Deep Blue

 

Let me go on record now by saying I am pretty much over the whole year-end top 10 list of movies, TV, music, et cetera. They’re cheap, easy things to write and pretty much required for any creative person. Websites are cluttered with them, comments sections are cluttered with disagreements over them, and every year they repeat.

I am so done with them.

So, in the spirit of the season here’s Brad’s Top 5 of 2014, plus runners up which I guess makes this Brad’s Top 10 List. Not necessarily The Best in movies, music, TV, comics, and books, but the ones that most left an impression on me, and will likely remain with me for years to come.

MOVIES

I start with movies because they’re technically my thing.  And I really had to make a Sophie’s Choice here because of the movies I did see in 2014 two stood out from the pack for very different reasons, and deciding between them was a monumental chore.  And while the year technically isn’t over yet I doubt anything I see in the next two weeks will equal, let alone surpass ..

boyhood-teaser-poster

If I was to make a movie version of Mixtape it would probably be like Boyhood. Not in the sense that we’d film it over a dozen years, but because Boyhood is such a great celebration of the moments you don’t think will amount to anything but in the end realize they’ve had enormous impact on you. For me no sequence captured the power of film than a brief one where young Mason dresses up in a Hogwarts costume to attend a midnight book launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  with some school friends. These friends only appear in that scene and then we’ve jumped forward another year. We never see these friends again. Their lives are just supporting roles in the life of Mason, just like so many of or friendships are just points on a map. When the book of the first decades of the 21st century are written, Boyhood will surely be a part of it, documenting average, ordinary people moving through life in search of those special moments, only to realize those moments were with them the entire time.

Runner up:

grand_budapest_hotel

Because I had a big goofy grin on my face throughout it. Beautifully shot, performed, scored, funny, touching and surprisingly sad all at once. It may even be my favorite Wes Anderson film. But what puts it atop my list is that I think The Grand Budapest Hotel, despite its 1930s setting, spoke most poignantly to life in the year 2014. That deep down we’re all decent people struggling to remain so in a world that seems increasingly spun out of control into chaos and darkness.

MUSIC

Lykke_Li_-_I_Never_Learn

My wife and I jetted across the Atlantic to Scandinavia back in October. We toured Stockholm, then Oslo, then Copenhagen, and back to Stockholm to make our return flight. On our last day we loaded up on souvenirs – clothes, shoes, and candy, and I grabbed I Never Learn the latest album by Sweden’s Lykke Li. Probably because I’d listened to it on the flight over on Air France’s entertainment service, probably more because I wanted some audio record of our adventures that I could listen to in years to come and remember things like Gamla Stan at night, the train to Oslo, Tivoli Gardens. It’s also a really great album too and I’m glad I discovered her.

Runner up:

jw

I’m a fan of Jack White. I’m a fan of his music, be it with the White Stripes or the raconteurs or the Dead Weather. I really like his solo work, and Lazaretto is as good if not better than his first solo album Blunderbuss. But what I most like about him is he’s been able to carve out his particular niche of music and business of it in an age where everyone and everything is competing for your dollar. That low-fi approach of third man records is a model I wish more creative types emulated. I certainly hope to do so with my work.

TV

2014 was the year I realized television was, for me anyway, the more exciting visual medium. Certainly more so than movies were. It was the year “event” television became the clock around which I organized my free time around. And while I could have gone with Vikings, The Americans, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, or Masters of Sex, my favorite TV show kind of snuck up on me.

fargo-fx-tv-series-poster

Because on paper it shouldn’t have worked but it did. There wasn’t a false note in the ten episodes of this twisted, twisty story that more than captures the feel of the Coen brothers’ 1996 classic – it made that film feel like a smaller chapter in a much bigger story. Loaded with memorable performances, particularly Allison Tolman’s crusading cop and Billy Bob Thornton’s malevolent killer,  it was the one show that really snuck upon me. And with Season 2 taking place in a different time period with a brand new cast, expect to see more TV like Fargo in the near future.

Runner Up:

peaky

Set in post WW1 Birmingham as a gangster played by Cillian Murphy attempts to build a criminal empire while still remaining an honorable man in a world without it. Standing in his way; Sam Neil, Noah Taylor, and Tom Hardy. If those names don’t grab you then trust me when I say Peaky Blinders is not the show for you. But if they do chances are you already saw it.

