Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Chronicles of Marr-nia Contest - Karen Cantwell strikes again

Karen Cantwell is up to mischief again.  Her newest Barbara Marr book is being released tomorrow.
To celebrate, Karen has launched a fun contest... more like a challenge.
Here's the link for further info. The action takes place on her blog... Fiction for Dessert.
Don't be shy... jump in there!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bumping into Zombie Authors - The Walking Dead Premiere

The nicest people can have a gift for creating the best of zombies.  Frank Darabont and I were having a chat… more like one of my early interviews, where I sat and listened to incredible tales from the crypt or crib.  I wondered where Frank drew on all his creativity - that dark side that didn’t show in our gentle conversation.  And then it revealed itself: our mutual journey through Catholic Schools.
My odyssey took place in New Jersey, but Frank’s was the full-blown European version. Complete with an old castle- like building and nuns with a strange sense of reward.  I imagined a place Dracula would feel comfortable.
As Frank described it, the nuns allowed the good students to visit the castle’s cellar on select days. There in a darkened room was a mummified infant in a glass case.  It was the child of the original owner of the castle. The baby had been placed in this state by the family many years earlier. The nuns had inherited the baby along with the castle.  Frank said that the well-behaved students were allowed to deposit their coin – the equivalent of a quarter – in a slot on the side of the glass enclosed casket. The coin would trigger a light on the baby – for just an instant. The student was rewarded with a temporary fright. These strange but true things are perhaps what sets the ground work for a great writer, whether it’s horror or just plain human nature. When I think about it, there’s nothing plain about human nature. We are complicated and scary.
Frank shared  a lot of thoughts with me that day, but the mummified baby really topped the list of stories I won’t forget.
My Author Bumping talent has placed me in the most surreal of situations. I was pleased  to be interviewing Mick Garris the day after the first episode of The Stand aired on TV. Mick directed Stephen King’s epic novel in a mini-series format.  Steven Spielberg called to congratulate Mick on a job well done. There I was sitting with one of the nicest guys on earth, sweet to a fault. He was being praised for doing a great job of conveying the remains of the human race as it struggles to right itself. And the praise was coming from his mentor.  How did I get so lucky to be in this place and time? Maybe my Author Bumping is a gift I’m supposed to share with my readers?  Perhaps it’s to let you know that the scariest stories come from the nicest writers?
I wish Frank Darabont all the best with his apocalyptic series… The Walking Dead which premieres Halloween night on AMC. He’s been nominated three times for the Academy Award including the classic film… The Shawshank Redemption. This should be one of the best and most believable zombie fests ever. I’m getting goose bumps in anticipation. Or to quote that famous line from Dawn of the Dead…
“We’re coming to get you  Barbara.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Spot On Review

By Diane Nelson "Diane Nelson <Author>" (New Tripoli, PA USA) - See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman (Kindle Edition)
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman by Barbara Silkstone

I came away from reading these 'adventures' vaguely disquieted. 527 men and only one of whom would I consider as not`damaged goods'. Though the lyrics might vary, the tune was distressingly similar, all boiling down to a set of keywords: fear of commitment, fear of failure, self-absorbed, juvenile, sophomoric, downright mean and petty. That is a litany of failure in relationships that boggles the mind. How the author managed to stay the course through 527 of these interviews attests to her strength of character ... and a wonderful sense of humor that got her through these uncomfortable glimpses at the inner workings of the male mind. She combines her interviews - and the stark realities from these unfiltered truths - with her own experiences, observations of the relationship condition, and a glimpse of the quest to find the one who might have gotten away. I came away filled with admiration for this woman who, against the odds, avoided swallowing the bitter pill, though one wonders what the long-term effects on her psyche might be from such a soul-stripping walk on the relationship path. Well, done, Barbara.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

News Flash... We have a winner!

Karen Cantwell, author of the best selling Take the Monkeys and Run!
has just announced the winner of the contest held on her blog -
Fiction for Dessert.
                                                    The winner is Jaxbee!

Jaxbee will receive the dubious honor of becoming a character in my upcoming novel:
                                            Wendy & the Lost Boys.

Jaxbee will receive a free eBook copy of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters and a virtual trip to South Florida.

                            Congratulations to Jaxbee!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Author Bumping. It's a talent I come by naturally. I have literally fallen into a full body bump with some pretty big name writers. These unplanned slams usually occur with hilarious results.

Robert B. Parker was a lovely man. He was considered the Dean of American Crime Fiction. He created the wise-cracking, street smart Boston private eye, Spenser. The New York Times said of the Spenser novels, "We are witness to one of the great series in the history of the American Detective Story."

