Monday, July 31, 2006

Excerpt from today's work on Carnal Fear

I think some of this is a reaction to something I read a couple of weeks ago and didn't agree with. I'll probably lose a lot of it in a later draft but for now here you go.

"Well no duh, Aaron."

"Miss Gough, 'duh" is a terribly hurtful word. You've harmed me irreparably. I think it's only fair that you pay for supper."

"Aaron Feldman, how dare you? You specifically said you would pay for dinner. How like you to make a promise and then try and weasel out of it. Remember when you said if I carried you all the way to the beach I could use your new bucket to build sandcastles and then you hogged it the entire time? You have no shame."

"I have plenty of shame. Luckily for me this situation doesn't call for it. You're the one who should be ashamed for bringing up twenty year old past wrongs. Just like a woman, can't let anything go."

This was the outside of enough. I threw my napkin at him, cheering when it hit him square in the nose. "Take that!"

He laughed. "And here I thought you'd be the same old Sutter. But no, your aim has improved exponentially." He was interrupted by the delayed delivery of our food.

"Hogwash. My aim has always been superb. But enough about me and my many talents. Tell me about your last photography trip and why it's fair that you get to be talented in more than one way while the average person has to console themselves with writing bad poetry."

"I think everyone has more than one talent. I heard someone the other day who was saying we live in a time where you have to specialize. She said it's impossible to be a Renaissance man or woman anymore because there's too much out there we have to learn and do. That didn't make a lick of sense to me. It seems pretty obvious to me if there is more to do and see and learn then we all have to be Renaissance men and women, instead of none of us being one. Look at all the people blogging. Never in the history of the world have so many people been able to publish their writings."

Sutter was surprised by all this passion. "But isn't it all junk? Marnie at the gallery sometimes reads entries to me and it's just horrid. She's says it's worse to read than it is to hear because of all the misspellings and lack of punctuation."

"Sure, a heck of a lot of it is utter crap. So what? It's still people trying, expressing, reaching out. It's a grand and glorious thing. And these same people are posting pictures of their cats or their cars or the funny way the shadows hit the mailbox on the way in to work this morning. And that means people are taking part in two disciplines at once, they're creating visual and text art at the same time. But best of all they're noticing. They saw that the light was interesting or that their cat looked particularly cute and during the day they hear something that makes them think, oh that would be good blog material and they're digging deep and they're finding the words to describe it all. Maybe it's all done at a rudimentary level but it's still going on. Oh it's a wonderful time to be alive."

"You think? You used to want to live in the old west and run with the buffalo."

He laughed. "Yeah well, didn't we all?"

I shook my head. "I wanted to be a horse."

"I can see that. They're a lot like you. Beautiful, spirited and they'll jump the fence and come back pregnant if you don't watch out." I looked away but he must have seen something in my face anyway because he apologized. "I was just joking, I didn't mean anything by it." Then he frowned. "You've never been pregnant have you?"

"No," I said. "I never have." I looked at my food but I knew I wouldn't be able to eat another bite. One side effect of the stress I was under was loss of appetite. And my hair was falling out. I had no idea why but it was making me crazy. "You ready to go?"

"Sure. Did you want to show me your house?"

Just the idea of trying to be perky and act like a tour guide made me bone tired. "It's kind of late. Would you like to see it tomorrow?"

"Sure. What time?"

"I usually get home from work at around 6:30, unless we get a late customer. Does seven suit you?"

"Okay. Let me get directions from you."

"What you mean you don't already have a map with the route to my house highlighted in pink?"

He smiled. "Well yeah, but I didn't want you to think I was being too forward."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Strange theory about man who cut his hand off at the Super Halal Meat Market

WaPo ran this horrifying, yet oddly compelling, story about a man who cut his hand off at a meat store in Virginia.

You should read the story, it's amazing and the writer does a nice job describing something that is very hard to imagine happening.

Now I don't know about you, but when I read something that intrigues me I come up with a bunch of ideas about what could have happened, what might happen next, why it happened, etc. I'm not saying I think this happened at all, I'm just saying it COULD have happened.

Let's look at a couple of facts.

Nothing seemed amiss when the man approached the meat counter with his teenage son, Asghar said. The butcher said he recognized the man, whose name he did not know, as a fellow Pakistani. The man chatted on a cellphone as Asghar cut his chicken.