COMICS

With the release of Mixtape #5 in June and the completion of Vol. 1, I actually had time to get back into comic book reading. Much of that was catch-up with some ongoing series – The Massive, Fables, Astro City – I’ve been reading for some time. And while my choices didn’t technically see their initial release in 2014 I picked them because they grabbed me.

trillium1

Printed in 2013 but collected in 2014, Jeff Lemire’s endlessly inventive dystopian time travel love story sci-fi epic surprised me with each turn of the page. I want to write volumes about how much I loved it but hate the thought of spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t. So let me just say if you did read Trillium you already know why it’s so special, and if you haven’t, here’s your chance (doubly so if you haven’t picked up a comic book in years).

Runner Up:

saga issue one

Because Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples’ sci-fi epic is as good as everyone says. Maybe better.

BOOKS

This is a tough one because I only read one book in 2014 that was actually published in 2014, and this is supposed to be a 2014 list. There are 2014 books on my “to read” list but with work reading and writing dominating much of my year I missed out on things like The Bone Clocks, Perfidia, Revival, etc. And if I’ve been a good boy maybe I’ll get some of those for Christmas. But in the meanwhile

FICTION:

Terror_simmons

technically fiction, even though the characters and situation are all-too real. but the great thing about unsolved mysteries is you’re free to imagine what could have happened, or just chuck it and tell your own white-knuckle story. Published in 2008, I got around to reading it this year, fueled in part by my travels through Scandinavia, and by my ever-present interest in the age of polar exploration. Plus, the fact a scientific team discovered the remains of Erebus at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean this year reignited that interest.  And while I have some quibbles about The Terror which I won’t get into because it ventures into spoiler territory, I admire its attention to detail and for putting a desperate bunch of characters into a terrible situation, then having that situation deteriorate even further until you think things can’t get any worse. Then they do. Again, and again. Best read at night while the wind howls outside the window.

NON-FICTION:

ME

It’s rough around the edges and could use a good copy editor, but Keith Sharp’s look back at the rise and fall of Canada’s Music Express Magazine pressed all sorts of nostalgia buttons, even though its heyday was well before I was a big music fan. Maybe because as a Canadian living in America for the last 6 years there’s that need to stay connected and reconnect with your homeland. But more because the book and the Music Express era were a unique time and place for Canada, and for the music industry that most certainly will never come around again.

So that ends my 2014. I hope anyone reading this finds time in the weeks remaining to read, watch, and relax with a good book, a movie, some television, and some music.

 

 

Shut Your Mouth

My wife was having dinner the other day with a friend, catching up after several months apart. The usual chit-chat developed into the familiar question; “what’s new?”

My wife answered; “Oh you know, this and that. Spent a week in Scandinavia …”

This was news to my wife’s friend, who wanted to know everything. She also expressed surprise that, despite them being Facebook friends, my wife hadn’t mentioned the trip at all. She hadn’t updated her FB page while we were trekking through Stockholm and Oslo and Copenhagen, and hadn’t posted any photos from our vacation, save for changing her profile picture to her in a Copenhagen bar that bore her name.

Scandinavia October 2014 159

Pictured: not my wife and not that bar. But Copenhagen was really nice.

Oh yeah, we took a lot of photos – well over 200. But on getting back home we decided pretty quickly that we weren’t going to upload them anywhere public. At most we were going to create an album of them here, to sit on our shelves, as memory of what was a fantastic trip. Naturally you’re asking what this has to do with, well, anything.

Then you maybe notice it’s been a while since I updated this website.

Yeah.

***

I’ve always been what you would call taciturn. I’m not one to offer up information out of the blue. Ask me a question I’ll give you an answer. But in any social situation you’ll find me gravitating to the nearest wall. Some interpret this as me being snobbish or unfriendly. Others figure I’m just an introvert, when the truth is I really just don’t like people or being around people that much.

Okay, that was a joke, but I don’t consider myself an introvert. I like to watch, and listen, not to talk. The world is full of talkers, and some truly have the gift of gab. But the majority of it is a white noise of lip-flap, and eventually it’s just static in search of a signal.

