Friday, March 31, 2006

Why are these children trying to kill you?

The Godless heathens at Harvard Med School checked out the power of prayer and I have some bad news. If you know that a person is praying for you, you're fucked. Clinically speaking.

The research, appearing in the April issue of the American Heart Journal, followed 1,802 patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery at six hospitals. Of those, one-third weren’t prayed for, another third were prayed for without their knowledge, and the rest knew they were the subject of prayers.

The findings? People who knew they received intercessory prayers had the highest chance of complications of the three groups at 59 percent. Of those patients who didn’t know they were the subject of secret prayers, complications occurred in 52 percent of those who were prayed for and 51 percent of those who weren’t.

In other words, if someone's praying for you, your chances of recovery are worse than if your friends and family went out and got knee-walking drunk. (Please, keep this in mind if I ever have a heart attack.)

So, next time some sanctimonious ass with weepy eyes whispers in your ear, "I'll pray for you," you might want to get a lawyer. That bitch is trying to kill you.

Today's winner of the Great Typewriter Challenge is...

Ray Banks.

He correctly identified John Irving from a few hazy memories of a movie he saw once.

Unlike John Rickards who scoffed at the simplicity of the challenge and incorrectly named George Orwell. For that answer, John Rickards wins a few hours with his head in the rat cage.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Big Brother, The Memory Hole, and anyone who celebrates April 1st.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Back by popular demand.

More writing today. For those following this tedious soap opera, every day I write more than I wrote the day before and what's more, I'm finding joy in it again, something that had been missing.

Now it's on to

Today's Great Typewriter Challenge

This typewriter belonged to popular novelist who gave us a lover in a bear suit, a short hero with a labor leader's name, and the successful coupling of a nurse with her comatose patient.
No more hints. Take your best guess.

I'm off to work.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hell comes to Chapel Hill

Thousands of fans are expected for a rare public appearance by author JD "Dusty" Rhoades reading from his latest opus about the darkness out beyond the lights of I-95.

Tonight, Dusty will be at the Chapel Hill Borders at 7:00. Tomorrow, same time, at McIntyre's south of Chapel Hill.

The people at Borders are very nice, but McIntyre's is a great independent bookstore that really makes authors feel welcome. Last year I did a reading there and sold almost 25 books. Not bad.

So, if you're in the neighborhood, come out to see Dusty. Afterward, we'll get a drink and tell snarky lies about people who aren't there.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Just in case your subscription to Art News has expired.

Just when you thought you'd seen everything, here comes a Brooklyn gallery with a sculpture sure to bring out every perv within the five boroughs.

It's a nude Britney Spears on a bearskin rug giving birth to K-Fed's spawn, complete with crowning.

“A superstar at Britney’s young age having a child is rare in today’s celebrity culture. This dedication honors Britney for the rarity of her choice and bravery of her decision,” said gallery skeeze, Lincoln Capla.

The whole disconcerting affair has been given a thin patina of serious political statement by the Manhattan Right To Life Committee, desperate to get attention beyond its twelve septuagenarian members.

“Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston,” is billed as "Pro-Life’s first monument to the ‘act of giving birth,’" and is guaranteed to be a hit with the raincoat crowd.

The press slyly acknowledges the true audience for this life-size kitsch by referencing Britney "seductively posed with back arched, pelvis thrust upward, as she clutches the bear’s ears (did we mention the bear?) with ‘water-retentive’ hands."

Allow me to be the first to say, "Ew."

“Britney provides inspiration for those struggling with the ‘right choice’,” said artist Daniel Edwards, recipient of a 2005 Bartlebooth award and no I did not make that shit up.

The gallery is looking for an appropriate permanent space for “Monument to Pro-Life” in time for Mother's Day.

Hi Ma! Look what I got!

I know a trailer park in Kernersville that might take it if we throw in a box of wine, or maybe we could turn it into a fountain and get the full birthing effect.

How not to blog.

Joe Konrath, author of the Jack Daniels series and mentor to millions of new writers, posted suggestions for successful blogging. Let's take a look at just what the hell I'm doing wrong.

Joe suggests:

1. Content is King.

Joe uses the lovely Ms. Weinman's blog as a great place to read about all the news in our dark little corner of the publishing world, and he's right. It's a blog I visit every day. Hi, Sarah.

But, as I've confessed before, I am remarkably unskilled. I have no contacts. I have no special knowledge. Those things I could comment on are being covered beautifully by Joe at his place and Josh over at The Comics Curmudgeon. So I write about what interests me, even if it's only a chance to make fun of my betters.

