Thursday, December 28, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thank you, Graham

The bar isn't officially open, but I wanted to join my colleagues in raising a glass to the proprietor of Crime Spot, Graham Powell.

Graham is the traffic master and genius behind that big roundhouse of blogs, the guy who lets everyone know when a place is updated so there's never a moment in the day you can't find some reason to not write.

Graham once called me an evil genius for bringing down his site but he was being kind. I'm no genius, and the evil is almost always unintentional.

So Graham, this drink's for you.

And if you just email me your address, I'll put this collection of Blue Murder in the mail. It's my way of saying thanks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's that time of year.

So here we are, a full year from the time I first started writing the Planet. Unfortunately, this joke is as ruefully true today as it was a century ago.

This has been a great year. I hope you all have had as much fun as I have. But, as Carolina Moon said, nothing lasts forever. I'd felt the quality of my posts slip, so it was time to pack it in. As Stephen suggested, I may just go on hiatus. I don't know. I'll leave the Planet up so that I can come back (I don't know how not to leave it up), maybe after I get this novel well under way.

It's always been a source of wonderment that so many great writers came here regularly to get a laugh. Thank you.

This year, with your encouragement, I finished that ghost novel, I wrote my first screenplay and got back to my WIP, one I think will be good if I could only find the time to write it, which is another reason I'm going dark. A steady job makes the mortgage lenders happy, but it is truly the writer's curse.

After all the political posts I've put up, I find it fitting that Donald Rumsfeld and I are leaving on the same day, although I think I had a better year than he did. I made mistakes, but no one got hurt. OK, except for that hooker in Phoenix, but that was Stephen and Dusty's idea, not mine.

Feel free to drop me an email. You know where I am. And I'll be making silly comments at all my usual haunts.

You might check back here after the New Year, say in February, and I might have something new up. Or maybe not. Hell, if something shiny catches my eye this afternoon, I might have something new up. The point is, I'm not planning to. And that takes an enormous weight off.

Weightless. Yeah, that's me. Weightless.

Bogi and Olen.

Because of my love for dogs and my profound affection for Olen Steinhauer, I direct you to Olen's post about Bogi, the pooch in this picture.

I cannot add anything to Olen's memory, just as I can't take away any of his pain, as much as I wish it. But we can express our condolences.

Dogs are one of the few things that make me think there is a God, and that he does favor us. But like all of God's blessings, this one carries a steep price tag.

My sympathy goes out to Olen and his girlfriend and I wish them a brief mourning and my hope that they've taken a lot of pictures like the one above.

Let's not go there. It is a silly place.

Silly. Like this one about a new religion.

The Hamster With The Rabbit's Foot.

A post about vanity plates.

Photoshop fun.

A HanniHunk.

and A modest proposal.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What the hell is this?

In the past year I've posted a lot of silly stuff, but nothing generated as many comments, both on and off the record, as this.

As I look back, it was the silly stuff that gave me the most pleasure. Tomorrow, as we count down to the final day, two of my favorites.

OK, I had to show you this.

I just got this offer from Liddy Dole (R-Asshat), our junior senator who has three dynamite books for you to give to that person on your list you really can't stand.

And they're autographed!

This LIMITED SUPPLY, says Liddy in breathless all-caps, is available for only $99. That's right $99 for Hearts Touched by Fire: My 500 Most Inspirational Quotations by Liddy her own self, her husband's memoir from like 1986, and Here's Where I Stand: A Memoir, by our good and close friend Jesse Helms.

That's right, Liddy's pushing her lame-ass book by climbing onto poor old doddering bigot Jesse Helms' back. That's like me offering my book for sale in a package with Lee Child's, if Lee Child was too senile to know. Which he isn't.

But that's our opportunistic Liddy, always ready to take advantage of others. And Jesus, quotations. Is there a lazier way to get your name on a book cover other than by giving Jeff Shelby a positive blurb?

Liddy goes into her breathless caps again with the ultimate huckster's close: THIS IS THE LAST WEEK! and warns us grimly that "...there is a very limited supply available."

Yeah, like about 300 thousand they have in a warehouse near Salisbury.

So hurry, Planeteers. You know these things are just going to fly off the shelves.

Novel Update:
I figured out my problem. This novel was fighting me like a wounded bear because I'm trying to put two novels into one. So, I'm putting together a new plot for this first book and saving this present plot for a second in a series. If there is a series. Yes, it puts me back several steps, but it's good because I have the second book plotted out. So, while I'm not dancing, I'm not suicidal, either. And it makes a lot of sense. More later.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I couldn't have done it without you, George.

My screensaver at work is a random selection of pictures I've used on this blog. So, it's surprising when I see how many pictures of Bush I have on my hard drive. Say what you will, the guy's good material.

Here are a few entries about our Dear Leader that I'm proud to have written:

Unintentional Accuracy in the Media

Queer Eye For The Cynical Guy

And Here I Thought He Was Gay

Where does she get these ideas?

and my personal favorite:

Get those gays out of uniform and back into cowboy boots where they belong.

Hmm, there seems to be a pattern about these Bushie posts. I wonder why that is.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Planetary News

We all make sacrifices so that we can write. Most of us choose to live in penury, beating our brains against the keyboard, sitting alone at the book signing tables, begging our agents for a hardcover deal, or a multi-book deal, or a paperback deal, all while waiting for that movie deal which might allow us to buy a new used car.

Some of uf give up all hope of full time employment. Some of us live in houses that would make our mothers blanche at the dust and disorder. Some of us work long hours, with little social life or family interaction.

All so we can put out books in a world of fewer and fewer readers.

After thinking about this for a long time, and with a great deal of hesitation because I enjoy this, I'm ending the Planet. This Friday will mark a year's worth of blogging, with more than a post every day, and I feel like it's time. I'm hoping it will free me up to work on the novel. We'll see. When I told Jenny about this, she said "Forever?" and I admitted that forever is a long time and who knows, I might find it impossible to stay away. We'll see.

But I know I won't be posting every day like I have.

