Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Evil

It's been a good year professionally for me. Both AMONG US and PETER ROTTENTAIL came out direct to video, with RAZORTEETH and SEX MACHINE in production. A few failed projects along the way, as well but that's par for the course and perhaps best to let them stay buried. In the summer I had a great time teaching workshops and helping judge MicrocinemaFest 2004 in Rapid City, as well as helping select films for the Oranje Art and Music Event in Indianapolis. I have gotten a chance to meet and work with a lot of good people. I went to Dayton's Scary Camp con as well as Indy's GenCon, and in the fall my brother and I roadtripped to the Polonia Brothers suprise birthday party in Pennsylvania. I got interviewed at and was reviewed in Cinescape Magazine. Hopefully there will be some good projects in 05 as well. Every year I stop and think whether I want to keep going. This year I've had a good spate of luck, but everything's cyclical. I hope the wave doesn't crest for a bit longer.

For 2005 I would like to see a few good projects come to fruition in the movie scene as well as break into comic-book writing. I keep thinking I'll jump behind a camera and put together something for myself as well. Who knows what might happen.

I wish all of my loyal readers good luck in 2005 with your own projects.

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Black Christmas

Where has the holiday blogging gone? I think it started when a foot of snow dumped on Indiana the day before Christmas Eve, snowing us in with knee-deep and above drifts, followed by subzero temperatures that froze my pipes Christmas Day, thawed out four hours later via hair dryer and space heater; then there was the flu my daughter and I have struggled with since, wasting several good loaf-off vacation days (thanks for the flu shots, W!). It was so bad, we actually watched a marathon of The 4400 taped off of the Sci-Fi Channel. So no blogging from my tin-can-and-string home dial-up, and no scriptwriting; I had hoped to work like a coked-up 80s sitcom writer over break, to no avail. Nothing but cough medicine and Alka-Seltzer cold tablets coursing through my veins. Luckily my pal Doug dropped off the Identity Crisis miniseries from DC so that I can slump on the couch and figure out what all the fuss is about.

Favorite gifts: a Carhart suit, a six-foot fiberglass ladder, Bill Clinton's autobiography.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

OMAC: One Man Army Corps

I'm doing a bit of soul-searching right now because I learned that my subscription folder at the local comics shop was emptied, as I had three issues each of all my monthly titles backed up. I can understand, I had only been going to that shop for ALMOST TWENTY YEARS, with subscription service since around 1990, and had co-hosted a local cable access show about comics that ran for over 75 episodes, so I could abruptly decide to quit reading comics and leave town at any time.

But to be fair, three months of comics is three months of comics, and I have to wonder where the time went. I think I got a steady fix from the several-foot stack that my pal Doug leaves at my house regularly, plus the stuff I mooch off my brother, plus the blissful shelf of TPBs at the local library. But I think what I posted on here a while back is true; I read more ABOUT comics every day (as seen in my links column to the right) than I probably do actually read comics. I think bursts of work, then shots of personal and professional setbacks, perhaps played a part as well.

At least it's a chance to evaluate my subscription list and see what I still want to get in the new year, and see what's worth catching up on and finding in the back issue bins. A slash and burn, followed by a recon mission, if you will. The start of a new year.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Feeders 2: Slay Bells

Our little town has a "Christmas Walk" where all the local businesses are open late and have cider and candy and there are carolers and carriage rides and pretty much all the yuletide stuff one would expect. We thought it would be funny to have our sixteen-year-old daughter get a picture with Santa and after much arguing she agreed. Unfortunately we did not get a look at Santa beforehand, assuming he would be an old guy smelling faintly of something medicinal. This turned out instead to be a twenty-something dude who was more than happy to have my teenaged daughter sit on his lap. An elf even high-fived him as we left! That little bastard should have been paying ME, not the other way around!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Power Man and Iron Fist

Found when cleaning my desk at home. This is me and my pal Doug getting ready to host a talk about comic books at a local library some years back, when we used to host a local cable show before my movie-writing days. An old lady came up after it was over with a suitcase full of pristine comics from the 50s for us to evaluate. I wish I'd told her they were worth nothing and given her $20. Posted by Hello

Friday, December 17, 2004

Bill Smalley and the Power of the Human Eye

I went to two blogs today that were doing the same meme, screenwriting pal Scott Phillips and comic book writer Will Pfeiffer so I decided to do it as well:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

Conan and the Shaman's Curse by Sean A. Moore. I read this one a long time ago and enjoyed it pretty well, out of that long series of Tor knock-offs that were done. I am carrying it around to Bookcrossing it somewhere.

