Sunday, February 25, 2007

Through the Portal

When I wrote "The Rebound Guy" (now called "Ricochet Man") back in 2005, I had no idea that I would be still here in California today, writing about my neophyte attempts to build a professional writing career. In fact, even though I aspired to writing for a living back then, I thought it was going to be a while until I found my voice, get inspired, what have you.

While I'm still at the beginning stages of the dream, the dream has taken more shape in the last several months. First, we ended up staying in California after all, thanks to a series of misadventures and life twists. Second, once I began writing down ideas for screenplays, books, etc., I realized I could easily write every day for years to come and never run out of material.

It was this week, when I was casually penning the beginnings of two new short stories, finishing the first draft of "A Perfect Tenant," and completing chapter two of "On A Gelding's Trail" that I realized what the profound change in me in the last eighteen months. It's like the portal to my right brain has been opened WIDE and the flood of whatever was stored in there is flowing out uncontrollably.

Did I find my voice? I don't know about that. Am I going to be a commercial success as a writer? Who knows, there are so many OUTSTANDING writers out there and so many of them aren't published. Still, I think I have as good a chance as any of my fellow aspiring authors of making it in this business. After all, I'm not looking for fame or fortune, though I'm not going to turn them away if they come knocking at my door. What I am looking for is a way to supplement my income so I can take early retirement from this daily grind I live.

Writing is giving me a chance to express my creative brain that music and even computer programming used to let me do. So, as along as I stay healthy, I should be able to continue to crank 'em out until it's time to cremate my sorry carcass and send me to the Great Spirit. I hope I can entertain others along the way.

Houston, We Have Some Progress …

Big announcement: as of 2/24/07, the first draft of "A Perfect Tenant" is complete! I thought it was going to run WAY long, but it came in at a perfect 114 pages (including the cover page).

The conventional wisdom is that one minute of film time is equivalent to one page of script, so you need to get the final draft down below 120 pages for a standard two hour movie … usually less for a comedy, sometime more for a drama. This is a comedy, but there is more action than in my last script, which was definitely dialog-intensive, which makes sense, since this one is a physical comedy to some degree.

The other big announcement … I submitted three of my stories to a literary magazine! This is my first submission and one of the reasons I did it with them was they took online submissions. The whole idea of sending paper letters and manuscripts in this electronic age doesn't appeal to me, but I'll do it to get published, of course.

They Put the "Butt" in "Rebuttal"

On the non-fiction front - which, if you haven't been paying attention I published on my given name - I had an interesting surprise regarding the last article I wrote. While I realized my comments were going to be somewhat controversial, especially to my peers in my industry, I didn't realize how strong those counter opinions were going to be.

The emails I received after it published, while 9-1 in favor of my point of view, still had strong dissenters. I forwarded all the emails I received to the editor as she requested. Lo and behold, in the most recent issue of the magazine, they published a number of letters, pro, con and in between! The editor never gave me a heads up about this.

Being a good sport, I sent her an email commenting that there would be more to follow after these rebuttals. I even sent her a blurb in response to publish should they want to stretch it out one more issue, though I believe they'll only publish that and follow-ups on their website.

Meanwhile, I prepared for the onslaught of further emails (both pro and con), but got nothing. As controversies go, it was more of a tempest in a teapot, I guess. But in the interests of fair and balanced reporting, the responses I received were 9-1 in favor of my point of view. Not saying I always have to be right or anything, but still, it's nice to know I struck the right chord with the readers.

My Lost Novel (one of two)

In one of my blog posts, I made reference to a novel I started in 2002 which has grown over 820 pages and still is one chapter shy of completion. In my references to this work (called "The Wrong Brother"), I said that was the first novel I ever tried to write. Then I realized I forgot one.

Back when I first graduated from college, I moved to the Jersey shore to work for an engineering company there. I got an oceanside apartment and tried to live the "cool" bachelor lifestyle for a while (at least as cool as a software engineer could ever be). This was back in 1981, before personal computers were so ubiquitous and well before MS Word ever saw the light of day.

I would say my college experiences were less than positive, especially since I was a transfer student and was trying to make the best of my last two years of college while trying to stuff three years worth of credits in my major into the time I had left. That made it very hard to live on campus with the typical party people you find in upstate NY schools and get any work done. Regardless, I had my share of interesting experiences (mostly from an observer's point of view), many of which would be entertaining in print.

So, in my new beach apartment, I one day sat down in front of my blue Smith-Corona with a box of Co-raseable bond typing paper and began to write a novel chronicling a young man's days in college. I wrote about 100 pages (or about six chapters) and gave it to some friends who gave me feedback, all telling me they loved it.

