Sunday, January 31, 2010

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker
Screenplay by Mark Boal
Directed by Katheryn Bigelow

The Hurt Locker follows a U.S. Army EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) team in Iraq in 2004. This team deals with defusing bombs on a daily basis, but that's only part of it. They have to continually confront people, including children, who could be suicide bombers, cars that may or may not be booby-trapped, and spectators who watch the bomb squad doing their work - spectators who very well could be snipers or equipped to detonate the bomb remotely.

Anthony Mackie plays J.T. Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge is played by Brian Geraghty. They have just lost their team member and as much as they know that rotation is part of military life, they have a hard time adjusting to their new member, Staff Sergeant Will James, who arrives to take over for their fallen comrade.

Staff Sergeant James, played by Jeremy Renner, is a modern-day cowboy, a gunslinger who comes into town to clean up the town. In the traditional Western, the gunslinger would have had two six-shooters as his weapons of choice; in James' world, his weapons are his mind-blowing ability to defuse a bomb and his self-confidence. He is fearless, so much that he appears practically careless when he dons his protective gear and saunters down a deserted Iraqi street. He is supremely cocky, something that immediately alienates him from the rest of his team and he sometimes doesn't play by the rules. At first his teammates don't like him, but what's worse is that they don't trust him, something that could be deadly.

Director Katheryn Bigelow is masterful in building suspense; thankfully, she doesn't fall back into the old Hollywood tradition of inputting false, contrived subplots or unnecessary dialogue. You can go several minutes in this movie without any dialogue, or at least it feels that way. Mark Boal, who wrote the screenplay, was embedded in a bomb squad in Baghdad, which accounts for the movie's authenticity. Although the movie says it stars Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce, their roles are so small as to be almost cameos, but it's not detrimental at all. Mackie, Geraghty, and Renner are magnificent and carry this movie just fine.

I know that some of my friends didn't care for this movie, and actually I can understand that. There isn't much of a story line, and The Hurt Locker plays more like a documentary than a traditional movie. But believe me, you don't need any more tension than there already is in this movie.

Bigelow took the risk of presenting a movie without much of a plot as opposed to putting in a false one, and I for one applaud her for it. As a result, there aren't a lot of surprises; you know who's going to die pretty much throughout the movie. But to me, it's enough to watch these soldiers and their herculean efforts to save peoples lives on a 24/7 basis under unbearable stress.

The Hurt Locker is a film I think everyone should watch. Maybe if it gets enough exposure during the Oscar run, it'll get the attention it deserves.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dinner Party Hamburger Heaven

Just a quick post with some recommendations that have just surfaced, thanks to some of our friends. I can't make this a long one, because I had friends over for dinner and I've got a kitchen full of dirty dishes. (No, we didn't have hamburger heaven.) One of my friends took some photos of me - I'm sorry, but I'm so over that photo of me with the hat - and here's a couple of fun ones with me and Annie. Annie will be the subject of my next "me and my pets" blog posts.

As you can see, with Annie It's All About The Ball.

Tomorrow is day three of the Black Horse Western weekend at the Tainted Archive. It's been a smashing success so far, with tons of interesting and very valuable posts that will be viewed for a long time to come. Gary's to be congratulated.

Golden Age Comic Book Stories
is a blog that Dave Lewis told me about last night. Although I havent had much of a chance yet to check it out, what I have seen is incredible. The posts are of comic book art, but not just comic book art. There's book illustrations, movie photos, you name it. It appears as if he focuses on a specific artist every day and one piece of work that they did. For example, today's post is the art work that N.C. Wyeth and Peter Hurd did for a HANS BRINKER OR THE SILVER SKATES published in 1932.

Thanks for the tip, Dave.

I know some of my followers are big science fiction readers. I'm not familiar with science fiction at all, but I know some of my readers are. I guess they're not feeling the love over here, and I apologize for that. To make up a little, let me recommend a blog, this one recommended by Barry Traylor. This one is Frederick Pohl's blog The Way the Future Blogs. If you're not familiar with Mr. Pohl, go to his biography page. He has a biography page on his blog, but it's much too modest. He sounds like a fascinating guy.

I'll wait for Barry to tell us more about him.

And one final note: I've found a few more gems in my grandfather's stories. One of them is a dog story. I would love to get this published. Matthew Mayo says that Chicken Soup for the Soul books might be a good place to start. If any of you know of any other places for dog stories, let me know.

It would be great to get this in print - the few people that I've let read it have said it made them cry - but in a good way. I know my grandfather always wanted to get more of his dog stories in print - I think he was an aspiring Albert Payson Terhune. It would be nice to see that in my lifetime for me and the rest of the family.

