16 April 2014

Gardner had it covered

by Robert Lopresti

Topic for the day: Cover letters.  Do you use them when you send a short story to a magazine?  Most magazines say they're optional.

Personally I only use one if I have something specific to say about a story.  Only when--

Oh, skip it.  You are welcome to write about cover letters in the comments if you want, but that was just an excuse to tell you this story. Let's get to the point, because getting to the point is  exactly the point of what I am about to tell you.

I have been reading Dorothy B. Hughes' biography Earl Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason.  It seems that early in Gardner's career, when he was turning out stories and novelettes like a printing press on steroids, his best market was Black Mask, and he started getting too many rejections from them.

Obviously this called for the attorney to use his best diplomatic skills and eloquence to persuade the editors that he was an author they wanted to work with.  So he wrote the following cover letter, which I quote in its entirety:

'Three O'Clock in the Morning' is a damned good story.  If you have any comments on it, write them on the back of a check.

Editor Harry North not only bought the story, he printed the cover letter in front of it.  And bought a lot more of Gardner's work after that.

Which shows you what you can do, if you're a future MWA Grand Master.  For the rest of us, your mileage may vary.

15 April 2014

Writing For Fun And Profit

by David Dean

In a very few weeks I will have the privilege of making a presentation on short story writing at the Pennwriters Group (as in Pennsylvania) convention. A kind friend of mine, a writer of several fine thrillers, recommended me for the job, and not knowing any better, the staff approved. For months now I have been sweating this assignment. After all, I will be addressing writers who (regardless of where they are on their career paths) probably know as much I do. In fact, upon sober reflection (obviously that was not the case when I agreed to this), I find that I do not actually know much about writing anyway. I just do it.

So at this stage of my planning process, I'm picturing myself appearing before these dear people and saying something along the lines of, "I like short stories. I've read a bunch. There are some real good ones out there. Read a lot of those real good ones (at this stage I hand out smudged, mimeographed lists of real good stories). Then write a lot, okay? Practice makes perfect. Oh, I almost forgot...don't imitate those writers of real good stories. Write original-like. Ummm...any questions?"

Then I wake up screaming, "It's not my fault! It's all been said before!"

Which it has really.

Or … maybe, I lay down at the bottom of the stairs on the big day, just as Robin gets home, and start moaning incoherently, "Owww...my head! What happened? Who are you, beautiful lady? Do I know you?" This has worked in the past.

Here's my problem— I'm not an academic. I'm a high school drop-out that got a GED in the army and a junior college degree later. Not much in the way of credentials. I have played instructor on occasion, but the circumstances were very different. In the military, I gave classes on Soviet equipment identification, and sometime led P.T. (physical training). While a police officer, I taught search and seizure, and patrol techniques, at the academy. In both instances I had what amounted to a captive audience. They needed me more than I needed them. Also, if I noticed anyone's attention wavering, I could drop them for push-ups, or make humorous remarks about their family lineage and chances of graduating. Rank had its privileges. Not so much now.

So, do I dredge up the history of the short story, perhaps discuss its definition(s)? Or do I assume that they know that much already? Do I offer brief examples by the form's greatest practitioners, or figure they are probably better read than I am? Maybe, I'll just concentrate on the writing aspect. Or is that too subjective? Perhaps, I'll just ask them what the hell they want from me?

What say you, fellow SleuthSayers (especially you, John Floyd, as I know you give classes on this very thing), and dear readers? Any suggestions of what you'd want to hear or have discussed at such a gathering? What has worked for you? I'm all ears.

14 April 2014

Curled Up In a Feeble Position

by Fran Rizer




Did you catch all the words that were misused?  I thought I did, but when I went back to read it again, I found two more.  I disagree with the thought at the beginning that misuse might be the result of someone wishing to sound more elite or educated though I believe that's the cause of those people who use "I" as the object of a compound pronoun.  

Somehow they seem to think "me" is an inferior pronoun, so they say such things as "Between you and I..." which is incorrect since "I" is the nominative form and "me" is objective. As you writers know, "Between you and me" is correct.  Another one that is heard sometimes is "for you and I."  Once again, as the object of the preposition "for," the correct choice is "me."  When I taught, I told my students on those compound objects of prepositions, they could find the right word by leaving out the "you."  As they used to tell me, "You're right, Ms. Rizer, I wouldn't say 'for I.'"

