Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dreams and Ideas

Seeds of ideas can often be found in our subconscious.

When I was small, I remember having a dream journal, where I would write down what I dreamed of the night before so as not to forget. As I've gotten older, that earlier training allows me to remember at least the more notable ones. I no longer keep a journal, nor do I remember everything, but once in a while something just sticks with me.

Last night I dreamed I was a guest on a talk show, wearing my hot sauce pajamas. And I was trying to sew on the top of my head with an ivory needle, but couldn't find any thread. So I kept asking for thread between interview questions, while holding the top of my head in place.

I have no idea what it means, but I'm sure I can use some of that somewhere.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

There's only one thing more annoying than psuedo science

Sloppy sloppy writing. UGH.

I have just finished watching the only two seasons of Dead Like Me, which, being an absolutely brilliant, innovative and well-written show, was cancelled within a year. It's rare that a television show makes me even smile inwardly, let alone laugh out loud; even rarer where I feel for the characters at all. There's a genuine tear jerker episode near the end of season two.

After exhausting the entertainment of first round viewing of both this and The Dresden Files (not quite so brilliant, but then again, only a single season) I went on a brief search to find my next set of background noise.

(I tend to listen to t.v. shows while drawing on the computer or photo editing, listen to music while writing.)

Enter 'Fringe'. J.J. Abrams has gotten so much positive press that it's even reached the rock under which I live, no mean feat. Plus, the 'cover copy' as it were, implies that the show is more or less 'X-Files: Take 2', which I also enjoyed(at least the earlier seasons).

Not even close. Beyond some of the leaps of logic taken by the 'brilliant' scientist, beyond even some of the head-bleeding psuedo-science that (beyond making no sense) are shot off in such a way as to induce pure what the fuckery, beyond even alternately making the characters rogue geniuses in one scene and making them Too Stupid To Live in the next for sake of forwarding the plot...


I've watched one episode, and the beginning of another, and the stumbling is enough to pull me right out of the narrative and rant at my computer like a querulous old man.

To wit - a 14 year old boy is going on an (understandable) crime spree with the help of drug induced mind control powers. Fair enough. When the TSTL characters get into his computer, they find he's been searching 20 year old car wrecks, to see if his mother actually died in them, as he was told.

What-wait a second. 20 year old car wrecks? This woman somehow birthed a child SIX YEARS AFTER HER DEATH? Let's hear it for zombie ovum.

Next issue in the 'drove me bonkers' category - to stop the kid's mind powers, the genius scientist finds a toy from the MC's childhood, which emits a recording of a mother's heartbeat from the womb. This sound is suspected to nullify the kid's power - that part is fair enough. What drives me completely mad, is that over and over, the recording is referred to as 'white noise'.

That is NOT white noise. Not even a little. White noise is a signal with a flat power output within the auditory bandwidth, i.e. un-eq'd static. The very act of hearing the heart beat negates the sound EVER being white noise. If the character were half as clever as he were supposed to be, he'd know that.

There were plenty of other 'gimme a break' moments within the episode, but both of those could have easily been avoided by having a clue, or doing one second of research/proof reading.

Another throwaway bit - the business head of a huge tech firm is writing an email or letter at the end of the show to someone...on an APPLE II. Little green screen and everything. If the show were created in 1985, I could let it slide. I honestly couldn't tell you what she was writing or to whom if quizzed; I was far too busy ranting about the six inch monochrome screen.

Within two minutes of watching the next episode, I wanted to hit someone in the head, preferably whomever chose this prop...

So there's this alien observer dude, watching people in the park with folding opera glasses. They also sell these at sporting events; you can buy them online in a plastic version new, or with a bit of looking around, in a metal case used. They run between five and fifteen dollars in most cases.

A veteran comes up to alien dude, saying 'I've never seen something like those before.'

Alien dude replies. 'that's because they're from somewhere else.'

REALLY?? C'MON. Talk about insulting your audience. I find it hard to believe a vet with a white beard has never been to any sort of show or sporting event, watched enough movies, or seen enough things in passing to recognize something like that.

'From somewhere else'???? You mean the stadium down the street? Or maybe the concessions stand at the Met? I'm not sure who to blame for this one, but someone thinks the viewing public is mentally impaired.

Furthermore (and this might have made me the craziest) it's pretty easy to tell what someone is viewing by looking at the direction of their head. This guy is not bird watching. You're telling me that a veteran soldier isn't in any way suspicious of what some bizarre looking dude is watching?

As a whole, the performances themselves in this show are stellar, the editing is slick, and what caught my attention in the first episode I watched were the elegant supertitles - cool at first, but I see the gimmick wearing thin quickly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Research - House M.D

I think I've mentioned loving this show before. What boggles the mind, is that someone has done play by play reviews of all the medical information in EVERY SHOW.

Interestingly enough, they tend to get the weird stuff right, and flub the basics.

Useful terms defined: #1 Checkov's Gun

"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."
— Playwright Anton Chekhov (From S. Shchukin, Memoirs. 1911.)

Often confused with foreshadowing (which can be about practically anything) Checkov's Gun refers to specific items to which you call attention while writing. You can leave them alone for a bit, but be darn sure you use that element while it is at least a dim memory in the reader's mind.

In fantasy, this is the amulet that grants a power, the hithero useless sidekick that does something brilliant, etc.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Putting the work away for a while

I was cleaning up an older short I had written for submission, and much of my original perception of it had changed.

The dialog was far stronger than I remembered (go me!) and flowed believably and beautifully - what a thrill!

On the other hand, the descriptive and action passages clunked harder than an engine with no oil - right before it throws a rod, leaving you stranded on the side of the interstate at three a.m.

When I originally wrote this piece, I was under the mistaken impression that both aspects were decent, if not glowing. Surprise...

It's always a good idea to put that piece away for a little while after you write it. The good bits are never quite as good, and the bad never quite so horrid, as they first appear.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ophelia the Coffee Cup

I'm not normally one to name inanimate objects (other than '%&$^ thing I tripped over), particularly not coffee cups - which I lose with alarming regularity. Particularly when I've worked several eighteen hour days in a row...but that's another story for another time.

I have one coffee cup that I've never lost, for some reason. It was a freebie, from Willoughby's Coffee and Tea in New Haven, CT. It's been all over the country with me, and remained relatively unscathed until this past autumn.

While resting on a plinth near the production truck, it took it upon itself to take a suicidal dive into a nearby stream. I was not there to witness the events. One of my coworkers heroically fished the erstwhile travel mug from it's otherwise certain watery demise (my hero!). A bit of the lid broke off, and it bathed in mud and gravel, but was otherwise unscathed. And a bit of a scar adds character, no?

Another co-worker informed me of the adventure by telling me that the cup had changed it's name to Ophelia.

I used my mug as a puppet to quote Shakespeare for the rest of the week.

Things like that are why I love my job.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Baobob trees!

Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
As promised, some of the photos I took while on my California trip. I'm pretty happy with quite a few of them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Backstage at the Arm of the Sea

Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
I did a photoshoot for an educational puppet troupe! Too much fun. I'll have a couple more of these for my portfolio, and I shot almost 400 photos of two performances for them.

My favorite photo from this shoot

Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Harlequin puts on the Evil Clown Mask

Holy Moly, do interesting things ever happen when you're off doing something else!

I just popped into (onto?) some of my favorite writing forums and message boards, only to be confronted with the Harlequin Horizons thing.

What is this thing?

