In my last post, I touched on a belief I have that as some (most?) adults get older, they tend to suppress the things that truly make them happy, to the point where they forget SOMEthing once brought them joy. I likened it to building a wall between what’s considered real (miserable daily existence) and what’s considered fantasy ( for example, making money building things from LEGOs, because that’s SOOOO farfetched).
Here’s the thing, I do believe many people have built these walls, but I don’t believe they’ve built particularly tall walls. That means with some tip-toe action, and a little stretching, one might see what’s on the other side of the wall. They can see their joy again.
Another way to look at it: addicts are told the first step to recovery is admitting they have a problem. I believe the same is true here. People who are addicted to being miserable must recognize there are ways for them to be happy. The first step to their recovery is admitting they have a passion.
This may be the last time I write about this here. Let’s face it, I write crime and dark fantasy stories…I’m no life coach. But, I do feel driven to spread the positive. IF you’d like to see more motivational posts that are simple, but won’t short you on ‘A-Ha!’ moments, check out this site (one of my new, favorite web destinations): Successify.net
One of the very best pieces I’ve seen on the site comes from the late philosopher Alan Wilson Watts (courtesy of Tragedy and Hope Productions over on YouTube):
Make of it what you will, share if you like. That’s all from me, Folks.
Next Post: The Written Stuff
There’s something I see more and more the older I get. Adults dealing with lives they thought would be drastically different, and perhaps losing themselves because of it. You didn’t become the ballplayer, or musician, or Silicon Valley whiz kid jet setting all over the world. You’ve got the mortgage, the children, the car needs a new alternator, there’s the homeowner’s association meeting with that jerk who doesn’t clean up after his dog, and on and on…
Call it what you want. The Rat Race. A Rut. Reality (this I hate more than anything, not that circumstances aren’t real, but the thought that they’re ALL that’s real). The idea that life is nothing but a cycle of getting up, going to the job you merely tolerate (or possibly loathe), coming home to veg on the couch, then doing it again the next day. To what end? Yes, bills must be paid. Adults often have to do things they aren’t enthusiastic about. But sometimes that kind of thinking becomes a crutch that keeps one hobbling along the same unchanging path.
Whenever I’m with someone who starts venting about any of the above, I ask the same question. What do you love to do? Increasingly, the answer I hear is, “I don’t know.”
And that’s scary.
Because I don’t believe they really don’t know. I believe they’ve built a wall–one they can lean on–between their true joy in life and the daily minutiae that keeps the direct deposit coming in every two weeks. Here’s the problem…
Two weeks turns into two months. Then years and decades. That’s too long not to know. So, a challenge. Answer the question honestly. What do YOU LOVE to do?
Me? It’s no secret. Writing. But, I also enjoy making digital art in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I’m not great–or even very good–at the artistic stuff. But I really get lost in it. It helps on the bad days. You have to do what you have to do, but nothing’s stopping you from doing what you want to do.
Again, what do YOU LOVE to do? And please, no cop-out answers (e.g. drink, smoke, have sex, be with your kids). I get it, you may really LOVE doing those things, but you KNOW that’s not what I’m talking about…
Answer below or tweet with me, hashtag #WDYLTD
Next post: The first step to recovery is admitting you have a passion…
Last week, I got tapped to participate in “The Next Big Thing”, an ongoing blogging experience for up-and-coming writers. The way it works is an awesome writer (A. B. Westrick, author of BROTHERHOOD in this case) tags me, I post details about my next project here, then I tag other writers to do the same on their blogs next week.
“Easy-Peezy,” as Brooks Hatlen would say.
A teen in witness protection investigates his best friend’s murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that may lead back to his own father.
FAKE ID began as an adult novel with a female protagonist. I’d been reading a book by the founder of the Federal Witness Protection Program called INSIDE WITSEC and I found the genesis of the program fascinating. Particularly the stories about how witnesses wouldn’t follow the rules, thus endangering themselves, thus forcing their handlers to make in-the-moment adjustments…. like switching their identities and moving them to a new location. In my original story, I’d envisioned a protected witness, Nicole Perry, who was the daughter of a big-time crime boss, getting caught up in a small-town murder mystery. But, it just wasn’t coming together. I was bored writing it, which meant anyone who picked it up would likely be bored reading it.
Around the same time, a friend suggested some YA fiction to me…maybe the GONE series by Michael Grant. I’m not 100% sure, I’ve read so many YA books since. In any case, I was a bit ignorant to YA at the time, thinking it was all kid’s stuff. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK came to mind. But, when I read whatever book it was, I realized my preconceived notions were way off. I began devouring YA books, realizing the creativity on display for teens was as deep, if not deeper, as anything I’d seen in adult books. The realization brought me back to my little murder mystery and I asked myself, ‘what if it wasn’t an adult female, but a teen? Maybe a teen boy?’ The story just about wrote itself after that, no boredom. Nicole Perry became Nick Pearson, and the rest is, as they say, history.
