Theater Masks

Theater Masks

Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wow - sorry!

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! I didn't realize it had been so long!

I think part of the reason for it is simply that I've been waiting -- waiting for editors to get back to me about my book. I've had a couple of pretty "positive" rejections, and we're still waiting on three others. Hopefully something will come of the waiting -- but who knows how long it'll be until I actually hear anything.

That said, I just want to say that Rachael is awesome - I couldn't be happier than I am with her.

Otherwise, not much else new really. Caitie has been working and liking her job quite a lot. I've been working and - well - teaching is teaching.

I'm almost done reading the third Game of Thrones book - it got deadly slow in the middle, but the last 350 pages or so (yeah, last 350 pages!) were pretty intense. I joined the sci-fi book club, so I'm practically swimming in books to read now. I have no idea where I'm going next (but definitely taking a break from Martin for a little bit!).

If I don't have anything else to report on here, I hope all my readers have an excellent and wonderful holiday. Here's hoping for all good things in 2012!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Editors

Rachael sent me a list of editors today she's going to submit to - places like Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, Harper Children's etc. I can't wait to see the pitch she's going to put together -- it's starting to feel very real!

Sorry this is so short - I don't really have much more than that now.

Just very excited!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Edits

Rachael (my awesome agent) sent me edits today on my book. There were far less than I expected - mostly minor things like spacing, punctuation, and a few awkwardly worded sentences. She even caught a couple of small references I messed up that only someone who really "gets" theater would have caught.

Next step - she writes the query and starts submitting to publishers...

That's when the REAL nerves start kicking in!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Music of ....the mid-Afternoon

To be fair, it was night in London when the 25th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall began, but it was only 2pm here in New Jersey when we saw it at our local movie theater. Thank you, Fathom Entertainment - the last year alone you gave us Company, Memphis, Les Mis, and now this spectacular production of The Phantom of the Opera.

Caitie and I had been planning to see this for months. While Phantom isn't either of our FAVORITE shows, it's one we both spent a lot of time listening to, and both of us have seen more than once. All right, we both pretty much know the show by heart. I hit those high notes Christine sings at the end of the title song every time. The last sentence is a huge lie.

Anyway, we were surprised to find some small lyric changes:

"Think of me, every so often, promise me you'll try.""

Wait..wha? "Every so often"? Since when? Both of us always knew it as "Think of me, once in a while, please promise me you'll try."

Well, odd lyric changes aside, the concert was spectacular. I don't really know that it can be called a "concert" as it was fully staged. True, they didn't drop the chandelier (I'm guessing because they rig it in the theater) and the cool trick during the title song when Phantom and Christine go from the top of the stage to the bottom in an instant wasn't there, but most of the original staging (as I remember it) was there. Ramin Karimloo has a rich voice and made a wonderful Phantom. I've heard him on the cast albums of "Love Never Dies" (don't get me started) and as Enjolras in the Les Mis concert. He has a great career ahead of him. Similarly, Sierra Boggess was incredible as Christine. Her "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" was probably the best rendition of the song I've ever heard. It was simply beautiful. We saw her a few years ago in "The Little Mermaid" - she was good then, but she's improved quite a lot. The rest of the cast was equally impressive - the Carlotta was more expressive than I remember and had a great "opera" voice (I'm sorry, I don't know the technical terms - other than knowing she's a soprano - I think.)

The end surprise was great fun. I love Colm Wilkinson, so was happy to see him there. I recognized John Owen-Jones - and there was that other guy who had that incredible, crystal clear voice - who was it? Oh yeah - one of our favorite performers, Anthony Warlow! Sarah Brightman was there, and for some reason Michael Crawford didn't sing. Andrew Lloyd Webber is the most awkward man on the planet, but I doubt he cares much.

While Webber's not my favorite composer by any stretch, he has written several great (and some not so great) scores - Phantom definitely is amongst his best. It's hard to argue with 25 years of success, and even after all these years, "Music of the Night" is still gorgeous, the relationship between Raoul and Christine still makes no sense, and the end scene in the lair is still moving and beautiful.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Follies on a special day

First, the business: my contract came in the mail today! I signed it, and am as of now an officially "agented" writer. (Well, maybe not until it gets mailed back, but still). WOOHOO!!!!

We went to see Follies on Broadway today to celebrate. I chose this show because, as any of you who knows me at all knows, I'm a total Sondhead. Is that a term? Sondheim freak? How about super-duper-uber Sondheim fan? Anyway, Follies has been at the top of my list of "want to see" shows for a very long time as it's one of the few of Sondheim's I hadn't seen yet. Also on the list: A Little Night Music - didn't get to the revival for several reasons, Pacific Overtures, Sunday (though I've seen the video, of course), and Passion (again, seen the video). Yes, I've even seen a production of Do I Hear a Waltz, for any keeping track.

On to the Follies: it was well worth the wait. The show was stunning - the music (which I knew already would be) was exquisite and the performances were universally strong. I was surprised to find Jan Maxwell (Phyllis) and Danny Burstein (Buddy) to be even better than Bernadette Peters (Sally).

