The Specter of Past Relationships in Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal-animals

*SPOILER ALERT – READ WITH CAUTION*

(Read With Caution could’ve been an alternate title to the film, by the way…)

Fashion designer turned director Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals has been ridiculously advertised as a schizophrenic film within a film that anyone watching any of the tonally different trailers would be hard pressed to tell you what the devil the thing is about. But one almost wonders if the strange advertising is all part of the Ford game? Look at Jake Gyllenhaal’s tipsy smirk plastered across your IMDB homepage…oh…and look…he’s taking a blue-eyed gander at the even bluer-eyed Amy Adams, all red tresses and smiles…America’s sweethearts. It’s all so fake. And all so wrong. Like much of the film. But also so symbolic. And borderline brilliant when it’s not absurd.

Ford’s opening credits of obese women doing some post-modern Burlesque (ah, what an art show!) will put some off with its Lynchian inspired weirdness (and there’s more sick touches interspersed throughout the film)…but it serves a purpose if you wisely invest in the film until the very end. It’s just one of many tricks the director pulls off here…like inserting a go-for-broke performance from…you guessed it…the ubiquitous – and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times –  always amazing, Michael Shannon, into the film within the film on what seems like a total lark.

Nocturnal Animals is really much more straightforward than any encapsulated description of its plot would lead you to believe. Or is it? Simply put, it’s a psychological thriller about reading. In a grander sense, it’s about how the viewer (or reader) brings their own emotional baggage to viewing art. In a bizarrely humanist bent, it’s also an infinitely sad testament to the spectre past relationships and traumatic break-ups cast upon one’s ensuing life.

In the film (based on a novel by Austin Wright), a teetering-on-depression art gallerista named Susan (Adams, so delightfully complex and subverting all her norms in what is her second great performance this year after Arrival) receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Gyllenhaal, who somehow both under-acts and overacts, Edward’s tottering emotions always subject to Susan’s sometimes melodramatic interpretations of his writing) that he has mysteriously dedicated to her. Continue reading

I’m So Glad I Live in a World where there are Octobers

“Let’s get married here,” she said.

Valley Green Inn 9

“Here?” he said.

“Yes, right here!” she said.

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“Okay!” he said.

*** Actual dialogue and “how this all went down” dramatized here for effect.

*** Bonus Points if you correctly guess the source of the literary quote used for the title of this post!  (Wedding Guests are Disqualified)

This October, I…we… got hitched…right there in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park amidst the autumnal splendor.  The weather, the company, the location, the colors…it couldn’t have gone better.

Knowing the fleeting nature of fall’s fickle resplendence, we returned to the scene of the crime the following week (on the last day of October) to enjoy the natural beauty sans the marital hubbub before all the leaves fell and winter set in (alas we live not in a world of Game of Thrones where winter’s coming takes…forever).

For those faithful readers who have keenly noted/questioned the decrease in frequency of film reviews in 2015 (note: I’ve been going to the movies just about the same amount as other years, it’s just too many of the films have failed to inspire me to write…I mean, The Martian? What a snore…next!) or have wondered when the next short story might be coming down the pike (who knows?)…I sincerely thank you…and now you know I’ve been busy writing another kind of story with a co-author, one of the best kind of stories – a living story that has evolved into a novel, that will now be serialized and open-ended.  Through these pictures I hope you enjoy the magnificence of Wissahickon Park as much as we have over the past year and a half and hope to continue to do so until we are old and gray.  Until I see you again, dear readers…at the movies. Continue reading

The Stone Digital Literary Magazine Wants to Read Your Best Travel Stories

Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night.  Now, they blew up his house, too.  Down on the boardwalk they're getting for a fight, gonna see what them racket boys can do.

Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night. Now, they blew up his house, too. Down on the boardwalk they’re getting for a fight, gonna see what them racket boys can do.

For the Issue #4 of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine, we’re asking writers to submit their best short fiction where travel is prominently featured in the story.  Maybe you’ve written a tale inspired by a poignant homecoming or a vacation from hell.  Or maybe you’ve written a story about traveling to the stars.  We invite writers to let their imaginations run wild on this one – in other words, we’re open to sci-fi for the first time ever.  The only stipulation is, as always, no children’s stories or erotica.  We want strong character-driven stories where a place or a destination can also be thought of as a character – vivid, unforgettable stuff.

Are you up to the challenge?  Then what in blue blazes are you waiting for?  Follow the below guidelines and submit your travel-centric story to The Stone today! Continue reading

The Spin Bids a Fond Farewell to 2012 and Tells 2013 to Hurry Up Already!

