Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Timelines


A Short Story by Ted Torres
The orange glow of the parking lot lights played with the streaks left behind by his windshield wipers.  And so Paul leaned in closer to the windshield and rested his chin on his steering wheel, squinting his eyes to block out everything but the lights beyond the glass.  As a result, the lights turned into tiny north stars of Bethlehem that floated in suspension above the trees. 
            He laughed and rubbed his eyes, leaning back to let the lights and the trees outside of Building D in the apartment complex all come back into focus.
            He was exhausted.  Of that much he was certain.  But how he'd arrived here, sitting with his car shifted into park and staring at some lone window in an apartment complex he'd never been to before, he couldn't quite figure and could in no way contribute to any kind of exhaustion.
             This was simply the end of a timeline that had placed him there, naturally and not as a result of any conscious decisions he'd made.  After all, Paul thought, animals that hunt are instinctively drawn to their prey.  And in the silence of his car there he began to wonder what exactly goes through an animal's mind at the moment that they find themselves gone suddenly from their resting position to being quite literally on top of some prey.   
            He wondered if in the time between the animal's triggered instinct and the inevitable end result, which always left the animal panting and with a bloodied mouth, if there was any real memory of the hunt itself at all?
            Or was it comparable to something like a blackout, Paul thought, similar to the way in which humans enter a room and then not remember why they'd gone in there in the first place?  He began to think of their family cat, who was far away in another neighborhood across town, and of how the cat locks onto birds fluttering outside of his living room window before jumping and leaving scratches in his lap as the animal stops to stand frozen in the window like a work of taxidermy.   He wondered if, as with those birds, was it possible that the slightest of movements could trigger the lunge of any natural predator?
            Paul found his way back out from the wilderness of his thoughts, back to his immediate surroundings, there inside of his car in that strange parking lot as he stared up at Building D.
            His last clear memory was of being at his local drug store about thirty-five minutes ago, standing in line two places behind the man that would trigger this strange hunt.  All at once, scattered memories began to connect like links on a chain, and he recalled now how he had taken the hard turns in this unfamiliar neighborhood, how he'd memorized every street sign.  He remembered how he'd kept a safe distance behind the car as not to spoil his reveal.   
            But like now, he also remembered asking himself what in the hell he was doing, if what he wanted to do was just to make this person aware that he was being followed.  Yes, he had wanted to teach this man that sometimes bad behavior could trigger a response from a completely uninvolved, total stranger.  He wanted to elicit fear, and this was precisely why he had yet to shift his car out of park, why he hadn't even considered leaving the parking lot in favor of keeping an eye on the movements up in that third-floor window.
            The shadow of the man moved back and forth up there, and Paul could only figure that the man was placing down the Coronas that he purchased at the drug store, the same Coronas that he watched this man carry up those three flights of steps to the balcony near his front door.   
            Paul leaned forward again in the driver's seat, and he began to imagine what possible furniture configurations existed up there, what obstacles might be in his path once he decided to enter that apartment to do whatever it was he was that his instinct had led him there to do next.
            And there was that word again: instinct.  He leaned back, and again he thought of the animal in the midst of its hunt, wondering if in the throws of instinctive behavior do animals even know that they're acting on instinct?  It was all so very interesting to him what it was he was obviously becoming, and he liked the idea that if anything were to come of this sudden fit of stalking, it would be a better understanding of the animal kingdom of which he tells his son often that they are both very much a part.
            Yes, a first-hand, predatory experience would be the perfect topic of conversation to have with his young son tonight.  And he knew that the boy would be interested because at some point the discussion would turn to talk of guns.  The boy loved the feel of the weapon that Paul had purchased and shown him, an extension of himself as he pulled the trigger and made the empty cylinder turn and hammer to snap down on the empty chamber. 
            Paul reminded himself again to always keep that cylinder empty, to make sure that the bullets were removed from the gun and placed out of reach before his ex-wife would arrive to deliver their son to him tonight.
            And he had so many other surprises for his boy tonight, such as the big bag of chocolates and hard candies that he'd purchased from the drug store when it was his turn in line, just moments before he would get back into his car and start driving far out of his way to sit in this parking lot.  He had planned to share the chocolate with his son, and then use the individually wrapped hard candies as poker chips.  He was going to teach his boy all about the thrill of winning, even if it meant a small series of winning poker hands.
