So I gotta make a movie every seven years. A feature-length movie, that is. My first two films sucked, mostly because there were money people standing over my shoulders making changes I didn't approve of and, surprise surprise, caused the movies to fail one way or another. I know what mistakes I made on those pictures, I'm not blaming any one person, but after the second fiasco, it became clear to me that I needed to not only be the writer and director, but the executive producer (i.e., money person) as well in order to get a coherent, cohesive feature film made. I finally achieved that this summer (seven years after the second film, which was shot seven years after the first). It will take me a year to edit and polish this new movie, but it will be worth the wait.
One of the biggest mistakes I made back in 2000 was letting someone else produce Mr. Id, my first feature film. My original intention had been to shoot it on video and cut it with equipment I had access to at my job. Then I let someone talk me into letting them produce it for several hundred thousand dollars. The movie was doomed from that point on. For the second film, Beverly Hills Massacre, I asked a colleague at Crenshaw High School to produce the film for 10,000 dollars. I said it could be done that cheaply. Initially, my colleague believed me, raised about ten grand, and then started listening to idiots in Hollywood who told him the film would never be distributed without a "name" attached to it. Doom.
So, after chatting with Pablo D'Stair on Facebook (Pablo made a film for about zero dollars that is now going to play at the Munich Underground Film Festival), I decided to shoot a feature film on my little Canon ZR600 dv camera. Lots of folks think it's crazy. Whatever. I shot the film, it's "in the can," as they say, and now I will spend a year in post production. This time around, I didn't worry about money, I didn't worry about all the shit that folks in L.A. worry about with regard to making a movie. That purity of action, I believe, will result in a film that actually makes sense.
So LitReactor is having a crime fiction contest. You can go there and read stories and rate them and comment on them. I've entered a story called "The Ralph's at Third and Vermont." This story seems to fall into a style I've developed since finishing the MFA program where I put disparate moments together and let the reader figure out why they're related. I find it interesting that my genre (vs. literary) fiction leaves much more space for experimentation (in the MFA program, the only experimenting seems to be messing with verb tense and POV) than so-called literary fiction. Anyway, it's good to be writing the kind of fiction I prefer to write without fear of some MFA literafia cult descending on me and calling me worthless for writing fiction where stuff actually happens.
But enough about my work, let's talk about me. Just kidding. Please follow this link and read and rate my story. Even if you don't like it, feedback is always a good thing. Thanks.
So, after a spring and early summer of battling the most psychotic bureaucrats I've ever encountered, I've managed to put this issue together. And let me tell you, it's a doozy. There's refined fiction, raunchy fiction, sentimental fiction, and even a little bit of the stuff that might make you angry when you read it. A salad bar of pulp fiction for you to read on the beach or in your cubicle or in a factory or wherever you'll be spending the next few weeks. Please get your copy now and let the writers know what a fantastic job they've done. As always, I truly believe Pulp Modern just gets better and better with each issue and this one lives up to that expectation.
Good news this morning--I received word from Shotgun Honey that a very bizarre piece I wrote has been accepted there. In the meantime, however, feel free to stop by The Flash Fiction Offensive / Out of the Gutter Online and give a quick read to my story HAPPY THOUGHTS. It's a nice shot of dystopian "paranoia" for your Monday morning!
With evil bureaucrats and insane, hyper-sensitive morons doing everything they can to destroy me, I somehow managed to put together PULP MODERN#7! But make no mistake, the stars are the contributing writers, which include PM regulars such as Chris Rhatigan, Richard Godwin, Edward A. Grainger, and Mike Sheedy as well as some stunning work by first time PM writers such as Ken Miller, Gerald So, and Patrick Chambers. Thieves and liars. Should be available by next week (with a kindle edition showing up some time later).
So Mila Kunis has decided men shouldn't say "we're pregnant" when their wives or girlfriends are expecting a baby. What would sound better? "She's pregnant," like she did it all by herself? My girlfriend told me she'd slug me if I said something like that.
