Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I love it when the book takes over...

By that, I mean it takes on a life of its own. Sometimes it turns out to be a mess, like what happened with OT, but I'm beginning to think that only happens because I'm not really listening to the characters as they tell their stories. And looking back, Jake was getting flustered with everything that was going on, like he felt he had to keep adding more and more to keep me interested.

That's not to say what he brought in was wrong, some of it just detracted from his meaning. Now that I've got some distance from that, I can see how cluttered it had become. And how him telling me who the bad guy is was a way to try and simplify things. I'm amazed that I fought with him on it.

I'm hoping I've caught on and can keep that in mind with Bugzters, because it's started telling me what the story's really about, and wants me to add back in a character I cut to help clarify that. In my first draft of the screenplay, Alex had a brother named Drew, who was ill, and Alex blamed him as the reason for them moving. I was asked to cut that and focus on Alex, completely, in the script, with Taylor as his supporting friend. I did...and it was the wrong thing to do.

Then when we were doing the rewrites making BZ into an animated script, I was being pushed to get rid of Taylor, too. Combine her with Alex. By that point I'd learned my lesson and flat out refused. The reaction was not pretty. I'm lucky they're allowing me to do this as a book.

I thought for a bit about putting Drew back in the story...but I couldn't see how he'd fit, anymore. Until tonight. When the Bagh-star understand how much Alex hates moving from his friends, they try to fix things as a thank you to him. But it comes after he realizes his father is the reason for the move, so it's no longer necessary. The man is never satisfied with where he works and keeps thinking the next job will be a better one. What these moves do to his family is secondary in his thought process.

It's still going to take some finagling to work Drew in, but he's suddenly become essential to Alex's development as a person. It feels funny saying that about an 11 year-old boy. At that age, you're anything but developed. But sometimes you learn things about life that jolt you out of childhood.

Hmm...maybe I should stop referring to this as a children's story...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Prepping BZ...

Man, I have a cast of characters in this story --

Alex Lunquist -- 11 years old, stubborn and angry, typical kid.
Taylor Castillo -- 11 year old genius, Alex's best friend, gets lost in techno-speak.
Billy LeGrande -- 11 year old brat, sneaky, just like his dad.
Morika -- 11 year old brat, queen of toys and you're not.
Morika's Mother -- trendy, entitled, condescending, crass.
Cheyenne -- 11 year old brat, Morika's best friend...for now.
Mrs. Rutledge -- crossing guard, gruff but cares about the kids.
Mr. Smith -- owns Joys Toys, his dead wife's store, old-fashioned but not unwilling to change.
Mr. LeGrande -- obnoxious and entitled, wants Joys Toys location for his Virtuoso-Splosion.
Mrs. Castillo -- Earth mother who's happiest baking a cake, level-headed.
Mr. Castillo -- Top-level Computer Nerd who gets lost on the internet.
Julia Lundquist -- Real estate agent, caring mom to Alex but close to losing it.
Hal Lundquist -- Techno-dad, restless, one of those "grass is greener" types.
Bagh-Star -- 6 neon vapors in varying colors, leader 1st seen as hologram of Hal then as Tesla, speaks with German accent.
Chester Harry -- clumsy fisherman dude, not very bright.
Hex-on -- silver orbs that turn themselves into likenesses of Chester, very 3-stooges in quadruplicate.
Ms. Chris -- MESSIES agent, dressed in beige, too cool for you.
Mr. Carter -- Beige MESSIES agent, dressed in beige, even cooler.
CPO -- Navy Liaison to the Beige Pair, aware of reality...maybe too perfect a Navy man...
Mrs. LeGrande -- Stepford wife
Mr. Eberhard -- droning teacher
Mrs. Freeman -- principal, caring but no-nonsense.
Coach -- at school
Rowdy -- Alex's friend in Albuquerque

I've already got notes on how to dig into Alex's past and why he hates to move, and how this is affecting his relationship with not only his mother but his father. Same for Taylor; Alex is her only friend and she doesn't want him to move, either, because then she'll be alone. The story's going to have a serious undertone...which I don't mind...but I need to keep it joyful enough for kids, too. That'll be a challenge...

Well...that and making the Chesters work on the page instead of on film.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Arguing with yourself...

I've spent the last couple of days trying to make a decision. I've been told having my name on books like How To Rape A Straight Guy and Rape In Holding Cell 6 make it improbable anyone would want to read one of my books aimed at younger readers. That this is what's hurt David Martin. Someone can go online, look up me up on Google and the first thing they're likely to see is one of those in-your-face titles. And they're right; it is.

