Theater Masks

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

10 Thoughts and Memories for 2010

10)This was the year Lost ended. It was the best TV show I've ever seen, and I think it'll be a long time before anything tops it. I've written a lot about Lost already, and when I (eventually) get the DVDs or Blu-Rays and rewatch, I'm sure I'll have more to say.

9) This was the year I saw less movies in the theaters than I think I have in a LONG time. It's a combination of inflated prices and, frankly, lower quality films coming out. My favorites? Inception, Toy Story 3, and Megamind. I'm all about the realism, yo.

8) This was the year Caitie and I increased three our participation in three hobbies: Disney, reading, and gaming. We became columnists on wdwforgrownups.com. We bought each other more Disney "furnishings" for our house. Caitie read over 100 books this year. I read -- not that many, but I think more than I have in the past. I plan to keep track better next year. We have become almost fanatical gamers. We go to game club once a week. We play games with friends on weekend. We play Wii more, and we're seriously considering getting a PS3.

7) This was the year my unit changed at work. Well, my unit stayed the same, but three people on the team were changed. It's made for an interesting new dynamic. I have to say, overall, I'm a bit less stressed about this aspect of my job than I have been the last couple of years.

6) This was the first year of WriteonCon during the summer. The conference was absolutely fantastic, teaching me so much about writing and the industry. It didn't get me any agent contacts, but it did give me a new beta reader and cyber-penpal (hi Autumn). It reinvigorated me with my writing, and spurred me to not only finish my Tracey book, rewrite Goodson, but get started on a mystery novel as well (which, sadly, is kind of stalling around 120 pages in at this point). I have two agents looking at Before White now. Here's hoping by this time next year there will have been more progress made!

5)This was the year we went to Sondheim's 80th Birthday Gala, and the year Bucks County Playhouse may have closed its doors permanently. Maybe you saw the concert on PBS a couple of months ago. It was an incredible night - one of the most memorable I've spent in the theater. Sondheim is my writing hero, and it's no exaggeration to say I think he is the smartest, most clever composer/lyricist of all time. On the flip side, the news that the owner of the Bucks County Playhouse was forced to retire and close the theater is very sad for me. I spent 25+ years seeing shows there. I've seen more theater there than I would have been able to see otherwise, and while production values may have varied, I'm grateful for the continuing love of theater the playhouse has fostered in me.

4) This was the year we went to the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington DC. I'm a long-time lover of The Daily Show. I've recently become more aware of politics, more angered by things that are happening, and more in agreement with Jon Stewart's beliefs that what's hurting us more than anything else are poor reporting and immoral media (I was a journalism minor) and politicians who are more self-serving than in it for the people they are supposed to be representing. The rally was an amazing confirmation of these values, not to mention just an incredible experience to be amongst THAT many people at once!

3) This was the year my niece, Lily Ella, was born. I haven't have a chance to meet her yet, as we were away for the holidays and then I had a cold, but I can't wait. Seems crazy to me that my little sister is a Mom. I'm very happy for her, and look forward to showering Lily with Disney stuff and books (though not literally, because, you know, that would hurt).

2) This was the year my Nana died. I admit I didn't call her as much as I probably should have. I loved when she came to visit for the summers - and in the later years when she stayed with my Mom. She was a funny, caring, generous, and loving woman - she cared about her family above and beyond everything else. She always wanted what was best for her children and grandchildren, and it was so clear that she reveled in her great-grandchildren (my cousin's kids). My sister named Lily after her, and I think that would have touched her so much. I found a ceramic figure of a baseball player she designed for me when I was a little boy. I was never into sports at all, but I always liked that figurine. When Nana died, we put the figure in a prominent place in our living room, as a constant reminder of Nana and what she meant to our family.

1) This was the year I solidified my relationship with Caitie. I'm not going into details, but we had a pretty rough patch earlier this year. The good news, and what I want to focus on is that we came out the back side of those troubles stronger and more in love than we ever were before. She is my partner and my best friend and I can't imagine my life without her. We've learned how to rely on each other, to trust each other, and to lean on each others' strengths. I look forward to a great new year with Caitie, which will be just one of many, many more to come.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Black Swan

If you haven't seen the movie, be warned, here there be spoilers.

I'll get this out of the way right from the start. Caitie hated the movie. She doesn't like horror movies, and we didn't know it would be scary. Personally, I found it a bit graphic in parts, but not really scary.

What I did find, though, was an incredible central performance by Natalie Portman about the drive for perfection in art. What separated the film from others are a couple of things. One, the sheer visceralness (visceralosity? visceralization? you know what I mean) of the camera work. The hand held style usually bugs me, but it felt right for this movie. We spend the entire film inside Nina's head. An omnipresent cameraman or true third person view would not work. Second, Nina herself isn't sure what's real, and director Darren Aronofsky successfully puts us, the viewer, into her scissor scarred ballet shoes by keeping us on the edge of fantasy. I never once thought she was literally transforming, or that any of her delusions were real, but they served their purpose on a sheerly metaphoric level.

I'm not a perfectionist in my art. I know writing is sloppy, I know I make mistakes both grammatically and structurally. I don't have that drive for complete perfection - nor do I think a writer CAN - that a ballet dancer has, no, needs. This movie would not work for a writer, for if a writer were to strive for what the ballerina requires, nothing would ever get produced. In fact, the end result of the movie is a way of approaching achievement of that perfection.

So no, I don't relate to Nina in that sense -- but I understand her. I understand her drive. I understand the push from and twisted relationship with her mother. I understand (and I suppose in a way do relate) to her drive to experience new things, to see how far one can push without breaking. There's a duality expressed throughout the movie -- most clearly visualized by the stunning use of black and white, especially in the costumes -- that shows us Nina's problem. She can be the perfect ballerina, or she can LIVE. The teacher/choreographer Thomas says repeatedly in the film that she needs to let go.

Perhaps that's the message - pushing too hard, driving toward a goal with blinders on ISN'T optimal. We SHOULD let go, we should strive to be our best while living our life - most importantly, as so many other artists have shown before - we should strive for one thing that matters intrinsically to any dancer -- balance.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Things just feel off, but...

I have two full manuscripts out.

My sister's going to give birth within the next day or two.

For some reason the last couple of nights I've been having really funky dreams that I can't really remember in the morning, I wake up feeling -- off.

We haven't been to the gym in a couple of weeks because we seem to be doing something every day.

I'm turning 33 next week.

The sliding back door in my house has been a pain in the neck to close lately and I can't figure out why.

I've been trying to get a contractor to fix the thing that needs to be fixed on my roof (yeah, that's how specific I can get) for months and he never calls back.

My computer has been doing funky things lately like sending dancing purple lines across the screen or not turning on properly.

I've gotten skunked out of more poker hands online in the last week than I thought possible - losing sure thing wins when that one wrong card falls on the river.

I'm semi-stuck on my latest book - I think I'll get somewhere and then come to a screeching grinding halt again.

The lock on my classroom door is broken, and no one seems particularly concerned, though it means when we have a lockdown I can't follow procedure.

I got a rubber chicken as a secret Santa gift, though granted, it makes a really cool noise.

I practically threw out my shoulder playing Boom Blox this weekend.

On the plus side:
I have two agents looking at my full.

My sister is about to give birth.

I don't remember the funkiness of the dreams really.

I actually HAVE a gym membership which we can (more or less) afford

I'm made it to 33 and it's got to be better than 32.

I'm pretty sure I managed to get the door closed after all.

When I do get in touch with the contractor finally it shouldn't be terribly expensive.

My computer is (more or less) working, at least.

I don't think I'm playing bad poker, just hitting incredibly bad luck.

I've written three full books with very little trouble, hitting snags on book four is nothing to complain about, and I've got ideas churning for three more books already.

Who care about a lock?

OK, the rubber chicken is kinda cool.

Boom Blox is awesome and I can't wait to hurt my shoulder again...OK, maybe not so much on the hurt...


ETA: I'm an uncle! My sister gave birth this morning at 9:45 to Lily Ella, 7 lbs. 5 oz. Yay - so happy for her!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My student reads my book

I know it means very little in the agenting world, but I've finally allowed one of my students to read my book. For the past two years I've been very hesitant to do this, but I have a student who is, to put it mildly, a voracious reader. She would be my perfect, ideal audience so I thought I'd give it to her to get some feedback. Since I haven't printed it, she's been reading it during study halls on my computer. Every day she comes in, excited to get reading. She asks me some questions, mostly anticipatory ones trying to get me to reveal what's coming next. She seems enthusiastic about it, and, importantly, told me that it's unlike anything she's ever read before. Her interest and excitement certainly seem genuine - she's the type of kid who, if she wasn't interested, probably wouldn't be making the effort every day to read.

I have to admit, this has given me hope. I've been scared to let a kid read the book since that's who I'm gearing towards.

Now, when I get published (no more ifs - I'm going with WHEN), do I have to thank her? :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I was going to post something else

I was going to post something a little more political - wrote it all up and then deleted it (some people may have gotten it in a feed, I guess). Caitie convinced me to take it down.

One point I do want to keep up here, though.

DADT repeal was voted down today by the Senate. The majority of people wanted it, the majority of Senators wanted it, and it still got voted down.

It's a sad sad day for the American people.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just a quick post...

Caitie and I have been asked to write a column for wdwforgrownups.com -- you can find us under the column heading "Jolly Holiday" -- come check it out, especially if you love Disney!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving

It's the day before Thanksgiving. I don't have a whole lot to add to the general blogosphere of giving thanks that's been pervading my computer monitor, but it only seems fitting to raise my proverbial voice to the chorus of "Thank you" for my family, and my friends, and having a job. I'm thankful I have a home and am still hanging onto my middle class living.

I'm thankful I have been given a talent of writing, but more importantly I'm thankful I have a wife who supports and encourages me. When I feel like I'm not good enough (for those of you who get the reference, when the vampires attack), Caitie is my own personal Van Helsing. I love writing, and I love being creative. Caitie allows me to pursue that drive to write - telling me what works and what doesn't - pushing me forward and giving me the drive to keep pursuing my dream. Above anything else, I'm thankful for the love she shows me every day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Christopher Moore - funny guy!

I just finished reading "Fool" by Christopher Moore, after having read "Lamb" and "You Suck." If you haven't read any of his books, really, you're missing out. They are literally laugh out loud funny. Thank you, Caitie, for introducing him to me!

On the back flap of "Fool" he provides an email address to contact him. Seeing as I've written a comedy novel myself (albeit YA) I figured I'd write to him and see if he had any advice. Surprisingly, within 24 hours he had written back, and we exchanged a couple of emails back and forth!

