Friday, April 29, 2011

Yeah.  Like This.
Every so often, I stumble across a song in my collection that reminds me of my ex-best friend, who we'll call Dwight.  And every so often I'll dream about him, and it'll remind me of how great things were, rather than how badly it all ended.

I tend to avoid songs that remind me of ex's, whether they're friends or lovers or boyfriends.  I didn't listen to a single Billy Joel song for almost four years after Aaron and I broke up.  I gave up October Project after Martin shattered my heart by getting engaged to someone else while we were still dating (worst. breakup. ever).  I keep my Matthew Sweet and my Elvis Costello CDs even though I don't listen to them ever, but I turn off Elton John's "Levon" when it comes on the radio because it makes me cry thinking of a man who used to tear up whenever he heard it.   I still barely listen to the Smashing Pumpkins because I had to get over two guys who were both fans.

But I still listen to Cracker's "Sick of Goodbyes" and John Mellancamp's "Key West Intermezzo" and all the songs that remind me of Dwight.  I play Oingo Boingo's "War Again" and once again I'm on the NJ Transit and we're leaning against each other, half-asleep and sharing earbuds, alone in the car and alone in the world.  Or the Goo Goo Dolls "Blackout," driving through a hailstorm while our friend Mike stood outside in line for Green Day.  That would have been six years ago today--the day before my birthday.  We were buying party supplies for my infamous Sin City party.

I wonder if he ever listens to the mix CDs I made him or if he ever dreams of me.  I like seeing him in dreams, when everything is great and all is forgiven and nothing has changed.  I could apologize for what I did, but all it would do would be to forgive the past.  We have no future and I think we both know that, which is why neither of us has tried to reach out to the other.  We're different people and nothing we could do would be enough to reconstruct what we had. 

But when I'm listening to those songs, or I see his face in dreams, I get this wonderful bittersweet feeling.  Because for a few minutes while I'm sleeping, we're friends again.  For a few minutes, there's nothing between us but old jokes and an instinctual connection.  He's always exactly how I remember him, with his curls and his grin and that laugh.  And I wake up with one of our songs in my head.  Bon Jovi's "I Am" or Sonata Artica's "Shamandalie," which when I heard I knew was how things would end. 

And they did.  And it was my fault and Dwight if you're reading this, I'm sorry.

* *

I'm turning 28 tomorrow.  Time keeps ticking down, and the older I get, the more I want to distant myself from the past.  When I was younger, my whole existance was bent on trying to recapture what I felt like I'd lost.  I pined like it was a hobby, and while there's a part of me that misses the passion of those days, the better part of me is glad for what lies ahead. . . because what's gone is gone, and will never be again.  I'm learning to be okay for that.

The fire, Baby . . . there's no place in the world for our kind of fire.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yep, that's my dad
Normally I get a little nervous reading my friends books.  Heck, I didn't read my own father's book until I was well into my teens.  I'm always afraid that the book is going to suck, and then I will either have to lie to them or tell them that it's awful and then they won't be my friend anymore.

This was not the case with Vincent O'Neil's Death Troupe.

Before I get on to how great this book is, I want to say a few words about Vinny.  He's an awesome guy.  Matthew and I met Vinny at the first Crimebake we attended and he was so sweet and funny and generous that we've been pals ever since.  He's just as great and as earnest a guy as you'd ever want to meet, and he's a great writer, to boot.  Finding all these characteristics in one person is pretty rare, since writers can often be pretty big jerks.

Death Troupe is a mystery novel for writers.  It's about writing.  It's about the struggles of writing and what being a writer does to people.  It can unite or divide.  It can make partnerships or it can end in murder, sometimes both.  And Death Troupe explores all of this with a dark charm I've come to recognize from reading Vinny's Exile series . . . but I'd have to say without hesitation (or bribery) that this is Vinny's masterpiece, and with each chapter I read, I get inspired to go back to my own work . . . which, given some of the crazy circumstances of late, is a feat of it's own.  Now if only the book weren't so damn hard to put down . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Know You Want It
 My friend Eeon, who is one half of Canned Laser and is perhaps the funniest person alive, recently turned me onto the comic Preacher, seeing as how one of my failed novels (but several stories) were about a vigilante preacher who I'm just going to come out say is about a million times sexier (in my head) than the Rev. Jesse Custer

Unless Jesse was played by Walton Goggins.