That's it for now. And all of you who follow the Tainted Archive go over and post something to tell Gary what a great job he did.

Brand New Western Short Story by Terry James/Joanne Walpole

A brand new western fiction story by my friend Joanne Walpole is over now at the Tainted Archive as part of the Black Horse Western weekend. "Double Cross" is written under her own name, Jo is "collaborating" with her pen name Terry James. It is a perfect mix of the two genres that Jo is so good at: western and romance.

I'm going to be staying with Jo for a few days during my trip at the end of February and I can't wait to tell her in person how much I loved this.

Friday, January 29, 2010

All's Well that Ends Well for Vernon the Dog

You might remember the story I reported last week on that lucky dog that was plucked from the Los Angeles River by a firefighter as a million news cameras looked on and the whole city watched live, praying for a happy ending. At the time of the rescue "Vernon" was taken to a Rescue Hospital and then taken to a shelter and quarantined. He bit the firefighter during the ordeal, so he had to be quarantined to make sure he didn't have rabies. This photo is of Vernon being cared for in the quarantine area. Look at those eyes.

It was getting a little worrisome there for a few days, because nobody was stepping up to claim Vernon. Which was surprising, because he looked well cared for and had a collar. But several days went by and the news were announcing that the shelter was preparing Vernon for adoption.

But somebody did step up yesterday - an elderly woman who says that Vernon, who's real name is Spikey, got out of her backyard. Why didn't she come forward as soon as the rescue took place? I mean, it was all over the news. According to a family friend, the elderly woman speaks only Spanish and also hadn't seen the coverage.

So it's good news for this very lucky dog. Now, if all the other dogs and cats that languish in shelters could be plucked from their cages and adopted, this really would be a VERY happy story.

Here's the link to the L.A. Times article today about Spikey's "mom" coming forward. It also discusses how unbelievably people are still criticizing the city for "wasting resources" and rescuing a dog. The spokesperson, at the end of the questioning, said it very simply. Fire fighters are trained to save lives.

"It was an animal life," he said. "It is a life."

Thank God It's Chocolate

I found this recipe over at the Pioneer Woman this morning, and it looks like a killer. Chocolate cupcakes with a cherry filling and iced with ganache. You can also make them without the cherry inside. I'm having a dinner party tomorrow and I think I just found my dessert.

The Pioneer Woman has some great recipes over there. I've made her pan-fried rib-eye steak so many times that I'm sick of it now. You know that's the highest compliment you can pay someone for their recipe.

Photo courtesy of the Pioneer Woman website.

It's Here....Black Horse Western Weekend

If you haven't check it out already over at the Tainted Archive, do so. There's already been some fantastic posts, including a lengthy survey of Arizona written by Charles Whipple.

It's a good idea if you use Firefox as your browser instead of Internet Explorer when you go over to the Tainted Archive this weekend, as Firefox will load the posts without much problem. Gary was the one who turned me on to Firefox a while back, to which I'm eternally grateful. I hardly ever use Internet Explorer anymore.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Xena, My Own Warrior Princess

A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece about my cat Albee. Although I have plenty of other things to write about, I really can't go much longer without writing about my two dogs, Xena and Annie.

I got Xena about six months after I moved into my new house in Stockton. It was Martin Luther King weekend, 2003, so at the time of this post, I have now had her exactly seven years.

She was a bit of a change in plans from my original plan. I had originally wanted to get a dog from a German Shepherd Rescue group in Northern California, and even got to the point that a strange woman came out and "interviewed" me to make sure I'd be a good "parent." Needless to say, with my gigantic yard with lots of shade and room to run and brand new fencing, I passed with flying colors.

But as fate would have it, things changed. A few weeks later at a family gathering, I mentioned to my niece Alison that I was looking for a German Shepherd to adopt. I knew she had two and I vaguely remember meeting them once: a female and a male. Not that this made any difference to me; I was still set on getting a rescue dog. But Alison's husband offhandedly mentioned that they were looking for a new home for their female Xena, who was a year and a half old. They had two other dogs by this point, and three kids. They knew they didn't have the time to devote to so many animals.

I had never watched the TV show Xena the Warrior Princess, but the name wasn't one I would have picked. A lot of dogs were being named that. But I thought I should at least go out and look at her. I told them I'd come by and look at her again.

Andrew brought Xena out to the front yard. She was a beautiful dog, with a long back: the old-fashioned type of German Shepherd. She seemed shy and not exactly super-friendly. She seemed to be intently interested in the black cat next door. I kneeled down and hugged her and she leaned into me. The rest is history, as they say.

