Sunday, December 30, 2007

American Cool—4 1/2 Stars!

American Cool is Susan DiPlacido's hot collection of short stories. So hot, in fact, that Romantic Times gave it 4 1/2 Stars in its latest edition, on newsstands now. Congratulations Susan!

Realistic jargon paints the settings, and the use of unusual points of view is refreshing. A bit like a literary Pulp Fiction, this book offers a glimpse into the exciting, sometimes dangerous lives of people living on the edge.
—Reviewed by Jennifer R. Wells-Marani, Romantic Times

Be Cool too:

Don't forget to read an interview with Susan here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuesday Shorts, and a Free Story!

Hey, I want to tell you about a cool weekly literary blogazine called Tuesday Shorts. Their challenge is to write a short story of 100 words or less. They have a short submission window, so read their guidelines carefully. These very short stories that are accepted run on the following Tuesday, hence the name Tuesday Shorts. So take a crack at it, and show them your shorts.

Here was my (rejected) attempt:

A Bad Day
by Donald Capone
99 words

The day started out just like any other—except for the fact that Tim's penis fell off.

He had gotten out of bed, as usual, swinging one leg then the other from under the covers, his feet sliding into his waiting slippers. Then the walk through the kitchen, where he stopped to get the coffee pot going, before continuing on to the bathroom for his long morning pee. This was always a time of contemplation—the bubbling stream of water issuing forth from his bladder relaxing him both physically and mentally.

But then, a Plop! His day was ruined.


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mitchell Report

Former Senator Mitchell issued his report on illegal steroid use to baseball commissioner Bud Selig yesterday. He spent 20 months and supposedly $20 million conducting the investigation. (I could have given MLB a very similar list for free, and about 19 months and 29 days earlier, but I don't have the street cred Mitchell does, who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland.)

Roger Clemens was the one who took the hardest hit. Clemens probably juiced by the looks of him, but the "evidence" in the Mitchell report is pretty lame. Here is a good article by Boston writer Dan Shaughnessy on the subject of Clemens, the lack of hard evidence, and how the greatest pitcher of his generation got thrown under a bus by MLB solely on hearsay:
Dan Shaughnessy

Selig (or the Nutty Professor, as I call him) said this report was "a call to action," and that "I will act." He also said, "Discipline of players and others identified in the report will be determined on a case-by-case basis."


I wonder, what kind of discipline? None of these players tested positive for the biggie of steroids, HGH (human growth hormone). That's because there IS no test yet for HGH. Besides the fact that when these players allegedly used steroids, there was no drug policy in MLB. Can you get fined for breaking a rule that didn't exist yet?

Even if fines/suspensions/wrist slaps/wedgies/purple nurples are doled out by Selig as punishment, how do you determine it so far after the fact? Take someone like Andy Pettitte. He allegedly used HGH to heal an injured elbow. Should he be punished the same as someone like a Bonds, who juiced every week for seven years just to hit more dingers and break the hallowed all-time HR record held by the classy Hank Aaron? Do you erase the phony homerun records of Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire from the record books? And what about the Hall of Fame voting (McGwire was already shut out in his first year of eligibilty)?

Or do you just go forward with a clean slate?

Edit 12/23: OK, Pettitte owned up to using HGH twice. So have a few others, like Brian Roberts of the Orioles. Now let's hear from the record setters. Bonds, Sosa, McGwire? We're waiting.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Imagine Peace; Sean Lennon's Friendly Fire

Today is the 27th anniversary of John Lennon's death. Check out the Imagine Peace website for a message from Yoko, and video clips of her and John talking about peace.

I also want to mention here Sean Lennon's Friendly Fire CD. It's been more than a year since this album was released, and I still listen to it on a regular basis. There are just ten tracks on Friendly Fire (there is also a companion DVD that has a video for each song), but each song is solid, polished, and even better when listened to with headphones. I've seen Sean twice live in support of this album, and the songs and his performance were excellent.

It's hard to believe that not only such a solid CD, but also John Lennon's son could fly so far under the radar. Maybe it's better that way. Sean has a loyal following, fans who attend his concerts, know all the lyrics, sing along to each song. Maybe it's easier this way; maybe Julian Lennon's early career so soon after John's death eased the way for Sean. Or maybe Sean's music is different enough from his father's that the comparisons just aren't made (as opposed to Julian, who suffered the comparisons, especially since his voice sounds so much like his father's). Whatever, this is a CD that deserves a wider audience, and I'll continue to listen to it and enjoy it as I wait for Sean's next one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Breaking it Down

I had the pleasure of meeting author Rusty Barnes at the Boxcar Lounge in the East Village recently. This was the first of a new reading series hosted by Tuesday Shorts' Shelly Rich. He read three stories from his book Breaking it Down, an excellent collection of 18 flash fiction stories in a handy pocket-size paperback.

It's truly amazing what Barnes can accomplish with so few words. A story is considered flash fiction if it is not more than 1,000 words, and Barnes uses even less than that at times. But the characters he creates, their worlds and histories, their dreams, hopes, and regrets speak volumes. His prose pulls you right in, as with this opener to "Beamer's Opera":

Every morning when Beamer milked the cows he sang from his favorite operas, attaching the nozzles to their bags and patting them each on the flank, bursting into vibrato-laden songs of despair and longing while his hands were occupied with his very necessary tasks. He imagined the cows with their deep brown eyes and kind souls were listening to him as he roared forth regret and lust and love and sorrow in an alien tongue.

