Tues. Sept. 25, 2012: Writing, Dissection, and Process

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Busy work day yesterday. Some library this-n-that done, I’m almost caught up with the tarot students, I started on this week’s work in the Sustainability Course, the World History Course, and the Greek/Roman Mythology course. The dynamics in each class are fascinating to me — the tone set by the professors, the way students interact, the types of people drawn to each class with their stories — but then, I’m a writer. I’m going to go beyond the surface of the course and get into both the interpersonal dynamics of the material and of the people around me. That’s what I do.

Very dangerous, knowing a writer. Everything is material. But that’s part of why it’s so great to BE a writer! 😉

Speaking of writers, I hope you’ll hop on over to A BIBLIO PARADISE today and drop a comment for my colleague and fellow Cape Cod author, Steven Marini. He’s a guest on the blog.

Got through some more submissions, some of which were much better. I’ve got two more stacks to get through this week. Got out my material for Confidential Job #1. Pitched for a job that I don’t think will be a good fit, not in content, but in time frame, and I don’t think it will work out. Of course, I realized that after I hit send.

I also had an absolutely mortifying egg-on-face few moments — I’m a guest on a bunch of different blogs to promote both ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT and HEX BREAKER (and, then, soon, I’ll be appearing to promote DEATH SPARKLES and OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK). I keep track of what’s due when and where, and I wrote several of them in the last few days. Well, I thought I was late on one, scrambled, and hit send — to realize I’d sent it to the wrong person! Mortified. Absolutely mortified. I pulled it back, apologized profusely (I’d sent her everything she needed for my appearance) and then sent it off to the right person (who is very happy with it). Everything worked out, and everyone was cool about it, but I was still upset with myself. There’s a reason I’ve set up systems and organized things, and that’s so I can stay on top of multiple projects. When I make a careless mistake, I’m angry at myself.

My own work suffered yesterday, so today, I have to make up for it. I also have to do a major grocery shop over at Market Basket in Sandwich, which just makes me happy.

The furnace guy was here yesterday, cleaned the furnace and the ductwork, everything is great. Considering that it was 39 degrees this morning, and the heat’s kicked in for the past few weeks, I’m glad.

Watched REVOLUTION last night. (Spoiler alert). They came out with a bang, and now we’re getting into the episodes that both reveal and set up the future complexities. I had some frustrations — I need to watch again the scene after Charlie killed two men and she’s trying to wrap her head around it. I feel like there was a missed opportunity — Miles could have made it clear that you hope you never “get used” to killing (it’s obvious that, although he kills when he has to, he doesn’t enjoy it); he could have dismissed her concerns; he could have pretended to dismiss her concerns as a combination of not really knowing how to deal with her and also as a bit of misplaced “tough love” because he knows she’ll have to do a lot more killing before this is done (besides, she killed someone or several someones in the first episode when she and her friends came to help him in the Big Fight Scene in Episode 1. It’s not her first kill, although it’s the first of this type of kill). Instead, it didn’t really commit to any of the above. The actors had to work too hard in that scene — the problem, I felt, was in the material and in the direction. It wasn’t layered; it was messy. That meant the actors had to work harder to try to pull it off, and the work showed, instead of it being organic. That’s not a failure on the actors’ parts — they did what they could with the material, and the writing needed to be both crisper and more layered, and the direction needed to be more specific in that scene.

Why does this moment bother me? Because it could have been a pivotal point of connection and understanding in the relationship between Charlie and Miles. The actors reached for it, but the material, in this case, didn’t give them the support it should have. You’ve got to hand it to Billy Burke — when he’s in a scene with someone, he’s totally there. A lesser actor would have hung his scene partner out to dry in order to look better, and he did not. Those are the actors you want on your project, the ones who give and receive in a scene, rather than take. Giancarlo Esposito had a lot of wonderful small moments in his scenes, too — a more insecure, self-involved actor would have used some of those moments to chew scenery or wipe the floor with his fellow actors. He doesn’t need to, and he’s far more effective doing what he’s doing. I can’t wait until Esposito and Burke have scenes together. As a writer, while it’s frustrating to see that flawed material in something that’s on network (but not a surprise), it’s also interesting to break it down and figure out what could have made the material stronger, and yet still fit into the constraints of the production (the need for scenes to be truncated for commercial breaks). As someone who worked so closely with actors for so many years, watching performances grow and change night-to-night, show-to-show, sometimes on a daily basis, I feel for the actors, and I’m always fascinated by the development of material.

