Sunday, November 30, 2008

Can Writers Act?

What is life without stupid questions? I live by stupid questions and am fed a multitude of them on a daily basis. So...let me wax annoyingly and offer up a musing of my own: Do you think writers are good actors?

I thought about this recently while sitting at my desk reading dialogue out loud. It's something I do. It's probably one of the reasons I went the longest time without a date before getting married. I held off the readings out loud until after the wedding, and then to my amazement, she didn't seem to mind.

That being said, when I do my readings, I am incredibly animated. I sometimes think it would be a good idea to get a bunch of costumes and makeup and keep them by my computer to help me get into the mood. Wait..was that too personal? Rewind.

When writing, I try and become the character, I want to hear that character's voice, hear his thoughts, imagine that when he does something on paper that it is true to who he is. Having read much about acting and having played Felix in a bad amateur production of "The Odd Couple" (some people are even now gasping---Felix? The clean, finicky guy? Not the grumpy, messy one?), I think actors and writers share some appreciation and empathy for character.

It's amazing to sometimes listen to writers read their work. Often when we do, we are one dimensional. We pretty much read in one vein. Jon Zech is usually folksy and reads like that guy who does the Disney voice overs for the nature films, for example. Chuck Zaglanis reads with this welcoming come-hither tone. Me? I chew the scenery, relishing in description that will shock people around me...and have been known to improvise as I read to truly offend. Even when reading a child's poem.

But reading out loud is one thing.

I still wonder, if you put me and Chuck in dresses and told us to star in a remake of "Some Like It Hot" (somewhere out there Ferrel Moore just went running out of the room), would we be able to pull it off with aplomb? Could Jon Zech handle Hamlet?; how would Charles Gramlich do playing opposite Sidney Williams in a new version of "Inherit The Wind"? How about Mark Rainey in a musical based on the life of John Wayne Gacy? Ferrel Moore in an imagining of "Dr. Strange" (someone will have to tell him who that is). I try and imagine people in the Royal Oak group and wonder if Joe could submerge himself into a reimagining of Darth Vader, Kim as Princess Leia, Aubreii and Gwen as female versions of Hans Solo and Obi-Wan respectively. Just trying to think out of the box.

Does creativity transfer to other forms? Is it plug and play? Can writers act? 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sneering At Puppies

Some people will be posting about how lucky they are and how much there is to be thankful for. Let me buck that trend. Here is a quote for Thanksgiving.

"When you look at how minuscule and unimportant we are in light of the immensity of all existence, when you look at how even the greatest tragedy a person can experience is nothing when set against the backdrop of the tapestry that is life...when you are able to see that, you can start to realize how pointless your existence is. You can understand that you're not even fit to be a dot on an italicized 'i' We're all just the butt of some enormous colossal joke. God sits on high laughing at us all."

" don't you kill yourself?"

"Because, fortunately, I at least have a sense of humor."

So think about that when you're sitting around the table giving thanks, or when you're appreciating a Spring day, or marveling at a baby's smile. Me? I'm going to go outside and sneer at puppies.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Too Much of A Bad Thing

Someone shook their head at my last post and rumbled "You might as well do the NaNoWriMo..or whatever it's called, where a bunch of folks commit to write a novel in a month." Hmmm.

I have actually given that consideration. Except that the NANO thing always struck me as counterintuitive. Don't get me wrong, I believe in writing each day, having a schedule, forcing productivity. But an entire novel in a month??? I know some people will comment that they've done it, that others have written and published from NaNoWriMo that it's been a push that made them write.


But I think the best plan is to be a careful and deliberate writer. I believe in researching a market, looking for what sells and how it sells, and then crafting something that meets what an editor is looking for. A market plan.

And besides, once someone has written that novel in a month, what do they do with it? Do they edit? Do they rewrite? Do they go back and rework it? I know there's some other group writing event where they next go and edit the damn thing in a month...but come on. I mean..come on.

If you pound out a novel or a group of novels and you aren't selling them or at least finding some interest (maybe in breaking them up and rewriting them as short stories) then I think a person needs to stop and look at the process.

There's a term we use for productivity without quality.

