Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Best of Friday Flash: Volume 2

Just released yesterday, can't wait to read it! I've enjoyed so many flash fiction stories by so many of the authors included in this anthology. Here's where it can be purchased in digital or print formats:

Review of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

I usually only post my 5 star reviews here, but I highly recommend this book in spite of only giving it 4 stars. A very unique exploration of America's recent wars and big money, high level capitalism. Here's my review:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was tagged by Matt Potter to answer the following ten questions about my work in progress. Below the questions and answers, you'll find a link to Matt's answers, a list of the five people I've tagged to do the same, and, as those five (hopefully) play along, a link to where they've posted their answers as well. Without further ado:

What is the working title of your book?
'Upstart'

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was playing a lot of poker and watching a lot of poker on tv, and one day I just started outlining this story about a regular guy who just happens to be a professional caliber poker player. I had known for a long time that I wanted to write a novel about the struggles of small business capitalism and entrepreneurship, so this regular guy / excellent poker player also became someone who quit his job at a small manufacturing company to give it a go being in business for himself. My life revolves around my family, so the protagonist had to be expecting his first child just as he faces the likely possibility of his new venture going bust.

What genre does your book fall under?
Commercial fiction, I suppose, for lack of a better answer (this seems to me to be the catchall genre designation for novels that don't fall under a more specific one like horror, fantasy, etc.).

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I'd want unknown actors for the lead male and female roles, both of whom are in their twenties, but since I assume it's okay to be greedy here, it would be incredible to have Robert De Niro play the role of one of my favorite ancillary characters, a very intimidating sexagenarian professional poker player.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
'Upstart' is the story of a skilled amateur poker player facing potential failure as a businessman, and his struggle to make the right decisions at the poker table, in his career, and for the family he loves.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I queried two agents earlier this year and one of them requested the manuscript, but then passed on representing me. I subsequently decided to embark on a fourth round of edits / rewrites, which is taking me way too long, but I intend to query a much longer list of agents as soon as I finish. My plan is to try my darnedest to land agency representation, but if I reach my wits' end and feel I've given that process my best shot, then I'll reassess and will consider self-publishing. Rejection doesn't bother me much, so we'll see how this all goes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Because of its intense gambling and competitive business conflicts, and the ethical dilemmas it presents, the action is similar to a lot Ben Mezrich's stuff, though 'Upstart' is not based on a true story like his books. Peter Mountford's A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism explores big money, top-down capitalism in a similar vein to how I've attempted to examine small business, bottom-up capitalism, though in the end my message is hopeful whereas I certainly didn't feel a sense of hope when I finished Mountford's excellent book.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Everyone who, like me, watched poker on tv and dreamed of being as good as the best players in the world, everyone I've ever met who wanted to quit their jobs and be in business for themselves, and everyone who struggles everyday with the financial challenges of supporting a young family. Not to be maudlin.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Family man that the protagonist is, he can't help being attracted to a beautiful, younger, female professional poker player who becomes a good friend after they sit at the same casino table for hours. She's manipulative at the table; a flirtatious chameleon who knows how to use her looks to her advantage, and it's hard to tell throughout the novel what her true intentions are for the book's main man.

Matt's answers are here: http://sweetscrippen.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/the-next-big-thing.html

Finally, the people I've contacted to share their Next Big Things are John Wiswell, Karen Wojcik Berner, Helen A. Howell, Icy Sedgwick, and Tom Gillespie. Here are links to their posts / responses:

John Wiswell: http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-next-big-thing-blog-award-x3.html

Karen Wojcik Berner: http://karenwojcikberner.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-next-big-thing.html

Helen A. Howell: http://helen-scribbles.com/2012/10/16/the-next-big-thing/

Icy Sedgwick: http://blog.icysedgwick.com/2012/10/the-next-big-thing.html

Tom Gillespie: declined to play the game at this time due to an extremely busy schedule