I definitely recommend this book. I couldn't put it down; as soon as I finished one story, I was on to the next before I even realized it. You might say I read this book in a flash. ; )

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Living Glove

I have these houseplants in my apartment, the kind that you can't kill, the kind that don't need much attention. Just some water and an occasional stick of plant food. Sometimes I'll take a shoot off one and create a new plant. They are all thriving, with leaves that extend for many feet.

One particular plant has grown so much, it has actually incorporated my baseball glove in its expansion (which speaks to how much I have used the glove recently). Look at the above photo. See how one of those tendril things has wrapped around the glove's stitching? What do I do now?

I've left it like that.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

New story in Skive magazine

My story Change Is Good is in the December issue of Skive Magazine, available now! It's a paperback, 250 page, 6" x 9" perfect bound book—perfect for gift-giving. It includes 46 stories from a great group of international writers. (It's also available as an e-book.) Support independent writing and publishing!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Joshua Tree at 20, plus a rant

Wanna feel old? It has been 20 years since U2 released their landmark album The Joshua Tree. That's right, 20 years! To commemorate the anniversary, the album has been remastered and reissued, and now includes a second disc with all of the B-sides from the original singles. Also included is "Wave of Sorrow," a song written during the Joshua sessions and recently completed for this set (Bono added the vocals to the existing music).

In case you just woke up from a two-decade-long coma, The Joshua Tree is one of THE classic rock albums of all time. Occasionally you'll even catch it topping a list of "Greatest albums of all time," though usually that slot is reserved for the Beates' Sgt. Pepper. So if you don't own the album, wipe the 20-year sand from your eyes, stretch those coma-tight muscles, and find your way down to Best Buy (don't bother looking around for a record store—they don't exist anymore) or hop onto iTunes and download the deluxe version for $16.99 (single disc version is $9.99).

Now that the plug is done, it's time for me to rant. U2 has long been my favorite band (besides the Beatles, who are in another league. Basically it's the Beatles, then everyone else. Oh, and Bjork is a close second behind U2). So, on to my complaint.

I own every U2 album, some of which I've even bought in multiple formats—CD, cassette, vinyl, download. I have their DVDs, their CD singles, I've bought concert tickets for more than twenty years, I've bought t-shirts, calendars, books. Everything. I've given them a lot of my hard-earned mooluh. A lot. And they've earned it by working hard, touring for every album, pushing themselves to do better; it would have been easy for them to just do Joshua Tree part 2, part 3, etc. But they are true artists—they're not Bon Jovi. They've experimented, expanded their sound, took some risks. And they haven't spent their (my) money foolishly, landing in rehab, or packing a gun like Puff Daddy. And we all know of Bono's humanitarian acts.

So. I wonder why I still can't buy the two new songs that were included on last year's "best of" collection U218. See, I already have the first 16 songs of that collection. Multiple times. All I want are the two new ones (the excellent "Window In the Skies" and the raucous collaboration with Green Day "The Saints Are Coming"). But if you go to iTunes and look it up, those songs are only available if you buy the whole 18-song package. Do I really need to spend $15.99 just to get two songs? I wrongly thought that when the album was released in Nov. 2006, that after some time they would make the two songs available individually. Here it is a year later and you still can't download those songs. Who is the greedy party here? Is it U2, or is it Apple? Why can't I spend my money to legally download these two songs?! I want to give U2 another $1.98 of my money, but I guess they don't want it.

This harkens back to the pre-Apple iTunes era when people were forced to illegally download songs because there was no alternative. Music fans were ahead of the curve then; the record companies had no clue what to do. They were still pumping out those CDs, spending money on printing, packaging, shipping, warehousing. But the people spoke and wanted to download! And idiots like Metallica complained and sued, instead of giving the people what they wanted. The people wanted to buy the music—just not in an outdated format. Then Apple came along to save the day, and get the money back into the hands of the artists. Everyone was happy.

But now I can't buy those two frigging songs that I want. So, I'm going old school. If anyone wants to send me those two songs as MP3s, please let me know. With all the money I've given U2 over the years, I won't feel guilty about a couple of freebies.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Re-Kindle Your Love of Reading

Amazon has just launched the Kindle, which seems to be the definitive electronic book reader (so far). It works on its own, too—you don't need a computer to download or sync with. How it works is through wireless connectivity (like a cell phone). You go to Amazon and download the book you want (more than 88,000 titles currently available), with the cost of new releases and best sellers just $9.99. More than books, the Kindle also lets you read newspapers, magazines, and blogs. You can also read Word documents and view pictures. It also has a built-in dictionary.

The Kindle seems poised to bury Sony's Reader. The Sony Reader must be attached to a computer for downloading, and is only available for the PC (sorry Mac users). Plus the Kindle has the advantage of linking directly to Amazon, the king of online book purchases. It holds over 200 titles, and Amazon claims the battery life last for over 1,000 page turns, with the recharge time just two hours.

I've only seen the Kindle online (watch the short demonstration video on the product page in the link above), and I like its many attributes, but one thing looks like it could still stand improvement. In the demo video, the page flip and scroll plastic buttons seem downright antiquated, especially with the touch screen flashiness of the Apple iPhone setting the standard on handheld devices. Maybe the Kindle's next model with incorporate a similar operating system. Oh, and how cool would it be if they added audio, so you could choose between reading and listening to a book?

The price is $399.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The day the mobile shredder came to town

There was a message on my answering machine when I got home from work Thursday night. "The mobile shredder is coming to Tuckahoe!" the recording said. "Between 10am-2pm in Depot Square." Holy crap. This was a dream come true. It was like hearing my favorite rock star was coming to town to play an intimate show at the local cafe, and I was chosen to attend.

