Archive for March, 2015


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.

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 8 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.