Meaning they think I should use a pseudonym when I do the novelization for Bugzters and publish it. It's too late to change the author of David Martin; Amazon will always have the Kyle Michel Sullivan version up on its site. The assholes. They'll happily dump my work when they feel like it, but when I ask them to drop the old editions of my books, they swear they just can't. It's ludicrous. So when someone goes on their site, they see I'm not only the author of an off-beat book like The Lyons' Den but also what many people think is gay porn, so even gay readers might pass it up thinking it's going to have tons of porno-sex in it when it doesn't.

But...my feeling is that if I do use a pen-name, it's like I'm ashamed of my work. And I'm not. Sure, I've had people say my books should be banned...and Amazon and Kobo have done it based solely on the titles...but I've gotten praise, too. And I'll put passages of HTRASG and RIHC6 up against any other author's, that's how proud I am of them. Granted, I'm no Tolstoy or Hemingway, but I'm not Dr. Seuss, either.

At the same time, the reality is...a lot of people will not read my books based on the subject matter and titles, and that will bleed into my other work. My books don't sell all that well, but they are high-profile enough to have been referenced on Queerty (positively) and Fox News (disparagingly), and have invited not only good comments but vicious attacks (which probably means I'm doing it right).

I dunno...I can't figure out which way is the best to go. Maybe I should try publishing Bugzters under the Michel Grasley name and see what happens. I'd like it to be read...and that would give it a chance to work on its own instead of being weighted down with my past books.

Or is that giving in to fear?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More of Mrs. Muir's ghost story...

Lovely discussion of the movie, but I think it's as famous for its exquisite musical score as the story. Bernard Hermann was phenomenal, not just as Hitchcock's musician but also Citizen Kane's and The Day the Earth Stood Still's and Taxi Driver's...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Southwest Airlines is going downhill...

I used to like flying Southwest. It was quirky and cheap but still comfortable and easy to deal with, once you had the routine down. And if you sat in the back of the plane, you were just as likely to have an empty set in the middle of your row as not. But the last few flights have not been fun, at all, and this last one to and from Seattle was a pain both ways.

First off, the planes are always packed. I'm getting to think that if they don't have 95% capacity on the flight, they'll cancel it. So no more empty seats by you unless you're really lucky. And the later the flight is in the day, the more likely it is they'll be running late. Then god help you if you've got to make a tight connection.

That happened to me going from Seattle to Buffalo. I had to change planes in Chicago and had just a 50 minute window to do it. That's not time enough to eat or anything, especially since they like to put connections at opposite ends of the terminal. On top of that, they start loading half an hour before the flight and if you're not in the A group, you're screwed. Well...the flight was 20 minutes late getting away from Seattle and an additional 10 minutes late getting into Chicago. On top of it, I had to go from B2 to B26, which was nearly half a mile away. I got there just as they were loading my group in.

Then we got off half an hour late from Chicago because the bags were still being transferred from my flight. I didn't get home till after 1am. And as if to add insult to injury, I was serenaded the whole way by a couple dozen college girls giggling and singing Disney Tunes, which were too loud to be drowned out by my ear buds. If I ever hear "The Circle of Life" again, I'll kill somebody.

I should have done Jet Blue's redeye on Monday night. It's a bit more expensive, but most everybody sleeps on that plane and you get in and up to Buffalo the following morning and can nap enough to take you till that evening. Not a good idea, staying the extra day and taking a day flight.

Live and learn...they say...but I don't believe them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Plotting so as not to plod...

Bugzters works pretty tightly as a screenplay, but in the rewriting I did I cut out  and trimmed down a couple of characters I liked so I'm aiming to add them back into the story. I'm finding that harder to do than I expected, because it interrupts the rhythm of the piece.

That's not to say it's wrong to put them in; in the initial drafts, they made perfect sense. For example: Mrs Routledge is a school crossing guard who winds up suspecting one of the Chesters is up to no good with the kids she's there to protect. She doesn't know there are 4 of them, and her suspicions are on the child-predator side as regards the Chester she sees...so she does her best to keep tabs on him. She even runs him off from the school, once, and warns the cops about him. That may help set up the arrest of one of them...