            He wanted to explain, however, how through violence one could remove an opponent altogether.
            But who was he to explain such a thing without ever having done it himself?
            Because instinct didn't require any skill, Paul concluded.  Skill was not relevant in a situation like that.  And he began to wonder again if the man in the apartment upstairs knew that he was being watched.
            But what was he really doing there?  How did he actually plan to end this natural timeline without finishing it, if for no other reason than not to have wasted all of this time and effort?  Did he remember even having a plan before taking that thirty-five minute drive out of his way to follow this man to his home?
            Well, Paul thought, that man upstairs was a bully.  And in the end, all that mattered was that he hated bullies.  The bully's behavior in the store tonight was all it took to do it to himself, to place himself in such a dangerous position, like the last fatal movements of an animal's prey. 
            Paul had chosen this bully, and the only plan from here on out needed to be to bring and end to this stalk, which would ultimately mean the end of this bully.  And he was simply going to walk up those steps and let himself inside of that apartment to do it.  Once inside, he'd navigate his way around that furniture to get at the bully quickly and not allow him the time to defend himself. 
            And one of those Corona bottles would do the trick, Paul thought, would be perfect to break into a shard and shove deep into the bully's neck.
            He wondered what it was going to feel like at the moment that the bottle punctured flesh.
            And Paul was going to do it without uttering a single word, with only the satisfaction of being recognized as the anonymous man who was standing two persons behind the bully at the checkout line.  Paul was the man that scoffed loudly when the bully had finished demeaning the cashier, the one who caught the bully's attention and made him turn around.  Paul was the random person with whom the bully had made eye contact, meant to intimidate, and it was Paul's icy return stare that had come all too naturally.
            But then the bully had dismissed their exchange altogether, instead turning back to the cashier and insisting that it was their credit card reader that was malfunctioning and not his card.  He explained that he had gone in their every night this week and purchased the very same longnecks with that very same credit card.  And he'd never been hassled like this before now. 
            The cashier had then insisted again, albeit bashfully, that it was the credit card.
            The bully then pushed back, only this time, he'd called the cashier a name.
            There, Paul thought, that was the point where his instincts had been triggered.  That was the fatal final movements of his prey.  The bully had decided that the cashier's dignity was his to take, regardless of the fact that this cashier no doubt had a timeline of his own, had a day of challenges and frustrations and perhaps even the smallest of pleasures.
            That cashier didn't need to experience such pain tonight.
            Still, everyone looked on without getting involved.
            "Let me talk to your manager," the bully had said, and Paul noted that it wasn't the manager but was rather your manager.
            "I'll get my manager," the cashier replied, "but don't disrespect me like that."
            "It's you that's disrespecting me!" the bully returned.
            A random blue-collar worker, who had occupied the first place in line behind the bully and who Paul would've thought shared in the frustration, instead turned around to comment.  "This fucking kid better get his manager," he said to Paul.  "Or else this guy's gonna kick his ass!" 
            Well, Paul had thought just then, … was he now? 
            He was back to Building D now.  The bully was right up there in Building D, and from what Paul remembered he was by all standards a stereotype, a stocky man in his early forties in a tank top and shorts and with a sun visor that sat the wrong way on his head.  And the bully no doubt had a timeline of his own, had a day of challenges and frustrations and perhaps even the smallest of pleasures.
            His beer, for instance, was all that the bully wanted out of life tonight.
            But the bully was in for so much more!
            Only Paul was no longer even in the parking lot.
            He'd gone and done it again, had pounced elsewhere like the predator that he'd become without his knowing.  He was already back home and in his driveway.  And again he tried to harness what little memory he could of his latest time lapse, remembering now that he'd indeed run a few stop signs in his neighborhood, and that at some point he'd reached over to the glove compartment to make sure that the gun was still in there and loaded.
            Paul reached up and adjusted his rearview mirror there in his driveway, and he had a timeline of his own, had a day of challenges and frustrations and perhaps even the smallest of pleasures.
            But he wasn't quite sure why it was he was now sitting and waiting in his driveway, why he was staring intently at the reflection of the curb in his rearview mirror, or why he was now holding the gun with the hammer pulled back.
            He wasn't fully aware yet of what it was he was there to do next, but he knew that at some point his ex-wife would arrive at that curb to deliver their son to him tonight.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Read Books One and Two of The Blanket Trilogy before the upcoming release of Book Three!




