Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Get Plugged In #10

chuffed [chuhft]

–adjective British Informal.
delighted; pleased; satisfied.

"Chuffed?" That I am, but you'll have to get to the bottom of this post to see why.

Today? I have more plugs than The Hair Club For Men, and not only am I the President of Cormac Brown's Plugs For Writers, but I'm also a member!

Aldo Calcagno has scored a major coup for Darkest Before The Dawn, with the first three chapters of Hilary Davidson's new novel "The Damage Done!"

Richard Godwin has interviewed Pamila Payne and in it, she gives us some wonderful insights into the supernatural and goings on of The Bella Vista. Richard also can type out a mean tale, and "Nowhere Man" at A Twist of Noir, is no exception. He lights a fuse under some dynamite prose and I guarantee that after you read it, you won't look at the outside world the same way.

At Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Sandra Seamans can make a bright sunny day turn dark in ways that most of us can't imagine.

Nigel P Bird has taken all the spotlights out of Hollywood, and shifted them to the crime writing community, with his "Dancing With Myself" interviews.

He has noir great Kelli Stanley!

My fellow AAM alum, Chris Dabnor.

Paulie Decibels, who I will touch upon later on in this post.

The King of Crime Poetry, Gerald So.

The legendary Eric Beetner (where's JB?).

My crime writing Dad, Christopher Grant.

The Godmother of noir, Patti Abbott.

And with Steve Weddle, who was nice enough to plug me twice. Say even one semi-cross thing about the man and I won't eat your children, but I will make your ears look like some kind of odd hybrid between Evander Holyfield's and Vincent Van Gough's.

So what am I so proud of? Well, it's whom. A one Mister Paul D. Brazill has made it into the Premier League, with a story in The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime. It even made his hometown newspaper, The Hartlepool Mail.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Take the plunge

It's the same, yet it's entirely different...

...because this time, Nicole is running the show. I'm glad to have her around, and that she is steering the ship. This time, there will be three sentences, instead of one. This time around, it will be a once a month prompt.

Go ahead and take the plunge.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Best Of: "Hot Ice And Cold Blood"

A couple of projects loom over the horizon and I have more plugs to give out than a dozen Hair Club For Men franchises put together. In the meantime, the following story should tie you over. "Hot Ice And Cold Blood" appeared at the original Powder Flash Burn blog. A lot of us owe our writing and our readership to Aldo Calcagno, so I ask that you visit the Original PFB, the New PFB and Darkest Before The Dawn.

Right after you do that, pop back over here and click the paragraph below to read some more Neo-Noir-

Image from

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Asimov kicks off yet another Writing Quotes

"If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster."

- Isaac Asimov

The following quotes came from The Creative Screenwriting Weekly Newsletter...

"The role of the writer is not to say what we all can say, but we are unable to say."

- Anais Nin

"Every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end...but not necessarily in that order."

- Jean-Luc Godard

"The writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master - something that at times strangely wills and works for itself."

- Charlotte Brontë

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Johnny's Trattoria

The Trattoria di Gianni was a warm and small restaurant. Though it had the capacity for twenty-four people, it was never that full. Yet it was never empty, either, and it had small, but steady and loyal clientele. The enthusiasm of Giovanni Calvo, the love and quality in the ingredients of his food, and the intimate setting kept the people coming back.

He was the first chef I ever worked for, and I apprenticed under him some twenty-four years ago. Over the last twenty years, I would fill in for him at his restaurant when he would take his annual vacation back to his hometown of Ascoli. Unfortunately, two years ago on his last trip, Giovanni simply never came back. His niece came by the trattoria on the day he was due back and said that he had had a major heart attack. While he survived the coronary, he was left weakened and couldn’t stand up for more than a few minutes at a time.

Giovanni’s niece, Eleanora, asked me if I could take over the restaurant in his place, as she believed that if it closed, it would kill him. So, I reluctantly gave notice to the restaurant that I had been grinding away at for the last two decades and took over the trattoria.

