Friday, October 24, 2014

Badass Writer of the Week: David Ayer

David Ayer

By Jonathan Merrick

From street kid to one of Hollywood’s elite screenwriters, David Ayer has had one hell of a ride.

Ayer, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, had his newest film, “Fury” starring Brad Pitt, hit theaters this past weekend to rave reviews and took the top spot at the box office. He’s made his stamp in Hollywood for writing gritty, character-driven movies that audiences can’t get enough of. In a world of play-it-safe writers, he makes it a point to write on the edge, earning his status as our Badass Writer of the Week.

Ayer spent most of his early life as a street kid in South Central Los Angeles (in later years, the city would become the backdrop for many of his films). He dropped out of college and found himself in the U.S. Navy. After he left the service, Ayer lived in a tough area of Los Angeles, struggling to break into Hollywood and dealing stress from his time in the military. He comitted petty crimes and spent his days adrift with his friends. Ayer eventually channeled his energy into screenwriting and wrote “Harsh Times,” which he would later go on to direct.

Following the success of the movie, Ayer was able to get away from the streets and become a script doctor. He worked on “The Fast and Furious”, “U-571”, “S.W.A.T,” and other high-end action films. On a personal note, I should mention that his commentary track on the “S.W.A.T” DVD is one of the most useful writer’s commentaries of all time. He’s brutally honest and speaks freely about his style and work ethic. Anyone who wants to pen screenplays has to check it out immediately.

Ayer’s big break came with “Training Day,” the film that Denzel Washington would win an Oscar for. Form here, Ayer began making his own films, including “Street Kings” and “Sabotage.” From what I’ve seen and heard, “Fury” could end up being his masterpiece.

For all of the above reasons, Ayer is a true badass in Hollywood. He stays true to the craft of writing by writing what he knows.

Oh yeah, go see “Fury.”

For more literary badassery, check out our Badass Writers of the Week page.

The Top 3 Movie Soundtracks of the 1990s

By Sean Tuohy

There were a lot of movies with great music released during the 1990s…or at least I think there was. Out of all those film soundtracks that debuted during the post-heavy metal, pre-Justin Bieber days, three stand out for their use of original and compiled music.

Take a listen, remember the good ole days, and send us your 1990s favorites in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

"That Thing You Do!" 

Written and directed by America’s most beloved actor Tom Hanks, this little gem of a movie is charming, funny, and reminds us of a simpler time. “That Thing You Do” depicts the rise of a small town band from local talent shows to the big time after its catchy tune becomes a hit. The title song alone will get stuck in your head for days. You can't help but bob your head along with the upbeat tune. However, the soundtracks offers plenty of other songs from "The Wonders." all of which ooze 1960’s rock-pop. "Little Wild One" and "Dance With Me Tonight" are two that will cause you to fall in love with this make-believe band. The album also mixes other songs classic to the time: jazz, Motown, and smooth club music.

"Reservoir Dogs"

Movie nerd Quentin Tarantino is known for his blood-soaked, pop culture-laced films with great soundtracks. While it's true that "Jackie Brown" and "Pulp Fiction" have fantastic soundtracks, however, Reservoir Dogs truly stands out. Maybe it’s the fact you have Steven Wright deadpanning as a K-Billy’s DJ in between each song, or that each song is so different from the last. No matter the reason, this album, quite simply is cool and awesome in its own way.


This movie is soaked in 1990s, featuring bright colors, characters to smart for their own good, pop culture rants, and comic books aplenty. This movie is meant for teenage boys to watch and love. The soundtrack perfectly matches the playful, goofy, and overall honest moments of this flick.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Finding A Place to Land With Singer-Songwriter Mark Whitaker

Mark Whitaker

By Daniel Ford

Music is constantly being shared back and forth at Writer’s Bone.

The common themes that tie together all of the artists and genres we listen to are honesty and originality. After recently devouring his album “Nowhere to Land,” I can definitely say that it doesn’t get more honest and original than singer/songwriter Mark Whitaker.

Whitaker, armed with a banjo and a voice as smooth as a single malt, tackles heartbreak and the human experience in his beautiful album, which has been on repeat more often than not in my office.

“Forgive me for trying to love you the best I can,” he sings. “Cuz I’ve been flying around for a lifetime with nowhere to land.”

