Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Can You Guess Which New Year's Resolutions Are Fake?

1) Begin studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

2) Write a sci-fi novel.

3) Lose 30 pounds.

4) Learn to cook.

5) Become a volunteer firefighter.

6) Learn Chinese, preferably Mandarin.

7) Become a Jedi Knight.

8) Stop Drink...okay, I can't stop laughing long enough to finish writing that one.

9) Go back to practicing litigation.

10) Finally watch The Godfather.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Did You Get For Christmas (Assuming You Celebrate)?

I scored some great gifts this year from the wife for Christmas. Awwwww yeah. I won't list everything, but here are a few things. By the way, ladies, don't fret. I took care of her too, I swear.

-The Dark Knight. Love this movie, as evidenced by my defense of it.

-Step Brothers. This is my favorite Will Ferrell comedy. John C. Reilly is a scream in this one too, every bit as good as Ferrell with the laughs. Believe it or not, I first saw this at the theater with my mother-in-law. It was quite an interesting experience to see her laughing hysterically when Ferrell put his _____ on Reilly's drum set.

-All the President's Men. A great, great movie. I always thought Redford was a little overrated as an actor, until I saw this one.

-There Will Be Blood. Sorry all you lovers of No Country for Old Men, but this one should have been awarded Best Pic for 2007. DDL gives the most ferocious performance of his career.

-The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. Calling all you children of the 80s. Who remembers this one? With Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown. Weller stars as Banzai, a surgeon, astrophysicist, rock star who gets embroiled in an interdimensional struggle when...oh, the plot doesn't matter. And sadly, the rumors that Big Trouble in Little China was originally intended as a sequel to this aren't true.

-Mad Men Season One. I only caught a few episodes on AMC during its run, but I really enjoyed them. Can't wait to watch it from start to finish.

-The Great Train Robbery (novel). During my Crichton phase when I was thirteen or fourteen, I stayed away from this book. I shouldn't have. Crichton's attention to detail and solid research make this a lot of fun and a quick read. Now I can't wait to see the film, which he also directed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bear and Gracie Offer You Season's Greetings

That's Bear on the right, Gracie on the left. To those who know her, Gracie's costume is a bit ironic. I'm still shocked we got them to sit still long enough for this picture.

Happy Holidays!

Redbelt: My Guilty Pleasure of 2008

Written and directed by David Mamet, Redbelt is a wickedly awesome and surprisingly moving film. I call it my guilty pleasure of 2008 because the convoluted plot barely passes a cursory examination on first viewing and tends to completely self-destruct after repeated viewings. The ending, in terms of verisimilitude, really pushes the envelope of willing suspension of disbelief. Nevertheless, I find this an entertaining-as-all-hell movie, held together by a perfect performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor, by logic-defying plot twists that don't give you time to consider their logic-defyingness, and most importantly, by heart.

Taken within the context of Mamet's oeuvre, Redbelt is both standard fare and somewhat of an oddity. All the Mamet trademarks are present: insanely twisted storyline; dramatic reversals of fortune; shady characters; shadier characters; even shadier characters; double-crosses; an almost amoral universe; distinct, undeniably Mametean dialogue that calls attention to itself all the way; and, of course, the con. There's always a con in Mamet's world, something going on underneath what you think is going on, and oftentimes something going on underneath that too. Layer upon layer of fiction gets stripped away as the story unfolds, until you are left with a stark revelation at the end: man is a conniving, nasty beast. Only this time out, Mamet issues an addendum: but some men are not.

What separates RB from Mamet's other films like The Spanish Prisoner, Spartan, Heist, and House of Games, and even more so Glengarry Glen Ross, is the story has soul. There is a message of perseverance, of finding peace, of adhering to one's moral code, in an otherwise malevolent world. It is--dare I say it--an inspiring film.

Unlike his other films, Mamet has given us a lead we can truly sympathize with this time around. His other films, as intelligent and fun as they are, often come off as emotionally void. Or rather, the only emotions in the Mamet universe outside of Redbelt are anger, frustration, estrangement, alienation, and lust. I cheered for the main character in The Spanish Prisoner not because I identified with him, but because he was just a decent, hard-working fellow that was getting screwed by con men. I rooted for Gene Hackman in Heist because he was Gene Hackman, and really for no reason other than that.

But Mike Terry, hero of this story, is different from every other previous Mamet protagonist.

Early in the film, Terry, played by Ejiofor, states, "There is an always escape." No matter how bad things get, you can always find a way out, you can always triumph. He's a man that believes in something. He's not challenged by evil forces "just because," as is the case in most of Mamet's other films. Rather, he's challenged because of who he is. His system of values and that fundamental belief are tested throughout the movie, with the stakes getting inevitably higher with each challenge. As Terry explains to a new student in the middle of the film, just before EVERYTHING falls apart, "There is no situation you cannot escape from. There is no situation you cannot turn to your advantage."

Is it possible to live an honorable life in 2008? Yes, Mike Terry says. No, says everybody else. And Redbelt pits these two philosophies against one another. Many people were thrown by the ads into thinking this is a martial arts movie. It is not. It is a cleverly-disguised, neo-noirish spin on the samurai film. It's a refreshing dose of optimism, found in the least likely of places: a David Mamet movie.

Ejiofor almost completely carries this film. Mamet's dialogue either makes or breaks an actor (and makes or breaks a story for an audience), and when delivered poorly, the language calls attention to itself and its artificiality. Ejiofor, however, handles it marvelously, alternatively spouting off Yoda-like aphorisms while managing the gritty "hyper-realism" of Mamet's syntax, with its non-sequiturs and repetitions on repetitions. I can't picture anyone else playing Mike Terry, meaning Ejiofor inhabited the role and made it truly his own.

All that being said, I will issue this caveat: this film is polarizing, as nearly every Mamet movie tends to be. People either love it or hate it, and I'm starting to wonder whether Mamet likes his stories to be that way. I fall into the love it camp, but even I'm willing to admit the film is not perfect, nowhere near it, in fact. The ending is, in the most literal sense of the word, unbelievable. The con itself, perhaps the centerpiece of every Mamet story, is logically baffling. It is impossible to tell when the con men decided to start conning their mark, in this case, Mike Terry, or why they chose to go about it the way they did. Surely, there was an easier way.

But for me, Redbelt works as a Mamet story, a samurai film, and as a fight movie. It's my guilty pleasure of 2008, unless I see something else that tops it in the next eight days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, I Want to See Valkyrie

Valkyrie has a lot going against it. Internet hateboys have lined up (or rather, sat in front of their computers) to bash this movie for many reasons. Here are some of the more popular ones:

1) Tom Cruise can't act.
2) Bryan Singer has seen better days.
3) It's a suspense thriller, but we all know how the plot ends, so what's the point, right?
4) The release date has been changed at least three times, for various reasons.
5) None of the characters speak with German accents, and that's like, so dumb, man.

