As some of you might know, I've dabbled as a professional writer. Right about now you’re probably thinking, “That guy? But he’s an idiot.” Or maybe, “I’m thirsty.” Whichever, it’s true. Not that I’ve been very successful at it. I thought I’d provide an overview of my mighty works, so that you may gaze upon them and despair. Just like I do.
I know I’m missing a few. It sounds crazy to not remember entire books, proposals or screenplays you wrote, but this crap goes back a long ways. My first book was written on a Eagle dedicated word processor and printed on a dot-matrix printer. I believe I wrote Hellhound on an Atari ST. I discovered a lot of these on random floppy disks. In other words, I’ve been a loser for quite some time.SHORT STORIES
I wrote these in college, typically in a last-minute burst. Some might be publishable, were I to work on them a bit. I think a few would make good comics. An artist friend and I were going to collaborate on such a project for English credit, but mostly we just sat around and got high.There's Always Room for Gel-O
This is my favorite of all my stories. I was consciously trying to emulate my favorite author, Philip K. Dick. It’s not a “rip-off,” it’s an “homage.”Anno Domini
A time travel “can fate be changed?” tale. I’d like to try and publish this one, but there aren’t (m)any religious SF magazines. For an atheist, I sure write a lot of stories about Jesus.Sara’s Bus
This was originally called “A New Bus,” until a classmate informed me that I was mistaken as to the correct name of one of the characters. (And I'm still wrong, just in a different way!)Tunnel Rat
This is a horror story set during the Vietnam War. I wasn't very popular in class after this one, for obvious reasons.A Hell of a Cop
This was written after I criticized a classmate for writing such a clichéd story and she challenged me to try the same theme and do it better.The Good Book
I was under a deadline and cribbed the plot from the great science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. One of my classmates called me on it. So much post-apocalyptic SF assumes that the Bible will survive. But what if another book takes its place?Our Thing
This one is very gory. My instructor (the writer Pinckney Benedict
) told me the first version wasn't graphic enough. I guess I showed him. I could never figure out a good ending, though, and so I don't much like the story.Bright Lights, Big Shitty
Unfortunately, every word is true. Why do I keep allowing people to read this?NOVELS
I write novels and screenplays with my father, who is an accomplished writer on his own
This is the first two chapters of the first novel I wrote with my dad. Sort of an “ET meets Rambo” story. It’s not bad for a first effort, but it’s mostly significant as a learning experience. Don’t introduce a large set of characters half-way through your novel, kids. And avoid epistolary storytelling, even in small doses.Hellhound
Here’s a short snippet of our action-adventure novel, published in 1994. We wrote it with Craig Roberts
, a cop on the Tulsa Police Dept. helicopter squad, via email. I met him once, only after the book was published. His name appears first as he is a popular military writer (his book One Shot, One Kill was one of the most requested books by soldiers in the first Persian Gulf war). Yes, he will kill you.
Craig Roberts and Allen Appel make a good team and deliver an imaginative novel of clear, direct military suspense, although the internal logic of their plot too often relies on coincidence to fully convince. When a team of Iraqi and Palestinian terrorists steal the Hellhound, a high-powered attack helicopter being tested by the Russians at a secret airbase in Libya, the responsibility for its recovery falls to Russian colonel Sergei Valentin. Based on a cryptic remark by Libya's leader Qaddafi, whom Valentin concludes must know something about the thieves, the Russian's search takes him to an address in gang-controlled East L.A., where he teams up with Jack Walker, a temporarily idled LAPD helicopter cop. Meanwhile, the Arab terrorists prepare to use the Hellhound to avenge Saddam Hussein by attacking a nuclear power plant in Southern California, where former President Reagan is giving a speech. Valentin and Walker secure a Cobra helicopter of their own and take on the Hellhound in a daring seaside rendition of Duelling Helicopters in the rousing climax. – Publishers Weekly
When Hellhound was originally finished, it was over seven hundred manuscript pages long and had two main subplots: the terrorists as funny-yet-dangerous strangers in a strange land, and mysterious political machinations behind the entire enterprise. The publisher, balking at such a hefty tome, demanded cuts. The book was edited by about a hundred pages and became much better. No, we were told, we said cut
it, or we will. The painful decision was made to jettison both subplots and insert a few pages that later were deemed “coincidental.” I can remember sitting at the computer and pressing the delete key and my only emotion was eagerness to get the whole damn business over with so I could receive the second one-third of the rest of the advance.