He had some great advice about letting inspiration in at all hours of the day and night, writing everything down, where funny bits can come from, and how to decide what to keep and what to cut (perhaps the most valuable bit for me -- as an unpublished author, he very strongly suggested making sure EVERYTHING in the first 25 pages fits the story - even if it's funny as hell, if it doesn't fit the story, cut it).

His emails were funny and self-deprecating, while honest and helpful at the same time. I really appreciated the time he took to help out a novice writer -- so again, helping him out with a bit of a plug -- if you haven't read any of his books, seriously, go pick one up. I plan on reading more of his work as soon as I can!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Voting

Caitie posted on her blog about voting tomorrow. We went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday, and other than the resulting foot pain I have, had a fantastic time. What you saw on TV wasn't half the energy and excitement felt by us there. If you've never been a part of a crowd of 250,000 people, I highly recommend trying it sometime. It's a pretty amazing experience.

Anyway, the Rally impressed even more on my mind the importance of voting tomorrow. Regardless of your affiliation, we live in a representative republic. That means that in order for your voice to be heard, you need to make it heard with a flip of a lever or a check of a box or the pushing of a button on election day. Not voting is akin to saying you're OK with the status quo, whatever that might be, and choosing to NOT be a part of the process. Not voting robs you of the right to complain. Not voting lets puppies die.

So please, whatever your affiliation, get out tomorrow and make your voice heard. I know I don't have a large readership, but maybe I can get linked on someone else's blog (if nothing else to save the poor puppies), and if I can get ONE person who would not have gone out to vote otherwise to do so, I will have been a success.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Things I'm struggling with writing and random thoughts about life

First -- SWW. That's "Struggles with Writing." (Was that not clear?)

1) "The waiting, the waiting the waiting, the waaaaaaaaaaiiiiittttttiiiiiiiiinnnnnggggg." (It's from Shrek, the Musical, and to not give credit where credit's due is wrong.)

2. Subplots. Novels need them most of the time to keep the story afloat. I have one in my new novel that I'm working on that helps give my main character an extra dimension, but so far it's completely separated from the main plot. I'm trying to figure out how to tie the subplot in to the main plot, but most things I'm coming up with feel artificial. So the question is, DOES a subplot necessarily need to tie into the main plot, or can there just be an additional issue the MC is dealing with?

I'm looking at it this way - the story is being told from the perspective of a kid two years after the main event. Other stuff would have happened to him, even if his focus was on the central event (in this case, his best friend being accused of murder). If this was real, and something else was happening during the time (ie, as in this case, his divorced parents starting to date again), that would factor into the story as well. Do the two plots need to come together, or is it OK for them to be separate, even as they both help my MC evolve?

3)Sex in YA. The MC's ex-girlfriend plays a significant role in the story. The kids are juniors now, they broke up over the summer. I decided that they had slept together when they were together -- so around 15, 16 years old. I don't have anything explicit, in fact, it happened in the past anyway. However, that fact affects (as it naturally would) the MC's relationship with the girl now, as well as influencing his relationship with his father (since his dad finds out about it). The thing I'm struggling with, though, is whether or not this is OK to have in a YA book. It's an older kids' book, obviously, and teenagers think about and have sex.

Given that I've settled on them having had sex, my problem as a writer goes deeper (sorry for the completely inappropriate pun). How do I talk about this, advocate safe sex (as a teacher, I can't NOT do this), and yet not be preachy? It's a fine line, and I THINK I may have walked it all right, but it's very difficult to do!

RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT LIFE

My friend Dan used to write lists of 100 thoughts about random things swirling in his brain. I think he's now done four of them. I often have thoughts running through my head, but I'm going to limit my list to ten. I decided to tackle some of them and drag them out onto the net for the world to see.
Caitie always says she'd never want to live inside my head. There's probably a good reason for that.

1)My eye has been bothering me lately - kind of doing this weird pulsing thing. Everything I've seen online about it says it's probably stress related and will go away on its own. Still, it's not fun. It doesn't hurt really, but it's very strange. Caitie says I should see a doctor. I refuse. I have this sick feeling that going to a doctor is going to make it worse. I don't know why, but I'm going to trust the net -- for now...

2) I continue to follow politics fairly closely. I get pretty outraged by a lot of what I see. Maybe this is why my eye keeps twitching.

3) Where in the WORLD do all of our spoons go? I know it's a weird question, but it seems every time Caitie and I open our silverware drawer another spoon is missing. It's only the two of us living here. Where ARE they? If some dishes were missing, at least I'd know that they ran away...

4) Why does Glee start every episode with "Here's what you missed" -- I didn't miss anything, damn it, I watched last week! This REALLY ticks me off for some reason.

5)We bought the Bruno Mars CD "Doo-Wop and Hooligans" recently and I love it. This is significant because I listen to Broadway cast albums or releases from Broadway singers probably 85% of the time I have music on. Probably about ten percent of the time I listen to classic rock (music more than two decades old, at any rate). That leaves about 5% of my music listening time to current music - most of which is taken up by artists I already like releasing new stuff - Bruce Springsteen, Ben Folds (Lonely Avenue is AWESOME, by the way) etc. For me to introduce a new artist to my ipod is a very rare occurrence, indeed. Seriously though, listen to the Lazy Song, and tell me you can't relate!

6) I love my laptop, but the 6 key is so sensitive I barely have to touch it for a 6 to appear on my screen. It's really annoying, and when I have to do grades, I specifically try to make things worth amounts that don't have 6s in them so I don't have to hit the key too often. None of my students know this.

7)We have a girl in my unit this year who is difficult (to put it mildly). For some reason, she behaves in my class. We don't know why. A co-worker today called me Jesus because of this. I thought this was ironic and funny.

8) The battery on my phone was dying a long, drawn out painful death, and so I replaced it. The touchscreen hasn't worked in about a year. I actually kind of thought replacing the battery would give the touchscreen new life. I was wrong.

9)This isn't that amusing, but Caitie planned a surprise SOMETHING for me for about a month from now. It drives me nuts that she made me check the calendar to find out if we were free (we were) and now I don't know what the surprise is but know there IS one. She always says she can't surprise me - well, I'm ready because I have no clue what she's got up her sleeve.

10)Finally, Caitie ALWAYS makes fun of me because whenever I use my credit card I'm PARANOID about leaving it someplace. I double and sometimes triple check that it's in my wallet before my leave. Lately, I've been making a conscious effort to NOT do this - to trust that I took it. I even tell myself that I did. So, guess what happened, you lovers of irony out there? Yep, Friday night, we went to eat. Left the restaurant. Headed over to Target. Went to the cashier. Took out my wallet. The credit card was still at the restaurant. The worst part is, I even told myself when we left the restaurant, "DON'T CHECK YOUR WALLET, IT'S IN THERE." I think I'm going back to my old ways again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Good News!

I got an email today from an agent I sent a query out to on July 22nd requesting my full manuscript for Before White! It wasn't even a partial request -- a full!

If I hadn't killed my back somehow last night when I was sleeping I would have done a dance of joy.

Luckily I have Caitie to do that for me (and cute she was, too).

Now the waiting and trying not to get my hopes up too high!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting..

Not much new to write about other than my frustration at the waiting game. I sent a full MS to an agent about seven weeks ago, and sent a requested chapter to another about a week after that. I haven't heard from either yet, and the wait is EXTREMELY frustrating. I've read articles that say when you're ready to write an email to them as a prod, send out another query to someone else. I've done that -- but the itch doesn't go away - and then you have the added itch of "OK, what about these new queries?" Caitie will tell me to shut up and wait. I know that. Anyone else have any advice? I know on the full six months might go by before I hear. What about the chapter though? How long does that take -- and will I EVER hear or is it just going to be a rejection through non-communication? (The worse kind).

Gah.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How I know school has really started

We're a week and a half into the school year, and already I see the changes. I don't have the energy to crack a book like I did during the summer (I've read maybe 30 pages since then - I would have finished two books in that time a month ago). My writing has slowed to a page or two a day. I know it will pick back up again. It always does. It's just this month, while my sleep schedule readjusts and my mind readjusts I can't get myself to focus as well as I could.

The sad thing is, I realized this summer just how out and out dedicated I can be to writing given the time to do it.

The good news is my kids this year are pretty great. I'm enjoying this crew so far. My favorite moment: a kid last year gave me this flip chart thing for my desk where each page has a different emotion like crazed, wonky, hunky dory, emo etc. The kids LOVE it - they love flipping through it and picking out what I'll be for the day or the period. One seventh grader who I've already picked out as a favorite (teachers don't have favorites, no, of COURSE not!) came up to me during study hall and said "Mr. Flum, can I play with your emotions?" She knew exactly what she was saying as she said it too. How could I NOT appreciate that?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My WIP, Man of La Mancha, and 9/11

I know, broad categories there, but it's stuff I've been thinking about, and let's face it, if I titled each post like that every post would have the same title.

MY WIP:
I'm stretching toward the 20,000 word mark, which, to me, means I'm in for the long haul on this one. I've had plenty of attempts at books that faltered along the way, but none that I've gotten this far with. I don't see the end in sight yet, and that's a good sign as well.

What I have noticed that I commented on to Caitie earlier is that this book seems to be writing itself rather than me consciously making decisions for the characters. As it's a mystery, I do know the ultimate "solution" but getting to it is anyone's guess. For example, I have a character who is being accused of something. There were four witnesses who said he did this thing -- but the main character knows there were five other people there. I have no idea why I chose four when I wrote it, but it's led to an interesting twist I couldn't have foreseen otherwise.

And that's why I don't outline!

Man of LaMancha
We went to see this last night in Bucks County with a couple of our friends. I know that a particular theater critic with whom I penpal HATES the show. I've seen it before (Caitie's first time), so in addition to enjoying the score which I LOVE, I was trying to figure out what it is that my critic friend hates so much. As for the score, there's little there to dislike. I feel the songs are very strong, attractive melodies that serve their purpose in the show well. The songs are memorable and character driven. There are some shady lyrical spots ("I am I, Don Quixote..." The extra "I" always bugged me) but most of it is pretty solid writing.
Take for example, my favorite song in the show. It's short, so I've put the lyrics below. Look at how simple and pretty the imagery is here:

"To each his Dulcinea
That he alone can name...
To each a secret hiding place
Where he can find the haunting face
To light his secret flame.
For with his Dulcinea
Beside him so to stand,
A man can do quite anything,
Outfly the bird upon the wing,
Hold moonlight in his hand.
Yet if you build your life on dreams
It's prudent to recall,
A man with moonlight in his hand
Has nothing there at all.
There is no Dulcinea,
She's made of flame and air,
And yet how lovely life would seem
If ev'ry man could weave a dream
To keep him from despair.
To each his Dulcinea...
Though she's naught but flame and air!"
-- Joe Darion, Mitch Leigh

It's a lovely idea and a beautifully worded sentiment. I think it speaks to the whole message of the show of individuality and the strength of imagination, certainly an image writers should be able to relate to.