When I got Xena into the back seat of my car, of course I was nervous. My first dog in over 15 years, I wasn't quite sure how this was going to go. She was docile enough, laying down in the back seat, completely ignorant that her life was drastically changing at that very moment and would never be the same. At one point I looked in my rear-view window: Xena had sat up and was staring at the back of my head. Do you know how unnerving it is to have a German Shepherd staring at the back of your head while you're driving?

One of the reasons I was nervous was because Xena had never been inside my niece's house for any length of time. She was a backyard dog. So when I brought her up to my house, I brought her in the garage first. She dutifully followed me into the garage, but I could feel her alarm system starting to ring some bells. She looked around nervously. Where was she? I pulled down the garage door. At that point, the full weight of the event must have hit Xena, because she bowed her head and placed it between my ankles.

Poor Xena. Her day was not over when it came to surprises. I brought her into the house, and there she met Albee the cat. Or rather, Albee made her presence known. Albee had already graced me with her presence for six months by then, and she was, as far as she thought, queen of the realm and nothing was going to upset her domain. I was petting Xena, praising her, trying to keep her calm - you just kind of know when a dog is on the verge of falling apart because they're not in familiar surroundings - and I looked up to see Albee in the hallway, back arched, puffed up to four times her normal size.

Xena was fascinated. Finally she found something to take her mind off of her terror of a strange home. But Albee was anything but interested. She was furious. And now, seven years later, she still hasn't forgiven me.

Albee of course was threatened. And I had to admire that little 7 pound cat, because she was absolutely not afraid of this 80 pound dog one bit. Or if she was, she didn't show it. I know I learned something from that. Never let them see you sweat, as the saying goes. Every time Xena, full of curiosity, would try to make friends with Albee, that cat would hiss and try to swipe Xena across the nose. A couple of times she succeeded, drawing blood.

But that wasn't enough for Albee. She was out for the kill. She wanted this dog off her property.

I was commuting an hour each way to Livermore at that time, and had to leave Xena alone for long periods. Leaving the back door open that led to the yard, Xena had the garage for shelter and the yard to run and do whatever in. So she was set for space. But I felt bad: considering everything and how the cat was acting, I knew the cat wasn't necessarily a good buddy for her, to say the least. But at least they'd keep away from each other, I thought. Wrong.

A few months went by. Everything was pretty much calming down. The dog and cat had learned to stay away from each other, even though poor Xena, yearning for company, always tried to make friends with Albee, but to no avail. It was about this time that I started to seriously think about getting another dog to keep her company. She was so depressed when I left in the morning. Can you imagine - going from a family with three children and two other dogs, to a house that was basically empty every day except for a seven pound demon that was committed to making your life hell on earth?

Then one morning, I noticed something strange. When I was in the garage with Xena in the mornings, before leaving for work, I noticed that she was afraid to go out into the yard. She would stand at the door, peering out into the yard, her tail tucked between her legs. What was going on?

Directly outside the garage door, to the left, was a deck that had been built that was roughly eighteen inches to two feet off the ground. The space underneath the deck was just that: space where any small animal could easily hide. Including a cat.

I watched. I guess Xena really needed to get into the yard, because suddenly she started to make a run for it past the deck. And out from underneath the deck, that seven pound ball of hell exploded out from underneath. Albee was ambushing Xena every time Xena went by that deck.

I honestly don't remember how I dealt with that problem from then on. It's not like you can tell a cat to stop ambushing a dog. You can't tell a cat to not do anything. But I do know that was about the time that I started to look for another dog for Xena. There's strength in numbers, I decided.

Xena is a beautiful dog. People stop in their cars to tell me that. She's a fearsome watch dog - she's been known to go through screens when a strange person walks up on the porch. I have a chair that sits next to the big front window, and when people walk by, Xena loves to get up on the chair and bark like mad. It startles quite a few passers-by - a six-foot tall German Shepherd. But what they don't see is her beautiful tail, gaily wagging the whole time.

She's a gentle soul, really, who only wants to be good. She's sensitive and can't even stand it when I raise my voice. When I started to grow a flower garden in my new home in San Pedro, I noticed Xena one day just staring at the flowers as if she was hypnotized. She was waiting to catch a bee, a sport that she still loves to partake in. Don't ask me whether or not she's been stung yet: if she has, she hasn't learned to stop. She's never been interested in fetching a ball, perfectly content to have her nose buried in the flowers.

If you're thinking of getting a German Shepherd, I'm no expert: I can only give you my experiences with Xena. People are always talking about German Shepherds and their propensity to develop hip problems. I have to say that so far, Xena's never had a problem. In fact, now she's nine years old and actually seems to be getting younger all the time. Just watch her when she's at the park and chasing squirrels.