I got a lot of writing done in 2012, often making me feel like a kid again.  (For the purpose of this post, my KidSelf has been recast in Hollywood fashion)

I got a lot of writing done in 2012, often making me feel like a kid again. (For the purpose of this post, my KidSelf has been recast in Hollywood fashion)

Well, we did it. We survived the Mayan Apocalypse only to rush to the Fiscal Cliff. But hey, 2012 is now officially over…so say hello to 2013! Looking back, despite tumultuous world events, it was a great year at The Spin

On Notes Personal:

  • An unexpected death in the family in November spurred me to take stock of some things. This lead to tripping the light fantastic in the grand ballroom of nostalgia which lead to a re-watching of a childhood favorite, The Lady in White…which lead to one of my favorite posts from the year…which lead to a comment on said post from the actual director of the film! This nostalgia tinged final act to the year also sent me on a mission to uncover that lost box of books I wrote from the ages of 10-15. Just in the nick of time I unearthed the box. Reading briefly through some of the stories, I couldn’t help but think that if I were to write taglines for the outlandish and melodramatic plots (more on that below…with actual excerpts!) they would end up sounding like long-lost fake-films from Seinfeld…a topic that earlier in 2012 spurred another favorite post of mine.
  • On the travel front I visited two great cities I had never been to before: New Orleans (for pleasure) and Montreal (for business) both of which I would return to in a heartbeat. This year the horizon broadens even more with a business trip to St. Maarten…and hopefully (if everything falls into place) that long-delayed trip to Europe (for pleasure…to Amsterdam and Bruges specifically) though that might have to wait until 2014.
  • And most importantly, after three long distraction-filled, detour-heavy years…I finally finished the first draft of the new novel – a Depression Era thriller set in Upstate New York. I was working under a self-inflicted deadline of finishing before 2012 finished me, and I’m proud to say I got it done at the last possible minute with a final spurt of inspiration on December 31st. Now, the big question, what the hell am I going to do with it? I’ll be sure to let it sit for a while and breath before editing begins.
    Continue reading

The Stone Digital Literary Magazine Wants to Read Your Best Mystery Stories

Help THE STONE uncover some great mysteries.

For the 3rd issue of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine, we wanted to try something new and think outside of the box.

For this special issue, we are asking for your best mystery stories.  We are defining mystery just as editor Otto Penzler has done for the Best American Mystery Stories anthologies.  A mystery story shall be “any short work of fiction in which a crime, or the threat of a crime, is central to the theme or plot.”  This broad definition gives writers a wide berth in which to navigate their imaginations.  Many genres could cross over from literary fiction (our normal staple) to crime thrillers to whodunits to ghost stories.  What we hope for is to uncover stories with a strong psychological bent.  Characters and their psychological dimensions should remain paramount to plot and atmosphere.

Are you up to the challenge?  Then what the heck are you waiting for?  Follow the below guidelines and submit your mystery story to The Stone today! Continue reading

Gimme Some of that Olde Tyme Storytelling

Remi would like to type you a story...

A few Saturdays ago, a venture out to Chadds Ford, PA resulted in an impromptu visit to the Chadds Ford Antique Mall (inconveniently…I mean, conveniently located right next to the Chadds Ford Winery) where I happened upon the treasure above – an antique Remington typewriter, conspicuously priced at a “gotta have it” 35 smackers.

Now nestled at home in my study, Remi is begging for my imagination to run wild.  How many previous owners were there?  What has been typed on this machine…how many stories…love letters…ledgers…diaries…secrets???

I invite you to let your imaginations run wild, too, and tell me what Remi has seen…what Remi has composed…perhaps Remi is even haunted.  But by what?  By whom?  Leave your “Remi Story” suggestions in the comments field…and see what might become…

Continue reading

The Hook Brings Them Back

The calm between the storms: And just where do they plan on fitting another foot of snow?

They sure do like to rush the sequels these days.  Just barely 72 hours after Snowmageddon dumped 20 inches or more over most of the Mid Atlantic, the sequel was rushed into production and now we have Snowmageddon 2:  The Sleetpocalypse, arriving mid-week no less and snowing-in the same area (and then some) once again.   As Dickens would say…it was the best of times, it was the worst of times

But it seemed the perfect cabin-fever brew to stir up some inspired work on that novel…you know…the one I’ve been babbling about since — For the Love of Pete — April of 2008!  Though I have much of the outlining and research completed and even drafted a very rough first chapter, one thing I have been wrestling with is crafting that perfect, killer opening line.  They say you have to grab a reader’s attention instantly, and if you don’t hook them with the opening, then they are less likely to come back.   I decided to test that theory and thought what better way to procrastinate than to hit my bookshelves and crack open some of my favorite novels and current reads to see how the masters of their craft hooked readers with that opening line.  