Romance giant Harlequin is putting out a new line, called Horizons. That itself odd (publishers run new lines all the time), but the details?

Harlequin has partnered with Author Solutions (that's vanity press AuthorHouse, guys) and this ENTIRE line is going to be pay to play.

Hoo Boy!

For only $1500, give or take, any writer can now say they've been published by Harlequin, regardless of whether that manuscript is publishable, or even functionally literate. (That's the beauty/horror of vanity presses, innit?)

Of course, these books will not be on the shelf at your local bookstore - like any other vanity printed manuscript, all sales are left up to the writer.

Which is a HUGE stain on Harlequin's reputation. Do they want to remain a legitimate publisher, or become yet another vanity press?

Update: Apparently the backlash was violent enough that HH changed it's name to DellArt press. Smart move guys - I bet the RWA would have had fits about a thousand vanity press writers claiming Harlequin publication!

For more conversations about the entire mess:

For the vanity site:

They also seem to have taken a cue from other vanity presses by using a name that could be confused with a standard publisher (Dell) which is still incredibly underhanded - but at least Harlequin gets to try and dust off its reputation.


Even the New Yorker got in on the scent of this rat:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving All!

My trip was awesome (seriously considering becoming a vagrant on Venice beach).

I went and saw Deadmou5 until 2am last night - he puts on an AMAZING show!

Pictures from the concert and trip coming soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Salvation (Army, that is!)

When looking for costumes and props on a low budget adventure, thrift stores are your best friend!

So far, we've found matching candle holders, stripper shoes, and various other errata to add that all important perceived value to the production. (More on that later!)

Now, for really specific items you'll have to do more digging and have more time than we currently have; but I swear, you can find ANYTHING in these places...

I wish I was home, so I could actually get that creepy wire dress form! Somehow, I doubt that shipping would make it a worthwhile purchase.

In any case, our next installment of this blog will discuss how to add that perceived value to your short film.

On a completely different note, finished and sent off another chapter of the novella - it's chugging along like a coal powered freight train, but getting there!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

There and back again, part 1 - preparing...

As the leave date for sunny California approaches, I find myself more and more excited - and more and more small details crop up that I've forgotten about.

Not the least of which is that, no matter how extensive your wardrobe may seem, after enough travel, you WILL run out of clean clothes. I was teetering on the edge of acceptable in Ohio, then took another short 'away' job immediately upon my return.

I am now on my last set of socks that doesn't smell like old vinegar. (Why do dirty socks smell like vinegar when you put them back on - or is it just me?)

I've run into some snags or hiccups while uploading files of footage for my documentary - for some reason, the camera and computer don't wish to communicate regarding the long files! Ugh. I'll try a card reader tonight or tomorrow, before I postpone the rest of this issue until I return.

I've transferred most of the 'literary' files onto my netbook, so I can pound out some drivel while on the traveling portions of all these trips.

Can I just say how much I love that little wonder? Ten inches, fits in any backpack, about two pounds, and the keyboard is close enough to a normal size to allow me to write on it! I did try the nine inch model previously - while even smaller and lighter, the Lilliputan keyboard left me typing like a drunken epileptic - jittery and slurring. Not so useful.

If all you need to do is check email and maybe jot a quick note, and space is imperative, go with the nine. If you need a bit more beef, deal with the extra inch and few more ounces; you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Updates and adventures!

Back from Ohio!!!!

I'm packing again today to leave for another super short shoot (that's some painful alliteration, right there...)

Other news:

The short that I gaffed won the Stella Ortois short film contest - it was pretty n stuff.

Psyched about shooting this next piece in California. Psyched about the warm weather. Not so wild about having to leave the day after I get home (again).

I did join up with NaNoWriMo again this year - I doubt if I'll get out 50k words in between all this other stuff, but gosh darn it, I'm going to try. Already off to a late start...

Sometimes I feel like that cartoon racehorse that's standing in the gate backwards. I miss hearing the gun go off, realize that everyone else has already left, and then have to take the time to turn around and get pointed in the right direction.

Remember that prioritizing stuff that I talked about way back at the beginning? I need to follow my own advice.

Right now, the focus is on getting paid work - the dry season is coming up, and I have to be a busy little chipmunk. That focus will shift when the work gets hard to find, and having that cushion allows me to focus on the writing and the personal photography rather than panicking so much about the bills.

Get your 'gottas' covered, and it makes that productive 'leisure' time much more useful - you don't have to worry about those bills in the back of your head the whole time.

Maybe I should find some part time something when I get back, so I can concentrate more on the personal stuff...


Thursday, October 29, 2009

OOOOhio, where the wind goes sweepin -wait, that's not it

Anyhow, we're a go for the B unit trip to Ohio.

Truck stops, car mounts, and TONS of driving.

Tally - ho!

I'll be away for a week or so, with updates upon my return.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I met Death...he plays the harmonica.

Right after this last feature wrapped (yay!), I figured it was time to get some footage for a documentary I've been dying to make.

So, in 16 hours, I contacted my subjects, booked a hotel, figured out the logistics, oiled my car, tried (and failed) to get better equipment than I own, and high tail it to Salem, Massachusets. The week before Halloween.

(Insert not the sharpest tool in the chest joke here.)

It was a circus/zoo/amusement park all rolled into one small New England town! I think everyone should experience it at least once, and I do want to go back earlier in the season to absorb some culture without being so overwhelmed.

Some of the highlights:

Death sitting on the street with his hat out, playing the harmonica. Tunes included Those Were The Days, Austin Powers, and other tv hits.

Armies of little witches in blinking hats. I believe the oldest of them was around eight. No doubt in their heads, they actually were flying on their little brooms and hazing the crowd.

Boiled bagels. This may not seem like a big thing to you, but to me, and actual boiled bagel with lox and cream cheese is just this side of Nirvana.

Getting to meet some of the new magicians - these guys were great! Stupendous! Totally awesome! And I'm really psyched about the show, the documentary, and life in general.

Soooo tired - I'm going to sleep until I have to leave again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's in a name? More than I thought...

I am the MASTER of making myself look like an idiot.

On this last shoot, I kept talking about a movie that I had done earlier that's doing it's festival run, and doing pretty well.

Not considering that many others had not heard of or been involved with the film, there was some cognitive confusion as I kept mentioning the film's title.

I wonder how many people thought I was implying something quite different every time I mentioned -

Friends With Benefits.

Oh god, save me from myself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Always read the directions...

I've been on a shoot in the cold and feeling under the weather, so decided to spring for some of those 'keep the colds away' pills.

So, I get back to the hotel room and call my mother after grocery shopping.

The pills look a little big (vitamin c - orange flavor) but I pop one anyway.

That's when the tablet starts fizzing in my mouth. A disconcerting sensation, to say the least. My conversation becomes muddled as I resemble a pet with rabies, and dig through the trash to find the box.

Apparently, these tablets are to be dropped in a glass of water rather than administered orally. Ooops.

I really have to start reading the directions when I'm tired.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae


Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae


Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae

New gig and pics (finally) up!

Hi guys!

I've been away on a couple of shoots with no to limited computer access - hoping to remedy that in a few weeks.

Honestly, not much going on via the writing end - production hours are brutal. I'm trying to force a few hundred words out a night, but I just end up falling asleep with a pen up my nose. (Yes, literally - as my head drops, I seem to have laser accuracy with my left nostril and the cap of the pen.)

I seem to have misplaced my little sketchbook as well, which stinks. More upset about my fat handled mechanical pencil with the squishy bit. Ah well, I expect it will turn up somewhere.

