Dusting the Bookshelf – Permanent Spring Showers

As we get closer to the release of my latest novel (In Jerry’s Corner) from Stargazing Publishing, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of my previous novels. This is my second entry in the series, the first discussed A Jane Austen Daydream (you can read it here). This time I take on my most recent release- Permanent Spring Showers

It is easy for writers to be dramatic. It’s in our blood. If you are a writer and not dramatic in how you interpret yourself and the world around you, chances are, you are probably doing something wrong and should consider different career options.

So when I look back at my life and each of my novels, I see stories; with beginnings (the initial ideas), first steps (the creation), struggles (getting them out to the world) and conclusions (reviews and what happens). Sometimes those are nice stories (A Jane Austen Daydream and The Dante Experience both jump quickly to mind), while others I would classify as tragedies.

Today I present my greatest tragedy.

So much possibility and all of my main characters are lying dead with nothing good coming out of the situation. I weep for them. They are buried now in unmarked paper graves and no one has any idea they were even alive.

See, Permanent Spring Showers is probably one of the best books I have ever written and it is out of print. It is a ghost in the literary world, without the strength of a Boo. It is a tragic death, that has happened too soon.

Listen everyone as I mourn the tragedy of a book lost to the masses! Welcome to my five-act literary tragedy, Permanent Spring Showers! (See what I mean about dramatic.)

Act One: There Was a Script…

While the death of Permanent Spring Showers was swift, ironically I had the longest literary life with that novel and its characters. It actually began when I was at grad school at Michigan State University back in the 90s. Then I dreamed of achieving a PhD in Literature. I would teach, be that smart professor that all of the young English majors look up to- imagine the English major version of Dr. Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. That was going to be me.

(Conclusion to that dream, I ended up running off to Los Angeles, and getting my Master’s in Writing instead from the University of Southern California.) Continue reading

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Ghosts, Snoopy, Haunted Mansions and Halloween

haunted-mansionA few years ago, the inventive filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was hired by Disney to write a screenplay for a new movie based on The Haunted Mansion ride.  Over the summer I read an interview with him claiming that him and his team of writers were still struggling with the story.

Seriously?

I have to admit I am a little surprised. I mean it seems to me a Haunted Mansion film writes itself. Do you want to know how I would do it if Disney asked me? Of course you do!

First off I would set it in the 1950s. That way you can tap into the cliches and stereotypes you would see in classic old black-and-white horror films. And set it in a small town (think Back to the Future).  Now on to my very brief synopsis!

  • Act 1- We meet the eccentric and comic people in the town. There are two twin teenage sisters, one is a cheerleader and popular, the other is a bookworm (our heroes). They go to a dance at their school. That night there is a huge thunderstorm and the power goes out. A bunch of teenagers ride together in car; which, of course, stalls in front of the Haunted Mansion.
  • Act 2- The group of teenagers (including our female heroes) tour the Haunted Mansion. The ghosts want to get out but are trapped in (a curse put in place by Madame Leota). One of the teenagers is tricked by the evil Hatbox Ghost (an urban legend by the way around the ride), releasing all the ghosts.
  • Act 3- The ghosts playfully attack and spook the town (like Gremlins). The teenagers are split into teams, one to collect the ghosts, the other to get the curse put back on the house and stop the Hatbox Ghost (the sisters lead the different teams)… this all has to be done by dawn.
  • Act 4- In a suspenseful last act, the curse is reinstated, the ghosts are drawn back and the sisters now are friends. The end.

Disney you can send me the check. (Okay, that was a little snippy of me, but seriously I could write this script and would love to do it… Oh, and Guillermo del Toro is awesome.)

Here are some of the posts in the past I have written about Halloween. Enjoy!

The Halloween TreeBook Review: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. Last year I reviewed this book (which should be a holiday classic) for WKAR’s Current State. You can check it out (and listen) via the link. This week I’ll be reviewing Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I hope you tune in for it, I think it turned out great.

