Tommy Red

Tommy Red
The Progressive Killer

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Stark House and Stella are back! Rough Riders (the North Dakota novel) ... July 2012

Amici:

This week Greg Shepard and I signed for another original Stark House Press publication ... Rough Riders will be a 12-year gap sequel to my very first two novels (Eddie’s World & Jimmy Bench-Press) featuring my boxer turned Police Detective, the quick-fisted, Alex Pavlik. There are a few other characters from those novels making appearances in Rough Riders, including Alex’s former partner, Dexter Greene, but this go, Alex has been retired from the NYPD (forced out after Jimmy Bench-Press) and is now a private investigator. When Eddie Senta and his on-again, off-again former wife (also characters from Eddie’s World) are nearly murdered in their Port Washington home, Alex is asked to investigate.

Because one of the assailants in the attempted homicides remains in a coma and had left his identification in his wallet, the job takes Alex to the outrageously cold (and wonderful) state of North Dakota, where the city of Minot is having its own issues with drugs being smuggled through the Air Force base (coming from Afghanistan) and a sudden rash of murders. There’s an ex-Gulf War sharpshooter on the Minot Police force, his ex-girlfriend (an ex Miss North Dakota), an unscrupulous doctor with violent plans of his own, a few other lowlifes and miscreants and a familiar government protected witness with a new name who is once again playing outside the rules of his deal with the feds.

I’ve always referred to Rough Riders as my North Dakota novel. It’s where I originally attended college on a football scholarship and was introduced to writing and education in general by my mentor, Dave Gresham. I thought up the title from Teddy Roosevelt’s crew (the one that took that famoso trek up San Juan Hill). Teddy’s national park is in North Dakota) but then I found this via research. Considering the Bismark prison is used in the novel, how cool is that?

Hey, you’ll even get recipes for Kumla in this one ...

Speaking of Minot ... I lifted in a few meets way back in the day and even wrote an article for our school paper (the Red & Green) loaded with spelling mistakes, etc., but ... some of the guys I lifted with (were introduced to through native North Dakota players on the football team) were the real thing (world class weightlifters). You can find them here at Magic City Muscle. Gary Clock & Brad Weber were (and remain) pretty amazing lifters ...

We’re excited at casa Stella ... excited to be working with Stark House once again and ... as of today, my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills have yet to blow the number 3 draft pick.

— Charlie

North Dakota rocks!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Doc says ...

Amici:



For those unfamiliar with TK, the Doc is a dear friend (and a terrific writer) who sees things from a different perspective than La Knucks (think north pole and south pole here) ... he’s also the only other commentator on this blog. Doc coined the phrase President Fredo (for President Obama). Doc is a lot closer to Libertarian than Republican (at least at our last roundtable beer fest discussion at casa Stella) and believes in the free market healing all wounds. Knucks is a lot closer to Communist than Democrat and believes the free market died a long time ago and will only continue to open bigger wounds. Doc refers to Knucks as Chaz (and a lot of other things) ... but we love him at TK (and certainly yous do or the old curmudgeon wouldn’t get so freaking much fan mail) ... oy vey.

So, here now, the grumpy one, Doc ...


Oh, Chaz,

I just can’t imagine why you’re acting surprised. The Bamster is showing the same testicular fortitude as when he voted “Present” 140 fucking times. Joe Biden is a well-established moron, but I would bet that he would at least do something. It would probably be the wrong thing, but at least it would be something. Fredo just gives speeches and throws parties. We might as well have elected Hugh Hefner. And with Hef you know we’d have a significantly hotter Secretary of State. I won’t even go into the NY liberal, freak show he has sent to the Supreme Court.

Screw your pampered, ineffectual teachers. The Middle East is basically on fire. Gas is headed for $5 per gallon. One out of five Americans is unemployed/underemployed and the Bamster shuffles his funky feet to that groovy Motown beat.

I’m wondering when we are going to see that incredible Obama intellect that the lame stream media kept telling us about. Only this week several of his cabinet members admitted that he hasn’t spoken to them in two years.

Be completely honest, Chaz. Do you seriously think Sarah Palin could be doing a worse job than this muffin head? If so… how? Never mind, that’s not even fair. How about Charlie Sheen?