Much has been said about the show, of course, but I want to comment on two elements. First, I'd heard much about "Who's That Woman" in the past. Peter Filichia, a theater critic I've corresponded with for many years, has said often it is his favorite number in any show (forgive me, Peter, if I'm not 100% accurate on that - but he's definitely sung its praises many times). Musically, the song is good, but doesn't reach the heights of some of the other numbers in the show like "Losing My Mind" "Could I Leave You" or my personal favorite, "Too Many Mornings". The staging and choreography are what make the number work, though. As aging chorus girls relive their glory days by performing an old "mirror number" the ghosts of their former selves drift into the dance and become the mirror images of each woman. It's gorgeous, but what makes it so brilliant are the details. The older women aren't perfect - the dance isn't QUITE right, so you get to see what it was, and what their memory and older bodies can do now. It's difficult to put into words, but it truly was one of the most joyful and moving numbers I think I've ever seen on stage. I agree wholeheartedly with Peter's assessment.

The other moment I want to touch on comes right before the "Loveland" sequence. As our four main characters' marriages are breaking apart they begin arguing. The argument is then augmented as ghosts of their past selves come on and we see the couples when they were starting and an early conflict that directly led to the fight in the present. As the older couples fight, their words are echoed by their past selves, or reflected upon by old words. They interact across 30 years by living the whole thing over again, making the same mistakes their younger selves did, but with the twist of thirty more years on them. The writing here was mind-blowing. Seriously, how do you write EIGHT characters in a scene, four of whom are ghostly presences of the other four, have the dialogue resonate perfectly across the decades, and still have the whole thing make complete sense for the audience? Usually I can say "I could do that" with regards to writing -- maybe not exactly like it was done, but I could certainly tackle the problem in a creative way. I honestly don't know that I could have handled this - the control and perfection of the scene was fascinating. I don't know how much of this was due to the staging (which was brilliant) over the writing, but either way, this is now my second favorite non-musical sequence in any show (the first, for the record, is the debate scene in 1776).

If you can get to the Marquis before the show closes, go. Go see Follies and revel in it. The only Sondheim show I can truly say is better is Sweeney Todd - and that's saying something.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Girl

We watched Zooey Deschanel's new show tonight and were pleasantly surprised. We laughed several times through the pilot, and Zooey is very entertaining. We'll definitely be tuning in next week.

Similarly, and in line with my book, Glee returned tonight. I was so happy to see the show back to BROADWAY. Hairspray, Anything Goes, Annie Get Your Gun, Wizard of Oz - West Side Story jokes...that's what makes Glee the show I wanted to watch in the first place! Let's hope they keep it up!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Big, Huge, Gigantic, Mega, Super Uber awesome news

It happened.

It finally happened.

I can't believe it.

I've been trying and trying and trying for more than two years.

I've written five books.

I've written more drafts of query letters than probably all the pages in one of my shorter books (maybe not, but it's got to be close).

On Friday, I got an email.

Today, I made a phone call.

Later this week, I'll be signing a contract and sending it back to my NEW AGENT!!!!

I'm not ready to say WHO just yet (haven't signed the contract YET) but I'm SO excited.

It's taken so much work, so much talking to other writers, using what I've learned from Writeoncon, editing, revising, and, most importantly, support from my family, friends, and above all, Caitie.

I'll be writing on here tracking my progress, for sure.

But --- I HAVE AN AGENT!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

127 Hours

I know I'm a little late on this one, but I just caught the movie on HBO. I was hesitant to watch because of "that scene," but in reality "that scene" is only a small percentage of the screen time. It's easy enough to look away if you're really grossed out (I made myself watch).

From a story telling perspective, I was truly blown away. I HATED Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's last movie. I thought it was obvious, contrived, and not that interesting visually. 127 Hours was the exact opposite. The movie was riveting, filled with great imagery, symbolism, and even some deep philosophical thoughts. Really, it was about as close to a visual novel as I've seen in a long time. I don't want to get into the details of that - it's best if you experience it for yourself if you haven't already, but it truly is well done and smart.

Franco's performance has been much discussed and I have nothing to add except I'm no longer so sure Colin Firth should have won that Oscar for best actor. He was exceptional.

The movie is similar to Castaway, but eliminated what I thought was the fatal flaw of that movie - the opening in the Tome Hanks movie was too long - it took him a quarter of the film to get to the island. With 127 Hours, after a brief prologue that resonates symbolically throughout the film, it gets right into his trauma.

