Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Meet LAst Resort Author Melinda Loomis "Crime Drama/Do Not Cross"

Excerpt from “Crime Drama/Do Not Cross” by Melinda Loomis

So I became Zan.

A crapload of paperwork (part of which, the prior experience requirement, I fudged), background check and one state exam later, and I had my PI license. No one questioned that I was changing my name at the same time. I concocted the story that I was an actress trying to remake myself to try and jumpstart my comatose career, and that was the end of that conversation. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought Alexandra “Zan” Jones was a lot catchier and more dramatic than Susan Cooper. I bought my first fedora and started wearing it 24/7, and gave myself a catchphrase for good measure. I figured it would all come in handy when I finally got on the show.

Because, you see, it was also a calculated career move. I hoped that in addition to getting to be Zan, that eventually I could solve a high enough profile case to make the news. My plan was that the novelty of casting an actress who was a real-life PI on a show about PI’s would prove irresistible to the PI: Private Investigators producers and network, and I would be in.

The Rochelle Staub Questions

What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?

It was actually something that almost happened. I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard and there was a huge crash behind me. A palm frond had fallen and hit the sidewalk. A guy walking toward me held his hands about twelve inches apart and said, “It missed you by this much,” and I thought, what a stupid way to die. I had visions of LAPD notifying my family just like they do on T.V.

Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?

Writing for television. I’m currently in the UCLA Extension TV Writing Program and would love to be able to make my living doing that. I’ve worked so many jobs I loathed that it would be wonderful to have a dream job.

Why write short stories? Why write at all? What's in it for you?

I’ve only recently discovered the markets for short stories. I’ve always had trouble trying to write novels or feature scripts; it gets to a certain size and I just can’t wrangle it. But short stories and TV scripts are manageable for me.

I’m not a brilliant conversationalist, but I feel like I’m able to express myself well in writing. And I like crime writing in particular because I like seeing people get what they deserve, good, bad, or otherwise. That doesn’t always happen in real life so it’s nice to see justice served, even if it’s fictional.

What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?

Hoping that the judges will feel you’ve met that particular requirement.

Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?

No, more like types of people. So many people come here to break into the entertainment industry, but most won’t make it. I’ll watch the credits of old movies and TV shows and wonder what happened to the actors who didn’t make it big. You know their Hollywood dream wasn’t to have their biggest credit be “Girl at party” or “Guy at bar”. I wonder about those people and what happens to them when the dream eludes them.

Plus, thanks to the internet, people who are overly obsessed with TV shows have an outlet to share that with the world and some of it is kind of disturbing, so that contributed to the idea of someone who was such a fan that she tried to live as if she was a character on the show.

Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?

When I read the theme for LAst Resort, my mind went straight to an actress whose career hadn’t happened. Of course she’s still in Hollywood—leaving would be admitting defeat. I lived in Hollywood during the same period as Zan, so I know my way around the neighborhood and its recent history. I didn’t need to research it.

Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?

The catalyst for Zan becoming a private investigator, the checks being stolen by a neighbor, actually happened to me. She cleaned out my checking account. The difference is my neighbor didn’t answer the door when I tried to confront her. But I still had this amazing feeling of euphoria from solving the crime, plus I was able to tie it to the TV show Zan is obsessed with.

What came first, the character or the plot? 

The plot, based on the theme. I know I said earlier Zan came to mind immediately, but it was more her situation and her obsession than her personally, and that’s what drove the story.

While you're writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…? 

I find listening to songs while I’m writing to be distracting. I usually have creativity music from YouTube going because it stays in the background. There’s a website called that plays coffee shop background noise, and I use that sometimes because it’s also background enough that it doesn’t distract me.

Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…

Anne Lamott: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

There was major family drama after my father died in 2011 that was extremely traumatic and unnecessary, all the responsibility fell on me, and it made me depressed and angry. It went on for several years and at one point I thought, when this is over, I never want to think about it again, EVER. Earlier this year I used the experience as the basis for a script for my UCLA Extension class and got raves for it. Enough time had passed and I was able to use the experience to my advantage. It was wonderfully cathartic and Anne’s quote was an inspiration.

