We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program…



I used to really enjoy Larry King’s column. It consisted of a number of comments of a sentence or two that were either 1) informative or 2) opinionated. One could read it quickly, and best of all, one did not have to look at or listen to Larry while doing it. Yay!

So what does that have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked: the dreaded deadline doom is approaching and I’m functioning (if that’s the word) on a few hours of sleep and really don’t feel competent to devote three or four paragraphs to a single topic. I accordingly am going emulate Mr. King and provide a sentence or two about a number of topics, primarily related to books and the musical and visual arts but also to some other things as well. We’ll be back to normal in two weeks. Maybe. Here goes:


Joseph Finder, after a layoff of a couple of years, is back with SUSPICION, which may be his best book yet…with all of the bombast about the Hachette vs. Amazon disagreement, has anyone considered that there are no good guys or bad guys here? They are just a couple of entities which are unable to come to terms at the moment but will do so eventually…I am loving every minute of 24: Live Another Day…I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes reads like a true account of a near-miss terrorist act. I was up all night reading it…Find a way to be the first on your block to hear “Thirteen Sad Farewells” by Stu Larsen before everyone else does. Great video, too…How will the second season of True Detective ever surpass, let alone equal, its first? I still watch all eight episodes once a week at least…Is it just me, or has this year been a particularly strong one for the mystery and thriller genres? Established authors are stepping up and writing the novels of their careers while every week brings a new and worthy debut. It has always been difficult to keep up but it seems to be well-nigh impossible now…

You know that the Skinny Cow brand of ice cream sundries and candies have officially arrived when you see that they now have their own fleet of trucks. Eating a box of the candy bars kind of defeats the purpose of having a diet chocolate treat but they are hard to resist…Health tip: add ONE drop of  Yucateco Chili Habanero Hot Sauce (the green one) to your food at each meal and mix it well. It will ward of colds and flu…

Sunbathing Animal, the new album by Parquet Courts, is a punk classic, a pre-dystopian soundtrack of what the night before the Apocalypse will feel like…following the success of Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics publisher is planning a similar adult-themed rebooting of Sabrina the Teenage Witch…and, best for last…Kill Zone alumnus John Ramsey Miller is a step or three closer to the recognition he so greatly deserves as a television series based around his character Winter Massey approaches reality. Go, John, go!
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We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program…



I used to really enjoy Larry King’s column. It consisted of a number of comments of a sentence or two that were either 1) informative or 2) opinionated. One could read it quickly, and best of all, one did not have to look at or listen to Larry while doing it. Yay!

So what does that have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked: the dreaded deadline doom is approaching and I’m functioning (if that’s the word) on a few hours of sleep and really don’t feel competent to devote three or four paragraphs to a single topic. I accordingly am going emulate Mr. King and provide a sentence or two about a number of topics, primarily related to books and the musical and visual arts but also to some other things as well. We’ll be back to normal in two weeks. Maybe. Here goes:


Joseph Finder, after a layoff of a couple of years, is back with SUSPICION, which may be his best book yet…with all of the bombast about the Hachette vs. Amazon disagreement, has anyone considered that there are no good guys or bad guys here? They are just a couple of entities which are unable to come to terms at the moment but will do so eventually…I am loving every minute of 24: Live Another Day…I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes reads like a true account of a near-miss terrorist act. I was up all night reading it…Find a way to be the first on your block to hear “Thirteen Sad Farewells” by Stu Larsen before everyone else does. Great video, too…How will the second season of True Detective ever surpass, let alone equal, its first? I still watch all eight episodes once a week at least…Is it just me, or has this year been a particularly strong one for the mystery and thriller genres? Established authors are stepping up and writing the novels of their careers while every week brings a new and worthy debut. It has always been difficult to keep up but it seems to be well-nigh impossible now…

You know that the Skinny Cow brand of ice cream sundries and candies have officially arrived when you see that they now have their own fleet of trucks. Eating a box of the candy bars kind of defeats the purpose of having a diet chocolate treat but they are hard to resist…Health tip: add ONE drop of  Yucateco Chili Habanero Hot Sauce (the green one) to your food at each meal and mix it well. It will ward of colds and flu…