I highly recommend the movie. If you are squeamish, you'll have to close your eyes for about three minutes, but don't let that deter you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ringer review

Last night started the new TV season. Caitie and I watched "Ringer" and we were both pleasantly surprised.
I'll admit, I have no idea where this show is heading. The premise is bizarre to say the least. If I can put together what happened in the premiere: Bridget (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the only witness to a murder. She was offered immunity from some crime she committed - something about prostitution and beating a cop I think - but is scared. She goes to visit her twin sister, Siobhan (also played by Gellar). It was clear there was some kind of problem between them that Bridget hopes they can get past. They go out on a boat and Siobhan disappears. Bridget, thinking her sister is dead, takes her place -- in her marriage, with her best friend etc. Apparently Siobhan wasn't as innocent as Bridget thought: she was having an affair with her best friend's husband and is pregnant (probably by the affair). There was something else going on with her stepdaughter, but it seemed a side plot at most. I'm sure that will be expanded upon in future episodes. Anyway, the killers are after Bridget, the police are after her to testify - and the final twist - apparently Siobhan sent a killer to get Bridget out of the way...for some reason.

As you can see - complicated plot and I'm not entirely sure I made sense out of it. But you know what? That's okay. In the TV landscape of reality shows, procedurals, and many unfunny sitcoms (oh, Modern Family, I can't WAIT for your return), some mystery and intrigue are good things. I like being a little off balance and wondering just what the heck is going on. The caveat: they BETTER resolve mysteries! There are a couple of other shows coming out this season (Once Upon a Time, Person of Interest) that seem to have that serial vibe - there are only so many serials one can keep track of at a time.

As of right now, I'll be tuning in next week for Ringer.

Grade:
Plot: A-
Characters: B (need more depth as of now, but it's only episode one)
Acting: B+ (so great to see SMG back on TV, and Richard Alpert!)

Am I coming back for more? Definitely.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Start of a new year

An "update" post:

School started this week - new unit, new teachers, new everything for me. So far I'm liking the other side of my school building all right. It's a change, certainly. The kids seem to be pretty good, and I like the people I work with.

I finished the first draft of "The Tinchild." I like the way it turned out. It was different than I expected, but that's one of the best parts of writing. I have two beta readers looking at it as I'm revising, so I'm getting quite a bit done with it when I have time. I'm also working on a new idea - a MG Roald Dahl-ish horror novel. It's a little strange (as it should be, I suppose), but so far I'm having a lot of fun with the idea.

I just finished reading book two of the Song of Ice and Fire, and began book three. What an incredibly rich world Martin has created! He gets a little carried away with descriptions sometimes (I don't need to know EVERYTHING on a dinner table), but his dialogue and characterization is amongst the best I've ever read.

I've also started rereading the first book in The Chronicles of Amber series. I read the whole series when I was a teenager, and I've forgotten just how well written the books are. It's much faster paced than the Martin books, but the characters are no less vivid.

I'm looking forward to the new TV season starting. Caitie has suggested I write reviews of the new shows as they come on in this space, and if I have time I may try that. Something to look forward to!

In other news, Caitie and I just bought our first piece of furniture together (yeah, I know, we've been married two years). There was a deal at a local furniture store on couches that we simply couldn't pass up (by reducing my Gamefly subscription, selling our old couch, and counting what I've won in poker lately, it was practically free - I know that sounds crazy, but we got a REALLY good deal). The couch we have is functional, but not very comfortable and too big for the space we have. This couch has two recliners and is just the right size for us. Looking forward to getting that later this week!

That's about it for now. Hope everyone's doing well!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Come on, Irene

We weathered the storm and came out the other side fairly well. The only real issue we have is that our basement got some water in it and our carpet is super wet. We were thinking of cutting it out anyway, so now we have a real reason to do so. The only thing ON the carpet were my CD towers (which I almost never use any more anyway) so we didn't really have anything ruined either. The front window in our living room had a tiny drip we need to look into, but it wasn't really all that bad. We got lucky - the video and pics from around us are incredible. Streets nearby that we've been down every day are flooded with several FEET of water. Apparently we can't leave the town for the next couple of days -- my parents' friends who had come to stay with them for shelter tried leaving this morning and were unable to go.

I hope everyone else is safe and staying home for today and possibly tomorrow.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Finished another book!

This evening I finished the rough draft of my fifth book. It's crazy to me that five years ago I wouldn't have thought I could write a book at all, let alone five (well, five plus 1/2 of one that just kind of fizzed). I really like this one - it's dystopian/sci-fi and I think maybe my most EXCITING book to date.

I do love the feeling of accomplishment, even knowing I still have revisions ahead of me.

Now to figure out what my next book will be...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

We're in Ohio for a week visiting Caitie's parents. It's always a good time for me there - good food, lots of relaxing, and lots of time to read and write.

We went to see "Crazy, Stupid Love" yesterday, and I was pretty surprised by it to be honest. It wasn't my first choice, but hey, Steve Carrell is usually pretty funny, Julianne Moore is always good, and Emma Stone is cute. It turned out to be a much better movie than I expected.

I don't want to give much away in terms of plot because I kind of feel like the less you know going in, the better off you'll be. All you really need to know is Steve Carrell's character Cal is blindsided when his wife, Emily (Moore), tells him she wants a divorce. He goes into something of a downward spiral until he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a lady's man who agrees to teach Cal how to be "cool." There are subplots involving a woman Jacob attempts to pick up at the local bar (Stone), and Cal's son's crush on his babysitter.