Look, I know how it’s supposed to work. In our hyper-connected world we’re supposed to share our vacations, our family moments, our personal moments with people we barely know. Heck, I even considered doing a post vacation update to this website with some observations on Scandinavia, its people and culture. I even drafted one and was deciding on which pictures to upload when I realized I didn’t want to share those photos, those moments, or those memories with anyone. It was a wonderful vacation – a genuine adventure – but by feeling obligated to share the details of it, I felt I’d only diminish the experience.

I get it. We’re supposed to be linked in, we’re supposed to cultivate our little patch of cyberspace so people know to stop by. What we’re not supposed to do – especially if you’re a creative type – is let that patch of landscape grow neglected and fallow. If you’re a writer you’re supposed to blog constantly, optimise your SEO, contribute guets blogs, direct people to your author page on FB and Goodreads, and constantly pimp out work – available on Kindle for only .99 cents – while you amass tens of thousands of twitter followers (i.e. “buy followers”) and generally puff yourself up to be someone more popular and more important than you really are. because it’s important people know who you are and what you do at all times.

Ahem

Ahem

Thing is; all that is, to my mind at least, total bullshit. You don’t need to do any of it – you want to, but you don’t need to. What you need to do is spend less time talking about your work and more time doing that actual work. So that’s where I’ve been the last number of months; I’ve been doing. Hard at work on several projects that I feel no string compulsion to talk about just yet. First off, they’re not anywhere ready to be talked about, and even then, to what end does telling you what I’m working on make any difference whatsoever? They have yet to be produced or broadcast or published; maybe when we get closer to those dates I’ll start promoting them, but for now I’m content for these projects of mine to remaine mine and nobody else’s.

But in this age of connectivity I would like to submit the somewhat radical notion that maybe not constantly talking about or promoting yourself and your work is the new black. Despite your personal feelings on the recent U2 album that magically appeared in your iTunes, you have to admit that it just appearing out of the blue was a bold move. Contrast that with the usual process – announce the project-to-be, drop a trailer or a song and video, get some (hopefully) glowing advance reviews, blitz your media and then hopefully people are lining up for the resulting work. And that approach definitely works.

Until it doesn’t work.

Because sometimes you just get so burned out hearing about something before it’s released, by the time it does appear you’re already well and sick of it. And if the end result underwhelms you’re going to be over it in about a week. Books get read and shelved. Albums uploaded, listened to, and forgotten. Movies watched once, and never more than once. Sometimes talking about a thing can rob it of its power, and its wonder. Sometimes too many samples of it, too many sips or nibbles, and eventually you lose the taste for it. It’s a variation of the advice Charles Beaumont gave to Harlan Ellison on the latter’s arrival in Hollywood. And I paraphrase:

“Achieving success [in Hollywood] is like climbing a mountain of cow shit to pluck the single, solitary rose at its summit. By the time you reach it, you’ve lost the sense of smell.”

So as we close up shop on 2014, I look forward to cocooning a little as I sit out the eye of the storm circling me at present. Catch up on some reading, some movies and TV, and brace myself for 2015. Because I want to keep my sense of smell. Because if I don’t how am I going to appreciate the fragrance of that single solitary rose?

Because 2015? That is going to be quite the year.

And I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

UPDATED:

Irony of ironies that this blog entry has become one of the most popular I’ve ever done. I should blog about not blogging more often. Or is that less often?

But on a serious note I’m setting the alarm and turning off the lights on 2014. It was a great, albeit frequently exhausting year full of travel and work and adventure and more than its share of surprises, many of which won’t fully raise their heads until 2015. So I’ve earned a break. Catch up on reading. Do family stuff. Oh, and maybe squeeze in some revisions to a TV project I’m planning to send out in the new year.

Later, gators.

The Miracle

U2_Songs_of_Innocence_cover

So if you were living under a rock last month U2 released their new album Songs of Innocence on iTunes for free. And people bitched about it. Let me correct that; people on the internet bitched about it because that’s what people on the internet do. Always needing something to rail against. Even now a month plus out they’re still complaining about it. “Why is this U2 album in my iTunes?” “How do I delete this U2 album?” How do I dress myself?” Et cetera.

How many of them actually listened to the album?