So, why am I going on and on about beats and scenes in a television series that, truly, has nothing to do with me? That whole dissection experience made me a little resentful that I’m not even included in a rehearsal for my play’s reading on Friday, and that the director hasn’t even spoken to me about the material. If I was in the rehearsal room and heard the actors speak the words, I could make tweaks for it to flow more naturally before the performance, which is going to make everyone look better. I don’t believe every word is gold simply because it drips from my pen. I believe in making the words better. Part of that is being in the rehearsal process. Because I will not be pleased if the director or actors take it on themselves to change lines without discussing it with me first (there’s a reason Dramatists Guild contracts don’t allow that). There’s a difference between riffing and improvising off material and just paraphrasing or changing it. The first two, in the right hands, can take the material to the next level. The third and fourth, almost all the time, takes all the air out of material. That would be a sign of both huge ego and huge disrespect on their parts, none of which are unusual in this business. What will really kill the material if the actors take a lot of self-involved pauses you could drive trucks through. It’s written to a very specific rhythm, the rapid-fire 1940s noir patter. Friday will be interesting. It could be amazing, or it could be a disaster. Either way, I know I’ll be taking a lot of notes, and subjecting myself and the pages to the same type of dissection that I do above.

On a happier note, I was thrilled that Damian Lewis won the Emmy for HOMELAND. In my opinion, he’s one of the top actors out there, again, with a lot of quiet, detailed work, and it’s about time he got recognition.

Alright, enough musing — time to get back to the pages and get my own creative work done. I’ve got a book to finish.


Wed. Sept. 19, 2012: New Article Up & Television Musings

Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and warm

In spite of the migraine, I had a very good day of edits on OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK. I’m starting to feel good about the book and how it sets up the rest of the series, as well as standing on its own.

Also did some notes to shut up a character who’s been yapping at me the past few days, in a built world. I’ll be writing from a male POV, I think, this time,which will be fun.

Got work done on the opening of the marine life mystery.

Re-sent some invoices — I want to wind up completely with one client and be done, buh-bye, and the other wants more work from me, but the payments have to be on time, or it simply won’t happen.

My article on “The Renaissance Writer” is up on WOW-Women on Writing here. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Didn’t get enough housecleaning done yesterday, so I’ll have to make up for it today.

Planning on staying in today, writing, writing, writing.

Forgot to mention that I watched the pilot of REVOLUTION on Monday. I hadn’t particularly liked the promos –to me, they came across as jumping on THE HUNGER GAMES bandwagon. But Billy Burke has one of the leads, and I like his work (although I had no idea he was involved in the TWILIGHT franchise, because I haven’t bothered with the movies). I also wanted to see Giancarlo Esposito’s work — I liked him a lot in both BREAKING BAD and ONCE UPON A TIME.

I was pleasantly surprised. I LOVE the production design — sets, costumes, et al. The attention to detail is great. Again, though, I’m glad not to be doing wardrobe on it, because they’re outside a lot! Continuity with dirt is not easy! It uses archetypes from the Hero’s Journey nicely, although I hope they deal with the fact that one of the lead characters is a young woman. The heroine’s journey is, by nature, different. The writing was much better than I expected, and I thought the actors committed fully in a really wonderful way. One of the reasons I like Billy Burke’s work so much is that he is such an active listener. He is unafraid of stillness, and he listens completely and responds to what is actually said and done in the moment. He does that in interviews, too — there’s never a sense that he’s skipping ahead, thinking about what HE will say next. He’s very much a partner in whatever scene he’s in, not trying to take all the focus with the underlying, “Look at ME!” that so many actors (especially in leading TV roles) insist on. I’m interested in seeing how the show evolves.
However, if it starts messing with the audience just to mess with them, the way I felt LOST often did — I’m outta there.