There are troubles with the book, though, and I wonder if that's where Peter's problems with the show are. It's uneven in its handling of the frame story (which I like, but seems to interfere at strange places rather than consistently), songs go to random characters which is odd, and some of the intros to songs are "And here's the next song" type. The villain, as Caitie pointed out, is weak, though I don't think that matters quite as much as the story isn't his. There's also the problem that at the end we see Aldonza yelling at Don Quixote about how he's driving her crazy -- and the very next scene she's begging him to remember the quest. There's no transition for her, and that's a problem.

Still, I feel the songs carry the show through whatever problems there may be. It's one of the few cast albums I have that I can listen to the entire score without wanting to skip a track here and there.

Have you ever seen Man of La Mancha? If so, what are your thoughts?

9/11
Yesterday was 9/11, and the thing that struck me the most about yesterday was almost how casually so many people are treating the day. It's become a forum for debate on whether or not to have a holiday (my vote is no), how we should remember it, and to what point things should be planned on the day. I live in NJ and my stepfather was across the street from the towers when they came down. We didn't know where he was for a good six or seven hours that day, and it was absolutely terrifying. Like everyone else, I'll never forget that day that stands out in such vivid detail.

I think that the day should of course always be remembered. I think a national day of remembrance is suitable. It doesn't FEEL like it should be a holiday any more than Pearl Harbor Day should be. We should continue on with our livelihoods on those days -- it's only appropriate that we do. I saw signs around my neighborhood for yard sales yesterday - and why not? It's one of the last Saturdays that it will be warm enough to do that. Yes, seeing the date will forever set a flag off in my mind (as I'm sure it will everyone else's as well), but that's no reason to stop doing what we always do.

I do draw a line at making a profit off the day. Check this out:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/41903.html

I don't think any comment need be made other than that it's no wonder we have so much problem with kids today showing respect.

Anyway, I've rambled on enough for now. Caitie is turning on MarioKart, so time to go procrastinate some more :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's been a year

September 7th marks one year since I started this blog. I've had 75 posts in that time. Not too bad. It would, admittedly, be nice to have some more followers, but I appreciate each and every one of you who do read the sometimes random things I have to say. I suppose I can make it a goal to try to double my followers in the next year.

I suppose in the last year the most incredible thing for me is that I actually FINISHED two more books, and have a very strong start on a fourth one. Three years ago, I never would have thought I'd even be able to complete one book, let alone three!

Caitie and I are going to be starting a Disney column for wdwforgrownups.com -- look for that in the coming weeks!

I'm still waiting on a couple of possible agents. Every time I get an email or the phone rings, I get a little bit hopeful...

School starts with the kids Tuesday - have to admit, kind of looking forward to seeing them again and meeting the new seventh graders.

Here's to hoping this time next year Caitie has landed a job as an agent's assistant (or whatever else she wants in the publishing industry), I've landed an agent and am on the path to getting published, and we're all happier than we've ever been before!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I love musicals

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I love musicals. Caitie and I met because of musicals. I've loved them since I was a kid, and that love has grown and grown through my whole life. I have HUNDREDS of cast albums, seen hundreds of shows, own just about every commercial release of a show or movie available on DVD. Yes, I do enjoy a lot of other music - but even then, the groups or singers I like have a definite theatrical or story-telling edge: Bruce Springsteen, Ben Folds, Billy Joel.

So why musicals?

The last couple of days I've been thinking about it because
1)I just got the album for Sondheim on Sondheim (and really, I have hardly to say any more than that if you know musicals or at all - or more specifically, Norm Lewis singing Being Alive),
2)a result of listening to that, I watched the recording of Company of the revival a couple of years ago (which we saw)
3)just today I started to listening to a CD I picked up a while ago but hadn't listened to yet: The Story of My Life.

The first two on that list are, to me, the height of familiarity. Sondheim is my favorite composer, song writer, lyricist, artist of all time. The man is a genius. See my earlier post on the concert Caitie and I went to on March for more gushing. The thing is, Sondheim (as well as many other theater composers, he just does it the best) is so multi-layered. Songs in different singer's hands can take on different meanings. His lyrics, on multiple listenings, can gain extra layers. New things can be discovered, despite the intense familiarity I have with all of his shows. Musicals provide emotional connection that other forms of music simply can't. Watch Raul Esparza sing Being Alive or Mandy Patinkin doing Finishing the Hat or George Hearns spitting out Epiphany and you are instantly with those characters, understanding them on a level you can't with movies or plays. The closest that comes to being able to get inside a character to a musical is the novel.

Don't get me wrong. I've listened to/seen quite a few crap musicals. Not everything is brilliant. The show I turned on today, "The Story of My Life" is a little known, I believe off-Broadway show, but the music, from what I've heard so far, is pretty, the lyrics intelligent, and the characters interesting. The discovery of a new musical, for me, is wonderful. I'm so familiar with so much of the canon already, that discovering hidden gems or new shows is an experience I cherish.

I think my love of musicals connects to my love of novels and the written word. It's a medium for telling stories unlike any others. Musicals can get right to the heart of a character or situation in a way no other form can. The music can be alternatingly thrilling, funny, upbeat, or moving.

The convention of people bursting into song is not one that I think should be so hard to accept. People don't have much trouble accepting a character breaking the fourth wall in a movie and talking to the camera, a character singing isn't much different.

I truly believe there is a musical out there for everybody. Those who say they just don't like the medium have most likely never really given it a chance. I don't accept the stereotypes that "they're gay" or "they're stupid because they're not like real life." Tell me what's so gay about Sweeney Todd? What's so realistic about Star Wars.

My love for musicals is a huge part of who I am. I quote shows almost daily. Caitie and I will often quote lines to each other - going to the theater is one of our favorite activities. It's certainly played a role in our love for Disney.
I can't wait to discover that next great show, or relive another old favorite.

What's your favorite show? Why do you like or not like musicals? Sound off below...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

End of summer sadly approaching.

Going back to school next week. This summer has spoiled me on the writer's life. I love making my own schedule. I love writing and thinking about writing. I love the people in the writing world (or at least the ones I've met virtually). I want to publish, I want to work on my writing full time. Don't get me wrong, I still love working with the kids. I will miss that if I get to focus on my writing.

Sure, I know writing won't be perfect. There will be frustrations and insufferable people, there will be contract worries and story headaches, but I want all that. Hopefully...one day...

In other news, I'm hard at work on my West Side Story/Veronica Mars mash up story. So far I think it's going pretty well. It's a little strange writing realism, but I like the challenge. I like my characters and the story is starting to take shape.

I hope I don't lose momentum on it.

Meanwhile, the query process continues. Here's hoping...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Check it out

My wife is having a contest to give away some great books -- take a look and enter!

http://caitieflum.wordpress.com/

Monday, August 16, 2010

Realistic Fiction? Never!

During Writeoncon, in one of the chats, some of the writers there were talking about their interest in reading a Veronica Mars-esque story. At first I discarded the idea - everything I've written has some fantasy edge - but something triggered in my head and I got an idea for a sort of male Veronica Mars mixed with The Outsiders/West Side Story...

I started writing and have about 12 pages so far. I think there's potential here...who knew?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Writeoncon again

Writeoncon has been fantastic! It's been great reading so many queries and sample pages, communicating with other writers, and learning from the experts!

I hope I've made enough progress now with my books that I have a shot at getting an agent now...I hope :)

In other news, anyone have any idea how I can make sure when my name is googled, that this blog comes up first? Maybe I need to (JASON FLUM) write my name (JASON FLUM) over and over (JASON FLUM JASON FLUM JASON FLUM JASON FLUM) so that the filter will find it?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Writeoncon

I'm signed up for writeoncon this coming week. I'm not entirely sure what it will consist of, but I'm certainly hoping to make some contacts, get some tips, maybe help somehow advance my writing career.

The little I know about it is already starting to show me how daunting my odds are of getting noticed -- I think I read there are some 1400 people registered. That's an awful lot of writers, and just think of all the people who don't know about the conference trying to get published!

In all honesty, I still do feel as though Before White is SOMETHING. I think I have something special there, and maybe it's just writer-hubris, but I've gotten nothing but praise from those who have actually read it.

I'm keeping hopes in check though, and we'll see what happens.

On a separate note, Goodson Froog is going along GREAT. I have 30,000 words and definitely see the 40,000 mark in sight. While I have a real fondness for Before White, and I think Sparks is a pretty good story, I think Goodson might be my best work so far...

To those of you who started following me on here due to writeoncon - thanks and welcome!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eight (depending on your math) movies and four TV shows that inspired me

I don't really know why it is, but we all love lists of things. I've never met anyone who said, "I hate lists." A recent conversation got me to thinking about movies and TV shows that inspired me. So I decided to make a list.

These aren't necessarily my favorite movies (though many are) and they aren't in any order. Just movies (and three TV shows) that have in some way affected me or changed my life in some way.

1)Fantasia -- this was the first movie I was taken to see as a child. Parts of it bored me, certainly, but I still remember looking up at Mickey Mouse moving those brooms and knew I would always want to come back to the movies.

2)The Sound of Music -- people who know me know this story because I tell it all the time. When asked, why do I like musicals, it stems from this movie. When I was about seven or eight, my dad got his first VCR. He wanted to test it out, checked the TV Guide, and asked me what I wanted to see: Superman or The Sound of Music? (I just realized: VCR? TV GUIDE? I feel so old!) I chose Superman (why wouldn't I? I was seven!) but my Dad decided to go with The Sound of Music anyway. The next day he sat my sister and me down to watch it and I was completely enthralled. A couple of days later he taped The King and I, and that was it - I was hooked!

3)The Wizard of Oz - the beginning of my love of all things fantasy. The Wizard of Oz carried me away to a new place, a place I loved to visit as often as I could. The Witch scared the hell out of me - I used to think she'd be waiting around corners of my house for me! - and I wanted the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion for friends.

