Valley, 230 miles to the northeast.

Towne had his setting and his subject, and he and Nicholson wanted to make a classic murder mystery with contemporary sensibilities, a modern noir.

Click the purple to read the rest.

The Starter Sentence for Friday Flash Fiction #3

The Baroness* has come through with the starter sentence and it's an exceptional one: "There was no respite; the vivid, violent dreams that ruthlessly tormented her slumber had now relentlessly stretched the abyss, to envelop her during her day."

*The Baronress wishes you to note that this is not her depicted in this sketch.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Note on Friday Flash Fiction

Shall we fall into autumn?

All right, bad pun, but I'm too busy to do better, damn it! Luckily the authors of Friday Flash Fiction #2 won't let you down.

The starter sentence(s) is: “Nicole’s cataracts have worsened, so I knew she was going to be running late because she had to relearn her way around. She suprised me at the restaurant when she showed up beside our usual table and asked me, ‘wow, what just happened?’”

Also, please check out the Friday Flash Fiction #1 again, because you might have missed some stories. I had some problems typing the links from the field as it were, and not all of the stories were posted on that Tuesday morning.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You can't argue with Morgan Freeman

I'm too busy right now, which is a good thing, Martha Stewart...or is it? At any rate from Face Of The Cookie blog comes this pearl of wisdom to start your week.

Give it up; it's an insurmountable cotton candy thing and you can't win.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

There's Tweeting, and then there's Tweeting a whole novel

So here I am almost cross-eyed from editing this morning, when I go online to relax and I read about Matt Stewart. Apparently, he has Twittered/Tweeted a whole novel called "The French Revolution" and it's about-

Loosely structured on the greatest identity crisis ever, The French Revolution tells the story of a San Francisco family forging its place in history.

Esmerelda Van Twinkle, a failed pastry chef turned wretchedly obese copy shop manager, stumbles into motherhood after a semi-intentional liaison with good-natured coupon distributor Jasper Winslow. Born on Bastille Day, their twin children Robespierre and Marat revolt against archaic rules imposed by their autocratic grandmother, surmount radically misguided parenting, and combat wars in the Middle East to achieve great personal gain.

Just as the family is on the cusp of achieving meteoric success in politics, business, music, and gastronomy, fissures from the past crack open spectacularly, derailing their bid for long-lived power while cementing a reputation for the ages.

I don't know, it doesn't sound off-hand like a book that I would pick up, yet I have to learn not to be a book snob in the way that others are genre snobs when it comes to crime ficiton. Not to mention that I hate Twitter, which is just silly and irrational on my part.

Just how would this work in terms of a layout?

In blasts of 130 characters or so (leaving room for hashtags and links), it will take approximately 3700 tweets to transmit the 480,000 characters in my novel.

He even realizes that this is a tall order, but-

To be honest, I don’t think anybody'll weed through all my tweets.

That said, reading a few lines via Twitter is a cool & easy way for you to give this book a test drive. It’s like checking out a few minutes of a TV show before deciding if you want to order the whole season.

Therein lies the brilliance and the initial novelty should bring him an audience that he most likely never would've had.

Regardless, good luck, Matt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Friday Flash Fiction, The Sequel"

I posted the second starter sentence for Friday Flash Fiction yesterday, but I didn't have time to post it here.

Too many deadlines, not enough time.

Uh, no, that's not the starter sentence(s), this is: “Nicole’s cataracts have worsened, so I knew she was going to be running late because she had to relearn her way around. She suprised me at the restaurant when she showed up beside our usual table and asked me, ‘wow, what just happened?’”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Issue Number Seven Of Astonishing Adventures Is Here!

From The Official Press Release-

Astonishing Adventures Magazine, the prominent ePulp magazine, today announced the release of their seventh adventure-filled issue.

Have some crazy fun with the wonderful stories from writers like Mike Hughes, Christine Pope, Katherine Tomlinson, Sidney Harrison, Roger Alford, Brian Trent, Sarah Vaughn, Kat Parrish, Michael Patrick Sullivan, G. Wells Taylor, and Cormac Brown.

Soak in the amazingly beautiful images by artists like Joanne Renaud, Larry Nadolsky, G. Wells Taylor, Sarah Vaughn, and Susan Schader.

These are tales that will thrill and chill you well after you finish reading them.

Purchasers of the print copy will receive a free audio version of “The Dark” adventure by John Donald Carlucci and read by vocal j*hadist Robert Page.

Six issues into its amazing run, AAM and the Darke Media Group continue to provide the highest quality free fiction eZine on the Net while exploring ways to redefine the traditional publishing mode. Darke Media is launching a new web serial with a second serial, starring the mascot of AAM Scarlett, scheduled for early 2010.

Astonishing Adventures social network

Astonishing Adventures Magazine issue 7 - available print version at
Amazon: ISBN1448687330 $10.00 -

To read online or download

To download if the Issuu link does not work

Ladies and Gentlemen, there it is. Please, by all means, check it out.