I've also heard from more than one vet that German Shepherds have a tendency to be finicky eaters and have digestive problems. This I can attest to. Sometimes Xena just is not interested in eating; in fact, about half the time she will not eat her breakfast. She's not sick -- she's just not interested. Maybe she's trying to keep her girlish figure. When she does eat, she eats. very. slowly. One. piece. at. a. time. Sometimes she'll take a bite, look around a bit to see what else is going on, takes another bite and saunters out to the living room to see what's on television, then will go back into the kitchen to take another bite.

And for God's sake, don't get a German Shepherd if you don't like dogs that shed, or if you live in any area where there wouldn't be shelter for it in very hot summers. These dogs were bred for cold German winters, not summers in Arizona.

All in all, Xena is the best dog I've ever had. She can be aloof and doesn't bond as much with me as my other dog Annie, the subject of my next pet post. But Xena is my Pretty Girl, my Girly Girl, my Xena Ballerina who dances with her front feet when she's excited and who talks in a growly-howly kind of way when she needs to tell me something. Xena is my Best Girl.

And I'm happy to say that after several years Xena and Albee have learned to co-exist. You notice I say several years. I never thought I'd see the day when she and Albee would share the same food bowl. It was scrambled eggs that brought these two together.

I Wanna Be A Cowgirl

Got a busy day in the office ahead, so in the meantime I thought I'd pass along a few covers that reflect what I'd REALLY like to be doing.

A couple of interesting facts: it looks like ACE-HIGH was the western magazine (that wasn't exclusively romance) most likely to feature women on the cover. I'm thinking that's because they were heavy on the romances. Am I correct, gang? The April 1937 one shows a woman with a very 1930s dress confronting a couple of cowboys. Actually, this kind of anachronism was not unusual at all. Many of the westerns were set in the "modern day West."

One of the western magazines that was least likely to have a woman on the cover: WILD WEST WEEKLY. In fact, I have yet to see one with a woman on a cover.


ARGOSY, May 23, 1925

TRUE STORY, December, year unknown



ACE HIGH WESTERN, December 1936



WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, September 25, 1937

ACE HIGH, October, year unknown

WESTERN STORY, August 27, 1938

RANCH ROMANCES, August No. 2, 1931

RANCH ROMANCES, February No. 2, 1939

RANCH ROMANCES, August No. 1, 1939


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Give a Cat a Pill

Just to lighten things up a little....

This was floating Around the Internet yesterday and I laughed so hard I cried.

How to Give a Cat A Pill

1. Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth.

Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa.

Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger.

Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.

7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit.

Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10. Retrieve cat from neighbor's shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door onto neck, to leave head showing.

Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot.

Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw tee shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Call fire department to retrieve the damn cat from across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13.. Tie the little *&#%^'s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth
followed by large piece of filet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14. Consume remainder of scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

15. Arrange for SPCA to collect mutant cat from hell and call local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.

How To Give A Dog A Pill

1. Wrap it in bacon.

2. Toss it in the air.

Black Horse Western Weekend Coming Up

If any of you don't know this, you've been living under the proverbial rock for the past few months. But I tend to crawl under rocks myself once in a while and miss things, so I understand. The Tainted Archive is presenting a Black Horse Weekend this weekend in which all of the posts will be pertaining to Black Horse Westerns and westerns in general. Gary's plan is to have 100 posts over three days. Sounds like a great time and I wish him well.

I contributed an essay to the BHW Weekend. It's entitled "What's a Girl Like You..." and it will be posted over there at some point but I really don't know when. I'll put up a link to it when I know it's up.

Today in the mail I received my copy of THE HURT LOCKER from Netflix, and hopefully I'll be able to view it in the next few days. I know that Barry has seen this and gave it a rave review, and it sounds like it'll get nominated for Best Picture, if the Golden Globes are any precursor. So I'm really looking forward to seeing it and I'll post a review too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: Pulpwood Days: Editors You Want to Know

Volume One: Editors You Want to Know
Edited by John Locke
Off-Trail Publications, 2007

PULPWOOD DAYS is a collection of articles from writer's magazines from the Golden Age of pulp magazines. Most of the articles are interviews done between 1926 and 1930 and are of editors from many of the famous pulp magazines that sold tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of copies every week. Yet many of these editors are not well-known, as they have always taken a back seat to the writers whose stories have appeared on the pages of their magazines.

But just because they are not as famous as their counterparts doesn't mean that their work is any less valuable. On the contrary: these editors as a whole were the foundation of the pulp industry. In addition, throw out any notions you may have that these editors were drones who did nothing but sit at a desk and take pleasure in destroying writers' egos. Practically each one of them had colorful backgrounds and were also very opinionated about their jobs and what they expected from writers. In addition, they took great pleasure in mentoring new writers and helping those that were sincerely trying to better their craft.