So to take us up to the anniversary mark because I am that OCD, I'm going to link to some of my favorite posts from the past year. I went through them and was surprised by how few weren't about me whining about some passing shit in my life and I'm surprised so many of you have stuck with it. So we'll take a stroll through the past 360 days and see what we step in. Here are two of my favorites.

Religious Riot Over Cartoons


Why Are These Children Trying To Kill You?


Friday, December 08, 2006

Ten Reasons to Kill Yourself This Christmas.

I don't know who decides these things, but here are their Top Ten Worst Holiday Specials:

1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians - I've only seen this one on MST3K, which made it a great movie in my book. Damn, the acting was the cheesiest. Oh, and it had Pia Zadora.

2. 'The Star Wars Holiday Special' - Never saw it but with a cast that included Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman, I'm going to search it out for gift giving.

3. Babes in Toyland - Another one God gave me the grace to miss. Maybe because I saw that it starred Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves and I thought, "Hey, I can miss both of them by missing one show! Bonus!" According to the review, Keanu drives around in a pink, flowery go-cart and sings about Ohio. That right there is enough to make you gouge your eyeballs out.

4. Christmas Comes to Pac-Land - Jesus, where was I when these were made? By 1982 I was over my hookers and heroin phase, so that's not it. Oh, that's right, I have taste. See, this Christmas turkey stars Pac-Man, fucking Pac-Man, to celebrate the birth of our savior. No wonder this land is cursed.

5. Jack Frost - Now this is getting ridiculous. I know I'm a heathen, but how did I miss Michael Keaton starring as a blues singer who neglects his son, is killed on Christmas Eve, and is reincarnated as a snowman? Really, where was I?

6. Silent Night, Deadly Night - Finally, one I've seen. Yeah, pretty bad slasher flick even for someone who hates Santa, the fat fuck. And what's a holiday special without tits?

7. Surviving Christmas - Ben Affleck. That's right. Ben Affleck.

8. Eight Crazy Nights - Adam Sandler. Check please.

9. Jingle All the Way - Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. I saw about 30 seconds of this the other night. Jesus, what a holiday suckfest.

10. Kathie Lee Gifford's Christmas specials - Now, I can't say I've ever witnessed one of Kathie Lee's Christmas specials but then I've never had my testicles hooked up to a car battery either, and yet I know it would hurt real bad. Here's a great quote from critic Tom Shales: "What's the difference between the 24-hour flu and a Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special? Twenty-three hours."

That's the list the pundits have put together. My own would include Rudolph, that one with Burl Ives as a singing snowman who pulls a banjo out of his ass whenever he hears a song coming on. But that's just me.

What about you? Any holiday cheese that stirs nightmares of sugarplums in your head?

The 101st Fighting Keyboarders Shake Their Tiny Fists In Rage!

Wow, this was a mistake. I followed a link to a conservative blog to see what the cheeto-stained keyboard commandos had to say about the ISG report. I expected some rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, but even I was surprised by the rancid bile spewed across the Internet.

Here's a sample:

"Anyone who believes that “fighting terrorism” requires blaming America first, last and always can just STFU. "


When asked to produce a quote from any American who said they blamed America, this was the response from a guy whose closest association with anyone in uniform is when he stocks up on Thin Mints and Do-si-Dos:

"You obfuscating prig,they say it every day with their constant attacks on our presence in Iraq. Open your phucking eyes.When you blame the CIC, you are blaming America."

So, apparently, because I think Bush is an incompetent who took us into a major, tragic disaster, I am a blame-America-Firster. Who knew? And when do I get my membership card? Can I get a discount at Starbucks with that? Here's another uber-patriot in full tantrum:

"Democrats like to claim that US efforts in the War on Terror are what causes more terrorism; in fact, what we will probably soon find out is displays of utter weakness such as the publishing of this report will embolden our enemies more than any alleged ‘torture’ of prisoners ever could. "

Yeah, torture doesn't create more terrorists, except maybe that kid who was forced to watch his father being beaten. Yeah, maybe that kid. Or the father who watched his daughter raped. Maybe him. Yeah, I'll bet Dad's going to pick up a gun.

Then, when a mother defends the opposition to the war, the pimply-faced bullies, smelling estrogen in the water, pounce:

"My God, you mean to say someone has actually put their penis into this miserable woman?"

This from a guy who has only read about the sex act, but never actually, you know, done it himself. The angry virgin was followed by this lovely post from a guy named toliver, which is a pretty gay name, not that there's anything wrong with that (no matter what the other kids say):

"As someone mentioned earlier,the only people you’re willing to confront are your fellow Americans.The only reason you idiots have the balls for that is because you know the law protects you,otherwise I would take great pleasure in crushing your f*****g skull!!"

That's when I bailed. There's nothing more manly than a guy named toliver threatening to crush a woman's skull from the safety of his mother's basement.

So if you have some spare time, I'm sure you can find more. But I'd suggest you Google Britney's cooter instead. It's a lot less disgusting.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's December 7th.

Watch your back.

With apologies to Josh.

I don't mean to trespass into the Comics Curmudgeon's territory (and if you're not a regular reader, you're missing out on some great stuff), but I have to say something about today's Family Circus.

How can Daddy Keane tell if the hydrocephalic kid's joke is funny or not? No one in this comic has said anything funny in like, forever. Day after day, the family explores new frontiers in suckdom, plumbing the depths of tortured cuteness, Christian pandering, and recycled jokes that weren't funny the first time they evolved from invertebrate humor sometime in the Pleistocene.

I'm convinced it's all an extended, cruel jape at the expense of Keane's malformed offspring. Dyslexia, ADHD, and retardation are just three of the signs of intellectual dysfunction. Look at Dad, destroying Billy's confidence with a lame spelling gag geared to sap Billy's will to live just as this strip has worked, day by day, to sap mine. I can see Billy growing into a lifetime of sexual degradation and crime, spiraling downward into a pit of self-loathing until he finally appears in LA Noir as just another huge-headed mugshot for Stephen to mock further.

And is it just me, or do the powder blue socks on Daddy Keane's curiously feminine ankles look fey?

