Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adaptation Interview: Karen Mueller Bryson

In March, I wrote a post Fiction to Film about adapting my short story Local Call into a short script. In the meantime, I've asked other writers about their process of adapting one form of writing into another. To kick off a series of interviews with writers about adaptation, today's interview is with Karen Mueller Bryson, PhD.

Karen adapted her time-travel adventure screenplay The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell, which was written during her time as a Writers Boot Camp Fellow, into a middle grade read and graphic novel which are slated to be published by Zeta Comics. Another project is adapting her romantic comedy screenplay Twyla's Last Trip into a "fast beach read" for adults.

The interview is separated into two sections in order to ask Karen about both adaptation processes:

The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell


Summary:  The adventure begins when wise-cracking whiz kid Puggie Liddell’s modified Gameboy activates a time portal and he lands in the 1890s with his sibling rival, annoyingly prissy teen sister, Gigi, who thinks history is like-totally-gross. The kids must learn to work together to find a time portal back to the present before the eccentric scientist, Nikola Telsa, or his arch-nemesis, inventor Thomas Edison, can steal the Gameboy and use it to complete a death ray machine, an invention powerful enough to disturb the very fabric of space-time and create an instantaneous world disaster.

Q: First, to clarify: is it a children's book, comic book or YA novel?
Karen Mueller Bryson: I adapted the screenplay into both a middle-grades (ages 8-12) novel and graphic novel. Both formats of the story are scheduled to be published by Zeta Comics.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of adapting your screenplay into book form? The most rewarding?
KMB: I actually didn’t find anything difficult about the adaptation process. I enjoyed the work and found it extremely rewarding. The most rewarding aspect (and unexpected benefit) of the process was that I improved the screenplay even more than I thought I could. I had initially thought the screenplay was finished but in creating the novel and graphic novel, I discovered additional layers of the characters and story that weren’t evident to me until I wrote the story in different ways.

Q: Did you have to remove any aspects from the screenplay? Were you able to fit more story into the screenplay or the book?
KMB: Much more can be fit into a novel than a screenplay. Novels tend to more dense and screenplays are more concise. I didn’t remove any scenes or dialogue from the screenplay but I did add a lot! Creating the graphic novel was a completely different story. There were several key aspects of the screenplay that I left out of the graphic novel because I didn’t think they would work as well in a primarily illustrated format. 

Q: What were the most significant changes you had to make?
KMB: Screenplays are written in present tense and novels tend to be written in past tense, so that is one obvious difference. The actual text of a screenplay, when placed in prose format, is quite short, so the novel needed to be filled out. Because the siblings travel back in time, I did a significant amount of historical research in the process of writing the screenplay. Many of those historical details had no place in a screenplay but I used many of them in the novel. I also added some additional background and character details into the novel.

Q: Describe your novel adaptation process.
I worked extensively on the screenplay for about six months and felt as though I was immersed in the story. Because the spec screenplay market is so difficult to break into, I decided to increase my chances by publishing the story in several platforms in order to expand the brand. In adapting the screenplay into a novel, my first step was to place the screenplay into a Word document. I then removed the screenplay formatting and changed the tense from present to past throughout the document. I then changed all of the character dialogue into “he said” and “she said” statements. That provided me with a wonderful “bare-bones” novel, almost like an expanded outline, which I then filled out by adding additional description, character detail and historical facts. One of the unexpected benefits of creating the novel was that it allowed me to view the story in different way and I found ways to improve the screenplay that I did not see when I was only looking at the story in that format.

Twyla's Last Trip

Logline: In order to fulfill the requirements of her estranged mother's will and inherit her fortune, an uptight research psychologist, on a deadline to complete her doctoral dissertation, must take her mother's ashes on a cross-country journey on RT 66, accompanied by her mother's easygoing country lawyer and his bloodhound.
Q:  In writing the "beach read" novel, did you have to change the tone of the screenplay in any way?
KMB: The screenplay was written as a “road trip romantic comedy” and the novel has the same tone. I was able to add a bit more wit and sarcasm to the novel because characters thoughts can be included, which is not allowed in a screenplay.

Q: Did you have to add extra plot points or any additional characters in order to fill the length of a novel?
KMB: My style tends to be short and concise, even when I write novels, so I didn’t find the need to add additional plot points or characters to the novel. Much like I did with The Incredibly Awesome Adventure of Puggie Liddell, I filled the novel in with more details and background information. I would consider the adaptation a “short novel.” That’s why I’ve decided to start using the term “fast reads” for my adapted work. The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell is a “fast read for kids.” Twyla’s Last Trip is a “fast beach read.” I think with attention spans decreasing and people hungry for quick entertainment alternatives, shorter novels will become increasingly popular, especially for eReaders.  

Q: Is there background to the characters that you fleshed out in the novel (perhaps just hinted at in the screenplay)?
KMB: Yes. I think that’s one of the key elements of making the adaption from screenplay to novel successful. The creation of a film is a collaborative process. A screenwriter is asked to provide the essence of action, description and characterization in a screenplay. (That’s why screenplays are often referred to as the “blueprint” for a film.) The “fleshing out” is done by filmmakers. A novel is a complete work of art and the process of creating it is not collaborative. The writer is responsible for the entire creative process.     