Even to evacuate the Americans from Libya the Bamster rented a ferry that wasn’t quite big enough. He rented a freaking ferry? The much maligned “W” would have sent the 7th fleet.

I love that thing with the shoes, Chaz. I would join in, but thanks to Knucksline, I’m as high up on the “watch list” as I care to be. So send an extra pair for me.

Here, I’ve got a little Motown for the Bamster.



Your pal,
Doc

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 14 since Obama abandoned unions he promised to support ...

Amici:

God bless the people at Cannonfire blogspot ...



We're sending a pair Monday morning ... because this bullshit (below) can't be ignored.

While the White House parties to Motown and the President practices his steps in D.C., Wisconsin public union workers (and workers across America) get the shaft ... I don’t know about you(s), but seeing this clip this morning infuriated me.



Talk is cheap ... very cheap ...

The question was never whether Mr. Obama was the last best hope against the flip-flopping like a fish out of water John McCain ... pretty much anybody would’ve been a better choice than John McCain (never mind his intellectually challenged running mate, Sarah “see no evil in the rich standing on the neck of the middle class and poor 'in this great country of ours'” Palin), but the fact there were other challengers completely ignored (whether Democratic Party members in Presidential debates or third party candidates precluded from being in the debates) is what remains the issue at hand.

While President Obama continues to work on his legacy (and lord knows, a third memoir), history will not only place him as being the first African-American President, but also the one who presided over (at the least) the beginning of the end of organized labor in America.



What a shame. What a disgrace.

Even me (the boring socialist-communist leaning sympathizer) thinks (or wants to believe) that Joe Biden wouldn’t let these workers down in the same way. So, either step up to the plate, Mr. President or let Joe take over.

And if Joe can’t find the balls it takes to stand up for the working man, keep the line moving until we find somebody who cares enough to do the right thing.

Yesterday TK thought the Fabulous Fourteen (Wisconsin Democratic Senators) had folded. They haven’t (and good for them and all of us) ... perhaps they should form their own party, the true people’s party ... the party for the rights of American workers. So long as the rest of the Democratic Party remains cowering in some collective hole, American workers are being stripped of their rights. Where are the rest of the voices of the party of the people? Their collective silence will not being ignored.

Workers of America unite ... even if it already is too late (the government enacted bailouts that REFUSED to protect a single worker (one of you/us)) ... unite because the disparity in income between the 2%’s and the rest of us increases daily and there just isn’t far to go before middle class equals poverty and eventually the serfdom the 2%’s wouldn’t be happier achieving.

Okay, Mr. President ... time to anti up. Deliver or step aside and give Joe a chance.



Remember, amici, these public workers are NOT rich people. They are NOT the burden to our economy they are being presented as. Try and think back to what caused this economic mess (it wasn't that long ago). AIG, Goldman Sachs, et al, bankrupted the economy and were rewarded for their efforts. You and I paied for it. Don't blame public workers trying to scrape by like the rest of us. Teachers aren't the reason Goldman Sachs laid off people and OUTSOURCED work to India. Think about it.

—Knucks

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nurses of the world unite ... More Foreign Movie reviews ...

Amici:

Yesterday I received an email from one Roxanne McAnn who maintains a website for nursing schools. They recently published an article called: “10 Greatest Novels for Nurses” and since the wife has recently joined the RN crew, how could I not add this to our blog?

There are some damn good novels in that Greatest list including: The English Patient, A Farewell to Arms, The Healer’s War and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but the others look intriguing as well, especially No Other Medicine.

You go nurses!


New Foreign Flick Reviews (hey, somebody has to do it):


The Sicilian Girl - the story of Rita Atria and her role in helping to bring down some high level mafiosi in the motherland; a story about the real Italian Mafia where it began in Sicilia and its eventual downfall in Rome. The documentary about the murder of Paolo Borsellino by a car bomb in Palermo, less than two months after his fellow anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone had been assassinated is part and parcel of Rita’s story. In the movie, her brother is named Carmelo (uh-oh) but was actually named Nicolo ... and if you think the Sicilian mob was tough, wait’ll you meet Rita’s mother ... oy vey.




I Am Love ... unfortunately for moi, the background to the title of the film was more interesting than the film itself. I know this one caught a ton of attention, but that probably has more to do with Tilda Swinton than the film itself. A high-ender (through marriage) in Milan finds passion in the kitchen (her son’s chef friend) while her daughter discovers her sexuality (lesbian) and her son finds trouble with his business inheritance (the troubles of the rich indeed) ... my overall impression was “eh” ...