Sorry, I just had to push this in front of you. Feel free to take cheap shots at this poorly drawn, badly written, cloyingly sweet POS. In fact, I encourage it.

Norman Mailer decides to be different.

In an editorial today in the NY Times, they report that Norman Mailer's new novel will come with a bibliography. The Times asks if this is a good thing and I say anything that will make more work for novelists should be shunned like Britney Spears' offer to babysit.

The Times goes on to ask whether this bibliography thing is an attempt to cite sources or if it's pomposity. I say, if you have to ask, you don't know Norman Mailer.

But it did get me thinking about everything I've read while working on this new book.

1. Start with newspapers, magazines and tour guides from 1941.

2. Add the books Washington at War, Roosevelt's Secret War, Wild Bill and Intrepid, Intelligence During Wartime, Washington Is Like That, The G-String Murders, The Caine Mutiny, What Makes Sammy Run?, Katherine Graham's Washington, How Marines Fight, and a dozen other books that are stacked in my office, their pages marked with yellow sticky notes.

3. Now list all the movies from 1941 I've watched to look at clothes, cars, architecture, train travel, etc and we're talking about a bibliography that goes on for pages.

I like research, but I'm not writing a friggin' term paper here. This is a book, goddammit, and while I want to get things right, I'm not mining these resources for stuff to steal. But I would like to acknowldge the help of all these authors and the librarians at Duke's Perkins Library, the Library of Congress and DC's MLK Library.

Which is why they have an acknowledgements page.

So, what do you think? List all your influences, including Miss Martin, your third grade teacher? Or just write the story?

Which is where the Times finally comes down. They say, "As far as we’re concerned, novelists are obliged to disclose nothing besides the art of the stories they have to tell."

Yeah, I think that's about right.

Just in time for Christmas.

I know, I know, Ray's book has been out a while and I'm probably the last person on the planet to read it, but just in case you haven't picked up Saturday's Child by Ray Banks, then it's the perfect time to order it so you can cuddle up with PI Cal Innes for Christmas.

This is a UK site, so you have to pay in that big tissue paper-like money they measure in pounds or you can do like I did and go to the UK and smuggle it back inside a body cavity to keep from getting put on a potential terrorist list by Homeland Security.

He's already rising in the ranks of UK writers and when US readers discover him he'll be king of the world here, too.

When I read a book this good, it encourages me to keep writing in the hopes that someday I may handle language as deftly as does Mr. Banks, but I'm also discouraged because I know that's just a dream.

I consider Ray a colleague, and I am honored that he finds the time to stop by now and then with a comment. Thanks Ray, for the book and your company.

For the rest of you, you know what to do.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shut the fuck up, Donnie.

Over at First Offenders, they're having a discussion about the use of the word fuck and I'm so offended I could fucking plotz.

So to keep you from even thinking of the word fuck, I've posted this fucking video, thanks to Ted, who apparently doesn't have anything better to do than to send me fucking videos like this.

However it is from our favorite movie, The Big Lebowski. I hope you fucking enjoy it. Fuckers.

Blurbs that caught Bush off guard:

Here's a game to play on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon. Write possible blurbs for this book from some of our favorite authors, the kind of blurbs that might evoke that look on the preznit.

For instance:

"The Iraq Study Group puts the boot to the arse of America's limp-dicked foreign policy." - Ray Banks

"Chastened by the liquor, Bush finally grasps the full tragic import of his horrible legacy." - Ken Bruen

"A brutal takedown to the president's usual Texas redneck rodeo." - JD Rhoades

"The body of Bush's old Iraq strategy lays flat on Mullholland, victim of Bush's insistence on driving up the wrong side of the street." - Stephen Blackmoore

There you go.

Slugs from Space!

Yesterday we talked about Reds, the big picture historical romance from 1981. Today let's talk Slither. Unlike Reds, Slither is a rather small budget ($20 mil) horror flick, this one from writer/director James Gunn. He's the screenwriter for Dawn of the Dead, the remake (that's right, it's a remake, and it's even better than George Romero's original), and another one of my zombie faves.

Let me confess, I'm a sucker for zombie movies, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (not a zombie movie per se, but it has all the elements) to the original Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later and Peter Jackson's blood-soaked, non-Oscar winner, Dead Alive made in 1992. No hobbits were harmed in the making of Dead Alive and that's one of its few drawbacks.

Back to Slither. This is a very funny movie, and if you rent it, and I highly suggest you do, listen to the commentary. Gunn talks about the writing, the structure and the process and all those other things that you can use to convince your wife or husband that you're actually working.

Gunn says that Slither was an homage to the horror movies of the 80's like John Carpenter's The Thing. OK, maybe this is a generational objection, but I saw more of the 50's in this flick than the 80's. There's a scene in Slither that is straight out of The Blob which is both a 50's and an 80's movie, I guess, but then so is The Thing, although Carpenter's Thing was a lot scarier Thing than James Arness' Thing. (Arness later strapped on a gun and walked into frame as Marshall Matt Dillon and never had to do a movie like The Thing again.)

Where was I? Oh right. Eighties horror flicks, either original or remakes, were pretty damn good, and I'm glad people like Gunn are taking another crack at the genre.

Don't get me wrong. Slither isn't Shaun of the Dead or 28 Days Later, but it is definitely worth your time. It's gross, but I guarantee the scene with Brenda about to give birth in the barn will stick with you. Maybe not in a good way.

Tomorrow, a book I finished a while back and haven't had time to recognize it with the plaudits it deserves.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Taco de Muerte

No, this has nothing to do with Britney Spear's public underwear transgressions.

This is about what may be the most unfortunate headline of the week. According to the AP:

E. Coli Threat May Have Passed in N.J.


At least three dozen people were stricken with the bacteria after eating at Taco Bell, as if that's not punishment enough. So, if you've always suspected their food was ordure, apparently you were right.

Tim Jerzyk, a VP flack spending his one shot at life toiling for Taco Bell's parent conglomeration, Yum Brands (imagine that on your resume), told investors that the bad news burrito had come up, but it has now passed.