My first meeting with Robert B. Parker was not the auspicious event I would have preferred. I slammed into him as if he were home base. All one hundred and twenty pounds of me hitting his chubby frame with an "umph!"  But let me back up and get a running start into this story.

I was attending a writers' workshop in London. A small group of dedicated hopefuls were there to hone their craft with instructors, Bob Parker, Stephen King, and PD James. The event was quarterbacked by Gary Goshgarian, an amazing writer and professor of English Literature at Northeastern University. Gary writes powerful crime thrillers under the pen name of Gary Braver.

The workshop took place at the London Polytechnic University campus located on Marleybone Road across from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and near White Chapel, home of Jack the Ripper. It was summer and the concrete inner city buildings were deserted. Red graffiti decorated the outer walls. The buildings have since been renovated but at the time the setting was eerie.

I took a seat in the old lecture theater, laying my knapsack and duffel bag on the floor at my feet. I was pleased I had traveled light and finally got the hang of looking like a writer. I had dropped the sissy pink dresses and kitten heels after the last writer's conference. I was determined to look like a serious author. Tough and ready to rock 'n roll.

Someone spoke from the stage - can't remember who - telling us where and how to find our dorm assignments. We would receive further instructions shortly.  I settled back and admired the carved wood paneling and Phantom of the Opera ambiance.

A professor-like woman turned to me. "Hi, my name is Shirley. I really have to find a ladies room. Would you mind my bags for me?"

"Sure." But even as I spoke, I knew... I needed a loo trip, too. Now was as good a time as any. The lady on Shirley's far side agreed to stand sentry over our bags. My new buddy and I set out in search of a potty. The halls outside the theater were silent. Slippery marble floors, stone walls, and dim lights - but no restrooms. "Maybe they're on the second floor."

We walked up a level. Nothing. And the lights grew dimmer. Shirley and I agreed to take this up one more floor. I was mentally kicking myself for not using the loo at the airport. With the school abandoned for the summer, someone had taken to making a career out of polishing the marble floors. They shown like glass and were as slippery as ice.

No potty. No loo. "One more floor?" I asked. Shirley nodded, her eyes like two giant robin's eggs behind her thick glasses. It was awfully quiet. We made our way to the fourth floor clinging to the banister to steady ourselves. A good tinkle was now at the top of my list of most desirable things to do in London.

On the fourth floor we finally found a ladies' loos. We entered in the harsh light. The room felt like the men's room scene in The Shining. Jack Nicholson meets the long dead manager of the Overlook Hotel. The guy who slaughtered his family with an ax. Okay... my nerves were a bit prickly.

Shirley grabbed one stall door. I hit another. I'd clicked the door shut and was in bladder emptying ecstasy when the door shook.  "Open up or I'll break the door down!" said a male voice with a cockney accent.

Knowing it would do no good to scream, I said,  "Absolutely not!" (I'm notoriously polite.)

"If you don't open this bloody door, I'm going to put it under the door!"

I knew what he meant by "it." Ick!  I said the first thing that popped into my mind. "You do and I'll step on it!"  Eww...

"Barbara!  What's going on?"

"Dumb question, Shirley."

Then there was silence. Not a word. Not a footstep. Only the sound of Shirley whimpering from her position two stalls down. More silence. He was either waiting outside the door with a Jack the Ripper knife or he had run away.

I made an executive decision.  "Shirley.. at the count of three - let's make a run for it. One-"

"Barbara, I can't. I can't get my girdle up. I'm too scared!"

Girdle? Who wears a girdle?  I was trapped in a farce with a woman in a girdle, and a guy who might be very large in certain bodily parts.  "Shirley... ditch your girdle. We're running for it!  Two, Three!"

We broke out of the stalls like two race horses out for the Triple Crown. We hit the marble floor with Flintstone-Feet flying. Funny thing about running on slippery surfaces... you can build up some real speed.

At the second level, Shirley went reeling. "Turn into the skid!" I yelled at her as I grabbed the railing. She squealed and then righted herself. By the time we hit the ground we were moving at a hundred miles an hour.

A group of people stood at the entrance to the theater. Robert B. Parker was among them. At that point I lost all control and went into a slide. I bumped into his portly belly. Slam! Thud!

The security guard came running. Bob and the others looked very concerned. Shirley blubbered. I recounted what had happened. "What did the bloke look like?" asked the guard.

"I didn't get a look at him, but he had a cockney accent. Also, he must have a penis as big as a horse!" The words were out before the Catholic girl in me could censor them. I'll never forget the look on Bob's face. He burst into a hearty laugh.

"He was going to put it under the door!" I said by way of explanation.

That made Bob laugh even harder.

"I told him if he did, I would step on it!" I tried to sound rational, but it was too late. The laughter echoed off the stone and marble.