Sunbathing Animal, the new album by Parquet Courts, is a punk classic, a pre-dystopian soundtrack of what the night before the Apocalypse will feel like…following the success of Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics publisher is planning a similar adult-themed rebooting of Sabrina the Teenage Witch…and, best for last…Kill Zone alumnus John Ramsey Miller is a step or three closer to the recognition he so greatly deserves as a television series based around his character Winter Massey approaches reality. Go, John, go!
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A Kill Zone Exclusive – The Show & Tell Book – Guest Photographer William Greiner

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I am so happy to have photographer William Greiner as my guest today. I am one of the lucky authors who had an opportunity to contribute to his book – Show & Tell – a beautiful hardbound book that combines his photographs with short stories from authors with names you will recognize. The book comes from UL Press (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press) and is available now at this LINK

Below is the page image of the photo I wrote about in my story – On Her Special Day. I wanted you to see the fine quality of this book. I’ve ordered some for Christmas gifts and can’t wait to read what the other authors wrote. Welcome, William!

Show & Tell-show and tell, show & tell, william greiner
Cover – Show & Tell
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On Her Special Day by Jordan Dane

So why is a book titled SHOW & TELL being blogged about on The Kill Zone?

First, the premise was to give a group of fiction writers (In this case 28 in total, including 6 TKZ writers), a photograph without any information about the image and ask each to make up a story about that image. The resulting stories are fascinating, entertaining and thrilling.

John Ramsey Miller, John Gilstrap, Joe Moore, Jordan Dane, Joe Hartlaub and James Scott Bell, amongst others, apply their writing skills to bring a story to every image.

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“A Blur of Motion” by John Ramsey Miller

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“The Touch” by John Gilstrap

The idea for this book came to me many years ago after doing a print trade with another photographer. In conversation, it somehow became apparent that this other photographer had a complete different take and understanding of my photograph than what it meant to me. It made me realize we all bring our own notions, expectations and experiences to what we view.

To see what your favorite TKZ author sees & tells, order SHOW & TELL from UL Press, hardbound, 28 photographs accompanied by 28 stories, 183 pages, $35. To order: click this LINK.


William Greiner is a photographer and artist, living in Baton Rouge , LA. For more on our guest, click HERE.

For Discussion: Have you ever seen a photograph that inspired you to write about it? Tell us about it.

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Showing and Telling and Reading and Signing

This past Thursday evening, September 12, I met fellow TKZ blogger Joe Moore for the first time at a reading and signing in Baton Rouge. The event was held at the Shaw Center for the Arts, a beautiful facility a block away from the Mississippi River. The event was a gallery exhibit for a new short fiction collection entitled Show & Tell. Photographer William Greiner commissioned short stories from twenty-eight authors, including Joe and myself (and Julie Compton, the rose between the two thorns pictured above) (photograph by Andre Chapoy; all rights reserved) by sending each author a different set of three photographs and asking each of us to write a story based upon one of them.  The photographs and accompanying stories now constitute a traveling exhibit, and also have been published in hardcover. Joe, Julie, Pat Piper, and I read our stories as part of the exhibit’s opening reception and then signed copies of the book afterward. Show & Tell in hardcover book form is available for purchase at: http://www.ulpress.org/catalog.php?item=142
A wonderful time was had by all. I decided after participating that it might be time to review (for those of us fortunate enough to be in the position that Joe M. and I were in the Thursday last) what we as authors need to do to make such an event a success. Let me hasten to tell you that I simply followed Joe M.’s lead: he is as genuinely a courteous a person as you are ever likely to encounter.
1) Show up on time. Woody Allen has famously stated that ninety percent of everything is showing up. How true. If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; and if you’re late, you’re too late. You don’t want to disappoint people who are coming to see you. How fortunate we are, that we can do something that people will actually come to bear witness to. The least we can do is show our appreciation by appearing early.
2) Stay later. If the program/signing/reading has an end time, plan to stay at least five minutes later than that. You can visit with people who came to see you, or, if nothing else, engage in Number 5, below.
3) Be expressive. If you’re doing a reading, practice it a few times before the time appointed. Be expressive. Change your tone of voice and your facial expression while you read to reflect what is going on at the point in your story that you are reading. Reading by rote in a monotone can ruin even the best passage. An expressive reading, by contrast, can make good work better. Harlan Ellison is terrific at this, by the way. He can hold a room full of fans spellbound, making them roar with laughter at one point and silencing them the next. Which brings me to
4) Adapt. Nothing goes as planned. Jack Rea…er, Helmuth von Moltke famously said that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Just so. There were significant problems with the microphones at Show & Tell; a portion of the audience, well-lubricated by the top shelf libations which William provided, was a bit loud during the readings. What to do? Keep reading, with a smile. Some people were actually listening, and those are the folks you are reading for. Things will go wrong. Plan on it. Go around, over, under, or through the difficulty and do whatever you need to do. It’ll work out.
5) Thank everyone individually. You cannot thank too many people. Thank your friends who attended (O’Neil & Debb De Noux; Carl & Toni McGee Causey; Doug Wollfolk; Jason Furrate; and Andre Chapoy: thank you again, one and all); each person who buys a book; each person who asks you to sign a book; and the folks that got you there and propped you up (thank you again, William, and you as well, John Miller). I particularly include in the latter group the seemingly invisible people who restock the refreshments and run the cash registers. I thanked one of them last night and she told me that I was the first person attending any of the center’s events who had thanked her for being there. That’s plain wrong. It only takes a second.  They’ll remember you, particularly if you’re ever asked back.

