Guest Blogger: Jodi MacArthur – Classy Like Frank

Classy Like Frank

By Jodi MacArthur

I sat on the edge of the bed whirling the knife in my hands. I was bored. What she had to say might have been interesting…but it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. She’d be dead soon.

“Sometimes I wanted to scream because I felt so awful. I didn’t want to see my past, the people in my past that is. I felt afraid of the future. The present felt hopeless. My religion hurt. I didn’t know what I believed anymore. My heart hurt. I felt so lonely. I didn’t know how to fix any of it.” Janelle rubbed her temples and sat back against the headboard.

She wore a tight black summer dress with a veiled hat. Kind of classy, like the older times when that guy, Frank something, used to croon to pretty girls. What didn’t fit were the dainty silk gloves with the red cross-stitch roses. Something didn’t strike me right – perhaps it just didn’t match. “Not that I don’t appreciate the job and money you offered me,” I said. “But I hardly think those are reasons a woman should hire someone to off herself.”

“Maybe, maybe not, but I can’t see anyway out of it. If you don’t mind me asking…is this your first?” she asked.

I nodded.

“I hope to make it easy on you. And thanks for coming on such short notice.”

“No problem. It’d help if I didn’t know so much about you.” I meant it too. Janelle was a real sweetheart. Course, rich folk knew how to put on a show when they were trying to get something they wanted. She was already getting what she wanted from me. That cost her a couple thou. I suppose that makes her genuine, but rich people – you never know with those sorts.

“I’ve stashed the money in a place you would never find. The only way you are getting it is at the end of my story.” Janelle folded her gloved fingers in her lap. Her blue eyes were gorgeous – sincere.

“Yeah, yeah, so why don’t you keep telling me then.” My eyes were drawn to the silky gloves again. Rich people, you know, you can never know why they do the things they do, or wear the things they wear. Besides when it’s your last day, last hour, last breath, you want to choose your favorite items whether they matched or not. Maybe the gloves held good memories for her? I just wish she’d shut up so I could get on with my life. Blah, blah, blah…I’m so rich and sooo depressed. I should just stab her already.

“You will be happy to know there isn’t much more to tell. I wrote a best seller, made millions. Happiness should be there, but it isn’t. I am miserable.”

“I thought insane people were supposed to be happy.”

Janelle gave me a look.

“Not that you are insane…or anything.”

“The problem is,” she swung her legs over the bed and sat up, “I just really don’t want to live anymore.”

“No millionaire I know just ups and decides there’s no reason to live.” Not that I didn’t mind inheriting a few thousand of it. Perhaps I could retire in Mexico and sip out of coconuts or something. Did they have coconuts in Mexico? They had senoritas. I knew that.

“Okay, fine, I’ll tell you.”

“Yeah, tell me.” I twirled the sharp knife she had given me between both hands.

“I’m being followed. I’ve been followed for years.”

I stopped twirling the knife and looked at Janelle. “By who?”

“My step father, the sick fu-, person.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“I’m not the swearing sort,” she explained.

“Ah,” I said back.

“I’m going to pour myself a last drink of wine. Would you like a drink, mister…”

“George.”

She uncorked a merlot; probably some fancy shmancy stuff from France or wherever rich people import their wine.

Why not? “Sure.”

She poured two drinks and brought one to me.

“So he messed with me when I was little. Cheated on my mom with a handful of the neighbor ladies – even her best friend. My mom found out, confronted him about it. He convinced her that she was the crazy one. He told her that I’d made up lies about him, that the neighbor ladies were just jealous. She believed. They divorced a year later anyway. It was his idea. I swore that one day…one day.” She drew her finger across her throat like a knife.

Ironic. That’s what I’d be doing to her soon. “So call the cops.”

“I did… but there’s no proof. They can’t do anything if there is no evidence.”

“So hire a security guard.”

“That’s why I hired you.” She smiled for the first time.

I didn’t like the way she said that or the way her gloved hand was sliding underneath the pillow. “I thought you hired me to kill you.”

“I hired you to kill him, but unfortunately he shot you, after you stabbed him with my kitchen knife.”

What? I looked down at the kitchen knife in my hand and stood.

Janelle set down her glass on the nightstand, and slipped a pistol from beneath the pillow. “The body is in the closet – over there.”

I looked over at the closet door. It was slightly ajar. There was a trickle of crimson on the white carpet. What was this chick trying to pull? I wanted my money. “Look, lady. I came here to do a job.”

She stood and squeezed the trigger. I felt the bullet hit my stomach. I dropped my wine glass. It landed with a soft plop on the carpet. I watched her silk gloves holding that killing machine. Rich people, you never can tell when they are putting on a show.

Janelle drew back the hammer. “I’m sorry, George. Really, I am. Thanks for listening. And,” she nodded towards the closet, “for him.”

Bang.

Bio:

Jodi MacArthur
Exiled in deep southern Texas, Jodi is a Seattle author hoping to write her way back to the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, she twitters at her beloved finches, Hitchcock and Emily, and drinks coffee – but never at the same time.

Find her blog and links to her writing here:
www.jodimacarthur.blogspot.com

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Guest Blogger: Joseph Grant – Is The Great American Novel Dead …or Just Undead?


Is the Next Great American Novel Dead…or Just Undead?

by

Joseph Grant

Of late there is a penchant in the book business for literary cannibalism. Not that writers these days are stealing phrases or pages from unsuspecting writers living or dead, but outright plagiarism, unlike the oh-so-mortal writer, is alive and well and will likely never die. It would be bad enough if that was the only problem, but it is much worse than that. What is occurring as a trend in today’s literary marketplace is the wholesale theft of entire novels in the guise of a trendy literary ‘mash-up’ of genres, for the lack of better words.

A mash-up by definition is when an artist combines two ideas and blends them together to create a hopefully seamless entity, hence a mash-up. Back in the day, it was called ‘sampling’. Back in the day before that, it was called stealing and or plagiarism but even then it was usually confined to a small part of the whole.

