Sunday, December 31, 2006

Smells Like New Years Resolve

It's that time again. Time to sort through the turds of last years goals, polish them off and bronze 'em like baby shoes. Not to say that I didn't have major shit go down in my life; this year was heavy with transition and accomplishment (signed my first publication contract, started and finished the novel, quit smoking), The crap of which I speak is the turds of goals unmet-as opposed to the turds of future failure, and those of smoldering regret. For these are the three turds of New Years resolution. Gaze upon them solemnly, lest you be visited. As I have been…

Resolution No. 1:

Writing: Get the Undead Socialite published. I'm not so naive as to expect, my first bit of interest to garner a book contract. If Penguin comes back with a negative response; I'm moving on. What's the magic number? 13. I'll keep 13 queries in rotation. Finish my Young Adult book: The Trouble with the Living and start pitch work. Sort through and edit the short fiction and spray them across the journal and magazine publishers like green grass goo, and see what grows.

Resolution No. 2

At 38, I'm determined to lose my baby fat. I have been successful in the past–multiple times–and have failed (see sin wave). I'm at my heaviest, right now, burying the office chair wheels deep into the carpet–they're probably peeking at the sub-floor. This is the year! The weight is coming off for good–one way or another. I won't be happy until I'm emaciated, drawing sustenance from an IV (lo-cal, of course).

Don't let the turds surpass the achievements people!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Top Ten TV Shows of 2006

Two top-10 lists in one month, what am I crazy? You bet, just wacky like that.
Here's what glittered on the tube:

10. The View (ABC)

What's going on at Barb's house? Rosie came in, took over, and the shit's flying like egg nog through the lactose intolerant. Bitch is for real, and Joy Behar's on board. Tune in to watch Elizabeth Hasselback squirm like a Junior League mom at a Slipknot concert.

9. Afterlife (BBC-America)

After losing interest in Medium last year, I was surprised that Afterlife even came to my attention. A bit darker and a ton moodier than Patricia Arquette's portrait of a clairvoyant, Leslie Sharp takes us along on a more subtle supernatural trip. She is followed by a psychologist, her biographer, who isn't sold. The pairing is interesting, the faces are real, which is probably the most unnerving thing for an American viewer.

8. Prison Break (Fox)

A friend of mine–naysayer that he is–questioned whether the show should still be thusly titled since prison has already been broke. I say: why the hell not? These characters can't stay out of jail for long. I tune in for T-bag (Robert Knepper, right), a nasty child-molestin' sumbitch, so creepy you feel dirty when you laugh at his slurs. Forget Cap'n hairplugs (Miller), T-bag's the real star! The second in command has to go to William Fichtner, after the disappointment of Invasion's cancellation, this kick-ass character actor jumped on for a thrilling season.

7. One Punk Under God (Sundance)

The rundown: Jay Bakker (Left), the son of Jim and Tammy Faye, has his own church, The Revolution, and some ideas that don't sit well with the Christian Right. I hesitate to call this a reality show; it's far too intimate. Let's call it an ongoing documentary. Jay takes us on a trip through time back to his childhood PTL days. Heritage USA as a ghost town is an insane metaphor for the Bakker family. You have to check this one out. Especially, for the heartbreaking image of Tammy Faye, struggling with stage four cancer.

6. Ugly Betty (ABC)

Admit it! You watch, too. This show is just too cute. It takes me back to those '80s comfort shows, Fantasy Island, Loveboat. Peppered with just enough snarky nastiness and Salma Hayek to keep it current. The Mexican telenovellas that Betty's father watches are classic.

5. The Office (NBC)

Jim's move to Scranton was–thankfully–short lived, and the addition of the new staff has been a boost to the insanity. This show is so dead-on in its roast of office culture, its become a litmus test for acceptable work friends. If they don't get the show, they are likely being mocked by it. You know you're working with an Angela–do you see the kitty mug on her desk? This show had to make an appearance on the list, if for no other reason than to feature my wife's favorite Christmas present (left), that's right–don't be jealous–it's the Dwight Shrute bobblehead, and it's the heavy kind.

