Saturday, February 29, 2020

February Words of Wisdom

What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious. --Cicero

What you surround yourself with should bring you peace of mind and peace of spirit. --Stacy London

It's time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.
--Marcus Aurelius

Be your own artist and always be confident in what you're doing. --Aretha Franklin

Just because you're offended, doesn't mean you're right. --Ricky Gervais

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. --Ayn Rand

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. --Robert Heinlein

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. --Zig Ziglar

No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams. --Maya Mendoza

I believe that we are all brilliant creatures and that we have only just started to tap into the amazing human organism that we are. --Laird Hamilton

A man who governs his passions is master of his world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil. --St. Dominic

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is caricature. --Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Recent reading: "They All Fall Down"

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

I'm already way behind my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge. I committed to 52 books (average one per week) and am halfway through two separate books - one a history of the Chateau Marmont and the other a short story anthology. So what did I do? I started a third book, which became the first one I finished.

Hall is the Guest of Honor at next month's Left Coast Crime, and (disclaimer) she also wrote the foreword for Crossing Borders. Since I'll be meeting her next month I thought it might be a good idea to check out her most recent book, the acclaimed They All Fall Down.

I can see why this book has received accolades. One of the blurbs on the back cover, from James Patterson, is a better explanation than anything I could come up with: "The twists start from page one and never let up."

Miriam Macy is heading to a remote island in the Sea of Cortez to participate in a reality show that she hopes will help both her bank account and personal problems. Miriam's life has spiraled out of control. Her relationship with her teenaged daughter Morgan, an aspiring ballerina, is fractured, she has lost her husband to Morgan's ballet teacher, and there's also something going on with another girl who was bullying Morgan, something bad enough that an LAPD detective is calling Miriam, wanting to talk.

They All Fall Down was inspired by Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, so when Miriam and her "cast mates" arrive at the island, they learn that they were all lured there for different reasons, and then one by one they start dying off. What follows is a combination of Miriam trying to figure out who is committing the murders, how to get off the isolated island alive, and the slow reveal of exactly what happened between Miriam and her daughter's bully.

I rocketed through this book in just a couple of days. It roped me in from page 1 and I felt compelled to keep reading. It's just a terrific story and highly recommended.

Ten minutes.
It had taken ten minutes for the Valium to work.
And now I felt nothing.
Smoothed out. Empty. Void of emotion.
And that hollowness lived solidly next to my heart and my lungs, that hollowness as useful as my appendix.
I took a deep breath, then found my phone in my purse. I took another breath, then reread my daughter Morgan's text message, the same message that had sent my flying into a toilet stall.
It was a short message.
Just three words.
I hate you.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

It's here!!!

I ordered Crossing Borders from Amazon as soon as it became available and this being Amazon, it was delivered about five minutes later. I'm kidding. A little. Sort of.

So pretty!

One of the things I got a kick out of is that I made it onto the first page in the Table of Contents. I was on the second page in LAst Resort. I've read that the order of stories in anthologies isn't random - it's an art form. I don't know if I should read anything into it, but it's progress of some sort. Also, it's just cool to see your name in print.

The official launch will be at Left Coast Crime in San Diego in March. If you're there, come by at 7:30pm on Thursday evening and say hi!

Monday, February 17, 2020

I'm officially published again - "Crossing Borders" is available!

The "official" release date isn't until mid-March at Left Coast Crime in San Diego, but Crossing Borders is available for purchase now. You can get it at Amazon or check out the links at Down & Out Books for other vendors.

The foreword is by Rachel Howzell Hall and it looks like they got T. Jefferson Parker to blurb it. Good times.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Love Day!!!

Two of my greatest loves: roses and the ocean.

I saw these roses during a walk when I lived at the beach, washed up on the rocks along the channel. It made me wonder how they got there, what the story was. Were they thrown into the water in a fit of anger? For good luck? Had a bouquet thrown during a wedding aboard a yacht gone overboard? Had they been part of a burial at sea? We had roses when we buried my Dad's ashes at sea. They're such beautiful flowers, my favorite of all. How did they end up washing up on some rocks just short of the Pacific Ocean? I wish they could have told me their story.

Hoping everyone has a great day with the people, places, and things you love!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Well this is an interesting take on the Houston Astros cheating scandal

A lot of issues have popped up since the Houston Astros felt the wrath of the MLB Gods over their cheating scandal. This includes the Los Angeles City Council petitioning MLB to strip Houston of their 2017 World Series win and award it to the runner-up L.A. Dodgers.

But here's a scenario I haven't seen floated yet - the fact that a disastrous outing versus the cheating Astros could have made the difference between a journeyman pitcher being kept on his major league team or being demoted to the minors, and eventually out of MLB altogether.