2. Lists, Tests, and Bullet Points. A text-heavy blog is a turn off.

I've failed this test. Yes, I have the Great Typewriter Challenge, with no more of a payoff than a small taste of shallow victory and I did give away a copy of Dusty Rhoades' latest Good Day In Hell. But I don't do bullet points. A lifetime in advertising has made it impossible for me to write anything with bullet points. And, if you notice the Neil Bush post below, I'm not afraid to write long. Why? Because I'm interested, and it gave me a chance to make cheap jokes at Neil's expense.

3. Pay attention to negative space.

Some days, this entire blog is one big negative space.

4. Stay Focused. Stick to one topic per entry ... What is the reason for your blog? Do you have a reason?

A reason? Ask Olen Steinhauer why I'm doing this, the bastard. I'm so incompetent at sticking to one topic that I may be related to Neil Bush. One topic? Ha! Might as well ask my dogs not to sniff the errant turd as to ask me not to comment on some bit of trivia that attracts my limited attention.

5. Ask Questions. A blog isn't a monologue...First Offenders is very good at this. Solicit opinions, ask for input and advice, and people will offer it.

Does this blog make me look fat?

By the way, I love First Offenders. Hi guys.

OK, so how many of you have read this far? Yeah, I didn't think so.

6. Be Friendly.

I can do that. It usually involves alcohol, but I can do that.

7. Be Controversial. Arguing is good.

I can do that, too:
Who's the funnier dancer, Jeff Shelby or Jim Winter?
If the plane to Bouchercon crashed in the wilds of Wisconsin, we know the passengers would eat Bryon Quertermous first, but who would the passengers eat last, Ray Banks or John Rickards?
If you could change your name to anything at all, why would you choose Swierczynski?
How could you talk to parents who named you "Dusty" Rhoades without smacking them?
Why does Olen Steinhauer hate America?

8. Link to Other Blogs.

No problem. Joe gives this good information: Go to and sign up for free. It will let you see where your traffic is coming from. This is often an eye-opening experience. The more sites that link to you, the more hits you'll get. If you want to see who is already linking to you, visit

I should give away more free stuff. It's a fine way to clean out my sock drawer. Stay tuned.

10. Keep Yourself Out of It.

That ain't going to happen. I know it. You know it. The NSA probably knows it.

11. Strive for Perfection.

I'm incredibly anal so typos, except when involved with alcohol, are normally not a problem.

12. Limit Self-Promotion.

You mean I'm supposed to promote Beneath A Panamanian Moon on this blog? OK, go buy this book. I'm serious. Go now.

13. No Blog is an Island. Besides linking to other blogs, you should reference other blogs in your blog entries.

That, Joe, I can do. Thanks for letting me reference your excellent blog and thanks for giving me a topic for the day.

Tomorrow, more shiny objects. Because the success of this blog means I've managed to entertain myself. If you're having a good time reading this blog, well, that makes it all the better. To everyone who keeps coming back, thank you. I'm very happy you're here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Barbara Bush Donates Hurricane Relief Money...To Neil Bush.

I saw this news about Barbara Bush giving money to hurricane relief on the condition that it be spent on her son's company and thought...


Neil's company is an educational software firm called Ignite!, with an exclamation point because that means it's exciting. Really exciting!! Like using three or four means really, really, really exciting!!! Ignite!

Being a Bush son has to be one of the cushiest gigs on the planet. But most people don't know much about Neil, overshadowed by his more famous brothers, George and Jeb. So let's get to know Neil Bush, son of George HW and Barbara, instilled with the values we've come to know and love from America's reigning dynasty.

Neil's business acumen is eerily similar to his brother George's. Yet, even though every business the Bush boys touch goes toes up, they both have the remarkable luck to dance away unscathed, their pockets stuffed with cash. Nice.

And when you're a Bush, the sweet business deals just keep rolling in. In 2002, Neil signed a consulting contract with Grace Semiconductor that required him to attend board meetings and discuss "strategies." His remuneration for this heavy lifting? $2 million, plus $10,000 for every board meeting he attends.

Which could present a scheduling conflict because Neil is already co-chairman of a Texas company called Crest Investment. Crest pays him $60,000 a year to provide miscellaneous consulting services such as "...answering phone calls."

Of course, all of Neil's failures are small change compared to the spectacular crash and burn of Silverado Savings and Loan. That cost taxpayers $1 billion. Bush said his problems were the result of "self-serving regulators" who were picking on him because of his name. Later, he testified to the House Banking Committee that some of his deals might look "a little fishy." Like Moby Dick is a little fishy.