The new work boots I ordered arrived - alas, one size too large. Which amazes me - for being a very small animal, I have banana boat feet. So, I'll return them today and await the proper size.

Links to some fun pictures that I've taken available in the title of this post.

I'm also perusing netbooks - Asus looks like a winner right now. The desktop replacement unit that I already own is just not a practical traveler at 17" and almost 18 pounds. Yikes, right?

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I know I promised those pictures...I found my camera about an hour ago and am charging the battery as we speak. Yeah, I'm that person.

As a matter of fact, I just misplaced my ph-never mind, its in my lap. Yeah, totally that person.

While designing t-shirt for, I got to thinking that I'd like to try some more creative ones. Don't get me wrong, those tees are going to be totally awesome, snarky, and fun!

They're not pure art though - they're promotion. So I'm going to just play around with stuff and maybe post some designs that don't mean anything on Threadless.

Sometimes, art should just be art, and a t-shirt should just be cool.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another short...and some other things

I was A/C (Assistant Camera) on a great short for a PBS series this week - though the series isn't slated to air until next year.

I have pictures of that as well, coming soon.

Also, I'm pitching a series or two to a new company that's shooting pilots! Keep your fingers crossed.

I'll have more instructional blogs up next week.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Heat in the studio...


Got back from that indie film fun, will post pictures soon.

The art department did an amazing job on the set!

The studio was an oven - no a/c, closed windows (noise), and no fans, combined with big lights = over 110 degrees.

I'm shot.

We're cleaning up the last bits in the old house this week, and I'll put up the shoot pictures soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Doctor, Doctor, gimme the news...

I FINALLY went to a doctor who has an idea of what might be wrong with me!!!!

It's been rather difficult to concentrate on anything due to pain in the nether regions, and getting some focused attention has been a soap opera of ridiculous proportions, which I'll spare you.

Long story short, I ended up at a neurologist for a pain in my lower back/glutes/legs.

It's official: my brains are in my butt.

I'm now getting psyched and prepped for a feature shoot for the Venezuelan market - I'll be sure to take some pictures, so y'all can share that adventure. I've been informed that neither director speaks any English, and my Spanish is miserable, so it'll be...exciting.

Best, as always, on all of your adventures!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The new blog is going...and a hmmm.

Just got an email from a wonderful editor who has one of my poems, about another possible submission place.

It looks like a trip - speculative fiction with a Christian bent, anti-preachy. I'll have to think of something.

I'd do a word count, but the past few days have been too non-productive writing wise, and I'd just depress myself :).

Hope your adventures are more adventurous than mine, lately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Word count, and new blog.

Shoggoth is up to 20,400. Not a huge jump, but it's been that kind of week.

Crashed a party at a yacht club. The people were boring, but the food was good.

I started a blog/fiction about a vampire...a most unusual one.

For those of you who know me better, you might have heard about the whole dermatology adventure - turns out, I'm allergic to the sun. Didn't know you could do that. Many colorful jokes were made, of course.

Being the writerly type, it got me thinking - what if that is the first symptom of something else? I think that's the most important question a writer has in their arsenal, the one with the most potential.

So, here's the first entry:

(Its also a great excuse to check out different blog features.)

I hope you find Libby an engaging, fun, and human character. She'll probably be posting once a week or so. Let me know what you think. (The link is also in the title of this post.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Word Counts, and house updates #2

Shoggoth: 20,200

Thomas: still 10,000

New Fantasy: 1,000

We have internet!!! I was feeling a touch of withdrawl, though I think that I'll limit my on computer time from now on - it does seem to cut into my productivity, and aggrivate the insomnia. Dealing with the cable guy was an adventure all by itself.

I hadn't mentioned this before, but I had something nasty 'eating' at my face - redness, swelling, bumps that weren't anything I'd seen before. It really does mess with the self esteem. I went to the doctor...

Turns out that I actually am allergic to sunlight. After all those years of joking about it, the reality is just so peculiar.

The house still looks like fall out from a trash bomb. As one of my neighbors sagely said, 'Little at a time, little at a time.'

Hoping to have at least one of these rough drafts finished before October. We'll see.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Word Counts, and house updates

Shoggoth thingie: 18,000

Thomas: 10,000

As of today. I'm hoping with all you lovely people watching, I'll be motivated to keep those numbers climbing. I've a mountain of unstarted ideas, which I won't bother anyone with right now :)

Celebration! Due to all our hard work and insanity, the house is not only mouse poop free - but has electricity AND running water!!!! (I just can't explain what a thrill this is, seeing a house going from this grime encrusted shell full of garbage to a place that's starting to feel like a home.)

I'm starting to think the previous occupants were squirrels. Large, people shaped squirrels, gathering all manner of plastic bags, disposable cookware, and whatever else might have been scarce during a long, cold, nuclear winter. Every cabinet and cranny is a new archaeological dig!

We should be completely moved in soon now; at which point I will collapse in my brand new, glorious bedroom, sleep for a week straight, and begin the quest for furniture.

Right now, we bring with us one bookshelf, a bed, and an elderly dresser. Never had the space nor need for other things before, as they sort of appeared and disappeared with each domicile.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lawnmower Man :(

I worked a concert last night, got home around five a.m.

The Lawnmower Man showed up around seven. And rode his mower around the patch of grass outside my window for six hours.

Oh, Lawnmower Man, what is it you do?
Our lawn is small and ragged.
You ride for hours.
Perhaps our grass is sweeter, or colder,
or really is greener than the other lawns.

Perhaps you watched my car pull in,
to greed the delicate fingers of the waking dawn.
You saught to teach me a lesson
In the dangers of being out too late on a school night.
Not realizing that I go to night school.

Now I feel hung-over
but without the fun the night before.
This is not the first time
you have stolen my sleep.

Should I write you a note, perhaps,
or build a wall between us?
I've heard that fences improve
neighbor relations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Short Film Fun

Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
This is a photo that I took of a short movie about brothers, betrayal, and other cool 'B' words.

There's a whole set of em...

Monday, August 3, 2009

North Americans Don't Read?

That was an 'arguement' in one of the writing forums I frequent, as an explanation of why some poorly written books do well.

Non Sequiter much? Besides being not true?

Were that actually the case, there would be few bookstores, and certainly no large chains. The other 'basis' for this arguement were that people only read bestsellers, and they only read those to appear informed on whatever is popular at the time.

Purple monkey dishwasher??? (Simpsons reference)

Did it not occur to this person that the 'bestseller' label comes AFTER selling oodles of copies? So who were the tens of thousands who bought the book before it became popular? Couldn't have been all those non readers following trends.

Yes, some poorly written books have flash in the pan wild success. Some wonderful books languish in obscurity - but most often, those truly good books have something the others don't:

Staying power. They sit patiently on the shelves, in print year after year, growing followers and appreciation.

Which would I rather have?

I can't deny the attraction of insta-fame and money. Ideally, both. But what I'd honestly rather have, is a growing career. Well written books that trickle through society, staying in print for decades due to regular demand. Fans that will buy the next book, and the next one.

But that doesn't happen, because Americans don't read. Hear that, Umberto Eco? How about Peter S. Beagle? You guys CAN'T exist, those sturdy, eternally popular writers - because no one reads what they don't hear about on tv.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The house that we built (sorta)

The Significant Other and I are moving. Again (sigh). Hopefully, this will be the last one for quite a while (fingers crossed. Again.).

