31 July 2021

Stories, Slightly Used


  

While trying to come up with a topic for today, I re-read Michael Bracken's post earlier this month about reprints, and was reminded what a big part those recycled stories have played in both his and my short-fiction marketing in recent years. So (this isn't the first time I've looked to Michael for writing ideas) I thought I'd post a few memories of my own experiences with regard to previously published stories. NOTE: I think "previously published stories" is to "reprints" what "pre-owned vehicles" is to "used cars." It's probably just supposed to sound better. (I still prefer to say "reprints.")

I didn't realize, when I first started writing for publication in 1994, that you could resell stories that had already been published. But the more I wrote and published and the more how-to-write books I read, I came to discover what an important thing reselling stories was, to the writers of short fiction--and that it's one of the big advantages short stories have over novels. I actually did a SleuthSayers post on the whys and wherefores of reprints last year, but it was more instructional than anything else, and I didn't use any examples. So, today, I'll point out some real experiences.


The Same Old Story

The first short story I re-sold was called "A Thousand Words"--and its length was, coincidentally, about 1000 words. It was a mystery story about a bank robbery, one I'd first published in a literary magazine called Pleiades in January 1995. The reprint appeared in the March/April 1996 issue of Dogwood Tales Magazine, a truly interesting and kind-to-their-writers publication. Like so many, DTM put all four feet in the air after a few years, but I wound up selling them three more stories before that happened. I can't remember how much I was paid for the reprinted story, but I'm sure it was less than I'd earned from the original at Pleiades. Still, reselling it got an older and idle story out of its hammock and out into the world again, and I recall receiving some positive feedback about it from readers. (Not that it matters, but I later sold "A Thousand Words" six more times, here and there.)

More reprints followed, because many of those first stories I sold were now past the "rights-revert-to-the-authors" date and also because I learned to start actively seeking out reprint markets. Over the next several years I sold dozens of them, to both anthologies and magazines. I'm not certain how many stories went to each, but I would suspect a larger percentage ended up in anthologies--especially in recent years. Generally speaking, anthologies seem more likely than magazines to consider previously published work. Then again, some anthos demand only original stories, so always read the guidelines before submitting.

By the way, I am no minor thief: I'm stealing not only Michael's idea but also a couple of his bullet items, as follows:


Most Often-Reprinted Story

The short story I've sold the most times is a 1200-word humorous Western called "Saving Mrs. Hapwell." I'm not sure why it's the one that landed in the most places, but I suspect it might be because it's (1) very short, (2) it's funny, and (3) it's almost all dialogue--three things that can sometimes add to a story's marketability. That story has been published in:

Dogwood Tales Magazine, March/April 1997 issue

Mystery Time, Spring/Summer 2000

Desert Voices, December 2004

Taj Mahal Review, December 2005

Crime & Suspense E-zine, February 2006

Rainbow's End and Other Stories (collection), October 2006

Crime & Suspense I anthology April 2007 

Kings River Life, May 2020

and will appear a ninth time in the Crimeucopia anthology As in Funny Ha-Ha in August 2021.


Most Prestigious Reprints

The reprints I suppose I'm most proud of weren't sales at all; they were out-of-the-blue selections for annual anthologies:

"Molly's Plan" from Strand Magazine, reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories 2015

"Gun Work," from the Coast to Coast: Private Eyes anthology, in BAMS 2018

"Rhonda and Clyde" from Black Cat Mystery Magazine, in BAMS 2020

"Biloxi Bound" from Strand Magazine, upcoming in Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021


Another Target for "Used Stories"

The three primary markets for short-story reprints are the same as the three primary markets for short stories: magazines, anthologies, and collections of your own work. I've now had seven collections published of my mystery stories--the first seven were by Dogwood Press, a small, traditional publisher that has no connection to the old Dogwood Tales Magazine. Those books of my own stories are:

Rainbow's End -- 30 stories, all of which were reprints

Midnight -- 30 stories, all reprints

Clockwork -- 40 stories, all reprints

Deception -- 30 stories, 93% reprints, 7% original stories

Fifty Mysteries -- 50 stories, 46% reprints, 54% new stories

Dreamland -- 30 stories, 93% reprints

The Barrens -- 30 stories, 93% reprints

An eighth collection is upcoming, from VKN Publishing in Moscow. They're creating a bilingual book containing five of the ten stories I've published in the print edition of The Saturday Evening Post, with those stories featured in English side-by-side with their Russian translations. As stated, all five of those stories will be reprints. 


