Friday, March 26, 2010

Dad's New Book

Dad sent me a copy of the latest book he edited - Nuremberg and Beyond. It's a memoir by his good friend and fellow teacher Siegfried Ramler. I knew Sieg as a history teacher at my high school, Punahou. But before that he was an Austrian kid living in London during the Blitz who later became a key translator during the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

I just got the book, so I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but one glance shows me that it has the usual gorgeousness of any project worked on by designer Mac Simpson, my father's frequent collaborator. The pictures have gotten me very interested in reading about the Nuremberg trials. I'm a sucker for history, especially when it's this kind of insider view.

And I have no doubt it's been edited marvelously. That goes without saying...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fresh Eyes! Get your fresh eyes right here!

Now that the first draft of the book is done, I'm forcing myself to take a little hiatus from it. That way, when I return, it will be (fingers crossed) with fresh eyes. "Fresh eyes," are the best way to enter a rewrite. If you can obtain them, do it at any cost. But they are tougher to find than a mango on the tundra. so there's no guarantee I'll get these fresh eyes after taking a couple of weeks off from my manuscript. But it's worth a try.

Meanwhile, I'm contemplating a rewrite of my existing TV spec pilot. A spec pilot, TV novices, is a script for the first ep of a TV show that exists only in your head. It's entirely original. I wrote one such a couple of years ago and recently got some good notes on it. I hope to bring "fresh eyes" to it now.

"Fresh eyes" are sounding more and more like some sort of succulent fruit. Maybe it was my mango simile. But I keep thinking of tossing fresh eyes into my mouth and popping them between my teeth like cherry tomatoes.

Yes, tomatoes are fruit. And yes, that was gross. Fruit brings out my inner horror writer.

I tweeted this - but going from writing a novel to writing a TV script is like moving out of your luxurious RV into a stripped down sports car. I'm not feeling quite as zoomy as I should about it yet, but I'm working on it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What a Night

I finish the last chapter of my current novel today. Well, I finished the first draft. I sent it off to my crit partner in a rush, wanting nothing more than to be rid of it.

Now I'll just stop thinking about it for a week or so and concentrate on rewriting a TV pilot. Then I'll go back the book with (I hope) fresh eyes and rewrite and cut and renew and curse the gods once more.

Then I watched an episode of The Pacific. The heroism and carnage on display was stunning. The suffering and bravery of these young men (on both sides of the conflict) made me cry. I'm a bit of a cryer when it comes to things like this, but The Pacific would make a stone cry.

Then came a segment on 60 Minutes about Haitian orphans that made me want to pack my bags and fly there immediately to wrap my arms around some poor kid who lost his parents.

Then came the Reptiles episode of Life on the Discovery Channel, an intensely gorgeous, intimate look at nature in all its magnificence and horror. Imagine 10 Komodo dragons stalking and then feasting on a hapless, poisoned water buffalo. Imagine a frog's tongue shooting out to impossible lengths, grabbing a mantis by the head, and pulling the hapless insect right back into the frog's mouth. All in crystal clear close up.

Then healthcare reform passed. It's stunted and imperfect, but it's a start. A big start.

It was an emotional night in the Berry household.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekly Roundup

The ceiling got sanded, primed,and painted and appears fully recovered from its adventures during the days of rainstorms and blocked gutters. Next up - framing and hanging newly acquired photos from a Polish online gallery, posters from Prague, and perhaps more.

Eeking through the final chapter of my manuscript. Perhaps I am resisting finishing the damn thing for some reason or other. My conscious mind wants this done, for crying out loud. After that - rest and rewrite.

My friend Rod and his wife had a baby boy! Very exciting and happy news.

Bewared (new verb) the Ides of March.

Making plans to perhaps go to Rome, Naples, and Amalfi this fall with fab travel buddy Wendy. Wish I could start eating there now. I love Italy. Perhaps some of the language will return again to me when we go. Perche no?

Worked portions of my butt off at the day job early this week. No sign of let up in the TV insanity. Learning how writers can help themselves (or not) in how they relate to the studio and network while their series is in production.