Unlike last year (told ya we've been doing this a lot), we have more than a single, frantic weekend in which to haul two packrats' lives worth of oddities. Also, unlike last year, the house had been abandoned by it's previous occupants, and left to the mercies of the elements.

Burst pipes, animal leavings, three year old food - as if the other family had merely stepped out for the afternoon, always intending to return after lunch, but had somehow forgotten the way back.

I particularly like the sugar maple that's trying to grow from the moulding on the picture window.

Each whimper is accompanied by a little thrill, though (we HAVE a picture window. Mold on the basement carpet...we have a basement!!! Kitchen cabinets full of mice - our own kitchen cabinets!)

It cuts into my writing and other useful things a great deal, including this little online diary adventure. Apologies for the random timing of the previous posts, and probably upcoming ones for the next few months.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Publishing takes FOREVER, don't panic.

I didn't exactly panic, but I'd given up on a submission - one of Shroud magazine's Arkham Tales anthologies - horror poetry in a Lovecraftian vein.

Since I wasn't too invested in the piece (I shot together the poem in fifteen minutes, specifically for that submission - thanks again to the kind person who made me aware of it in the first place) it was a bit easier not to obsessively check my email for updates.

I completely understand the compulsion - try not to do it. Forget about the submission, work on something else.

After not hearing for a month, I was a little disappointed. Shrug, and move on. About a week later, I got an email asking if I was willing to edit the poem structurally - the editor didn't seem to care for the quatrains, and wanted to break them into random pieces.

Personally, I felt that it weakened the piece - but at my stage in the game, I felt that being easy to work with and willing to compromise is important. You may feel differently, and that's fine. Artistic integrity is a funny thing, and the line for each person is different.

What I did, was break the poem up three or four different ways, mentioned how it seemed to weaken the rhyming and the rhythm, and said I'd love to see how he (the editor) saw it being broken up, because I couldn't see how it would work.

Then I spent a few days worrying about being presumptuous, obsessively refreshing my email, and hoping that I hadn't inadvertently pissed someone off.

Two more months go by. I figure I must have annoyed someone, get a little down, and forget about it for a while. (Where else would I be able to submit a poem so specific?)

Then, I get an email informing me that I've made the first round of cuts, the editor is going on vacation, and will be in touch in September.

WOOHOOO!!!!! (For those who don't know, Shroud is a pro-rate paying publication, and counts toward membership in the Horror Writers of America.)

And more waiting, but I feel better about it now.

Look at it this way - four or five months of waiting, just to this point. Publishing takes an eternity, so don't sweat it, and keep working on something else, or you'll drive yourself nuts with the wait.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Beating the slushpile? Not so much

All those 'change the face of publishing' sites that offer to 'show your work to real publishers'?

I've been hearing about Authonomy ad nauseum lately, so I decided to do a little homework.

Click the title for the not so exciting reality.

There is no way to 'beat the system'. This type of thinking is what vanity presses live for. Now do your homework, write well, and remember that there are no shortcuts. Ever.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wisdom can Stink

This is a story from my dear significant other:

The company he works for has branches all over the world, which is nifty. The Japanese branch, as a gesture of magnamity and goodwill sent a gift to his local branch - a set of trees purported to encourage wisdom and creative growth.

During the late spring and summer, for whatever reason, these trees give off a pungent aroma of stale urine. Since the company wishes to remain diplomatic (and I'm sure, not pay for the removal of said trees), they remain planted along a walk that the employees all rush past on their various errands.

Conclusion #1: Wisdom smells like pee.

After reflecting for a moment, I had a thought: what better way to try and increase productivity than keeping dawdling to a minimum? Rather than using an iron fist or other crushing tactics, why not use a visually pleasant, subtle deterrent. (The trees are quite pretty to look at.)

Conclusion #2: Someone is much smarter than we give them credit for.

So my thoughts on wisdom - there are subtler ways to get what you want, even if people might think you stink.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Updates, and thoughts on non-fiction writing

Moving forward, slowly but surely, on the cleaning and repair of the new house. There's enough space to set up a small photo studio, which I'm really excited about. (Once that happens, the photo blog may be big enough to be it's own thing - we'll see.)

I started writing a few film making articles here and there, now exclusively hosted on filmmaker IQ; and I wanted to talk a little bit about writing non-fiction.

Part of it is a whole lot easier - there's only development of one character (me, sorta) and I don't have to pull a plot out of thin air, which is a lot of mental exersize easier.

Yet there still has to be a clear thread from point a to point b - an article with no path makes no sense. What I basically do, is pick a topic and figure out how to attack the subject from there. I write how-to's, so they tend to be a low budget idea from concept through execution.

Not to say that its one article on the entire art of making a film - that would be a book. So part of it is figuring out how to keep these articles a 'friendly' size for the web. Tone is also important.

Were I writing for a print outlet, I'm sure my writing style would be more formal, maybe a touch more complex. I'm writing these primarily for new filmmakers, who tend to be younger, and a web audience - so I want to keep things simple, interesting, and moving fast.

I'm also trying to build a 'character' of them. Gimmicky? Probably. But it helps me figure out the tone that I want for these, plus building a web presence of this particular person - who, while also me, can be built up in the head of a reader as someone in particular, while maintaining my personal privacy.

I've a new one coming up, so let me know how I'm doing.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

WHY people 'hate' Manga...

They don't. There are just a whole lot of very new artists trying to draw their favorite characters - who trace and draw poorly.

And there's little more frustrating than spending time critiquing a work, only to have some twit come back with 'It's ma STYLE, and u jus don't UNDERSTAND'.

Yes, we do understand. Understand that without the basic skills, everything you do will be weak. Great anime and manga artists understand and use - anatomy, composition, vanishing points, etc.

There's no point to trying to stylize something, if you don't understand how it works in the first place. You don't HAVE a style yet - 'bad' is not a style.

Each person's personal style develops over time - no two mark - making methods are the same.

The best place online that I've found to learn about art:

From a plethora of artists to share experiences with, tutorials, workshops, competitions - places like this are great for getting your draw on.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Writing Comics!

I haven't tried to write a comic/graphic novel script for someone else, yet. The format is COMPLETELY different than every other type of writing, and honestly, I'm not yet up for learning yet another format well.

Here are a few links to guidelines, for those that are interested:

As you can see, they're sort of an entity unto themselves. Each panel is described in terms of character, place and action, with dialogue as needed. Since I like to draw, I may do one of these myself and post the sorry example if we're interested in persuing this further.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Writing a novel is like... birth to a herd of elephants. Seriously.

It takes forever, can be painful, it's huge, and if you aren't careful, there can be a big mess toward the end of it.

When you're done, you send your elephants out into the world, hoping to see them again at some point. You think about your pretty elephants (the stuff you're proud of), worry about your mutant elephants (the mistakes that you never notice until AFTER sending the damn thing out), and hope neither of them spreads so much poo that no one wants to play with your elephants anymore.

The gestation period is somewhere around forever. One elephant is about two years - but you're carrying a litter!

They're impossible to ignore. I mean, you have a bunch of elephants gestating inside you - it's kinda distracting. No matter what else you're doing or working on, your thoughts keep coming back to those elephants.

I had more to say, but one of my elephants just kicked. Let me know how your elephants are treating you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We don't need no stinking rehearsals...

Did audio/props for a show last night that I'd never seen before, was rather fast paced, and WE HAD NO REHEARSAL. Yi.

It went well. I'm relieved.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Where'd my other posts go? Gah.