There are two series included; "Meeting the Editors in Person," originally ran in The Author and Journalist in 1926 and is reprinted here in its entirety. All were written by Albert W. Stone. Editors interviewed include Frank Blackwell, Alice Strope, Harry Maule, A.H. Bittner, Anthony Rud and Harold Hersey. The second series, "Editors You Want to Know," also appeared in The Author and Journalist. Some of the editors include Daisy Bacon and Farnsworth Wright. At least two of the editors, Harry Maule and A.H. Bittner, also appeared in the "Meeting the Editors in Person" series, so you are seeing them here twice, but it doesn't detract from the information they provide in the interviews.

Down to the individual, these people were enormously dedicated, hard-working, and interested in the promotion of young talented writers - when they could find them. But they first had to plow through the tons of manuscripts that arrived on their desk every year. Arthur E. Scott, editor of TOP NOTCH, said "Judging by the mass of manuscripts that come to my desk every morning, and considering that every editor I have met has a similar quantity, I have come to the conclusion that at least seventy-five per cent of the people of the United States are trying to write fiction."

What makes the "Editors You Want to Know" series very special is that many of the writers of these articles are famous pulp writers on their own, like William MacLeod Raine and E. Hoffmann Price. The latter interviews Farnsworth Wright, the legendary editor of WEIRD TALES and is worth the price of admission in itself.

Besides these two series, there are several articles that appeared originally in Writer's Digest as well as in The Author and Journalist.

PULPWOOD DAYS is fascinating because it provides an insiders look at the pulp industry, but it's also still very relevant, because it is full of advice that many writers nowadays could find useful, especially those who write in the popular genres like mystery, western and romance. While most of the editors differed somewhat in how manuscripts were submitted to them, it seemed that a common denominator with all of them was one word: volume. They wanted writers who could churn out the words on a regular basis, who could develop a following.

Now, it's easy to assume that writers had it fairly easy: as long as they could type and keep the drivel going, they'd get published. Not so fast. Editors very strongly advocated strong stories, even if it meant heavy copyediting. In an interview with Frank Blackwell, who was an editing machine in charge of DETECTIVE STORY, WESTERN STORY and FAR WEST ILLUSTRATED, Stone recounts:

"One writer named by Mr. Blackwell-the one who drew down the $42,900 for his fiction last year-lives in England and turns out fiction with almost the undiminished constancy of water coming out of a hose. His copy, I was told, is hardly a model for literary typists to follow. It requires considerable editing, and when it reaches the linotype machines it looks something like the cub reporter's first story.

But it has all the elements of real fiction - action, atmosphere, alacrity of movement, characterization, virility. The characters are alive. The stories are compact, closely-knit. And this author is not, I was told, a young man any more. He is a veteran whose real name never appears over his work. So prolific is he that he employs three noms de plume. He receives three cents a word, straight, for everything he sells. And he sells everything he turns out."

I especially loved the interview with Harold Hersey. Hersey is a legend, an editor who churned out some of the most spectacular failures in the history of pulp magazines. So it was good to learn a little about him from another person's perspective. Albert Stone's interview shows him as a boisterous friendly man, highly intelligent, and a risk taker who couldn't wait for the next adventure. And not only do we have this interview, but we also have a first person essay by Hersey as well.

Locke has done all pulp fiction enthusiasts, historians and collectors a tremendous favor by putting this collection together. If you fall into any of those categories, or if you are in the editorial profession, or if you simply want to know more about what it was like during the Golden Age of Pulps, PULPWOOD DAYS should be on your shelf.

Job Hunting Hamburger Heaven

No, I'm still employed, but I won't be for long if I don't stop blogging. So this is a rushed post.

I'm feverishly trying to finish the review on PULPWOOD DAYS, but in the meantime, Ive found a few good sites to follow. This one, a western online series called Western X I found via the Tainted Archive via Bobby Nash. (There.You can't say I don't give proper credit!) This looks so fantastic and as soon as I get out from under this tractor-trailer load of work today I'm going to look at this.

A Web site for writers and editors: this one came via my California Writer's Club group. This one is owned by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. Their acronym is NAIWE - just think 'naive' but with a W. Which is what some of us are when we think we can make money as writers, right? This might be a good site for those freelancers of you out there. Instead of selling your furniture or your pulp collection in these tough times, maybe this place can help with the job hunting. I don't know if they have a job board, but if anything it sounds like it might be a good place to start. They also had this cool Self-Publishing Checklist on their site.

I also joined this club on Facebook: The Editorial Freelancer's Association. Here's their web site. Don't know nothin' about them except they are savvy enough to get on Facebook.