"Ngomba had lost so much blood that his skin was as pale as the stranger's."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold

Some of my Hoosier-flavored reviews are now getting cross-posted at another good site, So if you missed them at you can catch up with them here.

More info on RAZORTEETH from the Polonia Brothers popped up on here.

Still interested in this. (Link poached from my pals at Cinema Minima).

Some people found my blog by typing in john dalton begging middle end after, picture someone screaming, how to beat shadow queen, and cornhole games. Um, thanks for visiting.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Kill the Boss Good-Bye

Loyal readers know I write a column called "Book Beat" for the quarterly publication Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence, a magazine from the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference. Here's the article I wrote this time out, maybe of some interest to people here:

It’s always fun to review the newest bestsellers from the latest hot writers, but sometimes it’s even more fun when you find an old yellowed paperback for a quarter or a dime at a yard sale or flea market that turns out to be a real treat. For this installment of BOOK BEAT, I am going to turn the pages backward, to a baker’s dozen of old favorites that deserve a second look.

This one’s a bit easy but it’s a good way to kick off the theme. Because of a spate of movies and re-releases Jim Thompson went from being out of print to being somewhat popular again, with AFTER DARK MY SWEET, THE GRIFTERS, and others. This hard-boiled thriller with a shocking denouement is a lesser-known entry in his rediscovered works and worth a read.

PHANTOM LADY by Cornell Woolrich
Also a bit easy, and Woolrich isn’t quite as unknown as he once was. But I have to include this one on the list as it is one of my favorite novels of all time, eye-opening writing by a haunted and scarred author; and if you haven’t discovered Woolrich yet, grab this one, then THE BRIDE WORE BLACK and I MARRIED A DEAD MAN.

THE DRAGON’S EYE by Scott C.S. Stone
This tidy little spy thriller won an Edgar in 1969—surprising, as you don’t hear much about this author anymore, though he went on to do other work in a number of genres. This one deals with a war correspondent who ends up a reluctant spy behind “the bamboo curtain” in 60s Asia. Finding this one at the Indiana State Fair for a quarter, then looking up more info about this author after reading this paperback in a single setting, sparked this article.

PICK UP by Charles Willeford
Willeford had a late-career burst of recognition with his Hoke Moseley novels (notably MIAMI BLUES, made into a film of the same name), but this early work is a devastatingly blunt looks at the human condition, framed in the bleakest noir setting.

RIDE THE PINK HORSE by Dorothy B. Hughes
Curiously, Hughes quit writing mysteries at what was basically the height of her popularity; and it’s a shame, as one will find when reading novels like IN A LONELY PLACE and this one, a revenge story set in a southwestern locale.

I’ve been surprised that Hamilton’s extremely tough-minded Matt Helm books aren’t discussed more often anymore; but, fortunately, neither are the woeful Dean Martin film versions. This non-series entry is one of my favorite outings from the prolific author.

THE SCRAMBLED YEGGS by Richard S. Prather
Here’s another guy that’s off the radar now after a long run with the enjoyably tongue in cheek Shell Scott detective series. Lots of good choices here, like SLAB HAPPY, THE TROJAN HEARSE, and DIG THAT CRAZY GRAVE, but this is probably my favorite mystery novel title of all time.

THE HEAT’S ON by Chester B. Himes
I am a long-time fan of Himes’ Harlem detective novels (which include COTTON COMES TO HARLEM and THE BIG GOLD DREAM), and this is probably my favorite; Gravedigger and Coffin Ed, Himes’ two pistol-whipping police detectives, prowl the back alleys of the big city in their huge slab of low-riding Detroit steel. This entry especially is written with lots of energy and humor.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY by William Lindsay Gresham
Some might remember the Tyrone Power movie based on this novel, about the rise and fall of a con man working in a carnival sideshow—but it’s not a patch on this novel, harrowing from top to bottom.