What a difference it was between running this joint for a couple of weeks, and running it even a day beyond that. It was an exhausting endeavor. Attached to the back of the eatery was Gianni’s green house, where he kept his large garden. In it were fresh basil, fragrant rosemary, bright red tomatoes, Italian parsley, chard, garlic, eggplant, and three different kinds of onions. Even though he had a fairly simple drip system feeding water to the plants, the garden still required a fair amount of maintenance.

Gianni also insisted on grinding his own sausage and he made his own bread, and the latter was the bane of my existence. I can cook virtually anything you ask me to, but I cannot bake to save my life. The customers were not happy with the salty or cardboard-like results, and I wound up having to buy bread from a bakery. That was the last straw for a few of our regulars and they stopped coming altogether.

Still, things went smoothly for the most part, but trying to be all things restaurateur to all people took its toll on me. It was debilitating and my health began to suffer. My empathy for Giovanni must have increased three times over, and I wondered how much longer it would be until I wound up like him. In the meantime, Eleanora suffered a few financial setbacks and she desperately needed money. She asked me if I would buy the trattoria from her and I told her that I really couldn’t afford to.

His niece went to Italy and explained to Giovanni that she couldn’t afford to keep the restaurant open, and that it might be better if they sold it. I imagine that he reluctantly agreed, though I don’t know because I wasn’t there. I didn’t find out about this until a couple of days after she got back to The States. She didn’t even have the heart to tell me directly that the place was for sale. She cryptically said, “I want you to cancel all food orders for next week, because we will be remodeling.”

Our meat wholesaler was actually the one to break the bad news to me. What could I say to her? I didn’t have a partnership with Eleanora, so she could do whatever the hell she wanted to do with trattoria. I tried to throw a nice farewell fete, but a couple of inebriated customers ruined it. The less said about that, the better.

Seven months later, I’m on my feet again at a fairly nice place that almost cares about their food and menu as Giovanni did. As this is a very-close knit industry, ugly rumors would pop up every known and then, like the earwigs that loved the basil in Giovanni’s garden. I went by the old joint one night to see if they were true. Gone was the subtle “Trattoria Di Giovanni” sign and in its place a giant, cold logo. You know, the kind that people pay companies and focus groups to come up with.

I went inside and even though there were plenty of employees, there was no one at the front to greet me. I picked up a menu, looked it over and it was like a sucker-punch to the gut. There before me was the Americanized version of Italian food, and a quick glance at the tables confirmed it. Everything that wasn’t canned, came from a deep freezer or looked dubious at best. All of the fresh herbs and spices were replaced by the sawdust that passes for Parmesan and mozzarella that must have come from cows that grazed on Astro Turf.

The seating was expanded and the garden in the greenhouse was paved over. All the better to seat you, my dear, as we serve you processed and microwaved mystery foodstuffs. Unlike before, there was little space between the tables and the diners were wedged against each other. The waitstaff loomed over the customers like vultures, swooping down on their plates before people were finished, and giving them the checks while they were still eating dessert. I felt a tear welling up and I had to leave, before I became the chef version of that old TV ad with the Native American chief surveying the polluted land.

I’d like to tell you that the plastic clone of Trattoria Di Gianni closed down, but it’s going somehow. Remember this, though; food without quality, care and love, is merely sustenance. It’s an oxymoron of the definition of the word “substance.” If you feed your soul nothing but the ersatz and the empty, it will remain unfulfilled.

The End

Monday, September 13, 2010

Raymond, we hardly knew ya around here

Wait a minute, let me get this straight...Raymond Chandler was living in San Francisco, some three years before Dashiell Hammett? This wonderful tidbit was discovered by novelist, Mark Coggins.

Honestly, I don't think Chandler ever set a story here, and I cannot even remember a specific passage where he even bothered to mention San Francisco in passing. It's just as well, Los Angles, I mean Angeles is the city the Brit is associated with most.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"A Snapshot Of The World"

"I got your dozen or so messages, Wynona. What are you so fired up about that you had to blow up my cell phone with all those messages?"

