Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Redhead of the Week

We couldn't decide which of these ladies should be our Redhead of the Week, so .... you pick.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

Though the gap was narrowed somewhat last week, Corkface held on to a $3,000-plus lead over Yours Truly and a $5,000 advantage over Grandma, this despite the whupping Corkface took on his HBC puts.

In fact, the only reason Mr. C was smiling at all last week was TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TSYS). Giving this puppy a closer look, we all might want to pick up a few shares. Can you say text messaging? Is there a faster growing business? This chart shows what TSYS did last year while most of us -- including Warren Buffett and some of the best fund managers we know -- took a 50% hit.

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. develops and applies wireless data technology, with emphasis on text messaging, location-based services, such as enhanced 9-1-1 for wireless carriers. voice over Internet protocol service providers, and secure satellite-based communication solutions for government customers.

Its software products enable wireless carriers to deliver text messages, location information, Internet content and other services to and from wireless phones. The company's government services unit designs, furnishes, installs and operates wireless and data network communication systems, including its SwiftLink deployable communication systems and Internet protocol technology. TSYS also owns and operates secure satellite teleport facilities, and resells satellite airtime.

Corkface’s Portfolio
20 June 20 puts HBC 2,300
2000 shares MBRK 2,840
250 shares TSYS 2,437
4000 DISK 5,040
Cash $2,760

TOTAL $15,377

Austin’s Portfolio
2000 OMEX 6,920
4000 DISK 5,040
Cash $220

TOTAL $12,180

Grandma"s Portfolio
13 shares of SPY 1,061
Cash $9,039

TOTAL $10,100

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Should Writers Follow Rules?

"To the extent I know how to write clearly at all, I probably taught myself while I was teaching others -- seventh graders, in Flint, Michigan, in 1967. I taught them with a copy of Strunk & White lying in full view on my desk, sort of in the way the Gideons leave Bibles in cheap hotel rooms, as a way of saying to the hapless inhabitant: 'In case your reckless ways should strand you here, there's help.' S&W doesn't really teach you how to write, it just tantalizingly reminds you that there's an orderly way to go about it, that clarity's ever your ideal, but -- really -- it's all going to be up to you."
-- Pulitzer Prize Winner Richard Ford

It recently came to The Famous Author's attention (Some chat room bozo called him a "clown") not every writer holds in high regard THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, Strunk and White's classic guide to "plain English." TFA was shocked. After he was given a desk and a typewriter, TFA's only other first-day gift as a reporter for The Los Angeles Times was a copy of Elements, and a warning to learn and follow its principles.

But do writers of fiction, especially "literary" authors, have to worry about Strunk and White's guidelines? You read what Richard Ford said. Pretty sure you could call him a writer of literature. Here's how William Strunk, Jr. (1869–1946) starts his Introductory:

"This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. It aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style."

S&W is about clarity -- telling the reader exactly what you mean, showing what you want him to see and hear. Maybe writers don't have to follow silly RULES. But they should know what those rules are, and why they exist, before breaking them. Strunk put it this way at the end of that Inroductory:

"It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules. After he has learned, by their guidance, to write plain English adequate for everyday uses, let him look, for the secrets of style, to the study of the masters of literature."

Thanks to Richard Ford, William Strunk, E.B. White, and Amazon

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Redhead of the Week Has Dyslexia

A skinny thing, Keira Knightley, born in London, also has dyslexia, but nevertheless was successful in school and permitted to acquire a talent agent and pursue an acting career. She requested an agent as early as the age of three but got one when she turned six, from her mother as a reward for studying hard. Knightley has noted that she was "single-minded about acting" during her childhood.

Knightley appeared in several television movies in the mid to late 1990s before being cast as Sabé, Padmé Amidala's decoy, in the 1999 science fiction blockbuster Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Knightley was cast in the role due to her close resemblance to Natalie Portman, who played Padmé; the two actresses' mothers had difficulty telling their daughters apart when the girls were in full makeup.

Knightley's first starring role followed in 2001, when she played the daughter of Robin Hood in the made-for-television Walt Disney Productions feature, Princess of Thieves. During this time, Knightley also appeared in The Hole, a thriller that received a direct-to-video release in the United States. She appeared in a miniseries adaptation of Doctor Zhivago that first aired in 2002 to mixed reviews but high ratings.

Knightley's breakthrough role was in the football-themed film, Bend It Like Beckham, which was a success in its August 2002 UK release, grossing $18 million, and in its March 2003 U.S. release, grossing $32 million.