Your writing ritual begins with…

Unfortunately I procrastinate like crazy, so my “ritual” usually involves me suddenly being interested in housework. When the deadline is looming and I don’t have any choice is when the muse finally shows up. I submit right at deadline a lot.

Melinda Loomis was born and raised in Southern California. She has at times been an office drone, culinary student and unemployed bum.

LAst Resort is her first time being published. She got the news that she was accepted as a contributor on her birthday.

Melinda lives in the Los Angeles area with her extremely photogenic cat Sophie. Visit her online at .

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Meet LAst Resort Author Avril Adams "Independence Day"

Photo by Maya Rosenfeld

Excerpt from "Independence Day" by Avril Adams

"So what brings you here?" she said.

"Business or pleasure?" The corners of her lips turned slightly upward when she said "pleasure". Easy does it, Ava. Take your foot off the gas.

"Neither." He glanced, discreetly, she thought, for a wedding ring. She folded her left hand, hiding the crooked middle finger broken during the escape. Frank had sent his own man from the mortuary to push her into a false-bottom coffin for the getaway.

"Art, you might say. I'm a writer. Freelance."

"What are you freelancing?" As if she didn't know.

"I'm covering the Coburn murder trial for People's Gazette Magazine."

"The Coburn murder trial? That gangland murder up in the hills a few years ago?"

"That's the one," he said with emphasis, circling a thick finger around the crest of his glass. Ava shivered, her well-shaped breasts contributing their part to the performance.

She set her drink on the bar and poked at the ice cubes with a swizzle stick while she thought of something to say that would imply she had some sympathy for the victims. "So they finally got the killers," she said. "I remember seeing the coverage and thinking what they did was so cold-blooded." She held her fingers like a pistol. "Each one of them, two to the head, pop, pop, execution style. Weren't there four people in that house? Four college students?”

"I believe so," he said, thoughtfully, after a pause. "Yes, four. You have a good memory, Danni."

One of them was Frank’s niece, you Dumbo. You could have just taken the cocaine, but you’re a killer at heart. So you’re gonna be number five, Conrad Oliver.

The Rochelle Staab Questions Asked of Avril Adams

What is the weirdest thing that's happened to you in Los Angeles?

One night someone knocked on my door. I lived on a hillside at the time and it was a hard climb without a car. I opened the door and there was a woman standing there. She had red hair and wore glasses. She said her car had broken down and asked to use my phone. Right out of a horror movie, right? Well this was in the days before cell phones so it was more reasonable than now. Since she appeared to be alone I agreed to let her use the phone . I pointed it out on the kitchen wall. I was busy for a moment as she picked up the receiver but unknown to her I was watching. I realized she hadn't actually dialed a number but was just pretending to talk to someone. Then I was really scared but I didn't let on. After a minute of very strange conversation she asked if she could stay the night. Whew! I was scared. I finally got her to go outside and locked the door behind her.

Do you have a yet-to-be-realized L.A. dream?

My dreams don't center around this town. This city has a thousand masks and you can try on a few but sometimes the masks can overtake you and you can become part of the craziness. I'm okay with being in it but not of it.

Why write short stories? Why write at all? What's in it for you?

A lot of life is about karma and the law of unintended consequences. Shot stories allow me to play god with these ideas, pack a punch and get out quick. Sometimes short stories leave an indelible mark because they are brief, ephemeral,  pivotal moments in time.

What is the biggest challenge to writing to theme?

Writing to theme can be a curse if you feel you have to be totally linear with it. It can also be a blessing in that it winnows a universe of possibilities down to a manageable few.

Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?

This city is full of neighborhoods but most people drive through or around them without ever stopping to meet the people that live in them or to experience other cultures. You could have a story with a certain set of facts but it will be completely different when filtered through different neighborhoods and ethnic group experience.

Are there scenes in your story based on real life-yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?

Most of my stories are based on something real, in the news, an idea in a book, something that happened to me. I rearrange the facts and try to figure out why this event is important and what is the theme that I want to dress it in.

