Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Two more for the shelves!

SS6, The Shoot is one for the movie buffs. By whom I mean all the people I know and have yet to meet who love making movies and working on movie sets.
This story is a conglomeration of pretty much every movie set I've ever worked on, which is quite a few, since I spent practically all of my late 20's and 30's on one film set or another, before I switched to post production full-time.
And yes, I did go on a shoot to Puerto Vallarta and yes, we did stay in one of those mega-hotels that was 90% closed down for the winter. A very pleasurable and somewhat creepy experience.
Additional creepiness was blended in from my years working out of the Middle East, when we'd get assigned to places like Mykonos and Athens to shoot commercials, but return to Corfu during the off-season just to chill out. The atmosphere from those days was most fantastic and otherworldly, making this story have more of an autobiographical slant that the previous ones.
Yes, I've bent a few pre-historical facts to suit the plotlines better, but hey, this is fiction, and I did that mainly to preserve the dramatic throughline so that readers of today can relate better. Apologies to those whose scholastic noses might be tweaked just a little out of true by my doing that, please take it all with good humor and in the spirit in which it was intended.

SS7, The Third I, was, is, and always shall be, a bit of an enigma. Mainly to me, I think, since this story, of lovers connecting through lifetimes and consciousness and religions and myths, striving against the steepest of odds and using everything they can to make that connection, is still a dream to me. My father started it all with a series of talks with me before I went to school, that I have summarized and paraphrased into something of a poem, which is the one in front of the book. Then, the story itself came to me, almost fully formed, as a lucid dream.
For those of you who don't know what that is, a lucid dream is to be had in that special state of semi-consciousness in between being aware that one is awake, and being asleep. In short, it's the state of being aware that one is dreaming. After quite a long period of cultivating and working on this awareness, it's then possible to control, to a greater or lesser degree, certain elements of that dream. A common one for me, for instance, is the realization that I'm swimming underwater, and, after a cautious moment of experimentation (because either I'm dreaming, or I'm drowning) I find that I'm able to breathe after all. Underwater. Which means that I'm dreaming. So, since this is cool and the panic's over, I can then proceed to explore around me, and can swim wherever I choose.
In the Third I, I chose to explore the dream and turn it into a movie.

Monday, July 18, 2016

As SS5: Muse nears completion I'm again pretty forceably reminded that it's been awhile since that story last saw the light, and about how times have changed between when I first thought of the story, the people I first told it to, and the past few days I've spent on its updating and primping for the public.

More like the others in this series, it's less scary but more poignant. Don't forget, the initial idea was to tell stories to young people who were already scared, of the dark, of being alone in an alien environment among strangers. They didn't need the monsters to make their nights more miserable than they already were, they needed something to take them beyond all of that, so that they could pass through their fear and emerge on the other side of it, relatively intact, and not the worse for wear.

Muse is just such a story. It goes pretty far down that path, and I'm the first one to admit it was pretty far out there, for a kid's story. However, I do remember the thunder and lightning and rainstorms that happened on those winter evenings, when the sky turned green and the smell of ozone from the lighting indicated a clear and very present danger to all of us. 

Under circumstances such as those, a lighter touch was definitely called for, and I'm pretty proud to have come up with a story such as this, told on the fly, in times like that.

Re-writing was a particular problem because the original ending was a lot more drama, with much yelling and gnashing of teeth. I can remember telling myself that I'd have to tone it down in future tellings, but at that time the only kids who remained awake to hear the original ending were die-hard horror story fans, who relished the melodrama. 

Not so much, these days, so the ending has been re-fashioned the better to address our more modern climes.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Scary Stories 4: My Best Friend is out!

One of my faves, this is a cross between a female BFF story and, well, something I believe we all share, women and men both. Like all the other stories, the scary story part is, I feel, just scary enough to keep things interesting, but I'm not a fan of the out-and-out scary monster story, so this isn't one of them. I am a fan of romance and love-and-death stories, so that's what you'd be in for on this particular ride.

Yes, I do write action stories. Yes, those are coming right along.

It's these small, and I'd like to believe, poignant, pieces of prose that are in themselves worth quite a lot (to me, at least) that I thought I'd share with you first, though, mainly because they're the ones that called out the most to get out of me and over to you.

Over to you!

SS5: Muse - in the works now!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Revisiting old stories and rewriting them for today's young audiences has to be one of my favorite tasks.

While working through "Scary Stories 4: My Best Friend", my mind was continually brought back in time to the moments when the story was first told, quite a few times, as is my practice, before being committed for the first time to paper.