4)Star Wars - along with the Wizard of Oz, these two movies hooked me onto one of the most important concepts in story telling that I know - the mythic hero journey. In ninth grade, my favorite teacher ever used these two movies to help us understand the heroic journey, and I've since spent many many hours studying it and learning how to adapt it. As it turns out, that journey can be used in so many ways, and many of my favorites can be traced back to the form. I always have the steps of the journey in the back of my mind, and I use it to teach my students about plot.

5)Casablanca - God, the writing is magnificent. No other movie has as many famous lines, and to watch as they come at you one after the other, perfectly in context of course, is just an amazing experience. The story ain't so bad, either.

6)The Princess Bride - I've stated before my single greatest influence as a writer is William Goldman. Well, it all started with this movie. It's my favorite movie of all time (well, this or The Wizard of Oz) and more than anything else it's all about the style. The language is so distinct that it's almost as quotable as Casablanca. The story is crisp, funny, quirky, and exciting. I model much of my writing after TPB, and I think it's made me all the better for it.

7)Monty Python and the Holy Grail/Mel Brooks canon -- I don't often write comedy, but when I do I base my rhythm on the language in these movies.

8)The Usual Suspects/Fight Club -- these movies knocked my socks off because I was completely surprised by the endings. To be able to flip a story around so that everything that came before takes on a different meaning is just an incredible thing. I've tried having endings along these lines in some of my stories - I don't think I've come close to pulling it off nearly as well by any means!

9)The Simpsons - for much the same reason as number seven on the list, the timing and mixture of TYPES of jokes are just brilliant and have influenced my comedy writing for sure. It's a bit scary how often I hear Homer's voice in my head.

10) Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Doctor Who - Again with the comedy rhythms. More importantly, though, both shows showed me how expansive story-telling can really be. There are no limits to what you can do on the page (heck, if they can do it on TV, think what can be done on the page without worries about a budget!). Both shows have such sharp characterization, one of their regulars, one that manages to quickly introduce and shuffle off new characters almost every week. Plus, the mixture of comedy and horror is just awesome. Besides, have you SEEN Once More With Feeling, Hush, and Blink? I mean, really, have you SEEN them?

11)You know what number 11 is if you know anything at all about me. I've talked about Lost on here already, I don't need to go into the details, but if Lost had never aired, I don't know that Before White or Sparks would ever have been written. If you didn't watch Lost while it was on, go start now. :)

I really believe movies and television, the good stuff at least, is on par with literature and art as medium that have the power to affect, influence, and alter our lives. I know it has for me.
What shows or movies have influenced you, changed your life in some significant way?

Monday, July 26, 2010

How I'm spending my summer vacation

I've been working hard on Goodson - it's been going very well so far. I've got a good 50 pages and the story has been flowing pretty smoothly. I have to say I'm pretty happy with it.

I've been reading a lot lately. Last night I finished The Gates by John Connelly - it was silly and light and thoroughly enjoyable. It fell apart a bit in the end, but it was definitely an entertaining read. I've also been reading Y: The Last Man, a graphic novel that has me totally enthralled. The writing is top-notch (by a writer of Lost, so what would I expect?) and it really feels like a movie in a book.

I've been taking full advantage of our Wii in two ways. On, I've been using a LOT of Netflix streaming. How I lived without it before, I have no idea. Two, I've been using the Wii every morning to exercise. It's fun, it gets me moving, and I've been pretty consistently doing it 3-4 times a week.

I've also been very into learning and playing games this summer since many of our friends are from our board game club. I've played more games of Dominion online and in reality than I thought would be possible. I've also been playing some poker online, though not as much as previous years.

Caitie and I are celebrating our first anniversary next weekend and going to Atlantic City for the food and wine festival. We're both very much looking forward to that, as well as to hopefully going to a water park in Northern NJ, the Renaissance Faire in PA, and to Niagara Falls some time in the upcoming month.

I've also been staying up very late every night and have no clue how I'm going to go back to sleep at a normal time come September.

A request to those of you who follow me. If you like what you see, please point my blog towards others - I'd like to build something of a following, and who knows, I may even post more then!

Yo Ho Yo Ho the writer's life for me!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goodson Froog

I've been living with Goodson Froog for over a decade now. He first came into my life, of all things, as a result of a pretty bad teacher and a trivia game. When I was in grad school, I had to take a summer class called "Teachers as Writers." Great, right? Well, the teacher was a drunk (seriously, bright red nose, slurred speech) and told us to spend each period outside writing. Some of us took it more seriously than others.

I started writing about Goodson then, though I don't even think that was his name at that point. It was a three or four page story, but the most basic elements of Goodson and Operation Becky Boom Boom were there. His two friends, Rudy and Bren, who have become so central, were completely static characters, there as plot tools rather than actual characters.

I liked the story, but more or less put it away and forgot about it.

Then, the following summer, I was at a friend's house, and a question came up about a Swedish skier. I made up some name because, really, Swedish skier? and the name became a running joke for the night. I don't even remember the name any more. I may have it somewhere in some file, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that I decided I would write about the Swedish skier. I had no idea how that would work. The name was so ridiculous, I knew the tone I wanted right away. It was light and funny, not really the type of stuff I usually wrote.

Anyway, I thought that the Swedish skier would be a main character's friend. I didn't have enough to really write about the skier (and besides, what do I know about that?). So I wrote about a kid, the child of rich parents with a rich imagination. I figured he would grow up and on a trip meet the Swedish skier.

But somewhere in that beginning, not really knowing where it was going, Goodson (I had named him that now) took on a life of his own. The kid was a little snot, he was mean and he was kind of a jerk, but man, he was funny and his friends made me laugh as I wrote. I realized that the story I was writing would skew right into the Operation Becky Boom-Boom story I had put away the previous year, and I guided Goodson there.

It worked well, but it wasn't perfect. I had two problems: first, I had put in a bunch of extra subplots in the story about his parents, butler, and maid, but I didn't have a real finish for it. The adults' stories were weaved into the sixty page story, but certainly could be removed without really hurting the main story. Trouble is, without that, the story would have been much shorter and had no real through line to carry me to the Swedish skier. The second problem was that the story wrapped up nicely -- I didn't feel the NEED to bring in the Swedish skier, but I knew there was more to the story than what I had.

I put it aside for a long while - about six years. Every so often my mind would go back to Goodson because I liked him and Bren and Rudy so much, but I just couldn't figure out how to extend the story. I had tried once, written another ten pages or so when the boys were a little older, but it came to nothing really.

Last year, my students were trying to figure out what their class play (I had the kids write and put on a play each year) would be. They couldn't come up with an idea, so I offered up the Goodson story as a base. I figured maybe there was a play in it. The kids tried to make it work - they added stuff from the parents, added some plot twists - but nothing really worked. The play ended up never really coming together.

So again, the story was dead in the water.

Then, a couple of months ago, it hit me. I was approaching the story all wrong. I've been reading a lot of YA lately, and realized that while the voice I was using for the story was great, it wasn't really YA. It was more "adult humorous." I realized to make it work, I needed to change the voice -- so I thought I'd try writing it in first person. I realized immediately that Goodson wasn't the right voice for the story though. The whole point of the story is that though he's really kind of an evil kid, he's very likable. My second book, the one I was just finishing as I came around to this idea, was about a girl who needs to take on an evil persona and fight against the power it has over her (a simplification, but enough to make my point). The girl in the novel was toned down somewhat because I focused on her and couldn't make her TRULY evil and sympathetic at the same time. If I had Goodson tell the story, it would be too easy to make him sympathetic which would dilute the whole point of the story. As a result, I decided to have the story be told from his friends' points of view: Rudy and Bren. These two characters, who had originally been little more than tools, had developed their own personalities and own characters, and I thought they'd be strong enough to carry the novel.

I'm now about 40 pages in, and it's working GREAT. Goodson is coming alive again, and Bren and Rudy, by becoming the narrator, have been fleshed out significantly also. I more or less knocked out the adult side story, and put a sort of framework in which Rudy and Bren were the childhood friends of Goodson, who has become the world's first fourteen year old super-villain. They are telling his origin story.

As much as I liked where it was going, I STILL felt as though something was missing. I had Bren and Rudy talking as though they were writing TO someone. I tried an agent who was tracking him - nothing going. I tried using Goodson's voice, like in a journal. No good. I tried a superhero who is after Goodson and BINGO. At the start of each chapter, the superhero (who remains anonymous) talks about how finding out about Goodson from those who knew him would help him in his never-ending fight against the super-villain. The hero has a humorous voice which fits in perfectly with Bren and Rudy, and the three of them almost play off each other's testimony.

The story has evolved a LOT from those first three or four pages. I'm curious to see where it ends, but I'm VERY pleased with where it's going.

I knew there was something to Goodson, I'm so glad I'm finally finding out what it is!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Two...

July 4th weekend - spent in Ohio with Caitie's family. We had a nice time - and I finished the rough draft of my second book! Caitie wants me to just put it aside for two months now, not think about it, and come back to it later. I don't know how able I am to just forget about it, but I'm going to try!

Meanwhile, I already have the idea for book three (it's a reworking and expansion of a story I wrote ten years ago - wow, that long!). I had a solid core 70 pages or so of that story and could never quite figure out what to do with that. I realized when writing the second book that the middle grade fiction requirements on length are much much shorter than they are for anything else. I can make this third book a solid middle grade and tell it from first person of two of the main characters (mostly having them talk about the third) and I THINK I can make it work. Finally. I've gone through four versions of this story already - I know the core idea is solid, just trying to get the WAY of telling it right has been eluding me!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's summer!

School ended Wednesday (WOOHOO!) and it's summer! That means lost of sleeping late, lots of movies, and lots of writing and reading! In just three or four days I've already written about 4000 words in my book - getting really close to the end! I have to say, I'm a bit scared of finishing since then I have to do my least favorite stage -- revising -- but at the same time, I've only gotten that "holy crap I finished!" feeling once before, and it was exhilarating. I'm definitely looking forward to THAT!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

So I'm looking to enter a 100 word contest. I wrote two poems for it. Trust me, they're both 100 words. Which is better? Can you give me a reason why? Any suggestions?

POEM ONE
I face front and wince at the spotlight.
“I’m here for Everyman One.”
A pause; excruciating wait.
“Show us what you got,” comes The Voice from the dark.
Inhale.
I begin small, cries and lullabies.
School days and take me out to the ball game.
Pomp and circumstance twice separated by a beat of four.
Heigh ho Heigh ho
And to a wedding march I go
Beat Beat And. . .
Cries and lullabies
School days repeat
Slowly creeping in my petty pace from tomorrow to tomorrow
To a funereal march.
Exhale.
The Voice speaks once more.
“We’ll let you know.”