I haven't seen it yet, but I think people should give this movie a chance.

1) Tom Cruise is a good actor. It's in vogue nowadays to hate on the guy. Understandably so. Whether you're still laughing at his couch-jumping on Oprah, or whether you're still waiting for him to say "I was just kidding about psychiatry. I think it's a wonderful field," his behavior and outspoken views on anything and everything were a bit off-putting. He appears to be in the midst of a public-relations extreme makeover. I totally understand if you don't want to support a movie he's in because you disagree with him on a personal level. That's one thing. But don't ignore the fact that he can act. He was perfect in Born on the Fourth of July, nobody else could have played Jerry Maguire the way he did, and he was spot-on as Vincent in Collateral. If I chose not to watch movies starring actors who had political views I disagreed with, I'd almost never go the movies.

2) Bryan Singer is a good director
. Yes, it's been five years since X2. Yes, the last outing, Superman Returns, was an abomination. Yes, he directed Apt Pupil, one of the few movies I've ever rented and turned off twenty minutes in. But anyone capable of directing as good a film as The Usual Suspects has got talent and brains. Also, Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter of TUS wrote the screenplay for this movie. McQuarrie is an excellent writer, and he and Singer worked wonders together before. And let's not forget that Singer's treatment of X-Men and X2 was awesome. With both films, I was never once pulled out of the story because I realized I was watching a comic book movie (cough, cough, Spider Man 1-3). Singer brought the focus of the X-Men movies to bear on the themes of alienation and individualism.

3) It doesn't matter that we know the ending. It really doesn't. Trust me on this one. If the film's done well, the plot will work. There was another movie that we all knew the ending to that did pretty well at the box office: Titanic. Sure, there are some differences, but the idea is the same--we all know the ship's going down, but we want to see how it happens and how things turn out for the characters involved. Still not convinced? Then go watch (or read) The Day of the Jackal, one of the best suspense thrillers ever created. The outcome of the story is never in doubt, and yet, you're on the edge of your seat the entire time. Still not convinced? How many of you knew the ending to Romeo and Juliet before you first read or saw a production of it? Huh? Come on, how many of you? Yeah, that's what I thought.

4) The changing of the release date could mean a lot of things. This is the strongest argument against seeing this film, if you ask me. But I would state that this could mean a lot of things. I read somewhere that the producers or the studio pushed it back initially because they wanted Cruise to work on his German accent. I don't know if that's true or not, but that really doesn't matter (see below). I also heard that the studio wasn't sure how to market this film when they saw it, which isn't necessarily a sign that it's bad. Perhaps they were expecting a big-time action box office smash, let's release it during the summer, kind of movie. And they panicked when they didn't get that. But if you believe Singer, all along he wanted to create a solid suspense thriller. He wasn't going for Michael-Bay type action, and he wasn't looking for Oscar nominations.

5) German accents wouldn't make any sense. Seriously, they wouldn't. Think about it. The story takes place in Germany. We know the characters are speaking German. Therefore, there's no need to have them speak English with a German accent. It's unnecessary. If you think about it, the characters in Star Wars probably aren't speaking English. Though, who knows with George Lucas. Aside from that, though, I've heard that Singer uses an interesting technique to remind us throughout the movie that the characters are speaking German.

So, I say that Valkyrie is worth a watch, either at the theater or as a rental at home. Judge the movie all you want after you see it, but at least have a good reason for doing so. People love to hate, don't they?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas or Saturnalia?

Repost from a few years ago. Can't believe I've been on blogger this long.

Don't you love hypothetical questions?

If you could choose, which holiday would you celebrate this year--Christmas or Saturnalia? And no, Festivus isn't an option.

I've done a little bit of research on both, so I could make an informed decision. As in, I spent five minutes on Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, Christmas and Saturnalia have more than a few commonalities. (Gee, wonder why.)

After much thought, Saturnalia gets my vote.

What's that? Are you laughing? Well, sir, just hear me out. Before you scoff at the idea, at least pause to consider what Saturnalia has to offer:

-A week-long holiday
-Conventional sacrifices
-School holiday
-Small presents (But I'm not sure if Guitar Hero counts as a small present)
-Special market
-Gambling for everybody!
-Reversal of social roles (You can tell your boss what you really think of him/her)

Doesn't sound half bad. And, you're not required to wear a toga for Saturnalia. That's right. Instead, you'd wear the synthesis, which I hear is much more comfortable AND flattering.

With Saturnalia, you still get all the benefits of Christmas (gifts, school holiday) with some added bonuses, like tomfoolery and sacrifices. Seriously, can one ever get enough tomfoolery? And I think this world could do with more sacrifices. Perhaps regularly-scheduled sacrifices would satiate the blood-lust inherent in man so there would be no more war.

Then there's the fact that you're not required to risk your life hanging lights on the roof all of which, may I remind you, have to come down in less than a month.

Saturnalia doesn't require the creation of scores of Christmas cards to send out to family members you see, if you're lucky (take that how you want), once a year.

Given the choice between a one-day, or at best, a one-and-a-half day if you count Christmas Eve, celebration and a week-long celebration, well, I think you know where I'm headed with this...


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Select Lyrical Press Titles On Sale for 20% Discount

My publisher, Lyrical Press, is now offering 20% discounts on select titles for the holiday season. I urge you all to check out what's on sale. Most of it falls into the romance, erotica, and paranormal genres, so if that's your thing, this is the perfect opportunity to purchase some quality fiction at a reduced price.

And no, my paranormal thriller The Unearthed is not available yet. Trust me, you'll know when it is, because I'll be doing shameless self-promotion left and right, front and center, hither and yon, ad nauseam, closer to the e-release date of March 2, 2009. I'll be here brainstorming creative promotionals/giveaways in the meantime.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Love Glenside

I live in a great town. Glenside, PA is an interesting little place that's full of character.

Glenside is the perfect hybrid of suburb and little town. You can walk nearly everywhere you need to go, but you never feel crowded like you would in a city. Less than five blocks from where I live, you can get a haircut, buy a doughnut and the paper, pick up a six pack, grab a pizza, sit down in a pub to watch a ball game, eat Chinese food.

If you're feeling really adventurous, you can walk about ten minutes and go to the Keswick Theatre, which has been open since 1928. It was designed by the same guy that created the Philadelphia Museum of Art! A lot of great acts came through here, like The Marx Brothers. And they're still coming through--BB King, The Allman Brothers Band, etc. It's considered to have nearly perfect acoustics.

Just across the street from the Keswick sits the smallest (or second smallest, there's some debate) brewery in the United States: GG Brewers. It's a great place to grab a bite to eat and throw back a few pints. Cozy as it is, there's still plenty of room for a game of darts (or "jarts," if you're a player). There's always an XBox or other gaming system hooked up to one of the TVs. Many a game of half-drunken Ms. Pac Man was played there between pints.

