Saturday, February 28, 2009
Still haven't heard what my novel is about? Well, let me tell you. The Unearthed is a fast-paced paranormal thriller with a little something for everybody: mystery, drama, scares, twists, and violence.
But don't take my word for it. Here's what some others have said:
Ruth Schaller, in her glowing 5 skull review said, "This book was fast paced...I just couldn't put this book (okay, my ebook reader ... lol) down for long, because I just had to find out what was going to happen."
Famed Northern Irish writer, Adrian McKinty, had this to say: "Brian is a gifted writer and his book is excellent. Fast paced, exciting, twisty turny and scary."
And last but not least, my long-suffering wife said, "When are you going to be done on the computer? And don't say you have to write one more scene."
Here's an excerpt:
"Please state your name and address for us," Tim said.
"John Rosselli. Seventeen-thirteen Pembroke Lane."
"How long have you lived here?" Tim asked, already beginning to scribble notes on his yellow legal pad.
"Six months next week."
"You've called us here to investigate paranormal activity in your house, is that correct?"
"Yes. Not just in the house. It's outside, too."
"I understand," Tim said and made another note.
Jackie looked at Eddie, who seemed bored, while Tim steepled his hands and continued. "I need you to tell me about all the things you've--you, yourself--have experienced that you would call paranormal. You can refer to your list if you'd like. Then we'll walk through each one in detail. I can't stress enough that, for now, I only want to hear about what you have experienced. Not what others might have told you. Okay?"
Jackie pulled his list out of his pocket and unfolded it on the table, then took out his reading glasses and put them on. "Well, my wife has seen or heard most of the things, including the phone. And my son, he is talking to someone--" He felt his face get hot. "I'll let you talk to them about those things. I guess you'd say I've experienced the least. I was the first one to notice the carpet, though."
"Let's start with that, then," Tim said.
He tipped his head back once and said, "Right behind me. It had a stain. It's dark, like blood."
"I see." Tim craned his head to the side to see for himself.
"It's probably not there now... I'll start from the beginning," Jackie said. "The house was all hardwood when we moved in. I guess the Moriartys used areas rugs. Or maybe not, who knows. When we came for the open house, we noticed a dark spot in the wood behind where I'm sitting, just at the threshold to the kitchen. It was a dark brown, slightly darker than the floors.
"I thought nothing of it at the time. It just looked like a stain in the wood." Plus, the price we were getting was ridiculously low, Jackie thought bitterly. "We had the floors stripped and redone with a lighter finish. The guys doing the work told me they were able to get rid of it, that it was just some sort of stain from the previous job.
"Then, about a week later, I noticed there was a small stain around where the old stain had been. I called the floor guys and complained, asking them to come and take a look at it. They blew me off. Said there was no way to avoid tiny blemishes like the one I was describing.
"But the little blemish got bigger. Slowly. I know because it started out on one plank. Then it grew so that it was on two, then a few. It began forming a large circle. And it was a dark brown, so it really stood out against the lighter finish we'd had put on.
"I had another floor guy come and take a look. I thought it might be some type of fungus or rot. That maybe this part of the wood was exposed to something in the basement.
"The floor guy didn't know what it was. He told me he could replace that part of the floor. The wood replacement would be cheap, but of course he tried to convince me to have the whole floor redone--redoing one spot wouldn't look right, he said. We had to get some other work done on the house, so this seemed unimportant in comparison, so I told him we'd hold off.
"We put a throw rug over it, because it became an eye sore. It grew to about a foot and a half in diameter, then seemed to stop.
"We kept the throw rug down for a few weeks before running it through the washer. When I lifted it up, I saw the stain had started to get onto the bottom of the throw rug.
"I called the floor guy and told him I wanted that section of the floor replaced and to just put finish on that part--I told him not to worry about redoing the whole room. He came out and took care of it.
"But the stain came back."
Friday, February 27, 2009
In 2008, the Academy did themselves one better (or worse?) by nominating, but not awarding, In Bruges, a film written and directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, for Best Original Screenplay. Laced with dark humor, a lot of style, and some fine performances--Fiennes absolutely steals the show--In Bruges tells the story of Ray and Ken, two heavies working for an English mobster who have to hide out "in Bruges" indefinitely after a botched hit. There's no shortage of laughs in the film, and like The Matador, the plot never quite goes where you think it will. There's a lot going on in this story, and many have posited that Bruges is purgatory for all these characters, while they or the fates or God determines how they are to be punished and if they are to be saved. In Bruges certainly deserved the one nomination it received, though it was probably deserving of a few more. But alas, it was not meant to be.
When will the Academy not be afraid to honor a hitman movie with an Oscar?
Thursday, February 26, 2009
But seriously, $5.50 is not a lot of money even in this poor economy. This month, just do one of the following and you can spend the money instead on a good read:
-Buy one less beer at the pub. Your liver will thank you.
-Make one less trip to Wawa, or its equivalent. Out of the whole month, that's not hard.
-Rent one less movie. You'll be reading a good book to pass the time instead!
-Go on one less late-night run to KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy's, etc. It'll help keep the weight off.
-Don't pay for online porn. Seriously, you can get it for free...so I'm told.
Aside from renting a movie, why is the rest of my list comprised solely of nasty vices? Perhaps I should reevaluate my lifestyle...
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
So, this is it. As you can see, I just changed the title of this part and as with the other parts only did some minor editing. Hope you enjoy.
“So you weren’t in the mood for anything?” Stevey asked.
He’d suddenly appeared at the end of the aisle and now stood like the Colossus of Rhodes there, slowing me down just before I reached the checkout line to talk to Jenn. I considered bear-walking between his legs, but thought better of it. There would be another occasion at some point tonight when I’d be alone with her.
“Jenn grabbed something,” I said. “Hey, do me a favor real quick?”
“Look out there to see if the Girl Scouts are still around.”