The current movement in literature is to take an existing classic and interject, say, a zombie or vampire or any such monster will do, really and market it as a semi-original work of fiction. This is tantamount to literary grave-robbing, let alone sacrilege to treat a masterpiece with such glib rancor. Insult is then added to the author’s already injured memory by the no-talent hack of a writer tacking their name onto the author as if the author, many years dead had risen from the grave like one of the atrocious added-on characters the new author has created from his small black and white TV mind and somehow co-authored what amounts to literary desecration. It’s as if the publishing world has lost its identity and now allows literary graffiti to be tagged along the walls of immortals. One wonders if the modern-day author has suddenly stopped thinking and writing the Great American Novel and looked into the literary mirror and saw plagiarism and coattail-riding as something in which to aspire.

Is this a generation’s “payback” for having to suffer through the works of esteemed authors like Austen, Melville, Shakespeare & Hawthorne in school? If this is a generation’s thumbing their nose at tradition and having a laugh, I’m not getting the humor, I’m afraid. It is a glaring omission and admission of a literary business in trouble and in the process of imploding. The true question is: ‘Why are we eating our own?’ The answer is of course an unequivocal one. It is literary lethargy. Instead of trying to write well, we take the literary lazy road out and we write upon the literary bathroom wall in the form of parody.

This is not to say that there aren’t great writers working today in cafes and in homes all across the country to write the Great American Novel. Search your bookshelves and you may see some of them yourself. But where are the writers of tomorrow? It’s tragic to think that they are writing monster parodies of classics. Doesn’t that strike you as empty and pathetic? It does me.

The problem lies with the literary agents who reject struggling writers, but yet sign this literary pabulum into print. Yet, we writers are at the mercy of such inept beings. Instead of finding the next aforementioned Austen, King, Hemingway, Rowling or Cornwell, they’re too busy signing the next great unimaginative plagiarist. It’s no wonder that a real writer can’t catch an honest break, so to speak.

It’s tragic that great writing is being prevented from publication because publishing itself became too big an insolent child and merged with corporations that hired agents and publishers to baby sit the industry; people who had more interest in the bottom line than the written one. As little as twenty-five years ago, it was still possible to get an unsolicited manuscript into a large house and receive an acceptance without using a middleman. Before publishing became a business, it had been run by intellectuals, whereas, it’s now run by businessmen.

This is not to say that agents all agents are out for blood or have no true insight. There are still agents out there who read for the pleasure of reading, just as there are writers who still write for the pleasure of writing. Only when agents stop signing celebutards, fallen politicians and half-assed hacks instead of real writers will literature be able to look at itself in the mirror again and not see a monster looking back.

BIO: My short stories have been published in 147 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Underground Voices, Nite-Writer’s International Literary Arts Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Literary Tonic, Six Sentences, NexGenPulp, Is This Reality Zine , Darkest Before Dawn, strangeroad.com, FarAway Journal, Full of Crow, Heroin Love Songs, Bewildering Stories, Absent Willow Literary Review and the Absent Willow Anthology and Harbinger* 33 a story in the anthology of horror, Northern Haunts, as well as three UK literary reviews, Bottom of the World #1 & 2 and Cupboard Gloom and Write This. I have won “Story of the Month” at Bartleby-Snopes Literary Review. I have written for The New York Bar Guide (as a reviewer) and in various newspaper articles that have appeared in The Pasadena Star, Whittier News and the San Gabriel Tribune. I have published a work of verse, Indigo, with Alpha Beat Press and have completed my first novel. I currently reside in Los Angeles . NOTE: Six stories of mine have been recently featured in 6S Volume 1&2, a collection of short stories by various writers available at Amazon. I also write a monthly newsletter column for Literary Mary.

Guest Blogger: Cameron Ashley – BACK IN BLACK (AND WHITE)


BACK IN BLACK (AND WHITE) by Cameron Ashley

Ten years ago, I walked into the old Kill City on Greville Street, started talking to the English bruiser behind the counter and walked out with books by Eddie Bunker and Andrew Vachss.


The bruiser’s name was David Honeybone. He turned out to be a total sweetheart and somehow I ended up being recruited for his new magazine. It was called Crime Factory. It ran from 2000-2003 and I loved this thing. Man, I loooooved it. Everyone who worked on it loved it: ask Craig McDonald. People who were written about in it loved it: ask Ken Bruen. We had subscribers all over the place – a modest but okay number, the way I understand it, especially for a magazine produced in Preston.

The plug got pulled for a variety of reasons, none of which it’s really my place to go into, but when it happened, it was a heartbreaker.


I went off to Japan for a few years, taught, traveled, wrote a big-ass horror novel that still sits on my hard drive and came home to Melbourne.


I missed CF.


I would pester Dave about it from time to time during our semi-regular drinking sessions and he basically told me that he’d put it to bed and that was that. Fair enough.


I still missed CF.


Then a funny thing happened. I got bored having comic pitches rejected and started doing short stories again for the first time since the mid-nineties. I got to know, amongst others, guys like Paulie D, Chad Eagleton, Frank Bill, Keith Rawson and the guy who pretty much forms a pulpy mini hive-mind with me, Jimmy Callaway. These guys are good. Like, really, really good. They are also cool and they are helpful and they are driven.

I thought about CF. I told Keith about CF. We shot emails back and forth, put together some names and tee-heed to ourselves online.


I got Dave drunk and told him about it. He got a spark in his eye and he nearly buckled. In the end though, his resolve held. The spark might’ve been caused by the Mountain Goat with the Jamie chasers…


He did, however, let Keith and I go for it.


It’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be online, for one. We’re not going through print headaches, thank you, and we have other stuff to write. Keith and I are not designers. We are not editors. I type with two fingers and have a stress ball by my keyboard. Keith, I dunno how he types except he’s mostly naked when he does it.

Call it Son of Crime Factory. Call it a bad idea. Call it biting off more than we can chew.


Whatever.


CF returns in January 2010. It continues in the spirit of the original, but is souped-up with some extra crazy fiction. Contributors? We have some names involved. Not going to drop any just yet, but, trust me, they are good and will surprise you. The new CF might not look super-flash, but within its lo-fi pages will be a lot of gold and you’ll be able to download it and print it off in all its old-school zine glory instead of having your retinas burned out by reading the screen.