The problem? It was too racy, even for my tastes and I wrote it! More importantly, it was nothing like the truth (at least for me), but instead came from my fevered imagination. I really didn't like the way the novel was going, so I put it to the side.

When I moved from Jersey, I had to clear out a bunch of junk and came across the wrinkled pages in a manila folder. Not thinking I'd want anyone to ever see it, I threw it out. I THREW IT OUT. I could just kick myself, since it would've been nice to have, if only as a bit of nostalgia.

Next Time

I realize this blog post is running long and since I'm a bit under the weather this weekend (thanks to some visitors from our Chicago office who decided to bring their sickness with them), I'm going to defer one topic until next time. So, to come …

The Cone of Silence (part 2) … the movies "Pi" and "Haiku Tunnel" … tales of another lost novel, this time from the PC age.

Have a creative week and keep writing - you deserve it!


Saturday, February 17, 2007

When Bad Computers Happen To Good People

Gosh, it really shouldn't happen to me of all people. Here I am, a technology manager with many, many, many (okay, I'll stop now) years of experience and there I am, my laptop - the connection to my muse - is paralyzed.

Thankfully, it wasn't serious or permanent. I was without my instrument of obsessions because of the most mundane of problems … a dead battery charger. That's what I get for wrapping tightly and then unwrapping them, day after day. The wire, well, she break!

So, that means my progress was a bit impacted this week, but I have a few bits to report.

The Wayback Machine

There was a time in my life where I expected (not hoped) to be a rock star. I was born into a family where that music gene was strong on both sides and unlike my sister, I ended up taking advantage of this happy coincidence of twin bloodlines.

I was also born with more than a modicum of practical sense and realized while I may be able to make a living as a modern troubadour, I was never going get beyond yeoman first class - especially compared with so many of my peers. They started earlier than I did and more importantly, wanted it more.

However, during those halcyon days of yore when I was deluding myself, I was also writing music. Writing music is infinitely harder (for me) than writing fiction or anything else for that matter. It doesn't come naturally to me … I don't hear random tunes in my head like I come up with story ideas. As for song lyrics, I wrote exactly one song on my own - at the tender age of twelve. All of the other songs in my original repertoire were co-written, with most of my contribution coming on the music half of the song sheet.

My Life in Verse

So, how surprised am I that I've developed a strong affinity to reading (and writing) poems these days. Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks? Is it you? Huh? Huh?

Yes, not only have I really never explored writing poetry much except when forced to in school - the same with reading it, I may add - I'm now having a total blast with both activities. My return to writing after so many years has been so helpful in opening my mind to an art form I long eschewed.

All of my poems - five of them now - are posted on my writing sites, so there's no reason to explore them here beyond mentioning that if you're interested, I'd love for you to read them and give me your feedback. Even if you don't, don't count out the old dog in your life (or yourself for that matter).

Meanwhile, Back At Short Story Central …

I finally finished the first draft of short story number #5, aka "Prized Possession." That was my original title, but my wife suggestion "Prized Possessions" (note the plural). In the end, I removed the "s" and when you read it, you'll understand why.

Anyway, this sucker is forty pages right now and I suspect I'll do some trimming before I call it "done." I think this one is humorous, perhaps darkly so. As always, I hope it entertains.

This story - and another seven to be written - will be included in my short story collection, tentatively entitled "In The Foothills" and expected to be published (by me, myself and I - the Three Wise Men) next February. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I'm going to include my poetry in there, too, or publish it separately ("Songs of Montrose" is my working title for that).

Closer to the Brass Ring

Scriptapalooza TV finally announced their 2006 contest winners and guess what? Leia and my reality show treatment made it into the semi-finals! We're hoping this will open up some doors for us … at the very least, we can get the idea sold.

To help in that regard, I posted the treatment on It would be nice to get one interested party to take a look at it. Part of the thrill of doing this writing is getting discovered, at least as much as a 47 year-old man can be "discovered" these days doing something legal.

On Tap For This Week

Beginning this week, I return to On A Gelding's Trail, my first Lucinda Dreyer novel. Also, I will be starting act three of A Perfect Tenant my second screenplay. I won't start editing "Prized Possession" until next weekend … it needs time to ferment.

Next Post Preview

My lost novel … the cone of silence (part 2) … they put the "butt" in "rebuttal"

So, keep busy, keep reading and writing and have a wonderful week (and holiday weekend, those of you who have some extra time away from the daily grind).


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Double Dipping

This week wasn't one chock full of writing accomplishments, but what I did do, I'm pleased with the results.