What came first, the character or the plot?

For me, always the character.

Available at Amazon
While you are writing: music (what kind) dead silence, or...?

I can sometimes write when there is music or the T.V. going on in the room, usually classical or something without  words. I can work while half-listening to the T.V.  Noise isn't so much a distraction but a mood changer. Sometimes that's also good to change the mood.

What's your favorite writing quote?

I don't really have a favorite but if I did it would remind me that one writes for its own sake and not for a reward or if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

What's my writing ritual?

Don't have one but I often warm up by reading something great by another author.

Avril Adams lives in the Inland Empire.  She writes crime fiction, often in the noir genre.  Her story, "The Lowriders" was included in Last Exit to Murder. She has had several other short stories published.  In addition to crime fiction, Avril writs science fiction with a humanist twist as well as children's stories. She is working on a novel starring an African-Amercican female PI. Her animals are an inspiration for her fiction.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meet LAst Resort Author Gay Degani "Highland Park Hit"

Excerpt from "Highland Park Hit" by Gay Degani

Corner on Figueroa in Highland Park
Photo by Gay Degani
Late afternoon sun streams through my cousin’s renovated house, so bright I’m temporarily blinded, but find myself quickly wrapped in Clovis’s bony arms.  I think he’s crying.

I smooth back his hair. “Talk to me, cher?  Wha’s wrong?”

He points toward the kitchen.

I twist around taking in the open concept of living room, dining, and kitchen, the back yard through sliders, all on view in a single glance. Then I swallow hard at what I spy next. At the foot of the quartz island on the dark laminate floor sprawls a man’s body.

“Stay here,” I say, and offering up a pray to that Detective Lenny Brisco from Law & Order, I creep into the kitchen and stoop to take this poor man’s pulse but there’s a hole in his neck a bullet hole—I know this from TV. His flat dead eyes seem to ask me why?

I don’t know. I throw up. Twice.

The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Gay Degani:

What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?

Photo by Rachael Warecki
I’ve lived here a long time.  I don’t think I know the difference between something weird and an “only in LA” moment.

Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?

I do. I want to write a good suspense novel/film in the vein of “Rebecca,” “Suspicion,” & “Shadow of a Doubt.” These are all domestic suspense stories, and that’s what I think I do best, dealing with regular people in scary situations. It’s what my novel, “What Came Before” is.

Why write short stories? Why write at all? What's in it for you?

Short stories allow a writer to hone his or her craft. 6,000 words are much easier to tackle than 66,000 words. You can rethink the plot, edit, revise, polish, even start over in a relatively short time.

What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?

I don’t think theme is a challenge. It’s really a tool to help shape a story, decide what should be in and what should be out. It helps keep the characters and plot on track and deepens a reader’s enjoyment. It gives the endeavor meaning.

Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?

Of course.  It’s too difficult to pull stuff out of thin air.  Could you make a vase without clay?  The trick is changing to character to fit the needs of the story.

Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?

I’m interested in gentrification, how it affects the residents, though in this story it’s part of the milieu. I chose Highland Park which is an up and coming community in East LA because its close to me is an authentic community. Also I’m interested in other facets of restoring homes and how obsessed people are with watching renovation shows on TV.

Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?

No.  This story came about because of the premise of the anthology. I needed to pick an LA area, which dictated what the setting would be. Then all I had to do was kill someone.

What came first, the character or the plot?

Available on Amazon
Character—also dictated by the anthology’s theme: thinking LA is the promised land. I chose a Louisiana cousin as the inspiration for Fanchon Landry, or “Fig” as her family calls her.

While you're writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…?

Preservation Hall, Cajun music, the blues.

Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Ernest Hemingway which leads to my own quote. “Never fear the shit draft.”

Your writing ritual begins with… 

Seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

About Gay Degani

Available at Amazon

Gay Degani is the author of a full-length collection of short stories, Rattle of Want  (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She’s had four flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Glass Woman Prize. She blogs at Words in Place.