Who knows how long we’ll last? Maybe we’ll wrap up after nine issues in honour of Volume One. Maybe Keith and I and others will keep it rolling in its new kind of hippie co-op way for years. Whatever happens, we’ll make it good for the duration.


Someone bought the Kill City name, moved it to a basement shop along Swanston Street and gave up selling new books. About a quarter of the place is crime and, really, there seems little interest in preserving whatever legacy, no matter how minor, the original shop had outside of a sandwich board with the old logo on it.


Us? We’re going to make Dave proud. So much so, he’ll want to help out. Just wait.


If you want to email us, you can: crimefactoryzine@gmail.com


If you want to tweet us, you can: @crimefactory


Site and launch date to be confirmed. Stay tuned. Good times guaranteed.


Cameron Ashley lives in Brunswick, Melbourne. He’s done stories for Plots with Guns, a Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and is upcoming at Darkest Before the Dawn. He figures it’s about time he attempted a novel set at home, since he complains about the general lack of quality in Australian crime fiction constantly (foot, meet mouth).

Guest Blogger: Gary Dobbs/ Jack Martin – Comedy


Comedy by Gary Dobbs

Paul said simply to blog, write about anything he said. And so I though I’d talk a little about my stand up comedy career – well I’ve not gigged in a couple of years, not since getting knocked out cold on stage by an irate punter who liked to heckle but wasn’t so fond of getting it back. I used to work the clubs under the stage name Dai Bando – the name of a character in Richard Llewellyn’s How Green was my Valley which was filmed by John Ford.). I’d come on stage with an inflatable sheep attached with Velcro to the groin of my trousers – start off with a little visual Welsh joke there. Hey, I’m Welsh but I’m not that fond of inflatable sheep.


I was never politically correct and I’ve always believed you can make racial jokes without being racist – if it’s just good fun and not intended to harm then there’s no problem. Trouble is people don’t feel like that on the increasingly sanitised comedy circuit. Comedy can be cathartic in the sense that by treating great tragedy with humour we are coping and not truly laughing at the subject. Comedy throughout history has always had a cruel streak.


Now don’t get me wrong my act wasn’t of the Bernard Manning variety, nor was it quite as lewd as Chubby Brown. I tended to talk about black subjects such as cancer and I would always try to push the boundaries of what was acceptable. But political correctness was even affecting comedians at the lower scale of the business, those that work the traditional clubs and for me there was no fun in an endless stream of jokes that could offend no one at all, well expect maybe for mother-in-law’s but then they’ve always been fair game.


I do on times think I’d like to go back to the gigging – I miss the smoke filled clubs, having to spend time before the show locked in a grotty dressing room with several strippers, the warm beer, the pre-show nerves and the hair raising feeling when the laughs come. But then I also remember the shows that died, the crap money and the punters in steroid induced rages.


One day Dai Bando may return…then again he might not.


Gary Dobbs is

Freelance writer, actor and novelist. As an actor I have appeared in Doctor Who, Torchwood, Gavin and Stacey, Moonmonkeys, Larkrise to Candleford, The Risen. As a novelist using the name Jack Martin my début novel, The Tarnished Star is available now and a second novel Arkansas Smith will follow in 2010. His blog The Tainted Archive is here: http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com/

Guest Blog: Lee Hughes – My View on Dialogue


When Paul asked me if I’d guest blog and said to do something on a favourite film, book, television show, or whatever, I had to have a little think. No point in me just listing the bountiful joy that Dogtanian and the Three Muskethounds brought my way, or Streethawk.

I thought about how I find dialogue from other mediums other than books a great help. I’m definitely of the belief that good dialogue is just as important, and if not more than the descriptive prose.

I look to television and films, both sides of the water. Though I am wary whenever I’m writing American dialogue as it’ll probably sound like I’m taking the piss. This brings me to a television show that to me encompasses everything that can be great about dialogue.

Boys from the Blackstuff first aired in 1982, in Thatcher’s England. Unemployment was at a high and there seemed no light, for most, at the end of the tunnel. I was a sprig of a kid in ’82, but remember the ’89 airing. So my only glimpse at the greyness of the time came through the goggle-box, and I was only watching it because my parents were and truly appreciated it after another re-run a few years later.

The series was written by the great playwright Alan Bleasdale. The acting was top-notch, but it was the dialogue was what made it shine for me. There was nothing flowery, it was just the grim poetry of reality. It was so real, so gritty, that it could easily have been footage from a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary that was just too savage to show.

Each episode was centred on a different character. Most Brits remember the great Yosser Hughes (no relation) played by Bernard Hill, and his rapid mental breakdown as he tried to get a job when his wife left and the social services were trying to take his kids away. Watching it was like watching a car start to weave in the road, you know it’s gonna crash, but you want the guilty pleasure of seeing it and not looking away, or closing your eyes to pray for the passengers. The dialogue broke up the mental torment with great humour, a real humour. It was honest and delivered with a feeling that it wasn’t staged, hadn’t come from six script-writers sat around a table trying to be funnier than the person sat next to them and coming up with a lab-like conjuring of mass-market jokes. The character Yosser on seeing Liverpool footballer Graeme Souness who held a striking resemblance to Yosser shouts, “You’re Graeme Souness, you look like me!” which showed the fundamental reason he was crashing so fast, his stolen male pride. In his head the famous person looked like him, whereas most people would say that he looked like Graeme Souness.

People say that to be a good writer you need to read, read, and read some more. I reckon you need to watch and listen to stuff just as much. Another for your viewing pleasure for great dialogue would have to be Auf Wierdesehen Pet.

 

Lee Hughes hangs around here: http://leehughes.net/

Guest Blogger: Steve Jensen – The Immortal Story


The Immortal Story
Steve Jensen

History was of such importance to Orson Welles that he rewrote his own life story many times over. Not content with the fawning of film critics nor the sniping of lesser beings, Welles wove myths around himself and left his hapless biographers to pick out the gold thread within the silk.

