Monday, April 23, 2007

I Murdered My Water Cowgirl Dream

It was in a moment of madness, a moment of spiritual mayhem, unpardonable by law of human forgivenes or compassion. It was a sin against the self and against all the self stood for.

I ... Biff Mitchell, the sad husk of humanity displayed to the left ... own the domain name

What could any red-blooded man born of human flesh want more in life than the right to say, "Yes, I owne Galaxies have gone to war over less. Mythologies have enacted noble deeds and created timeless heroes and heroines in the name of lesser domains.

And I owned it. It was mine. All mine! And what did I do? Why, I tried to sell it. But it was for a good cause. I wanted to sell it in the name of my art.

Turned out ... I really didn't need to sell it, after all. All I needed to do was suffer more. All I needed to do was bare my soul, swallow my pride, forgo any kind of life, go deeper into debt, neglect my health, lose all my friends, alienate my son and my daughter, kick my cat, turn my back on sobriety, lose contact with the real world, and ... well, let's not get inot the really tough stuff. In brief, I managed to complete Murder by Burger without having to sell off

So, now I have a finished novel that nobody wants to read and a domain name that nobody wants to buy. Life is good.

Monday, April 16, 2007

BigCrunch - Murder's Beginnings

As I mentioned in my first post on this blog, Murder by Burger started off as a weird story about men in weird shirts that evolved into a story about a big detective dog called BigCrunch. This was way back in 1988. I barely knew how to turn on a computer at the time ... though I had just bought a Tandy 1000 (with no hard drive)and considered myself the technological dandy.

But ... I searched my files and came across the original BigCrunch manuscript. It's not finished and it's very old. I'm not sure if I even write like this anymore. But here's the first few paragraphs ...

Fleaboat arrived at a quarter after twelve. He was a dog. A damned dog. And I was working with him again. But why not? These are the nineties, just a few months away from the big two-triple-zero. These are the wind down years, the years of definition and lavish This-Was-The-Nineties-And-This-Was-The-Century-And-This-Was-The-Second-Millenium photo spreads that turn events into trends. These are the final days when, instead of asking "What next?" everyone is asking "What happened?"

But it's hard to get used to working with a genetically engineered dog wearing a corduroy suit with patches on the elbows, a Harris tweed shirt and a deerstalker hat. At least he didn't wear shoes. There was that much dog left in him. That, and the blood hound head with the big floppy ears spilling out of the brim of his hat. The front paws had been modified to look human, give or take a clump of fur, and his hind legs had been designed for walking upright.

And one other thing was still definitely dog in him. The scratching. He blamed the scratching on the tweed. I blamed it on the dog.

What bothered me most was his voice, or more exactly, his accent. The genetic company, Designer Animals – the company that gave us chickens that laid square eggs and calm gerbils – built a DNA code to produce a talking dog for dog food commercials in Canada, but the team they contracted to train the dog was pulled in from Japan, and the specialist in speech training got his info from a two week vacation in Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario. When Fleaboat was presented to the board of the dog food company, there was general approval over the matter of leaving out sex organs. They'd also left out the tail, but that could be faked. Then Fleaboat opened his mouth and said in a deep completely non-houndlike voice: "Aye, bejeezuz, I loves dese damn beef nugget. All other taste like the merde, ma chers. It's the bloody beef I loves." He went on for fifteen minutes, teeth flashing and snout twisting around the words, while the dog food barons threw a collective tantrum and cancelled the contract. They decided to go with Clamations.

Jeez ... I hope my writing's progressed since then.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Murder Burger As Weapon of Mass

It was only a matter of time. The burger, once revered symbol of food for the hungry and hurried masses, has become symbol and harbinger of fast food death. God help the North American stomach - it seems that tofu and soy patties just don't have the juice to overthrow the reign of the e-coli patty, rich in fecal content and saturated fat. Let it be said of Twenty-first Century humankind: We hate our arteries.

Here's a few links to the world of burger as weapon of mass ...

The Murder Burger

Murder Burger

Redrum Burger (Murder Burger)

Murder Burger Redux

Fast Food Nation

Super Size Me

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This Is How I Murder My Friends

The guy below is an old friend of mine. His name is John Heinstein. We've worked together at three companies, the most recent being Virtual Expert Clinics, a company that creates software to help families of children with autism. John is the author of the cult classic, The Cheap Red Wine Manifesto, and a member of the BlackTop MotorCycle Gang.

He's also one of the lead characters in Murder by Burger. Here's how he looks in the book ...

At the edge of the island of desks and computers, stood a short bald-headed man wearing round eyeglasses and a white robe. He appeared to have something intangible surrounding him, as though he emanated a force that made the air all around him shake. Or maybe it was just that Boston had seen his picture a thousand times on NetVision and the e-rags.