Bottom Line

As Michael said in his column, the main thing to keep in mind regarding future reprints is: retain the rights to your stories whenever possible. If you've granted "all rights" to whoever publishes a story, that story is no longer yours and cannot be resold. The other thing to remember is to then be on the constant lookout for markets where you might take published stories that are gathering dust and put them to work again. 

Question to my fellow writers: What are some of your experiences, both positive and negative, regarding the marketing of your previously pubbed stories? I would suspect your adventures would be more interesting than mine.


Now . . . I wonder how long I'll need to wait before I reprint this column . . .



30 July 2021

Pulphouse: A FIction Magazine


Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine published my first private eye short story, "Women Are Like Streetcars" in July 1992. The story has been reprinted five times (in the U.S., Denmark, and France/UK), and is included in the newly released volume. Stories from the Original Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine (July 2021).

With this volume, editor Dean Wesley Smith has selected some of his favorite twisted stories from the first incarnation of Pulphouse's fiction magazine, stories he describes as "Sort of half-beat off kilter, yet still high-quality fiction and great stories." So happy to see my story including with cool stories by Jerry Oltion, Kent Patterson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Ray Vukcevich, and J. Steven York.

The story of Pulphouse Publishing is too big to be condensed in this blog but Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch and the others at the publishing house created a specialty house of limited, signed editions and moved into paperbacks. 

Worked there in 1992 as an assistant editor, which is where I met my wife Debra Gray De Noux who was art director and associate publisher at Pulphouse. I learned so much about writing and editing and publishing in my time there.

The small, specialty Pulphouse Publishing was founded in 1988 by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch and was active until 1996, publishing 244 different titles. Beginning with Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, it also published ground-breaking print runs of Author's Choice Monthly Collections, Axolotyl Press novels, Short Story Paperbacks, and Mystery Scene Press. Books came out in limited edition leather bound and hardback, each numbered and autographed by the author, as well as trade paperbacks.

Partial list of famous authors published by Pulphouse Publishing includes
List of authors published by Pulphouse includes well known mystery writers

Kevin J. Anderson
Michael Bishop
Alan Brennert
Ed Bryant
Mark Budz
Adam-Troy Castro
Charles de Lint
O'Neil De Noux
George Alec Effinger
Harlan Ellison
Marina Fitch
Ester Friesner
Ron Goulart
David H. Hendrickson
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Damon Knight
Joe Lansdale
George R.R. Martin
Judith Moffet
Andre Norton
Jerry Oltion
Mike Resnick
Spider & Jeanne Robinson
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Robert Sheckley
Robert Silverberg
Dean Wesley Smith
Michael Swanwick
Jeff VanderMeer
Karl Edward Wagner
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Kate Wilhelm
Jack Williamson
F. Paul Wilson
Roger Zelazny


Max Allen Collins

Bill Crider

O'Neil De Noux

Lauren Estleman

Brian Garfield

Joe Gores

Ed Gorman

Edward D. Hoch

Stuart M. Kaminsky

John Lutz

Margaret Maron

Marcia Muller

Bill Pronzini

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Teri White

The new incarnation of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine continues through WMG Publishing, Inc. Issue 13 was just released. Available as magazines and eBooks. Can't talk up Pulphouse/WMG Publishing enough.

Their covers are the coolest.


That's all for now.

www.oneildenoux.com

29 July 2021

Pro Tips


Luck has a lot more to do with success in life than most people want to admit.  Which is exactly why most trust fund babies are "born on third base and think s/he hit a triple."

But even luck has its limits:  If you never write anything, you'll never get published, because last I heard the "Secret Arts Patrons Society" (a/k/a SAPS) have quit going around door to door paying random strangers for ideas.

See above if you never submit anything.  

Sometimes it takes all day to write one decent sentence.  That's all right.  There's always tomorrow, when you can rewrite it and make it better.  Or make it worse.  You never know.  

BTW, read all the really good literature you can get your hands on, but also keep some really bad books* around, so that when you're really depressed, you can remind yourself how bad writing can get and still get published.  You may not be Stephen King or John LeCarre, but you can do better than this.  Hope!

*No, I'm not providing a list - I don't need that kind of hate mail. 