It's The Great PumpkinWatching It’s The Great  Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I love this special. Absolutely love it. Actually, I’m kind of obsessed about it, and this post proves it. In it, I share my insight on the show and my thoughts on each of the scenes and characters. Seriously… obsessed.

CostumedIf I Could Wear a Halloween Costume… If I had the courage, I would dress up on the holiday. I’m just not that guy… but I wish I was. This comic post deals with my dreams and hopes and masks.

HalloweenHalloween, In Spirit. I wrote this post during my first year on the site, and it was one of my most popular. It is a little comic, a little philosophical, a little serious. In many ways it contains all of my thoughts on the holiday, tied up in a bow… that probably has skeletons on it.

I hope you enjoy the posts! (And Guillermo call me!)

 

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

Adapting One’s Precious: Why most new novelists should personally avoid adapting (or thinking about) the inevitable screenplay

It’s always funny to me how often, when speaking with new novelists, that they are already planning the movie version of their “epic”… sometimes even before they finish the book.

We are a very film-focused society and it is hard to escape the world of movies, especially for someone excited for the world to embrace their first major story. What can I say? We writers are nerds and we want everyone to love us and think of us as popular. Movies are the “cool table” in the lunchroom; novels are the table near the library.

Oh, you are different? You never imagined a certain actor playing one of your characters? Reading one of your lines?

Yes, the dream of adaptation can be like a drug for a writer and, like a drug, dangerous; since it can effect how you write your novel. The fact is each of the storytelling mediums are different with different pros and cons, and if you allow yourself to think too much about, for example, movies while writing a book it can limit the possibility of the book.

How are the storytelling mediums different? Well, let me explain: Continue reading

Writer’s Corner: Four Projects I Would Love to Adapt for the Silver Screen…

A few days ago I went through some of my old writing files on my computer seeing what jumps out at me and what inspires me today; and, for some unexplained reason, my mind began to think about film adaptations.

There is a great public misnomer about film adaptations. When you hear people talk about films adapted from books or plays, the audience seems to think that the screenplay writer had a choice in making changes for the big screen. “Why couldn’t he have just filmed the book?” You would hear that complaint a lot around the Harry Potter films in podcasts and forums, for example.

The fact is film is a different medium than books, and with it comes its own limitations and strengths. While the borders on a book are only limited by the imagination of the reader (and writer), a film has to be focused on one point at a time, understanding that there is only so much space on the screen at any given moment. Length, pacing, and audience need to be considered (You can’t have things happen “off screen” in a movie, for example; the audience will think it didn’t happen if they didn’t see it).

The greatest difference between film and books, is that a film has got to “earn” your attention for every minute. It is harder for a film to “suspend disbelief.” Which means a story, while in a book can be stretched out, in a film there has to be action. In other words, there must always be movement; it’s how they keep our eyes on the screen and our hands out of the popcorn bowl. Continue reading

Does Art Need Truth? My Concerns With The Social Network

A new editorial on film is up at www.greenspotblue.com.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

In 2006, when Oprah attacked James Frey about his book, A Million Little Pieces, many of us in the arts stood behind her in the attack.  It was deserved. He was changing his life, not only to increase the drama, but to make something more of himself than was actually true. Oprah said she felt “really duped” and went on to talk about how he betrayed millions of readers.

That episode in literary history haunts me and begs the question when the subject of a story is still living, who owns that story? Who owns that life? And who is to say what changes can be made for the sake of a book or a movie?

In 2002, the Academy awarded A Beautiful Mind with an Oscar for Best Picture. A film based on the life of John Nash; and, like A Million Little Pieces, changes were made in the life of Nash for the sake of drama. At the time, I remember reading the book that the film was based on and being floored by the differences in the main character and his life. Yet, instead of questioning his writing integrity in an Oprah-attack fashion, the Academy decided to award Akiva Goldsman for these changes with a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

Now it is 2011, and we are still unclear about what is acceptable to do around a living person’s biography. This year, one of the frontrunners for the Best Picture Oscar is The Social Network, and again moments in living people’s lives were changed for the sake of drama.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.