This points to a larger problem I've noticed in modern America. Figurative language is dying. That's bad news for writers. What Mila Kunis is either too dense, too stupid, or simply too young and ignorant to understand, is that a man saying "we're pregnant" when his wife/girlfriend is pregnant is simply a figurative phrase with no ill intentions. Now, cultural critics and other bored, upper-class (generally) white folks will say that buried somewhere in there is some nefarious double-meaning, or some such shit. After five years of graduate school, I'm convinced all that shit is exactly that: shit. Bullshit, to be more precise. In the case of "we're pregnant," it's a matter of the man showing solidarity with his wife/girlfriend. How the fuck anybody could consider that a problem is beyond imagination.
Then again, look around this country. Crazy and stupid have gotten together and created the most dangerously uninformed generation ever.
I weep for the future.
Now, back to my writing, for which I make no apologies should I use a phrase, metaphor, or simile, that dummies like Mila Kunis don't have the brains to comprehend.
To recap, here are the latest places you can sample the kind of fiction I prefer to write (you know, stories, where something happens, etc.).
If you have not read Sugar Cookie's at PULP METAL, please do so and comment. It's a period piece, which is a joke I've attached to it since it takes place in the 1960s and involves menstrual blood. Don't read it while you eat, by the way.
"Little People," a story where I actually demonstrate some empathy for the victim, can be found in the amazing new issue of ALL DUE RESPECT. In addition to some fine fiction by some outstanding writers, there are interviews and book reviews, making ADR one of the very best journals out there.
Finally, if you haven't done so, head on over to BEAT TO A PULP and catch my latest Haggard, Indiana story, No Hard Feelings.
I write these stories to entertain readers, so please, entertain yourselves!
I've already read this thing on Kindle. Never mind that I have a story in this issue. There's a host of great fiction, some amazing interviews (including an interview with Mr. David Cranmer), and reviews pointing you to other books you should be reading. This one's a classic, all involved in the production of it should be proud of themselves. You may now (and should now) get your paperback version at Amazon.
Difficult to believe it's been three years since I had a story at Beat to a Pulp, but that's exactly the amount of time I've been in Real Writer Hell, aka, the mfa program at a university I despise so much I'm ashamed to put it on my resume and I sure as hell won't mention it here. But enough about that...
I'm back on the right track, writing stories I want to write, as opposed to lifeless shit the "literary" types deem appropriate. The story at BTAP is called No Hard Feelings. It takes place in the fictional town of Haggard, Indiana, a place I've written about several times and will write about a whole lot more. Please enjoy!
I’ve just learned that my friend Steve Parlavecchio died
yesterday. I don’t know the
circumstances. He was 43 years old. I tried to contact Steve a couple of weeks
ago on Facebook. He didn’t respond. I wish like hell that he had.
Steve starred in my first feature film, Mr. Id. The film is not very
good, but Steve’s performance is outstanding.
It’s the only reason to watch the damn movie. Before we shot the movie, I told Steve to
watch every Bogart movie he could find.
He did. And he channeled Bogart
like he was the man’s ghost. There’s a
particular scene where he’s confronting a woman who owes him money and refuses
to pay with cash. If you close your eyes
when you watch that scene, it’s hard to believe it’s not Bogey and Bacall going
at it. I guess Steve was a bit of a
method actor because he really took to the Bukowski lifestyle (the character he
played, Jack Maggot, was based on Bukowski) during the shoot—drinking a lot and
trying to score with every woman on the set.
He didn’t act quite so wild in his normal life (though there were nights
in Los Angeles I had to wrestle his car keys from him and insist on driving,
something he absolutely hated).
I walked off the set of Mr.
Id halfway through the shoot. It was
the nastiest crew ever assembled for a movie and the producer made it clear
that I didn’t have his support. Steve
was the only person who tried to keep me from leaving. He said I’d regret it and, ultimately, he was
right. My “career” as a movie director
never quite recovered.