Q: Did you use an outline for the screenplay? For the novel?
KMB: I use an extremely broad and simple outline when I create a screenplay, basically just hitting the major points in the story. The screenplay, however, becomes a kind of extended outline for the novel. I am growing to love the process of working back and forth between a screenplay and novel. I can’t see myself embarking on spec projects that would not include both forms of storytelling. There’s no reason not to have a line of “fast read” novels to support all of my screenplays. 

Q: Is your intended audience the same or different for the screenplay and the novel?

KMB: I think the intended audience is basically the same, although I believe there are readers, who do not enjoy watching films and people, who enjoy movies, who don’t like reading.

Thank you, Karen!
For more about Karen Mueller Bryson, visit http://www.ahorsewithnoname.com/

Tuesday for Tuesday, 3.3

Tenacious Tuesday is a series of ten short stories (ten chapters, three parts each) following the adventures of Tuesday, an up-and-coming actress. Be sure to catch up on past Tenacious Tuesday posts so you're up-to-date with the story! Just look for "Tuesday for Tuesday" on the posts index.

Tenacious Tuesday
Tuesday's Turmoil: Chapter 3, Part 3
by Lindsey Michelle

     She started to spend the night at Kenneth’s somewhat regularly, not every night, but often enough that no one at the estate was surprised to see her.
     One morning a few months later, as she and Kenneth were asleep, the ring of her cell phone awoke them.
     Tuesday groaned when she heard her agent’s voice,  but she didn’t have time to complain. He informed her that her film’s Los Angeles premiere was going to take place earlier than anticipated, and despite the British-heavy cast, before the London premiere.
     “I wasn’t expecting to return home for another month,” Tuesday said.
     “Do what the rest of them do,” her agent responded. “Fly in for a few days.”
     After she hung up, Tuesday told Kenneth the news. The downside, they realized, was that Kenneth already had a work obligation and wouldn’t be able to accompany her to the premiere.
      “I guess we’ll have to wait for the next one,” Kenneth said apologetically.
     “That’s okay,” Tuesday assured him. “He suggested I go with Andrew anyway.”

     It felt strange to be back in Los Angeles, even if it was just for a few days. Tuesday checked into a hotel – which felt rather luxurious – and busied herself with clothing arrangements.
     The day of the premiere, as her hair was being done in the hotel room, Tuesday received the news that Andrew had a relative who had fallen ill and couldn’t attend the premiere.
     “Don’t you have someone else you can go with?” was the consensus, but Tuesday shook her head.
     “Is it so bad to go alone?” she snapped.
     Once she was dressed and ready, everyone left her alone in the hotel room. She took a moment for herself – this was her big premiere. She noticed  a flower delivery on the table. No one had even told her it had arrived.
     She smiled, assuming they were from Kenneth. She picked up the card.
     “I hear you need a date,” the card read. Tuesday turned it over, confused.
     There was a soft knock on her hotel room door. She started to open it, then hesitated.
     “Who is it?” she asked.
     “Your date.”
     It sounded like – it couldn’t be, could it? She swung the door open. Peter stood there, smiling.
     “I was in town,” he explained.
    Tuesday was speechless. Peter didn’t let her debate whether to go with him or not. He simply took her arm and led her down the hallway with him.
     “I don’t know about that card,” Tuesday finally managed to say. She knew she was babbling. “That was rather cryptic. You may have to rethink your idea of romantic gestures. No wonder your marriage broke up.”
     She stood in place, wishing she could take back that last sentence. She shut her eyes briefly, unable to look at his face. Why had she said that?
     But he simply chuckled. “I’ve never been married.”
     “You haven’t?”
     Peter shook his head. “Me, married? Nope.”
     She understood now. “You haven’t.”

     Kenneth lay on top of his hotel room bed, exhausted after a day of travel. Tomorrow he’d show his paintings in the French gallery that was down the street from the hotel.
     He looked at the clock. It was already well after midnight. All he wanted to do was order room service and watch some television.
     He turned on the TV and found a news station. His French wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t hard to decipher some of the top stories. It was currently the entertainment report. He was glued to the television when he realized that they were going to show clips of Tuesday’s premiere.
     And there she was! He watched as she stepped out of the limo and photographers took photographs. Her hand was rested upon the arm of…
     Kenneth’s mouth dropped open. It couldn’t be – could it?
     He’d thought Peter was still in Asia.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Tea & Poetry - Outskirts of Intimacy

Okay, so there might not be any tea, but I've decided to devote Sundays at SelfScribes to poetry. Kicking off the poetry Sunday on the site are several poems from Francis DiClemente's debut chapbook Outskirts of Intimacy (Flutter Press, 2010), a collection of personal, free-verse poems about adolescence, illness, romance, family and death.  The book is split between observational or philosophical poems celebrating the ephemeral and more narrative poems influenced by the geographic setting of upstate New York.

Francis DiClemente lives in Syracuse, New York, where he works as a video producer.  In his spare time, he writes and takes photographs.  His writing has appeared in A cappella Zoo, Midwest Literary Magazine, Arts & Opinion, Stone Canoe, PrimerMagazine.com and the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak (Harper Perennial, 2009).

Click on the book cover for purchasing details.