BTW, when you do hit the writing zone, and the words flow out like water, it helps to keep the following items handy:

  • Something to eat
  • Something to drink
  • A squirt gun full of water so that if anyone tries to interrupt, you have something with which to drive them away.  Sort of works on cats, too.

If someone is keeping two sets of books, they're doing something illegal.  They're also probably keeping that 2nd set as insurance against their boss.   

Speaking of insurance, the more ads you see for an insurance company, the less likely you'll ever get a claim paid, because those ads are all paid for with your premium checks.

This probably also works with all those pharmaceutical, bank, and investment firm ads.  

If everyone is "deep state", there is no deep state, and the person telling you that is probably themselves bat-s*** crazy, with a side of fries.

This works with anything else where it's said, "Everyone is… i.e., "Everyone is crooked" means, "I'm a corkscrew."

If someone offers you a bribe, they're doing something illegal.  They're also making a comment on your morals and your intelligence that I personally believe deserves defenestration.  

Any scheme that soaks the ultra-wealthy in the name of riding out the apocalypse / doomsday in style is fine with me, but it takes great panache to continue the grift for 14 years and still not have built anything but an extra-large barn with a lot of guns.  (Hell, I knew a guy who had a bunker with land mines in his property and all from his own funds. And he was picky about who he'd allow in when The Day came.)  Meanwhile, Barrett Moore is still raising money for his Haven.  (See Here)  Of course, Jim Bakker is still selling survival gear (HERE).  I have been assured by those who have watched his ads that Bakker tells his customers that they can take the 60 meal bucket (600 calories per meal, which is a hell of a lot less than McDonalds - you're gonna get svelte!) and when it's empty, turn it into a personal toilet. Pro tip:  There is a lot of money to be made from the Doomsday business.  

Although I still want to know how many true Doomsday preppers would be satisfied with a 600 calorie meal?  That's one Big Mac, no fries.  

It's never a good idea to hold an exorcism in a public place, but Home Depot?  

"Police in Lackawanna County announced they broke up a reported 'exorcism' that happened inside a Home Depot, in Dickson City Tuesday." The group was performing an exorcism for the dead trees in the aisle, i.e., the lumber. I want names, church affiliation, and how many beers went into this decision. (News

It's never a good idea to spread a pandemic among your own constituents, but as we all know, the GOP and various media outlets have been ignoring that pro tip for quite a while.  Recently, however, Fox News "It's all a hoax!" pundit Sean Hannity, Senator Tommy Tuberville, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy and others have been begging people to get the vaccine.  My personal theory is that (1) lawsuits are coming and (2) they've begun to realize that, in the immortal words of Barry Hughart, "Corpses cannot pay taxes!" (Bridge of Birds) Nor can they be signed up for monthly or even weekly payments to the politicians or PACs or media outlets. Well, you can sign them up, but they won't pay.  Keep your customers alive.

Speaking of keeping customers alive, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is August 5-14, with of course a few days on either side of that to get "ahead of the crowds".  Projected attendance this year is over 700,000.  Meanwhile, South Dakota Covid cases are rising fast:  the Delta Variant, of course.  Since for some reason I doubt that all 700,000 rallygoers will be fully vaccinated, masked, and socially distanced, the pro tip is either get a lot of health insurance or STF home.

Finally, if you happen to be driving late at night and looking at your cell phone and hit a man and kill him and the sheriff doesn't give you an alcohol test and instead loans you his personal car to drive yourself home and the alcohol test is given the next day and no charges are filed for months and when they are they're three misdemeanors and you can pay $1,500.00 and make it all go away and you have the money because you're the State Attorney General, the pro tip is DO IT.  And quit blaming the victim.

BSP:  "The Sweet Life" is in the current issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.


And because you know that you've always wanted to read a mystery where Mrs. Elton of Emma is the detective, determined to catch the killer, especially if it's Harriet Smith, my "Truth and Turpitude:  Murder at Abbey-Mill Farm" is in the current issue of Crimeucopia: The Cosy Nostra, now available at Amazon.com.

28 July 2021

Vikings


One of my embarrassing favorites is The Vikings, a Kirk Douglas picture from 1958, directed by Richard Fleischer. Fleischer had done 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea a couple of years before, with Douglas and James Mason, for Disney. 20,000 Leagues still gives me nightmares, that giant squid. The Vikings sticks to my ribs for different reasons.