Bob Parker wasn't my first Author Bumping, but he was one of the more memorable ones.


Author Bumping will be continued as the mood strikes me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

DRACULAS would give Quentin Tarantino the vapors!

By Blake Crouch, Joe Konrath, F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand

Spawned by an ancient virus, their talons click on the linoleum of the Blessed Crucifixion Hospital as they work their bloody way from the maternity ward to pediatrics. Layer on layer of terror accompanied by that creepy clicking sound. I couldn't put the book down long enough to get a second bowl of buttered popcorn. This is the real deal. How vampires should behave. No suave George Hamilton vamps, no gentle Edward Cullen, these creatures know how to get under your skin and stay there. Carnage and heroism from multiple points of view take place in the most vulnerable spot on earth - a hospital.

Congrats to Blake, Joe, Paul, and Jeff. DRACULAS  is an engrossing, satisfying, wet-horror read. I loved it. Now if I could just bring myself to turn out the lights.

P.S. I've always enjoyed the brotherhood of horror writers. They are some of the nicest people on earth - generous with advice and encouragement. Maybe they're so kind because they exorcise all their demons on the printed page. This team of authors should be gentle as kittens... now.

Where to find DRACULAS on Amazon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Timothy Leary, Dennis Hopper and Me

What are you afraid of? What scares you silly? Rats? Snakes? Politicians?
Me? I was always terrified of Dennis Hopper. He was so good at playing psychotic villains. I still remember a scene where Hopper mashed over some dude with his motorcycle. Dennis Hopper permanently freaked me out when I was a kid.  And now I begin my tale.

It was day one of my interviewing adventure which would become my book -  The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman My best friend, Sal had scribbled a list of eight men to start my interviewing caper. It was up to me to make them want to be interviewed. From this starter-set I chose one name - Dr. Timothy Leary. I've always been the type that jumps into the deep end first. It's the best way to learn.

Leary was a professor who lectured in psychology at Harvard and explored psychedelic experiences and experiments; he espoused free-love and was the spirit of the 60's. He was arrested and jailed by G. Gordon Liddy, escaped prison, was re-arrested and ultimately released. He then went on tour with Liddy as two ex cons with a story to tell. He campaigned for governor of California against Ronald Reagan. Leary hung out with and incredible array of people from the Beatles to Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver. The Beatles even included his name in their songs.

I arrived at Leary's house, located up the road from the Beverly Hills hotel. Tim was in his final years of life - death danced naked before him, and yet he was full of piss and vinegar. THIS was my very first interview.

Leary complimented me on my courage for taking on this daunting task. "The dehumanizing by males of women and children is the key issue." He lit a cigarette with shaky hands. "It's the number one cause of suffering, illness and genocide. It is the pervasive, taken for granted, ever-present brutalization of women and children by men."  His mind darted like a mouse picking up crumbs of memory, nibbling on them and then moving on. I dared not interrupt for fear of his anger, it turned on a whisker.

Someone took our photo as we sat together. I wished I had known his when he was younger. He was hot looking and a pistol. Now his memories are strings that I must untangle. Anger loops to pleasant memories, to passion and back to anger, and then to tears.

He tells me, "In the 1920's when I was born, it was a completely different age. I was an only child and my mother was totally my friend and supporter. And I caused her much pain. She wanted me to be a dentist and live next door. Instead, I ended up escaping from prison."  Leary weeps. "It caused her a great deal of pain because when she would meet with the women who were her friends they would talk about their children. She could never mention my name. And that hurt her a lot. We're talking about women who were in their 70's at the time I was in prison. You didn't talk about things like that back then. And it seems so tragic now that all those older women were fascinated by me and my life and my mother couldn't mention it. It robbed her of a high hope of her life. Now it breaks my heart."

Timothy Leary talks on. Hours later I'm ready to leave... emotionally exhausted.

"Please come back," he begs. I promise to return.

It is now my third visit to Leary's home. I carry bags of fresh fruit and juices for his health. "Put those things in the refrigerator and then get over here," he barks.

Leary's refrig is covered with photos held in place by magnets. They're all pictures of people he cared for, most of the photos are of twentieth century folk heroes. I am captivated. The pictures, set so informally, bring legends to life. And then I do a triple take. Yikes! There is that recent photo of me sitting with Leary. The magnet that holds it in place also holds a picture of Leary and Dennis Hopper. My knees buckle. What are the odds?  Dennis Hopper might be nearby. I spent the rest of the visit looking at the front door, fearful Hopper would come in at any moment.

