This week I practiced stalking somebody.

cat stalker

Okay, not stalking.  More like “researching.”  Since I’ve wanted to do Layla training in the search/ track down/ observe department, I chose a guy who done me wrong on a professional level a while back and I hadn’t seen for a while.

So I dug up basic facts about him.  Saw what his neighborhood is like. His work history.  His car.  But I’ve yet to establish if he keeps a regular schedule at his new office, which is a shabby dump compared to the firm where he used to be.  (Was he forced out of that firm?)  But I failed to get his license plates number because I was too worried that he would turn around and see me.  Layla would have had more presence of mind.

Anyway, practicing some detective work is fun.  My next game-plan is… Disguise.

sherlock

Seriously, the last time I tried on anything resembling a disguise I was twelve years old, it was Halloween, and I wore my homemade ghost costume.  I am SO not a costume-loving lady.  I even get weirded out at the notion of, say, just wearing a wig, glasses, different make-up and strange clothes in public.

Yet not only would Layla be good at it, my character Charity MacCay envies famous women of her time who were spies in the Civil War or detectives for the Pinkerton Agency; they could wear fantastic disguises and even pass themselves off as male soldiers.  In one chapter, Charity has to save herself by dressing as a young sailor boy, which isn’t easy considering her bosom, she’s proud to point out.  Me, I wouldn’t have that problem.

Funny how as writers we create characters who are experts at derring-do, but some such skills make us cringe.  I mean, I’ve put myself through grueling physical stunts and training (YOU try Parkour classes with hyperactive teenage boys), but when it comes to something minor that challenges our comfort zone, we can wimp out.

Well, it’s time I stopped wimping out on the Art of Disguise.  I’m going to put together a couple fake physical identities and then force myself to try them out in real life.  It is gonna feel so weird.

I’d love to know if any of you have similar inhibitions or other challenges that you just… can’t… face.

Have a wonderful week.

Books and Movies

on March 23, 2015 in Misc | 6 Comments »

Holy smoke, I may actually be writing a screenplay someone in the movie industry could be interested in.  Why?

Because the three lead roles are for women.  One young, two elderly.

jessica

Up until a couple years ago, such a trio would likely have condemned my story to the reject pile.  What’s changed?

The box office.  And for this we can thank in part some best-selling books.

For years, Hollywood has concentrated on churning out flicks–mostly outrageously expensive ones–aimed at young guys.  Not grown, mature men searching for intelligent fare.  Just guys.  “No story? No problem! As long as people got blown up, guys showed up,” as a box office expert says in a New York Times article.

Then along came the Hunger Games books with their young action heroine lead.  They were (and the fourth one will be) box office smashes.  The Twilight books and movies also went through the roof (granted, I have mixed feelings about that story, just like I do with Shades of Gray).

diverg movie

Now it looks like the Divergent books are getting another female-oriented smash movie series started.  Brave broke records while Frozen was a phenom.  The live-action Cinderella will make at least half a billion.  Wild made money and got awards, but wouldn’t have been made if Reese Witherspoon hadn’t bought the book rights and become the driving force behind the filming.  Even The Conjuring, which was never meant as a woman’s flick, had two mature, unglamorous women in the lead.  Then there was the real-life female heroine of Zero Dark Thirty.

Meanwhile, some expensive movies aimed at young guys, like Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son, have pretty much flopped.

Now, I don’t want to overdo all this female lead stuff.  I avoided Sex and the City like the plague and instead went to see the latest Indiana Jones movie with my guy pal.  Same thing for the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboots and other such action flicks.

All I’m saying is that I’m so freaking glad that Hollywood is FINALLY noticing that women are a force to be reckoned with.  And that Hollywood is looking more seriously at novels and non-fiction works people like us are writing.

Do you have fantasies that the movie rights (or TV series) for your books would sell?  Is that a dumb question ‘cause we all have that fantasy?

Social Misfit

on March 16, 2015 in Misc | 6 Comments »

I have a small confession.

I am the polar opposite of a social media star.

Yes I know, that shocks you all.  But it’s true.  Outside of this humble blog, I’ve never bothered with social media.  I’m not on Facebook.  I joined Twitter, never used it, and lost my password.  I have no brand.  No platform.  No fan base.  You may notice I don’t even have my picture or name prominently place on my own blog.  In the virtual world, I am approaching the black hole of non-existence.

funny cat

Which means I will never get an agent or traditional publisher, never mind that years ago I was published by Bantam.  I may also be hurting my chances of selling my screenplay.

The thing is, I’ve learned a little late that agents now check out potential clients on the Internet.  If you don’t have a social media brand and a virtual presence, they’re not interested.