The truth is, lies have a glamour with which veracity cannot compete; why else our fascination for fiction? Even the greatest, most eventful lives are full of mundane moments, discord, the absence of that ‘epic grandeur’ for which Scott Fitzgerald yearned…Welles sought something beyond mere life; he displaced God and man in order to achieve this; these were the lesser beings I referred to earlier…

Now, if all the above seems overblown, pretentious and absurd, that is how it should be, for Welles was all these things and more. See him – in film smuggled out of an English studio and passed along gleefully – hurl epithets in the manner of a latterday Zeus at the crew recording his advertisment for frozen peas. Hear Him defy His maker with the leading question “For what is man that he should outlive the lifetime of his God?” in Huston’s Moby-Dick…Welles careered from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again, wilfully. Guest appearances on The Muppet Show? Always a pleasure. The creation of the greatest film in cinema’s history? A breeze. Commercials for fish fingers and cheap wine? Well, one must make a living…Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar set against a fascist backdrop as World War II loomed? And for my next trick…

Welles was a keen magician, boyishly enthusiastic about the sleight of hand, the willing victim of the ol’ shut-eye – how he loved to deceive, how he came to believe in his own deceptions…His F for Fake is a case in point: Welles told his audience that ‘everything you see in the next hour of this film will be true’. By the time we witness the affair between Picasso and Oja Kodar, an hour has passed unnoticed; the episode is entirely fictional; one can almost hear Orson’s satisfied sigh. With this film of forgers, charlatans and hoaxers, Welles confronted believers and unbelievers alike: he is telling them that he, the Emperor, is naked after all…but still they look on in awe, and with envy.

His reputation as the boy wonder of the arts, the modern-day Renaissance man, was hard-earned and fully deserved, but he wouldn’t have been that enfant terrible, the great Orson Welles, if he hadn’t improved on it a little. So, regardless of the glowing tributes, the secondhand anecdotes and the paeans of wonderment, he told his own tall tales; a random listing of such lovingly-crafted lies will suffice:

He claimed that his father broke the bank at Monte Carlo.
He swore that he once had lunch with Adolf Hitler.
He stated that he alone wrote Citizen Kanes script.

Welles couldn’t help himself – truth had to be stranger and more entertaining than fiction, or of what use was it? As Oscar Wilde wrote in The Decay of Lying: ‘One of the chief causes that can be assigned for the curiously commonplace character of most of the literature of our age is undoubtedly the decay of Lying as an art. The ancient historians gave us delightful fiction in the form of fact; the modern novelist presents us with dull facts under the guise of fiction.’ Orson was undoubtably Wildean in character – both were men of limitless ambition, creators of their own legends, self-made martyrs; when success came, they found it to be hollow, gaudy, unworthy of them; mere public ‘success’ was, somehow, beneath them. Wilde fulfilled his own prophecy by ending his days in decline and disgrace, Welles settled snugly into the descent of his career. Indeed, his later life became a celebration of what had been, what he had once been: Presenting, for one life only, The Orson Welles Retrospective…

So Orson lurched from chat show to chat show, retelling his stories and embellishing them each time. Occasionally, the host allowed him to perform a simple magic trick, and would pretend to be amazed at the outcome. Orson was indulged, but then, he had always been indulged. Welles would roll back the years, regale his captive daytime tv audience with The Stars I Have Known and The Days I Have Seen; nostalgia was his raison d’être, his way of life, a way of making a living. The cozy talk shows, the crass advertisments, the cameo roles – these were tolerated, he claimed, for one reason alone: to raise money for his latest film project, whatever that might be. Hollywood’s big shots had tired of him, thought him cocksure, tempestuous, all too glorious. One could level the same accusations at Leonardo and Michelangelo, but then, they had more discerning patrons…

As David Thomson wrote in his superb biography, Rosebud: ‘Welles was never happier than when looking back and seeing the lovely projection of his hopes.’ This is key: it is a clue to the secret of Orson Welles’s artistic vision. On the surface, it appears that Thomson is merely noting Orson’s vanity, his penchant for nostalgia, the obsessive building and rebuilding of the monument to himself. And certainly, his triumphs were remarkable, memorable, and have ensured the kind of ersatz immortality in which this myopic modern age specialises. But those triumphs were past, Welles’s hopes long dashed – why did he ruin his reputation? What did he ever gain from doling out anecdotes to the likes of Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson, from lying to his many biographers? There is more to this than money, no matter how loudly he protested that he needed it for more highbrow forms of culture.

The subtext of Thomson’s observation is, however, quite literally telling: Welles had divined the very essence of storytelling. I believe that the lies he told and the constant reinvention of his past in which Orson Welles indulged superceeded his need to make movies. Ostensibly denied the means to turn his grandiose, profound vision into reality – or at least, tangible form – Welles told stories which should be true, bestowing poetic symmetry on that tedious, unromantic thing we call life. We seek to impose an order, a discernible plan, divine or otherwise, on our existence – this is natural to us, and we are all natural storytellers. As Wilde said: ‘It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inarticulate manner that they hurt one by their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style’. Welles’ ‘tragedy’ was merely a melodrama, his tragic mask worn or cast aside as the moment decreed.

The truth is that Welles, Hollywood’s most famous fugitive, could have worked there again, but truth often gets in the way of a good story. And when he wasn’t spinning his more dubious tales, Welles looked back with justifiable pride on the stellar achievement of Kane, his world-famous role as Harry Lime in The Third Man, the notorious War of the Worlds broadcast, his magnificent Ambersons. But these could hardly be improved upon, and so he charmed his audience with counterfactual history:

What if…one could see the the Haitian Macbeth, hear the ominous pounding of the drums as the Weird Sisters, brilliantly recast as voodoo witch doctors, prophesied? The play was never recorded; lost to the world…I think Welles pretended to mourn its loss – replay a film onscreen a thousand times and it will never alter; replay it in the imagination, however, and one can edit it – and one’s accompanying recollections – to the heart’s content.

What if…he had been allowed to film The Pickwick Papers, with John Barrymore and WC Fields in the lead roles? He tried to cast Chaplin and Garbo together, as Gabriele d’Annunzio and Eleonora Duse; Chaplin’s legendary Monsieur Verdoux owes its genesis to Welles’s Ladykillers script; ‘Imagine this mind in charge of a studio,’ writes Thomson, ‘Why is the world so unfair or stupid as not to make these things?’ More pointedly, why did Welles revel in such ‘failures’? Heboasted of them, time and again, as if Nietzsche’s madman in the market place were announcing his own death.