Also the basis of a film, and again the original—about the desperate people involved in a grueling marathon dance contest—is a stark portrayal of down-at-the-heels characters in marginalized lives.

DOWN THERE by David Goodis
Better known as SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER, a story about a fallen musician trying to keep on the straight and narrow is a crackling read. Goodis’ works seem to have fallen through the cracks over the years despite the success of this one and DARK PASSAGE, both of which were turned into films.

British novelist Rathbone is still writing, in a number of genres, but some of his early works have gone out of print—including this one, a unique spy story featuring a circus performer and his twin, a secret agent. Original storytelling and offbeat characters, as well as an unusual title.

For me, Peter Rabe is the perfect writer for this article; in my mind the best mystery writer nobody has ever heard of. Although I also really like JOURNEY INTO TERROR and MURDER ME FOR NICKELS, this one gets the nod because of the unusual (for a noir) overseas setting.

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Friday, December 10, 2004

Glass Onion

I haven't done a meme in a while, so here's an odd one from Four for Friday, with answers off of the top of my head:

Q1: A 14-year-old Australian boy, Christopher Harris, announced yesterday that next Spring he plans to become the youngest person ever to attempt to climb and summit Mt. Everest. How do you feel about someone as young as Harris attempting such a risky endeavor?

Where are this kid's parents at? They should read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer.

Q2: Are you better off or worse today financially then you were four years ago at this same time (in December of 2000)?

Probably a bit tighter, but pretty close to the same.

Q3: Do you personally know anyone who has made it really big either in Hollywood, politics, sports, or business? If you don't know anyone directly, how about thru that whole X Degrees of Separation thing?

I know a ton of people through the six degrees of separation, though my brother doesn't believe in it. No degrees of separation, I went to high school with Cynda Williams and used to work with Richard O'Brien's son Linus. My wife's childhood best friend is the bestselling author Haven Kimmel.

Q4: If you could choose one event from any point in the future whose outcome could be known to you now, what would you like to know?

Like most people I'd like to scope out my funeral.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mind Games

I meant to post yesterday about the anniversary of John Lennon's death, way back in 1980. It was a very snowy day in Indiana. I remember my mom waking up and telling me he had been shot the day before. She was more upset than I was at first, I think. I was a freshman in high school, and that day the Art Club was going to go around and paint holiday decorations on city buildings, like the post office. We thought we'd get a snow day, but no luck. I got thrown in a group with a lot of older kids, including a senior artist I looked up to named Harold and a funky girl named Melissa I was afraid to talk to. I kind of hung back and listened to Harold and all of the older kids talk about the Beatles all day, and their music played out of every radio. I know the 70s were wild if you were older, but in my estimation it was the last good time to be a kid. When John Lennon got killed that seemed to me to be the death knell of that time. After that, all crazy things seemed possible.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Legend of Justice Bao

Some preliminary info about RAZORTEETH has popped up on here.

My pals over at REwindvideo, an amateur moviemaking site who are also responsible for MicroCinema Fest, did a nice site relaunch here.

We posted our 200th review at Microcinema Scene today. I've put up about 90 myself. All the news fit to print here.

Some long-time readers may recall the discussion when I realized that I was actually the Bizarro-John Dalton and that this other guy, who attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop, taught fiction, and lives the artistic life in North Carolina, is the real John Dalton. I first came across the real John Dalton when I opened a copy of the acclaimed "Story" magazine at the hospital during a life-and-death visit and found my own name staring back at me. Well, now the real John Dalton has published his first novel.

A sometimes reader of my blog sent me the following email:

have you really becomes as cool as the photo tries to suggest? reminds me of steve martin in father of thebride 2 (I only saw the trailer but you get the idea?)

Sorry, no. Good picture, though, taken at Mt. Rushmore by Jon Ashby at the aforementioned, poached for my own evil purposes. Thanks for writing!

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Bang the Drum Slowly

Why nobody likes prognosticator "Johnny Ace" in my online fantasy football league:

MONDAY NIGHT MATCHUP: BISONS (5-4-1) VS. THUNDER (6-4): Two premiere teams in a really close matchup. But the Ace believes that Bison is the plural of Bison, not Bisons, so the Ace takes the Thunder.