What genre does your book fall under?
Young Adult Mystery
For Nick and his Dad, I’d love to see the Smiths (Jaden and Will) in the roles. For the remaining cast, I’m having some difficulty. The Cruz siblings are Latino, and while there are a couple of names that come to mind for Reya (Selena Gomez, Victoria Justice), Hollywood’s limited diversity has me drawing a blank on others. I mean, think about it. For African-American father and son roles, who else do YOU think of besides Jaden and Will Smith?
That being said, maybe you all will have better suggestions once the book debuts.
About 9 months. But there have been many drafts since. I just turned in a (hopefully final) draft to my editor yesterday. Draft 5 or 6, I think. I’ve lost count.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Here’s a more detailed synopsis than the one-sentence in my earlier answer:
Nick Pearson is pretending to be someone he isn’t. Not high school pretending. Witness Protection pretending. And the #1 rule is “stay low-key”. But, when his sole friend Eli dies in the school’s journalism room under mysterious circumstances, and Nick stumbles upon the conspiracy Eli planned on exposing, staying low-key takes a backseat to staying alive.
Newspaper Nerd Eli had a secret, an in-the-works story codenamed “Whispertown”. And it’s got a lot of folks interested. Like corrupt cops, the town’s shady mayor, and certain high-ranking government officials. Teaming with Eli’s estranged (and gorgeous) sister, Nick sets out to unravel the mystery and still maintain his cover. He’ll have to use all the deviant skills he’s gained from his racketeering dad, assassin godfather, and their Serbian gangster boss to find the truth. However, each clue brings him closer to answers he may not want. Whispertown is bigger than he could have ever imagined, and in its shadow stands a killer…a killer Nick fears may be his own father.
Next week on “The Next Big Thing”… author, Aimee Salter will be talking about her new project, IN YOUR SKIN. Be sure to check her out and keep the NBT chain going.
Thanks again to A.B. Westrick for the invite. This was fun. More soon, gang.
Hey Gang. Yep, it’s really been 7 months since my last update. SIGH…
I gotta be honest with you. It’s been a crazy year, and, unfortunately, my site maintenance fell by the wayside. Since my last update, I was:
Like I said, CRAZY!
Going Forward: As soon as I get an idea of what the FAKE ID cover will look like, I’m going to hire a designer to redo EVERYTHING! Obviously, there will be announcements when these changes are in the works.
I want you to keep coming to the site, but I don’t want to make empty promises about how often you’re going to see updates here. I’m struggling to keep up right now. I can guarantee you’ll see big changes on the site this year. In the meantime, if you haven’t LIKED my FB Fan Page, or followed me on Twitter, I kindly ask that you do so.
I provide a lot of micro-updates through those social media sites because it’s easy for me to send a short message from my phone, as I’m much more mobile these days.
So, I apologize (again) for the neglect, and if you’ve enjoyed my work in the prior years, I ask that you stick with me a little longer. Big things are in the works, but big things aren’t always fast things. Your patience and support is always appreciated. I wouldn’t be here without you.
Soon, gang. Soon.
I have not seen PROMETHEUS, the latest sci-fi film from Ridley Scott, the director of the classic ALIEN (to which PROMETHEUS is a prequel). Nothing I say here will spoil the movie for you because it is simply conjecture. However, I am basing the thesis of this post on things I’ve observed in the film’s promotional material. And I will be referring to major plot points in ALIEN and its sequels, which could be considered spoilers if you’re the rare person who cares enough to read this and HASN’T seen the film (which came out in 1979…if you claim I spoiled a 32 year old film for you, you really had it coming. Also, in THE SIXTH SENSE, Bruce Willis is actually dead the whole time). Moving on…
So, the question: could Idris Elba be the secret hero in PROMETHEUS? I have no idea, but I think it’d be cool for a few reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, why even ask this question? At best, he’s a blip in the trailer. Blink and you miss him.
In trailer 2 he gets a bit more screen time and we get to hear some line readings, but everything we’ve seen so far leads one to believe that Noomi Rapace is the heroine. She’s top billed*, is the one featured prominently in all the trailers, and she even has a passing resemblance to Sigourney Weaver. Surely, she’s the one who will save us all from whatever threat exists in this film. If not her, then Charlize Theron, or Michael Fassbender, or Guy Pearce, all of whom have played top billed, kick-ass heroes in films before. How in the world does Idris Elba–most noted for his role as Russell “Stringer” Bell on HBO’s The Wire–jump to the head of THAT pack?