POEM TWO
One second is all it takes.
Move forward and nothing is the same.
Back a tick and the status quo is a rock.
The wave rushes from behind us
Pushing through that moment and inexorably to the next.
But what if we could fight the tide, step back over the line we’ve crossed despite the pounding rush?
If we could step back
Rewind to before the ball left our hand
Or the word left our lips
Or the bullet left the gun
Or the match slipped from our fingers
Would we even know that we had to do it differently?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ten things

Just some points of thought:

1)I'm so ready for school to be done. For so many reasons.

2)Ragtime doesn't work if Sarah can't sing.

3) I think I may have pushed a limit in my novel. My goal was to turn a sympathetic character "evil" - trouble is she's a 12 year old girl and I'm wondering now if I pushed what "evil" is too far. I guess I'll have to wait and see where the book is going and possibly pull it back (it is meant to be middle grade fiction)some. Of course, if the stakes aren't high enough, the whole thing becomes pointless. I feel like I'm getting close to the climax of the book (I'm at 33,000 words of a projected 50-60)so I need to figure out how to play this just right...

4) Ipod shuffle is like the debate between free will and predestination. Caitie and I believe the shuffle pre-determines your playlist -- setting it in place when you start the list. Will Apple create a list that does have free will and can adjust as you skip songs? If so, is this just another frightening step toward real AI? Where will it end??

5)Unless you're Caitie, Jess, or Dan I can go to sleep tonight relatively sure I saw a movie this weekend you have never seen and never will: it was called "House" and it was Japanese and it was really really weird. Really weird.

6) As I'm typing this we have on the special about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios. I want to go to there.

7) I already miss Lost.

8) When did the MTV Movie Awards become "The Twilight Zone?"

9)I'm going to a baseball game with my father tomorrow night for the first time in my life. This is very surprising to me. Not that we've never gone, but that we are at all as neither of us really care about baseball.

10) Did I mention I can't wait until school is over? I think I did. Going back in September is going to be damn near impossible. Sigh.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

COOL!

I've been linked on a major Lost blog:

http://nikkistafford.blogspot.com/2010/05/time-for-me-to-let-you-talk.html

Cool!!!

An interesting contest...

Megan Rebekah, whose blog I follow, is running a contest:

http://meganrebekahblogs.blogspot.com/2010/05/woohoo-contest.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MeganRebekahBlogs+%28Megan+Rebekah+Blogs%29

It's definitely worth checking out!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The end of Lost and storytelling thoughts

NOTE: This isn't so much a review of the episode as a pondering on the greater meaning of the story-telling process "Lost" has given us the past six years.

Well, it's over. Six years of thinking, pondering, questioning, analyzing, being moved and excited, staying up nights thinking about the possibilities - finished. "Lost" changed the way I, and many others, think about storytelling and, to an even greater extent, our lives. The show will go down in history as one of, if not the greatest of all time.

Was the ending completely fulfilling? Simultaneously yes and no, an only too fitting answer for "Lost." It's easy to point to the flaws: there were many questions the series set up for us as viewers over the course of its run that it never answered. Some were basic stuff we can take on faith: why does the sonic fence stop Smokey? (answer: it just does), why does the donkey wheel move the island? (it just does), was there a REASON for those particular numbers? (nope, just the numbers Jacob had assigned to each candidate). Some questions can be derived from what we know: I have theories on the fertility issue and what the island actually was. Some are just going to be left open and never answered: What did Annie have to do with anything? What was the deal with the cabin? (though maybe an answer for that is in there somewhere) What was the deal with the brand on Juliet?

So yes, some things weren't answered to our satisfaction, or at all, but in the end, the question is does it matter? Like Mother said, every question leads to another -- on one level it does and on another it doesn't at all.

The reason it does matter is that the writers have built up a trust with the audience. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the writers of ANYTHING promise to complete the story they lay out for us, or else leave the reader/viewer wondering. They make a deal: we'll set up the premise and give you resolution, you sit back and enjoy the ride and we'll tell you a story. Anyone can propose a scenario, make it as bizarre as they want, but if they don't have a satisfactory resolution to the scenario, then they haven't really done their job. The creators of "Lost" reneged on part of their bargain with the audience. They set things up in this story that they never answered, never gave us reason for, not even the TOOLS to figure them out. They knew all along the viewers were trying to puzzle these mysteries out, and it seems wildly unfair of them, given that they knew when the show would end, to not give us the answer to the questions THEY posed in the first place. When viewed that way, and that way alone, "The End" was a failure of almost epic proportions.

What the writers managed to do, though, is make my entire previous paragraph not matter. Why it doesn't matter is the same answer to the first question I posed: was the ending fulfilling in the end? While we didn't get every answer, we got a completion to the story. We got character resolution that was some of the absolute best story-telling I've ever seen. We got an exciting two and a half hours full of incredible drama (Jack and Locke on the cliff face), touching reunions (Sawyer and Juliet! Charlie and Claire!), fond remembrances of the six years (very clever use of the flashes), and inside nods to loyal viewers. The season long story of the sideways world came to a completely satisfactory ending, a beautiful story of redemption and promise. In that sense, "Lost" succeeded on an incredibly profound and beautiful level.

The island story is a bit trickier. The island is where our answers should have come from. No Dharma initiative, no cabin, no Smokey. Still, the CHARACTER'S stories were completely resolved. Maybe the mysteries aren't meant to be solved. After all, no one dies understanding all there is to understand, and isn't that, in the end what the show was about?

I have a theory that the island was really a metaphor for life - on one level the events there really happened, but on another the entire series was a metaphor for the paths of our lives - that all of us are flawed and have chances to improve ourselves through the people we meet and choices we make. We have to fight evil on a daily basis. We have to work with those around us to achieve a greater goal. We have to love those who matter to us. We have to deal with situations that make no sense to us. We have to contend with people trying to grab power, organizations that seek to run/affect our lives that are so much greater than ourselves, people with contrary points of view, and we have to come out the other side having learned from them to make ourselves better people. "Lost" gave us all that on the island. In the end, does it MATTER how MIB became a smoke monster or even what his name was?

I don't know. In the end, the series held a mirror up to us, let us look at ourselves in a new way, and examine our own views on our own journeys. I do know the series gave us a metaphorical view of life that no other series ever has, or probably ever will. The minutiae is important, sure, and there is a level of disappointment, but the overwhelming feeling at the end I have is one of profound gratefulness for six years of wonderful stories, questions to mull over, and more importantly, resolution for the lives of the characters we've come to know for six years.

Thank you "Lost" -- you will be missed.

Namaste.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Big writing moment

Now I'm in a jam. I had my idea for a new novel, and I loved the idea - not something I usually do. I began writing, and have been going at it for the past couple of months. The CONCEPT, I think, is great.

I'm not a fan of brainstorming as anyone who knows how I write knows. I just go to it, and plan in my head as I go. This generally works. This book is an interesting case. I had my initial idea for a turning point in the story and filled in the details leading up to it. All well and good. I like what I have right now A LOT. I've been building and building to this climax, layering what I anticipate to be quite a bit of foreshadowing. I have about 20,000 words of build up, 3,000 of the turning point. I'm aiming for 60,000 or so total.

I know where the story is heading in general. I know what the ending will be (or as much as it's possible for me to know). The problem is, I have a good 20,000 words to fill before I get there. I've laid the groundwork for it, but that interim until the climax is going to be VERY tough!

Ah well, just putting that out there. Basically stalling....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Help me choose an opening

I got a rejection that got me thinking today. The rejection said the concept for my book is good, but the writing in the first few pages didn't blow her away. I realized that the prologue was the first thing I wrote for the book, and that was nearly three years ago now. I've done some tinkering with it, but never really gave it a full rewrite. So, I came up with a whole new prologue to my book. The IDEA is the same - the plot is the same, but I changed the perspective and the way I gave the exposition that is essential for the rest of the book. The new version is half the length which I DEFINITELY think is good.

I've had a feeling for a while now that the prologue might be what's holding me back, and I'm wondering if my new attempt might work better.

Anyway, I don't want to say any more to skew results. I'm a bit leery of posting the prologues, so if you are willing to help me and read the two versions, leave a note in the comments (if I have your email already, great), or if not please email me at jason.flum@gmail.com and I'll send you the two versions.

Thank you in advance....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Men men men men

In response to Megan's blogpost found here:
http://meganrebekahblogs.blogspot.com/2010/04/where-are-men.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MeganRebekahBlogs+%28Megan+Rebekah+Blogs%29

(Megan, I'll take it down if you want me to, though of course kind of the point is hardly anyone sees this anyway)

I really think the reason men don't blog is very simple: it's a lot of work. Mind you, I said we're lazy, but it's not really just LAZY. The fact is, there's only so much time in the day, and what's available for writing is even more limited. I have 8 followers so far - one's my wife, one's her friend, and one's my sister.

The only reason I really keep this up to any degree is that one day I do hope to be a professional writer, and Caitie tells me having a web presence is important. Maybe one day people will find this blog and look back at it and think, "Wow, he was an idiot back then, did you see that crazy Lost theory about the numbers?"

Or maybe not.

But the point is, there's so much WRITING I want to do, and time IS limited.

So, back to the book....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wherever you are....

If you can, vote "yes" for your school budget. If you value education at all, vote yes for your school budget. If you care for your neighbors, your children, your town, your own wallet - whatever the reason may be - vote "YES" for your school budget. But damnit, go out and vote!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

planning and waiting

It's been a while since I've written. To be honest, last week was very busy for me with writing. I've been working on what I suppose is my second novel, and it's going fairly well. I got about 20 pages done last week, and am really getting towards the meat of the story. I seem to keep proving to myself that outlining just wouldn't work for me at all -- I come up with most of my best ideas on the fly (it's how I like teaching, too) and outlining really limits my creativity. I don't think I'd have come up with half the ideas I did had I pre-planned them. That said, I DO have a general idea going in, and I am always working towards an end goal (though that end does tend to alter as the story does if need be).

I'm still waiting to hear back from the agent who has my full. It could be any day now, given the timeline I was given. I'm on pins and needles, I'll admit. All I can do is keep hoping...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hunger Games

I finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins last night. It left me kind of befuddled. I really enjoyed the book, but it was one of those stories that if you thought about it too much things didn't quite add up -- or at the very least the coincidences and conveniences of plot become overwhelmingly obvious. Still, the book is very exciting and definitely creative. I liked the voice she uses to tell the story, though I think by telling it in first person she forcibly limited some of the information that, as a consumer of complete stories, the reader feels they want to know some of the things she leaves out. Perhaps some of those answers will come in the sequels, but the story told feels completed.