Why was I so excited? Well, I had fallen far behind in my shredding. You know, all those personal documents with bank statements, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. that can't just be thrown in the trash anymore because there are criminals out there sifting through your garbage while you sleep at night. Turning trash bins over like raccoons. They're stealing your numbers, stealing your identity, jetting off to exotic places all on your dime. And they must be stopped!

I had a very small shredder, a one-sheet-at-a-time kind that died suddenly last year. I had a backlog by the time I got around to buying another one. This one was slightly larger, promised to do more than one sheet at a time, you could even shred a credit card if need be. Still, by then I had a plastic bag full of documents—with more flooding in on a daily basis. Feeding these statements in by hand was hopeless, endless, like Lucy trying futilely to wrap all those chocolates on the conveyer belt before they passed her by. I just couldn't keep up. And damned if I'd start eating them. I began to wish for a huge shredder I could dump the whole load into in one shot. The size of a woodchipper. Something industrial, like Hillary used to shred her Whitewater papers. A magical machine to remove the paper albatross from around my neck.

Then, I got the call.

I went though all of my papers then. I found new piles of mail I had forgotten about. By the time I was done I had a whole Trader Joe's brown shopping bag full of sensitive, identity-laden documents. But I had to wait till Sunday morning at ten o'clock for the big moment. I was like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning. And on top of it all I had to wait an extra hour, thanks to the clocks being turned back during the night.

Finally the moment I was waiting for arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. I grabbed hold of the bag and walked down to Depot Square with an extra spring in my step. There, as promised, was the mobile shredder. What a sight to behold! I was one of the first people there, and only had to wait a minute before my papers were dumped in and shot back out into the bin, cross-cut and indecipherable. What a thrilling moment! What would have taken me months to do by hand was completed in seconds. My only regret was that I couldn't do the honor myself.

Afterward, I lingered because there was also a farmer's market. Cars began to pull in to the lot, happy people with boxes full of paper to shred. Everyone stood around to watch the results, to make sure their sensitive papers were obliterated. People laughing, smiling, relieved. People united in a single cause. The mobile shredder is a uniter, not a divider. What a thing, this mobile shredder!

Now I can do one of two things. Either work with a clean slate, stay on top of my personal documents, shred them as they come in. Or I can save up again, squirrel away my statements for the next time the mobile shredder comes to town. Either way I can't lose.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Understory by Pamela Erens

The Understory is a great debut novel from Pamela Erens (it was the winner of the Ironwood Press Fiction Prize). This is one of those books you just want to stay home from work to finish reading. The lead character is Jack Gorse, an unemployed loner whose daily routines (that border on OCD) give him a purpose in life. (In this sense the writing reminds me of the best of Magnus Mills, the way you as the reader slip into the character's mind and daily doings.) The routines, however, are upset when Jack is evicted from his apartment. Things begin to spiral out of control for him without these routines, and as he loses his grip on life, he grasps at the straws of an impossible/imagined relationship.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Seinfeld is a jerk

So I tuned into David Letterman on Monday night because former Yankees manager Joe Torre was a scheduled guest. As an added bonus, Jerry Seinfeld was also on the show. Wow, I thought, this is great! I've been a fan of Seinfeld since the beginning. Since before the beginning—when he was just a stand-up comedian on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Seinfeld was there to promote his new animated movie, Bee Movie, about a Seinfeld-esque bee who leaves the hive and has adventure in the human world.

At one point during the interview, I was surprised that the subject of Jerry's wife's alleged plagiarism came up. Jessica Seinfeld has a cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, just published by HarperCollins, that gives recipes on how to slip healthy food into your childrens diets by mashing up veggies and such and putting them into other foods that a child is more inclined to eat, like a brownie. The problem is that The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals, a very similar book by an author named Missy Chase Lapine is already in print, published by Running Press in April 2007. At one point Lapine even submitted the book to HarperCollins, who rejected it. So when Jessica Seinfeld's book hit the shelves with a big splashy promotion budget and an appearance on Oprah, Lapine cried foul. Or more accurately, plagiarism. Which is understandable.

But on Letterman, Seinfeld explained the situation by repeatedly calling Lapine (who he didn't mention by name) a "wacko." He said "So this woman says, `I sense this could be my wacko moment.' So she comes out ... and she accuses my wife. She says, `You stole my mushed-up carrots. You can't put mushed-up carrots in a casserole. I put mushed-up carrots in a casserole. It's vegetable plagiarism.'" He even compared her to the "wackos" who have stalked David Letterman. It was actually uncomfortable to watch.

What an asshole. I realize he was going for the easy laughs, and that most people watching probably weren't aware of the specifics of the case. So they took him at his word. But fuck shit, if I submitted a book that was rejected, and then Seinfeld's wife published a very similar one with the same publisher that had rejected mine—I'd definitely point it out too. Unfortunately, that's how publishing works. People steal ideas, and yes, people also come up with the same ideas independently. But it doesn't make you a "wacko" if you want the situation looked into.

Lapine didn't deserve to be attacked so viscously on such a public platform. Isn't it enough that her idea was (allegedly) stolen by a celebrity's wife? That her book will never match the sales of someone who had the good sense to dump her husband right after the honeymoon to marry Jerry Seinfeld? Does she deserve to be labeled a "wacko"? I don't think so.

"It was painful to be called names on national TV," Lapine said, "when I am just a mom who wrote a cookbook to help parents get their kids to eat well."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How many days till spring training?