Sigourney Weaver was NOT the star of ALIEN in 1979 – Ripley was. While featured prominently (though with little context) in the trailer, Sigourney Weaver was not the talent we now know her to be. ALIEN was her first major role. Tom Skerritt, who played Dallas in the film, was top-billed. And, until his unfortunate demise in the film’s second act, was presented as the hero. He’s what audiences of the 70’s would’ve been comfortable with in their sci-fi saviors. The rugged, handsome white guy. In a sense, Ripley was a bait-and-switch. If not for the necessity of a trailer, audiences would’ve been blind to the role this unknown actress would play. Ripley being the one to defeat the alien in the end would’ve been considered a twist. † Given the similarities in the ALIEN and PROMETHEUS promotional materials, I think another bait-and-switch could be in the making. What better twist than for the Ripley-like character to not be as Ripley-like as we’ve been led to believe?
Idris Elba seems to be a non-dumbass in the film, one of the few – Though along for the ride, for whatever reason, Idris’s character is not the one initiating the foolhardy mission of searching for alien life on what looks like a hostile world. In ALIEN and ALIENS, the first two films of the franchise (and the only two I’m willing to discuss because the other two stunk), those insisting on going places they shouldn’t have gone for less than admirable reasons (money, glory, to be ultimate bad asses), turned out to be either villains or casualties. Sometimes both. In both films, Ripley was the cautious individual. The voice of reason. Because of that, she was the only one suited to be hero (also by process of elimination…meaning the aliens eliminating everyone else). Based on the snippets available in the PROMETHEUS trailers and TV spots, Idris plays this same role. He’s the one concerned with contamination, and giving threats access to safe havens. This makes him Ripley-like, more so than Noomi’s character, who seems to be the driving force of this stupid mission.
Because it would mean Ridley Scott’s still got a mean curveball -In a world where whole scripts can leak to the public two years before a movie screens, it’s nice when a director can still surprise us (unless of course you’re reading this, and I’m right, in which case…well…damn it!)
Because Idris Elba is an awesome actor – But Lamar, there are a lot of awesome actors in this movie. Why him?
Because someone scoffed at the idea that Idris Elba might be the secret hero in PROMETHEUS – Before reading one word of my argument, someone out there will see his name and/or picture, and immediately have a negative reaction to the possibility that this actor might be more than Victim #1, 2, or 3 in this film. I’m not saying it’s you. But, is it? There’s so little diversity in entertainment. So few solid roles for minority actors and actresses. Particularly in science-fiction or fantasy films. Hmmm….it reminds me of a time when kick-ass female characters were the exception, not the rule, in those very same genres. That changed when a certain director launched a certain franchise and blew us out of the air lock with a concept that would become normal, then cliche. The Female Action Hero. Is it so hard to fathom that that same director might do something similar when returning to the franchise? I hope so. Because, just as a generation of girls grew up idolizing a female hero who wasn’t scared to face off with a space demon, it would be nice if a generation of boys, who are IGNORED by Hollywood, could cheer for a fearless alien fighter who, for a change, happens to look like them.‡
I grew up watching movies where the guys who look like me often died horribly. Heck, I still watch movies like that. To avoid them would mean avoiding the stories that speak to me more than any others. So I make concessions, and sit through what could be considered genre genocide. We’ve all heard the jokes. ‘The black guy dies first’. That’s not always the case, but (too) often, in situations of peril, a guy with brown skin is no different than a Starship Enterprise crew member in a Red Shirt. I wasn’t always aware of it, but once it came to my attention, it made me sad in ways most people can’t understand (Or, in cases of extreme insensitivity, they write off as an overreaction). I’ve long dreamed of a day when the hero who saves the world, survives the conflict, and gets the girl§ resembles somebody I might see at a family reunion. I don’t really think it plays out the way I would like it to in PROMETHEUS, but I’d settle for Idris Elba getting a Ripley moment, if only for one film. He’s got his whole career to get his due. Sigourney Weaver went on to lead many films with nary an alien in them. I hope the same fate lies ahead for Mr. Elba, who is a fine actor. And if he gets to kick an alien out of an airlock, I hope we see the old trope of “black guy = cannon fodder” go out right along with it.
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*Billing refers to the order in which actors names appear in the credits. The person whose name appears first is top-billed, the star of the production. In situations where a number of big
egos stars appear in the same film, credits might be listed alphabetically to avoid any dust ups about who is the bigger prima donna should be billed first.