4. The Nominees (Sundance)

Chris Lilley is f**king hilarious as all 6 nominees up for the prestigious Australian of the Year award, in this bad-ass mockumentary. Among them are a man who saved several children from a bounce castle accident, the world's first eardrum donor, and a girl (right) who collects African sponsor children like Tamagotchis. My favorite: Pat Mullins, the cancer survivor and housewife, who's geared up for the most challenging "roll" of her athletic career.

3. Supernatural (CW)

Now you're messin' with a…a son of a bitch. Where else can you get Nazareth on soundtrack? That's right, Nazareth. Supernatural continues to pull off some hokey/scary storylines in its second season, with straight-faced Padalecki and the smirk glued on Jensen Ackles. We check it out for the kitsch value (the '70s rock tracks bust us up) and to fill the hole in our hearts left when Buffy faded away.

2. Flavor of Love 2 (VH1)

I thought it couldn't get any better, that the heart-stopping movement Sumthin' took on the floor, would for sure be the highlight. But, when New York from Season One came back, bitches, it was on. I almost think that this show is completely scripted. One woman actually prayed to God on her hands and knees to help her stop beating "this bitch's ass." Mark your calendars, January 8th, I Love NY debuts. Please be so kind as to take off your shoes and watch this mad shit right here…

1. Heroes (NBC)

When was the last time your favorite TV character had subtitles? Oh…what was that? That's right, never. But Hiro does, and we love him (repeat that last part, aloud).

When previews for this show started to hit last summer, I was suspicious, looked great–so did Surface, where's that show? But I gave it a chance, and–Bam!–it's freakin' great, right? It's one of those shows that you can't wait to see, like Paper Dolls in the '80s (just kidding). It has been just as much fun finding out about each character's super powers, as it has following the storyline. We still don't know the full extent of some of their powers and that makes it, I think, really engaging, like burlesque a slow reveal that never goes completely bare.

Let's all hold our breath until it's back from winter break! You first…

Black Christmas Revisited

The intrepid reviewers of Pajiba (just about the only reviews you should trust) have issued a surprising all clear for the remake of Black Christmas–check it out here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Book Review: The Rising by Brian Keene

I intentionally avoided zombie novels (with the notable exception of Joe Schreiber's Chasing the Dead: A Novel), while I wrote The Undead Socialite's Guide to Nightlife. Now, I seem to be binging on them–'tis the season for bowel abuse, I guess. The latest morsel shoved down my craw, Brian Keene's The Rising, took me back to my adolescence. But, not in a good way.

It is a straight up zombie tale–the dead rise, eat the living, inherit the earth–exactly what I'd expected, and Keene can certainly sling gore with the best of them, his descriptions are absolutely sticky with the stuff. Our hero starts off on a trek to rescue his son from his now undead stepfather (is someone working through issues?). He meets up with a ragtag group of survivors (kudos to the supporting cast–nicely drawn) and becomes embroiled in zombie battles.

The story sparks along toward what is promised to be an explosive climax–namely the scene between hero and son–and then…does not deliver.

I have to tell you: I DON'T NEED A HAPPY ENDING. What I do need is an ending. This isn't the ghetto of literary fiction. I'm not interested in allusions or brainy foreshadowing. Horror stories need a bang, like a fresh ex-con. I know I'm not alone here. I understand that the questions are answered in a second book, City of the Dead, but I can't imagine putting myself out.

Next Book:Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

What's next?

I've been bouncing ideas off undecorated walls–they won't help me, they just stand there. What's the next big project. How about some torture porn? Hostel did well–not to mention America's feverish need for Saw sequels–why shouldn't it work in print? What about a short story collection, I wonder? I have a ton laying around, mostly horror. In fact, I'm writing another one now. It's about an embittered welfare worker, on a tour bus with diabolical senior citizens ('cause aren't they all?). I plan to cram it full of gothic imagery and turn Appalachia into American Carpathia. Comments, anyone?