Going back to the active listening and partnership in a scene, I’m already struggling to continue watching a different show that an acquaintance of mine is on. I like HIS work a lot, and he’s good at the give-and-take, but he’s a second lead and the two lead actors are very much in the “I’m the show’s star” mode in a way I feel hurts the overall show. Sometimes it’s the number of close-ups; sometimes it’s screen time; sometimes it’s not letting one of the other actors have a moment that makes more logical and organic sense. I continue to watch because my acquaintance and I dissect every episode after, in terms of writing and character development, and I’m loyal to him; but I’m finding it more and more difficult to watch.

Okay, I need to get back to the page and get a bunch of other things done today, too. We had a bad storm last night — we didn’t have too much damage, other than overwhelmed plants.

Back to work!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Dark Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and Cold

The new post is up on Gratitude and Growth.

I saw my acquaintance’s scene online — the one I missed with the power outage. It was FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC. Good work, Babe! 😉 I’m really proud of you and can’t wait to see what they put you through next season!

My class “Unsticking Your Book” starts today over on Savvy Authors, and it is packed to the rafters! Which is a good thing, but I have to get into “teaching head” — AFTER I’ve completed my daily quotas on the book and on the play. It’s easier to switch from fiction head to teaching head than the other way around, so I have to make sure I get my own fiction writing for the day done before I teach. I can slide out of the non-fiction/business writing any time I want, basically, but to dive into the world of the book or the play, I need uninterrupted, untainted time.

Speaking of switching heads, I’m really tired of business writers ghetto-izing fiction writers. I’ve seen it over the last couple of years over a wide cross-section of blogs and articles online and in-print. When yesterday morning, I read five pieces back-to-back that came across as denigrating to the creative side of writing, opposing it to the business side, I was spitting nails. Business writers are not the ONLY freelancers out there — novelists, short story writers, designers, fine artists, potters, animators, professional musicians who move from gig to gig, dancers, actors, playwrights, hell, even television and film writers are freelancers, too. The dictionary defines “freelance” as working for multiple companies or organizations, not just one. Pretty much anyone who works in the arts is a freelancer.

We have to be good artists AND good business people, so the complete and utter contempt that the bulk of business writers show for the artistic process — which, in order to earn a living has to be birthed WITHIN the business smarts process — is working my last nerve. Frankly, one of the biggest problems I see in business writers who claim they want to write fiction is that they don’t take the fiction seriously enough to make it a priority, and they are too deeply entrenched in their non-fiction process and walking away from the desk at 5 PM and not working weekends no matter what to be able to let go in the way one needs to in order to write fiction.

They see writing and life as separate. It’s not. Many people claim walking away from the desk indicates “balance.” What you need is “integration.” Plenty of writers with jobs and families manage to do that and still not shortchange their jobs and their families, because they integrate and they want it badly enough. People trying to make the switch into fiction are often so worried about being “in control” that they can’t let go enough to create. They’re so worried that writing will “interfere” with their lives that they don’t allow it to inform their lives.

As a teacher, who’s now had hundreds of students pass through my classes over the years, I see business writers who claim they want to expand into fiction make the same choices over and over and over, even when they’re warned that “their process” — which they get very defensive about –may not work and there might be a better, different way. When that “process” has failed the three hundred people ahead of you, maybe you should rethink it. Maybe you’re “the one” who’s different — likely, you’re not. There are certain mistakes all students have to make to learn, and certain mistakes they don’t have to make, but insist on making anyway. As long as you learn, it’s worth it. But, so often, this particular type of writer doesn’t learn.

Different types of writing require different approaches. Flexibility and a willingness to try different ways of doing things. It takes time. You will have to build that time into your day or take that time from something else. Kicking a stone wall will result in a broken toe before you move the wall, so find a better, less painful way.