And speaking of pubs, there are no shortage in Glenside. We've also got the Glenside Pub, Cork, and the Keswick Tavern. If you're into Greek food, there's Athena.

Newgrounds also makes its home in Glenside. Newgrounds is the original Flash portal on the internet, and the owners/operators receive hundreds of submissions a day from anybody and everybody.

Glenside is also the home of the Won Insitute. I'm not quite sure what goes on there, but one of these days I'll work up the nerve to go inside. The building looks cool. Based on the website, tt appears to be a school offering courses on Eastern thought and its practical applications.

If you're ever in Glenside, shoot me an email and we'll grab a pint. It's a great little town.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Stories 2 - Nate Green Interview

Nate Green was good enough to stop by and record a podcast with Nick and me (followed of course by a few brews). We've put the podcast up here.

Nate and I discuss the creative process, Nate's short story Prison Darkness which was published by Niteblade, and some literary theory.

Nate's a cool guy. We met (oh my god) eleven years ago at Drexel University. He competes in bagpipe competitions, writes short stories and novels, and knows more drinking games than anyone else I know. He's also currently enrolled in the MFA Program at Rosemont University. I don't know when he sleeps.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Overused Movie Lines

Yet another completely random post. I've taken a lot of time to come up with these overused movie lines for you. Okay, it only took fifteen minutes. But to a flatworm, that's an eternity.

In some instances, I've put what I'd write in a screenplay, had I been forced to use the overused line. Hope you enjoy.

1. "Is that a threat?" My Answer: Yeah, you dumb S--T.

2. "It's quiet in here." Normal response: "Yeah, too quiet." My Answer: Of course it is, we're in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night.

3. "Nothing can go wrong/I'm so happy/We're all going to make it." My Answer: No we're not. That would make for a reverse dramatic arch.

4. "Give me a beer." My Answer, if I were the bartender: Just so you know, there are thousands of beers in existence and at least five I could pour for you right now.

5. "I'm going to count to three." My Answer: Good. That will give me time to think of a snappy comeback, or a way out of this mess. (Check out how David Mamet handled this in Heist.)

6. "What is this, good cop/bad cop?"

7. "It's not you. It's me." (Maybe that one hits too close to home.)

8. "I'm getting too old for this." (And so are we.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Was The Dark Knight Really That Good?

The Dark Knight comes out tomorrow on DVD, and I figured now was a good time to look back and consider just how good the film actually is. It has been several months since we were in the throes of box-office madness of Titanic-like proportions, so perhaps we can approach this film with some distance before appraising it.

I was going to issue a SPOILER WARNING, but if you haven't seen the film by now, that can only mean you died before it was released and you're somehow able to read blogs from beyond the grave but not watch movies.

TDK is not without its share of problems. To name a few:

-A scene early on involving the Scarecrow that provides a quick, and really unnecessary, resolution to a plot thread from Batman Begins.

-Nolan's direction of fight scenes leaves something to be desired. He repeatedly violates John McTiernan's principle of geography of scene, the concept that the audience should know where the actors are, what they are doing, and why, at all times. Some argue that Nolan's approach gets you to feel what it's like to be in a melee, but I don't buy that. I've never been in a huge brawl, but I've played my share of teams sports where there were always many things happening at once. No matter what, you still have an idea of what's going on around you.

-Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face occurs with comic-book speed. I'm willing to see him go vigilante on the mobsters and crooked cops after his fiancee dies and he loses half his face. But I didn't buy for a minute his ready willingness to turn a gun on Gordon, Gordon's family, and Batman.

-Related to the above point, the last 45 minutes of the film are rushed, as if Nolan and co. were trying to cram too much plot into a story that was already plot-heavy. I can't take credit for this idea, but others have said that TDK would have been better film if Nolan had ended it right after the Joker escapes from the police station, either with the image of him sticking his head out of the cruiser or Batman standing over the rubble of the recently-destroyed warehouse where Rachel met her Maker. It would have been a true Empire Strikes Back kick in the bread basket that would have set up a sequel perfectly. I'm inclined to agree.

-We lose sight of Batman. It was bound to happen when they decided to introduce two other main/supporting characters (Joker and Dent) and elevate Gordon's role from minor to major. Even Morgan Freeman's character gets his own arch. Nolan did what no one else had ever done with the caped crusader in Batman Begins: Batman was the most interesting character on screen at all times. In TDK, though, his psychological journey isn't as compelling, and Batman doesn't dominate the screen the way he did in the previous film. This story is as much everybody else's as it is his. I'm reminded of Eastwood's lament to Sergio Leone during their making of For A Few Dollars More and even more so during The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. Apparently, Clint kept saying that he was getting smaller and smaller each time out.

But with all that being said, TDK is a masterpiece. A flawed masterpiece, yes, but a masterpiece nonetheless. It is one of those rare instances where a piece of art, while not perfect, appears to be perfect. Or, it's perfect despite its faults.

The classical allusions are everywhere. Batman, Gordon, and Dent are Gotham's First Triumvirate. Dent's White Knight could have been pulled out of a Shakespearean tragedy, his only character flaw being that he was too good for this world.

At nearly three hours long, the film moves really well (until, arguably, the end when it moves too well). There are some great dramatic reversals, most notably Gordon's reappearance, Batman just a shadow standing over the Joker, Rachel's demise, Joker orchestrating and carrying out his escape from the police station.

Nolan hits all the right notes throughout. When he wants us to laugh, we laugh. When he wants us to cringe, we cringe. When he wants us to jump, we jump (the dummy banging against the Mayor's window).

While Batman may have been downplayed in this one, the performances are all top-notch. Ledger's Joker is a force of nature. IMHO, Eckhart's Dent is just as good as Ledger's Joker; unfortunately, his Two-Face is problematic. I don't think that's Eckhart's fault though. The script is the issue here.

Most importantly, TDK is damned entertaining. The film is big, the story is epic, the stakes are constantly enormous. It's heavy, but it's fun. TDK gives you your money's worth, and then some.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Now Why Didn't I Think of This When...

...I was nailed for speeding at the age of 18? Check this out. A driver explained to the nice officer that responded to the call that God told him to hit another vehicle. This argument presents a legal conundrum, because it's neither provable nor disprovable. If only I had been so smart when I was younger. And why are they ordering a psychiatric evaluation? They should be giving this guy an IQ test to see how much of a genius he actually is.

In related news, an atheist group has placed a message on the Washington state capitol next to a holiday tree and a nativity scene. Apparently, manners don't factor into their concept of rational discourse.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Was Tom Hanks A Sex Symbol in the 80s?

I happened to catch bits and pieces of Turner & Hooch on TV the other day. I know, I know. Give me a break. It was the tail end of my vacation, I was tired of reading and playing pool, and there was really nothing else to do.