† I think it was considered a twist. The movie premiered the year I was born, only coming to my attention after Sigourney Weaver was pop-culture icon and “Get away from her you bitch” was one of the most famous lines in the history of cinema. So any opinions/analysis on my part is retrospective. That being said, I can’t think of many other kick-ass female characters from 30+ year old mainstream studio flicks. Thus, this would’ve been surprising in ’79, while we’re all too used to Buffy, and Black Widow, and Trinity here in the 21st century.
‡ If anyone points out Will Smith in the comments, I’m coming to your house and plucking you in the forehead.
§ You may think these three events (wins, survives, gets the girl) happen a lot for minority actors/characters. I could write a whole series of articles on how you’re probably wrong. That’s another discussion.
Last night I caught INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO and the special guests were the talented creator and actors behind one of TVs most popular series, MAD MEN. If you aren’t familiar with the 1960s period drama about an advertising executive who is a portrait of duality, no worries, this lesson won’t be lost on you.
Towards the end of the episode, during Q&A, a drama student recounted her experiences in amateur productions, explaining how invaluable she found the weeks and weeks of rehearsals her troupe participated in before a performance. She asked how much rehearsal time the MAD MEN cast had before they shot their scenes. The answer shocked her and most of the audience.
There were no rehearsals on the MAD MEN set.
Jon Hamm, the show’s star, explained that they participated in a weekly table read (think middle/high school English class, where everyone takes a role and reads Shakespeare aloud from their desks), then the next time they got to practice was during the lighting set up right before they shot. No true rehearsal, just a chance to familiarize oneself with the material, then go home and make sure you knew your #&$* before the cameras rolled.
As important as that fact is, it pales to the reasoning behind it. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, explained that every minute they’re on set costs money, so there’s no time to waste. Although he pointed out that if a guest actor doesn’t know their lines, he will fire them (at costs of up to 100,000 dollars for the time it takes to replace them and reshoot) because unprepared people cost more in the long run.
Consider that. The amateur actor (that’s not meant as a dig, just pointing out that the student who asked the question is not yet a professional) admitted that extensive rehearsals increased her comfort. The pros let her know that they don’t get that luxury. Yet, MAD MEN is one of the most critically acclaimed, award-snatching shows on television. A lot of that has to do with stellar scripts, but without talented (and prepared) people to do the work on a tight schedule, the scripts wouldn’t mean a whole lot.
How’s this relate to you, dear writer? After all, you won’t be dressing up in a retro suit and pitching ads for LIFE cereal and Vick’s Cough Syrup. You’re not performing.
That’s where you’d be wrong. You’re not an actor, but your profession requires that you perform on demand. Or, it will. When you crossover from amateur to pro. Think about it. Deadlines. Proposals. If you want to be a book-a-year writer, then you have to be prepared to write fast, fast, fast.
You have all the time in the world to write book 1, your baby, that masterpiece your Muse faxed you from Heaven. As soon as you sell it to Massive Publishing House X, you’ve got people to answer to. Deadlines to hit. It’s a role you better damn well know.
If not, you will be replaced. It will cost them less in the long run.
But, if you can manage to do the job in the time allotted, not second guessing, and trusting that preparation is better than comfort, then who knows…maybe when they come up with INSIDE THE WRITER’S STUDIO*, you’ll be able to shock a few amateurs with what you’ve accomplished.
*Yes, I’ve fantasized about it. And yes, I’m the first guest. 😉
Now, listen. I know I haven’t been around much, I understand if you don’t want to take my gift, and you’re tired of my disappearing acts. Just…just give me a chance to explain.
See, first, the good news: I’ve been in my cave, producing a bunch of new stuff. Now, the bad news: I can’t really show you any of it yet.
Here’s the sitch: I used to be an independent author. Solely. That meant I could write as fast as possible, publish just as fast, and, generally, keep $*&# moving. That was fun, and kept me in close contact with you. But, the downside involved me being a one-man band. Writer/Cover Designer/Marketer/Editor (well, editorial isn’t necessarily a strong suit, so I did farm that out when I could, but I had to make corrections based on feedback myself, which has resulted in the thing all indie authors fear the most…typos).
As you know, I signed a publishing contract with HarperCollins, one of the largest publishers in America, last August. Harpers will publish my debut YA mystery novel sometime soon (the dates aren’t nailed down). This is something I’ve been working for my whole life, and I’m looking forward to being in bookstores all over the country. BUT, seeing this lifelong dream fulfilled doesn’t come without hiccups.