Oh, yeah, the background bit ... it's from an aria from Andre Chenier (the one featured in Philadelphia sung by Maria Callas, La Momma Morte) ...



Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky ... who knew? Not me. Who cares? I shouldn’t have ... “eh” minus the “h” ... mostly because the “affair” seems to have been mostly in Coco’s head (although it is believed there was one between the composer and famoso fashion designer, the one depicted in the movie is apparently way off the mark). I especially didn't like the ending ...

TK says: Get it right or don’t bother ...




As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me ... it’s difficult to imagine feeling sympathetic toward any member of the Germany Army during or after WWII, but this movie manages to do it. His trek after being taken prisoner takes him to Siberia, from where he escapes in an attempt to walk across the Soviet Union back to Germany. There’s a relentless Soviet Officer after him ... the weather and wolves don’t make it any easier ... but a Jewish man manages to put aside the recent German past to give him aid ... there’s even a scary detour in Iran.



—Knucks

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Foreign Flicks ... First Reads gets a plug ... President Present ... Chris Christie ...

Amici:

More Foreign Film Reviews:

Mademoiselle Chambon ... a schoolteacher meets the parent of one of her students, gets the hots for him and makes a play ... boy is this one riveting. Heartbreaking and as tough as life sometimes gets. Painful to watch and/or get over once you’ve seen it.



Sabah: a love story ... very funny and touching love story between a 40 year old Arab daughter expected to take care of momma and a Canadian carpenter ... after watching the French film above, I needed this one big time. A nice story about clashing cultures, family and amour.



First Reads gets its first plug ...

President Present ... I don’t know when the party of the people is gonna get a little ramped up about this and I know how some Democrats are claiming Obama has to save himself from the wrath of the people and make the smart political choice or else he won’t have a second term, but TK says, WTF already ... who needs a second term with a guy who sits on the sidelines? What, he’s gonna grow a pair after 2012? By then he’ll be worried about his “legacy” and whether or not he’ll enough time to finish his 3rd memoir and win a second Nobel Peace prize (and you have to know he’s in the running; nobody on the Nobel committee had a problem with him ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan before handing him his first Prize ... what was it, six weeks into his administration?).

Double and triple Oy vey ...

Chris Christie ... aside from the fact he’s fatter’n Knucks, the new (New Jersey) champion of the Republican Party puts forth some compelling statistics claiming the costs of police officers in Camden (New Jersey) can be broken down thus: 71% fringe benefits, 29% salary. Interesting, except New Jersey is long known as the most corrupt state in the union and some of the hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour (these the clowns most responsible for bankrupting the country, never mind New Jersey) are given tax breaks by the same state government (we already know what President Obama and the federal government gave them).

Now, nobody says the disparity shouldn’t be trimmed (71% = 50%) or, if necessary, whatever the AVERAGE private worker has to kick in for health and pension funds, but let’s not get carried away. These cops aren’t rich people. Nor are the nurses, corrections officers or any other public officials whose contracts came from past negotiations (not stickups). Holding up 6 or 7 state employees retired on bloated pensions shouldn’t be a guilty verdict against unions. How about the cadre of public officials doing the perp walk every year in the great (and smelly) state of New Jersey? You think they maybe had an impact on the state's economy?

Compelling arguments pitting the small guy against the next small guy so long as you’re willing to ignore the impossibility of someone earning $2.4 million an hour and what that has cost all of us. Why isn’t that an issue, TK would like to know? How could anybody possibly earn that much, never mind need that much ... and then get tax breaks for his or her “efforts”?

So, the governor speaks the truth out of one side of his mouth while the other side remains stuffed with as much bullshit as the clown in Wisconsin.

Excusez-moi tandis que je fume un de mon Gauloise...

—la Knucks

Monday, February 21, 2011

Le Doc ... oy vey ...

Amici:
Fair is fair and the Doc has simmered long and hard enough ... he's back to breaking my shoes (and the rest of the working class) ... guess which side of the argument? Here now, le Doc ...

