Sunday, April 06, 2014

The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly - Angel Zapata's "Chalk Dust" & "Housekeeper"

Okay, so first you might be thinking "Who is this Torres fellow telling us what poetry to like and what to dislike?" But I suspect it will take you only a few minutes to realize that a) I'm more than qualified to talk about poetry - I wrote a poem just last year, and b) you shouldn't let your negative attitude keep you from reading two excellent poems.

Angel Zapata's contributions to "The 5-2" are mini-masterworks. The ending of the first I'm talking about here will move you if poetry can do that sort of thing to you (that is, if you have a soul...). This is "Chalk Dust" and it imagines a pair of siblings going to visit the site where their father wound up becoming a homicide statistic. My own father worked in a not-so-pleasant part of the South Bronx back when the South Bronx was notoriously bad and twice had guns put to his head. I imagine for a moment what it would have been like to lose him that horrific way...

Then "Housekeeper."  You read these two poems together for best effect. This one also is a father child relationship though in this case, it is a relationship that is revealed to have been a little warped, maybe a little cracked. In any event, see for yourself. I've provided the links, the poems are short, and it's Sunday when this gets posted so really what excuse do you have?

Angel Zapata has other works available to you for free, just head on over to his blog.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

97 Days of Writing

And I write short stories as well... I've got about ten stories that need finishing. I'm literally half way through writing these stories. Here's a snippet from a story I'm calling "The Care of Widows and Orphans." It's a Luis Gonzalo story if that means anything to you...

“It was never me!” she screamed.
She sat with her back against a half-rotted wooden toolshed, in a pool of rainwater mud and the blood that streamed from her face, her scalp. One leg was straight out in front of her, the other twisted back behind her, her arms almost useless, almost motionless at her sides, her shoulders slumped. A broken doll, tossed to one side. The only part animated was her face as she screamed.

The general premise in the story is that in Puerto Rico there are communal walking paths passing through private properties and the land owners have to maintain these paths. but, as you can imagine, landowners may not be keen to do this and, in fact, may buy properties without realizing these paths exist. In this case, a dispute about one of these paths has gone too far. Way too far.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

98 Days of Writing

A bit of poetry today. Not much of a poet. Wrote a good sonnet back in college days. Wrote a funny-ish poem about a year ago. Trying for another one now. Anyway, here's the start of it. It's called "Diagnosis" and has seen no polish:

"Except for the vice of poetry, your son checks out just fine.
He doesn’t smoke or drink or drug himself beyond the odd iambic line."

Well, like i said, I'm not one much for writing poetry...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

99 Days of Writing

Today's focus was more on removing snow from around the house than on writing, but I did get some writing done. More LUCY CRUZ novel #2. I finished one chapter and started another so that was nice - both a sense of accomplishment and a sense of direction for tomorrow's writing.

Here's a snippet:

Venganza ordered me to give him my cameras and whatever film or disks I had. I asked for a warrant. He said something like “obstruction of justice.” I said something like “first amendment.” He said something about me not wanting to catch Adrian’s killer. I said, “get out!” Then there was a little pushing – I did that. And there was some spitting – again me. Then I was face down on the floor with my hands cuffed behind my back.

Venganza is, as you can guess, a police officer, but not a particularly nice man. This is Lucy's first meeting with him and it didn't go so well. 

Have to do some research about being arrested in Puerto Rico. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

100 Days of Writing

If I count correctly, there are 100 days between now and my next birthday. So in those 100 days I'd like to finish several writing projects. Here are a few lines from today's writing on the latest LUCY CRUZ novel:

“I sent him photos; someone murdered him.”
“Those things don’t have to be connected,” Marrero pointed out.
“Adrian thought so.”

In the story, Lucy, our heroine, has photographed what she thought was a simple dismembered body part. Turns out, it's way more than that. Marrero is a local sheriff who might be able to help her figure out what's going on.

This novel is still in it's relatively early stages. About 7000 words into a 70,000 word project. I figure that if I apply myself, I'll be able to finish this story and even add some polish. Maybe even have it ready to be seen by professionals like my agent and an editor or three.  

Of course, if you'd like to look at a finished LUCY CRUZ novel, there's one available as a Kindle file for your Kindle machine or app: LUCY CRUZ AND THE CHUPACABRA KILLINGS.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

New Story

The Time Machine of Isaac Newton. You read correctly. Isaac Newton made a time machine. He had to. Someone forced him to...

The thought came to me a year ago. I was watching some time travel movie - not BACK TO THE FUTURE - and I just wondered what if Isaac Newton had tried to make a time machine. Of course, without a Delorean, he'd be essentially handicapped, but still...

I thought this could be the start of a much longer book. Instead of "The Da Vinci Code," it would be "The Newton Device". Something like that. And who, in the present day, gets to control this device?

So I did the research about Newton himself.

And I figured out why Dan Brown's book does not have scenes with Da Vinci in it. Because that's a bit of a mystery, no? Sure the story about Christ and Mary Magdalene is attractive, but why not toss in some chapters about Da Vinci as well? I'll tell you. Geniuses are attractive. His readers would have been drawn away from the central character - Robert Langdon (unless I just made that up).

Even as a writer, I found myself enjoying writing the Newton parts more than the rest of the story.