© 2001 

A mesmerizing page-turner that will leave you breathless. A journey like no other.

"The Body of Christ," Daniel whispered. "What if it was simply ... left behind?" Daniel Foster is a man driven by his own unearthly obsessions. Part of an investigative theological team from the darkened hallways of a prominent New Orleans university, Daniel is about to uncover a centuries long secret that could not only threaten his own perception of reality, but the reality of the modern world as we know it. The Petrified Christ is a novel of discovery, with innocence lost though a horrifying journey into the most extreme elements of the human experience -- fear, madness, and a direct confrontation with evil itself.



© 2006

Blake Worthington longs for the wisdom found only in the dark-within the shadows of a city after hours. A charismatic young writer who once guided many of his contemporaries into a world of intellectual discovery, Blake desires nothing more now than to be reunited with his former lover, Judith Blair.

And so he travels to the mystical city of New Orleans: where the paranormal population rivals the living, where legendary excess merges with historical elegance, and where supernatural folklore is about to become terrifying fact. During his journey, Blake finds himself entangled in a vengeful curse set forth on the city of New Orleans over a half-century ago by the tyrannical Reverend Wakefield, and it is believed that the curse will end with the approach of the new millennium-but not before claiming more of the city's "evildoers."

As Blake gains local popularity by reorganizing his Order of the Blanket -- a group devoted to the love of all things in the night -- the race is on to reclaim Judith before Wakefield's curse overtakes them all.


Monday, June 08, 2015

The Eleventh Round (May the 4th Be With Me!)



The Eleventh Round of queries went out May 4th, 2015, in an effort to try utilizing the ways of the Force to get the attention of a literary agent.

But it would seem that I may have made yet another mistake for everyone to learn from by example, as I realized days after the fact that last year about this time, I sent out the Seventh Round of queries on Cinco de Mayo to a chilling silence (see "The Seventh Round").  And during that post, I was commenting on how the previous year I had done something similar by sending out not one but two rounds at a time on Christmas Eve (see "The Fourth and Fifth Rounds").  Internet articles and chat boards would quickly clear up this latter rookie mistake, but for the life of me I can't understand why early May is yet another Bermuda Triangle when in comes to launching correspondences into the void.

And so here we are again, approximately one month after this Eleventh Round went out, and with the exception of some immediate auto-responses and a few legitimate rejections, there has been no word from the fleet. 

It may just be time to concentrate all power on that Super Star Destroyer.

Frank Lapidus, if you're reading this, would you like to take a stab at a book cover design?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lucid Dreaming at UNO


I recently read an article on NOLA.com that hints at the very real possibility that we may be losing the University of New Orleans.  To say that I'm not at all happy about this, regardless of any admitted resilience that I may have sometimes toward change in general, is not even a strong enough emotion.  To have this formative place in my writing life be taken away from me, especially now that I'm back in the city and have rekindled my relationship with its campus and library, is heartbreaking.


I'd like to describe an experience that I had recently during a visit to the campus, which I equate to the phenomenon of "lucid dreaming."  Just to be clear, the term refers to an awareness that one has while still in the dream state to the point where they can actually navigate the course of the dream.  I think this is the ultimate freedom that we as imaginative creatures can have, the ability to run around inside ones own mind, and I think I may have had one of these experiences while still in a waking state on the campus of UNO.

