A New Novel, and All The Bright Young Things At The Last Picture Show

I am in the final stages of making my “Loralee” novella available again. I plan to make this one as inexpensive to purchase as possible. It will be available in paperback and on kindle, a month or less from now probably. This re-write and edit took longer than I expected it to. The proofreading took longer than that. I also did everything that I could think of to distract myself from the task at hand. I “window shopped” online frequently, made playlists, got back into pinterest again recently. I managed to keep exercising and working out, but I also made five dozen of the best oatmeal and sugar cookies that I have ever made. I’m not kidding you, these were some good cookies. The last few days I haven’t slept hardly at all and I’ve consumed some terrible food and snack items, noodles, which I regret pasta and noodle carbs. every time, popcorn, the natural kind, it was good but still I rubbed salt in my own eye, a quesadilla yesterday, and today, nachos. I ate healthy things too, of course. It gets to the end stages of working on something and I just don’t want to fool with food so there’s the grabbing of convenience and junk food, and the over-consumption of caffeine ( as if)  I’ve realized, need to plan better for that. I worked on some landscaping and planted some plants. I didn’t color my hair during this write , but I think I probably will in the next few days, just blonde, always blonde, from now on only blonde. (I’m sure I said that at some point before but really, I’ve learned my lesson about the hair color. I’m a blonde, obviously.) I’ve got new eye-glasses ordered! Super cute, excited about those. (Six years ago I didn’t wear reading glasses, now I have to.) I made memes. I couldn’t seem to stay on task for any length of time with this one and somewhere in the middle of it, I realized why I kept wandering off to chase butterflies. I’m ready to write something new.

I have abandoned all such goings on that would entail working through any kind of  list of things I’ve already written, it’s all free-wheeling now! I don’t even want to talk about those dark days of the idea of that regimented, stifling to the creative depths of my soul, list. But really, it gave me something to focus on though it is no way that I’d ever attempted to work/write before. “Loralee” will be the fifth book that I’ve nudged out the door since last September. I’m not tired or burned out in general, but I think it was what I needed to do to get me to here.

I’m going to be working on a book that will be a conglomeration of things, poetry and other writings, taking the title for it from a poem I wrote that I’ve already shared here, All The Bright Young Things At The Last Picture Show.  Of which I know I once was one, which is part of the understanding of it. Yes, it is something loosely inspired by the classic 1971 film masterpiece, “The Last Picture Show.” ( And the novel of the same name which I have ordered to add to my ever growing reading stack.) I think that these are things that I couldn’t have written prior to this stage of my own life and experience as a woman, as a person, as a writer. It’s something that I’m looking forward to the composition of.

The new novel does not have so much as a working title. I cannot tell you anything about it other than I know where it begins and I don’t intend for there to be any “monsters” in it other than those of the strictly human variety. Again, this is something I couldn’t have written, known where to begin, prior to now.  I’ll be done with both of these writings, writing these books, whenever I’m done with them. I would be surprised if I’m finished with either this year. ( but then, it also wouldn’t surprised me if I finished writing both books.)

It’s summertime and I’ve got house stuff that I want/need to get done. I want to really spend some time reading, write some more books reviews. I want to watch some movies, catch up with some things, let myself really get into some things for a while, find out what I feel like I’m into right now. I think I was feeling that too with re-writing this one, like I needed to get out of the car and really stretch my legs, get some fresh air. It also might be a good idea to spend some more time promoting the books I’ve already got out there. Not my favorite part of doing this but a necessary part, even if minimally. I’m interested in the creative part, in doing my writing, my work. I’m feeling like I’ve found my groove with it again, and that is a beautiful thing.

Teri

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You know, in case you ever need a meme-quote thingy. When I set out to distract myself, I don’t play at it, I get the job done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Unbreak An Egg

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There are some opportunities in life that only come along once, some things that you only get one shot at. You can’t unbreak an egg.