Saw "The Ghost Writer" (excellent thriller. That jerk Polanski is annoyingly talented) and "Hot Tub Time Machine" (silly and not for everyone, but I enjoyed the raunchy dumbness and the 80's flashback.)

On TV, "Pacific" premiere was excellent, but the latest ep of "The Good Wife" was even better. Seriously, "Good Wife" is the best thing on TV right now. Making plans to have folks over to watch David Simon's new HBO series "Treme" after it premieres. I had a clan of loyal Simon fans over to watch seasons 4 and 5 of "The Wire" when that was on, so we're all very excited about this new series. Also THRILLED that HBO will do a series based on George R.R. Martin's high fantasy series "Game of Thrones." Cannot wait for that.

Pondering joining Script Frenzy, the April contest where people try to write 100 pages of a new script in 30 days. Doesn't quite coincide with my plans to 1) finish 1st draft of novel. 2) rewrite existing TV script. 3) Rewrite novel. Guess I can have my own script frenzy thereafter.

Or maybe just a plain ol' frenzy. I'll see what I can do.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wrote 5 Pages Tonight

Five pages in to the final chapter now. Maybe another ten pages, then the first draft is DONE.

I said, done.

Then a week or so off, then back to rewrite. Must sharpen characterization, get rid of adverbs, tighten, cut, and generally make better.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Make Your Wheel Squeaky

So if you're wondering why I haven't been blogging much (miss me?), just look at the mess the rains made in my first floor apartment.

Yes, I'm on the first floor of a two-story building. You'd think rain wouldn't be a problem for me. But I've had issues with leaks before. The gutters fill with mud over the years when my landlady-from-hell doesn't clean them, then the water runs in a sheet down the side of the building and seeps in between floors, peeing through bubbles in the paint onto my floor.

I warned my apartment manager it was happening again two weeks before the ceiling collapsed. A man came out looked at it, seemed to doubt it was the gutters, said he didn't have his tall ladder, but that he'd come back and deal with it.

He never dealt with it. Flash forward to - ceiling collapse. I was out of town in Newport Beach at the time, but my delightful cat caretaker called me, horrified at what the cats had done now.

Well, it was the rain, but it's fun to blame the cats. I imagine them in goggles weilding tiny blocks of plastic explosives. But I digress.

It took me over three hours to clean it up and the 6 by 8 hole in my ceiling was a horrific eyesore, full of spider webs and moths. Not to mention the overwhelming odor of dirty water, one of the few smells that truely grosses me out. (I'm not a person who grosses out easily - I can smash a huge, flying cockroach without blinking. But I have a horror of drains and the things that dwell in them. The dank, mildewy smell of dirty water evokes that more than anything.)

This happened on a Friday night. Did my landlord fix things up on Monday? No. Tuesday? No. All this time, I kept one eye on the weather and saw rain in the forecast, which meant not only more water drizzling down into my apartment, but the possibility of more ceiling collapsing.

So, I got squeaky.

This is not in my nature. I hate bothering people. I don't like to be a nag. I figure folks are decent and will do what they say they'll do. I should give them the benefit of the doubt.

But when people fail to do their job over and over, and you are the victim, it's time to be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I hated harassing my apartment manager, but I managed to get the phone number of the repair guy, got him to come over, and he fixed the gutters Wednesday, then dry walled up my ceiling on Thursday.

Rains hit like crazy on Saturday, but I was safe and dry.

Since this is a writing blog, I'll relate this back to writing and say - be persistent when you're trying to get published. Don't be a nag, like I had to be here, but don't let yourself give up. Keep squeaking along, sending your query letter out to agents. Keep pitching it at conferences (once it's fabulous and polished), and then persist in writing something new. Persist in believing in yourself, in learning your craft, in making your manuscript better. Don't let yourself by the lazy landlord. And don't let go of the dream of being published.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Today's Word Is...


A good Irish word that trips off the tongue and can describe anything from spirited playfulness to malicious interference. My friend Maritza loves to shout "Shenanigans!" whenever someone's up to something devious.

And it's apt for my life right now. One way or the other.