Well, the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs once again. I was at the game. It wasn't a fun game to watch because they were never really in it. Down 4-0 after just two innings against Cleveland's number four starter, you'd think the Yanks would bang their way right back into the game, pound away until they grabbed the lead. That's what they did in the second half of the season when they turned their year around after a dreadful 21-29 start and a 42-43 all-star break record. They were on a roll, reinvigorated with the influx of new young homegrown players like Cano, Melky, Joba, Hughes, Duncan, Kennedy.

But the Yankees just can't score in the post season anymore. And it's not the old cliche of "good pitching beats good hitting" because, in the Yanks' case, bad pitching also beats good hitting. The attack of the gnats in Game 2 didn't help, either. So it's another season lost, and another year where Yankee fans have to watch the Red Sox steamroll their way through the post season without us there to stop them.

Changes are coming soon to the Yankees. A lot of players are free agents, including Mariano, Posada, and soon-to-be MVP ARod, if he opts out of his contract. Plus Joe Torre has probably managed his last game in NY. But the future is still promising. The kids are here already and they're the real thing. Cano is 25 and had 97 RBI. Melky (23) took the CF job away from Damon. Hughes is 21 and was 5-3, and will be in the rotation next year. Joba is also 21 and will be a starter next year. With Wang and Pettitte (if he exercises his option) heading up the rotation, that's a damn strong first 4. Mussina will hang around as the fifth starter since he is still under contract.

But who will manage? Despite a rumor about Tony LaRussa, the two obvious choices still are Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi. I'd like to see Girardi since he has managerial experience. Or maybe John Tuturro can reprise his role as Billy Martin from Bronx Is Burning and bring home the pennant once again.

It's gonna be a long off-season.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sony blowing a good chance?

So, Sony announced today that they have a new version of the Sony Reader. They launched the original version a year or two ago, didn't know how to market it, and it didn't sell very well. Now they are back with an updated version, hoping to catch lightning by having the first real reader out there to capture the digital market in its infancy. Great idea. I'm all for a digital revolution. Oh, I'll always love to hold a real book in my hands, feel the pages, smell the pulp, stare at the cover art. But that will only be on special occasions, for the books that I know I want to have in my collection, on my shelves, a part of my apartment's decor. The rest I can keep as digital files, to read whenever, wherever, bring along while on vacation, say, or to just have less stuff cluttering my living space.

But Sony isn't letting me be part of the digital revolution.

Why not? Because the Reader isn't compatible with Apple computers. And I'm a Mac user. Only if you have a PC can you use the Reader. Has the wildly successful iPod taught Sony nothing? They are blowing a great chance to take over a new market. Will the Reader go the way of the Betamax tape if Apple decides to do their own version of the Reader and completely obliterate any other competition?

We'll see.


This was the email I was going to shoot off to Sony, before I realized that they have no email contact information anywhere on their site. Hmmm, I wonder why?

It's good to see a company leading the way in the digital book revolution, but when is the Reader going to be available in a Mac version? Surely the success of the iPod has taught you something. Mac users are forward thinkers, creative people, and by not having an Apple version, you are losing many potential customers. Maybe you are waiting for Apple to put out their version of the Reader so they can steal your customers?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Mighty Heart

A Mighty Heart is Mariane Pearl's account of the kidnapping and murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl, by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002. After his disappearance, Mariane assembled a team to help find Daniel, and this memoir shows a race against the clock as the team wades through political red tape and corruption to determine who was responsible for the kidnapping and where Daniel was being held. This was such a high-profile crime, that the reader already knows the outcome; this is why this account deals with how the search was approached, what Mariane was going through emotionally, how the international team bonded with one another, and how Mariane was able to look toward a future for her and her unborn son after the murder of her husband. This was good; however, I was a little distracted by the use of present tense writing. I know the idea was to make the story more immediate, like it is happening now, that the reader is part of the search. But I'm not sure it worked; I also don't think the authors (Sarah Crichton was co-author) were very consistent with the tense. I would have preferred the story to be told in past tense, with what was happening to Daniel at the concurrent time interspersed throughout. I hope the film was done this way.

Also we're told what a great journalist Pearl was, how he tried to make the world a better place through his writing, how he stopped at nothing to get a story, how his personality and love of life came through in his writing. And it's true, I guess. But it would have been nice to have seen this first-hand if Mariane had included an article, a story, or even a personal letter written by Daniel for those of us who have never read his work. Also, it would have given Daniel the last word, and shown how his spirit and message survives, even if the terrorists killed his person.

3 1/2 of 5 stars

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Savage Quiet September Sun

It's hard to believe that the sixth anniversary of 9/11 is just about upon us. For the survivors or those who lost loved ones, it must still seem like yesterday. The world of film and literature has had a few big-name entries that deal with the subject: Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, Adam Sandler's Reign Over Me were recent films, and Don DeLillo's new novel Falling Man, which got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

But there is also a smaller book on the subject, a collection of twelve stories written by New Yorker Victor Lana. Lana's bio says that he "lost a family member and friends on 9/11" and you can tell by the honesty of the writing how much it hit home. Lana's characters deal with 9/11 and its aftermath: the confusion, anger, grief, guilt, paranoia, and overall coping that were results of the tragedy. I don't know how autobiographic some of the stories are, but it must have been cathartic for him to write these tales.

Some of the highlights for me: In "Nisa," a divorced man's new friendship with a young Middle Eastern woman prevents him from slipping into an all too easy prejudice against Arabs, and helps him realize what's important in his life. In "Dust to Dust," a seemingly harmless office prank has serious repercussions for several of the people involved. "From the North Tower to Eternity" has a still disgruntled ex-worker show up in his former boss's office on the morning of 9/11 with the intent to kill him. But fate has other ideas. In "Our Flag Was Still There" a man who co-owns several beach cottages in Long Island with his brother is convinced the three men who rented one of the cottages are terrorists. No one, including his brother, believes him. So he takes matters into his own hands.