Anyway, I didn't watch the whole movie. But I did see at least two or three scenes that showed Hanks either topless or wearing black briefs. I haven't seen the film in a long time, and probably the last time I was too young to notice something like that. But I did find it strange.

In case you want to brush up on your knowledge of T&H, go here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving From Florida

Hello all. The missus and I are in Florida, visiting my parents. My aunt and uncle are also in town. We're having a great time, this being the first opportunity to see the folks' new house near Tampa. The men played golf yesterday, while the ladies went out to shop and eat. We started drinking and playing pool around three in the afternoon and kept going till one.

I've convinced my knees to call back the hit they put out on me for running the marathon. Little do they know I'm considering a run later today. We'll see what happens.

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays and time off from work. And I wanted to thank everyone that showed up for the Chat on Monday night. A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Knees Are Calling Me All Sorts of Names...

...which I won't repeat here, because this blog has been rated PG-13.

The Philadelphia Marathon was absolutely brutal. A half hour before we started, the temperature registered at 24 degrees. Roughly 18,000 people crowded and rushed about near the Art Museum, up and down the Ben Franklin Parkway, in futile attempts to keep warm and find an unoccupied Port-O-John. The announcer's voice squawked incomprehensibly over the PA system, so most people had no idea where to go or what to do.

Crowd control wasn't even theoretical. Runners filtered into the corrals when they weren't supposed to; others waited in the back, unsure of where to go. Supposed to go off in the second wave of marathoners, I missed it and somehow ended up in the third wave. More than twenty minutes passed between the start of the race and when I took my first step past the Start Line.

But none of that really matters. The little things tend to lose any significance when 26.2 miles stretch before you.

The first half of the race was fantastic. Down the Parkway, Arch, and Race to Columbus Boulevard (I still don't know why they changed the name from Delaware Avenue). Several groups of brave souls huddled on the street corners to cheer us on. It was cold enough for us runners, but it must have been the final circle of Dante's Inferno for the spectators.

On Delaware Avenue, the horde of runners got a chance to thin. Planes lazed across the sky, headed for Philly International. Everybody was happy. It was still early. We'd reached our first fluid station. All was well.

We spent too little time on Front Street--the locals had hilarious signs everywhere to cheer us up: one reminded us that the average temperature on November 23rd in Philly is in the mid-40s; others called into question our sanity for running.

We spent some time on Chestnut Street, and by now, the spectators had multiplied. I'm still amazed by the sheer number of them that braved the elements to cheer us on. Everyone's always saying that Philly fans are the worst in the country, but I beg to differ.

We plodded up 34th Street, so I got to run through Drexel University's campus. I haven't been through there in a few years now. Fraternity Row was relatively quiet, except for one or two houses. I don't blame them though. They were probably just going to bed when my wife was driving me to the marathon.

We started encountering our first major hills of the race. Everyone I was running with slowed noticeably. Everything was still going fine, though.

Mile 13 and all was well. People were finishing the marathon as I reached the halfway point, but I knew that was going to happen so it didn't bother me. My good friends Nate and Jess Green, who ran the 8K, magically appeared and offered encouragement and a bottle of water. I took the bottle greedily, nearly drank it down in two gulps.

The wheels started coming off at Mile 15. My pace was off, and my stomach was pitching with nausea. That sometimes happens during a long race, I don't know why. I fought through it and kept going.

We headed up Kelly Drive into Manayunk. It didn't make it any easier that there were runners headed in the opposite direction, nearly finished with the race.

By Mile 17, my left foot wasn't cramping so much as it was seizing up. I'd come too far to stop though.

Someone offered me a beer at Mile 18. I was too tired to answer verbally, but I managed a weak smile and shook my head. She laughed and said, "I know you want one." Had it been Mile 8, I would have indulged. At that point, though, any alcohol would have sent me straight to the hospital or the morgue.

I somehow managed to reach the top of the hill on Main Street in Manayunk and turn around at Mile 20. Now the real pain. I didn't think it could get any worse, but it did. A diffuse hurting everywhere. I waited for the numbness to come, but it didn't. I could feel my heart beating, working overtime. The left foot fooled me, seemingly getting better, before getting worse. Those last six miles were as much running as they were walking.

Still the crowd cheered us on. They were great. They were all my new best friends. I even managed to high-five a few of them. It was ridiculous how much effort it required to raise my arm.

Eventually, I saw the Art Museum looming on the Schuykill River. It was a beacon. It took forever to grow, tantalizingly close and infinitely far away. Of all the things to think of, I remembered Zeno's paradox, of being able to travel halfway to an object, then half of that, then half of that, and never being able to reach it. Goes to show how little good some philosophy offers in the real world.

I heard the roar of the crowd. By now, it felt like I was running with knives in my legs. My left foot refused to function anymore. I saw the Mile 26 marker and kept running. Of all the arbitrary distances ever conceived by man, why in the hell is a marathon not just 26 miles? I know of the derivation of the race, but still, is the extra .2 miles all that necessary in today's world?

Jenna took some "action" photos, for lack of a better word, as I neared the end of the race. Through the Finish Line. As Apollo Creed said at the end of Rocky, "Ain't gonna be no rematch." And as Rocky responded, "Don't want one."

Congrats to everyone else who ran on Sunday! I'll be back next year, but maybe I'll do a shorter race and focus on time instead. Or I'll just cheer on the runners and drink beer. Or I'll just stay home and drink beer. We'll see :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Live Chat on Monday, November 24th!

I'll be participating in a live chat on Monday night! Fellow Lyrical Press, Inc. author Rita Vetere was kind enough to ask me to join her and Grayson Reyes-Cole to discuss our work.

Join us for Chatting in the Dark on Monday, November 24th from 8:00 to 9:00 PM EST.

Rita will be discussing Ancient Inheritance, recently released and electronically available here. Grayson will also be discussing Bright Star as well as her other work. And I'll be there to talk about The Unearthed.

Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Literary Skeletons In The Closet

As a serious reader, I've got a few literary skeletons in my closet. I'm not proud of them. These skeletons are the "great books" I either:

a) haven't read and am kidding myself into thinking that I will read someday;
b) haven't read yet but actually might; and
c) have tried to read and stopped (some of them more than once).

Rather than provide an exhaustive list, I'll just give a few of the more egregious examples.

In category a), there's Faulkner. Yes, I know. He's great. Or so everybody tells me. I've heard about The Sound and the Fury, etc. I have an inkling how he writes, and it's the style that I'm not interested in. Maybe I'm not giving him a fair shake. Practically speaking, there are an infinite number of books already produced or that will be produced that I want or will want to read, so he keeps getting relegated to the back of the line. But still, every time someone brings up Faulkner in conversation, I feel compelled to explain that yes, I'm going to get to him someday, even though I probably won't. Sorry, Will. Loved your adaptation of Chandler's The Big Sleep.

