Sunday, March 25, 2007

Flash in a Pan

I've been avoiding writing flash fiction simply because I didn't quite understand the purpose. Even Wikipedia's definition isn't very clear, which basically means it's in the eyes of the beholder … or in the case of contests, in those of the rule-makers.

One of the writers on proposed a flash fiction challenge: in 1000 words or less, write a story about someone who is given omnipotence. That's all, no other rules. So, being the experimental fellow that I am, I wrote a story about a second-grader who suddenly discovers he has the gift of omnipotence and uses (misuses) it against school authorities. I called it "Under His Thumb" (sorry Mick and Keith!).

The funny thing is that I came up with a totally different story for the same flash challenge while showering this morning, so I HAVE to write and post that one, too. I am such an overachiever!

Other Fiction

So, besides the world of flash, I've been continuing on my short story creations for my collection. I'm on the fourth draft of "A Cage Door Swings" and should have that to my editors (aka, my parents) this week, perhaps as early as tonight. I like the way this one concluded, but it's not what I like so much as it is what my readers like. We'll see.

I already started writing the next story, "Mexico, NY." This would will have the largest cast of characters I've had in any of my stories. It's possible that this may be the basis of a television pilot I'll write, but I don't want to jump the gun right now. More on this story later once I publish it.

In Verse

I published a couple of poems this week (plus I have two in progress right now). One poem is really prose written in multi-stanza, four line verse which I call "Dinner Party at 8 P.M." This one was in my head when I woke up last Sunday, almost completely formed. Interestingly, I haven't had many comments from my regular readers. Regardless, this one is my new favorite of mine. The other poem I published is "A Call To Vincent," a poem in honor of my favorite painter, Van Gogh.


I continue to be impressed with some of the other writers on EditRed. There is definitely a lot of talented people in this world and the Internet is such a wonderful vehicle to expose their work. Hopefully, my critiques for others' writing has helped them make their prose better; I know their input to me has helped me in that way.

Books on Writing

I just finished reading How To Write a Damn Good Mystery Novel by James Frey. I want to get some of his other books (he refers to them repeatedly throughout this one, so it seems like if you didn't read those, you missed out on a lot).

Meanwhile, I start to read Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, long believed to be one of the best instructional books for writing (especially screenplays) that is out there. A number of books and magazine articles I've read have referred to Vogler's book, even going as far as to heap shame upon writers who haven't read it. I'm a good Catholic boy, I respond to guilt very well.

Now the excuses

No time this week to edit my screenplay or continue on my novel. If I could write full time, believe me, I'd be plenty prolific, but life does require met to do other things (like go to a job to pay those bills).

Should I dare to make a promise (let alone eat a peach) that I'll at least get the second draft completed of A Perfect Tenant? Sure, okay, I'll do that.

So, that's all from my desk this week. Thanks for the emails and such, I really appreciate those who have taken the time to read my ramblings.



Saturday, March 17, 2007

Is It a Good Sign When ...?

Is it a good sign when you go back to read the first draft of your own screenplay and find yourself laughing at your own lines? Or is it just a sign of self-absorption to the highest degree?

Yes, I finally made a first pass through A Perfect Tenant - while lying in bed while my wife browsed the Internet for inspirations with our construction project. I have to admit, I enjoyed reading it for the first time. That's not to say I don't have a lot of corrections to make - not at all. The second draft should be ready for another editing session in a week or so.

Poetic Creations

I'm forty-seven years old - no, I'm not confessing that, exactly, though it's still odd hearing / reading that. I never have felt my age before and with any luck, I've inherited the long life and good health genes that both sides of my family have enjoyed. Both of my grandmothers died in their nineties … on maternal grandfather wasn't that far from ninety himself (and his sister lived to be ninety-eight).

No, what I'm confessing is that I could kick myself for wasting so many years eschewing poetry. Perhaps it was uninspired literature teachers who didn't ignite the love of verse in me (though I always did love Shakespeare, even in high school). My only love of poetry when I was younger came in the form of music lyrics … Dylan, Morrison, Lennon and their contemporaries.

But self-flagellation isn't the answer - at least to this question! Reading poetry is what I'm doing and better yet, I'm writing it. From the feedback I've gotten, I think I'm touching people with my verse, which is obviously what I want to do.