“O…kay.” He eyed me like I had grown a second head before checking the front of the store. “Yeah, they’re still here.”
“Thanks, dude. See you later.”
Even though he was bewildered, I didn’t waste any time explaining. I moved around him and turned toward the checkout line and saw Jenn and Ralph standing close together, talking about something. Jenn caught me out of the corner of her eye and stopped what she was saying mid-sentence. Oh, so they’d been talking about me?
No doubt she was asking Ralph what he thought of her chances with me. I put on the shy grin and strolled over to them. They were in the middle of the line, so I caught some nasty stares from the people behind them.
“You’re paying tonight, right?” Jenn asked. Her face was a deep crimson. She was nervous, embarrassed. It could only mean one thing.
It was Ralph’s turn to pay, but I wasn’t going to call him out on it. “Yeah.” I beamed a smile at her and took the DVD out of her hands. She turned and went outside.
Ralph and I exchanged an awkward look. His eyes played hopscotch for a moment before he said, “I’m going to catch a smoke.”
I slapped his back. “Funny you two are suddenly not concerned about the Girl Scouts now.”
Ralph looked away and down, then he left the line in a hurry and headed out to the parking lot.
When I turned to the register, I realized Rob, my arch-nemesis, had been waiting for me.
“Hello, sir,” he said through clenched teeth. Rob appeared to be younger than me, but I based that solely upon his level of employment. As he was always wearing a polo shirt with the company name and logo on it, it was hard to tell how old he was. “Robby.” He grunted. His shirt didn’t smell so much as it wreaked.
“Back so soon?”
“Umm, yeah.” I didn’t know if that was supposed to be his attempt at mockery.
I handed him the movie and my membership card.
He opened the DVD box to check the movie and looked at his computer screen. He smirked as if just remembering some knock-knock joke from fourth grade. Or, in his case, it could have been one from yesterday. When he caught me looking at him, the smirk evaporated and he tried to be serious.
“Buy any cookies?” he asked.
“How much for the movie?”
He raised an eyebrow as if offended. “Why so rude, sir?”
I felt like throttling this guy. I didn’t even want to watch the fucking movie. I just wanted a chance to be alone with Jenn, only for a minute or two. That was all I needed.
“Dude, you’re twenty (I guessed his age) and you’re still wearing a digital watch with a velcro strap.” The girl in line behind me snickered. I caught a glimpse of her and wished she hadn’t been jail bait.
That wiped the dumb expression off his face, as much as the dumb expression could be wiped off his face.
He said, “Two fifty-six,” and that didn’t sound right for a New Release. It should have been more. But I had made it one of my life’s missions to get this guy fired. His careless attitude and sloppy demeanor were giving the noble calling of movie store clerk a bad name. He put the movie down on the counter on the other side of the metal detector.
As I handed him the three singles, all the money to my name, I checked out front of the store. No Girl Scouts! Time to skee-daddle.
I waited impatiently while he figured out the best combination of change to equal forty-four cents. A team of monkeys would have figured it out better. I would have gladly traded the extra three seconds for all the crap-flinging that came with it.
I kept surveillancing the lot. It was conspicuously empty. The table with three-and-three-quarters legs was gone. Ralph and Jenn were at the car.
“Here you go, sir.” Rob handed me my change and was doing his best not to smirk. What the hell was he smiling at? I decided to ignore him—Rob was one of those guys that had a lot of inside jokes…with himself.
I took the change and rushed through the electronic detectors and hurried to the front door. Throwing it open, I stepped into the parking lot. I saw my car, less than twenty yards away. Just had to get there and all would be fine. But as I stepped onto the pavement, I felt like Ryan Phillippe at the end of The Way of the Gun, after he’s grabbed the bag full of money. I just knew something bad was going to happen. By the way, that’s a fucking awesome movie, if you can get past the ridiculous first fifteen minutes of it.
Something tickled the back of my mind. I hadn’t done something…my hands were empty…then I realized what it was: in my haste, I’d forgotten the movie. I considered leaving it because Jenn and destiny and hopefully sex awaited. But I couldn’t leave a fallen man behind, even if the Viet Scouts were still in the vicinity.
“Mister, Mister.” Again, I heard them, but it could have been telepathy.
As I turned back to the store, a kaleidoscope of images sparkled and glittered in my head. The girls, Jenn, Rob, Stevey, everything. Then reality sucked me back into its vortex.
A van, owned undoubtedly by the thermally-challenged mother, had pulled up near me, the driver’s window rolled down. Two faces peered out—Mother and Daughter. I looked at the store and saw Rob coming out of it, holding the movie I’d forgotten. So here was his big chance for little revenge: making me look a fool for forgetting to take my movie. It might not seem like a lot to you, but when you’re trading proverbial body blows with a video store clerk, the insignificant becomes epic.
“Mister!” the little girl was waving from the car. I was going to have to say no to them. This was it. I stood there, petrified. How do you say no to the Girl Scouts? How do you shatter their dreams?
I opened my mouth to speak, but there weren’t any words.
Then Rob stepped in front of the stopped van and stood there pretty dumbly in the headlights. Slowly, very slowly, he extended his arm, holding out the DVD box. I saw then the evil smile carved on his face, revealing all that is wicked in man.
“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies, Mister?” the little girl sang to me.
“I…I…” My eyes jumped from the girl and the mom to Rob.
“Mister—“ Rob began, doing his best not to laugh, “—you forgot your movie: Cum Hard 2: Cum Harder.”
The little girl, whether she knew it or not, was scarred for life. Mom’s face contorted first with rage at Rob, then with disgust at me. She didn’t need to tell me what she was thinking. She thought me a vile, perverted creep because I had rented a porno. But I hadn’t! Hadn't she seen the sign in the front of the store? Oh no, she'd already found me guilty.
And how did you spawn that little hell-beast in the passenger seat? I wanted to ask. Immaculate conception?