The Earl K. Long Library is one of those places that I consider the birth of me as a writer, the birth of "Blanket," a refuge that ever since my leaving has had no substitute.  In that library was where the first chunks of dialogue between Judith Blair and the Funnyman from Scenes from the Blanket came to be, written on an old Brother word processor in a cubicle downstairs, and later I would retreat upstairs to the soothing tranquility of the nighttime window desks to edit those pages.  The campus of UNO is where I modeled Daniel Foster's academic career as being and home to the R.S.I.C. from The Petrified Christ, and not the campus of Loyola as is stated in the book. 

These among other characters that I've created either live as a result of that campus and those professors and that university, or still dwell there in some way today.

A few months ago back when it was warmer in New Orleans, I took a drive out on a Saturday evening right around dusk to do some writing in the library.  I found some private study rooms and picked one of them out from the many that lined every floor.  There I would sit and work undisturbed until well after the sun went down.

As I went outside after I was done, I thought about how cool it would be to take my bike out for a spin.  And after only a little bit of apprehension as random students walked by me there in the parking lot, I pulled my bike out from the back of my Jeep, placed it on the ground and started peddling.  After getting the gears all set, what followed was that lucid dream of a bike ride through the empty, nighttime  campus. 

I rode all of the sidewalks up to the Liberal Arts building, peeking into the windows as I held myself up on the bricks, only to pedal off again to discover both new and familiar landmarks.  I stopped at one point near a student-meeting place between the Liberal Arts and Mathematics building, where for some reason whenever I think about UNO and the possibility of my having had become a career academic, this location always pops into my mind.  I'm guessing that I had such thoughts while standing right there many years ago, and thus that little courtyard has been imprinted on my mind ever since. 

Off I peddled, taking pictures and making sharp turns as I zoomed here and there, and I felt like a kid.  It was amazing.  At one point I stopped at an office window that had the blinds pulled up, and on the ledge among piles of papers and books was a book on Chaucer. 


I went inside to check the door, and sure enough it was the office of Dr. Kevin Marti, the same professor of the Medieval Literature that I'm writing about now in my new manuscript. Dr. Marti was one of three professors at UNO that impacted me greatly, the others being Victorian literature professor Dr. Leslie White, and the enigmatic Romantic literature professor Dr. Peter Schock.  I hope one day to reunite with these men, if only for a few moments of quiet conversation, just to let them know how much of an impact they had on me as I roamed the halls of this great university so many years ago.

It was all very much like being suspended as would  an acrobat on wires inside of my own skull, kicking myself from wall to wall, grabbing hold of something so I could take a look around before flying someplace else again to explore some other dark corner of my past.  And the campus was dark indeed, silent and vacant on this Saturday night, and it was all just so perfect as to be at certain times overwhelming.  I did a similar nighttime visit when I first returned home to my childhood house in Arabi, and being an empty post-Katrina neighborhood, it allowed me to explore the ghosts of my past undisturbed.

My childhood home is still there, however, it's just on the market to be scooped-up by someone else here real  soon.  And no, it doesn't look the same as it once did on the inside, but neither does my UNO home.  But UNO is still there and accessible for the time being, and I sure would like to claim that building as a forever place, proving the age-old adage that you can never go home again dead wrong.  




Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A Month at the Theatre



This is probably the longest I've ever taken between blog posts, but I have good reason.  If you follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds at all, you've probably already seen that I've been quite busy lately, so busy in fact that I haven't updated here in quite some time.  Yes, this is that post, the one where I catch-up and then promise to make more regular appearances on my own website.

So, let's see how this goes, shall we?

To begin, after spending the entire month of September dividing my time between learning lyrics and working on my new manuscript, I finally did two shows with 90 To Nothing.  They were both in October and both during the second-to-last Halloween weekend of the legendary New Orleans haunted attraction, The House of Shock.  This was to be the final year for this long-running show, which blends stage special effects and theatrics with some of the most terrifying twists and turns that an actual walk-through haunted house could have legally.