But, like good Texas cowboys, 41's friends rode to the rescue. One guy even ponied up for Neil's legal bills. What a guy!

Another rich cowpoke, Louis Marx, heir to the toy empire, gave Neil a few million to start Apex Energy. Neil invested $3000 of his own money and paid himself a salary of $160,000. Within two years, Neil had driven this one into the ditch, too. Bush got $300,000 and Marx got paid in Monopoly money, even more stinging as Monopoly is by rival toy maker, Parker Brothers. Damn.

Arising from the ashes of Apex, Bush was immediately hired by another of 41's rich friends, Bill Daniels, who paid him $60,000. The multimedia company's president said at the time, "I'm trying to find a title for him."

That brings us to Bar's latest charity, Ignite! Neil started this company with little more than a dream, pluck and 23 million dollars from his parents and close friends from places like the United Arab Emirates. Ignite! also entered into a Mexican partnership that made it possible for Neil to lay off half of their US employees and ship their jobs south of the border. "That's turned out great!!!" said Ken Leonard, president of Ignite! Bush gets $180,000 a year! His US employees get $400 a week unemployment! Adios, muchachos!

But what about Neil's personal life? That too is pretty sweet. A few years ago, Neil was sitting in a Thai hotel room, wondering how to get SpectraVision without the titles showing up on the bill, when a beautiful young Thai woman knocked on his door, came in and had sex with him. Wow! No wonder he needs exclamation points! I'd use them too if my life was this exciting!

Later, Neil told his wife of 22 years that there weren't enough exclamation points in their marriage and he wanted a divorce. He gave her the news via email. The divorce case then entertained America with stories of underage Thai hookers, voodoo, and paternity tests. Terrific!

Sharon, 51, learned that her husband had been canoodling with Maria Andrews, a woman who worked for first mom, Barbara Bush. Andrews is the divorced mother of three children. Sharon asked for a paternity test for the youngest tyke because she thought the boy just might be an errant shrub. The world still awaits word of a dark horse future president.

The voodoo charge came when Sharon stole some of Neil's hair. She claims she wanted to test it for drugs, but we know the Bush boys don't do drugs, so then it must be voodoo. Neil even told his lawyer to say that Neil didn't do drugs. So that answers that!

Today, Neil divides his time between his Texas home and his other home in (gasp) Paris.

And thanks to Bar, Neil just sucked up more tax-deductible cash. Ca-ching! What a great family. If you're a Bush, no matter how much you screw up - in business, in your personal life, even in war - you always come out golden.

Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad! Being a Bush boy is sweet!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fear and Loathing at The Planet

Yes, of course it was the good Doctor Thompson, a writer who in '72 did things to my synapses, chemical-free, that jonesed me on politics forever, damn him, and politics have brought me nothing but a lifetime of intense F&L. Somewhere Thompson is laughing his ass off.

The winner is: Jim Winter, a man wrestling with his own demons of fame.

Runner up is Ken Peterson, a guitar player and DP of some renown (and if you have to ask what a DP is, that's just sad).

Honorable Mention goes to Swierczynski, author of The Wheelman, who made me laugh out loud. I like that.

Daniel, learn from Duane. Lincoln Steffens is funny. It's got that comic K thing, see, which makes kumquats funny, but not turnips. Cucumbers are funny. Pears, not so much. (By the way, you should have your autographed copy of Beneath A Panamanian Moon by next weekend.)

I'm hunkered down again today, closing in on the denouement, so posting will be light if at all. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

As your attorney, I advise you to share that peyote with the dog.

I'm closing in on the end of this novel, so I'm using my hall pass today and leaving you with another celebrity typewriter to ID. Clues? OK, the owner is one of a handful of writers who changed journalism in the 60's and 70's.

That and the picture should be plenty.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

An endorsement:

Ed Hamell is known to his fans as Hamell On Trial. Last summer I painted my entire house to this guy, Steve Earle and Tom Waits. This is his new CD and you should buy a copy.

End of message.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Beneath A Panamanian Moon nominated for a Gumshoe.

I was distracted by my troubles with blogger and didn't really give this honor the attention it deserves. David Montgomery, critic extraordinaire and ridiculously young for being so smart, along with Mystery Ink magazine, announced the nominees for this year's Gumshoe Award.