The customer ran down the Springfield store's center aisle and into the front parking lot, leaving a trail of blood and yelling repeatedly that he was "not a terrorist." Outside, another witness said, the man announced that he had used the meat saw to cut off his hand "for Allah."

So we have a man who was acting pretty normally, talking on the phone and then he freaks out, cuts off his hand, and makes some unusual sorts of statements, did it for Allah and not a terrorist.

We can consider for a moment that he is a character in Stephen King's Pulse and received an electronic signal over the cell that caused him to mutilate himself. But Pulse isn't real so we move on.

What if he did get something over the phone though? Let's say he came here to the US to be a terrorist but changed his mind. He has at least on child, let's say they are doing well here. He's on the phone and he gets the message that the time is now, he has to go out and perform his mission, whatever that may be but let's say it's not good.

He doesn't want to do it so he cuts his hand off and starts saying he's not a terrorist and in fact if he were supposed to do something for Allah, he's done it, he's sacrificed his hand so now he's off the hook.

As I said, not very likely but you know if I wrote this as a short story and submitted it to the right venue, it would do very well in certain circumstances. The Terrorist Who Changed His Mind Because He Loved America. I'm just sayin'

Raising Arizona parenting choices

Cullen and I were just watching Raising Arizona for the nth time. We made a list of who would make the worst parents, using as our pool all the people who end up with Nathan Jr. at any point in the film.

Worst choice - the swingers with the set of awful, unruly children.

Second worst choice - the outlaw/bounty hunter/motorcycle guy

Third worst choice - the jailbirds, John Goodman and his pal

Fourth worst choice - Nathan and Florence (is that her name?) Arizona

and best choice, Ed and Hi because they grow so much and they care so much. But hopefully they do get their own kids in the end.

Did I post this before?

A quote from Aaron, one of the characters in my books Carnal Fear talking about the importance of being kind to strangers:

Sometimes things are so bad that it takes a whole hell of a lot of people to make one person feel even the tiniest bit better.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

If you give it enough time much will become clear

When I was a girl I read a lot. Of course I still read a lot, if I didn't I can't imagine what my state of mind would be like. But it was when I was a girl that my love of British humor was lovingly planted and nurtured by my mother was, and knowing her, still is, a great fan of P.G. Wodehouse.

I read plenty of fairy tales written or published in Britain and when I got to school I had a lot of trouble because I spelled things incorrectly. Until very recent, after having meningitis and having to relearn to do some things, I used to spell words like color in the British way, colour, etc. It's possible that this blog has some entries with words spelled like that. After I was sick I would start to write words and stop because I didn't know how to go on. Either way seemed wrong but since I am an American I made a conscious decision to write the way people expect me to here.

But I've also had a lot of trouble with words like license and with punctuation; do periods and question marks go inside or outside of quotes? I used to freeze up on this and have to ask my boss, who used to teach English in his native Hungary.

Recently I've been reading several blogs that have pointed out differences between the British and American ways of spelling and punctuation and every single thing that I used to get wrong or was unsure of how to do today is because of the differences between the two ways of doing things. According to a comment in yesterday's Miss Snark question marks and periods go outside of the quotes in Britain.

I felt weirdly relieved by all this. At least there is a logical reason behind my confusion, it's more than just a bit of damage left behind by mindless viral invaders.

The most interesting thing about this is how often we run into situations like this. Something happens that we don't understand, something that slows us down or makes life a little harder and we've no idea why it's happening. But then if we can get one or two small pieces of information, it all makes sense.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Does this happen to normal writers?

One of the weirdest things about being me post brain damage is that I will find things that I wrote that I have no memory of writing. I am thinking about submitting to the Maryland Arts Council for an individual arts grant. I always go with the playwright option but this year I am thinking about poetry instead. I wrote quite a lot of poetry in 2003, a particularly odd year for me and I can submit anything written after July 27th, 2003 so I'm looking at some of this stuff to see when I did write it.

I found something called the Plum of Forgiveness that was written in December 2003. It sounded vaguely familiar, but like it was something someone else wrote that I read about but when I searched my blog I see that I did write it and posted about it.

It sounds like me , it's got a creature made from rage and guilt and a lake of tears and a twisty maze but still no memory of writing it. I guess it's like a present to me from me.