Personally, I've always gone to for jobs in the publishing world. Don't know if any of you know of this one. If any of you have any tips on where to look for work as freelance contract writers or editors, technical or otherwise, why don't you pass them on here in the comments section for those of us who are looking for gigs. I'm sure it would be much appreciated.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Market for Western Stories

Forgive me if some of you western writers already know about this market. I got this tip from Sandra Seamans over at My Little Corner. There's a new market for western submissions at a little place called Rope and Wire. According to Sandra, "They're looking for traditional and contemporary western stories up to 5000 words. They're a non-paying market. You can submit to their online form or email your submission."

I haven't had time to check it out, as I'm pretty busy at work today, so you're on your own - go check it out.

The Rope and Wire site looks pretty interesting - I signed up to become a follower.

A million thanks to Sandra for the tip.

The Elusive Western Pulp: Far West Stories

One of the lesser-known Western pulps is FAR WEST STORIES, a Street & Smith publication that began in 1926 and ended in 1932. THE ADVENTURE HOUSE GUIDE TO THE PULPS notes that the magazine began as another title, TRUE WESTERN STORIES, in August 1925. In September 1926 it changed to FAR WEST ILLUSTRATED, and then became FAR WEST STORIES in January 1929. It then went all-love in November 1931 with its last title FAR WEST ROMANCES, which lasted until the magazine finally stopped in July 1932.

Many established western writers contributed to FAR WEST ILLUSTRATED in the early years, including Frederick Faust writing as Max Brand, Franklin Richardson Pierce, Ernest Haycox, George Owen Baxter, Clem Yore, and S. Omar Barker. The magazine usually included at least one series in each issue. Stories focused more on the Pacific Northwest, as can be seen by some of the covers below.

When the magazine changed to FAR WEST STORIES, it began to reprint a lot of stories that originally appeared in TIP-TOP MONTHLY, WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, POPULAR MAGAZINE and others. I found an Albert Payson Terhune story "For Revenue Only," in the July 1929 issue that had originally been printed in RED BOOK MAGAZINE in May 1919, and a B.M. Bower story, "The Terror," that had originally shown up in THE POPULAR MAGAZINE in December 1909. H. Bedford Jones, J. Allen Dunn, Walt Coburn, and William MacLeod Raine were some of the better known writers that contributed to FAR WEST STORIES.

But as FAR WEST STORIES lumbered along, more and more of the stories were reprints, and by 1930 the vast majority of stories were reprints from earlier WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE.

As FAR WEST ROMANCES the magazine limped along with few well-known writers, but it appears that few of the stories were reprints. In the early days of FAR WEST ROMANCES, the magazine was a mix of stories and a substantial number of poems. Unfortunately, many of poems' authors were not credited.

THE BLOOD N THUNDER GUIDE TO COLLECTING PULPS says that FAR WEST STORIES or its other names are considered scarce when it comes to collecting them. Something to consider when you see them surface on eBay or at conventions. Just be prepared to pay the price if you want to buy them.

Here are some covers. Although with many of these I could not find a name of the cover artist, I did find on the Fiction Mags Index where Modest Stein, a prominent contributor to LOVE STORY MAGAZINE covers, did some of the earlier covers for FAR WEST ILLUSTRATED.

January 1928

April 1928

June 1928

June 1930

December 1930

May 1931

October 1931

April 1932

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Afternoon Delight Hamburger Heaven

I'm in the mood...for blogging...

Which is why I'm meandering through my favorite male friends' blogs this afternoon. Now don't get any ideas, guys.

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, James Reasoner's Rough Edges blog has a fantastic review of a Theodore Roscoe mystery, "I Was the Kid with the Drum," that appeared in the October 30, 1937 issue of ARGOSY. Apparently Roscoe is better known for a fine Foreign Legion series that ran in ARGOSY early in the 1930s. According to James, "I Was the Kid with the Drum" is one of the most strangest, yet intriguing stories he's read in a long time. Here's the cover courtesy of James:

Speaking of intriguing, there's a fabulous essay on Philip Dick in the book section of the Sunday L.A. Times today. Any Philip Dick fans must check this out - well written and fascinating.

David Cranmer, my friend from over at Beat to a Pulp, has a nice little piece at his blog,The Education of a Pulp Writer on his meandering through the cyberworld thinking of the Lone Ranger. Speaking of Beat to a Pulp, if you haven't read it yet my grandfathers story, "A Killing on Sutter Street," is still there ready to be read.

Speaking of which, I've been scanning my grandfather's stories like crazy today. And guess what - I found about five more stories. I am now officially overwhelmed. Somebody save me.

Speaking of overwhelmed, that's pretty much how I've been feeling lately about the whole e-book phenomenon. Which is why I'm so glad I have people like Gary Dobbs in my life. Besides being a cherished friend, he also has run quite a few articles on the Tainted Archive on e-books, including ratings and the latest news on releases, lawsuits, illegal downloads - all the dirt. If you go to this page, it's a listing of all his posts having to do with e-books for those of us who need it all neatly posted in one place.

That's it for now - on to the NFC Championship tonight! (I watch roughly 3 football games a year, and the AFC and NFC championships are two of the three. I do believe these games are more exciting than the Super Bowl, which always somehow succeeds in being anti-climatic.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Movie Review: Changeling

produced and directed by Clint Eastwood
screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski


Changeling is based on a true story of Christine Collins, whose son Walter disappeared in 1928 from their home in Los Angeles. After five months, the city police department, under intense pressure to solve the case, produce a boy that they claim is Walter. Although Christine takes one look at the boy at the train station and says he is not her son. The LAPD, in wanting to cover up their mistake, insists that the boy is her son and that Christine is just suffering from exhaustion. When she keeps insisting that the boy is not Walter, the Captain in charge of the case declares that she is delusional and an unfit mother and has her committed to a mental institution.

Meanwhile, while Christine is in the asylum, a police inspector goes out on an unrelated case to Wineville in Riverside County to pick up a juvenile boy at the Norcutt Ranch who, according to the movie, entered the country from Canada illegally. This young boy then confesses to helping Gordon Norcutt in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, in which Norcutt kidnapped young boys and brought them back to the family ranch where he murdered them. The second half of the movie is about trying to determine whether or not Walter was one of the unfortunate boys who died in Wineville, and Christine's attempts to get the Los Angeles Police Department to own up to their terrible treatement of her.

It's hard for me to be critical of this type of movie due to the gravity of the events that happened and the horror of what happened to these boys. Make no mistake: this is a horror film. Only it's more depressing because it's true and it also has to deal with the extreme corruption that ran rampant through the Los Angeles Police Department at that time.

I also admire Clint Eastwood as a director; most of the time, I can rent or go to any of his movies comfortable with the idea that I'm going to see a high-quality movie: well acted and with a believable plot. And the sets are exquisite; for someone like me who is a lover of anything vintage, looking at the sets in this movie was heaven on earth.

But I have to say that Changeling is not a great movie. Even with the story that has to be told, the movie drags, with virtually no tension in the story after the first hour. Angelina Jolie does a fine job, but her character is flat - practically a zombie. In the movie Christine lives in a vacuum, with no friends nor family whatsoever to support her in the immediate days after Walter's disappearance - something I found hard to believe. The music is weird and ill-fitting for this time period.

But my biggest gripe is one that I'm always having problems with: the historical accuracy of the film. Although the beginning of the movie says it's "A True Story," that's only because Straczynski says that 95% of the movie is based on archival information, and because the screenwriter sat down with the movie studio's legal department and verified all of the events in his screenplay.

BUT he left a few things out. I guess their reasoning is that if it's not in the story then it can't be verified as untrue, right? One big fact left out is that Gordon's Norcutt's mother helped him kill these boys and she actually pleaded guilty later to the murder of Walter Collins. But there is no mention of Mom in this movie at all. In addition, when young Sanford is asked by the detective how many boys were kidnapped and killed, he says he "stopped counting." But in reality, young Sanford Clark said that he helped Norcutt kill three boys, and it was only until much later that Norcutt said that he had killed up to 20, a claim that investigators could never confirm and was later retracted by Norcutt. But horrific movie scenes portray the chicken coop as something of a killing assembly line. There are more transgressions from the real, complete story, but I think you get the point.

Up until now, when a movie said it was "Based on a True Story," you knew you had to take some of the story-telling with a grain of salt. But I guess you really can't believe it when it says "A True Story," either. I'm sorry, but I believe in the accurate telling of history too much to let that slide. The boys who died in that chicken coop deserve better.

I found this article to be a good summary of how the movie differs from the true story. Here's the Wikipedia article on the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders.

The town of Wineville eventually changed its name to Mira Loma due to the notoriety of this case. As for Norcutt, he was hung by the neck until he was good and dead in 1930. I'm glad the movie portrayed him as a big chicken-shit (no pun intended) at his hanging - whether the portrayal was accurate or not.

Review of Penzler's Vampire Archive at Broken Trails

For those of you who are wondering how Otto Penzler's book of vampires came out and whether it was worth him putting off the anthology of BLACK MASK stories for another year, there is a review of THE VAMPIRE ARCHIVE over at the Broken Trails blog.

Will I ever forgive Otto for delaying the BLACK MASK book? I don't know - I'm famous for holding a grudge. I guess I better do what Don Henley says: Get Over It.

RAVEN DOVE now available for free download

My friend Joanne Walpole, who writes Black Horse Westerns under the name Terry James, did a great thing a few weeks ago on her blog. She posted one of her romance novels, Raven Dove, that she had written a few years ago, on a file sharing website. It's free to download and read at your leisure. I've downloaded it and it's on my pile of TBR books and I can't wait to dive into it.

A while back I reviewed Joanne's LONG SHADOWS, which is a great Black Horse Western and a good mix of the western and romance genres. I'll be meeting Joanne next month when I travel to the UK, and in fact she has very generously opened up her house to me for a few days. Please, nobody tell her that in secret I'm a serial killer. But to thank her for putting up with me in person, go to her blog and download RAVEN DOVE, read it and spread the word. I really want this woman to get more of her work in print.

Happy Ending Hamburger Heaven

I'm off to "the city" today for a meeting with my college alumnae club. Today one of my favorite professors from school, Randy Bartlett, is visiting and is going to talk about the "Crash of '08". Randy is a super guy - I took one of his public policy classes - and has a great sense of humor. He is also a very popular professor who was voted Teacher of the Year at least once.

So I'm off the blogsophere for at least most of today. I'm really glad that the skies are blue with no rain forecasted for at least the weekend.

In the meantime, here are some updates.

It looks like my fireman hero who now has a name, Joe St. Georges, made the front page of the L.A. Times:

Some people criticized the rescue, saying it was a "waste of city resources." The article mentions Joe's press conference afterwards in which he made a very good point: because it was such a high-profile event - everyone in the world was watching, including TV news helicopters who were telecasting the event live - the fire department feared that a well-meaning amateur rescuer would jump in the water and save the dog. Then the fire department would have had to rescue not only the dog, but one or more humans.

Personally, I can't believe people would criticize this rescue. It doesn't say much for the human race, in my opinion, if we decide that other creatures on the planet don't deserve the same treatment as humans in time of need. But don't get me started. I don't want to be late for my meeting today.

Anyway, both dog and fire fighter are doing fine. Last time I checked, the dog who has been nicknamed "Lucky" or "Vernon" for the name of the Vernon Street Bridge, is in a rescue hospital in Long Beach. Of course, many people have stepped up and volunteered to adopt Lucky. But like the television reporter said yesterday, there are plenty of other animals at the shelters that have been rescued, in rain or shine, that need our assistance as well.

For those of you in California, here is a directory of animal shelters. I'm sure if you google "animal shelter, directory" and the name of your state, you'll come up with a list.

I'll be reviewing PULPWOOD DAYS in the next few days, John Locke's great collection of articles pertaining to the pulp magazine editors. I have learned so much from this book as far as the lives of these editors and the pulp magazine industry. But also, much of what these editors have to say still rings true for writes nowadays. So stay tuned for that.

I've also decided to review some of the books in my pulp history library, such as John Dinan's THE PULP WESTERN, and PULPWOOD EDITOR, the memoir penned by that famous editor Harold Hershey, and THE WEIRD TALES STORY by Robert Weinberg. Some of you are already familiar with these books but others, especially those new to collecting or studying pulp fiction, may not even know these books exist. Plus it will be fun for me to go back and review these.

Anyway, that's it for now. Here's a pic of the San Gabriel mountains behind La Canada. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Hero

This video of the dog rescue out of the L.A. River is probably all over the Internet by now. After a stressful week, this happy ending was very much appreciated.

One Brief Moment of Sun

This L.A. Times photo, taken at Belmont Shores, a nice little area in Long Beach, was taken yesterday. It was the one brief moment of sun we had in the afternoon. I took that moment to take my dogs to the nearby park and let them loose to run in the soggy grass. Boy, did they love that after being cooped up for four days with only brief walks here and there.

This photo was taken at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Highland.

And this one is of firefighters filling up sandbags to place around a home in the La Canada area.

La Canada is part of the "burn zone" - areas that were subject to the Station Fire last summer and are now all threatened by mud slides. La Canada is a very affluent area and as you can imagine, full of expensive homes. I was floored last night to learn that even after police went door to door and told people they needed to evacuate, only 50% of residents actually left. Human nature being what it is, I guess they've forgotten the La Conchita mudslide from a few years ago up in Ventura County, a mudslide that wiped out an entire neighborhood and killed ten people. One man's entire family was gone in one fell swoop.

I just don't get it. Personally, I'd rather be inconvenienced by having to sleep on a friend's couch or even in a high school gym for a few nights instead of being buried alive and suffocating with my lungs full of mud. Call me crazy.

First three photos courtesy of L.A. Times.