Late Night

I stayed up past midnight last night, working on a chapter for a book I'm co-writing. The story was burning inside of me and I just needed to finish the chapter. Although the pace I was working at felt slow, the progress felt huge. I'm looking forward to sitting down with my partner this weekend and going over our chapters. Unlike last weekend, this will be a writing weekend. Keep the fire burning.

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Spring Forward

Jack London wrote big adventures set during the Alaskan gold rush. I loved reading them. Spring forward. Marcus Sedgwick writes a book in Londonesque style about a boy and a gun and the Alaskan gold rush. I loved reading Revolver, what a great book. Highly recommended.

I took the weekend off from writing, not something I normally do, and my son and I watched Memphis beat UTEP and Washington beat Arizona in college basketball; my wife and I hosted a St Patrick’s Day party with wine, women and fun; I got together with high school friends to draw our NCAA March Madness teams for the pool. Same guys for over 25 years. Same old jokes and stories. Lots of fun.  Spring forward. I’m super-energized for a great writing week.

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Quasimodo sprouts the tree of life

I was driving home when I saw several young branches and newly formed leaves sticking out of the back of a hunched man riding his bicycle towards me. Strange place to plant a tree, I thought. Like any writer who is also a good reader, I was feeling slightly cheated by not knowing this character's back story. Hmmm...was this some sort of curse placed upon him because he'd chopped down a cherry tree in a previous life? Was Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree finally lashing out and taking for a change? My wandering speculations and macabre thoughts were immediately silenced when, as he rode past the front of my car, I saw the man was wearing a backpack holding a small ficus plant that he had probably purchased at a nursery. As is sometimes the case for me with characters in a book, I liked him less now that I knew him more. I liked him better when he was Quasimodo sprouting the Tree of Life. On a less opinionated level, I wished I'd had a camera.

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March Madness...

March Madness is here. And for me, a basketball fan, it didn't arrive a moment too soon. I don't know who coined that term for the month filled with basketball tournaments, but it's certainly catchy. March just sounds great.  And that got me thinking...what other catchy months are out there? In southern California we have our June Gloom, that month filled with a marine layer of high-flying fog that seems to make us sad. What's July, the month when everyone goes to the beach or takes a wild vacation- July Oh My! And if March has its madness, what is September when the kids go back to school- September Sanity?

Anyone else have any thoughts? 

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(no subject)


My wife and I had a date night at the Magic Castle. I love magic and I love that place. The walls there ooze magical mystery and whisper secrets from days when magicians ruled the headlines of the world and were held in awe by millions. When I was in high school I grew up with Harry Blackstone III, and since I was ASB President and we were always looking for ways to raise money, I asked his father, the great Harry Blackstone Jr., if he would perform a fund raiser for us. He did multiple times. And as I stood backstage each time he performed for free the tricks passed down from his father, the legendary Harry Blackstone, I was amazed by not only how quick his fingers were, but also by the way he held audiences in his hands. That was his real magic.

But getting back to the Castle and my date night. While my wife and I were at the magic performances after dinner, I got called to participate in two different shows. Both magicians must have seen my enthusiasm for magic, or thought me to look like a sucker. Either way, it was fun. In the Parlour of Prestidigitation I went on stage and assisted the amazing Paul Green. What a kick he was, and even though I stood two feet away, I had no idea how he did what he did. In the Palace of Mystery my participation was a lot less, but still I was amazed by Ice McDonald and how he kept pulling pigeons out of thin air.

Like good writing, good magic holds that special wow factor. It can take us someplace special. The evening went too fast, as usual. But the magic still lingers.  


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Exciting New Year

Some current news:
This is a very exciting year for me in so many ways. First, I have a manuscript—oops! Let me rephrase that. I have a 115,000 word, labor of love I’m sending out to the world…fingers crossed. Secondly, I’m now working on another project, one I’ve been dying to get back to (I started it several years ago while taking a break on my big project, and those who glimpsed the beginning pages raved about them and the concept). I’ve loved the way that draft has sat on a shelf in my mind for the last few years, just waiting patiently for me to reach over and embrace it, and now that I’m daydreaming about the characters and bringing them to life I’m feeling that invigorating shower of creativity I always feel at the beginning of a project. And if that isn’t enough, I made some notes a while back for a fun novel that I planned to co-write with my critique partner, and this week, after multiple planning meetings and lengthy discussions over the last few months, we’ve begun writing our first chapters. It’s going to be a great year! 

Some recent reads I’ve really, really enjoyed:
The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth; Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi; and The Passage, Justin Cronin.

Currently reading (and enjoying):
Gallows Hill, Lois Duncan.

On the nightstand:
Revolver, Marcus Sedgwick, Beautiful Creatures, Garcia and Stohl; and The Uncanny, Andrew Klavan

Looking forward to dinner tonight at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. I love magic.

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Zombies have been hot in the publishing world. This is a great video for those who might wonder what to do about a zombie holiday invasion. 

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Draft Done

Yesterday I finished a major Draft. This manuscript is close to done, and it feels great to now shift gears and think about sending it out. Now I can start my Christmas shopping and travel about, waiting for parking spots, standing in lines for cashiers, and doing all the rest of the yule time fun without feeling any guilt. Hip Hip Hoorays and Happy Holidays!!!!

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last weekend

In my last entry I posted about how I like to go to coffee shops and watch the people that come and go, making notes on mannerisms that I might be able to use in my writing. The same holds true when I'm out at public events. I watch the way people exchange glances and words, I study the way members of different genereations interact, and I sometimes listen in on conversations. I'm a writer... come on. You do it too -- don't you? Isn't that how we get some of our juiciest material?

But last Friday, when I was attending Magic Millennium II at a small theater in Los Angeles, I got caught. The event was a fund raiser for a tiny theater, and sitting one row in front of me, and three seats to my left, was Loni Anderson from the old tv show, WKRP in Cincinnati. The man in front of me was texting Loni's every move, as well as information about how beautiful she still looked, to a friend. I was looking down and reading what he typed. After a little bit, he turned (I'm guessing to see if there were any more celebrities sitting around him) and our eyes met. I smiled. He said, "What? You read my text?" Then he sort of smiled. I said, "I couldn't help it."

I love to doodle, so here's how I'm sure it looked to those nearby.


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Little Black Book

I carry a little black book, a small journal with blank pages, around with me when I go out alone for coffee or a bite to eat. I use it to document the mannerisms of the people I watch. This somewhat strange routine helps me see the everyday motions and movements that I'd normally overlook if I had simply eaten or drank without paying attention to those around me. It forces me to observe, and as a result I have recorded a lot of rich mannerisms that speak more than words. When I use them in my writing, they make it richer. Of course, the recording of mannerism requires thar you read something into them, as the following example shows. But read into them well, and you have an observation of a simple action that reveals so much about a character. Here's just one example: She rolls her lips inward and glances up as she asks for help recalling where it was she'd first gone wrong.

Bu be advised, when making detailed observations at a place of dinning, you must be prepared to quickly look away when your subject stares back, And just to be safe, grab a shaker and salt your empty plate. No one will notice.

And by the way, one last thing that has nothing to do with anything except that I found it funny. I was out driving over the weekend and a lady in a Mini Cooper passed me. Her license plate holder said: Does this car make my butt look fast?.

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