This book is available on Amazon. New Yorkers also can pick it up at New Voices Bookstore, located in the East Village in Manhattan.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Deford Hits a Dinger

Technically, and according to the subtitle ("A Tale of Modern Baseball"), The Entitled is a baseball novel. But calling this just a baseball novel is like saying The Road is just a post-apocalypse novel. There is so much more to it. It's literature.

The lead character of The Entitled is an old-school lifetime minor leaguer, Howie Traveler, who finally gets his shot to manage in the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians. His lifelong dream is compromised, though, when he catches his star player Jay Alcazar (possibly) raping a woman. Now Howie has a moral dilemma. Does he protect his player and his job, or does he come out against the player and jeopordize his career in the process?

This is also the story of Alcazar. It would have been easy to have him be a cartoon character, the selfish, "entitled" superstar modern ballplayer. But Deford gives him a complex character, too, and there is a nifty subplot with Alcazar returning to Cuba to locate family that was left behind when his parents escaped with the infant Jay.

Deford does an excellent job of mixing up the chapters, changing the POV, and feeding the reader the background on the individual characters in a non-linear fashion. And Deford's baseball knowledge and observations are spot-on. You can understand what he's saying, and the nuances of baseball even if you are not a fan. That is the beauty and the art of his writing.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Be Cool

American Cool is a fantastic collection of Susan DiPlacido's best short stories. Many of these stories have appeared in other noted publications, such as the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, Caramel Flava, and Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction. But to have them all together in one volume is a very special treat. ("I, Candy" won the Spirit Award at the 2005 Moondance Film Festival, and "Bloodlines" was nominated for a 2008 Pushcart Prize award.)

DiPlacido's writing is fast, fun, sexy, and humorous. The stories just fly by as you read them, and before you know it you've started another one. From the bright lights of Vegas in "Neon Nights" and "Shuffle Up (And Deal) to the dusty desert of "Coyote Blues" to the softball fields of "Like a Girl" to the romance of Italy in "Found in Translation," DiPlacido plops you right into the lives of her characters, into their heads, lets you eavesdrop on their lively conversations, their jokes, their wants and disappointments. Whenever I finish a DiPlacido book I feel like I've said goodbye to some close friends.

One last thing—this book has a very fitting cover! I felt cool reading it on the train. Be cool too and get this book.


Don't forget to read an interview with Susan here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oh, God!

In God Is Dead by Ron Currie, Jr.—a novel in stories—we see what happens throughout the world after God dies. Literally. He takes the form of a Dinka woman in Darfur, gets killed, and is eaten by feral dogs. Then the shit really hits the fan.

I don't want to give too much away, but the reactions around the world are varied, and Currie handles each separate chapter expertly, and with a streak of black humor. I mean, the world continues, and could/would remain the same as it ever was if not for the extreme reactions worldwide. So society breaks down for a while as humans adjust to life without God, as new beliefs are put in place, as new reasons for war are born, and as new reasons for carrying on are examined. Kind of like I felt after my Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS.

Coincidentally, I've read three post-breakdown-of-society books in a row: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, God Is Dead by Ron Currie, Jr., and The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Three very different books, so it may not be fair to compare them. But Currie more than holds his own against those much-honored writers. In fact, God Is Dead is one of those books that leaves a lasting impression, and sticks in your mind long after reading it. I already want to go back and re-read it.

5 of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Road Trip

Well, I finally gave in and read THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy. I usually resist reading books that I am "supposed" to read. This novel just won the Pulitzer, but come on, how many post-apocalyptic stories, novels, and films have been done? Dozens? Hundreds? Nothing new under the sun, I figured. I also resisted for so long because of McCarthy's lack of punctuation in his novels, a trick that I find pretentious. But I caved and joined the bandwagon.

Now, besides his lack of quotation marks and apostrophes, his writing style is of the sort that you either love or you don't. I swear at some points McCarthy was just making up words on the fly. Thirty pages into the book I hated it, and regretted ever going down the road. But like a bad movie you don't want to walk out on in the hopes that it will get better, I stuck with the novel, waiting for something to happen.

The father and son, who are the lead characters, travel the road in search of other "good guy" survivors of the unnamed apocalypse (nuclear war, I guess) that ruined the world, burning it to a lifeless gray ash (if you removed all the times McCarthy used the words "gray" and "ash," the novel would be a third shorter). They are on a vague route toward the coast, in the hopes that it will be better and there will be more people near the ocean. Meanwhile, they have to scavenge for clothes, food and water, while keeping an eye out for the "bad guys," other survivors who might want to kill them and steal their provisions.

Page 90 (of 241) came and went, and I still wasn't liking it any better. McCarthy seemed to be as lost as his characters, wandering aimlessly in search of something meaningful. Then on page 93 McCarthy decided the book needed more of a plot. There is a scene in a basement of a house that just turned the whole book around. Now it got interesting. Also at this point, McCarthy begins to tell the story in a more straightforward manner, shaking off his Mr. Fancypants literary style somewhat and just getting down to the basics of telling the story.

But there is more to this book than "stuff happening" on the road. It is about the relationship between the father and young son, and the father's attempt to keep the boy alive and well, as well as keeping him on the side of the "good guys." That part isn't hard because the kid is innately good, and there were a few instances where I wondered if McCarthy was hinting at something larger, messianic. Either way, the father's instincts were to protect the boy; if the Earth was going to have a future that included humans, his life was more important than the father's.