We played for the crowds as they waited to get into the stage-show area, and it was yet another incredible culmination of hard work and preparation.  Everyone was pleased, and it was during this weekend that I broke through any barriers that I might have cultivated with regard to my being able to perform again in the capacity of lead vocalist.  I know what it is that I do and do well in the music scene of this city, dormant all along like so many other things in this new and unfolding tale that is my life.

Then November saw the beginning of rehearsals for the play.  That's right, I was in a play.  Let me explain.

When I first came back to New Orleans in June of this year, my friend Scott Frilot asked if I would be interested in playing bass in a band as part of a play that our mutual friend Gary Rucker was producing over at his own Rivertown Theatres for the Performing Arts in Kenner.  I accepted immediately, wanting nothing more than to immerse myself in all that the New Orleans arts scene had to offer, my hometown where it would seem that all the inmates I’d come up with were now running the asylum.  I received all of the material for the show, the songs and the script, and then it was all put on the back burner for the next three months while I worked with 90 To Nothing.

But nothing could prepare me for that November night when I first walked into Rivertown and met director Ricky Graham.  I had no idea that "the director" I'd been hearing so much about would be this familiar face I'd seen for most of my adult life in the entertainment section of The Times-Picayune, alongside some of the greats of the New Orleans theatre scene.  It was truly an honor to meet this man and to, for all intents and purposes, work with him for as long as I did.

The cast and crew welcomed the band as equals as Scott Frilot, Woody Dantagnan, Brian Drawe and myself settled into the pit to begin the rehearsals for the British farce that was to be Richard Bean's hilarious "One Man, Two Guvnors."  And I knew immediately that this would be an experience that I would never want to end, and night after night of rehearsals and actual performances did nothing to lessen this emotion.  I understand now the feeling of absolute sadness that actors claim overcome them when a film or television series wraps.

Lead Chris Marroy was astonishing and did nothing short of spoil me when it comes to seeing any future shows in this city.  I have very little exposure to the New Orleans theatre community, but for me to say that I was taken aback by Chris' performance night after night would be a silly understatement.  I'm sincerely hoping that any future trips and/or involvement that I may have with the local theatre scene will feature a performance equal to or as great as what Chris showed me was possible.

The rest of the cast included my lifelong friend Gary Rucker alongside Erin Cesna, P.J. McKinnie, Shelley Johnson Rucker, Lara Grice, Logan Faust, Michael P. Sullivan, James Howard Wright, Matt Reed, Kyle Daigrepont and Joshua Talley.

So, let's review.  So far since coming home I've been in a short film directed by John Beyer called "Sis-Tours," joined 90 To Nothing as their new lead singer, got a request for a full manuscript from a potential literary agent, and was featured (that's right, even the musician's names were printed in the programs and on the lobby poster!) in a New Orleans theatre production.  Whew.

Which brings us to the here and now, where again I am that guy who has launched a blog, not updated it as regularly as he would like due to a complete lack of personal assistance, and is now promising in his latest post to keep his website updated.

And so like I said only paragraphs ago, let's see how this goes, shall we?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

90 To Nothing



I should be working on songs right now, but instead I'm writing.  Not that I haven't been working on songs for the past week now, because I have.  It's just that this is a part of the transition, the way in which I gradually take off one of my hats and put on the other.

Just as a quick update, I've slowed down production on my new book for a few days in order to deal with a different type of wordplay.  You see, where there was once output there is now input, a gradual absorption of lyrics and meter and rhythm.  No, I have not crossed over into the realm of the aspiring poet, not entirely.

But I have joined the New Orleans-based band 90 To Nothing as their new lead singer!

It's been about eight years since I last took the role of a front man in a band, where I utilized my vocal abilities and what interpersonal skills I'd learned with an audience from being a singer on Bourbon Street for the better part of the six years prior to Hurricane Katrina.  While it's true that I've become older and shorter of breath, I am still confident in my ability to sing!  And as far as the interpersonal part goes, well, we'll see how the subtraction of alcohol since 2009 works with regard to my ability to connect with you the audience.