Preacher isn't exactly my cup of tea--it's a little on the Frank Miller side, lots of random swearing and violence for the sake of swearing and violence (although I will defend The Hard Goodbye as one of the finest pieces of short crime fiction written in recent history--other than "The PI's Wife," of course)  But with rumors recently flying about a possible film adaptation, I would like to nominate our own Boyd Crowder for the coveted role.  He's got the voice, he looks good in a suit and even better with a Bible in his hands, and he's got that sexy hair (okay, so it's a little sparse, but Jesse's rockin' that early 80's Jeff Goldblum in The Fly pseudo-mullet an no one wants to see that.

Seriously, though, he'd be perfect.  I can't imagine an actor who'd be better for the part.  But you just know that if they ever get around to making the movie (they won't) they'll cast some ponce like Shia Le Pouf or James Franco.  And Jessica Alba as Tulip.  Chance Crawford or some other weird shirtless dude faking a bad Irish accent as Cassidy.  Gross Gross Gross. 

So the point is, Hollywood, if you're not going to do something right, don't bother doing it at all.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Records . . . seriously

As an early birthday present (I'll be 28 a week from today and we're celebrating by watching The Room) Matthew sent me a cool suitcase record player so that I could listen to my ever-growing vinyl collection when I'm working in my office (the main turntable, which I took before my stepfather could come back to the house for his stuff, is downstairs in an enormous record cabinet that Ian bought me for Christmas).  The difficult part of both is keeping adorable kitten Bosco from trying to practice his DJ scratch techniques with my Boz Skaggs records.

Vinyl really does have a deeper, richer sound, and there's a wonderful feeling of finding something good mixed into a crate of Boston and Eagles records--my best finds so far has been Warren Zevon's Sentimental Hygine (which sounds massively overproduced on vinyl, a sound lost to tape and CD) Danny Elfman's So Lo in a $3 Bin at Last Vestige in Albany.  Matthew and I routinely send each other packages of dollar vinyl with small cards and post-it notes explaining why we picked each album.  Ian has been buying me Tom Waits and Smiths records every Christmas since we started dating almost seven years ago.

Vinyl has a wonderful intimacy to it, and simultaniously there's a group mentality about it.  When you put on a record, everyone hears it.  The speakers fill the house and strange things begin to happen.  Sometimes people start dancing.  Other times they get very quiet, as though they've never heard a song you know they've heard a million times.  People who are normally not dreamy get drifting looks on their faces and start pawing through your collection, making requests for what to play next.  They take out each record, pour over the liner notes and the album covers.  Discussions begin.  Stories are shared.  Albums are flipped and B-sides are played.  A CD can fade into the background, an iPOD can be shuffled around and ignored, but vinyl demands to be heard.  It demands more of the listener, which is probably why it's been mostly abandoned.  It's not just noise to block out the sounds of life--it is a life of it's own, a reminder of how beautiful and pure music can sound.

If you ever get a chance and you own a record player, find a copy of Warren Zevon's eponymous first album and play "Frank and Jesse James."  The opening pinao chords are perhaps the most beautiful sound you will ever hear, and no other version--mp3, tape, CD or 8-track, does it justice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's a James Franco?

Pictured: James Franco

Will someone please explain to me what the deal is with James Franco?  It seems like he's everywhere, and yet, I cannot for the life of me picture him or recall ever seeing him in a movie.  Maybe because he's only in Oscar-baiting tripe like 127 Hours (Oh Danny Boyle, where have you gone?) or pro-rape stoner crap like Your Highness (and just when I'd forgiven your complete inability to act, Natalie Portman) and I'm not in college anymore, so I don't have to pretend to like those films. 

According to IMDB, it's his birthday today, but I came from the site ten seconds ago and I can't remember what he looks like. 

He's the REM of actors--generic in every respect, and yet, for some reason, highly lauded by people who should frankly know better.  Sure, REM had some catchy tunes, but the lyrics were just a series of phrases strung together.  Here are some lyrics from "Radio Free Europe"

Keep me out of country in the word

Deal the porch is leading us absurd.
Push that, push that, push that to the hull
That this isn't nothing at all

Yeah!  Whatever that means!

Apparently, Franco released a collection of short stories, because he's such a genius.  Even perpetual Franco pole-smokers The AV Club didn't give it an exactly favorable review.  They even try to back it up by reiterating his talent, less he stop blessing them with his Heavenly presence, but the resentment is clearly there.

And then there's this, but I'm not going to write another word about it because I refuse to give Franco the pleasure of making me (or my beloved readers) vomit.

