I write short fiction

Tag: Off-road (Page 1 of 2)

Mannequin Monday – Find Your Light

In this week’s story bite, Milo sits waiting for his voice to return. Knowing it will not.

And I offer comments on Daniel Silva’s new book The Cellist.

What I’m Writing

Here’s a story-bite sequel to a story titled Sawdust that I first posted on this blog in February 2020. Maurice and Milo are back to entertain you. Enjoy.

Find Your Light

Bob Gillen

“I’m bored.”

The words slipped out of Milo’s mouth in a whisper. He had not spoken for weeks. Not since the night Maurice died.

Again, “I’m bored.”

Milo sat upright on his stool, back against the wall. Sat next to the urn that held Maurice’s ashes. The ashes of his partner. The man he had worked so many clubs and venues with. Milo felt himself smile. Remembering the clubs, the gigs, the audiences. 

And again, Milo heard himself say, “I’m bored.”

What the hell? Maurice is dead. Cremated. Reduced to a jar full of ashes. Milo had no more words. Not without Maurice.

“Heaven ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, buddy.” Milo shuddered. Hard to do for a ventriloquist’s dummy. But shudder he did.

Without moving his eyes, Milo took in the room. Light from a tiny window high on a north wall fell on the urn. Find your light. Maurice’s stage mantra.

Maurice’s ex-wife Darla had dismissed Milo and the urn to a corner of Maurice’s office. The office so small Maurice’s feet hit the wall if he stretched in his chair. The place where they had run all their routines. The room where Maurice’s imagination ran wild. 

Milo’s eyes rolled back and forth. Nothing. No one there. 

“I’m talking to you, Milo.” 

Milo’s jaw clattered against his upper lip. Maurice? Is that you? You’re back?

“It’s me. Maurice. Your voice. I’m still here.”

This is not real.

“Yeah, it’s real. Weird, but real.”

Can we do another gig? 

“Not gonna happen. I don’t know how long I can talk to you. Through you.”

Milo felt his head nod.

“Nothing here but white light. No one around. No one to talk to. Not even harp music. Just light.”

Milo blinked. Did Maurice do that?

“It’s peaceful. I like that. No worries. No drunks in the audience to heckle us. No hassles traveling from one club to the next.”

How can I be talking?

“Milo, buddy, listen to me…I am so bored. You know me, I like to move, to talk. I love being on stage. Love performing. You and me, we did great together, didn’t we?”

It wasn’t my call.

You left me.

 “That night I died on stage…heart attack. I hated to leave you, but it wasn’t my call.”

I’m alone.

“And that bastard club manager, I know he pocketed the cash he owed us. It was a full house. We always packed them in.” He laughed. “I guess we cleared the room pretty quick that night, huh?”

My jaw feels stiff. Haven’t moved it in weeks.

“Like I said, where I’m at is okay, but it’s dull. All those words? Joy, peace, glory, eternal life…they’re not cutting it. I’m missing something.

Milo thought, I’m missing something…you.

“Wait a minute, buddy. Something happening here. The light is brighter. Still quiet, though…Wait! I see someone. A shape…I think it’s time. Milo, take care. Thanks for the good times. Catch you.”

Milo stared straight ahead, mouth closed, jaw rigid. How do I find my light now?

***

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Mannequin Monday – The Prison She Built For Herself

Mannequin Monday – The Prison She Built For Herself

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Advice from Ernest Hemingway. Looking this week for the hurt in our story. The hurt in our characters. The hurt masked by our mannequin’s facade.

I am reading Under a Gilded Moon, historical fiction set in North Carolina in the time of the Vanderbilts.

And I offer a character sketch for Tessa Warren from book two in my Film Crew series. Welcome to another Mannequin Monday!

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Mannequin Monday – Opening Lines

Mannequin hands

Hi. Mannequin Monday again. Dressing the blank page. Making art. Welcome back. I love a good opening line. Pulls you right into the story. One of my favorites is the first sentence of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” The entire story is set up in the one line. The old man will endure in spite of obstacles and pain. 

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Where I’m At Today

The 9/11 Anniversary

I’m writing today on the 18thanniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I moved out of New York in 1987. If I had still been there in 2001, my building was only two blocks from the towers.  I cannot imagine the confusion, the terror among the people in downtown Manhattan on that tragic day. Viewing it on TV from Los Angeles that day was frightening enough. May this never happen again. Here or anywhere else in the world.