Oh Chaz,

I just finished your latest Knucksline and realized that you definitely have to get back to work. The way you’re going, in a week or two you will be sitting around Casa Stella wearing black turtlenecks, a beret and an earring or two, smoking clove cigarettes, watching foreign films and MSNBC. Your beloved Kindle will be loaded with the Communist Manifesto and Sartre. You’ve already got the sissy dog and the Volvo. Admit it brother… you’re becoming French.

Do you really think these 14 shlubs that are holed-up in some Hooters in Illinois are heroes? They were elected to vote on this bill and they are paid to vote on this bill. You can’t just vote on the bills that you are going to win. When you have to jump state lines to accomplish your objective you can be pretty sure your objective is less than righteous. And I’ll bet you 100 francs that the hotel and liquor bills will be charged to some mysterious “conference”… probably a “conference” on congressional ethics.

And this will only get worse. As Americans who have had their 401Ks decimated go into their 70s looking for jobs that involve paper hats and French fries while their teacher neighbors retire at 55 to a pretty nice life, the mood will only get uglier.

In the past, men had the decency to have massive heart attacks at 59 and the wives squeaked by on Social Security for a few more years. With life spans what they are today, how can we possibly pay 75% of your salary for 30-35 years. But it was a weasel deal from the get-go. The Democrats promised the unions lollipops and roses in return for their votes. The system doesn’t work if you can vote yourself a raise.

In wrapping up let’s discuss how your new found French-hood will affect your writing. What do you think your reviews will be like when Jimmy Bench-Press sits around the cafĂ© for 3 chapters bemoaning the futility of his existence while drinking bad coffee and smoking through a pack and a half of Gauloise? Will it screw up your storyline when all your heroes start running away and/or surrendering? How about a story where the Vignieri crime family stops killing people because half of the hitmen won’t work past 4pm and the other half are on vacation. Lot of possibilities here.

Au revoir, mon ami
Le Doc

This is my touch, amici: Vive la France!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wisconsin ... NetFlix/Foreign Flicks (God bless them) ...

Amici:

The battle lines have formed ... 13 brave Democratic State Senators have taken flight to save collective bargaining. Those on the right call those Senators cowards, TK calls them heroes (so long as they don’t cave the way their brethren at the Federal level do over and over again). All this while our President waits in the wings (somebody say “Present!”)?

Going back a couple of years when I was the boring guy in the room distracting other boring guys from getting to the cute redhead in the corner (by rambling on and on about how American workers were ignored in the great giveaway of all those hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street; when not a single stipulation protecting workers (the ones they were taking the money from) was written into the bailouts, I wrote something like labor had been set back 50-100 years.

Well, welcome to 50-100 years ago, amici. What we’re seeing in Wisconsin (and will soon be contested in other states) is the dismantling of collective bargaining rights; the result of workers being vilified in an age when the 2%’s not only gifted themselves hundreds of billions of tax free ducats, they weren’t required to even consider those they had displaced (lost jobs--whether outsourced or laid off). While the rest of us struggle to survive and our jobs become more and more sacred (“Hey, it’s better than being out of work” being the mantra--although one I’ll never follow), we turn to those in our own economic shoes with envy and/or hate and proclaim them (the union workers) the enemy.

How ill advised and unfortunate is that?

Think about it, union pensions and healthcare packages are the cause of our collective economic woes? Are teachers who have bargained collectively for their current contracts over time (and are now willing to pay into their pensions and health insurance plans) really the cause of our economic discontent? Are they doing so much better than all the rest of us?

When a legislator goes to Congress for one term and is gifted lifetime benefits and a pension, can we really get pissed off at teachers, nurses, correction officers and the like for what they bargained for? Don’t forget that Congress wrote their own package (with built in raises)--no bargaining with the people footing the bill at all ...

And what about those 2%’s who caused this mess and then benefited from it with a bailout and record bonuses they saw fit to give themselves? Are we really that short-sighted (and/or naive) as to blame the members of a public union (who’ve already stated they are willing to negotiate)?

The answer, unfortunately, may be yeah, your damn right we are ... because suddenly it’s the education of our children that matters to conservatives on the right who did nothing but complain about providing educational assistance (they demand we cut the education budget or else!). Suddenly, a teachers strike is putting our children at risk. Suddenly, a union member making a whopping $50-or 60 or 70-100K is unfair to the rest of us ... when CEO’s on Wall Street rewarded themselves with hundred million dollar bonuses ... for bankrupting the country.