Poetry has another purpose for me, though. I find that by writing poems, I am able to reach even more creative places within me that I'm sure I never would've even grazed had I not started writing it.

This week, I uploaded two new poems to and … they're called "Saints in Solitude" and "Paper, Pen & Ink." In addition, I submitted my poem "The Value of Imperfection" to be included in EditRed's next poetry anthology.

Short Story Updates

I finished the first draft of my sixth short story entitled "The Cage Door Swings" this week. I should have that published online in a week or two. Meanwhile, this weekend, I plan to start my seventh short story which is entitled "Mexico, NY." This new one will be a satire and is bound to offend everyone, so stay tuned!

For the EditRed short story anthology, I submitted "Animal Control" for consideration. I think I've gotten a lot of good feedback on that one so far and it's not one I've submitted for publication yet anywhere (unlike the first three which I submitted to Glimmertrain).

I had a couple of my EditRed readers give me feedback on my short story "Baylor" which was both flattering and helpful. I plan to create another draft and republish it this weekend, too.

Other Tidbits

I've been spending quite a bit of time critiquing other EditRed writers' works over the last few weeks, taking extra time with the longer pieces. This website, unlike, seems to consist of a very close-knit group of writers, both experienced and new … very supportive and helpful. I've really enjoyed my time there.

Yes, Lucinda is waiting patiently for me to return to On A Gelding's Trail. I'm hoping to at least get to the character bios this weekend and perhaps further expand the stepsheet.

I got a great idea for a new screenplay, courtesy of my assistant at work. I sketched out the idea enough to be able to expand upon it when I'm ready.

I decided to limit my published works to readers on both EditRed and This way, I won't run into a problem with submitting "already published work" to magazines and such. All of my works now will have a limited online audience, at least to start with.

And that's all there is for today, March 17th, Saint Patty's Day. For you, an Irish Blessing (one of my favorites):

"May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand."


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Funny Thing That Happened to Me on the Internet

Even as a tech guy, I marvel at how much the world has changed since the advent of the Internet. Whenever I read those articles suggesting that the Web is the final step toward Armageddon, I want to both laugh and scream. Without dusting off my soapbox, ANYTHING good can be misused / abused and people can get hurt. That doesn't mean the world has to stop progressing. Rather, we all have to be smarter.

A Tale of Internet Friendship #1

As I mentioned in my last post, there were a couple of online acquaintances of note from my early days online. I was a regular denizen of AOL chat rooms back then. I was single and thought that would b a good way to meet women without going out to bars (which I hated to do) or anything else that silly.

One person I met seemed nice enough at first. Her named was Carol. She was an accountant, older than me and studied French on her own like I did. She lived in the LA area, so we decided to meet in real life. I forget what we did that first meeting - probably went out to a movie or something.

Anyway, we both realized right away that we weren't going to have anything more than a friendship, which was fine with both of us. We had dinners, saw movies, went to museums - all of that. Eventually she met a nice guy, but still wanted to "hang out" with me even though I was sure her new beau wouldn't be happy.

Long story short, I felt uncomfortable going out with her when her boyfriend was busy with his other friends and slowly started to withdraw from the relationship. Honestly, I think she was taken with the idea of having two steady men friends. She was quite disappointed - hurt, really - that I didn't want to spend any more time with her. No matter how I tried to explain that I didn't want to mess up her real boyfriend relationship, she couldn't understand why she couldn't have both of us in different ways. My only response - I told her to ask her boyfriend how he felt about it. Needless to say, I never heard from her again.

One interesting story about Carol … one day, she called me to tell me her car was stolen. She had driven to a park near her house where she would go to walk/run some laps, then drive home. I felt bad for her as she had to go through that whole insurance mess. Since I had had that happen to me once before, I was able to give her a truly empathetic ear.

Two weeks later, she called me to tell me that the police had found her car. I thought that was great news - until she told me that the car had never moved from where she originally parked it, she just forgot where she parked it! She went through all that trouble with the insurance company and the DMV and in the end, she was just lost!