I remember the faces of the people I told the story to, how they pretty much all related to it in one way or another, and rarely has a story of mine been received so well and so quickly, by so many.

So as I move through the final stages of actually, finally getting this grande dame of a short story dressed up and ready for her coming out, I'd like to thank each and every one of those many listeners from a long time ago, who looked me in the eye and told me that this was one of the best, if not the best, scary short stories they'd ever heard.

Thank you, one and all. Time for this lady to hit the road at last.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Scary Stories 3, One Hundred Candles, is now in review prior to publication!

That was a particularly fun one, since it has its genesis awhile ago, as I mentioned, and then was re-purposed several times, and actually shot a couple of times as a short film, which of course it was designed to be.

However, the Poe-style prose certainly lends the story a little more atmosphere, and I think it turned out very nicely indeed.

People who write a lot tend to agree that it's easier to write something that's longer than shorter.

The people who design and produce 30-second TV commercials have to use readily available icons and symbols to help the viewer understand what they're seeing more quickly and cleanly than in a longer form.

So it's not really like poetry, which it's been compared to, since poetry can stand, and should encourage, multiple readings, each one adding nuance and shading to the cumulative effect of the poetry on the reader, while a TV spot has to give it all up at once and first time out.

So, different animals, really.

Having been brought up in the rigors of the TV commercial, writing short stories and making short films is a relative pleasure, because, unlike TVC's, these are capable of being viewed many times, and so allow for more nuance and depth and general satisfaction for all.

Mostly mine, right? I'd hope so, some of these stories have been with me for over 40 years.

By which I mean, and this is quite important, that for me, a story is first and foremost a verbal affair.

For me, the heart and soul of a story is that it is a live communication.

How can a screenplay or a film be a live communication?

Well, let me put it to you this way:

When I get something of an idea, or an inspiration or a moment, the first thing I do is to write it down in my 'snapshot' format, usually on an index card, but it could be anything.

This is the fastest way to 'freeze-dry' the moment of the genesis of the story, and I've found that to be very important for later on.

Then I get on with my day, confident that later on I can come back to my snapshots and recall through them that fleeting moment of first inspiration.

Next comes a period of reflection and construction.

I'll take various snapshots and try to combine them. Sometimes consciously, mostly not.

Sometimes I'll be working on something totally different and then two snapshots that were in the back of my mind suddenly coalesce and demand time to be written down.

So that synergistic moment also gets snapshot, since, remember, I still have to get back to that something totally different that I was working on, usually the thing paying my rent at the time.

Finally, I'll have something of a story. But more like a logline.

And from that point onwards, I'm telling the story. To anybody who will listen. Mainly to friends, but not always.

I'll try to tell the story at least twenty to thirty times, at different times, to different people, before I actually start writing the story itself.

That's because I'm making it up as I go along, kinda sorta. More accurately, I'm playing to the audience, working the room, seeing which parts of the story sound cool, which are lead balloons, which parts flow right along, and which parts bring the story to a standstill.

After a while of doing this, I'll find myself repeating just the good bits, and if I still get good reactions to them over several different audience members, I'll try telling the entire story to people I do not know, and if they receive it well, then my story is complete and I can then start writing it.

I know, weird, isn't it?

Well that's the way I used to do it at school. Term after term, semester after semester, we'd tell and be told story after story. Some worked great. Others fell flat. Mostly they were great in some areas, and flat in others. One would sense the room (at that time the dormitory) and be able to tell the quality of the story and how it was received, just by noting reactions, or lack of reactions, from the audience.

This is showmanship 101, my friends. Without this, writing for me becomes a very difficult and largely thankless task.

After I've had the nod from over 50 independent listeners, I can take with a grain of salt the self-serving "story notes" a Hollywood producer might make, and can balance that worthy's opinions with a force of my own, better than if it were just one on one, and he's paying the bills.

Also, after I've had the nod on what would be my first draft, but it's been re-written practically 30-40 times already, then I can get stuck in with the details to make what I know already works, work better. The stuff that doesn't work has already been weeded out, long gone.

I once heard it said that a person who thinks their novel is complete after one single draft needs to get their head inspected.

I mean, think about it. In a first draft, you're basically saying: Hello all, here's my universe. And here's my time period. And in this universe, which works like this, there's a solar system that looks roughly like this. And in that solar system, there's a planet, upon which there are continents, and on this continent there's a country, and in this part of the town there's a neighborhood and a street and a house and a community of people and a person.

And this is what happens to that person.

Now, that's a lot, for a first draft.