Thursday, September 13, 2012

'Dostoyevsky with an iPhone Camera,' an article on Larry Loebell's New Film

This is the 4th (and final) article I wrote for Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe Blog for this year's Philly Fringe. Playwright, Professor, and Dramaturg Larry Loebell made this entire seventy seven minute film, called Dostoyevsky Man, on his iPhone with co-director and actor Seth Reichgott. Only $9 per ticket this Friday and Sunday nights in Philadelphia! Tickets available through a link in the article:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

'Good Sex, Better Conversation,' an article on 'The End of Hope, The End of Desire'

The 3rd article I wrote for Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe Blog is about the reprisal of a show called The End of Hope, The End of Desire (written by Belfast based playwright David Ireland) with Corinna Burns and Jared Delaney of Extreme Measures. Meeting with Corinna and Jared to talk about the show was interesting, informative, and a good time. To learn why I called the article 'Good Sex, Better Conversation,' check it out:

http://fringearts.com/2012/08/22/good-sex-better-conversation/

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Article on 'Hackles,' a New Show by Groundswell Players

Here's a link to the 2nd article I wrote for Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe Blog, this one on Hackles, a newly devised show from Groundswell Players.  Attending a Groundswell rehearsal / writing session was educational for me and a lot of fun.  Hope you enjoy the article that came out of it:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Article on Bruce Walsh's 'Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969'

I've been asked to do a series of articles for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe Blog, and so far I'm very much enjoying meeting with the artists behind various performances.  The first article I have posted on the blog covers Bruce Walsh's unique show, Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969, here it is:

http://fringearts.com/2012/08/10/sleepless-nights-chomsky-vs-buckley-and-channeling-the-full-range-of-human-understanding/

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review of The Quiet American by Graham Greene

I've rarely posted reviews here in which I did not give 5 stars, but Graham Greene's The Quiet American contains subject matter so relevant to today's global political and economic landscapes, and reads so smoothly with such an entertaining narrator/antihero, it's worth reading.  Here's my review:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/374216931

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Kreativ Blogger Award



Thanks to Helen A. Howell for bestowing The Kreativ Blogger Award upon my flash fiction blog, Liminal Fiction.  In accordance with the rules of receiving this honor, for which I'm quite grateful, here are ten little facts about me, followed by five new award recipients of my choosing:

1) I love to eat chicken wings.  Any American city where I’ve spent any significant amount of time, I ask around about what restaurant or pub makes the best wings, and I try out a few places.  My favorites are in Charlottesville, VA at St. Maarten CafĂ©, where some years ago I spent every Tuesday evening for their ‘double wing night’ for a year straight.  I was crushed when I learned recently that Maarten’s (as we called it) closed, but then was very happy when it reopened under the ownership of its longtime managers shortly thereafter.  It’s comforting to know that it’s there whenever I pass through that gem of a town.

2) I’ve lived for varying lengths of time in Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Athens (OH), Charlottesville, and New York City in addition to Philadelphia, where I’ve spent most of my life.

3) I’ve visited various cities in England, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Chile, China, and UAE.

4) I’ve been playing soccer (football, of course, everywhere outside my dear USA) since I was five years old and still play on a team with a great bunch of guys who are all younger than me here in Philly.

5) I love playing poker and writing about poker.

6) I’ve just begun a fourth round of edits / rewrites on a sixty thousand word novel that I really want to stop editing and rewriting, but won’t let myself until I truly feel it’s my best work.  I started writing the first draft in February 2007.  A lot of the story revolves around poker in relation to micro capitalism.

7) I enjoy many different styles of music, including jazz, funk, reggae, hip hop (mostly of the Roots / Black Star / Common okay player + late ‘80s and early ‘90s commercial varieties), and rock from Dylan and Waits and Cash to today’s Raconteurs and Black Keys to name just a few.