I am sure that there are things I have forgotten. John Gilstrap has hilarious stories about things going wrong at signings (his visual accompaniments are priceless) so John, if you’re lurking out there please chime in, and I would ask each and all of you to do the same. And if you’ve attended a signing or a reading as an audience member what happened that you liked? Or that you didn’t?
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Left Behind

I will be the first to admit that I am not handy around the house. Oh, I can repair a PC and an iMac, but wiring, painting, serious plumbing, wallpapering, or anything else that doesn’t leave one much of a margin of error…nope. John Ramsey Miller, I’m not. So no one was more surprised than I when this week I purchased and actually operated a chainsaw.


We had a part of one of our larger fir trees at casa de Hartlaub detach in a wind storm a few days/weeks/months ago and my neighbors, who usually are all fine fellows (since the conjurer of the dark arts who lived next door moved) were becoming somewhat standoffish, no doubt due to the fact that scurries of rabid chipmunks were regularly taking residence in the boughs. The detached part was bigger than most normal trees so it wasn’t something that I could haul to the curb like a Christmas tree. Some cutting and separation was accordingly in order. I went to my local hardware superstore and purchased a Homelite electric chainsaw. The directions were wonderful, and it worked like a dream. I put on a set of headphones, potted up The Complete Bitches Brew to 11, and began cutting away.

I discovered something, however. Chainsaws are for right-handed people. I’m left-hand dominant. And I mean dominant. Not even the Sisters of Charity, circa 1957, could break me of my left hand use, notwithstanding the observation that such a proclivity indicated that I was doomed to be an instrument of the devil. I do almost everything (yeah, even that) with my left hand. As with most such things, I called the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, The U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and a few other agencies and I’m going to get this discrimination redressed. Not really. Just kidding. I worked around it, used it properly — with my right hand on the trigger, left hand on the grip (or something like that) stood with the blade away from me and cut the heck out of that thing. I had that tree demolished before Miles, Chick Corea, et al. were halfway through “Spanish Key.”

Left-handed people have to adapt to a right-handed world. Does that make us special? Smarter? More creative? All or none of the foregoing? Consider this: I attended a legal seminar several years ago where the attendees sat at random, eleven seats to each long table. The lad next to me nudged me about two hours into the presentation and nodded down the table, where nine other people were busy taking notes. Every single person was left-handed. Maybe the Sisters of Charity were right.

I think it is a given that the people who are gracious enough to visit this blogspot on a regular basis are among the most creative and intelligent on the planet. And great folks of course, to boot. I accordingly am taking a totally unscientific survey: are you left- or right-handed? And do you have a good left-handed story, funny or not so much, that you would care to share with us?