As I wrote last week. Lucinda Dreyer is making her second appearance in my new novel On A Gelding's Trail. I call this my "third" novel because the first one (the 820+ page affair) is the one I have closest to completing and the second one (called Those Who Live In Shadows) is well-outlined and the first draft started. Something tells me, though, that this third novel will get completed before any of them. It certainly has been a blast to write so far.

So, with this short story turning into a novel, I needed an idea for another short story. This one may be a little moralistic, I don't know - I'll leave it to those who review my work, if I'm fortunate to have someone to do that. Regardless, I'm quite far into the story right now (called "Prized Possessions"). I should have the first draft of this one done by next Sunday (2/18).

As for A Perfect Tenant (my second screenplay), it's still idling at the end of the second act. My concurrent efforts described above have kept me from returning to it, but I'm not worried. I have that one completely outlined and it's only a matter of sitting down and cranking out the pages.

On-Line Efforts

I've completed posting all my works - my stories, essays and poems - on (as I had done on Right now, I've tentatively titled my short story collection "In The Foothills" and a collection of my poetry will be called "Songs of Montrose." I'm debating right now if I will publish them as one work.

A major part of the online experience is reviewing others' work as you expect them to critique yours. Both of these sites I mention strongly encourage that (and in fact, reward that behavior in various ways). I'm really enjoying interacting with other creative types. My God, there are a lot of them, too!

Same with MySpace … I've been concentrating my networking with writers and artists, because that right part of my brain craves the give and take creative people have. While I'm very technical, I need the balance that art gives me. My wife has said from when she first met me that I'm half science, half art (or as I like to tease her, she's really just saying I'm a half-wit).


I'm pleased I've been keeping up with my blogs every week. Besides this one (which I mirror on my MySpace blog), there's one called "The Villa on the Hill-a" ( This is one about our life in the foothills and our house we bought last may that reminds us of a Tuscan villa.

Another blog is really just a transcription of my journal I kept when we went to Eleuthera (in the Bahamas) in 2004. You can find it at I've gotten some comments from other lovers of Eleu on the blog site, which pleases me.

So, I close now with my fond wishes to you all. Have a creative and satisfying week!


Sunday, February 4, 2007

A "Novel" Idea

Okay, I know the title isn't exactly "novel" … especially for a writer, I guess. However, I REALLY, REALLY mean it, I promise!

Some of this I blogged last week …

After writing "Animal Control," I began a new one which I tentatively entitled "On A Gelding's Trail" (in fact, I had no plot initially in mind, as often happens). I started with an interesting character name and put him in a situation, then started a dialog in my head and before long, I started the steady progress of writing it down.

In this particular case, I started looking ahead and realized the story was going to die on the vine at some point, or wouldn't be very interesting. I almost put it to the side to start a new one. Then I remembered Lucinda Dreyer from "Animal Control," a woman I hoped to use again as a main character in a novel. Voila! She then entered the story as a pivotal character and made perfect sense at the point where the tale was going.

I wrote this new short story with some frenzy for a couple of days and at twenty-two pages, I thought I'd better start laying out the scenes to keep from getting confused with my own mystery. That was Friday and by yesterday afternoon, I was convinced of two things: I had a good plot for a novel (now in progress) and this could never be a short story, even if I excerpted a part of it.

So, "On A Gelding's Trail" will be the first novel in my Lucinda Dreyer series. I am very pleased!

For me, a lot of the fun of writing is watching in my mind's eye the story as it unfolds. I've found outlining is just as effective as scene summaries for me - and sometimes, I just write freeform and let the plot just evolve. If I open up my mind enough, I find that pieces fall into place without my pushing them there. It's only when I try to force it that it becomes a problem. I might as well be trying to carve mahogany with a plastic knife.

The bonus, by the way, is that I came up with an entire plot for the short story I "should" be writing for my collection. That's in the queue.

Posting My Creations

This week, I started posting my short stories on I also wrote two more poems that I posted there as well. Also, for the first time since I joined, I started posting material on

Finding Neverland

Leia and I finally watched the movie we've had at home from Netflix. I'm annoyed with myself for waiting so long to view it! It was really well done - great set design, script and acting along with an engaging storyline. I'm not a big fan of Johnny Depp, but I give him props for this flick. If you're a writer, then I recommend you watch how a great writer finds and dances with his muse.

A Perfect Tenant

No, I haven't forgotten my second screenplay. I've found if a take a week off between the end of one act and the beginning of the next one, I come back to the table much fresher. However, I really like the progress I've made and the process I used to get there. It allows me the chance to step away without losing the thread of the plot. One thing for certain, though … this one will have to be cut down quite a bit.

So, my from desk to yours, may you have a creative week - whatever you do!