Not many by my guess. Which is too bad because I listened to it and I have to say I like it. I actually think it’s one of their best albums and may be on a level with Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree – widely recognized as high water marks in the band’s oeuvre (and I promise not to use oeuvre again in this post).

It’s certainly their most personal album, with 11 songs (13 if you include the 2 bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition CD) all drawn from the same well; dirty, dangerous Dublin of the late 70s. Songs about an IRA bombing – Raised by Wolves — about the sudden death of a parent – Iris (Hold Me Close) – and it opens with a song about how the right song by the right artist can change your life – The Miracle (of Joey Ramone). It’s an album about itself; about songs (no small coincidence one of these songs is called Song For Someone).

And I’m not at all embarrassed to say I like the album. Because it’s easy to hate things and be cynical about everything. It takes bravery to unabashedly like something others do not and will not and I don’t owe any of those people a reason to say I like it. But I’m not here to debate the merits of the album or its controversial release strategy. I’m here to talk about something much bigger than either. But I should point out that track 11 – The Troubles – which features a duet with Swedish singer Lykke Li led me to seek out and purchase her latest album, so the free iTunes release led me to spend money in a physical store. Score one for the good guys.

[Though to be blunt I think their “controversial” release strategy was brilliant. Yes it enraged the same people who are quick to rage about everything anyway, but it became part of the conversation. In a year that as of right now has seen zero platinum albums, that’s an achievement. The top selling album of 2014 remains Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, and that’s barely cracked a million units sold].

To me though the real story about the Songs of Innocence release is how much of my life has changed since I first heard Pride (In The Name Of Love) on a college radio station from Chapel Hill NC where I first heard it. I could tell you exactly where I bought every U2 album I own; what city, what record store, and even wrote a lengthy piece about the day I bought Achtung Baby (which you can find here). Even when my interest in U2 waned they were still contributors to the soundtrack that has been my life. I even reflected, on the release of No Line on the Horizon, that it was the first U2 album I’d bought online, not setting foot in a record store to buy one for the first time since, well, ever. I even wondered if there’d be record stores around by the release of their next album, whenever that would be (more than 5 years later for those counting). And now Songs of Innocence appeared in my iTunes back on September 9, while I was in Toronto pitching a project (that might actually happen), and it became a soundtrack to that week of pounding the pavement, shaking hands, and reciting the same sales pitch over and over again. I walked streets that were both familiar and alien to me as I listened to it; in a town I once thought I’d call home for the rest of my life but was only a dozen years. A dozen years from now when I listen to Songs of Innocence I know I’ll recall that ten-day stretch in Toronto, just like Achtung Baby makes me think of my last year of high school and The Joshua Tree makes me think of my first.

My life is measured in albums by bands like U2, and REM, and The Pixies. Everybody who knows me knows I’ve written about that experience *cough Mixtape cough* but it’s experiences like Songs of Innocence that make me realize just how far we’ve come in relatively short a time, and what we’ve lost in the interim.

Making art is hard. Getting paid to make art is even more hard. I’ve made art for a living the last 15, almost 16 years and it’s never, ever been easy. I dare to say it hasn’t gotten easier either; with the internet touching on every aspect of our lives the doors are wide open. If the internet has a soundtrack I’d imagine it sounds like the trade floor at the NYSE, filled with people holding up pieces of paper and yelling. Everyone has something to sell, or a cause to promote, or an agenda to push. You can buy a song for 99 cents, or an eBook for the same price. You can read comics for free. You can press a button and watch pretty much any movie or TV show you want.

That’s the great thing about the internet and the awful thing about it. There’s so much choice now it’s almost impossible to choose anything. There’s too much TV, too much music, too many movies, too many books to decide what I’m going to spend what precious little free time I have on. I don’t even play video games anymore because of the time suck it entails – and frankly because they’re big wastes of time IMO.

[I know, ooh he said something controversial that I don’t agree with and how dare you. Tell it to the comments. Oh wait, that’s right; there aren’t any. Suck it dweebs]

But what the internet has killed is the ability to take your time to experience something — really experience it. because there’s always The next Thing, the next distraction. Movies released in theaters in May arrive on video three, four months later. Albums are released, make a brief splash but barely a ripple and are forgotten. The reason the book is still my entertainment of choice is the commitment it takes to read one. And by book I mean “print’ not digital — I’m a proud luddite and will remain one.