For the most part, I’m one to be philosophical about such things. My go to example is one morning many years ago when I was running incredibly late for work, and I’m not a person who is generally or habitually late, especially if being late is going to keep other people waiting because that’s incredibly inconsiderate and it devalues both your time and theirs, so I had that going on where I was thinking “I’m going to be late. I am never late.” My alarm didn’t go off, I couldn’t find one of my work shoes, eventually I got out the door. If I’d been on time that day, I probably would have been involved in a multiple vehicle collision that resulted in four fatalities and sent three other people to the hospital.

By the time I got to work, I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t work, thinking how angry I’d been that I was late, and that being late had probably saved my life, in that instance. Ever since then, I figure there’s a reason when things seem like they aren’t going “right,” or going the way that I want them to, or think that I want them to. Really, there have been countless times when things seemingly haven’t worked out and later on, I’ve realized that it saved me from something, one way or another, even though it really was a drag or completely broke my heart at the time.

There were a lot of things that I really wanted for myself when it came to my writing, in fact, there are a lot of things that I still want, but, the reality level of my expectations has changed considerably. That’s been a tough thing, but it’s okay somehow, perhaps it is even a good thing.

As a writer, I started out ( we’re talking decades ago), dreaming of winning a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, then I thought I’d write something epic like, “The Stand”, and then I’d write crime fiction, at some point, I learned about The Bram Stoker Awards and thought, wouldn’t it be cool to win a Stoker? Never mind even thinking about the “Big Book Deal” that would catapult me to never-ending financial success. That was before I ever really understood anything about being a writer. I’m kind of proud of myself for thinking so highly of myself that I’ve dared to have such lofty daydreams, I mean, if you’re going to dream, then dream big. Talent, however, isn’t everything. ( is it the only thing? probably not.) I’ve had some challenges along the way, not to mention having previously admitted that I knew nothing about the modern publishing world going into this, but I didn’t let that even slow me down, I mean, there was no time to waste.

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The truth is that you get to certain places in your life and there is a narrowing of certain possibilities. I mean, yeah, okay, anything is possible, but at some point, it’s kind of about probability as well. I still have really amazingly large dreams, and wonderful hopes. I also have a pretty good reality where having let go of a lot unrealistic, if not immature, expectations, I can just write again, and have it be about the writing. That is an incredible relief. You know, I figure, one way or another, things are happening the way that they’re supposed to. So it goes, keep moving forward. I probably won’t ever win a Bram Stoker Award. I might hold out some hope for that Pulitzer but, even at that, it is more important to me to be doing work that I think is good work, work that I want to be doing.

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There’s not a little truth to this.

Writing that I want to be writing, for whatever reason it interests me.

To that end, I had about seven different beginnings written for the sequel to the vampire novel, a completed outline, and it just wasn’t working. I was staring into space, a lot.  I was getting discouraged, I was getting depressed. I realized that my heart really wasn’t in it. There are a lot of jobs that you can do and do well if your heart really isn’t in it, writing a full length novel isn’t one of them, at least, it isn’t for me. I rationalized myself into that being the first book I was working on this year because it’s the one that would take the longest for me to write, etc. I thought, Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t want to write this, I didn’t want to write about vampires to begin with. I gave myself permission to not write the sequel to the vampire novel. I am not going to force myself to write something that my heart isn’t in, that would make for a lousy book and be a waste of my time as writer. It’s really important to know when to cut bait.

When I did that, I gave myself permission not to write a bunch of other things that I don’t want to write or re-write either. I’ll never re-write “Souvenirs, The Rain” that was my first novel, a psychological thriller, the one that I just about sold, and I’ll call it a learning experience, but that’s still my work so I may use some parts from it, or not, and writers do that quite often, cannibalize their own work, however, I am never re-writing that book as that book. ( Never is a long time.) I will tell you that the opening paragraph is one of the best things that I have ever written. I just read it again and it flat-out flys and sings, but it wasn’t meant to be, or it would have been. I’m likely done with my Sci-fi/Western as it is too, it has recyclable parts as well. “Westworld” kind of kicked everything’s butt on the western front for a while, I think. I wrote both of those books in 2012, and they both broke my heart in different ways, for different reasons, I’ll salvage what I can, but it’s time to cut loose of them. I learned a lot from writing those books, but it is time to move on. That’s kind of freed up my writing schedule ever so slightly. There’s always poetry, a couple of collections that need serious editing for the sake of well-being and continuity. I can also tell you that the original draft of the “Loralee” novella was not quite twenty-six thousand words. (Sometimes it just isn’t the time for something. Things change. Who knows.)