Of course I'm saying all this in jest, and I couldn't be more confident and thrilled to be a part of something like this now again in a city where it seems as though I'm truly picking up where I left off.  I'd forgotten just how much of a network there was here, especially now that I realize that I've left some sort of mini legacy behind during my nine-year sabbatical.  Where at once I used to reflect on how New Orleans must've treated mention of me as one would treat the mention of a person who'd passed away and thus had no hope of returning, now I understand that talk of me has mostly centered around the possibility of my returning to an identity and role that has already been established and is very much in place.

With new musical opportunities coming in, all of which I plan to consider and work on throughout the rest of this year, I have also been actively seeking out other opportunities to throw my music hat into the ring.  On my wish list is to return to Bourbon Street as a vocalist.  Although I started out down there as a bassist that eventually just sang, I have to say that at this point in my life I consider myself a much better contender to work alongside the amazing talent on that street as a singer, and a singer only.

And so I've slowed down the writing for the time being, and I do mean for the very-brief time being, so that I can give these new opportunities the time that they deserve.  I've always claimed to be of these two halves, the music and the writing, and a man who does two things at once really doesn't do either of them well.  So wish me luck as I jump from one side of the green grass to the other to digest some words, and then with any degree of luck, back again very soon to lay down some more of my own.  

Go give the Facebook page a like at: https://www.facebook.com/90toNothing

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Tenth Round


According to FedEx tracking, as of yesterday morning my first full-manuscript request has arrived at the door of a potential literary agent.  This is a big deal!  Last week when I was scouring the Internet just to find out how best to format such a thing for delivery, the first few sentences of every post I read said that I should first congratulate myself, because this alone meant that I've made it through the slush pile and attracted the kind of attention that only a few attain.

It certainly is a glorious feeling sending something like a manuscript out in the mail, knowing that the physical pages themselves are being carried across country packed neatly in their own form-fitting, 8 ½ by 11 box.  And even now I think about how great those pages are going to look when that box is opened to reveal all of my hard work.  I told some friends of mine recently who seem to be quite optimistic about this new step in my writing career that for me this is comparable to opening a business or building a house, that having had no children of my own, these are the kids that I'm raising and sending through college.

Writing to me has always been a constant, a thing that I'm simply wired to do regardless of whether or not I reach any level of success, and so even the smallest of victories feel tremendous.  Being home in New Orleans now for a little over two months, I find myself still hunting out the same old quiet places to write from my comparative youth, a habit of mine that only in retrospect did I realized I'd been doing for the better part of the past twenty years.  I've done this everywhere I've lived, and it's consistencies like that one that make it easy to understand who I am at my core.

And so now as my fingertips gently brush the golden ring that I've been reaching for since the First Round of queries went out almost two years ago, never before have I felt so much in the game for real.  Believe me when I say that email submissions and hard copy submissions are two different beasts.  Right now with any degree of luck, the industry person who requested to see more of the rooms in this house that I've built is thumbing their way through the structure page by page and one square foot at a time, and it takes every bit of my writer's imagination not to think that they're hopefully enjoying all of the amenities that I've put into place for their visit. 


Monday, August 11, 2014

It Only Took Twenty Years




I want to write about an experience that happened to me during my first month back here in New Orleans, a very full-circle experience that vindicated in some ways my second coming in this city.  The experience turned out well for me, because it opened up a new avenue that I would never have thought possible just nine years ago in pre-Hollywood-South New Orleans.  It in fact only took twenty years, but a few weeks ago, I was up on the silver screen.

When I was 15, I was rabid for the idea that I wanted to be a film director.  Having been given access to a rented VHS video camera for a family vacation to Walt Disney World, my parents just went ahead and purchased the thing because quite frankly I wouldn't let it go after the week was up.  That camera was the seed of obsession that saw me making videos that I entered into a student media festival at LSU throughout my four years in high school, and I won the damn thing all four years in a row.