Poems from Outskirts of Intimacy
by Francis DiClemente

Stanwix Street

A vanilla ice cream cone
covered with sprinkles of dirt,
a handful tossed by small grimy hands
across a chain-link fence.
A blond child’s whine—
flat, constant and eerily melodic.
The girl then turning away,
screaming upstairs to her mother,
sound asleep in the mid-August heat,
the lime-green curtains fluttering in the
second-story window of the adjacent brick building.
The child just standing there, scraping off the grit
and licking the melting residue
trickling down her forearm.


Post-Op Image, 1984

Sprawled out on my mother’s bed,
I hear chunks of ice falling from the roof,
and a city snowplow rushing past our house.

I tilt my neck to glimpse at the wooden crucifix
perched above my mother’s head,
and feel my putting-green hair and
surgical scar meandering from ear to ear.

I then pester her with a flurry of questions,
diverting her attention from a Danielle Steele book.
She delivers no rebuke, though,
but merely clasps her nut-brown rosary beads,
and brushes them gingerly
against the disfigurement.


First Time at the Movies


A Sunday night in Rome, New York,
the middle of winter in the 1970s.

I remember neon lights that spelled out:
“Now Playing . . . The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams,
Starring Dan Haggerty . . .”
Snow traipsed in on the red carpet,
salt stains in the Capitol Theatre’s lobby,
gilded railings leading to the balcony,
which looked to me like bleachers extending from heaven.
We hurried down the aisle and piled into the front row,
Mom placing my sister Lisa and me between herself and Dad.
We were the buffer zone in those seats that strained our necks.

With the aroma of buttered popcorn swirling around me,
the burgundy curtain slowly parted, revealing the silver screen.
As I chewed on Milk Duds and nibbled black licorice,
the projector flickered and the soundtrack crackled.
And I recall squeezing my sister’s hand,
unable to control my first-time giddiness.
Mom and Dad ignored our exuberance,
kept scowling in unison, caught up in their own close-up shots.

But I took it all in, mesmerized by the Magic Lantern’s dancing light,
instantly hooked by the cinematic illusion.
And as I focused my gaze on the wide screen surrounding me—
the altered reality created by the camera lens ignited my imagination.
I was no longer trapped in a scene charged with domestic quarrels.
I was cut loose from the tentacles of my family—
free to get lost in Tinseltown’s glittering lights and make-believe magic.



Overdue First Kiss

My first kiss did not come when I needed it most.
In adolescence, when other boys were rounding the bases,
I was left to wonder what it might be like one day,
To actually kiss a girl on the lips,
To get my first taste and notch my first conquest.
And I realized early on, sophistication in the game
Of sexual interaction would never be mine.
But I waited and waited for my pitch,
and then I legged out an infield hit.


St. Peter’s Cemetery

I extend a hand to touch an angel trapped in marble.
Its face is cool and damp, like the earth beneath the slab.
I pose a question to my deceased father,
Knowing the answer will elude me.
For his remains are not buried in this cemetery,
But instead rest on a shelf in my sister’s suburban Ohio house.

© Francis DiClemente

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Pan Trilogy - Part 1

The following is an excerpt from The Trials of Jonathan Darling, by Fionnegan Justus Murphy and Michael Winkler. It's the first book from The Pan trilogy, a re-imagining of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Check back the next two Wednesdays for excerpts from the second and third books.

Excerpt from The Trials of Jonathan Darling
co-written by Fionnegan Justus Murphy and Michael Winkler

     No one heard the faint wisp of wind over the surface of the water so far below.  No one heard the short whispers hidden by the waves lapping against the side of the ship.  It was the crowing that jolted them out of their meditation.
    The deck was instantly filled with uncountable little boys.  Each one armed with one kind of metal or another.  In a flash of adrenaline and shock, the battle had begun.
    Captain Cooper sprung from his chair and buckled his scabbard around his waist.  He squared his shoulders and opened the door to his cabin, filling the doorway with his determination.  His experienced eyes examined the fray as his ears found the pulse underlying the battle: the boots, the swords, the rigging, and the screams of men falling overboard into the waiting throng of crocodiles.  It all made a pattern that he could read.  There was something in the sound that was out of place, but he could not put his finger on what it was.  Something did not belong.
    They attacked a prone target,
    but we will be victorious in the end.
    Where is he?  
    Peter Pan was sitting on top of a barrel next to the railing playing his pipes, not paying the battle any attention at all.  The sound of his instrument cut through the battle straight into Captain Cooper’s nerves.  Such arrogance and disrespect would be directly addressed.
    An officer follows certain protocol.
    If he allows his body to take over
    like a common soldier then
    chaos will rule the fight.
    A little chaos is refreshing to the soul,
 That’s what she told you on the dock.
    Self-control will keep order
    and ensure victory.  
    There’s something to be said
for a little disorder.  
A little piracy.
    Cooper controlled his arm that wanted so badly to unsheathe his sword and bury it into that unprotected chest there, or that exposed armpit there.  
    A little piracy.
    Control the squall.
    Keep it in check.