Change we can believe in or the great economic abyss?

I refer you(s) one and all to actually take the time to read at least one alternative (there are several) to the two major parties who’ve brought us where we are today by the beck and call of the 2%’s.

Please, don’t listen to the propaganda handed down by simple-minded, flag waving, slaves to the 2%’s. Just read up on some of it before you make future political choices. There really are alternatives. Here’s one ... but trust me, there are others ...

Seriously, workers of America unite ...


Lighter fare ... with unemployment comes some good things ... NetFlix for one ... rather than pay through the nose for cable we hardly used, we now pay the $8.99 fee for all the NetFlix we can stream (it’s a beautiful thing) ... which permits me to watch foreign films again ... and whenever I want ... which is one a day. Here, some quick reviews ...



Foreign Flicks I like (no, not MILFs, yous perverts ... FFILs) ... The Secret in Their Eyes ... (Argentina) an excellent story about a rape/murder several years in the past and a recently retired court administrator’s need to write about the injustices/justice served in novel form.



Murmur of the Heart ... (French) a hilarious coming of age story with a mother-son sharing a bit too much before it’s over ... hilarious as the day is long.



The Army of Crime ...
(French) The resistance in France led by a poet living by a code never to kill ... Paris is occupied and the start of Jewish deportation has begun ... this is tough stuff (not for the faint of heart), but engrossing and heartbreaking.

—Knucks

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Michael Moore ... il telefono ... The Damage Done ... Formatting 101 ...

Amici:

Capitalism: A Love Story ... I’m not a Michael Moore fan but since the bulk of this particular movie dealt with something I believe in (i.e., capitalism’s better days have come and gone), I did watch the documentary this afternoon while taking a break from taking a break. Toward the end, although he did pepper both major political parties pretty good, he did what pisses me off most about him; he provided the double-speak he claims to be against.

While he did mention the fact that President Obama’s biggest contributor was Goldman Sachs (and he showed that Goldman Sachs continues to run the treasury department thanks to both Bush and Obama--although he ONLY showed the graph with former GS bigwigs under Bush), what he didn’t do was place enough of the blame on the party he always, always, always falls back on (even after admitting that one of the “isms” that isn’t capitalism is at the least his implied preference).

So, Vanessa (you ask), what’s your point?

The point being, Moore’s documentary will make anyone’s blood boil (whichever side of the fence you’re on) and it probably should be requisite viewing in high schools throughout the land (there’s certainly enough propaganda on the other side of the argument), but why in the hell does he always back down when it counts most? He does more than hint at revolution (here, here!), yet he always, always, always winds up supporting the lesser-by-a-tiny-degree party that supports the “ism” (in this case capitalism) that he’s just spent nearly two hours proving is unjust.

And showing Obama supporting the Chicago window and door factory workers who had taken over their building after Bank of America was bailed out but wouldn’t pay the same workers pensions, severance and other monies owed is sort of like him “being on the side of the Egyptian people” after sitting on the fence and watching the Egyptian people do all the work.

What a hero.

Anyway, that was my take on the documentary. Good viewing, great idea (a workers revolution), but in the end, Moore is just another Dennis Kucinich about to go on the Obama Air Force One ride to nowhere. Let me know when there’s a genuine call for a genuine revolution (armed or otherwise, although TK prefers unarmed because we’re personally gun challenged). That said, we’re fine with taking lessons ... we know we can count on Doc to teach us.

Well, at least Ann Marie can count on Doc. He might not arm me ...

How to handle telephones while writing ... do what I do: Take the fucking thing out to the back porch and leave it there. Sooner or later (a day or two or three), the wife’ll figure it out and retrieve it ... or better yet, nobody will and nobody will ever notice.

The Damage Done, Hilary Davidson ... a nifty novel about some seriously mistaken identity, a wealthy entrepreneur used to getting his own way, a good cop with bad people skills and a protagonist torn by her family’s history. Lily More gets a call while overseas about her sister’s drowning death on the anniversary of their mother’s suicide. She’s a travel journalist, but her trip back to New York is personal. What happens from the moment she returns involves twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing (no spoilers here). A nifty debut from an author with clear and clever writing skill.