Nobody confesses to ever watching "Honey Boo Boo," so this will be news to everyone--Mama June and her girls constantly misuse words, sometimes homophones, sometimes just words that sound similar in their speech. The problem here is that while they do it to appear hopelessly stupid rednecks, it's very obvious that those bits are scripted.


I had a character who did that in one of the Callie books.  Among other misused words, she didn't want to stay out in the night air very long because she was afraid of catching "ammonia." I think she was the young wife of the old pharmacist found dead in the hot tub in Casket Case, but I'm not positive.

I can be amused by such language, but I recently sent out a manuscript where the protagonist swiped her bank debit card and entered her "pen" instead of her PIN....just wasn't being careful in my writing.  Nothing wrong with writing it that way (we all make mistakes), but I should have caught it in proofing. The problem is that I SENT IT TO MY AGENT.  Maybe it will work more like the cartoon below than like him thinking I'm losing it.


This gives me the idea for another contest.  Somewhere in this blog is a mispelled word. The first one to point it out on comments will get a prize.

Now, for my favorite:


Since this blog has just been playing around with words anyway and Leigh loves puns, I'll add this:


That's enough foolishness for one day.  Have a great one, and 
remember...

Until we meet again, take care of… you.

13 April 2014

Dumb Ways to Kill

by Leigh Lundin

Fair warning: Today’s post contains dark and macabre humour. Australia’s Metro Rail is running a public ad that’s proved amazingly popular, Dumb Ways to Die. One example: Sell both your kidneys on the internet.



They also have an interactive web site where you scroll down and can slice and dice incorrigibly cheerful little victims.


That started me thinking that all homicides are dumb, and therefore dumb ways to kill. Pay no attention to meter… but here are my suggestions for dumb ways to kill.

Dumb Ways to Kill
Give yourself a helpful edge,
Push your brother from a ledge.
When she drives you too insane,
Shove your sister from a plane.

Poison is extra nice.
You can use it more than twice.
In coffees and in soups
Or toxic-laced Froot Loops.

Don’t gamble losing your house,
When divorcing a wicked spouse.
Sharpen up a carving knife
For that inconvenient wife.
Dumb ways to kill,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Say your prayers and leave a will,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Rid yourself of that old nag
Using a garrotte and a gag.
Say goodbye to that old hag,
And toss her body in a bag.

Having trouble in your dorm?
Where bad roommates are the norm.
Dose a rag with chloroform.
Drag ’em through a lightning storm.

It’s a very common plight
To get your ass kicked in a fight.
So in the middle of the night,
Set your victim's house alight.
Dumb ways to kill,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Say your prayers and leave a will,
So many dumb ways to kill.
You meet a stalker in a bar
Drinking moonshine from a jar.
When he's drunker than you are,
Drag him home behind your car.

Say your partner’s gagged and bound,
And you have him freshly drowned,
You don’t want the body found
By nosy cop or baying hound.

There’s a rich, white-haired old geezer
Sleeps serenely in your freezer.
He looks quite peacefully at rest,
'Cept for the dagger in his chest.
Dumb ways to kill,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Say your prayers and leave a will,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Failed to get that last pay raise?
Fret no more with wasted days.
Invite your boss around to dine
In secret cut his car’s brake line.

Don’t act stupid like a dunce.
Shoot the victim more than once.
A double-tap to the head
And the victim’s good and dead.

You’re offered a hundred large
To set an explosive charge.
You do your best to make it fast
And trigger a pipe bomb blast.
Dumb ways to kill,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Say your prayers and leave a will,
So many dumb ways to kill.
Draw your pistol, load and lock
When you learn how to cock.
Pull the slide on your trusty Glock,
But you might find yourself in shock.

Although you’ve tried your best,
You find yourself under arrest,
Tried, convicted, and all the rest,
An electrode strapped to your chest.

Dumb ways to kill…
What dumb ways do you suggest?

