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Paperback Writer: A Bakersfield, California literature, music and news blog

Bakersfield News And A Lot More...

Bakotopia tests conservative market with racy print issue - By N.L. Belardes


Cleavage in Bakersfield?

Conservative Bakersfield is getting an eyeful with the latest issue of Bakotopia magazine. Bakotopia has even gotten a bit tongue and cheek with a self-imposed NC-17 rating.

Yowsa.

It's a gutsy move from Bakersfield's new rock and roll on-the-beat street magazine. What will conservative Bakersfield say? Truthfully, I don't think it's worse than any PG-13 or R-rated flick. And you can find much worse in book stores. Besides, a little racy is OK. People watch soap operas don't they?

Noveltown put its video editor on the streets, the under-17 Landen Belardes. He was paid in unwanted baseball cards to see if he could slip a copy of the NC-17 edition from the rack right outside of Bakotopia headquarters.

Who knows? Maybe they were being guarded by the Ska King himself, the Ricky Ricardo of Bakersfield, or shall I say, Ricky Racy... Product Manager, Matt Munoz.

I asked Landen before his thieving adventure what he thought he might see in the latest issue of Bakotopia. He said, "Wasn't it supposed to have some of your zombie pics that you took of the Hectic Films Wretched Flesh movie?"

What? Oh, those... not racy, but gruesome for sure...

"And didn't you mention there was some weird hump quote of yours?"

No, no... I never said those things!


See, the bug said them, not me!

Now watch the video and see if our secret underage spy was able to get away with the latest racy issue of Bakotopia magazine:

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Bakersfield blog Bakosphere links up to Noveltown story on pirates - By N.L. Belardes



There's a nice post on Bakosphere today that links up to my recent story on the Pirates 3 premiere. But it wasn't Johnny Depp that got their attention.

It's the local Kern County Pirate's Guild. Read more in their article, "Here there be pirates!" as they even talk about our local arrgh-masters at this year's KGET Kidsfest.

Do yourself a favor and become a pirate.

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Slim the Drifter Tribute Show June 27th at the Fish Fry - By N.L. Belardes

*UPDATED

Looks like a tribute show is already taking shape with a set date of June 27th at Fishlips in downtown Bakersfield.

Dave from Buck Owens Buckaroos has helped set up the tribute along with a friend of his, Jean Erassarret.

If you're interested in performing a Slim the Drifter tune, contact Jean at 428-4061, or send me an email: nick@noveltown.net and I can get the info to Jean.

I'll post more info right here as it comes available...

Already Dave from the Buckaroos will be partnering up with Jean for a song or two. Black Dog will also perform a few Slim the Drifter tunes as well...

Thoughts on the passing of a Bakersfield music icon, and a review of Slim the Drifter Trio's The Guilty Ten - By N.L. Belardes



Traveling albums are as much about moving on as they are about celebrating country music pop culture. A really good traveling music album takes you to the road. You get in your car or truck and it's the first album you reach for to get you started on a long trip. It's what the best country music can do. It's simple, not too many instruments, and usually there's a really good crooner carrying each song. Ever hear of Dale Watson? He's a crooner of the Bakersfield Sound. His truck driving albums are as raw as they are necessary on some lonesome travels.

Yet there's a local crooner, one who has legendary Bakersfield status in the pool halls and bars. His name drifts on the echoes of the Bakersfield music scene. The city's musical leaders with the tenure of experience whisper it like they'd just seen him pass through town the night before...

"Rolling down the highway to where the angels made the day," comes the lyrics from Highway Song. It's followed by 45 R.P.M. on Slim the Drifter's new album The Guilty Ten (By Slim the Drifter Trio: Ethan James, Brad Coats, Slim the Drifter). It's the perfect ballad for a country drifter settled in Northern Nevada. One time rocker from Bakersfield, Slim the Drifter changed his musical tastes for country long ago, though his roots run deep into the rockier side of the Bakersfield music scene.



I saw Slim a few years ago at Riley's Tavern opening with some poetic lines for longstanding Bakersfield punk band, Active Ingrediants. Since then he put together a new band built from having performed at weddings. Thus Slim the Drifter Trio was born, a country band with haunting music about the dark traveled roads of Americana.


Ethan, Slim and Brad on the Oregon Coast

Just after Highway Song comes 45 R.P.M., a traveling song worthy of spinning...

Well I don't need no preacher just to tell me the truth. I dug my whole now how about you? Don't need no religion on the judgment day. What you need is the lord to be your saving grace... be your saving grace...a little more time. Got a funny feelin' wanna leave you alone, like a long black train that ain't headed home. Don't need no religion on the judgment day. What you need is the Lord to be your saving grace...to be your saving grace... a little more time...




In Little Bird, Slim sings, "I've packed up my suitcase cause I'll be travelin' on..." But it's Winslow that really begins the album's storytelling. You have to find a copy of the album to really dig into the crooning of Slim: "The Wildcat tattoo is still down there kicking... But me I don't go down to Winslow anymore..." It's a great line about moving on... keyboards drift through the song like wind across the desert floor. This is the song you want to hear when heading on a road trip to anywhere. Not just to Las Vegas or a slip into Arizona or Utah... you'll want to play it anywhere and more than once in a row...

Golden Boy starts with a slamming door and Slim saying, "Nice and pissed off..." It's classic. He sings, "Golden boy, make some noise. Born from the heavens above, Golden boy..." You can hear Slim whistle, talk and knock. He's right there with you, a spirit in the song rattling and crooning. "You and that man were making plans to go somewhere..."



Some songs haunt you. Atlanta is my favorite song off the album just because of it's ability to stick in my head. It carries with it a transient movement, as if you're with Slim haunting the record, spinning on a bus ride with his voice at a low sobering drone: "Leaving here tomorrow. A ticket to Atlanta. Maybe it was Dallas but I just got to go... About a funny feeling, I won't be back to see you. Please give my regards to every trick on the road..."


The dancehall piano church...

Where Tito Larrivo is a wandering song about someone gone, Dancehall Piano tells a straight up Sunday church story where a dancehall piano plays Amazing Grace. It's waltzing music is like passing endless creosote bushes and staring at a red sun through a bus window... "And the dancehall piano played Amazing Grace... how sweet the sound."

There are a few more songs on the album, and just as good as the rest. But you'll have to pick it up to find out... discover for yourself...


Slim the Drifter

Scott "Slim The Drifter" Sturtevant, born July 20, 1960, died Friday May 25, 2007. Although he'd sent his band's album to me some time ago, I just wrote to him and received a reply on May 12th about an interview.

Sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner.... If you would like to send me a list of questions that would be fine and we can fill in the blanks with a telephone call.

After getting a phone call Sunday about his passing, I contacted his wife, Debbie.

She wrote:

He wasn't in any pain and he was ready. Things were worse than he wanted to let on. He was a man with a huge heart and he was loved by so many. I lost my husband and best friend. But there are so many that lost somebody that meant so much...

These are sad times in the Bakersfield music scene without Slim the Drifter passing through...

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Pirates of the Caribbean 3 invades Bakersfield - By N.L. Belardes


Pirates fans at Edwards Theatre, the Marketplace, Bakersfield, Ca.

I had to show up. I know too many people who are pirate and Johnny Depp addicts. I might have been made to walk the plank if I didn't show my support. Besides, the Pirates of the Caribbean series are fun, even though the entire slave trade is left out of the historical nature of the films. Harummph.

Right away I saw a few pirates, one named Drew who had been around since 8am. Another was a Captain Jack look-a-like. I love the way he used his adverbs. Check them out:



Then I saw a bunch of folks from the local Kern County Pirates Guild. Greet em:



Of course I took some pics of them too:










Hey isn't that guy on the far right in Soulajar?


Anxious Pirates fans await...


Most Outstanding member of BHS Orchestra 2007 strikes a pose

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The making of a zombie movie: On the set with Hectic Films Part One - By N.L. Belardes


Zombie children? What's this world coming to??


The very creepy location of the Downtowner Inn, Bakersfield, Ca.

It was early Saturday morning. I filled two ice chests with soda and water and hauled ass into a downtown haunt that I have driven past for years. Oddly enough, the Downtowner Inn is on 13th Street—a perfect location for a zombie blood-splattered film.


Were there zombies floating in this pool?


Will this motel become a cult classic?

I was given a tour along with Rickey Bird of Hectic Films by one of the building’s caretakers. Let’s just call him Mel. He wore a baseball hat and took us up a creepy elevator across the street from the Inn. He told stories about lawyers and tenants, one including a rather notorious art scene writer whose scripts may be just as mental as some of the crazed zombies I was about to meet.

Across the street, make-up artists gathered in the Downtowner Inn parking structure. A few actors milled about, and eventually I met horror B-movie filmmaker and actor, D.T. Carney. Looking like he just stepped from a Boston punk band, he wore a Social Distortion T-shirt.