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Morning, Noon and Night

Morning, Noon or Night
Early morning, noon, or night?
When is your favorite time to write?
I hesitate to start this entry with rhyme, particularly since we have some real poets among those who contribute to The Kill Zone. But I thought it would be a good way to get your attention, which is what this is all about, anyway. So…

Keep in mind that the query is presented with the understanding that one can write anytime, anywhere. You don’t have to go to the local coffee shop and commandeer a booth, although it looks cool as all get out. Inspiration comes and goes at any and all hours. I was in New Orleans last year when my computer cra…er…passed a sand castle and died. I wrote a couple of chapters of a work in progress using the Swype feature on my droid phone. It wasn’t pretty, but the job got down. And I wrote while riding on a streetcar in the morning, waiting for dinner with a frosty bottle of Barq’s Root Beer, and in the afternoon during a part of a seminar when my attention span was MIA. I’ve seen others do it too, of course. I was leaving John Ramsey Miller’s home after a delightful evening when he and his lovely wife Susan hosted my family and as I pulled down the driveway I spied John at his desk, typing madly away at 10:00 PM.
But…the question is: when is your favoritetime to write? Mine, since I asked, is early morning. I get up before everyone else, feed the cat (as he does figure-eights around my calves, crying, I ask him: “It’s a real bear, not having opposable thumbs or a soft palate, isn’t it?” and he agrees) and the guinea pigs who whistle like tea kettles until the food is served up. By then the Keurig has done its thing and I am set to go to work in the grammar mine. There are no interruptions, the slate is clear, and the word stream has the effect of pushing the nightmares away. For a while, anyway.
So when is your favorite, or most productive, time to write? And if you are a reader and not a writer, when is your best time to read? 
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The Pain of Rejection

Ten years ago this month, my career hit rock bottom.  The wounds of 9-11 were still raw, the lingering malaise still thick.  I’d just been screwed out of a screen credit for the movie, Red Dragon (actually, I wasn’t screwed; I’d merely lost an arbitration, but when you’re living it, there’s precious little difference).  I’d been orphaned twice on Scott Free, my second book of a two-book contract with Atria, on the heels of Even Steven, on which I was likewise orphaned twice.  The publisher had lost interest in me, and they’d made it clear that they were going to ship a tiny number of books and do nothing to support them.

My book-writing career was in severe jeopardy.

I was able to keep it all in perspective, though, until I got a phone call from my film agent that no one—no one—even wanted to take a look at Scott Free, which to that point had everyone in my publishing food chain convinced that it would be an easy movie sell.  The call came in at around 6:00 pm Eastern time, and I remember Joy rubbing my shoulder as she read the body language of the call.  When I hung up, I felt like I had nothing left.  I tried to smile and shrug it off, and then she hugged me and I lost it.

I don’t cry much, but that one came from a deep dark place.

It wasn’t about how to make the mortgage payment.  It was the realization that I had all these stories inside of me that I wasn’t going to be able to tell because people who’d liked my books well enough to buy them no longer liked them enough to sell them.  It felt so . . . unfair.  Our own Mr. John Ramsey Miller took a lot of phone calls from me back then.  Thanks, John.

I make it a point not to dwell in dark places very long, so I went on to write a book called Living Wil, which I couldn’t give away, but really, that just kept me busy while I took a long look at where I was:

FACT: My bestselling books to that point had been written while I’d had a full-time job.
FACT: While “writing full time” I actually spent a lot of time hangin’ out and playing Dad.
FACT: The entertainment business makes no friggin’ sense.
FACT (and this one’s embarrassing): While I actually craved the normalcy of a Big Boy job, I resisted for fear that others would see that as an expression of failure.

When all was said and done, I reverted to one of my overarching philosophies in life—“fuck it”—and I forged ahead.  It turned out that no one was watching me as closely as I thought they were.  In fact, I was shocked to find that most of my friends who write full-time were envious of my Big Boy endeavors.

Funny what an adventure life turns out to be sometimes.

I write of this now not just because of the ten-year anniversary, but because it’s American Idol season again, and the sight of those devastated young people who’ve just found out they didn’t make the cut churns up memories.  When you want something so badly, the pain of rejection can be unbearable.  It feels like there’s no future.

