Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Blood Drama Blog Tour-Author Christopher Meeks Guest Post The Importance of the Frenzy

Welcome to my stop on the Blood Drama Blog Tour hosted by Partner's In Crime Blog Tours.
Enjoy Christopher Meeks guest post about The Importance of The Frenzy!!



Blood Drama

by Christopher Meeks

on Tour February 2014


Book Details:

Genre: Thriller/Suspense Published by: White Whisker Books Publication Date: June 1, 2013 Number of Pages: 240 ISBN: 9780983632962 NOTE: Graphic Violence Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

"Blood Drama is wildly entertaining with fast-paced dialogue and plot twists caroming like a steel ball in a pinball machine." -Linda Hitchcock, BookTrib In the crossover thriller BLOOD DRAMA, graduate student Ian Nash, after losing his girlfriend, gets dropped from a Ph.D. program in theatre. When he stops at a local coffee shop in the lobby of a bank to apply for a job, the proverbial organic matter hits the fan. A gang of four robs the bank, and things get bloody. Ian is taken hostage by the robbers when the police show up. Now he has to save his life.



Read an excerpt:

Chapter One “Coffee?” Ian said in the discomfort of Professor Cromley’s office. The place looked like a small book depository with a view and a Mr. Coffee machine. “Ian… Ian… Look, Ian. I’m—” “I just thought we were meeting with—” “We met.” “Without me? I don’t understand.” “Coffee?” said the gray-bushy-haired man, pouring himself a cup. “Maybe some coffee would put you at ease.” “But the committee—” “So I’ll get to the point. We don’t think you’ve shown enough progress in your dissertation.” “Two hundred pages?” “You’re taking the wrong approach on Mamet.” “It’s still a work in progress.” “People are like gloves,” Cromley said. “And sometimes they don’t fit. It’s not just the dissertation. It’s your whole performance in the program.” Ian felt a rage building, but that wouldn’t help. A better approach was needed. He calmed himself as best as he could, flattening the new blue silk tie he’d bought for the occasion against his blazer. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “Maybe we’ve miscommunicated in the last few meetings. You’d given me certain dates, and I’ve kept to those dates.” “We debated long and hard, Ian,” said the professor, sitting. The man looked toward Ian but not at Ian, as if delivering sad news to a war vet’s spouse. “Your research isn’t breaking new ground, and the recent problem with the class you taught—” “I can’t help low enrollment.” “I’m talking about your blow-up with that student—” “Her rant against men—” “No matter.” The rest of the meeting felt like a slow-motion crash. He was out of the program, as easy as lights out at the end of a play. He stared out Cromley’s window at the wide view of campus, at modern buildings tucked into the green landscape, at trees still lush in October, their leaves blowing like moving fingers. The view was as if from Mt. Olympus. Was Cromley a god? As Ian Nash drove his twelve-year-old Corolla the fifty miles north on Interstate 5 from the University of California Irvine campus back to his South Pasadena rental, he kept replaying the conversation. He was a glove? He didn’t fit the program? If it don’t fit, you must acquit, he thought. Ian had paid the tuition and taught. He attended the classes. Just because one undergraduate student was out of line was no reason to be thrown out of the program. “Don’t think of it as failing,” Cromley had said. “Think of it as an opportunity to do something else.” That was outright snide. What would he do now for money? What would he do now for his life? He was so consumed with these thoughts, he missed the Marmion Way turnoff on the Pasadena Freeway, which, if you weren’t looking for it, came up so fast around a bend, you’d zoom by it as he did. Ian exited at Orange Grove, and, again so caught up in his thoughts, he drove without paying attention. He would need a job. What would he do for work without his degree? And what was to be learned here? After all, as David Mamet wrote in his book, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, “We have our ability to learn a lesson, which is our survival mechanism.” The lesson was he needed money to live. On Fair Oaks Boulevard in South Pasadena, moments after he decided he could use a coffee now, Ian noticed the logo of Carrie’s Coffee on the Landwest Bank Building. He wondered would Professor Cromley call that a “deus ex machina,” a coincidental ending? An ending to what? His morning? No, sometimes coincidences happened. The gold-painted brick building stood out from its neighbor, the pharmacy. Carrie’s Coffee paid well, he remembered one of his students saying in a directing seminar he’d taught. The small franchise had a health program and offered flexible hours. Amber, his former undergraduate student, made manager in no time at a Carrie’s and loved the place. Perfect. He turned into the open lot. Ian would apply to Carrie’s. He wasn’t the kind of guy to mope around. He wouldn’t let Cromley get the best of him. Inside, Ian was surprised to see that Carrie’s was part of the grand marble-floored bank lobby. Potted plants, mahogany wainscoting on the walls, and the same wood was used for the open teller area and the Carrie’s counter. It gave the place a friendly feel. Tables and chairs were for the coffee drinkers, and comfortable leather seats were placed near the inset fireplace with burning gas logs. This would be a great place to work. Ten minutes later, a Carrie’s application before him, Ian sipped his coffee and shook his lucky Cross pen hard in a swift metronome motion to force all the blue to hit the tip. The pen hadn’t been lucky for him with Cromley. Ian made incessant circles on the back of the application. He knocked the pen against his wrist and made circles again. The pen came back to life. He glanced around. Bank business was brisk. A long line stretched all the way back to Carrie’s tables. It was a Friday, after all. People were cashing paychecks or getting money for the weekend. There were more people working