According to the AP, the E. coli traced to Taco Bell can cause abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea and the jokes just write themselves, don't they? And for those not yet nauseated, let us remind you that E. coli is found in fecal matter. So this really does come from south of the border, doesn't it.

I have always had a personal dislike for Taco Bell. Not for their food, which you couldn't pay me to eat, but for their advertising. E coli isn't the only thing that stinks over at Yum Brands.

Every few weeks, Taco Bell rolls out another lame-ass ad campaign that desperately tries to coin a popular phrase like "Crunch-oo-eezy" or has a complete jackass proclaim "I'm full!" Yeah, you're full all right. And I'm fed up.

About the only campaign they ever produced that was worth a damn was the talking chihuahua and I'm convinced that campaign was only given the green light because the brand manager was out with a head wound.

And apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks Taco Bell ads suck.

So be careful what you put in your mouth, children. Insist on E coli-free food. You'll thank me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

If you direct your attention to the left.

Reds, the big screen 1981 opus, was written produced and directed by Warren Beatty, who also starred and probably catered the film. When I say they don't make 'em like this anymore, I'm not just whistling the Internationale. This is a three hour plus romance that takes in the New York left, the anti-war movement of 1916, WWI, and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.

Writers, the film's got writers. George Plimpton and Jerzy Kozinsky act like actors and Jack Nicholson acts like Eugene O'Neill.

The film's also got lefties from back in the day. Wrinkled and gray, they still have that spark the government considered dangerous merely because they believed things that made capitalism's sphincter clench. Among the old Socialists interviewed are Henry Miller, Will Durant, Hamilton Fish, Arthur Mayer, and Oleg Karensky.

I hadn't seen this movie since it first came out and I'd forgotten so much it was like I'd never seen it before. This is big Hollywood. As big as the subject. Hell, as big as Warren's ego and that's big. In fact this movie is probably bigger than Hollywood will ever do again. I recently saw the new Bond film and that thing looked like a fucking car commercial compared to this. Because this, my friends, is movie-making. Even on TV the Russian winter made me shiver.

You could do a lot worse things than spend 3 hours and 20 minutes with Reds. Check it out.

Tomorrow, a movie about slugs.

Quote of the day:

Stephen Hadley had this to say about our Commander in Chief yesterday on one of the Sunday morning bobble-head shows:

"The president understands that we need to have a way forward in Iraq that is more successful."

Wow. That's like me saying that "I understand that I need to have a way forward in sobriety that is more successful."

or Bill Clinton saying "I understand that we need to have a way forward in marital fidelity that is more successful."

or George Bush 41 saying "I understand that we need to have a way forward in retroactive birth control that is more successful."

And yes, I understand that we still need a way forward in blogger picture acquisition that is more successful.

I'm blind.

There I was, all set to post something new for Monday and blogger has eliminated the picture option which is enormously irritating. So until blogger rights this problem, I'm going to go work.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Santa comes early this year.

Because I've been a very good boy; I've been paid for the ghost novel and the screenplay; I've held down this job for seven months without showing up drunk or without pants, not once; I'm married to a wonderful woman; and this and a new bedside clock were the only things in my letter to Santa ...

... I'm getting this painting for Christmas. It's by GC Myers, a painter from upstate New York. You can see more of his work here.

Did I mention that I'm married to a wonderful woman?

Olfactory hits.

We were walking the dogs this morning and there on the breeze was the aroma of frying bacon and eggs. Instantly I was back at Fort Bragg, 37 years ago, on my way to the mess hall in the dark. Amazing how that happens. The same thing with deisel fumes. I catch the back end of a bus and do I think of all that exhaust I inhaled in New York? No, I think of working in the jungle, downwind of a noisy generator.

It's such a powerful trigger that I try to work in smells when I write (insert stinking prose joke here) as well as sights and sounds.
How about you? Any smells that instantly take you back to some place else, some place years ago?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blue Murder Christmas from the Grave.

I posted the Blue Murder Martini recipe simply because I was busy and wanted to give you Planeteers something to keep you off the street, but it got me all nostalgic, thinking about Blue Murder and what a pioneering web magazine it was.

In those days, way back in '98, web publishing was looked on as the retarded cousin of print mags. There was something not quite legit about pixels. But David Firks (that's him up there with the mustache) started Blue Murder and soon they had their own stable of very dark writers and even a woman of mystery on the cover, naked breast and all. The lovely Elise Lyons, the gatekeeper who decided who made the cut and who didn't, never fessed up to the ID of the Blue Lady, even when offered bribes. We all fantasized that it was Elise herself.

There was never much money in Blue Murder. Less than even the pulps of the 30's and 40's. The most I ever got was $50 for the contest winners and $40 for submitted stories. But it beat free.

And there were some great writers, including a guy named Kevin Smith who published his first piece in '98, issue #2. That year Firks published short stories by Gary Lovisi and J Michael Blue. By '99 Andrew Vachss sold a piece and Gina Gallo, the great ex-Chicago cop and tough as a rubber biscuit, made her debut with Live From a Dead End Street.

That was the same year Kevin Smith became Kevin Burton Smith, writing terrific columns about PIs for every issue that followed.

In 2000 we read a story called No Sin Is Final by a guy named Victor Gischler. I wonder whatever became of him.

By 2001 the magazine was publishing Lee Goldberg, Gischler, Jack Bludis, Anthony Neil Smith, Keith Snyder, Tim Curran, Louise Guardino, Michael Bracken and some guy with an improbable French last name.

Then it ended.


Blue Murder folded like a cheap suit.

There was to be a second volume of Blue Murder stories, and a Best Of, but they never drew breath. I have the first 14 issues and if you'd like a copy, I'm going to be giving one or two away, as soon as I come up with a good contest.

UPDATE: Who has time for a contest? Fuck it. If you want a copy of the first 14 issues of Blue Murder, send me an SASE big enough to hold a disk (padded is preferred) and I'll send you a copy for free. It's my Christmas present to all the Planeteers just to say thanks for sticking with me this year. To get my address, drop me a line at

*By the way, that cover up there is from Tribe's archives. If he hadn't saved it, I would have had to put up a picture of these guys.

