It is time for the annual Plucker year in review.

What have I done this year? It’s never enough. I always feel like a slacker, even when I sit at my writing desk every night from dinner (or after Modern Family) until bedtime.

I began the rewrite of my novel “The Garage” in earnest on approximately June 15th last year, and I wrote 135,000 bloated words, currently entitled “Bury the Hatchet.” I begin editing in July, and Imagine it will be 100k or less, as I wrote three concurrent storylines, two of which were backstory, and they will be incorporated into the main one, after all the fat has been cut. I find it easiest to write the scenes that define the character in detail and then cut them out later.

I’ve written (and had accepted) around 22 stories since last June, from little humorous pieces to a 7500 word monster. Flash fiction is still my favorite challenge, but my ideas are more character based lately, and I’ve been writing long. The latest is a 3500 word Denny story for the Watery Grave Invitational, at Naomi Johnson’s Drowning Machine, entitled “Train.”

I broke two personal records in the weight room in December- a 555lb trap bar deadlift, and a 260lb bench press (I have two torn rotator cuffs). This is nowhere near my max potential, and we have reset after my Achilles tendon became inflamed, but I am lifting heavy again. There are setbacks. You don’t quit. You do the most you can do.

In September, my story “Black-Eyed Susan” won the 1st place Bullet award. I forgot to enter for the Derringer, and would like to have seen how I would have done. It was a tough year, and some great stories won that one. The e-book Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, in which “Susan” appears, won the Spinetingler for best anthology. I’ve had a lot of readers compliment my writing, including one who compared me to Andrew Vachss, and I can think of no greater honor.

I published Lost Children: A Charity Anthology, a collection of 30 flash fiction stories inspired by my friend Fiona Johnson’s writing challenge. Together we’ve raised over $1600 for PROTECT and Children 1st. I have a second volume in the works, set for a September 1st release.

Sarah and I celebrated our first anniversary of marriage, and a great year it was. We’re both fiercely independent, but fit together so well. It’s only been a few years together, and I can’t imagine not being with her. Her support has been essential to all these accomplishments, and in the next issue of Hardboiled Magazine, you’ll get to read a little tribute to her, when my story “Firecracker” is published.

Thanks for a great year, Firecracker. Here’s to 41 more.

Forty Plucking Years

I turned forty years old today. This Plucker was born in 1971. About a year before the last of the great ’70s muscle cars rolled out of Detroit to hunt the highways.

Stuff I did last year.

  1. I convinced my firecracker, the sassy, sharp and beautiful Sarah Bennett, to marry me and take my name. I think the name part took some major diplomatic maneuvering. But little pluckers will carry this cursed surname into the eons. We had a wonderful wedding with many of our close friends and family in attendance, at the LSU faculty club in Baton Rouge, in roaring distance of Mike the Tiger.
  2. I asked President Obama a sort of bitchy question on NPR
  3. I fired off a tommy gun with my groomsmen.
  4. Got my first paid publication since 2003, with “Punk Dad Manifesto” in The Morning News. It’s since been picked up by The Utne Reader and will appear in print in their July/August issue.
  5. I finished the Vertigo Challenge at Elevation Burger:
  6. Got my first fiction published since 2003, at Shotgun Honey, with “The Last Sacrament.” Also had my friend David Barber show me the ropes of proper submission form, and he published my story “Van Candy” over at the excellent Flash Fiction Offensive website. I have a few upcoming pubs in the excellent Beat to a Pulp on July 10th, Crimefactory Magazine, and hopefully Crimespree Magazine– waiting on a rewrite request. Also made a lot of online friends in the writing community.
  7. I deadlifted 535 pounds.
  8. Interviewed myself at Nigel Bird’s blog Sea Minor for his Dancing With Myself feature.
  9. Got accepted to ride on the Star-Ledger’s Munchmobile. I’m going on the sub sandwich tour this upcoming weekend. It will appear in the paper on June 24th, and I’ll definitely share a link here.
  10. I completed a (horrid) first draft of a novel. A learning experience, for National Novel Writing Month. I’m currently rewriting it, sort of; using the characters I created as a springboard for the story that rose from the ashes. I’m hoping to have it done by November in time for the Mystery Writer’s of America first novel contest. We shall see.

Probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting. Right now my wife and my writing are top in my mind, so apologies. But knocking on wood, it’s been a great year and I see it getting better. This weekend I ride the Munchmobile with the state newspaper, looking for the best sandwiches in New Jersey. Tall order. I’ve made a lot of new friends, met some of them like Lynn and Raquel.