    The Captain marched up to his enemy a little more quickly than even he expected, and just before he could speak, noticed his mistake.  
    Pan had grabbed a rope and lassoed the Captain’s arms quick as a flash.  Cooper’s hands instinctively grabbed the new leash leading back to the monster.  He saw how this would play out in a fraction of a second.  He would step closer to Peter and just like before Pan would fly.  So he did.  And he did.  And with a flick of the Captain’s wrist the rope slithered and coiled and caught the boy’s foot.  
    He then heard his own voice call out “Take no prisoners!” and threw his body over the port side of the ship, still holding onto the tether tying the Captain to the Pan.
    As their bodies passed, each rich, red timber faded, peeled, swelled and shrank.  Boards cracked.  Green moss sprung from the cracks in the newly rotten and faded wood.  The wind changed direction and the Union Jack that proudly flew on the main mast billowed around on itself.  As it did the red crossed lines became white bones.  The royal blue field turned inky black, and when the flag completed its turn from west to east a skull faded out of the darkness and as it raised its head to look out onto the world it smiled.
    Peter Pan smiled, too.
    The sea supported them both for a second.  What rope was available was thrown and tangled around the two bodies by Captain Cooper’s nimble hands.  The waves threw them into the sidewall of the ship over and over again.  The Captain allowed his body to take over.  He would bite this and hit that, but as they sank his hands knew their most important job was to not let go of the rope.
    They rolled until there was no more up. The water pressed in on Peter Pan more forcefully than it ever dared before.  It smothered him with its relentless, dark coolness and no matter how much he commanded it to back away it insisted on pushing closer.  His bright, hot fire began paying the price and Peter felt, for the first time in a long time, disconnected from the world around him.  He needed to be out in the air again.
    This isn’t the end.  Up!
    Up! Up!
    But the Captain held firm to the tangling rope, and each attempt to rip free only expended more of Pan’s energy.  Soon, Peter was fighting with as much desperation as he felt, one of his few completely honest moments.  A fist much harder than any boy’s cracked the Captain’s ribs.  Nails much thicker and longer than any boy’s opened his skin.  Salt burned into his stomach.  Everything grew darker as they fell further down.  
     They hit something.  It was too soon to be hitting the bottom, and it was no rock.  Without warning the Captain knew nothing but pain.  Drowning never existed.  Peter never existed.  The Island never existed.  Pain was all there ever was and all there ever would be, and while one part of his brain screamed “Pain!” the rest of his brain confined that section, and set to work solving the problem.
     Where is the pain?
     Right arm.  There it is.  
     His left hand did its job while the Captain faded into the pain, deftly feeling along his arm to the source.  It felt along the hard and long snout and up to the eye.  Enough pressure and it compresses like a hard-boiled egg; even more pressure and it breaks open.
     The crock rolled in pain, tearing flesh and bone.  Splashes broke the surface that suddenly came back into view.  A pair of grown adult hands grabbed the Captain and pulled him up to the surface.  They broke and before the Captain could gather a breath to shout, Pan was in the air and gone, flying off to the horizon.  His laughter skipped off the water and bounced over the surface of the newly formed Jolly Roger.
     Cooper drifted off into a place without nerves.  The other sailors hoisted him back onboard and carried him to his room where they tied a leather strap around his bicep.  They laid him down in his bed and let him sleep as an iron skillet was taken off its shelf and placed in the oven in the kitchen far below his room.
     Four hands stoked and fueled the fire endlessly throughout the night.  Drake, the master carpenter onboard, worked tirelessly to build the Captain’s new namesake.  His eyes dried and he continuously wiped oil and sweat from his face.  The skillet glowed red and was shaped, glowed red and was shaped.  Two men kept the fire raging while ringing pierced their ears with each hammer strike and the sound of saw teeth becoming dull grated on their nerves.
    The Sun rose and the Sea was calm.  It had taken its tariff and seemed pleased for the moment.  The fire-stoking duo was sent to their hammocks and a fresh pair of bodies took over while Drake showed no sign of fatigue.
    The Captain awoke in severe pain.  What rum was left in storage was poured over tattered sinews, rent flesh and splintered bone.  There were no signs of infection aside from the fever and incoherent speech.  Like a loyal pet, Smee never left Jimmy’s side.  At times they would speak to one another, but about what no one could follow.
    As the Sun set Drake had the Captain carried to the kitchen where the head of the hook hung out of the doorway of the glowing hot oven while the handle of it sat in the embers.  A blade sliced away useless skin and muscle.  A fresh saw evened out the radius and ulna.  Finally, Drake put on a thick leather glove and removed the black hook that was once a skillet from the fire, revealing a forked end that glowed red.  The captain’s breathing grew quick and shallow as he watched the glowing terror approach him.  His teeth clenched on a leather wrapped stick and sweat poured down his brow past frantic eyes.
    Smee could not watch the rest.  He turned his head away when Drake’s leather gloved hand held the hook in place while the other recoiled a hammer, ready to drive the glowing points into the evened out bones.  But something inside Smee forced him to keep his eyes open.  If Jimmy would have to endure the procedure, then Smee would at least watch the shadows on the wall.  He saw the warbling shadows play out the scene through his tears.  The hammer swung, almost impossibly fast, and clanged against the curved edge of the hook.
     Drake’s apology as he wound up for the second strike was drowned out by the Captain. Pain rocketed out of his throat and filled the room, sending shivers through everyone in the room the same way the hammer sent spasms through the Captain’s body as he fought against the men restraining him.  Every head on the ship turned from bow to stern.  Signs of the cross were made and prayers were said.  Each strike of the hammer flung a louder scream from his shaking body.  It took every bit of strength in four of his men to hold him down.  Every curse in the Captain’s vocabulary was slung at them, the screams darting over the water and through the woods.  Fairies lowered their heads and stopped glowing.  The Indians woke in wonder at what new god had finally come to the Island.  Pan smiled and continued dancing while playing his pipes.