The cast is uniformly strong. Gosling, Carrell, Moore, and Stone are all perfectly cast. Kevin Bacon has a somewhat dull cameo -- they could have given him more to do. Marissa Tomei however has a very funny smaller role that's pretty much worth the price of admission alone.

Overall, I was surprised and impressed with this movie. I laughed out loud several times, and I guess the romantic in me related to the message that love isn't easy, but it's worth it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Game of Thrones

I finished the first book yesterday. I was VERY impressed. Martin managed to balance an incredible amount of characters, and his writing style is amazingly realistic considering it's a fantasy world. I found it fascinating that the "fantasy" element doesn't really come in until the end of the book (though hints of it are scattered throughout). The book, like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, works because the characters are so sharp, so realistic, and so interesting.

I have a favorite character (Tyrion, duh) just like with any other work, but there weren't any characters that I didn't like.

I'm definitely looking forward to the sequels -- please don't spoil anything for me!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reading

On Wednesday, I was given the chance to do a reading of two chapters of Bye Bye Connie at Kettle of Fish in NYC. It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that, and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Yes, I was nervous as hell, but getting people to laugh at what I wrote, and hearing the laughter, was all kinds of awesome. It does make you understand just why it is some people pursue acting or comedy as a career.

Even better, afterward, Michael, the founder of the reading series, came to talk to me and asked to see my whole book. He enjoyed what I did, and offered to help me get to an agent and hence published. Caitie has a lot of faith in Michael, and so I'm being optimistic here.

Of course, now I'm in the "waiting" phase...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer's Coming!

My school district seems to be the last district in the country to let out of school. We still have two more weeks left!
That doesn't mean that mentally I'm not gearing up for summer - which means quite a few things for me.
1)a lot of time with Caitie, especially if she doesn't get a job (I actually hope I DON'T get to spend the time with her!)

2) Sleeping LATE

3) Going to sleep LATE

4)Watching a lot of movies

5) Big Brother will be back (woohoo! I admit it, I LOVE BB!)

6) Lots of reading

7) Two mini-vacations we have planned...

8) Time with friends and family (I suppose this should be higher, so I'm just going to retro-add that this list is in no particular order)

9) Did I mention sleeping?

10) Writing, writing, writing.

I certainly hope that the "writing" turns into another career - and maybe, just maybe, it'll happen this summer. I have a fantastic opportunity on the horizon that I can't talk about JUST YET, but will very soon.

On another note, today, for the first time in a while, I had a "I just don't feel like writing today" day. I reached a really interesting place in my newest book yesterday, and I guess I just need a little time to let all the stuff I came up with sink in, and figure out where exactly to go next. My process is a weird combination of sorting through vague ideas in my head and just sitting down and getting them out on paper. I've tried "brainstorming" as in actually writing notes/graphic organizers etc - none of it works for me.
So, while it's not unusual for my brain to work on my book like my PS3 downloading something in the background, the fact that I didn't write today was strange. I've been pretty good about the "write every day" mantra I keep reading about. Oh well, I guess it was bound to happen...

On yet a third note, I've noticed that I have a few new followers. I don't know pretty much any of you who are following me (other than Caitie, of course - hi Caitie!) so --

Anybody want to share what brought you here? I'm always happy to meet new friends/fellow writers!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm still alive

I haven't written anything here in a while - I'm still alive. Just haven't had much to say lately.
I'm still pursuing representation and have a couple of fulls out. I did encounter one strange rejection that perhaps I'll blog about another time, but since it's still fresh and I'm not quite sure where I sit with it, I can't really say any more. I know that's vague, and I'm sorry, but it's been giving me a lot of stress in the last 24 hours.

One positive thing - Caitie and I realized that we have access to some more money than we thought we did, so we won't be eating Ramen all summer. Caitie doesn't really like Ramen anyway.

I hit a kind of creative boon with my new book. Something clicked somewhere along the way for me, and I've been really pushing through lately. I have to remind myself every now and then that the only thing I can't write is what I can't imagine, and there's no reason I can't imagine anything. I know it's a little "Disney-esque," but we have a painting of Mickey and the gang in our front hall and a statue of Beauty and the Beast in our living room. The point isn't lost though as a writer: you really are only limited by your imagination.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Magicians

Just finished reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman -- what a book! The writing was exceptional, though I was a little put off by the abrupt ending to some chapters (like he wasn't quite sure where to end). The main character is very interesting, though a bit on the depressing side.

What really stood out, though, was the sheer creativity. Every page was brimming with new, fresh ideas. I was just amazed at some of the things that Grossman came up with, and even more how EASY it all seemed.

It's a fairly long, dense book, but totally worth checking out.

Can't wait for the sequel in August!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Maybe a crazy theory

When I started this blog, I decided not to be political on here. I don't think it's a good idea given my goals in the literary world, and I'm going to stick with that.

However, I want to say something about the backlash against the celebrations for Osama bin Laden's death. I've read numerous articles now criticizing Americans for celebrating in the streets etc. What I haven't noticed, though were comments about the AGE of the people out celebrating. From what I've seen, it's mostly been younger people - college age or thereabouts.

