Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just missed it again, but there's hope

I suppose I should be humble, very humble, about my latest honorable mention, but I wanted at least to get in the running. I did notice that most of the stories in the semi-finals for the Red Room's Scandalously Short Story Contest are literary stories and mine isn't. Two days is not enough time to write and polish a good literary story, good enough to win a prize, especially when I have a full time job and a part time job writing book reviews that takes up so much of my time. Doesn't leave a lot for writing, editing and polishing a literary story, especially when I'm polishing two novels at the same time. I went with a story I wrote for another contest, Legacy, one that I will spin out some day and throw in some length, depth and words so it will be a full length short story. Legacy is based on an idea for another story and may even end up as a sequel to a novel I've written. I do love dark fantasies, especially when they involve Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of my favorite Robert Louis Stevenson stories.

Stevenson wrote a lot of dark tales, horror really, in the dark vein of Edgar Allen Poe, and I do love horror. I don't get enough of it any more now that horror is considered to be less interesting than paranormals and thrillers and zombies. Speaking of zombies, I actually have a story mapped out that includes a whole lot of zombies -- in a good cause -- and war. After all, where else would you want zombies but in the battle zone. Lots of material to work with. Believe me, the South will rise again . . . and again. And I'm not a big fan of zombies. There's not much to work with.

At any rate, I began this post to mention the mention of one of my stories and find myself actually eager to continue writing. I hope you don't mind.

Although I've been busy with work, very busy, and keeping up my various obligations with promoting my books and reading review books, I haven't felt much like writing. The muse has been inconsistent and I've been a little less eager to write than I usually am. I work best when I have a deadline and some specific goal ahead. Otherwise, I flounder and waffle and do the avoidance dance. I have come up with an idea that might help boost my energy and get me excited about writing (editing and polishing really takes it out of me) and I wonder if there is any interest here, or suggestions to refine the idea, so I come to you. I've only told one other person, and my paper journal, so I thought I'd toss out the idea and see what comes back.

As some of you may have noticed, I've had a lot of stories published in anthologies, quite a few in Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort. After years of rejections (no news is no news), I finally began selling all the stories I submitted. I had found the key to getting published and I think it's time to share the key. Many people have interesting stories to tell and just need a little help, or a lot of help, to make their stories publishable. To that end, I thought I'd put together a seminar to help writers get their nonfiction stories published, how to make them evocative, how to polish and hone the main theme (you usually only get 1200 words or less) and make the stories read for submission and publication. There is a method to the madness and I enjoy sharing what I've learned. Here's your chance to stop the madness (me putting together a seminar or workshop) before it gets rolling. Tell me what you think.

In the meantime, I'd also like to suggest taking a chance and writing your 1st or 101st nonfiction story and win an autographed copy of the latest anthology containing two of my stories: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters. There is still time until October 19th for the Make Me Laugh contest. I look forward to your entries.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Long ago and not so far away

While in a nostalgic old Disney movie mood last weekend, I watched Summer Magic, the end of a long weekend of Hayley Mills movies that included The Moon Spinners and Pollyanna. I don't think I had ever seen Summer Magic with Burl Ives, Dorothy McGuire and Peter Brown as the charming Yellow Peril who could swoop down at any moment and take away the Carey family's new home in Beulah, Maine.

The movie was charming and old-fashioned and included lots of Disney's natural wildlife series footage, of bugs since Burl Ives was singing At the Ugly Bug Ball to Jimmy Mathers, younger brother of Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver fame. Burl Ives was affable and smiling, as he was in most movies, except when he starred as the Captain Morton in Ensign Pulver when Robert Walker, Jr., as Ensign Pulver, under the guidance of the Doc, played by Walter Matthau, takes out Captain Morton's appendix while drunk on native fermented frog juice. I enjoyed the music and the simple tale of a widow and her children suddenly down on their financial luck who move to the sticks in Beulah and renovate an old birthday cake Victorian home that doesn't belong to them while the owner, Thomas Hamilton, supposedly in China (hence the Yellow Peril moniker), gives them carte blanche to do what they will without paying rent as long as they honor his mother by hanging her portrait in a prominent place and placing a bouquet of flowers on her birthday, Halloween. Needless to say, it was a charming little film, typical of Disney in those simpler days of the 1950s and 1960s. The kicker came later when I checked out Peter Brown.

I didn't recognize the name, but I did recognize the face and wonder what had happened to him. It didn't take long to find out that the charming, handsome young actor had turned into a steroid behemoth bent on destruction, mayhem and crime as he got older. See for yourself.

Young Peter Brown

Steroid Behemoth Bent on Destruction

Needless to say, I would not have made the connection without my Internet connection.

Hayley Mills turned into a perfectly lovely young woman, and a still vibrant older woman, who doesn't do much in movies nowadays. Peter Brown is still going strong in voice overs and acting, having moved from charming leading men to nefarious characters. But he is still acting, and Hayley Mills, not so much. Both have been relegated to the back lot. At least they both still have careers.

I miss the younger Mills and Brown and was perfectly happy with the simple plots and lack of techno-pyrotechnics and special effects when stories had heart and required a hanky for the occasional tear of happiness or even sadness. I grew up on these movies, on Disney before it became so internationally commercial and full of its own virtue and technomagic. There was something elegant and timeless about the matte frames and animation that went into a Disney movie. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the Sword in the Stone and Fantasia, among so many others, still hold a bit of magic, and I miss that. I enjoy technomagic in more modern movies, but they lack a certain heart, evidenced by the original Tron with Jeff Bridge and Bruce Boxleitner and the remake of Tron with its computerized special effects and slick look.

I guess it is official. I have become an old fogey and I never saw it coming.

As I lingered and dreamed while watching The Shaggy Dog with Tommy Kirk and Fred MacMurray, and it's not as successful sequel, The Shaggy D.A., with Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and then moved on to other Disney favorites, I realized how much I miss watching old movies, not just the Disney movies with their music and magic, but grittier films like Ship of Fools with Vivien Leigh and Lee Marvin or A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois. I realized that in many ways, I too am dependent on the kindness of strangers, the strangers in film, to pull me out of a funk or allow me a moment to dream and shed a private tear over simple stories and uncomplicated characters who just want to get through to the credits. Don't we all.

That is all. Disperse.