INDIFFERENCE BOWL: PATS (4-4-1) VS. PUNT (5-4): A couple of dozy middle of the packers that the Ace doesn't have any feeling one way or the other about. Does he dare to eat a peach? The Patriots, in another moderate upset.

DOG OF THE WEEK: BISONS (7-4-1) VS. EXPRESS (2-9-1): The buffalo vs. the buffalo chip. Brazil by a brazillion.

DOG OF THE WEEK: WOODSMEN (4-5) VS. EXPRESS (2-6-1): How much wood could the Woodsmen chuck, if the Woodsmen could chuck wood? A lot, against the truly woeful Express.

UPSET SPECIAL: T&R (6-4) VS. WARRIORS (3-7): Last week the Ace had some Italian sausage and picked the Warriors for the first time all season--but guess what, the Ace had bratwurst last night and can't help but pick the Warriors again this week.

YET ANOTHER DOG OF THE WEEK: PATS (5-4) VS. EXPRESS (2-7-1): The Express are probably wondering when the Ace is going to eat something and pick them in an upset. It would be arsenic, and then the Ace would predict no more.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Du Bi Quan Wang Da Po Xue Di Zi

A student asked to interview me for a newswriting class at the university, obviously sorely wanting for better subject matter. Here for your modest enjoyment is how I responded to his email.

1. What is your background? When did you start writing? Did you have any specific inspirations?
I started drawing comic books when I was a kid, and when I was in high school I realized my word balloons were bigger than my pictures so I switched mostly to writing. In high school I won several awards in a statewide one-act play contest for high school kids, and that encouraged me to keep going. In college I won the first David Letterman award ever given a script project, and that gave me the confidence to continue to pursue it. I have always been interested in a number of different elements of scriptwriting, including comic books and radio dramas as well as television and film.

2. What do you feel are your major accomplishments so far?
Winning the David Letterman Scholarship in 1987 was a big accomplishment and has opened a lot of doors, and if nothing else it is an interesting conversation piece. Having my name in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter was a big thrill the first time until I realized it really didn't mean anything. Seeing the first screenplay that I sold getting turned into a movie, and then finding it for sale and on the shelves, was really exciting and probably another milestone.

3. What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy all kinds of things, from camping and hiking to winemaking to reading to watching movies. I collect stamps and comic books. I still every once in a while put out my own 'zine or comic.

What are your favorite movies and why?
My favorite movies include Dr. Strangelove, Manhattan, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Sunset Boulevard, and Stalag 17. I think that not only are they movies like I would like to make, but I suspect that--like with most people that talk about their favorite anythings--they represent certain times of my life.

4. Do you have any amusing anecdotes regarding scriptwriting?
One of my favorite scenes in "Among Us" is when the characters sit around a fire and tell about their own Bigfoot sightings. Unfortunately that blazing fire was built with a copy of my script, since so much of the wood was wet that day. I think that's an important lesson for any budding screenwriter to learn.

5. Who do you feel has made the biggest impact on you as a writer?
I have always looked up to William Goldman and read all of his books as well as peruse his screenplays. Once when I was really low professionally one of his books kind of sprung off the shelf and helped me over a rough patch. My wife is a good sounding board and we worked a lot together doing tech writing projects for a lot of years. Now she writes poems and short stories but still can give me good tips. Ironically I have made more money writing Bigfoot and killer rabbit and piranha movies than she has writing actual literature.

6. What are some pieces of advice you have for others interested in scriptwriting?
A lot of people are talented, but talent is an empty bucket; you have to fill it with projects and deadlines and commitments. The hardest battle to fight is not coming up with ideas, but sitting there typing them when a little voice in your head tells you nobody will ever read this or care, and you can hear the Colts game on in the next room. It is butt to chair, and no muse can change that.

7. If you were stuck on an island and could choose one item to have with you, what would it be?
I think if I had a big crate of paperbacks I could figure out the rest.

8. What are some of your goals for the future?
I would like to write a film that is released theatrically--I have worked on several that might yet make it. I would like to bring my production background to the fore again and direct my own direct-to-video feature.

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