But of course, there always is.  The problem is, too many of us work so hard to engineer the future that we lose sight of the fact that we’re powerless to affect it.  The best we can do is dream big and work hard and maximize opportunities. 

After ten years, you look back and realize how much better a person you are for the pain.
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The Pain of Rejection

Ten years ago this month, my career hit rock bottom.  The wounds of 9-11 were still raw, the lingering malaise still thick.  I’d just been screwed out of a screen credit for the movie, Red Dragon (actually, I wasn’t screwed; I’d merely lost an arbitration, but when you’re living it, there’s precious little difference).  I’d been orphaned twice on Scott Free, my second book of a two-book contract with Atria, on the heels of Even Steven, on which I was likewise orphaned twice.  The publisher had lost interest in me, and they’d made it clear that they were going to ship a tiny number of books and do nothing to support them.

My book-writing career was in severe jeopardy.

I was able to keep it all in perspective, though, until I got a phone call from my film agent that no one—no one—even wanted to take a look at Scott Free, which to that point had everyone in my publishing food chain convinced that it would be an easy movie sell.  The call came in at around 6:00 pm Eastern time, and I remember Joy rubbing my shoulder as she read the body language of the call.  When I hung up, I felt like I had nothing left.  I tried to smile and shrug it off, and then she hugged me and I lost it.

I don’t cry much, but that one came from a deep dark place.

It wasn’t about how to make the mortgage payment.  It was the realization that I had all these stories inside of me that I wasn’t going to be able to tell because people who’d liked my books well enough to buy them no longer liked them enough to sell them.  It felt so . . . unfair.  Our own Mr. John Ramsey Miller took a lot of phone calls from me back then.  Thanks, John.

I make it a point not to dwell in dark places very long, so I went on to write a book called Living Wil, which I couldn’t give away, but really, that just kept me busy while I took a long look at where I was:

FACT: My bestselling books to that point had been written while I’d had a full-time job.
FACT: While “writing full time” I actually spent a lot of time hangin’ out and playing Dad.
FACT: The entertainment business makes no friggin’ sense.
FACT (and this one’s embarrassing): While I actually craved the normalcy of a Big Boy job, I resisted for fear that others would see that as an expression of failure.

When all was said and done, I reverted to one of my overarching philosophies in life—“fuck it”—and I forged ahead.  It turned out that no one was watching me as closely as I thought they were.  In fact, I was shocked to find that most of my friends who write full-time were envious of my Big Boy endeavors.

Funny what an adventure life turns out to be sometimes.

I write of this now not just because of the ten-year anniversary, but because it’s American Idol season again, and the sight of those devastated young people who’ve just found out they didn’t make the cut churns up memories.  When you want something so badly, the pain of rejection can be unbearable.  It feels like there’s no future.

But of course, there always is.  The problem is, too many of us work so hard to engineer the future that we lose sight of the fact that we’re powerless to affect it.  The best we can do is dream big and work hard and maximize opportunities. 

After ten years, you look back and realize how much better a person you are for the pain.
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Happy Holidays!

[image4.png]It’s Winter break here at the Kill Zone. During our 2-week hiatus, we’ll be spending time with our families and friends, and celebrating all the traditions that make this time of year so wonderful. We sincerely thank you for visiting our blog and commenting on our rants and raves. We wish you a truly blessed Holiday Season and a prosperous 2012. From Clare, Kathryn, Kathleen, Joe M., Nancy, Michelle, Jordan, John G., Joe H., John M., and James to all our friends and visitors, Seasons Greeting from the Kill Zone.
See you back here on Monday, January 2.

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Happy Holidays!

imageIt’s Winter break here at the Kill Zone. During our 2-week hiatus, we’ll be spending time with our families and friends, and celebrating all the traditions that make this time of year so wonderful. We sincerely thank you for visiting our blog and commenting on our rants and raves. We wish you a truly blessed Holiday Season and a prosperous 2011. From Clare, Kathryn, Joe M., Nancy, Michelle, Jordan, John G., Joe H., John M., and James to all our friends and visitors, Seasons Greeting from the Kill Zone.

See you back here on Monday, January 3.

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