Friday, February 29, 2008


by Margaret Atwood from Morning in the Burned House

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It's his
way of telling whether or not I'm dead.
If I'm not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He'll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It's all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we'd do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it's love that does us in. Over and over
Again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and the pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You're the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Exercise # 5 - Who Lives Here?

(Photo from

Writing exercise for the week - who lives here?

My own haiku thoughts on this important question below.

Stay puft marshmallow
Man exploded on my house.
Dog made it out safe.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Screenwriting vs. Graphic Novels

I enjoyed reading the X-Men comic books in college, which was lo, many years ago, back when Jean Grey became Dark Phoenix and nearly destroyed the universe. My roommate, Alex, would buy the latest issue, and it'd make the rounds of all five of us roomies.

And now one of my favorite TV and film writers, Joss Whedon, is writing X-Men graphic novels with his trademark wit, darkness, and insight. And YA writers like Cecil Castellucci have found success with graphic novels like The Plain Janes, which has been optioned to be a movie. I'm caught up in an online comic that puts out fresh panels every Friday, for free, called The FreakAngels. And I've got a couple of far out movie ideas that would never make it onto the screen. So now, of course, I'm thinking about them as possible graphic novels.

Turns out comics/graphic novels need a writer and an artist. No way could I illustrate one of these puppies. But I'm thinking that my training as a screenwriter would come in handy, since graphic novels demand that the story be told visually just as much, if not more, than it be told in dialogue and prose. Then I'd either have to network and get a great artist, or sell the script to a publisher and let them find one.

So for me the first step is research. I bought a book on writing graphic novels. I started reading more graphic novels. I perused popular titles in the bookstore. I talked to my geek friends (and I have plenty of those!) about it and will be borrowing from their collections. I'm not ready to go forward with my own graphic novel script... yet. My current novel would make a great graphic novel, I think.

But first things first - the actual novel. Then, once that's published to much acclaim (cough cough) I can sell off the movie rights and write the graphic novel version to add money to my overflowing coffers.

Oh wait. I have to actually finish writing the dang thing first, don't I? And wait wait - that takes time, discipline, and talent, doesn't it? Well I guess I better get right on that then. (Hustles off to write some more...)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Get Yer Work On

The writers strike is over at last, and the TV business has gone INSANE.

Did I just put that in all CAPS? Is it justified? (Thinking...) Yes, by gum, it's justified.

It's as if all the pent up energy that would've been spent setting meetings, making deals, schmoozing, and pushing ideas from the months of the strike has emerged all at once and it all must happen now now now.

Selfishly, I'm glad they came to an agreement so that my job is both unthreatened and much more interesting. Is it a good deal? I wish I knew. But the writers I know are happy to get back to work, and everyone's breathing a huge sigh of relief... until the possible Actors strike when their contract expires June 30.

Sigh. Show biz. It's extremely difficult to break in. It batters the shit out of you if you do manage to get your toe in the water. And it's ready to spit you out at a moment's notice.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flu Block

There's this thing called writer's block that hits me every now and then. Although it's really not a block at all, just my inner critic getting in the way of my creative inner whatcha-majiggy.

But the flu? Now that blocks my writing. I've been suffering from this dang bug for a week now, and I'm sick of it. So to speak.

I'm back at work, but I'm dragging. I haze off into the ether at odd moments, then am brought back to earth by a coughing fit. I'm cancelling all my night time activities and heading straight home to turn my mind off and get some sleep. I even had to beg off from tonight's critique group meeting, which bums me out. I really want to hear their take on the next chapter, but no way I can haul myself all the way over there and back after a full day's work. As for writing? I just can't focus. It's hard enough to read scripts and arrange meetings while I'm at work, let alone come up with hilarious and insightful crap for my novel.

This flu is blocking my writing far worse than my inner critic, and that's saying something. Makes me appreciate how wonderful it is just to feel normal and healthy. Hopefully I'll perk up in the next couple of days so I can kickstart myself back into gear. Once you take some time off from a manuscript, it take a lot of energy to reconnect with it and get back in the swing.

Stay healthy. Wash your hands. Get the flu shot. Shun your sick friends if you want to be well enough to write.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yes We Can

If you are in a primary state, vote today. I did.

I cast my vote for Obama. But it wasn't an easy choice, and I do feel that whoever wins, we'll be okay. If you're in the mood for a little inspiration and don't mind celebrities, check out this pro-Obama video.

And here he is at his most inspirational in a speech from last year...

Vote! And hope!

Ultimate SoCal Day

I inherited a couple of free tickets to Disneyland and used them to take a good friend out for an important birthday. This was Superbowl Sunday, now, and it was raining.

Really, just the perfect time to go to Disneyland. The crowds are usually forbidding in that Happiest Place on Earth. Go on a weekend in the summer at your peril. But a rainy Sunday in late January? What the hell!

We got there early and went straight onto my favorite ride, Space Mountain. Without crowds, we managed to cover most of what we wanted at the park and next door California Adventure (check out the Soarin' ride there if you haven't already) by 2:30 or so.

Then we hopped in the car and headed for Malibu to watch the Superbowl with some celebrities and their families.

Didn't I tell you it was the Ultimate SoCal day? As we drove along the 5 freeway, the traffic slowed down unexpectedly. What was this? The Superbowl was just starting! What was everyone doing on the road?

Turns out they were slowing down to lookyloo at a car that had flipped off a bridge onto its roof on the (dry) bed of the so-called LA river. A tow truck slowly hoisted it up. Oy. Not a happy sight. But once again, typical Southern California.

The drive after that was smooth, and we took the 101 to Las Virgenes and Malibu Canyon, a gorgeous drive as the rain broke and the sun shone spectacularly on the wet green hills and shimmering ocean.

One halftime touch football game, lots of buffalo wings, amazing banana cream pie, and a Giants win later, we headed home. Exhausted but satisfied. SoCal can be a glorious, crazy place to live, let me tell you. There's always some new adventure to be had.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Writing Exercise #4 - Hit and Run

Over a year ago I in my green Honda accord was rear-ended by a young woman in her early twenties driving a battered black American-make muscle car of some type. We were on a busy street, and I was stopped at the light and she just rammed into me.

As I sat there, stunned, she got out of her car, and looked at me through my window. "You OK?" she asked. I sort of nodded. "Why don't we get out of traffic? Pull across the street over there and I'll follow you."

"Okay," I said. When the light was green, I pulled across to a side street and waited for her. She gunned her engine and... turned left, racing away. Hit and run. I cursed, did a U-turn, and raced after her, only to be pinned in place by a construction truck.

I called the cops, made a report, and got the car towed to a body shop.

But what was going through that young woman's mind as she cold-bloodedly plotted to get me and my car out of her way so she could make a safe getaway? Taking her point of view, write something (anything from a haiku to a short story) that gives some kind of insight into why she did what she did. Every villain has their own story, their own reasons for what they do. Get inside this one's head.

Believe me, I'd like to know what the hell she was thinking.