Please, also if you get a chance, check out my story "Le Chat Noir."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction #1 is here!

It's only fitting that on the last tuesday of Summer of 2009 that we gather around the campfire for some stories. Now I asked for people to write an anecdote, short story or poem using the starter sentence, "stop me before I date again."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday's Shorts

First with a quasi-NSFW link, (cue Don Adams soundbite) "missed it by that much."

Next comes two great sets of Six Sentences, one by Paul D. Brazill and another by Frieda Bee.

Though it is a brief a mention as possible, I finally (site decorum) got my (site decorum) name up on The Rap Sheet, whoo!

Damn...I spoke too soon, here comes Sandman Sims to give me the hook.

Doc has kicked off Friday Flash Fiction right, with "Grandpa's Last Blast."

Last but certainly not least, Keith "Awesome," a.ka. "Raw Dog" Rawson has a new gig reviewing short crime fiction at Fantasy Book Reviews. Not to mention he has been added on as a finalist for the Watery Grave Invitational and as I said before, you the reader will benefit the, even more so.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hawthorne finishes today's writing quotes

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop."
– Vita Sackville-West

"Words -- so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."
– Nathaniel Hawthorne

From The Creative Screenwriting Weekly Newsletter

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction is live!

Just what do they mean by when something "is live," anyway? It's not like it was dead before or that it is really alive to begin with and...

At any rate, I've brought back Friday Flash Fiction!

How is this for a starter sentence? "Stop me before I date again."

If you'd like to participate, click this and follow the instructions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Beetner Me To A Pulp, Redux"

What was that tagline for "Alien?" Oh yeah, "In one can hear you scream."

Well on the Internet, you can't tell whether I'm joking or not, unless I do my job as a writer. Obviously I didn't.

I mean...

...even she knows that my tongue was in cheek.

And even Clark Kent knows when I'm winking so hard that it looks like I'm having a stroke.

So when I say that I'm hiring Betty White to pull a hit? I hope that you understand that in no way am I being serious, okay? I was using the most absurd thing I could think's what I do...that, and ellipses. Obviously poorly, but it's what I do.

Monday, September 7, 2009

"The Book Vs. Kindle, Rnd. 10." They Have Saved The Best For Last

Well, Green Apple Book Store has made their point-



And let's face it, there are very few fence-sitters when it comes to this subject. I fall squarely in the pro-book crowd, though Green Apple isn't going to pile it on any more and after this post, neither will I as I already do a small amount of business with the Not-so Nice Empire.

So for Round Ten, a prominent San Francisco author makes an appearance...

...and it leads to an unfortunate event.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Here's something I never do on this blog...

First, a tip of the, that's not quite right.

A tip of the, that's Bill Griffith's thing.

A tip of the hat to Sandra Seamans for mentioning "Jook And The Moth" in her post-

It's about trying to capture the flavor of a favorite dish cooked by someone else, in this case, his grandmother. I mentioned in the comments that I gave my sons recipes and he asked if I included all the ingredients or if I held back that one secret item that made it special. Which, of course, got me thinking about writing. Don't worry, my mind always takes side-trips that aren't always logical.

When I pass along recipes, I always copy the recipe from the original source, cookbook, newspaper clipping or magazine recipe. But the truth is, over the years of using these recipes, I do tweak them, adding extra sugar, using butter instead of margarine or shortening, little things I don't even think about when passing along a recipe. So what does this have to do with writing short stories?

There is a basic recipe for writing short stories. They all have a beginning, middle and end. Each genre also has its own little quirks that need to be followed for their basic recipe. It's how we tweak these ingredients both in the basic outline and within the genre that makes the difference, that gives our own "flavor" to a story. And if we're lucky, our story will be flavored with the ingredients of our lives that will make it different from other writer's stories. We want, and need, our stories to be like homemade soup not the Campbell's variety.

Next, I promised Pyzahn the recipe and I never talk about food over here, because I do that at Cormac Travels. Now, there are several recipes on the web, but I feel the one that I found that Shirley Fong-Torres gave Cooking Light, captures it best. Here is-


Creamy, slightly salty, and thick like porridge, jook is a popular Chinese breakfast. "Rice congee is comfort food with a capital 'C,'" Fong-Torres says. "It is one of my favorites--great when the weather is cold." Make a pot of congee, and set out bowls of condiments (chopped onions, parsley, ginger, and soy sauce) so diners can season to taste.

6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)


9 cups water
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 teaspoons salt
1 fresh turkey wing (about 1 pound)
1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger (about 1/4 ounce)

Chopped green onions (optional)
Minced fresh parsley (optional)
Julienne-cut peeled fresh ginger (optional)
Low-sodium soy sauce (optional)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large Dutch oven, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 1 1/2 hours or until soup has a creamy consistency, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Discard ginger piece. Remove turkey from soup; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cool 10 minutes. Remove skin from turkey; discard. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces, and stir meat into soup. Divide soup evenly among 6 bowls; garnish with green onions, parsley, julienne-cut ginger, and soy sauce, if desired.