All hot and bothered, Mom rolled up her window, hit the horn so Rob would move, and then floored it, barely stopping before she entered the main drag.
Through the closed windows, I could hear the three of them sing-songing: “Goodbye, Mister.”
Then it hit me. I was a stupid, stupid man. What had been really going on the whole time between me, Ralph, and Jenn. I’d needed this traumatic experience to startle me out of my deluded version of reality.
“Here you are, sir,” Rob said, now unable to contain his mirth.
As condescendingly as possible, I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Joke’s on you, Robby Boy. You just got me out of having to buy Girl Scout cookies.”
A look of confusion crossed his face and stayed there.
“And you just lost a customer.” I nodded in the direction the van had gone.
Rob didn’t understand the ramifications of what he’d done, but at some level, he’d realized he’d made a mistake. He jammed the DVD into my stomach, then stormed inside.
Looking back to the car, I saw Jenn and Ralph next to each other, very close. Ralph’s hand was on her waist. Ralph gave me the eye, and he didn’t take his hand away. I made my way over.
“You guys could have told me, ya know,” I said. I was actually happy for them. Two of my good friends, after all.
“We just wanted to make sure you were cool with it,” Ralph said. “We both know your Senior Year didn’t end the way you wanted it to.”
Thoughtful of them. Senior Year had left me heartbroken and without an acceptance into a graduate program.
I kept the smile on my face because I didn’t want to darken their night too. “I’m happy for you both.” Then I slapped Ralph on the back, and Jenn gave me a half-hug, and everybody had a good laugh, and it was all very smarmy, in a Walker, Texas Ranger kind of way.
We each of us climbed back into the car. This time, Jenn got into the passenger seat, while Ralph lounged in the back.
“So what was all that about?” Jenn asked, referring to my NBE (near-buying experience) in front of the store.
I was about to explain it all but thought better of it. “Oh…that. I forgot the movie, so Rob came out just as the Girl Scouts were driving away. They asked me again if I wanted any cookies. I told them no.”
“Big step for you,” Jenn said.
“We all gotta grow up at some point I guess.”
“So where are we watching the flick?” Ralph asked.
“You know, I’m not really up for it tonight. Why don’t you two watch it.”
“You don’t have to—“
I held up a hand and started backing us out of the spot. “No really. You two should hang and watch it. It’s cool.”
“What are you going to do?” Ralph asked.
“I don’t know. But seriously you guys should watch it. Really. I hear it’s great.”
A couple hours later, I was on my sixth beer when Ralph called.
“Asshole,” he said.
“Actually, I should thank you. After the initial shock…some good things happened.” He sounded giddy, like he was back in high school and had gotten laid for the first time.
“Good for you, bud.”
Things never work out the way you think they’re going to. And sometimes that’s cool.
Monday, February 23, 2009
“What are you in the mood for?” Jenn asked.
“Don’t know if I’m in the mood for renting tonight.”
“Well, you get to keep it for two weeks now. Maybe you’ll change your mind.” Two weeks, heh? That was exactly how long we had dated, for lack of a better term.
She kept looking at me with those green eyes, as if waiting for me to talk about something other than movies. I thought back to when we’d dated. I’d called her up one night, one thing led to another, and we were kind of a couple. The kind that should have stayed friends. Don’t get me wrong, the first week was great. The next week she played Eleanor of Aquitaine to my Henry II. Instead of me throwing her in the dungeon, and instead of her trying to have me assassinated, we called it quits. It was a mostly bloodless revolution.
A few days later we hooked up, woke up next to each other, and decided we really needed to be friends.
She moved in front of me and reached for a New Release. My eyes traced a line from her outstretched hand, up her bronzed arm, to her shoulder, then up her neck, stopping on her profile. We were no more than a VHS away from each other. If we were any closer, we’d be a BetaMax away.
“Let’s get this,” she said, not taking her eyes off the back of the box.
“Haven’t you seen that before?” I didn't even check to see what it was. Jenn had a habit of renting the same movies over and over again, to the point where economically speaking she would have been better off just buying them. Talk about fear of commitment.
Finally I made out the cover: You’ve Got Mail. Or, as I liked to call it, Sleepless in New York. I couldn’t figure out why it was in the New Releases, then saw that it was next to the latest Meg Ryan romantic comedy.
She didn’t answer me. So I said, “We might as well get Sleepless in Seattle. It’s the same movie, only better.”
“That’s a good idea. I love that movie.” I could see her blond-flecked eyelashes. I suddenly remembered why I had called her in the middle of the night several months ago.
“But if you’ve seen it, why would we get it?” I asked. She stopped “reading” the back of the box and to look at me.
“I don't know. Sometimes things are better the second time around.”
I didn’t know what to say to that because she'd started my mind racing.
“So how’s Tim?” I asked her, buying myself some time. I realized as I was saying it that it was probably a mistake.
She cocked her head to the side and gave me an odd look. “…Good. He asked me to come over later. Party at Sig Ep.”
I tried to look out of the front of the store to see if the Girl Sharks were still circling, having smelled money in the air.
“So you’re going?” I asked her.
She stuck out her lower lip and shrugged. “Ralph might go.”
“Not like him to go to a frat party. Guess he’s just trying to get over ‘Shell. Probably go and hook up with some tramp.” Jenn shot me a look like I'd just called her dead grandmother a whore. “Hey, I’m not judging. Good for him.” He needed a get-over girl, kind of like Jenn had been for me. My face started burning, because I realized she was probably thinking the same thing—that she had been my tramp after -REDACTED- broke up with me.
But I didn’t think of Jenn like that. She was the perfect girl…under different circumstances. Time has a nasty way of playing tricks on you. If only I had dated Jenn with a little less baggage…but it’s useless to think of hypotheticals like that.
On the other hand, we had the rest of the summer before I went away to whatever grad school and before she went to Europe. Something passionate and meaningful could transpire, even if it was only short-lived. Perhaps all the more so because we’d both know it wasn’t going to last.