But that’s why I think the whole Songs of Innocence gamble paid off. It’s become part of the dialogue and the history. years from now people will refer to it as “that damn U2 album Apple forced down our throats”. Because everything has such a short shelf-life now, controversy, art, and creativity are measured in minutes because the next distraction is waiting right around the corner.

And because a month on, people are still complaining they can’t get that damn U2 album out of their iTunes.

screen-shot-2014-09-26-at-8-41-18-am

What Was Going Through My Head

So I’m back.

Yes I took a break from the website thing and had planned on publishing this piece at the beginning of this month (being September) or the end of last month (being August) but life got in the way. I had a major deadline on a Big Project at the end of August, and that was tied into the 10 day business trip I had to take up to Toronto. And no, I’m not saying what the Big Project is because I’m superstitious about that sort of thing, and because we’re so early in that process it’s anybody’s guess where we wind up.

So when teacher/writer Kristen Capaldi tagged me in something called The Writing Process Blog Tour back in August I thought “sure, I can put something together”. And here we are mid-late September and I’m just getting around to it. So sorry for the delay Kristen – but I’m sure this isn’t the first time some has gotten their homework in to you late.

So without further delay: My Writing Process Blog Tour:

What am I working on?

Did you not read my intro? I said I can’t talk about that!

I’m a screenwriter by trade. I’ve been writing professionally since early 1999 and am coming up on 16 years in “the biz”. To put that in perspective if my career was a human it’d be at the age where it’s flipping me off while stealing cigarettes and asking to borrow the car. And one thing my IMDb page doesn’t specify is the pile of projects I wrote and was paid for that were never made and that was AFTER talking them up. So I’m a little twitchy about talking about my film work, but in a non specific-way I’m currently working on:

3 TV series (one limited, three ongoing)

1 Webseries (actually nearing completion)

3 Screenplays (one in rewrites, one underway, another being outlined)

2 Novels (both completed, both in need of rewrites and/or publishers)

3 comic book projects (outline stages on 2, scripting on one)

There’s also Now You Know, a children’s series I wrote five episodes of, which will air (in Canada at least) on TVO in early 2015.

And there’s Mixtape, the first Volume of which just wrapped up. I’ve commenced scripting the second Volume, but you won’t see that for a bit which is why you might as well buy Vol 1.

So yeah, I’m a little busy.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

Genre is a dirty word in my house.

Having just returned from Canada where I got my start, I reconnected with many friends and colleagues, talked shop etc. And the one constant among all of us working in the biz is diversity of projects. Because in Canada the fact is there’s not much work to go around, and if you specialize in one genre, you starve. I’ve done Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy, Children’s TV, historical, drama, thriller – a pretty decent body of work if I do say so myself.

Contrast that with America, where you’re pretty much forced to write a “type” of story. If you start out writing horror, be prepared to write it for the rest of your career. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how careers are made and legends are born.

I waver back and forth on which system is better. If I was just a horror guy I’d probably work more, but only in that genre. Fact is I like experimenting and working in different genres, as much to prove to myself I can do it, as to show to others I can do lots of things. The fact my most acclaimed work is a character-driven comic book series about teenagers and their feelings would seem to bear that out. But my most successful work financially have been in the SciFi genre. Which means if I crack a project about teenagers and their feeling set in a Dystopian future we have ourselves money in the bank.

(And yes, I DO actually have a project about teenagers in a SciFi setting thanks for asking, please see my agent about that)

So how does my work different from others in the “genre”? Because I’m the guy writing. My voice, my perspective – ME.

Why Do I Write What I Write ?

Because it’s my job. People pay me to do what I do and the fact I still am doing it would indicate I know what I’m doing and people are happy with my work. And if that sounds mercenary, it totally is. I do what I do because it’s my job. But that doesn’t mean I do it for money. Believe me I’ve had more projects fall apart than produced, I’ve been ripped off, I’ve frequently been without money more than I have been flush with it. And yet I still drag myself to my desk day after day and write.

As for the “why” … it really comes down to story.

If it’s a personal project, what we call “on spec” it’s because I got the idea for a story and think there’s an audience for it. I figure out what audience – movie, TV, comics, fiction – and either work the story into that format, or maybe pursue an idea that can only be told in a certain way.

