Saturday, November 27, 2010

From Rome With Love

The annual Thanksgiving edition of Axis and Allies played with my son and brother.  This is the new Axis and Allies: Europe 1940 Deluxe edition and comes recommended.  I rather whimsically decided to play Italy and found myself dominating the Mediterranean and then helping my German allies repel the invasion of France.  After four hours we declared a stalemate.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

And Glowed Like Burnin’ Coal

People keep tagging me on these Facebook memes and this one caught my fancy so I thought I would try it.  It is supposed to be a list of the 15 most influential writers in your life, off the top of your head.  Here we go:

1.        E.M. Dalton—my wife has published short fiction and poetry, so how can I not list her as the most influential writer in my life?  We have been together since I was 20 and just celebrated our 23rd Anniversary.  I think it is one of the great injustices of the world that I have been paid more to write piranha and frankenstein and bigfoot movies than she has to write fiction that could influence the human condition.

2.       Robert Heinlein—I am afraid to go back and reread these books but as a kid I read and reread his novels, like Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Rocket Ship Galileo especially.

3.       Mickey Spillane—my fevered teen years were spent discovering these, especially loving My Gun Is Quick and Kiss Me Deadly and Vengeance is Mine.

4.       Joseph Heller—solely based on Catch-22 which I reread often as a teen and probably most influenced my writing now.

5.       Cornell Woolrich—wrote haunting noir like Rendezvous in Black and The Bride Wore Black and was the sole ripoff/influence for my senior Honors Thesis at Ball State University, Deadlines, and my first attempt at an adult short story, Dead Wong.

6.       John Lennon and Paul McCartney—especially Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Be and Abbey Road.

7.       Chester B. Himes—I found him as an adult and loved his political, allegorical noir and would someday like to write something as good as The Heat's On or The Real Cool Killers.

8.       David Gilmour and Roger Waters—especially Wish You Were Here, Meddle and The Final Cut.

9.       Bob Dylan—especially Blood on the Tracks and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

10.   Philip K. Dick—a raging genius who when great is untouchable;  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and A Scanner Darkly and Clans of the Alphane Moon and The Man in the High Castle and Martian Time-Slip just the tip of the iceberg.

11.   Joe Bob Briggs—in the early 80s I saw his funny movie reviews in a college newspaper that we used to  receive in the newsroom when I worked at the Ball State Daily News—I think it was The Daily Texan--and had no idea who he was (for the longest time I thought he was a student—this is before the internet), but immediately tried to emulate his writing style.

12.   Michael Tolkin—when I was trying to learn screenwriting I read a lot of bound screenplays that I checked out from the library, and really was influenced by the commentaries that he included; much later in life I blogged about this and was surprised to get a nice email from Michael Tolkin, and I have never forgotten him reaching out to me.

13.   Samuel R. Delany—I am coming to him later in life but only wish I could write as imaginatively as him;  Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand I think is a great novel that I wish I wrote but Nova ain’t slouching either.

14.   Roger Ebert—when I was a kid I actually thought he was at the local PBS station in Muncie, Indiana; I worked there later and never saw him around.  He is only growing in influence with his writing.

15.   Haven Kimmel—I have to end where I began, with a writer I actually know, my wife’s best friend growing up and the first friend of hers I met when we married.  She is a bestselling author who, strangely and possibly to her own detriment, has always cheered on my humble screenwriting career.

There’s fifteen, and if I did this again tomorrow I might juggle it a bit and include Terrence Rafferty, William Goldman, and Steve Gerber, but this is awful close.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To Telepath Messages Through the Vast Unknown

Following up on my last post, I know there is no way I am going to hit 50,000 words on NaNoWriMo this year, nor am I even close; but I have had fun working on some writing again with Johnny Demonseed, and I have already done well in the Nerd Olympics this year.

For the third surprising year in a row I have met the challenge of reading 50 books in a year and this time I finished with a month to spare.  I think I'm going with The Boy Detective Fails as my favorite book that I read in 2010, and that's not just because I happened to meet Joe Meno in a small, spooky town called New Harmony down in southern Indiana and got to ask him what the hell he was thinking during the writing of this strange, magical work. 

I also liked The City and The City by China Mieville, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Keep by Jennifer Egan, Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby, Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick, Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks, and London Boulevard by Ken Bruen, to name a few.

On my second try I managed to visit six ballparks this summer, beating my old, inadvertent record of visiting five in one summer.  When I concentrated last year I only hit four so I decided to zen it out again this year and ended up at six. 

I went to my hometown Richmond Riverrats in Richmond, Indiana a few times; saw the Evansville Otters in the ballpark featured in A League of Their Own on a very hot summer day; saw the Dayton Dragons for a friend's birthday, probably now one of my favorite ballparks; went to see the Reds with my dad and got a Chris Sabo bobblehead but also got walloped in the eye either with a fist or a foul ball, I'm still not sure which; caught the Durham Bulls for the second time with friends and ate great Carolina barbecue; and, on the last day of the season, went to see the Indianapolis Indians with my wife and daughter, who surprised me by asking if I wanted to go and break my record at my other favorite ballpark, which they were happy to join me at if I would buy the beer.

But writing again must have put something in the karma bank because I have spent the weekend helping judge the United Kingdom's National Student Film Association's Screenwriting Competition.  It was very flattering to be asked, but I felt sorry for these poor youths who obviously got turned down by every legitimate screenwriter on the European continent and thus were forced to forage in America's Heartland for another judge.  But it was cool for once and probably for only to be mentioned in the same breath as BFI and BAFTA.

Until later I am at

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mugen Punch

So I have more or less been in self-imposed exile from screenwriting and associated activities for a while.

I took all of 2006 off when I changed jobs and cities and then promised my new boss I would take six months off when I changed careers again in April 2009.  But I haven't started back up again.  Since then I have turned down three or four screenwriting jobs and numerous offers to take up review writing again; though I could not turn down my old friends in Palatine Illinois and judged the new Blue Whiskey Film Festival this summer.

I have to say that being hired to write 20 screenplays in 10 years has a nice round ring to it.  And I wish that a few old friends like John Polonia and Ivan Rogers were still on the trail with me.

I've been thinking for a while that there was a new model coming and I think it is still emerging.  As the neterrati like to say, free is the new black.  How that will work for writers, actors, directors, and so on to make money I'm not sure.

I used to like saying that a lot of my career was in the long tail, and now it seems like the long tail will be part of that new model.

I keep thinking it might be time to get a recharge by doing some different kinds of writing.  Conveniently, there's NaNoWriMo.

I last tried National Novel Writing Month way back in 2004.  You can click here and follow my adventures for the entire eight days I tried it before throwing in the towel.  I'm contemplating giving it another stab this year, if nothing else than to maybe get the machine running again.  As longtime fans of my blog know, I have been a fan of Nerd Extreme Sports, having done a 24 Hour Zine and two 24 Hour Comics, Bad Eggs and The Liberator.  And I made my goal of visiting six ballparks this summer, so who knows?

Until then I am at