For the holidays - the Blue Murder Martini.

For those who remember the late great Blue Murder magazine, this was the martini recipe that won your humble editor $50 and a T-shirt. As it turns out, I was one of the last people to get a Blue Murder check that didn't bounce.

The mandatories: We had to use a garnish and we had to use Blue Curacao (to make the martini blue, you see) but if you've never tasted Blue Curacao, it's an ultra-sweet syrupy stuff that is muy nasty.

To sully a decent vodka with this crap is criminal, so I had to figure out how to use the BC without really adding it to the martini. Here, then, is the winning recipe for The Blue Murder Martini (vodka division):

2 martini glasses
1 bottle and 1 saucer of Blue Curacao
1 bottle of chilled Grey Goose
1 copy of Raymond Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder, the pulpier the better
1 policeman's flashlight

Using a sharp knife, cut the word murder from Chandler's classic. Repeat.
Place the cut-out words in the saucer of BC so they absorb the blue.
While the murders are soaking up the BC, make 2 chilled vodka martinis.
Float one blue murder on the surface of each martini.
Turn off lights.
Shine the policeman's flashlight through the bottle of Blue Curacao onto the vodka, turning the vodka blue.
Turn off flashlight.
Repeat as necessary.

There, Planeteers, is the Blue Murder Martini (vodka division). Enjoy.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pushing away from the table.

The family has beed fed and gone. The drinking is down to pre-holiday levels. The pounds added have been roundly ignored and the house is fragrant with simmering turkey stock that will be frozen against the coming winter.

And while the stock is on the back burner, the writing is once again on the front. This novel may be bigger than I can successfully wrestle, but we'll see. I haven't written as many words as I wanted to this weekend, and I'm afraid that after the tryptophan wears off I'll see that those words I have written suck. These things never really get easier, do they?

So, while I'm not as happy as Bryon Quertermous is with quantity, or Stuart MacBride is with quality, I am happy that I'm writing again.

How is your WIP? Going as well or as quickly as you'd hoped?

Talk to me.

Oh, and do you like the new Planetary look? It seemed to fit my 1940's frame of mind.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for my wife, my daughter, the boys and blah blah blah. You know the list.

But I'm also thankful for the people who stop by here and read the often odd thoughts that fall out of my head and onto the keyboard.

Have a good day today and try not to bring up politics.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Just don't ask to see their vacation photos.

You think you've had bad family vacations? You ain't seen shit.

Now the Stokes family of Ohio, they've seen shit. Lots of it. In fact, they're suing the Greyhound bus company over a carload of the stuff that was unceremoniously dumped on them during a family trip in their Ford Explorer.

They were stuck behind a bus on I-75 when the Greyhound, like some vomiting demon from the dankest pit, spewed forth the entire contents of its sanitary tank onto the Stokes vehicle, which had its windows and sunroof inconveniently open. The Stokes family, including three children were drenched in "a mixture of urine, feces, and toilet paper."

"My client was driving in heavy traffic," their lawyer said. "They had nowhere to go. What can you do?''

According to the news, they're seeking $280K in damages, and in my opinion that's a mightly paltry sum for being drenched in ordure.

The Stokes' Ford Explorer was declared a total loss because the interior smelled like Michael Richards' career, even after being steam-cleaned several times.

Greyhound declined to comment.

I've got a comment: Yikes.

A word of advice to Planeteers traveling this holiday week. Roll up your windows.

My head's in 1941, but my ass is in '06.

It's happening. The novel is pouring out. Every unclaimed thought, conscious or unconscious, seems to circle back to 1941 and this story about a murdered singer.

And yet, on the way to work this morning, I started thinking about the next book. Here I am, so deep into this pre-war world that I'm reading novels published in 1941, and the beginning of a new book jumps into my head.

When does this happen to you? When, in the process, do you start thinking about what's next?

As an aside, how big of a turd pariah do you have to be to be shunned by Rupert Murdoch? OJ Simpson is apparently so loathsome that Rupert has loosened his grasp on sacks of cash in order to distance himself from The Juice. I never thought I'd live to see the day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Go ahead, pick one.

According to Tom Ricks, the author of Fiasco, the Pentagon's 3-card Monte plan for Iraq has been leaked and you'll never guess what our options are. According to this plan, which I'm guessing cost a pantload of money and required the mighty brain-bending abilities of the Pentagon's top thinkers, we have three choices:

1. Add more troops.

2. Stay with the same number of troops.

3. Withdraw the troops.

These are our options folks. So go ahead, choose one.

Just like on the street, everyone's a winner. We just hope you haven't bet more than you can afford to lose.

Let's talk about sax.

My nephew Ted and his patient wife, Jen, were in town this weekend to see their friend Connie Frigo perform with the New Century Sax Quartet. That's her up there, the smallest member of the group with the biggest horn.
Connie plays the baritone sax, a big bottom horn in swing and jump horn sections. The bari is also the horn that gave the Squirrel Nut Zippers that funky bottom honk.
But these players don't do jump. I'm certain they can, but they don't. They played three sets - one classical, one Christmas and one very intricate jazz-influenced set. Their musicianship is impeccable and you can tell they're having a great time playing. Check 'em out.
Because life is not all REO Speedwagon, my friends.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm tired, Pt. 2.

How do you guys do it? Granted, I'm a bit older (OK, a lot older) than most of you, but how do you hold a day job, take care of the family and write?
Here's my day: Up at 6 to walk the dogs. Write until it's time for work. Work. Home by 6. Write until 8. Eat dinner. Read or watch a little TV. Let the dogs out. Bed. On the weekends I write until noon, take the afternoon off and write in the evening.
Add to this housekeeping stuff, saying hello to the wife, and one or two nights of playing music and I'm exhausted. I want a day off, but I also want to finish this novel by the new year.
So how do you do it? How do you squeeze work, family, writing and social life into a very short 24 hours?
Because I'm tired. I need a nap.
Annoyance update: What the hell is it with blogger and no spaces? I want my white space.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Can they do anything right?