Abbey Road

12 April 2014

On the Wire




by John M. Floyd


A few nights ago, I watched the final episode of the final season of the HBO series The Wire. I came into this project a little late--most of my writer friends had already seen the series in real-time, week by week, during its run from 2002 to 2008. I watched it on DVD, but thank goodness I never heard any spoilers beforehand and went through the whole sixty episodes without any prior knowledge or preconceived ideas. And I can now tell you this: The Wire is one of the best TV shows I've ever seen. Great setting, great acting, and--above all else--great writing.


Much has been said about this series, especially its authenticity and production values. I won't bore you with a rehash of all that, except to say that it's an extremely honest, gritty, and realistic view of the police and the drug trade and the press and city politics. And it's done nothing but reinforce my belief that HBO has created some of the best series on television: The Sopranos, Rome, Deadwood, The Newsroom, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and others.

Street talk

We writers love things like good storylines and character arcs, and--probably because its screenwriters included novelists like Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos--The Wire had some of the best. Those of you who saw the whole series might especially remember the journey of drug addict Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins, but there were many others as well. The show also consistently delivered smart, snappy, believable dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue (speaking of dialogue?), my mission today is to give you some of what I consider the best quotes from The Wire. The characters who spoke these lines will live forever in my memory, but--since my memory is certainly not the best--some of the following quotes are paraphrased.


A man must have a code. -- Detective Bunk Moreland

I ain't no suit-wearing businessman like you. I'm just a gangsta, I suppose. -- Avon Barksdale

McNulty, I hold you in contempt. / Who doesn't? -- Judge Daniel Phelan and Detective Jimmy McNulty

It's Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you. -- Police Commissioner Ervin Burrell

A lie ain't a side of a story. It's just a lie. -- victim of inaccurate newspaper article

A life, Jimmy. It's the s*** that happens while you wait for moments that never come. -- Detective Lester Freamon

The game is out there. And it's either play, or get played. It's that simple. -- Omar Little

Did he have hands? Did he have a face? Yes? Then it wasn't us. -- Russian mobster

Hell, if you can't win the war on drugs in a prison, where the hell you gonna win it? -- McNulty

Pawns, man, in the game--they get capped quick. They be out the game early. -- D'Angelo Barksdale

Look around. The pond is shrinkin', the fish are nervous. -- Baltimore Sun editor, after a recent downsizing

For you I would suggest some pant-suits, perhaps, muted in color. Something to offset Detective Moreland's pinstriped lawyerly affectations and the brash, tweedy impertinence of Detective Freamon. -- Sgt. Jay Landsman

The thing is, you only got to f*** up once. Be a little slow, a little late, just once. And how you gonna never be slow, never be late? You can't plan for no s*** like this, man. It's life. -- Avon, to D'Angelo

There ain't no rules for dope fiends. -- "Bubbles" Cousins

He was a dead man when he opened his mouth. He's just walkin' around not knowin' it. -- Marlo Stanfield

I look at you these days and you know what I see? I see a man without a country. Not smart enough for this right here. And maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for them out there. -- Avon, to Stringer Bell

You can't even call this a war. / Why not? / Wars end. -- Officers Carter and Herc

You're stealing from those who themselves are stealing the lifeblood from our city. You are a parasite who-- / Just like you, man. / Excuse me? / I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. -- Omar and attorney Maurice Levy, in court

You follow the drugs, you get the drug addicts and the drug dealers. But you start to follow the money . . . and you don't know where it's gonna take you. -- Lester Freamon

I will kick his ass. But the next morning I'll still wake up white in a city that ain't. / Just a weak-ass mayor in a broke-ass city. -- Tommy Carcetti and Norman Wilson, discussing upcoming election

That's my money. / Man, money ain't got no owners. Only spenders. -- Marlo and Omar

We used to make s*** in this country. Build s***. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket. -- dockworker Frank Sabotka

You put fire to everything you touch, McNulty, and then you walk away while it burns. -- Freamon

Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. -- Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski

The bigger the lie, the more they believe. -- Bunk Moreland


Murder ain't no thang, but this here--this is some assassination s***. -- Slim Charles

Ain't no shame in holdin' onto grief. As long as you make room for other things too. -- Bubbles