Clearly, a lot of it is bogus. The wife accused of adultery, with her pigtails pinned to the wood stocks, and her husband throwing the axe. The guy loses his nerve, and Kirk steps in. (We know, and so does everybody else, that Kirk himself has been schtupping her.) But he saves her bacon. Then there’s the stuff that you figure was probably made up, but rings true. Kirk, again, dancing on the oars as the long boats make their way up the fjord. The story Dick Fleischer tells is that the stunt guys started walking the oars, and Douglas said he could do it, too. Fleischer is, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, if you break your balls, the picture shuts down. Douglas goes ahead, and you can see it’s him, not a stunt double. And then the moment when Tony Curtis throws his hawk at Kirk, and the bird takes his eye out. These are guys who can inhabit a mutual hatred.

So, when The Vikings comes on TV, the TV Guide listing calls it “Incredible, but rousing, Norse mayhem.” I could cotton to that description. Borgnine is worth the price of admission. He’s about to be pushed into a pit of wolves. He turns to Tony Curtis and asks for a sword. Curtis gives him one, and Borgnine jumps into the pit, calling, “ODIN!” Is this remotely genuine? Who cares? The immediate result is that Curtis then gets his hand cut off. Fair is fair.

I thought I’d give Vikings a shot. It’s supposed to be significantly more authentic. The hair is certainly scary. But it’s all mayhem, all the time. I admit, when Ragnar takes Gabe Byrne down (spoiler alert, but you knew it was coming), it was thoroughly satisfying, but these people are portrayed, essentially, as brute psychopaths.

Excuse me. These are the guys who sailed out into the cold, dark Atlantic and discovered Iceland, and Greenland, and then the Canadian Maritimes, for European fisheries. They established Baltic trading posts. They raided England and Ireland, and the coast of France. Over time, they became not Vikings, a word that means pirates, but Normans. And they changed Europe.

Of the half-dozen books on history my grandfather wrote, two are still in print, and still taught in courses on the Middle Ages. The Renaissance of the 12th Century is the better-known, but The Normans in European History runs a close second. His thesis is that the Norsemen, who began as ravaging predators, turned into settlers, and governors. Normandy, the Kingdom of Sicily, the Crusader states.

The longest-lasting and most influential Norman adventure is of course the Conquest, in 1066, the defeat of the Saxon king Harold by the bastard duke William of Normandy.

There’s a straight line, leading to the Bayeux Tapestry and the Domesday Book. A legacy of those sea-raiders in their long boats, with their devotion to the Norse gods of war. Their striving, their fury in battle, their thirst for spoils, their fierce clan loyalties, and at the last, their hunger for Valhalla and an ever-lasting fame.

Incredible, yes, but rousing.


27 July 2021

An Appealing Short Story


     Following a conviction in a criminal trial, the defendant has a right to appeal. He or she
argues that errors the judge made during the original trial affected the outcome of the case to such a degree that the defendant should be entitled to a "do-over." The appellate judges do not retry the case, but rather read the court reporter's statement of facts and evaluate the defendant's claims. Appellate courts issue written opinions weighing the merits of those raised issues. 

    A common claim on appeal is the sufficiency of the evidence. The jury, the argument goes, succumbed to the passion of the moment. In a sufficiency challenge, the appellate court is asked to rule that the admitted evidence could not support a finding of guilt by a rational trier of fact. When the claim is raised, appellate courts spell out the facts. They articulate why a sufficiency claim is not supported by the evidence (or conversely why it is). Appellate opinions are often technical. They are organized around the defendant's claims of error and hash out the arguments regarding those claims. The reading is not necessarily dry, but rather it is purposeful. A sufficiency claim lets the reader get involved in the story of the case, to read what the evidence showed to have happened. 

    I came across a local case recently, Andrews v. The State of Texas. The defendant, Mark Andrews, and his wife, Doris, shared a house with another couple, Don and Amy. Andrews and Don had worked together at a local trucking company until Don quit because of health problems. Mark Andrews later left as well. He became a professional gambler. This career choice routinely had him out of the house from 3:00 am until 8:00 am. The Andrews owned three dogs, Diesel, Sparky, and Tanker. Diesel and Sparky slept with Doris. All three dogs barked at strangers. Don and Amy called them burglar alarms. 