Harpers is huge, and I’m not even a small cog in their machine. I’m more like lubricant (slosh that around in your head for a minute). I’ll have to work my butt off to be even a low priority there. I’m not complaining, I just want to explain why you, the loyal readers who have supported LIVE AGAIN, THE DARKNESS KEPT, and THE SHADOWS GALLERY, haven’t seen a new book from me in over a year.
There are new books. I’ve finished drafts of 2 novels that aren’t contracted to Harpers. And, though not in their final states, the books are kick-ass. My band has expanded, though. I now have really good beta-readers (for those unfamiliar with the lingo, these are people who aren’t necessarily editors, but who give pro-level critiques) to help make the books better than I ever could on my own. I’ve got two agents (lit and film) who want to see clean versions of the books before anyone else. Then, finally, I’ve got my editor at Harpers, who took a chance on me, and deserves first dibs on these books if she decides they’d fit her list. Bottom line: for those books, I no longer have the ability to hand them directly to you, to be read on your Kindles or Nooks the way I used to. I’m sorry about that.
I don’t mean to neglect you. I should never have neglected you. I’ve come up with something that might help.
I just released a new suspense story, “When Scary People Know Your Name“, to Kindle (A Nook version is coming in a few days). It’s only .99 cents and I think you’ll like it.
I’ll continue to release short, inexpensive stories. Maybe as often as once a month. For you.
Also, since my representatives are focused on my Young Adult work, I’m going to brainstorm something outside of that realm–something longer than a short story–that will please you, too.
See, I haven’t forgotten you, or where I came from.
Please forgive me. Take the flowers. Check out the new story. And be on the lookout for other gifts, coming soon.
I just read this incredible NY Times article on Samuel L. Jackson and felt the need to wax philosophical on the benefits of preparation.
It was a quote by director William Friedkind (Rules of Engagement) that stood out to me initially (a lot in the article stands out and I could base a series of posts on the phenomenal actor’s life, but for now…), “Sam is a director’s dream. Some actors hope to find their character during shooting. He knows his character before shooting. Sam’s old-school. I just got out of his way. I never did more than two takes with Sam.”
I put the emphasis on ‘before’. For a reason.
For Spring 2012, Jeremy Lin has been the international poster boy for ‘readiness’, the idea of maximizing a singular opportunity even when you’re at the low point of your career. It’s a great in-the-moment story, but it remains to be seen if we’ll be discussing Jeremy in the same breath as the greats (or even next year).
Sam Jackson’s longevity stretches back 40 years. HE DIDN’T GET HIS BIG BREAK UNTIL 1994! But he’s maintained the same level of preparation and professionalism through feast AND famine. Let’s be real…the last 2 decades have been a fantastic feast for him. He averages 4 movies and 300K in residuals per year, he’s the highest grossing actor in history, this guy could phone it in for the rest of his life and still be a BAMF (go to any crowded theater/fanboy flick and anticipate cheers if he should pop up…it happens every time).
My point: this isn’t a guy who shows up on set hungover, with an assistant making up cue cards because he doesn’t know his lines. He could. But he doesn’t. He’s still treating the work like he’s struggling, like he’s not the most memorable character from Pulp Fiction, or Mace Windu, or effing Nick Fury.
After all his massive success, he’s still ready BEFORE.
I started the year telling you I was going to update this blog weekly. Didn’t happen. I know you don’t appreciate it, but I hope you can understand my reasoning. I’ve been in my cave. Not hibernating. Writing. A lot. Two-novels-and-a-short-story worth of writing.
Because I’m CIA-like in my distribution of information, here’s how we’ll refer to my current batch of works-in-progress (WIPs):
WIP #1 – WHISPERTOWN. You already know about this one. It’s currently in its 5th (or 6th, who’s counting?) draft and as soon as I receive editorial notes from HarperCollins, I’ll be revising again. Remember, writing is rewriting.
WIP #2 – Untitled Fantasy-Action Hybrid. Currently on Draft #2, starting Draft #3 this week.
WIP#3 – Untitled Horror-Action Hybrid. I completed Draft #1 yesterday. Letting this sit for awhile.
I tell you all that so you know I’m not sitting on my ass playing Call of Duty (well, that does happen sometimes). Still, you deserve an explanation if you’ve been a long time follower.
I will try to do better here. In the meantime, for more immediate updates and musings, I recommend liking my Facebook Fan Page or following me on Twitter. With current time constraints, I’m able to send updates through those tools more frequently.
Thanks for hanging in there. Big news soon folks.
That’s right. FREE. NO STRINGS ATTACHED. NO TAXES. NO MEMBERSHIP FEES. Just exciting reading that you can tell your friends about.
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