I think I can speak for most of the Writer’s Bone crew when I say, “Amen!”

Whitaker graciously took some time from planning his upcoming tour to answer a few of my questions about his early influences, the inspiration behind “Nowhere to Land,” and the art of songwriting.

Daniel Ford: When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?

Mark Whitaker: It’s hard to say. There’s no distinct moment in my life where I consciously decided to become a musician. I’ve just always been active with music in one form or another since my early childhood. My current situation feels the same. I’m writing songs and seeking opportunities to perform, but I still tend to think of myself as just a guy who likes playing music, rather than a bonafide musician.

DF: Tell me a little about your love for the banjo. When did you start playing it? Did you have posters of Steve Martin on your walls as a kid?

MW: I started playing banjo around 2002. My friend’s mother gave me an old banjo she never played and I immediately fell in love with the sound. It had a sharp, metallic texture, but also a warmth that seemed to scratch an itch I didn’t realize I had. No Steve Martin posters, but I had plenty of his movies on VHS.

DF: Who are some of the artists that influenced you early on?

MW: My earliest music influences were Michael Jackson, The Beatles, George Winston, Danny Elfman, and Brahms. I also had a good amount of Andrew Lloyd Webber drilled into me because my dad would cue up the “Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack for dinner each night, which contained some oddly frenetic pieces for dinner music.

DF: You lived in a couple parts of the country and now make your home in Boston. Why did you make the decision to move here and how has the city influenced your music?

MW: After I graduated from Earlham College in Indiana, some friends and I took a road trip along the East Coast looking for cities to potentially live in. We were looking for a decent-size city with a rich music scene. We settled on Boston, and it has been home ever since. The Boston music scene has had a huge influence on me. No matter what style of music I’m interested in there, there seems to be a surplus of musicians to connect with and learn from. I feel both grateful and spoiled.

DF: You’ve played in a variety of groups, but have focused more of your energy on writing and solo work the past couple of years. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

MW: The advantage of being a sideman in someone else’s group is that you get to show up and play music without the burden of writing the songs, booking the gigs, coordinating rehearsals, etc. And if you pick projects with music and people you enjoy then there isn’t much of a downside. Leading your own project is more work, but in return you get to realize your own musical ideas.

DF: You sell your album “Nowhere to Land” directly from your website. Why did you decide to distribute it yourself rather than going through more traditional channels?

MW: You can purchase my album through places like iTunes and Amazon, but I decided to make it available from my website as well and to direct people there first. I figure if people are considering downloading it, then why not cut out the middleman. There’s something simple and sensible about buying music directly from the musician, especially now that technology makes selling directly more convenient. But this is all an experiment for me and may not be the most effective way to share my music.

DF: Speaking of “Nowhere to Land,” I had that song on repeat for most of a recent Friday afternoon. What was the inspiration for the song? 

MW: I’m so glad you like it! “Nowhere to Land” is meant to capture the sense in which life is a constantly changing process. We strive for stability in our careers, our relationships, our identities, etc., and it’s perfectly reasonable to do so. But no matter how stable our lives become, time doesn’t stop for us. We’re still always going somewhere. It’s just a strange feature of our circumstance and “Nowhere to Land” is my way of acknowledging it.

DF: If you had to pick one of your songs that defined you forever, which one would you choose and why?

MW: My first instinct was to pick “Nowhere to Land,” but I think I’ll go with “Nightlight.” I like that it’s simple, straightforward, and perhaps more widely relatable. It’s basically just a song about having a tough time and finding consolation in loved ones.

DF: What advice would you give to up-and-coming writers and singer/songwriters?

MW: I think it’s important to find your own relationship to songwriting. Many people have strong opinions on how to write good songs. Some have strict views on narrative versus first-person songs, whether to show versus tell, coherence of lyrics, etc. Some think you should always be writing songs to keep the writing muscles in shape. These are all ideas worth exploring, but your own creative instincts should be the driving force for your own music. If you like writing intermittently, that’s fine. If a certain tense speaks to you more than others, that’s fine too. Be willing to follow your instincts even if it parts ways with conventional wisdom. You never know what interesting things you might discover.

DF: Name one random fact about yourself.