You can’t unbreak an egg. I was putting the eggs away when I dropped one the counter and it’s like another secret of the universe revealed itself to me. I cleaned it up. Then I cleaned my house, and I did some serious thinking. I thought about quitting. I thought about it all day, because if I’m not making the beaucoup dolores or winning awards, becoming exceedingly popular, etc., ( could all still happen) then what’s the point?

Every writer’s first audience is themselves.

Long before anyone ever knew that I was a writer, a real and true honest to goodness dyed in the wool writer, I wrote for me. All day, all night, whenever, on and on, I wrote because I love to do this. I love to write. So, having thought about it, I don’t really see the point in quitting. I have, however, adjusted my thinking about it all, to accommodate happiness.

TS

Here’s a link to an article, The Truth About Publishing, it’s from 2005, but it might be helpful to those who don’t quite grasp how tough this business is.

The Girl in Geiger’s Bookstore Didn’t Know That

When it comes to my favorite films, I like what I deem to be good films regardless of genre. That said, I can also appreciate a film as being a good film, without actually, or necessarily, liking the film myself. There are also films that I have enjoyed or liked that I don’t know could even arguably be classified as “good” films. But, I was thinking the other day about my favorite Noir and crime films, and such.

Let’s get the Bogarting done.

The Big Sleep, 1946
Howard Hawks directed, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, which I’ve read and enjoyed.
The running time on this one is just under two hours. It’s plot heavy, and it is good. Bogart portrays private eye Philip Marlowe in this one, hired by General Sternwood, to resolve the gambling debts of his younger daughter, the coy and coquettish Carmen Sternwood, played to perfection by Martha Vickers. Enter Lauren Bacall as the older daughter, Vivian Rutledge. Where Carmen is high, or drunk, and playing cutesy with everything, Vivian is sharp and savvy, and thinks that their father’s true motive in hiring Marlowe is to try to find the missing Sean Regan. This film is loaded with great lines and some of my favorite scenes in any film ever. Including a wonderful bit of business between Bogart and actress Dorothy Malone. Marlowe has just been at Geiger’s bookstore, asking questions, now he’s at the book store across the street…

That scene pains me, somewhat, as I know of a time or two when someone might have asked me something I should have known and I didn’t have the answer, but that’s not the point for this writing, the point is that in life, sometimes we forget things or our mind is “somewhere else,” but in Noir films, not having the answer when you should have the answer, that definitely means that something is rotten in Denmark.  A thoroughly enjoyable film, with the usual powder keg of chemistry going on between Bogart and Bacall, though really, every scene in this one is practically smoldering.

Martha Vickers as Carmen Sternwood. (Every time I see this scene, I think someone should smack her, I think that would be awfully cute.)

Dark Passage, 1947,
Delmer Daves directed this one, based on a book by David Goodis. This one is gimmicky, which is most of what makes this one worth the watch. Bogart is Vincent Parry, newly escaped from San Quentin, the open scenes are shot from his sight line so that we don’t see his face. Lauren Bacall is Irene Jansen, she followed Parry’s case and believes he is innocent. Enter Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched) as Madge, an acquaintance of Irene’s who won’t go away, and a woman who Vincent Parry once spurned, and you’ve got the makings of some good suspense. Exteriors were shot in and around San Francisco, also worth seeing.