than he expected. Ian returned his attention to his application and filled out most of it. “Salary desired” said one of the last spaces. As an undergraduate lecturer, he’d been making over forty dollars an hour, but he couldn’t get that here. What was minimum wage these days? He didn’t know. Was fifteen dollars an hour too much to ask for? He wrote it in, scratched it out and wrote in sixteen. Maybe it should be less, and he scratched out the whole space. Now it was too sloppy. He folded the application in half and put it in his blazer. He’d ask for another. He laid down the pen, took a sip of coffee, and looked around again. It was a great place to watch people as they came from all directions. Ian spotted a woman with a white scarf come from the hallway and restrooms to the left of the teller area. She sashayed toward him like a model, wearing tight jeans and a killer push-up halter-top in green, and, despite her sunglasses, Ian knew their eyes connected because she smiled. He smiled. Definite connection. She then fiddled in her purse, standing at the end of the banking line near him. Today was working out after all. Another possibility: she could be Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. She was gorgeous, had that sense of intelligence, and might be looking for kindness from strangers. Maybe she would be the one, his one, the one who’d make the last relationship fiasco with Pierra just a stumble on his path—not to mention the vitriol from his female student, the one who’d gotten him fired. How could he get her attention again? He cleared his throat. Nothing. Then he sneezed really hard. She and a few others in the line turned around. “Gesundheit,” she said. Their eyes connected again. “Thanks,” he replied. She returned to her purse and pulled out a gun. She shouted, “This is a holdup. Everyone lie on the floor. Shut your eyes!” The tellers and everyone dropped. So did the people at Carrie’s. So did Ian. Only the music playing in the background, Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” kept going. Stewart said, “Oh, Maggie.” Ian’s blood pounded so loudly in his ears, and his breath came with such difficulty, that he thought he might pass out. He shouldn’t have come here. Coincidence again? He could hear Cromley quoting Mamet from Ian’s dissertation: “It is difficult, finally, not to see our lives as a play with ourselves as hero.” He didn’t feel heroic in the least. Was this determinism at work? If he hadn’t missed his exit, he would have been home and would have missed this. We are what we do. Ian could hear footsteps near him, one set, then another. Accomplices? Ian didn’t see any of the action because his cheek lay against the marble floor and his eyes were closed. Best to do what they wanted. He could hear movement in the teller area, then sounds of bank drawers opening. Ian opened one eye. People lay around him like fallen mannequins, unmoving. The hold-up woman’s legs were like denim saplings. She wore tight boots with sharp heels. A shot rang out, then another, and Ian squeezed both eyes so hard he’d hope it’d keep all bullets away. A man screamed in agony. “Why’d you do that?” shouted the woman. “He had a gun,” her male accomplice yelled back. Ian looked. Who got shot? “Help… me,” groaned a male voice. Ian lifted his head. The woman pressed hard on the guard’s shoulder to stop blood, which covered his shirt and her hand. She looked upset about it, ripping the guard’s shirt to make a tourniquet. Two men were behind the tellers’ counter bagging money. One of them, a tall burly guy with perspired underarms, had a ski mask on, but the other, a thinner man, had no mask, only a thin mustache, sunglasses, and a baseball cap. No one else moved. Ian quickly lay back down, but he was breathing faster. If he died, would anyone know to call his parents in Winnipeg? Would they care if he died? Did anything in his wallet say Winnipeg? At least he was in his good blazer and pants. His mother had told him as a kid to always wear clean underwear in case he was found dead that day. Today might be the day, and he had not only clean underwear, but also a new silk tie from Macy’s, one he bought for the committee. Maybe he shouldn’t have worn good clothes and clean underwear. Maybe the grim reaper would stay away if he’d worn yesterday’s boxers and a dolphin T-shirt from Tijuana. “Zetta,” shouted the gunman. “Leave him be. We gotta go.” He said her name? That wasn’t bright, thought Ian. “Keep bagging,” Zetta said back. In a softer voice she added, “You shouldn’t have done this.” Ian again looked up. He had to see. There was blood on the marble. Zetta, however, was twisting a tourniquet on the guard’s upper arm. The guard was totally immobile, breathing hard, and his eyes stared toward the ceiling. The man looked to be in shock, perhaps even close to death. A siren broke the silence. No—there were sirens, plural. “It’s past two minutes,” said the man with the mustache in a high voice and sweaty face. “To the car,” said the woman, jumping up, and the two men bounded over the counter. “A hostage,” said the burly guy. “Which one?” Ian kept low, thinking to himself, please no, please no. “I don’t know,” she said. “How about one of the tellers?” “No.” “The woman by your feet?” “No,” said Zetta. “Who then?” Not me, not me, not me, thought Ian. The woman said, “Him!” and Ian’s heart leapt, hoping it was someone else, but he was prodded. “You!” said the ski-masked man who yanked Ian up. “Go!” The man shoved what had to be a gun into Ian’s neck. Ian stumbled forward, his mind whirling, wondering if he’d live out the hour. “Hurry,” said the man. Two people lying on the floor, a young man in blue jeans and a white T-shirt near the front door and a young woman, perhaps his girlfriend, in a yellow short dress, sprang up panicked as if this were their only chance. Stupid! Ian thought, and the gun behind Ian exploded twice more. The young woman fell with just a thud, her head now showing brains, and the young man shouted, his white T-shirt starting to turn red on the side. Shit, shit, they’re dead, I’m dead thought Ian.

