Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lies, All Lies

By Michael

I don’t play poker because when I do I betray myself with little tells that expert players can use to win against me. For instance, if I have a good hand, I’m liable to smile (albeit almost undetectably) and say something like “Whoopee!” or “I’m going to beat your asses, suckers!” And if I have a bad hand, I might cry just a little bit (uncontrollably) and whisper, “shit, shit, shit!”

But writing fiction is also a lying game, and it’s one that I hope I play better than poker (if for no other reason than that my readers aren’t the room with me when I say, “Whoopee!” or “Shit!). So, here’s the test: five of the following statements about myself are true and five are lies. Can you tell which are which?

(1) Like all good PIs, I carry a fragment of a bullet in my jaw.

(2) In the late 1980s, I wrote scripts for a series in which Halle Berry acted.

(3) While working in a former job as a political writer, I sometimes integrated out-of-context lines from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl into politicians’ speeches just for the fun of it.

(4) My first job was picking cherries alongside migrant fruit pickers.

(5) I went to Tibet seeking enlightenment but didn’t find it.

(6) I slept with a little-known actress named Candy before I got married (and with her lesser-known sister, Semolina, after).

(7) A Guatemalan congressional deputy once swore at me in Russian.

(8) I practice Zen Buddhism.

(9) I’m afraid of airplanes.

(10) My middle name is Staley.

(Publishers Weekly says of A Bad Night's Sleep, "The relentless pacing makes the pages fly by, and the hard-edged prose is bracing." And that's no lie.)


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Since I haven't met most of you in person, this is like throwing darts in a tunnel at a pack of clowns - but much more fun, even if it gets the same results.

Okay, Michael, I think the following are true - 2, 4, 7, 8, 10

Reece said...

I think these are the true ones: 2, 3, 4, 7 and 10. If you've got a tell, I'm not seeing it. And congratulations on the nice Publishers Weekly review!

Michael Wiley said...

That would be another good one, Sue Ann: "I once threw darts in a tunnel at a pack of clowns."

You got two of five correct.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Reece, but I still won't play high-stakes poker with you.

You have three out of five correct.

Jeannie Holmes said...

I'm going to guess 2, 3, 4, 7, and 10 are true.

Congrats on the great PW review!

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Jeannie -- and, like Reece, you're three for five.

Kelli Stanley said...

Hmm ... pot's right, cards a' comin ...

I think 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10 are true.

BTW, Michael, my dad taught me how to play poker ... it's one of the ways he made his Navy paycheck stretch. We should have poker night at Bouchercon! :)

Michael Wiley said...

Everyone so far thinks my middle name is Staley. What kind of parents would name their son Staley?

You have three correct guesses, Kelli, and, yes, playing poker at Bouchercon sounds good. I'll bring an extra shirt.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Staley could be a family name. And I think the Criminal Minds should get together at B'Con for poker... or did you say polka?

I'am also thinking I'd have a better chance at this game if I weighed in later with my guesses after scouting the other answers.

Michael Wiley said...

You're always free to weigh in a second time, Sue Ann. And I'll admit this much at this point: Staley was my grandfather's first name (so at least some parents would name a child thus). Polka would be good too.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Those are ALL awesome. I bow down to someone who has only done 5 of those.

My guesses: 1, 4, 6, 7, 8

And congrats on the great review from PW!

Gabi said...

I can't get the tunnel clown shoot out of my mind enough to concentrate on these.

I'm going with 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Rebecca. And I'll admit now that my real middle name is George -- which is my father's first name.

Gabi said...

It occurs to me that we've done a lot of loopy things as a group and have clearly considered trying plenty of other truly crazy ideas. Are there warrants out for our arrest? Should we book a certain floor at the nearest psychiatric hospital? Or at least warn people?

Michael Wiley said...

Oh, and you're right on two of five, Rebecca.

Michael Wiley said...

I wish only that I had thought of the tunnel-clown shoot out myself, Gabi.

You have three of five.

Michael Wiley said...

Another admission: #9 is false.

I love riding in airplanes, especially small ones in which I feel every bump and glide. (On the other hand, I don’t like roller coasters or carnival rides that spin. Even thinking about them makes me nauseous.)

Michael Wiley said...

And #8 is false too. (8) I don't practice Zen Buddhism, but I probably should.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

This would only make sense to another writer, but I am truly and deeply honored that you like my tunnel-clown scenario. It's like winning a mini-Edgar that I don't have to fly to NY to pick up. I might have to work that into a future book. It's obviously Odelia material.

Michael Wiley said...

The final false claims:

#6 and #7.

6: I’ve never met a woman named Candy (though I’ve known a few Candaces) nor a woman named Semolina (with or without a sister named Candy). If I ever do meet a woman named Candy (or Semolina . . . or a pair of sisters named Candy and Semolina) I promise not to sleep with her (or them).

7: An armed guard once chased my wife and me when we snuck into a Guatemalan park before dawn. I don’t think he spoke Russian, but we didn’t stick around to find out.

Michael Wiley said...

Which means that 1 - 5 are true.

1:I was fourteen and my friend Bob and I were doing stupid stupid things the way that fourteen year olds often do, though these were stupider and (if you want to know the full truth) involved a handful of .32 caliber bullets, some nails, and a hammer. I was lucky to end up with only a little piece of metal in my chin. I wish that the experience gave me street cred. All it does is mark me as having been an exceedingly stupid fourteen year old.

2: In the late ’80s, the as-yet-very-unfamous Halle Berry moved to Chicago looking for modeling and acting work. At the same time, a bunch of us very-struggling writers and videographers were working on a variety of projects, including a local cable show called Chicago Force (the driving aesthetic of which was, if I remember it correctly, that at least one person should be killed for each sixty seconds of air time). Ms. Berry quickly went on to bigger and better and then still bigger and still better things. I kept struggling, then went to grad school, then started writing the way I wanted to write. I wish that I could say I remember a moment when she and I locked eyes and mouthed something like, We were meant for better things than this. But it didn’t happen. In truth (since we’re telling the truth here), I didn’t remember that the very pretty actress who joined the group late in the process was Halle Berry until a couple of years ago when I Googled the name of a friend of also worked on the show.

3: Once I also included Jack Kerouac’s “Life is a road,” and a local paper quoted the politician quoting Kerouac – no one the wiser. The layers of irony confused me, so I stopped.

4: I was thirteen. I wanted money. The orchards were willing to pay a thirteen-year-old when no one else would. I’ve never done tougher work. I lasted a day and a half.

5: After my wife and I finished graduate school in New York in 1995, we put all of our belongings into a storage locker and traveled to Tibet. Were we seeking enlightenment? I suppose we would have been happy to find it if we had. How close did we come? One afternoon, we drove from the city of Lhasa into the mountains until we left all signs of human life (except for the road under us) far behind. Having drunk more than our share of yak butter tea that morning, we pulled to the side of the road for a rest stop. The air was cold, and the wind whistled through the rocks. I peed on one of the rocks, but that didn’t stop the whistling. My wife pulled down her pants and found a rock of her own. And just then, though we had traveled for twenty miles without seeing another car, a bus of German tourists rounded a bend on the mountain road and passed us. What did we learn? If you pull down your pants even in the deepest wilderness, a German will see you. We’ve carried that wisdom with us ever since.