The Mad Man I Stole From (Part 1)

CarI needed money.

I had just moved out to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. I was going to get my Master’s in writing and I had dreams of screenplays and television pilots, actresses calling me and pleading for a role in my latest projects. I also imagined myself wearing sunglasses a lot. The LA dream!

Now, I did have some savings before making the move. I had even set it up so my student loans would cover my student housing, but as the weeks turned into months I saw that savings stockpile dripping away thanks to food and a car loan, and maybe one too many trips to Disneyland.

My initial hope was to find work at a studio, but anything I would have gotten would have been so entry-level I’d be surprised if they even paid me a dime. I would be working for the experience and the contacts, probably a good decision for my career, just not for my livelihood. Plus, I had no idea how to make coffee. I assumed such a job would involve coffee.

When I first arrived in LA I did my best to get to know each of the professors (thinking that each was a possible contact to someone in the industry who might want a young, ambitious writer like me). One professor was quite fond of me since I recognized her from an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. I even owned a copy of that episode and she was thrilled to see she was listed on the back of it as a guest star. After that she gave me a series of odd little jobs, including once transporting some of her sculptures (she was an artist as well) in the back seat of my car. One of the statues was of an angel fallen to the earth surrounded by little rocks. I still occasionally find some of those little rocks in my car.

After eating dinner at her house with some of my fellow students (she was always having us over), she told me about this man she knew. Eccentric, she called him, a real character (“You would like him.”) and he owned a car company.

“A car company?” That idea floored me. How does someone just own a car company? Was he Henry freaking Ford?

“Well, the brand,” she explained noticing the expression on my face. “He is an entrepreneur and he is trying to start it up. He needs a writer. Are you interested?” Continue reading

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My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Finding Inspiration in a Cover Artist

Grim ReaperIn today’s overly-congested world of writers, you need something to stand out, something to capture the eye.

As much as I would love to say it needs to be all in your story… well… that is not enough anymore. Because, frankly, readers might make a decision before even getting to the point that your characters can breath a faint hello.

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, author pages on amazon.com, etc., every little bit helps. But another part, a big part, has to be that the cover captures the eye. The cover needs to buy you a few seconds of consideration; enough to draw the eye to the description and then to your story.  This is true for traditionally published books, indie books, and self-published authors as well. Yes, it is one of the overarching and common struggles that they all share.

Another way to understand what I am saying is that the market is senior prom. You remember senior prom, right? Well, at this prom you want to wear the powdered-blue suit from the 1970’s.

Why?

Because everyone will remember that you did… and they will remember it for years after. Continue reading

Maurice Sendak: Childhood Visionary

There was always an element of darkness in Maurice Sendak’s stories that I found impossible to avoid.

With his passing, we hear and read again about his rough childhood fighting sicknesses, stuck in a room by himself, with only his imagination for company and the fear of death. His family were immigrants, just luckily avoiding the Holocaust; living with the grief that they were not able to save many of the people on his father’s side of the family. Yes, it was a childhood filled with death and the possibility of it around every corner. So it is not surprising that there is that darkness always someplace in his work, lurking and waiting.

In In the Night Kitchen, Mickey is almost baked in a cake by three heavy set individuals with Hitler mustaches. He emerges when he is put in the oven. When I first shared this book with my son, I was floored, and my belief about the sequence was confirmed when I investigated it the next day. Yes, that moment was inspired by the Holocaust.

To think parents and libraries were annoyed by the naked boy in the illustrations, there was a whole other secret message about evil they were too blind and ignorant to even see! Even in Sendaks’s childhood dreams, darkness is near. Continue reading