It's called Crap.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kabillion My Eye

Joe is a soft spoken individual with dark complexion and pepper hair. He has this sense of quiet urgency about him. He is a thoughtful person who seems to choose his words carefully. 

"I set a goal to send out a kabillion stories this year," he said.

Okay. Not a kabillion, but over a hundred. I can't remember the number but maybe close to a kabillion. And it turns out those kabillion stories are a kabillion different stories. Some of them are being sent around to several publishers after a rejection. Still...a kabillion is a number to respect. It's the sort of number to rumble at while grabbing a crotch and glancing skyward.

I received this news from Joe and sneered. "Yeah? And how's that working out for you?"

"It's working out. I think I'm going to meet that goal."

"When is the year up?" I asked.


"I want in," I said.

Joe looked uneasily at me. We were suddenly standing under the hottest sun. A lone tumbleweed skipped with the breeze. I tilted my hat back and ran a hand across my brow.

"You want in?" he asked.

"I'm very competetive. Starting in January, we'll both do a kabillion stories."

"Kabillion and one," he said, squinting.

"Make it...Kabillion and one," I agreed.


So Duotrope and Ralans....look out. Starting in January the old Jew is going on a rampage, no market too small, no market too large. I've got a kabillion stories to push, and every step of the way that soft spoken pepper haired writer is going to be trying to beat me, pushing himself. Pushing me. Thank god I have a reservoir of work to polish and upgrade. Still.  A kabillion and one...that's serious. And I have a novel to finish by April.

Jon? You want in? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pair of Dimes

The Writer's Group will be discussing economy, which of course was the whole purpose of the "assignment". That being said, I think one of the things I am going to push is the idea that economy is about adapting a paradigm, changing how one looks at one's writing, seeing it differently. Sort of foreshortening, if I may be allowed to use an art term. That being said, here's something to look at...have a little fun.

In the image below...stare hard at the figure and she will appear to change direction, going either one way or the other.

Finally...something really stupid

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Okay, Fine...You Want Goldfish Porn?

He drew the blinds and stood in the quiet apartment, lit only by candle. Broad shouldered, with an elegant line to form, the flickering light highlighted his nakedness, accentuating his excitement. He knew she was watching ; he enjoyed that she was watching.

A slight smile curling thick lips, he padded across the carpeting and stopped before the aquarium. The water filter hummed. He watched the fish for a long time, almost oblivious to everything else. His hand dipped into the water and swiftly retrieved a goldfish. Holding it in one palm, he used a finger to stroke the creature.

"What are you doing?" she asked nervously.

He didn't answer. Instead he glided across the room and stood above her. "Sex is an act of creation," he whispered.

He lowered the goldfish onto her chest, listening to her sudden intake of air. She arched her back as the little creature struggled against warm skin.

Moving with a lion's speed and strength, he was suddenly on the bed, straddling her, his weight a pinion. His hand remained cupped, pressing the fish against her. The other hand moved along her body, reshaping curves, exploring them, rediscovering them.

She started to grip the wrist of the hand that held the struggling fish. Resisting, he rubbed against her heat. She responded with quickened breathing and a small moan. Encouraged, his actions became more forceful, more controlling. She surrendered and matched him. The moment lengthened and stretched. It lost meaning against the building of sensation and the immensity of contact.

The fish's struggle lessened.

It surrendered.

She called out at the intensity of sensation, her voice all passion and release. Sweat beaded along her chest and along her belly. Between her legs. Muscles contracted and remained tight until the final pinnacle. Then she released and he could feel the tension melt.

"A little death," he said, holding the fish aloft.

He saw the guilt in her eyes and smirked.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Mas!

I can't do it. I just can't do a fifth story about goldfish and... I just can't. Not unless I decide to try a porn approach, something like:

She trailed the flopping goldfish along his bare chest, leaving a wet streak along his sternum. He grinned at the little life she pressed against him, feeling it struggle to breathe. She moved the poor thing down his abdomen....

NO. Even I won't go there. So I'm done. I think I've proved my point. That being said, I'm bringing all the links together. My four and some links to some other people who have jumped in here. First, my four tales, then some others...