It’s interesting — I thought freelance writers would be the most receptive to working in new ways, because they already earn their living by writing. Writers of nonfiction books and lengthy feature articles that require lots of time, research and interviews are usually great. They’ll try anything. Copywriters, annual report writers, corporate writers — they are the most resistant and the most inflexible, in my experience thus far. They are the most vociferous about how professional they are and how unprofessional “artists” are. They don’t whine, but they get very aggressive in why they HAVE to do it THIS way, and they’d rather keep bashing the same wall until they knock themselves unconscious than try anything that might work better, if it means doing something differently. Makes me wish I’d kept statistics. I’m keeping loose publishing statistics — right now, about 70% of my students are selling the work developed in class, which is a pretty good track record for all of us.

Fiction writers write all the time, even when they’re not at the page. Every sensation, every experience, is material. They may deny it, they may not be aware of it, but we are always living two lives simultaneously — living in the moment to soak up every detail, and living outside the moment, turning it into writing. That doesn’t take away from the living of it — it enhances it, because, like one is supposed to do in meditation, we are thoroughly in the moment — and yet, we are able to skillfully, artfully, magically, creatively transform it into something that can transport the reader.

For me, that’s translated the other way, too. The best (and highest paid) of my business writing jobs involves taking the skills I have in fiction and translating them into something that engages the audience and sells them on the product.

If you sit around and wait for inspiration to strike like a bolt of lightening, or if you think writing for money demeans you — no, you won’t make a living at it, either as a fiction writer or any type of artist, unless you have a solid business manager who can enable the lightening strikes and turn it into hard cash to tide you over in between. Most of us don’t have that luxury, even if we have a good agent. You have to integrate the artist and the business person, not separate them. Not only will you feel less fractured on a daily basis (because aren’t we supposed to strive to be the best WHOLE people we can be?), but you will see the rewards both financially and creatively.

Also, with fiction, you build rhythm. It’s not something you can work on piecemeal, work on for a day, put it away for a week, pick it up for two days, etc. It’s vitally important to put completed drafts away for periods of time so you can revisit them with fresh eyes, but within a draft, you have to work on it regularly to learn and develop the piece’s innate rhythm. Or it will sit around half-finished for years, sucking the life out of you.

I know, in my own experience, when I kept everything separate, compartmentalizing different types of work, I was always scrambling for decently paying jobs. Once I started integrating, everything started to flow more smoothly. And, then, of course, changing the living situation so I can actually write without having to worry about some thug bursting through the door wielding a baseball bat, or someone contaminating the water supply helps a great deal, too. I can’t forget that element. I am someone who prefers a rock-solid stable home life to do my work. I CAN work no matter what — I’ve proven that over the years — but the best situation for me is quiet and stability, especially early in the morning, when it’s my best writing time.

Speaking of writing, one of the best articles on writing I’ve read anywhere ever is in the new issue of POETS & WRITERS, by Lauren Grodstein, about how to develop the character’s working life. That’s been one of my biggest bitch-and-moans about a lot of writing — supposedly the characters have jobs, but you never actually see them work, so how do we know how the work affects them? If they’re any good at it? How they earn a living? How they interact at work? We spend a lot of our time at work — in many situations, so should our characters.

Further speaking of writing, I wrote the lectures for the tele-seminar yesterday, did some research for some statistics to be inserted, and, after another pass, I’ll send them off to my partner today or first thing in the morning.

I’m having to turn down work — on the one hand, it’s a good position in which to be, on the other hand, I hate saying no. But there are only twenty four hours in the day, and there are only a finite number of those hours I can be conscious and coherent. Sometimes I have to say no. Sometimes I say no to the wrong project, but one makes the best choices one can in the circumstances, and, hopefully learns moving forward.

Because, let’s face it, I am far from perfect. Let’s hope I’m learning from my mistakes, too!

I have to drive up to Plymouth this afternoon to pick up something for a class, but I’m going to try and get in some solid writing time, and then, some solid teaching time.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and milder

I was barely online yesterday, which was a good thing. I wrote about 15 pages in the morning, an excellent day, split over two sessions. Printed everything off.