I'm not one for having everything wrapped up nicely at the end of a story. And McCarthy didn't do that. Without giving it away, I can say that the end is left open and he can write a sequel if he chooses. Or, it can stand as it is, with the reader left to imagine the next day, month, year, century of this place called Earth.

4 of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Get AMERICAN COOL this summer!

AMERICAN COOL now on sale!

ENTER the world of AMERICAN COOL, where risk, rejection, and romance are played to win. When characters meet every roll of the dice with grit, humor and determination, is it enough to change the stakes? AMERICAN COOL is Susan DiPlacido's first collection of short stories.


Available soon at Barnes & Noble and Booksamillion!

Also, read a lively interview with Susan HERE!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Into the Sunset now on sale!

WHEN a thirty year-old bachelor disguises himself as an old man to live in The Sunset, a retirement community, will everything go as smoothly as planned? Of course not! His elderly love interest becomes suspicious of his under-cover-of-darkness-only lovemaking, his neighbor wants to experiment with Viagra�, the head of security is more interested in extortion than security, and the woman who runs the community may be on to his scheme. Can Wayne survive old age?

To purchase:
Barnes & Noble

Susan DiPlacido's AMERICAN COOL will be available soon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

McCartney's Memory Almost Full

Paul McCartney's new CD, Memory Almost Full, was released this week to much fanfare by Starbuck's new music label, Hear Music. I downloaded the grande version, also known as the Deluxe Limited Edition, that includes three extra songs and a 26-minute interview.

How does one go about reviewing a new Macca album? Should you consider it on its own, as one separate entity? Or should you put it in the context of his 40+ year career? It's not fair, really, to compare this work against anything done by the Beatles, or even Paul's early solo years. Will it match up to Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, Abbey Road? Of course not. Does it match up against current artists, like John Mayer, for instance, or Jack Johnson? Possibly. Which is either a testament to Paul's enduring talent and drive, or a knock against the current stale state of rock n' roll.

The music here is strong, as it always is on a McCartney album. In fact, there are many stand-out tunes. It opens with the mandolin-driven "Dance Tonight," which is a real foot stomping, sing-along tune (great video, too.) This is followed by "Ever Present Past" which is one of those perfect pop tunes that in another era would have been a top-ten hit. "That Was Me" is a great, funky little number that reflects on all the eras of his life, from when he was a child "with a spade and bucket" by the sea, through his Beatles years "That was me, Sweating cobwebs, Under contract, In the cellar, On TV, That was me," up to the present day "The same me that stands here now." "Vintage Clothes" is another nostalgic song that is so infectious, it will have you whistling along.

"Only Mama Knows" is a real rocker, as is "Nod Your Head." These two fit into the "Helter Skelter" category—not much to the lyrics, just pure rocks songs to keep you going. The knock against McCartney has always been the shallowness of his lyrics. On Memory Almost Full he tries to dig deeper on a few songs. In "The End of the End," Paul sings:

On the day that I die
I'd like bells to be rung
And songs that were sung
To be hung out like blankets
That lovers have played on
And laid on while listening
To songs that were sung.

This is Paul singing about his death! I wanted something a little more insightful, mournful, deeply personal. This is a man who has endured the deaths of his first wife Linda, John Lennon, George Harrison, Brian Epstein. Shouldn't he have more to say? Does he believe in heaven, will he see Linda again, or John & George, or his mother who died when he was a kid? Does he have any regrets? How will his death affect his young three year-old daughter? Comparatively, on Harrison's final CD "Brainwashed," which he recorded when he was dying from cancer, these were his thoughts on the subject:

I never knew that life was loaded
I'd only hung around birds and bees
I never knew that things exploded
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life, looking for my life

Oh boys, you've no idea what I've been through
Oh Lord, I got to get back somehow to you

A tad deeper.

On the soulful "Gratitude," Paul sings about his failed relationship with his second wife, Heather. Ooh, I thought. He's going to put that gold-digger in her place!

Well I was lonely
I was living with a memory
But my cold and lonely nights ended
When you sheltered me
Loved by you
I was loved by you
Yeah I was loved by you
I want to show my gratitude.

Hmm. Not exactly "Instant Karma" there. Maybe it was sarcastic? No, I think Paul is sincere. He's taking the high road here. But I wanted some anger, a flash of the chip on the shoulder that Lennon always had. The problem is expectations. The problem is mine. Why am I still expecting Paul to suddenly be an angry poet? That was John's role. (If Lennon hadn't become a musician, I believe he still would have been a major artist—but as a poet, not a rocker.) I shouldn't expect a 65 year-old man to suddenly become something he's not. He is what he is—what he always was. What he is is one of the most accomplished and talented rock musicians in the world. Memory Almost Full is a solid piece of work, one that I am finding I like more and more with each listen. Amazingly, Paul's voice is still strong, still a beautiful instrument.

Starbucks has a winner with this CD. I'm going back for a refill.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2 New Books from Rebel Press

Rebel Press is pleased to introduce the latest in its publishing rebellion, two new titles by rebel writers Susan DiPlacido and Donald Capone.
Available soon at Barnes & ( • •

ENTER the world of AMERICAN COOL, where risk, rejection, and romance are played to win. When characters meet every roll of the dice with grit, humor and determination, is it enough to change the stakes? AMERICAN COOL is Susan DiPlacido's first collection of short stories.