George Bush is going to Vietnam (insert your own joke here) and will be the first president to visit Hanoi. Every person who has been to Vietnam since the war remarks on the warmth the people hold for Americans, even after we bombed the crap out of them and poisoned their fields. So, how does this administration show its respect for the Hanoi government?

I don't want to make too much of this because my guess is it's some Republican contributor's kid in charge of the web site and that person has as much interest in history as the CINC.
But still, can't these people do anything right?
Back in the day we'd say this is beaucoup dinky dau.

An excellent prognosis.

I don't want to violate a family member's privacy, I'll just say that we got good medical news yesterday and the Terrenoire family has dodged another bullet.


More joys of research.

I ran across this little bit of interesting information while researching this novel. In the week before Pearl Harbor, one of the winners at Charlestown Race Track, the place where all the DC swells went to lay down a bet on a horse, was a long shot named War Smoke.

I thought of working that into the book somehow, but didn't. Research is best left as a seasoning rather than the main course.

But still, War Smoke, that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The joys of research.

I'm working on this 1941 novel and need to keep dates and days right, right?
So I Google a 1941 calendar and this is what I get. Gives you a new appreciation for that dusty old generation, doesn't it?

Just back the fuck off.

Bear with me. I'm going to do something I normally don't do and that's comment on a movie I haven't seen. In this case it's Borat and I want to use this movie I haven't seen so I can make a point about writing that I haven't read.

I understand the movie is very funny and if it's as good as the Borat segments of Da Ali Gi Show, then I know I'll like it.

And if anything is funny, there's going to be a line of people tut-tutting, their butt cheeks clenched tighter than a vise, wagging a finger at comedy that dares to be, quel horreur, impolite.

John Tierney, the conservative columnist at the Times, weighed in with his usual pithy analysis of things he's too blinkered to understand. He says, "Borat is more like the class bully picking on the nerds. The hip urbanite ventures into flyover country disguised as a Kazakh yokel to see how the American yokels respond. Are the rednecks just as barbaric?"

Well, gee, John, I think that's kind of the point, isn't it? When a bunch of Arizona goat ropers sing the Kazahk pop standard, Throw The Jew Down The Well, they join in the chorus with more enthusiasm than Tierney can write off as just Americans being polite to the amusing foreigner.

Which is professional drunk Christopher Hitchins' point when he says that Borat takes advantage of Americans' innate decency.

To which I ask, "Did you laugh?"

Because that's what's so great about comedy. If you find your diaphragm convulsing and you're making involuntary barking noises until your sides hurt, it's working.

And if you're the target of lawsuits by a celebrity wannabe from Turkey, an entire Romanian village, and two misogynist bigots from South Carolina, that's proof that you're not only making people laugh, you're also making a pantload of money.

So, without seeing this movie, I can guarantee it's funny because it's making a lot of people like John Tierney unhappy. Which makes me happy.

And does this have anything to do with writing? You bet it does. I'll leave you with this wisdom from Chris Rock: "If no one is uncomfortable with your act, you’re probably not digging really deep into yourself."

Amen. Now go forth and make someone uncomfortable.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For entertainment purposes only. No wagering.

The new issue of Demolition Magazine is up with new fiction by:

Russell D. McLean
Jordan Harper
Patricia Abbott
Tim Wohlforth
David White
John Weagly
Chris Everheart
Colin C. Conway

and some guy with an impossibly long and foreign name that is not Swierczynski.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

Every now and then you need to get slapped upside the head and this week I got slapped in a big way. I had lost faith in Americans and given up. They showed me how truly stupid I can be. I've never been so happy to be wrong.

And now we have this confluence of Election Day with Veterans Day, tying one to the other, inseparable in a way that should give each of us pause to consider the people who serve. Yesterday the Times ran a terrific article about a Marine unit getting the news about their boss, Rumsfeld's, retirement. Here's an excerpt:

The marines had been on a continuous foot patrol for several days, hunting for insurgents. They were lost in the hard and isolating rhythms of infantry life. They knew nothing of the week’s news.

Now they were being told by an Iraqi whose house they occupied that Rumsfeld had resigned.

“Rumsfeld is gone?” the sergeant asked. “Really?”

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines. “Rumsfeld’s out,” he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. “Who’s Rumsfeld?”

I love that. Who's Rumsfeld? No bullshit. Just a young Marine doing a nasty job. He's not doing it for Republicans or Democrats, and he sure as hell isn't doing it for the money. So why is he doing it? Here's more:

Another marine, Lance Cpl. Patrick S. Maguire, said the decisions that mattered here...were much more important to them than those made in the Pentagon back home...

When to go on patrol, when to come back, which route to take down a road, which weapon to carry, and, at this moment, which watch each marine would stand, crouched up on the roof, in the cold wind, exposed to sniper fire...

His grandfather fought at Iwo Jima, he said, and his father was a marine in Vietnam. This was his second tour in Iraq.

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Someone points a finger at you, and you go.”
Someone points a finger at you, and you go. I've never heard it said so concisely.

So to all those who went when they were called, I thank you, and hope you've enjoyed this Veterans Day. We wouldn't have had Election Day without you.

Oh, and welcome home.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I need your opinion.

I know, you're shy, and would never stick your nose into another person's work without an invitation. So consider this an invitation.

I got notes back from the producers of this very bad film yesterday. Most of them were OK. Some were so bone-headed as to boggle the mind. (Really, if they wanted to shoot porn, they should just shoot porn.)

But there's a line they want me to change, a line they say is "too much."

Here's the scene: A southern woman is in a terrible marriage to an English philanderer. He's been involved in a murder, blackmailed, threatened, and generally had a very bad time of it. He smells, he hasn't changed his clothes and he's on his third Bloody Mary. When his wife sees him on the morning after she says, "You look like something that's been run through a dog."

He responds with "Spare me your earthy aphorisms."

They want me to change her line to "Peter, you stink."

OK, so that's not so good, and I could change it to something better, but I like the line as it is. I asked Jenny about it and she said she'd never heard "run through a dog" before and I told her it's because I made it up. She was underwhelmed. So here's what I need from you.