“Are you going to get something?” she asked.
I figured I might as well go for broke, since I really had nothing to lose. “I think I’d like to get something I’ve already seen too.”
She stiffened. “That’s a good idea.” Her eyelids fluttered and her face flushed before she quickly moved away.
And I could tell then and there that she still liked me. It all made sense. Acting angry in the car. Talking blatantly to Tiny Tim. Ignoring me. Telling me about going to the frat party with Ralph tonight. Her talking about “seeing the same movie” again, because she liked it. Wanting to rent a romantic comedy.
So I decided to ante up one more time, and see what kind of hand Jenn dealt me.
She’d already made it to the checkout line. Ralph was done talking to Tim, had spotted her in line, and was headed her way. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I decided to cut back through Drama to beat Ralph there, so I could make my move.
I mean, obviously, I liked the girl. I lost sight of her behind the Comedy sign, but all I had to do was round a corner to get to her first.
I didn’t know what I was going to say. I’d just wing it like always. Probably go with the old-stand by: fumble my words and play the part of the shy guy. The routine worked fairly well, because I actually was shy.
In entirely unrelated news, Hugh Jackman was the best part of the show last night.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
“What are you in the mood for?” Ralph asked. We skipped the outer wall, which housed all the new releases. They didn’t make them like they used to.
“What’s next on the list?” We’d been going through the AFI Top 100 Movies List, trying to pick out ones neither of us had seen yet. I couldn’t understand why 2001: A Space Odyssey had made the cut, while great films like Big Trouble in Little China had been snubbed. I guess that’s why I’m not a critic. I have good tastes.
We’d watched A Streetcar Named Desire last week, after which I’d considered suicide. And I probably would have done the deed, till I realized I hadn’t seen every movie on the list yet. You gotta have goals.
Ralph had been racking his brain. “I don’t remember what else’s on there. I can’t take anything heavy after last week.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rolled his shoulders forward like he always did. He was the only guy I knew who had to force himself to have bad posture.
“I thought he graduated.” I was referring to Timothy, the guy Jenn was talking to. I called him Tiny Tim for several reasons, not the least of which was his five-foot one-inch frame. Jenn and he had started dating a week after we’d had our fling. Even though Jenn and me breaking up had been the best thing for all parties concerned, I still saw Tim as her trade-up and hated him for it. He was also part of the fraternity scene, which I despised: little boys’ clubs that fostered the worst kind of mob mentality. Tim and Jenn had officially dated for a month or so before calling it quits, but I’m pretty sure they had kept the fringe benefits going.
“I thought you graduated,” Ralph came back at me.
“Yeah, but I was an English major that didn’t want to teach. My only option was grad school. He was a business major, so he should be working.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in double standards,” Ralph said.
“Only when it comes to other people.”
“I thought you were over Jenn.” It almost sounded like a question.
We walked down the Drama aisle. Two kids ran past us, one trailing the other and making his hand into a pretend gun. He sputtered, “Pow, pow, pow,” as he went by. I guess kids nowadays aren’t allowed to have toy guns—they might turn out to be ordinary citizens when they grow up.
“I don’t know if I was ever actually into Jenn,” I said.
“How long ago’d you date?” It was strange him asking me that. I mean, he’d been around for it.
“Couple of weeks at the end of March.”
Ralph nodded. “She doesn’t like Tim anymore.” There was something weird about him saying that. If anybody knew what Jenn was thinking, it was me, not him. The only time he hung out with her was when he hung out with me. They were like Elaine and George—no good unless Jerry was around too.
“And how long after her did you date Jenn?” Ralph asked.
Her. She had the distinction of being the only woman to ever break my heart. I don’t say her name, because for some reason I feel like that would cheapen things. It’s like I’m not supposed to talk about her: she’s the secret buried in my dark past. The Ilsa to my Rick.
“Jenn and me dated not long after. That was the problem. I was still out of my mind,” I said. “Weren’t you around for all this?”
He shook his head. “I was with Shell then, oblivious to everything.” Michelle and Ralph had dated for a few months. I’d never liked her, mainly because she was a bitch, didn’t like me, treated him like shit, didn’t like me, wore jeans that tended to show off a thong that didn’t need showing off, was really a bitch, and didn’t like me.
Other than that, did I mention she was a bitch?
She’d broken up with him two months ago, and he was going through what I had faced back in March. We referred to it as running into a buzzsaw.
Stevey, one of the store’s friendly employees stood before us, carrying two scores of DVDs in his arms. He had a baby face and a man’s body, like that big motherfucker in the third Mad Max movie who gets capped in the Thunderdome, so he appeared anywhere between fifteen and thirty years old, depending on where you looked at him.
“Hey, Stevey. Didn’t think you were working tonight,” I said, before I realized how pathetic it was I knew his schedule. A sure sign I needed to stop coming to the video store so much. And why the hell did they still call them video stores, anyways?
“They got rid of a couple of people this week, so they needed me.” He scrunched his face up, which pulled his thick-rimmed glasses back up his nose. It was a neat trick. “What are you guys renting?”
“Don’t know,” Ralph said.
“Did you see the sign I put up in the front of the store?” he asked.
I hadn’t, because I’d been too unnerved by the Girl Scouts. “No…”
Stevey put all the DVDs he was holding onto the shelf next to him. He leaned in conspiratorially and said, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone this, but I feel like you guys are part of the family you’re here so much.” I can’t say I was happy to be part of the family. “You guys remember Fred, right? Fred the weird looking dude…Anyway, they fired him for showing up late too many times. So he came in and switched a lot of the New Releases with the pornos. So if you get a new movie, open up the box to make sure the right movie’s in there. We didn’t find out until this afternoon that he’d done it. We’re getting a lot of angry calls.”
“Is that what you’re doing with all those DVDs?” I asked. “Checking them?”