My contention is this: an unfinished, potential masterpiece nevertheless keeps its promise of great art – the poignancy of unfulfillment is more important and enigmatic than full expression ever could be. Because the masterpiece is not realised, all that remains is mystery, and the most Romantic mysteries are the ones which are never solved. Incompletion allows us to speculate on the mystery’s solution – we have licence to imagine, to create; it makes artists of us all. Welles knew this, and when the world failed him, he cared little because his legacy was immaterial. Few who have read Shelley’s Ozymandias long to see the tyrant’s fabled palaces as they once were; the elegance lies in the ruins…they leave us free to rebuild, reinvent, to recreate the desert realm, in our minds. And, of course, we are free in wallow in the bittersweet romance of nostalgia. There is beauty inherent in the ‘remembrance of things past’, whether we think of love requited or unrequited, our vanished childhood – the days when the world seemed ours for the taking – or the perceived majesty of ancient times. The present is far too swift-footed for us to capture and tame; the future is unknowable; but the past is something we can create anew, as long as we live. We are all liars, because we are all storytellers. But perhaps Orson Welles was the greatest liar in his story.


Steven Paul Jensen was born in South Wales in 1965.
He is seeking publication of his novella, The Poison of a Smile while writing his second book, Ariele – A Ghost Story. Steve is working on a number of literary projects with Frank Duffy.

Shadows & Illusions: http://stevejensen.eu

The Immortal Story was first published in Sein und Werden magazine.

Guest Blogger: J. F. Juzwik – Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

Where Do Your Ideas Come From? by J. F. Juzwik

Recently, a very interesting question came up. I had provided some friends with a link to one of my stories that was recently published, and a couple of them asked me how in the world I came up with such nightmarish ideas. Since I write crime ‘fiction’, it wasn’t like I was pulling from court documents or newspaper archives, so where did I get my ideas for my characters and what happened to them? Funny, but I really had no quick answer to that.

The more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that, even though what I write is fiction, I am still drawing from my own experiences and from real life. I feel the need to clarify here though, that I am not, nor have I ever been, a law enforcement officer, a serial killer, or anything in between. I am also extremely fortunate to be able to state that I have never been the victim of a violent crime either. So what part of my life does it all come from?

The best way that I can put it is to say that my material comes from being a good watcher and a good listener. When we are out and about, we all see and hear things from those around us, but I believe there is something within a writer of crime and horror too (which I am as well) that drives us to look deeper and listen more carefully. From the standpoint of seeking material for characters, I have to admit I’ve found some of the best of mine just standing in a line waiting for…well, anything. If you simply watch people, carefully I might add, you can quickly determine those who are predatory by nature, and also those who have more than likely been victimized for their entire lives.

That is not to say that any of these people are criminals or that they’ve been involved in some type of illegal activity. It probably just amounts to something as simple as negotiating the purchase of an item at a sidewalk sale or returning a sweater for a refund without the receipt. Carefully watching and listening somehow enables us to know who will not get that chipped bookcase for an extra 50 cents off and who will not only get their money back for the sweater, but will also get a coupon for money off on anther one.

Alright, now we’ve got some basic traits for characters. What do we do now? That’s where we, as writers, come in. We imagine–yes, I did say imagine–how that type of individual would see a particular situation or event. We become that type of individual and let them see it through our own eyes. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense on its face, but what we basically do is assume the role. It’s play-acting really, just like kids who play cops and robbers. Some become the cops and some become the robbers. They let the role consume them. They walk and talk and think like the character they are portraying. That’s what writers have to do.

It sounds a bit crazy, I suppose (perhaps I shouldn’t use that word), but when I’m writing dialogue for whoever, I put myself in their shoes. I become that particular character with a particular past, particular likes and dislikes, particular fears and needs, etc. Then, when responding, I become the other character, and so on. Multiple personality time? Most definitely. Open your mind and they will come. You see, it’s important to make your characters believable. That’s the only way you can make your readers believe. If your readers can’t believe or relate in some way, what is there about it that they can enjoy? And, if they can’t enjoy it, well…you know what that means.

Events, experiences, and even crimes–whatever happens to these characters we create, well, they can come from anywhere. I believe, most of the time, they come from an exaggeration of something in our lives. Let’s say, someone cuts you off in traffic . Perhaps it’s a stretch going from mouthing something unsavory to dismembering the driver, but you get my point. In our ‘real’ lives, we probably would go with saying something nasty while keeping our windows rolled up. But the killer in our story? He would step it up a notch or twelve. That’s where imagination comes in. Am I saying we just sit and make things up? Of course. What else!
Crime, horror, whatever, ultimately, it all comes from within the writer–true. But, it’s what we take in and mix with what’s already in there that helps us to create the stuff dreams and nightmares are made of.

Bio: J. F. Juzwik has had a crime fiction novel, a horror short, and several crime shorts published. Her thriller will soon be appearing in an anthology. She is a member of several writers’ networks and maintains a blog for both writers and readers at jfjuzwik.blogspot.com Information on all her projects can be found on her website at jfjuzwik.webs.com

KING’S BISHOP TAKES KING’S ROOK’S PAWN
http://www.diskuspublishing.com/kingsbishop.html
http://www.jfjuzwik.webs.com
http://www.jfjuzwik.blogspot.com

Guest Blog: Danny Hogan – Them Old Westerns


Last weekend I visited my local second hand bookshop, the Two Way Exchange in Brighton’s North Laines area, in my search for pulps. As usual this meant perusing the crime section and heavily scrutinising the Science Fiction wall. I found very little apart from an sf number entitled Ginger Star which I bought for novelty reasons. I was on my way out when I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. It was a glint of light hitting the barrel of a Colt .45. Wielding this oldschool piece was righteously mean looking cowboy in full fig. The battered Stetson with the rim curled at the sides, denim jacket, batwing chaps, the lot. At his aft was naught more than a sage bushed desert and bright blue sky. He was Marshall McCoy’s Nevada Jim and he was planning on bringing justice to a lynch happy town according to a small piece of blurb. Thus, tucked away in a small corner of the shop that was practically obscured by the custodian’s counter, I discovered the Westerns section. Nobody had been by this way in a long while. I blew the dust off of the dog eared tomes shoved into Gaffer tapped racks and found stacks of pulp westerns in all their garish glory. Although I would count MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman and the Redskins as one of the best stories I have read so far, I wasn’t sure about westerns as a genre. I had read a few Zane Greys and I did not like the pace of them, so I bought two just to try them out. They were Gun Flash – A Nevada Jim Western by Marshall McCoy and McGee by Alex Hawke. The latter attracted me because of the blurb on the font cover: “McGee had nothing he could call his own – except a lust for vengeance.” Yeah, simple language, job’s a good’un.