Category b) is just as bad. We've got: Thoreau, Heller, Huxley, Vidal, Henry James, Proust, Emerson, Pynchon, Dos Passos, Sartre, and several more. Looking at the list is exhausting and a bit overwhelming.

Category c) is appalling. I'm a huge fan of Heart of Darkness, but I've never been able to finish Conrad's Nostromo. Then there's James Joyce, who many consider to be the greatest Modernist writer ever. I love his short stories, but I put Finnegan's Wake in the unreadable category. Thankfully, I'm not alone in that opinion. And I've tried, oh I've tried, with Ulysses but to no avail.

There are plenty of other examples of my skeletons, but I have to stop here. This was painful enough.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

JJ Abrams and Co. Boldly Went...

...for it and succeeded with the new Star Trek trailer. Check it out here. The film looks great. I was fortunate enough to see it in the theater so I also had the surprise factor working in my favor.

I've been worried about this movie since day one. Not because I doubted Abrams or his cadre of writers working on the picture, but because it has so many reasons to fail. Fans of the original series versus fans of the movies versus fans of Star Trek as a whole versus the general movie-going public. Everyone has an opinion on what Star Trek should be, so I was worried that it was doomed from the start because there'd be no way to reconcile the various concepts of Star Trek.

But the trailer's quieted some of those concerns for me. Could this film be what Star Wars in '77 was?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Book Is Better Than The Movie

For starters, I'll go off on a tangent and talk about novelizations. The general rule that "the book is better than the movie" is untrue when you're talking about novelizations. I haven't read too many, but most seem kind of pointless. (If you're reading this and are a publisher and thinking of asking me to write one or several, I'd be happy to change my opinion without shame, of course.)

Novelizations might offer some deeper insight into what the characters of a film were thinking, and in some cases, that actually makes the characters' motivations more plausible and consistent. But from what I've gathered, the ironclad rules of a novelization are to remain faithful to the screenplay, flesh out the story but only a little bit, and make sure the style doesn't get in the way of the story.

And there's also another strange phenomenon I've observed with novelizations. Whenever I discover that a book I've read is being made into a movie, 99% of the time, I'm interested to see how the story will play out on the big screen. With novelizations, again, the rule is reversed. I'm usually never interested in seeing how a movie is translated into a novel. Maybe if novelizations were given more leeway and were more adaptation, less paint-by-numbers, then that wouldn't be the case. That would be an interesting experiment, though, adapting a movie into a novel.

So let's put novelizations aside, unless of course you want to comment about them below ;)

Most people say (I know this is very scientific) that "the book is better than the movie."

Of course, there are always exceptions. The first one that springs to anyone's mind is The Godfather, with which I'd agree. The only other example I can think of is Lawrence of Arabia. It source material, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is one of the few books I've never been able to get through. But with the case of Lawrence, the comparison of book to movie is unfair (see my apples to oranges disclaimer at the bottom of this post).

Aside from those two stories and a few other obvious ones I'm probably missing, it's been my experience that the general rule holds true. The book is better than the movie.

Why is that?

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So then shouldn't the movie be better? A movie is a collection of carefully-chosen pictures. And after all, a movie is not just pictures, it is also language, sound, music, movement, and probably most importantly, it is acted. Unlike a novel, a film doesn't have to rely solely on language to tell its story.

A four second establishing shot is much more vivid than a paragraph describing a house. Or at least, it should be, if a picture really is worth a thousand words. A film wraps itself up, on average, anywhere between 80 and 180 minutes. If you're not blessed as a natural speed-reader (like my wife), then chances are a movie is going to tell its story much more quickly, more pointedly, than a novel. So it should be much more powerful.

A lot of people say that books are better because you're forced to imagine things for yourself. You have to create the characters and the setting as much as the author does, essentially filling in the gaps, or the gaps as you perceive them. I've never understood why that would make a book better than a movie. If you have to do more work to understand a novel, then surely it's not as powerful a medium as film.

So...why then?

Perhaps the statistics are skewed. Only the people that have read the books which are being made into movies are the ones saying that the books are better, after all. The people who enjoy going to the movies but don't like to read will never say, "The movie was better than the book," because they haven't read the book. And let's face it, there are probably a lot more people that enjoy going to the movies but not reading than there are people that enjoy going to the movies and reading.

For those of us that do read a lot, we usually read the book before we see the movie. So chances are we're naturally inclined to like the book more because that's what we encountered first. There has to be a fancy psychological concept for that.

So...why? There must be a good, scientific reason for this.

My theory is three-fold.

1) A film can only sustain itself for so long. In some rare cases, a four hour movie works, but usually, an audience can only sit for close to two hours. No matter how sweeping or epic the story might be, a film is constrained by simple logistics. But not so with a novel. Some books require a week's worth of reading, or more, to finish. You can take a break when you need to. You enter the story when you can. A novel is more of an escape, a full immersion. You become friends with the characters; their journeys become your journey. You see a movie, but you grow with a novel. A book paces itself, you play along at the same beat. A novel, while it must have a major story arc, is permitted to have several minor arcs as well that can reinforce, subvert, or add complexity to, the bigger picture. They're not as "simple," for lack of a better term, than movies.

2) Novels are better at psychologically penetrating characters. You understand the players better in a book. In that way, novels become much more personal adventures than movies are or can be, even if the story being told is grand in scale, big in scope. You know what a character's hopes and dreams and quirks and faults and good qualities are--they are fully-realized, fully human. They are you, or some part of you, or who you used to be, or who you want to be.

3) Novels are better means for discussing, challenging, and revealing universal truths. This is really an off-shoot of points 1) and 2). When done right, a novel can be longer and more complex, and is peopled by more fully-rounded characters than a film. So naturally it follows that a book is better suited to exploring the age old questions of what it means to be human, the nature of good and evil, our place in the universe, etc.

Of course, there is always the apples to oranges argument to make. The two media shouldn't be compared, because different rules apply and different tools are used. Who knows. Probably someone smarter than me.

What does everybody think?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eight Days

I'll be running the Philadelphia Marathon in 8 days. While scanning the Internet for an appropriate image, I accidentally stumbled across this one. I fully expect to need a stretcher when I'm done, but let's hope I don't need the O2 as well.

You see all manner of folks during a marathon. I ran one down the Jersey Shore in 2004. I encountered a 70-plus year old man running in a tuxedo with tails. Early on, as I was reaching about three miles, the then leader of the race zipped by going in the opposite direction (he'd already done seven miles). He zoomed by in a sprint that looked tireless and effortless. Three miles in, and somebody had already more than doubled my distance! Incredible.

I lucked out with the weather my first time around. It hovered between 45 to 50 degrees the whole time, beginning with the sunshine and ending with overcast skies. It drizzled, once or twice, but only for a minute or two.