Best Mystery:
As Dog Is My Witness by Jeffrey Cohen (Bancroft Press)
The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman (Plume)
Savage Garden by Denise Hamilton (Scribner)
To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best Thriller:
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
Company Man by Joseph Finder (St. Martin's Press)
The Only Suspect by Jonnie Jacobs (Kensington)
Falls the Shadow by William Lashner (William Morrow)
Creepers by David Morrell (CDS Books)

Best European Crime Novel:
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (Viking)
Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie (Hard Case Crime)
Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Have Mercy on Us All by Fred Vargas (Simon & Schuster)
The Vanished Hands by Robert Wilson (Harcourt)

Best First Novel:
The Color of Law by Mark Gimenez (Doubleday)
Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein (Carroll & Graf)
The Baby Game by Randall Hicks (Wordslinger Press)
Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson (Mysterious Press)
Beneath a Panamanian Moon by David Terrenoire (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Karen, Allan, and Duane are friendly visitors to The Planet, and I'm very happy to share a spot on this list with them.

But I know about awards and I know to enjoy this while it lasts. As an advertising writer I won a lot of awards, but this feels way different. This feels way better. Knowing that people are enjoying my book makes me feel almost as good as I did that weekend with the Stapleton sisters in Hermosa Beach. Almost. The difference is, these nominations won't leave a rash.

Blogger got the bird flu.

I don't know what's up, but I had to move to another server in order to post this. I can't read comments or navigate to other blogs and I have this creepy 28 Days Later feeling that I'm going to look out and see brain eaters on the porch. The good news is, Beneath A Panamanian Moon has been nominated for a Gumshoe Award by the kind folks over at Mystery Ink, along with Karen Olson and Duane Swierczynski. More later, when blogger recovers. Right now, there's somebody at the door.

Update: That was Al Guthrie at the door wondering why I didn't mention him. The answer is, he's European.

As for Ray's suggestion re: Greco-Roman wrestling, I'm OK with getting in the ring with Karen Olson, but Stuart MacBride is another story.

Friday, March 17, 2006

One of these things just doesn't belong.

I've just been given the news that my book was named a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers.

Given the other books on the list, I'm not rushing to compose my acceptance speech, and I'm still convinced this is all a cruel joke by Banks and Rickards.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Watch your language, soldier.

When is a dick not a dick? In these days of terrorism, wiretapping, and shows like Celebrity Fit Club, The FCC is trying to hold the line on foul language and teen nipples.

Language fines were directed at Rupert Murdoch's Fox, the home of Manson family values, for D.B. Cooper's use of shit, bullshit, horseshit and shit-eating grin. I've never seen D.B. Cooper, and I'm not all that interested in scripts dependent on variations of shit unless they work in merde and caca. Oh, and poop. Poop is funny.

Other language fines were leveled against the WB for "The Surreal Life 2," a vulgarity on so many levels, and PBS for the Martin Scorsese documentary "The Blues: Godfathers and Sons." Bluesmen, don't you know, should never use foul language, even when speaking about club owners and record companies.

"NYPD Blue," dodged a bullet when the fine parsers of profanity ruled that, in context, 'dick' and 'dickhead,' did not refer to a man's privates. Lenny Bruce got arrested for saying schmuck in a nightclub because, as the undercover Yiddish-speaking officer testified at trial, schmuck refers to the head of a man's penis. But now Blue's homicide dicks can properly call a scumbag a dickhead, so that's progress.

We're certainly seeing progress on the nipple front. Seems the FCC fined a network for an episode of "Without a Trace" which showed a teen orgy and flashed a bit of teen nipple and I wonder where the fuck was I? Teen orgies on TV and I don't have a Tivo? That's not right. Goddamn it, that's just not right.

I bring this up to get to the language question. I get asked about it all the time and I always say that I use words appropriate to the character and most of my characters are bad-ass motherfuckers whomping the holy shit out of evil cocksuckers, so they tend to work blue.

The question was asked of the panel at Cape Fear and in the discussion Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was mentioned. In those tightly-laced times, Mailer felt constrained to use the word frig for what is inarguably a GI's favorite noun, verb, adjective, adverb, interjection and exclamation.

That prompted Jack Bludis to tell the story about Dorothy Parker meeting Mr. Mailer and saying, "So you're the young man who can't spell fuck."

God bless you, Ms. Parker.

And God bless all the writers wrestling with what's appropriate to character and what's necessary for the FCC.

Feel free to add your own encounters with readers who don't object to the violent dispatch of a dozen or so human beings, but get the vapors over the word cunt. We're all grownups here.

A Golden Shower From The Painter of Light

File this under things you can't make up.

