Cell at Eastern State

Cell at Eastern State

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fundraiser for Leslie "LA" Banks

Come on out to a unique Writers’ Bash on Saturday, August 6th, beginning at 7 p.m. and going on till closing at Smokey Joe’s bar located at 208 S. 40th Street in University City on the University of Pennsylvania campus. You can just show up, or reserve your spot now by clicking here.

At the bash, enjoy music and munchies, discounted drinks, and chances to bid on amazing silent auction items including full manuscript critiques by top New York literary agents and editors! (*Just added to auction list: scholarship to the Backspace Conference in NY!) Admission to the event, which is sponsored by the Liars Club, is $20, $10 for college students with I.D. All proceeds go toward the expenses of ill author, Liars Club member and wonderful friend Leslie Esdaile Banks (who writes under the name L.A. Banks). Leslie is battling a rare cancer.


Leslie (L.A. Banks), a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, has written over 40 novels and 21 novellas. She was honored by the University of Pennsylvania Black Alumni Society as “A Living Legend,” and Mayor Nutter appointed her to the Philadelphia Free Library Board as a commissioner on the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy. In 2010, as a single mom and freelancer faced with a massive increase in her insurance bills, she fired off an eloquent email to the White House. President Barack Obama took notice, and Leslie had the distinct honor of introducing the President when he came to Philadelphia to talk about health care reform.

Ironically, just a few months ago Leslie learned she had late stage adrenal cancer, and that her insurance is inadequate, leaving her family facing massive expenses. Please come out for our event - you can meet some great local writers, network with agents and editors, and support an amazing Philadelphia native. Leslie is a University City resident, and a Penn and Temple graduate. “She’s truly one of our own,” Maberry says, “and we hope everyone will come out in full force to Smokey Joe's on the Penn campus to honor this amazing woman and help her family at this difficult time.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Guest Blogging and Great News

I have another post over at The Abbot Gran Old Tyme Medicine Show. This time it's about Alice Crimmins, called The Medea of Kew Gardens. Check it out!

Also got some great news this week: We sold the film rights to Dope Thief. I think it'll be a lot of fun watching the process of the books being adapted for film.

More details soon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Songs, Jokes, Short stories, The Philadelphia Writers Conference and A Man With a Towel on His Head

"...the most fundamental question a reader has, consciously or unconsciously, when they are reading is, “Why are you telling me this?” So, you know, I want my students to think about that and also to think about what they have to write about that not everyone else does. I ask them an obvious question, but one that sometimes they don’t think of, which is, “Where is the first interesting sentence?” If it’s not the first one, then that’s something to attend to. And I don’t want them to waste their time or a reader’s time. They have plenty to compete with, in real life, so get to it! Get right to it!" (Amy Hempel, in an interview in Vice Magazine)

Last weekend I taught a class at the Philadelphia Writers Conference on short story. The experience was exhilarating, terrifying and ultimately a lot of fun. I had a chance to read a ton of great stories while I prepared, and not just for fun, but looking at them as exemplars of the elements of story - plot, character, dialogue, etc - and to think about what's going on in the stories I love.

The idea of writing first occurred to me when I read a short story called "How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again," by Joyce Carol Oates. I was thirteen, and it was the first thing I can remember reading that wholly absorbed me, the voice of the narrator filling my head and hijacking my consciousness so that I was unaware of anything except that voice until I reached the end of the story. Reading that story changed the way I read and made me want to accomplish the same thing. That total absorption is what I hope for every time I start reading a piece of fiction, and it's the goal I start with every time I write.

I opened the class playing a Bruce Springsteen song called 'Stolen Car' and a Randy Newman song called 'Bad News From Home.' I told the attendees that a song wasn't a bad model for a short story: It's typically one or two characters in a compressed space and time, and it's designed to produce a single effect. The same parallel can be drawn with jokes, and a lot of the stuff I first read when I was very young was classic science fiction and horror that ended with something very much like a punchline - think of the great Twilight Zone episodes, some of them drawn from that same pool of fiction, that end with a single devastating or darkly funny revelation.

