My Struggle to Like Batman V. Superman

Look up in the sky! Is it a bird? No, it is spoilers!

Mr. BatmanI’ve always considered myself a DC guy.

While I appreciate Marvel and enjoy the movie empire of it (especially the Captain America films), my heart belongs with the 52 worlds of DC Comics. One of my dreams has always been to write a Captain Marvel film, for example. Granted, I know that will not happen (they are planning to make a film soon and, sadly, no one called me).

I remember the thrill of seeing Christopher Reeve fly. I saw Michael Keaton’s Batman three times in the theater. And I remember loving the Super Friends each Saturday morning. I still watch the DVDs with my kids!   

Yet, as I sat there watching the latest DC film, it felt just off for me. Something was off the rails. It was as if the heart and joy of what I loved about DC was gone, replaced with a brute and hopeless vision of our world. This is a film that begins with imagery that feels like 9/11 and there is little humor in a world still living in terror. Maybe for the writer and director there is a deeper meaning in doing this with beloved characters, but for me it just left me feeling… removed. Maybe a better explanation is stranded, left behind by a comic book universe I felt very at home in. 

Here are my four biggest gripes with this new film. I don’t know if it will change anything by me saying this in the big scheme of things, but I am certain I will feel better after. Much like a therapy session, I guess. So here we go… You, dear reader, are my psychologist. Sit back as I lay down my problems with the winged bat and the big boy scout’s latest film. Continue reading

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My Writing Resolutions 2015

1962720_10203577001564582_780062720_nThis blog actually began as a writing resolution.

It was 2012 and I thought as a writer I had been living in the shadows for too long. Oh, I played the game with publishers and agents and fellow writers, many knew who I was (granted, that doesn’t mean they published me or represented me), but with readers I was a ghost. No, let me correct that. A person can at least sense a ghost. I was a ghost that no one was aware of. A quiet and very lonely shadow watching and waiting.

So it began with this post.

That started a year of almost five posts a week. I did everything from personal essays to thoughts on media and entertainment to the art of writing (which are almost always my most popular posts) to original fiction. There was a good chance, and I knew this when I started, that I would end the experience feeling more depressed than when I began. For is there anything sadder than a blog not read? Probably the blogger that wrote the blog, of course.

Lucky for me (and I do consider myself lucky), my blog grew. I think getting into writing the blog, I never realized how inspiring having it (and you the reader) would be. You might think a little click on the like button or an occasional comment no big deal, but it can make my day, any day. That support over the last two years had led to me creating a novel on this site (Permanent Spring Showers, which will be released in February 2015 by 5 Prince Books) and a book collecting some of my most popular and fun posts (Me Stuff, which you can find on amazon here).

Thank you.

Here are my writing resolutions for 2015.

1. Keep the blog active. This one is not surprising, especially since this is one of the things that keep me sane. You know, I never really know what I will do in an upcoming week. It usually just happens all organic. It is in many ways pure writing freedom. Someday in the future I might step away from time to time from it, but I don’t think I see that happening any time soon. You are stuck with me, I hope that is okay.

2. Find a publisher for Cassandra on the Island. If you have been following my blog for a while you might have heard hints of this book in posts. This novel was my Master’s thesis when I was working towards my MFA from the University of Southern California. I also had the distinct pleasure of having the head of the writing program call me at 10 PM on a weekday night, emotional because of it. He had spend all day reading it and just had to talk to me after completing it. It was an awesome moment for me. This book also got me my last agent, but sadly it stays hidden of all my works. I would love to change that. So I will probably do a new edit of it sometime in the new year and see what happens from there. Fingers crossed. Hopefully, there will be publishers and agents interested.

Permanent Spring Showers3. Support Permanent Spring Showers. My new novel drops in February 2015. This book feels very much like an epic for me, a story that has been around since the mid-1990s when it first began as a screenplay (which was what got me accepted at USC, by the way). I could not be more proud of this novel. This book began as an experiment on this very  site and grew… and grew. I hope you will check it out when it is released and tell everyone! Book clubs, fellow readers, friends, loved ones, casual acquaintances, people sitting next to you on the bus or in a waiting room, etc.

4. Finish that new book! So I got this novel that has changed numerous times over the last few years. It went from a very serious work to a mad comedy. The full gambit of emotions and possibilities has been spilled into this work. Right now I have it fully outlined with about four of the 25 chapters written. I need to make this a reality. I won’t say too much more about it, but it reminds me a lot of my radio comedy series The Dante Experience (which you can listen to free on this page!).

5. Think about my screenplays. My screenplays are my abandoned children. The funny thing is they are what drove me to Los Angeles and USC. I have three screenplays right now that I believe are very strong. Possibly the best things I will ever do. One is a romantic-comedy Christmas movie (yes, I said a Christmas movie); the second is a black-and-white film noir mystery (think a young Humphrey Bogart); and the third is an adaptation of Hamlet. Eclectic stuff? Yup, that is how I roll. But realistically, I’m not in any of the hubs of filmmaking. Of all of the items on this list, this would take the biggest bit of luck. My fingers are forever crossed though.