“Yeah. And I better get back to work. It’s a mess.” He gave us a professional nod and moved past us.
“Shit,” Ralph said.
“Just made eye contact with Tiny Tim. Now I gotta go say hi.”
“Yeah, you’ve been having that problem all night.”
“Why don’t you cry about it?” Ralph chuckled and moved away.
“Hey, give Tim my worst.”
Friday, February 20, 2009
Here's Part Two:
“Just keep moving,” I said, between pursed lips like I was ventriloquizing.
The three Girls Scouts waited for us, like Scylla, Charybdis, and the other monster you never hear about, name of Becky. Okay, I made that last one up.
I felt their tiny little eyes on me. Like an angry mob eyeing a guilty defendant who’d just got acquitted by a jury. Now I knew what it was to be O.J. Simpson.
I didn’t even need to hear them ask. They were capable of telepathy—Would you like to buy some cookies?
But my plan would work. They would know I wasn’t interested if I didn’t look at them. I pictured their cute, little crooked-tooth smiles turn into disappointed frowns as I shattered their entrepreneurial dreams, and my heart broke. But my bank account smiled and laughed diabolically.
The triumvirate of what looked to be girls younger than ten huddled in front of a folding table that had one leg shorter than the others. Yeah, look all the more pathetic so people will be even more compelled to buy from you. The cookie boxes leaned over precariously like little Towers of Pisa. Behind the table was an older woman, definitely one of their mothers. I knew she was a mom because she was wearing a sweater and it was almost eighty degrees out.
We had twenty feet to go before we reached the sphere of solicitation. They weren’t engaged in a transaction, so they had nothing to do but stare right at us as we approached. Fifteen feet. I felt a cold sweat on my back. Ten feet. Ralph slowed down half a step—what the fuck was he doing? He could never keep rhythm when we jammed, but now it was having repercussions in the real world.
Jenn stepped ahead of Ralph. The Girl Scouts didn’t seem interested in her, as if they could sense she was one of their own and they didn’t wish to prey on her. It reminded me of that scene in Alien 3, where the monster is about to kill Sigourney Weaver, but stops because it realizes she’s carrying one of them in her belly.
Did Ralph make eye contact?
Fuck. Ralph had said hello to them. Hung out to dry by my best friend.
“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” they asked. I wasn’t sure which one had spoken, or if all three had talked in unison, or if they were using their telepathy. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“We’ll see on the way out.” Because I couldn’t say no.
“Okay,” they said merrily, not realizing I’d just turned them down. “Be fast because we’re leaving soon,” one of them said. They kept smiling at me, but Mom glared at me, as if I’d just told them they were the poster children for abortion.
When I got inside I stared at Ralph till he was forced to look at me.
Finally, he said, “I couldn’t help it.”
“And after you talked, I couldn’t say no.”
“Don’t pass the buck on that dude,” he said.
“You could have said no,” Jenn said before walking away.
“They’re leaving soon,” I said. “Let’s take our time.”
A line snaked around the front of the store to the register. I realized the place was abuzz for a Friday night. Then I felt ashamed because I knew the place was abuzz for a Friday night. The TVs suspended from the ceiling were playing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a classic in anyone’s book. My eyes cut through the crowd to see who was working the register.
“Our arch-nemesis,” I said to Ralph, and bobbed my head toward the register.
His name was Rob. Not Robert. Not Bob. Not Bobby. He made sure to tell us that all the time, and we made sure to call him anything but Rob. He’d screwed up our account balance once, trying to charge us for two copies of the same movie. When I explained how it didn’t make sense—no one would rent two copies of something—he’d failed to see the logic. “If it’s in the computer,” he’d said, “it’s in the computer.” I’m still not sure what that meant, but it was in the computer.
So we’d asked for his manager, and the manager explained to Rob, in front of many customers, how Rob was wrong.
Ever since then, his wounded pride had tried to exact vengeance upon us any chance it got.
“Where’s Jenn?” Ralph asked.
I stood on my toes and craned my neck up like a periscope. “She’s talking to some…”
“Didn’t think he was around anymore,” Ralph said.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Thematically, though, Eastwood has over the last 20 years managed to explore important issues without being heavy-handed. And he does so in GT to perfection. Here, Clint Eastwood is playing...Clint Eastwood. Or more appropriately, Clint Eastwood is playing "Clint Eastwood," the man that the audience thinks he is in real life: tough, sometimes mean, uncompromising, outspoken. But his films of the last 20years and perhaps going all the way back to The Outlaw Josey Wales tell a different story of the man. If you've been paying attention, you would have realized that Clint Eastwood is not Dirty Harry. He is not an advocate of violence. He's not interested in making political statements, for one wing or the other. He's more interested in having a discussion.
The people who've realized this are the ones enjoying the films he's more lately produced. The people who have not, the ones that see him as the caricature that Dirty Harry became over the years, are the ones not enjoying the films he's made recently.
Gran Torino could just be his swan song as an actor. And it would be a marvelous way to end that part of his career, the perfect way to, in his typical fashion, make a statement without making a statement.
Ostensibly, the plot summary reads like just another "mismatched couple that learns a lot from each other" story. Or, Finding Forrester with guns. Clint plays a racist Korean War vet who becomes neighbors with a Hmong family next door. He befriends the family and develops close relationships with the two children especially. As John Wayne did for Ron Howard in The Shootist, Clint teaches the teenaged boy how to be a man and about how to survive in the world.
Despite the obviously low budget and unseasoned actors, the film works very well as a contemplation on life and death, and everything in between. Eastwood, as is his way, shows us just how much the younger generation doesn't "get it," but also makes sure to show us just how much the older generation doesn't get it either.
What struck me most when the credits rolled was the realization that I had just seen a Western. The neighborhood that has "turned" is just another imagining of the frontier that Eastwood rode through in all his Westerns--untamed, dangerous, and violent. The police, the only representation of government in this story, are of little consequence at all--the only assistance they are able to provide is at the crime scene, after everything has happened. Women need to be escorted anywhere they go, and their escorts need to be strong, tough characters, or else they are in serious danger. And more often than not, the only way to end a confrontation is by threatening to use a gun. Or by using it.