DiPlacido is the author of three novels: 24/7, Trattoria, and Mutual Holdings. Her short story, “I, Candy” won the Spirit Award at the 2005 Moondance International Film Festival ("I, Candy" is included in American Cool). Her novel Trattoria was nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Small Press Romance. Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Erotica 2007, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica vol. 6, Caramel Flava, and Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction. Visit her online at and

WHEN a thirty year-old bachelor disguises himself as an old man to live in The Sunset, a retirement community, will everything go as smoothly as planned? Of course not! His elderly love interest becomes suspicious of his under-cover-of-darkness-only lovemaking, his neighbor wants to experiment with Viagra®, the head of security is more interested in extortion than security, and the woman who runs the community may be on to his scheme. Can Wayne survive old age?
INTO THE SUNSET is Donald Capone's first novel.

Capone's stories have appeared in Edgar Literary Magazine, Word Riot, and Thieves Jargon, as well as the anthologies See You Next Tuesday and Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction. Visit him online at

Read the prologue to INTO THE SUNSET

I'll post again when the books are on sale!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bjork Volta

After the experimental departures of Vespertine and Medulla, Bjork is back to her classic sound with VOLTA, her fantastic new CD. Volta features a 10-piece horn section that is used to great effect throughout, especially at the end of instant-favorite lead-off track "Earth Intruders," where the horns emulate ship fog horns of an Icelandic harbor. This leads into the beautiful "Wanderlust," which starts with the lyric I am leaving this harbour, Giving urban a farewell. At this point in the CD, I'm ready to take the journey with her.

"The Dull Flame of Desire" is next. Here Bjork duets with New York singer Antony. The song is a bit too long, and it has taken me a while to get used to Antony's strange voice, but overall it is a good, slow love song with smooth horns and wistful lyrics. Definitely a song that grows on you. "Innocence" picks up the pace with its catchy techno beat. Rarely of late has a CD--by anyone--started out with such an amazing quartet of songs. The sound is fresh, modern, and shows a re-invigorated Bjork.

After catching your breath from these four tracks, "I See Who You Are" will have you marvel at Bjork's downright ability to compose a song. It features Min Xiao-Fen on pipa, a traditional Chinese string instrument (like a sitar) that has to be heard to be appreciated. It's almost enough to inspire some air-pipa playing!

"Vertebrae By Vertebrae" and "Pneumonia" are next; they are good, solid filler tracks. "Hope" is next, and is one of my favorite songs on the CD. What's the lesser of two evils? Bjork ponders, as she muses on the state of the world, and what would drive a pregnant suicide bomber to commit an act of terror. She concludes with the thought Well I don't care, Love is all, I dare to drown To be proven wrong. The song ends with more harbor horns, before kicking into the foot-stomping "Declare Independence," a crunchy, techno song--the exact kind that I love from Bjork. This song, along with "Earth Intruders" and Post's "Army of Me" will easily keep my speedometer at 80 if I happen to have them on in my car while driving.

"My Juvenile" closes out the CD. Antony is featured again, though more subtlely. Bjork sings this song to her first child, whom she feels she may have let go too soon: Perhaps I set you too free, Too fast, Too young. Antony, singing in response as Bjork's son: But the intentions were pure. But the intentions were pure.

Bjork is probably the only recording artist left who is doing her own thing, not a slave to the whims and wants of a record company. She is a true artist who is only concerned with her art, and making the music that she wants, with whom she wants. There is not much of that left in the medium of rock music. Volta is a classic CD by a phenomenal artist.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Roger Morris' "Taking Comfort"

Rob Saunders just wants to feel safe, but the world is a dangerous place.

Rob Saunders is the lead character in this stylish novel by Roger Morris. After witnessing a suicide one morning, Saunders impulsively picks up the notebook the girl dropped, and is strangely comforted by the presence of this souvenir in his briefcase. But as we read further into the book, we learn that Saunders is not the only character who finds comfort in routine, in physical objects, in hopes and dreams that may never be realized (yet are always on the horizon).

Every character in this book is affected by--and witness to--Saunders' movements in his daily life, and in fact, through use of different POVs, we know what they are thinking and feeling, know how they react to Saunders' increasingly obsessive actions as he seeks out more and more tragedies (and souvenirs), and know what their own quirks and "comforts" are. People crave their routines, while also yearning to break out of their ruts and do something exciting or spontaneous. Conversely, if their routine is upset, they feel lost. But how can one feel safe and comforted in this increasingly unsafe new world of terrorism, climate change, and suicide bombers anyway? That's the question Morris poses.

As the story progresses, Saunders' desire for more and more comfort drives him (ironically) into more and more dangerous situations. In the end, something has to give. Morris' use of short chapters and different character POVs really keep the pace of this novel fast, as each chapter flows perfectly into the next. If you are looking for a quick, engrossing, different book to read, I highly recommend Roger Morris' Taking Comfort.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

R.I.P Kurt Vonnegut

"When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes.'"
—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chapter 24 now live

Chapter 24 of Like I've Never Been Born is now live!
Like I've Never Been Born

Monday, March 12, 2007

Rebel Press to serialize novel online—FOR FREE!

I am now hard at work on my third novel, nearing the completion of the first draft. My first novel, the comedy Into the Sunset, is currently making the agent rounds. Meanwhile, I’ve decided to serialize my second novel Like I've Never Been Born online—FOR FREE—with a new chapter posted twice a week on Rebel Press’s web site.

Giving his hard work away, you're thinking? Is he crazy? Yes, and yes. Hey, it's not doing anyone any good sitting on my hard drive. Plus, there are other reasons, which I’ll mention shortly.