A. Should I keep the line?
B. Should I rewrite the line something like this - "You look like something that's been run through a dog and left on the lawn."
C. Should I find another line?
D. Should I write, "Peter, you stink," cash the check and get back to writing my novel?
E. Or do you have a better line? I'm open here.

Talk to me. Right now I feel like it's the script that's been run through a dog.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Semi-automatic history.

After plumbing the depth of my crazy this week, it probably isn't a good time to tell you about my new acquisition, a fine piece of history in 30 caliber, an M1 Garand, the rifle that Patton called "the greatest battle implement ever devised."

Several years ago my nephew asked me if I wanted an M1 and being half tanked I said sure. It's been at my brother-in-law's place until last weekend when I picked it up and brought it home. Now I need to find a rifle range and in this part of North Carolina, that's not easy. For some reason, people are a bit queasy about semi-automatic firearms with an effective range of 400 yards.

I've never fired an M1. I shot my father's bolt action deer rifle when I was a kid, a variety of shotguns, and trained on the M14 and M16, but this is my first M1 and I'm looking forward to sighting in this 65-year-old rifle and seeing just how good we two old bastards are on the long range. Fred Rea understands, I'm sure.

I find it a good omen that I have this rifle in my office as I bury deeper into the 1941 novel, which is going well, by the way - up to 7000 words and I solved a major plot problem. As is usally the case, the fix was so simple it had eluded me for two years.

So, until I find a range, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with this old firearm, except put it over the mantle in my new office. But there it is, a 14 pound (try carrying that around all damn day) piece of military history.

And yes, my wife is so thrilled.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One step ahead of the devil.

My plan worked.

Allow me to explain. When my wife and I bought our first house, hoping to get a share of the great American Dream, the bottom fell out of the real estate market and we lost our shirts.

When the stock market was doing well and everyone was making money just by breathing, my wife said it was time we stepped up to the investor class. I told her we would have better success if we took all of our money and bought a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal promising NOT to invest in the stock market if everyone would send us five dollars. For some reason she thought I was being negative. We invested our money and the market tanked.

Fucking great.

I worked for 12 years to get a book published just as readership dropped to a low not seen since illiteracy and bad teeth swept medieval Europe.

So I decided not to vote for the first time in decades. I lull the demons and for once, some decent candidates win and the evil Karl Rove is spanked in public.

Yes, my plan worked.

That does not change my ultimate goal, which is to quit politics just as I did cigarettes, because both addictions are unhealthy. I just hope this new boss can govern better than the old boss, which shouldn't be hard.

If later on today we discover that the fat-headed, racist, football-playing frat boy whose only accomplishment in life was being born to a famous father has eeked out a victory over the decorated combat veteran, former Sec. of the Navy and acclaimed novelist, then you'll know that my demons have figured out my plan and stepped in at the last minute to fuck things up.

Trust me. When you see a pattern in your life, you learn to cope.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

OK, just to be clear.

I don't want my previous post to stop anyone from voting. Vote.

I could be wrong. We could still have a representative democracy and not a hopelessly corrupt oligarchy. I've been wrong before.

We'll see.

So if you think voting is important, by all means, go vote. I'll be here when you get back.

Now I'm going back to bed. I'm tired.

And thanks to Patriot Boy for the fine image up above.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I'm not voting.

This election is important.

That's what they tell me.

Me, I don't believe it.

First, let me say to those who don't know me that I care about all the shit I'm supposed to care about. I've cared since 1964 when I went to a kid's convention as a Goldwater Republican. By 1968 I was Clean for Gene, but cautiously optimistic that Nixon meant what said about the war, even though at 18 I was old enough to get my ass drafted, but not old enough to vote.

In 1972, my first election as an eligible voter, and an angry veteran, I worked hard for McGovern. That Wednesday morning I awoke to a real nightmare, a landslide for Nixon. I felt like I'd been kicked in the balls. I swore I'd never do that again.

But I did. I cared, and I argued, and I learned history and policy and I got energized every election and do you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get excited about Walter Mondale?

Now, years have gone by and I've cast my vote in all but a tiny handful of elections. Unlike most Americans, I know my Congressional representative. I know his name. I know his record. I know votes he's cast that I've agreed with and votes that have pissed me off. Last year it was for the bankruptcy bill written largely by the credit card shysters. I wrote a letter and called his office to express my disappointment. It didn't matter. It's still law, and a lousy law at that.

So what am I going to do in protest? Vote Republican? I'd rather slam my pecker in the car door.

Now, here we are, with a chance to take the House and have subpeona power so we can finally find out just what the hell is going on over at that fuck-up factory they call the White House.

So why am I not voting?

It helps that my district is safely Democratic. But I don't think it matters. Because I don't think our votes count.

The touch screen machines, the voter suppression, the dirty tricks and ugly smears make me question why a supposedly smart man has wasted so much of his life, money and cranial real estate on politics.

You might as well vote on the weather. Yes, I'd like a nice warm day on Saturday, please, because I'm moving. No, you'll get cold fucking rain and like it.

Oh, you say, if I don't vote for the weather, I can't bitch about it?

The fuck I can't.

I'll still read and I'll still care and I'll still complain like the enlisted man I am and in the end I'll be just another old man yelling at the TV. Because our democratic republic is dead. The experiment was interesting, and lasted for a good long while as these things go. But we've lived through a quiet coup sponsored by people we can't see. We've become a banana republic and we can't even buy a decent banana.

That's what I believe.

So fuck them all. Every last one. I don't know who will win tomorrow, but I know who won't - you and me.

The game is rigged and only suckers play a game they can't win. They tell you that your vote counts just to keep you quiet and make you think you have some influence on things. You don't.

That's why, for the first time in my memory, I'm staying away from the polls. Let them find another rube. I'm tired.

Let someone else drive the old women to the polls. Let someone else walk the hinky neighborhoods trying to flush out that last Democrat who hasn't cast her vote. Let someone else write the checks and post the flyers and poll the neighbors and work the phone banks.

