Saturday, December 24, 2011

We all know where the rainbow goes ...

Hello all,

Enjoy your holidays, eat and frolic, but stay away from the discount bin Pot-O-Golds:

THE FAT YEARS

And, if you ever had any interest in the stage adaptation of Rust and Bone (and happened to live in Australia, where it ran, and happened to have a time machine to go back a few months to when it was playing) then this could be of interest. I believe it will be running again in the new year.

PLAYWRIGHT NOTES

All best, Craig.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And a baby makes three

Hello All,

There is some very big news in my life that I haven't commented about in this space. There's a few reasons for that. One of them is that I find it rather easy to talk candidly about plenty of aspects of my personal life here, or in newspaper pieces, or in books (by ascribing scenes from my past to characters). They're confessional, sure, but for whatever reason they don't strike me as the truly, vitally important aspects of my life. Those things, by in large, I don't talk about. Partially that's because everyone---everyone outside the Kardashians, at least---has some parts of themselves and their lives that they don't necessarily talk about to the world at large, or at least as many as may be reading this little blog of mine. And the other part is that to talk on certain events or people is to risk miscommunicating how important they are to you, how deeply you need them, and the joy you feel that they are part of your life. The words and phrases don't exist, or anyway, I don't have the skill to conjure them. Either way, some things stay private.

And so here I go trying to comment on one of those un-expressible joys that sometimes occur in one's life. Forgive me if I make a hash of it.

Two months ago my girlfriend and I discovered we were pregnant. Well, she is---I'm just riding her coattails. This is the most awesome news we could have gotten, although it took a few days to adjust to it. It was, as they say, one of life's lovely little surprises. We'd both been thinking about it, of course, but nature had its way of pushing our hand, as slyboots Mother Nature often does. But my feeling is: you take right person-wrong time versus the opposite 100% of the time. And with me in my mid-30s, I mean, it was like, "Get it in gear, Davidson!" Certainly my folks are overjoyed. I believe they expected me to live out my life on a houseboat, grizzled and weird, childless and alone. I'm not sure that wasn't the way I'd envisioned my own life playing out not so long ago, truth be told.

So now things have changed quite radically. We're looking for a home here in Toronto, a place to settle down for a few years. It's life-changing news and you have to adjust your life to suit. Which is fantastic. I believe I was always waiting and wanting this change to arrive.

I've known my girlfriend for years. We went to school together back in New Brunswick, both students in a Master's of English program. We were good friends, then roommates. Then I finished school and moved to Calgary. My now-girlfriend finished school and decided to hell with English (best choice she'd ever made!) and went to Romania to work in an orphanage. Then she got back, got her Social Work degree in Manitoba, and returned to Halifax to work as a Children's Services Worker. Rough gig. Me, I could never hack it.

We kept in touch. Her sister lived in Calgary and she came out from time to time. We always hung out. Then I moved to Toronto, couldn't find work for love nor money, and took a gig as a newspaper editor in Fredericton, 4 hours from Halifax. I let her know I was back in the area. Things went from there, as things tend to. It was long-distance, as it had to be---me driving to Halifax, her coming to Fredericton. And then after a year I got offered a job in Toronto. It was a crossroads moment. I had to take it. We decided that she would come to Toronto. This was not an easy choice for her. Her friends and job stability lay in Halifax. But I said it wouldn't be a forever thing---5 years, max (which I still honor to this day).

It was the greatest stroke of luck in my life that she agreed to come with me. She found work immediately, which was no surprise to me considering how damned good she is at her job. The magazine I worked for, however, folded. Whoopee! Now there's the thorny issue of finding work. In this economy---double whoopee! In a dying industry---a thousand hosannas!

Well, anyway, such is life. I'll muddle through. But certainly there is a keener note of desperation. I'm fine living on Top Ramen and boiled oats but there's no way I'd wish that on the woman I love or the child who will soon be part of our lives. I'm glad to have that incentive, though. Not that I've ever been a lazy person, I've got a pretty strong blue-collar streak running through me, but I'll be redoubling my efforts to make sure things are okay for us. Certainly it's great having a hugely talented and hardworking partner, too (although right now she's got a new nickname: Hormone-asaurus. Whoo, those hormones! They really do tend to make life interesting, don't they?)

So that's the news. Biggest and best news of my life, you can safely say. I'm really, really lucky. Maybe I won't think so during those sleepless radish-eyed nights nine months hence, when the baby's crying at 3am and my girlfriend and I look like a couple haggard cast-offs from The Night of the Living Dead, but overall and in sum total, I couldn't possibly be happier.

I don't know how much this part of my life will figure in this blog. I don't really want to be a daddy blogger---although one never knows. But if the updates are scarce it's because there are some things in life that really are too precious to risk tarnishing by trying to explain them.

All best, Craig.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Bets and some news

Hello all,

Please see below for another episode of Top Bets. I do hope you enjoy it.

In other news: Doubleday Canada has agreed to publish my new novel, Cataract City. I'm very fortunate and very pleased at once. No release date as yet. Still some editing and so on to be done. No synopsis yet, either. That will come in due time as well.

But yes. Awesome. It's been awhile.

All best, Craig.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

TOP BETS!

Hello All,

So, this is an experiment. As anyone who knows me can attest, I really don't know much about technology. It's amazing I keep this blog running, I'm such a technophobe luddite. But I try. I struggle. I try.

So we'll see if this works. I have a bunch of old TOP BETS, which was a column I wrote for an alt-urban newspaper in the Maritimes in 2010. That bygone era! Call of Duty 3---remember that game? Before that: Pacman!

Anyway, the basic idea of the column was ... well, I was hired as deputy editor and my EIC, bless him, realized he had to give me something to write on a weekly basis to keep me sane and make use of whatever weird talents I happened to have. So he came up with this idea of listing some events that were going on in the cities where the paper was distributed (Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John). Sort of like: "Hey, this is going on this week! Check it out!"

Now we ended up getting some hate mail over this. I managed to offend Newfoundlanders, Europeans, um, pita bakers (long story) and others. My EIC, Charles, stuck with me through all of this. God love that man. It was fun. I got a whole page to use as my sandbox and created a cast of characters: the nameless hard-luck narrator of many of the items, his good-for-nothing friend Shifty Tubman, his rattlesnake-mean lover Handsome Maggie ... that's a pretty rare opportunity for any ink-stained wretch.

And, true to form, I squandered it.

Longtime readers of this blog will know I've posted some of these before as pure text. But now that I figured out how to convert .pdfs to .jpgs, I think I can post them in their fullness, with the wacky illustrations and photos. You may have to scroll around to read them, yeah, and they come with a big watermark in the corner because I'm too cheap to pay for the actual convertor, but you get the idea.

I'll post a couple right now to give a taste, and the odd one every so often afterwards. So read, gaze, and marvel that these freaking things actually made it into print at some point. It still kind of beggars imagination!

All best, Craig.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Movies that, based on their trailers, I probably shouldn't watch ... but I still might

Hello All,

While putting together that "Halloween Scares" post a few weeks back, I ended up getting caught in one of those interminable, slightly disorienting YouTube search sessions. You know the ones I'm talking about: you go there to watch that cute video of a cat playing contentedly with a cockatoo, which leads to a slightly less cute video of a sleeping cat falling off a chest of drawers, which leads, casually yet somehow inevitably, to a video of a millipede devouring a mouse, which leads to 2 Girls 1 Cup, which leads nowhere at all. 2 Girls 1 Cup is for all intents and purposes the end of the Internet. The vanishing point.

So you watch a few more funny animal clips as a palate cleanser and glance at the clock. Holy shit! 3 hours have slipped past. It's dark outside and you're sweaty and hungry and have to pee. Such are the mysteries of the YouTube time sink.

Anyway, while I was looking for a few video clips the other week I found myself in a similar loop. I watched a bunch of old horror movie trailers. Holy Smokes, did some of them look awful! And Holy SMOKES! ... did I ever want to watch them despite that very obvious fact. Here are some. Tell me you disagree.

1. From Beyond

This movie, released in 1986, is familiar to me from back in the days when I used to frequent the video store as a kid. It was stocked in the Horror section, of course, and while my folks allowed me to browse around that section staring at the lurid covers I was not allowed to actually rent these. Which was a smart move on my folks' part, considering Ghostbusters reduced me to a blubbering mess.

This movie I recall as being especially intriguing. I knew---I just knew---it would be gangbusters. For my eleven-year-old self it sang a seductive Siren's song. Now that I'm old enough to watch it, I really ought to. It's based on an HP Lovecraft story, and that twisted old opium-eater had a whacked out imagination. Plus the effects look suitably old-school---ie: gross. Lots of Vaseline and cow entrails were used, I'm sure. The good stuff! Screw CGI. Screw it to hell!

Opening line:
"Every journey begins in the mind ..." (Which is of course patently untrue. In fact, every journey begins with the phrase, I have to return these library books ...)

Quality Lines:

GUY WITH FACE MELTING OFF LIKE A GOOEY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH: I'm going to ... KISS you!

WOMAN: Shriek!

Also:

SAME GUY, WHO NOW HAS A WEINER-WORM JUTTING FROM HIS FOREHEAD: Humans are such easy prey ...

(You bet they are, pally! Easy, easy prey. Still, not as easy as tree sloths. You should go hunt a few of those. Like shooting fish in a barrel, I tell you. Also: you have something on your forehead.)

2. Society

So this is by the same producer/director team as From Beyond. I remember it being the subject of schoolyard rumors---there was one kid, Kevin, whose parents actually let him watch these films. As such, I'm sure he's some kind of demented sex fiend and criminal now. This was the one movie that Kevin said made him want to puke. That was a high, high endorsement of quality back in those days.

Society starred that little nerd from Baywatch. Not David Hasselhoff, the other one. What was his name? Cobie? I can't even be bothered to find out. Anyway, in this movie he's the new kid in a tony gated community and he's sure that shady doin's are afoot. He thinks the rich people are preying on the poor people. EATING them, even. Goddamn 1%! It's eerily prescient in terms of today's world.

EEEEEERIE! Indiana.

Have I seen this entire film? No. Have I seen the famous "shunting" scene at the end, which is in all likelihood the only thing worth watching---providing you want to watch a bunch of hideously old B-movie actors coated in Astro Glide forming some kind of disgusting flesh-meld, turning into a seething, roiling, 2,000-pound mass of disambiguated flesh?

Yes. Yes indeed I did watch that part.

You can watch it on YouTube, too, if you'd like, although I'm not going to link to it here. The search is worth it ... if you like that sort of thing.