©Fionnegan Justus Murphy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday for Tuesday, 3.2

Tenacious Tuesday
Tuesday's Turmoil: Chapter 3, Part 2
by Lindsey Michelle

     Tuesday lucked out. She found a small furnished flat that she could rent for six months. When she called her friend Mindy to tell her the news, Mindy yelped with joy.
      “I envy you,” Mindy said after calming down. “I wish I could just move, spur of the moment.”
     Tuesday was surprised. Her married friend was always setting her up on blind dates and stressing the importance of settling down.
     Of course, envy or not, Mindy was still her same old self. “Did Kenneth ask you to stay?”
     Tuesday hesitated. “I don’t know,” she responded. “He suggested it.”
     “Are you seeing him tonight?”
     “No, he’s away for work all week. We’re going out when he gets back.”
     “What are you going to do in the meantime?”
     “I’m in London! There’s stores and restaurants and nightclubs…”
     Tuesday peered out her window as she clutched the phone to her ear. “My agent found me a small role. I’m going to work.”

     Tuesday and Kenneth sat in his casual dining room, eating appetizers. He had a formal dining room as well, but it felt too massive for the two of them.
     Kenneth was barely eating anyway. He seemed to rearrange the food on his plate.
     “Are you sure you don’t mind eating in tonight?” he asked for the second time.
     “We don’t have to always go to a restaurant,” she assured him. “I like coming over.”
     He nodded, running his finger nervously over the rim of his glass. “Tell me if there’s something you’d rather eat.”
     “Kenneth, what’s wrong?”
      “Buyers never come directly to my studio,” he said. “We set up a showing… I feel…”
     He trailed off. An important member of British society had seen one of Kenneth’s paintings in a studio and she was interested in buying some of his artwork. She was due to arrive at his house that evening because she wanted to look at the paintings in his downstairs studio.
     “Your paintings look great anywhere,” Tuesday said.
     Though she believed in Kenneth, she was unsure of her words. She’d only seen a few of the more famous pieces of his art. The few times she’d been to his estate, she’d never seen his studio.
     Tuesday wasn’t used to seeing him nervous. He always projected such confidence. She put her hand on his.
     “You feel vulnerable,” she finished.
     “Perhaps,” he admitted. He smiled at her. “I’d like to get it over with!”
     The sound of footsteps became apparent, and suddenly Claire appeared in the room’s doorway.
     “Kenneth, I’ve just arrived and they’re on their way,” she said breathlessly. “Hi Tuesday.”
     Kenneth stood, started to walk out of the room, and then hesitated. “Finish dinner and wait for me in the study?”
     She couldn’t tell whether it was a question or a suggestion, so Tuesday just nodded.
     She ate quickly, not comfortable enough to leisurely enjoy the meal without him. She found her way into the study, where she sat upon one of the overstuffed leather chairs. There were books of all different subjects along the walls, and an atlas was open on the table. It looked more for decoration than for actual use.
     There was a drawer below the table that was slightly ajar. Tuesday reached out to push it closed, but found herself pulling it open instead. There were two big books inside that Tuesday recognized immediately as photo albums. Curious, she pulled one out and began to turn the pages.
     There were baby pictures that looked as though they were taken in a very English house, then photographs of two young boys in Los Angeles. Tuesday had trouble telling Kenneth and Peter apart as kids, but as they grew older, their differences became apparent. Kenneth always seemed posed and ready for his picture to be taken, while Peter looked caught off guard.
     A more recent photograph showed Kenneth and a beaming Peter in tuxes, The picture was obviously from a wedding, and Peter looked overjoyed.
     “That was three years ago.” Tuesday jumped as she heard Kenneth’s voice.
     She laughed nervously. “I’m caught. I love other people’s pictures…”
     She closed the photo album and put it back in the drawer.
     “There isn’t a photo of the bride,” Tuesday remarked.
     “It wasn’t a happy marriage.”
     Tuesday wasn’t surprised. Peter seemed like the spontaneous brother. She wondered how long the marriage lasted, but she didn’t want to pry Kenneth for more information. Instead, she changed the subject.
     “How’d it go?”
     He grinned. “She bought five paintings.”
     “Five!” Tuesday was impressed. “That’s great!”
     “Would you like to see which ones?”
     Tuesday stood up and walked across the room. It was the first time he offered to show her his studio. “Of course.”

     Kenneth held her hand as they walked down the steps to his studio. The room was huge, with hard gray floors and several easels and tables.
     He showed her the paintings he had just sold, abstract portraits of people. Tuesday liked some of the paintings, not all of them, but she praised them just the same.
     She wandered along the edge of the room, looking over some of his half-finished work. She stopped in front of one large canvas. There was the outline of a woman, and the background had been painted shades of green, but the rest had yet to be painted.
     “This one’s beautiful,” Tuesday remarked.
     Kenneth put his arm around her shoulder. “I started it after I met you.”
     She peered up at him. “Why haven’t you finished it?”
     There was silence for a moment, then he pulled her close to him and kissed her.
     “Do you want to stay tonight?” Kenneth asked softly.
     Tuesday leaned her head against his chest. She nodded, but didn’t say anything.
     “Yes,” she answered, “yes.”

To Be Continued...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Call for Submissions: Summer Stories

Hi writers and readers,

If you didn't go "poof" and disappear on the day of the Rapture, how about joining a community of sinners and honing those creative juices this summer?