Seriously, Franco, who do you think you are?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A few announcements

Not only did PANK finally pick up a story of mine, but they also did an interview--check out my Gonzo answers here

I'm on the cover of Independent Ink!  Because I'm awesome!  There's an interview with me in there too.  For some reason, people care what I say.

I've been in NYC all week, so we'll return to our reguarly scheduled programming on Monday.  I have done absolutely no writing and watched way too much Two and a Half Men, which I don't even like but is easy to fall asleep to.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Every author has a book that made them stop and think, "Yeah . . . yeah, this is what I want to be.  This is what I want to do."  For some, it's great works like Dune or The Great Gatsby.

For me, it was a Dungeons and Dragons novel titled The Tainted Sword.

It was 5th grade, the mystical year 1992.  Every kid had a Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance book in their backpack . . . every kid except me.  I don't remember what else I was reading (it would be another year before I discovered Star Wars and Jurassic Park) but I had no interest in four inch thick dragon books (I still don't).

My friend Ann, in her infinate wisdom and perpetual coolness (which remains to this day) gave me a book she had just finished reading.  From the first page, I was hooked.  The progaonist, Jo, helps restore the fallen knight Flynn to his former glory.  Cheap and cheesy as the words themself were, the story of redemption, of honor, of a woman's bravery . . .I'm convinced that this, combined with Cutthroat Island, made me the feminist I am today.

That, and it had the first sex scene I'd ever read, except for the time my mother caught me reading H is for Hooker.  "He brushed aside a lock of her hair that had come unbound during their passion . . . ."  Pretty sexy stuff for a 10 year old who wouldn't get a boyfriend for another five years.

Turning those pages, I remember having that wonderful thought . . . I could do thisI want to do this.  I got a composition book and a Bic pen and haven't stopped writing since.  I gave up on writing fantasy in college, mostly because I wasn't very good at it (although my story "Gabriel," (which I'm just now realizing can be traced directly back to The Tainted Sword, right down to Roxanne's red hair) was a finalist for Writers of the Future) but I had since discovered boys and Raymond Chandler.  I still have all those early stories somewhere, including a 400 page, 2-volume novel series I wrote, the title of which completely escapes me at the moment.

I borrowed that book from Ann so many times that she finally gave it to me.  The original copy still sits on my shelf.  I pull it out once in awhile to remember where I started and why.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

As I mentioned earlier, I gave up swearing for Lent.  More on this here, but in addition to giving up cursing, I also gave up celeb gossip.  I had already given up TMZ (for the most part) as part of my New Years Resolution, but I was sitting there on Ash Wendsday, reading The Superficial and wondering how long I would last before I dropped my first f-bomb (6 hours) and I realized that here I was, ingesting something that was fundementally bad for me and a waste of my time.  Because really, what does it matter in my life what Lindsey Lohan had for lunch?

So I clicked out of the page, and haven't read any since.

Negativity breeds negativity.  When I was living in NYC, I was surrounded by newsstands and glossy gossip rags screaming about Nick and Jessica's divorce.  It actually depressed me--I got anxious just walking past a rack of magazines, the bold headlines of their impending marital doom made me really, really sad.  Not because I gave or ever have given a fig about Jessica Simpson.  I'm not even sure what a Nick Lachey is.  But the public airing of their dirty laundry made me sad for humanity, and I had to make a deliberate effort to look the other way.  And you know what?  It worked.

I'm doing this, partially, for Charlie Sheen.  And again, I don't care one way or another about Charlie Sheen; I've seen exactly one of his movies (The Three Musketeers) and watch Two and a Half Men only when I'm staying in NYC, it's 1AM, I can't sleep and it's either that or the Times Square traffic cam.  And as his spiral started downwards, I, like everyone else in America, watched in horrified fascination. 

But then I realized that I was a major part of his problem.  I had become one of the people who clicked on every news item, thus giving him the audience he sought.  I realized that I couldn't actively participate in a man's public suicide--it was sick and it was wrong and I'm glad to be rid of it.

I no longer read gossip headlines at the grocery store--instead, I look up recipes or *gasp* talk to my boyfriend.  The time I was wasting catching up on Heidi Montag is now spent writing or listening to records or writing letters to my friends.  My productivity has increased and I don't feel so bogged down with the ugliness of the world--because gossip is never nice, it's always judgemental and this world is too beautiful for the feuds on Teen Mom to fill it with poison.

This isn't to say I've given up celebs--but rather, I've switched my focus.  I look up old interviews with Walton Goggins because the way he creates his characters inspires me in my writing.  I read about Geena Davis' work at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media because I think she's a rare breed of woman.  I try to find people who inspire me, not waste my time with their petty garbage.