Besides being short and cue-ball-bald, Dr. John Jonathan Toole blinked incessantly. He could have been twenty-five, he could have been fifty-five; his pupils were so dilated that he had no irises, so it was impossible to tell what color his eyes were. He wore leather sandals and his socks had holes in them. But the aura of energy about him was unmistakable, something high-strung and metabolically similar to the boundless energy surrounding a gerbil.

Boston reached out his hand to shake, but Toole stood with his hands clasped in front of him and said in a squeaky voice, “Hey, man, your effin’ nose is blue.” (blink blink)

Now, I guess the question is - did I murder him off? Hmm ... could be. Or maybe not. But then, who knows?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Murderous Cover

The cover for murder by burger isn't the final cover. In fact, the cathedral-like head quarters for Barto Burger in the novel is nothing like the friendly little church pic on the ... let's say ... conceptual cover.

Here's what the building in the book looks like ...

It was a giant twisted thing in stone rising out of the never-ending fog in what used to be the downtown harbor area. Blue, yellow and red flood lamps spotlighted flying buttresses, abutments, gabled doors and pyramid-shaped pinnacles in the sprawling mist.

Barto Burger headquarters soared seven hundred feet into the fog and occupied all of what used to be the downtown core of Saint John, one of North America’s oldest cities. The Barto Burger building was the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. In fact, it was bigger than the real ones, the ones with priests and nuns and God, and what better place for it than a city that had been shrouded in unrelenting fog for three decades, a wet little footnote to the global warming story. Because of the fog no one had ever seen the entire building, but what could be seen was impressive with its intricate mazes of buttresses and ornate towers and the thousands of gargoyles with a steady stream of condensed fog dripping from their fanged mouths.

And here's what the rest of the real church looks like ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Do You Want To Murder Someone?

Then take my workshop in mystery and suspense this summer at the Maritime Writer's Workshop and Literary Festival.

Here's the official bookmark for the mystery and suspense workshop. You can pick one up on the magazine rack at The Second Cup Coffee Shop at King's Place, or you can just click on the pic to the left, download it, and print it out.

Don't have the time to do the workshop? Then come out in the evenings for the readings and the wine. Take in the culture crawl. Come up to Memorial Hall for the Ghost Hunt.

It's all about the words ... and the fun.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Murder by Burger Is Finally Finished!

Just got back from The Second Cup. Bought a bottle of wine on the way home. finished the last scene for Murder by Burger. Actually it was the third last scene. I wrote the last scene and the second last scene early this morning.

But the big scene is the third last scene. It's the scene with drama and punch and stuff that goes whooooops in the night.

It's done. Now for the wine.

And then I get to spend the rest of my life revising, rewriting, reviewing, rethinking, rewording, retyping, re ....

Murder on eBay - The Victim

Can you guess which not-Hollywood movie star won the eBay murder victim auction?

Here's a visual clue ..

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Writing Murder At The Second Cup

I live in a hovel on a street called Murder Row. That's not the name on the street signs, but then, the street signs are so riddled with bullet holes the real name has been obscured since god-knows-when.

The last time a predator tried to pick up a young girl on Murder Row, the girl got into his car ... and the driver was never seen again.

The music on Murder Row is loud. The neighbors always sound pissed off and their volume control is set permanently to YELL. Once, an old woman complained about the noise. She was never seen again.

I live on Murder Row, but I write at The Second Cup Coffee Shop. Here I am writing at The Second Cup …

It's in the downtown core of the city. It’s where I am right now as I write this. It’s Easter Sunday and my daughter Cassie (who appears as Cassie Mae Hayes in my last novel, The War Bug) was supposed to be here working, but she changed shifts with one of the other girls and went home to her mother’s before I got here.

That’s OK. I have her bag of Easter chocolate. Do you hear that, Cass, Dad has your chocolate.

Anyway, I went through an interesting episode about sixty pages into Murder by Burger – some call it Writer’s Block, some call it Burnt Out, some call it Having A Tough Fucking Day. It was weird. Every time I sat in front of my computer, fingers to the keys, or at my desk, pencil in hand, or running through the woods, digital recorder poised to dictate … nothing came.

I turned my writing toward other things: a book on marketing for writers, media releases and promotional stuff for my other novels, blogs and web sites – anything but the novel, or any kind of fiction, for that matter.

After a frustrating year of this, J. Richard Jacobs emailed me about writing some short stories for an anthology he had in mind. He was looking for something a little out in left field, something weird. This appealed to me and I said yes.

I quickly outlined a few stories, but I couldn’t write them. The words wouldn’t come. I tried writing mindlessly (advice I give to my writing students), I tried writing the last sentence first, I tried writing from the middle outward. Nothing worked. The words floated around in the wellsprings of my creativity, and sank.

Then, my daughter started working at The Second Cup Coffee Shop. It was her first job, and she loved it. The Second Cup is kind of a cool place. The clientele is one of the most eclectic of any coffee shop I’ve ever seen, a mixture of college and high school students, business people, government workers, and the occasional writer. In the winter, the homeless sometimes stop in to sit at a table and warm up before heading back out into the streets in search of pop cans and bottles.