Casablanca, 1942, Classified as a romantic drama, this is one is also ever bit a foray into the shadows of noir. An all-star cast, Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Raines, and Peter Lorre. Set in Casablanca during World War II, Rick, ( Bogart), is caught between a rock and a hard place when he encounters an old love who is wedded to a new problem. This film is beautiful. Directed by Michael Curtiz, and, apparently based on a play ( I’m learning some of this as I go) by Murray Bennet and Joan Allison titled, “Everybody Comes to Ricks”, it wasn’t expected to do much of anything out of the ordinary at the box office. It went on to win the Academy Award for best picture. I’m not much of an Ingrid Bergman fan, this film though, is a favorite.

The Maltese Falcon, 1941, Based on the book by Dashiell Hammett, which I’ve read, this film was John Huston’s directorial debut. One of my favorite films of all time, this one is over the top Noir with a cast that is completely spot on nailing every line in every scene. Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Jerome Cowan, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook Jr, Lee Patrick, really wonderful casting across the board. Bogart is Sam Spade, of Spade and Archer, Mary Astor is Ruth Wonderly, or Brigid O’Shaunessy, a woman with a sob story, or several, to sift through before we find out what everyone is really after, the black bird, the dingus, The Maltese Falcon, rumored to be encrusted with jewels and worth a fortune.

Rear Window, 1954, This is an Alfred Hitchcock Technicolor masterpiece based on a short story, “It Had to Be Murder”, by Cornell Woolrich. Photographer Jeff Jefferies, (Jimmy Stewart), has broken his leg and can’t leave his apartment which over looks a common courtyard and invites voyeuristic views into the apartments of his neighbors, one of which is Lars Thorwald, (Raymond Burr). Jeff and his girlfriend Lisa, (Grace Kelly), become enthralled with some of the goings on of his neighbors until their spying leads them to the conclusion that something has gone seriously wrong in one of the other apartments. Stylistically shot in fine Hitchcock fashion with some levity provided by Thelma Ritter as Stella, Jeff’s insurance company appointed nurse, I’ve watched this one many times and have never failed to be on the edge of my seat by the closing scenes.

L.A. Confidential, 1997, Directed by Curtis Hanson, based on the book of the same name by James Ellroy, set in 1953, I wish they made more films that look like this. A hard-boiled, old-style, neo-noir, crime story of organized crime and police corruption, it’s smarter than smart, but it also has great character arcs as each of the main characters undergoes a transformation to a change of perspective about whatever they though and however they’ve been doing things. There’s a depth to this one, and outstanding performances. One of my favorite scenes is at the beginning of the interaction between Lynn Bracken ( Kim Basinger), and Bud White ( Russell Crowe), when she pulls back the curtain on the silken facade of her life, and reveals her chintzy, private, bedroom, and lets him in. In addition to Basinger and Crowe, this film stars James Cromwell, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, Danny Devito, David Strathairn, and a stellar cast of supporting players.

The Replacement Killers, 1998, Director Antoine Fuqua, based on a screenplay by Ken Sanzel. John Woo contributed his directorial skills to the action scenes, and this film is generally considered to be an action film due to the number of shoot ’em up scenes, Starring Chow Yun Fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, and Kenneth Tsang, this is the story of a hit-man who decides not to carry out an assassination for a powerful crime boss, and the consequences of that decision. I think Mira Sorvino delivers one of her best performances as the tough as nails with tons of heart, Meg Coburn, who deals in forged documents and false identities. Danny Trejo is also in this one as one of the “replacement killers.”

Jackie Brown, 1997 Directed by Quentin Tarantino, adapted and written for the screen by Tarantino, from Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel, Rum Punch. A stewardess, Jackie Brown, portrayed by Pam Grier, smuggles money from Mexico for Ordell Robbie, ( Samuel L, Jackson) and she gets caught. How she gets out of that mess is what the story is about. This one is about the performances. As Tarantino films go, I like this one far better than “Pulp Fiction”, I think it’s smarter, and a more interesting story. Robert Forster is fantastic as the unflappable bail bondsman, Max Cherry, Michael Keaton is spot on as the arrogant ATF agent, Ray Nicolette. Also starring Robert DeNiro and Bridget Fonda in supporting roles, this one has another killer Tarantino soundtrack as well.