The Woolsey Fire

In less than two months it will be a year since my family and I had to evacuate our home because the Woolsey wildfire was dangerously close. We got through it safely. Our home was fine. But we had to remain evacuated for four nights before we were able to return. Again, an anniversary I wish I did not have to acknowledge.

What I’m Reading

I finished This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. A superb tale, well worth reading. Set in the summer of 1932, four young orphans escape from an oppressive institution and dodge their pursuers while having a series of adventures. The story offers hope in an otherwise bleak landscape. A message for today as well.

I am halfway through A Better Man by Louise Penny. One of my all-time favorite authors. She not only delivers a strong story with each book. Her writing style shines.

My New Book

I belong to a writing group on Facebook. The members have been helpful, supportive, encouraging. My book Off-Road is out to a few beta readers. I am currently working at building interest for the book among potential readers. It won’t be long now. Promise!

Using the Steadicam in Camera Work

In my new novel Off-Road teen Tessa Warren has a mentor in her filmmaking. Kelsey Graf was a friend and classmate of Tessa’s deceased brother Ryder. Together they made it through film school at NYU, and were about to start off on film careers when Ryder died in a tragic accident a few months after graduation.

Kelsey has promised to take Tessa under her wing in Ryder’s absence. Kelsey herself has been working in Los Angeles on several film shoots. Her primary function is PA (production assistant). She is also exploring learning to use the Steadicam rig in the hope of becoming a camera operator. Someone on set has been willing to mentor Kelsey. We’ll see down the road if she continues on this path.

The Steadicam rig can best be described as a camera stabilizer mount for motion picture cameras. The Steadicam was invented by Garrett Brown in 1975. The rig allows for an operator to maintain a smooth shot over all sorts of surfaces and terrain.

One of the most well-known Steadicam shots is a full five-minute continuous shot in the film Atonement, when the soldiers arrive at Dunkirk beach during an evacuation of Allied forces. The shot is a Steadicam operator’s dream. It requires physical strength, coordination, choreography, and much rehearsal.

I have been fortunate to interview two Steadicam operators in recent years for my filmmaking website. One was Will Demeritt. Here’s a link to the interview: http://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/will-demerritt/

Steadicam operator Will Demeritt

A year later I interviewed Jessica Lopez. Here’s her link: http://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/jessica-lopez/

Steadicam operator Jessica Lopez

The Red VW in “Off-Road”

Hey. How are you? It’s been another long gap in posting. Caregiving is falling into a routine now, and I’ve dealt with a minor health issue of my own. So…I’m back. My goal is to post weekly from here on out.

My new book, Off-Road, is ready for publication. I will be putting it up on Amazon Kindle next month. The story starts out with three teens – Tessa Warren, Eric Pyne, Lyndie Reed – the Film Crew. They’re filming an off-road race in the Mojave Desert. In September. Yup…blazing sun, heat, dirt, dust. And adventure. Lots of obstacles to them getting their film made. Some of them man-made.

Red VW desert racer from "Off-Road"
Red VW desert racer

A red VW beetle, modified for off-road racing, features in the race. It belongs to driver Jimmy Hassett, a friend of Eric Pyne’s father. Eric and Jimmy mount two GoPro action cameras on the VW to capture the race.

Interior of off-road VW racer

The VW racer features an interior reinforced with roll bars. A light bar across the roof – not needed in this particular race, which is a daytime event. Glass only in the front windshield. Spare tire mounted in the rear window shelf. Skid plates to protect the underbody.

My First Car

The red VW reminds me of my first car, a blue VW with a canvas sun roof. That was a fun car. I learned to drive stick on it. Along with one of my friends, I drove it from New York to Montreal on Christmas break one year. Parked it in Montreal the first night. It froze solid overnight. I had to have it towed and thawed out all day in a garage.

VW with canvas sunroof

My VW was a dream to maintain. Battery inside under the rear seat. I replaced a muffler. Put on new shocks. And me not a mechanic by any means. I still miss it.

Driving home from Montreal a few nights later, we drove south on the New York State Thruway. Lots of snow and slush. Huge trucks, most of them passing us. Cold. The heater barely worked. But the VW never quit.

I will alert you as soon as Off-Road is up on Amazon. And I would appreciate you sharing the info with others. Every mention helps. 

Thanks. See you next week.

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