Upcoming films for 2009 include the scifi drama Never Let Me Go by Alex Garland and London Boulevard, with Colin Farrell, the script of which is written by William Monahan, who will also make his directing debut.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Keira

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

Corkface maintained his large lead last week (he's up 50% in three weeks thanks to shorting the international dog bank, HBC), but our real news concerns Image Entertainment (DISK), that penny stock we bought at $1.25 in hopes of a take-out merger at $2.75. During the week, Corkface jumped into DISK at $1.41, and I added another 2,000 shares at $1.25.

As you can see by this E-Trade chart, DISK slipped all week, and the merger look doomed. Sure enough, Friday morning -- the day the merger was supposed to close -- DISK said the acquiring firm was in breach of the merger agreement. Yikes! A plunge under a buck! But as of this writing Saturday morning, DISK management was still in negotiations to extend the deadline.

DISK issued a press release early Saturday morning.

The merger is not dead. And remember, that's $2.75 a share that could be coming, in cash, for a $1.10 stock.

Play with us anytime. Leave a comment with your email. You have 10,000 Austin Carr Dollars to invest in listed stocks (they must have symbols). You don't even need to pick a stock. Just stay in cash and bet the market's going further down. Or, since you have all weekend to buy at Friday's $1.10 close, buy 9,000 shares of DISK -- spend your Austin Carr dollars on Austin's own pick. If I'm right, and this merger closes in April, you'll be leading the 2009 Austin Carr Stock Market Challenge. (Yes, there WILL BE a package of prizes, including having a character named after you.)

Corkface’s Portfolio
20 June 20 puts HBC 3,000
2000 shares MBRK 2,840
250 shares TSYS 2,185
4000 DISK 4,400
Cash $2,760
TOTAL $15,180

Austin’s Portfolio
2000 OMEX 6,980
4000 DISK 4,400
Cash $220
TOTAL $11,600

Grandma"s Portfolio

13 shares of SPY 998
Cash $9,039
TOTAL $10,036

GIANT DISCLAIMER!!!! If you go risking real money on any of these stocks, lose hard-earned cash, and try to sue me, you'll have to tell the judge, "Yes, Your Honor, I took advice from the blog of a fictional stockbroker."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Next Mystery Read

Thomas Perry writes novels of suspense, starting with The Butcher's Boy, which received a 1983 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best First Novel. After Metzger's Dog, Big Fish, Island, and Sleeping Dogs (a sequel to Butcher's Boy and one of The Famous Authors absolute favorite novels), he then launched the critically acclaimed Jane Whitefield series: Vanishing Act (chosen as a "100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association"), Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, and Blood Money.

From that point, Perry elected to develop a non-series list of mysteries with Death Benefits, Pursuit (which won a Gumshoe Award in 2002), Dead Aim, Night Life and Fidelity, published in 2008. It was announced in the back section of Fidelity that Jane Whitefield would reappear in Jan 2009 with a new book called Runner. And now, here we are. I can't wait to read this:

Jane Whitefield—New York Times best-selling writer Thomas Perry’s most popular character—returns from retirement to the world of the runner, guiding fugitives out of danger. After a nine-year absence, the fiercely resourceful Native American guide Jane Whitefield is back, in the latest superb thriller by award-winning author Thomas Perry.

For more than a decade, Jane pursued her unusual profession: “I’m a guide . . . I show people how to go from places where somebody is trying to kill them to other places where nobody is." Then she promised her husband she would never work again, and settled in to live a happy, quiet life as Jane McKinnon, the wife of a surgeon in Amherst, New York. But when a bomb goes off in the middle of a hospital fundraiser, Jane finds herself face to face with the cause of the explosion: a young pregnant girl who has been tracked across the country by a team of hired hunters.

That night, regardless of what she wants or the vow she’s made to her husband, Jane must come back to transform one more victim into a runner. And her quest for safety sets in motion a mission that will be a rescue operation—or a chance for revenge.

Perry was born in Tonawanda, New York. He received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1969 and his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Rochester in 1974. He has been a laborer, maintenance man, commercial fisherman, weapons mechanic, university administrator and teacher, and television writer and producer (Simon and Simon, 21 Jump Street, Star Trek: The Next Generation). To date, he has completed 16 novels. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters.