Sure, that’s unfair.  A writer’s work should speak for itself.  But this is the new publishing reality.

And it makes me cringe.  I just have this extreme reluctance to sing my own praises and promote myself.  Some of this goes back to how I was raised.  But also it’s because of the ridiculous caricatures that have taken over social media.  Think Kardashians (I never do) and other painful celebrity “personalities.”

So I’ve decided to bear in mind writers from the past who were masters at creating an image of themselves and promoting the hell out of it.  I’ve already written here about Oscar Wilde — he set out to create a sensation before he ever wrote a play or novel.  Mark Twain took to the lecture circuit and practically invented the job of stand up comic (so did the wonderful Artemus Ward, but he died young and is now forgotten).

So yes, at long last and for the sake of my stories, in the coming months I’ll be joining the social media horde.  Besides, when bloggy pals like Alex Cavanaugh or Hart Johnson ask for friends to help them out with Twitter or Facebook mentions of their books, I feel like the ugly, awkward kid in the back of the room who can’t join in.

What have your own experiences with social media been like for you, writer-wise?   Good, bad, or indifferent?

 

 

 

 

 

on March 9, 2015 in Misc | 6 Comments »

First off: The weather is sunny!  I’m getting out and about!  Still too busy to do anything exciting, but I’m getting in better shape (as in Layla fit) largely because my old left hip/leg muscle injuries FINALLY seem to be on the mend.  Being my own physical therapist and strengthening and diligently stretching certain muscles have made a big difference.

And now for an update on my screenplay.

script

I haven’t written many more pages, but I’ve turned out gobs of notes.  More challenging is how my head is overflowing with scenes, dialogue, and characters.  Sure, it’s fun having a movie play out in my head.  But it’s also a little freaky keeping so much of a story in my head BEFORE writing it down.

See, what I’m used to is letting a story flow out novel-style.  That can mean lots of exposition and description I’ll edit down later.  There’s room to maneuver.

But screenplays?  They’re a whole different animal.  They must be so lean that not one unnecessary word clutters any of the 105 to 120 pages.  You can use only a few words to evoke a world of emotions, actions and thoughts.  In the best screenplays, there isn’t even a single excess line of dialogue.  Every detail is significant, tells us something, has weight and heft.

Granted, years ago I wrote three screenplays and one TV script.  But I really didn’t know what I was doing (except for the TV Moonlighting script, which is pretty good).  This time around I’ve studied the art.  I’m carefully crafting each scene before moving on to the next one.

So really, even if my screenplay gets nowhere production-wise (gee, what are the odds?), I’ve gotta say that writing it seems to be improving my storytelling ability.

BTW, one of the best screenplays ever written is The Apartment by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond.  You can find it online at dailyscript.com along with other screenplays. As experts  point out:  sure, it’s a classic film, but the script itself also READS beautifully.

Anyway, that’s it for this week.  Have you ever written a screenplay or short script?  Ever been tempted to?

broken mirror

First off, I did absolutely nothing exciting or Layla-like this week. Unless you count one episode of white-knuckled-driving-several-miles-on-sheer-ice.  But the good news is the bitter cold and crud are supposed to start melting this week.  I sure hope so ‘cause I’m going stir crazy.

Second, thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers for my close friend. He was in worse shape than anyone thought, but as of today he’s out of the hospital and doing better.  He has nothing but praise for the paramedics, doctors, nurses, and other medical folk who literally saved his life.  And I’m grateful too.

Finally, I’ve got to say something about Leonard Nimoy passing away.

Mr. Spock

A part of me (usually hidden) has long been a Trekkie.  As a young kid I watched Star Trek when it was on TV way back in the 60’s.  Mr. Spock and Kirk and the other crew members really were a part of my childhood.  But then the show was cancelled (I was devastated!) only to return in reruns when I was in college, and then in movies, and then in other series, until it became part of our American culture.

If you think I’m exaggerating, check out Nimoy’s obituary in the New York Times (Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83). Speaking logically (Spock would like that), Leonard Nimoy was not a major movie star or celebrity whose passing deserved widespread reporting.  Yet his picture and obituary were front-page headlines on the electronic version of the newspaper and over a thousand readers posted comments.

My favorite is from a scientist who reported that when news of Nimoy’s passing spread through her university, her colleagues closed themselves in their offices to shed a private tear.  “The role of Mr. Spock meant so much to many of us.  Mr. Nimoy’s character made science cool, made being a scientist cool.  Countless colleagues are STEM professionals because of him.  If this alien character could do it and be respected for being a scientist, then maybe we could be doing science too – men, women, African-Americans – no matter what we looked like.”