Author Bio:

Christopher Meeks was born in Minnesota, earned degrees from the University of Denver and USC, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1977. He's teaches English and creative writing at Santa Monica College, and has taught creative writing at CalArts, UCLA Extension, Art Center College of Design, and USC. His fiction has appeared often in Rosebud magazine as well as other literary journals, and his books have won several awards. His short works have been collected into two volumes, "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea" and "Months and Seasons," the latter which appeared on the long list for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He's had three plays produced, and "Who Lives?: A Drama" is published. His focus is now on longer fiction. His first novel is "The Brightest Moon of the Century," and his second, "Love At Absolute Zero."

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:





Christopher's Guest Post


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FRENZY
When I took my first creative writing class, a poetry class, in college at the University of Denver, I did it because I needed to fill in some credit hours. English had never been my favorite subject because most of my professors had made me feel that to truly understand a book, you needed to be an English major. I was not. I was into psychology. Little did I know then that psychology would be important in reading and writing.
My last required English class, one in American Literature, turned me around. I couldn’t believe that in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the protagonist, Jake Barnes, was impotent—although I didn’t know that word then. I surmised, though, that his penis somehow didn’t work right, and could we really be reading about this in a class? Was it legal for a writer to write about that? How were we going to talk about it?
I learned that Hemingway had traveled to Spain in 1925, and a lot of those experiences such as the running of the bulls had ended up in his book. He’d had a few wives, so apparently impotence wasn’t a problem. Maybe it was when he killed himself with a shotgun on July 2, 1961.
After that, I also discovered that an F. Scott Fitzgerald story that we read, “The Rough Crossing,” was based on a trip that Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda had taken. I hadn’t known until then that it wasn’t cheating for writers to draw from their lives so directly. Also in “The Rough Crossing,” I was impressed how the storm at sea matched the storm in the characters’ marriage. That was a clever thing.
When I took the poetry writing class, I drew from my life, as did many of the other writers in the class, and it was fun. Symbols emerged in some of the poems, which could add extra meaning. I learned of other poetic devices, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia. This word stuff was amazing.
Another important event in my life was that I spent part of my junior year abroad in Denmark. I learned about language in a whole new way: if you don’t know a language, it’s difficult to communicate. In high school, I’d taken Spanish and Latin, but because Minnesota didn’t have many people speaking either language, I never felt any urgency to learn. In Denmark, I really wanted to understand what people were saying around me.
I took Danish, and I came to see that understanding another language also gives you clues to how a large group of people think. After all, language guides our thinking. Danes have some dozen words for “snow,” yet they have the same word for “fun” and “funny,” which to us are two different concepts. There, I also spent a lot of time reading English-language novels that I picked up in a local library because I had a lot of time to myself. I’d never been much of a reader until that point. Books were incredible. How had I missed that before?
I’d discovered Kurt Vonnegut’s books in Denmark, and while the story lines were wild and of science fiction, much truth rang out to me. In Cat’s Cradle, for instance, Vonnegut created words for things that had no previous words. A “karass” is group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, such as those in a Corvette-owners club. A “duprass” is a karass of two: two people who are so deeply connected, they are their own universe. They often die within a week of each other.
I read voraciously abroad. I remember looking for the thickest book in English at the Danish library. It was Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. I read it on buses, trains, everywhere. Wow.