Went to the library. In addition to books, there was a vintage jewelry sale, and I got a birthday present for a good friend of mine (it’s as perfect as if I’d commissioned it for her), which I will pack up and ship off in the next few days. Went to Trader Joe’s and the grocery store and the wine store, and stocked up. Also bought a couple of batches of daffodils and a batch of pussy willows, and switched the door wreaths from the snowflake wreath to a spring wreath.

In the afternoon, I read Janet Evanovich’s SIZZLING SIXTEEN, which I enjoyed more than #15. And it only took about an hour and a half to read it — exactly what I needed. A break, and reading something just for fun.

Last night, an acquaintance had a quick comic bit at the top of a show, so, of course, I was watching. And the power went out. It was only out for three minutes — but it was the three minutes of that scene! And, boy, this street really gets dark on an almost-dark moon with no streetlights. I’m not sure why everything winked off, and, three minutes later started up again, we weren’t having a storm or anything. It was a pain in the keister to get the cable boxes to talk to the TV again — they don’t reset themselves the way the one I had in NY did. And I had to run around fixing the clocks on the stove and the coffee-maker and the microwave, etc., etc. Anyway, by the time everything was back up, I missed the scene. Hopefully, I can watch it online later today.

Back to the page this morning, on the book and on the play. I’m going to run out to the library again later this morning to pick something up, and maybe follow some of the maps in the local history books to bits of the area I haven’t yet seen. There’s a whole section of the community I haven’t found yet. And it’s a lovely day, so I want to spend at least part of it outside.

The Wednesday post for Gratitude and Growth will go up late in the day. I have to upload some photos for it, and I want to get some writing in first.

Back to the page.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and cold

So this has been an interesting journey. Not only has going down the rabbit hole with Eddie in REDEMPTION KILL been difficult, necessary, and fascinating, but it helped me with the revisions in ANGEL HUNT.

Eddie in REDEMPTION KILL is called a sociopath, but he’s not. He’s on the precipice of making a choice that will either take him down the road of no hope and no return, or one that could give him a small measure of peace, closure, and the potential for a fresh start, depending upon his choices in the course of the book. Danica (who has plenty of her own issues) is very careful to make sure the choices are Eddie’s, and that she’s not manipulating him. Honestly, at this point, I don’t know where he’ll end up. In ANGEL HUNT, Lianna is desperate to save Zeke, in spite of the fact they’re antagonists. While part of Zeke wants to be saved, he’s too far gone, and the only thing he’s capable of doing is destroying Lianna. I’m not sure how that will play out at the end, either, but I’m a lot closer to finding out than I was a week ago. Yes, Zeke is even a bigger, darker, more complex mess than Eddie, and no, Zeke wasn’t in the serial of the same name. I’ve been wrestling with the revisions of ANGEL HUNT for over a year, almost as badly as Lianna and Zeke have wrestled inside the story. It was interesting that Eddie’s struggle in REDEMPTION KILL helped unlock the problems in ANGEL HUNT. Eddie and Zeke are hugely different, with hugely different motivations, although they both live in enormous pits of despair, yet devoid of self-pity.

And the Lianna-Zeke relationship brings “dysfunctional” to a new level while Danica and Eddie, although in a line of work that would horrify a lot of people, somehow craft a healthy relationship in unhealthy circumstances. The comparisons/contrasts are fascinating. ANGEL HUNT is a few drafts closer to getting out the door than REDEMPTION KILL, but I find it interesting how the two pieces feed off each other, and how REDEMPTION KILL somehow unlocked the blocks I had with ANGEL HUNT.

And of course, as I’m writing it, I’m a little bit in love with both Zeke and Eddie as I’m writing from my female protags’ POV, and then, when I get into Zeke’s psyche (not a place you’d want to be on a bad day) and Eddie’s psyche for the flip sides — well, it’s quite the journey.