Along the way, the fans were awesome. At mile 10, some lady was nice enough to say, "You don't look tired at all." I assured her that it was my finest moment of acting. My wife was kindly waiting at mile 11 with a bottle of Gatorade and an energy bar. I sucked down the Gatorade, ate half the bar, and kept the other half for later. Around mile 13, I passed a house that was blasting Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." Perfect timing. I felt great. I was halfway there.

And then it hit me.

The wall.

It was bad. I wanted to stop. I wanted to never run again for as long as I lived. Around mile 15, a live band was performing in front of somebody's house. I hardly heard them. Somehow I managed to reach the energy station at mile 17, where I proceeded to scarf down pretzels, candy, gatorade, and water. I rounded the circle at mile 19, headed back the way I came. That same band was still playing; I still barely heard them. Each step was painful, becoming borderline excruciating. I kept my head down and tried to think of something to take my mind off the agony. It was a weird feeling, trying to get myself to think and not being able to.

Then the pain ceased for awhile. My body had gone numb. That was fine by me. When I reached 23 miles, I realized I was going to make it, and from there, I ran the rest of the race on adrenaline.

The day or two after the race, I must have looked like Frankenstein's monster when I walked around, hobbling, lumbering, awkward.

Don't marathons sound fun?

Good luck to everybody running the Philly Marathon! I'll see you out there next Sunday.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Cure for AIDs?

Check this out if you get a minute: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/health/14hiv.html?bl&ex=1226811600&en=69c9c3988c55907d&ei=5087%0A

While it might be a little impractical, it does show that there are scientific solutions out there. Whoever said it is right: man finds a way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Supporting My Habit

My name is Brian O'Rourke, and I'm a bookaholic.

(Quiet, respectful applause from the other addicts.)

Yes it's taken me too long to come to terms with my addiction to books. But by first acknowledging my problem, I'd like to think I'm taking a step in the right direction. I'm on the road to recovery.

Couple of weeks ago, I went through our "library" for something to read. I couldn't count the number of books on two hands that I bought and have not read yet. And no, that's not just because I have a problem counting (damned base ten system). When I ran out of fingers and toes, I grabbed the abacus and tried to figure out how the hell anyone ever used one of those for simple math. Anyways, there were a lot of books waiting to be read, some of them purchased more than TWO YEARS AGO.

Despite having so many tomes in the bullpen, I feel a compulsion, almost daily, to drive to a bookstore and spend money I don't really have on more books. I've only recently forced myself to start using the library. My "re-read rate" is less than one percent, so you'd think the library would make all the sense in the world, but no, the gluttonous capitalist in me must own everything he's ever read. And I've even figured out a way to rationalize my uncontrollable spending: I tell myself it's my literary duty to purchase books because very soon, I hope that people will buy MY book.

Not sure if you're a bookaholic? Here are some signs:

1) You tell yourself that you can stop buying books any time you want.
2) You tell yourself you can be a few days late paying the mortgage because Ken Follett's latest just came out.
3) You have at least five books waiting to be read, but still, the first idea you come up with for something to do on a weeknight is drive to Barnes & Noble.
4) You have a book in the car with you while you're driving, and you read while stopped at red lights.
5) You have a book in the car with you while you're driving, and you try to think of ways you can read and drive at the same time.
6) When every time someone buys you a book as a birthday gift/holiday present, you say: "Thanks, but I've already read it."

I'm thinking of pitching a new celebreality TV show about us bookaholics. I've heard that Gary Busey likes to read. Matter of fact, it doesn't matter what the theme of the show is as long as Gary Busey's in it. Put that man in front of a camera and you've got gold.

My latest literary addiction is a Northern Irish author by the name of Adrian McKinty. I won't go into great detail here about his work, because I'll probably end up writing a short review on one of his books in the near future. The guy's damned good.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A (Short) Review of The Dogs of Babel, by Carolyn Parkhurst

Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel, knows her way with words and knows her way with emotions. But even more importantly, she's able to use her words to explore emotions in all their ugliness, beauty, and ultimately, their humanity.

The Dogs of Babel is a fascinatingly strange book. The hook of the story can be a bit misleading: a recently widowed man sets out to teach his dog to speak, so she can explain to him how his wife died. Picking it up, I thought I'd be reading more about a man's scientific adventure and an exploration into the nature of language and communication.

While The Dogs of Babel is about that, it's really about something more: how each one of us grieves in our own stupid, humorous, and touching ways when dealing with something terrible.

Parkhurst does a great job at balancing the seemingly disparate elements of her story. It is part mystery, part memoir/love story, part dog tale, and even part suspense thriller. Sounds like a strange brew, and I'll admit it is, but the narrative works, and the oddity of the mixture makes the story all the more unique.

The Dogs of Babel is an easy read because of Parkhurst's command of language; but it is also a very difficult read, because Parkhurst's prose takes us to dark and sad places. And though it would have been easy, not once does her story become a sentimental journey. It's an unflincing portrait of a grieving man, deceptively simple in its execution, profound in its message.

If you're tired of reading the same old thing, I'd highly recommend picking up this book.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

RIP Michael Crichton

The world of fiction is a lesser place without Michael Crichton.

I have enjoyed Mr. Crichton’s fiction ever since I was thirteen years old, when I first picked up The Andromeda Strain. I read it nearly in one sitting, and considering my age and lack of attention span at the time, that says a lot about the book. But unlike other authors, I never “grew out of” his stories. With each new release, no matter how old I was, I found myself enjoying his fiction as much for its entertainment value as for its educational value. I felt I learned something, something important and fundamental to the universe we live in, each time I read one of his stories.

It wasn’t until I started studying literature in college that I became aware of two contradictory things: many of the literati didn’t even deign to consider him a good writer; and yet, he was the 20th and 21st centuries’ living embodiment of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne (who were all revered in academic circles). Where these authors dared to go, he dared to go farther, while lending scientific verisimilitude to his stories. He strived first and foremost to entertain and thrill his readers, and he succeeded with every book he produced. But he considered it just as important to explore ideas and challenge conventional thought. Few other “popular fiction” writers ever caused as much controversy as he did with State of Fear, and to a lesser extent with other stories like Disclosure and Rising Sun.

Why the academic and literary snobbery directed at Mr. Crichton? (I’m sure he was crying all the way to the bank.) He certainly didn’t deserve it. Many decry his characterization, or purported lack thereof. Mr. Crichton plumbed the depths of human nature just as well as anyone else when it was important to the story he was telling. Case in point, if you haven’t read any of his works, I suggest you start with Sphere. It’s my personal favorite of his stories.