D.T. Carney as a zombie monster

D.T. is one of the coolest artists I’ve met. His pure joy for filmmaking and odd collection of zombie gear packed in his trunk was truly amazing—rotting bodies without the smell. Lots of rubberized decomposition. He’s in the movie Zombie Farm coming out soon and has an interesting list of horror film credits.


Is this film even real? Or was it a trick?

I drove D.T. to meet another Bakersfield filmmaker who hides out on the East Side off Loma Linda. His name is Richard McClue, and he runs a website called, The Sanctuary Independent Moviemaking Community. On the way, D.T. and I talked hockey, filmmaking, and eventually picked up a dolly that would be used for some cool film shots of zombies on the march… it was pulled from a shed, tucked behind the house…

It’s fun to be a part of big creative projects that involve words on a page. It’s even more fun when those words leap to cinematic life. When Rickey Bird sent me his script for Hectic Films’ short zombie flick, Wretched Flesh, I thought, this is a good opportunity to get gruesome....

And that’s because the zombie genre is way too fun. High body counts, you got it. Infection wiping out the masses. Lots of that. People caught in the middle of a life and death struggle of survivalist proportions? I love it. But then I’m also a lover of video games like Doom III and Half Life 2. Not to mention I’m a fan of zombie movies like Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.



What Hectic Films is bringing to Bakersfield is a continuation of modern American pop culture, a widespread infection by its own rights as so many people love zombie films, zombie video games, zombie books and zombie graphic novels.

I thought my book was sort of noir. Take Bakersfield, spin in some creepy fog, storms and urban murder and you have Lords: Part One. Now take Bakersfield, smash it into not just a noir style, but apocalyptic ruins. Add a pandemic of zombie infection and you’ll have an idea of what the Hectic Films guys, Rickey Bird and Jason Sanders are trying to pull off.


On the set of Wretched Flesh

I spoke to Rickey right after the filming and asked him about obstacles during the first day of shooting:

I think the biggest obstacle was simply a zombie movie of this magnitude has never been done before in Bakersfield. There’s no real plan. You do it and if it works, great. If not—uh oh. We were relying on so many people who weren’t getting paid. I was also worried that maybe one of our actresses, Sonya, well, I just knew her boobs were going to pop out from doing flips with her crossbow.

Seriously, I feel like it’s a milestone for local filmmakers. There were more people at our film shoot than people who showed up at the last BIFF (Bakersfield Independent Film Festival). If one person didn’t show up, we could have all been screwed. I think I smoked a 1000 cigarettes too. You have a light? Let me just say this too from myself and Jason. Thanks to the people behind the scenes. N.L., you were like our den mother, and many zombies were just really helping out. All I can say is, I’m down with the sickness. Let’s rock!



A giant zombie talks to Jason Sanders


The boys of Birdloaf Productions work with director/actor Rickey Bird

It’s true, they were not doing it alone. Filmmaker Andrew Waite performed camera work while other filmmakers helped out in the production or acting in the film, including Myron Ward of Vindictive Films, Horror B film master D.T. Carney, Jarad ‘Meathead’ Mann of Meatydish Productions (he has a very special gruesome role), Landen Belardes of Shamrock Films, and more…


More from the secret set of Wretched Flesh

What more can I say? I got to watch make-up applied to a mass of monstrosities, including kids. I got to meet a giant zombie over 7-feet tall. I got to spray people with fake blood made from… oh wait, I can’t tell you that. I got to drive while filmmakers shot footage. I even got to wander the creepy haunted halls of the newly renovated Downtowner Inn. This is a venue deserving of a tour that should include Chinese tunnels and ghostly Oleander area haunts.

In the meantime, the Inn is going to gain even more notoriety by having its walls splattered with fake blood. A Bakersfield Hollywood in the making? Who knows?

Now if we could just get some local psychics from the same Oleander neighborhood to hold a séance at the Downtowner to call up some ghosts from Lords of Bakersfield urban lore.

I wonder if Hectic films would be brave enough to shoot that!


An apocalyptic zombie nation?

Coming soon: The making of a zombie movie: Part Two.

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James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces could end up costing him millions – By Melinda Carroll

In the continuing lit scandal of 2006 that rocked Oprah and the lit world into ‘a million little pieces’, James Frey may have to pay restitution to his readers proving that it doesn’t pay to lie. Also proving that Oprah and the American public don’t like to be duped.

MSN reports that:

“Readers who bought James Frey’s fabricated memoir A Million Little Pieces may get a refund. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell has tentatively approved a settlement in the case against Random House, Inc. and James Frey calling for them to spend $2.35 million to fully refund readers who bought the best-seller before Jan. 26, 2006, the day Frey and his publisher acknowledged that he had made up parts of the book. Claims would have to be filed by Oct. 1.”

(Read the full article)

In the big confrontation between Oprah and Frey in January 2006 when asked, “why he felt the need to lie,” Frey stated: “I don’t think it is a novel, I still think it’s a memoir,” even though his book had originally been offered to and rejected by publishers as fiction.

Which makes one wonder if Frey was merely defending the popular industry memoir genre that allowed him to sell his book when he couldn’t sell it as fiction. And what affect does genre labels have on literature? With the popularity of the memoir we realize that readers want the gritty true-life details of a person’s story more than a literary fiction novel. In Frey’s case, is it a novel? Or is it a memoir? Frey sold it as a memoir because that is what is popular in the literary market today. But when the truth of his embellishment and fabrication came out, did that destroy the credibility of the memoir?

Time will tell. But for now the memoir is not dead.

In the wake of Oprah’s and the American public’s outrage for being duped by Frey he’s been dropped by his literary agent, dropped from a two-book seven figure deal by his publisher, and had disclaimers printed and/or placed in all of the copies of A Million Little Pieces and may now have to refund 2.35 million to his readers. But none of that has affected his book sales which goes to show that controversy sales.

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Noveltown to attend May 28 Small Press Book Fair - By N.L. Belardes

This summer Noveltown is busy growing and expanding. You'll read very soon how we've expanded deeper into the world of poetry with the likes of S.A. Griffin and Rafael Alvarado as poetry co-editors for our magazine. There's also some interesting partnership developments you might like that we'll tell soon. Later this summer we're releasing next issue of the Noveltown Review featuring the London Brutalists. Also late in the summer we'll be attending literary events, including the Yosemite Writers Conference. But first...

This weekend we'll be in Santa Monica for a great Indie Literary Press event. We'll be on hand with Cardoza Muller Productions for a talk at 1:50pm.

2nd Annual Small Press Book Fair:

AN EXPANSIVE DAY OF WRITERS, POETS AND PUBLISHERS:
Monday, May 28th, 2007, Memorial Day
10:30 am - 6:00 pm

LOCATION:

The Church in Ocean Park
235 Hill Street, Santa Monica

Donation at the door suggested

10:30 am Opening remarks - James Maverick: host and M.C

10:50 am Red Hen Press - poets to be announced

11:10 am Robert Greenfield (KCTV Literary talk show host): “on small presses”

11:30 am Lummox Press - Raindog

12:05 pm John Harris - poet

12:20 pro Beyond Baroque Press - readers to be announced

12:50 pm Cahuenga Press - James Cushing, Holly Prado, Harry Northup,

Phoebe McAdams

1:05 pm Bougie Girl Press - A. R. Alexander

1:20 pm Blue Press - Lewis McAdams, Kevin Opstedal

1:35 pm Solo Press - Kevin Patrick Sullivan

1:50 pm Cardoza Muller Productions & Noveltown - Rafael Alvarado, Nick Belardes & Leo Victor Briones

2:30 pm Kalimat Press/Highborn Lady Press - Anthony A Lee

2:45 pm Half Shell Edition - Pam Ward, Claudia Handler, Brenda Yates, Scott Wannberg

3:05 pm Sybaritic Press/poeticdiversity – Rachael Kann & Brenda Patrakos

3:20 pm Vinegar Hill Press - Donna, Gebron

3:35 pm Lynne Bronstein—poet

4:05 pm Rich Ferguson – poet

4:20 pm Sacred Beverage Press - Doug Richardson

4:35 pm Rum Razor Press - reader to be announced

4:50 pm Fall Star Magazine - Matt McGee

5:00 pm Rattle - M. Bitting, D. Griffiths Stamos, G. Mittelbach, M. Margolis, M. Lopez, P. Aylsworth

5:15 New Editions – Kevin Clark

5:30 pm Zenitram Press – Brenda Martinez

5:45 pm Ex Macina Press – Peter Balaskas

6:00 pm Ink Pen MutationsPress – kalamity j

Take SM Bus #s 1,2, or 8, and MTA Bus # 33. Wheelchair accessible. Information? 310-828-3951. Schedule subject to change.

Includes readings, refreshments, and an enlightening day of learning about the significance of small presses to the history of Los Angeles. All welcome.
Proceeds go toward the social justice work of the Church in Ocean Park.

Links: LA Times, Beyond Baroque, LA CityBeat

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LA Kings Inline Summer Camp includes Kings tickets



Since roller hockey is coming back to Bakersfield, you're going to want to know about this deal. Hillary Hodding of the LA Kings passed on some great news about a two-day summer camp with the Kings. It's only $75 and that includes 4 Kings game tickets. You get your money back in the deal. It's almost as if they're paying your kid to go train...

Here are the details:

The Los Angeles Kings First
Inline Summer Camp!


August 25-26
Toyota Sports Center
555 N. Nash St. El Segundo, CA 90245

This camp is for ages 5-17 years and welcomes all skill levels! Come out to camp for the weekend with some friends or even your team to get instruction from Kings Alumnus and Radio Broadcaster Daryl Evans.

For only $75, Camp Includes:
·3 Hours of Camp each day, including a snack
·4 Tickets to a 2007-2008 Los Angeles Kings game*
·1 Kings Camp Jersey
·Use of Equipment BASED ON AVAILABILITY**
*Game will be determined after the schedule is released.
**Does not include helmets.

Registration:



Please Return Registration by July 30th, 2007 to:

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Stay tuned...

We haven't forgotten our readers... stay tuned. We'll soon be posting, "On the set with Zombies and Hectic Films: Part One", "Noveltown adds poetry co-editors for the Noveltown Review", and "Noveltown Review starts affiliate program with UCLA Extension Program, UC Riverside Extension Program and Rutgers University"...

Kern River Culture Part Two: Development and serenity - By N.L. Belardes

A family of quail darts into the foliage along the Kern Recreational bike path, startled by my passing. Just further up the road, cottontail rabbits scamper, one scurries across the path, nearly under my front wheel.

I say hello to a few people on the path. Others ride past grim-faced, determined. Ten years ago people were just as determined in their morning routines on the path, but today people are less friendly. They seem more wrapped in their individual worlds. The path has expanded up hills, further from the city, and stretches further east and west through the city as well. Maybe the path has expanded from the little microcosm it once was, and so a little more city mentality has found its way onto the trail.

Near Truxton Lake I see geese and remember the Bird Man. I’m glad the local news farmed my blog, ran with their own critter crossing story to help bring more awareness to the plight of dying waterfowl in the city. The local animals need help from people in order to survive. If they're crossing the road, you should stop. But then, maybe the city needs bird crossing signs as I have seen in other cities. It would raise awareness.

Just last night I realized a family of kit foxes live right in downtown Bakersfield. They live in a drain. I wonder if anyone cares. People need to care in order for them to survive. Yet I can't say where. Someone might read this and then go kill them.

I used to see so many kit foxes around CSU Bakersfield. Most of them were wiped out from tractors, or likely poisoned while school personnel killed off squirrels in the name of development and overpopulation of animals.

Off to the south near Riverwalk Park I see construction. Heavy equipment moves dirt and shatters the silence of a long bike ride as development makes its way further into the serenity of the path.



**************************************
Read part one: Kern River Culture Part One: Bakersfield bird man talks about fishermen being harmful to waterfowl

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LA Kings support City of Bakersfield's proposal for new roller hockey facility - By N.L. Belardes


Hockey action at Saunders Park, Bakersfield, CA.

Roller hockey in Bakersfield has been on life support for some time. Bob Neath and a handful of others, including the travel team, Team Mower have literally kept the sport breathing over at the 34th Street facility, Rollerama.





In the mid-1990s you could find roller hockey almost anywhere in Bakersfield. It began in garages and on street corners and eventually took over tennis courts on Wilson Road and at Jastro Park. There were even pick-up games in the lot of a Mormon church on Panorama Drive and Fairfax Roads. Roller hockey had infected the masses. Jastro and Calloway Parks eventually built small rinks. Eventually there were sanctioned leagues at Standard Park (Until the league owner ran away with the money), and then the popular Niles rink in the old East Hills Bowling Alley (Many people said the rink was haunted. It's now a marketplace).

Some attribute the surge in Central Valley Roller Hockey to the popularity of the LA Kings as they marketed their team to a Bakersfield audience. Others think it had something to do with minor league ice hockey farm teams like the Bakersfield Oilers and the Bakersfield Fog. Both played at the Civic Auditorium and energized the youth and adults to want to put on skates and grab a hockey stick.


Location for proposed outdoor hockey facility


Similar look and feel to what Bakersfield will build...

I remember professional minor leaguer Mike Butters coming out to the pick-up games at Jastro Park. I was in high heaven when he once called me “tenacious”. Did that mean I was annoying and like a gnat after the puck? I can only hope so.

Butters could literally stand yards away from a goal and say, “My shot only counts if I hit the post.” He would call the post before he show and you’d soon hear a plink as he scored.

Only it was a roller ball back then. Not a puck. Then came glow-in-the-dark balls for late night hockey action. Then roller pucks were popular. You couldn’t hardly shoot those without breaking them. Then more standard roller pucks came into play. They tend to break in cold weather.


Baby Cal of the Bakersfield Condors sizes of a shot


And then shows the hand after missing the net

Yet, the good people of Bakersfield haven’t been playing roller hockey much for several years.

That’s about to change.

Just a few days ago, Dianne Hoover of the City of Bakersfield was joined by people like Bob Neath, Former Condors player Glen Mears, the LA Kings Fan Development Division, and a host of roller hockey supporters, all on hand to celebrate the new roller hockey park going in at Saunders Park.


Dianne Hoover discusses Bakersfield city's involvement

Donated by the Gretzky Center to the city of Bakersfield, this outdoor roller facility will be nothing other than state-of-the-art for roller hockey enthusiasts like myself.

“Don’t listen to people who say this isn’t going to happen,” said Bob Neath during a presentation speech.


Roller Hockey enthusiast Bob Neath talks hockey

I don’t think any of us were on hand to believe otherwise. Roller hockey in Bakersfield again? You bet. It’s a sure fire win, although the city council still has to pass at least one vote.




Noveltown supports hockey, whether on roller or ice.
Don't forget to buy our hockey CD!


Just moments later, a painful shot to the groin.
You gotta love hockey...

I asked Hillary Hodding of the LA Kings Fan Development Program why they were on hand to help. "Five years ago, roller hockey reached a peak. Since then it has been in a decline. We want to help bring it back. Kids need to know there's opportunity in hockey, including college scholarships." Although roller hockey is still a huge sport south of Bakersfield, the Central Valley has become mostly dead to the sport.

But as Hillary indicated. It's time to bring the sport back to where it was five years ago as part of the sports culture of Bakersfield and the Central Valley.


Roller hockey thugs talk about the sport

With the facility already donated, Bakersfield is on the way to providing a rough and tough sport that should begin in the spring of 2008.

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Bakersfield zombie movie test vids - By N.L. Belardes

Sunday is the movie shoot... Go to www.hecticfilms.com for more info.



Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Looking for a literary agent? Writers Digest lists 23 agencies looking for new writers – By Melinda Carroll

If you’re a new writer, meaning an unpublished author, you’ve probably experienced the trials of trying to get a literary agent interested in your work. After mass-mailing (or e-mailing) query letters to every literary agency you can find without much success, you may be beating your head against a wall wondering how to get a literary agent when you haven’t been published.

It’s like applying for a dream job that you know you’d be perfect for but you don’t have the work experience to back it up. You have to find someone willing to take a chance on your work, your writing.

Writers Digest has compiled a list of new agencies and a few ‘tried-and-true’ agencies currently open to representing new writers in a variety of subjects including fiction, nonfiction and screenplays.

However, Writers Digest advises that you still have to do your homework when submitting your work to an agent on their list and stresses how important good writing and editing are.

“Now don’t get any false ideas, such as newer agents don’t look for great work. Of course, new agencies still want the best work you can offer – same as experienced agents do, so be sure to edit your work ruthlessly and listen to the feedback of trusted peers in a writing group.

Mass mailing (or e-mailing) agents without considering each agent’s specific specialties is a big no-no. Just because these 23 agents work with new authors, there may only be three or four who handle your genre. Make sure you send your material to the right agent or you’ll simply end up wasting postage – and time.

Do they accept or prefer e-queries? Do they want a marketing plan included with a nonfiction book proposal? Do they want to review submissions exclusively?”

(Read the full article and check out the list of literary agencies)

Whether you are querying literary agents or Indie publishers like Noveltown its important to do your homework about what the agent or publisher is looking for. Make sure your query letter and your manuscript are your best work and diligently edited.

Noveltown submissions accepted here.

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Wretched Flesh and Next Exit: two local film projects that are infectious - By N.L. Belardes



I love zombie movies. Flying high after seeing the terrifying 28 Weeks Later over the weekend, now it’s time to get into a little Bakersfield zombie action.

Who would have thought a cheesy zombie movie by Hectic Films would be one of the best film projects ever for local Bakersfield filmmakers?


Zombies need food too!
The locally made Bakersfield film, Wretched Flesh has brought together half a dozen filmmakers to act, help film, bring equipment and skills, and literally, help create what’s going to be Bakersfield’s contribution to zombie filmmaking lore.

Hectic Films, Vindictive Films, Shamrock Films and Dirty Spanglish, Stupid Kid Productions, Poop Productions, some guy named Walter and more...

Although a zombie-filled film of high body counts and blood lust, it’s the biggest community filmmaking project I’ve seen. Rickey Bird of Hectic Films says, “Local filmmakers are taking different roles in the making of the film. Whether they’re acting, helping out with animation or filming, or just loaning equipment, filmmakers are coming together to make this happen.”


Hectic Films recruits Bakersfield area bands for zombie music

Well, it’s not the biggest Bakersfield film ever in budget size, or size of production. But on the set May 20th at the Downtowner Inn, you can expect to see dozens of zombies moaning and slashing their way around the set.


There's also another zombie acting class Tuesday, May 15th

It’s a cool community effort zombie film. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

*************************************************


Bakersfield filmmaker, Matt Kieley

In other local filmmaking news, Bakersfield filmmaker, Matthew Kieley has undertaken a huge project in the shape of a feature film called Next Exit. I just received the fourth version of the script and will play a tiny role at as a professor. I recently prodded Matt to join Bakotopia to help get the word out about what he’s doing. He’s been writing prolifically over there.

Matt wrote a lengthy diatribe about his new movie, how his script evolved and is a great piece to read that gets into the mind of a young filmmaker. Here’s an excerpt:

So here I am, in May of 2007 writing this essay about the process of writing a screenplay. It's been about eight months, and I've written four drafts. Granted, I haven't spent every day over the course of the eight months writing--in fact, each draft itself hasn't taken long to write--but I've spent eight months soul-searching, and trying to tell a brutally honest story about myself, my life, my freinds, my thoughts, my emotions, and I feel I've accomplished at least that. I've spent these eight months thing really hard about what I really wanted to say and how I would say it, about who I am, which in turn tells me who the characters are. I've spent eight months despising the work I've done, and being driven to make it better, to make it honest, to make it real, and true to myself.

In his second Bakotopia post, he wrote:

I don't have much of a cast yet for the film. I have Andrew Price and N.L. Belardes. I don't know what I'm going to do. I asked Roger Mathey of the Spotlight Theatre if he could find actors for me and set up some auditions like with "Seeing Red" he said okay, but I had a strong feeling he really didn't want to. I'm not blaming him. He's busy… I don't want to just cast anyone. I need the right cast. Acting cannot be overlooked. It's very important, especially for such a dialogue-heavy character based film.

He got a response from his first myspace message out to the community and then wrote:

I got a comment from the BCT myspace in response to one where I asked if they had any actors I could borrow. I was only half-serious because I didn't think I'd actually get a reply. But lo and behold, they replied saying "Tell me what you need--we have a lot of actors who might be interested in what you're offering". That's a paraphrase, but pretty close. Hopefully something will actually happen from this. I did the same thing with the empty space myspace as well. Here's hoping lightning will strike twice.

Where’s Next Exit going? I’m uncertain. I can’t help but support such a creative and noble effort. It’s not about how good or bad the script may be. It’s about seeing if this kid can pull it off.

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Bakersfield drunk crashes into bookstore, tries to find Harry Potter - By N.L. Belardes

OK, so I just made that up.

I'd heard of the car plowing into a Bakersfield Barnes & Noble, but didn't realize the extent of damage until this image was sent in to me.



The next day I stopped by and checked out the damage. Ouch. All I can say is, I'm glad this didn't happen to a local Indie bookstore...

I think Harry Potter is safe.

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Local filmmaker takes book promotion to new heights - By N.L. Belardes

Vindictive Films continues to hype up the release of their self-published book, Uncensored Tragedies:



The Interview - video powered by Metacafe

Literary controversies on the Nervous Breakdown and Emerging Writers - By N.L. Belardes

My readers know I'm always diving into some kind of controversy or another. There's a few good ones I want to mention here today.

The first regards a writer I recently interviewed. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's article on The Nervous Breakdown talks about literary elitists once again taking a shovel to lit bloggers.

Lauren Writes:

I frankly don't get this sort of mentality. And I really don't get it since print reviewers and litbloggers are primarily after the same thing: the discussion of books stemming from the love of books. But what Mr. Ford misses entirely is that litbloggers are part of the machine that creates buzz about his books, reacher a newer audience of readers who perhaps do not read their own Sunday print review supplements...

(Read her full article, "Is Richard Ford reading this?")

I respond:

Lit blogger, film blogger, media blogger, blogger-blogger, tattoo-blogger, nurse blogger, war blogger, race blogger...

We're people with vision in a world of avante-garde technology. Perhaps the pamphleteers of the world are always looked at as opportunists for a cause.

It's what I am: an opportunist for a cause that intertwines with my own. It's no different than historian John Putnam Demos exploring his own filial past by examining Early New England Witchcraft trends (Read his historical work, Entertaining Satan).

If we're true to ourselves, we mold ourselves using vehicles such as our expertise and career allow: writing history, or writing literature and even writing blog articles--the modern day pamphleteers.

Entities like Ford, or N + 1, which Noveltown railed against are simply a manifestation of those with Queen-like attitudes scoffing at the very people taking over the bandwidth.

If we're ants, then such people have sprayed us out of our ant holes to scurry in unison to save ourselves and what is dear to us.

There is a greater picture that we understand, that we don't have to sit in an ivory tower to get what others think of us.

And so ant-like we bite and sting and cause a swarming ruckus. And so we're heard.

They don't write lit reviews regularly in Bakersfield papers. I'm it.



Of course someone had to come and call Lauren whiny, which I responded:

Lauren is only commenting on what the buffoon said. I don't see this as whiny. Might as well call evangelists, visionaries, inventors, and artists who are struggling, whiny. I think that people truly in the blog trenches trying to make a difference simply face reality. Some aren't afraid to say what it is they face...

Look at the media. If blogs reflect whiny artists, then why does every media have a blog these days? It's an OP ED forum that is valued, and this was an OP ED piece. Nothing wrong with expressing opinion.

I think Richard Ford is whiny for his statement. If anything, Lauren is defensive, and justly so.



Hotter than the bloody glove...

One of the big reads on my list right now is an immensely controversial book by Brad Vice, titled, The Bear Bryant Funeral Train.

I'll be interviewing Brad in the coming weeks if I can pull him from his Czech Republic writer's workshop... I'm going to express my full opinion on whether or not Brad plagiarized his work. In the meantime, Dan Wickett has an all-encompassing interview with Brad Vice that airs every bit of dirty laundry regarding this book...

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The Mexican Cowboy Burial Grounds, Bakersfield Aliens, Crashed Spaceships and the Giant Haus Burger - By N.L. Belardes

For those of you who don't know, I'm a contributing creative non-fiction writer for Brad Listi's TheNervousBreakdown.com. My latest topic melds family history with cowboys and aliens. It's not to be confused with the recent Bakersfield UFO sightings (Likely a hoax).


The Mexican Cowboy Burial Grounds, Bakersfield Aliens, Crashed Spaceships and the Giant Haus Burger - By N.L. Belardes





His ashes were scattered on an alien landscape near the place where sand once fused to a nuclear sky. A few days before his ashes were strewn, an explosion of color filled the desert forest in between Lees’ Canyon and Mt. Charleston: a rare desert bloom...

Himself, he was Mexican cowboy who dreamed of wealth: St. Ignatius hidden desert caves filled with gold and glowing gems, and a royal flush on a well-rigged slot machine. He was a gambler and addict.

He died in his truck, holding his glow-in-the-dark rosary, his chin dipped to his chest. The gasoline odor around his truck meant a spirit had touched this a holy place.

***************************************

He looked like a science teacher with his crew cut; reading glasses slipped down his nose a little. He peeked above his glasses the way a professor might gauge the intellectual stamina of his classroom. Then he ordered a cup of coffee at a Barstow, California Burger King. This wasn’t the Mexican cowboy.

This man wore a flowery pink Moo-Moo.

A desert alien? Maybe. A father bet his son five bucks to ask the alien why we wore a dress. The kid refused and so the mystery remains...

***************************************

In an Eastern Las Vegas trailer park, near the giant Mormon Temple that pokes from the base of Sunrise Mountain like a giant tooth, a Mexican truck driver swam in a community pool. His arms were dark, blackened from the sun, while his legs poked white from the water as he dove, making him appear more like a red-and-white fishing bobber than a tough cowboy. The fact that he had a large stomach made him appear less graceful, like that fisherman’s multi-colored buoy, able to float, unable to reach into the pool’s depths, holding steady as if on a magical line.

No, he wasn’t wearing his cowboy hat; just his swagger when he stood up. In the pool he spoke to his second wife: a large white woman who wouldn’t take out her turquoise earrings even when in the water. Flailing, she scissor-kicked and looked like the crashed mothership that every local expects to be resting sideways in the hidden desert.

She also wore a giant straw hat. Moles on her arms were like constellations. She herself was distant, starry—you didn’t want to go there—but listening to her and the truck driver speak, you’d think that alien invasions were true.

“I’ve been watching TV shows about aliens,” she said. It wasn’t any kind of comment out of the ordinary for a Las Vegas trailer park swimming pool. Stepping in the warm desert waters anyone could watch Tankbusters and F-16s zoom overhead from nearby Nellis Airforce base. Military aircraft were always a good conversation starter for locals to talk War of the Worlds.

The truck driver held onto the side of the pool and listened as if she were some kind of CB message beaming into his ears. He could relate to that.

Jets roared overhead.

“Aliens, Area 51, lights in the sky. It’s all real,” she went on. “The TV shows aren’t wrong. Though I get tired of repeats. They tell the true story of what happened.”

“Roswell? Bakersfield?”

“Everything. Presidents hiding secrets. Alien metals stronger than the gravity of the moon. Stealth technology. The near invasion that penetrated deserts but not our cities.”

This was a typical discussion by locals. You could hear such talk down the street at the Jack of All Trades Casino off of Lamb Blvd. It was about as big as a burger stand, and it was home of the Haus Burger. If you could eat two in a half an hour you’d get your photo onto their wall of shame. There were lots of big guys on the wall. Except for the grand champion. He didn’t have a triple chin. In fact, he was skinny; he topped other records by more than five minutes. He’d eaten both burgers in twelve minutes and seventeen seconds. The truck driver didn’t mind eating there. He could gamble while he ate.

(Read the full article and see photos of alien fur!)

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Lauren Baratz-Logsted takes Noveltown into her world of Vertigo and beyond - By N.L. Belardes



Lauren Baratz-Logsted. Hers isn’t an easy name to learn or write. Call me a simpleton. Yet, if you said her name these days, I’d know exactly whom you were talking about. She’s a regular commenter on LitPark, a regular on myspace (She’s everywhere like a freakin’ ghost ninja), and a regular in the Noveltown Review with an article in the inaugural issue and a forthcoming article in our upcoming racier edition.

Her article, "The Working Writer: What Kind Of Writer Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?" is meant to help out writers who need the guidance to get successful. I know I need it. Who doesn’t need encouragement? I probably look forward to her next article more than anybody. On a personal level I’ve been through every emotion a novelist must face in the path of a hopeful literary career. I told writer Samantha Dunn recently, “Noveltown is built out of the lint of our pockets.” And so are most writing careers. It’s tough work. People like Lauren help us through the process of acceptance and understanding what it’s all about.


Baratz-Logsted's characters reveal the dark in all of us

It’s what you learn from people that matters. And some writers, well, they just ooze with wisdom. That’s Lauren Baratz-Logsted. I’m in dire need of picking her brain, cloning her brain cells, and injecting them into my own. I could use some of her writing prowess, her determination to succeed, and I’m guessing here, but some of her skills at being a perfectionist.


Hidden love of Lauren? Or primal fear?

I recently finished Lauren’s book, Vertigo. It's been getting mostly raves with a few dissenters on Amazon. Love or hate Vertigo, it’s masterfully written, a complete blend of historical fiction with erotic suspense. It takes skill to mimic culture and language, knowledge to provide historical detail, and ingenuity to delve such in a path of formulaic writing. Vertigo’s prim and proper language and spellbinding characterization of a corrupt novelist from yesteryear and his curious unsatisfied wife makes for a daring psychological journey into literary formula and storytelling.


A snowy day in the East...

Literary formulas aren’t bad. When done well there are purposeful twists within. They lead your mind down roads where the reader naturally stereotypes the outcome. If done well, as in Vertigo, then such works have the ability to set up and shock the reader’s own expectations of where a story is headed. Sure, there’s a formula in Vertigo. And Baratz-Logsted purposely strays. That’s a good formula story. Your mind goes one way, the story goes another. The reader gets fooled and thus should have a better time reading. Yet it’s still locked in a genre—the water rises along a yardstick of thought, drops, pushes back up in a swell of conflict, all within the range of the formula.

I won’t go on and on. Rather I’ll allow Lauren Baratz-Logsted to speak for herself.

Here’s Baratz-Logsted's interview with Noveltown:

Noveltown: How do you get away with writing both Victorian era fiction with erotic overtones and young adult novels? Aren’t you going to make granny librarians and young mothers angry at you?

Baratz-Logsted:
To answer the first question, I get away with it simply by believing that if a writer is willing to work hard, and I am, she deserves to get the opportunity to stretch her writing muscles all over the place; that, and no one has asked me recently to change my name so they can “brand” me as a certain type of writer. As for the second question, I’ve been mostly lucky with granny librarians – oh, and by the way, as a former sort-of librarian, on behalf of all librarians everywhere may I slap you for that – and young mothers. I’ve also been very lucky with men, who mostly aren’t threatened by my books in the way some women are. I’ve had less success with ultra-conservatives, but you can’t please everyone and I perversely hope I never write the book that does. Honestly, if I don’t ruffle at least a few people, I’m probably not doing my job.



Noveltown: How do you tackle the idea of formula?

Baratz-Logsted: It’s an impossible question for me to answer and you’ll have to forgive me if I say I don’t think of what I do as writing to a formula. It’s publishers that decide how they’re going to market books, not authors. I write the stories I’m moved and excited to tell; the rest – how the book is positioned etc – comes after the writing. Here’s an example: a lot of my books are classified as Chick-Lit. If we classify these books as “contemporary fiction that addresses issues facing modern women, characterized by a humorous or satiric tone,” then I guess I fit the formula. But if you add the stereotype “in which lots of shopping ensues, people drink designer drinks and the heroine is searching for Mr. Right” then we’re going to be in trouble since my characters only go shopping when they need a disguise, they drink cheap wine and Diet Pepsi, and any romances are always subordinate to the main theme. There’s also never a clear-cut HEA (Happily Ever After), which is frustrating to readers who need a formula; indeed, nearly all my books are open-ended.


Lauren hanging out with her brother...

Noveltown: So what’s the story about your novel, Vertigo? Where did the idea come from? I mean, was the market hurting for historical fiction?

Baratz-Logsted: No, not hurting; in fact, I’d say it’s become a popular genre, particularly if there’s an erotic edge. The idea first came to me when I was vacationing in Florida in fall of 2000. I wanted to write a story about a woman trapped by living a life that she realizes has been more thrust upon her rather than coming from her own conscious choosing. That’s a common theme in my books: people making decisions by popular consensus who need to learn to be more active in choosing their own destinies. But Emma’s particular story – and I don’t want to give too much away here, but you’ll understand since you’ve read it – wouldn’t work if I cast it as a contemporary tale. Readers would naturally say, “Why doesn’t she just leave if she doesn’t like it?” Her story being set in Victorian times, such a choice is simply unavailable to Emma and so she must do, um, other things.



Noveltown: Who is Chance Wood? Could you fall in love with him?

Baratz-Logsted: In love? I don’t know. I do think Chance is a dangerously charming devil. And there was at least one fan that wrote a letter asking if I could arrange for her to have sex with him. Who is Chance Wood? For Emma, he’s the cause of her awakening, the catalyst for the realization that so much of her world is not of her own making…and it’s time to make a few changes.

Noveltown: One day you made a decision in your life about becoming a writer. Who was the biggest influence on that decision?

Baratz-Logsted: When I was 12 years old, in eighth grade, I had a teacher who liked one of my stories so much he made the class listen to it three days running. That was the first time it occurred to me that I might have stories to tell that people would want to hear. Twenty years later, I made the decision for myself to take my writing seriously. I walked out on a day job that came with full medical benefits, a decent salary, and four weeks’ paid vacation a year. I realized that life is too short not to pursue your dreams full force.

Noveltown: Who in your opinion has the ability to become not just a writer, but a novelist? What does it take? Wheaties? Ego? Tough knuckles?

Baratz-Logsted: All of that. You need belief in yourself and perseverance, the willingness to put one writing foot in front of the other even when all outward signs – say, in the form of rejection or if your mailman tells you that you stink – are telling you to just give up and eat a Twinkie. Oh, and if you have talent too, that’s a plus. I think most people when they first start writing don’t realize that most writers need to serve a long apprenticeship before breaking in. I wrote seven novels before my sixth sold. Since then, I’ve had seven books published with more to come. None of that would have happened if I’d given up after book five. There’s a message here, people: Don’t pull a John Kennedy Toole and kill yourself. Keep writing new books, keep dreaming big dreams.

Noveltown: You’re someone who markets herself on the Internet a lot. I have to ask... I hear about the disgruntled commercial writers out there. What’s your take? Are big publishing houses leaving their writers to market their own work? And if so, is self-marketing a bad thing?

Baratz-Logsted: I’m not disgruntled but I’ve certainly met my share of writers who are. It’s a tough business, not on the order of laying tar in Texas in August, but tough nonetheless. I don’t know if I’d say publishers leave their writers on their own to market their books, but it’s just the obvious business model that they’ll throw more efforts behind a book they’ve paid $250,000 for than a book with one less zero. The Internet has been a wonderful thing for writers like me and while I support conventional reviews, I’ve found the blogosphere on a whole to be more democratic. Very few print publications have paid attention to my work, although I’ve had terrific views from the ones I’ve scored. But by and large, I might as well not exist in those places; this despite the fact that I’ve broken a few molds that should make me notable to them: RDI changed their own successful trade-only business model to publish my debut The Thin Pink Line, which received a starred Kirkus, in hardcover, and I write in so many different areas, that alone should draw attention. But no. On the other hand, bloggers seem to have embraced the fact that I’m trying to do unexpected things with my books and that I have a lot to say about writing and the industry that might be of interest to their readers. In terms of self-marketing being a bad thing, I think that’s only the case if 1) it takes you away too much from the writing, which should be your main focus if you want to be a writer; or 2) there are aspects of it you don’t enjoy and yet you’re doing it anyway. I hear too often from writers who find their blogging or myspace efforts etc to be a burden. If that’s how you feel, don’t do it. Believe me, your lack of genuine energy for it will show. Instead, find areas of marketing you do enjoy. Or, you know, be Cormac McCarthy, indulge your hermit side, and then get picked by Oprah.

Noveltown: What’s your take on LitPark, The Nervous Breakdown and Noveltown? Are they three separate entities? Are they part of a whole? Are they a manifestation of too many rebels in the literary world…? Talk…

Baratz-Logsted: Can there be too many rebels in the literary world? Pshaw! LitPark is an amazing place where there’s a new theme every week and writers can come together in a safe environment to explore the ideas behind those themes. The Nervous Breakdown gives a lot of diverse writers a chance to stretch their creative nonfiction wings. As for Noveltown, well, that’s you, dear. Each place has it’s distinct personality and serves to scratch a different itch for those of us who love all these places.



Noveltown: What’s the Backspace Writers Conference?

Baratz-Logsted: It’s an annual conference with panels on writing literary fiction and various genres, editor panels and agent panels. It takes place over two days every year in New York City and I was on a panel there last year. Perhaps because of its location, it attracts more agents and editors that you normally see at these things. I can’t recommend it or the site that started it all highly enough to writers at every stage of their careers. This year’s conference takes place May 31-June 1, so if you haven’t booked already, go for it!



Noveltown: Talk us through a typical day in your life, and please, list here all the literary entities you’re affiliated with… and end with what’s next in your career. That should take up about ten pages, right? Oh, and thanks for talking to us today!

Baratz-Logsted: Typical day: Wake up early, clear up as much overnight email as possible and exercise for an hour before getting my daughter up for school; back to work at seven a.m. and work straight through until it’s time to pick her up at four. If I’m in the midst of a novel, sometimes I’ll write more at night too. In between the writing, I’ll do interviews like this one or email with my agent or network on behalf of other writers, pitching their work to agents/editors. I’ll also take breaks between sections and flit around at Backspace, LitPark, Noveltown, The Nervous Breakdown etc. If there’s time I’ll check out GalleyCat or Ed Champion’s Return of the Reluctant for literary news. I will make sure at three o’clock that I’m doing paperwork, so I can have General Hospital on in the background. In and around it all, I read-read-read, still a victim to the schedule I set myself in 2005 of 365 books a year.


Greg Logsted, writer of Sock Puppets in Love


Another bold writer in the family?

What’s next: Secrets of My Suburban Life, my second YA novel, is due out in January from Simon & Schuster and is about a teen whose novelist mother is crushed to death by a stack of Harry Potter books – when her father moves her to CT, she becomes embroiled in a sort-of mystery involving an online predator; my first tween book, also from S&S;, is due out in March – it’s called Me, In Between and is about a precociously well-breasted 12-year-old who is conflicted by that fact; my next Chick-Lit book for RDI, Baby Needs a New Pair of Choos, is about the perils of having an addictive personality and is due out sometime in 2008. My husband Greg Logsted, if I may add, has his debut coming out in June 2008: Sock Puppets in Love, a tween book for S&S; about a boy whose father died the previous school year and who is now faced with a gorgeous English teacher who has the eye for him. Finally, Houghton Mifflin just acquired the first four books in a series for young readers, which is being written by me with Greg and our seven-year-old daughter Jackie. The series is called The Sisters Eight and is about octuplets, the Huit sisters, whose parents disappear on New Year’s Eve when Dad goes out to the woodshed and Mom goes into the kitchen for eggnog. Phew! OK, I think I just exhausted myself. Thanks for having me, Nick. You’re a doll.


Order now: Vertigo.

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Kern River Culture Part One: Bakersfield bird man talks about fishermen being harmful to waterfowl - By N.L. Belardes


Kern Recreational path, west of Riverwalk Park

Three great blue heron, one whooping crane, one snowy egret, a million squirrels, 500,000 cotton tail bunnies, some Canadian geese chicks, two families of quail, a doctor in a blue smock with a cell phone, two fishermen, joggers, bikers, and one birdman named Bill Dorr.

I'd give you three guesses where I was, but you already read the title. And yes I did see a doctor in a blue smock, head covered, looking like he'd just performed surgery, and walking on the bike path...


Cotton on the bike path?

Let's face it, Kern River culture is vibrant. There's a mixture of people, animals and plants that you can't find anywhere else in the Bakersfield area. There's no snarling traffic, no road rage, and no sense of urgency that you would find on faces within city streets.

West of Yokuts park, I rode past Lake Truxton, Riverwalk Park, and further west around a loop, along houses and a canal, to a sign which indicated mosquito populations carrying disease could be found. I didn't pass that sign. No Western Equine Encephalitis for me; no thanks. Goodness knows what else they could be vectors for. I'll save that trip for another blog post.

The most interesting part of my ride wasn't the cottonwood trees releasing their cotton like a snowfall. Rather, I enjoyed a nice discussion with a local recreational path birdman, Bill Dorr.


Cotton...


How close can you get?

He had parked his bike and was feeding Canadian geese and their chicks when I spotted him. I pulled over and we talked about feeding the birds and about what species he has seen. Of course that transformed into a discussion about anglers and how their presence just might be killing off waterfowl in the Truxton Lake area.


A family of Canadian geese eat courtesy of the Birdman

Watch the interview:




This image is further west of Truxton Lake...

What do you think? What's more important in the Truxton Lake area: waterfowl, fishermen, or...?

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Noveltown literary magazine reviewed in Bakotopia - By N.L. Belardes



Bakersfield, California's alternative online and print resource, Bakotopia posted a report on the Noveltown Review today from writer Greg Goodsell.

Greg wrote:

Of all the literary magazines vying for space at local bookstores, the locally published Noveltown Review emerges as a breath of fresh air. The project of longtime Bakersfield media gadfly Nick Belardes, the Noveltown Review offers a both fiction and non-fiction essays about today's literary landscape. An oversized magazine boasting slick, shiny covers, the periodical is beautifully laid out. More importantly, the Noveltown Review offers highly accessible prose for readers weary of experimental efforts that often prove to be not worth the effort.

(Read Greg's full report, "Revealing Bakersfield's new literary magazine" and please, leave a comment on Bakotopia while there)

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Heath Dobbler returns from his drunk writer grave to march in a moron parade - By N.L. Belardes

You remember Bakersfield punk rocker Heath Dobbler of the band the In-Denials? He had a blog called Dobblers Drunk Corner that he canned for no good reason.

Whether you loved or hated Dobbler, his was a Bakersfield voice in the crowd that was fun to read. He's now back with a new blog called the Moron Parade. His first entry is simply titled, "I'm back."

Dobbler writes:

I think as a blogger, a writer, a journalist, a musician, an artist, or just an expressive person in general, we do what we do because we sort of feel that we see things in certain pictures and feel compelled to share it with the rest of the world. We do this, in order to invite others to think as we do. I mean honestly, I truly believe that if I could somehow con the rest of the planet to think as I do, the world as a whole might be a more inviting place to inhabit.

What do you think, can writers change the world?

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Hectic Films Zombie movie production is gonna eat you - By N.L. Belardes

Yes, you can be a zombie.

Hectic Films had their first meeting in pre-production for their short film Wretched Flesh. Don't you just love that title? It's almost like you know what to expect: a film with a body count.


Be afraid of the buckle

Get all the info you need by clicking here... Don't forget Tuesday night's zombie acting class. It's almost worth getting involved just so you can say you had professional zombie training lessons.


Rickey Bird talks to Mikee Lee, a zombie Steelers fan


Filming at an old motel? Gotta love it.


There are lots of filmmakers involved besides Hectic Films.
Vindictive Films, Meatydish Productions, Walter of... oh crud,
don't know his film company, and Lando of
Shamrock Films/Bighead Productions


And don't forget about the mystery case...

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Cinco de Mayo going down at the new fish fry - By N.L. Belardes


Cinco de Mayo at the Fish Fry with a genuine Tijuana taxi out front!

It's Saturday night, just before 9pm. I can still hear the music in my head, and I know it will go on until past 1am, even though I left...

I finished writing a really weird short story earlier in the evening about a character named Maricela Sunshine, so I decided to get out of the house for a few minutes. I wandered downtown--just a short drive away from my casa and figured I'd stop in at the new and improved Fish Fry.

Matt Munoz had recently been writing about how Fishlips had gone through some renovations... I read Bakotopia regularly and for sure didn't want to go spend my time standing in line for opening night of Spiderman 3. Besides, that's not where all the Mexican music was going to be.


Who is Velorio?

I wandered in and caught about six songs from Velorio, a new Bakersfield band, that, well, isn't so new, but new on the scene. I'd seen a practice of a variation of the band more than a year ago in the Oleander area. They jammed, they sounded good, but then I hadn't heard any more about them. Seems like they had a few different members too. Ben Gomez and Alvaro Caceres were both still core members.



I dug that one of their main singers (Alvie?) played guitar and a trumpet--a nice mix. Very lounge-sounding when he busted out the horn.

Here's some words from their myspace:

Velorio was formed in January of 07 but Ben Gomez and I (Alvie) have been writing songs together for over a year. It seems to be luck that we ran in to musicians from our past (way way way past) that are all dedicated. The songs were learned and we started playing as Maltratos. We changed our name from MALTRATOS to VELORIO in February 07. As far as our songs are concerned, they really reflect our lives in every way possible... from lyrics to genres of music. Everyone in the group has been playing music for countless years and we feel there is no limitations to what kinds of music we can produce...




Danny "Iron Gunner" Garone and the Iron Outlaws TJ mobile




I love the purposeful misspellings.
Reminds me of people in my own familia

Lara Tupper talks about her novel A Thousand and One Nights, literature, pop culture and her obsession with Barry Manilow – By Melinda Carroll



Lara Tupper is the author of A Thousand and One Nights, a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, is a teacher of fiction writing at Rutgers University and a proud member of the Barry Manilow International Fan Club. Sure she has traveled the world as one half of a lounge-singing duo. She artfully infused her debut novel with lounge singing experiences, duo misadventures and tales of exotic locales. And seriously, she’s not afraid to admit her Manilow love!




Photo by: Robert Mitchell

In A Thousand and One Nights, Tupper takes the reader on an adventure with Karla a 20-something girl trying to figure out her life while faking the glamorous lifestyle of a lounge singer, which turns out not to be so glamorous. Karla soon finds herself in a relationship and lounge-singing duo with Jack and together they travel to foreign locations. I’ve been on a couple cruises myself, and the behind the scenes look at shipboard life had me clawing for a Kleenex from snorting with laughter.



Tupper’s literary ability is to use humor and sadness to tell a poignant tale of a doomed relationship while still remembering to wow you with little details along the way.

You don’t have to be a lounge singer or even an entertainer to relate to the characters in A Thousand and One Nights. I found little pieces of myself effortlessly written between the lines. If you’ve ever worn a fake smile, or been in a relationship where you depend most on the person you’re growing apart from, you too might find yourself entrenched in Tupper’s book.

Recently, I had a chance to talk to Lara Tupper about her novel, pop culture, travels and her obsession with Barry Manilow…



Here’s the interview:

Noveltown: Your story A Thousand And One Nights is about a lounge singer on a cruise ship and in exotic locations. I understand you used to be a lounge singer yourself. How much of the book is influenced by your own lounge singing experiences?

Lara: Yes—I was one half of a musical act. Just like that sad duo in Lost in Translation, singing to no one in a posh Tokyo hotel. It’s a job that sounds glamorous, but isn’t!

I used my observations of place in the book. When I worked in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and Shanghai I took notes, and these sensory details were useful when I began to draft the novel. (I like to start with setting, a vivid sense of place.) But the day-to-day life of a lounge act, particularly in a five-star hotel, just isn’t very interesting. So I ‘fictionalized.’ I plotted. I had to jazz up the lives of Karla and Jack to provide some kind of narrative arc.

Noveltown: A Thousand And One Nights appears to be packaged as chick-lit. I found it to be more literary in scope. How would you classify A Thousand And One Nights? And how do you feel about ‘labels’ in the publishing world?

Lara: I’m very glad to answer this question! And I’m glad you see this book as literary. If anything, I suppose I’d classify ATAON simply as a novel about travel and coupledom and music—a book with pointed pop culture references.

I think the chick-lit label is problematic because it implies that a book is meant to be read by a certain demographic. And I find the term itself a little confusing-- not at all subversive (as in “we are chicks, hear us roar”). It’s become synonymous with ‘light’ subject matter and I’m not sure why that is. Because it’s written by women about women? A book such as Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (a book I adore) is also a novel about pop songs and relationships. It’s narrated from a male point of view and yet it’s certainly not a book meant only for men. So I think the label chick lit points to a misconception or a double standard based on gender: Women write books for women while men write books for all.

That said, I think there’s nothing wrong with ‘light’—and I think it’s entirely possible for novels to be both ‘entertaining’ and substantive. In A Thousand and One Nights, I try to use pop lyrics in service of humor and to place the reader quite firmly in the mid to late 1990’s. But I also try to say something about disillusionment.

As for labels in publishing in general, I think it’s easier, from a marketing perspective, for a work to be summarized succinctly. We depend on the sound byte-- we like to have things spelled out for us quickly. But it’s irritating to go into a bookstore or a music store and be unable to find something because I don’t know what shelf it’s on. If chick-lit ends up on a specific shelf and a reader isn’t in the habit of going there, I think that’s bad for authors and publishers alike.

It’s interesting that the book seems chick-lit packaged. I love the cover—a simple blue ship in an art deco design with a brightly colored title. (In fact, I have a very nice Myspace comment from Noveltown about this: “That boat on your book cover is icy blue... and coming right at your readers.”) I wanted to include a CD too—all pop covers performed by the fictional duo. But maybe that would be a deterrent!

Noveltown: Karla and Jack in the story portray how one can be in a relationship and still feel very alone and isolated. The foreignness of the locations further demonstrates the feeling of isolation and hopelessness of Karla’s situation. Would you care to comment on the dysfunctional relationship of the central characters and whether isolation was an intentional theme?



Lara: I wanted to highlight the confusion twenty-something’s tend to feel, particularly after college, the aimlessness of not knowing exactly what to do with your life. And by extension, the myth that an American can ‘find’ herself though travel, that in tourism exists an answer. I think the dissolution of the relationship is a way to think about loose ends in general. The book is also about false fronts, faking it—how this can distort your sense of reality if done for too long. In performing, the ability to be ‘false’ is a tremendous strength; in love, not so much.

Noveltown: Also in A Thousand And One Nights, Karla dreams of leaving her lounge-singing duo and possibly becoming a photographer. How did you make the transition from lounge singer to: graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, a novelist, and a teacher of fiction writing at Rutgers University?

Lara: I hope I was slightly cheerier about the whole process than Karla! I found the transition from singing to teaching to be a positive one—probably because teaching is a lot like performing. Practice helps, experience helps. A sense of humor certainly helps. What’s lovely about teaching is my students’ participation—it’s not all on me. I teach workshops and discussion classes where students speak a lot, argue a lot about their own fiction and the class texts. They’re a noisy bunch. It’s a cliché, but they make me smarter and noisier. They force me to follow my own advice about writing.

Noveltown: As a lounge singer you’ve traveled the Mediterranean and Caribbean, Thailand, Japan, China and the United Arab Emirates. What was your favorite country or location and why?

Lara: Shanghai was a wonderful place to be. Unlike Karla, I actually saw a lot while I was there--the food, for one! The Old City is known for it’s dim sum and I sampled freely. There was just so much to eat and smell and do. I like New York City for the same reason: I step outside into drama and chaos, daily—it’s never dull. Exhausting sometimes, but never boring.

Noveltown: Karla’s tedium with pop songs and stage wardrobe is humorous. Is there a song that you’ve sang a million times that now makes you flinch when you hear it? Can you describe for us your best or worst stage outfit?

Lara: Thank you for asking this! I have a whole closet filled with dresses I don’t have the opportunity to wear anymore. My favorite is a very short copper-sequined number that I’ve never actually been brave enough to wear. The worst were just outfits in very bad shape--clothes that desperately needed to be dry-cleaned or refitted and I just couldn’t be bothered. I think some of my hairdos, too, were quite embarrassing. Frizzy, big hair—just very bad hair days. Big hair was hip when I was in college and it took me ages to get over this.

As in the book, the Titanic theme song was HUGE in China. My range isn’t so high and I’m certainly not Celine Dion. So that one was always a challenge for me and a tremendous disappointment for the audience, I’m sure.

Noveltown: I noticed on your website that you are a member of the Barry Manilow International Fan Club. Was that for professional reasons or are you a true Manilow fan? By the way, rumor has it that one of the Noveltown team is a Fanilow, and another member once owned the 45 of “Copacabana”, although he won’t admit it.


Is Lara Tupper a Manilow stalker?
Photo by: Jill Kaplan Tupper

Lara: We Fanilows need to stick together! I’m absolutely serious about my BMIFC membership--there’s a long, sad tale that follows. I’ll try to make it short: My Nana bought my first Barry album when I was five. As a ‘tween I had a Barry poster (white jumpsuit, feathered hair, medallion) and actually kissed it every night. I had a bumper sticker (BARRY M. LOVES LARA T.) and somehow convinced myself that he’d sent it personally (again--my Nana). And then, in 1993, I worked at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan and SANG with him! He needed a back up choir for a concert there, the very last verse of “I Write the Songs” at the end of the show. So I sang the song and that was it--I never even met him backstage. I’ve since been to Vegas to see him with my mom and to Madison Square Garden to see him here in NYC. He’s my Myspace friend, which is nice, but I’m still dying to meet him. I’ve even thought about enlisting Oprah—she has a page on her site called Do You Want To Meet A Hot Celebrity?. (If you apply and have a convincing enough case, she’ll help out.) I think Barry would enjoy the book—he was a lounger himself in the early days.

Aren’t you glad you asked??


Tupper and Manilow a match made in Heaven!
Photo by: Jill Kaplan Tupper

Noveltown: What’s on the horizon for Lara Tupper?

Lara: I think I’ll keep writing Fanilow-lit! I’m actually at work on a novel about the life of Paul Gauguin from the perspective of his wife, Mette Gad, who stayed at home with their five kids while Paul ‘painted’ young Tahitian girls. They had an intense correspondence and I’m fascinated by her. Why did she put up with it, exactly?

(“Copacabana” could apply to this setting too, I think.)

Noveltown: Thanks for hanging out with Noveltown and discussing your novel.

Lara: Thank YOU. To music and passion!

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Three new Bakersfield magazines, three different flavors - By N.L. Belardes

Check out these three new Bakersfield magazines: Trash Magazine Issue #1 by Jon-O-Panic, Bakotopia Issue #1, and the premiere of The Noveltown Review...

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Noveltown Review magazine mentioned on New York's literary blog, LitPark - By N.L. Belardes

Susan Henderson wrote the delightful story Lady Bug in the Noveltown Review (read an excerpt). She gave us a shout out in LitPark today:

And I just received the premier issue of The Noveltown Review, in which I appear with Brad Listi, Robin Slick and Lauren Baratz-Logsted. I can’t tell you how GORGEOUS the magazine is - absolutely striking, top quality work. I hope you’ll order a copy. Thanks to Nick Belardes for including me!

vlogger on the scene in LA protest - By N.L. Belardes

Whiny immigrants? Terrorist police? LAPD out of control? You decide...

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LAPD on the warpath against protesters and the media - By N.L. Belardes

You can make your own decision on what you will see in this video report:



For more on what happened in Bakersfield (Absolutely nothing) read, "Reflections on a Day of Action and speaking to writers at Bakersfield College" You will also find links to news reports from the Central Valley.

Bakersfield band The Filthies in Ireland: Part One - By N.L. Belardes


Look at the size of this Irish bathroom stall!

When I got a call from Kenny "Motor" Mount yesterday from The Filthies, I swore he was fibbin' and had just taken the band on a tour of Sacramento.

He mentioned all the hot ladies, the great people, the hot ladies, and the great people. And then he talked about castles and hot Irish ladies.

And of course I was thinking: Sacramento bars.

But then I received these cool photos and a nice write-up from Kenny:

Hey Nick!! Dropping a line here. Were having a really good tour through Ireland. The only thing that sucks is you didn't come with us! So far we've driven around the country, played two shows and were gearing up to play Galway tonight.

Dublin was awsome, we played with Dublin David. His bands are called Seldon Crisis and another group called the Knievels from Dublin.....we had a blast. The second show was at The Bowery bar in Waterford. The people are so fun! It's like playing back home in Bakersfield.

We're making a ton of friends and networking for the group. We've met people from all over the world. There are going to be a lot of Filthies stickers all over these toilets when were done with it! This country is starved for anything rock or Punk. Most the bands that tour through are Euro or local and they all do that Coldplay lounge style, so they're lovin' the loud guitars... I'll send another email in a couple days..sent a couple pics too.....Kenny


Hey, where's all the talk of hot ladies?? Damn it...






I guess these are the only Irish women I'm going to get pics of. Oh wait, those are the Filthies! Silly me...

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Reflections on a Day of Action and speaking to writers at Bakersfield College - By N.L. Belardes

As a whole, you don’t often see the good people of Bakersfield expressing their political views on city streets. Usually, that’s left for talk in mayor’s offices, Quiet $5,000 plate dinners when Arnold is in town, paper shuffling in government buildings, and meetings in stuffy city council chambers.

One year ago the city political mood was different. It was a tumultuous time where there were many immigration reform protests, some counter protests, an anti-Bush protest, and anti political proposition protest. Generally speaking, people had become active about expressing politics en masse, and in the open.

But what’s happened? Where are the masses now? Where are the protests on Bakersfield streets? Was this truly just a once-in-thirty-years political climate? To go march city streets in defiance and celebration. To wave a flag: American, Mexican, Ecuadorian, Filipino or otherwise...

A drive around town today looking for any sign of the Day of Action one year ago was serene, quiet. Normal.


One year later, Beach Park is just a quiet echo of protest sentiment


One year ago, spirits soared in preparation for a march

I had an opportunity today to re-read the poem I read a year ago at the Day of Action for Immigration Rights in Bakersfield: Immigration Interrogation. This time it could have been for a similar celebration on the Fresno City College campus. I had submitted my poem to Culturas Unidas, a multicultural Fresno student group assembling poets.

A representative asked me over the weekend if I could come and read my poem. But by then, it was too late. I had already scheduled to speak to Nancy Edwards’ creative writing class at Bakersfield College.

I met Nancy Edwards before class and she shared an article in the Renegade Rip that talked about Noveltown.

I was quoted as saying:

The people who say that (there is no culture in Bakersfield) are not recognizing their culture. If you don't recognize culture then you are not a part of it. Culture is in the town, culture is in the bike path, culture is downtown, and culture is in the music and the theater. It is here.

I purposely didn’t bring up the political topic to the class. I was in the Humanities building to talk literary opportunities for writers, not politics. Although I did encourage writers to become active: active in everything from their verb tense to getting involved with community in their own lives.






Nancy Edwards looks over her Creative Writing class...

“Do you know what’s happening in the world internationally, nationally, and locally?” I asked the class. I encouraged students to get to know what’s going on in the world around them, and then to use their voice to take part in their own community. It was a blessing to talk to every student.


Drewey Drew hides behind a magazine after class...


Beverley Sowers takes a peek at The Noveltown Review


What about political ships?


Nick Belardes and Nancy Edwards

When I walked on campus I thought about the Day of Action a year ago. I wondered what the climate had been at Bakersfield, even though I hadn’t been on the grounds that day.

For some reason I thought about the first marches in Bakersfield—high school students pouring onto downtown streets, including just outside the Rabobank Arena, where I snapped a photo of Ed Jagels flustered, with his head in his hands.

The city lay frustrated. The criticism of the students would soon begin. My attitude was that even if kids didn’t truly know what their actions meant, that they would discuss, learn, and look back. The hope is that they would eventually become affected by their bold actions.

Later I drove to Beach Park. I imagined the stage where Bo Caballero and I read poems. I remembered where Dr. Ganzalo Santos brought Tortas and we ate on the field near a tree. I remembered music, and Latinos talking about ethnic groups, proud to be both where they were from, and Americans. I remembered the people, motivated, moving, marching, winding along the bike path, past Yokuts Park, and getting bottlenecked at government offices, and then returning with candles in the thousands.

What I saw was city silence and empty fields...







A year ago dust rose from feet trampling across a soccer field--the return from a long march through dusk. Bugs swirled in the air. Bats dove around lightposts.

Voices carried the evening past tired feet, and into a political air that for the people present, had meaning.

But who are those people?

Where are they now?

What kind of political culture do they now support?

Why are the streets so quiet?

Are we all just waiting?

Or has time simply passed...?
***********************************
LATimes, "Small turnout, big questions: Rallies draw a fraction of last year's crowd as activists ponder the movement's future. Clash erupts in evening."
Fresno Bee, "Demonstrators seek reform: Crowds in Fresno and Visalia are smaller than last year, but hope for immigration change still strong."
Modesto Bee, "A Call for Unity: Immigration demonstrators rally on May Day"
Porterville Recorder, "Rallies for reform lacking in South County"

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