I think this site had some hiccups, a few of my recent blogs have dissappeared. All right lovelies, when I can remember what on earth I was talking about, I'll re write them and have more silly posts for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How I started my own writing group

There are great online forums all over the web, where you can chat with fellow writers, get feedback, and meet people with shared interests.

My personal favorite is

I've gotten a lot out of them, and they're great, but sometimes it's nice to commiserate in person, see the physical responses of people reading your work, and of course, get the $&%^ out of the house once in a while.

To that end, I figured I try and start a lil writing group in my area. There are already existing ones, but the happy, fluffy clouds and bunnies 'all writing is good and we welcome everything' love fest isn't all that useful to me.

Rather than trying to call everyone I thought might be interested, I put out an update on facebook, to see who might be interested. (Pre figuring that a third of those who expressed interest would actually show up).

Then, I picked a time and place. I asked about people's schedules, made an educated guess about who would actually show, and picked the location and hour based on that.

Three people showed up, which worked fairly well. I hope to expand the group, but for a first meeting, having more than one person appear was more than I honestly expected. And the enthusiasm more than made up for it - people appeared with shiny new notebooks and pens!

I asked about peoples' goals (after sending an email informing them to think about it). No one seems particularly sure, beyond 'I want to write'. That's okay.

It was very relaxed and silly, and I've given my first assignment. We'll see how that progresses next week.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Whaddya mean you want a title?

I've spent the last two weeks battling my printer to try and get acceptable photos. ('Good' went flying out the window at the end of week one.)

Managed four that didn't totally suck, framed them as well as I could with a limited tool set, and toddled off to the gallery with my only mildly deformed babies.

Once delivered, I thought the whole thing would be over. Oho, no. I have to NAME them, as well as price them. (Trying to put a monetary value on your work is hard enough...) After spending far too much time considering Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3, and Thing 4; I made up some stuff and figured no one really cares anyway. Which is not actually true, but I was caught off guard, and needed to make myself feel better.

I wandered around the gallery for a while, writhing with doubts.

Three people came in and tried to buy two of my prints while they were sitting on the counter. The show itself isn't until this coming Saturday.

Maybe they don't look as bad as I think they do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm being interviewed for a book...

How strange is that?

I don't really know much about it - the writer is interviewing 'creative people' for a non fiction work about creativity.

What the heck, right? Can't hurt me (famous last words). More than a little strange, as I'm nobody special - not famous(maybe a little infamous in my personal social circle), haven't done anything amazing(yet), and am generally as anonymous as any other online entity.

Anyhow, I'm trying to be a self promotion whore, so I said yes. I'll let ya know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Literal Video 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'

The 1980's was a strange time for everything, but the heyday of the music video involved a cornucopia of big budget, surrealist short films.  Bliss.

They didn't HAVE to make sense, they just had to look cool.  Watching some of them (most of them) now, I think we have to breathe a collective sigh of 'WTF?'.

Now their time has come again.  Not so much a revival, but a previously untapped comedy goldmine.

I had nothing to do with the original version of this video, nor its new life, I just think it's hilarious and brightened my day today.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Crushes on imaginary people - I have tons.

A friend of mine is in love with Edward (for my thoughts on Twilight, see previous posts).

As the eyerolling commenced, she wanted to know what was the problem with having a crush on an imaginary character? Essentially, it's harmless fantasy, as long as you don't end up with unrealistic expectations of real people.

Absolutely. My issue was taking up an imaginary affair with a character that has no personality, no flair. He's described as 'perfect', and that's about it. How much duller can you get?

I got through a rather stormy break up by having a wild fling with Fox Mulder, and moving on to Jon-Luc Picard.

My current imaginary boyfriends are: Spider Callahan (Transmetropolitan:Comic), and Alan Shore (Boston Legal:TV series).

So I like bad boys. Witty, sarcastic bad boys who use their mental prowess to dance verbal circles around their opponents, as well as gain what little ground they can for the common man.

For the record, I've been personally compared to Gregory House. (Hadn't seen the show until a film cast started calling me 'House' - at which point, I had to see what they were talking about.) They were right, I do see the similarities. So much, in fact, that it would never work. Sorry Dr. House, we're just too much alike.

Friday, June 5, 2009

playing with photo montages

window freaky3 copy
Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
Effects are cool :)

This is one of those situations where it's impossible to get what you want with one shot - the interior of the space was very dark, and it was a really sunny day.  So either the windows were blown completely out, and you could see wood, or you could see through the windows and the interior is completely dark.

A photographer has a number of ways to solve something like this, depending upon the number and type of toys at their disposal.

One way would be to have an external flash inside the barn,
and set exposure for the scene outside the windows.

I don't have one of those.

Another way could be to set up on a tripod and take multiple shots HDR style, that will meld seamlessly together.

Didn't have that, either.

While I'm generally a minimalist, I wasn't there to take pictures - I was at this location to do lighting for a commercial, not run around with my still camera, so no tripod.

I couldn't get the idea out of my head though.

So I took a couple of handheld shots at different exposures and mashed them together to the best of my abilities.

(I don't recommend this method if you have a better option, and I'll spare you the number of hours and explecitives it took to get those %&$^ window frames to line up from different angles.)

Considering the lack of forethought on my part, the final product isn't so bad.

The Life and Times of the Nauga

This is just so much awesome I can barely take it!

For those of you who may not know, Naugahyde is this durable plastic leather substitute.  Apparently when the stuff was first marketed, there were protesters right and left regarding the animal rights of the suddenly endagered 'Nauga'.

In response, the company assured these rocket scientists that Naugas shed their hides, and no animal is hurt in the creation of the material.

Someone realized that there was an untapped goldmine in there.  So a very clever writer has come up with the complete history and lifestyle of the average Nauga - and you can purchase your very own on the official Naugahyde webpage!

I'm amazed every day, both at some people's stupidity and others' innovation.  We as a species are truly the most brilliant, most cretinous of creatures; all at the same time.  The ultimate paradox.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Goals for the next five days...

I haven't done one of these in a while, and knowing that someone outside of my head is watching helps (thank you in advance!).

1. Print and frame photos for gallery show.

2. Five pages on the treatment/note mess for the thriller.

3. Pack up sweaters that I won't need for the next four months for the move.

4. Outline one short story.

I can be an obsessive list maker, and have been known to put too many things on my lists - many too many things.  Again, that's one of my setups for failure.  I try to overschedule myself, end up behind, and then wind up frusterated; often giving up the whole enterprise as a wash.

What do you guys do to keep your immediate goals realistic?

More Twilight Hilarity - from

I always loved Mad Magazine and Cracked when I was a kid.  My Mom, on the other hand, found such things to be wildly innapropriate, along with PeeWee's Playhouse, MTV, R-rated movies, and soda.  (I didn't get my hands on any of the good stuff until I was pretty much out of the house.)

So, as soon as I got out of the house, I lived on a steady diet of horror movies and strange magazines.  The combination of natural proclivity toward odd, camp and trash, combined with a steady diet of the literary, has made my tastes rather odd.

After years of spending my hard earned cash on such pleasures, I was horrified to find that my favorite magazines were becoming more and more difficult to find.

Imagine my pleasure when I discovered Cracked is not only alive and well, but living on the 'net! And snarky as ever.

To celebrate this discovery, here is Cracked's version of the Twilight screenplay - ten times shorter, and 100 times more honest.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The New Look - Yay or Nay?