If it’s something I’ve been approached to write, it gets a little trickier. Someone has a concept, maybe a logline and pitch or maybe even an outline, and asks you to write it (and offers to pay for your work) you say yes. That said, there still has to be something in the story that appeals to you. It can’t just be a paycheck. You’re going to be devoting most of your waking hours to writing this project, and it could take up a year or more of your life. If you don’t give a shit about anything but the paycheck, it will show up in the writing and chances are they won’t hire you ever again.

You also want to put something of yourself in the story you’re telling. It may be their concept but the POV is yours and that POV is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Write like everyone else, they might as well hire everyone else. But write like yourself you give them something nobody else can; YOU.

Mostly I’m a fan of writing that rings true. That feels like the characters are living breathing people and not words on paper. if there’s one thing I aspire to it’s that truth; that these are lives lived before you read the story. And that’s why I write; because I have these characters and voices in my head and I want to get them out of there

How Does My Writing Process Work?

To understand how my process works, go watch The Good The Bad And The Ugly (aka Brad’s favorite movie). Pay particular attention to the scene between Al Mulock and Eli Wallach that appears later in the film. Tuco (Wallach) is taking a bath in a bombed out hotel (don’t ask). Elam (Mulock) has tracked Tuco down to exact some payback, having been wounded by Tuco before. Elam has Tuco dead to rights, and starts monologueing, telling Tuco how he took Elam’s arm and he taught himself to shoot with the other and so forth. Tuco listens for a moment, then blasts Elam with the gun he concealed beneath the bathtub soap bubbles. Tuco shoots Elam again, killing him outright, and quips “If you’re going to shoot, SHOOT – don’t talk”

Now replace “shoot” with “write”.

That’s my process. Because the world is filled with people who tell you what they plan to write, or are writing, or hope to finish. They talk about it, they blog about it and Tweet about it and you wonder where they’re going to find time to do the actual writing part of it. If that’s what they need to do to finish, great. But I’ve always been the ditch-digger type of writer. I have a story to write and a deadline to meet I put my head down and dig write. No online stuff, no emails, no internet, no anything.

Head down. Hands on keyboard. Write.

Because I write professionally I have the luxury of time to do is, but that doesn’t mean I can allow myself to be sloppy. I keep a regular schedule, 3 hours in the morning, break for lunch and go for a mile-long walk through my neighborhood, return and the next 3 hours I revise what I wrote that morning. Come 5pm I’m done. I switch off completely and don’t think about writing until 9am the next day where I pick up where I left off. I re-read the previous day’s work, make changes and edits, then plunge into the next day’s work.

And no, I don’t write every day. Monday to Friday is good. Weekends are for family and to recharge the batteries so when I plunge back into work Monday morning I can attack it with a critical eye. That’s where I review everything written to date on the project in question, and resume the writing.

I am also one of those writers who still works from an outline, because once I write I don’t like to stop and wonder where I’m going. I have an outline, I can take a detour if I want, but I always try and have a destination in mind. I’m not one for just “jumping in” and seeing where the muse takes me. Plus I’m frequently called on to work on multiple projects with multiple deadlines and an outline helps keep me on track so they’re not all taking the same path. believe me that can and does happen. Character names get mixed up, climaxes become really similar. If I outline I avoid that mess.

One thing I do use that not a lot do though is music, in that I’ll create a mix tape or playlist on iTunes or Spotify geared to whatever project I have going on. Let’s face it; starting every morning can be a challenge, but I’ll load up my songs, all picked because they relate (in my mind at least) to the project I’m drafting. I’ll sit and listen, sip my coffee, and read the work to date and soon enough the words start flowing.

For screenplays I aim for a solid 5 pages a day. For prose, a solid 1000. And by “solid” I mean “good, tight, proofed, edited”. I am free to go over that goal in either case, and can knock out 10 pages of script and 2000 words a day easily enough. But I try and keep a foot on (or at least close to) the brakes and make sure every word, comma, and space are exactly where I want them to be. It saves a lot of work down the line – time best spent revising the story, not correcting errors. To me writing isn’t a race nor should it be, which is why I shy away from the “write a novel in a month/write a screenplay in 6 weeks” challenges that are popular among many. I know a lot of you like them but they just aren’t for me. Write however you feel comfortable, but write. Form a plan and stick to it and if a deadline hasn’t been imposed on you, impose one on YOURSELF.