What I find interesting is these people who are out in the streets celebrating are mostly (and of course this isn't everyone since I'm sure there were older people as well) who were kids when 9/11 happened. They've spent their ENTIRE LIVES - or at least any that was even somewhat aware of what's happening in the world, in a post 9/11 state. Think about it - at what age did you first become aware of the world on a scale larger than your own school? For me, I remember the Challenger exploding in 1986 when I was eight, but only because we spent so much time talking about it in school. I VAGUELY remember the Berlin Wall falling in 1989. I was almost 12. I have some memories of the Persian Gulf war, but not really. I didn't REALLY start paying attention to politics until 1992. I remember Clinton's campaign and election. I was fifteen, and I remember thinking how cool it was I'd be able to vote in the next election. Other than that, I really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to what was going on in the world.

Perhaps it's a bit "braggy" to say I'd consider myself of above average intelligence, and above-average awareness for people my age of what's happening in the world. If I wasn't really aware of what was happening in the news (and I know my students now mostly aren't), then we can figure that 9/11 was probably a real shock to many young people not just in what the events WERE, but in the concept of a bigger world view. It woke people up (if temporarily) and made people who probably were barely aware of a new president that there was something else out there. Whether or not those people continued to pay attention to the world at large is another issue - but their awakening to it came on 9/11.

Osama bin Laden's death was a bookend for them. We waited for ten years for this news, and let's face it, it's been pretty bleak for most of us. I think that those of us who are a little older can look at what happened last week for what it was, reflect on how 9/11 changed us, and see it for the benchmark it is. For many, 9/11 started a nightmarish view of a world coming after us, a terror not unlike Darth Vader out there, waiting to destory us. Bin Laden's death was the end of the nightmare, at least on a surface level. Vader was vanquished. As ironic as this is, the cowboy killed the man in the black hat. That trope is etched into our brains - and what happens after the bad guy is defeated? We celebrate. It happened in Star Wars, it happened in Lord of the Rings. It happened in every Western movie ever made. If we, as older Americans, saw pre-9/11 as a time of innocence, think of what those who were younger saw it as? They simply never KNEW anything BUT the terror of Darth Vader staring at them from across the world. Bin Laden's death, on some level signified (whether it truly should or not is another matter) the possibility of a return to innocence.

I don't agree with the celebrations, but I understand them. A generation is waking up from a nightmare. Hopefully it IS the end of the fever dream of the last ten years - only time will tell - but I certainly don't blame them for wishing it so.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The time and place conundrum

I'm working on my new book and have encountered an interesting issue. My previous books were set in two fantasy worlds, Anywhere USA, and a fictional school. This book is set in the not-too distant future. It starts in New Jersey and then moves to Ohio.

The issue is (which I guess isn't REALLY an issue but more of an interesting note) that setting it in a place that actually exists, with real geography (although slightly altered due to the plot) feels strange. It's odd writing about roads I drive on every day. The thing is, the book HAD to be set in America. I figured why fictionalize it when I can use the real place I know, the real roads and the real buildings? The thing is, writing about places you know brings on this weird meta-feeling, like you really SHOULDN'T be doing it because it feels like cheating almost. Then again, Stephen King sets everything in Maine which he knows well. I guess, if done right, it's just as fictional to those who don't know the area as anything I can come up with, right?

Of course, once you start, it's hard to break free from that reality. As the characters go to Ohio, so goes the geography. I simply don't know Ohio well, but it is essential for the characters to take a longish car trip. I go to OH a couple of times a year to visit my wife's family, so I'm aware of the basic geography. I know what the country looks like and I know how people are. I DON'T really know the roads like I do here.

As the book progresses, I'm finding I need to make stuff up a little bit more. I can look at a map, but I'm still kind of faking my way through it. At first I was kind of anal about getting it right, but I'm realizing it doesn't really matter all that much. The main action once they get to Ohio is in a warehouse. Do I need to find a REAL warehouse to set it in? I don't THINK so...maybe it was just built in the last few years...anyway, I'm finding that I prefer making up the geography to using reality. In a way, it's actually easier to just make it up. Still, it's an interesting challenge.

How have you dealt with this?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Agents

Just a quick check in post. An agent I'm quite excited about has Bye Bye Connie. It's nerve wracking, waiting - but wait I must...
Is there any other job that requires so much WAITING?

Well, this week is testing week. It may not be waiting, but it is a LOT of standing around and doing nothing.
I can't wait.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Been a while since I posted

A few things from the past couple of weeks:

1) It's spring break -- woohoo! It feels like it's been forever since our last break, and a week of sleeping late and not doing much of anything looks ridiculously appealing.

2)The new book is coming along all right. I've been busy with other things lately so haven't written much, but the ideas are still percolating.

3) I sent my latest book to a writer/critic I'm friendly with, and he LOVED the book. He gave me some great suggestions I incorporated. I then sent the book to my dream agency. I got a request for a full, so I'm on pins and needles waiting.