But Eastwood's universe is never that simple, as the ending, which I won't give away, reveals. Yes, it's a Western set in 2008 Detroit. But it's also so much more. As Eastwood himself has said, the Western is one of the uniquely American art forms, one of the very few. It is only right that the Western, therefore, be used to explore what is the American experience. And that's what Gran Torino is also about--growing up in America and growing old in America.
I recommend it to all with this caveat: don't go in expecting to see Dirty Harry. Because that's not who Clint Eastwood really is.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The story is basically about three college kids that go to the video store one summer night and...well, hope you enjoy it. Oh, it does contain some bad language, so consider this your warning. And please bear in mind I wrote this when I was twenty-two. Not that I've gotten much smarter over the years, but every little bit I hope has helped.
“What’re you in the mood for?” I asked Ralph. He barely shrugged, like he was too tired to think about it.
We rolled down the Boulevard in my black Toyota, windows down in the summer heat, radio blasting Springsteen—the only way to listen to the Boss—Ralph riding shotgun like always.
Jenn sat behind Ralph. She was no stranger to the backseat, as I liked to quip.
We were heading to the local video store to rent a flick.
Me and Ralph hadn’t hung in a week. I’d called him a couple times to see if he wanted to shoot some stick or hit the bar now that he was (finally) twenty-one, but he’d declined each time, citing excuses that sounded made-up to me. I knew he was still hurting from his break-up with Michelle, even though it had been two months ago. It was a shame because the girl was a tramp. She wasn’t worth the brooding, I wanted to tell him. But, you couldn’t say things like that to your buddy. And I was trying to be delicate because I understood how he was feeling: I’d been there not so long ago myself.
It was then I remembered that the Girl Scouts would be selling their wares outside the store. So, I said, “Shit.”
“Dude,” Ralph said. Many people think the word “fuck” is the most versatile in the English language—I’ll take “dude” any day.
I gave him my best Shatner impression to add drama to the really drama-less situation: “The Girl Scouts...will be there.”
“You got money?” he asked a question that should have been rhetorical. The Sahara gets rain more frequently than I have money. It was a strange inquiry too, because I was pretty sure it was his turn to pick up the movie, so he should have had money on him.
“No…only enough...for a movie.”
“Cut the Shatner crap. Jenn?” Ralph asked, twisting his head around.
Jenn was staring out her window. I checked her in the rearview. She’d been tanning down the shore last weekend, so her skin was even more a golden-brown than usual. Highlights streaked her dirty blond hair. She seemed pissed off. Maybe she was mad because none of the life guards had noticed her. Or maybe she was mad because one of them had noticed her. So far, she hadn’t gone into much detail about the weekend’s exploits. Not that I cared.
“I didn’t bring my purse, remember?” she said.
Me and her were supposed to hang out last night, but she had cancelled nearly last minute.
The three of us were in different places. I’d graduated, Ralph had another year to go, and Jenn was studying abroad her first semester of senior year. We’d entered the lazy days of early summer. I was still waiting to hear back from a couple of grad schools.
“We have to buy cookies this time,” Jenn said.
I was ready to go into my T.E. Lawrence spiel about how nothing is written, but instead I said, “How you figure?”
“Last time Ralph and I were here, we said we’d buy some the next time,” Jenn said. “This is the next time.”
Legally, I didn’t think Ralph and Jenn’s promise would hold up as binding in a court of law, and even if it did, there was no way a court would force me, an unwitting third-party, to be bound by their quasi-contract with the Girl Scouts.
“Guess they don’t take a card,” Ralph said.
I didn’t feel the need to address that one. “If we turn them down tonight, maybe they’ll take the hint.”
But I said it in vain. Everyone knows you can’t not buy cookies from the Girl Scouts.
“I’m not telling them no. I was the bearer last time,” Ralph said.
That was the second reference to a “last time” I hadn’t been a part of. Were Ralph and Jenn tired of hanging with me? Now that I was a graduate, I didn’t have anything in common with them, or something?
“Maybe they won’t be here tonight.” Literally as I said it, I saw the little she-devils standing in front of the store. There was a parking space open right in front of them, but I opted for one in the back of the lot, as far away from the Girl Scouts as possible. I could feel their eyes burning holes in my car though. They knew.
We needed a plan.
“It’s like they’re just waiting for us,” Ralph said.
I pulled out my wallet. After I got through the cobwebs, I found three singles. I fingered my ash tray for some change, found a few quarters. “This should cover us.”
But inside I was seething because I had to give my not-so-hard-earned money away. Because in a civilized society, you just had to buy Girl Scout cookies. It was noble or something. Or maybe it was the fact that a man couldn’t say no to a woman, no matter her age.
“What about the movie?” Ralph asked.
That was too much. Societal duty or not. “We came here to rent a movie, not buy cookies. It’s the principle,” I said.
“You’ve got principles?” Jenn asked. What was up her ass?
“Only easy ones I can stick to.” Which was more than I could say for her.
In the rearview, I saw Jenn lean back and stare blankly out the window, crossing her arms. A silence blossomed.
“It’s getting late,” Ralph said.
“It’s just eight now,” I said, wondering why he was in such a hurry.
“I mean, maybe we can wait them out.”
“That’s true,” Jenn said, leaning forward again. “Maybe we could.”
The idea seemed preposterous, three people waiting for the Girl Scouts to close up shop so they didn’t have to buy cookies. But I considered it. I’d reached a new stage of depravity.
“We’re always in here awhile too. We could tell them that maybe we’ll buy on the way out, if we have any change. Then we hole up till they go,” Ralph said.
“Just like John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo,” I said, trying to make it sound more adventurous than it was.