Thief, 1981 Written and directed by Michael Mann, based on a novel written by real-life jewel thief, John Seybold, again, this one is about the performances. James Caan is Frank, a no-nonsense, career criminal, who, after falling for an equally disillusioned cashier named Jessie, (Tuesday Weld), decides that maybe he can have a family life too. Excellent performances by a supporting cast that includes James Belushi, Robert Prosky, and Willie Nelson.

Tequila Sunrise, 1988 Written and directed by Robert Towne. This film is classic 1980’s overly polished beautiful, in a way, like the polished noir films of the 40’s. Mel Gibson delivers an interestingly earnest performance as Dale McKussic, the drug dealer with the heart of gold who’s really trying to quit, and no one wants him to quit. He’s got a money-grubbing bitch of an ex-wife with whom he has a son, his oldest friend is a detective trying to bust him, his brother is an idiot who wants to play drug dealer too, he’s trying to untangle himself from his dealings with a Mexican drug-lord, and he’s fallen in love with a beautiful restaurant owner whom he fears would never want him and, though she is guileless, she is tougher than she looks. Not particularly hard-boiled, this is an entertaining film, with a big name cast, some great lines and gorgeous scenery.

Gunshy, 1998 Directed by Jeff Celentano. William Peterson plays Jake Bridges, a writer coming off of a bad relationship looking to punish himself with alcohol and getting into trouble. Really though, Michael Wincott as small-time gangster Frankie McGregor, who is in love with Melissa, portrayed by Diane Lane, steals a lot of this movie, as his friendship with Jake develops, and they all try to get out of this story alive.

HEAT, 1995, Written and directed by Michael Mann. This film is completely over-cooked with way too much star-power in it, and, it’s a good one anyway, with one of the biggest shoot outs ever. Apparently the film was based on a true story.

To Live and Die in L.A., 1985, Directed by William Friedkin, based on a novel by a former U.S. Secret Service Agent, Gerald Petievich, and that sounds like an interesting read. This movie is another one that really looks like the 1980’s, though with less polish. The main characters in this film are kind of pretentious and having a pissing contest with each other. Rick Masters ( Willem Dafoe)  makes funny-money, he is a very successful counterfeiter. Chance is the Secret Service Agent who is out to get him. I had a heck of a crush on “Chance”, portrayed by William Peterson, for a while, and I think that it’s the heart of the character Ruth Lanier, portrayed by Darlanne Fluegel, whom Chance is having a relationship with and extorting information from, that saves the movie because it gives some humanity to these characters who are operating completely without boundaries or conscience. Ruth wants out of the situation, has some feeling for Chance, wants to be able to see her kid, and is continuously faced with the reality that Chance is just using her. Agent John Vukovich, played by John Pankow, also lends some of that reality to the story as he is completely freaked out by how totally out of control Chance is. I’ve even seen the version of this with the alternate ending for Chance and Vukovich. John Turturo has a supporting role as snitch, Carl Cody. This film has in it what I think is the best film car chase of all time. It also has one of the best all time soundtracks by Wang Chung.

Double Indemnity, 1944 Directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, based on a novella by James M. Cain ( The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce), it is considered by many to be the film that set the standard for film noir. Walter Neff ( Fred MacMurray) sells insurance. Phyliss Dietrichson ( Barbara Stanwyck), is a cold, scheming woman, who wants her husband dead. The rest, as they say, is film history.  Listen baby, listen…

No Country For Old Men, 2007 Written and directed by the Coen brothers, based on the Corman McCarthy novel of the same name and classified as a neo-western, neo-noir, film, I tend to think of it as “rural noir,” this film was a surprise when it hit the box office and opened the door for a new era of story telling in the main stream. Llewelyn Moss ( Josh Brolin)  happens upon the aftermath of a massacre after a drug deal gone bad. He leaves the scene with two million dollars, the kind of money that someone is going to come looking for. Enter Anton Chigurh ( Javier Bardam) as the “bad guy,” the kind of bad guy that is keeping his own code, Carson Wells ( Woody Harrelson) as the other bad guy, and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell ( Tommy Lee Jones). This is one of those movies where the onscreen presence of Chigurh is such that you know how it’s going to end, but you keep watching anyway because it’s hard not to like Llewelyn Moss, or a man with two first names, Ed Tom, who is frustrated with the lack of common sense that he deals with on a daily basis in his general periphery.