But as a show of good faith I'll give you this scene: WATCH! WAAAATCH!

You watched it, didn't you? Yeah, you watched it. Sicko. Ah, god, how could you? Really, you should learn a little restraint. I mean, really, you'd lead a happier life.

OPENING LINE:
"For Bill Whitney, fear plays a large part in family life ... "

Quality lines:


SOCIETY SCUMBAG: Didn't you know, Billy? The rich have always sucked off low-class scum like you!

BILLY: I didn't know, no! Thanks for the tip, good sir! [this line was left on the editing room floor, sadly]

Also:

BILLY'S TRACK-SUIT-WEARING "COOL" FATHER: People are what they are. Now you have to learn to accept that.

BILLY: No! They're meanies! They treat me like a horse flop---a HORSE FLOP, I tell you! [also, tragically, this dialogue failed to make the final cut. It was later discovered the the screenplay writer was, in fact, a seven-year-old boy who'd learned how to use his father's Final Draft software].

OSCAR-BAIT DIALOGUE (1:34 of trailer):

BILLY: No, no, no, no, NO! [in a word: INTENSE!]

3. Scalps

Every once in awhile---a lifetime, really---there comes a movie that reiterates exactly what cinema is capable of doing. Ever since Thomas Edison (or whoever the hell it was) invented the Black Maria, and invited nubile young ladies into it, requested they drop their bloomers and dance the Charleston so that the footage could be shown to the toothless rummies and swindlers in the haypenny Nickleodeons of yore---yes, ever since those halcyon days when the cinema was in its infancy, when everything was still shot in black and white (Edison did in fact have the technology to shoot in color right off the bat, but as a result of his crippling color blindness was unaware of the vastness of the color spectrum) ... ever since then cinema as a form of art and expression was moving towards that moment in 1983 when director Fred Olen Ray was bequeathed his late grandmother's 8mm camera in an estate auction, ate an entire baggie of peyote and wandered off into the gobi desert (or someplace) to film Scalps.

Citizen Kane? Merely scratching the surface of greatness.

Scalps? Greatness achieved. With authority.

So, do I know what this movie is about? I do not. More to the point: can a movie like Scalps really be "about" anything? I mean, what is a symphony "about"? What is a summer's day "about"? Magnets---how do they work? Some things cannot be explained. They exist above all explication. Such as how Fred Olen Ray convinced anyone to act in, let alone fund, his movie. Such are the mysteries of the universe.

Opening Line:

"She did not know she was calling evil spirits of the past ..."

(How could she? All she was doing was knocking two sticks together. If that's what it takes to summon evil spirits, Grade One music classes all over the country would be beset by face-ripping daemons and succubi hungering for the blood of the innocent. Playing the triangle would probably summon bee-headed Beezlebub---he'd fuck those poor kids UP.)

QUALITY DIALOGUE:

BLONDE GIRL IN THE TUBE TOP WHO LOOKS LIKE PJ SOLES BUT ISN'T: I'm feeling the evil in this ground. It's ALIVE with evil! [grabs shovel] STOP IT!

GUY WITH FRIZZY HAIR WHO CLEARLY DIDN'T DRESS PROPERLY FOR AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG: Now ahm gonna tell you this one time, bitch, and one time only: you best calm yo high-toned ass down. I best be getting back to my digging here. In fact, just now before you so rudely interrupted me I felt the shovel ping on something ... something bony. Like ... like a bone. Maybe the bone of a skeleton. An evil skeleton, likes. Lord, it's hot. I could sure use a Tab. [Again, this dialogue was excised from the final script]

Also [at 0:47]:

BEARDO 1: Look!

BEARDO 2: It's ... blood.

BEARDO 1: And it's coming from nowhere!

BEARDO 2: My God, Jenkins! Do you ... do you know what this could mean for science? Blood from nowhere? Bubbling up out of a coconut shell? My heavens, man, this is a miracle! Nobody will ever have to donate blood again! Countless lives will be saved! Ah, thank you, evil spirits of dead Native Americans! We will take your wondrous blood-gourd back to our white settlements and use it for the continued prosperity and happiness of the white race! You do us heap big favor! Quick, Jenkins! Let's break camp and get home. I have an eerie feeling people will start getting scalped if we stick around much longer! [CREDITS ROLL] (again, this may not be entirely accurate)

Final trailer line: "SCALPS---the only movie you may not be strong enough to watch to the end ... or at all! I mean, why would you? Look at it. We shot it for, like, seven dollars."

All best, Craig.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two books you should read (or buy for your child to read)

Hi All,

So friends of mine have published books lately. I thought that I'd give you a heads-up about the books and then encourage you to go and buy them. Why not, right? If you're illiterate you have an excuse. Or if you die while reading this post. Otherwise, you have none.

Book 1: David Hickey's A Very Small Something. Dave is the first buddy of mine who's written a kid's book. That's because, for the most part I hang out with the Triple Ds: Degenerates, Drifters and Dope fiends. All of whom are righteous cats, really cool; there's nothing I prefer of an evening than to hang out under the train trestle drinking Sterno, sandwiching the mushrooms that grow in the soft loam between thick slabs of Government Cheese, playing my harmonica, and painting lascivious watercolors of Handsome Maggie who has been known to doff her knickers for a Snickers (bar).

Where was I? Oh, yes. David Hickey's children's book. Dave's a great poet who has written two very well-received books with Biblioasis, a respected press, and he approached them with an idea for a children's book and I guess they were like: Let's do it! Like I said, Dave's a fantastic writer with a childlike sense of wonderment; if I had a child, I would read this book to said child. In fact, I'm going to kidnap a child just so I can read this to him or her. I'm a fount of great ideas!

Dave's book

Book 2: Michael Rowe's Enter, Night. There could not be two different books, I don't think, than Michael's and Dave's. Michael's is a vampire novel---but before you start thinking about twinkling vamps or those lush vamps of Anne Rice's New Orleans, think again. Michael's tale takes place in Northern Ontario, in a mining town of Parr's Landing. It's a vampire book much more in the style of Salem's Lot: these aren't sparkly vamps who dress in frilly-sleeved silks. These are mean, nasty, predatory hunters. They are remorseless and not to be reasoned with. Quite frankly, they're scary as hell.

But there's more going on in this novel than that. Michael gets the characters right. He writes from the heart. The scenes of a boy and his dog are particularly memorable and touching. This is one of the touchstones of a good horror book: as a reader, you've got to care about the characters to give a damn about what happens to them. Michael makes you care.

Michael's book

And now, as the old gypsy lady says in The Simpsons: You buy! You buy!

All best, Craig.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Scares

Hello all,

So AMC's been playing their Halloween Scares movies pretty much all day lately. Saw a flick called Sabretooth the other day ... well, sort of. I was cleaning the apartment and it was on. To the best of my knowledge it was about a sabre toothed tiger who travels forward in time for some reason. Its best friend was a talking pie. The pie was its heart. Anyhoo, this is what I took away from it. That, and it ate the pudgy guy from Indiana Jones. Rhys somebody. He was also the dwarf in Lord of the Rungs (that's a typo, of course, but I'm leaving it there ... in fact, it's inspired me to write a trilogy about a group of ladder salesmen who travel back in time for some reason ...)

Also, I watched Halloween III: Season of the Witch. The Halloween movies never really freaked me out (although John Carpenter has done some very scary movies: The Thing and Prince of Darkness legitimately freaked me out, and Starman, Escape from New York, They Live and Big Trouble in Little China are just effing awesome flicks. They Live gave us the classic line, delivered with great panache by Rowdy Roddy Piper: I came to kick ass and chew bubble gum ... and I'm aaaaaaaall out of bubble gum! I have used this line myself, usually just before absorbing a hellacious ass-kicking. Also, that line from BTILC, delivered by David Lo Pan: This really pisses me off to no end!)

... anyway, where was I? Oh, yes: Halloween 3. As any horrorphile knows that series is all about Michael Myers, the congenial Brampton-born comedian who goes a little soft in the attic on Halloween, dons a cheese-white mask and lisps his signature catchphrases such as "Yeah, baby!" and "Schwing!" as he hacks apart nubile teens with a big cleaver ... no, no, it's actually crazyperson Michael Myers who Ernst Stavro Blofeld is forced to track down and eliminate in the first movie and its endless sequels.

Anyhoo, that all changes in Halloween 3. Michael is nowhere to be seen. It's not a slasher film at all. I actually tried to explain it to my girlfriend, who I'd watched the first two Halloween's with lately. My summation was something like:

"Well, there's this weird Halloween mask company that's, I don't know ... there are these weird masks that have got little bits of Stonehenge sprinkled on them and ... uh, and when someone puts the mask on and watches this TV commercial the mask sort of melts onto their face, or rots or something, and then their head transforms into crickets and snakes and ... and there are these robot-men, I think, controlled by the evil mask-maker. One of them pulls a homeless man's head off while he's eating a spray-cheese sandwich ... not the robot-man, it's the homeless man who's eating the sandwich. And then it sort of ends."

Which is the most viable explanation I can offer. It really doesn't fit with the whole Halloween series at all. It would be as if, when George Lucas decided to make Return of the Jedi, he'd set it in present day and it detailed the travails of a Sandwich Artist at Subway who maybe had sort of a thing for his sister. I mean, I wasn't a fan of the Halloween series anyway, but if I was I'd consider it something of a kick in the teeth.

So I thought I'd list my Top-5 Movies that freaked me out. Fact: I am easily scared. So these are the movies that, for whatever reason, scared the piss out of me at one point in time or another.

5. THE EXORCIST. This just makes me one the 500 million or so people who were scared out of their wits by this flick. It hardly even needs to be said WHY it freaked me out, but suffice it to say some people are freaked out by stalkers/slashers/serial killer-type flicks like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Silence of the Lambs etc. Not me. Crazy people with knives don't freak me out ... I mean, in real life, sure. If I saw Michael Myers coming at me I'd be pretty creeped out. But they're always such PLODDERS. Y'know? They're just kind of plodding after you in their big heavy boots with the wonky gaits, a bit like Frankenstein. I always thought a great movie would be, like, Halloween 12: The NY City Marathon. You see, then Michael would never catch anyone ... well, maybe a straggler or two, the people who didn't train and who were all, like, "Hey, it'd be sort of fun to run a marathon just to say I did it. I don't care if it takes 8 hours to finish." Those buttery day-tripping idlers would get hacked to bits.
But the REAL marathoners would just keep up a steady pace, never gassing, just jogging along going: "Oh, there's that weird butcher back there with a knife," but they've got such good cardio that they just keep bopping along, drinking power gel or whatever. Michael might be able to hack up a few inattentive bystanders or the people who hand out Gatorade or whatever, but eventually I'm sure he'd go: Ah, fuck this shit. I'm going to get a pizza.