It is very similar to good use of the method the way some actors do. I’ve certainly seen enough abuse of “the method” as an excuse for self-indulgence and bad behavior, but when it’s used as a tool to reach a goal rather than as the goal itself, it can help produce some excellent work.

To top it off, I wrote most of a short story as well, which I hope to finish and polish in the next few days.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how there’s a lack of pilots this upcoming season written by women. And yet, two of the features coming out that I find most intriguing were written by women: SHUTTER ISLAND and the ALICE IN WONDERLAND adaptation with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter (oh, I am so there for that one — can’t wait to see what he does!) I’d like to see more women scripting and showrunning action, paranormal, drama, and procedural shows as well as intelligent comedy, but I’m also excited that two of (in my opinion) the most intriguing upcoming releases are written by women. Yes, they’re both adaptations of books by men, but I think that polarity will help strengthen the pieces. If those two films are successful, I think it will open the doors for a lot of talented women, the way Kathryn Bigelow’s work (over quite a few years) has opened doors. Someday, maybe gender won’t matter and we can reach what most of us actually working in the business want — that we are judged on the basis of the work’s quality alone. But we’re not quite there yet.

(Note: Yes, I am aware that I am talking about two features in the above and not television shows, somewhat apples and oranges. But while fewer women are writing/running upcoming pilots, two of the big feature releases are written by women. I found that interesting).

Moved script meetings to next week so I don’t sabotage myself. Some other opportunities have landed on my desk and I have to sort through them. The Universe is pushing me towards a particular location with several script opportunities, so I will see what happens. In another case, I was asked to do some script doctoring. I hate the script. I tried to refuse diplomatically, and the producer didn’t seem to get it. I was finally very blunt and said, “I find your script offensive and demeaning to women.” His response, “Yeah, but will you punch up the dialogue?” I made it very clear that no, I would not. They need someone enthusiastic about the script to do good work on it, and since I can’t stand it, I am not that person. And before those who haven’t worked in the biz start yapping that professionals should be able to write anything, when it comes to work like this, there’s way too much at stake to do something you despise and for which you have no respect just for the dough. Yeah, Faulkner did it and it nearly killed him. I’d rather have less money and a more peaceful soul.

Also was invited to do some guest blogs by two different publishers, which is exciting, for their house sites. One of it deals with pop culture and has to get out the door ASAP. I’ve also got to complete the assignment for Confidential Job #1, which is due tomorrow, and I need to get it out the door in the morning, since I leave for a site job around noon.

Huge snowstorm on Wednesday here. Loved it. Also enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day celebration — since we were snowed in anyway, we decided to make the most of it. 😉 We had about a foot of snow, not too bad.

LOST was a huge disappointment on Tuesday. There were no surprises; it’s unfolding the way I figured it would, but hoped it wouldn’t. I knew where every scene was going by the second line in the scene. The production quality is great, I like the actors, I like the writing, but I don’t find the big choices in overall mythology satisfying. The days I happen to get around to watching it, I will try to enjoy some of the moment-to-moment stuff, but I’m pretty sure I’ll feel cheated by the end –as I’ve felt cheated most of the past four seasons. That doesn’t take anything away from the phenomenon it created. It is simply not personally satisfying. The in-jokes and the way some stuff circles around but other stuff contradicts itself is fun in the moment, but isn’t adding up to the type of whole I wanted from the piece.