I don't like the ending (do I ever?) but I'm not quite sure how to fix it.

Today I wrote another poem called Dating Rituals and one called Miss Goodie Two Shoes about a woman with a secret. I hope it turned out well, it's sort of a cross between prose and poetry, switches from one to the other and it changes POV in the middle so I don't know if it works for anyone but me but I really like it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Away for a bit

I've been sick since last Tuesday, for pretty stupid reasons. I had a tooth that was in danger of breaking so I had to have some work done on it and I got very stressed out and was in so much pain I had to go to the ER where I had a reaction to the medicine they gave me. I missed a day of work (my first for sickness since I had the last spinal tap) and have been feeling wretched and vomiting a lot.

On the plus side I've been having some really amazing dreams. Last night I was touring with a theater company and ended up in a place with alligators (or crocodiles?) jumping out of the water catching the fish that were jumping out of the water. I was rather surprised by the sheer athleticism of the alligators but then this enormous thing that was the size of a schoolbus appeared and started eating the alligators, chomping them out of the air with glee and huge, snaggletoothed jaws.

I told my friend I was pretty sure these things had died out about fifty million years ago but she said no, they are local and you see them a lot. Then a baby zebra was running around so I brought it inside so it would be safe from the dinosaur/dragon thingie. It was quite fluffy and pure white as it was the kind that gets their stripes later - yes I know, but it was a dream you can't expect too much logic can you?

Monday, July 17, 2006


I downloaded Celtx yesterday. It looks pretty amazing, it can do just about everything but actually make your film for you. The only thing is I want to use it to rewrite a script I saved in Movie Magic and I don't think it can open that format. I feel like I've got this vast professional kitchen at my fingertips and I'm trying to microwave a cup of tea and failing...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

This is a true story

We have these two rats, Karma and Paz. They're Cornish Rex rats, about six months old I guess. They're growing through this crazy growth spurt and every time I play with them I tell them how amazed I am at how enormous they are. A couple of days ago I let them run around my room for a few hours; they mostly like to hang out under my nightstand so they're pretty easy to round up when it's time to put them away.

Yesterday I was putting something in my nightstand and I noticed they'd been in my box of checks. I keep everything I need to pay the rent in a little box, stamps, a pen, envelopes, checks, and the property manager's address and the rats had moved everything around, in fact I couldn't find the envelopes at all. I kind of wondered if they were building a nest somewhere but didn't worry too much.

Today Cullen and I went to the computer store to see about the loose USB port problem and so I could buy an external harddrive for backup. While we were there I felt like we were in a dystopic skiffy film; the television was on in the background and in the twenty minutes or so we were there we heard two breaking news stories about bombings in the Middle East, one at a resort and that the Israeli army had killed 27 civilians. In between this was a report about record heat waves sweeping the entire US. I felt like Cullen and I should just get in the car and drive to some mountains or something and hide there for a few years.

When we got home there was a notice on the door saying a large envelope or package had not been delivered and I could pick it up at the post office between 12 and 12:15 (really) or they would try to redeliver it.

Now I am not expecting a package of any sort. I haven't bought anything online.

But obviously the rats did. They bought something via mail order, most likely a small boat or submarine so they can sail down the river to the Chesapeake Bay and from there make their way to the sea and eventually to a small South Sea Island where they can live in peace during the coming world war and global warming.

Do the Dads feel left out?

Is there an equivalent to step on a crack break your Momma's back for the Dads?

Friday, July 14, 2006

A tiff with my Uncle Google

I had a little spat with my old pal Google today. It was quite distressing for me, after all we go way back, all the way into a previous century but there are certain things I simply can't tolerate.

The USB ports on my laptop are loose. This has been a major source of annoyance for me because I mouse a lot and it's hard when I can't connect the mouse to the computer for longer than ten minutes without it jiggling loose. But today something new started happening. If the mouse is on the USB port and I touch the connection between the two there is a spark and the computer shuts off. This is suboptimal so I called a bunch of people then found an ad from someone who is selling his laptop, which has the same loose port problem, but has gotten around it with a 4 port USB hub that fits into the card slot. This sounded intriguing so I was looking around to get more information when I realized Google was doing me wrong.