4) We saw Wonderland on Broadway last night. Great music, there, but the book still needs work. Still, it was definitely an enjoyable show and we both really liked it.
We also got to have lunch at Sardis which was AMAZING. I always wanted to eat there and it definitely did NOT disappoint!

5) Did I mention it's spring break??

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Further proof

I confirmed for myself that I have the "idea bank" to be a writer. I finished the last book so quickly, I began panicking that I didn't have something on deck to start writing.

Yesterday an Idea came to me (yes, the capital is intentional). Whether or not it goes anywhere remains to be seen - after all, my mystery crashed and burned - but so far I think it's pretty solid. It's a little more mature than my other books - I was going back and forth between whether or not to approach it as an adult book or a YA, and Caitie persuaded me to go with YA. It's semi-dystopian, with a definite influence from one of my favorite writers, Stephen King. I find when I go into many details early on I dilute the idea too much, so I don't want to say much more than that right now.

As for the other book - Caitie is going to look it over next week and then out it goes. Fingers crossed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wow

I started on 2/11/11 -- and finished tonight - 3/25/11. I wrote an entire book in 42 days (it's a Lost number and the meaning of life, coincidence?).

Let me get this straight - I didn't intend a rush job - nor do I think it is one. I didn't think, when I began, I would EVER get a book written in a little over a month. And I have to say (sort of echoing one of my characters and not without a bit of shameless self-promotion), it's pretty darn good. I'm pretty critical of myself, and I think this is some of the best stuff I've written. I know for sure it is the most FUN I've ever had writing a book.

There are authors out there, at least so I've read, who have talked about books spilling out of them - writing themselves almost. I never experienced that before - but that's kind of what happened with this one. Despite working full time teaching, I managed to average a little under 1,000 words a day - a number which is pretty good for me. I tend to write in spurts - 2,000 one day, 100 another. That's pretty normal for me. Somehow, this book just was there.

I learned something about my writing from this book. With Before White I had a vague idea of where I was going. Although that book was densely plotted, it took a lot of time outside of writing to sort through my thoughts. For something like that, it worked. Goodson took me ten years to fully develop. It's hard to measure that one. Sparks took me several months to write. I had an even vaguer idea of where that was going than Before White (I had the concept, but the actual plot was kind of made up as I went). This book, which, by the way, I'm tentatively calling Bye, Bye Connie, came to me almost fully formed. I knew the characters, I knew the basic plot, I knew what the final scene would be almost immediately. Sure, details changed, but the basic plot stayed the course. The jokes and humor came as I wrote - and not to toot my own horn, but I think the book is funny - and that was more fun than almost anything else to write.

Caitie's making me wait a week to revise. I'm so gung-ho on this book, I want to jump in and do it now, but she's right. I have been penpals with a pretty well known theater columnist for years now - even met him twice - and I asked him to read the book for me when I finished. He VERY enthusiastically agreed, so the impetus to get this out is even stronger. I know of an agent already who is looking for a book along these lines.

Maybe I'm overreaching my hopes - but unlike Han Solo, I kind of have a good feeling about this.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Writing writing writing

I've been flying through my new book. I'm closing in on 25,000 words, and my goal is to keep it at a solid middle grade level of about 30-35,000. The thing that has made me happiest with it at this point is that I've been able to keep the voice light and humorous pretty much throughout. Certain chapters are a little "heavier" I suppose, but the humor has to be forsaken for plot at some point. Even then, the story itself never gets too heavy. I just hope that as I head towards the finish line I can keep that tone up. Since a lot of the humor is reliant on allusions that come naturally in dialogue (not trying to give too much away yet), when the characters are actively involved in the plot the jokes are much harder to write naturally.

It makes me admire the likes of Christopher Moore that much more.

Anyway, this book is the reason I haven't been blogging much. Between having a ton of papers to grade lately and trying to concentrate writing time on the book, I'm afraid I've neglected the blog. Sorry :)

As a side note, I've been reading "Publish This Book" by Stephen Markley. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in publishing -it's very funny and very well written. I'll probably have more to say when I finish it...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Writeoncon

They're gearing up again - woohoo!

Writeoncon is a free writing conference given over the summer - tons of agents and writers meet virtually to discuss and share all aspects of writing and publishing. It was a great experience last year, and I'm looking forward to this year's as well!

If you haven't already (and I know several of my followers are already from writeoncon!), check out writeoncon.com.

It's worth your time!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My new book

I'm totally geeking out on my new book. The idea of writing about musical theater kids has always been somewhere in the back of my mind, but now that it's finally taking shape I'm SO excited by it.

I'm having a great time writing this one, and Caitie has told me it's the most excited she's been reading one of my books since Before White (not that the others aren't good, but Sparks took me a long time, and Goodson has been around in some form for almost a decade already - and well, just look at previous posts to see what happened with the mystery).

This book, which I've tentatively titles "Bye Bye Connie" is coming along great. Just a week in, and I have nearly 7,500 words already. That's by FAR the fastest I've gotten to that point.