“If we tell them we’ll buy on the way out, they’ll wait for us,” Jenn said. As always, she was full of solutions.
I threw my hands up in the air because our conversation had reached a new level of absurdity even I couldn’t stomach. “Look, just don’t make eye contact. They’ll understand. Nobody has to feel bad.”
I got out of the car, not waiting for another criticism from the backseat or another dumb idea from the passenger seat. I loved my friends.
I turned and waited for them to get out. They took their time. Then they gave each other a look and shuffled past me fast. Ralph said, half under his breath, “You’re heading up the rear, pal. Just in case.”
I agreed, not knowing why the one in the rear would have to do the talking if all went awry.
Once more into the breach, dear friends.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Just a short post today, because I don't want to steal any of Nate's thunder. Make sure you check out the interview when you get a chance!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Back in March of 2008, a good friend of mine, Phil Stiefel, opened up his own Fox's Pizza Den in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. I'm happy to report that he and his wife are doing very well for themselves and are just about to pass the dreaded one-year mark for restaurants.
Phil had the misfortune of sharing a room with me my senior year of college at Widener University. So naturally, he was forced to endure my wretched guitar-playing, drunken ramblings about the state of literature, and my annoying habit of forcing everyone to listen to Bruce Springsteen.
But Phil took it all in stride and managed to survive our one-year co-tenancy mostly unscathed.
The wife and I stopped by Phil's restaurant last Saturday for lunch. We ordered the garlic bread with cheese and the Big Daddy pizza, which is a rectangular behemoth, dimensions of 24" by 12". So it amounted to a lot of bread and cheese, and more bread, and more cheese. Hey, we were hungry.
The food was delicious, and we shared a couple hours of good times with Phil and his wife. They even let me wear the head gear of the Fox's Pizza Den mascot (yes, that's me in the pic with Phil). I only wish Kennett Square were closer to us, because then we'd swing by once a week or more. I'd put on another twenty pounds I don't need, but it'd be worth it to hang with Phil and eat his pizza. As an added bonus, my wife would get to hear for the umpteenth time about how Phil got me to stop chasing cars in the Widener student parking lot with my shirt off in the middle of February, after I'd had a few too many to drink.
Friday, February 13, 2009
According to this article I read a few years ago, 9% of Americans think Friday the 13th is jinxed. I guess that not's that bad, statistically speaking. In that same article, this oxymoronic gem appears, "Religious authorities have often warned against putting faith in superstition."
It seems from what I've read online this fear of Friday the 13th didn't crop up until the 19th century, and it's an extension of the fear of the number thirteen, or "triskaidekaphobia." The Friday and the 13 were brought together in a novel from 1907, appropriately entitled Friday, the Thirteenth, by Thomas William Lawson. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can read the book through Google book search.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Here's the issue. The Kindle 2 offers a feature called Read-To-Me, which is a text-to-speech option that enables the Kindle read the book out loud. Sounds harmless, right? The problem is this. Sony has a right to sell you a copy of the book, but Sony does not have the right to sell you a recording of the book. In other words, Sony's contract does not permit them to sell what are in effect audiobooks. Publishing contracts specify what type of rights the author or copyright owners are giving away in exchange for compensation.
This legal issue is one of the starker, recent examples of the problems inherent in creating equitable laws, especially where new technologies meet dated, but well-intentioned and certainly reasonable, legal principles. On the one hand, an author has every right to profit from his labors, and if he hasn't contracted the right to produce an audiobook to anyone, then no one should be permitted to produce an audiobook of the author's work. On the other hand, the text-to-speech feature is very similar to just having someone read the story aloud to you, like a parent reading a bedtime story to a child, for example.
Up until last night, I was having serious doubts about LOST's vitality for the rest of this season and beyond. The time jumping, flashes, time travel, whatever you want to call them, were a contrived plot device and lazy writing: the characters were miraculously saved from deadly situations, or just as annoying, right before a vital piece of information was disseminated to them, the sky would flash and they'd be pulled into another time.
Because of that, the on-island characters seemed to be going through the motions, thrown into random predicament after random predicament. Because the time jumping happened so often and so "randomly" enough, not much suspense was ever built up on the island, and LOST was starting to play out like a bad action movie, with its plot built around set pieces that didn't necessarily relate in any meaningful way. Add to that some redundant character development, like reminding the audience that yes, Sawyer really misses Kate, and the on-island plotline was becoming downright boring.
With regard to the off-island characters, the plot threads were so scattered that the show seemed to lack any direction whatsoever. I guess that happens when you've got a principal cast of nearly twenty characters, and they're not all in the same place geographically speaking anymore.
But the show came back in a huge way last night. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it yet, but I will say a few things. If I may be so bold, I felt like I was watching Season One again. There were some great dramatic reversals. A few off-island threads came together (thank god). Some new mysteries were introduced, but they didn't overshadow the narrative drive of this season--that of getting back to the island. And yes, finally, the time jumping became less of a plot convenience and caused major problems. Last night's episode gave us plenty of action, plenty of oh-wow moments, and did plenty to push the story forward after it had been slogging along for four or five episodes.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
No, I'm not one of those people who's going to tell you that in three years there won't be any more print books available. The concept of "book" or "novel" is just too firmly rooted in our collective conscious as something that must be held, or at the least, as something more tangible than a PDF. However, e-books are changing the way novels are not only read, but also the way they are chosen for publication, written, and promoted.
Simply put, an e-book is an electronic file that can be read in a variety of ways:
-on a personal computer,
-on a laptop,
-sometimes on a cell phone,
-sometimes on an iPod, and
-always through an e-book device, such as the Kindle or the Sony Reader
It's no secret that e-books originally did not enjoy the best of reputations. However, e-publishing has grown in both popularity and critical regard over the last ten years. They're getting better, and more people are reading them, in other words. And because of the low production costs of e-books, e-publishing has some unique advantages over traditional publishing:
-more unknown authors get their big shot through e-publishers,
-niche markets get the fiction they're looking for, and
-e-books are cheaper to buy.