We talked about how stories work and where they come from (I had passed a car driven by a bald man with a towel draped on his head and offered it as a jumping-off place for a story.) I put together a list of short stories that I love and that taught me something about how to do the job. I've listed them below - tell me what you think. You already know some of these stories, and some may be tough to find, but they're worth reading more than once and each illustrate something important about craft. They're also entertaining, beautiful and compelling.

Stories: The Three Hermits, Leo Tolstoy. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor. In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried, Amy Hempel. The Most Girl Part of You, Amy Hempel. Work, Denis Johnson. Beverly Home, Denis Johnson. The Leopard, Wells Tower. The Tonto Woman, Elmore Leonard. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, Joyce Carol Oates. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien. Cathedral, Raymond Carver.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Jail Kickstarter Campaign is Live!

The last big push is underway. Paul von Stoetzel is raising $3000 to shoot his short adaptation of my story "How to Jail." If you've never considered donating before, drop over to the Kickstarter site and take a look at the cool stuff you can walk way with, including free books, dvds, producer credit on the finished film and a special piece of short fiction developed just for the campaign and available to no one except folks who kick in money to help the production.

Also at the Kickstarter site, you can see the latest version of the trailer featuring Peter Christian Hansen as Henry, in a monologue about prison and family. We're under a strict deadline, so you have to get over and donate before June 30th!

It's a tough thing to raise money for a short film, but it will be a cool way to help showcase the talent of a group of professionals who are doing cool and innovative work in film and theater. Paul, his producer Chris Bueckers, Peter and the rest of the cast and crew are an impressive, accomplished bunch who will create something special if we can give them the resources.

The clock is ticking - please give what you can.



Friday, May 27, 2011

A trip to the movies

Last week Robin Schorr's RCR Pictures bought the film rights to Wolves of Fairmount Park. My amazing manager, Brooke Ehrlich of BEAM Management handled the deal and it's pretty exciting. Horror film fans will recognize the photo from Frailty, a great, demented movie directed by and starring Bill Paxton that Robin worked on as an executive. She also produced The Prince and Me, Peaceful Warrior and Food, Inc.

I wanted to find a still of the awesome angel with the flaming sword that appears to Bill Paxton in the movie, but it doesn't seem to be out there on the web. It's my favorite moment of the film.

Next weekend, I'll be at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, teaching a three-part seminar on Short Story. If you haven't been, the conference should be an excellent chance to spend time with some great writers like Solomon Jones, Kelly Simmons, Greg Frost, Nelson Johnson, author of Boardwalk Empire, YA author Marie Lamba, and many more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blogging at Janice Gable Bashman's Blog

I have a guest post about research over at Janice Gable Bashman's excellent writing blog. Janice is the new Managing Editor of The Big Thrill at ITW's site and is co-author  with Jonathan Maberry of  WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (Citadel Press 2010), nominated for a 2010 Bram Stoker Award. Her short fiction has been published in various anthologies, including the upcoming BIGFOOT AMONG US (Coscom Entertainment 2011) and RHONNY REAPERS ROADKILL CAFE (Knightwatch Press 2011). She has written for leading publications, including  NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER,  and WILD RIVER REVIEW

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ever Wanted To Produce A Film?

Here's a link to a teaser trailer for Paul von Stoetzel's film adapted from my Spinetingler-nominated short story, How To Jail.

The teaser features Peter Christian Hansen, who plays Henry in the film, and some of the dialogue from his opening monologue. I think we'll see more of the monologue in the full trailer, which should be out soon.

Ever wanted to be a film producer? Now's your chance. For a surprisingly small contribution, you could see your name listed under 'Produced By' on the film's credits.

Filming for HTJ has been pushed back a few months, which gives us more time to raise money. We'll be posting details here and on the Brute Force and Killing Joke Films websites. We'll hopefully have some pretty cool stuff to offer as we collect more money, including acknowledgement in the film credits, books, T-shirts and more...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Blogging Today!