According to his lawsuit, former Dodgers pitcher Mike Bolsinger pinpoints an August 2017 game versus Houston while he was pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays and clinging to a spot in their bullpen that may have destroyed any chance he had of remaining in the big leagues. The Astros shelled him so badly that he felt like their batters knew what he was going to throw.

Turns out he was right. From the linked article:

During that outing for the Blue Jays, Bolsinger gave up four runs while recording only one out, the suit claims, adding that 12 of the 29 pitches he threw were preceded by banging noises from the Astros' dugout, a noise now known to have been used to alert batters that an off-speed pitch was about to be thrown.

"I don't know if I've had a worse outing in my professional career," Bolsinger told USA Monday. "I remember saying, 'It was like they knew what I was throwing. They're laying off pitches they weren't laying off before. It's like they knew what was coming.' That was the thought in my head. I felt like I didn't have a chance."

Bolsinger was demoted to the minors after that game, then dropped by the Blue Jays altogether the following season. He wound up playing in Japan. His suit contends that the disastrous game with Houston resulted in the Jays (and apparently the rest of the league) no longer viewing him as capable of playing in the league.

Interestingly, while the damages Bolsinger is requesting for himself were not revealed, he's asking that the Astros pay $31 million dollars to Los Angeles area charities. How did he come up with that astronomical amount (see what I did there - hee!). It's the amount of bonus money Houston received for "winning" the 2017 World Series versus Los Angeles. $31 million freaking dollars. Who says crime doesn't pay?

I don't know if this guy is going to be able to wrangle millions out of the Astros, but I think the really interesting question is how the cheating scandal - and that particular game - may have changed the course of his career. If he was just hanging on to an MLB roster spot and trying to prove himself worthy of keeping it, that one game may have made all the difference in the world. I'm sure he can't help wonder if a successful outing that day would have translated to continued employment in Major League Baseball, and I don't blame him for wondering. The sad thing is that he'll never know if he would have won that game or not, but now he'll always wonder. I'm not a fan of frivolous lawsuits, but I think the guy has a legitimate gripe, and possibly a very legitimate case. I'm genuinely curious to see how this plays out.

And one more thing - how many other players out there are wondering how badly they may have been damaged by the cheating, and what will they want in compensation? Bolsinger's suit may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, February 10, 2020

So how did the Brutally Honest Oscars Insider fare last night?

I think she was surprised by a lot of the results, as were many of us.

Best Picture
Insider: Once Upon a Hollywood
And the Oscar goes to: Parasite

Best Director
Insider: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Hollywood
And the Oscar goes to: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

Best Actor
Insider: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
And the Oscar goes to: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress
Insider: Renee Zellweger, Judy
And the Oscar goes to: Renee Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor
Insider: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Hollywood
And the Oscar goes to: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress
Insider: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
And the Oscar goes to: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay
Insider: Once Upon a Hollywood
And the Oscar goes to: Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay
Insider: The Two Popes
And the Oscar goes to: Jojo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature
Insider: Klaus
And the Oscar goes to: Toy Story 4

Best Documentary Feature
Insider: Honeyland
And the Oscar goes to: American Factory

Best International Feature
Insider: Pain and Glory (Spain)
And the Oscar goes to: Parasite (South Korea)

Best Cinematography
Insider: 1917
And the Oscar goes to: 1917

Best Costume Design
Insider: Once Upon a Hollywood
And the Oscar goes to: Little Women

Best Film Editing
Insider: Ford v Ferrari
And the Oscar goes to: Ford v Ferrari

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Insider: Judy
And the Oscar goes to: Bombshell

Best Production Design
Insider: Once Upon a Hollywood
And the Oscar goes to: Once Upon a Hollywood

Best Original Score
Insider: 1917
And the Oscar goes to: Joker

Best Song
Insider: Abstained because she didn't like any of them.
And the Oscar goes to: (I'm Gonna) Love Me Again (Rocketman)

Best Sound Editing
Insider: Abstained because she doesn't know the difference between sound editing and mixing.
And the Oscar goes to: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing
Insider: Abstained because she doesn't know the difference between sound editing and mixing.
And the Oscar goes to: 1917

Best Visual Effects
Insider: Avengers: Endgame
And the Oscar goes to: 1917

Best Animated Short
Insider: Abstained because she didn't have the opportunity to watch any of the nominees
And the Oscar goes to: Hair Love

Best Documentary Short:
Insider: Abstained because she didn't have the opportunity to watch any of the nominees
And the Oscar goes to: Learning to Skate in a War Zone (If You're a Girl)

Best Live Action Short:
Insider: Nefta Football Club
And the Oscar goes to: The Neighbors' Window

The Insider explained her choices here. The official results can be found here.

I don't remember a year when the acting winners were all such a forgone conclusion and there weren't any surprise winners, but the Insider did go out on a bit of a limb by voting for Scarlett Johansson over Laura Dern. Overall, by my count, the Insider's choices won six categories and lost thirteen. For me, the biggest surprise was that Quentin Tarantino went home empty handed, and I don't think I'm alone in that. I really thought Once Upon a Hollywood would get a lot more Oscar love.