After college and a few years of jobs selling things such as men’s clothes, cameras, and ceramic tile, I went on to earn an MFA in creative writing. In 1994, I started teaching creative writing at CalArts after I’d been publishing a lot of articles and reviews and writing short stories and plays.
One thing most creative writing classes don’t have time for is reading published stories and books. Nonetheless, I would slip a few in. Why reinvent the wheel when writers before us have done some amazing things? Reading great stories gives you permission to experiment.
In my third year of teaching, the chair of the English department at Santa Monica College called me out of the blue, having heard I was an inspirational instructor, and she asked had I considered teaching English? I hadn’t, but I took up her offer. My challenge was, “How do I stir my future students in English a way that most of my English professors had not?”
The main thing that had turned me off was in reading older books about older characters that I had no connection to. I thought I’d use contemporary nonfiction narratives and novels, trying new things every semester, one by a woman, one by a man, to keep me on my toes. It has worked. I assign the reading and a few questions to go with it, and my students and I sit in a giant circle and discuss it, like a book club. Everyone talks.
I also instruct them how to read more actively. Reading with a pen in hand helps. They should underline or highlight things that speak to them. If they have a question about something, write it in the margin. The first time a major character is introduced, put a bracket around it. For example, J.K. Rowling in the first Harry Potter book introduces Hagrid with “hands the size of trashcan lids” and feet “like baby dolphins.” When you write in your book, you interact with it. You make it your own. If it’s your book, you can write in it.
I delight when students—and it happens often—say something like, “I’ve never been a reader, and I didn’t think I’d like reading this, but I couldn’t put it down.” One student told me, “It’s weird. It’s like a movie in my mind. I’m looking at ink on a page, and suddenly I’m in these people’s lives. I love it.”
I’ve used such books as Patti Smith’s Just Kids, about her years after high school in New York, and she and Robert Mapplethorpe struggled to find what to do with their lives. Novels such as In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake worked well. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five had only a lukewarm response, but his Cat’s Cradle found converts.
I’ve ended up creating a list on Amazon’s Listmania of the most successful books I’ve used, which you can see by clicking here. These are books that engaged nonreaders, and you may enjoy them too.
I hope that I’ve ignited a number of students into reading. Reading helps a person think, feel, and see the world in fresh ways. It may inspire you to write, and writing draws you into thinking and understanding more deeply.
Many of my students are surprised they like reading and want to know how to find more books. With perhaps two million books published each year, there absolutely are new things you will love. You just have to find them. Websites such as this help. So do services such as BookBub, BookGorilla, and BookBlast, which send you a handful of links to highly rated books each day whose eBooks are on sale. Choose the category of books you like, and in this daily email, you are likely to find things that grab you.
May you find the frenzy. Reading is life.
--
Christopher Meeks teaches English and creative writing at Santa Monica College and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His collections of short fiction, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons have won awards and been Amazon bestsellers as have his novels The Brightest Moon of the Century and Love at Absolute Zero.


6 comments:

  1. Great post by this author. Thanks so much for helping us "find the frenzy"!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Lance!

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  2. Loved finding the frenzy, what an informative guest post and Blood Drama sounds great!

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  3. Wow what an awesome reading/writing journey! Loved the post :)

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