But at some point this urge to make movies faded, and I always site the reason being that selfishly, the collaborative process at the time proved too much.  I went to college and made a movie my freshman year, but then I was just done, off and running into the void that would eventually end up with my deciding that the written word would be my main mode of storytelling.  In retrospect, I also believe that I would have given up long before Hollywood South and their glorious tax incentives would have ever come to town.  

And now back to our story.

It all started during a random conversation with filmmaker John Beyer and actor Corey Stewart, both of whom participate in what is known as The 48 Hour Film Project every year, which they thought I could contribute something to this year in front of the camera.  The 48 is an international competition where filmmakers are given a genre to work with, a line of dialogue that needs to be spoken, a character name and a prop that needs to be used and then are told to go out and make that movie in forty-eight hours.  The New Orleans-based competition is moderated by an old Bourbon Street friend of mine, Pedro Lucero, and that fact alone should have told me that the universe was about to place me somewhere that I needed to be.

And so on the morning of July 19th, 2014, I was emailed a copy of the script for "Sis-Tours" that had been written overnight and then I was told where to go.  I made coffee and grabbed some semblance of a wardrobe from my closet and headed out.  When I arrived, the first thing that struck me was the silent efficiency of the set located in an office building that was given to us for the day, with crew members that scurried here and there setting up lighting and camera equipment and set decoration.

I got dressed and was then asked to go into makeup where among other things, the artist made sure that my bald head -- which I dubbed at the amusement of the crew as the "chrome dome" -- was dimmed-down enough as not to be too shiny for the camera.  When this was done and after some waiting around, it was then time to do my first take, a voice-over line that I was told just to read.  Being at least good at reading things, and knowing that I had the luxury of doing it with no memorization necessary, I nailed the inflection and made director John Beyer giggle.

So far so good.

But next was my first actual on-camera scene, a talking-head shot in which I had to deliver lines without reading them.  I stumbled at first and then asked if I could do it again as a stifling hush filled the room that I didn't care to interpret at the time.  And when I did it again and opened-up into character under the direction of John, the result was another break-up behind the camera and a restoration to my confidence.

The rest of the day went unbelievably well, and the collaborative experience of this very-ensemble piece -- which also featured Corey Stewart, Laura Flannery, Karen Gonzalez, Jamie Choina, Ed Hubert, Brian Bonhagen and Chris Fontana, and the behind-the-scenes work of Todd Schmidt, Laura Duval, Matt Bell, Alex Payne and Franz Wise -- was as gratifying as anything I can remember in recent years.  The ease with which I navigated this environment made me nostalgic for my high school years, where all I wanted to do was make movies, an instinct that perhaps I should never have let grow dormant.  The universe is funny that way.

With my part of the eight-hour shoot done, the crew was then off and running to the next location.  I went home and officially began waiting for the opportunity to see the finished product.  I also did quite a bit of writing that day, inspired by the creative atmosphere that I'd just left. 

People in love with storytelling are my kind of people, as are film people, which I learned that day firsthand.

I'd now like to fast-forward to the night of Thursday, July 24th, 2014.

The entire team -- dubbed now "The Sullen Ducks" -- arrived at the National WWII Museum theatre in the Warehouse District of New Orleans for the second of the festival's four screenings.  We all filed inside, and a bit of a reunion took place between myself and moderator Pedro Lucero.  This recognition would in fact carry-over into the auditorium where as we all sat and they got ready to begin the screening, Pedro pointed me out in the second row and announced into a hot microphone, "And Ted Torres is here!"

That moment meant more to me than you know, Pedro, and I thank you.

And yes, there I was projected fifty-feet high for a few moments that will stay with me forever, strictly for the sake of punctuating how fast things can happen when one simply allows the universe to nudge them back into place.

And ... scene.     

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Eighth and Ninth Rounds (The Homecoming Post)


Since returning home to New Orleans last month to stay, of the many places that I've revisited was this one, the New Orleans Museum of Art.  As I walked all of the conjoined rooms, I was stunned into humble submission as I realized the consistency of the artistic temperament.  Last night I was reading through an English Literature textbook before bed (wanting to get into Dickens and got sidetracked) and I started reading Victorian writer and art critic John Ruskin's Modern Painters, in which he says that there is no difference between the painter who uses his series of skillful brushstrokes and the poet who uses language, for they are both simply the tools used to express their visions.