With summer approaching, I'd love for you to send in anecdotes or short stories about a summer memory, whether wonderful or please-let-this-day-be-over. They can be very brief, like sending a postcard to SelfScribes readers, or lengthier prose. Write something truthful, or make up a story as you're daydreaming in your cubicle, as long as it is summer-related. 

So whether you're on holiday, volunteering or going to work as usual, there's a story somewhere!

E-mail submissions to LuluScribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Haunted House - Flash Fiction

The following is a flash fiction piece from James Everington's The Other Room,
a collection of "weird horror fiction" short stories. 
The Other Room is available on Kindle: US Edition and UK Edition

 Some Stories for Escapists #3 - The Haunted House
by James Everington 
Blog: Scattershot Writing

            "The old men loved to scare the young boys by telling them the story of the black house that was the highest point on the skyline; but the young were never so scared as the old men expected.
          "The Son murdered The Father slowly, so the old men said, a thimble-full of poison a day. It was poured into The Father’s fifth glass of wine, by which time he would be too drunk to taste it.  A thimble-full a day, but it soon added up, like pocket change put by. The Father went grey around the edges, his eyes yellowed over and lost their spark, his spine bent and his limbs trembled. He had to entrust the running of his business affairs to The Son who, educated more recently, understood the day’s markets better. Profits rose. This pained The Father terribly, for he knew when he recovered from his illness he would have lost much respect in the business world. To think that his own child could just take over like that and increase productivity! Admittedly to do so he’d laid off many workers, but at least the shareholders were happy. From his sick bed The Father could see the plumes of quiet smoke which drifted away from his factories. He tried to put it all from his mind, telling himself his health was of more importance. But he felt like he’d built those factories with his bare hands (even though he’d just inherited them) and now they seemed beyond his influence.

          "Eventually he died, and the share prices hit a new peak. Investors knew all about The Son and his reforms. The Son took charge of the business full time, and he moved into the house on the hill, the family’s ancestral home. Its vast spaces seemed too empty for him, and he quickly married and moved his new Wife in. She quarreled with his Mother about trivial things, but eventually got her way. The Son installed bright lights and security cameras into every inch of the dark house. He kept expecting his Father’s spectre to appear, glowing and moaning inaudibly, but pointing his accusing finger at The Son. Certainly he saw such things in his dreams. He put more and more lights into the house, and lived in fewer and fewer of its rooms. Profits were stable but the shareholders were worried - they all knew The Son spent less time at work now, and delegated often. He seemed to have lost the flair he’d had around the time of his Father’s death. The shareholders were like ghosts to him, invisible people he’d never seen but who somehow exerted an influence on him. He had less energy now, and his back was troubling him.

          "For years people had been wondering why his wife had never fallen pregnant - was something wrong? But now she did. The Son regarded this new development with unease. He could no longer remember if he’d actually killed his Father, or just fantasised about it. Certainly he had dreamt of killing him, without really knowing why. That was probably where his vivid memories came from; but in reality a growing-old disease must surely have carried the old man off. So there was no reason to feel guilty or afraid. But he did. The family business was failing to move with the times now, and despite the cutting and cutting of workers, profits were down.

          "When his Son was born the new Father took one look at his smooth face and fled. Some of the old men said he saw his Father’s features there; others kept their mouths shut. This new Father raced to the top of the house in terror, into the unlit rooms he had sealed off. Here The Father threw himself out the window, dashing his frail body against the stones so many stories below. After another brief dip, shares prices increased. The note he left was confused and disorientated, as if he thought he was someone else. Now he is said to wander, a ghost no one ever sees, around the dark house, with an aged look of confusion and terror on his face, because when he reaches out to touch things, his hand slides through.”

©James Everington 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

National Pastime - Novel Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Fred Sottile's latest novel
National Pastime
published by Outskirts Press and also available on Kindle.
Click on the book cover for more information.