The LA Times reports that the Painter of Light (TM) might have a dark side, making this irresistable for The Planet.

If you haven't been subjected to Kinkade's work, it's sentimental in the extreme, which means suckers line up for blocks to buy an $800 paper print they can frame and hang over the recliner. Add his claim to be a devout Christian, and the church-addled can't snap up enough Kinkade night lights, toaster cozies, and Bible covers. Yes, Bible covers.

Kinkade says he's brought "God's light" into people's lives and that God guides his brush. Kinkade, however, is responsible for guiding his own urine.

According to one of the former VPs of the Kinkade Empire of Light (TM), Kinkade has a fondness for "ritual territory marking," which is anthropological twaddle for pissing on things. For instance, Kinkade whipped it out and soaked a statue of Pooh outside the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. "This one's for you, Walt," the artist supposedly said.

Disney could not be thawed for comment.

For more, see the LA Times story. (I've tried to post a link to the story but the link thingy is bollocks for some reason.)

Thanks to Rich for the heads up on this.

I want to write a wrestling movie for Wallace Beery

Yes, that typewriter is from the Barton Fink poster, a movie I like a lot. No, it's not Lebowski. It's not Miller's Crossing. But watching John Goodman, shotgun in hand, walk down that hotel corridor with flames engulfing the walls behind him, that's goddamn great film.

Winners are: Ted Baker, a guy who just turned a year older last week. Ted is a fellow Coen Bros. fan, a film editor/producer, and a great lover of documentaries. I know, because every year he and I do the Full Frame Film Festival and watch docs for four days, morning to night. Last year we were standing in the coffee line and started up a conversation with two nice women, just to pass the time, be friendly, or get a possible tip on a dark horse doc we might otherwise overlook. They asked if we were going to see a lot of films and I replied that every year we watch movies until our asses are flat.

The two looked as if they'd been struck with an ax handle. They blanched and scurried away as soon as they'd copped their mocha java half caf decaf frappaccinos. Ah well.

So here's to Ted. See you in April, buddy.

And Ray Knucklebuster Banks, a boy who writes noir so well you wouldn't know he had such a soft, generous heart. Looking forward to seeing your new home, Ray.

Thanks to everyone who called, wrote, and posted best wishes here and elsewhere. I did have a Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

In the meantime, at an undisclosed location...

I'm posting this from Duke law school, where they've threatened to depose me (or was that depants me?) for most of the day. Either way, no Photoshop fun or typewriter trivia until tomorrow.

And as Dusty has pointed out elsewhere, it is indeed my birthday.

I went to the Bayou last night, played the blues, imbibed celebratory beverages (thank you to everyone who kindly bought an old vet a drink) and got home about 2:00. It's now stupid o'clock in the ayem. A man my age should never operate anything more complicated than a coffee cup on four hours sleep. So, I'll check in on the 16th.

If I was any older, I'd be dead by now.

Again, you're all on your own. Don't break the furniture.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A fictional writer, writing fiction, on a fictional typewriter.

This typewriter, according to the poster designer, belonged to a playwright who followed Faulkner into Hollywood hell. Take your guess.

Last week's winner: Dusty Rhoades, the author of Good Day In Hell. So go buy a goddamn copy, OK? (Sorry, I've been editing all weekend and I'm cranky.) Congratulations, Dusty.

And in answer to your question, I'd heard Hemingway composed longhand, too, but used a typewriter for submissions, letters, etc. Most writers of the period had a typewriter somewhere, even if they didn't write first drafts on them. That's my guess, anyway. Anyone Hemingway experts out there who know for sure?

I have a job. An acting job. For the next three days I'll be playing a predatory lawyer. (Dusty, is that a redundancy?) So, talk amongst yourselves and I'll see you sometime Wednesday or Thursday. Play nice.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

When stories collide, someone's bound to get hurt.

This past week, members of the administration went to Congress to ask for $65 billion more for a war that members of the administration once promised wouldn't cost a dime.

I'm no whiz when it comes to finance, but I've never been off by three hundred billion dollars, not even that weekend I spent in Nogales with the twins.

To help you wrap your head around that big number, with three hundred billion dollars we could send every American kid under 18 to a private college for four years. Every kid.

Instead, we send 130,000 Americans into a sandblown hell to get their limbs blown off, every day, and it causes some of us to wonder, as a citizen asked before being hustled out of the room, "How many of you have children in this illegal and immoral war?"