I might add to this, visions that will make them immortal.

And so there was that visit, but then there were also visits to small theatres where I saw stand-up comedy performed three feet in front of me, legendary music clubs where friends embraced me and asked me where I'd been all this time, private movie screenings and restaurants and bars and all those things that make up my roots.  The streets materialized around me again as I instinctually just knew where to go, like a great city map that had begun rendering itself block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood.  Never before in my life can I recall ever having had such a sense of belonging, part of a community of creatives that take from this city that which is all that it really has to offer, first and foremost a never-ending spring of inspiration embedded in every square mile.

But back to the Rounds, and the Eight and Ninth have gone out within a month of each other, the latter of which actually produced a request for a partial.  Self-publishing has not so much gone by the wayside again, but has dropped down the ladder a few rungs.  At some point I'll begin submitting to publishers in addition to agents on a monthly basis, and I'll continue writing new things, and with that nothing has changed much at all.

But can I get back to how wonderful it is to walk these streets again, how nourishing to the soul it is to have conversations that require no background or context and that go on for hours and hours until it's time to go home and begin these days again, and how a man can indeed go home?

Okay, thanks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Seventh Round (The Transition)


Transition, powerful and sudden, a miraculous revelation that put me at one with the universe.

But let's start with Cinco de Mayo.

I wasn't aware that this holiday may or may not have been one of those times of the year when agents automatically delete queries sent to them, much in the same way I'd lamented my rookie mistake months ago (see "The Fourth and Fifth Rounds") by sending a batch off on Christmas Eve.  I suppose it's still too early to tell, being that the Seventh Round went out a week ago, but I have to admit that the reception so far seems icy.  But paired with some things that have crossed my mind quite a bit lately due to an illness that hit me in the beginning of March and ended with a surgery in mid April, a span of two months that put me in an intense state of self-evaluation about my role if any in this world of publishing, it became apparent to me that maybe my patience is wearing a bit thin.

So, take your time, prospective agents.  As much as I wish one of you would latch on to my project and give it the representation that it deserves, I think I may be putting up that particular fishing pole for the time being.  Well, at least I'm putting away the one with the kung fu grip in favor of multiple, lighter and less important ones.

The plan is to send out a batch every month, to the few agents that are left all over the country and beyond.  But in the meantime, I have been exploring self-publishing options in a turn of events that anyone following this blog probably didn't see coming.  Things change, and the marriage of media and technology is no exception. 

To say that the world of self-publishing has changed since I did it last would be an understatement, but at the same time a lot of the same things still hold true.  For instance, without the backing of a traditional publisher, for the most part marketing and publicity is still left completely up to the author.  But that's okay, because hand-in-hand with the strides that technology has made in self-publishing, so has the means of getting the word out.

And then I've heard through some confidants of mine on Team Torres that authors who self-publish now can actually earn a little bit of royalty that amounts to more than just a few cents here and there, something that in the past has always made me look forward to receiving my 1099 every year just for a good chuckle.  As a musician, I still gig on the weekends and earn a little money here and there.  But the way I see it, with pricing structures now in the hands of the authors, I can now count my books as things that actually make me some cash on the side.

All the arrows are pointing in this direction, even now as I have the manuscript out to three different beta readers whom I don't actually think realize they are beta readers yet.  I will follow up with them and initiate them officially, making then card-carrying members of the newly formed Team Torres.  Yes, the process has begun.

I'm still keeping one eye open to traditional publishing, because I do still plan to consistently chisel away at least once a month in both the agency and publisher markets.  But I've already begun to imagine the cover design, and already have a member of Team Torres ready with his mighty Photoshop sword.  There was always something special about the control of self-publishing, about the time leading up to and including the process, knowing that ultimately I would have a say on when and where my children were born.