So just think, you could find a cheap book by an up-and-coming author before he or she makes it big.
My publisher, Lyrical Press, Inc., is releasing The Unearthed in e-format on March 2, 2009 for $5.50. A print-on-demand version will become available if, and only if, the digital sales warrant the investment in additional production costs.
Last pitch (of the post!): for only $5.50, you can read a fast-paced, intelligent story and help a new author build a readership.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
A few weeks back, I posted about how I had tried home brewing for the first time. Which really consisted of Nate reading the recipe and telling me what I needed to do.
It was my intention to whip up a red ale, something both the missus and I enjoy. I'll save making a stout for when I have more than one batch going.
Anyways, we bottled it up a couple of weeks ago and I've been not so patiently waiting for it to mature and carbonate since. To be honest, I cracked a few open before it was technically ready, so I've had a sampling of it in various stages of drinkability.
Well, today makes it official: one can actually drink it and enjoy it. Not the greatest thing I've ever tasted, but hell, it tastes like beer. Nate, however, has yet to drink it, so I don't know if I've made it into the club yet or not.
The pic is of, obviously, the red ale I'm about to drink. As far as a red goes, it's pretty dark. I've got a wheat beer fermenting in the bucket right now, and hopefully in a few weeks I'll have something that tastes like a Blue Moon. And yes, it's no coincidence that I turned the glass so it proudly displayed "Phillies," the current World Series Champs. Or as Chase Utley would say: "World Effin Champions!"
Saturday, February 7, 2009
This wasn't on my February "promote the book" list, but it was so interesting I had to post it. Several companies have discovered ways to safely transmit power through the air. That's right, we might not need wires for much of anything in ten or twenty years.
I won't even try to explain the science of it to you, because I hardly understand it myself. But I do know that Nikola Tesla was trying to do this, and almost succeeded over a hundred years ago. Two years ago, I read an excellent biography on the man, Tesla: Man Out of Time, after watching The Prestige for probably the dozenth time. In a film that had many things going for it, one of the nice surprises was just how good David Bowie was in portraying Tesla.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Next Thursday, Feb 12th, Reverie will be celebrating its one year anniversary and all are invited!
Reverie is a store of vintage furniture, wearables, and collectibles and is located on Girard Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Jenna and I are good friends with one of the owners, Brady Sanders. It's hard to believe that the store has been open for a year, as we both still remember when Brady was still thinking about opening it.
The five owners of Reverie share many interests, one of which is the arts. Every second Thursday of the month, Reverie hosts "A Reveal," featuring all kinds of art by local artists. It's a great way to meet interesting people, shop for those things you just can't find anywhere else, and meet up with old friends.
Jenna and I usually grab a bite to eat at a pizza shop run by Greeks two doors down. The pizza shop houses a working Ms. Pac-Man, believe it or not! And no, that's not my high score on there. I had it for awhile, but somebody must have pulled the plug and reset the scores. Bastards.
The doors open at 6:00 p.m. next Thursday! Come by for food, drinks, cool vintage stuff, and good times.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
...to Rita Vetere's chat on Monday, February 9th at 8:00 PM EST.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend last month's event, but I did make it for the inaugural chat back in November, and it was a blast. Cindy Jacks and John B. Rosenman, both Lyrical Press authors, are the guests this time around. Cindy Jacks is author of the Point of Distraction series. John B. Rosenman, an English professor at Norfolk State University, is author of five books and over 300 short stories, and his novel Dax Rigby, War Correspondent is now available through Lyrical Press as well.
In case you hadn't heard, Rita's novel, Ancient Inheritance, is now available in digital format. I purchased my copy today for only $5.50, and I'm really looking forward to reading it!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I was going to save this one for last, because it was the most interesting story I came across while researching for The Unearthed, but it's just so fascinating I had to write about it now.
The Faces of Belmez, or the Belmez Faces, whichever you prefer, have sparked intense scientific and pseudo-scientific debate.
A little background is necessary. In 1971, Maria Gomez Pereira noticed that a strange image had spontaneously appeared on her kitchen floor, that seemingly of a face. The part of the floor containing the offending face was ripped out and re-laid with cement. A week later, another face appeared in the same spot.
As it turns out, the house had been constructed over a cemetery. I know, sounds like a bad horror movie, but apparently this is all "true." Needless to say, an excavation ensued, bodies were reburied elsewhere, and life went back to normal. For two weeks.
Then another image appeared, and another, and eventually as many as 15 other faces appeared. Some would disappear and reappear in the course of a day, while some would remain in place for much longer. The floor was torn out a number of times and replaced, but the faces kept coming back no matter what was done.
Over the course of 35 years, the faces were photographed and documented by various reporters and scientists. One investigator sealed and covered the floor with plastic so it couldn't be tampered with, but new faces appeared underneath the plastic. Other tests were performed to determine if there were any chemical traces that would suggest that the faces had been drawn, and these tests, depending upon who you ask, yielded some surprising answers.
Some believe these images to be thoughtographic phenomenon. According to paranormal experts, this is a form of psychokinesis, in this case caused wittingly or unwittingly by the owner of the house, where the person psychically burns an image from the mind onto something else. Think The Ring. Others have claimed that there is chemical evidence of forgery.
This blog, My Favorite Monsters, provides an excellent detailed summary. And, there's this gem on youtube, complete with its own Matrix-soundtrack.
Monday, February 2, 2009
It's a good, fast, and intelligent read. But don't take my word for it. My editor, Emma Wayne Porter, tells me that The Unearthed is structurally and syntactically perfect.
Fair warning, but I'll be heavily promoting my book this month, leading up to the e-release on March 2, 2009. I'll be giving away some cool things and sharing some of the more interesting paranormal stories I came across when I was doing research for the novel.