Another deal is the agents from MESCIS, who had more of their too-cool-for-you chatter going on, not to mention Ms. Chris' casual sexual harassment of the CPO. That may be a bit adult for the book, but I think it's kept enough in the background. I'll have to play that carefully, since I'm aiming this at 4-7th grades.

Thing is, by adding them in I need to find a new rhythm for the piece. As a script, it shoots off and runs 90 to nothing. As a book, I can meander a bit more (so long as I don't get lost in that meandering) and dig deeper into the characters. Especially Alex and Taylor...who are dealing with the typical 11 year-old kid things on top of the Bagh-star situation. That's proving to be a trick, even in working up a new outline.

That's not to say it can't be done; The Lyons' Den started out as a script that became a play that became a book, and I think the book works fine. It's not as easy a read as I thought it would be -- keeping track of Ace's patois apparently takes some getting used to -- but it does the job, and I think Daniel winds up being a rich, complex character.

This is going to be more interesting than I expected...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book to movie...

It's amazing to compare the book version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir to the movie...and wonder how Hollywood thought it would make a good film. The book is a meandering mess that rattles on for decades as Mrs. Muir lives her pathetic life. Captain Gregg is never seen by her; he's only in her mind...except when he's really angry. And Lucy Muir is such a sniveling piece of work, easily bullied by her in-laws and everyone else, who only grows a hint of a spine after she's 50 and has been cajoled into it by Captain Gregg, a voice in her head that always puts her down as immature. I didn't like either one of them. And the ending paragraph of the book was just awful.

In the movie, Lucy is stronger. More independent. The main action is compressed into a few years, and they dropped her obnoxious son to keep the daughter. As portrayed by Gene Tierney, Lucy Muir is still very much a turn of the 20th Century woman but with enough self-assuredness that she can fight back when need be. And Rex Harrison as Captain Gregg is still an overpowering presence, but he's not nearly as demeaning and meddlesome as in the book. And you can see him...which is, of course, necessary for a movie.

The film is just a beautifully realized romance directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz that's laced with mysticism and a sense of mutual-respect between a living person and a spirit (talk about love against impossible odds). The book is the story of a mousy woman's life, who's always misused by men and can't seem to handle her own affairs without a man's help...even as she's about to die. And this was written by a woman, and was a best-seller! Talk about changing tastes...

Wow...if I hadn't already thought Philip Dunne was a good screenwriter (he did screenplays for Suez, Stanley & Livingston, How Green Was My Valley, and probably added the humanity to Kiss of Death), I'd definitely think so, now.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Epiphany...

I was alternating between reading The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (I already liked the movie, but this book makes me appreciate it even more) and working on the updated outline for Bugzters while on my plane trip when I had one of those moments of revelation writers so love. There were a couple of screaming babies on the flight, so I plugged my headphones into my laptop and listened to some Enya...and realized what the story had been missing from the start. It was so obvious, I could kick myself for not seeing it earlier.

The synopsis is in my previous post, so I won't go over that, again. But at the end, the Bagh-star do get back into space and on their way to Venus...and an uncertain fate, something I alluded to in the story. Throughout the script, I note how they love dancing on the cosmic waves of energy whispering throughout the universe. They call it The Wave, since the Earthly definitions of "surfing" best match their understanding of it. That's what Alex and Taylor are trying to get them back to.

Thing is, in one scene, the lead Bagh-star admits they don't know if Venus will be hospitable to them, and may die trying to find out. But if they don't do that, they face extinction, anyway, at the hands of their enemies. So they do what they must...putting Alex's complaints about having to move to a new town into serious perspective.

But in the script, I never show them being on The Wave. They're always on Earth. That is what's known as an obligatory scene. Period. And I never even thought about it until Enya's To Go Beyond from The Celts album played at the precise moment I was digging through that part of the script. I froze...and I could picture it. And this is what I wrote...

Quickly they rose, shooting through rain and cloud and sun, tiny globes of what we call light so fragile and pure, certain of their destiny. Straight through the earth's thin, delicate atmosphere and its ozone protection into the void, into what humans thought of as nothingness. Then, one by one, they caught the gentle currents that shape the universe into such magnificence. A whisper of awareness...a tender caress...giving them direction and bringing them absolute joy. They clung to it and danced around it and with each other. It was the wave, again. The wave. Giving them strength. Building them anew. Leading them away from the confining fields of glorious green earth and across the deep dark distance between her and the swirling beauty of her nearest neighbor in the galaxy.