Instead of searching on the word "loose" it was giving me hits with the word "lose." Oh man was I ever annoyed. I know the difference between the two words and I refuse to participate in the bizarre trend to pretend they are the same. Quite frankly I don't want to read anything written by someone who uses the two interchangeably, no matter how good they are with technology. Yes, that makes me snobby, a bigot and probably biting off my nose to spite my face (I don't think that's actually the expression, but it sounds nice and gruesome so it will stay) but I'm just stubborn and willful that way.

Luckily Cullen suggested I search on -lose as well so I wouldn't keep getting all these hits about how batteries lose power after two years. But still for a moment there it was touch and go.

I am still not sure how to fix this problem but I shall soldier on, much like an ant.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tom Shales, why you gotta be like that?

I've never read a column by Tom Shales that left me feeling good. Usually I feel either pissed off or grimy or some combination of the two. I was kind of surprised to see his blurb say he won a Pulitzer and he uses humor in his kol. I wouldn't have thought to use the words funny or Pulitzer to describe his work. His number one emotion seems to be bitterness and if you'd asked me I would have guessed he hated his job and wished he could be, oh I don't know, a janitor because then when he something that bothered him in the line of work he could clean it up.

But I digress. He wrote something about Stephen King's new thing running on TNT, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and he managed to draw me in from my email because the headline sounded positive. "A Delightful Scream: TNT's 'Nightmares' Toys With the Mind"

That sounds pretty groovy, doesn't it? Sadly he immediately launches into an old and dull refrain, how much he hates Mr. King. He says the same kinds of things people have been saying about Mr. King for the last twenty years, except instead of saying Mr. King could publish his laundry list, he says his grocery list. Sigh. This is so trite and wearying. Really, we do understand that you can't stand Mr. King and you think we're all subhuman for enjoying his work.

But then Mr. Shales kind of reluctantly says that something good has come out of this whole King thing, he likes the first story in the series, Battlefield. But God forbid he should leave it at that, he has to say the story reminds him of a TV show from the 70's and he spends a fair amount of ink/bytes talking about that show. But he says more than Battlefield reminds him of Trilogy of Terror, he uses the words plagiarism and lawyers, albeit in a, hold on, don't get them quite yet kind of way.

Then he says this:

For the record, TNT says "Battleground" originated in a 1978 King short-story collection called "Nightshift." That would be three years after "Trilogy of Terror" aired on ABC and the toothy fetish doll chased poor Ms. Black hither, thither and everywhere else. Coincidental, or copycatty? Truth -- or fiction? Genius -- or big thief?

The world may never know.

Mr. Shales, the world already knows. I spent less than three minutes online and I saw that my memory of the book was correct in that the copyright page clearly states "Battlefield appeared in Cavalier, September 1972."

Three minutes, Mr. Shales, that's all it would have taken to keep you from looking pretty silly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What no to do when you're caught in a Stephen King script

Don't go into a building that should be full of people but is empty.

If you and your spouse have separated, even for an instant, don't do anything they tell you to do when they come back.

If you've been seeing half wolf/half human hybrids and cats with part of their faces missing, don't go further into that neighborhood. Turn around and leave.

If you've just shot someone and a strange person appears with a package for you, don't accept it. Don't take it into your home. Don't open it. Don't put what's inside it in a spot in your home where it has full run of the place.

Don't go anywhere a cab driver is afraid to go.

Actually, the best plan seems to be to put a call in to your agent and get yourself off the set.

More poetry

I wrote another poem today. This one is about a recurring character called Tinker. She showed up in this thing I wrote a few months ago about an evil carnival. Today's thing is written from a different perspective, some women who are worried about her motives but still I was somewhat surprised to have her show up again.

It's also odd that I'm writing any poetry at all. I tend to be rather nasty and think that all poetry is like the awful stuff you find every time you turn around. I'm always really surprised when I find something I like, even though part of me knows that's ridiculous, obviously there's some great poetry out there. But still I think of it badly and when I find myself writing it I feel kind of abashed and silly. Even if I like the finished piece.

I wish there were some sort of primer I could find online that would direct me to stuff I would like. Sort of an if you like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and you've written parodies of the brilliant plum thing by William Carlos Williams (This is Just to Say) you'll like ________

And on a different, albeit related noted there are some rather horrifying comments in this blog entry about This is Just to Say; to wit:

What I do know -or at least feel- is that prosody is anti-content....Anti-content: itÂ?s pretty clear that having to choose words based on how they sound skews the optimal delivery of intended meaning.

