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Top 6 Scariest Old Time Radio Shows

Top 6 Scariest Old Time Radio Shows

I’m a big old time radio nerd, and my favorite tales are the creepy chillers and spook stories about ghosts, killers, and weird supernatural happenings that they’d play late at night as you sat by the radio in your stuffed chair with the lights turned low and the wind rattling the windows. Here are my six favorite shows for sending a chill up your spine, perfect for getting in the Halloween mood!

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Ranked: Every Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Album

Ranked: Every Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Album

From so-so to legendary, because there are no “bad” Tom Petty albums!!

My number #2 band always fluctuates between The Replacements, Tom Waits, and Ryan Adams, but my overall #1 ever since I was a little kid has always been and will always be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. TP has a knack for crafting that 3 minute rock song that is both radio friendly (well, back when radio mattered) and also tells a story. That’s what I love about the band the most: their storytelling, little fictions that speak to realities. With guitars. Really loud guitars. Sometimes soft ones, too. All good stuff. Enough chit-chat. Here’s my ranking, from passable to great.   

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My Top 3: John Steinbeck Books

My Top 3: John Steinbeck Books

I’ve long been a huge fan of John Steinbeck’s writing and his humanist, critical examinations of not just the American experience, but of what it is to be human, to struggle against greed and oppression, and most of all, with our own demons. The fact that Of Mice and Men doesn’t even make the top three here should say something, as that’s the book I read in my early teens that made me want to be a writer. It was the first book that hit me right in the gut and said—This is what you are supposed to be doing! The following three books helped shape my worldview in such a way that I’d say his ideals and passions are more important to who I am as a person than any other artist. 

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My Top 3: Black Books Episodes

My Top 3: Black Books Episodes

Any bookworm or literary type who likes an adult beverage every now and then and sometimes becomes annoyed with having to deal with other humans (or “time wasters”) when you’d rather be reading or writing will be absolutely delighted by Black Books—that is, if you haven’t yet discovered the show’s brilliance, and I hope you have. Irish comic Dylan Moran stars as Bernard Black with Bill Bailey as Manny and Tamsin Greig as Fran in this quirky British comedy about a bookshop and its morose, frustrated owner who wants nothing more than for customers (and staff) to leave him alone so he may drink wine and read books. It’s filmed with a live audience, as are many of Graham Linehan’s comedies (he also wrote Father Ted and The IT Crowd) but you get used to the laughter amongst all the sight gags, the pratfall humor, and literary quips. It’s one of my favorite comedies of all times, and these, at the moment, are my favorite three episodes.

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The Pros and Cons of Writing in the Presence of a Pet

While visiting home recently, it hit me how much more I enjoy the writing process when the family dog is lying at my feet. My pal Rocky, our yellow lab, has become my writing sidekick when I’m visiting upstate NY, and there are definite pros and cons to his watchful eye…I also used to live with cats too (eh, not as big a fan) and I found many similar pros and cons. Let me know if I missed any!

Pro: They’re always there to listen when you need to ramble about a passage or character, and I do sometimes ramble on about places in a story where I’m stuck when no one else is around. It helps clear out the head and get things straight with a willing (if captive) audience.

Con: They always think your idea is a great idea, so the feedback quality isn’t exactly “professional grade.” But hey, we all need cheerleaders, even those happily watching us write ourselves into infinite corners.

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My Top 3: Throwback Breakfast Cereals

My Top 3: Throwback Breakfast Cereals

I was a big time cereal eater in my day, and I still enjoy popping open a box of Trix or Cap’n Crunch every now and then to recapture that feeling of Saturday morning cartoons and multiple bowls of sugar-saturated cereal before anyone else was up. The 80s, in my opinion, was the champion decade for kid’s cereals, and here my favorites from my childhood. Feel free to mail me a box and I’ll love you forever.  

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My Top 3: Alan Furst Novels

My Top 3: Alan Furst Novels

A few years ago I discovered the espionage/noir masterpiece that is Alan Furst’s body of work, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The series is called his Night Soldiers series, which includes thirteen novels about the European underground résistance against the Nazis between the years 1932-1945, or thereabouts. Some books focus on Polish army officers, some newspaper reporters, some Russian spies, some Greek detectives, people from all walks, and they all start out fearful of the Germans and unsure of what they can do to stop the rise of Hitler’s mad power, but they each find a way to help, somehow, and I love that the POV isn’t of the usual British or American heroism during the war (which is all fine and good, but it’s nice having this change of pace). Here are my top three selections if I were to recommend his series to you, and I do, very much so! 