I tried to find out how many members of Congress had sons or daughters in the military and, quel surprise, no one keeps those numbers. The best the Internets could give me was four or five. Maybe six, and that's counting sailors on ships in the Gulf.

This morning Susan Stamberg did a story on NPR about a collection of essays she found in a friend's library. (You knew we'd get around to books and writing sooner or later) The book was It Gives Me Great Pleasure by Emily Kimbrough, a writer for the New Yorker during WWII. Stamberg read part of an essay titled, The Evening Train.

In it, the author is on her way to speak to a group in Pennsylvania. She's picked up by the group's organizer who is in a hurry and says that the lecture must start on time tonight. The author doesn't ask why because, as the woman scoots around the mountain curves of central Pennsylvania, the driver "had a tendency to emphasize her vigorous conversation by pressing down on the accelerator."

Now I'm hooked. Here's a mystery. Why is it so important that the program begin on time?

The author gets to the hall, delivers her lecture and only then is she told the answer. The train is due, bringing home the boys from overseas. The dead boys.

To her credit, the author doesn't dwell on the dead or the families gathering at the station. She writes about hearing the train whistle:

"It whistled twice, one short and one long and thin, but heavy in the air. Several of us said simultaneously, 'It sounds like rain.' We smiled at one another with mutual kinship because we had all, in whatever town we had grown up, heard that kind of train whistle in the night, a whistle that lay heavy on the air and as children heard our elders say, "That means rain.'"

A woman remembers one of the boys coming home but the memory is in no way maudlin, just a thought of how the boy loved trains. The people wait. Their sacrifice is a shared sacrifice. They all knew that boy. They knew all of the boys on that train.

It was a different war in a different time. The sons of Congressmen were as likely to be in uniform as the sons of farmers and steel workers.

Today, we slap a magnetic ribbon on the back of our SUV and say we support the troops. But we don't know any. And when one comes home in the belly of a plane, the town doesn't pause for a moment of silence. No bells ring. It's just cargo and for most of us, there is no sacrifice. Even that 300 billion is borrowed from someone else. It's all plastic. It's someone else's money. It's someone else's misery. And I wonder how we got to this place, and I wonder how we can find our way out.

Hear the NPR story here. It's a beautiful piece.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

This is a writer's desk.

The paper is white. The pencil is sharp. The coffee, dark and strong, like the women who take the bottle from his hand at night and leave him alone with his typing machine in the morning. When the sun shines the curling wave, that is when the writer must face the fracted depths that are the empty page.

Name the writer. Claim the empty prize that is fame.

Now, this writer must enter the arena with the deadline, the bull we face if we are to claim the ear of the mortgage.

Boomer makes new friends

My older boy, Boomer, wandered off the other night and I had to go hunt for him. Boomer's twelve and doesn't run away, it's more like an amble, so there was no hurry. I went out back and ran the flashlight around the edge of the yard and saw him standing in the grass. I sensed something else in the yard with us and raised the flashlight beam. Boomer was surrounded by a small herd of deer. They didn't seem to mind Boomer being out there with them, and Boomer was his usual nonchalant self. I called him and the deer ran off but now I worry that he's fallen in with a bad crowd. I don't trust those deer. I think they broke into my car and stole my Ramones CD.

Yesterday's winner in the typewriter challenge: Steve Ordog, a man with a great character name, correctly identified G. B. Shaw. Congratulations, Steve.

Lots of work today, so posting will be light. Later.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You can't make a living in this business

"...but you can make a killing."

I don't know if that's a direct quote, or if it's just how I remember it, but the thought is from today's author, if not the exact words. He was a UK writer, a novelist, playwright and celebrated curmudgeon. Since the last few authors have been so easy to identify, that's all I'm going to give you, except for this quote:

"I like a bit of mongrel myself, whether it's a man or a dog; they're the best for every day."

Amen, sir.

"That's the part of it I always liked...

"...He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to their not falling." - Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Yesterday's Winner is Al Guthrie, Edgar-Award nominee for Kiss Her Goodbye. He hit it with the master. If you're following these things, I revealed yesterday that this typewriter and desk are not Hammett's (I 'shopped out the falcon to make it somewhat of a challenge) but belong to a fan who believes he lives in Sam Spade's/Hammett's San Francisco apartment, which is possible, and considering this shrine, the potential for the fan being an insufferable geek is almost a certainty.

Congratulations, Al, and thanks for your contribution to the word count question yesterday. We appreciate any help we can get.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Exposing myself

Once again, Tribe has accepted a little Flash. This one is for Jenny.

So I'm reading the Sunday Times on Tuesday...