For reasons Steve would never make clear, his career never
went to the places it should have either.
He starred in Amongst Friends,
an independent film about Jewish kids getting into crime, directed by Rob
Weiss, who was one of the creators of Entourage. For a few moments in 1993, it looked like
Steve would become a big name in Hollywood—this was the final, glorious year of
Sundance, when independent films actually were independent—but something
happened. Steve refused to star in big
budget movies, and I think that hurt him.
His only other major film was Bandwagon,
which a lot of people like. He made
other movies (including Mr. Id), but
he never achieved the success I think his talent deserved.
When I lived in L.A., things were often difficult and I had
few places to go where I could commiserate with other people who were
struggling to pay their bills and find a way into the movie business. Steve was the only reliable friend I had
there. He was a typical actor with
typical actor foibles, but I could see that, underneath the shields he put up
to maintain the attitude required to survive in Hollywood, he was a very good
person. It’s very sad to know his
kindness is no longer a part of this world.
Just discovered The Fall Creek Review, an eclectic site that seems to have a little of everything. Today it's got a poem by Keith Rawson that most of the folks I grew up with can probably relate to. Check it out.
Some folks who are sick of political "correctness" have started a journal dedicated to publishing fiction, poetry, and articles that don't adhere to the mamby-pamby, colorless, tasteless, odorless material most "literary" journals insist on boring the rest of us with. Send your offensive work to Profane. Good luck and keep pissing off the masses!
Stanley Rutgers informed me that Elixir-Knightly Press has just put out a collection of his stories at Amazon called Wonderful Terror: Five Tales of Horror and Science Fiction. I've read most of the stories in the collection. Stanley is truly a "middle-of-the-road" kind of guy. His stories swing from left-wing to right-wing with little regard to the cult-like clinging folks on either side of the aisle practice these days. He is also a great pulp writer and reminds me quite a bit of PKD and George Orwell.
Folks, I've been trapped in a torture dungeon known as an MFA program for the last three years. Enough is enough. I've finished the degree and returned to writing what I enjoy most--fiction where stuff happens! I'm honored to have a crime story in the third issue of ALL DUE RESPECT. Other folks coming to that party include Jake Hinkson, Patti Abbott, and Chris Leek, just to name a few. If you haven't caught up with the magazine version of ADR, you're missing something very special. Chris Rhatigan and company have put together an entertaining journal that combines fiction with reviews and interviews. It's the kind of publication you look for at your local magazine rack and simply can't find.
So I've been impressed with the stories that came in for the thieves and liars issue. It's going to take me a while to get through them. However, once I announce the release of Pulp Modern #7, I will begin accepting submissions for the next issue. The theme for #8 is drugs.
There are so many ways to work drugs into a pulp fiction story, I don't think I have to provide any hints or clues.
A few things about drugs: The U.S. government has rarely messed up anything as spectacularly as its drug policy. Stories that sound like ABC After School Specials will probably not do well with me. The deadline will be October 1, 2014.
So one of the reasons I haven't produced much of the writing I would prefer to be writing over the last three years is that I have been busy earning an enormously useful MFA degree at Minnesota State University. I will be reading a story from my thesis (which is a collection of related short stories) on March 22. If you happen to be near Ice Station Zebra, aka, Mankato, stop on in and here me read one of the most innocent little yarns I've ever produced.
In effort to mimic the comic book industry in the 1990s, here is an alternate cover for PULP MODERN #6. This cover will be available for about a month, after which the original cover will return. Why do this? Better question: Why NOT do this?
A list of clichés in crime writing recently made its way
across Facebook. I read it over and
sighed. How many of them had I/have I
been guilty of? The one that stung the
most was the ‘daddy issues’ cliché. I
was 20,000 words into a novella called Daddy
Problems, anxious to pound out the second half. But, goddammit, that list was correct. I was well aware of the cliché when I
outlined the project and started writing it.