Document Formatting ... we’ve added document formatting to First Reads ... so if you’re document challenged (you can’t figure out how to format a document so it’s at least presentable to agents/editors [1” margins all around; double-spaced, etc.], let us know ... or we’ll let you know.

Oy vey ...

—Knucks

Monday, February 14, 2011

Word to the wise ... First Reads ... Gaga this ...

Amici:

Let me first apologize for the tone of today’s post. I’ve been up since 3:00 a.m. and I’m still cranky. Today’s topics deal with Ebooks (a word to the wise), my new startup business (oy vey) ... and the most absurd shit I tuned into this morning after working at the computer a few hours (Lady Gaga). So, we are (Temporary Knucksline is) back. Even Doc was wondering WTF the deal was with me.

A Word to the Wise (a note on ebooks) ... for those unpublished authors about to upload manuscripts on amazon and for those previously published authors about to do the same, please do your fellow writing and reading community a BIG favor and make damn sure you’re doing the best possible job at uploading manuscripts that are not only as clean as possible (regarding typos, etc.), but take the time (or the money) to make sure your product looks as presentable as possible ... do not upload manuscripts that have indented paragraphs where they don’t belong, no first line indents for pages at a time, centered text where it should be left justified, etc.

Honestly, you’re not only fucking it up for yourselves, but you’re not doing anybody else any favors. Think about the potential readers and/or agents/publishers you’re trying to impress. Would you really want them to purchase your ebook and then not be able to distinguish one paragraph from the next? Who, outside of your most intimate circle of friends, will ever read (never mind purchase) you again?

There have been many conversations/blogs about this form of publishing and I’ve weighed in a few times (mostly on the side of unpublished authors having to contend with a very wounded and possibly dying print publishing business). Okay, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to this ... possibly because I had to go the long route and find an agent, then hope he could find a publisher and then hope I’d have more than 1 or 2 books to my name. That said, I have nothing against self-publishing so long as authors take the time/make the effort (and spend the coin if they have to) to offer potential readers as good a product as possible.

But make no mistake, I prefer reading an ebook that has been previously published (for the sake of vetting alone). And while I do understand how print publishing has not only dumped good authors because of the economy/sales (and nothing to do with the quality of their work), they have also turned a blinder eye to potential new talent. So, I’m with you previously unpublished authors ... but not if you’re going to go the cheapest route possible, not have your work edited and/or upload without consideration for the poor bastards who have to read it, etc.

In that case, quite frankly, accept that when your best 30 friends and/or 70 students are done purchasing your ebooks (and I agree with those who warn that your “friends” may provide ball-washing praise, but not the duckets to actually purchase your product), your career may well be over and done with before you’ve given yourself a proper chance (say, 100 or so rejections from agents/publishers). Try and remember that 39 agents passed on a book called The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Perhaps that is 61 short of 100 rejections, but it is also arguably the best crime book ever penned (certainly one of the best).

So, go the traditional route first ... and if you truly feel you’ve been rejected for reasons outside of your control (as a writer/your product), then ebook away ... but please, please, please make the effort to do it right and not piss curmudgeons like myself off (because I can guarantee you this much--I won’t be purchasing another of your products anytime soon once you burn me).

You may be the best writer on the planet, but I seriously doubt anyone outside of a very small circle of intimate friends is going to read beyond what passes for high school formatting and/or high school sophomoric spelling mistakes and typos. The world doesn’t have the time or desire to figure out where a paragraph begins and another ends ... or just what a particularly bad misspelled word was supposed to be ... nor do they want to play “guess the missing word” game ... and they especially don't want to have to pay for the privilege.

This IS NOT directed at anyone in particular, but I’ve come across a lot of it lately. Now that I’m out of work, I can no longer buy the $11.99 pre-published kindle books I was buying 2 and 3 of a week. So, I’ve been looking at the cheaper ebooks and so far the experience leaves me absolutely baffled (and pissed at amazon and the like for having zero standards when it comes to the uploading process). The writing may be fine and dandy, but I’ll never know and I doubt the rest of the world will either.

So, to that end, see below ...