8) Politically I try my absolute hardest to be as objective as possible.  I was an Independent for years but recently became a Democrat only because the Democratic primary is the mayoral election in Philadelphia, and you cannot vote in a PA primary if you’re not a member of that party.  To spell out the obvious implication of the previous sentence, a Republican will never defeat a Democrat in the general election for Mayor of Philadelphia, so the only say we voters have comes by voting in the always victorious party’s primary.  If Independents could vote in primaries in PA, I’d still be one.

9) We just have two cats in my household, but I also love dogs and am an animal lover in general.  Friends of mine in Philly have an obese pet bunny rabbit who they let roam free in the basement of their city row home, he seems to have a nice life down there.

10) Family is everything to me.  My wife and daughter are the loves of my life.

Per above, here are five bloggers to whom I'll pass it in turn:

Anthony Venutolo for Bukowski's Basement

Tim VanSant for otoh

Lisa Vooght

Justin Davies for The Flying Scribbler

Peter Newman for Run Pete, Write!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Creators, Actors From 'The Wire' Talk to Maxim #thewire

Like many of my friends and millions of people I've never met, including President Barack Obama, I loved 'The Wire,' so this Maxim article was a pleasure to read.  I'm sure a lot of Wire fans out there already knew the back stories on David Simon and Ed Burns, but I didn't, so learning about their creative roots was fascinating to me, as were nearly all of the blurbs included from various actors, producers, and others who were involved with this modern classic.  If you like the show, check out this article (thanks to Anthony Venutolo for recommending it):

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rebecca Emin's Blog Hop

Writer Rebecca Emin is hosting a blog hop to announce her new book, When Dreams Come True. Congrats to Rebecca on the book's release.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Housewife with a Half-Life by A.B. Wells launches today



Here's a blurb about A.B. Wells' new novel, Housewife with a Half-Life, and links to where you can buy it:

A Housewife's answer to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! In this lively space comedy, Susan Strong and her spaceman guide, Fairly Dave, dodge entropy hoovers, Geezers with Freezers, the Super Gnome and the Spinner's cataclysmic converter on a mission to retrieve the lost pieces of the housewife's disintegrating self across parallel universes. Can they save us all from Universal Devastation?

The ebook is available on Kindle:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

And in a variety of other formats via Smashwords:

Smashwords

A paperback will be available in June!  For more info, go to the author's blog, Head Above Water:

www.alisonwells.wordpress.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Best #Brunch in #Philly Starts This Sunday (other tags: #restaurants #restaurant #food #news)

My friends Adam Willner and Cheri Fairall are in charge of the excellent Philadelphia restaurant Matyson's new Sunday brunch, which kicks off this weekend.  Adam is the mastermind behind the menu and head chef on that day (giving regular head chef Ben Puchowitz a break), and Cheri will run the front of the house.  Here's an article on foobooz with more details:

http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/2012/04/19/matyson-adds-byob-brunch/

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award



Stephen J. Green of The Twisted Quill was kind enough to bestow upon my flash fiction blog, Liminal Fiction, The Versatile Blogger Award, for which I'm quite grateful.  It's my understanding that I must now choose fifteen other bloggers I feel are deserving of the same award, which would be the easiest of tasks had Stephen and one of his other recipients, Helen A. Howell of Helen Scribbles' fame, not already chosen so many of my favorite digital writers for their own lists (Stephen and Helen would've certainly made my cut as well).  Between Stephen and Helen, they've already given the trophy to John Wiswell, Icy Sedgwick, Tim VanSant, Justin Davies, Marc Nash, Peter Newman, Sonia Lal, and Tony Noland, among others of whom I'm a fan.