First though, here is a quick synopsis of the book:
Early December, 1980. Angela Girardi, a nineteen-year old student, travels from her upstate New York college to Manhattan to seek out her (and her mother’s) idol John Lennon. She is determined to hand-deliver her mother’s unopened suicide note, which had been addressed to John. Angela wants to honor her mother and accomplish this last task for her; only then will Angela allow herself to grieve, move on with her life, and figure out her uncertain future. But circumstances on the night of December 8th change the course of her life forever.

I started work on the novel in December 2004. Between June 11, 2005, and July 29, 2005 I sent out thirteen query letters to various literary agents. I received seven rejections; six are still pending. Then on November 4, 2005, I read an announcement online about an indie film being made called Chapter 27, starring Jared Leto, which included this info:

Lindsay now set to star opposite Jared Leto in Chapter 27, an indie film centering on the 1980 murder of John Lennon. Lohan will play a devoted fan of the former Beatle who befriends Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman (Leto), shortly before the murder in New York 25 years ago.

Oh, fuck, I thought. My lead character, too, encounters Chapman several times. Either I'd been ripped off, or someone had the same idea as I did. I know it's not uncommon for people to get similar ideas at similar times. After a cooling off period, I realized it most probably was just coincidence. (I haven't seen the movie yet, as it doesn't have a distributor.) But the similarities made me feel like I couldn’t get the book agented or published since it would appear I’d just rewritten an existing story. It killed the book for me, and I last worked on it in December 2005. Though a few fellow writers read the manuscript and critiqued it, it never finished the editorial process. Under normal circumstances, I’d give it another round of revisions.

So, that is reason one for serializing the book. Reason two is that I use Lennon's lyrics throughout, as they are essential to the story. I know that obtaining the rights to so many lyrics would be a huge obstacle to publishing the book in the traditional formats. So I'm giving it away—I won't make one cent from it.

Look for updates every Monday and Friday. There are 30 chapters in all (that’s 15 weeks!). Thank you and enjoy!

To read the first chapter, go to:
Like I've Never Been Born

Please leave feedback and comments here or email me directly.

EDIT: It seems many people oppose the existence of the film Chapter 27, because it gives Lennon's killer the fame he desires. In my book, I never mention his name, and in fact he is a minor character. My novel is more of a tribute to Lennon, as my lead character figures out the direction of her life after the suicide of her mother.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"I Want A Freaking Character Named After Me!"

Ellen Meister has a fun new promotion going on. It's called the "I Want A Freaking Character Named After Me!" Drawing.

It'll be a piece of cake to enter for anyone who's read her sexy, hilarious debut novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA.

Full details available at her site, but here are the rules:

1) Send an email to her at "win AT"

2) In the subject line, type in Maddie's favorite multi-syllable curse

3) In the body of the email, type in your name as you'd like it to appear in her next book

That's it! After May 31, 2007, all entries with the correct curse phrase will be entered into a drawing. One lucky winner will get a character named for them in her next novel.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hurricane Season!

One of my favorite writers, Tim Dorsey, was in New York last night (Feb. 28). He did a book signing downtown in Greenwich Village at a great little bookshop called Partners & Crime, and afterward invited everyone out to a bar/club called Siberia up on 40th between 8th and 9th avenues. About 6 or 8 of us joined him and we hung out and drank a few beers. Dorsey is a very friendly, funny, and likeable guy, definitely the life of and star of the party. Lot of good stories were told, many about the zany things that have happened to him on his book tours.

His new novel is Hurricane Punch, which is the ninth adventure starring the one and only Serge A. Storms and his stoner partner Coleman. Now that I have my autographed copy, I can dive into the very sick mind of Tim Dorsey!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

"A disorder peculiar to the country" by Ken Kalfus

Straight off, I want to say I enjoyed the book. I was almost put off reading it by two poorly-written sentences on the first page, but I stuck with this book because I'm interested in the subject matter of post-9/11 New York, of which I've written two short stories myself.

I still have a problem with one sentence in particular, it is clunky and would be forgivable anywhere else in the book except for the first paragraph. I'm still amazed that all the agents and editors and readers who laid eyes on this sentence before publication somehow let it slip through:
She went directly to her office on Hudson Street to sort out the repercussions from the negotiations' failure—and especially how to evade blame for their failure.

Now that I got that off my chest, let me talk about the book without giving away too much of the plot. When we meet the two main characters (Joyce and Marshall Harriman) on the morning of 9/11, they are already in the middle of a divorce. Both think that the other was killed during the attacks, bringing a sense of relief to them; now custody of the two kids, not to mention the pricey condo in Brooklyn won't have to be battled over. The survivor gets everything! Unfortunately, they both survive the attack and have to continue living together until the divorce (which drags on throughout the length of the book) is complete.

Neither character is very likable, as they battle for the upper hand, and for moral superiority during their bitter divorce. Meanwhile, America deals with the trauma of the 9/11 tragedy and the impending invasion of Iraq. The stress and tension of the Harrimans' life together is used as a metaphor for the rising tension of world events, as NY-ers are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of...what? An anthrax attack? A suicide bomber? Something unknown?

"A disorder peculiar to the country" is a National Book Award finalist, and though I recommend it, it's not a perfect book. The first page has Joyce returning to her office. Yet we never hear about her work life again. Toward the end of the novel there is a scene with Marshall and some sticks of dynamite that is so absurd I'm sure I must have missed something as a reader, or maybe it existed only in the character's head. I guess this is all symbolism: Marshall is a terrorist and his wife is America, the willing participant.

Just like in a marriage, and a divorce, and war: It takes two to tango.

4 out of 5 stars.