Kirk and Spock use

What you have to realize too, for those of you too young to remember, is that Star Trek was so freaking POSITIVE.  In a decade of war, assassinations, mass starvation, drugs, struggles for civil rights, and threats of nuclear annihilation, here came this low-ratings TV show that presented an extraordinarily hopeful vision of humanity’s future.

Give us a couple centuries, Gene Roddenberry said in episode after episode, and we’ll stop being violent, ignorant, bigoted jackasses.  We’ll learn to get along.  We’ll have peace and prosperity.  Even today, when dystopian and apocalyptic tastes rule our sci-fi and paranormal creations, Star Trek remains an anomaly.  When I was a kid, I could go from being depressed and scared after watching the nightly news with my Dad, to feeling good after watching Star Trek.

So thank you, Leonard Nimoy, for embodying to perfection a fictional character who became necessary and real to many of us.

Beam him up, Scotty.

A Week Postponed

on February 22, 2015 in Misc | 9 Comments »

Sorry, my lovely readers, but I’m really not up to writing a post tonight.

snow

See, a really close friend very suddenly isn’t doing well.  I was told the bad news on Saturday, it got worse on Sunday, and now major emergency stuff is scheduled for tomorrow (Monday).

Which means that my mind and heart feel like they’re imploding.   I can’t concentrate on anything.  Yeah, I’m a worrywart by nature.  But still.

Anyway, all of you have a wonderful week, and hopefully a warm one and not like the icy mess we’re having here in Colorado.  And if you can, send some good thoughts my friend’s way.  Take care.

Work and Play

on February 16, 2015 in Misc | 10 Comments »

Sure, my plan for 2015 was to just have some fun instead of writing.  Cause I was burned out on writing.  I was (and am) seriously burned out on publishing.  I can’t even think of book marketing. I was really, truly SICK OF IT ALL!

So guess what happened.

type

I’m starting to enjoy writing again.  It’s actually FUN again!  You know why?  CAUSE THERE’S NO PRESSURE! But only because I’m writing purely for myself and maybe a few friends (bless ‘em!) who want to read my stuff.

This is why I made a lot of progress on my screenplay yesterday.  And a few days ago I would have spent hours (I only had one hour) writing my sci fi novel.  And tonight I wanted to pull out my old Moonlighting script and in one sitting turn it into a movie-length screwball comedy (that was just delusional).

BUT… I still desperately need some action and fun.  Happening soon, I hope, will be…

1) Laser Tag.  I thought it would be paintball but the few players I can go with want laser tag instead.  These players are half my age.  Which says something about my maturity level.

2) I’m lining up friends for the Escape Room game (nothing happens fast these days!).  At least one other player will be my age.

3) I may not be a Woman Who Runs with the Wolves, but I’ll be a Woman Who Tracks Coyotes.  There’s a growing number around the edges of Denver, and I figure it’ll be good training for finding escaping bad guys, finding missing people (I’m thinking up fiction stories here).

How about you?  Are you enjoying writing, or has it become a burden?

 

This whole last week was full of so much work — both at my job and at home — that I had no time for ACTION stuff.  All I could do was plan a couple upcoming mini-adventures.

A couple small plans:  Paintball with friends (I hope!) and escape rooms.

escape use

In case you’ve never heard of escape rooms (a couple in town are in old Victorian mansions), this a code-breaking game in which you have one hour to escape from a locked room by solving intricate puzzles.  Because I use codes and puzzles in The Compass Master, I like to think I’ll be a whiz at this game.  But if it turns out that I stink at escaping I’ll be pretty embarrassed.

Then there’s a plan I’ve mentioned before:  treasure hunting.  Yes I know, this has the same credibility as my (joking) plan to photograph a bigfoot.  But it’ll be a fun way to see if I can do what Layla does, antiquities hunter that she is.

One thing I really can do like crazy is perform research.  This week I ruled out looking for a lost treasure that some people still insist exists:  the Reynolds Gang hidden gold dust and cash.  It was supposed to be hidden in 1864 in a mine shaft near a certain Colorado mountain, but I had my suspicions, kept looking, and finally came across a 1906 newspaper story documenting how two prospectors searched for the lost loot and found “buried plunder aggregating in value $18,000.”

“The treasure was undoubtedly buried by the Reynolds gang of outlaws,” the newspaper claimed.

I also came across recent news reports of people traveling to New Mexico dozens of times in search of the modern day Forest Fenn treasure.  Seriously?  Come on, people, get a life!  I mean, treasure hunting should be nothing more than getting out in the wilderness, hiking around, then going home and writing a novel about your fictional adventure.