The above having been written, I do have five winners to add, as follows:

Karen Wojcik Berner for Bibliophilic Blather

Deanna Schrayer for The Other Side of Deanna

Anthony Venutolo for Bukowski's Basement

J.M. Strother (creator of the #FridayFlash hashtag) for Mad Utopia

T.S. Bazelli for Ink Stained

Thanks to you all for writing stuff I love to read, and for being a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review of The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

Per my recent post with link to review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I watched the movie version of The Rum Diary shortly after reading the book.  Loved the book, hated the movie.  My biggest problem with the movie is the elimination of one of the book's best characters, Yeamon.  I just do not for the life of me understand why the producers would elect to exclude Yeamon.  So much of the novel's best action revolves around him, and yet instead of the deep exploration of his character I expected, the movie just combined his role with that of Sanderson, played as best he could by Aaron Eckhart, essentially absorbing all of Yeamon's inextricable plot involvement into Sanderson's character without including any of Yeamon's real moxie.

The movie attempts to portray Sanderson as more villainous than he comes off in the book and makes him the boyfriend of the beautiful Chenault, Yeamon's girlfriend in the book and the apple of protagonist Paul Kemp's eye.  One of the most important aspects of Yeamon's relationship with Chenault in the book is how he beats her from time to time, leading up to the craziness that occurs when the two of them go to Carnival on St. Thomas with Kemp, and yet the physical and verbal abuse was left out of the movie, I suppose as a compromise the producers felt necessary when they rolled Yeamon's character into Sanderson and cut Yeamon entirely.  Sanderson, evil capitalist as they make him out to be in the movie, couldn't pull off Yeamon's brutal outbursts, the producers probably recognized this, but the movie would've been a lot better if they'd just cast Yeamon and been more true to the book.

Three other negatives in the movie were the expansion of Moberg's character, played in overly dramatic fashion by Giovanni Ribisi, an added acid sequence that felt very forced, and the absolutely horrible Hollywood ending the producers added, which I won't reveal here in case anyone actually reading this should ever be left on a deserted island with no other movie options besides this one.  Moberg's small part in the book was important and subtle, whereas in the movie he's made into a main player alongside Kemp and his other buddy, Sala.  It was a lousy enough decision to drop Yeamon, but to expand upon Moberg in attempt to make up for the error just made everything worse.

One of the things I loved so much about the book was the fact that Thompson wrote it before he experienced drugs.  Why Johnny Depp would bastardize the purity of this fact by allowing the insertion of an acid sequence is beyond me, but he did.  I suppose he (and the other producers) felt the need to show a transition from Thompson's pre-drug days to what would come later, and just couldn't resist an opportunity to fictionalize his first acid experience as if Paul Kemp really was Thompson and not just a character based on Thompson's Puerto Rican journalistic experience.  Another poor decision, they should've just had Kemp et al stick to booze the way they do in the book.

Finally, all I'll write about the ending of the movie is that it's just terribly stupid.  Why Hollywood always has to make up their own endings I'll never understand.

Having now gotten all of the above off my chest regarding the movie (thank you), I absolutely loved the book, here's a link to my review:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/298544341

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Former Goldman Sachs Executive Pretty Much Says It All #occupy #ows

It's refreshing to read a former Goldman Sachs executive telling it like it is on his way out the door.  If I were a GS client, I would not feel very confident that my advisors there have my best interests in mind.  Here's an article worth reading:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Last month I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and also The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson, the former of which I'd seen the movie prior to reading the book, while I just watched the movie version of the latter last night about a week after finishing the novel.  I haven't written my review of The Rum Diary yet, but will do so soon and will provide some thoughts on the movie as well at the time.  For now, here's my review of Fear and Loathing, which I enjoyed immensely in spite of what I felt was a fairly sizable flaw:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/288383839

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review of Philly Fiction 2

I loved this collection of short stories "highlighting Philadelphia as a city of literary inspiration."  Here's my review:

PA Senator's Response to a Request That He Fight #SOPA (related: #PIPA #ACTA #Congress)