A Tale of Internet Friendship #2

One evening, I met someone in an AOL chat room called "Divorced Only," a place I frequented nightly simply because I was divorced and was looking to meet a woman who had been through that same rollercoaster. There was one person - new to the room - with whom I had an immediate connection. She wasn't divorced at the time, but had been divorced before her current marriage.

As it turns out, her second marriage was ending and she just happened to go online for the first time EVER. Her business was broken into and the crooks stole their computers. She had to buy new ones - quick, too, since she had clients to attend to. The new computers came with a free AOL account, so she decided to try it. She only went into the chat room on a lark, mostly to distract herself from her marital woes.

The story is rather long, but the upshot is this: we fell for each other online, moved to the phone, then she came to the west coast (from the Midwest) on business. We spent the whole week together and spent the next couple of years flying back and forth to spend time with each other. She moved out here in 1999 when we got married. The rest, as they say, is history.

Writing Contests

One of the ways one can get exposure is by submitting works to writing contests. So far, I've submitted "Ricochet Man" (formerly "The Rebound Guy") to Bluecat and Scriptapalooza. Even though I didn't even come in the quarterfinals in either, I was glad for the experience.

With Bluecat, by the way, you get feedback on your submission regardless of how you do in the contest. Not so with Scriptapalooza … so, if that's what you're looking for, try somewhere else.

I believe I mentioned in a previous blog, but my wife and I got as far as the semifinals in the ScriptapaloozaTV contest for a reality show treatment we submitted. I'm not mentioning that one by name for the time being; we're hoping that it will catch the attention of someone in the business. We're pursuing marketing efforts, though.

Writing Progress

This week, I finished editing "Prized Possession" and after getting feedback from my parents, I posted it online. Even though it's almost 50 pages - 11,200 words - the three people who read it thought it was a fast read and had very nice things to say about it.

I've only made a little progress on "The Cage Door Swings" and I've started a new poem as well (title to be disclosed when complete).

Speaking of poetry, I just posted all my completed poems to a new website called Poetry With Meaning (

This week, I've started writing a character profile for a totally new character. I'm reading a book by James Frey (not THE James Frey of the recent book scandal) called How To Write a Damn Good Mystery Novel. He insists on using this profiling method - both as a third person bio and in the character's void - to learn about your character better. This will help in the backstory as well as the dialog, he claims. I believe him, too. I need to write one up for Lucinda Dreyer, the heroine of my short story, "Animal Control" and my novel (in progress), On a Gelding's Trail.

I admit that I've been procrastinating on starting the edit of my screenplay, "A Perfect Tenant." I SWEAR I'll get through some of it this week.

That’s all from here (no previews right now). May every one of you enjoy your week now that Spring is fast approaching.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

On Feedback

Michael Cordell here, aka SoCalVillaGuy … back at you with another exciting blog post about my life as a writer-in-residence (okay, at my house) and more importantly, a writer who would like to be able to make a few bucks doing it so eventually I can quit my current day job.

This Week

Due to my cold, I didn't write as much this week as I hoped. I definitely was lethargic most of the time and by the time I got home from work, I just wanted to rest, usually going to sleep extra early.

I did make some progress on "The Cage Door Swings," my fifth short story. I also outlined a novel that Leia and I came up with that I hope will come to fruition some day.

In the coming week, I need to make strides in editing "Prized Possession," the fourth short story and A Perfect Tenant, my new screenplay. Also, On A Gelding's Trail, my new novel, has been sitting and waiting a bit impatiently for me to return, too.

So much to write and so little time!

Writing Sites

I've been spending quite a bit of time on a couple of writing sites, notably and, and I've come away with a much deeper respect for those of an artistic bent. I've had the pleasure of "meeting" some very interesting people who are quite talented and inspire me to try to be like them.

On these sites, folks submit their works for public review and critique. As a writer - especially a fledgling one - you are deathly afraid of anyone reading your work for fear of ridicule. The thought of letting a perfect stranger pick apart your scribblings line by line goes against what all of us fear from birth - rejection.

And yet, it's not so bad. I was surprised to find myself so ready to embrace this type of environment because (1) I'm sensitive and fear criticism (2) I'm a perfectionist who hates be caught in a mistake. In the end, the feedback I've gotten has been kind, considerate and helpful and I've abandoned the idea that I have to be perfect before I let anyone else read my work.

How liberating!