Aaaanyway, demons scare me. Devils and suchlike. So that's why The Exorcist freaks me out. Also, The Exorcist 3 is freaky, for two scenes: the old woman crawling on the ceiling and the scene in the hospital where the nurse gets her head chopped off with garden shears. You know what I'm talking about! Oh, no? Okay then:

Nurse

Old Lady

2. HELLRAISER 2. Clive Barker is a tremendous writer. Really, he's a tremendous artist in all senses of the word. Whatever he turns himself to he seems to do well at. Art, films, plays, whatever. He's in my Top 5 in terms of writers. Now Hellraiser (based on his novella The Hellbound Heart) was not really THAT freaky to me. I mean the idea of the cenobites, their weird physical distortions (everyone always remembers Pinhead but the other three cenobites, listed at IMDB as "Chattering Cenobite" [naked teeth/no lips], "Butterball Cenobite" [its future was so bright it had to wear shades] and "Lady Cenobite" were just as creepy-brilliant.) Nobody envisions horror the way Clive Barker does, except maybe HR Giger of Alien fame. It's that awful fusion between the mechanical and the flesh.
Anyway, Hellraiser 2 was probably the worse movie of the two but it was more gruesome and it freaked me out much more. There was what can only be called a "Pain Chamber" that opened up and sucked in the evil surgeon ... anyone who has seen it remembers this. Again, it was the fusion between organic and metal ... the box seemed to weep somehow, or extrude some kind of slime, and then there were the buzzing saws and needles and it was all so cramped and brutal and it looked somehow moist and warm and mothering at the same time ... SHEESH! Hideous. Then the surgeon comes back later and a giant tentacle rises out of the hell-mist and opens like the petals of some gruesome flower and inside are chittering saws and it comes down on his head and ... well, pretty rough stuff. Freaked the hell out of me in the clean sane light of day.

3. THE LAST STARFIGHTER. I know, I'm pathetic. I was young! Well, why make excuses for my vivid imagination? The movie itself wasn't so freaky but there was this interstellar hitman, I guess, who tries to capture and kill the Last Starfighter. It had the head of a shark or something, I recall, and it fell off the roof of a convenience store onto the Last Starfighter as he was playing a videogame.
Now I saw this at a birthday party. Those were pretty popular back when I was 10, 11, 12---and consequently, they led to the scariest movie I've ever seen. I'd get invited to these parties and the kid would open his presents, then we'd go to a matinee, get our loot bags and go home. Nowadays every parent would be told what the movie was and there would be some hemming and hawing, I'm sure, but back then it was a lot looser (it's also how, at 11, I ended up watching Bachelor Party at my friend Reuben's sleepover, thus introducing me to boobs, asses, and the fact that a male stripper called Nick the Dick might put his penis in a hotdog bun to titillate the ladies ... to this day I'm unsure if that REALLY is a method of titillating the ladies. A large part of me thinks it's a way to get oneself embroiled in a protracted sexual harassment lawsuit).
So I go to the Last Starfighter and get a quick glimpse of this hitman thing and whisper to my friend: I'm closing my eyes. Tell me when it's over. And of course my shithead friend says: It's over precisely when it's not over, so I end up seeing it in all its sharky be-tentacled glory.
What an asshole that kid was. Not that I wouldn't have done it myself.

2. DESTROYER. I could also put THE RING here, but I'll go with the little-known (for good reason) prison slasher flick starring Anthony Perkins and former NFLer Lyle Alzado. It takes place at this deserted prison where Perkins is filming a "Women in Prison" jiggle-fest movie ... what he doesn't know is that Alzado's character, a psycho mass-murderer who was so tough the electric chair couldn't fry his ass, is still lurking about. I remember Lyle jack-hammering someone to death, and then he showed up at the end after everyone thought he was dead---the classic horror standby---and he was all covered in electricity burns and mutilated. Anyway, my brother and I watched this when we were kids, back when you could rent R-rated movies from unscrupulous convenience store owners everywhere (they'd squint at you and say: "Are you eighteen?" You'd tuck your shirt in an say: "Yes, sir. Yes I am." They'd go: "Good enough. You want some smokes to go with that?"). It scared the piss out of us. Literally, I seem to recall.

1. GHOSTBUSTERS. I know, I know. It's a comedy. I was 10! No, 9. Still, I guess that's no excuse. It was another one of these fucking birthday party/movies. Damn me for being so dang popular, earning all those invites! I mean, those dogs busting out of their stone butresses ... that woman in the library ... Slimer ... Gozer ... the Keymaster ... ZOOL! It was not good. I just about collapsed into a quivering puddle of fear right there in the theater. What a horrible experience. It plagued me for years ... sincerely! I don't know. I'm over it now.


All best, Craig.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

More movie stuff

Hi all,

This tickles me. Every other day it seems I'm seeing something about this film. I know it must seem a little boring to some but I think it's cool. I'm shocked---SHOCKED!---that there would be nudity involved. As anyone who has ever read a book of mine knows, I am not an advocate of violence or scenes of sexuality. My books are very chaste. Lily-white. I often give readings at elementary schools. So this has me all a-flutter, as you would imagine. I will surely be banned from the Temperance League meetings when they hear of this.

In all seriousness, I think this is great. Everyone knows Ms. Cotillard is awesome but I think the person who people will be most surprised by is Matthias Schoenaerts, her Dutch co-star. Jacques Audiard has a way of showcasing new and unknown (to a wide audience) actors---as he did in his last film, A Prophet, with Tahar Rahim. So my feeling is the breakout performance will be from Schoenaerts, (a) because he's awesome and intense, and (b) because an Oscar-winning actor like Cotillard can't really "break out" seeing as she's already famous. Anyway, I found Schoenaerts' "roll," as I guess they call it, online---basically it's clips of his best performances. It's sort of in two parts: slow and artsy (first 2 minutes) and crazy/intense (remainder). Shockingly there's a scene with ducks breaking through a window (at 4:14) which is pretty much the exact cinematic replication of my very worst nightmares. Fucking mallards! I hate you! Leave my precious windows alone! Aeeeiii! (in my dreams I'm a window fetishist ... don't ask)

Anyhoo, take a boo. I think he's pretty incredible.

Matthias Schoenaerts

Then, look at this if you want:

Va-va-VOOM! (totally in service of the story, though!)

All best, Craig.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Marion Cotillard playing with une orque!

Hi All,

First off, 'une orque' may be grammatically incorrect. I really have no idea when it comes to the pretty French language. I found that on my last visit to France that most of the tolerant locals were amused by my strained attempts to speak their language---I was like a bear who'd been taught to ride a bicycle: clumsy and awkward, but at least offering a crude similacrum of actual human behavior. I was pleased to have any attention paid to me at all, which is sad, I know, but it is a sad and awkward life for an unreformed class clown such as myself.

Anyway, this article is in English. It reminds me of Marineland, where the story I wrote many moons ago was set ... well, not really (that's for the Marineland lawyers).

Funny story: a few years ago I thought it would be cool to get a job at Marineland. I thought maybe I could actually be a whale trainer. That would be cool, right? If you take out the whole whale-imprisonment thing ...

It would probably have ended with me as the fish-cutter, gutting hundreds of pounds of mackerel to feed the whales instead of, y'know, actually doing much of interest with those lovely creatures. But anyway, I applied, but I made the crucial mistake of sending a copy of my book in with the application. I thought they'd get a kick out of it. But of course the story that is loosely-based on my time working at Marineland (8 summers or so) involves a whale trainer getting his leg bit off by an irate killer whale (I guess "he" will become "she" in the film).

So anyway, the HR person told me to go piss up a rope. As IF they wanted to hire some slandering prick like me! Well, I wasn't slandering because of course the events of the story never actually happened. But anyway, a bad idea. When my dad found out what I'd done he was like: "My god, Craig, how do you even get out of bed in the morning? How do you tie your shoes or guide forkfuls of food into your mouth? I mean, sometimes you're just that dumb."

Fair commentary.

Marion playing with a whale

All best, Craig.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie shoot underway---with pics!

Hello all,

A keen-eyed French reader sent this to me this morning. Thank you! It's in French so, like, if you can't read it then, well, that's your problem mon ami. Go get some French lessons at Montessouri! Moi, mon Francais est (strawberry) parfait! Aaaaaanyway, you can read it or just look at the pictures. Or you can send me a translation and I can post that, too. As for me, I might as well go for a soda. Nobody hurts, nobody cries. It's better than scandal, lord knows, and better than lies. If I seem a little rambling this morning it's because I tried a sample of crystal meth a friendly dealer slipped through the mail slot. Mmmmm-meth, it's called! Holy moly, it's got kick! Now excuse me while I disassemble this pile of pocket calculators.

Film stuff

All best, Craig.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The bottle and the damage done

Hi all,

Yes, I was a fledgling alkie. Although maybe not. Anyway, that was all a long time ago. Over a year. I mean, it was practically another lifetime! Thanks to Mark at the National Post for running this piece.

DRINK 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

... on second pass, having read it again, I'd like to make a few amendments. First off, I don't think I was an alcoholic---and I only say so because to claim I was insults those out there who really have or continue to struggle with alcohol abuse. I was a daytripper, I guess. I mean, I drank WAY too much for awhile there, and I think I probably had a few of the tell-tale signs of burgeoning alcoholism. That part of the piece was simply to indicate that these (self-diagnosis) thoughts did pass through my mind at the time.

Secondly, I don't think that people who don't drink or who have quit drinking are "Mayors of No Funsville." I know plenty of teetotallers and I care for them very much. They have lots of fun. They're mayors of A Lotta Funsville. So just to clear that up ...

All best, Craig

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vacation Update

Hi All,

Well actually not much at all happening. Enjoying a very relaxing one-week vacation in the Maritimes with my lovely girlfriend. Got to meet some old friends and enjoy a drunken debauch of a wedding. I need these vacations, lord knows. They give me a much-needed break from the rigours of unemployment.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118042382

All best, Craig.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Re-Post: Writing Sex Scenes

Hi All,

Someone wrote to me today to tell me how much she enjoyed this old post of mine ... from 2006. Hard to believe I've been "blogging" that long. Anyway, I don't ever really re-post things but I re-read this and thought, "Huh, I forgot I'd even written this." It's about the difficulty of writing sex scenes.