 How your own plans for the coming weeks?  Writing anything new?  Having some fun?

Time for me to have some sweet revenge.  Or as I like to call it, justice and truth.

Sure, Modesty Blaise doesn’t believe in revenge, but in her stories she inflicts a lot of “justice.”

cat accidents

My own Charity MacCay is hot tempered and pursues getting a secret justice against real life American Robber Barons in the 1860’s (the Koch brothers of the Gilded Age).  She even has the chance to drown a couple of them but doesn’t, and regrets this because the Robber Barons live and go on to damage America.

As for Layla Daltry — she is so the personal justice type.

Then there’s me.  For this week and in the months to come I’ll go after a few evil *#!!$ who deliberately hurt me professionally and financially.  Sure, I exercised forgiveness, but while that emotionally and spiritually helped me, I’ve learned that a couple of them have become even nastier and have hurt more workers in their firm.

There’s also the fact that one of them once laughed about how he killed any cat that came on his yard, and his wife (and fellow boss) laughed along with him.  To this day I’m ashamed that I never contacted the ASPCA or other authorities.  That may not have done any good — my word against theirs — but once I was out of that firm I should have done something.

Anyway, it became clear that these Evil Ones will not stop their abusive ways — or treat people more humanely — until someone takes a whack at them.  Figuratively speaking.

Why shouldn’t that someone be little ol’ me?

With this noble idea in mind, I collected old papers from my files (I’m a packrat for documents and personal notes) and Googled like crazy.  In the end I collected helpful information.  My next steps will be to…

This is where I can’t tell you about my plans.  Sorry, but some things have to be hush-hush until they’re completed.  And even then I’ll never talk about a few details because I’ve got to watch my back.  I just hope I can make a difference for a few innocent people.  And wandering cats.

How about you?  Have you ever tried to obtain retro justice in your stories or in your life?

And on a slightly different but very Layla note…

I’m trying a new Action Hero workout with the Essentrics “Flexibility Workout for Athletes” one hour routine.  I did it twice this weekend and all I can say is…  Ow….  Ow….  Ow….

50 Weeks of Living My Novels

As a pretend Fictional Woman of Action (is pretend plus fictional redundant?), the first must-do on my list is to clean out my energy.

Did you expect me to say, “Work out hard”?  Oh please, I’m already in pretty good shape, and no doubt I’ll spend a few of these 50 weeks hurling myself into harebrained jock stunts.  In the meantime, it’s my mind/ body connection that needs a lube job.

meditation

My character Layla doesn’t do any meditation stuff in her story, but in her backstory she’s dabbled in it.  My character Charity MacCay, in contrast, can be superstitious but doesn’t have a mystical bone in her body.  But then there’s Modesty Blaise, who I want to be in my next life and who spent time in India mastering advanced mind control.

Me? Hell, I’ll try anything.

Thus I found myself… um… kinda naked, lying flat on my back on a table in a dark room and receiving the sometimes painful energy massage of a Lomi Lomi ritual.  It’s from the Hawaiian spirituality of Huna, which has long fascinated me, and during it I felt  very exposed.  And weird.   Especially since I can get self-conscious over things like nakedness.

For me, relaxing and concentrating took a lot of effort on my part, but I though I succeeded.

Turns out only my mind went where I wanted it to.  The Lomi Lomi therapist told me that parts of my body never seemed to let go.   This explains why some muscles in my legs and hips that have tightened up from injuries still won’t stretch normally.   I’ve really got to work on physically relaxing.

See, one reason I used to meditate is ’cause I can go to bed and sleep while still so tense I’ll wake up sick.  Once I woke up with bad hives from nerves. Physical relaxation that others can take for granted I’ve gotta work at.  And Action Women have GOT to be in control of their bodies.

AND NOW FOR A NEW FEATURE:

Funny and way-too-smart Mike Offut (www.SLC Kismet.com) and I both have a thing for the show Sleepy Hollow, and he suggested that we pose a question to each other each week on our blogs.

Mike asked me, “How would you describe the moment you realized Sleepy Hollow was something you would watch faithfully every week?”

My answer:  When I saw Ichabod Crane, as played by Tom Mison, and fell madly in love with him.  And because I really liked Abbie’s character and how she and Crane used their brains and skills to escape the headless horseman.  Then there’s the atmosphere, which reminded me of Halloween, and the way Police Chief Irving appeared to be in on Sleepy Hollow’s ancient secrets, which go back to the American Revolution.  Oh, of course I’m a history buff.