National Pastime (Chapter Eight)
by Fred Sottile

    Azy moves to LA. They’re the power struggle of the century, Azy and Charlie. Neither willing to admit their love, both competitive, both jealous and both totally devoted. The relationship is so complicated that they themselves never even try to define it. They both just know the rules and right now, for the first time, it’s all about Charlie.
    Azy knows what she has to do. It’s instinctive. Charlie has serious business here and Azy has to make sure that when it pays off big, that she can take some credit. She doesn’t mind sponging off of a scam. She is supposed to. A scam is nothing but a scam. Take advantage is the rule. This is different.
    National Pastime is a new idea, a whole new kind of TV. We had shows in the past that we thought were all there were. News, comedy, drama, kids shows, game shows, sports shows, etc and all of a sudden we had reality shows. Reality shows were a whole new genre of TV shows. This is like that. National Pastime is not just another “throw the dice” game show. It is not some scripted reality show. It is not a sport that only professional athletes can play. National Pastime is PARTICIPATION TV. You actually participate actively. You can prepare. You can predict when you will be on and you can develop yourself for success at the show because it is not a onetime thing. National Pastime will become a way of life for the people who play. You play over and over almost as an American right. You participate in something that is basically yours because you are a citizen. Baseball is an American phenomenon that becomes part of every young man who wants a chance. National Pastime can become a show that never ends. Truly for the young American man it was designed for, NP becomes the true national pastime including all the recognition and prosperity.
    Azy sees the visionary aspect and realizes that to get investors, she needs to bring that vision to the complacent rich.
    The tricky part is that it is Gregory Meola who is the salesman. Not only does Azy have to sell National Pastime to a bunch of strangers, she has to sell herself to Gregory Meola. Without his embrace of her doing the work, she becomes the “Yoko” of the whole deal. That is not going to work. Her first step is to go straight to her best ally in the endeavor, Greg’s wife Millie.
    Millie and Azy always had a kind of “there but for the grace of God go I” relationship. Outwardly, they had nothing in common and though there was no kind of competition between them, their relationship had an element of respect that comes from both fear of, and attraction to, the unknown. Both women wondered if it wasn’t the other that was on the right path but both realized that there was no way in hell that either one of them would ever find out. Azy could never be Millie and Millie Meola could never ever have been Azy Heflin.
    Azy tells Millie that she wants to work on finding investors and she wants Millie to help smooth the possible resistance from Greg. Millie goes along with Azy and thinks Azy can be helpful. She and Azy both have always stayed way out of the boys business but Millie feels that since she helped with the original interviews for players that Azy should have a chance to play too.
    The other hurdle for Azy was Charlie’s family. Oy Vey ist Mir. The mother, the brothers and all that Yiddish. Azy was not what you would call orthodox and neither was Charlie for that matter but the High Holy Days are the High Holy Days and when you are asking for money. Sometimes it pays to be part of the twelve tribes of Israel.
    It was quite a meeting, Azy and Charlie, Gregory, Buddy and Antonette, all together discussing how Azy would fit in to the process of gathering investors. It was cordial, it was respectful, it was bullshit. Finally Greg told Azy that he wanted to talk to her alone.

     “Azy, have you looked at the contracts?”

     “Yes, I’ve read them.”

     “Do you understand that they are not negotiable?
     “This is really a serious and complex agreement. There is a lot on the line here. There is no room for error or carelessness. I’m going to watch you in a way that is going to make you uncomfortable. I know you have a thick skin but I have worked with Charlie all these years without any breach of trust. No matter how we communicate we always ultimately trust each other. We always have. You and I cannot have a power struggle. It can’t happen. This is not a game. I just want you to be ready for distasteful questions and questions that you might think are accusations or an insult to your intelligence. I know you can operate Azy. That is not a question, but you are going to have to accept me as your boss. I will have no hard feelings if you tell me to fuck myself and quit. I will have hard feelings if you make a mess that I have to, or cannot clean up.”

     “Look Greg, I know that it is you and Charlie who are the partners here. I want to help you. If you are uncomfortable than I too will leave with no hard feelings but until you are, let me have my shot. I want to make Charlie proud. I’ve always taken advantage of him without hurting him. I did it because not much matters to me and I knew that what I did didn’t matter much to Charlie. Now Charlie has something that does seem to matter to him and because of that it matters to me. Charlie has been the best “good sport” I ever met. I think you know that too. We’re lucky. Under that stone cold exterior is the kindest man I’ve ever known. He lives in a world that he feels would eat him alive if he let his guard down for a minute and all he wants in life is a place to let his guard down. Even his own family hammers him, in of course, the nicest possible way.  Anyway, I just couldn’t live with myself if I allowed my trivialization of everything else he’s ever done to be the standard for what he is doing now. I am ready to give him my blood.” 

     “Alright then Azy, you’re in. By the way, going to Millie was a good idea. The last thing I need is for her to wonder. With you around, it’s almost like she has an eye on me and that’s a good thing. We have been living too far apart for too long and that is not the way we are. We’ve never been more than a couple of hours away from each other and I don’t dig it like this. I know she misses me too and is giving me this latitude because she is the most understanding woman ever. The last thing I want her to do is worry that my fire for her is cooling off. The phone is always there and the trips home are like magic but we are not dating, we’re married in the real old school way. The time missed with my boys is another story, but Millie has got to know where my heart is and it wouldn’t be bad if you let her know once in a while. Be her friend. The boys know how their dad feels and I can make up the time with them. I just want to make sure that my girl knows that the ring on her finger is connected to the ring on mine.” 

     “Jesus Guido, don’t get this mushy with me, I’m still a little jet lagged. Never thought I’d say it, but, I’ll try to be there for you. Jeeez, so, anyway, do we have a prospect list?”

© Fred Sottile

Tuesday for Tuesday, 3.1

The first part of Chapter 3 from my short story series "Tenacious Tuesday"...

Tenacious Tuesday
Tuesday's Turmoil: Chapter 3, Part 1
by Lindsey Michelle

      Tuesday immersed herself in work. Her costar Andrew, the male lead who surprised Tuesday with a bouquet of flowers when they first met,  remarked that Tuesday seemed especially driven that week. Tuesday tried to brush aside his comments, but late one night, as they waited for a scene to be set up, Tuesday admitted she was using work as a distraction.
     Andrew smiled. Then, in his thick British accent, he said, “It was after my worst breakup ever that I won my BAFTA.”

      Tuesday laughed. “Well, luckily I’m not talking about a breakup…”

     Andrew raised an eyebrow. He was about to respond, but they were called to  take their places. Tuesday was relieved. She trusted Andrew, but she didn’t know what to say – that despite Kenneth’s nightly phone calls, she found herself thinking about Peter? She didn’t even know what country Peter was in.