A real golden oldie from the blogging files. It follows forthwith:

I’ve been reading a lot of hard-boiled detective fiction lately, getting ready to start writing my next novel. Reading the classics: Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP, Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON, Thompson’s THE GRIFTERS and THE KILLER INSIDE ME, plus re-reading James Ellroy’s masterful LA Quartet and THE BLACK DAHLIA. I read a few books by Michael Connelly, based on the fact Stephen King dubbed him the best detective fiction writer going; now maybe I read the wrong books, but while Connelly’s stuff is well-written, with intricate enough plot lines that I wasn’t able to puzzle out whodunit until very late, I wouldn’t go as far as to call him the best detective fiction writer going; not so long as James Ellroy still has breath in his lungs (though perhaps King doesn’t consider Ellroy a detective writer, which is true nowadays; he’s more of a hard-boiled historical revisionist). Still, I’d go with Carl Hiassen or Giles Blunt or even Dave Barry over Connelly. As is per usual with my criticisms, you’ll see I generally level them against writers who are far too successful to be harmed by them; Connelly, who has sold a ka-jillion books and has legions of fans, falls into this category.

As an aside: if you haven’t read Ellroy, I cannot recommend him enough, especially from THE BLACK DAHLIA onwards. I read some of his earlier work, BLOOD ON THE MOON and BROWN’S REQUIEM and, while good, he made a quantum leap forward with THE BLACK DAHLIA. This happens sometimes with writers: they put out a few books and something monumental clicks and they come out with a book that so far surpasses their previous output it’s like a whole new writer has emerged. Ellroy’s stuff is vicious and violent but it’s also hugely intelligent, very accessible considering how intricate the plots can be, funny, bloody, and brilliant. He’s one of my top-5 favorite writers; I re-read his stuff more than I do anyone else. Check him out.

But one aspect where all these hard-boiled writers fall short is writing sex scenes. Actually, the books have a pretty fossilized view of the male-female dynamic: Sam Spade, Hammett’s detective, is forever touching and rubbing his female secretary, and he does the same to all the other females in THE MALTESE FALCON. He’s always absentmindedly fondling them, sort of as though it’s his right. If those scenes were to be rewritten according to modern day mores, they’d read like this:

...Sam Spade walked into his lawyer’s office. The secretary sat behind her desk
“Sweetheart,” he said, absently rubbing her hip with his broad flat hand, “your boss in?”
“What are you doing?”
“What’s the matter?” he asked, rubbing harder. “All you dames like it. Don’t pretend you don’t.”
Sam Spade was caught unawares when the secretary stabbed him in the groin with her pen...

Plus these private eyes are always grabbing women and kissing them. There’s a big heated argument, accusations fly, and the scene ends with Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe grabbing the gal and planting a kiss on her, at which point she always “melts like candy.” Again, this seems highly suspect and I can’t see it working in real life. For example, if I were to try this with a woman, the scene would probably go something like:

ME: I won’t play the sap for you. Yeah, maybe I loves ya. Yeah, maybe we could have a future together. But I won’t lay down and play the sap for you.

GIRL: What in god’s name are you talking about?

ME: C’mere, you. [reaching for her]

GIRL: Get your hands off me, you creepy turd.

ME: Ah, you’re one brassy dame. You’re a real firecracker [reaching for her again].

GIRL: [punches me in the nose]

ME: Well, I’ll be seeing you.

Even Ellroy, who is a masterful writer, falters when it comes to sex scenes. They’re all violent and loveless; people’s mouths are always “mashing” together, lovers are always “rutting” and so forth. I’ve got a library copy of THE BLACK DAHLIA, and after one particularly lurid sex scene, a previous borrower has ironically written “How sweet” in the margin.

But when I think about it, WHO does write good sex scenes? I honestly can’t think of one writer who pulls it off. Bret Easton Ellis writes memorable sex scenes, certainly, but they’re so clinical and often perverse that they’re not at all erotic. Poppy Z Brite writes long, detail-intensive sex scenes, but again they aren’t erotic because they often end with one partner killing and dismembering and partially eating the other one (at least they did in THE EXQUISITE CORPSE). Certainly I can’t write my way out of a paper bag where sex scenes are concerned. I’ve given them the ole college try, but end up marring them by including an exploding penis pump or the like. I’ve included two sex scenes in THE FIGHTER, but neither of them, I fear, will leave readers feeling even the slightest bit aroused.

But when I think about it, has there even been a movie sex scene that has got my juices flowing? I mean, can you think of one? When I think “Movie Sex Scene,” I think of a giant canopy bed draped with gauzy, mosquito-netting-type stuff, wind blowing through the bedroom window and the distant sound of surf, the gal’s on top of the dude, who you can barely see (because, really, at that point nobody’s rubbing their hands together saying, “Oh, man, I hope we get a peek at Billy Zane’s hammer!” or crossing their fingers going, “Lordy, lordy, I hope we get a wicked ass shot of Anthony Michael Hall!”; no, the female lead is the focus of attention, as she should be), she’s doing her thang, arching her back and what-have-you. Michael Bolton blowing on his saxaphone. It’s not really all that much of a turn on.

Sometimes it’s a turn-on to see a marquee star without her clothes on. That scene in OPERATION: SWORDFISH (Operation Swordfish? Hah! Operation BOREDfish is more like it!) Halle Berry striding about with her bikini top off, that was hot. Carla Gugino in SIN CITY, that scene where she’s starkers with Mickey Rourke—also, pretty hot. But actual sex scenes? No, not hot. Tell me where I’m wrong.

I’ve often wondered if women get a kick out of seeing actors going around naked as much as dudes like actresses doing so. Because it’s so much less frequent, with guys. Apart from one particular actor, I can’t think of very many full frontal nude scenes with a dude. That one scene in THE LIFE OF BRIAN, where Graham Chapman throws open the window, totally naked, to have the entire population of Nazareth staring at him. That’s all I can think of.

Except, as I said, for one actor.

Kevin Bacon.

Dear Kev just LOVES to flaunt his wang on film. You see it in HOLLOW MAN, WILD THINGS, and PYRATES (which I have not seen, but the website Celebrity Nudity Database describes his nude scene in that movie thusly: “On the fire escape: side view of aroused penis & balls. Later in the movie Kevin is under Kyra Sedgewick and his penis is visible flopping under her bottom.”) Aroused penis & BALLS? Did anyone else twig on that? Penis, yeah, but how the hell do your balls get aroused? Then again, it’s Kevin Bacon. He’s a bigtime movie star. Maybe once you’re a bigtime movie star, you become so virile and hyper-sexed your balls become visibly aroused. One of the perks of stardom.

I think perhaps Kevin’s got a real problem. An exhibitionist or something. Who knows how many times he’s whipped it out during a film only to have it left on the editing room floor. Imagine this on the set of APOLLO 13, for example:

RON HOWARD: Okay, now we’re shooting the scene where you’re rocketing back into Earth’s orbit. You’re scared but resolute, you’re not sure you’re going to make it, you’re—

TOM HANKS: Ron, Ron, just a sec here. Kevin’s doing...that THING again.

RON HOWARD [Sighing]: Kevin, listen, we’ve been through this before—

KEVIN BACON [penis hanging out of his spacesuit]: I just think—no, now listen Ron, don’t give me that face, give me a chance to plead my case—I just think this is what my character would be doing right now, is all. It feels like something he would do at this moment.

RON HOWARD: Kevin, your character is hurtling to Earth in a ship with a busted solar panel, perhaps only moments from his own death. Do you really think he’d chose that moment to cut a hole in his spacesuit and expose himself to his fellow astronauts?

KEVIN BACON: Yes, Ron. Yes I do.

TOM HANKS: This is ridiculous. Kevin, we talked to the members of this mission, did we not? Did Captain Jack Sedgewick, upon whom your character is based, ever tell you that he hung his penis out of his suit while in space? At ANY time, did he admit to doing that?

KEVIN BACON: Not in so many words.

TOM HANKS: In so many words?

KEVIN BACON: He said so with his eyes.

TOM HANKS: Jack Sedgewick’s eyes said, “In the blue-black emptiness of space, I found no greater thrill than pulling my weiner out of my spacesuit and wagging it about?”

KEVIN BACON: Yes. That’s what his eyes said.

Okay, well, this post went right off the rails. Detective novels to sex scenes to Kevin Bacon’s penis. Really, when you look at it, the progression is almost unavoidable.

All best, Craig.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Interesting clue / FUN WITH SPAMMERS

Hi All,

First, there is this:

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/un+gout+de+rouille+et+d'os

... oooh, intriguing. Or maybe BS. Who knows.

Second, there is this:

FROM NATASHA THE SPAMMER:

Hello. My name is Natasha.
I am 28 years old. Blonde with blue eyes. I live in Russia.
Seeking to create a human family. Call me.
http://datingru.com.ua/

Your Natasha.

FROM ME TO MY DARLING NATASHA:

Hello Natasha!

You sound very, very sexy I must say. Blonde with blue eyes---phoa! That's something I can work with! My last girlfriend, Handsome Maggie, was only three feet tall and she had two glass eyes ... actually, they were wooden eyes. Neither of us could afford real glass. I mean, who are we---the Rockerfellers?

But that was before. Now I'm rich. Rich as King Midas! It's all thanks to my greatest invention, The Horse Diaper. We have many horses where I live and they are always leaving their smelly turds all over the cobbles. And since we allow horses into our stores and places of business (my old boss, Glue Pot, was a wild roan stallion), well, you can believe there are quite a few "horse flops" indoors, too.

But with my invention those worries are a thing of the past. I say not to brag but because I would like to talk further to you, perhaps enchant you with my rhapsody of love, and I think it is important that you know I am a man of means. Big means!

Like you, I too yearn to create a "human family." I tried to create a Chia Pet family, but sadly I also created a Rabbit family at the same time; one family ate my other family! I had to go to councelling for that.

Then I tried to create an android family, and then a cyborg family, but I found them entirely too lippy and churlish for my tastes ... plus they were always whining about getting more "protein paste"---like Peter Weller ate in RoboCop, you know?---and their gluttony sickened me so I pulled the plug on the lot of them ... just like I had to pull the plug on ole Glue Pot after he fudged that quarterly earnings report.

Keep in touch. I would love to bring you over to where I live and lavish gifts upon you. I'm getting all steamy in my britches just thinking about it! Ho-ho! I'm sorry, that is very uncouth of me. I blame my upbringing.

Yours most sincerely,
Craig "The Love Machine" Davidson

FROM NATASHA MY DREAM-SPAMMER:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
    natasha@mail.ru
Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 spam message rejected.

All best, Craig.