Monday, April 4, 2011

If you had asked me, at 13, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, "Geena Davis."  To a 13 year old girl, she was the most beautiful, most exciting, most wonderful woman I had ever seen, either in real life or on film (although my dad's friend Judy was a close second and remains, to this day, the funniest woman I have ever known).  I think I might love her more than Walton Goggins.

The author, generously, at 13

As a 13 year old girl with stringy brown hair, big round glasses and three beautiful sisters, two curly blondes and one with an enormous mane of Indian-dark, crimped, waist-length hair, I dreamed of one day being beautifiul--and when I saw Geena Davis for the first time as Mogan Adams in the catastrophic film flop Cutthroat Island, it was as though I had fallen in love. 

That was what I wanted to look like.  She was handsome, strong, she had big full lips and her tits weren't fake and huge.  When I later read an interview in the Parade magazine insert that came with the Sunday paper, I found out she was not only beautiful and talented, she belonged to MENSA and made her own clothes--as a bookworm, a beginning writer, fan of patterned leggings, (Lucca and I shared a proclivity for short boots) Star Wars geek and a general 6th grade weirdo, this spoke to me.  Not only did I want to look like Geena Davis, I wanted to be Geena Davis.  I wanted to be a pirate/ghost/journalist/bank robber/space bride/vampire.  I wanted to be an actress/genius/fashion designer with giant crimped hair and Jeff Goldblum/Matthew Modine/Alec Baldwin (when he was cute) on my arm.  I wanted the freedom to live out loud the way it seemed like she did.  Because she confessed (as I realized all actors do, only she didn't seem like she was lying) that she had been an awkward teenager, but she went to Hollywood and never gave up and became this beautiful goddess on my TV screen.  "It never occured to me to go home," I read over and over in that Parade interview.  "I just kept telling myself, "it's just around the next corner.""

I STILL fantasize about this
I grew into all of her movies.  My mom let me stay home from my dad's one friday night, got us a bag of mini Baby Ruths and Ranch Doritos and finally showed me Beetlejuice--it's one of my favorite memories of my mom (not like she's dead or anything, don't worry).  I played Cutthroat Island endlessly, endlessly with my friends Jess C. and Jess LP.  I was an still am an unabashed fan of this film, I don't care how cheesy and awful it is, and when I actually met Matthew Modine I would have told him this but I hadn't eaten that day and was concentrating more on not fainting when he kissed me on the cheek.

She wore fangs in Transylvania 6-500 because she was shy and wanted people to notice her, which is the exact reason I wear pink go-go boots or do silly MPDG things like give people Warren Zevon records when I can't get up the courage to tell them that I want to be friends. 

Also fantasized about being Geena Davis RIGHT HERE

When my stepdad left, I was so angry and hurt that for days after I got the news, all I could do was lay on the couch and watch Earth Girls are Easy on loop--my stepdad had, after all, left his wife and kids for a nurse he worked with, so Geena prancing in pink lingerie singing "The Ground You Walk On" after she's thrown him out and is destroying all of his stuff struck a deep, lingering chord with me (especially because I had stolen his record player and turned his first pressing of Abbey Road into a bowl).  I wanted Jeff Goldblum to drop out of the sky and take me away from the awful reality that I was ultimately disposable to someone who had entered my house seventeen years ago and expected me to absorb him into my life, when clearly I had no been absorbed into his. 

I nurtured this fantasy that Geena Davis was my real mom and she'd given me up because she didn't want me being a spoiled Hollywood brat and that one day she would come and get me and I could get out of Cobleskill, out of my crappy teaching job, out of a life that was rapidly falling to pieces.  I stared at myself in the mirror, looking for any traces of generic familiarity--after all, I didn't look like my mother, my father or my two full sisters (I do, however, bear an uncanny resemblance to my half sisters, although none of us look like our mother.)  If Geena Davis was my mom, it meant that I wasn't stuck in Cobleskill--I could get out from a town that was suffocating me and would swallow whole so many people I loved.  The best compliment I ever recieved was when my BFF Matthew told me I was a little pint-sized Geena Davis, that I did, actually, look a little bit like her.  (I do have a little freckle the same place she has a small beauty mark)

Lately my late 20's/out of grad school/out of work/no agent/no book Geena Davis worshipping has turned to the Emmy-winning, immediately cancelled Commander in Chief.  This was on during the terrible year I lived in NYC, and I used to flip back and forth between that and House.  I never got to finish the series, so I got it on Netflix and have spent the last two weeks lying on the couch in a combination of utter misery and utter fascination--because seeing her, handsome and powerful, her deep voice commanding and tender and a little bit haunted, makes me feel 13 again.  I am again that little girl, dancing around her room to Bryan Adams, imagining herself somewhere--anywhere--but my hometown hellhole.  On stage at Radio City Music Hall or the Winter Garden.  A sound stage in LA or on location off the coast of Thailand.  Because it's just around the next corner.  Whatever it is, it's not far from where I'm standing right now.  