On they rode, twisting and spinning and laughing as if they were the coolest surfer dudes in the whole of existence, riding the wave like it was the perfect pipe, growing closer and closer and closer to what they hoped would be their new home...closer and closer to finding out whether or not this bright new world would be the savior of their fellow creatures. Closer...and still dancing to music heard only to them. Closer...and still laughing for being free once more. Closer...and still sure of their purpose. Closer and closer...until...one by one...they vanished into the furious storming clouds of Venus.

That is when everyone back on the hillside began to move, again. The storm rumbled and flashed. The rain pelted down. The wind whipped through Alex, chilling him to the bone. But still he looked up
, and a tear mingled with the rain on his cheek as he whispered, "I hope they made it."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Planning stages...

Okay, step one is begun. I'm signing up for National Novel Writing Month and I'm doing Bugzters as my book. I'm working up an outline...here's my first pass...
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Eleven-year-old ALEX is furious. His parents had promised there would be no more moves after settling in Seattle, but now his father has accepted a new job in Albuquerque, which will force him to leave the home he loves. He blames his little brother, DREW, for this; Drew's asthma has been a problem since they moved to Seattle. So Alex fights back by manipulating his home's smart system to scare off prospective buyers, thinking this will change his parents' plans. But during his latest session, lightning strikes the satellite dish and six neon vapor aliens (who call themselves BAGH-STAR) zip into Alex's iMac. They were en route to Venus but were almost captured by evil aliens (called HEX-ON) and now are trapped on planet Earth. Stunned, Alex and his best friend, TAYLOR, a girl-genius who lives next door, promise to help get them back on their way.

First they hide the Bagh-Star in some toys Taylor is developing then begin to formulate a plan. What they don't know is the Hex-on HAVE landed and formulated themselves into four versions of a goofy guy named CHESTER. Plus two Beige Agents from MESCIS (the Military Extraterrestrial Search, Capture and Interrogation Squad) have arrived to track down the aliens. On top of it all, with the Bagh-Star hiding in Taylor’s insect-like toys (which she now calls Bugzters) they work perfectly and every kid in town wants one. ToDAY!

After a series of close calls and as another storm blows in, Alex and Taylor wind up being chased by their mothers, the police, their snotty classmates Morika and Billy, the Chesters, the Hex-on spaceship, a greedy toymaker, and the Beige pair. Everybody winds up on a hilltop overlooking Puget Sound, where Alex and Taylor have just one chance to help get the Bagh-Star back into space. But with so many people interfering, how could it possibly work?
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I'm cheating a little; this was a screenplay that turned into a nightmarish ordeal for me, but I got the okay from the woman who now owns the script rights to do the book. I'm taking it back to my initial idea, with a few details added in from the later versions, and working up a step outline for the writing. The only question now is whether or not it will hit 50,000 words.

You should laugh at that -- me not being able to fill a 50,000 word commitment when I so love my writing.

Friday, October 10, 2014

In preparation for...

I read an interesting article in the October Writer's Digest discussing the first two chapters of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. It detailed the hook that gets you into the story, how a characteristic moment reveals what type of person Jane is, the subtle way she described the location, symbolism to bolster Jane's situation and future, what her normal world is like, how neatly backstory was slipped in and how minimal it was, the manner in which she revealed character traits like intelligence and precociousness, the establishment of the dramatic question that will mold the story, action beats used to further the story and character, the lie the character believes that will propel their action forward, and the extraordinary factor. I've never read Jane Eyre; now I want to.

I see a lot of this already established in my opening chapters of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Hell, the story's first line sets up the dramatic question -- why does Jake stay with Antony? And it keeps pushing through the rest of the book and winds up being more important than anyone thought it could be, with the final line answering it.

Something it got me to thinking about was, maybe I had so much going on in OT because I didn't want to delve deeply into what that question really meant. Not just to Jake but to Antony. In this story, Tone does things to deliberately drive Jake away. He's got his good reasons for doing it -- everybody has their good reasons, to quote a famous film -- but as it currently stands, the whole issue sort of drifts along once those are revealed until I force it to come back to the fore.

It needs to be the final factor that brings about the resolution, with the answer articulated at the end once Jake accepts the truth of what happened. But as it currently stands, I have a 100 pages of running, jumping and standing still crap after that. Not right...but it was a bloody battle to get me to see it.

I'm finally beginning to think the implosion of OT may have been the blessing that kept me from ruining Jake's story.