 

I took them home and totally devoured them. Where had this stuff been my whole life, I asked myself. Apart from the punchy language, and great dialogue I realised instantly the attraction they held. They were the perfect antidote to today’s living. Pure escapism. They’re set in frontier lands, unpredictable and dangerous. Little town’s where living is simplified and everything is cut down to the bear essentials. You have a saloon or two, a store, a hotel and of course the court house, which is usually run by a hopelessly inept dullard, or a corrupt bastard (like real life I suppose). There’s no having to meet targets and deadlines, no 78 emails – not including junk – on a Monday morning and no god forsaken mobile phones. They are peopled by dastardly villains and their idiot henchmen and feisty ladies who are nobody’s fools. The protagonists are usually quiet loners, quick with their fists and fast on the draw. They always have the best lines which are kept to as few words as possible; something that any student of fiction should take a look at.

 

If people do read this and then go out and buy up all the Westerns then I feel a bit like I’m shooting myself in the foot. Because of their current lack of popularity the Westerns section is a sure fire way to find original pulps. They tend to go as quick as you please in the crime and sf sections. I had to knock someone the fuck out over an original Mickey Spillane, last time I found one. So if you do go out and buy a load of Western’s be sure to leave a few copies for Ol’Danny, d’ya hear?

 

Ends

Bio: Danny Hogan is the founder of Pulp Press http://www.pulppress.co.uk/ and the author of Killer Tease. He was brought up by thieves and bandits in West London, and led a life of crime in Paris. He currently resides in Brighton where he reads and writes and deals with other peoples problems.
danny@penpress.co.uk

Guest Blog: Bruce Grossman – Dr Who

Now for those familiar with the site Bookgasm which I write for my inner geek comes through every once in a while. But since I write a column over there that is mainly in the crime/men’s adventure/pulp vein. I rarely get chance to truly geek out. My name is Bruce Grossman and I grew up a Dr Who geek. Now let me explain these were the days that PBS was the only place you could see the show. These were the times that finding any information about the show was hit and miss depending on the comic book store you would go to. Dr. Who was unlike Star Trek or Star Wars where every one at least knew of them. Even if they never saw the movies or shows they at least understood what you were talking about. But as a sixth grader in Rhode Island it was not what you would call a topic of your friends. I mean trying to explain Dr Who to people who have never watched it. Was about as easy as explaining colors to a blind person.

See Dr Who was truly the extreme of geekiness back then. But I lived my little geeky life keeping my love for this weird British sci if show to myself. Even when someone would bring it up they would just slam the awful effects. I would keep my love to myself. It was just not something I could truly express the joy the show gave me. Now yes the effects were lacking. But that is not what kept me entertained. No matter how many times my local PBS would repeat the same stories over and over. It was the writing of the stories. If you don’t believe me rent The Pyramid of Mars or The Talons of Weng Chiang. You just get sucked into these stories so fast that you forgive its short comings. Trust me there is a huge difference seeing these shows with child like eyes and now a person in his forties. What scared the crap out of me as a kid: giant rats, human eating clams, giant insects, and Daleks. I see them now as working on a budget like effects.

So with this new Dr Who series that started a few years ago. Kids not only get much cooler effects and monsters. There are some top notch stories to keep them coming back for more. Also there is a wider audience that has now embraced the show. I can’t wait to see how they are going to pull off the last two episodes of David Tennet’s run as the Doctor. Especially after watching Water Of Mars which featured ideas which were never broached in the old series. Being a Dr who fan is not the badge of geekness it once was. It’s more the feeling of finally getting our due for a series and character we loved so much. And for the record my five favorite stories:

1. Talons of Weng Chiang (Tom Baker)

2. Blink (David Tennet)

3. Pyramid of Mars (Tom Baker)

4. Inferno (John Pertwee)

5. Being Human/Family of Blood (David Tennet)

Bruce Grossman is a writer for a book review site called Bookgasm. Where he covers a variety of books in his weekly column Bullets, Broads, Blackmail & Bombs. http://www.bookgasm.com/tag/bullets-broads/ Sometimes his inner geek will appear but most of the time its his music geek side that is dominant.

Guest Blogger: Frank Duffy – Football


Football by Frank Duffy

One of the things you have to get used to when you live abroad, apart from the fact that that they don’t sell cigarettes in tens, and there seems to an absence of pasty retail selling outlets, and even more shockingly, that they’ve never heard of White Lightning cider, is that of nearly all the people you come across, whether they’re heavy drinking expats with a cheap sideline in performance art or animal buggery, aka ‘we were once involved in the entertainment business’ (former Butlins holiday camp reps are notoriously adept at migrating where there are no sex offenders lists), or whether you are talking to one of the indigenous folk who have but the barest knowledge of where you come from, which is a fair trade considering we have no intention of learning their language, is that we are all looking for a connection of some sorts.

Now I’m not talking about that connection, but about the things we look for in others when we first meet, the interests, the corresponding obscure habits, the self-confessed taste for big-budget 80’s action films, and so on. Okay, yes, it is a little bit like that connection, the dance of the perpetually inebriated, as I have often called it; drunk on our new potential partner’s fondness for Bram Stoker and fizzy orange pop, how else could it not be likened to downing six pints of eleven percent proof Polish beer with your hand clapped to your head in feigned outrageousness. Anyway, I digress. But this connection is something we instinctively gravitate to the moment we open our mouths, like prospecting for verbal gold dust, shifting through the small talk and the sarcastic asides meant to demonstrate a wit hitherto unspent, and seizing it till it’s ragged and lifeless or the alcohol and money has finally, thankfully, run out.