Just around the next corner . . . .    

Sunday, April 3, 2011

See Libby Cudmore Live! Hear Her Speak Words of Wisdom!

My writing partner Matthew and I will be giving a workshop next Saturday--details are below, register online, come, hang out and savor my wisdom!

"Stop Killing Trees: How to Write for the Internet"

with Libby Cudmore and Matthew Quinn Martin

Location: Ripley Grier Studios

131 West 72nd St.

New York, NY 10023

12pm - 2pm


Internet publishing is different than print. It is crucial for writers to learn how to adapt and to know which outlets are worth submitting to and which are a waste of time. The needs of these editors are specific and unique to the medium. In addition, agents are out there reading. How can you effectively use internet publication to develop a dynamic platform for your creative work? This workshop will help teach participants how to navigate the uncharted waters of internet publishing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bunnies, Pandas, and the Joy of Judging Movies I Refuse to See

Easter is my favorite time of year.  Bunnies are pretty much my favorite thing.  It's one of my favorite words (say "Bunny" and try not to smile) and they're nice pets (I had one named Sally growing up and she was a firecracker).  Last year Ian's mom found a nest of baby bunnies, less than 10 days old with their little eyes still shut, and I got to hold one and it was so teeny tiny that it fit in the palm of my hand.  I could have died from cuteness.

This Blog Takes Stuffed Bunny Donations
Stuffed bunnies are also awesome (I have a whole menagerie, including Pinko, my Peeps bunny, Nubbins, the clucking Cadbury Bunny I torture Ian with, Mr. Bunn, a skeleton bunny in a pink suit, Pwang, who is crocheted and a the big felt Max than Ian made me for Christmas a few years ago).  I had to actually remind myself that I was an adult and couldn't justify spending 30 bucks on a plush Oswald, no matter how cute he is.

Even my kitten Bosco agrees with this judgement, because every so often he will take one of the Bunny Menagerie and drop it on our heads if we don't get up early enough to feed him.  We call them Bunny Bombs, and it's hard not to be mad when you've got a bunny on your head.

Almost as good as bunnies is Cadbury Eggs.  I would eat Cadbury eggs every day if I could.  They're overly sweet and sticky and delicious and they make me feel like a kid again.  The fact that you can only get them a few months out of the year makes them that much more delicious.

But this Hop movie is ruining everything.

Everywhere I look is that stupid flannel-wearing rabbit.  He's all over the candy aisle.  He's on my Cadbury eggs.  And although the movie is getting awful reviews, I'm sure Nathan Rabin loved it because the titular rabbit is a slacker rabbit who's probably drawing a comic book or starting a rabbit band or something, because all slackers are really handsome geniuses at heart and never fat lazy slobs with pizza stains on their ironic teeshirts.
Aww . . . .

Here's what I don't get, and again, I didn't see the movie because I don't have children (one more reason to avoid parenthood).  So E.B (I had to look this up) is a teenage rabbit who doesn't want to take over his dad's role as the Easter Bunny . . . but if there's one thing anyone knows about rabbits, it's that they breedA lot.  He's not the Easter Panda--so E.B doesn't want to take over the family business, why doesn't Papa Rabbit just hand it over to one of the other 25+ children he has (those that didn't get eaten by stray cats). 

I come from a family of five girls and I can say that competition between siblings for parent's attention and affection is fierce.  And if you've ever heard a rabbit scream and fight, yeah, it's kind of like that.  So E.B wants to become a drummer, let him!  I'm sure one of his siblings, maybe one who went mostly unnoticed when they became Rabbit Class President or went to Rabbit College or got a Good Rabbit Job because E.B was the squeaky wheel who got all his parents affection despite being an utter ungrateful screw-up, would LOVE to be the Easter Bunny and deliver joy and Cadbury Eggs to all.  It's the Prodigal Son thing, I get it, but the truth is that I've always hated that story.