The Usual Suspects, 1995 Directed by Bryan Singer, written by Christopher McQuarrie. An all-star ensemble cast in a complicated, convoluted, story of revenge. Who is Keyser Soze? And did Fenster always mumble? Seemingly coincidentally thrown together in a jail cell, a group of individual career criminals know that something isn’t adding up. They decide to pull a job together and are then approached by a Mr. Kobayashi, with an offer that none of them can really refuse. Worth watching for the casting, Gabriel Byrne didn’t want to do this film due to turmoil in his personal life at the time, it is, however, the intensity of his performance as Keaton, that anchors this movie.

In The Electric Mist, 2009 Directed by Bertrand Tavernier, adapted for the screen from a James Lee Burke novel, I watched this on the Netflix when it was briefly available for streaming. This one is Southern Noir. Detective Dave Robicheaux ( Tommy Lee Jones) is trying to solve a grisly murder while dealing with a film company that has set up camp in Iberia Parrish. He suspects Julie “Baby Feet” Balboni, ( John Goodman), a known criminal with ties to the mafia. He later gets information that perhaps it is another suspect. Meanwhile, a drunken actor has taken up residence in Robicheaux’s house while trying to dry out, and Robicheaux himself is drugged while at a party and has a strange experience where he meets a Civil War Soldier, played by Levon Helm, in the electric mist. Really good movie. I bet the book is worth reading as well.

Hell or High Water, 2016 Directed by David MacKenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, this rural noir, is the story of brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard trying to save the family ranch by robbing banks. But not just any banks, they’re robbing branches of the bank that holds the note on the family’s property. Texas Rangers, portrayed by Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, are trying to catch them. This one has it all, great story, good acting, unpredictable.

Out Of Sight, 1998 Directed by Stephen Soderberg, adapted by Scott Frank, from an Elmore Leonard novel, one that I’ve read, this is a stylish crime movie with some good romantic comedy thrown in. Escaped bank robber Jack Foley ( George Clooney), and U.S. Marshall, Karen Cisco, ( Jennifer Lopez) end up temporarily locked in the trunk of a car together where he proceeds to try to charm her and discovers that though on opposite sides of the law they may be, they have something in common. Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Dennis Farina, Michael Keaton appears as Ray Nicolette ( Jackie Brown.) Some great dialogue. Good movie. “You wanted to tussle.”

The Noir that I cut my teeth on was episodes of the old Perry Mason television series that I was watching and figuring out who dunnit when I was in grade school, and those are still some great stories. I was also a big fan of the true crime series “City Confidential.” I will sometimes still watch episodes of both of those shows. I teared up at the last episode of “Justified”, and thought that the British series, “Luther”, was outstanding. “Twin Peaks” was good, though it was slightly more surreal than I like my Noir. Documentaries that I though were pretty good, “Cocaine Cowboys”(2006), “The Seven Five” ( 2014), checking Netflix I see that there are a couple of other installments of “Cocaine Cowboys” to check out. Other notable favorites along these lines, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” both the film and the book are excellent, a film called “The Town” from 2010 that was adapted from a novel  by Chuck Hogan, called “Prince of Thieves”, by Ben Affleck,  “Devil in a Blue Dress” 1995, 1957’s “The Sweet Smell of Success”, 1987’s “Someone to Watch Over Me”, though I haven’t seen that one in years, and my movies to watch list got a lot longer in writing this. I can add that to all of the James Ellroy novels that I want to get back to reading.

Enjoy!

TS