It also appears to be fashionable to ridicule him for his depiction of women. Disclosure caused quite a stir when it was released. I don’t know if and how he ever responded to these criticisms. But most of the criticisms leveled at Mr. Crichton seemed to be politically-motivated, or just as bad, were borne out of arbitrary aesthetic principles—heaven forbid he make a woman the antagonist of one of his stories! That' s just not right! (By the way, wasn’t the main character/protagonist of Airframe a woman?) Apparently, it's only literarily acceptable for a woman to be the antagonist if she's a femme fatale in a noirish type of story.

I’ve read my fair share of novels and have enjoyed many different types of stories. But his are some of the very few that I would call interesting. He knew how to move a plot, and he knew how to integrate weighty intellectual concepts into the narrative that (gasp) actually enhanced the story he was telling.

Above all else, Mr. Crichton believed that the masses would enjoy a story that was both entertaining and intelligent. And he proved himself right every step of the way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More Bars In More Places...For More Idiots

These new AT&T commercials rankle me.

You know the ones. Some guy is in a foreign country, about to have a very important meeting (usually business-related), and he doesn’t get the most earth-shattering voicemail of his life from his boss because he doesn’t have AT&T. Some marketing genius, or probably some marketing genii, or even more probably some marketing genii and some market focus group(s), thought this would entice us idiots to buy more AT&T cellular phones.

Has anyone out there actually purchased an AT&T phone directly in response to these commercials? If so, you’ve just been duped by this brilliant one-two marketing pitch:

a) At some point, you’ll be in an area with bad service, and when you are,
b) that’s when you’ll miss the most important phone call/voicemail of your life.

Yes. And to make matters worse, said would-be message deliverer, KNOWING FULL WELL THAT YOU’RE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY OR SOMEWHERE ELSE WHERE THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE YOU WON’T GET RECEPTION FOR THE CALL, will just leave you this life-changing voicemail, expect you to get it, and go on about his business. He won’t try to reach you by other means, and he won’t follow-up to ensure you received the message.

Do you know how small the chances of this happening are? How many times will this ever happen to most people in their life? Once, maybe. Or twice if you have my luck.

So by all means, buy AT&T. Because you need to allow for the incredibly non-fortuitous, disastrous event that has .01% chance of happening. (I did the math for you.)

What’s more insulting—the marketing pitch itself, or the fact that they thought they could entice you with it?

Speaking (obliquely) about intelligent consumer spending, this reminds me of another commercial I saw, promoting LifeLock. At some point in the ad, one potential customer wants to sign up because LifeLock promises to cut down on your junk e-mail. Yeah. Let’s pay someone to do that for us. Great idea.

I’m really not an angry person…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Curse of Superstition

I would have thought that the Phillies' 2008 World Series victory would have ended these ridiculous superstitions surrounding William Penn. But alas, reason might not have won the day.

Apparently, a tiny statue of William Penn was placed atop the new Comcast Building, currently the tallest skyscraper of Philadelphia. So now Mr. Penn once again reigns supreme over the City.

For those of you unfamiliar with "The Curse of Billy Penn," here's my abridged version. William Penn, Jr. was the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania. A 37 foot statue of Penn was placed atop Philadelphia's City Hall at some point, and for many years there was a "gentleman's agreement" that there would be no building taller than this statue EVER erected. Human shortsightedness knows no bounds, apparently.

In 1987, One Liberty Place opened, the first structure to rise above the statue. Since that time (actually, since the Seventy-Sixers' NBA championship in 1983), no Philadelphian sports team had won a title. Looking for any explanation that would exculpate the professional organizations and athletes in question, someone somewhere came up with this brilliant idea that Billy Penn was pissed about his statue not being the tallest thing in Philadelphia and exacting his revenge on ALL of Philadelphia (not just the builders of One Liberty Place or the Commission that approved its height) by denying its sports franchies (actually, only the four major professional sports--other area sports have won several championships during the curse) professional titles.

No, he didn't avenge himself by spreading a pox, by killing the first-born child of every family, by poisoning all the soft pretzels and cheese steaks, etc. Penn focused his energies on the Sixers, the Flyers, the Eagles, and the Phillies. I guess that was supposed to be more poetic or something.

Anyways, for some reason, Penn thought a curse of 21 years was long enough, and the Phillies were permitted to win the World Series. Or, he was placated by the placement of a tiny statue atop the new Comcast Building. Who knew that Penn suffered from short man's syndrome?

As it turns out that Billy Penn was not a vindictive man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Penn). He was a Quaker, who founded Pennsylvania and instituted free and fair trial by jury, freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment, and free elections. The Count of Monte Cristo he was not.

There are plans for a new skyscraper, the American Commerce Center, that would be 500 feet taller than the Comcast Center. I'll try not to be disappointed if someone puts a statue of Penn atop that.

If I played for the 2008 Phillies, I would have been a little bothered by all of this. After all, it wasn't all the hard work they put in as a team or the skill and talent they brought to their sport that got them a championship--it was someone's placement of a Penn figurine atop the Comcast Center.

But seriously, congrats to the 2008 Phils!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

March 2, 2009 Release of The Unearthed

I've just confirmed with my publisher, Lyrical Press (www.lyricalpress.com) that The Unearthed will be available electronically on March 2, 2009. That's pretty cool. About six months later, it will be available in print as well. That's all I want to say for now, because I'll be doing heavy promotion closer to release date.

As an aside, my wife and I went to a Halloween reading on Saturday night at Rosemont College. The event doubled as a costume party, and we went as Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. (She was Forrester; I was Frank). I was quite convinced that no one would have any idea who we were.

As it turns out, I was half-right. Several people knew who she was (though I still argue that the name tag helped too much), but they didn't pick up on me being Frank. Not enough powder in my hair to make it look grey enough, and the jerry curl on the forehead wasn't eye-catching enough, I guess. Not only does that mean my costume didn't work--it also means that people think that's how I dress and wear my hair normally. I guess that's pretty funny...

Speaking of Mystery Science Theater, I think I need to dig out the old tapes and DVDs and watch me some.

Friday, October 24, 2008


From www.dictionary.com:

prosopagnosia - pros·o·pag·no·sia (prŏs'ə-pāg-nō'zhə, -zē-ə)n. An inability or difficulty in recognizing familiar faces; it may be congenital or result from injury or disease of the brain.

About eight months ago, I was surprised to learn that such a condition existed. I went online and did a little bit of research and was engrossed by some of the stories and facts I came across. I started thinking--wouldn't that make for an interesting character, someone who has never been able to recognize anyone, including family, close friends, teachers, etc.

So I had a character. Then I needed a plot. I started hashing one out about six months ago, and it's since gone through several major changes. But I'm excited to say that the first draft of Face Blind (I know, I need a better title) is near completion. If you get a chance, check out the wikipedia entry on face blindness: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_blindness. It's extremely interesting.

Oh, and go Phils!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

18 Miles, More Stories, and Self-Indulgence

It's been a few days since I last wrote, so I am remiss in Blogging responsibilities. I don't have anything new to report on The Unearthed. My editor and I are just about to start the editing process, which I hope doesn't take too long.