Okay, there are my five points, and I’ll be pleased as punch if I can pull off at least three. I hope you will stick around in the new year to watch.

Thanks again for reading! Happy New Year!

How to Fix Love Actually

Love ActuallyI demand a new edit!

Since 2003, Love Actually has become almost a part of the holiday season. It is on TV, the DVDs are on sale. Some people love it, some people don’t; for me, I always have viewed it as a beautiful mess.

What I mean by that is that I see the well-intentioned heart under the surface, but there is a lot of embarrassing junk covering it up. You know what I mean, the stuff you throw away that you hope not even the garbage man sees.

The film also makes me sad, because it is a slipup of a writer I actually enjoy most of the time (and it could be argued should have known better). While in the movie world he is known mainly for romantic-comedies (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones), in my opinion his genius has always thrived in television. Richard Curtis is the man who gave us Black Adder, Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley and probably one of the greatest Doctor Who episodes of all time (“Vincent and the Doctor”). If you don’t know what I am referring to here, check them out pronto!

But here is the kicker, while most movies after they are completed are what they are and we have to accept it, there is so much going on in Love Actually that a little correcting doesn’t feel impossible.

It would be like going to a barber but for films. A snip here, a snip there and suddenly we have a film that maybe the whole family can enjoy. Granted, some of my hopes are beyond the skills of the editor (unless we are lucky and there are deleted scenes out there), but quite a few of these could be done almost easily, all it would take are a pair of sharp scissors. I will even put a Christmas bow on them if it helps. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, November 2014

BoredI am suffering the case of the blahs. Oh, this is not a bad thing related to my life or anything, this is related to books. I’ve done the book reviews for my local NPR station now for over a year and half. That is over 30 books. (You can listen and read my reviews via the links on this page of my site.)

See, I’m struggling through a book review by a very popular author. Some people will love the book, I am certain; others will hate it. Me, I’m just mildly disappointed and that is what gives me the blahs.

Let me start this over… I love writing a good book review. There is nothing more fun for me as a reviewer than breaking down a good book, introducing it to a listener/reader and discussing why the high points are the high points. Talking about good books is my soapbox and I like being on it, thank you very much!

I am not Dorothy Parker. She used to take a glee in writing a bad review. Me, I find it disappointing. I can do it certainly, and they are easy to do, but they do not give me pleasure. Also, I like to say more than simply “I don’t like it.” I go out of my way to explain why something doesn’t work. Okay, this could be argued as a second soapbox, but not as big or important as the other one.

But there are no soapboxes when the book is a blah, middle-of-the road, half-a-shoulder-shrug. In a way, I see this blah around me in the environment too, as all the days are gray and getting colder. Of course, the review will be written in a week or so and my life will go on. I can’t guarantee anything regarding the weather.

Let’s move on to happier thoughts! Here are the five things I think are awesome right now. Continue reading

The Questions I Struggle With

The Approaching trainWhen you are growing up there is this myth we all buy into.

When you decide your goal, that’s it. Forever. Your life is locked in, congrats and here are the keys to your future.

Oh, if life was only that simple. Like a movie where the hero figures out their destiny and we know it is going to be okay. There is no conflict there after the decision. Bruce Wayne is going to be Batman, it is his destiny.  So be it, here is the cowl, there is the Joker. Go to it!

Instead what I have found to be actually true in reality, for us non-superheroes, is that we decide every day, every hour what we want to believe is true, and what we want to hold us back.  See, I’m not this person just because it is who I am, it’s also because I chose this. There have been numerous times I could’ve changed me, my life, but I didn’t want to then, and still don’t want to. The option is always there, it doesn’t go away. Frankly, most of the time, I like being me.

Yet, I still battle four thoughts, four burning questions almost every day. They can hold me back, make me question everything I have done in my life (from being a writer to a father to a husband to a human being), and sap all the energy from my system. It is not always easy to take them on, and sometimes I do lose, but they are always there. And I don’t see it ever changing. Continue reading

The Others and the Extras: The Importance of Secondary Characters

A Minor CharacterOh, the lament of the poor minor character!

Pushed to the sidelines, knowing full well that they are not the focus of the story.

Love is probably not in the cards for them. They are the ones injured in the line of duty or acting as living joke. Characters created merely to be a soundboard for the main characters, or something for the reader to compare the main character to in the universe of the story. A tool, nothing more.

It would be a thankless life, I am sure, if they were real. Probably spent at the refreshment table, trying not to fall asleep as they wait for their big moment in the sun. And then the scene arrives, there are a few quick jokes, maybe a heart-to-heart and then they are back at the table, once again snacking on one too many cookies.  Waiting… always waiting.

Everything about the secondary character revolves around the main character. An existence built solely around another’s experiences. Even if a secondary character dies, it is a moment for the main character to reflect upon their own life decisions… unless they are an evil secondary character than usually they are left on the floor somewhere, discarded, a bloody remain for someone else to find later (but we never read about or see that bit in movies or television).