I've had a couple of blog statements to the effect, 'like the content, the look sucks giant monkey $&%^'.  (Well, not in those terms because most people are infinitely more pleasant than I am, but the idea is the same.)

So I'm messing around with the template - I can muck up the colors and backgrounds to my heart's content, but this one seems the second least offensive of the plug n' plays. (The first, IMO, being the basic black.)

So, it's up for a vote.  You guys are the ones (hopefully) reading, so you get to choose.

Science Fiction Writer's of America - goldmine of information

Besides being an incredible organization of talented writers, the SFWA website hosts a TON of great articles about writing - from the absolute basics, workshop talks, getting an agent, marketing, productivity - you name it.

Read them.  It'll be the best couple of hours of valuable information that you never paid for.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One of the secrets to writing... learning.

Read more than you write.  Read outside of your chosen genre.  Read how-to books.  Try everything.  Absorb what works, discard the rest.

And always take advantage of the information available to you.  The internet is an amazing tool, and experts are always happy to share what they've learned.

In the video linked above, three successful horror screenwriters talk shop and answer questions.  You can view the whole session for free.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How come THEY got published??

Everybody(well, every writing body) goes through that moment:

You pick up a copy of the thing everyone is raving about. A few pages in, you want to hurl the book against the wall in sheer frustration - it's bad. REALLY bad. Head crushing, vomit inducing, mind numbingly BAD. Not long after that, you want to cry, because this thing got published. Then you go through the emotional get depressed, get mad, incredulous...finally accepting that bad books can, and do, get published.

Below are just my own thoughts - to my knowledge, no in depth study has ever been done about any of these.

There seem to be basically three things that will have a less than stellar book on the market.  

The first is a writer with a huge following, that's now pumping out books that aren't as great. It happens, but that first couple of manuscripts still had to be great.

The second, is that there's some aspect of the work that's so strong, it overshadows a lot of the problems. I'd put Dan Brown in this camp. Hated his sentence structure, oversimplifications, weak characterizations, and flagrant disregard for facts and history. But damn - I had to know what was going to happen next. That's what I'd call a weak writer and a great storyteller. And the simplicity of the prose helped keep the pace fast, though I still wish he'd thought a little more highly of his audience.  

The third, is filling an empty niche. I'd put twilight here. Every eight to ten years, there's a new, hot vampire hero for the latest group of teen girls to swoon over (am I the only one who noticed that?).

Maybe even less time.  

When I was a small bit, there was a tv show called Forever Knight. Horribly cheesy. Had the fan base from Beauty and the Beast (another tragic male lead). Though Lestat was around before then, he caught on big in the early 90's, replacing Mr. Knight. After Lestat, came Angel, and then Spike. 

Now those two are still running around, but the bloom is quite off the rose, particularly for girls who don't want to like what their older siblings did - and want something new. 

Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton have been about for a while, but those (especially Hamilton) are not written for a teen audience - unlike Buffy, where teens were the primary target, or Knight, who had more of a Barnabas thing going on, and sex was implied rather than implicit. 

I noticed one other vamp series aimed at kids, but it glosses over the romance aspect.

So there's this fresh generation of newly hormonal tweens, starving for their slightly dangerous, oh so sexy, bad boy with a heart of gold. Enter the ultimate wish fulfillment character, with the ultimate self insert blank slate. Had another teeny bopper bloodsucking hunk hit paper first, that would have been the hot thing instead.

What does all this mean to you? Besides that some luck can be quantified when analyzed far enough, not much. Keep working to write the best book you can, because it's better to rely on strong writing than good timing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beatrix Potter? What are you smokin' - self publishing Myth #4

bOne of the things that drives me completely batty about these...

Have you noticed that most of these stories, even while untrue, are from OVER A HUNDRED years ago, when the publishing industry was very different?

There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which was the Victorian sensibility.  People were much more easily shocked and offended.  Take that into consideration, and it's not quite so hard to figure out why Delta of Venus had trouble finding a home.

Now, stop to consider what distribution channels must have been like.  There were very few (relatively) national presses, and most companies focused on a local market.  If a writer lived in your home town, it wouldn't be odd to see them hawking their own book.

Different times, different standards.

On to the creator of another beloved children's series:  Peter Rabbit.

Wanna know why publishers originally turned the series down?

Color pictures, particularly in children's books, were very popular at the time, and Peter Rabbit's drawings were in black and white.  Not the writing, not the stories themselves - a hot marketing feature was missing.  Potter re-created her drawings as color plates, produced 250 copies, and distributed those amongst her loved ones.

After seeing the new images, Frederick and Wayne Company signed the first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor's Garden, in 1902.  By the end of the year, 28,000 copies were in print.  Not too shabby, eh?

Beatrix went on to become a full time writer and illustrator of children's books.

This tale is more telling in terms of 'give the publisher what they want' than any self pub stardom - notice there was no wide release until AFTER she signed.  And had the illustrations been in color in the first place...

Potter didn't become a household name by self publishing; she did it by both having the talent, and giving the publisher what they wanted in the first place.


Mark Twain not so ahead, Self Publishing Myth #3

This has to be one of the stupider ones used for ‘proof’ – because Clemens lived in a time where it wasn’t all that odd for the writer to carry the expense, but he still almost went bankrupt.

 Samuel Clemens became a printer’s apprentice when he was 12, a year after his father died.  In 1851, he started doing typesetting and contributing articles and sketches to The Hannibal Journal, his brother’s newspaper.

 At 22, he returned to Mississippi, studying to become a riverboat captain, a position which he kept until 1861.

 Twain’s first notable work(so far-as new things come up from time to time), The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was published in the New York Saturday Press.  Not long after, he was commissioned by the Sacramento Union to write letters about his travels.

There’s a lot more, as Twain was an extremely prolific writer, and I can’t get into all of it in the space of a blog, so we’ll move on to the first of his most well known works.

 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was first published in England by Chatto and Windus, then picked up for US release by American Publishing Company in 1876.  (Innocents Abroad, a travelogue about the Holy Land, was already wildly popular – not only as periodical articles, but as a bound feature – Twain was already well established when he forayed into the land of full length fiction..) 


Hmmm. No self publishing here…


His very first book, The Gilded Age, was a collaboration between himself and Charles Dudley Warner.  Also printed by American Publishing Company in 1873, it met many lukewarm reviews, mostly due to the two halves of the book not meshing well.


No self publishing there, either.


Twain loved technology, and part of the goal for starting his own publishing company was to revolutionize the printing press. He started his own publishing company with his nephew. Called the Charles L. Webster Publishing Company, who’s first printed book was…

 A two volume set of memoirs by Robert E. Lee.

The Huckleberry Finn debate: did Twain’s own company publish the book, or not?  The story seems to go as such:  After a falling out with the American Publishing Company, Twain attempted to publish Huck Finn through his own company, where it (like most of the other works he published) was a whispering flop. 

Unlike most of the self publishing stories, Twain was trying to run his own publishing company, printing far more than his own work.  He nearly went bankrupt as a result, and the company failed completely in 1894.


The complete list of books published through this company can be found here:


It seems pretty clear that Twain’s goal was to become a publisher, not specifically to self publish.  Plus, he had literally hundreds of works under his belt before moving in this direction.  Not too many casual observers even know that he had his own company.


Myth Busted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crimes of exaggeration - Self Publishing Myth Debunked #2

Love him or not, chances are you've heard of John Grisham.

He was a criminal lawyer, who became inspired to write thrillers, often loosely based on the cases he worked.  Cool.

