Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just what I needed. More books.

If you're ever invited to the South Carolina Book Festival, do not hesitate. Say yes. Go. You will not be sorry.

They treated us like rock stars (minus the groupies, cocaine and A&R weasels).* This kind of star treatment might be a bit too rich for novelists, like feeding chocolate to a starving man, but for a few days out of our lives I think we can survive.

I'll write more on this when I have time and can stretch out a bit, but for now, let me tell you what I brought home:

Joseph Bathanti's Coventry; a few Bob Morris novels including what has to be the best damn title ever, Bermuda Schwartz; the new Field of Fire by Jim Born; A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read; Finishing School by Michele Martinez; and by special request, a couple of Carl T. Smith's including his latest Louisiana Burn.

There's so much to report and I just don't have the time right now. But in the next few days I'll write about the tireless organizers of the festival, why crime writers have more fun than literary novelists and my theories as to why that's true, the swag of festivals, why Michele Martinez is the perfect panel partner, the readers who buy our books and actually read them, and the special man-love that certain writers share when they're on the road.

Stay tuned.

*I'd appreciate it if the organizers would work on the groupies and blow shortage in time for the next festival, if it's not too much trouble. Thank you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why I love the Bible.

I think it was Richard Brautigan who wrote about the pretty girl who got drunk at parties, enticed men into driving her across town to her apartment, and then left them sitting alone at the curb once they got there.
Strangely, the Bible has nothing to say about that sort of unpleasant behavior.

But it does have something to say about anyone who has ever bought a lady a drink with more on his mind than merely quenching her thirst.

One of the prophets - a whiny, insistent dude named Habbakkuk - said this about any man who seduces a woman by getting her so blotto that she pukes on his car:

"Woe to him who gives his neighbor drink, pouring your inflaming wine until they
are drunk, so that he may gaze at their naked bodies!"
Which is why God gave us naked women on the Internet instead.

Tomorrow: Why Jim Born is not my boyfriend.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Good news for the Bush twins.

The Bushies have always thought of themselves as America's reigning royal family, which is why they got so upset when that cracker from Arkansas handed Poppy his ass in '92.

But the Bush twins, while treated as royal spawn, can't really carry the title, what with this being America and all. So, how do we fix that?

We do what rich American families have done for generations. We snag a foreign blue blood.

But, how do you meet a prince like the dreamy Prince Harry of the UK? You can't just flash your cooter at him, Jenna. He's a prince for God's sake. Women flash their cooters in his direction a hundred times before tea.

So what's a social-climbing young girl gotta do to get the Prince's attention? Here's a hint. Prince Harry is about to be sent off to Iraq. That's right. In the UK the well-connected (and who's better connected than Prince Harry?) fight their own wars. Unlike our rich, who like war as long as someone else does the heavy lifting.

So, how can Bar or Jenna get in the Prince's good graces?

By doing something bold and unexpected. Something like going here.

That's right, they can enlist for service in Iraq, taking the place of a reservist about to go for his third or fourth tour. That should impress young Harry.

So watch for it. Soon we'll see the Bush twins showing support for their father's foreign policy by signing up.

Oh, and you might also watch for those pigs that are about to fly out of my ass.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More art.

This is by John Puglisi. I can't afford his paintings, but I did buy this print and one other. I'm quickly running out of wall space in our tiny cottage. But if anyone would like to buy me a present, here are some artists I'll be happy to find a spot for:

Robert LaDuke

Morgan Carver

Bruce Cody

Glenn Ness

Daniel Peacock


R Kenton Nelson

Art. Buy art. When your grandchildren schlep those old canvases to the Antique Road Show, wondering why Grampaw had this weird fixation with diners, they'll thank you.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bad news for John Rickards.

" won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature," said librarian Dana Nilsson.

This rather abrupt and sweeping castration of "quality literature" was instigated by this year's winner of the Newbery Medal, the big kahuna of kid lit accolades. The book is "The Higher Power of Lucky," and from what I can tell, it has little to do with God or 12-step programs.

But it does have the word "scrotum" in it and as Big Bill would say, "Aye, there's the rub."

Because even a passing mention of all that is south of the beltline has the more sensitive among us clutching our faux pearls and calling out for a book banning, if not burning.

Not that the author, Susan Patron, set out to rub anyone the wrong way. In fact, she never, ever mentions men's genitalia. She does, however, have her heroine overhear someone say they saw a rattlesnake bite a dog on the scrotum. Ouch. And in a Santorum-like leap, Dana Nilsson read dog scrotum and thought about men and their jiggly parts, proving just how dangerous these words in these books can be.

Which coincidentally ties into the recent story about a theater in Florida catching heat for putting up The Vagina Monologues on their marquee, because a mother didn't want to tell her daughter what a vagina was, or even that the little girl had one, for fear she might actually look down and see it and wonder what it was for.