Story One, Story Two, Story Three, Story Four

and then these are from Jon Zech, Gwen Jarris, Kristen Berry, and Aubreii Stuart, Joe Ponepinto

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Goldfish, Man In Black, and A Train--Story Four

"What if goldfish were, like, aliens. You know? And, like, their goldfish bowls were environmental units?"

Larry nodded approvingly at his own observations.

George frowned and turned back to the window. The night looked cold and threatening. He peered unseeing through the reflection of his eyes. Shiela's train had been due over three hours ago. He should have gone to meet her. He thought about it, struggled over how it would make him look to her.

"Maybe she caught another train?" suggested Larry, as if reading his thoughts.


"Maybe someone kidnapped her or something. Maybe, like, she was walking along the road and you know, like some dude in black jumped out and grabbed her. Maybe she was like, like..."

"Shut up," said George. "You talk too much."

"You," retorted Larry.

George sighed, thinking that it might be a good idea to send Larry out. Sheila hated him. If she showed up, his presence would block any chance they might have at reconciliation.

Larry stuck a hand into the goldfish bowl, chasing the fish around with a finger as he made a low rumbling sound.

"Stop it!"

George's voice startled him. Jerking back, Larry snagged the edge of the bowl. It fell and crashed onto the linoleoum. Goldfish flopped about.

"Oh my God," whispered Larry. He ran to the sink and grabbed a glass, quickly half-filling it with water. Rushing back, he squatted and retrieved the two fish. With damp eyes, he watched them to make sure they were unharmed.

"I'm so sorry. God, George. I'm so sorry. You know? I'm sorry. I'll clean it up. I'm sorry."

George looked at the clock again. If she was going to come, she would have been here by now. She at least would have called. He turned to Larry; his friend's eyes were anxious. "It's okay, we'll clean it up. We'll get a new bowl tomorrow."

"Yeah, a new bowl." Larry seemed relieved. "I'm sorry about Sheila, man. Maybe you could call her."

"No, man. She knows my number."

"Damn right," said Larry. He chuckled and set the glass of goldfish on the table.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a goldfish bowl, a train, and a man in black...story three

The train bound for the work camp rumbled through the night. Shem leaned back against someone, grateful for that person's warmth and for the counterbalance that provided his aching legs relief. He wished he could eat; the Nazis had promised to feed them at the next large town. Instead, the door was thrown open and more Jews were herded in as a black jacketed S.S. officer good-naturedly called out instruction.

"Shem?" The voice belonged to Ari, a neighbor who hated Communists more than he hated Nazis. "Dp you remember Anna's goldfish?"

Shem didn't respond.

"You want to hear something funny?" Ari continued. "I remember every little detail about them. It's uncanny. But Shem, I can't remember my Anna's face. It's a blur. Why? Why do you think that is?"

It seemed several people held their breaths to catch his response, as if his answer would give them something to cling to. The burden was unforgiving.

"You remember because the goldfish don't matter," said Shem. "Later, when this nightmare ends, you'll remember."

"And if the rumors about the camp are true?"

"Then someone else will have to remember."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Train, A Goldfish, A Man In Black---story 2

Lorenzo liked watching them cringe. The way their eyes widened and the tightness abour their jaws excited him. He could smell their fear and savored it.

Sam watched him. A fat man with long hair and little black eyes that looked like buttons, Sam didn't do anything on his own. He would wait for direction, wait and see how crazy Lorenzo was going to go. Tonight, Lorenzo was willing to go pretty crazy.

He held the goldfish bowl out from his body and waited for the first one to make eye contact. It was the mother. She pressed her young son closer, making a "shooshing" noise as she inadvertently looked up. Lorenzo felt the contact, the moment of electricity. He let go of the bowl and watched it drop and shatter. The sound was enormous. The three people on the floor jumped, but quickly settled down as Sam made a motion with the .45.

"It's a wild thing," said Lorenzo. He stepped over the mess he had made and squatted down, deliberately putting his back to the father as he spoke to the woman. "People live tame. But we ain't meant to. We're meat eaters. We're hunters."

"Hunters," echoed Sam. He sounded excited.

The mother pulled her son closer. Lorenzo wanted a greater response, needed a greater response. Someone was going to have to get hurt; it was the only way to ratchet things up.

“Do hubbie,” said Lorenzo.