...and I see there's a new film by Robert Towne, the writer of Chinatown, one of the best movies ever made so shut the fuck up. The new movie is Ask The Dust and it's based on a novel by John Fante, a guy who wrote Dago Red, a book of short stories that knocked me on my ass in my 20's. I hadn't known about his novels, but in those days I was reading all over the place, whatever fell into my hands, and the thought of actually writing novels hadn't really registered yet as I was extremely slow and barely capable of undressing myself without the aid of a young woman.

I checked out a few things and found out Bukowski was a big fan. Who knew? (Yeah, probably all of you. Like I said, I'm slow) so I thought I had to post this confluence of great writing, a typewriter, and Bukowski. How could I not?

Here is an excerpt from Bukowski's introduction:

" day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was. I stood for a moment, reading. Then like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table. The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it. And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humour and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me. I had a library card. I checked the book out, took it to my room, climbed into my bed and read it, and I knew long before I had finished that here was a man who had evolved a distinct way of writing. The book was Ask the Dust and the author was John Fante. He was to be a lifetime influence on my writing."

Now I have to go find a copy of this novel and that kick-ass collection of short stories.

To count to 20, I remove my shoes. Twenty-one, I take off my pants.

Bill, a member of my writing group, got a ms kicked back today with the note that his word count is way off. He asks, "My Microsoft Word word count puts it at 120K. She says it’s actually 167K, based on 250 words per page with 12-point Courier New and 25 lines per page. IS THIS TRUE?"

I don't know. I told him I'd heard something recently about not trusting the computer's word count, but I've published two books so far and this has never come up. So I promised I'd ask you guys.

If Sunshine Al is still around, do you use this formula, or do you go by the computer's word count? Anyone else?

Really, math was never my best subject, so don't make me do multiplication. It makes my eyes bleed.

The word for the day, boys and girls, is catamite.

Tell me, is this lame? OK, the guy's a fan. He lives in what he suspects is the apartment the Great Man occupied when he wrote his best known work. So he sets up a period typewriter, places these props around and it all looks so neat and clean and completely phony.

Where's the paper? There's not a pen or pencil in sight. We have an ashtray, but no politically incorrect cigarettes or crushed butts. And what's a glass without a bottle? Jesus, he might as well have a toothbrush stuck in there.

I don't know, maybe I'm being a little hard on the guy but I think this is beyond pathetic, and I'm a huge fan of this writer's work.

What, you still need a clue? Here it is: This writer's editor complained about a few indecent words, so the writer slipped in the word gunsel, knowing the editor would assume it meant gunman, and not what it really meant, which is a young boy kept by an older homosexual man. A catamite. Nice.

So that's your clue. Name the writer and tell me if you'd ever be tempted to build something like this in your apartment.

I know Ray Banks has a shrine in his place, but it's a shrine to Ray Banks, so that doesn't count.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Today's winner...

Daniel Hatadi, of course. Smacks a double with the correct guess that this was Dame Christie's machine and if she wrote The Mousetrap on this, someone should take it out back and give it a good beating ala Office Space.

I started this to free up time for writing (which is going OK, thanks for asking) but I spent a huge amount of time looking for Dorothy Parker's typewriter because I love Parker. She was much more interesting than Agatha but it seems no one has built a little shrine like this to her, which is a shame. Next time I'm having drinks in the Algonquin, I'll bring it up.

Speaking of shrines, check out the next entry.

On The Beach

The trip to Topsail Beach was a success. Jenny and I had a great time, met some terrific people and sold some books.

The event was called A Moveable Feast and was sponsored by Quartermoon Books. Here's how it worked: Seven tables were set up for lunch, with ten people at each table. As they ate, the other writers and I went from table to table, and talked about our books. Every ten or fifteen minutes the bell would ring and we'd go to the next table, doing it all over again. Like speed dating without the sexual tension.

The people were very nice, and very interested, or they feigned interest magnificently. I sold a few dozen books and the shrimp salad was good.

Thanks to Lori, Claire, and their helpers. Oh, and thanks to the Atlantic Ocean for putting on such a big show and the Tarheels for kicking Duke's keister Saturday night. That made Jenny very happy, and when Baby's happy, I'm happy.

(There was a mix-up earlier when I referred to Jenny as The Bride, apparently a copyrighted term of Swierczynski endearment. Although I have no problem with copyright infringement, as regulars can attest, I would rather not try the patience of anyone who could grab my ears and squeeze my head like a polka accordion. Sorry, Duane. Won't happen again.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

"Tom Waits Should Have His Own Stamp"

I've made progress on the novel today (800 words and I can see the finish from here), and the typewriter challenge is ridiculously easy, so this one's for you secretdeadartist. My version of a Tom Waits stamp. May it come to pass.