MW: I have an irrational fear of frogs.

To learn more about Mark Whitaker, visit his official website, like his Facebook page, subscribe to his YouTube Channel, or follow him on Twitter @MarkSWhitaker.

For more interviews with some of the best authors, singers, and editors out there today, check out The Writer's Bone Interviews section.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The One With My 10 Favorite ‘Friends’ Moments

By Stephanie Schaefer

“Friends” is one of those shows that simply never goes out of style. Daniel Ford and I recently finished rewatching the entire series, during which I laughed at jokes I’ve heard many times before and got misty-eyed during the finale yet again. Netflix will soon make it easy to follow our binge-watching lead as the company recently announced that all 236 episodes will be available for your streaming pleasure starting January 2015 (say goodbye to your social lives).

Choosing my favorite “Friends” moments was as difficult as Joey deciding if he’d rather give up food or sex, but I finally narrowed down my list. Take a look at my top picks and share your favorites in the comments section!

1. When Rachel and Ross visit the laundromat in “The One With the East German Laundry Detergent”

Why I Love It: This scene sets the stage for the Ross and Rachel romance, long before the on-again, off-again lovebirds actually get together (and before Ross gets weird in the later seasons). The two go on a pseudo-date when Ross accompanies Rachel and takes her “laundry virginity.” He's there to comfort her when she accidentally mixes a red sock within her whites, making her wardrobe look like a marshmallow Peep. More importantly, he’s there when she stands up to the laundry bully and is rewarded with a friendly kiss for his support.

Memorable Quote: “I know this is gonna sound really stupid, but I feel that if I can do this, you know, if I can actually do my own laundry, there isn't anything I can't do.”—Rachel

2. When Monica and Rachel pretend to be each other in “The One With Two Parts”

Why I Love It: Before George Clooney made an honest women out of Amal Alamuddin—aka that lady whose name no one can pronounce—he guest starred on “Friends" as his “ER” character. When Rachel hurts her ankle, she pretends to be Monica in order to use her insurance. The girls land dates with the two cute doctors while swapping their identities, making for some hilarious backstabbing.

Memorable Quote: “And by the way, have I mentioned that back in high school, I was a cow?”—Rachel (pretending to be Monica)

3. Ross and Rachel’s first real kiss in “The One Where Ross Finds Out”

Why I Love It: This is 1990s romance at its finest. Rachel learns that Ross is buying a cat with his new girlfriend, prompting her to have a little too much wine and reveal her feelings about him. The star-crossed duo then argues dramatically in Central Perk. Ross rushes out in anger, while Rachel bolts the coffee shop’s doors shut and cries on the couch. Cue the rain, music, Ross’s return, and a passionate first kiss.

Memorable Quote: “I didn’t get a cat.”—Ross

4. When Phoebe and Chandler sing together in “The One With the Giant Poking Device”

Why I Love It: Not many television shows are good all the way through the closing credits, but “Friends” proved it could keep you watching right until the end. In this episode, Janice goes back to her first husband, but not before she compares her love for Chandler to a Lionel Richie song. Here, Phoebe shows that true friends are always be there for each other when she joins in with heartbroken Chandler as he sings Ritchie’s “Endless Love” off-key.

Memorable quote: “The way I feel about you, it’s like, I finally understand what Lionel Richie’s been singing about.”—Janice

5. When the girls drink beer on the couch in “The One With All the Wedding Dresses”

Why I Love It: Best friends, wedding dresses, and liquor can truly remedy a broken heart. When Monica picks up Ross’s bride-to-be’s dress, she can’t help but try it on herself. At the end Rachel, who’s upset over Ross’s engagement, joins Phoebe and Monica as they play dress up, leading to a memorable scene between our favorite ladies.

Memorable quotes: “I gotta tell ya, this really does put me in a better mood.”–Rachel

6. When Monica and Rachel compete against Joey and Chandler in “The One With all the Embryos”

Why I Love It: The girls and guys take part in a game show-like competition to prove who knows each other better and hilarity follows. Monica and Rachel’s large, rent-controlled, and completely unrealistic New York City apartment is on the line when the stakes are raised. We learn some pretty funny stuff about our favorite friends in this classic scene, which proves just how great the chemistry is between them.