This Poem is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO weird. I dont get it. Who really gives a crap if somebody ate the plums in the icebox???!?!? Anyway, what in the heck does this poem signify? P.S. My english teacher made me read it, I try not to do insignificant things on my own time.

Sigh. Despite my poetical illiteracy I certainly don't hold views like these. Mostly I've been subjected to so much bad poetry or lots of frilly ballad (I know, wrong word, sorry) thingies from a couple of centuries ago that I tend to think I don't like the field as a whole. Much like the way I can tell you I don't like mysteries despite my deep love of Charlotte Armstrong, Dick Francis, Jane Krentz, etc., etc.

Time to find that primer...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Crazy conmen

We went up to New York yesterday to see my friend James' show, The Adventures of Nervous-Boy, and on our way back to our car we saw all these rats running around by a woman sitting in a chair on the edge of the sidewalk. I was going to tell her she might want to move her chair since there were so many rats, one of them hiding just a foot or two away from her when she started saying she wanted to read my palm.

She was going on about how I need to stop looking for love, that love is looking for me so I humored her, wondering just how wrong she could be. She started in on the standard stuff, I was going to fall in love, money was coming my way, lots and lots of it if I only followed her directions, peace and fulfillment, happiness, success, etc, etc.

Then she says she'll give me a discount, a tarot card reading for 95 bucks. I say hell no. She says tarot and the palm for 50. I say no. She finally says a four card reading and the palm for thirty. Then she asks me what I am most worried about and I tell her some upcoming surgery (actually not what I am most worried about) and she says she has something for me and if I give her 350 dollars and follow her instructions I won't need any surgery. I tell her no. She starts going on about the money again, I will have all this money coming in if I give her this money and if I sign something (? Was a Nigerian going to appear?)

I tell her no again and she gets even weirder. She says I have to put my money where my mouth is. What this means I have no idea. I have said very little and I'm certainly not betting with this crazy woman with the missing teeth. I am very tired because I had to take some phenargan to keep from throwing up and the part of me that wants nothing more than to go to sleep wonders vaguely if she's going to put a curse on me and I search her face looking for hairy moles. I don't find any and by now she's moved on to trying to find out my precise financial situation. She asks me how much money I do have. I tell her just enough to pay the tolls and get home. She asks if I have a money card. I assume she means an ATM card or a credit card. I can only imagine what she would do with this type of information, buy a crystal ball and some new teeth with my nonexistent money.

I tell her no. She says she'll help me for 250 and if I don't do it then it's the hospital for me. She points out I will pay more than this to a surgeon. I tell her no. She looks back down at the cards she has drawn and tells me one of my children is deeply unhappy and if I give her the money she'll give me the cure so he will be happy. At this point I lost my temper and she lost whatever bizarre entertainment value she may have had and I got in the car and we drove home. What a nasty, vicious creep.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Things Not To Do in Fiction

Don't switch perspective right in the middle of a scene. If we're in the mind and feelings of Bob don't suddenly switch to Cindy's head. It's disturbing, breaks the flow and leads to the reader going back and rereading what they just read to see what they missed.

And don't do what's in this book I'm reading right now. If your character is adopted don't make them confront their birth mother as she's in her hospital bed waiting for breast cancer surgery. It's not going to make your character likeable. Really.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why is Clerks 2 Called Clerks 2?

Christopher asked me why the new Clerks movie has to leach off of the title of the first movie. Why can't it be original and be called "Jason's Craptastic Film" or something. I think the answer is pretty obvious. The vast majority of people who saw the first Clerks have been smoking dope every since and wouldn't be able to make the connection.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Thoughts about the nature of heaven

Cul and I are listening to a song and the singer mentioned a slice of heaven. This made me ask why people talk about heaven as though it came in slices like pie. Cullen says because pie is heaven. I think that explains a lot.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Rejection, rejection, rejection

I got a rejection from United Media yesterday. My friend Sandy is submitting my entertainment column for syndication for me. It was a standard form, not very interesting. The paper was nice though and as Lawrence Block likes to say, "each rejection brings me one step closer to success."