We proposed a sequel to Hellhound, titled A Matter of Survival. The gang salvages the Hellhound and flies it to Siberia to rescue American POWs held there since Vietnam. Our agent said that nobody would be interested in such an obscure story. About six months later, there were hearings in Washington about missing POWs and it was all over the news. (People often assume that an agent works for the writer. This is false. The agent decides whether to bother trying to sell your book. If he isn’t interested, you’re better off finding another agent to reject your work.)Blinders
I barely remember this one. It never progressed beyond the “3 chapters and proposal” stage. The idea was a thriller with bleeding-edge weaponry: sticky foam, sound guns, blinding lasers, etc. We did make a special screen treatment version for Jean Claude Van Damme, who was looking for a new project, our agent told us. Remember, he was a big star once.The Testaments: Second Coming
After Hellhound, our agent suggested another writer to work with who had a great idea. What if they cloned Jesus? Dad and I busted our asses on this one for almost a year, writing two proposals with markedly different plots. One morning I’m riding the subway and I read a review for The Genesis Code by John Case. Guess what it’s about?Prologue
There are two versions of the proposal, each almost 90 pages long. I assume nobody wants to slog through them. Murder at the Mint
The first chapter for a proposed Hardy Boys Casefiles book. Don’t laugh, it would have paid $1500 and taken me about a week to write. Okay, laugh.Untitled Group Effort
The mystery writers group I belong to decided to collaborate on a novel. We get together once a month to drink heavily and eat Chinese food and we spend a week at the beach in winter. Unfortunately, it turned out that Dad and I ended up with the bulk of the work, so it’s all but dead. This is a chapter I wrote.Zombi
A college friend of mine actually came up with this idea, but we never got around to working on it together. What if zombie-ism was a sexually-transmitted disease? We hoped to do for zombies what Anne Rice did for vampires. This is the first two chapters.Very Dead
I can’t remember if this was part of the above zombie novel or intended as a different take on the idea. VD, get it? If so, they have shots for that.SCREENPLAYS
I came to the conclusion that writing novels was too much work for too little money, so I switched to screenplays. If I’m not going to be getting paid, I might as well not be getting paid A LOT.The Ebony Streak
This one is pretty good, I think. It’s based on the true story of a black bicyclist at the turn of the twentieth century. He was one of the most famous athletes in the world, the Michael Jordan of his day. Naturally, he died penniless and in obscurity.
I came damn close to selling this one. Actually, it’s a funny story. If you enjoy my humiliation, that is. And I think you do.
On the last night of work at a job I’d come to loathe, I was just packing up my desk when the phone rang. It was a producer who’d read the script and was interested in presenting it to an investor (the same guy who’s bankrolling Chronicles of Narnia, as it turns out). He had some good notes, I made the changes and sent it off. He really likes it, he sets up a meeting with the investor in New York. For September 14. In 2001. Needless to say, the meeting never happens. Nor is it rescheduled. Eventually, the producer stops taking my calls. Although, I still get the company Christmas card. It burns, like salt.This
is the original opening of the script.This
is the new opening, per the producer’s notes. We dropped the old-timers race entirely and bookended the script with the six-day race scene. Six day races were probably the most grueling sporting event ever. Major Taylor could kick Lance Armstrong’s ass. Second Coming
Since it failed as a book, why not have it fail as a movie as well? This one’s our own fault, though. We made the Palestinians the good
guys, and the bad guys were Jews and Catholics. Know your audience, people. This is the first seven pages of the script.These
are short takes on the movie ideas I should be working on.
I won’t link to the comedy script, simply because it’s not remotely funny. Plus, I can’t seem to find it. Even my hard drive rejected it.
So, that’s it. About ten years of abject failure and wasted effort. I know the formatting of the linked pages is all screwed up, but that's Microsoft Word for you. I'll fix it another day. Whew, I need a drink.