Of course, I do tend to overthink these things.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A couple of weeks later

I haven't had much to say lately. I'm working on my new book - I think it's actually coming along pretty well.

On spring break now, so hopefully I'll have some time to really work on it. Now that I have the general gist of where it's going, it's a matter of filling in the details. Still, I think it's on the right track now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sondheim concert

Caitie and I went to see the Sondheim 80th Birthday Concert tonight - and WOW. I just want to get as much of a playlist down now as I can remember:

America -- Karen Olivio and cast
We're Gonna Be All Right -- Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie
Don't Laugh - Victoria Clark
You're Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See Us Through -- Jenn Colella, Matt Cavenaugh, Laura Osnes...and someone else I can't remember right this moment.
Johanna - Nathan Gunn
Too Many Mornings -- Nathan Gunn and Audra Mcdonald (the first real stand out of the night)
It Takes Two -- Chip Zien and Joanna Gleason (this made me very happy)
Finishing the Hat -- Mandy Patinkin (WOW)
Move On -- Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters (Seriously, I was nearly in tears it was so beautiful)
Pretty Women -- Michael Cerveris and George Hearn (so cool!)
A Little Priest -- Michael, George, and Patti Lupone (AMAZING!)

Suite from Reds
So Many People - Laura Benanti
Beautiful Girls - David Hyde Pierce
Ladies Who Lunch - Patti Lupone (awesome - especially when Elaine Stritch rose at the end)
Losing My Mind - Marin Mazzie (beautiful)
The Glamorous Life - Audra Mcdonald
Could I Leave You- Donna Murphy (WOW)
I'm Still Here - Elaine Stritch (Yes, she is. Incredible)
Sunday - 300 or so Broadway actors -- one of the most powerful, beautiful things I've ever heard in my life.

I THINK that's everything -- I may have missed something in the second act there - but I'm not sure what...
What an incredible night!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

50th blog post

Crazy that I've done fifty of these - I don't even really knows who read it, but hey, I like writing them so when it strikes me I'll continue.

I just got word my "It was a bright and sunny day" story is getting published in the latest edition of Emerald Tales. I like this story - it's a little bit clever, a little funny, and I like the twist I put on the end. It's a good feeling getting that acceptance.

Still waiting on the agent for my book. Marci (my sister) read it - she said she really enjoyed it, so that made me happy too :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's been a while

I haven't really written anything lately - more because there just hasn't been a lot to write about my writing.

I'm working on a new idea for a novel. I've got about 15 pages so far and haven't really gotten into the "meat" which is usually a good sign for me.

I'm waiting on my full still - who knows how long that will take? Still, dreaming about it now is a lot of fun :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wow

The big agent I sent my manuscript to has requested the FULL from me -- HUGE deal! Very excited -- now just to play the waiting game.....but WOW.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost: Lighthouse

I missed writing last week, though it was certainly an intense and BIG episode. This week was almost as good.

Quick thoughts:
-- Loved Jack's side story. Loved that it was SO character driven and all about who Jack is, not so much about mythology. Just one question, who is David's mother?

-- Claire is BADASS. Axe to the stomach ranks up there with knives in a dishwasher as one of the all time great Lost deaths.

-- The scene in the lighthouse was AWESOME. What the HELL was that? The numbers were DEGREES? Why and how? Is someone coming to the island, or was that metaphorical for "Jack" coming? I did notice -- Austin was on the wheel and not crossed off. Interesting....

-- So now we have Claire vs. Kate -- could be an epic showdown. Is Jacob setting Kate up somehow to get Claire out of the way?

-- I knew her "friend" was going to be Locke - but was totally hoping we'd find out HIS NAME!!! Grrrrrrrr

That's it for first thoughts....more might come to me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Check it out!

A story of mine was published here under a pseudonym. If you know me, you can figure out which one is mine pretty easily (hint: what do I do Tuesday nights at 9pm?)

http://www.scribblersandinkspillers.com/copperwire.html

Monday, February 15, 2010

Villains Can Be Good!

I've been reading Under the Dome for quite a while now (finally within a normal novel's length of the end) and as always I have great admiration for what Stephen King accomplished. I was thinking today, though, about the main villain in the book. I don't want to give anything away to those who haven't read it, but suffice it to say that he is one bad dude. There is nothing I can think of I would consider redeeming about this guy, and it made me wonder why King wrote him that way. On thinking about it, the situation created is unique and can sustain this type of villainy whereas in almost any other case a bad guy of this magnitude would have been shut down before he began. I started thinking then about what makes for a well-rounded bad guy. Say what you want about Big Jim Rennie, but he certainly isn't a well rounded character.

I thought then about some of my favorite antagonists (note NOT villain) from literature, film, and in one case TV: Javert from Les Mis, Sweeney Todd, The Beast from Beauty and the Beast, Fagin from Oliver Twist, Darth Vader, Ben from Lost, Hannibal Lecter (specifically from Silence of the Lambs), Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds. What makes these antagonists well-rounded, interested characters vs. flat out evil such as Ursula from Little Mermaid, Jafar from Aladdin, Randall Flagg or Big Jim Rennie?

I realized it's all in the comparison to other characters. Each of those in the first list have a counter-balance to their wickedness that gives them an additional layer in the comparison. Javert is ValJean's antagonist, but Thernadier is evil. Sweeney Todd does terrible things, but Judge Turpin is far worse. The Beast kidnaps and menaces - but Gaston who shows the same negative traits that punished the beast in the first place never changes; The Beast does. Fagin is a pitiable character and shows genuine affection for those in his care -- as opposed to Bill Sikes who is violent (directly opposed to Fagin's moral compass) and far more menacing. Darth Vader redeems himself through his son as opposed to The Emperor who never veers from his course. Ben's manipulations have been shown to be overshadowed by the manipulations of the Man in Black (or maybe Jacob - that's yet to be seen). Hannibal's intelligence and cunning make him far more interesting than Buffalo Bill. Hans Landa's evil is mitigated by the fact that he's working for Hitler.

Maybe there's something to this. The counter-point of villainy - having another character who is more two dimensional than your "main" villain might actually be a good thing in helping to define your central antagonist. Of course, having purely evil characters isn't necessarily a bad thing if it serves the story well, but to develop a well-rounded character the balance against someone MORE evil (as opposed to my previous thought on being a balance against the hero) might service the story even better.

Can anyone think of a well-rounded villain that disproves this theory?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Musical Judgement

The song "Anytime" came on my ipod today while Caitie and I were coming home from dinner. It's a cabaret written song by William Finn expressing the sentiment that no matter what happens, the singer would be there for the person he's singing about. I believe the song was written for someone who is dying, though the lyrics are universal enough that they could apply to anything.

The song is one my absolute favorites - the melody and lyrics are both gorgeous.

It got me thinking - is there a way to judge music qualitatively? To Caitie and me, the song is beautiful (it's one of her favorites also, and we even heard the version she prefers - she likes the Norm Lewis, I like the Carolee Carmello, but both are great). Others might hear the song and think it's boring or pretentious or just not their type of song. By the same token, that person might turn around and put on a country song (Caitie likes that, me not so much usually, though I do like some old country a la Willie Nelson - music Caitie hates) or a rap "song" (neither of us like that) and think it's amazing and the greatest thing ever.

OK, so we all have different tastes. So I said to Caitie, "is there some music that everyone would universally agree on as being great?" After thinking about it, I said "what about Mozart?" Nearly anyone who studies or writes about music seriously would agree Mozart is great. Why? I have no idea, but he IS. There's something in the music that is, for the lack of a better word, great.

But then here's the thing -- that same person who would put on Jay-Z's latest might think Mozart is boring or pretentious. If that's so, can there be any music that is considered universally great? Is there a standard by which was can judge ANY music of any sort and say that regardless of opinion, something is "great?"

Now, I admit I'm writing about something here I have little actual knowledge of beyond knowing what I like and what I don't. What I find fascinating, though, is can this be stretched to other art forms -- painting, movies, theater, literature? Moby Dick is considered a great work, but, ironic as the following statement is, I find it dry as toast. Am I wrong? Is the book "great" regardless of my opinion, or can each person on their own define "greatness." If that's so, then how can we EVER pick a "classic" or a "great work" of art?

These are the things that keep me up at night. Any thoughts? Sound off below.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lost: What Kate Does

What does Kate do? Run, I guess.

Same as last week (and ever after) - Spoilers to be expected.

At this point this is my gut reaction to the episode. It certainly wasn't as great as last week's, kind of a middle of the pack episode overall. My thoughts in typical bullet fashion since it seems easiest:

-- I was disappointed not to get any Locke, Ben, Alpert, or Desmond. Looks like we'll get them back next week.

-- What was the point of the scene with Kate getting the handcuffs off? It seemed very filler-ish to me...

-- Claire IS pregnant with Aaron in the other timeline. Jumping ahead, why was Ethan her doctor? I'm sure blogs will come out with this by tomorrow, but was Ethan there at Aaron's birth the first time? He might have been...but there's another stranger implication for the island from that. If Ethan is alive in this timeline, then somehow Horace and his wife (or, as I speculated last year, Horace's wife and her mysterious "other" lover) had him off-island. Given that, can we safely assume the island sunk pre-1977?

-- What happened to Claire's baby during that "moment"? Did Aaron somehow phase to the other timeline? Seems strange they would have that moment, unless it was there simply to bring out the name Aaron which caused Kate...

-- ...to experience deja vu whatever like Jack did last week. I'm just wondering how long into the season we'll have to wait for those "flashes" to pay off.

-- Sayid has a darkness growing him. This is the sickness we've been hearing about since early Rousseau days. The question is, what does this mean? How did electric shock therapy and hot branding irons prove he was infected? Why try to poison him? Will Jack allow Sayid to be poisoned now? Interesting...

-- Hurley and Miles had too little to do this week.

-- Josh Holloway was FANTASTIC this week. His grief was palpable. I've never been more impressed with his acting than I was here, and the scene on the dock should be his Emmy tape.

-- The question we're left with is "Who is Claire now?" She came out of the woods all Danielle Rousseau, we got the very clear shout out to Danielle so we're MEANT to make the connection - but why? What happened to her? How closely does it parallel Danielle's story, and what implication does that have? Are we going to get a parallel between Aaron and Alex somehow? Is Aaron therefore doomed? I'm just letting my speculations run wild here, but who knows if these are relevant questions?