Because tomorrow night I'll do what I do every election. I'll get drunk and listen to Mick sing "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The only difference is, I won't have that "I Voted" sticker to throw away on Wednesday.

It's someone else's turn. I quit.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


No, I haven't found Jesus, much to the relief of Republicans, little boys and male escorts everywhere.

No, I have rediscovered the absolute joy of writing.

As most of you know, I had a hard row there for a while. After Panamanian Moon came out, I froze up for 18 months. Couldn't write a post card. Then I had to finish a ghost novel for hire, a story not my own and characters I had not invented. Then I had to write this screenplay based on a really awful book, again, not my story and not my characters. It was work.

This morning I wrote 1000 words on the new novel. My novel. And God, it felt good. Like playing music or making love to my wife. Yes, that good.

Now I remember why I got into this fekakta business. It can be painful. It's never easy. But when it flows like it did this morning, there are few things on earth that feel this good.

I know, let me enjoy the moment. That long second act will come soon enough.

You gotta see this.

With the patient help of loyal Planeteers Jeff and Dusty, I have learned something new today.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All done.

I sent the screenplay off today, only three days past deadline. Not bad.

Now, for the first time in more than three years I can concentrate on my novel.

That's if you don't count the ten hours I spend on the job every day.

Hey, if this was easy, everybody would be doing it.

The hell with king...

It's good to be Bill Murray.

According to a story in this weekly news magazine, cleverly titled The Week, Bill Murray crashed a party of young Norwegians in Scotland. He drank vodka, posed for pictures and even helped clean up the dishes. A young man is quoted as saying, "He couldn't fail to have a good time. The party was overflowing with stunning Scandinavian blondes."

Bill Murray has had a great career. He was one of my favorite SNL players (The Lounge Singer, Todd) and he's carried a few of my favorite movies - Groundhog Day, What About Bob, Rushmore, and Lost in Translation.

Recently, another blogger asked if we could be anyone else, who would it be, and I drew a blank. Now I think if I had a choice, It would be Bill Murray.

A great career, vodka, and stunning Scandinavian women. Life could be worse.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

We've been here before.

Iraq isn't like Vietnam, except when it is.

Recently the Times reported on American weapons coming up missing in Iraq and then being resold on the black market so militias can kill one another when they're not busy killing us.

That's just fucking great.

The story tells us that the Pentagon, brilliantly run by Mr. Rumsfeld, has once again screwed the pooch in the worst way. For years our military command has ignored standard Pentagon regulations for registering weapons transfers.

Ignoring the rules to disastrous effect, yeah, that sounds familiar. In fact I think it's our new national motto.

Of more than half a million rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and sniper rifles turned over to Iraq, we've only tracked 12,000 of them.

So how is this like Vietnam? As reported by Neil Sheehan in A Bright Shining Lie, when we first got involved in that nasty business, the Viet Cong were fighting with weapons dating back to WWI and WWII. Old bolt-action rifles and crap machine guns left behind by the retreating Japanese.

The Pentagon fixed that in a hurry. They started funneling modern American weapons to village defense forces who quickly turned around and sold them to the Viet Cong.

Now it's happening in Iraq. Deja vu, Jack.

And for the nuoc mam-flavored icing on top of this stinking crap cake? We got ourselves a nice Orwellian name. It's called the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.

But wait, before we talk about how this administration's ineptitude and hubris are arming our enemies and sending American boys home in boxes, let's take a few news cycles to focus on John Kerry's mangling of a joke.

Yeah, that's how to honor the troops.

Jesus. We are so fucked.

Radio girl speaks, but Houdini does not.

Harry Houdini is still dead. The New York Times reported that a bunch of magicians and Houdiniphiles got together yesterday, the anniversary of Harry's demise, and tried to contact him. He's still not talking.

They placed an empty chair on the stage for Harry. A woman named Anna Crankshaw, with the emphasis on crank, brought the chair because she's the great-granddaughter of a medium who had issues with the great Houdini, like that makes sense. But hey, maybe she knows something about spirit bums that I don't.

William Kalush, hawking his new book "The Secret Life of Houdini" tossed in some much needed sex by hinting at Houdini's philandering ways. Seems like the women were just wild about Harry. Maybe it was the handcuffs.

My favorite member of the 13 magicians and Houdini experts was Dorothy Young, who in spite of her name was 99 years old. Dorothy was in Houdini’s show in the 20's. She was “the radio girl,” which meant that she never ate before a performance because “I had to fit in the radio.” I'm assuming a radio in 1925 was bigger than an Ipod. She said she had talked with Houdini about this returning-from-the-dead stuff and “He told me, ‘It’s humanly impossible,’" which is what made him so great. No bullshit.

I don't share America's fascination with Houdini and I don't know why. Maybe it's the escape tricks and the Mystery Cabinet stuff. I like small magic, sleight of hand, but the big things like making the Statue of Liberty disappear is just tawdry show biz and if Doug Henning is a star, you know it's gimcrackery.

But Harry, if you're out there, how about answering the one question that has plagued humankind for years: How in God's name did David Copperfield bag Claudia Schiffer?

We want to know. And if it exists, we want the video.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat

I like Halloween. I like the kids coming to the door in costume, I like the women dressed up like slutty witches, I like the scary movies on TV, I like those rubber masks with eyeballs hanging out that are a true traffic hazard because no one can see through those things, and I like the leftover Mars Bars.

I used to do the costume thing myself, back in the day, but I'm old now and have passed the torch. About all I'm up for now is something along the lines of the costume that guy in the picture threw together. I saw this and immediately wondered if he bought a new plunger. And doesn't the guy look a lot like Zippy the Pinhead? Did he spend a lot of time thinking of this or was it a spur of the moment thing? Did someone else think of it for him? Did he have hair on October 30th, because that would really be committing to a costume and quite admirable.

I once went to a party as the front page of the Weekly World News. The worst? A zombie. I am not good with makeup. I know that now.

How about you? Favorite costume? Biggest embarrassment? Nightmare stories about capes and open flames?

Extra points for pictures.

Song for the Day? I Put A Spell On You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Happy Halloween, Planeteers.