Memorable quotes: Ross: “I’m afraid the TV Guide comes to Chanandler Bong.” Chandler: “Actually, it’s Miss Chanandler Bong.”

7. When Ross says Rachel’s name in “The One With Ross’s Wedding: Part 2”

Why I Love It: Plain and simple, no one liked uptight Emily. We were all rooting for Ross to break up with her. An iconic moment in sitcom history is born when he says Rachel’s name at the altar.

Memorable quote: “This is worse than when he married the lesbian.”—Judy Geller

8. When Chandler admits he’s in love with Monica in “The One where Everybody Finds out”

Why I Love It: Even though everyone was obsessed with the Ross and Rachel storyline, the true heart and soul of “Friends” was Chandler and Monica’s relationship. There didn’t need to be any of that “We were on a break” drama for this romance to work. It just two friends who fell in love and never looked back.

Memorable quote: “I thought you guys were doing it, I didn’t know you were in love.”—Phoebe

9. When Monica Proposes to Chandler (& vice versa) in “The One with the Proposal”

Why I Love It: Everyone loves a happy ending, especially when candles are involved.

Memorable quote: “There’s a reason why girls don’t do this.”—Monica

10. When Rachel runs without inhibitions in “The One where Phoebe Runs”

Why I Love It: The great thing about “Friends” is that it can always put you in a better mood no matter how rough of day you had. This episode, where Phoebe runs like a toddler/crazy person, is definitely a feel-gooder, especially when Rachel joins in on the free-spirited jog at the end.

Memorable quote: “I swear when she runs it’s like a mix between Kermit the Frog and the Six Million Dollar Man.”—Rachel

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Brunch: A Conversation With High School Friends Sean Tuohy & Marcus and the Week’s Top Posts

Picture by Stephanie Schaefer

Writer’s Bone’s Sunday Brunch features fresh commentary or interviews, jazz recommendations, and a roundup of the week’s top posts. We encourage you to enjoy this post on a weekly basis with a mouthful of omelet and home fries, as well as an unhealthy amount of the aforementioned mimosas, Bloody Marys, or bellinis. Also, send us your brunch pictures and we'll feature them in upcoming posts! You can email them to or tweet us at @WritersBone.


Sean Tuohy talks to his friend Marcus about adult puberty, stupid movie ideas, and the origin of Sean’s love affair with noir.

First Round of Mimosas

Author Kat Spears talks to Daniel Ford about her hit novel Sway, her writing process, and the inspiration behind her characters.

Jazz Interlude

You’ll feel anything but blue after listening to these two jazz greats.

Book Lovers Eggs Benedict

It’s been a busy month of reading for the Writer’s Bone crew. Check out our top picks for October. What should be on our list for November?

Second Round of Mimosas

Sure, you could spend Sunday brooding about how your short story is going nowhere (it’s not just us, right?) or you could enjoy one of these movies featuring writers struggling with their craft. You’re right, that’s a grim choice. But these films are still great. What are some of your favorite writer movies?

Podcasts for Dessert

Legendary stand up comedian Robert Kelly talks about fatherhood, hanging out with Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, and Jim Norton at New York City’s Comedy Cellar, his podcast “You Know What Dude?” and how he remains a Boston kid at heart.

Next Week's Menu

Stephanie Schaefer’s favorite episodes of “Friends,” an essay by Lindsey Wojcik about loving and hating New York City, and the next installment of The Newspapermen.

Keep writing (and Sunday drinking)!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

12 Movies About Writers We Love

By Daniel Ford

Sure, you could spend this rainy day in the Northeast brooding about how your short story is going nowhere (it’s not just me, right?) or you could enjoy one of these movies featuring writers struggling with their craft.

You’re right, that’s a grim choice. But these films are still great. Feel free to share your favorite movies about writers in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.


Admit it, part of you wishes you had a fan this dedicated to your work.

Midnight in Paris


Wonder Boys

Save multiple copies of your work...

Before Sunset

Every entry in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series is beautifully written and acted, but the second installment features the star-crossed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy at their best. They run into each other in Paris, long after Delpy character doesn’t show up to meet Hawke at the train station following their chance meeting on a European trip. Hawke's character becomes a writer, of course, and is promoting his novel based on their experience. The pair had chemistry in the first movie, but with the addition of their character’s disappointment and what-if angst, they burn the screen down in this one.