-- Best line of the night: Aldo saying "the pillar of smoke, makes a tikka tikka noise..."

That's about it for now. I may think of more as the week goes by. Not a great episode, certainly, but not a bad one either.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lost: LA X

NOTE: I'm going to leave recaps to those with larger audiences. My assumption is going to be you saw the most recent episode of Lost, so beware spoilers ahead if you haven't seen it.

I plan to post here thoughts, questions, reactions, etc. Not necessarily in any coherent order. Hence, bullet points. Ready, Go.

-- To start, this was WELL worth the eight month wait. I laughed, teared up, and at one point LITERALLY jumped out of my seat with excitement (I did, ask Caitie).

-- Alternate time lines. I LOVE this. I love that we're now getting "flashes sideways" (words of the producers). It's perfect story-telling. After our traditional flashbacks and game changing flash forwards, "sideways" flashes seem all too suited to this show.

--I'm going to treat the sideways flashes as them being legitimate timelines, not "side stories." The first question I have is WHAT is the deal with Desmond being on the plane? Two thoughts -- 1)we know Des is special. Could he be in both timelines? 2)If the island was submerged (how cool was that???) in 1977, was Widmore still on the island then? If so, did Des never meet him?

-- The sideways flashes were just a little -- off. Jack with the nick on his neck. The reversal of the Rose/Jack discussion. Sawyer seeming cocky. Hurley being lucky. One of the things I'm most looking forward to finding out about is how this new timeline skews with what we know already. Besides, how cool was it to see Frogurt and Arzt again!

-- The John/Jack talk at the end of the episode was awesome. "Nothing is irreversible." Is Jack somehow going to try to reverse the timeline? The line was no accident!

-- Back to the island, let's start with Juliet. Sad she's dead, but what were the lines about coffee and going Dutch? My guess - Juliet was experiencing both timelines simultaneously. There's speculation that she's not talking to Sawyer in the other timeline. I don't know about that, but I'm willing to bet we hear those lines again!

-- The moment that had me jump off the couch -- Locke IS MIB IS Smokey!!! I have to agree with Doc Jensen: "I'm sorry you had to see me like that" may well be the greatest line in the series so far. Now, the question is what is home? Is it the temple? Is it off the island? Is it another TIME? Terry O'Quinn needs another Emmy for this performance.

-- So, is Sayid Jacob now? Seems very possible! Those temple "others" were interesting, and I love that we're finally finding out more about these people who've been on the island all along. They're the ones who took the kids from the Tailies back in the beginning of season 2. I think Alpert has a connection to them. Interesting...can't wait to find out more.

I know I look at this show with rose-colored glasses, but the ONLY criticism I can give of this episode was the INCREDIBLE amount of commercials.

Please leave any thoughts, comments, ideas, "Jason you're an idiot" thoughts in the comments below. If I think of anything else I'll add it in as the week goes by.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Image

So another story came to me from an image - I played it with it for some time last night and so far it seems to be playing out nicely. It's going to be short - maybe 1000-1500 words, but I think that's OK. I tend to be wordy anyway, so I think this might be a good exercise for me...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stymied

I've been in a little bit of a writing funk the last week - I've barely gotten anything done. I'm been spending some time looking back at the novel, making small changes here and there, but can't get myself motivated to really go at it right now. I think some might be the pressure of waiting for the partial response, but I want to snap myself out of it.

I'll get there - these things go in waves for me....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's a start...

I got a request for a partial on my book from a pretty big agent!

I'm nervous and second guessing everything, of course, but that's normal.

Here's hoping...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Short Story!

The following short story wasn't accepted for the latest Emerald Tales magazine. No worries - I'm already working on my next submission. Still, I like this story and want to make it available for people to read. I'm interested in comments and suggestions, since I'm not really sure where to take this - I love the premise, but would like more ideas on maybe expanding it etc.
If you like it (or if you don't) please post a comment below. Tell your friends and family and strangers on the street to come read the story - it'll be interesting to see what kind of traffic this gets. If you do read it, PLEASE leave a comment either way (I won't be hurt if you don't like it, let me know the truth).
(PLEASE NOTE -- I know the formatting is a little off, I apologize for that, but if you could see the mess of an HTML form I have before me, you'd know why this is the best I could do!)

JUST A PARADE, DEAR
By: Jason Flum

6:23 pm, April 5, 2010
When Karl Mooney read the advertisement in the Times for the Carnivale celebration the British government was sponsoring in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the London Eye’s protective gaze over the city, he knew he would have to be a part of the festivities. He was there at the Eye’s dedication and had been amongst the first to ride to the top. This was before he had met and married Nicole, of course, who would never deign to find herself in such a precarious position. Nicole preferred her life to be safe and simple, which was all well and good for Karl, all except that it was so damn boring.

At dinner a week before the parade, Karl broached the subject of going to the celebration as a family adventure. Nicole was, as Karl expected her to be, reitcent.

“Just think of the noise and the crowds. It’s. . .unseemly,” Nicole said, sipping on her tea. “We’ll not be going to London that day.”

Karl glanced down at his son, hunched over his beef and potatoes. “Hey buddy, would you like to see the parade?” It was an unfair tactic, but Karl had nothing to lose.

Tim nodded, “Mother, can’t we go? Please?”

Nicole sighed and gave Karl an exasperated look. She could say no to Karl, but their son was another story altogether. “I’ll not be going. If you two boys would like a holiday, then by all means, I’ll not stop you.”

Karl slept on the couch that night, but a week later he and his boy were on their way to London.

8:49 pm, April 12, 2010

Leon looked at the sky and trembled. The moon was shining brightly and he had no idea what to do. In another part of the world, at another time, he might have been able to hear a gunshot. It was only on the floor above him, after all, where the tragedy was unfolding, possibly even as he stood at that window shielding the lights from below with an upraised arm.

He slumped his shoulders and wondered where in the world he could go from here. Jazz streamed in the window from the street below and wrapped itself around him. A drumbeat pounded, filling his head with the music. Leon strained to hear above the music, to listen for the gunshot, but it was impossible.

The parade continued to stream by. Across the street, a woman screamed out and lifted her shirt. A string of purple beads flew up from the street and she caught them easily. She leaned out of the window and shook her chest, holding her shirt with one hand and the beads with the other.

Leon would have cared had he not felt like a complete coward. He might have cared had he not betrayed his wife and daughter. He might have cared if Sally and June were not even now paying for his own cowardice and mistake in the apartment above him.


8:50 pm, April 12, 2010

“Where are you? I know you’re here, and it’s no use hiding,” the man with the gun said, a wild grin on his face as he scanned the shadows.

The noise was incessant, a pounding drum and wailing horns mingled with screams of revelers. The festivities below were the perfect cover for what he needed to do. No one was paying attention to the apartments above unless some silly girl was hanging out a window half-naked. Any unfortunate noises would easily disappear beneath the music.

The man with the gun and the flashlight felt himself tremble with excitement. He was about to do the one thing that made him special.

8:54 pm, April 12, 2010

Tim’s father had bought the balloon from a street vendor who had a large black mustache and silly hat. Tim had wanted a blue balloon, but the vendor didn’t have any left. Instead, Tim settled for red.

Now, as Tim sat atop his father’s shoulders watching the parade, the balloon lazily clung to the string that the boy gripped in hands sticky with funnel cake sugar. As the floats drifted by, Tim watched with eyes agog. The colors and lights danced in front of him, and the costumes sent shockwaves through his imagination.

He was all of seven years old, and the mysteries of adulthood danced on the fringe of his awareness. He had no idea why it was true, but some deep seated feeling told him his mother would not be at all happy if she knew the things he could see. Still, his father had taken him and that somehow made it all OK.

The world was a blur of color and sound and light, and the sugar rushing through his system made him tremble.

He was so excited by everything surrounding him, he didn’t even notice when the balloon above his head exploded.

8:48 pm, April 12, 2010

Sally Weathers crouched in her bedroom closet, as still as she had ever been in her entire life. Even her tears refused to fall at the speed dictated by gravity as a sob caught in her throat. She didn’t dare make a sound, and she kept her left hand clamped firmly around June’s mouth to be sure the girl stayed quiet as well.

Through the crack at the bottom of the door, she could see the flashing lights from the parade as they played around her apartment. The music was reduced to a thumping beat and a muffled melody, neither of which could compete with the pounding of Sally’s own heart.

“Where are you? I know you’re here and there’s no use hiding,” a voice called out, cocky as hell and dripping with menace.

Sally felt June let out a quick breath, but even with the sounds of the Carnivale going on below to hide any noises that might escape, the girl didn’t make a peep. Sally was proud of the girl.

The closet was a lousy hiding place, but Leon hadn’t given her much time to hide.

Fortunately, the closet was where they kept the shotgun.

8:40 pm, April 12, 2010

It was a pleasure for Karl Mooney to stand with his son on his shoulders and watch the parade go by. He felt a swelling patriotism for Mother England he hadn’t experienced in a decade. Even more, he felt a connection with his son that had been sorely lacking in their relationship due to Karl’s busy work schedule.

Head held high and arms firmly locked around Tim’s legs, Karl stood entranced by the brilliant lights, sparkling masks and half naked women. At the first glance of nudity which came just after he negotiated the balloon fiasco, his cheeks had turned ashen and he heard Nicole’s voice in his head screaming, “What are you doing with the boy in a place such as this? Turn around at once, you. . .buffoon’s arse. . .”

The second half-naked redhead shouting from a third floor window erased Nicole’s voice at once. So what if the boy saw some naked breasts? It was good for him, after all, to climb out from his mother’s skirts at last.

Head held high, his son on his shoulders, Karl looked with eyes as wide as his son’s at the festivities around him. Down the street, Karl could see the Eye of London peacefully taking in the party thrown in its honor. Like a mother (yes, even Nicole on a good day) watching over her children, the Eye took in all, and Karl could only imagine that the Eye approved of what she saw.

8:44 pm, April 12, 2010

Across the street, Nathaniel Glover trembled with anticipation. He was unaware of Karl’s existence, and only aware of Tim in so much as he was one of the dozens of children lining the parade route with a balloon in hand.

The parade mattered little to Nathaniel, as costumes were silly things of childhood. The music was pleasant, but more importantly, it was loud enough to cover the sounds of what would soon happen in the apartment above.

Nathaniel’s phone vibrated in his shirt pocket. Sticking a finger in his left ear and turning his back to the parade, he took the call. “Yeah, Nathaniel here.”

“I don’t have it. . .” the voice on the other end said.

“A shame,” Nathaniel answered.