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My Top 3: Old School Sega Genesis Games

My Top 3: Old School Sega Genesis Games

While I actually have a little more childhood nostalgia for my original Nintendo system, the Sega Genesis system I eventually received one Christmas is tied to a lot of fond memories I have of being an early teen, especially memories involving my dad. He got one too so we could play together when my sister and I would go visit him in the summers, and we had a blast. When visiting him recently, we found that old Sega in storage and I played the devil out of it. Here are the three games that—even after all these years—are still an amazing way to kill a rainy afternoon.

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My Top 3: Humphrey Bogart Movies

My Top 3: Humphrey Bogart Movies

Bogie. The Hump. Mr. Sam Spade himself. He’s been one of my favorite film stars ever since my dad started letting me watch some of Bogart's black-and-white classics when I’d visit him over the summer in middle school. I was always drawn to his casual bravado and endless confidence, and he mastered and trademarked the archetype of the law-bending detective with a shady past but a heart of gold. Far too many of his amazing roles will not make this list, but here are the ones that mean the most to me.

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My Top 3: Writer's Digest Books

My Top 3: Writer's Digest Books

During my time as a Writer’s Digest book editor, I had the pleasure of shepherding a tall stack of books into the world, and each taught me valuable lessons about writing (it’s hard not to pick up some cues when you’re neck deep in writing advice night and day), and some were a lot of fun to edit, too. The following books were especially enjoyable, written by talented, fun, whip-smart people who really cared about helping other writers write better (and sometimes just to write). All these books are definitely worth picking up, and that’s coming from a guy who doesn’t even work there anymore, so you know it’s not some PR smoke and mirrors act. Enjoy!

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My Top 3: Stephen King Short Stories

My Top 3: Stephen King Short Stories

I still remember the first time I picked up Stephen King’s short story collection Night Shift, and after the first tale within I was forever changed. I had previously tried my hand at his novels when I was in middle school and early high school, but they never did much for me (not until much later), but those shorts…oh man, they got me good. Here are my Top 3 stories that sank in their claws and still haven’t let go.

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That One Time I Worked for the Secret Service…

That One Time I Worked for the Secret Service…

Well, not really. It’s not like the secret service gave me a gun and aviator sunglasses. And it’s not like there was any real threat from some gun-totin' lunatic. But if you look at it from a certain point, it’s true, I spent an hour or so as my own version of Burt Macklin, keeping the bad guys out of the Elks Lodge 2223 on Route 40 back in 2004, when Hillary Clinton came to the town of Greenwich, NY.

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My Writing & The Best of Old Time Radio

My Writing & The Best of Old Time Radio

Over the past several weeks, a number of people who have read or have heard me read aloud some short stories from my upcoming collection of fiction, What Lies In Wait, have commented that the stories would make intriguing radio plays and they remind them of those old time radio shows that aimed to give listeners a late night chill. There’s likely a good reason for this, as old time radio has long been a quiet passion of mine. Over the years I have been listening to a wide variety of suspense, mystery, horror, and crime radio programs from the 1930s through the late 1960s, using the Old Time Radio Internet Archive, which has hundreds if not thousands of episodes available for streaming or downloading. To say they have affected my storytelling in recent years is probably not giving them enough credit, as I’ve become absolutely fascinated with the eerie tension within these stories

If you like podcasts like Serial, or if you are an audio-book junkie, you’ll love some of these old programs, and many are complete with their original commercials for everything from Wheaties to wine, coal to car batteries, and even U.S. war bonds. I throw them on my iPod and ride the subways of NYC listening to some of the best actors and writers to ever lend their talents to radio, people like Ray Bradbury, Humphrey Bogart, Vincent Price, Dorothy L. Sayers, Lucille Ball, Orson Welles, and many others. Below are my Top Five favorite programs that I highly recommend for all of you out there. 