He's something of a legend in terms of success, selling his first novel from the trunk of his car, rocketing to Hollywood stardom, reserving spots on the bestseller list.

As usual, the best lies about self publishing have a kernel of truth: Grisham did sell a number of his own books from the trunk of his car - that bit is true.

What those 'self publishing success' lists fail to mention, is that the book wasn't self published.

Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was published by Wynwood Press, a regional publisher, in 1988 - after shopping it around for a year.  The initial run was a relatively modest 5,000 copies. Like many books, the entire print run didn't sell.  But it was professionally edited, vetted, polished, and distributed.

Unlike most writers, Grisham could afford to buy the remaindered copies and sell them himself. Unlike clueless self and vanity publishers, he had a direct line to those people who would be interested in crime fiction - namely other lawyers, judges, law enforcement officials - y'know, the people he saw every day.

He also kept writing like mad.  His next novel, The Firm, was purchased by Bantam/Doubleday and went on to be a bestseller in 1991.  That's what got Hollywood's attention.

The first film made from his books was actually the unknown (at the time) A Time to Kill, and was produced in 1993.

No denying that it was a combination of luck and writing prowess that lifted him into household name territory - but self publishing had nothing at all to do with it.  Nothing.

Not so over the rainbow - Self Publishing Success Myth Busted #1

Ok, nothing seems to get to me lately quite like these self publishing success MYTHS. They get spread around like rotting fish jelly to mire the starry eyed, and stink just as badly.

They're bad for the expectations of new writers who jump into this route, mistakenly believing that fame and fortune is simply a matter of time.

These myths sport various ranges of misinformation, exaggeration, and just plain fabrication - and are spouted right and left by both clueless writers and scam publishers.

The first one I'm going to tackle is extremely short and sweet, and features one of my favorite childhood writers: L. Frank Baum.

Originally, he was a newspaper writer; going on to write Mother Goose in Prose, Father Goose: His Book, and my favorite as a small child - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Baum's first book, Mother Goose, was published in 1897 by Way and Williams.

The Wizard of Oz and the subsequent 13 books in the Oz series were published by the George M. Hill Company of Chicago.

Now, the chorus of self publishing will caw and squeal about how Baum self published.  While technically true, none of the enchanting children's books that he is known and loved for were part of that project.

Nor were any of the numerous short stories, nor the writing he sold under a pen name.

L. Frank Baum did self publish - a pamphlet about chicken farming.

Not quite so exciting now, is it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

factNOtum - do your $&%^$ research!

Face it - for every work of genius that gets looked over, there are five million that DESERVE the slush pile.

If I am not your friend, do not inundate my spaces with miserable 'poetry', 'rants', or any other scum deluging from your unpracticed fingers.

I am so sick of 'aspiring writers' who have not taken the time to study the craft.  That firmly believe every slimy bit of doggerel they put on paper is a work of misunderstood genius.

Yes I am published. No, I never had to pay for it. Yes I get paid for it.  

If something doesn't 'click' for me, is it crap? Not indescriminately.  But I've been getting so much that is total garbage to make my head spin.  If it's honest to goodness crap, I will say so(usually in a more pleasant manner). Do not write me back to say that I just don't understand because I've never been there.  It's your job to put me there. *pant pant* And you have no idea what my life has been like anyway.

Please spellcheck your stories.  I spellcheck blogs, you have no excuse. Learn some words. Read the damn dictionary if you must. Learn how to USE the words you know.  Please know the basics of the area you're writing about.  The empire state building is not in Albany.  Nor is the Egg in NYC.  These are major landmarks, and people DO care.  There is not much skiing going on in Virginia in June.

Do some research.  If the killer is using a tommy gun, it's very unlikely a silencer would be used, nor are the chances of being unnoticed very good. Same goes with a colt 45. Yes these are fun distinctive weapons. No, an assasin would not have them.  Nor would the average person be able to hide a claymore under his jacket. (Claymore is basically gaelic for 'big sword'.)  These things tend to be a minimum of five feet long.

It goes on.  A stiletto is a slim dagger with two or three edges traditionally thought of as personal protection or assasination.  It is not another word for switchblade.  One implies elegance that a street thug probably does not posess.

Upstate New York is neither the suburbs, nor Alaska.  Small towns CAN be intellectual.  Not all city people are vapid hustlers(there's a great contradiction right there).

I'm sure there will be more.

Agh, my eyes! How NOT to write a screenplay

I just got sent a short script that is a nightmare.  Sparing y'all the pain of slogging through this mess, here are a few tips.

WRITE IN THE PRESENT TENSE.  Whatever is going on, even in flashback, happens right in front of your audience.

If a character's 'eyes well with sympathy' chances are he's not going to throw the other guy to the ground yelling 'What the hell are you doing you basted!'.  And it's bastard. Unless you are covering the stewing character in his own juices to make a tasty roast.  Which could be interesting....

An upper crust exec would probably not wax poetic about how his lost love 'hypnotized him with obsession, created a love beyond ages'.  This is the over poetic hype of an angsty, psudo artsy college student.  If that's your guy, fine.  Otherwise, the leave the antequated prose to Yeats and Poe.  It lacks authenticity.

Vietnam vets will rarely just sit down and say that thier experiences were anything like yours.  Especially to a stranger.  If you are lucky to find one of these back porch story tellers, the level of detail in the storytelling will be amazing. not 'I lost a lot of people in 'nam, it get's easier'.  Sheesh.  If you have no idea what went on, or have never spoken to a veteran, don't put that there.  It makes you sound like an idiot.  And the vagueness of the statement in this script will merely confuse the viewer.

NARRATION.  There have been great films that use it.  Probably not yours. Especially when the narrator is talking about exactly what's happening in your frame. REDUNDANT. The whole medium is 'show'.  If your audience can't tell what's going on by the action, or the narration doesn't take us farther into the character's head, lose it.  Remember fight club? The narration brought us deeper into the character's mind, enhancing the relationship with the viewer.  It was not there to tell us 'so and so was on his way home from work when....' If you can't show that, you have no business directing.

I'm sure I will be subjected to many more miserable scripts before even the end of the year.  If anyone has a specific question, feel free to shoot.

’But my character is so COOL...’

...and your writing still sucks.

One of the things that I've started noticing in aspiring fantasy writers is that, rather than working on the craft of writing, they're convinced that if the idea is cool enough, the story will be cool.

Not so much.

Please, please, no more vampires, werewolves, vampire/werewolf/elf/ninja/pirates(yep, I actually saw one of those).  Tortured souls in the rain seems to be popular as well - except these 'dark silouhettes' always seem to be 'bourne upon the wind'  on high 'spires' while 'lurking in drenched pain heart-rivers'(if you can find a more obtuse and poorly worded way of saying 'standing outside like a dumbass on the highest point in a thunderstorm', let me know).

I have a thought for you: Stephen King.

While the most successful horror writer of our time has touched upon all sorts of otherworldly beasties, his main characters tend to be very everyday folks.

Yet somehow, these 12 year old kids, small town cops, struggling writers, etc, are some of the strongest characters in modern literature(yes, I consider King to be literature).


They're real.  They are fully formed, well rounded people, with strengths, weaknesses, fears, joys, histories, and above all: WRITTEN WELL.  Some of his bit players, I wouldn't be suprised to see pop up on a small town street to say 'Ayuh'.