First Reads ... okay, so now that I’m officially unemployed, I’m offering my reading services for a fee. Here’s the deal:

First Reads will be a service for writers (professional or otherwise). What this service provides is nothing more than a first read of your work with one of two options. First, a general commentary on the overall work plus whatever typos and/or formatting issues we spot. Second, a detailed editorial process that will include WORD’s tracked changes feature and commentary as necessary in the manuscript.

First Reads is NOT a professional editorial service that will guarantee writers agency representation and/or publication. It is no more than the opinion of a published author with several published works experience. First Reads reiterates: This is NOT a professional editorial service that will guarantee anything more than HONEST commentary and typo/formatting help where we find it (and we guarantee we won’t find them all). For the record, anyone who guarantees you representation and/or publication is blowing smoke up your ass—fact.

At best, if something strikes First Reads as worthy of a professional agent’s read, we will recommend it to an agent/agents, but with the absolute understanding (for all parties involved) that the agent may choose NOT to read it, never mind represent it.

First Reads is nothing more than an EXTRA set of eyes looking over your manuscript/work. Our commentary will be honest and you may or may not agree with some (or any) of it. What you are guaranteed is that there will be no blowing smoke in the form of fake praise. If blown smoke is what you seek, give your work to your best friends to read.

First Reads will accept anywhere from the first 25-50 pages (the amount is up to you--but we may stop reading at 25 pages if we think there’s no point in going further) of a full length manuscript (so as not to waste the writer’s money or our time). Should the first 25-50 read well enough, we’ll ask for the next 50 (and so on until the end). What we won’t do should we come across something we feel will not grab the eye of an agent/publisher, is suggest you send more than the first 25-50 pages; again, for the sake of saving your money and our time. UNDERSTAND that the vast majority of agents/publishers require being hooked within the first 20 pages of a manuscript--they will never get to page 25, much less page 50 if they aren’t overwhelmed long before then.

Short stories are also welcomed. First Reads fee will start at $1.00 per page for overall commentary (you will receive a PDF markup of our typo catches and comments, as well as an overall summary) and $2.00 per page for the more detailed service (tracked changes in word and/or a pdf markup showing same). Depending on work flow, these prices may well increase. They will not decrease. This is time consuming stuff.

First Reads does NOT upload files to ebooks nor will it provide solicited blurbs for any works it services. Blurbs (and the like) will either be genuine commentary after reading a completed manuscript or a fantasy. Again, if you seek having smoke blown up your ass, ask your Mom or Dad to provide the blurb.


Now, on to our non-football season absurdities ... like Lady-fucking-Gaga ... or is it Ga Ga or Ga-ga or Ga-GA? ...


Last night, at yet another award show, Gaga arrived in an egg (see above), as I learned on Way Too Early and immediately afterward confirmed on Morning Joe. In her interview with Anderson Cooper (who just lost all creditability with me for speaking with this Madonna makeover), she stated (seriously) that she wasn’t about to “sugar coat” her writing process for 60 Minutes and wants us all to know “she drinks a lot of whisky and smokes a lot of pot” when she writes her songs.

You know what, honey? The next time you feel like writing something ... just drink and smoke.

Bad Romance lyrics ... when she must’ve been smoking whatever drainpipe cleaner makes you repeat yourself ...

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad romance
Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Want your bad romance

etc., etc., etc.


Jesus Christ, the world really is upside down ...

—Knucks

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rest in Peace, brother …

Amici:

This past weekend I lost a very dear friend; a true friend. Brian, Ann Marie and I had spent this past Christmas Eve with my Mom. Twelve days ago, he was over for dinner and to watch the conference championships. Last night we learned of his passing.



Brian

I saw your pain
twelve days before the call
last night

you talked that day
about things you hadn’t before;
your wore it that day
your pain

the spark was missing
from your eyes
that day

I knew
that day ...


there were better days
when the spark was there
in your eyes
glistening
with desire
for the dreams you had

days when we joked
about life

when the three of us,
you, Paulie and myself
dreamed
about life

how good it would be
for us
each of us
all of us


we had one other exchange
ten days ago
an email back and forth;
you concerned about my situation
at work

my situation
at work
... my fucking job

you concerned about me
about others

it was your way

it was always your way


I have your voice
forever
the spark there
that day

cheering me on
cheering me

it was your way


I’ll miss you, Brian
I’ll miss you dearly
Rest in peace, my brother.



Your voice




—Charlie

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Finkler Question ... Knucks State of the Union ...