      And anyway, she was set for a date with Kenneth on Friday night. And she was excited to go out with him again, she really was.

      “So you’re enjoying London, then?” Kenneth inquired.

     Kenneth and Tuesday had just ordered dinner. They were seated on a restaurant’s patio, lit with strands of lights and candles in small votives.

     “Immensely,” Tuesday confirmed. “It’s going too quickly…”

     “What’s next?”

     “Back to L.A. My agent promised some small jobs, perhaps a commercial if I’m lucky.”

     Kenneth’s cell phone beeped, and he glanced at the screen of his phone. He put the phone back in his pocket.

     “If it’s work…” Tuesday wanted him to feel free to take the phone call.

     Kenneth shook his head and smiled. “It’s just Peter, bothering me.”

     “He’s calling you?” Tuesday’s curiosity rose.

     “He’s been phoning me constantly,” Kenneth revealed. “Needy, isn’t he?”

      “Where is he?”

      “I think he mentioned Asia.” Kenneth paused as the waiter brought their drinks. Tuesday sipped her drink, grateful for the quiet moment. Neither had mentioned Peter’s name since the night after the party, when Kenneth asked if everything went okay. Tuesday had simply replied that the party was exciting, and there was no further discussion. She suddenly felt close to Peter despite their geographical distance.

     Then she looked across the table at Kenneth – the man she’d found herself falling for before she ever knew his brother.

     “I really do hate to leave so soon,” she stated. “I guess I’ll eventually be back for the premiere.”

     “Why don’t you stay here?” Kenneth suggested.

     “Stay?” Tuesday tilted her head.

     “Sure,” Kenneth said. “Your agent can find you jobs here.”

     “But… it wasn’t so long ago that I moved to Los Angeles.”

     “I grew up in L.A., it doesn’t hold a candle to London! Besides, it’ll be there. You’re renting, right? You can rent here.”

     Tuesday fiddled with her “Tuesday Takes London” necklace. On one hand, why not? It was an enticing idea, and she could probably afford it. But she had a slight uncertainty – was Kenneth convincing her to remain in London so that they could continue a relationship, or was he simply raving about the city?

     “I may be happy here,” she said slowly. “Though, didn’t you mention you were finishing a place to live in L.A.?”

     He shrugged. “It’ll be forever before it’s done.”

     She tried not to sigh. He wasn’t making her decision very easy, but then, she scolded herself for needing his guidance or approval. If she wanted to stay in London, she would.

     Tuesday smiled. “I suppose I have a few phone calls to make.”

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday for Tuesday, 2.3

Continuation of my short story series "Tenacious Tuesday"...

Tenacious Tuesday
Tuesday Takes London: Chapter 2, Part 3
by Lindsey Michelle
     The party, located on the rooftop deck of her very hotel, was filled with faces that Tuesday recognized from movies, music and television. Tuesday felt quite cosmopolitan as Peter led her through the crowd. Tuesday could pick out at least a dozen foreign accents.
     “This is so fun!” Tuesday exclaimed.
     “We’ve barely arrived,” Peter said, grinning.
     Tuesday didn’t care. She was going to have a great time. Of course she was disappointed that Kenneth wasn’t with her, but he knew that the whole point of a party was to meet new people.
     “I’ll get drinks,” Peter said.
     Tuesday stopped staring at the crowd long enough to admire the view. The city lights were beautiful at night.
     “Never gets old, does it?” a familiar voice said.
     Tuesday turned and tried not to do a doubletake. Standing beside her was one of her favorite actors – she’d even saved articles about him as a teenager.
     “I love it here,” Tuesday proclaimed.
     “A fellow American,” he said, surprised. “I didn’t realize.”
     “You always go halfway around the world to run into neighbors,’ Tuesday said, hoping to sound more traveled than she was.
     He laughed.  He seemed to move closer to her. “Where are you staying?”
     Tuesday lowered her eyes slightly. “Why do you want to know?”
     “It’s pretty busy here. Perhaps we could get to know each other in private...”

     “Can you believe him?” Tuesday said later that night as she and Peter rode the elevator. “We had talked for literally two seconds! Please!”
     “Where was I to protect you?” Peter asked.
     “I can protect myself. I told him to forget it.” Tuesday paused, then looked at Peter out of the corner of her eye. “It was pretty thrilling, actually.”
     Peter laughed. “Another story to tell Kenneth.”
     They exited the elevator and walked to Tuesday’s door. “Well, I think I may keep this story to myself.”
     Peter grinned. “That’s no fun.”
     “For me it is!”

     Tuesday thought about that morning. “Peter, why did you play along, listening to my stories for the second time?”
     “I told you, it would’ve been no fun for Kenneth,” he insisted.
     Tuesday stopped in front of her hotel room door. “You’re right. Thank you. I don’t know what I asked...”
     Suddenly Peter pulled Tuesday towards him and kissed her passionately on the lips. But almost as soon as she realized what was occurring, he had pulled away.
     “Peter,” Tuesday said, breathless, “what was that?”
     He seemed shocked by his own actions. “Guess the party spirit got to me – just trying to say goodbye. I’m leaving for a photo shoot in the morning.”
     Tuesday leaned against the doorway. She wanted to ask where he was going. She wanted to ask when he’d be back. But she just stood there, and watched him walk down the hallway.