So this is the part where I’m supposed to tag people so they blog about their process. But because I’m way late in getting this out the door and am sure everybody I could tag has already said their piece. So why not give some of my contemporaries a look (and maybe buy one of their books too while you’re at it):

Kristen Falso Capaldi – writer, teacher and musician.

Ally Malinenko – author of “This is Sarah” and “Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb”

Kate Garrett – poet and all-around badass

Jovanka Vuckovic – Serbian she-wolf, author, filmmaker, editor. A triple threat

David Buceta – Writer/artist/publisher

Ken Epstein – Owner/publisher of Nix Comics

Monica S. Kuebler – Author, spoken-word artist, poet

Susanne Saville – Caffeinated author/Lovecraftian horror

 

 

 

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

So last week I descended into the maelstrom of Internet madness. Sort of. See there’s this thing called GISHWHES, or “The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World has Ever Seen.” It was created by an actor named Misha Collins who you may know from the series Supernatural and a certain SyFy Channel film of note:

Ahem

Ahem

Basically it’s what it says it is – a scavenger hunt. In 2012 it shattered two Guinness World Records: one for the largest scavenger hunt ever, with more than 14,000 participants from 69 countries and the second, for the most pledges to commit a Random Act of Kindness.

Now living in my little bubble I had never heard of GISHWHES and was totally in the dark about its existence until one, then another person emailed me out of the blue thru this very website to ask if I could help their team out. The task they had been given was “have a published Sci Fi author write a 140 word story about Misha Collins, the Queen, and an Elopus (an Octopus with an Elephant’s head)”.

Apparently this “get” was a major one, given that authors and writers tend to be a curmudgeonly lot who avoid doing anything for anybody unless it involves money exchanging hands. But as we all know I’m not one of those writers. And to me the challenge of telling a story (okay, 2 stories) in 140 words or less was too good a challenge to pass up. And also because the people asking seemed really nice and enthusiastic and were doing a lot of charitable work as part of their work, and we so rarely get chances to do good in a world that seems full of bad.

So I wrote two stories. And with GISHWHES 2014 wrapped, I am publishing them below for your reading enjoyment.

***

Story #1: “Investiture”

He tried not to tremble as the sword rose before him, but as she spoke the hairs on his neck stood rigid.

“May I borrow your sword?” he asked politely.

He didn’t wait for an answer, snatching the blade and pivoting clean as the beast released its suction grip on the rafters high above and dropped, trumpeting its battle cry.  He swung the sword, separating the Elopus’ head from its neck. The eight limbed body sprayed ink as it spasmed uncontrollably. The head bounced off the marble floor and landed upright, its trunk limp, its eyes already fogging over. Then, silence.

He handed the sword back. “Sorry your majesty, that Elopus has been hunting me since Cairo.”

“We see we weren’t hasty in our decision” the Queen smiled. She touched the sword to his shoulder. “Rise, Sir Misha Collins.

***

Story #2: “Elopus Apocalypse”

The Elopus lunged, limbs flailing, trunk blaring its battle cry.  It lurched —  and shuddered to a halt. Expletives sounded deep within the rubber suit.

“Goddamn it, CUT!”

Technicians raced in and removed the mask. The sweaty operator gasped for air. The director threw his script down angrily.

Misha handed his prop gun off and took a seat in his folding chair. They were already a day behind on a twelve day shoot and SyFy would not be happy. Someone tapped his shoulder gently. “Cappuccino, he said without looking. The hand tapped again and this time he looked.

“Sir Misha Collins?” the clipped British tones asked. The man was dressed formal, an envelope with the Royal Sigil in hand. Misha took it, opened, and read.

He was on the next flight to Heathrow. SyFy could wait. The Queen could not.

***

I like to think of them as sequels to each other, with “Elopus Apocalypse” being part of a new trend of SyFy Channel movies based on true stories. My only regret is I didn’t get a third request where I’d be able to finish the trilogy. Maybe next year.

And yes I am aware this is the second (and technically third) time I’ve written something for Misha Collins. You’d think he’d return my calls by now.