For Jennifer, who suggested Waits' national treasurehood, a sample from A Soldier's Things:

Cuff links and hub caps
trophies and paperbacks
it's good transportation
but the brakes aren't so hot
neck tie and boxing gloves
this jackknife is rusted
you can pound that dent out
on the hood
a tinker, a tailor
a soldier's things
his rifle, his boots full of rocks
oh and this one is for bravery
and this one is for me
and everything's a dollar
in this box

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I need more paper.

For everyone who put his sole on the asphalt and stuck out a thumb not knowing who would stop or where they would go, for everyone who's heard a frantic horn player blow a thousand notes in a single breath, for all the desolate angels who stretched out the endless road, cranking the AM skip past the border of Benzedrine and Tokay, the tar strips beneath the tires drumming a ceaseless 2-4 when all the world is stuck on 1-3...

..this entry is for you.

Editor's Note: I'm off to the beach with The Bride, leaving you kids alone to amuse yourselves. The owner of this typewriter and the weekend's winners will be announced Tuesday, along with a new man/machine match-up. Play nice.

Oh, and 1200 words today.

he sat naked and drunk in a room of summer night,

The typewriter belonged to Charles Bukowski, a man who knew more about cheap alcohol and ampethamines than any man except our next candidate.

A word from Mr. Bukowski:

he sat naked and drunk in a room of summer night,
running the blade of the knife under his fingernails, smiling,
thinking of all the letters he had received
telling him that the way he lived and wrote about that--
it had kept them going when all seemed truly hopeless.
putting the blade on the table, he flicked it with a finger
and it whirled in a flashing circle under the light.
who the hell is going to save me? he thought.
as the knife stopped spinning the answer came:
you're going to have to save yourself.
still smiling,
a: he lit a cigarette
b: he poured another drink
c: gave the blade another spin.

The Winners Are:

Not Duane - JD Rhoades hits a double with the first correct guess of the day, proving that he has no real day job.

Olen Steinhauer - For leaning in Bukowski's direction, which on some nights could have presented a problem with hygiene.

Daniel Hatadi - For waking up and finding his computer.

Duane - The smart one. He's right even when he's wrong.

And Jennifer, just because I'm so happy she comes around to brighten up the place.

Congratulations to all of our contestants and tune in tomorrow for a man who influenced a generation by typing.

This makes me want to drink and listen to Tom Waits all day

Today's typewriter: This belonged to an American writer notorious for his life as much as he was for his work. He embraced the "write what you know" school of thought and knew things that would corrupt a dead junkie hooker. (Update: I found a better picture of the man's actual typewriter. Here it is.)

Yesterday's winner is: JD Rhoades! Author of The Devil's Right Hand and Good Day In Hell, Dusty correctly IDed yesterday's typewriter as William Faulkner's (and my apologies for incorrectly identifying the winner earlier as that Polish pretender, Mr. Swierczynski. Yikes, shades of my undergraduate days).

As most of you know, Faulkner was one of the screenwriters who worked on The Big Sleep. Unable to figure out who killed the chauffeur whose body is pulled from the drink near the beginning of the book, Faulkner called Raymond Chandler. As the story goes, Chandler said, "How the hell should I know?"

My favorite story also comes from his Hollywood days. Asked how he liked working in film, Faulkner said that no novice thought he could direct a picture or produce a picture or carry a picture, "but around here, everyone knows the alphabet."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Something To Keep You Amused

As I get back into my writing routine my obligation to you, my loyal Planeteers, will not go unfulfilled. For the next couple weeks I will post a picture of a famous writer's typewriter (or facsimile) and ask you to connect the author to the machine.

What? You monkeys want a prize? A few moments of entertainment aren't enough? You need a promise of financial gain before you'll engage the gray matter?

Then you fit right in.

So far we've had WH Auden's typewriter. Earlier today I put up another and I'll give you a few hints. He was an American novelist who also dabbled in screenplays, including one noir masterpiece.

Tomorrow, another writer, another typewriter.

A Dark Planet Pop Quiz

Update: This is William Faulkner's Typewriter

Here's something to keep you busy.

The previous typewriter was owned by WH Auden. How about this one? Any guesses?

What Are You Looking At?

Move along. Nothing to see here.

(800 words yesterday.)