God forbid we use theater or books as springboards to education, not if that education focuses young attention on those tingly areas that wise parents refer to as "the devil's place." Because, children don't need to know about their bodies, not ever. Take it from me, those dangly bits just lead to jail time and trouble, so it's best to not talk of them at all.

The author lives in California, naturally, where I assume people talk about scrotums willy-nilly, children be damned. Ms. Patron said she was stunned because the story of the rattlesnake chomping on the canine nutsack was true. And, as the left coast author said, " of the themes of the book is that Lucky is preparing herself to be a grown-up. Learning about language and body parts, then, is very important to her."

Then she goes on to reveal just how truly twisted she is by saying that “The word [scrotum] is just so delicious.”

I'll bet that in your hippie-dippie, Free Love world it is delicious, Ms. Patron. But in God-fearing Bush country, we don't think about the taste of scrotums unless we're invited to a teabagging party and then I suggest you rub a bit of almond extract down there in consideration of your partner.

So, people, before you start using grown-up words to describe your naughty parts in those filthy books you write, I suggest you consider your audience and instead use child-friendly words like "peaches," "man kiwi," and "junque" instead.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fox Yucks Redux

This is more Fox comedy from the new Half Hour News Hour. But be warned, do not watch this if you have a weak stomach.

This promo is introduced by the giant-headed Sean Hannity and features the trice-married, Viagra-popping, drug-addicted, former comic Rush Limbaugh as the president.

Rush makes some real knee-slappers here. He talks about Howard Dean getting much-needed meds, something Rush knows something about. I expected some El Rushbo-style advice on threatening your Latina maid so she cops your Oxycontin for you, but I was disappointed.

I was also disappointed in the joke about Cindy Sheehan's cross-country shooting spree because, I admit, I didn't get it. Did I miss something?

If he'd said Dick Cheney's shooting spree, that would be funny because of that whole Cheney-shooting-a-friend-in-the-face-thing. But Cindy Sheehan? Maybe if he'd made a joke about her losing her car keys because, you know, she lost a son in Iraq, maybe there's something funny Fox could find in there.

What was that Oscar Wilde line? "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

See how easy it is to turn that tragic frown upside down, Rush?

No, don't thank me. I'm only trying to help.

Later, Ann Coulter makes a cameo and delivers her famous laugh-out-loud line about killing all Arab leaders and converting their people to Christianity. Nothing beats the classics, Ann. Thanks for reminding us just how hilarious you can be.

Fox comedy. And here I thought O'Reilly had that sewed up.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fox brings on the funny.

For those who may be blissfully unaware, Fox News is debuting a show that is to comedy what Fox News is to news. It's called The Half Hour News Hour because, see, it's funny. Just like it was when another network had the Half Hour Comedy Hour back in the Pleistocene.

This Daily Show ripoff is going to be hi-larious, judging by the sample we get up there. Because they make jokes about Obama's drug use with a timely reference to Marion Barry, they joke about Obama's middle name, and they do a side-splitting routine about his initials because BO is funny.

If you're twelve.

And you've suffered a head wound.

Add a raucous laugh track and you've got Comedy Gold my friend.

Now, I like funny right-wingers. Both of them. Larry Miller used to be funny until he discovered Israel. And I enjoy P.J. O'Rourke. In fact, I enjoy O'Rourke more now than when he helped turn the scathingly satiric National Lampoon into a sophomoric collection of naughty, frat-boy rib-ticklers. (Think of an entire magazine made up of Playboy party jokes.) But that was a long time ago and I've forgiven him. He was young.

And so is this show. Maybe they'll find their legs (and new writers) and actually make a genuinely funny news show that skewers the ample targets of Democratic fecklessness and Hillary's ass. It could happen.

Uh-huh. And Ann Coulter could turn into a real human being.

But don't count on it.


The story of the purloined bird has made the rounds of the crime blogs, the latest (and with a cool pic) is from our pal Dusty Rhoades.

I'm not here to add to the chorus. I'm here to sing a bit of counterpoint and ask, who signed the damn thing? In all the stories I've read, I've seen the detail that the bird was autographed by a cast member, but I don't know who. It couldn't be one of the stars. If it had been Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor or even Ward Bond, surely that detail would have made it into the news.

So here we go. The first person who can tell me who signed the stolen bird gets his or her choice of a signed copy of Jim Born's new book, Field of Fire, Jeff Shelby's best-selling Wicked Break, or Cornelia Read's Edgar-nominated Field of Darkness. (OK, you can ask for Beneath A Panamanian Moon, but given the choices I don't know why you would.)

I'll see all three authors in South Carolina later this month (more on that later) and get the winner's choice signed between drinks.