What exactly do you do for a living, Mr. Little? / I robs drug dealers. / How does a man rob drug dealers for eight or nine years and live to tell about it? / A day at a time, I suppose. -- prosecutor and Omar, in court

It's a cold world, Bodie. / I thought you said it was gettin' warmer. / World goin' one way, people another, yo. -- Poot Carr and Bodie Broadus

You put a textbook in front of these kids, put a problem on the blackboard, teach them every problem in some statewide test, it won't matter. None of it. Cause they're not learning for our world. They're learning for theirs. -- ex-cop Bunny Colvin

You'd rather live in s*** than let the world see you work a shovel. -- Lt. Cedrick Daniels

You come at the king, you best not miss. -- Omar

What makes you think they'll promote the wrong man? / We do it all the time. -- Daniels and Burrell



On the boardwalk

One more favorite quote. This isn't from The Wire--it's from an episode in the second season of Boardwalk Empire, another great HBO series. A Catholic priest, hoping to receive a donation to the church, is speaking to the wife of Atlantic City gangster Nucky Thompson. Again, I'm paraphrasing:


A man once was invited to visit both heaven and hell. First he went to hell, where all the tormented souls were sitting at tables laden with food, yet they were starving and howling with hunger. Each soul had a spoon, but the spoons were so long that they couldn't get them into their mouths. Their frustration was their torment.

Then he visited heaven. In heaven, to his amazement, the man found the souls of the blessed sitting at similar tables laden with food, but they were all fed and contented. Each had a spoon and the spoons were just as long as the spoons in hell, but they were able to eat all they needed . . . because they were feeding each other.


Who says you can't pick up a life lesson from a TV show?

At least that's the excuse I make to my wife . . .





11 April 2014

Crime Cruise-Panama Canal

by R.T. Lawton


Our ship made its approach into the Panama Canal just before dawn. Since cruise ships have priority for passage, several dozen freighters lay at anchor in the bay, waiting their turn. In the misty grey of early morning, all those ships on the near horizon resembled an old movie scene of an invasion fleet during war time.

Entrance to 1st lock and hanging roadway for vehicles
As we entered the channel for the first lock, a hanging roadway could be seen several feet above the water line and running across the face of the lock. It was one-way vehicle traffic until a signal sounded and traffic could then go the other direction. When our ship moved further into the the channel, guards closed traffic gates on both banks and all vehicles were stopped. The hanging roadway parted in the middle and each section rotated to the side, allowing room for our ship to pass.

Two 'mules" guiding the freighter next to us

Eight "mules," resembling small train engines on railroad tracks, attached cables to the ship to help guide her through the narrow locks. (Some very large freighters left grey paint smears along the walls of the locks.) There were four "mules" to a side, two forward and two aft. When we had transited all three locks on the Caribbean side, the cables were released from the ship and reeled in by the "mules." Then the little engines were off to assist the next ship.

Off to the right, we observed a narrow waterway, the site of the French attempt to build the canal before the Americans took over. Unfortunately for the French, they were used to digging in sand like they did for the Suez Canal, whereas the Panama Canal turned out to be a process of blasting in hard rock. To the left is the construction for another set of locks being built for much wider ships to transit the shortcut from the Atlantic to the Pacific. These locks are set to open in 2015 or 2016.

Narrow channel on right is the French attempt at canal
a few interesting facts

1~ The earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates back to 1534, when the King of Spain ordered a survey for a route through the Americas that would ease the voyage for ships traveling between Spain and Peru. This route would provide the Spanish with a military advantage over the Portuguese.  In a 1788-93 expedition, Alessandro Malaspina outlined plans for the canal's construction.

2~ Backed by the U.S., Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, which allowed the canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.

3~ President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty in 1977 giving the canal back to the Panamanians. They took complete control in 1999, however the U.S. reserved the right to defend the canal.

4~ Passenger vessels in excess of 30K tons, also known as cruise ships, pay a passage rate based on the number of passengers that can be accommodated in permanent beds. This charge is currently $92 per unoccupied berths and &115 per occupied berth. Freighters have different rates. Our ship paid well over two hundred thousand dollars to enter Gatun Lake through the three locks and go back out the same day.