I have always had fun turning clichés upside down and “deconstructing”
them according to my 21st century attitude. I now question, though, whether or not I have
just been lazy.
How many movies have announced their villains with dialogue
that sounds something like—“Vee half bin vaiting for you Mr. Zo und Zo…”? It’s Hollywood’s throwaway antagonist, the
closet Nazi. Indicated by a thick,
stereotypical German accent. Hollywood
has Krautphobia, and I understand its historical origins. However, how much longer can the general
public be expected to give screenwriters a pass on the complete lack of
imagination required to make their villains Nazis? I find the use of dime store psychology in
fiction as the primary source of motivations for characterization to be no
different from Tinsel Town’s cut-out Nazis.
Fathers have been vilified since the Frankfurt School
cleverly positioned the father as metaphor for oppression. Artists, particularly male artists, have
since become much more sensitive and decided, collectively, to bash their
strict dads who had the audacity to provide food and shelter in exchange for
the outrageous expectation that their children do something with their
lives. Don’t get me wrong—there are bad
fathers. But they are the
exceptions. And writers have been using
them as easy scapegoats for too long.
It is much more challenging to find new motivations for
character behavior. A good, (actually)
progressive writer has to do what writers used to do on a regular
basis—invent. Be creative. Most importantly, be original. This takes more time to achieve, but the
rewards, I’m willing to bet, are unimaginable.
I am taking a vow, at this point, to attempt to motivate my
characters in ways that do not fall back on the same, tired ideas that have
fueled fiction (not just crime fiction, oh by the way,) for far too long.
Oh yeah, I’ve put Daddy
Problems away. No need to finish
it. The cycle of short stories I’m
working on for my MFA thesis deal a little bit with dads and the way they treat
their children, but the overriding theme of the entire collection is really
about the evolution (or, perhaps devolution) of masculinity in America since
World War II. Whining about daddy
problems, I suspect, has a great deal to do with that very neutering of the
So folks are making their best of lists for 2013. I had to host a radio show about books in order to allow an official excuse to take the time to read (and now I'm applying for PhD programs--my own version of AA's definition of insanity...). The result is that I didn't read nearly as much as I should have. Here are my favorite three books that I was not in some way involved with (if you don't have the All Due Respect anthology, then you've missed out; Chris Rhatigan just may be the hardest working man in this LUCRATIVE independent publishing business!)--
My favorite book of the year was Country Hardball, by Steve Weddle. Steve's refusal to tie up every loose end in the collection helped me with my MFA thesis. Before I read Country Hardball, I was scrambling to make sure I had every character and situation explained. Realizing that wasn't necessary was liberating. And, you know, the stories in Steve's book stand on their own and some are emotional knock-outs without being sentimental. A wonderful trick only the best writers can accomplish.
I'm a fan of originality. I was lucky enough to read collections by two of the most original writers in this LUCRATIVE independent scene-- David James Keaton's Fish Bites Cop! and Glenn Gray's The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories provided hours of imaginative fiction that generally traveled to the very edge of realism. Whenever someone says something moronic and defeating like, "There's no original ideas," I send them over to Mr. Keaton or Mr. Glenn's work to have a look at just how many possibilities still exist.
I read a lot of other great books and I apologize if I didn't mention them here. I wanted to make sure these three books got mentioned in the end-of-the-year discussions.
So the working title for PULP MODERN #7 is "The Dens of Babylon," from a super-long William Blake poem about Milton ("...here is Jerusalem, bound in chains, in the dens of Babylon...").
The basic idea is: dystopia. Now's your chance to explore crime in a world where crime is nearly impossible. Horror and science fiction are, of course, easy to match with dystopian fears. And if you think westerns don't relate to dystopia, just research the 1800s and see how many utopian disasters sprung up around the U.S.
The deadline is April 1, 2014. Stories should be between 2000 and 3500 words. If you've got a longer story, send me an email telling me what it's about and I might make an exception for this issue. Also, I will look at any non-fiction articles you might have on the subject of dystopia.