Below is the response, verbatim, received from PA Senator Bob Casey after using Wikipedia's link to contact him about fighting SOPA.  I was pretty pleased with it, though I have no idea where this legislation is heading or how they'll sort it all out.  Seems their task is to create a bill that protects people from internet scams and protects privacy without destroying all of the good free stuff most of us enjoy reading on the internet.  Here's the letter from Senator Casey:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011, and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.
S. 968 was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont on May 12, 2011. The PROTECT IP Act would allow the Attorney General and property rights holders to take legal action against only foreign-based websites strictly dedicated to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft.  After legal action is taken and a judge finds the particular foreign-based website guilty of being dedicated to intellectual property theft, payment processors such as credit card companies and other payment systems would no longer be allowed to process payments to that illegal foreign site. It would also allow the Attorney General and intellectual property holders to seek a court order to shut down websites engaging in piracy.
S. 968 was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary unanimously on May 26, 2011. A version of this bill, H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas on October 26, 2011. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where hearings were held.
Over the past several months, I have heard from numerous groups and individuals concerned that internet piracy destroys American jobs, threatens public safety—for example, through the sales of counterfeit pharmaceuticals—and violates the intellectual property rights of creative and innovative American artists, inventors and entrepreneurs. These diverse groups strongly supported the bill as a means to shut down foreign rogue websites that are dedicated exclusively to intellectual property theft.
More recently, I have heard from individuals who are concerned that these bills violate their right to freedom of speech, as well as from constituents concerned that they would shut down sites like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube. I take very seriously concerns about censorship and infringing freedom of speech. Accordingly, I was pleased that the bills were removed from the Senate calendar so that further consideration could be given to these concerns.
At this point, I think it is important for all interested parties—including Internet users, technology companies and intellectual property holders—to take a step back and begin a dialogue on how to protect the legitimate rights of innovators and creative artists, and protect public safety in the face of counterfeit products, while at the same time assuring that First Amendment rights are not infringed and the further development of robust internet is not inhibited. I also look forward to new legislation being developed that appropriately balances all of these objectives. Please be assured that as this process advances, I will have your views in mind.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
I encourage you to visit my website, http://casey.senate.gov. I invite you to use this online office as a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office, or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.
Sincerely,
Bob Casey
United States Senator

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Seeking Sustainable Capitalism (#capitalism #sustainability)

I've never been a big fan of Al Gore, and I don't know whether his specific attempts to change policy will be effective.  At the least, however, I like that he's pushing the conversation about positive ways to make capitalism a sustainable system.

To state the obvious, making capitalism sustainable is not likely to be popular among wealthy people who remain wealthy through unsustainable business practices.  But the fact is that in order for positive change to really occur, it has to be pushed by the wealthy and politically powerful, and those who exploit unsustainable practices will eventually either have to be turned, perhaps via compassion for future generations, or politically defeated.

The following article, in addition to its brief, vague description of what Gore and investment fund manager David Blood are trying to accomplish, mentions how sustainability in business became an unpopular political priority (except perhaps among the Occupy movement) after the financial collapse of 2008.  I've found myself lamenting this very fact multiple times over the last 3.5 years, wondering how it could again become possible to push for sustainability in capitalism during what's likely to be a long economic downturn, considering that any idea people may construe as a potential hindrance to economic growth is destined for failure during these difficult times.  The fact remains, from an environmental perspective at the least, we do things everyday that hurt our planet while existing, sustainable technologies are overpriced and underused.  Perhaps what Gore and Blood are doing now will lead to positive change as the economy (hopefully) improves.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/16/us-sustainablecapitalism-idUSTRE81F1D020120216

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Burgled in Philly by John Davidson on The Bygone Bureau

Anyone who reads Liminal Fiction regularly knows that I post a lot of stories that are set in or at least mention Fishtown.  Here's a true life tale that took place in Fishtown posted on The Bygone Bureau, an excellent blog of essays and true stories.  To me, John Davidson's account of how he and his roommate got their stuff back after burglars stole it from a Fishtown apartment was just pure awesomeness.  I don't know that I could've written a fictional story so perfect: