Category Archives: LAst Resort

Meet LAst Resort Author Gay Degani "Highland Park Hit"

Excerpt from “Highland Park Hit” by Gay Degani

Corner on Figueroa in Highland Park
Photo by Gay Degani
Late afternoon sun streams through my cousin’s renovated house, so bright I’m temporarily blinded, but find myself quickly wrapped in Clovis’s bony arms.  I think he’s crying.
I smooth back his hair. “Talk to me, cher?  Wha’s wrong?”
He points toward the kitchen.
I twist around taking in the open concept of living room, dining, and kitchen, the back yard through sliders, all on view in a single glance. Then I swallow hard at what I spy next. At the foot of the quartz island on the dark laminate floor sprawls a man’s body.
“Stay here,” I say, and offering up a pray to that Detective Lenny Brisco from Law & Order, I creep into the kitchen and stoop to take this poor man’s pulse but there’s a hole in his neck a bullet hole—I know this from TV. His flat dead eyes seem to ask me why?
I don’t know. I throw up. Twice.



The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Gay Degani:


What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
Photo by Rachael Warecki
I’ve lived here a long time.  I don’t think I know the difference between something weird and an “only in LA” moment.
Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
I do. I want to write a good suspense novel/film in the vein of “Rebecca,” “Suspicion,” & “Shadow of a Doubt.” These are all domestic suspense stories, and that’s what I think I do best, dealing with regular people in scary situations. It’s what my novel, “What Came Before” is.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
Short stories allow a writer to hone his or her craft. 6,000 words are much easier to tackle than 66,000 words. You can rethink the plot, edit, revise, polish, even start over in a relatively short time.
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
I don’t think theme is a challenge. It’s really a tool to help shape a story, decide what should be in and what should be out. It helps keep the characters and plot on track and deepens a reader’s enjoyment. It gives the endeavor meaning.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
Of course.  It’s too difficult to pull stuff out of thin air.  Could you make a vase without clay?  The trick is changing to character to fit the needs of the story.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?
I’m interested in gentrification, how it affects the residents, though in this story it’s part of the milieu. I chose Highland Park which is an up and coming community in East LA because its close to me is an authentic community. Also I’m interested in other facets of restoring homes and how obsessed people are with watching renovation shows on TV.
Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
No.  This story came about because of the premise of the anthology. I needed to pick an LA area, which dictated what the setting would be. Then all I had to do was kill someone.
What came first, the character or the plot?
Available on Amazon
Character—also dictated by the anthology’s theme: thinking LA is the promised land. I chose a Louisiana cousin as the inspiration for Fanchon Landry, or “Fig” as her family calls her.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…?
Preservation Hall, Cajun music, the blues.
Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Ernest Hemingway which leads to my own quote. “Never fear the shit draft.”
Your writing ritual begins with… 
Seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.




About Gay Degani

Available at Amazon


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















Meet LAst Resort Author: Wrona Gall "Thump Bump and Dump"

Excerpt from:  “Thump Bump and Dump” by Wrona Gall

Photo found in the Public Domain


LA embodied a trend-setting dynamic that challenged people to do more, be more, experience everything. This vibe inspired him to reinvent himself, to overcome his melancholy by rescuing an actual victim. Not some wimp like Francine who threw a bottle of pills down her throat.
Local scavengers would have boosted his rental van by now. The thieves were probably barreling down the 101, oblivious to the bloody cargo area. An abandoned house loomed in front of him. The rotted porch, a strong wind away from collapse, creaked under his footsteps. He ducked under the sagging doorframe. Testing the floor with each step kept him from crashing through the wood. After scrubbing every inch of exposed skin with antiseptic, he tossed his wig, moustache and costume onto a pile of garbage. 
He smoothed the wrinkles out of his second layer of clothes, a Lakers T-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops and dug a candle out of his pocket. He lit the wick and wedged it into his trashed belongings. In a few minutes, Howard Green would be incinerated. He’d again be Stuart Evans, LA cool guy.
Walking toward a glow of neon lights, he texted an Uber to take him to The Grove. This atonement stuff really made him hungry. He craved a juicy cheeseburger oozing bloody grease.

 The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Wrona

Photo by James R. Gall 

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

We moved from Chicago to Ojai a year ago, so I haven’t experienced weird yet. So far, my impressions are great weather and wonderful people.
Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
Seeing my daughter Vanessa on the red carpet.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
I write to create the endings I want to be on the news. 
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
Staying on track. I tend to wander.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
My characters are collages of people I know.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?
I found an LA neighborhood that resembled our inner city Chicago neighborhood of twenty years where street people, artists, and rich collectors mingled and enjoyed each other while gentrification changed the buildings, but not the rich diversity.
What came first, the character or the plot?
Character, always.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…? 
I play old black and white mysteries that function as white noise.Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
Enjoy what you write.
Your writing ritual begins with… 
Diet Pepsi and a chocolate chip cookie

About Wrona Gall


Wrona Gall moved from Chicago to Ojai with husband, Jim, daughter, Vanessa and rescue Westie, Zoe, in 2016. “Thump, Bump, and Dump” is her second published short story. She is currently writing Resolve, her second novella about Deckle Ahern who is diagnosed low-spectrum autistic and transforms his life from visual artist to Samurai Avenger when his mentor is murdered. Wrona divides her time between writing and sculpture.

Meet LAst Resort Writer Lynne Bronstein "Mimo"

Excerpt from “Mimo” by Lynne Bronstein


Photo by Sameer Kahn

Back in the ‘70s, if you were walking in Venice at night, you might have seen her standing in a doorway, singing softly to herself. You would have had to look straight ahead or even down because she was tiny, not more than five foot one and she herself joked that her bones were like noodles. You would have known her by her hair. It was always some color not found in nature, blue-green or vivid red or purple with silver streaks. She didn’t have it done in a salon, she never could have afforded that,so she got the dyes from somewhere and did it herself in public restrooms or friends’ homes. She spiked it and put some sort of grease on it and it stuck up from her head like alien plant life.

She came wrapped in old kimonos, worn camouflage jackets, denim vests and jeans, velvet robes, falling-apart lace gowns. Her nose was a bit beaky and there was a scraped area on one side of her face. She’d survived a motorcycle crash years before.
She called herself Mimo. People thought she was mispronouncing Memo. She pronounced it with a short “i.” Was her name Mimosa? Miriam?
Few people knew her real name. Welfare knew what it was. Mimo used friends’ addresses and at one time or another had a post office box. She lived nowhere and everywhere. She slept on peoples’ couches, in shelters, or on the street. Sometimes people told her she ought to get a permanent place to live and she shook her head and said “I don’t want to live anywhere.”
Why, Mimo? they would ask her. And she always answered:
 “I’m free this way.”

The Rochelle Staab Questions for Lynne Bronstein


Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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

I’ve lived here a long time so there could be many incidents that I could cite. Maybe it was the time when I just accidentally ran into Jim Morrison on Santa Monica Boulevard (it wasnear the studio where The Doors were recording LA Woman at the time). He told me he was busy and I should meet him at the same place the following week. He never showed up.

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

I always wanted a house that I own. The cost of a house now is too much. I used to design the house I wanted to live in, even drawing floor plans. I might instead build a doll house using found objects.

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

I’ve always written things. I can’t stop myself-it’s compulsive. I “wrote” my first poem before I could even write-my father had to write down what I dictated. I like to tell stories. A short story is easier than a full-length novel but it’s also a challenge in another way-you have to hit the beginning, middle, and end quickly and develop your characters quickly in fewer words.

What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?

I often interpret a theme according to my imagination and my ideas, which may not be what an editor has in mind. When I submitted my story “Mimo” to LAst Resort, I was afraid it would not be accepted because it was not a whodunit or procedural but that was more a matter of story type than of theme. It turned out that I had fulfilled the requirements by creating a character that came from somewhere else and encountered bad luck in LA.

Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
As I describe below, “Mimo” is based on a real murder case and the character Mimo is based on a real woman-but I did not know her so I created her from bits and pieces of the behavior of real homeless people that I have observed. I also put some of myself in her. But then again, my character Roger the journalist, is also me to some extent. Most of my characters tend to contain parts of me. We know ourselves best (or we think we do).

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

Venice was the neighborhood in which the real-life incident that I based my story on took place. But I also know Venice like the back of my hand. For many years I lived nearby in the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica. I worked in Venice, volunteered for a local newspaper published in Venice, and hung out with friends in Venice. I found myself referencing real Venice places in my story, such as the Lafayette Café where I used to breakfast on weekends. I wanted to capture the ambience of Venice as I knew it in the 1970s before the onslaught of development and faux-hipness that has taken it over now. It was a place where everyone was valued, even homeless people. I’d like to think that nothing can completely kill that spirit.

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

The real-life incident took place in 1977. The model for Mimo was Benita Bingham, known in Venice as “Bingo,” who was murdered by her ex-husband after he was released from prison. I never knew Bingo; I merely heard stories about her from people who did know her. My theory is that she resisted living in an apartment because it would be more difficult for her ex to find her if she were homeless. That’s the basis for what happens in my story.

What came first, the character or the plot?

They came simultaneously, due to the real-life incidents that inspired them. But I had to work on the development of Mimo as a believable character. I thought about how she would look and dress and talk. I wanted another character for her to interact with, a character that would also “ground” the story in reality for the reader and for that purpose I created Roger the journalist. I originally wrote the story in the third person but I switched to first person and it made an incredible difference in tone and credibility.

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

I prefer to write without music, with as much silence as possible. Music, especially if it has a vocal, distracts me and the lyrics get in the way. Instrumental music is sometimes okay to write poetry to.

Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…

I can’t think off hand of a quote. I can paraphrase something from Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology: he said that above all, what writers give is their courage. Add to that Anais Nin’s advice to writers that they write every day and you have my guidelines for the life of a writer.

Your writing ritual begins with…  

I wish I could begin the day with writing before anything else but even my journal has to wait a bit. When I wake up each day, the first thing I have to do is feed the four cats. Then comes breakfast, showering, dressing, writing my journal, yoga, chores around the house. When I do get down to writing, I like it to be quiet, comfortable temperature-wise, and I usually have to have access to liquid refreshment. I often have to get up and pace around. If I am “on a roll” I just sit tight and type away. When I begin to write, I just begin to write. It has always begun that way.


More about Lynne Bronstein


Lynne Bronstein is the author of four poetry collections, Astray from Normalcy, Roughage, Thirsty in the Ocean, and Border Crossings.Her poetry and short fiction have been published in magazines, newspapers, anthologies, and on web sites. She has been a journalist for five decades, writing for the Los Angeles Times and other Los Angeles area newspapers. She also writes a blog, “No Rainy Days.” Recently she adapted Shakespeare’s As You Like It as a contemporary Valley-speak spoof which was performed at the Studio City and Hollywood public libraries. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes for poetry and for two Best of the Net Awards for short fiction. She won a prize for her short story “Why Me” and two prizes from Channel 37 public access for news writing. She has taught poetry and journalism workshops for children at 826LA and for the Arcadia Library and was cited by the city and county of Los Angeles for her mentoring work with Jewish Vocational Service. Her latest publication is a short story in the crime fiction anthology LAst Resort from Sisters in Crime. A native New Yorker and LA transplant, she lives in the San Fernando Valley and has four cats.

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Meet LAst Resort Author: Paula Bernstein "On Call for Murder”

Excerpt from: “On Call for Murder” by Paula Bernstein

Photo by Sheri Fried

I woke to the alarm at six o’clock, still exhausted. I pried open my eyes and splashed my face with ice cold water, dreading my return to the hospital.
When I got to the ICU, it was clear that Nina was worse. It broke my heart to look at her. She was in a coma and unresponsive to all but the most painful stimuli.
“Pardon me, are you Dr. Kline?” I turned to see a stocky young man with Slavic features and thinning sandy hair.
“I’m Alexander Markovic, Nina’s boyfriend. Can you tell me how she’s doing?”
“Not well, I’m afraid, Mr. Markovic. We’re doing all we can.”
“That bastard,” he hissed under his breath. “May I see her?”
“She’s in room five,” I told him. When he emerged his eyes were damp and his fists clenched.
“Where’s Avery?”
“Dr. Avery hasn’t come in yet this morning.”
“Give him a message. Tell him that if she dies, I’ll kill him.” His voice quivered, and his eyes were moist. He walked out before I could see him cry.
I stared after him, shaken, wondering if I should repeat his threat. I couldn’t believe he would act on it.
I began reviewing the chart again, not that I expected to learn anything new. There had been something on my mind all morning, just out of reach, and as I skimmed through yesterdays’ labs, I caught it.

Photo by Uri Bernstein

The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Paula Bernstein


What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
I’m not sure I’d use the word “weird” but the scariest thing that happened to me in Los Angeles occurred the day after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. I was in the operating room performing a caesarian section. I’d just delivered the baby and was about to sew up the bleeding uterine incision when there was a huge aftershock and all the lights went out. I stood there in the pitch dark, trying to figure out how to get the bleeding under control and wondering how long it would take the hospital generator to kick in.
 Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
I dream that someone will invent a Star Trek transporter device that will make it possible to get from Brentwood to Pasadena in five minutes instead of in an hour of stop and go traffic.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
I write both short stories and novels. Writing is the way I exercise my right brain and explore my creative side. I write for fun and for pleasure. It’s been my avocation during all my professional years as a left brained physician, and since my retirement, it has surprisingly become my third career.
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
For me it is making sure I do my homework and get all the facts correct. The medical part comes naturally but for anything out of my field I consult experts.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
The answer to that is yes and no. My main character Hannah Kline is an obstetrician practicing in Los Angeles, just like me. Hannah shares my opinions and has my sense of humor but her life is totally different. She is a young widow with a four year old daughter, and over the course of the books she develops a romantic relationship with a hunky LAPD detective. I’ve been happily married for almost 50 years to a lovely man who would probably disapprove of my having a romantic attachment to a good looking cop. Hannah’s love interest is completely fictional and many of the minor characters are as well. Occasionally I am inspired to create a character by someone I know or see for whom I can make up a totally fictional life story.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?

It is easiest to write authentically about what you know. My characters live and work on the west side of town, everyplace from West Hollywood to Santa Monica. That’s my ‘hood and I can describe it well.
Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
All of the medicine in my story comes from my years of experience. I often fictionalize patient medical cases that were particularly interesting or dramatic.

Available at Amazon.com

What came first, the character or the plot? 
In my first novel, Murder in the Family, the plot came first. I wanted to tell a fictionalized version of a close friend’s real murder that had affected me deeply. I invented the characters who eventually became Hannah and Daniel in order to tell that story. Writing the novel was my therapy and my way of coping with grief. However, after the first book, the characters took priority. Before deciding who got murdered, and in what world I wanted to set my next novel, I always asked myself what needed to happen to Hannah and Daniel’s relationship in that book.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…? 
Dead silence or I can’t concentrate.
Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
My favorite quote comes from a cartoon sent to me by a fellow author. There is a dog, seated at a computer terminal. The caption is Sit, Stay.
Your writing ritual begins with… 
Two lattes and the LA Times.

About Dr. Paula Bernstein


Dr Paula Bernstein is enjoying her third career as a mystery writer. She began as an inorganic chemist with a Caltech PhD, switched gears, went to medical school, and spent the next thirty years as an actively practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Los Angeles. She is the author of Murder in the Family, Lethal Injection, Private School, The Goldilocks Planet, and Potpourri. Her short story, “On Call for Murder,” a prequel to the Hannah Kline series, was recently published in the Sisters in Crime/LA’s 2017 Anthology LAst Resort. Her newest Hannah Kline novel, In Vitro, was published in July 2017.

Meet LAst Resort Author: Wendall Thomas "Eggs Over Dead"

Excerpt from “Eggs Over Dead” by Wendall Thomas

Photo by Wendall Thomas

I cover the weekday breakfast shift at Summer/Winter/Fall. The “of the moment” restaurant is not where I thought I would wind up when I drove cross country ten years ago, but waitressing pays better than a development job, and I’m in a bills situation. I should be working the more lucrative weekend brunch—the mecca for all fedora-wearers—but I’m afraid I’ll eventually lose it, stab the fifth lead in a streaming sitcom, and wind up on TMZ.

           
The restaurant reeks of kale chips and the phone is already ringing.
           
It’s a customer frantic to know if we have his gold teeth. After searching the lost and found box and register, I finally locate the crescent of gold Chiclets swept under the bar, entwined in a tuft of “emotional support dog” hair. I shake them off and put them in a take-out bag for pick-up.
           
I’m filling the artisanal salts when I hear a mad click click click on the glass door. Outside, a lanky forty year old, still dressed in his mid-life clubbing clothes, waves and points to his mouth. I let him in and hand him the bag.
           
“Thought I was gonna have to call my jeweler in Jersey. I owe you one.”
           
Literally one, I guess. He hands me a dollar bill. He takes the glittering brace out of the bag and pops it straight in. If he’d given me a twenty, I might have told him he should rinse it first.
           
I check the clock. It’s seven minutes to eight and a few regulars are already hovering outside. I take my last chance to sneak out into the alley for a smoke. I look down the street of one bedroom pseudo Spanish, Deco, and Tudor bungalows, all listing for well over a million, and strike a match.
           
Bang. Bang.


The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Wendall Thomas:

Photo of Wendall Thomas 
by Stella Mulroney

What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
The weirdest (and maybe the best) thing that ever happened to me here was seeing Stevie Wonder in the Radio Shack at Highland and Wilshire. I think that kind of thing only happens in LA.
Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
To live in a quiet 20’s duplex.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
Some ideas aren’t big enough to be novels, but they are still interesting enough to be told.  I also like the challenge, because there’s nowhere to hide in a short story.
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
I think there’s always the chance that you’ll be heavy-handed or force the characters to do something they wouldn’t actually do.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
The “Thursday Guy” is an amalgam of a few producers I’ve encountered over the years and the restaurant patrons have elements that I’ve observed over twenty-five years of writing in restaurants.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?
It’s actually my neighborhood, which has become increasingly “hipsterized” and entitled in the last five years. This makes long term residents like myself feel old, irrelevant, and irritated. That seemed the right setting for the tone of the story.
Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
As noted above. A producer actually did point a remote at me and say “Okay, go” in a meeting once.
What came first, the character or the plot? 
Available at Amazon.com
In this case, the plot. I like the idea that someone didn’t show up for a breakfast meeting because they’d been murdered.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…? 
Usually music. The music depends on what I’m writing. For this story, Warren Zevon/Tom Waits.
Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
From Flannery O’Connor: “Don’t be subtle until the fourth page.”
Your writing ritual begins with… 

Coffee.

About Wendall Thomas: 

Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as an entertainment reporter, script consultant, and film and television writer. Her short fiction has appeared in the crime anthologies Ladies Night (2015) and Last Resort(2017) and her first novel, Lost Luggage, will be published in October by Poisoned Pen Press.