    On January 8th, 2016, at 4:30 am, Mark Andrews burst into Don and Amy's bedroom. He screamed for them to get help. While Don called 911, Amy followed Andrews into his bedroom. She saw him beside the bed, screaming Doris's name. Doris was lying on the bed in a blood pool. Andrews asserted that someone was in the house. He searched from room to room. Then he returned and began chest compressions on Doris. Amy recognized immediately that Doris was beyond saving. Centered on a rug in the bedroom, as if on display, she saw a hammer. While her husband stayed on the line with the emergency operator,  Amy observed that the door to a safe concealed in the living room stood open. Andrews, she testified, looked overly dramatic and announced that the safe had been burglarized. 

    When the police arrived, Diesel, Sparky, and Tanker barked wildly and had to be put outside. The police found no sign of a forced entry. Further investigation revealed that Andrews had recently researched funeral costs, had finances in disarray due to gambling losses, and that Doris owned life insurance. The murder weapon, the hammer, belonged to Andrews and was normally stored in a secured shed. The police discovered the shed unlocked and the door showed no evidence of damage. 

    There were other threads of evidence in the case as well. I am skipping over them for our purposes. The jury convicted Andrews of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He appealed. The court of appeals found the evidence sufficient to sustain the conviction, writing that whoever murdered Doris had: 

        -The physical strength to commit the offense (Don did not. Andrews did).

        -Access to the shed to retrieve the hammer without using force (Andrews did). 

        -Not aroused the alarm of Tinker, Diesel or, Sparky (Andrews would meet this criterion). 

    It is this last point I want to focus upon in a blog for crime fiction enthusiasts.  Sherlock Holmes readers will remember "Silver Blaze," from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes deduces that the thief of a famous racehorse was someone well-known to the stable dog. 

        "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

        "To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime."

        "The dog did nothing in the nighttime." 

        "That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes. 

    Holmes grasped that the nighttime visitor was someone the dog knew. The government's evidence in the Andrews trial made clear to the jury that Diesel, Sparky, and Tanker had barks that were "high-pitched" and "yippee [sic]." They did not like strangers and had to be put outside to enable the police to conduct their investigation. Yet, on the fateful evening, they sounded no alarm. The prosecutors raised the point, and the appellate judge went so far as to drop a footnote citing Sherlock Holmes.

    I worked with the prosecutor who handled the case. I called Kevin and asked him if he knew about the Arthur Conan Doyle story. He did not, but he will. We concluded our conversation by finding a PDF of "Silver Blaze" online. 

    After I hung up, I thought about all of this. As mystery fans, we have the best of both worlds on display. Seasoned trial attorneys independently found significance in the same absence of facts as Sherlock Holmes. The contemporary example of life imitating art should make the story continue to feel real and viable. Conversely, the appellate judge knew about "Silver Blaze." He recognized the parallel between the case he was deliberating upon and this hallmark of the literary canon. He purposely incorporated Arthur Conan Doyle's story into his opinion and in so doing, gave names to the anonymous stable dog: Tanker, Diesel, and Sparky. 

    Is it over the top to say that Doris got some justice because of the "dogged" work of the police and prosecution? I think it probably is. 

    Until next time.  



26 July 2021

The Impeccable Poirot


I've been treating myself to a leisurely nostalgia trip through the Art Deco settings of the early seasons of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot on Britbox. David Suchet is the embodiment of the dapper little detective with his perfectly waxed mustache, spotless spats, and compassion for the emotions of others, even though for himself he prefers to rely on the "little gray cells" of his exceptional brain.

The fact that Poirot never changes makes him tiresome to some readers. Christie herself hinted she eventually found him tedious by giving her fictional alter ego, Mrs Ariadne Oliver, similar feelings toward her own protagonist. And Poirot on the page is a flat, even cartoonish character, especially compared to the fully realized characters we write and read about today. But as Suchet inhabits this character, he brings the finicky, precise, keen-witted little Belgian to life. An émigré and an outsider in English society, sometimes lionized and sometimes dismissed, he is sensitive to slights but manages to keep his temper, his sense of humor, and a sense of irony. And in the end, he solves the case without fear or favor.

Like most mystery writers who've been dabbling in deceit and death for a while, I can usually spot a few more tricks of the crime fiction trade than I'm supposed to, whether they show up in a novel, a short story, a movie, or a TV show. Furthermore, binge watching the series is giving me a further advantage, in that neither the prolific Dame Agatha nor the producers (ITV et al), with their ambitious goal of filming the entire Poirot canon, could help repeating some of their techniques.