And with me, this connection with a lot of the people I meet is bloody football. Footie. The classless game, the beautiful game, a game of two f**king halves, and endless moronic sound-bites, which make my head hurt and my ears bleed.

In fairness I think telling people I’m from Liverpool is what does it. Though I sound as much like a Scouser as I do Scandinavian bagpipe player. Having been brought up in a village on Merseyside it only qualifies that you’re a Scouser when abroad. People always are always asking where I grew up, and I always offer Liverpool. It’s easier that way. It makes me sound more interesting. What? Tell them I grew up in a provincial northern village where hotwiring tractors, and sheep rustling was the norm? No, thank you.

But I was born in Liverpool and half my family (lapsed Catholics except for the immense proliferation of cheeky scamps) live and work there. So, in my eyes, if only mine, I bag Liverpool as my place of origin.

And this is where I have inadvertently shot myself in the proverbial foot so many times in the past. Especially here in Poland. Mention to anyone that I come from near Liverpool, and you can practically guarantee that there response will consist of two words: Jerzy Dudek. They will say these two words with such hushed reverence that I’ve often wondered whether these sanctified words are endowed with possible magical properties…such as Open Sesame, or ‘make mine a double scotch on the rocks’. They will nod so vigorously that I find myself doing likewise; it is as if these two words combine to form a higher form of cultural consciousness which bridges our two distinctively cultural worlds.

Now for those of you not in the football know, for those of you who orbit what I call the world of planet normal, Mr Dudek was the former goalkeeper of the Polish national squad, and formerly the No 1 for Liverpool, most importantly helping them win the European Championship in 2005. His heroic status on Merseyside is only surpassed in intensity in Poland. The Poles are big fans of English football, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool being the big four. So when their former national goalkeeper manages to steer Liverpool to the championship for the first time in over 20 years, you can bet your bottom dollar that my vague proximity to that great city is brought up as often as ‘do you like LFC?’. It cannot be avoided, and if the truth be told, I quite like it. For all my avoidance of anything smelling remotely of patriotic Englishness, I’m somewhat proud of my birthplace, though please don’t ask me about the goddamn Beatles.

And it was this instantaneousness of connection, this sudden leap into each others’ metaphorical arms, which began to reveal something about myself I had up to this point never quite owned up to. You see, the thing is, and I don’t want to sound as if I’m years late coming out the football closet, but I’m not a football fan. Of course I have rolled along in many a conversation acting as if I was, preening my knowledge gleaned from Match of the Day the night before, debated the fallacy of the latest midfield striker gifted the England No 7 jersey, and cried and raged at each World Cup Match failure. But this is expected of every Englishman, especially those abroad. Violent dismissal of one’s roots is one thing, but the roots are so deep, so stubbornly implanted, that if you were to attempt to dig them out, you’d find them curled tight about the Jules Rimet cup, proud and defiant. You just can’t take the football out the Englishman.

Or can you?

The problem with football coming from a city like Liverpool is that it is unique above all others because of one glaring fact. It is not that Everton is the other major team coming from the city (also a big club, and the team alongside Arsenal which has played for over forty years in the top flight), nor that their fans, while heavily opposed to each others’ good fortune (praying for catastrophe and relegation to befall each other like all good supporters are taught from birth), are the only two groups who do not find the time to go out and pleasantly bottle each other to death for daring to wear different tops. Liverpool is so close knit, so begrudgingly respectful, so enamored with its own romanticism, that the familial allegiance of supporting two different teams unofficially prohibits dad from head-butting Uncle Steve into next week. You just can’t beat up member of your own family over football. Not in Liverpool. No, the problem is that anyone coming from outside of England are usually unaware that Everton actually exists. Such as the average Polish football supporter. Now in itself this wasn’t originally a problem. Oh, my knee-jerk reaction was to fully update the ignoble buffoon who had mistakenly made this most erroneous of judgments, that you rest can rest assured on. I guess that was my lovely heritage. But what arose from this was a gradual dawning of biblical proportions. I began to feel less and less cantankerous towards whatever villain had managed to leave Everton out of the football equation, and actually begun to feel sort of…well…indifferent. I told myself I was simply isolated from my weekly fix of football, that I was one of those chaps who would stay up late and catch two hours of lower league football into the early hours of the morning, and that having this amputated from my social calendar was understandable. But I also reminded myself that there had been a period in my life where I’d stayed awake every single night for six months to watch omnibus editions of WWC wrestling (the whore cousin of WWF), and endless reruns of Prisoner Cell Block H segueing into eternity. It was clear I was a man of nocturnal patterns, a hangover from my short-lived university days.

Now for some time I subconsciously debated with that part of myself that was aware, that was prudent and willing to accept defeat, that it might just be a coincidence of which I had yet to unravel. I was stubborn, you see. And so I continued with the great charade.

That was until the European Championship Final of 2005.

It goes without saying that neither man nor beast shall deviate from their team of choice once they have set out their stall and proclaimed their devotion. It as much spiritual endeavor as it is a pointless one. I know two brothers who still argue about one brother’s change of support from Liverpool to Everton in the mid 1980’s. The brother who remained ‘loyal’ has never let the other brother forget that he’d jumped ship when he was just 8 years old. They are both now in their late thirties.

And this is where I finally came of age and could no longer sidestep the obvious conclusion to which was I was heading with such agreeable force and speed.

On the night in question I was one of eighty people gathered before a gargantuan TV screen in a pub in the Polish town of Zielona Gora. That I was a supposed Evertonian, did not come into it. I was every inch the Liverpool fan; small though I am, my vociferous support drowned out three-quarters of the congregation. I told myself that I was only vocalizing such eagerness in salutation to my brothers. But the truth was there, propelling me from my seat, making me wave my arms around, inserting the required passion necessary at times like these.

It could not be ignored any longer.

Never before in the annals of football history had one man laid claim to one football team, and then just as quickly flipped sides like the toss of a dazzling, but petty coin.