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Brutally Honest Oscar Voter explains her votes

I don't pay a lot of attention to awards shows, but I'm a sucker for historic Hollywood and Los Angeles, so this year's Oscars have me hoping that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes out like a bandit. I also really, really want Brad Pitt to thank Sayuri (the Pittie who played his faithful dog Brandy) in his acceptance speech.

One thing I do love about awards season is when we get a behind-the-scenes look at Oscars voting and the Brutally Honest Oscar Voters never fail to deliver. In this year's edition an actress who shares my adoration for Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood votes like crazy for this movie. One thing I do question is how someone in her position doesn't know the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, but other than that this is a fascinating look at how an Academy member puts a lot of thought into how they cast their votes.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

We now have an official release date for Crossing Borders...maybe...sort of...

Publishing house Down & Out Books just updated their Facebook header to show their February titles and one of them is Crossing Borders, which includes my short story "Like Deja vu All Over Again".

Because of what I was previously told, I'm not sure if they're releasing it in February or just making it available for pre-order. It's not showing up on Amazon yet. The "official" release is supposedly at Left Coast Crime in mid-March. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Either way, it's getting close! There will be a launch event at LCC on Thursday evening (you can find it on LCC's schedule). If you're attending, please stop in and support this anthology, the first from Partners in Crime (aka the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime).

Morning light

Marina del Rey. Miss you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

RIP Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas, one of the few remaining stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, died today at the age of 103.

I was just watching A Letter to Three Wives the other night. It was the film Joseph Mankewicz wrote and directed prior to All About Eve (he received Oscars for Best Director and Best Screenplay for both films in consecutive years, the only person to ever pull this off). While not remembered as a classic like Eve, it's a great film and one of my all-time favorites.

A Letter to Three Wives was only Douglas's seventh film in a career that would go on to last over sixty years and his trademark vitality and energy were on full display even in a supporting role. Douglas would score three Oscar nominations for Best Actor, eventually receiving an honorary award in 1996.

While it's hard to feel bad for someone who lived over 100 years, it's still a loss to his family and friends and for fans of old Hollywood. He had a hell of a life and it's always sad to see something that great come to an end.

RIP, sir.

Pic from A Letter to Three Wives snicked from imdb.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Happy feet!!!

Did you know you can get In-N-Out Burger sneakers? I didn't. And then this popped up in my Facebook feed:

Heck yeah I follow In-N-Out on Facebook.

Unfortunately, there is a potential drawback - the price. Sixty-five bucks. Forty for kids sizes. The good news is for that amount I'll be able to force myself to pass on them.

But still...that's pretty cool. Bonus points for that box.

Monday, February 3, 2020

God I love The Babylon Bee

Pennywise: Only slightly less scary than some of the drag queens I've seen online.

The Babylon Bee has been on a roll lately. The best part is when people who don't get them feel the need to point out that they're a satire site. And the crazier the news is, the better they are at mocking the crazy shit.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Submitted for your approval - January 2020 edition

I started out with an entry on New Year's Eve. It was the only December submission, so I decided to count it here. I would have submitted it much earlier except I had a question about the process that wasn't covered in the submission rules. I'd emailed them a couple weeks earlier for clarification, but because of the holidays they weren't able to get back to me until December 31 and since the entry fee was going up effective January 1, I decided to get it in at the last minute.

This is contest is for works (books, plays, and short stories) that have been published. They judge the potential for adaptation into film and/or television. I submitted "Crime Drama/Do Not Cross" since it's the only thing I've had published so far (at least until next month, when Crossing Borders is released). I have no idea if "Crime Drama" is film material, but I thought I'd give it a shot. Unfortunately, the final deadline isn't until August 31, so it will be a while until they announce.

The second and third submissions were existing stories that matched the themes for two upcoming crime/mystery anthologies. I took an editing swing through each one, and one needed a lot more work than I'd anticipated. That one was submitted mid-month, the other one just a couple days ago. The mid-month one will announce by April 1 and I have reasons to have high hopes for it. Even better, it will be published in June, so that would give me two published stories in the first half of the year. I'm not sure if the other anthology will be published this year or early next year. They didn't give announcement or publication dates.

February and March should be busy. There are two more February deadlines, plus a March 1 deadline for what will be a high profile annual anthology. There's also three other markets with March deadlines (11th, 22nd, and 31st) that I'd like to submit to.

Also (as I mentioned here) we received images showing the cover of Crossing Borders, which will be available for pre-order soon. When it is, I'll update the image in the left sidebar to include a link for ordering. Crossing Borders is the first anthology from Partners in Crime, the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime. It will be officially released in mid-March, in conjunction with the Left Coast Crime Conference, which is being held in San Diego this year.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled writing.