Without hesitation, Sam squeezed off a shot. The child screamed as blood blended with the water, the shards of glass, and the dying goldfish. A little ceramic train which had been part of the bowl’s western motif turned red.

Lorenzo grabbed the woman’s arms and yanked her up. As she screamed and pleaded, he pushed her toward the bedroom. “Watch the kid,” called Lorenzo.

Sam giggled.

“You can play with him, but don’t kill him,” warned Lorenzo. “Not yet.”

Those words ignited more screaming from the woman. Smiling, Lorenzo carried her across the threshold and tossed her unceremoniously onto the bed. To remind her of what was at stake, he drew his gun. “Get undressed,” he ordered. Lorenzo liked how flat his voice sounded.

The sound of running feet. Little feet. Heavier feet in pursuit. Lorenzo grinned at the sound. “Games started,” he said.

A gun went off.

“My baby!”

Lorenzo turned toward the door. “Dammit, Sam. I told you to control yourself.”

Seeing her wilt, feeling that the fight had been drained from her by this turn of events, he considered just killing her and finishing it. She would be no fun now.

The door opened behind him. Lorenzo expected a rush of apology, a note of disappointment and fear. Sam was a big child. Hard to stay mad at him, really.


The gun fired again.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Okay, so I'll agree that a train, a bowl of goldfish, and a man in black are elements that produces sniggers. But to those who scoff...I am going to write one short short each day (ending Thursday)based on the above three ideas.

“Those are the kind of boxes they use in restaurants,” Gerald protested.

“The fish won't know.”

“I want them in a bowl.”

“Kid, the water will slosh all over the place.”

“They should see the world.”

The train rumbled in. Gerald carefully stepped into the car and immediately found a seat beside a shriveled woman, her hair a hard plastic shell. She studied him with a lack of humor and turned away. With a kick, the train started cross town. The water in the bowl sloshed dangerously close to running over the lip.

Watching the two goldfish, considering names for them, trying to discern personalities, Gerald suddenly became aware of a shadow standing over him. A teenager, dressed in a black t-shirt, his face an explosion of acne, leaned over the bowl.

“What the hell?” the teen asked. “Fish? Are they sanitary?”

Gerald wasn’t sure how to respond. “They’re in water.”

The teen shrugged. “Well then,” he said. His hand splashed downward, found one of the fish, and before Gerald could respond, plucked it out and dropped it into his mouth. He made a show of chewing and swallowed. With a gleam of satisfaction in his eye, he opened his mouth and stuck out a tongue to show Gerald the fish was now gone.

Tears welled up in Gerald’s eyes.

“What you gonna do about it, freak?” asked the other boy.

Without hesitation, Gerald’s hand dipped into the bowl. It took him a few awkward moments before he caught the other fish. A grim, defiant expression on his face, he looked up and popped the struggling fish into his mouth.

The two boys stared at one another.

Mumbling to himself, the teenager moved away. “Freak!” he called over his shoulder.

After a minute, Gerald leaned over and spit the goldfish back into the bowl. Wiping his eyes, Gerald whispered: “Don’t you worry, Roddy. Friends are overrated.”

The solitary goldfish, perhaps now wiser than before, swam about his transparent world.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Goldfish Bowl, A Train, and a Man In Black

I've been through several writers' groups...sort of like Spinal Tap has gone through drummers. However this current one has been tremendous fun thus far. It sparks me to write. Maybe its the group of people (a fun and energetic mix ), or maybe its just the lively discussion about elements of fiction writing (we last discussed an Editor's checklist). Perhaps it's the fact that three of us are teachers and three of us have been involved in journalism. Maybe its just a good group.

Anyway, there's a point to my ramble. The group is engaging in a bit of writing designed to exercise our sense of economy. I love these little assignments; some of my best story ideas have come from these activities. I thought I would share this one with you. I will be posting the result on this blog next Thursday. Anyone who would like to join in is welcome. Send me a link to your posting and I will post it here so others can visit, read, and comment.

So, the assignment? Five hundred words. That's it, no more than five hundred freaking words. And somewhere in those words you will have to involve a goldfish bowl, a man in black, and a train. I know...I know...but those are the conditions. 

If you want to see what I come up with, visit next Thursday night. If you want to play, send me your link.