If all it took were 'cool' characters, every piece of eye bleeding, giggle inducing, or just plain painful fanfiction based on a masterpiece would be on the bestseller list.  Yet every bit of it I've suffered through has been unreadable.

Because these people never bothered learning how to write - so the characters they love so much have been rendered flat and dull, lacking even the vibrancy of a child's crayon drawing.

Please, please, stop.  I beg you.  Stop slaughtering the characters you love, stop making a mockery of those supernatural creatures you adore so much. Unless its for spoof purposes.

I think I'm going to write about a vampire elf pirate ninja werewolf just for silliness factor.  Heh.

No more, I beg you - plots/characters done to death

About a week, and a few hundred screenplay reviews later, I have ever increasing respect for the work it takes to finish one, as well as my own writing skills. Then again, as a contest, I wasn't necessarily skimming through the cream of the writing world.

So this blog is about things that will have you tossed in a heartbeat(or have a reader who is paid to read and critique the whole script banging their head against a wall).

Watch out for genre. If you're a stellar, original writer, you'll be able to take any premise and turn it on it's ear. This is actually harder than it sounds. There were a couple of scripts that were written pretty well, but everything in them was such old hat, that it felt like I was reading a couple of other movies mashed together, down to 'this scene was from x, and that one was from y'.

And everyone's favorite plotlines:

1. The absolute most common one involved a writer with a problem, talking to a character in their mind or God. Whether this other character was a disembodied voice, object, therapist, whatever, this other character's sole purpose seemed to be either to taunt the protagonist with 'clever'(read, the writer found it clever, just like the other 6,000 writers) dime store existentialism, or to feed the protagonist lines in order for the main character to spout the same dogma.

If your character or your 'voice' really has something interesting or unique to say, it could work - don't bank on it. The one thing that each of these scripts had in common(the actual storylines varied greatly) was that it looked like a mental masturbation session. Each writer plodded through the tired themes and eye rolling 'revelations', wallowing in their own perceived cleverness until I wanted to bash my head through the monitor. I'm sure every one of them genuinely thought they had something fresh and innovative to say - at least 40% of the scripts I read featured the same themes, addressed in exactly the same narssisistic fashion.

Oh, and each of the writers(characters) in these screenplays were either struggling drunks, or wildly successful. Please, please, keep your personal fantasies or angst out of the characters, unless you're sure you really can hit new ground.

2. The Chosen One.

I'm not sure whether to blame Bruce Almighty or The Matrix for this. The reluctant hero is chosen by some higher force to either deliver a message or save the world. So what did the two movies mentioned above have in common? They took this storyline and presented it in a new and innovative way. That does not mean that you can rip from either of these and be new, now its been done before. So your small town hero/messenger/Messiah damn well better be different, or have something new to say. And please, please, let the 'evil' character be something exciting. After wading through all of these evil, hot women trying to seduce the protagonist, I was dying to see an old fashioned demon. Or something with horns. Which leads us to -

3. Demonic Temptation.

Old hat, but a sure one. Everyone loves that whole cosmic good vs. evil deal. There's nothing even wrong with your character wanting fame/fortune/sex - classic desires. But again, the presentation HAS to be fresh! What makes your protagonist different than the hundreds before, who have had the same desires, only to reach a point of enlightenment about 60 pages in, to realize they were better off before?

4. Da Mob

I like a good Mafia movie, I really do. What I don't want to see is, however well written, a rehash of every Scorsese movie ever made, to the point that I can pick out each scene, and the movie it came from. Accents are tricky to write well. If you don't have the chops for it, readin' sometin' dat look like dis or worse is tough to get through, stilts the script itself, and does nothing for the sense of character. Say the person has a Brooklyn or Bronx accent, then let it go.

5. 'Action' scripts with no action!

This is more of a writing thing than a story thing, but a heavy dialogue 'action' script where fight scenes equal 'they fight'??? C'mon, you weren't even trying with that one.

On to the writing/character things that drove me nuts:

1. Stupid characters.

I'm not talking about writing a character with Down's here, I'm talking about just plain stupid. Heads of state that don't know their pronouns. 'Brilliant' scientists that don't know the formal name for their own specialty. 'Genius' villains that are no smarter than the average teenager, with an attempt to make them look smarter by making every other character sound like a grade school dropout. 

This can be used as a technique for parody, such as in Idiocracy - where US culture looked down on being smart for so many generations, the brains were just bred out of people. Almost every character was a complete idiot, but for a reason. 

Otherwise, if you can't write 'smart' characters, don't. If you want a criminal mastermind, please don't make every other character stupid. Being average in a script full of idiots is like winning the grand prize at It's just weak writing. Think of some great criminals - Hannibal Lecter, for instance. He didn't escape because the guards were stupid; he escaped because he was just that much smarter. Die Hard - how boring would that have been if the criminals had been dumb? It was gripping because John McClane was just a touch smarter, more resourceful, than the believable international criminals.

I cannot emphasize enough how dull, bland, flat out LAME it is to see a script with an incredibly simple 'puzzle' or 'twist' and have the characters puzzling over it, when the average eight year old would be yelling 'It's x dumbass!!'

Thrillers, action scripts, and horror movies seem to be most guilty of this.

2. The not so secret 'secret' symbol or clue

How hard is it to come up with an original or obscure symbol for the characters to puzzle over? Helpful hints: neither the Eye of Horus nor an Ankh is mysterious enough for a group of teens to be flummoxed by, let alone a group of scientists.
If you're not clear on the symbol, trust that a concept artist will be able to come up with something suitably cool.

3. Poorly explained away 'science'

Often, in something with sci - fi overtones, there will be a technology that does something impossible. A lot of the time, if that machine is not the central object in the story, the audience won't really care how it works, such as Eternal Sunshine or The Prestige. Those bits of tech were never really explained, but within each respective world, they were buyable, accepted, and the story went on. Give enough hints as to how your tech works to make it believable, and move on. Or don't address it at all. Please, don't mangle current scientific concepts, or have a character say something to the effect 'you wouldn't understand' when another character asks. Either one is obnoxious.

4. Opening with a dream, or worse - the whole thing was just a dream

The first is not always a deal breaker, the second, almost completely. I'm not sure what more to say about this. The reason being, that the viewer/reader becomes invested in the characters as they are presented, only to have to start over again after the dream 'ends'. How annoying is that?

The exception comes when that opening scene is over the top in some way, either visuals(shimmering landscapes, morphing cars) or premise(a song and dance number on the moon, a 12 year old leading a guerilla militia) that's no more than two pages long. Long enough to understand why this dream is happening, short enough that the viewer isn't annoyed about being drawn into a storyline, only to have to start over.

The whole thing was a dream just never works, here's why. The payoff will never be enough to have sat through over an hour of people, places, and events that didn't actually happen.

Proviso: if the events are occurring within the mind of the character, and there are allusions to that throughout the work, then the reveal can be satisfying - because there's a puzzle of sorts involved. See Identity, for example. No spoilers here, but this is an example of a movie that uses the dual reality to great advantage.

5. Characters doing something 'out of character' for no reason, and characters without flaws, or only flaws

These are vague enough to find your own example, but let's hit the second two for a moment.

Have you ever met anyone without flaws? Or someone who implies that they have none? How dull would that person be?

Likewise, a villain who's just evil. What motivates someone to do things just because it's wrong? How much more interesting a character who either has chosen greed over virtue, or one who, like Magneto, for example, genuinely believes that they are doing the right thing?

So, those are my top five peeves in the plot/character category. Feel free to add your own, or discuss any of them further.