So I did the only responsible thing. I jettisoned the rest of the story and gave you Isaac Newton creating his time machine. If you're interested in time travel machine stories or Isaac Newton or just a good historical, give it a try.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

War of Words, A Poem

War of Words, A Poem

Steven Torres

From behind a rampart made of books

I fired my volley of screaming adjectives.

Down to my last hooked preposition

And a knife made of gerunds.

If the quartermaster did not soon pass by

To resupply, it would be caesura for me.

But here he came like a stalking Jove

Or talking dove or like one true love or whatever.

“Whadaya need?”

“Whadaya got?”

“A passive voice rifle with –ly attachment.”

“Oh,” I said disappointedingly.

“Or a metaphor cannon loaded with roaring lions, noonday suns, and hearts of gold.”

“Stale ammo.”


Something like a rocket-propelled simile twanged off a brick of Tolstoy.

“Or an allusion grenade,” he said.

I took that, pulled the pin and threw it over the heads of so many,

Past Dickens and Austen, Shakespeare, Chaucer and Beowulf, both Testaments and Aeschylus.

It landed between Homer and Homer and rolled to the foot of Gilgamesh.

And exploded to no effect whatsoever.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“A slingshot for pebbles of plain speech.”

I laughed a bitter laugh – war with jokers at your side.

The metaphor cannon loaded with dull ammunition

Is all about the rate of fire.

Keep it up and the enemy runs dazzled from the field.

Mix it up and they run the bases for the touchdown –

a rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick.

Then it was hand to hand – face to face, eye to eye and toe to toe.

Just me, the gerund blade, and the preposition.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Writing

I've stepped away from the mystery genre for the past 18 months or so. Not entirely. I've started some short stories and two novels that I'll finish next year. Still, most of my energy has been put into more science-fictiony stuff.

TO THE LAST MAN is nearing completion. A couple of thousand more words to go and then a round of edits that will likely take a month or two. The couple of thousand words will not happen overnight. Probably not even this week. Maybe this weekend.

In the edits, I have a decision to make that can either require a giant overhaul (think 6 months) or not.

In the story, I have aliens invading Earth. They're not the happy kind. So, much of the story is about fighting the aliens once it becomes clear they haven't come in peace. Resources are wdindling, people are dying, the world's going to hell.

So anyway, I made a decision early on in the story writing - the aliens aren't particularly scary or gory. In fact, they're mainly machines. And like machines, they're relentless. That's the tension factor. They don't quit and there are millions of them to swarm you. But wouldn't it be better if each individual in the swarm was scary just by the looks of him/her/it?

That is, right now, if I told you we were going to be attacked by groundhogs, even millions of them, that would be terrible, but not particularly scary. But if it were millions of flying barricudas with patches of fur and little human faces growing out of their spines, you'd be freaked out, no? I mean, curious, too, but scared.

As my grandma used to say, "if a groundhog gets in your house, you chase it with a broom; but if a mangy flying barricuda with a human face growing out of its spine gets into your house..."

So should I rewrite for scariness?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What I'm Writing Now...

Really, there are too many projects calling my attention at the moment. At last count it was somewhere around a dozen open files sitting on the desktop of my laptop waiting to be finished. One project is written but needs editing. I'll talk off that later. For right now, the Alien Invasion novel...

I'm calling it TO THE LAST MAN. Very close to 90,000 words. Very close to done. In it, aliens invade as they will, and, of course, they're not the jolly type of alien we would all hope for. Instead, they're angry and all murder-y. So my main character feels the need to fight back. Luckily for him, like every other alien invader in book or movie since H.G. Wells, these aliens are capable of being Outplayed, Outwitted, and Outlasted. (Yes, that's the SURVIVOR motto, but it's apt). The question is whether the main character, Joe, can persevere. And how?

The book has taken a fair amount of research. For instance, I'm no weapons expert, so every gun the humans pick up means a trip to Google for me. And to the local Cabela's. Also, bomb-making, and military formations and the like. Survivalist tactics. And what the world would be like if a large percentage of the population were to be killed off (lots of flies, I suspect).  Frankly, I think it is only my charm and roguish good looks that has kept the NSA from carting me off in the middle of the night. That or they're busy.

Hope to be done with writing in a week, with edits in a couple of months (December 1st?). Then I'm not sure whether I should shop it to publishers or Kindle-ize it? At this point, I'd be happy for advice from any quarter so comment away.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Of course there's always reading for classes - student papers or Thoreau, Tolstoy and the like. It is amazing how many new insights you can get into a story you've read several times before. Still, for fun recently, I've been reading Georges Simenon, author of a few hundred short novels and hundreds more short stories.

Simenon is best known as the author of the "Maigret" novels. Maigret is a Parisian police detective and one of the subtler creations I've read in the mystery field. The novels are short and spare (generally less than 200 pages), but they contain all they need to be effective on a variety of fronts. They present a real mystery and clues, but they also bring interesting character portraits.

For instance, there is teh waitress in Maigret and the Yellow Dog. With a look, Maigret can tell she is an object to be pitied. And in Maigret and the Saturday Caller, I damn near cried to read of the tribulations the title character's problems. And how it all ends! Well, I won't say anything.

Of course, as a writer, I want to know Simenon's tricks for making these addictive novels, so I'll be heading to the library this Saturday with the hopes of getting another book or two.

And if I could learn how Simenon was able to apparently write up to 20,000 words a day, that would be even better.