The first time she worked the late shift, I went to pick her up an hour early. I brought along one of the stories I was working on for the Twisted Tails anthology, It was called Falling Apart and it was about a man who was literally falling apart – ears, nose, fingers, feet were all falling off. I started working on the story with pen and paper, writing furiously without really thinking about what I was writing, without correcting spelling or revising clumsy sentences. By the time she was ready to leave, I”d written two pages.

I put them into my computer when I got home, and even went a line or two further. I printed out the script and took it into The Second Cup the next night … and got three more pages. Over the next year, I wrote three more short stories, two novellas, two prose poems, the beginnings of half a dozen more short stories and the rest of Murder by Burger – right up to the last few pages this way.

If all goes well, I’ll finish the first draft of Murder by Burger tomorrow night, right here at The Second Cup Coffee Shop.

(BTW, the picture was taken by Cassie.)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Murder on eBay

It was a dark and stormy night on October 6, 2004 when I was sitting at my computer working on my latest novel, Murder by Burger, and I realized that I needed somebody new to murder. I looked through my character notes, but there was nobody worthy of killing. I thought about all the people I’d ever met, but I’d already used them in one way or another in stories, poems, and other lies. I needed fresh meat. I needed a stranger, an unsuspecting victim.

Well, maybe not so unsuspecting. Maybe … somebody who wanted to be killed off … but still be able to read about it.

The ceiling over my head opened and God looked down at me. He was smiling. He said, “Biff, go to eBay. Lots of people like to be killed at eBay.”

So I went to eBay. They have a category called Everything Else/Weird Stuff/Totally Bizarre. I had to tone down the part about God, but otherwise, the media release tells it all.

Unfortunately, God neglected to inform me that eBay is run by Satan. Seven days into the auction, the bids were climbing quickly over the $300 dollar mark, and then the unthinkable happened.

eBay pulled the plug on my auction.

Without warning, without remorse, without apology, eBay shut down the auction and sent me one … two … three separate emails informing me that I had violated Satan’s rules. They were keeping all monies paid to them, and shutting me down. They really rubbed in the part about keeping the money.

Now get this … this was an auction in which the winning bidder was to appear in a novel that had at least some hope of being published. Personally, before bidding, I would want to see some proof that the writer might actually have something published already. So in the auction description, I included a list of my publishers. This turned out to be against Satan’s rules. It was considered to be a keyword manipulation list, so they pulled the plug on me for trying to establish credibility.

I ran another auction, but since the links to the auction in the original media release pointed to a site that no longer existed, traffic was not so good. Bids were abysmal. I had to run it one last time before the right to be murdered off in Murder by Burger went for just over $50.

Always read the small print when you deal with Satan.

But on other fronts, things went well. I was interviewed by radio stations across the US, written up in a few newspapers, and was told that I was like the cannibal guy in Germany by some hysterical woman in a writers’ ezine (she was quickly pounced upon by several other writers who told her to smarten up and get a sense of humor before they tore out her jugular).

As for who won the auction ... well, that turned out be an interesting little twist. More to come on that later.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Murder by Burger – Weird Beginnings

In 1988, I started a novel called Men In Weird Shirts. About ten pages into a story that was going nowhere because all I really had was what I thought was a catchy title, I scrapped the project and started a novel called BigCrunch (that was somehow inspired by the Weird Shirts story) about a French detective bloodhound called Fleeh Beaugt (or something like that – it was a pun) who solved cases with the help of a kid who had built the world’s most powerful computer in his parents’ basement. The dog spoke a mixture of French Canadianese and NewfieSpeak. It took thirty pages to convince me that I was writing drivel again.

I couldn’t shake the idea of the dog though. Then, a few months later, I was reading Big Mac: The Unauthorized Story of McDonald’s. Like a flash of lightning straight up the ass, the idea came to me. Barto Burger. Cloned hamburgers. A corporate structure more religion than business. A murder. A French detective bloodhound to solve the case.

It was an on-and-off again thing for years. I wrote three novels before I finally came back to the original research. The French detective bloodhound disappeared somewhere in the plotting and characterization phases, but the burgers and mayhem in a corporate headquarters building fashioned after the giant Gothic churches of Europe and the idea for a truly weird detective-like character grew into Boston Jonson, CI Extraordinaire.

But it still wasn’t a smooth trip. Sixty some odd pages in, I started to lose the thread of the story. I put it aside and wrote short fiction and marketing stuff for about two years before coming back with the rest of the story somehow worked out in the back of my head deep under layers of subconscious gray matter and daydreams.

Today, I’m about twenty pages away from the end of Murder by Burger. There’s a lot of story in and behind the story. That’s what this blog is about.

Next: Murder on eBay

Use the Blog Archive in the column to the right to read all postings in chronological order, or, to read the most recent posting, click here.