I harvested the idea from my best friend's dreams. He has these vivid lsd trip nightmares, and he remembers them–can you believe that shit? Mine, on the other hand, are like this:

I'm walking through a tall-ceilinged building, art lofts–I think– without the art–just blank walls. Stir and repeat.

And that's it. The extent of my dream. P-thetic.

I did have this recurring dream as a child: I was napping in my dead

grandmother's bedroom and her corpse crawls out of the armoire. I

always woke before her head emerged. I might write that one down

some day. It beats racquetball with zombies in a parking garage.

Oh wait…no it doesn't.

Short Story Collection it is. I'm off…

Friday, December 22, 2006

Your name in print…

Joe Schreiber, author, is workin' it like a ho, over at his Scary Parent blog. For the low, low cost of his book, Chasing the Dead–a damn good zombie thrill ride (and the feel good book of year), you can buy yourself a spot in his third novel.

That's right, people!

Just pull out that cash–you'd normally be spending on a back-alley blow job–purchase Chasing the Dead by the end-o-the-day, let Joe know about it, and you'll earn a shout out in an actual book, with words and everything.

Nice gambit. It sure as shit beats a tile at the local children's hospital. Plus with this, you get to carry it around and show your closest friends. Who wants to show off a stinkin' tile? Really?

Doing My Part

Every year, at about this time–oddly coinciding with the Christmas festivities–we (the wife and I, and a friend) do our part in the Campaign to Keep America Obese (Check it out, it's sweeping the nation). We gather, each taking turns spiking the egg nog, and bake cookies for our friends and families, A.K.A. the ingrates. This year it looks like 36 dozen are on the agenda.

The Breakdown:

• Seven Layer Bars
• Russian Tea Cakes
• Dutch Chocolate Cookies
• Frosted Shortbread
• Snickers-spiked Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Butterscotch Haystacks

Are you drooling? Why not collect it in a jar and give that to a friend? After all, it's the thought that counts, and what friend wouldn't be happy to receive the fruit of your cravings?

The marathon begins tomorrow, and ends when the film crews arrive, the police are called, or the sweat starts to drip in the icing. There's a little bit of us in every bite. We call it love. Why not take up this tradition yourselves? It certainly beats shambling through the malls, or greedily lapping the e-bay pool of crap. Plus, if enough people take it up, we can quit. And, just in time for the holiday devoted to quitters, New Years.

Happy Holidays, All. Eat up!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer.

A little dated, but my wife wanted to see it. She's a very sick and insensitive woman, and I love her for it, as those are my favorite holiday adjectives.

Plus…It's just so cute to watch kids smoke.


Monday, December 18, 2006

It's Mailed!!!

An achievement, in itself–timing in at 3 hours 24 minutes–the manuscript is in the mail, and on its way to Penguin.

Um…but I have a question. Why didn't you people remind me that today was the busiest postal day of the season? You're evil retches that take pleasure from the discomfort of your good friend, that's why. I can only imagine the lines at larger post offices, wrapped around the building like an MC Escher drawing. I'd be so angry, if it weren't for…


Elaine attends Lutefisk dinners at a variety of Washington State Lutheran Churches. The Gig Harbor Lutheran Lutefisk is by far the best, I understand. Sumner Lutheran comes a close second–piquant, I believe is how Elaine put it. In a pinch, this Great Grandmother of twelve will brave the freeways, but only during the day, and travel for the $6.99 Lutefisk at that fine dining establishment, IKEA.

She was at the post office mailing a letter to Sweden. Where else? A faint aroma of briny fish wafted from the paper.

She also had a package to send. I glanced at the address label, she was mailing to "a friend in a nursing home," something Elaine had "made herself." I suspected a dried apple-headed pantyhose doll.

Get this: the package was being mailed to Tacoma, a mere 15 minute drive. Elaine stood in that crazy ass line, rather than drive over to deliver the package to her "friend." Suspicious!

I think we all know the package was a bomb. A great big shriveled apple pantyhose doll bomb, and, isn't that what we're all hoping for, this Christmas?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's Done!!!