Friday, August 5, 2011

MORE FUN WITH SPAMMERS

FROM SPAMMER:

hello,
i wanna order chaffing dish you can find the information the below
Specia note: kindly be inform that my financial institution policy as inform us to make payment strictly with my Credit Card Details,Paypal and any form of wire transfer is prohibited here.let me have your best price cost i am inquiring from other store and i will later buy from the best price i can find
Roll Top Chaffing Dish...............5 Pieces
Glass Top Chaffing Dish............5 Pieces

calculate the shipping prices via cargo

This is the shipping and the billing address:

NAME:Mrs lanre smith
Address:30 bamgbose street
City:Lagos island
Province:lagos
Country:Republic Of Nigeria
Postal Code:00229
phone:+234018280406
reply email:tunde_glover@yahoo.com
larrycobbler2000@yahoo.com

i will be looking forward to hear from you

stay

MY REPLY:


Heartiest felicitations, Ianre!

I can help you out with that chaffing dish---but first, may I offer you a "Wheating Dish," which most of our customers seem to prefer? If you've got your heart set on the chaffing dish, sure, no problem, I can get you that.

Now I take it you'd prefer our best chaffing dish, The Excelsior? This is a very fine chaffing dish indeed! We're talking solid-gold inlay, handles carved from whalebone (of an extinct breed of whale, the balloon---ancient cousin of the baleen---which were exceptionally white and almost buoyant whales, with a knotlike growth on their tails) and of course the finest diamond encrustation.

... I must warn you though that these trays are coated with the venom of the terrible and menacing Whip-viper of eastern Sumatra, so anyone that you serve food to off of these will die in horrible writhing paroxyms! Why, you ask? Well, the Excelsior's designer was, sadly, a critically insane sociopath who happened to be the boss's son-in-law. Still, a lovely, lovely chaffing dish.

If you're looking for something more economical, may I suggest The Hobo? This chaffing dish is actually just an old garbage can lid. But in an effort to employ indiginous workers, each Hobo is hand-crafted and tested by ... real hobos! That's why our tagline is: "The Hobo: made by Hobos, tested by Hobos, fit for a King!" Of course, we mean King of the Hobos, but still, for three bucks what can you reasonably expect?

These do come in a glass-topped model, in fact. So your order, with cargo shipping, would come to roughly $200.

Please let me know what you'd like. We can try to beat any competitor's offer.

Yours sincerely,
Craig's Chaffing Dish Emporium

FROM SPAMMER:

thanks. kindly be inform that i will prefer the hobo ok let me have the quote.

MY REPLY:


The Hobo, is it? I like the cut of your jib, Ianre! Be assured that the slobs, wastrels, and all the other disreputable scummers that you no doubt acquaint yourself with will be elated to eat off the humble Hobo.

Now, if I may sweeten the deal ... to be frank, we have too many hobos in our warehouse. I don't mean The Hobo, our economy-level chaffing dish---I mean actual hobos. They are a pox on this outfit, Ianre, I am sad to report. Initially we needed the around to manufacture and test our chaffing dishes, but as we've since moved on the the manufacture of whicker birdcages and our bestselling books: "The Layman's Guide to Witch Hunting" and "Cobbling Shoes for Fun and Profit," well, we have much less need for these damned hobos.

And yet they keep showing up! They're like pigeons, Ianre. Feed them once and they're yours forever, whether you want them or not. Every morning they skulk out of the bushes with their bindles slung over their backs. Next you know the parking lot is full of oil-barrel fires and the sound of harmonicas, the air stinking of baked beans. Oh, it really is a blight on our pleasant factory.

So we our now offering, as a limited-time offer and only to our most valued customers, the "Hungry Hungry Hobos" package.

We will send you 5 ... that's right, 5 ... Hobo chaffing dishes, plus 5 glass-topped chaffing dishes ... a total of 10 .. 10!!! ... chaffing dishes ...

But wait! There's more!

We will also send you the HOBOS who MADE those very chaffing dishes. You will be able to see their
exquisite craftsmanship skills first-hand, as well as be privvy to tales or hobo wisdom, such as "How to Hop the 5:30 to Tupelo Without the Railyard Gumshoe Shanghai-ing You" and "Poisonous Mushrooms, Edible Mushrooms: A Tutorial."

Needless to say, this is a priceless opportunity! Your hobos will be safely delivered to you in hypoallergenic bubble wrap; their shipping crates will have holes punched in it to ensure their safe transport. You can select from a wide variety of hobos; some of those currently occupying our parking lot are:

Bootblack Bill, Tarnose Mumphry, The Admiral, Tugboat Simms, Soupy Flynn, The Roaring Jackass, Philpott Sam, Tomcat Sullivan, The Oracle, Madame Sousatska, Tippy Mulligan, Beef Stew, Zombie Barbaro, and Hellcat Hettie.

To answer your question as to a quote: your total is $200, with cargo shipping applied.

Please feel free to pay by whichever means is most comfortable to you.

Yours most sincerely, and in deep appreciation of your business,
Craig's Chaffing Dish Emporium

FROM SPAMMER:

you fuck

MY REPLY:

I think you mean, "fuck you." Ianre, you boor! Your business is no longer welcome!

All best, Craig.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun with Email Spammers

Hi All,

So, I'm unemployed at the moment, looking for work and keeping myself busy however I can. In this case, I'm replying to spam emailers trying to sell things. Sometimes this can be enjoyable. Here's my exchange with a spammer trying to sell me an ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE:

FROM SPAMMER:

Craig!
It's Thelma Moore!
John Savino next week will have big anniversary!
What gift would be the best?
I was talking to our friends, John
suggested me to buy ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE package.
John Savino big smoker, will use it.
Marc smokes for some time, he the best deal at:
http://antiquelongcaseclocks.com/esmoke
Let`s keep in touch!

MY REPLY:

Thelma!

Oh, shit, I forgot all about ole Johnny's birthday! Savino! The Savv-ster! Jesus, Thelma, thanks for reminding me. John's wife Trudy would probably have straight-up murdered me if I had forgotten! I mean, really, shivved me in the belly. You know how she spent those 5 years up at Attica for running over that pack of Girl Scouts, right?


Listen, I like the idea of ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES, but don't you think it's a little, y'know, ON THE NOSE? Considering Johnny has throat cancer, and the docs just finished cutting that hole in his throat and now he talks sort of like an octogenarian Darth Vader with that little speaker-box thingie that he holds up to the hole? I know he loves the sweet, sweet taste of Virginia tobacco, but I'm just concerned it's a little insensitive.


Secondly, I KNOW Marc smokes all the time. He fell asleep smoking the other day and lit his hair on fire, then his chesterfield, then his house and ultimately the houses all down his block and the orphanage. Didn't you see the headline in the paper? "IDIOT BURNS TO DEATH IN CIGARETTE BLAZE; DOZENS DEAD, INCLUDING ORPHANAGE FULL OF GOD'S MOST INNOCENT CREATURES"?

Now if he'd fallen asleep smoking an ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE, maybe things would have been different ... but maybe it would have touched off an electric fire! These are things we must consider, Thelma, before committing ourselves to any such purchase.

Please write back and let's discuss. I want to hear your take on it!

FROM THELMA:

Craig!
It's Thelma Moore!
John Savino next week will have big anniversary!
What gift would be the best?
I was talking to our friends, John
suggested me to buy ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE package.
John Savino big smoker, will use it.
Marc smokes for some time, he the best deal at:
http://antiquelongcaseclocks.com/esmoke
Let`s keep in touch!

MY REPLY:

THELMA!

Hey, listen, you don't have to be hostile and send the EXACT SAME MESSAGE again! Chill out! We both want the same thing, don't we, and that's to give our good buddy John Savino the bestest present ever!

I owe Savvy a lot more than a present. I don't have to tell you about how Savino saved my life, seeing as that's a well-known story in our tight-knit group of friends but it's a story worth retelling, huh?

John Savino was my Captain back in 'Nam. We were deep in the shit together, as you well know! We were sent up the Phenglong river in a gunboat to find the reclusive General Burtz. Scuttlebutt had it that Burtz had gone crazy out there in the jungle the wilderness had leeched into him like poison, I tell you, warping his mind.

We were floating on up that river, Savino and I, with a small crew that included Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Telly Savalas, and that big Native guy who looked like Chief from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" but wasn't.

Lo and behold we come across Burtz's jungle compound. Turns out he was hosting this illegal fight tournament; he'd invited the best fighters on earth, as well as a few from the demon realm; there was Frank Dux, Johnny Cage, the guy who played Ogre in "Revenge of the Nerds" and this big four-armed monster named Goro who looked like Chief from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" but wasn't.

Wouldn't you know it if ole Savino didn't take one look at the assembled fighters and said, "I can lick the bunch of them in a fair tussle!"

Now you and I both know John Savino was, and remains, five feet tall and weighs 115 pounds. And because of that chromosomal thing he's got, his feet point backwards and his spine is twisted up like a corkscrew slide. Not to mention which, he's blind in both eyes and sticks one of those crooked old-timey funnels in his ear when you speak to him, going "EH? Eh? Speak up!" And by that point he'd picked up a touch of the flesh-rotting disease and a straw-legged jungle bird had flown off with his hair weave.

Which is all to say, I admired the man's confidence and I think he had a good shot.

Well wouldn't you know it, first round of the tournament Savino draws that Goro fellow. Two seconds in Goro grabs hold of the Savv-ster's stickman arms and pulls them clean off his body!

"Yee-ouch!" goes Savvy. "That stings, baby!"

"Who loves ya, baby!" Telly Savalas shouted.

After that it was pandemonium. Jesse Ventura let loose with his chain gun, chopping up the lush jungle foliage. The big Native fellow ripped a drinking fountain out of the wall while this haunting saw-music played and threw it at Ogre, who was screaming "NEEEEEERDS!"

Poor Savvy was hopping around with blood sprinklering out of his stumps, going: "Yikes! Holy lick! Can anyone spare a drop of iodine?"

Now you may be thinking this is not in fact a true story; you may think it's a cheap pastiche of characters and scenes from the films Predator, Mortal Combat, Bloodsport, and Apocalypse Now.

But of course, since you know Savvy, you know it's 100% true.

As for how Savvy saved my life: that was much earlier, when he slapped a mosquito on my arm that may have been carrying the Dengue Fever. Phew!

Okay, Thelma, get back to me and let's talk about gifts for Savvy!

Yours most cordially,
The Sarge.

THELMA'S REPLY:

Craig!

It's Thelma Moore!
John Savino next week will have big anniversary!
What gift would be the best?
I was talking to our friends, John
suggested me to buy ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE package.
John Savino big smoker, will use it.
Marc smokes for some time, he the best deal at:
http://antiquelongcaseclocks.com/esmoke
Let`s keep in touch!