I invite my readers and fellow bloggers to do the same and leave some of you favorite (or worst) opening lines to novels (or screenplays) in the comment form! 

Here are some of my findings: Continue reading

No One Said It Would Be Easy

A writers best and worst friend.

A writer's best and worst friend.

Labor Day weekend proved quite productive for the writer in me as I edited and revised two short stories in preparation for submission to fall fiction contests — see below for links to some of these great contests for new and established authors. The first was a story I had submitted previously to a few literary magazines. It needed some major reworking if it was ever going to stand a chance. Surely this “third final draft” is far superior to the “first final draft” I completed over a year ago…but will it be good enough to make it? Who knows? The second is a story I’ve been working on for quite some time and I finally feel it is complete after half a dozen vigorous rounds of editing and revision…but is it ready to be submitted?

During some of my down time this weekend I perused the web and found two great links for writers sharing in the stress of revising and editing their work. Continue reading

Novelist Rebecca Lerwill on Independent Publishing

The following is the 1st in my new Guest Blogger Series.

Introduction from David H. Schleicher:

Independent filmmakers who finance their own projects are often praised as innovative, creative, and edgy and seem to get instant street-cred when they buck the studio system.  Independent filmmaking has long been celebrated, and virtually no one would question the rite of a filmmaker taking the indie route.  Sadly, the moniker of independent novelist doesn’t carry the same goodwill and those who finance their own writing projects outside the system are often regarded as not credible, second-rate and find it nearly impossible to compete with the traditional publishing houses.  Yet one can still find success in self-publishing and Rebecca Lerwill, a purveyor of romantic suspense novels, is one such author who has brushed off the stigma of being an indie author with style and class.

Having shared my own experiences as an independent novelist on my blog in the past (in The Verdict on Self-Publishing and My Trials and Tribulations with Self-Publishing), I thought fellow writers and bloggers might be interested in someone else’s views on independent publishing – someone who writes stories vastly different from my own and who has taken some different approaches to publishing and promotion but nevertheless has words of wisdom, advice and tips for writers from any walk of life.  Therefore I asked Rebecca Lerwill to be my first ever guest blogger and invited her to share her experiences as an indie author. 

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Here’s what Rebecca Lerwill had to say:

Dave – thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. As a subscriber of your blog page, I always look forward to your honest book and film reviews and goofy drinking games. The latter are a welcomed break from the dry and dreary business of book promotion which is mostly done during lonely hours online.You sent me a few questions regarding my books, my publisher, and what I do to promote. Before I get into those questions, please let me introduce myself to your readers.

I was born and raised in Germany and moved to the United States in 1996. As a horse trainer by trade, I lived in Michigan and California. After meeting my husband Troy, a professional rodeo clown and entertainer, I spent a few years ‘on the road’ as his traveling partner. Those long hours eating blacktop gave me the opportunity to read case loads of books, and after finishing my all-time favorite, Julie Garwood’s Killjoy, I was so intrigued by the story’s plot that I decided to become an author myself. That’s right; the most-asked question, “Did you always wanted to be a writer?” gets a shake of the head for an answer.

I’ve always been an avid reader but besides a few halfway decent essays in school I never thought about being a writer — until the summer of 2006. Fifteen months later my debut in romantic suspense, Relocating Mia, was honored with its first award; Finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards. The sequel to Relocating Mia, The Acronym, was published in April 2009 and has received very promising reviews. Continue reading

The Best Screenplays of All Time

On Sunday February 22nd at the Oscars, Martin McDonagh will be competing for the Best Original Screenplay for In Bruges.  For me, this was one of the most brilliant scripts in years–darkly comic, heartfelt and compelling, expertly paced and chock full of quotable lines.  Sadly I don’t think it will win–oh, please prove me wrong, Academy–but it made think of all the great scripts from Hollywood’s past.   What films were memorable not just for their imagery, but for the writing as well?  What films contained amazing performances that were great because of the material the performers were given and the dialogue they spoke?

What screenplays are deserving of being considered the best of all time?

Well, here’s this writer’s list:  Continue reading