But what had once shackled me to annoying bouts of football discussion, of which I expertly proved that one can talk shit with the best of them given enough time and encouragement, now unshackled me and bade me good day and good riddance.

Without realizing it Everton themselves, by being the lesser known of two teams, had allowed me to escape back to the normality I had dreamt about.

So, if you happen to come across me somewhere in the middle of Poland, a chance meeting, an unfortunate sharing of a dilapidated carriage on the antiquarian Polish train service, don’t engage me with tales of Wayne Rooney, or bait me with predictions of England’s imaginative progress into the World Cup Finals next year.

I really don’t care. I just don’t like football.

As the late and great Patrick McGoohan once said: ‘I am not a number, I am a free man.’

My bio: Frank Duffy is a writer from England currently living in Warsaw, Poland. He knows Paul Brazil by default, though it might have been a case of mistaken identity. He writes horror usually, loves evading the pitfalls of a regular job and empathizes heavily with Mickey Rourke on the importance of dogs. He shares a website with his saner alter-ego Steve Jensen on ‘The Journal’. Here:

http://coaction.wordpress.com/

#FridayFlash/ Guest Blogger: Jeanette Cheezum – My Neighbor Jacob


My Neighbor Jacob by Jeanette Cheezum

Thank God, Jacob a lonely widower in his sixties lived across the street and came to my rescue. Things always broke down and I was alone with the kids. I’d fix him a meal when I had a few extra dollars and the kids loved to hear his stories about the old country
( Ireland ). I wondered why Jacob’s children never came to visit him.

After days of not seeing him in his yard and a visibly full mailbox, I decided to check on him. No one answered. What should I do? I called his number again and again and still no answer. Then I took it upon myself to go try the back door, with no available means of entry, I checked the windows. None were open. I placed a ladder against a wooden window frame of his bungalow. The blinds were closed and I felt like a failure. When I started down the rungs of the ladder something caught my attention…inside the corner of the window. A curtain not entirely in place and the blind was raised a couple of inches. My heart sunk, Jacob was on the floor spread eagle. I slipped trying to get down and ran home as fast as possible to call 911.

The ambulance arrived and another neighbor came to help break into his home.
Jacob hung onto life, barely. They administered CPR and gave him oxygen. I picked up his keys. The ride to the hospital was wicked, all I could think was . . . why didn’t he call me? Why didn’t I check on him earlier? Guilt ridden, I followed closely.

No one would allow me to be by his side. I drove back to his house and searched for his personal phonebook. He hadn’t written any last names. I dialed every number in his book. Finally, I reached his sister and she gave me the names of his children. Each one was less than cordial. I couldn’t believe they weren’t interested. This was their father. Until one of them blurted, “Apparently, you don’t know my father as well as you think. He killed my mother and served thirty years in jail. Is there anything else?”

Bio:

Jeanette is a charter member of the Hampton Roads Writers.

A veteran member and published on numerous online writing sites and E-Zine’s.

Published in two of Smith Magazine’s memoir books and in Six Sentence’s 6S Volume 2.

All three made the New York Times best sellers list.

Forthcoming book: Harbinger*33.

#FridayFlash/ Guest Blogger: Michael J Solender – Damn-it Janet

Damn-it Janet
by Michael J. Solender
Janet is mixing me a cocktail. She walks into the garden to get some fresh mint. Her Mojitos are a kind of witches brew that taste nothing like what we get at Pauli’s. That’s a good thing. The sludge they serve there is enough to make me swear off booze for good. They must water down their stock and pour bottom shelf, bargain booze into the high-priced bottles.

“Damn-it, Janet,” I holler as she’s coming in the kitchen, “We’re never going to Pauli’s again, why the hell do we go there anyway?”

“Sweetie, I hate when you call me damitjanit, don’t do that. I’m fixing us a pitcher so we can stay home and cuddle. We go to Pauli’s ‘cause your buddies hang out there and Pauli is allegedly your friend from Jew-school days.” She was mottling the mint leaves, that girl knew how to mottle.

“Jeezus, Pauli was a jerk-off then, and he was never my friend, his sister had huge knockers and a thing for me so I just pretended to like him to get hand jobs from Cheri. Hand jobs are a big deal when you’re 13, and she stoked me like the series of pistons on that straight-eight your brother drives. Bar Mitzvah class, was eons ago, how do you remember this shit?”

She was now getting intimate with Jose Cuervo herself and not paying the least bit of attention to me. She left the screen door ajar and I sat there watching as two little lizards scurry past my flip flops and straight into the pantry. I was never gonna catch those bastards and they were gonna die in there and stink the whole place up.
“Hoooneeeeyy! Jeezzus, you left the door open and we got Wild Kingdom comin’ in here! Ferchrissakes!”

“What? You want a Mojito?, Straight up or rocks? Whaddaya talkin’ about?”

“Jeezzus never-mind.” That’s all I had to do was tell her that there were two reptiles in the house and she would freak, I was up for a drink and memories of Cheri Zats got me wondering if I could talk Janet into some horizontal mambo action. “This is the life sweetie, Saturday, no plans, a pitcher of Mojitos and you are looking mi-tee-fine!”

“Forget it. I’m having my period and feel like shit. Keep the hell away from me, can’t we just cuddle without you wanting sex all the damn time. Jeezzus have another drink.” She was already on number two.

I got up off the coach and started over to the pantry for some nuts when those two, tiny iguana wannabes ran out and onto the large kitchen rug, but not before running right over Janet’s bare feet. Her scream freaked me out and didn’t do much for the lizards as they darted about up against the kick board but still on the rug.

I grabbed the corners, configured it into a giant quesadilla, trapping them on the inside and screamed at her to open the door. Her frosty drink in one hand, she leaned over and gave the screen door a push with the other and I followed through it, shaking those stunned mini-dinosaurs out onto the mulch.

The whole thing was over in 30 seconds and we both started laughing.

“C’mere my big strong man,” she said teasing my ass, “You need some loving after that.”

“I thought..your period…”

“It never used to bother you..”
********
Michael J. Solender loves a good Mojito, especially after one or two earlier ones. He blogs here: http://notfromhereareyou.blogspot.com/

EFL Teacher, Writer, Editor.

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