MY REPLY:

Thelma!

Holy broken record! You've got a real lady-boner for this ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE, don't you?
Listen, hear me out. I've got some other gift ideas.

How about we get Savvy an escort? You know what a filthy bastard the man is, right? Depraved doesn't even really begin to describe it! One time at his house he showed me one of his and Trudy's "home videos"; we're talking whips and chains and honey and there were ferrets, too, hungry ferrets and a clown noses and a balloon-drop and some game they called "Spanking Whimsy" and another called "Fat n' Sassy" plus a device Savvy called "Admiral Ticklebottom" ... I had to rush out for a bottle of eyeball bleach when it was all through!

Or what about one of those penis-stretching devices that friendly strangers keep sending me emails about? As you know, poor ole Savvy did loose the tip of his Little Soldier when one of those aforementioned ferrets stole into his trousers whilst he was sleeping. He was already a bit insecure about his size before that "I'm hung like an acorn!" was his frequent lament, as I'm sure you've heard him say at PTA meetings and then, after the ferret ... well, I can only imagine he might appreciate some help in the, ahem, "lap lengthening" department!

No? Okay, then how about one of those ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES? That was my idea, anyway. Fact is, Savvy's always smoking up a storm. He smokes just about anything he can get his hands on. Banana peels. Pages torn out of the phone book. Curls of old radial tires. I mean, honestly, it's pretty grim. So I was thinking we get him one of those ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES; here's a place I found:

http://antiquelongcaseclocks.com/esmoke

But here's the thing, Thelma: I'm a little light right now. As you know, I sell two things: black market organs and my own body. Lately I haven't been able to drug anyone sufficiently that I can cut their kidneys out and leave them to wake up in a bathtub full of ice the next morning. Plus I've come down with a fairly dire case of scurvy, making me an unappealing prospect for "johns" in the ole sack-a-reeno, if you know what I'm saying.

Long story short, I can't swing the price of this ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE.

So how's this: YOU buy the ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE, put my name on the card, and I'll pay you back later! Good? Good!

Yours in Christ,
Bill Wennington, NBA Champ (1992)

THELMA'S REPLY:

...

All best, Craig.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Maximum Fitness is no more

Hi All,

Ouch! That stings. The magazine where I hung my hat the last six months, the esteemable Maximum Fitness, is no more. It's kaput. I hear it's the first time in the umpteen-decades-long reign of Robert Kennedy Productions that they've ever had to shutter a magazine. So thirty-odd years they went off without a hitch, then six months ago a redheaded jackass came to work for them and soon they're closing magazines. I take great pride in that.

Actually, no I don't. Actually, I sort of hate being out of work. Actually, it sort of scares me. Actually ACTUALLY, they offered me a lateral to another title, with the same spot on the masthead and salary, but I couldn't quite bring myself to accept it. The reasons behind that are a little lengthy to get into, but ultimately if I don't feel 100% committed to something I can't really tell my boss, or anyone who's relying on me to perform, that I'm with them down the line. I certainly debated the "don't let go of one branch until you have a firm grip on another" notion, but I don't think that's fair to anyone. I promised my girlfriend there would be no financial heeby-jeebies, either, and thankfully I do have some money ratholed away in a jam jar buried in the backyard.

So that's right: no more lat-blasting. No more ab-ripping. Begone with biceps-shredding! No more shall you slash fat and build muscle! (Fact: We have a pair of 20-sided dice here at the office, which we bought at a Dungeons and Dragon Emporium next to a pewter statue of a sorcerer; each side of one die has body part names, and the other die has violent verbs. We roll them to come up with headlines: Shred Your Thighs / Pulverize Your Calves / Vaporize Your Breadbasket / Obliterate Your C-4 Vertebrae, etc, &c.)

Well, anyway, that's life in the big city. I am currently available for all manner of jobs. I am taking offers. Do you want someone to swab out your eavestroughs? I'm your man. Need a leg-breaker? I can do that, too, maybe, just so long as the deadbeat whose legs I am slated to break is a weak-kneed nelly. All of my organs are in relatively hale condition, so you can make me offers on those bad boys, too. (lungs cost extra!) And if you have any leads on jobs, do let me know. I will probably write short stories for nickels at the bus stop for the next little while and see how that treats me.

All best,
Craig

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rumors, rumors ...

Hi all,

Of course, nobody should read anything too much into this, although I have heard recently from some people and it seems at least conceivable that actual celluloid will spool through imagining chambers and, y'know, an actual print of an actual film may, well, actually be made. Maybe. Possibly. Who knows?

http://marion-cotillard.org/news-rumours/rumour-role-in-jacques-audiards-next-movie#comments

As for the stuff mentioned in the last post, which I realize was posted oh so long ago ... nothing! Nada! Zip! Zilch. I mean I literally haven't heard anything, from anyone, at all on any of that. The wheels spin oh so fast!

All best, Craig.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Begin Again

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He had whiskers on his chinnegan,
Along came the wind and blew them in again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again!

- Kid's rhyme

Hi all,

How highfalutin', yes, starting off a blog post with a quote. Well, that's me in a nutshell: highfalutin'.

The other day I had an experience that is pretty common to me in ye olde writing life, but actually I haven't experienced in some time: the dreaded "R" word. Yes, that's right: regurgitation. Oh, wait, no--rejection.

Now certainly I, like many writers, have dealt with my fair share. But lately, partially as a result of just not wanting to absorb it, partially due to the fact that I'm not a freelancer at this point and so I don't HAVE to absorb it as a prerequisite of paying my rent, and partially because lately I've only sumbitted work where I've been invited to (meaning I'd pretty much have to shit the bed entirely to get rejected), I haven't had much of it.

But now I'm in a situation where I've got two pretty major things, a 9,000 word piece of long journalism and a 120-odd K novel that are finally coming together--they're not there as yet, but they're close--and the duty will soon fall to me to send them out into the wide, wide world.

In fact, I did so once already with the 9k piece. A word, from what I have gleaned, about magazine pieces: 9k is tough as hell to sell. 5k, maybe. Long form journalism in general is suffering a bit. At my magazine, Maximum Fitness, and a lot of others, we generally work on two things: "front of the book" pieces, which are 100-150 word bits that you can read quick, splashing 3-4-5 of these over the page to suit a theme, and our "feature well," where we have our 1,500-2,000k pieces. I wrote a piece for our upcoming issue (on penises, naturally) that clocked in at 3k and is probably the longest piece our company has run in years.

Now some magazines, like the New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, GQ, Esquire, etc, will run longer form journalism. But what I've also come to realize is these places have their staff writers, who are on contract to write, say, 60k a year. With these writers tied into those contracts, there's a lot less room for freelancers to come along and snag a spot. There's no anger on my part at this---frankly, I'm glad for the writers who have a steady gig, as I do now. It's just harder to get in the door, especially when you're lugging a 9k behemoth.

That said, it's what I wrote, I think it's a decent piece, so I did with it what I usually do: I grind. I figure out ways to get an audience, at least.

So here's what I did: last year, at Here Weekly, I interviewed Adam Gopnick, a New Yorker writer. He mentioned his editor's name. I found said editor's email address and shot him off a missive asking whether he'd like to read this piece I'd written. He said sure, send it. So I did. A couple days later I sit down in front of my computer at work, 7:30am, and the email is there:

Re: Precious Cargo

Thanks, Mr. Davidson. This is a skillfully-written piece, with evocative prose and a compelling voice, but it's not quite right for us. You may want to try Harpers or American Scholar. -HF

Now, of course, you've got to go absorb that first gut-punch, that first setback, and (a) get through the remainder of your work day, and (b) embark on the necessary process of internalizing rejection, kicking it over, settling yourself to it and moving on.

This is an easier process sometimes than others. In this specific case, my line of reasoning went:

1. It's the New Yorker--this was a flier at best.
2. Next month you will have a book come out featuring a 20+-page scene where a dead man embalms himself, and the managing editor at the New Yorker just gave your piece a serious read and offered some kind words ... this, Craig, you should find terribly funny (and I did)
3. There are many other markets, and you have plenty of chances to find the one that suits this piece best; perhaps the New Yorker just wasn't the ideal market, and even if so, there are plenty of talented writers who are vying for that same spot.
4. Stop moaning and groaning and move on, you big softy!

And as such, I did move on. As one must. But this is a process that you have to go through a LOT when you're submitting. Now some people may be saying, "But Craig, you have an agent---why not send this to her and let her submit it?" My answer would be that, as much as my agent is a fine agent, I basically feel that I'm my best and most fervid cheerleader in most cases (which is kind of sad, really) and I have contacts of my own, and those I don't have I can usually find. I can send work to just about any magazine I want and get an audience, and I can know for sure it's been sent and the covering sentiments are my own. I NEED that knowledge. My agent has a million clients---not actually---and she's got lots of people to try to take care of. I have myself. So I submit a lot on my own, just for the surety.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to get at is that a lot of writing is the dealing with rejection, internalizing it, playing little tricks to get yourself to accept things, make changes, and still maintain a hopeful outlook with a given piece of writing. But it can be a hellishly long slog sometimes, and some days you'll get 2-3 rejections and it takes the wind right out of your sails.

And I'm especially mindful now because I'm living with someone who I love and my concern is that ... well, sometimes this stuff follows you home. It's an uneasy time for a writer, while their stuff is out there. You are casting your psyche upon the waters and you really don't know what you're going to get back, if anything. And I am normally a well-adjusted individual, but I've always been concerned that the dreaded "submission darkness of mood" is going to linger, that I'm going to carry it around like a pebble in my shoe. Sometimes writers are solitary, I think, because they aren't fully in control of their emotions during submission time---their emotions are dictated by what becomes of their work.

So, anyway, to that end I thought I'd take you on a little travelogue of my last submission, which was a short story entitled 'THE BURN.' This was over a year ago, when I wrote a story out of the blue. I realized that I kept a lot of the correspondence related to it and some people may find it interesting to see how I went about submitting it and some of the correspondence I received, plus my mindset (as best as I can recall) about how I dealt with rejection before moving on. Okay, so ...

THE BURN
Short Story
9k words (my fave length, apparently! This, again, is a tougher length to sell but it's the length I need to write a story.)
PLOT: A bus driver reflects on his time spent in Iraq, especially his fellow marine Billy Merryweather, who went a little Section 8.
Sent to: The New Yorker, Esquire, The Sun, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Crazyhorse, The Paris Review, The Walrus, some other places.