Why? I think it's because I'm having FUN. I love this idea, and I get to make clever musical theater jokes. Yeah, I know some of them are going to be a little obscure, but that might help expand my audience to theater fans who might not otherwise pick up a MG book (which this definitely is). Still, I'm keeping the majority of the jokes aimed at an audience who has a passing familiarity with musicals - especially ones my students might know (those who are into theater).

It's nice to be excited about writing again!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A new start

Well, it seems at least for now that the mystery novel was a bust. I got 140 pages or so in, and it fizzled. I just can't seem to get into it, and the story is stalling all over the place. I tried to figure out why, and there are a couple of reasons. First, I had a REALLY hard time getting the tone down. I wanted to try a witty mystery a la Veronica Mars, and it just never got there. The main character never popped for me. Two, being tethered to one character in the real world just didn't sustain my interest. I felt so tied to a "this is what he's doing, next is this, next is this" and the story didn't lend itself to that. I felt like I was cheating when I skipped sections of time, like I needed to explain what happened in the interim, even if nothing happened. Getting from event to event was torturous because the story didn't call for it.

In my second book, Sparks, I follow one character the whole way through, but the timeline is so compressed that it works. The nature of the story I was telling in this mystery simply didn't lend itself to a day to day accounting, and I couldn't figure out how to move forward in time with the voice I was using.

So, I'm putting it aside for now. Maybe someday I'll come back to it. I still think the base story is good, the mystery is good enough (I can't imagine people would figure it out, though it makes total sense), and I LOVE a couple of the scenes in it. Maybe one day I'll rescue it.

But for now, I've started on something else. I've been throwing around in my mind the idea of a novel about theater, but couldn't latch onto any idea. Caitie spoke with an agent she worked with during her internship last Thursday who loves theater. When she was telling me about the conversation with him, the idea snapped into place. In the last three days I've written twenty pages, and I pretty much know where the story is going. I have four main characters I can bounce around between, and I like these four characters. I have a mode for TELLING the story. Best of all, because it's a theater story, I can totally geek out with references and such and it's making me VERY happy to write this story!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why school curriculum needs to change

There's been a lot of chatter lately about the need for more science and math in schools these days. I don't disagree with that, but the way we teach kids English has also fallen behind. We're living in a time right now, in terms of culture, that is unlike any other in history. Schools have not adapted their curricula to the needs of students.

If you go back a hundred years, literature was the primary medium for telling stories. Go back sixty years to 1951, and yes, movies were coming out then, but think about this: The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, classics now, were a mere twelve years old. Casablanca, which came out in 1942, was less than a decade old. What movies came out in the equivalent time frame to us now? 1999 was the year Titanic won the Oscar. 2002 saw the release of Spiderman, the last Lord of the Rings movie, and the second Harry Potter film.

What books were read in high schools then? Dickens? Check. Twain? Check. Shakespeare? Check. Chaucer and Homer and Steinbeck?

Let's speed up to the 70s. Dickens, Twain, and Shakespeare? Chaucer? Of course. Fitzgerald? Orwell? Lee? Sure. All are still read today in school.

This is what makes up a typical high school curriculum, correct?

Let me make one thing clear here before I move on to my point. I am in NO WAY advocating removing books and great literature from school curricula. That would be a travesty beyond words.

However, literature is not what it was to popular culture a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago when not everyone had a television in their living room, and when they did, it was turned on for specific programs at specific times. Old movies were only available at scheduled times or if they happened to be re-shown at the local theater. In 1961, fifty years ago, the Oscars were a mere thirty four years old.

Now, we're sixteen years from a hundred years of Oscars. That's less time than it will take for my two month old niece to graduate high school.

Movies are available now in the theater, but also on TV on five hundred channels, on demand, on Netflix in the mail, streaming through PS3s and Wiis, on the computer, on hand held devices. We are bordering on a hundred years of a medium that has infected every pore of our culture.

How often do you go a day without seeing or hearing a reference to The Wizard of Oz or Star Wars or The Godfather? Seriously, pay attention - you'll be shocked how they've infused our lives.

I recently did a lesson with my students about mythic journeys. I talked about Star Wars, and only half the kids had seen the movies. I had a slightly better hit rate on The Wizard of Oz, but there were still kids who didn't know what I was talking about.

So here's where I get to my point. Movies are a HUGE part of our culture. They are everywhere, they are so prevalent that they, for better or worse, influence the way we think. More importantly, the culture of ubiquitous media influences the way kids think. They imitate actors and singers, they quote lines, they're far more likely to read books that have movies attached than not. It's not going away.

Official school curricula, for the most part, completely ignores movies. In fact, our state "revised" curricula, has pulled even further away -- we used to have items for watching and analyzing that were replaced by non-fiction reading. Certainly there's a place for that, but are we denying our kids a cultural education by ignoring movies in school curricula?

With ever more movies being produced, the backlog of what kids need to know is greater now than it ever has been. Fifty years ago, there were a handful of "classics" - now the AFI has made MULTIPLE "hundred best" lists of films. Kids live and breathe new media - why are we ignoring it in school?