“I’ll get it, I promise, please. . .”

“It’s too late, Leon. I’m downstairs. You can’t hide. You can’t run.”

“No, please. . .,” but Nathaniel had already hung up the phone.

8:45 pm, April 12, 2010

A giant float in honor of London’s West End delighted Karl to no end. Maria Friedman and Michael Crawford sang a jazzed up duet from Hello Dolly! followed by a medley from Guys and Dolls, and Karl mouthed along with the words. A shame, Nicole would have liked this, he thought.

Across the street, he thought he caught a glimpse of a man in a black fedora pulling a gun out and charging into the building behind him. The man was instantly forgotten as Karl was sure Friedman had waved at him from the float.

9:32pm, April 11, 2010

“You’re at it again?” Sally said, slamming her fork down on the table. The piece of pie in front of her was untouched.

“I tried so hard to stay away. It was a sure thing, the track was muddy, and Monte Carlo was running the inside. . .” Leon said, slumped against the counter.

“How much?”

“I really thought he would win…”

“How. Much?” Sally demanded.

“Twenty thousand pounds,” Leon muttered.

“Sweet Jesus,” Sally said. “What are you going to do? You can’t afford that!”

“Do you think I don’t know that? Mr. Glover is going to kill me.” Leon was practically choking on his tears.

“When do you have to get him the money by?” Sally asked.

“Two days from now, after the parade. He said June could enjoy it before. . .” he trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

“Sweet Jesus,” Sally said again.

She lifted the fork again and took a piece of the blueberry pie in front of her.

“I’ll fix it. Somehow, Sally, I’ll fix it.”

Sally silently finished the pie and put the plate and fork into the sink. She didn’t say another word as she got undressed and went to bed.

8:51 pm, April 12, 2010

Tim looked up at the windows above him, not really understanding why the women were all lifting their shirts, and frankly not really caring. The costumes and masks were far more interesting anyway.

In his scanning of the upstairs windows, he saw a man standing alone, looking out at the parade but not really looking. On the floor beneath that man, stood another man who looked scared.

Tim silently hoped that both men would find something in the wonderful parade they could enjoy.

12:06 pm, April 12, 2010

The phone rang in his pocket, and Leon couldn’t bear to look at the caller ID before he answered. He knew who was on the other line. “I thought I have till tonight, you said 8:30!” he said.

“Hey, easy, I’m just checking in,” Nathaniel’s silky voice crept through the phone. “I don’t think you understand, Leon, I’m not looking to make trouble. I just want what’s mine, and make no mistake, I will have it.”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Glover.”

“Then you have the money?”

“Not as yet, I don’t but. . .” Leon stuttered.

“No buts, Leon. 8:30. Your apartment on 13 King Charles Street, yes?”

“Yes, 4B,” Leon mumbled.

“Again?”

“4B, I’ll be there. With the money. Can I ask you a question?”

“Shoot,” Nathaniel said, crooking his fingers like a gun at the phone and smiling to himself.

“Why during the carnival? You can’t let my kid enjoy it? Please?”

“I want what I want. You screwed up, you give me what I want, no one gets hurt. See you tonight.”

The phone clicked, and Leon frantically turned back to his racing guide.


8:45pm, April 12, 2010

Leon walked back to the window after hanging up the phone and wrapped his arms around Sally. The parade passed by below. June sat on a stool in front of them, tapping her feet merrily to the music. She had excitedly turned to her parents several times already to point out an especially bright costume or funny mask.

Leon wasn’t really watching the parade, however.

Even though it wasn’t a particularly hot evening, Leon was covered with sweat as he scanned the crowd below, looking for the familiar black fedora he so feared.

“Is everything OK?” Sally asked, squeezing Leon around the waist.

“Yeah, um, I’m. . .” and then he spotted the fedora, just beneath his window. Sweet Jesus. “I’m going to step outside for a smoke.”

“OK, don’t be too long,” Sally said, kissing Leon on the cheek.

8:49 pm, April 12, 2010

The next time Sally heard Leon’s voice was over the phone. It was eight words, but eight words that caused her to move faster than she had in twenty years.

“Someone’s coming. The shotgun is in the closet.”

8:46 pm, April 12, 2010

“See that, Tim?” Karl asked, holding tightly to his son’s tiny hand.

“Not really, Daddy,” Tim said dejectedly. He had spent most of the parade jumping up to catch glimpses of the pageantry between the shoulders of others who were celebrating. “I can’t see!”

Karl looked down at his son and smiled. “I’m sorry, Bud, here.” Karl reached down and scooped Tim up so the boy could scramble onto his father’s shoulders. “That better?”

“Yeah, I can see everything now!” Tim cried happily, wrapping the string of his balloon around his hand.

8:46 pm, April 12, 2010

Nathaniel heaved a sigh as he saw the elevator at 13 King Charles Street was out of order. It would have to be the stairs. He liked to be in a more rested state when he prepared himself to do the thing that made him special, but sometimes there just wasn’t any choice.

He could hear “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” fading away into “What a Wonderful World” on what was no doubt a tribute to American jazz float.

Opening the door to the stairwell, Nathaniel felt the reassuring weight of the revolver in his hand. He began to climb.

8:47pm, April 12, 2010

The parade sounds were completely muffled, allowing Leon to hear the door from the bottom of the stairwell click shut from all the way from his position on the landing on the fourth floor.

He realized at once that he didn’t really have a plan of any kind. He knew Nathaniel was below and heading upstairs. There was only one stairwell in the building, and the elevator was busted.

Leon had a sudden burst of inspiration. He had the advantage of the upper ground. What if he just charged down at Nathaniel, knocked him over, ran out of the building and got lost in the crowd? Surely Nathaniel would chase him out of the building then, right?

Leon made his way down the first flight of stairs and took a deep breath.

A voice from below: Leon, that you?”

Damn, Leon thought. Now what?

The music from outside was completely muffled. Aside from some bass reverberating through the building, nothing from outside penetrated the concrete walls of the stairwell. Mr. Glover was taking his time coming up the stairway. Leon could hear every step Nathaniel took. Leon stood frozen, listening intently to every movement below.

When the first shot was fired up the middle of the stairs, the echo was nearly deafening.

Nearly jumping out of his skin, Leon snuck through the third floor door. He had the presence of mind to close the door as quietly as he could behind him.

8:47pm, April 12, 2010

Nathaniel stopped halfway up to the first landing. He was sure he’d heard something from above. Sticking his head into the middle of the stairwell, he looked up at the looping railways soaring above him. There was nothing there.

Leon, that you?” he called, hoping to bring out his prey.

Nothing.

Nathaniel proceeded up to the first landing. On a hunch, he leaned out again into the middle of the stairway. He fired a shot, hoping again to scare his quarry.

Either no one was there and Nathaniel’s imagination was playing tricks on him, or Leon was better at this than Glover had given him credit for.

It didn’t really matter either way to Nathaniel. There was no where for Leon to run. The hunt was on, and Nathaniel couldn’t have felt more alive.

10:12pm, April 5, 2010

A memory: Sarah Lancaster moved out of her apartment last week, and Steven, the landlord, had decided to wait until the London Eye Carnival was was over to try renting it out again. Steven and Leon were friendly, going out for the odd beer at Mcginny’s down the street now and then.

“You wouldn’t believe the offers, Leon,” he’d said last week. “A thousand pounds for the week, but try gettin’ the bastards out after the parade! At best the place’ll be trashed from the partyin’ so no thank you. I’ll leave the place open – use it for a getaway from the wife and kid if you know what I’m sayin’!”

Leon had laughed graciously.

8:50 pm, April 12, 2010

“Where are you? I know you’re here, and it’s no use hiding,” he had said. Play to your strengths, Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s sense of hearing was second to none, but the music from the damn parade made it nearly impossible for him to listen for the tell tale movements of a frightened man.

It was OK. There was no place for Leon to go. He might be in the closet or under the bed – one way or another, he would need to come out eventually. The question was, when would Leon make himself known?

He would wait. The man with the gun stood in the middle of Leon’s living room and faced the window looking down at the festivities with the revolver in his hand. Concentrating on tuning out the sounds from outside, he focused everything on his hearing. His focus was so intent, he didn’t even take so much as a moment to enjoy the parade passing by.

8:53 pm, April 12, 2010

A marching band made its way through the parade route. Tim kicked his feet in time to the music, but Karl didn’t mind at all.

8:53 pm, April 12, 2010

The man had stopped talking. June didn’t need to make a sound for Sally to know what she was thinking: did the bad man leave yet?

Pushing the door open to peek through a crack answered the question for her, but…

8:53 pm, April 12, 2010

…unfortunately it also answered a question for the man with the gun.

8:52pm, April 12, 2010

He couldn’t let Sally and June pay for his mistake. He couldn’t stand here and watch a fucking parade go by while his wife and daughter’s fates lay in the hands of a killer.

No, he couldn’t allow it to happen. He’d spent his life as a coward, making bets rather than working hard for his keep, afraid to ask women out, afraid to tell the one woman who’d taken the time to love him that he was mixed up in something awful, lying to her even tonight. He couldn’t do it any more.

Steeling himself, he ran out of the apartment, into the stairwell, and charged up the stairs.

8:53pm, April 12, 2010

When Nathaniel entered the apartment, he had made a mistake. It wasn’t something he usually did, but with the constant blaring from the street, he was distracted and forgot to close the front door to the apartment all the way.

It didn’t matter now, as Leon was clearly inside the apartment, tucked away in the closet in the bedroom.

Nathaniel never knew what hit him.

8:54pm, April 12, 2010

Time slowed to a crawl as Leon crept to the front door. It was open a crack, and that was enough. He looked into his home, and saw Mr. Glover standing in front of the same window Leon had stood not ten minutes before with his wife and daughter.

Streaking through honey, Leon dove at the intruder, knocking him off balance and causing the revolver in his hand to discharge. . .

3:43 pm, April 13, 2010

“…and it was great, Mommy, except when I looked up and saw my balloon had popped, but the parade was so much fun and Daddy and I had the best time…”

8:54 pm, April 12, 2010

. . .and the two men fell to the floor in a heap.

Next thing Leon knew, his wife was standing over them, shotgun pointed at Mr. Glover’s head, and June had already started dialing for the police as her parents had taught her to do in case of an emergency.

It was over, and the parade kept going.

3:45 pm, April 13,2010

“I’m glad you had fun, honey, go put your stuff away,” Nicole said, kissing Tim on the head. “And you, Karl?”

“It was fantastic.”

“Anything interesting?”

“Not really, just a parade, dear.”