5~ The lowest toll paid was 36 cents by American Richard Halliburton who swam the Panama Canal in 1928. Wonder if he was aware of crocodiles living in canal waters? We saw one taking his own swim for free.

6~ John Le Carre wrote The Tailor of Panama, a spy thriller novel which was later made into a movie. Parts of the movie were filmed in Panama to include the canal and Gatun Lake.

Re-entry from Gatun Lake, gates close behind us
The Tour

There were several scheduled land tours, but we elected to stay on board and watch the operation of the locks and the "mules." After the ship had passed out of Gatun Lake, back through the locks and into the bay, she docked at Colon for a few hours in order to pick up passengers who had gone land tours. We picked this time to go ashore and take in the locals. Shopping wasn't much, but we did enjoy some Panama beers at an open sidewalk bar called the Lucky Seven with its very friendly owner. Once again, we found, too late, that the bar had wi-fi.


Get your Panama beer at the Lucky 7 in Colon
The Crime

Time was, back in the '80's, you could buy a cargo plane in Spain, register it in Panama, fly to a clandestine airstrip guarded by the Colombian army in the Colombian jungle, load up your contraband, get airborne after midnight, fly across the Gulf, enter U.S. airspace, pass over the SAC base in Omaha without being noticed and land in a wheat stubble field along the Missouri River about the crack of dawn to unload your cargo. If you were lucky, the law didn't catch you on the ground. One plane in particular wasn't lucky. We took the load, crew and ground crew.

On December 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama. Its dictator, Manuel Noriega, was subsequently taken as a prisoner of war. He was flown to Miami and tried on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. His forty year sentence was later reduced to seventeen years based on good behavior and he was extradited to France in April 2010 on a money laundering conviction. In December 2011, he was extradited back to Panama for murder and human rights abuses where he had been sentenced in absentia for a term of twenty years. Guess it's good to be the dictator, unless you screw up and the U.S. comes knocking on your door.

Would I go back to see Panama? You bet. We are already thinking about a Panama Canal cruise in 2016 when the new set of locks is open to wider ships.

See you in two weeks in Limon, Costa Rica.


10 April 2014

Easter is Coming, and My Back's to the Wall

by Eve Fisher

This weekend, I am going to the pen for another weekend workshop.  Two weeks from today, when I'm writing this, I will be hosting a massive Easter Feast.  Thus, a post with more cooking than writing, and more customs than plot.  Oh, well...

Back to the Easter Feast:  So far, I expect 11 adults, 4 children, 1 baby, and perhaps 4 more adults coming, but who knows.  We just made the spanakopita this morning and put it in the freezer.  I have a 7 pound leg of lamb that I'll start thawing around Good Friday, and will stuff with garlic and herbs.  My guests - most of whom have been here before - know their jobs, and each bring a wonderful dish, so that I don't have to cook much else but the lamb and the spanakopita, and put out some olives and bread.  It's a Greek feast, but we're having it on Tuesday, rather than Sunday, so that more people can come.

Easter is a huge deal in the Orthodox church.  Yes, I know it's a huge deal in every Christian church, or should be, since without the Resurrection, the rest is iffy, to put it mildly.  But in the Orthodox church...  even my atheist father (a handsome Greek boy, as you can see) demanded red-dyed Easter eggs.  In the Orthodox church, Easter is the high holy day of days.

And food is an important part:  After 40 days of Lenten fasting - and in the Orthodox church that means no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products of any kind, oil or wine.  (Sundays you can have oil and wine.)  VERY devout Orthodox abstain entirely from food on Good Friday.  (In case you're wondering, I don't do any of this.)  And then, after the Holy Saturday midnight service, there is a love feast, and the next day:  lamb.