So, I send an enthusiastic shout-out to all my friends on both sites and thank all of you for taking the time to give me your input. I hope that my feedback on your work has been equally helpful. I can honestly say I look forward to reading all of your contributions because to see such creative people so diligent about their craft gives my own work a lift.

Epilogue on the Rebuttals

No onslaught of emails came since the rebuttals to my article were published. I'm quite surprised, actually. I would've thought that the anti brigade would've come out in full force once they saw they weren't alone in their decrying of my somewhat heretical stance.

I haven't been motivated to write another article for this magazine, though. I've just been so busy with my fiction, that the non-fiction side has taken a backseat. One of the reasons I chose to start writing the latter was to get my name "out there" and find a stream of income I could add to my regular one. As it turns out, I'm using a pseudonym for my fiction and the magazine I'm writing pays nothing except additional print copies.

The Cone of Silence (Part 2)

Speaking of pseudonyms, one of my writing site friends teased me about using a nom de plume. I wasn't sure if I explained this before, so I apologize if this is a repeat.

I'm using a pseudonym because I work in a small industry, I'm not anonymous amongst my peers. Anything I write, whether it's fiction or a blog, can be used against me. The industry I work in is rife with wonderful and strange anecdotes that will be too tempting for me not to use them in a screenplay or other work someday.

Besides, folks, the reality is people have been fired for blogging about their job and even though I don't really talk much about that aspect of my real life - paranoia can be your friend - I don't want anyone to find an excuse to terminate me. Bottom line, until I'm ready to retire and write, I can't tick anybody off.

Movies of Note

In the last few weeks, I've seen a couple of somewhat obscure movies I'd like to describe here.

"Pi" is a thriller filmed in black and white and it's quite stark in its visuals. It's about a mathematician who is trying to find the right numeric pattern to crack the stock market. In the process, he is pursued by a ruthless Wall Street investment company and zealous Hassidic cabalists who want the secret for their own devices.

"Haiku Tunnel" is to law firms what "Office Space" is to regular office work. This movie is told from the perspective of a neurotic legal secretary who is hired as a permanent employee only to find he is working for attorney that many consider to be Satan incarnate. His inability to complete one of his first major assignments - the mailing of seventeen very important letters - becomes the centerpiece for the shenanigans.

Another Lost Novel

Every time I write about my first lost novel, the next one that followed pops into my brain. Yes, there is a second lost novel out there, again, the electronic and paper copies have gone the way of the four winds. This one was a thriller (the plot of which I won't give away here because I have a suspicion I'll eventually start over again), but the circumstances around why I was writing about it will be briefly described here.

Back in the day, AOL was a hobby of mine. I was newly divorce and not ready to start dating yet. Instead, I would go into chat rooms - very respectable ones, not those that were dedicated to getting folks "hooked up," as the kids say.

In one of the chat rooms, I met a young woman who was a nurse somewhere in Michigan. She had a child out of wedlock (while still in high school) and was living with her mother and her baby. She decided she wanted to become a doctor, so she would do her nursing during the day and go to medical school at night … and still had time for AOL. I admired her for her effort and even though I had no romantic leanings toward her, we became friends, even talking on the phone sometimes.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I started writing a novel - probably to kill time during those nights alone - and decided to integrate her into the plot line. The book was based on a fairly complex mystery with the "I" character being the center of the intrigue.

Long story short, my Internet friend (let's call her Meg) was oddly weirded out by my story - not because she was a character, she actually was flattered by that - but because the story was so true to life (to her, anyway), that she wondered whether I had direct experience with this kind of intrigue.

Needless to say, despite my convincing her otherwise, our friendship sort of went south, mostly because I realized how naïve she was (and figured her attempt to go to medical school was a pipe dream, if anything). To end the story - true enough - she flew to LA with her sister (unexpectedly) and tried to find me. She knew I lived around LAX and had my phone number and kept calling me the whole week she was here, but I ably screened my phone calls throughout after picking up the first time.

Next time

I tell people that is my only Internet stalking experience. However, it's not my only experience with meeting people from the Internet. Next time, I'll discuss two others … one whom I married.

Also, in my next post, I'll discuss writing contests and my direct experience with them.

So, may you all have a creative week and thanks for reading.