After nearly five months of mind numbing word diarhea, I've finished the Undead Socialite manuscript.

•••insert applause here•••

I was supposed to have it done last week, but "Windstorm 2006" blew in and took care of that deadline. We just got power back this afternoon. Before then, we bored each other with 1800's House references and authentic Victorian bitterness.

As it turns out, my wife is a great proof reader–not so good with the softeners–who knew? Blunt insensitive comments are actually helpful. Spread the word.

Anyway, I'm sending it off to the editrix, tomorrow. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Book Review: The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

Praise Jesus for Christopher Moore! Who else could skewer the Christmas spirit so violently, yet still come off hopeful? In The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, Version 2.0, the author continues to elucidate the insanity that dwells in Pine Cove, CA. The setting for a number of his novels, in this, Pine Cove is splattered with holiday gore, as Raziel, the stupidest angel, misgrants the wish of a child, raising Santa from premature death, and a graveyard full of chatty corpses, in the process.

In typical Moore fashion, the characters are over the top and hi-fuckin-larious--particularly Molly-"the warrior babe of the outland" and Roberto the talking fruit bat (from Island of the Sequined Love Nun)--but at the same time so fleshed out and witty, you can't help but want to move to Pine Cove, except for the whole high mortality thing.

It seems that Stupidest is Moore's Love Boat, with an all star cast from his previous novels, assembled for an extra special Christmas episode. But, this one is wrapped in generous helpings of gore and danish furniture.

Next Book:A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson

Let's Remake Bad Canadian Horror Movies!

This clip is by far the "best" scene from the original Black Christmas. Take a look and then I'll start my rant.

Great campy scream. How bad could that door have hurt? I'm going to the dentist tomorrow, I'll try it on Dr. Stevens, complete with the growl. If he tries to leave I'll grab his hair. You don't think that's too much, do you?

Enough chattering, let's begin:

Put yourself in the Gucci loafers or Jimmy Choo's of a Hollywood Producer, for just a moment--bear with me. If you were going to do a lazy remake, wouldn't you go for one that had an interesting premise? The most faint spark? Okay, no. It's about the money, right? I get that. But why Black Christmas, over…say, The Toolbox Murders, My Bloody Valentine, or Driller Killer. Help me to understand? What's next a docudrama of Linnea Quigley of Frankenhooker and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama fame?

I'm fucking with you. I'd actually watch a docudrama of Linnea Quiqley. Help me come up with a title. I think we could sell it.

p.s. I know it was quick and she was bloody, but did you catch Margot Kidder in the clip? Love the voice. I bet you her lungs glitter.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Book Non-Review: Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton

Feel free to give this one a shot yourself. I couldn't make it past page 30. Could have been the timing--I started it after the stress of a huge edit and rewrites--or maybe I've just read enough fantasy involving books themselves (stepping in, coming alive, blah, blah, blah). People say it's great. For me it was, too. A great cure for insomnia.

Next Book (and I promise to read it all):The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, Version 2.0by Christopher Moore

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not Enough Time: Wish List

I imagine you sitting there with a notepad or the back of a phone bill, pen ready to jot down what you're going to get me this year. I know you meant to get out earlier, avoid the long checkout lines, the aggressive cart pushers, and me-me-mes. You wanted to know instinctively what I'd really enjoy opening, and not have to ask.

It's okay. I forgive you, and I'm letting you off easy.

This year, while Christmas is sparkling like a big shiny Tylenol, and you are slipping and careening out of control on icy sidewalks, one year closer to a nasty sciatica, keep in mind that you don't need to get me anything, not a thing.

All I want, is time. More of it, like Veruca Salt wants attention, I want time. Lots and lots and lots of it!