Ultimately, that is the Finkler question, albeit viewed at from an angle once removed (and back again). The 2010 Man Booker prize went to Howard Jacobson and although literary prizes (of any ilk) are more silly than genuine, this was one terrific and hilarious read. I’m talking laugh out loud read (but does that make me an anti-Zionist … or a Zionist)? Should Jews (from anywhere) be ASHamed (a devout anti-zionist group from the novel that meets at the, where else, London Groucho Club) or proud and loyal defenders (to the death) of the state of Israel?

Deep questions perhaps only Jews can answer, but the author uses a non-Jew (who, after being attacked and hearing), or thinking he’s heard the utterance “J'you know Juno”. Julian Treslove (the non-Jew who after being mugged is convinced {or trying to convince himself} he is a Jew), has grown up knowing and envying Samuel (later Sam) Finkler, a man who goes on to celebrity prominence. The two were once taught by Libor Sevcik, an older Czech Jew and a firm believer in Zionism. The three men together (offshoots aside) are a circus act of personalities one never tires of. Treslove’s pursuit of his Finklerness (Jewishness) is wonderfully funny. His belief that all roads lead to something to mourn (the loss of love) help to convince him he’s a Finkler after all ... or is he?

Except here from the New York Times.

The three men’s stories, together and apart, are wonderful exchanges of hilarity, politics both malignant and benign, loss, love and more hilarity (so much so, reading the novel is more fun than any of us deserve (have I turned into a Treslovian Jew?)). Libor has recently lost his wife of many years (Malkie); he mourns her at every turn. Finkler, too, has lost a wife (Tyler, she at 49) who was shtupping Treslove (of all people) ... and Treslove had kids (Rudolpho & Alfredo--named from the male leads in La Boheme & La Traviata) from two different wives ... the comedy is ingrained in the dialogue of all the characters in this incredibly funny piece of Roth-like shtick (and I mean that (shtick) in a VERY GOOD way).

Did I say Roth-like? Jacobson is Roth on steroids on Roth’s best ever day of writing (and that ain’t no easy trick).

The state of the Union (from a word processor’s viewpoint) … law firms once considered the place to work for word processors, have now become the dead end jobs outsourcing targeted them to be. A field that flourished through the 80’s and 90’s, has now become a graveyard. When jobs aren’t outsourced overseas to places like India, they in(out)sourced to companies like RR Donnelly, companies that have used the “economic crisis” to put the screws to their workforces (staff, for the most part) in the form of reduced benefits, wages and the overall attitude that states: If you don’t like it, try unemployment.

Thank you President Obama, the Democratic and Republican parties and more importantly, an American populace too complacent (whether it be from electronic toys, booze or drugs) to revolt en masse. Yeah, sort of like what the citizens of Egypt are doing now.

Remember, these are the banks/companies reaping the benefits of a suddenly skyward streaking stock market (oil prices up again? Gee, what a fucking surprise!) bailed out for screwing up and then permitted to reward their greed-based efforts with record bonuses.

This week I heard that a firm I used to work for that had outsourced to Donnelly is paying $18.00 an hour for word processors. $18.00 an hour for a job that used to pay $28.00 (minimum) an hour? They have 3 openings for anyone interested. Me, I’d rather rob hubcaps.

And remember, the above example is one industry; just one job, but the sphere of influence (that which corporations now hold over their workforce) has grown tenfold. This is what I was so pissed off about when Obama took Bush’s bailouts into overdrive. This is what Obama et al have accomplished ... setting American labor back 50-100 years ... because don’t think it’ll be anytime soon before you see what workers lost returned in force.

The fact there’s no union for the white collar workforce continues to baffle me. How much you think unions are paid to look the other way regarding that grass roots membership?

This is the kind of thing the Obama administration could’ve addressed before handing over all that (our) gelt to those who bankrupted us in the first place. No stipulations for workers and he wants our votes? No protection for workers and we’re supposed to vote for the lesser of two evils? America, it is high time to grow a pair (a real pair) and vote anything other than either major party. You want change we can believe in? Start voting for it (not the bullshit these two parties have given us) … real change.

That or bring the economy down with a work stoppage that sends the message: “We’re the ones too big to fail. Try doing it without us.”

—Knucks

And here now, Mr. Baciagalupe ...