1. First off, send it to the New Yorker. It's the premier short story market. I sent it to their automated submission server.

2. That could take FOREVER to hear back, and chances were slim. I knew the fiction editor at Esquire. They don't publish much fiction anymore, but whatever. My email exchange with Esquire went as follows:

FROM ME TO FICTION EDITOR:

Hello T,

Ryan [D'Agostino, my editor at Esquire] shot me your email address. He said to tell you I'm 'the steroids guy' - how horribly reductive! But anyway, that is me. I started off as a fiction writer, and I still see myself as that. My first book, Rust and Bone, was stories. Anyway, I've written a short story and was thinking of sending it to Esquire. So if that would be okay, I'd be appreciative if you'd take a look.  Maybe it will be your cut of meat, maybe not. Maybe you'll tell me to go to hell and go through the proper channels - admittedly, I don't know what they are. Very best, Craig.


FROM HIM TO ME:

Sure, Craig. Send away. 
But a caveat—we’re not publishing a ton of fiction these days. Doesn’t mean we won’t again, but it’s always an uphill battle. You can send me stories directly, but do me favor and CC our fiction asst, as well. That way if I get buried etc, she’ll keep me honest.
Thanks, T

Months pass. Eventually I get a note (which I can't find, sadly), that said they'd been considering it very closely but ultimately had to pass. My internalization: Well, okay. It still got a good hard look from a publication not known to publish much fiction these days.

So then one day I open the email inbox to find:

TNY_fiction@adv...ags.com
Dear Mr. Davidson,
Your work here is truly impressive. Though the story is not what we’re looking for as far as publication, we do hope you continue to send us material.
Best,
The Editors

... took me awhile to figure out who the heck this was from. The New Yorker. So again, maybe close, maybe not, but definitely no cigar. But again, I say to myself: Esquire and the New Yorker said no. That's not awful, or particularly surprising. It would take a little luck to land either of those places. I can deal with that. It's shitty, but I can deal with it.

3. Next came a string of rejections. The Walrus, Crazyhorse, Glimmer Train, Tin House, The Black Warrior Review. A bit of a blow, seeing as these were pretty much form rejects when I'd been getting at least personal rejects from The New Yorker et al. This is the way a writer's mind works---even mine, despite the fact I'm pretty much the most leathery-hided member of our fraternity you'll find ... although every so often a rejection finds a soft seam in my bark and just pulverizes me.

4. One day I get this:

Mr. Davidson,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript to The Paris Review. We are unable to accept it for publication, but remain interested in your work and would like to see more of it. If you do choose to submit further work—and we hope you do—please remember to include a self addressed stamped envelope along with your submission.

All the best,
MP
The Paris Review
62 White Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-1333

... now I'm like "aaaaah, shit. Is this going to be one of those damn stories that gets serious consideration everywhere but doesn't get TAKEN anywhere? That would suck such serious rocks!" But whatever. You internalize, deal with it, move on, move on.

4. So another month goes by, maybe, and I've moved on to other work (which is another coping mechanism, in its way: just keep working). Open the mailbox and this is there:

Hi, Craig.
I'm one of the manuscript readers at The Sun, and the editors have asked me to get in touch with you about your submission of "The Burn." Please accept my apologies for the delay in our response. That delay is due in part to the fact that we liked the story very much, and so it had to make the rounds to our editors for their comments. Everyone here had very good things to say about the story. That said, there was a feeling that some revision could make the piece stronger still and give it a better chance of being accepted.
So I’m writing to tell you that the story is in a sort of limbo, in that we haven’t rejected it but we haven’t accepted it either. I want to share our thoughts about possible revisions and to ask whether you’d be interested in revising and resubmitting so we can take another look.
We were blown away by the rhythm and power of your writing: “So many perfect notes, it’s hard to resist just quoting them all,” one of our manuscript readers wrote (OK, that was me; I really admired this story). The story is extremely well written, expertly paced and compelling: “The characterizations of Bree, her father, Merryweather, the armless and legless vet … really excellent. The dynamics between them all are organic – we don’t have to be told how he feels about them, because it’s evident in their interactions. I love those interactions, the way they grow and evolve as he comes to love Bree. This story is tough and hard, but there’s a profound humanness that runs through it.”
That said, there were a few passages that we felt were written a bit too cryptically, the result being that we weren’t sure what happens, or why. We’d like to have these few issues clarified; otherwise, we think many readers will be left puzzled as much as moved.
[HERE HE GOES INTO SPECIFIC PLOT ELEMENTS IN THE STORY, WITH HIS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGE, WHICH I AGREED WITH]
I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
D
Manuscript Reader
The Sun Magazine
107 N. Roberson St.
Chapel Hill NC 27516

... okaaaaay, so, this is what I guess would be a potential acceptance. Ths Sun is a very good market. I'm pleased with this. I understand the changes he would like and can see why he'd like them, but this is not an acceptance: even if I make the changes, it may not get picked up. D was very forthright about it, and quite honestly it was a lovely and kind note and as a writer it's always nice to see your work has been read carefully and critiqued.

6. As I was stewing on this, the exact same day, this comes in:

Hello Craig:
Sorry for taking so long to reply, but this is not our usual kind of story. We were very compelled by THE BURN and would like to consider it for publication---if you were willing to make some edits to make it more palatable to our readership. Please get back to me on this as soon as possible and I can outline the edits.
Thank you,
L
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

... so this is a situation that has happened to me once before, when I had a story accepted by two Canadian journals. You have to get back to one to apologize, and they can be angry, but my feeling has always been this: it would take a writer 5 years, possibly, to get a story accepted via single sub. If it gets a serious look many places, that can be 6 months. 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 ... it adds up. That's not an excuse, totally not, and as an editor myself I cannot be fully onboard with multisubs, but still ... still. I have to, honestly. I'd go insane otherwise. What if it gets lost in the mail? You're waiting a year for something that never got there!

7. So, anyway, two sort-of acceptances in one day. AHMM wanted cuts that were particular to their readership, so axe the cuss words and some of the sexuality. The reason it sent it to them, primarily, is because my father reads AHMM and I wanted to have something in his favorite mag. Either The Sun or AHMM had simple, doable cuts. The Sun was my preferred market.

8. That night as I was thinking about cuts I get this:

Dear Craig:
Thanks so much for sending “The Burn” for our consideration at Cincinnati Review. We’ve read the story with great pleasure and admiration, and I’d like to accept it—if it’s still available and if you’re amenable—for publication in issue 8.1, to come out in May 2011. We pay $25 per printed page, upon publication, and you would see edited proof in early March. Does all this sound OK?
Our graduate-student reader, the managing editor, and I all love the story—it’s pungent, sharp, powerful, and the poignancy sneaks up on you. (I’m also a fan, as I told you in a less happy context back in the spring, of The Fighter.) I’m delighted—pending your approval—to have your fiction appearing in Cincinnati Review. Many thanks to you for sending your excellent work our way.
Best,
MG
Fiction Editor

... so now there's three. And this is a for-sure, no cuts acceptance. I like the Cincinnatti Review. I think the editor is a very good fellow and a fine writer himself (that part he's referring to, "the less happy context," was in reference to a professor position I'd applied for when I figured I wanted to teach writing in the States, and again---close but no cigar on that app). Anyway, this was awkward.

9. In the end, I went with the Review. Last issue they published Amy Hempel and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, so they work with very good writers. I wrote back the other two magazines and told them of the decision. They were both cool with it, seeing as they'd held onto the story for awhile. THE BURN will be out next month, the summer issue, and seeing as it's a 29-pager I make 500-something bucks, which I don't really need and is less than probably The Sun and AHMM would have paid, but I was interested in keeping it intact as I'd written it.

10. UPSHOT? Well, I'm content. But it took a loooong time, there were many rejections, and for 6-7 months I wasn't sure it'd get published at all. It was a nagging worry at the back of my mind, background static, but that's how it always is. Every day of those months it crossed my mind at least one. Which is why I'm so hesitant to submit things, sometimes. That perpetual niggling concern. But there's no way around it that I can see. It's part and parcel of writing. I'm scared of it, honestly, but I guess I'm more scared of giving up and not sending out anything. Just barely, some days, but yeah, just enough.

11. My name is now potentially on the radar at The New Yorker and The Paris Review, and I've established a good relationship with The Sun and AHMM, all fine markets that I may sumbit to again down the line; I keep those emails so that I can print them up and send in with new subs, sort of as a reminder: "See? You asked me to sub again!"

12. Anyway, that's the game and the way it's played from my perspective. And now I'm preparing to play it all over again. For how long? Who can say. Maybe I'll get terrifically lucky right off the mark (well, after the New Yorker rejection). Maybe neither of them will get picked up anywhere. Maybe it'll be a long pitched battle with a decent outcome. There's no real way to know right now.

13. Play the game. Win the game, lose the game. Play the game.

14. It's not really a game.

15. Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again!

All best, Craig.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You buy! You buy!

Hi all,

Yes, it's that time again to go forth and pre-order one of my books. As the twisted old Roma woman said in that episode of The Simpsons: "You buy! You buy!" (as any long time Simpsons fan knows, the Old Roma woman is voiced by Tress MacNeille, who also voices the Crazy Cat Woman, Missus Skinner, and several other great characters--also, the Old Mechanical Roma in the Box in Futurama. She's excellent, right up there with Hank Azaria for my moolah).

Anyhoo, this book is called VEHICLES. It's a novella, which is one of my favorite lengths to write. You can get into a story, meander around a little, stretch those narrative legs and then get out. So, yeah, this one's about 40,000 words ... and as you can see, it's written by an old pal of mine.

VEHICLES

Longtime readers of this blog and of afficionados of gross horror stories will remember ole Patrick. He's the pseudonym I came up with to avoid heaping disgrace on the good family name. Now those who read the synopsis (which I feel I partially helped write, but didn't fully write) will see that, yes, it's a bit of a zombie book.

I know, I know---you're saying, "Craig, you're such a creative guy, always exploring the nether reaches of possibility, never selling out to 'THE MAN,' always pursuing your own muse---why, why, WHY write a zombie book? Why ride a wave set to crash?"

My answer to you is that my zombies sparkle, making them unique in all of zombie-dom.

... no, seriously, it's not EXACTLY a zombie book. I mean, sure, that happy fellow on the cover LOOKS like a zombie, or else like a Bears Sterns executive after a rough day on the trading floor (see how up-to-date I am on my cultural references? Did you know there was a recession there, what where all them suspender-wearing brokers done goofed up and whatlike? I've got some really good Zubaz jokes, too) ... anyway, he LOOKS like a zombie, sure, and the synopsis would surely give you the impression that it's a zombie book, yeah, but really ... well, it sort of is.