So, do your Google thing and be the first to identify the cast member of The Maltese Falcon who signed the stolen bird. I honestly don't know, so you're on your honor here.

But I would love for it to be Gutman's gunsel, the under-appreciated Elisha Cook, Jr.

Update: Yay! It was Elisha Cook, the gunsel. And if you think a gunsel has something to do with guns, you probably think catamite has something to do with cats. So, Jerry, let me know whose book you want signed and I'll bring it back from South Carolina, freshly autographed. And thanks for playing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Getting dumped - an inquiry.

Yesterday I was driving home, listening to NPR, and I hear a story about getting your heart stomped on, and what better time of the year is there to explore heartbreak than this Hallmark-manufactured holiday dedicated to totally unrealistic expectations?

The story on NPR was astonishingly pedestrian given the topic. Is it just me or has NPR's quality declined? I mean, does Juan Williams even know what a follow-up question is?

But I digress.

The story did raise the question of whether men and women deal differently with getting the ole heave-ho.

It never occurred to me that men and women handle heartbreak differently. I thought we all curled up on the carpet like a bug in a frying pan. I thought we all made drunk calls at 3 a.m. with our IQ, dignity and pants down around our ankles and the slim glimmer of hope in our alcoholic haze. I thought everyone sat outside our former lover's house, a pistol in our laps, a vodka bottle and a bag of fast food burgers on the passenger seat.

No? Really? Just me?

I obviously need a bit of edification. Do men and women really cope with getting the shaft in different ways? I need to know.

Talk to me.

*Illustration by Chase Melendez

Monday, February 12, 2007

More Music News - The Piedmont Shieks

What a great weekend. Jenny and I watched a few movies, slept in, went to a party where I played the blues, got drunk and had my finger chomped on by a very large parrot named Goldie.

I also got news from my agent that we're moving to another agency (more on that later) and then Sunday we saw Valentino and the Piedmont Shieks. That's them up there, with Daniel Valentino on harp, Chris Berry on guitar, Tracy Wieback on bass and Ed Myzynski on drums. (I have to come clean here. I am a committed Ed Head. Not only is he an amazingly tasteful drummer, he's also a regular reader of the Planet. Say hi, Ed.)

I could tell you how good these guys are, but you can hear them yourself. Go to YouTube, search for the Piedmont Shieks and you'll find a dozen or so cuts. They're also here: Check 'em out.

Daniel's tone knocks me out. He's got that big fat tongue slap, backed by seriously smooth vibrato (very hard to get right, by the way), and his whole approach is like opening up a big ass can of 1952.

Again, if you have a chance to see these guys, do it. You won't be disappointed.

Play the blues, boys.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Magnetic ribbons won't help these guys.

But books will.

Another family member is in Iraq. This time it's my niece's husband, a doc stationed with a Forward Surgical Team (FST).

As anyone who has ever been in the service knows, boredom is an unavoidable part of military life. Books help, especially the kind of books we read. Nothing takes your mind of the brutalities and war like a good multiple homicide.

So I'm sending out a call to all the people who read this blog. I want you to send books. More important, if you blog and I know most of you do, I'm asking you to post Brett's address at your place and ask your readers to send books. Paperbacks are probably best, but hardbacks are fine, too.

For those who don't know, there are some restrictions. You can't send porn (I'm looking at you, Stephen) and there's some restriction against religious evangelism that I don't think will be a problem here.

I don't ask much of this crowd. I give and give, always for your amusement and edification. Oh, sure, I urge you to buy a book every now and then, and occassionally I invite you to say something that would derail any potential political career you're considering, but other than those small sacrifices you're pretty much free to come and go as you please.

But not today. Today I'm asking you to step up. You can send your books to me and I'll forward them, or you can send them direct. And please, if you want to do something more than slap one of those three-dollar magnets on your car, pass this address along to fans, friends and family.

I know you guys won't let me down.

Here is Brett's address:

Cpt. Brett Sachse, MD
240 Med Det 28 CSH
APO AE 09348

Here is my address:

David Terrenoire
5 Chipley Ct.
Durham, NC 27703

I'll let you know how it's going in future posts.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Discussing Uganda

I love euphemisms for the horizontal hula. There's everything from the baseball fan's charging the mound to the former altar boy's dunking the bishop. So I was particularly pleased to read that in the UK, Discussing Uganda has become the euphemism du jour for extramarital bouts of hide the banger.

The story is, a young woman had an illicit tryst at a party and when asked what she and the gentleman were doing upstairs, she responded, "Discussing Uganda." I like that.

"What did you do this weekend?"

"Oh, not much. The wife and I stayed home and discussed Uganda until we couldn't walk."