If I had it, I'd have been able to read the following for possible inclusion in the top ten books of the year list:
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
  • The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger
  • The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
  • Alantejo Blue by Monica Ali
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
And a few more, which slip my mind, right now. Maybe I should ask

for more memory. Can you get me that? Mine's almost full, I think.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Top Ten Books of 2006

The first post on Burlesque of the Damned details my obsessive reading schedule (have you seen the list?). Most of the books I read are modern fiction; I prefer to see what people are writing now, rather than become bogged down in the mire of a literary ghetto. My taste runs the gamut from literary to speculative fiction, young adult to memoir. I have been known to dip into the bandwagon books (The Ruins, The Lincoln Lawyer), from time to time--I enjoyed both, by the way. I'm a firm believer in reading for entertainment, rather than enrichment, I'm on my 62nd book this year, which is a personal best (I should hit 70 by New Years).

Since there are no more in my nightstand pile released in 2006…here's the list.

1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Pessl's book is crazy interesting. Her ability to pack a single sentence with multiple metaphors was/is insane. This prep school murder mystery, in the guise of a crash course in literature, smacks and swirls around your head like cartoon starlings. The illustrations? Her own, of course. What could she possibly follow this up with?

2. Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Possibly his best work since The Stand. Lisey's Story is so emotionally engrossing, it's like lying invisible, in someone else's marriage bed. Brilliant work, creepy, vivid, and heartbreaking.

3. Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

I haven't made this public. I love reality shows (Flavor of Love, Top Model), they are a bumper crop of insanity, and ready for harvest--can't wait for I Love NY. My favorite is The Amazing Race, and Parkhurst has set her tale of weary gamers firmly within its structure. The book is funny and humane, and reads like insider stuff. Check it out.

4. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Feel free to check out my review of this one. Sharp Objects sent my mind reeling through my own experiences working with cutters, borderline personality disorder and family drama. Flynn is sick, in a great way. And, Stephen King's blurb on the back cover, makes me want to revisit John Farris (add another to the list).

5. The Keep by Jennifer Egan

Is it a castle ghost story or the murky imaginings of a maximum security inmate? Egan's work is dark and gloomy, yet somewhat hopeful. I still remember the last sentence.

6. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

If Moore has a book out, in any given year, it will be on my top ten list. A hero of mine for roughing up the horror genre and bending it over a comic barrel. Grim Reapers? Come on, you've gotta love it.

7. Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber

Beware: this book demands a single sitting. Joe Schreiber has taken his thriller, tossed it into an SUV, and steered it on a blazing ride straight to hell. The trip is brutal and quick.

8. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

I rarely pick up graphic novels, but there was something about Bechdel's drawings and her story of a childhood in a funeral home, that hooked me. Sad, funny and never dull.

9. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Any book that can reduce me to tears, deserves a mention. Any form of entertainment, whether you like it or not, that can produce an intense emotion (horror, anxiety, sorrow, laughter) has accomplished something. Zusak's treatment of Nazi Germany is delicate but powerful.

10. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris

This one totally excuses the Strangers with Candy movie. Amy Sedaris's skewering of Martha's domain is hysterical and frightening. The photographs are a trip into a '60s lsd casserole nightmare. The tips are essential. How do you get the blood stains out of cotton panties? Amy's brilliant. She's the glitter.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chapter 6: Evil has a name

I've exorcised the demons from chapter 6 of Undead Socialite. I've been dreading the revision for the past week. The other chapters have been relatively easy, minor grammatical issues, some plot clarification. But not chapter 6, nope, it was a complete mess. Schizophrenic word salad. You'd think I was up in my office sniffing glue. Snort, snort, type, type. What was I to do? I'll tell you what, total rewrite and a 12-step group.

Exhausting. I'm spent. Wait, just one more… Poor me. There, that's better.

Enough whining, the wife tells me it's time to make the magic of Christmas happen. I wish I could just spray out the decorations like the green foam grass on the sides of freeways. No, not true, I'm being dramatic; I actually don't mind it. Especially now that we've gone fake tree. I love it, no sap, no needles.

It's the glitter.

There it is. A surprise gift to my readers (all 3 of you). The gift of a newly coined phrase. You can use "It's the glitter" in place of "that's tight" or "she's the shit," but do make a promise to use it. Pepper it liberally throughout your speech. But most of all, have fun with it. It's the holidays, and they're the glitter!