We know the sweet damsel in distress whom Poirot unmasks at the end as the contemptuous murderess...the disregarded maidservant...the pair who detest each other most convincingly yet turn out to be lovers in cahoots...the victim who comes back to life. We've seen them before, these most unlikely villains, as we have the cluster of murders to conceal the motive for a single death. We may even have used them ourselves.

What we mustn't forget is that these classic devices—the least likely suspect, the unreliable narrator—are familiar to us because Agatha Christie thought of them first and sprang them on a vast audience who were as truly baffled as the witnesses and suspects Poirot gathers together for the revelatory dénouement of each episode.

Fashions in crime fiction have changed. Readers no longer care about the clock set forward or back, the scrap of fabric caught in a latch, the second spoon in the saucer of a coffee cup. But in the Poirot TV series, these details still give us pleasure, because they form part of the vanished world of "society" between the two World Wars when details of dress, manners, and decor still mattered to a lot of people. Such details become clues that help Poirot solve the crime at hand.

In Suchet's interpretation, Poirot is not merely observant. He has a touch of OCD, constantly straightening table settings laid awry or ornaments on a mantelpiece. I particularly loved the moment when he realized the missing will, or was it a compromising letter, had been torn up into "spills," twisted strips of paper meant for lighting the fire, in a jar on the mantel. They caught his eye because the other objects on the mantel were out of order—and he had straightened them the day before.

25 July 2021

One Movie at a Time


2020 was a long dreary year, but partway through 2021 the future started looking brighter as more people got vaccinated and stores, restaurants and various events began to open up. And then, the D mutation flexed its muscle and put question marks on how bad the future could become.

In our little cul-de-sac of nine houses, the majority of homeowners had a hello and wave relationship with their neighbors. During the eighteen years we had lived in this small community, there had not been a single organized get-together for all the neighbors to get to know each other. It was a friendly place… up to a point, but very few of the neighbors socialized with each other. Then one evening, one of our next door neighbors and his spouse proposed an idea they had. Seems the neighbor had a DVD projector, a folding table to put it on and a movie screen he'd made out of an old white sheet.

As a trial run, he hung the sheet from his pergola in his back yard and set up his projector on the table. We brought over two sets of Bose speakers from our old sound system and we set up some canvas camping chairs on their back lawn. The next door neighbors on the other side of our house were also invited to attend the trial run.

The movie selected was Trouble with the Curve, starring Clint Eastwood as an aging baseball scout who had a rocky relationship with his ambitious lawyer daughter. Everything worked well that night, so now it was time to expand to a larger audience, but we needed a bigger venue than his backyard.

The neighbor with the initial idea made up a handbill invitation to a free movie and ice cream social night. That same neighbor and us would would supply the ice cream, bowls and spoons. Everybody else would bring their favorite ice cream topping to share.

A few days before the event, I went around the cul-de-sac ringing doorbells and handing out handbill invitations. At the time, we didn't know if the audience would be the same seven who attended the trial run or a potential high of twelve in attendance. Since the number of attendees was an unknown factor, our driveway, which had the least slope to it, was elected as the bigger venue for this showing.


The movie screen/white sheet was hung with plastic hooks from the rain gutters over our garage door, while the projector and table were located about halfway down our driveway. The ice cream table was set up off to one side on the sidewalk. Everyone brought their own chairs and found places to put them where they would have a good view of the movie. Tiki torches filled with mosquito repellant were set up off to the side in order to ward off any unwanted pests.

Amazingly, there were eighteen in attendance for ice cream and the movie. Because we didn't know how well this project would be received, we had only allowed a half hour between ice cream social before the movie was scheduled to run. But, when the ice cream half hour was up, the attendees were still engaged in on-going conversation with the neighbors they had lived side-by-side with for years with only a wave and a hello. Of course, ice cream time got extended. Finally, I had to instruct everyone to pick up some popcorn which my wife had bagged up and then to take their seats, the movie was about to start. Otherwise, we may not have wound up this party until well after midnight.

For this movie, we showed Second Hand Lions with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine. Another hit. Afterwards, surprisingly enough, everyone stuck around to take down the screen and carry all the equipment and tables back to the original owner's house and/or backyard.

There's nothing like success. For our next event, we may expand the social time by making it a covered dish supper with each family bringing something for the table. This way, they can talk with their neighbors for a longer period of time.

The question now is which movie to show. It needs to be a family friendly one, kids may attend, yet be appealing to a wide audience. Any ideas?

We're just coming together, one movie at a time.