Leg of Lamb:
Take a leg of lamb (bone in), and trim of it of any excessive fat.
Cut slits all over it, about an inch or two apart, and in each slit put in salt, a sliver of garlic and/or some herbs (thyme is really good).
Salt and pepper it on the outside and dribble it with olive oil.
Roast at 350 until a meat thermometer reaches about 130 degrees
             (should take about 2 1/2 hours for a 7 pound leg)

Spanakopita:
1 package Filo pastry (I buy it frozen; life is too short to make your own)
1 stick of melted butter
2 boxes of cooked frozen chopped spinach OR 2 bunches of fresh spinach, chopped and cooked
Saute - 1 chopped onion and 3 cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil until tender
Blend - 8 oz. diced or crumbled feta with 2-3 eggs (you want it thick)
mix everything together and set aside.

NOTE:  The key to filo pastry is to work FAST.  I never let go of the buttering brush until I'm done.
Take an 8x10 or 9/11 sheet-cake pan.  (Actually, I use the disposable aluminum sheet pans that you can get 2 for $1.99 for this job.)  If you're going to freeze it before you cook it, line it with aluminum foil.
Put 2 sheets of filo in the bottom, brush them with butter, and then start layering the filo pastry, a sheet at a time, with half the sheet hanging over the edge at various angles (you'll fold them in over the filling at the end), buttering the half-sheet in the pan.  Build this up into a nice buttered filo pastry lining.  Then, when you've used up all the sheets, pour in the filling, and start overlapping and buttering the edges - a sheet at a time - that were hanging outside the pan.  (Save a sheet if you need extra coverage at the very center.)
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Slice it into squares and serve.

Lamb and spanokopita are universals, but the cookies served depend on what part of Greece you're from. In my grandmother's house, it was kept simple and delicious:

Greek KoulouriaKoulourakia:
1 cup butter, creamed with
1 1/2 cups sugar
ADD - 3 eggs
            1 tsp vanilla extract
MIX:  4 cups flour with 1 tbsp. baking powder

Take handful and roll it out into a thin rope (1/4 to 1/2 inch wide), about 6 inches long; then twist them as in the photo.  Brush with a milk wash, and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.  (Yes, they crack.  They also keep forever in a nice air-tight tin.  If you can keep them away from everyone.  And they taste great, dunked in tea, coffee, or even a bit of brandy...)

 Καλό Πάσχα!  (Happy Easter!)


09 April 2014

Cold Case

by David Edgerley Gates

This is a Where Do You Get Your Ideas? post. Generally speaking, I think this is a dumb question, and demonstrates that somebody knows next to nothing about the actual process of writing. Ideas, in fact, are floating around in the zeitgeist, and we pluck them out of the air.

The movie critic Robert Warshow once famously remarked that there were only half a dozen basic plots to the Western. You might not entirely agree, but can tell where he's headed. The stranger rides into town, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, say, and trouble follows. You can ring a lot of changes from that set-up, even if the conventions are pretty rigorous. In other words, it's not the what, where, or when that matters, but the how.


In this particular instance, I saw an article in my local newspaper, the Santa Fe NEW MEXICAN, about a cold case that had gotten new legs. Sixty years ago, a woman disappears. Everything points to murder. The cops like her husband for it, but they can't pin it on him. For openers, there's no body, and the guy doesn't crack, under interrogation. Some time later, he dies. End of story. Unsolved. Cut to the present day. All these years later, somebody else owns the house where these people lived, and they're remodeling the garage. Digging up the floor, they find human remains. Is it possible, using modern forensics, DNA from her kids, to identify Inez Garcia? Could you finally lay the crime to rest, and give the dead woman, and her family, both justice and closure?

Photo Credit Luis Sanchez Saturno SFNM

It's not the case itself, so much, that caught my attention. It was the gap. Sixty years is a long time. And it occurred to me, what if you framed two parallel narrative lines, the original investigation, and the new one? I've already got the characters waiting in the wings. Benny Salvador, sheriff of Rio Arriba county, back in the day, and Pete Montoya, the New Mexico state cop, in the here and now. Pete could be looking at Benny's old notes, the murder book, the physical evidence, which might even point to a different suspect. That's as far as my thinking takes me, at this point. It's in my peripheral vision.

You probably see where I'm going. The newspaper article didn't give me an original idea. What it did was suggest a way to tell the story, which is half the battle. Not just P.O.V., but voice. A way in, and a way out. Something you can hang your hat on, a shape that casts a shadow.

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard.