Friday, October 27, 2006

My First Podcast

Here's my first podcast: Reading The Pacific Between

By the way, I'll have having more Podcasts in the future. Make sure you subscribe to them either via iTune or your Podcast/RSS readers. The RSS/URL for the podcast subscription is:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Deepening

I forgot to mention... how could I forget? Anyway, a short story of mine, The Coins, was published at The Deepening this month (October). It will remain on the site. It is a subscription-based eZine but if you enjoy quality short fiction, this might be your cup of tea.

Here's the link to the October issue.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Stories of My Life

Yes, I have started yet another blog, as if I don't have enough useless, nobody-ever-reads-'em blogs already. But I think this one is going to be fun, at least for me.

While I, the Author is a good place for me to vent, or ponder about life's rich lessons, I'd like to have a separate place for my stories, and I didn't like where they are now, on my website, which is rather static and difficult to update. I think a blog would be a simple, elegant, and effective medium.

Lately, I've thought of writing some short stories about my life (with minor embellishments, of course -- that's what we memoirists do) that are occasionally somewhat humorous, perhaps a bit insightful, maybe a little inspirational, or just plain silly. But these are true stories (again, with writerly embellishments) that made me who I am now. And hopefully, some of you may enjoy reading them.

I hope to keep it updated often enough, as least for now, because I'm having fun writing these stories. Whether there's an audience is not my concern at this point. I'm just enjoying the process of reliving and writing them.
Have fun reading, and let me know what you think. Here it is:

Stories of My Life.

99 Words of Horror Contest

Matt D. is running a Halloween flash fiction contest on his site, Fireflies in the Cloud. He has some very strict rules -- okay, they're not that strict. The only difficult part is that the word count has to be 99. Why 99, and not 69, I don't know. But it sounds like a fun thing to do. I love flash fiction, especially if I can fit a lot of story in very few words. There's something very satisfying about that.

So here's my entry. Enjoy!

The Scarf

She took the scarf from the closet. Tom’d given it to her yesterday. Made of silk from Indonesia, the scarf caressed her neck as if Tom was touching her. She rolled the scarf into a ball the size of her fist.

She slipped into the living room and stared at the fireplace. Tom and she had made love on the throw rug the night before.

"Happy anniversary," she said.

She tossed the scarf in the fire.


In seconds, the scarf curled and crumpled, settling on the pile of ashes. Next to fragments of Tom's and her sister's bones.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Have a Piece of Me...

The other day I went to see the movie Infamous. Like last year's Capote, for which Philip Seymour Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar, the film is about Truman Capote and how he got to write his landmark book, In Cold Blood.

What's interesting to me is that it is very much a film about writers. True, it's also one man's obsession with his story and subjects, but so much truth is about a writer's life, and as a writer, I so identify with a lot of what's being said.

For example, Nelle Harper Lee (wonderfully underplayed by Sandra Bullock) said, "When writers write, they give up a piece of themselves. They die a little." She was, of course, alluding to Capote and how his spirit died along with the five years he took to write In Cold Blood, especially after the execution of Perry Smith. Deeper still, I think she said the ultimate truth about artists.

In truth, we are creators -- we create stories and thoughts and characters through our imagination. But think about it: we have to give up something to create something else. Things don't just appear out of thin air, and I am not talking about paper and ink. Even when the readers don't realize it, writers do put a lot of themselves into the stories they write, and it's a draining experience for many, and it takes a lot out of a writer. It is especially true when someone is not writing something purely for commercial gain or to entertain, but something out of their own existence and experiences to enlighten the world.

I'm not talking about memoirs or autobiographies only, but certainly they're some of the most gut-wrenching, soul-baring experiences a writer could ever endure. But even for non-biographical fiction, in truth a writer does pour a lot of her soul in her work, and in turn, she's given up a piece of herself to create this "thing" for others to consume. Once she opens the vein, there's no turning back.

So a writer has a dilemma. I think fiction writers sometimes try to have their cakes and eat them, too. When attacked by Truman Capote about making things up in To Kill a Mockingbird even though the book was based on her life, Harper Lee shouted, "That's why I called it FICTION." Non-fiction writer has a moral obligation to tell the facts, or to at least present their versions of such. Fiction writers, on the other hand, want to tell the truth but they, for some reason, tend to want to hide behind the veil of "make believe." Because it feels safer. They can call it imagination, fantasy, when in fact, these stories may be closer to their own existential core than we could ever imagine. We all say "fiction writers lie to tell the truth." And that itself is a truth.

So we have a dilemma. Do we cut open our veins and let the world know all that is to know about us? Or do we keep on playing charades, pretending that none of it matters to us personally? Fiction writers tend to be very well guarded about their personal lives, while memoir writers such as Augusten Burroughs, Frank McCourt and David Sedaris open their chests and bleed all over.

One doesn't necessarily take more courage than the other, but once you go down one path, it's not easy to take it all back. You either lied, or you didn't. There is no such thing as half truth.

So, what do you choose? Where do you go?

Monday, October 23, 2006

We Writers...

You know, we writers are such silly creatures.

We think we are so good, so intelligent, and have so much to offer the world that we write books.

When we're done, we think we suck and nobody would ever want to buy our work.

When someone does, we think they're crazy. How could they possibly?

And when the book comes out, we think we're frauds. We hope the public won't find out how horrible we are.

At the book signings, we think we're celebrities. We think our best work is still ahead.

Then the cycle begins again.

Wash. Rince. Rince again.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New York

I have the schedule for New York!

November 2, Thursday, 2-6 PM
Pink Pony
176 Ludlow Avenue, New York, NY

November 2, Thursday, 6-8 PM
Night and Day
230 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

If you're around, come see me. It's gonna be fun.

It's Gonna Be Interesting

It's gonna be an interesting November. No, I am not doing NaNo, but I will be writing. I've just been challenged by Lori to a race. Granted, it's a not a fair race (yes, you heard me, Lori: It's NOT) -- she's set a date for the completion of her rewrite, and now she wants to race me. She wants to see if I can finish the first draft of A Long Way From Here (code name: Crap, the Novel) and type "The End" by the same date. She has a real sense of humor, don't you think?

Anyway, even though I seriously doubt I can even type fast enough to achieve that, I need that extra kick and all the motivation I need. So I accepted the challenge, and may disappear for the next 40 days and 40 nights.

Meanwhile, I still have the readings in New York to contend with, plus another book signing the day before the election, plus a fiction workshop I have to prepare for. And some other things. Not to mention the turkeys and giblets of Thanksgiving.

Oh, I guess I'd better get goin' now. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Father Taylor

I just got words that my teacher, Father Taylor, died on October 10 at age 83. A wonderful, devoted man, he never actually taught me in a class, but he directed a few of us, all 12- or 13-year-old boys, in a play entitled "Under the Skull and Bones" that won the top prize at the joint-school drama competition. I'll never forget that -- I still have the South China Morning Post article and photograph to prove it. I played a pirate in the production, and it was my first public performance as an "actor," and I had to speak English! In front of a British judge. That experience, under the gentle but firm guidance of Fr. Taylor, paved the way for my lifelong love for the performance art. I loved the play so much that a few years later, I staged and directed another production in honor of Fr. Taylor. I added a soundtrack and played the police officer this time, leaving the fiendish pirates (as Fr. Taylor used to say) to our more talented actors. Fr. Taylor was kind enough to give us suggestions and lend us the costumes, including a very cool British "Bobbie" uniform, complete with a helmet, for me. He saw the show and was very pleased with our production. We made him proud.

Fr. Taylor was always a very kind and encouraging teacher and friend. His devotion to education, the English language, and the arts won us over. His love for his students is returned. He had and will always have our respect. Even though I haven't seen him for over 20 years, I will never forget Father Taylor.

His life and his death remind me of this touching story sent by my good friend Michelle:

Babs Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr.Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. Sure look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."

"Good. Anything I can help you with?"

"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."

"Would you like to take some home?"

"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

"All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it."

"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."

"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"

"Not zackley. but almost."

"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."

"Sure will Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."

I left the stand smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts...all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now,at last,when Jim could not change his mind about color or size....they came to pay their debt."

"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho "

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath.

Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles..A fresh pot of coffee you didn't make yourself. An unexpected phone call from an old friend. Green stoplights on your way to work. The fastest line at the grocery store. A good sing-along song on the radio. Your keys right where you left them.

Send this to the people you'll never forget. I just Did... If you don't send it to anyone, it means you are in too much of a hurry.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Scattered I Am

I'm such a scatter-brain airhead today. I have a million things to do, phone calls to make, and a few deadlines to meet. And what have I been thinking all day? Working on my novel. And making a music video.

Say what?

Yeah, music video. My creative instinct somehow shifts to that arena. It must be all the talk about Google's $1.65B purchase of YouTube. Suddenly it seems like the possibility is limitless. I can post videos of my book readings. And music videos. Yes, you heard it right -- I want my MTV, man.

But I really do need to get back to these phone calls, the never-ending To-Do list.

Do you think Jessica Simpson will call back?

Monday, October 9, 2006

On Rejection (again!) and Commercialism

Rejection is a way of life for artists: actors, writers, musicians, performers. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. Even best-selling authors get rejected, if the piece/work is not right for an editor. Actors lose out on roles all the time -- yes, even Brad Pitt. The problem is, as an artist/writer who has not tasted success (meaning, publication) yet, rejections are difficult because there is no acceptance to balance that reality. How is an actor going to know he's on the right path if he never gets a job? How's an artist going to know she's doing something right if she's never sold or showed a piece? We can talk all we want about "art" and what's in our hearts, but that can only go so far to feed the artist's mind.

A real artist will always do art, because it's in their blood. It doesn't mean rejections are not difficult, especially when someone is just starting out.

I was lucky enough to get an acceptance right off the bat. It wasn't Glimmer Train or Paris Review or the New Yorker, but it was something -- and it paid. I was also lucky to get a movie role (and join SAG) pretty early on. That gave me the confidence I needed to face the rejections that came after. And to realize... you know what, rejection is not a death sentence. I will always write. And I will get accepted -- just not always now and here.

But when you've never been accepted before, rejections become doubly horrific and downright depressing.

As for commercial vs. literary -- we can all put a dollar amount on any work, and some writes/acts/paints/sings/etc. for money and some do it for love. All cool by me. But deep down, every artist eventually wants to be seen, heard, read, and appreciated. We all want an audience. Because art is about communication (OK, self expression, too, but we can just write diaries and draw in our little scrapbooks if self-expression is all we need). And if there's no one else to communicate to, what is the point?

An associate of mine, Emmy-winning actress Kathy Joosten, said something that stuck with me, and I paraphrase: "Art is wonderful and grand and all that, but if no one sees your art, who are you really serving? I want to get paid for my art, so I can afford to continue to show you my art."

Do care about your art, because that's the heart and soul of it all. But do try to get people to see your art, because that's really what makes it worthwhile.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

New York, here I come!

My publisher, Behler, is having a group reading/workshop scheduled for November 2-5 in New York. Sixteen authors and I will participate. We have some great venues lined up and each author will have about 4-5 readings.

If you live around New York or if you'll be there during that time, look us up. It should be a fun event.

I will have more information on the times and places later.