After listening to Henry Rollins talk about how he springboarded from Black Flag to Hollywood, my friend Suzanne said she believes 99% of success is showing up. I’m inclined to agree. Well, here I am. Rock you like a hurricane.
Opportunity knocks, you better answer.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

In Muppetmoriam

Today is Jim Henson’s birthday. He died twenty years ago, but the figments of his fantastic imagination live on, and continue to shape the childhoods of millions around the world. He knew not to talk down to children. In fact, if you watch The Muppet Show, or the first few Muppet movies, they resemble the family movies of decades before, such as IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, more than children’s fare. And we loved them. He was an endless fountain of creativity, giving us Fraggle Rock, THE DARK CRYSTAL, and LABYRINTH. His puppets had soul, and he appealed to adults and children alike.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Zardoz: Happy Birthday Sean Connery

Zardoz, how I love thee. My friend Peter introduced me to this wacky science fiction allegory written and directed by John Boorman. It spins the tale of a distant future where the intelligentsia are idle, decadent immortals called Eternals who toy with the little people they call Brutals, by making a warrior class who worship a floating stone head called Zardoz. He spits out rifles and pistols, and tells them “The Gun is good! The penis is evil!” Yes, the same Mr. Boorman celebrated for excellent films such as Deliverance and Excalibur.

Sean plays Zed, one of the Exterminators, which is why he’s in hip boots with a Webley revolver and his meat & veg in royal red regalia. We see things through Zed’s perspective as he learns the secrets of Zardoz, that he is a pawn of the Eternals, specifically one Arthur Frayn, who wishes to be free of the shackles of immortality. At heart it is a socially updated pastiche of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” with its Morlocks and Eloi evolved into uselessness. But it’s a lot of psychedelic, bizarre ’70s fun as Sean shoots and humps his way through a post-apocalyptic bounty of babes, including Charlotte Rampling. When we first saw it, it was cut for TV, and made absolutely no sense. So we went to the local video shop, Curry Home Video- which had everything from Pink Flamingos to A Clockwork Orange, all the bizarre a growing boy needs- and got the uncut VHS.

Suddenly, the story made more sense, as half the expository scenes have a topless woman in them. So you have to watch it a few times and pay attention. We studied it like scholars. It remains one of my favorite indulgent, psychedelic excesses of the ’70s. You can tell that Boorman, he who made the ghostly, near-surrealist noir Point Blank, wanted to create something like Jodorowsky’s El Topo (full review) but he just couldn’t hack it; it comes off more as an exploitation picture made by a poet. So we have 2069: A Sex Odyssey of sorts. If you like science fiction or Sean Connery, this relic is unique and interesting, and unlike Highlander 2: The Quickening, it can be enjoyable to watch. So it’s perfect for sitting back with on Sean’s birthday.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?

Today El Guapo is … 33 years old!

(That is accurate within standard range of error of +/-5 years.)

One of my favorite stupid comedies is ¡Three Amigos! starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short. These are funny guys! Just kill one of them. But as you can see from my spontaneous quotery, El Guapo and El Jefe are the characters I love. Especially El Guapo’s 40th birthday party, when they give him a sweater.

But the film has so many hilarious lines. If you’ve seen the movie, these will elicit laughter. If you have not, it’s what, $5 on DVD? Get thee to an amazonnery!

1. “Excuse me. Are you the singing bush?”
2. “You want your wings, Dusty?”
3. “The lips would be fine.”
4. “IN famous?”
5. “Hey. You guys. Lookupherelookupherelookuphere!”

And these doesn’t even count the songs by Randy Newman, or many other hilarious gags, whether they are over the top and silly, or subtle, like the birthday scene at 5:45 in this clip:

Happy Birthday Holly Hunter

Looking good for 50 ain’t she? I’d hunt in her holly. I think my first introduction to her was her frantic and hilarious performance in Raising Arizona, still one of my favorite comedies. Then there was The Piano, which was the first time I was scarred by Harvey Keitel’s penis, which has way too many roles if you ask me. I think it has its own IMDb credit. Thankfully the other pianist in the scene (see what I did there) was Holly Hunter, prim and hot and reserved. I do declare, I still can’t hear “chopsticks” without getting the vapors.

More recently she was in O Brother Where Art Thou, playing another fiery female for the Coen Brothers, and as the stretchy mom in The Incredibles, some of the best voice acting in an animated film in recent times. When she’s scared for her kids in the plane being shot down, the fun cartoon gets real serious all of a sudden, and we’re really relieved when she saves them. Now that there’s some talent. Here’s hoping Holly keeps getting work, other than “Saving Grace” at least.