And I’m getting really stubborn about HUMAN TARGET, now, digging in because I don’t feel Fox is supporting the show adequately. I’ve worked on a few of those myself — big early hype and then suddenly, no more promos, no more support. Here you are, busting your ass on 14-18 or more hours a day on the set, giving your all, and the network turns its back on you, not even running regular promos. It sucks. I also think the show’s improving week to week. Are there things that don’t work for me on the show? Yes, mainly the under-developed villains who I don’t feel challenge the protags enough. Last night’s villain was better developed — I still wanted just three or more sentences FROM HIM, out of his mouth, to really take his character where I needed it. There’s too much ABOUT the villains and not enough direct character development. The action scenes are well done, and some of last night’s were especially clever. And in the first scene, as soon as she’s waiting alone on the bridge, I knew she was Doyle’s daughter, even though it was a surprise to the other characters in the mid-way reveal. But the things that work for me really work, primarily Jackie Earle Haley’s work and anytime the three leads are in a scene together. HIs scenes in the van during last night’s episode were darkly hilarious. He can do more with a sideways look than most people can do in a three page scene. His character loves to push other characters’ boundaries to see what they’re made of. I feel that the network is abandoning the show after hyping it a lot early on instead of giving it what it needs to hit its stride, turning it into more of an underdog than it should be. I know, like my measly viewership means anything, right? I didn’t say there was LOGIC involved, just stubbornness! 😉 And I have to admit that I learn just as much or more from what I think doesn’t work in the show as from what does.

Good first writing session this morning. I’m going to have to go and dig the car out later on, before everything freezes and I need a pickaxe to get the car out. Then, it’s work on the essays, Confidential Job #1, and packing for the weekend job.

No matter how deeply involved I am with Eddie and Zeke right now, a deadline is a deadline, and I don’t blow deadlines.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Dark Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

More post-mortem paperwork. I’m spending several hours per day filling out paperwork, which then leads to more paperwork, because the people demanding the paperwork are morons. There needs to be a lot of corporate restructuring, as much as “let’s get rid of the unnecessary b.s., obstructionism, and vamping.” It ate up most of the time I hoped to put aside for writing before I had to leave for Long Island.

Oh, well. I’m starting to think I should flip my schedule, going back to working all night, sleeping during the day, and never being available by telephone again.

Typical example of Suburban Bitchery: I stood in line in the Post Office yesterday afternoon. A woman several people ahead of me had her sleeping, well-behaved baby in a stroller – very cute, very sweet. The woman behind her “oohed” and “aahed” over the little one, sidling around to “get a better look” – and then cut in front of her when the postal worker called, “Next.” I mean, come on, lady, you are NOT that clever, nor are you that important! If she’d tried that on me, I would have kicked her ass right there at the window. But then, people don’t usually try to cut in front of me in line. I tend to stand in line with the mirrored sunglasses and I can still turn on the “I live on the Deuce in NYC, don’t mess with me” attitude, even though I haven’t lived on 42nd St. for years. However, knowing how to waft intimidation through one’s pores like perfume comes in handy.

I was completely stressed out about what to wear to the show. Silly, isn’t it? But hey, it goes with the territory. The only contact I had with the production was with the producer via email and telephone – I’ve never met any of them, and it was a very hands-off production experience (which is fine with me, that’s the way it goes sometimes). But first impressions and all that. Changed my shoes eight times, and wound up with what I first put on anyway – the chocolate colored patent leather pumps with three inch heels.

The drive to Long Island was difficult, which I expected, going during rush hour. The drive to the Whitestone Bridge was fine, but the Cross Island was backed up because the LIE was a parking lot. It took me a little over an hour – but I was still an hour early. Lara, you’ll love this – the only place I could find to hang out was Stop & Shop. I kid you not. I walked the aisles doing meal planning – I actually have to do my grocery shopping today, so I walked around and made my list. There was no way I was going to stash groceries in my car for four or five hours.

The restaurant had the reputation of being top notch Italian. The prices sure were. Yet their idea of a “house salad” was iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island dressing and an olive on top. Um . . .? They either used vegetable oil instead of olive oil or such a low grade quality of olive oil that it tasted like vegetable oil, and so much of it, along with melted margarine (I can taste the difference between butter and margarine – I’m a cook), that it globbed into a ball of grease at the bottom of my stomach. The only choice for dessert was ice cream (really? In an Italian restaurant?) An Italian ice would have been lovely – but this was store-brand freezer type. On the plus side, there was enough garlic in the meal so that I did not have to fear vampires on the drive home. Even other cars kept their distance.

Perhaps I’ve become a food snob. Yet I eat at a wide variety of restaurants all over the world that aren’t written up and have great meals. This one, with its supposedly great reputation . . .