I was surprised to discover, after a bit of research, that certain groups have specific euphemisms for checking the old oil. For instance, accountants can file an extension, Canadians can stuff the beaver, and Star Wars fans can shake hands with the wookie. Politicians can enter Congress and lawyers can raise an objection, but what about writers? According to my quick search of the web, writers are as useless as a eunuch at a teabagging.

So I've come up with a few euphemisms of my own. Here, for the first time ever, is a list of writers' eupemisms for making the beast with two backs:

1. Inserting an exclamation
2. Foreshadowing the climax
3. Employing the active voice
4. Sharpening the pencil
5. Penning a romance
6. Simultaneous submissions
7. Pulling a Reacher
8. Polishing the query
9. Pillaging the slush pile
10. Interviewing the wombat

What are your euphemisms for love spelunking? Come on, give it up. You know you want to.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

This and $3.85 will get me a cup of coffee.

I'm not complaining. I've given away stories for free. In fact, right this moment you can read Things Could Be Worse over at Demolition and know that I got paid exactly what it will cost you to read it.

And that's OK.

And I certainly don't have a beef with Michael Bracken, editor of this Fedora anthology, the man who just sent me my second royalty check for my story, Freddie Swings In. So far, I've raked in ninety cents for a story that came this close to selling to Playboy for a grand.

And that's OK.

Because Freddie Swings In is the story that was nominated for a Derringer along with stories by Ray Banks, Dave White and Duane Swierczynski. And those names introduced me to this blogging community, and that's worth more than ninety cents.

OK, maybe not enough to cover that Starbucks java frappuccino, but still, it's something.

And there are other names in this anthology you might recognize. Writers like Graham Powell, Tom Sweeney and Lee Goldberg. What ever happened to those guys?

So, you might wonder, if we don't do this for the money, why do we do it? Why put ourselves through years of rejection for a job that comes with little money, no health benefits, no job security, and no pension plan? Why do this?

And if you have to ask, perhaps this isn't your line of work.

Friday, February 02, 2007

So I'm listening to the Wild Tchoupitoulas

on the best damn radio station on the planet and the man comes on the radio telling me more and more about who's playing around New Orleans, and I hear that Mighty Lester is in the Crescent City playing a benefit gig for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.

Mighty Lester is a horn-driven band graced with a killer guitar slinger and a big front man who sings his ass off. These are my home boys, guys I've known for years and played with when they've been generous enough to invite me up.

You can buy their new CD, We Are Mighty Lester, right here and for a free listen visit their web site here.

These guys have worked hard to get where they are and if you have a chance to see Mighty Lester, do it, you won't be disappointed. Oh, and when they take a break, buy 'em a drink and tell 'em I sent you.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Look out Hollywood, here I come.

When I set out to write that feature, the one with the gratuitous breast shots and inexpensive exploding mayhem, I bought a cheap but useful bit of screenwriting software that made the formatting tolerable. Apparently, that put me on a list.

Because David Freeman is offering me a spot in his screenwriting class. Up there is one of the inside panels from his brochure. Hmmm, doesn't look like proofreading is covered.

But that doesn't dissuade this screenwriter. God knows I need professional help, so I checked out the course offering. Mr. Freeman promises to show me 10 techniques for creating complex characters, 25 types of character quirks or eccentricites, 37 techniques for giving my characters depth and techniques "to create interesting villains."

And here I've just been listening to the voices in my head. Had I known there were techniques, I would have signed up long ago.

But wait, you also get "14 techniques to capture the rhythm and sound of conversation in written dialogue." And that's just on Saturday. We have a whole other day of techniques to go.

Sunday we get 100, count 'em, 100 techniques for creating compelling plots and scenes, including 70 types of plot twists.

Why hell, I take this class, my next script will practically write itself. Sweet.

But I wasn't born in the turnip truck yesterday. I checked out Mr. Freeman on line and he's written a few movies. Four of them. And while I haven't seen them, I'm sure they're swell, what with all those techniques. But what really sold me was this line:

"This is the workshop taken by many novelists, as well as by the screenwriters, directors, producers, stars, and key creative and marketing executives from the companies which make or made:" and then a whole list of movies and TV shows follow, everything from Everybody Loves Raymond to Meet the Fockers. Yes, key creative and marketing executives have taken this course.

Elsewhere in the brochure, they tell me that if I sign up and pay my $400, I can get "Final Draft," the industry's gold-standard screenwriting software for the bargain price of $129 (and really, that is a bargain). Sadly, the offer is good only up to the end of November, 2005. So, lacking a time machine, I'm fucked.

But all things considered, it's good to know that someone out there is helping writers like myself develop characters with eccentricites (25 of them!) because all my people are hopelessly normal.

Unfortunately, I'll have to skip this seminar because right now I'm busy working on my drinking techniques. But if you're interested, I'll be happy to send you this brochure along with a copy of my cheapy screenwriting software, absolutely free.*

*Offer expires August 31, 2004.