"Then you still don't know, Nadine?"

"'Know what?'"

"I’ll venture that you and Clint must have been part of the two percent that weren't affected. You didn't at least listen to the radio?"

"You know damn well that Clint insisted we spend one whole week off the grid, talking about how it was going to make our lives stressful. Well, I can't tell you how worked up I am, wonderin' if the DVR recorded all of my stories and how on Earth am I ever going to catch up?"

"Well, missed out on a bunch...a whole bunch. Edgar left me."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Don't be, I'm not sure I am exactly sorry. That ain't the big news anyway. The big news is that for fifty-two hours, your mom, my mom, everyone's mom was right!"

"Stop speaking in riddles. What happened?"

"Well, Nadine, I'll try and explain it the best I can, though the USA Today or The Times- Picayune can certainly explain it better. You know how scientists have been bringing up theories about those solar flares and how they're going to disrupt cell phones and everything that has a plug or a battery?"

"Are you gonna stop taking these side trips to Tangent Street and steer us over to Relevant Avenue, Wynona?"

"Well, there was a great big solar flare and it somehow affected the neurological systems of 98% of the people in the world. Remember how your mom used to say that if you keep making that face, it will get stuck that way? Well, for fifty-two hours, that's exactly what happened to everyone. Beyond the two percent exception, that was every man, woman and child.

On TV, they called it ‘The Flare.’ And I don't know why the animals got away scot-free, but they did. You know I would've loved to see the lions down at the Zoo with their faces stuck like the MGM Lion on freeze-frame."

"I don't believe you."

"Shit, you don't have to; change the channel to CNN."

"Oh…my Lord, you're not kidding."

“Can you imagine that, Nadine? The people that were asleep when The Flare struck, couldn’t open their eyes. They were effectively blind for every minute the phenomona-”


“-Phenomenon took place. And you remember that perky little Bree Croque from high school? The one that never stopped chattering like a chipmunk and smiling all the time? One can only imagine what she was up to when The Flare happened, because I saw her down at the Piggly Wiggly and she looked like she was weaned on a pickle when she was born.”

“You’ve seen her husband; wouldn’t you make that face all the time, too?”

“Speaking of strange faces, Nadine. They say that everyone that was having sex at the time, was too scared to leave their houses. You can imagine how many people got caught doing what they weren’t supposed to be doing.”

“That, or surely more of them claimed that they were asleep, than there actually were. Speaking of which, Wynona, is that what happened with Edgar and you?”

“Well, I was at work down at the bank, and I was so distracted by watching the expressions of everyone else, that I didn’t see Edgar come in. He walked in and slid the photograph across my desk.”

“What photograph?”

“He took one of me before I left for work, and he used my damn Polaroid. He knows I’ve been saving that for special occasions, and you can’t even get the film for it on eBay anymore.”

“Again, you’re steering us away.”

“He asked me, ‘why weren’t you smiling when The Flare happened?’ I told him that I was contemplating something. Then he said, ‘you always look like this…all wistful-like. What do you have to think about? I put a roof over your head, I provide for you and that’s all you really need.’”

“Oh no, what did you say to him? Tell me you didn’t let a good man get away.”

“I told him the truth, Nadine. He does a lot of things for me, but he doesn’t make me happy. I wasn’t going to lie to him, I couldn’t…it was all in the picture. By the time I got home from work, he had everything out of the house. I can’t say I miss him much, but I can say that I’m happier. If it wasn’t for The Flare, I probably would’ve been stuck with him until one of us was in the grave.”

The End

For Friday Flash Fiction #41, The Professor came up with the starter sentence, "He walked in and slid the photograph across my desk."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nigel P. Bird's Interviews

Over at Sea Minor, Nigel P. Bird came up with a unique idea. Why not let people interview themselves and he would post it?

He has already put up some fine ones with Keith Rawson and The Drowning Machine's Naomi Johnson. Not to mention that ones with Jedidiah Ayers and Megan Abbot are forthcoming. Today, he is one with writer, columnist and super editor, Katherine Tomlinson.