I also felt badly about disliking the food because the staff was so nice. Now there’s a paradox – usually when the food is under par, so is the service and the attitude. Here, they were lovely and they took very good care of me, which I appreciated, and I tipped well, in spite of the food, because the service was good.

I felt the venue was quite disorganized, but I was happy to see the play. They’d told the producer there weren’t many reservations; yet it turned out they were overbooked and had to add seating, cutting the playing area to almost nothing. It was a case where I had to bite my tongue and take a breath – I’m not on the production team on this one, I’m “just” the writer. I don’t have to take control in situations like this, the way I usually do – someone else does. Because, of course, my first instinct was to jump in and fix things. But the production has quite a wonderful, capable, CALM production manager. The actors didn’t know I was there – they’d been told I was coming to the final performance. This was the first performance for the two actors who stepped in after one actor was fired and one quit – so there are two actors on book for the last three performances this week. I’d written an alternate final scene because there were problems with the actor who was ultimately fired early on, which only changed one small thing but made sense of the fact that a woman had to step in to replace the most stable male character in the show. I was told that scene would be used; however, when I got there, I found they had created a new opening to “explain” the two actors on book (instead of just saying “we had cast changes, we’ve got two actors on book tonight”, which is perfectly legitimate and happens at all levels of the business) and that became the central focus of the show instead of the actual plot, due to piling on the ad-libbed material which took the air out of several of the scenes. Comedy is written and performed with specific pace and rhythm, and there were times when all of that went out the window. However, in the scenes that ran as written, where I could actually see the actors and the material, I thought they did a good job. The four core actors have a great rhythm together, and, in the scenes between the two female leads, there was great chemistry. The third actress was very good in her multiple roles, and the guy playing the detective was a lot of fun. When he first came in, I was worried about his choice, and then he turned on a dime in a wonderful way and made it work very well. The two actors who stepped in at the last minute had some funny moments and gave it a good shot – with a little work, they’ll own it and maybe even have some fun. I’m not going to stress about it for the last two performances – if there were two weeks, I’d insist on a rehearsal and work with them, tweaking the script. Because I’m that kind of bitch ;).

Hey, my plays are produced all over the world, and I’ve often stepped in to tweak my own shows. I don’t have directing aspirations, but I know how to talk to actors.

I even roughed out a new play during the intermissions (I always travel with paper and pen/ Besides, there are always napkins).

I was introduced at the end of the night. The delight on the actors’ faces made it all worth while. Especially the four core people said they felt I’d written them roles of a lifetime, and they wished the show would run for a year. Two of the actresses will be in THE MATILDA MURDERS in the fall (and one of the actors who stepped in to a role will direct it). I’m very pleased about that. The other actress will perform in my home town this summer, so I’ll get to see her. I already put a bug in the producer’s ear about a play I’d like to write for her. She connects to my material very instinctively, and, in our conversation later, we thought very much along the same lines. Some of the audience members even asked for my autograph – and yes, I learned from working with all those Broadway and television actors. The first thing you say is, “What’s your name?” and then you personalize it. Otherwise it ends up on eBay. (It shouldn’t for me, I’m not well-known, but you never know what people will try to hawk on eBay). I held firm to my “no-photographs” policy, which miffed the venue owner’s wife, who wanted pictures of me on the web site, but too bad.

It was great to meet everyone and talk to everyone. It’s truly a lovely group of people, and I am deeply appreciative of their commitment and work. I’m definitely happy to continue working with them. I had a few notes that I think will help the new-to-the-piece actors in the final two performances, and I followed protocol by giving them to the producer and production manager rather than directly to the actors.

The drive home was fine – hardly any traffic – hey, garlic works on more than vampires! Got home after midnight, but was too wound up to sleep, plus ate crackers to absorb the grease. I missed my workout last night and feel the difference. May have to add one today.

I need to get my stomach settled and my mind settled and get some good, solid writing done. After all, the producer wants to know when she gets to read FEMME FATALE!


Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 7:08 am  Comments (11)  
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