There. I said it. ZOMBIES! Yes. But zombies with heart, if I dare say so myself.

Also, zombies eating hearts. And other precious organs and anatomical extremities ... which brings us back to ole Patrick Lestewka. I'd been thinking of publishing it under my own name but the publisher, Shane, he read the book and said, "This is a Patrick Lestewka book, dude." Which I guess is true, as it does fit in line with some of the novellas I published under that name, such as:

1. The Coliseum
2. Confessions of the Archivist
3. Pumpkinheart Fred and the Chalice of the Undead (unpublished)
4. The Tumor that ate Moosejaw (also unpublished)
5. Crabs! CRAAAAAABS! (just a silly title I thought up)

... so anyway, those first two were actual published things. Plus THE PRESERVE, which was a pretty grim and gritty and gross book. Back then, my early 20s, I really wanted to gross people out. I'd like to think I accomplished that. And while VEHICLES isn't quite so gross as those, and has characters that I think are maybe a little more realistic, and younger, and two of them are even female (and hardly ever naked), it is a different sort of book that those earlier ones.

But ... BUT! ... I think there's a perception amongst a small but somewhat fanatical (based on the emails I receive from time to time) base of Patrick Lestewka fanciers that ole Patty's gone soft. He's off writing about boxing and dogfighting and familes who live on a sleepy little court .... wimpy guff like that. He's a pantywaist, basically. A wuss.

And while it's true that I am both a pantywaist and wuss in real life---if you meet me on the street, there's a good chance I'll scream shrilly and run away---I am most decidedly NOT a wimp when I'm sitting in front of a keyboard, which can't hit back, rappy-tapping away on my stories.

So this is fair warning that VEHICLES is pretty gross. It's pretty violent. I can't say faces DON'T get ripped off, okay? I can't say that heads AREN'T run over by heavily-armored trucks, if you get my drift. I can't, because I'm NOT A LIAR ... unless you're the IRS or one of my many baby mamas, in which case, sure, I'm a tall-tale teller. But I'm not lying about this, all right? I'm as serious as a heart attack---which frail readers will likely have if they read this thing. Cardiac city, baby! Grand mals all over the place. Your head will pop like a bath bead. So fair warning.

Truthfully ... for all Patrick Lestewka fans: this book opens with probably the most prolonged, fairly disturbing scene I've ever written. I can't really say for sure, because I think I may've purposefully erased some of my earlier work from my memory banks. But I'm pretty certain.

So if you've been a fan of Lestewka but think he's gone soft, this is a book for you. There's mucho action, mucho bloodshed, mucho violent set pieces. It was a hell of a good time to write, and I wanted to go out there and write in a way I haven't written in awhile.

Everyone else ... well, I never want to turn away readers. But I thought it was fair to give a heads-up.

Now ...

You buy! You buy!

All best, Craig.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review of Sarah Court

Hey gang,

Here's a review from The Nervous Breakdown by Richard "Wickercat" Thomas, a very good guy and a good short story writer, novelist, and really a tireless supporter of writers and of writing, too - in all, a very lovely guy. Not to say the fact we know each other has tempered his review in any way; it may be scabrous, but I don't know because I don't read my own reviews for the most part. This is simply a defense mechanism, but I hope you understand.

The Nervous Breakdown

All best, Craig.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

P90x, aka: the 90-day gorge fest

Hello all,

As some know, I've been hard at work completing P90x, a sadistic workout series released upon unsuspecting workout fanciers by the Beachbody Corporation, adjudicated by their lord high torturer and devilspawn, Tony Horton. What it was, basically, was a series of 10 DVDs that you have to follow for 90 days (or as close as you can) to have the body of your dreams.

I was recommended P90x by my friend Neil, who has appeared in earlier blog entries, perhaps most notably this one from 2005, which some longtime readers still claim to be their favorite post of mine:

Tahit Treat!

So anyway, Neil said he'd done this P90x thing and at the time I was feeling a little doughy, like I'd lost the proverbial eye of the tiger so it seemed like something I should do. Neil informed me that P90x "isn't for greenhorns" - this is more or less what he said, setting aside the fact he's never used the term "greenhorn" - and that it wasn't for daytrippers and tire-kickers the likes of myself. This got my dander up, naturally, and I ordered it forthwith. With the chinup bar, the weight bands, the whole shebang. I cart my ass down to the Post Office and pick it up and gangle-ass my way home with it, then let it sit in my apartment for awhile while I attend to sundry other important matters, such as playing Lego Batman. But at some point I say, "What the hey, let's try this bastard out."

There are 10 DVDs, right? Each one is a different workout. You've got legs and back, arms and shoulders, Kempo-X (this whackadoo punch n' kick thing), stretching, yoga, etc. Apparently you're supposed to do them in some kind of specific order, but the first thing I did when the package arrived was chuck out the instructions, figuring you just did the DVDs in order, 1-10, 9 times in a row and then you were finished. I've since discovered the error of my ways, but truthfully I think it was tougher doing it the way I did it because I ended up doing some of the more punishing workouts, like Core Synergistics, 9 times instead of, like, 4, which was how many times that pantywaist Neil did it.

Craig 1, Neil 0. Winning!

Anyway, at first I thought I'd try one workout randomly just to see what it was all about. Unfortunately I chose Plyo X, which anyone whose done P90 can tell you is the absolute worst and most torturous. It's a lot of jumping around like a moron, flip-dee-doing about and general misery for 60 minutes. But I was thinking, "Hey, I've done boxing training, I've punished myself with extreme cardio sessions, etc, so how bad can this be?" Take into account that my obsessive physical training went down about 4 years ago, so I'm a little out of practice.

Anyway, fire up Plyo X. Ten minutes in I'm thinking, "This is a cakewalk!" Fifteen minutes I'm starting to sweat. Twenty minutes I'm starting to get dizzy. Twenty-five minutes I shut off the DVD, go to the bathroom, let loose a big long rope of puke, a real technicolor yodel, then go lie down on the floor for about an hour.

I've NEVER puked while working out. In fact, I used to think people who said they did were full of shit. Maybe you think that of me now. I wish I was lying.

So that was my initial experience. I let the DVDs sit for 5 days until I said to myself, "F-it, I've got to do this. Am I full of Tiger Blood or what?" (of course I didn't say this exactly, because obviously Charlie Sheen had yet to have his meltdown and gift the world with his treasure trove of crazy verbal gems). So I started the series in earnest. And in truth, yeah, it's an ass-kick. The guy who guides you through it, Tony Horton ... I think most people who've done P90x have a love/hate thing with Tony. He's just so over-the-top and so sadistic ... but you come to love the guy. It's very Stockholm Syndrome. You also come to identify with some of the other people who pop up in the series, like Pam the Blam, Phil the Lawyer, Sort-of-sexy-but-not-really-when-you-dwell-on-it Dreya and others.

So I just finished it. I was very happy to have it done. My body was starting to give out. I'm no spring chicken, plus I've done some damage to my joints over the years - bending over backwards to please my blog readers, that is! (says the guy who never updates this thing). Anyway, as with most of these programs there are plenty of "success stories": guys and gals who have had amazing results. When it got down to taking a good stern look at myself and appraising my results, I gotta say they're just okay. Maybe I put on some muscle, but as it's mostly bodyweight exercises I don't think I ended up packing on tons of mass. Maybe a little broader across the shoulders, a little better thighs - glamor! But I lost 5 pounds, max, not that I had a whole hell of a lot to lose, but I could have lost more.

So what gives? I worked the program fair and square. Where are my huge results? Where's my parade?

Then it came to me: I've been eating like a total pig and slob the last 3 months.

It's true! I get that way with working out, I really do. If I'm working on something that's really physically taxing, like boxing or P90x, I totally throw my diet out the window. I don't mean to say I ever "Diet," period, but I do make somewhat sensible meal choices when I'm not working hard physically. And I have found that once you ramp your metabolism up to a certain level, you can basically eat congealed lard all day and still drop the weight. That happened while I was training for boxing, but that was even a step higher that P90x. Turns out that P90x basically got my body to the point that if I ate like a total reprobate and glutton I could more or less maintain stasis.

What are some of the things I ate? Check this out:

1. The Sausage and Egg Biscuit from McDonalds. I ate these every second morning. Here's the trick: order the meal deal, unsleeve the hash brown puck from its waxed sleeve, open the sandwich, place hash brown INSIDE, then consume. Yes. Winning!

2. The Fat Bastard Apple Fritter at Country Style donuts. I was eating these the mornings I didn't go to McDonalds. I don't think that's their technical name, but I can't think of a better one. They are a massive, MASSIVE square of fried dough studded with apples of dubious quality. You could actually taste the grease in these bad boys, like you can taste the grease in those fairground donuts cooked up by the Conklin carnies with pigeon feathers in their beards. Yum-mo!

3. 99-cent blueberry pie from Price Chopper. This pie is worth every penny, but at 99-cents that's still not saying much. Are you looking for two slabs of greasy pie crust enrobing 2 millimeters of vaguely blueberry-tasting filling? Then head to Price Chopper! Serving size, normal people: 5-6. Serving size, Davidson: 1 (entire pie).

4. Duck Soup and Noodles at some Vietnamese Noodle Shop that I think is now condemned. Do you like duck? If you don't, you're a real sucker and not anyone I'd want to break bread with. What's not to like about duck? It's greasy, fatty, its skin is permanently in a goose-pimpled state (at least it is by the time it reaches my mouth) and by eating duck you are eradicating the world of the little web-legged scum who threaten to debase our schools and corrupt our impressionable youth! Of course that's all the ravings of a loon (I'm on a drug called Charlie Sheen; soon people will be weeping over my exploded body), but duck is where it's at. But this place where I used to eat duck was chintzy - they only put ONE duck hindquarter into their huge bowl of noodle soup. No way, pally - I want TWO duck legs! I'm doing P90x, friend-o, and I needs me the calories. I'm wasting away here! So they put another leg in there, crossing them like sabers in the bowl, and charged me a little extra. That's the way I roll.

5. Ripoff Swedish Berries from Shoppers Drugmart. These things taste like shit. They taste really chemical-ly, like they've been coated in a fine mist of medical-grade oil, and I really don't like them at all. Serving size, normal people: 8-10. Serving size, Davidson: 1 (entire bag, consumed with metronomic intensity and claims of "Oh lord, these are so BAD!" and "Agh, I can't believe I'm eating these!" while watching old episodes of The Littlest Hobo).

So, to sum up: I'm done P90x and back to square one.

All best, Craig.