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22 Steps to Self-Editing a Book While Eating Thai Food in Chuck E Cheese

Self-editing is one of the most widely discussed “craft” topics for writers and everyone has their own B.S. methods and tricks. Most of the tricks are just common sense, such as AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS, because you will never not ever catch all of your own typos, but you can try! (And you should try…nothing is worse than typos. Not taxes, not typhus, not anything.) Here are a few things I suggest.

1. Oh god, just hire someone else to do it. They’re probably better at it than you. No, not probably, they are. I just read six websites that all said something like “The author is the best person to edit their own work” and that’s such a load of garbage. You are certifiably the worst, because you know the material too well. Find someone who doesn’t know it at all.

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2015 Resolutions: A Year of Sundays, Shopping Bags, and Positivity

Ah, resolutions…that list of promises we make to ourselves that we damn well know we won’t likely keep...and yet sometimes they do work out. Last year’s list of resolutions (which disappeared when I transitioned websites) went pretty well actually, aside from my promise to do more overseas travel. That didn’t quite happen, but with some bumps while transitioning from 9-5 work to freelance, that was expected. But overall, my own resolutions went well even if 2014 was rather dour overall. Not the worst year I’ve ever had, but far from the best.

Somehow this rebirth into 2015 feels extraordinarily promising. It’s the most positive and ambitious I’ve felt in early January since the beginning of 2011, when I first moved to NYC. I have writing projects to work on, I’m feeling healthy and upbeat for the first time in ages, and most of all, I’m putting the old problems where they belong: in the rubbish bin with NYE party hats and dried up Christmas trees. This year is all about breaking new ground, starting new traditions, and saying yes to having fun. In that spirit, here are some goals I plan to keep.

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Memories and Mischief from October Country

Memories and Mischief from October Country

Like many nostalgics, autumn is by far my favorite time of year. The county fair season of late summer and Labor Day is coming to an end and the afternoon sun’s ferocity burns less and less each day until you hear the skitter of the first dried up brown leaf skipping across the sidewalk and you’re wearing your fall jacket (finally!) and wondering where you can curl up with a mug of hot cider by a window somewhere to take in the kaleidoscope of colors in the treeline horizon. I swear I’ve seen everything from yellow to purple in those trees, and with the anticipatory thrill of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and eventually Christmas whirling around inside, I can’t think of a better time of year than right here and now.

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Top 10 Favorite Books From My Childhood

Top 10 Favorite Books From My Childhood

A while back a bunch of people started posting lists on Facebook about the top books that stayed with them — everything from children’s classics to modern literary juggernauts. It got me thinking about the books that I loved as a kid, the ones that really meant something to me. So here are the Top 10 books that shaped my childhood and early reading habits, in no particular order. Although there are plenty of others, these are the books I get most nostalgic about when I think of my elementary and middle-school libraries.  

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Writing on the Rails: Survival Tips for Traveling Authors

I write on trains. A lot. It's not always pretty (shabby interiors, crying kids, cell-phone talkers) but when you get a quiet car, a seat to yourself, and a gorgeous view, you can have a lot of fun. I discuss my tips for making the most of your railway adventures while still trying to work on that novel of yours over at the Writer's Digest website. Take a look, and good luck writing the next time you hop trains cross-country! 

My Summer Reading List, 2014

My Summer Reading List, 2014

The start of summer officially came and went, long after summer weather actually arrived, and this means I’m well overdue for an evaluation of what I plan to read during the upcoming months of blazing sunlight, a lazy half-attempt to go to the beach, short breaks in the shade during kayaking trips, and lots of walking around looking for the Mr. Softee truck in Manhattan. This list is far from definitive, but these are the ones waiting at the top of the stack. So here you go, my summer reading list for 2014. What are your suggestions?

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San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champs - Why #5 Matters

San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champs - Why #5 Matters

Even though the San Antonio Spurs are the 2014 NBA champions, it is impossible to talk about this year’s run without first discussing last year’s heartbreaking loss. I live in New York, so I usually watch Spurs games alone adrift a sea of Knicks fans. When San Antonio came so close in Game 6 last year only to lose it in the last 25 seconds, and then to drop a Game 7 that felt like an inevitable loss—painful doesn’t begin to describe it. Sitting there alone, it was devastating. And for some very personal reasons…

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