Yet, for me, the secondary characters are important; because like a missed plot point, an awkward description, or a writing oops, they have the power to rip me out of a story, leaving me on the sidelines of a tale just like them. Continue reading

The Conundrum of Men in Capes

Even Superman writes!Superman was always my favorite superhero. There was always a lost operatic elegance to his story in my opinion. Yes, he saves cats from trees and helps old ladies cross the street, but he is alone among us. One of us, and yet not really one of us. A lost relic of another world, another time.

One of my favorite character debates comes around Superman. See, I love breaking down what makes a character or a story work, and here is the one I always like to throw at writers, is Superman pretending to be Clark Kent or is Clark Kent pretending to be Superman.

I love that!

See, Christopher Reeve had Superman be the real person and Clark Kent the performance, but more recently, TV shows like Smallville and Lois and Clark had it the other way around. What does that mean really? Everything to the character, little to us in the real world, of course. Our boring and drab reality where men don’t fly, and magic and superpowers only survive in our imaginations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about superheroes over the last few years. Mostly that is because of my son. The one nearby me as I write this, wearing Justice League PJs, Star Wars slippers, and holding a Superman toy from the film Man of Steel. He is five.  Continue reading

The Joy and Inspiration of Scooby-Doo

Our heroMy new book MAXIMILIAN STANDFORTH AND THE CASE OF THE DANGEROUS DARE has been released via amazon.com in eBook and print.

 I thought it would be fun to write on some of the influences for the novel.  This week I will discuss my obsession with the kids who drive The Mystery Machine.

It has always amazed me how few people get Scooby-Doo, Where are You. I’m not talking the kids or the parents or simply those who find it while flipping through the stations. No, I mean the producers, the directors, and the actual writers of the characters. Yes, Hollywood never got the friends of Mystery, Inc.

One of the first articles I ever wrote for the internet, back in 2001, was related to the genius of Scooby-Doo (I was venting in the article about my dismay around the casting and scripting around the first Scooby-Doo live action movie; that was even before I saw the disaster of a movie), and how surprised I was then (and still am), how wrong they were being. Honestly, who could blame those producers? When the actual cartoonists, after the original series’ run, rarely gave the property any respect; turning it into a device to showcase B-level stars or worse having Scooby chase 13 real ghosts.

Real ghosts? Seriously?

That idea right there is almost more damaging to the fictional reality created for Scooby-Doo and his friends than the introduction of Scrappy and Scooby’s other relatives. Even as a young kid that questionable variation to our hero’s adventures, in I am certain an attempt to steal some thunder from Ghostbusters, made me groan (and don’t get me started on the character of Flim-Flam).

When I was studying film writing, I once said in a class that I would love to adapt Scooby-Doo someday for the big screen. Some thought I was joking and laughed, others looked at me as if I was crazy, but one got where I was coming from and we both shared a nod. See, in the right hands, Scooby-Doo is awesome in its simplistic horror madcap comedy spree.

Jinkies! Pass the Scooby Snacks. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, May 2013

Books! Everywhere! Books!My life revolves right now around books.

Well… let me correct that. My life revolves right now around MY books. And that is not a bad thing. A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM was just published by Madison Street Publishing (you can find it for an incredibly reasonable price on amazon.com right here), I just ordered the proof copy of MAXIMILIAN STANDFORTH AND THE CASE OF THE DANGEROUS DARE to review, and I am debating what to do with PERMANENT SPRING SHOWERS.

Remember PERMANENT SPRING SHOWERS? It was my novel experiment last year. I wrote a book in real time, one chapter a week. It was originally based on a screenplay, but that went out the window after chapter 2. It was a fun challenge and looking back I am really proud of myself for getting through it with my creativity in one piece. My hope is to find a publisher for the book later this year; of course, it really comes down to how good JANE and MAXIMILIAN do on the market (sales, reviews, etc.).

Until then, I need to be strategic around the book. Which means, as soon as I get a spare evening, I’ll probably be taking it down from my website. The page will stay up with my updates, insights and lessons learned on the process, you just won’t be able to read it. (For those that are still working their way through the book you have been warned.)

Anyway, with summer fast approaching, and the idea of a lot less on my plate, most of the things I am enjoying right now emphasize the word “fun” with only one little book reference in the list. Continue reading

Are the Oscars Really Necessary? (2013)

I always wondered why the sword...I wrote this post last year about the Oscars called Are the Oscars Really Necessary? This is how the post begins:

The Oscars always make me feel a little queasy. Award shows in general around the arts make me feel that way.

Oh, I’ve won some writing awards (it’s the reason why my books MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS and MEGAN were published- they were both honored in a writing competition), and was very grateful, but it still feels odd to me. I have no problem telling someone that a story they have is great, for example, or another writer that their story needs work, but to say one is better than the other… there is that queasy feeling again.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

As I stated in the editorial, awards around the arts always make me feel a little uncomfortable… but… in saying that… I hope Argo wins.