Nobody on my maternal side of the family calls it "congee," but we are of Cantonese-Hakka descent and to compare our food to Hong Kong-style cuisine, can be like Manhattan Vs. Boston with those clam chowders. There is obviously some overlap, but different regions use different ingredients. Add the Hawaiian element as we tend to do, and virtually nothing we eat is 100% traditional.

I know for a fact that my grandmother used more rice than this recipe suggests, she like to make it thicker than what you get in restaurants in San Francisco. She also used the leftover Thanksgiving turkey, or one that was for a special Sunday dinner. This gave it the flavor that most restaurants lack, as they don't have the time or inclination to create a quasi-stock base.

She used enough ginger that you would know it was there, but it wouldn't overpower it. While this eaten year-round in San Francisco, you might want to wait until it gets a little cooler to try this in your neck of the woods, as the cooking process can really heat up the kitchen.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Issue #7 Will Be Live 9-15-09!

Editor JDC sent an email to all of the involved authors saying that Issue #7 of Astonishing Adventures will be ready on September 15th!

And as always, when we are talking about AAM, we are talking-



Science Fiction!


Strange Tales!




Oh, and speaking of noir, look for my story "Le Chat Noir."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Jook And The Moth"

It has taken me years to approximate it and twelve hours to put it together. I stir it one last time, and the aroma tells me that I am very close to my past. I turn off the stove and I carefully ladle Grandma's love into a large bowl.

She used to make jook for us after Thanksgiving, taking advantage of the availability of the turkey carcass and the fact that my family didn't care much for the dark meat of the bird. Of course we all loved her jook, a bland rice porridge that everyone else's grandmother and mother seemed to determined to render bland. Jook is called congee everywhere outside of Canton, in China. The way that everyone else makes it, makes me think of the word "congealed." My Grandma was not an exceptional cook, but her jook was outstanding and she guarded her recipe as if it were worth all the jade in the world.

My mother could do no justice to the dish, so I would spy without anyone's permission on our behalf. If I could've discovered the ingredients, maybe my mother could have duplicated it. I discovered the ingredients through subtle subterfuge over the years, but my Grandma was already wary and she did a perfect job of never letting me discover the precise amounts of those ingredients.

She'd put the turkey carcass in a pot of water on medium heat until it started boiling, then she would turn it down to low. Some ginger, some green onions, some leftover rice and some salt. It all seemed simple, yet there was a balance there that seemed to escape everyone else. So today my nose suggests to me that I am closer than ever, and I use a metal ladle to pour ersatz memories in the hope that they can bridge my soul to the past.

I go into the refrigerator to take out my small bottle of soy sauce when I notice something near the stove. It's a moth, and while it's not particularly large, it is flying in a rather determined elliptical pattern...kind of like a cross between a bat and a hawk swooping in on its prey. I move the pot over to another burner just in time, as the moth flings itself where the jook was just a second ago. I put a lid on the pot and pull my bowl away as the moth homes in on it like a guided missile.

This miserable creature seems determined, so I bring my bowl into the living room and sit down to eat. I spoon some goodness up, and then I realize that I have forgotten the soy sauce. I look over towards the kitchen and I see neither wing nor antenna of the crazed insect. I fetch the bottle and sit down, and the aroma caresses my face like Grandma did when she was proud of me. As I unscrew the cap, who should appear? The moth, and it's flying in even faster circles.

This doesn't make any sense at all; it's soup, not a light bulb or a flame. Is it the heat that draws the moth? Does it mistake the aroma for that of an incandescent light? Is it the spirit of another who coveted my Grandma's recipe and they are determined that I not enjoy it?

Is it the specter of a kamikaze pilot that mistakenly believes he never finished his mission? Or is it the ghost of my Grandma herself, trying to make sure that I won't achieve the state of perfection that only she could create? I drape my bowl with my napkin, making sure to cover it completely, and I return to the kitchen. I get a small glass and a take-out menu from the refrigerator.

The moth crawls across the napkin, its wings aflutter in anger and frustration. I bring the take-out menu across the table and the glass down, herding the moth into the glass. The moth is apoplectic, bouncing against the menu and the glass like a perpetual bullet. With difficulty, I open my front door, and then I let the moth case it is Grandma. I put everything down and I wash my hands. I have an appointment with a savory bowl from my past.

The jook has cooled enough that I don't need to blow on it. I dip my white porcelain spoon in the thickness and a nice piece of turkey with three pieces of green onion returns. I inhale the aroma for the last time and I devour the spoonful.

Your taste and smell are supposed to be interconnected, but in this case, my nose has deceived me. The taste is fine and it's better than most restaurants, yet I've made a poor version compared to that of my Grandma's. All the ingredients should be the same, yet it obviously is missing her love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Midnight Showdown" by Sandra Seamans

For those that have the audacity to believe that women can't write westerns...

...Sandra Seamans just lassoed, hog-tied and branded them with "Midnight Showdown."

Yes, I'll cut you loose, but as far as putting aloe on that big "S" on your back? You are on your own.