On Saturday, I made it to 18 miles. Barely. So I'm still on track for the Philly Marathon. As long as I get up to 21 in the next three weeks, I should be fine. (Famous last words)

Nick and I recorded a short episode for Four Stories--it's up on iTunes now but hasn't made its way to our www.fourstoriespodcast.blogspot.com just yet. All the more reason to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes: you won't have to constantly check our website to see when the next episode's coming out. And we do plan on releasing a lot of short episodes in the near future, while we sort out our technical troubles on the longer ones.

By the way, I know that Blogging is inherently self-indulgent. I apologize in advance for that. It's not something I would normally do, but I've been told by my editor, fellow writers, publisher, and just about everybody else online that in order to promote a book, I need to write a Blog. But I will strive to keep the self-indulgence to a minimum. I don't think my life is intrinsically more interesting than yours; I don't think that what I have to say is earth-shattering. I don't ever want to give you that impression. If I do, make sure to send me plenty of nasty public comments.

That's all for now. If you haven't already, check out Four Stories at www.fourstoriespodcast.blogspot.com or on iTunes. It's a good way to spend your commute or while away your time at work, AND the podcast is free.

Go Phils!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Four Stories

In case you didn't know (and you probably didn't), I'm half of the podcasting team that is Four Stories.

My good friend, Nick Hughes, and I do a podcast called Four Stories (www.fourstoriespodcast.blogspot.com). In it, we examine film, TV, literature, and music through the lens of storytelling. That's our fancy way of saying we like to talk about stories and how they're told.

If you'd like to check the podcast out, you can download our first three full episodes from our website, OR you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. We've recorded two more full episodes, but we haven't released them yet due to some major technical issues. But the good news it that while we get that mess sorted out, we're going to be recording and releasing some shorter episodes. So keep an eye out for those.

And we love to get emails and comments. The more vitriolic, the better. You can email us at fourstoriespodcast@gmail.com, or you can just leave your comment on our website (www.fourstoriespodcast.blogspot.com) for the whole world to see.

Oh, and did I mention it's FREE?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Philadelphia Marathon

Well, I'm a mere 7 weeks away from running the Philadelphia Marathon. This race will be my second 26.2 miler--I can't believe the last one was four years (and fifteen pounds) ago.

This time around, the training hasn't gone as well as it did before. I've had a couple non-serious, but nagging, injuries over the past three months that have kept things interesting. Today I put in 17 miles, much to the consternation of everyone else trying to use a treadmill at the gym. Just kidding--there were always at least six other treadmills open while I was running. I'm not THAT guy.

This will be my first time running Philly, so I'm excited about that. I hear nothing but good things about the race, and especially about the crowd. I've been told that some of the more enthused crowd members have been known to offer beer to runners during the race. Probably not the best idea in the world, but in all fairness, I can think of a lot of worse ideas. You know, like the submarine with screen doors, the helicopter with an ejection seat...

I'm also excited about this race because my wife and two good friends, Nate and Jess (who are married), are doing the 10K offered on the same day.

That's all for now. Back to the couch, where I'll probably stay the rest of the day, save but the few times I plod my way to the fridge to grab another water. And if I just so happen to grab a beer by mistake...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Just Signed With Lyrical Press, Inc.

I'm excited to announce that I've just signed a publishing contract with Lyrical Press, Inc. (www.lyricalpress.com) for my paranormal thriller, The Unearthed. Lyrical is an independent publisher that offers stories electronically and in print. Check out Lyrical's site when you get a chance--there's a lot of good stuff there. At this point, you'll see mainly Romance and Erotica titles there.

I will be sure to keep you updated on The Unearthed, so check back regularly. I've got another novel in the works right now, tentatively entitled Face Blind, but that's for another post. Also, I am an avid reader and movie-goer, so I might occasionally post short blogs on what I've seen or read.

Now it's time for a cross-promotional plug. My friend, Nick Hughes, and I do a podcast called Four Stories. We look at television, film, literature, and music from a storytelling perspective. We're currently on hiatus, but if you want, check out our older episodes at www.fourstoriespodcast.blogspot.com. You can also download our episodes on iTunes. Nick and I are considering doing some minisodes in the near future, so check the Four Stories site regularly as well if you're interested.

Finally, I wanted to thank my family and friends for their support throughout the writing process. Special thanks to my wife, Jenna, for putting up with me while I spent inordinate amounts of free time on the computer, writing a story that had no guarantee of selling. Special thanks also to Nate Green, a fellow novelist (and a great writer!), who read not one but two drafts of The Unearthed and provided me with a lot of great feedback. And a special thanks to my Dad for his help with line editing and his eternally useful reminder: follow the KISS method.



Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why Am I Here?

Hello there. My name is Brian O'Rourke. I'm an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, just trying to get my foot in the door. Despite my natural aversion to shameless self-promotion, I've decided to create this Blog, because I'm told that it's essential in this day and age.

I've written three manuscripts of novel length. (I'll call them manuscripts for now; if and when they're published, they'll be magically transformed into "novels.") One of them is crap. One of them has its moments. But this one, The Unearthed, is the strongest of the lot in my humble opinion. Even if The Unearthed were the next Les Miserables (it's not), I'd still have a difficult time getting it published.

You might think that the age of the Internet, Blogs, podcasts, and all other forms of electronic communication have made it that much easier for someone like me to get noticed by the powers-that-be. After all, I can query literally hundreds of agents, in a matter of hours, and without spending any money.

To the contrary. As the Internet has effectively, and quite dramatically, lowered the barriers to entry, anybody, everybody, and their mothers are making noise. A lot of noise. So while the Internet has made it easier for me to query agents and publishers, it has also become easier for everybody else to query agents and publishers.

Add to that the fact that the non-fiction market is beating the pants off of the fiction market. The zeitgeist is calling for the latest "celebrity" memoir, "how to" book, or the umpteenth take on whether Dan Brown is full of crap or not. Don't believe me? The next time you're at Barnes & Noble, take a look at the store as a whole and you'll see that non-fiction dominates the shelves. I don't know how or why this happened. I'll leave that to the economists, who are often about as right as weathermen. But, this sad fact is partly responsible for how selective fiction publishing has become--since fiction is selling less, relative to non-fiction, publishers (and therefore agents) are more selective in choosing manuscripts.

So Why Am I Here? Why am I writing this? Well, the plain, honest truth is I want you to read my stories.

You see, I've been doing the typical thing for someone in my position: contacting agents and publishers feverishly. And I will continue to do so. This will no means be a substitute for that. What I hope to do with this Blog is to find a way to separate myself from the hundreds of other queries agents receive each week.

So I'm going to keep you updated on what's happening with my stories. Right now, I'm going to continue pitching The Unearthed while I work on my next story.