Thanks to Thomas Perry and Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Redhead of the Week a Princeton Grad

For those of us actively involved in the stock and bond markets, TV has been a real drag for months. Every day, another disaster, another reason for paper assets (and real property) to decline in value. Who am I kidding? Most of the time, people with stock portfolios have been jumping up and down, screaming at the television. Only one bright spot has shown through the gloom:

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC Media and Entertainment Reporter, joined CNBC in May 2006 as a general assignment reporter. In December 2006, Boorstin became CNBC's media and entertainment reporter working from CNBC's Los Angeles Bureau. Boorstin covers media with a special focus on the intersection of media and technology.

Julia Boorstin joined CNBC from Fortune magazine where she was a business writer and reporter since 2000, covering a wide range of stories on everything from media companies to retail to business trends. During that time, she was also a contributor to "Street Life," a live market wrap-up segment on CNN Headline News.

In 2003, 2004 and 2006, The Journalist and Financial Reporting newsletter named Boorstin to the "TJFR 30 under 30" list of the most promising business journalists under 30 years old. She has also worked for the State Department's delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.) and for Vice President Gore's Domestic Policy office.

She graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in history. She was also an editor on The Daily Princetonian.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

Now that's more like it. Guess who had the best porforming portfolio last week, gang? That's right. Me. Austin Carr, fictional stockbroker. My BankAmerica calls soared, and I sold at a profit of almost $2,400. And with bank news turning somewhat positive last week, Corkface's HBC puts (he switched mid-week) lost value, so Grandma and I really closed the gap.

Late last week, I bought an oldie but goodie, Image Entertainment (DISK) for $1.27 a share. It closed Friday at $1.43, and I think I'm going to get $2.75 a share for this puppy in two weeks when an already announced merger concludes. The merger's had a few ups and downs, but we think (unlike the market) that it's going through.

Corkface remains bearish. We think most stock prices have bottomed.

Join us anytime. Just leave your picks in the Comment section. You have $10,000 to spend.


(Holding, Value 3/16, and Total Portfolio Value)

Corkface’s Portfolio

20 June 20 puts HBC, 3,600
2000 shares MBRK, 2,640
250 shares TSYS, 2,160
Cash $8,400
Total Value 16,800

Austin’s Portfolio

2000 OMEX 6,420
2000 DISK 2,860
cash $2,720
Total Value 12,000


13 shares of SPY 989
cash $9,039
Total Value 10,028

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Leaving Her Behind

Looking up, I think I'm pretty proud of the banner. Boy, can you take that line in more than one way. Probably brought all kinds of crazy people to the site today. Okay, so I guess I should explain, I'm talking about Mama Bones, a character in my Austin Carr Mystery series, how sometimes writers have to chop the best stuff from their novel. I'm also talking about the good things -- products, places, people, even close friends -- who sometimes get left behind.

About a year and a half ago The Famous Author and I traveled up the East coast in search of inspiration. We found it in Mystic, CT, a semi-dingy hotel room where we came up with some very funny stuff for our work in progress at the time, BIG MOJO. TFA wondered what would happen if Mama Bones got a taste of her own medicine, and playing off the novel's theme, he wrote a series of scenes in which Mama experienced an accident with one of her magic potions, fell in love with the Fed-Ex man, and ended up in the shower, her bodyguard Gianni having to apply an antidote.

I wasn't in any of these scenes. They were from Mama Bones's point of view, but TFA managed to fit them neatly (he thought) into the main plot. Every time he read through the manuscript, these were some TFA's favorite scenes. Heck, even I laughed when he read them out loud.

But when TFA's agent got a peek at the manuscript last summer, every one had to go. "Funny, yes," she said, "but they have nothing to do with the story."

But, but ...

No butts about it gang. You writers have to stick to the story. And no matter how wonderful a thing or person is, sometimes you have to say goodbye.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sick Characters

So The Famous Author's various agents are hard at work, he says, but I'm beginning to worry about my future. Let's face it, most series characters die after a few novels. The old days of giving characters half a dozen episodes to build an audience are over. The competition's too tough. Hundreds of new titles are published every month, and that's just crime fiction.

But I think what really worries me is the shear number of fascinating books. I mean, why would anybody pick TFA's tales about a stockbroker with such examples of pure entertainment out there -- these first two books are out-selling BIG MONEY and BIG NUMBERS, like, ten to one:

The subtitle on this second one is Manage the Cognitive Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis.

It's depressing, right? And this third book ... it's out-selling us without even being published yet.
Looks kind of interesting though, doesn't it?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Redheads Hall of Fame

By popular, worldwide demand, our second inductee into Austin Carr's Redheads Hall of Fame is Eleanor Parker, born in Cedarville, Ohio, and signed by Warner Brothers at the age of 19. The Famous Author was nine when his Papi took him to see Charlton Heston in a film about killer ants, The Naked Jungle. Those marabunta were eating everything in sight, and TFA reports he suffered a serious crying jag when they threatened Ms. Parker. Her long red hair in that movie is still the stuff of TFA's midnight fantasies, and having seen the old movie on tape more than a dozen times, I have to agree. The woman is gorgeous. The red hair breathtaking.

TFA is not alone in his obsession with Eleanor Parker. Since Ms. Parker first appeared here in August, 2007 -- one of our very first Redheads of the Week -- that first feature about her has been one of the most popular pages on this site. Month after month, Parker fans from all over the world come to see this photo and that first story. The hits come from Italy, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and especially Mexico and South America -- Brazil, Colombia, Ecudor, Argentina, Chile, and even Venezuela. Maybe Emperor Chavez is tuning in.

Just last week, Anonymous left this comment on that 18-month-old post: "Extraordinarily beautiful. An amazingly talented actress. She is the one who everyone remembers yet everyone has forgotten. I have never seen anyone come remotely close to this unique and graceful talent."

By the time she was 24, Ms. Parker had starred in Between Two Worlds, Hollywood Canteen, Pride of the Marines and Of Human Bondage. At 27, she received the first of three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for Caged, in which she played a prison inmate. She was also nominated in 1951 for her performance as Kirk Douglas's wife in Detective Story and again in 1955 for her portrayal of opera singer Marjorie Lawrence in the film bio, Interrupted Melody.

Perhaps Ms. Parker's most famous screen role was as "Baroness Elsa Schraeder" in 1965's The Sound Of Music.

Thanks to Wikipedia. And thanks to Ms. Parker for appearing regularly in our dreams.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

Double your money in a week!

Sound impossible? Hey, you could have done it right here if you followed Corkface's tip last week to buy puts (betting on a decline) on HSBC Holdings (HBC), the giant international bank holding company. Corkface bought 20 contracts, April 30 puts, for $230 each, or a total investment of $4,600. As of last night, those contracts were worth $16,200 as HBC plummeted last week on lousy earnings. Corkface's two other picks (TYSY and MBRK) declined slightly, but overall, he turned his $10,000 into $21,010 in five trading days.

The Crimes of Austin Carr may have the hottest stock picker around!

"I'm not selling either," Corkface said last night. "These banks are going lower still."

Guess we should have listened to Corkface again. Our BankAmerica calls dropped by half, and our investment in Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX) also tumbled. Our $10,000 turned into a bit over $7,700 last week. Ouch. Grandma, the old conservative lady who is slowly buying SPY, saw her $10,000 drop to $9,039 last week.

No problem, I say. Corkface can't be right about these bank stocks forever.

Can he?

Hey, and it's not too late to join the party. Pick your stocks in the comment section. You have $10,000 to spend at Friday's closing prices. C'mon you guys and gals. You've got nothing to lose but your pride. Play with us and I'll have TFA send you a BIG MONEY WORLD TOUR official staff T-shirt.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Crais is a Hemingway Fan

We haven't talked about it here in a while, but The Famous Author has another gig besides making up stories with me in them: He's Editor of Spinetingler Magazine, an online publication of crime fiction interviews and short stories of suspense.

Well ... TFA forgot he'd left me in his computer case yesterday, and guess what he stuffed in right on top of me -- a printed copy of his brand new question and answer session with New York Times Bestselling Author Robert Crais. It's scheduled to run in Spinetingler's Summer Issue, but we figure you guys might like a sneak peek.

TFA asked RC to name a few of his favorite authors, and the first name out of RC's mouth was Ernest Hemingway. TFA followed up with this:

What's one question you would like to ask a dead one?

For real? If Hemingway was alive, I’d love to find out he’s read my books. Then, knowing he’s read them, I’d hook up with him in a bar down in Key West or up in Idaho, or maybe we’d be out fishing on his boat, the Pilar, just the two of us, and I’d ask this: I’d say, “Papa, what am I doing wrong? How can I make my work better?”

Imagine that. Imagine getting that kind of insight from Ernest Hemingway. Wow.

You'll have to wait for the Summer Spinetingler to find out what Crais is working on right now, where he thinks the digital world will take the publishing industry, and if he agrees with TFA's wife that Elvis Cole and Joe Pike tales are really love stories.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Redhead of the Week

This painting is called Red Headed Hula Dancer. Perhaps if you go to artist Suzy Papanik's website, you can dig up this model's name. I couldn't find it. But she's our Redhead of the Week.