Leary died the following year and his ashes were sent into space aboard a Pegasus rocket. Dennis Hopper passed away recently. As I read a wonderful, detailed story on Hopper in Vanity Fair... I realized I had nothing to fear. He was a good and talented man. I should be happy to have shared a refrigerator magnet with him. Thanks Dennis.
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman

Friday, October 15, 2010

AT&T and The Dead Parrot School of Customer Service

For those few folks who are not familiar with the "Dead Parrot" I strongly recommend visiting uTube and viewing this classic comedy routine from Monty Python. It involves the mind boggling run-around John Cleese receives when he tries to return a dead parrot to the pet store that sold it to him. The pet store owner insists the parrot is not dead but merely resting, despite the fact that the parrot is nailed to its perch and is hard as a rock. No matter how much Cleese insists on getting his money back, the clerk evades the fact that the parrot is obviously dead and even suggests swapping the parrot for a slug.

A few weeks ago, as I sat in my car in an almost empty Target parking lot - late at night - trying to get someone at AT&T to help me, I reasoned that AT&T practices the Dead Parrot School of Customer Service. I had endured 18 months of a two year contract for AT&T mobile phone service during which I had spent a minimum of ten hours of every week on hold with AT&T techs. This night I had been on hold for almost two hours, my cell phone battery was going low, my bladder was full and my nerves were fried. I was scheduled to have outpatient surgery the next day and the only phone service I had was my AT&T cell phone. I was desperate for someone to get me a connection while I was laid up. In order to get a connection I had to drive outside a 5 mile perimeter from my home to pick up a signal. AT&T couldn't get me a connection from my home because I had no NET WORK service. If I couldn't call them from my home, then they couldn't verify that I had no NET WORK service. Circular thinking. My parrot wasn't dead. It was just resting.

As I sat in my car debating whether to give up once again or hang on a little longer, the AT&T tech told me he was having trouble reaching a supervisor as their lines kept failing. When the super did get on the phone, he insisted I go to an AT&T store that night (10:00 pm.) and get a loaner phone to see if the problem was my equipment. When I explained I had already run that drill a few times and that no loaner phones worked in my apartment and that it was now after store hours, the supervisor snapped at me. "I'm marking your file Uncooperative!" In other words I wouldn't accept a slug in place of a parrot.

Weeks before this incident, I played the game with yet another AT&T supervisor. She instructed me to  "Go home and we will try and call you at 5:30 tonight. If we can't reach you, we will let you out of your contract as we will admit we can't provide you with service." Dutifully, I sat at home at the appointed hour knowing they couldn't get through. Three days later, I received a message from that supervisor saying, "We couldn't reach you so we can't determine if you have a problem. We therefore assume your problem is resolved."

Why did I not cancel the AT&T service when I first discovered that the phone was useless? First, I was foolish enough to think they were actually trying to solve the problem. They had me believing the problem existed in my particular phone or my particular apartment. This is the basis for the Dead Parrot psychology. The consumer is always wrong and the parrot is always resting.

I ended my contract with AT&T and went with Verizon. I shed tears of joy at that first clear phone call.
Today on the news it was mentioned that the iPad folks are moving from AT&T to Verizon  due to service problems. :)

Do Real Men Read Chick Lit?

As I travel around the USA listening to men download about women, I find a number of guys who admit (off the record) to enjoying chick lit,. These men, who confess in whispers that they enjoy it, say their preference is for the lean, mean prose of Janet Evanovich / Stephanie Plum.  Perhaps Evanovich is the pied-piper of chick lit for Real Men?

Hank is 41 and not hard on the eyes. Our conversation moves to books. "I've never read chick lit... well hardly ever. It's too wordy. Elaborate, superfluous description that adds nothing to the story. Excessive and redundant adjectives and (he shudders) adverbs that slow down or dumb down the story to the point I might doze off  while reading, even if I'm simultaneously riding my Harley on the freeways. But when I do read chick lit, I really enjoy the terse action in a Stephanie Plum novel. I like to laugh when I read."

Les is a real estate investor who travels a lot. He acquired a Kindle last year and is devouring eBooks. He's in his mid-50's and easy going. "Plausibility. A relative term that requires to me as a reader, that the characters and actions be plausible within the confines of the story. In chick lit, the heroine can be a timid librarian who has taken six self-defense lessons, goes out with her cat to solve a murder, and kicks  a hitman's butt before dragging him off to jail. Wrong. The heroine should overcome through intelligence, quick thinking, and cunning or by using weapons because damn few women (even those with a black belt) can take down a man (even a couch potato.) And you shouldn't take a cat anywhere without a cat carrier unless you've prearranged a transfusion."

Humor... the great equalizer is the reason men read chick lit. Humor can be used in any type of novel, it's almost a necessary ingredient.