Gripping Strangers,

Jump over to The Abbot Gran Medicine Show, where I'm guesting today. The blog is the work of two amazing writers, Sara Gran and Megan Abbott, and it's jammed with cool stuff - Bob Hope controlling minds, Rip Torn attacking Norman Mailer with a hammer, witches, Weegee, the odd lure of playing cards, Winnie Ruth Judd and Doris Day and the always-great writing of Sara and Megan.

My post is called Satan's Day Care, and it's about the Ritual Abuse Panic of the 80's. I've been fascinated for years by this odd episode in American history, in which dozens of daycare workers, teachers and parents were falsely accused of repeatedly abusing and abducting preschool children in testimony that was the blatant result of coercion, threats and bribes.

Come on over and join the fun!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Press Release for the "How to Jail" Fundraiser

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Paul von Stoetzel (killingjoke13@gmail.com)


Valentine’s Day Massacre Fundraiser event for the film “How to Jail” written by novelist Dennis Tafoya.

Killing Joke Films presents The Valentine’s Day Massacre Fundraiser for the short film “How to Jail,” which is scheduled to begin production on April 1st in the Twin Cities. This event will include a raffle involving signed books and memorabilia from both author Dennis Tafoya the production of “How to Jail”. The event will also include a book signing with the author and a staged reading of “How to Jail.”
Paul von Stoetzel
The short film “How to Jail” will feature Twin Cities actors Peter Christian Hansen and Ryan Parker Knox and will be directed by Paul von Stoetzel. The film will be produced by Killing Joke Films in conjuncture with Chris Buekers, and will be filmed by the Academy Award winning cinematographer Geoff George.

The adapted short story “How to Jail” by Dennis Tafoya was originally published in Crime Factory Magazine in March 2010. Tafoya has published two novels with St. Martin’s Minotaur. After a strong debut with Dope Thief in 2009, Tafoya followed up with Wolves of Fairmount Park, which has garnered critical acclaim. Tom Nolan of Wall Street Journal calls Tafoya’s sophomore effort “(A) mesmerizing and most impressive book… Tafoya is finding his own original voice, one that will make readers sit up and listen.” Tafoya is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Liars Club, a Philadelphia-area writers group.
Peter Christian HansenRyan Parker Knox
When: February 18th at 7:00 PM


Where? The Black Forest Inn Banquet Room
1 East 26th Street, Minneapolis MN 55404


Tickets: Sliding scale $15-$25, tickets will be sold at the door.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Horse Latitudes

According to Wikipedia, who seems to know everything, the Horse Latitudes are an area in the subtropical oceans where the winds are fickle and sailing ships would occasionally get stranded for days or weeks waiting for the winds to fill their sails (though Noir fans will know The Horse Latitudes as a classic 1990 crime novel by Robert Ferrigno, in which a former drug dealer stuck in his own doldrums finds himself accused of murder).

Having finished the publicity for both Wolves of Fairmount Park and Philadelphia Noir, I'm coming out of a little lull of my own, making some headway on my third novel, working on ideas for TV pilots and movies and (of course) keeping up with the demands of the day job.

2010 was a gratifying year, with 'Wolves' garnering nothing but good reviews (including the Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Oline Cogdill's beautiful review for the Associated Press) and making a couple of 'best crime novels of the year' lists, in January Magazine and Spinetingler, and good news for friends - including fellow Philly crime guy Duane Swierczynski's Edgar nomination for the inspired, excellent Expiration Date. Philadelphia Noir also got some really nice reviews, including an especially kind and thoughtful one from Philly's own literary scholar Ed Pettit.

My friend, director Paul von Stoetzel of Killing Joke Films is making great progress on the short film of my story, How to Jail, which ran in last Spring's CrimeFactory, including getting my script storyboarded and putting together a great cast. I'll be out in Minneapolis with Paul on February 18th for a fundraiser, so unlimber the dog sled and come on by.

In the coming year I'll be leading workshops at the Backspace Writers Conference in New York, May 26th to the 28th, and the Philadelphia Writers Conference, June 3rd to the 5th, and in April IDW will be releasing GI Joe: Tales From the Cobra Wars, edited by Max Brooks and including my story, "The Gun Show."

How was your 2010, and what's on deck for you in 2011? Post your good news, reviews, rants, threats and empty promises in the comments section.