I really hope this guy didn’t write this story within a pop song idea. It sounds terrible.

One Fine Day

It’s because of this movie that I wanted my face on a city bus. Young Daniel had a lot to learn about the newspaper business.

Also, this flick features great New York City porn.

Almost Famous

“Be honest and unmerciful.”

Finding Neverland

Failure does wonders for boosting creativity.


Truman Capote would have broken social media.


He doesn’t like talking about his novel or drinking Merlot. Noted.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I reference this movie at least once a day. Usually it’s because I’ve been talking to myself.

The Shining

This is the way Stephanie Schaefer reacts to my work.


If this doesn’t happen to you every morning, you aren’t doing it right.

Ace in the Hole

$250 a week! Sold!

“If there’s no news, I’ll go out and bite a dog.” Genius.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: October 2014

Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This new series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York by Sari Botton

Lindsey Wojcik: I can't tell you much about this book yet, because it just came out yesterday and I haven't started it. But I finished Sari Botton's first anthology Goodbye to All That, and as much as that was a love letter to New York City, it was mostly about moving on from life in New York City and sometimes coming back—and, after five years living in the city, I totally related to the desire to flee it. From what I've read on Botton's follow up, it's even more of a love letter to the city. The phrase "unshakable love" is on the cover, for goodness sake. Anyone with even a questionable love or appreciation for the city will undoubtedly fall back in love with it in this new set of essays.

Chump Change by David Eddie

Daniel Ford: Speaking of leaving New York City, Sean Tuohy was right when he said David Eddie’s Chump Change had me written all over it. The first line of the book: “I’m a failure.” That effectively sucked me in. There’s a great scene where Eddie’s character—who has been chewed up by New York City—says goodbye to the woman he’d been seeing. He wants to make it a clean break, but he’s so screwed up, he leaves the relationship in a weird state of limbo. The worst part is that he’s so poor, she has to buy his ticket back to Toronto. “A new low,” the character says, “I have to borrow from my girlfriend to leave her.” The adventures that follow are best enjoyed with some low grade alcohol.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

Daniel: This book is quite simply a complete treasure from start to finish. There is music playing in your head from the moment you open the book until you finish it in a white heat two days later without any sleep in between. It is the rare book that combines exquisitely drawn characters, a swift, meaningful plot, and innovative prose. I honestly did not want the book to end, and I’m sure I’ll be revisiting it in the near future. If you need a constant surprise in your life, pick this book up immediately. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I very much look forward to Bertino’s next novel (hurry up!).

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah by Tyler Dilts 

Daniel: Sean Tuohy knows a thing or two about crime stories. When he recommends a novel that has anything to do with detectives, crime, or heart-pounding action, you listen.

Sean knows a thing or two about crack too, so his metaphor must be legit (just kidding, he was just a drug mule). When I asked him what made this novel in particular so special, his response was surprising: “He spends a lot of time on the victim of the crime.”

Say no more Sean, I’m in.

You Are One of Them by Elliot Holt

Daniel: Writer’s Bone contributor Hailey Reissman recommended Elliot Holt’s novel You Are One of Them a couple of weeks ago and, I have to admit, the premise didn’t immediately grab me. Two friends growing up in Washington D.C. during the Cold War write to Soviet premier Yuri Andropov asking for peace. Only one of the friend’s letters receives a response, leading that friend to head to the USSR for a meeting with Andropov, which pisses the other friend off to no end. The two are still estranged when one of them dies in a plane crash with her parents. However, it turns out said friend might not be dead. Mystery ensues.

Who am I kidding? This book sounds exactly like something I would pick up on one of my daily trips to Barnes & Noble (I have a serious problem). This book is also inspired by the true story of Samantha Smith, which satisfies the non-fiction reader in me as well. If that all wasn’t enough, I made the mistake of reading the prologue while I was invested in another book. It hit all the right notes ensuring that I’ll be devouring this novel in short order. Holt is yet another author to watch closely.

Other books worth checking out: A Tree Born Crooked by Steph Post, Sway by Kat Spears, Ecstatic Cahoots by Stuart Dybek, and A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

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