The answer is, society doesn't look on film as "culturally valuable." "You can't get the same thing from Star Wars as you can from The Odyssey!" Well, why not? As a colleague of mine said when we were discussing this issue, "All that's different is the mechanics - reading versus watching."

We are scraping at incorporating technology into schools (with shrinking budgets and increasing mandates, it's a little like Luke fighting the Empire single handedly), which is great, but we're ignoring CULTURE.

Yes, Shakespeare should be taught. And Dickens, and Twain, and Orwell. But wouldn't our kids be richer for knowing movie history? When someone says "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," shouldn't they know what we're talking about? Movies have become as important a part of our culture as literature in the past hundred years, and the backlog of great stuff is only going to get bigger.

As I said at the start, I'm not advocating losing literature, but I think a little more movies (and music and theater, but one thing at a time) in our schools would help teach our kids QUALITY. When I ask my kids what their favorite movies are, they'll usually say last years action or comedy movie. I overheard a couple of kids saying how great they thought "Vampires Suck" was -- the movie that recently was nominated for a Razzie for worst movie of the year.

Kids have no basis to truly judge quality in media other than literature where they know the difference between a school book and a non-school book (though I also think that line needs to be blurred a hell of a lot more than it is - but that's also another issue). We need to teach kids what QUALITY movies are. We need to teach them how to analyze and evaluate movies, if for no other reason than to stop the anti-intellectual slide that is so prevalent in pop-culture. If we don't teach them, how will they know?

Do you agree with me? Am I way off? Let me know...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Agent rejection

I got a pretty specific rejection this morning where the agent said my query was great, but the pace at the start of the book didn't match the promise of the query. This was for Goodson.

I had a feeling this might be a problem. The agent suggested putting what is actually the climax of the book at the beginning - but if I do that I have no place to go from there.

I thought about it, talked to Caitie about it, and I think I came up with a solution to get the book moving a little earlier. I gave a tease for the climax. The jury is still out on whether or not it's good (re: Caitie) but I MAY have fixed it without restructuring the entire book!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Movies!

I recently saw two movies that will likely be up for Oscars: Black Swan and The King's Speech. Caitie hated the former and loved the latter. I actually liked them both about the same. I think both movies had something great to offer, but also some fairly major downfalls.

The Black Swan had a great central performance by Natalie Portman - even Caitie agrees with this. I thought the cinematography was brilliant - the movie LOOKED great. I liked the symbolism in the movie also, but that's where things started to be problematic for me. The story itself gets somewhat muddled amidst all the (fairly heavy handed) symbolic and "trick" shots. To really get the movie I think you need to see it twice - and that's not fair. I think it's OK to add another LAYER to a movie so seeing it a second time will give you another view (see: The Usual Suspects, Fight Club), but to actually UNDERSTAND The Black Swan, you need to see it twice. Was that Portman or Kunis's face in that mirror? What was written on that wall (there was one scene I'm also SURE I saw the word "whore" written, but it was so fast I'm not sure if it was there or not). Subtlety is fine, but I left feeling like I missed something because of that. Still, I liked the movie - just not enough to really want to see it again.

The King's Speech was another movie I enjoyed but have little desire to see again. Again, the acting was fantastic - loved Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The story was good, but basically My Fair Lady (I know it's a real story, but the similarities are obvious). The DIALOGUE writing is very sharp, the overall story though could have been streamlined. It felt like some details were just kind of there because they had to be, but the real truth was glossed over (only later did I find out that King Edward was anti-Semitic and actually sided with Hitler in WWII!). Still, what really made the movie work was the acting - I will be shocked if Firth doesn't win a well deserved Oscar. Rush was equally good in a far less showy role, but I'd love to see him at least get nominated.

Did you see either movie? What did you think?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

That word I won't put here but should be elsewhere

If you haven't heard yet, there's an edition of Huckleberry Finn coming out where an editor has decided to cut out any expletives, including "Injun" and "the n word" (I'm not putting the word because last thing I need is a search engine to link me based on that!).

A lot has been said about this already. I have two main issues. First, as an author, how DARE anyone alter the words of a writer like this? Twain's intent was to use the words. If he wanted to use other words, he damn well would have. We (as in the educated people of the world) have read "1984." How is this different than Winston sitting in his office rewriting books to meet Big Brother's demands? To be fair, the original isn't being burned, but isn't this more or less the same thing, especially if this becomes the only book given to students?

This leads to my next concern. The point of the use of those words in the book is to point out the racism of the time. We can't make it not have happened by pretending it didn't. Erasing those words is akin to attempting to erase history. Students SHOULD know what was said, or else how will we as a society ever learn from those mistakes. A good teacher will point this out - that the words used are unacceptable because of the intent behind them in most cases. Huckleberry Finn is one of the strongest anti-racist books ever written - how DARE someone water that down?

Instead, why don't we turn our attention to rap/hip-hop artists who use these words on a regular basis with the claim that it's not racist because they themselves are that race? You want to stop kids from racism - how about pop culture (that kids ACTUALLY emulate) rather than attacking an educational tool and what is universally acclaimed as a pillar of literature?