Do you honestly expect to get the color of all the napkins and the weave of the wool sweaters exactly right, first time, as well?

I tend to agree.

So. What lies ahead?

SS4: My Best Friend - another short film about a suicidal young woman whose life is saved by her best friend - only she can't remember exactly who that friend actually is.

SS5: Muse - a tragedy, alas, when a gifted commercial artist gets his one and only wish - to be visited by his personal muse and through her to create the ultimate piece of art.

SS6: The Shoot - a quirky story about a film crew on a music video shoot that discovers a terrible spirit, only seen through edits in their daily footage.

More as it comes out!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The story behind "Scary Stories 3: A Hundred Candles" started out many moons ago in a different part of the world, at a time when making a Short Film was pretty much as inaccessible to a poor photographer's apprentice as making a Feature Film was. This was before the days of video, and so the only choices to be had were 16mm film (expensive) and 35mm film (more expensive). However, writing was cheap and easy, and a couple of local stories provided the impetus for what was going to be 100 candles, and I duly took note and wrote what I called then a "snapshot" of the idea, basically something longer than a synopsis and shorter than an outline, that didn't so much remind me of the story and characters of the film so much as the atmosphere that story evoked, and the emotion it sustained.

Later, over the years, I'd add to the actual story, and amend it in the telling of it, and thus arrive at the structure it has now, but then, when preparing this story for publication, I went back to my original story snapshot and was vividly reminded about how life was back then when I was considering it for the first time, fresh in the mind, as it were.

That, in turn, drove the prose version of what you have here. It's short, but sweet.

For those who were wondering how I managed to publish two novels in two days...

[edit: that's three novels in four days now]

No, I wasn't up all night writing a book as fast as my little fingers could type.
Yes, I've been writing these stories for years (no, not each story taking years, either) and not doing anything with them. Some of them are in screenplay format, others already in prose, and the time came to do something about it, I guess.
"Play for Me" started out life as an optioned screenplay, many moons ago. Its treatment, in prose form, only needed a pass or two to get it up to snuff.
LIkewise, "Succubus" was a commissioned magazine story that has been updated, spiced up, buffed up, and repurposed to be its own standalone novel. I think the story is far better served today, by the way, than it ever was in the social climes that existed when it was first conceived and written.
I have many more such stories. Mostly they were generated, as I've mentioned elsewhere, as far back as boarding school where as a dorm prefect we had the responsibility of settling the young 'uns into their sleep in the face of mostly inclement weather and definitely acute homesickness. So long stories of appropriate grandeur and aplomb were fashioned unto the task. And, I'd like to believe, they succeeded magnificently.
With the advent of the Information Age and broadcast technology, face-to-face storytelling died a death. Nobody made up bedtime stories and just told them out loud any more.
However, we're now over all of that and well into the Communication Age. So we're back to real, minimum-two-way communication again.
So it's time for these stories I've been guarding to be released.
And new ones to take their place.
More titles coming soon!

Old Beginnings...


I became what I've recommended to many other friends - an author, on Amazon and Kindle.

Those of you who have known me for a while also know that I have been writing stories since, oh, I don't remember when. 12 years old, maybe? And I do mean writing pretty continuously, from then until now.

Mainly science fiction, but a lot of what I call speculative misadventures... what if? and then oops!

So. With many thanks to Markus Innocenti, Sam Longoria, Michael Auerbach and especially Shelley Lawrence, I finally pulled the lead out and finalized some of those long-dusty manuscripts for the press.

Actually, thanks must go to Jamall Olokum as well, because he obliquely kickstarted me in all of this long form project business by recommending that his peeps undertake a 30-day personal project of their own choosing. Now that was in the photography arena, and the photos he recommended people pursue were for submission to an ad agency, but he gave me the idea of doing a long form book project, and my photo book, soon to be released, "LBD/CRL" (Little Black Dress", a boho lifestyle fashion photo book, magazine and videos) was born.

Having whetted my appetite a little for that kind of thing, Shelley immediately embarked upon a book project of her own, and then circumstances conspired to put me behind the author's seat for "Play For Me," my first published novel. My son, Harlan, now 15, is an e-gamer and a YouTube publisher, and wants to join the UC e-gaming teams (yes, e-gaming is now an official sport so watch out, all you jocks!) and I needed a quick and fairly scary story for Kindle, so, on the 4th of July, "Scary Stories: Play for Me" was released into the unsuspecting world.

This was followed only two days later by "Scary Stories 2: Succubus" which is an old favorite of mine, revamped (literally, I guess) to make it play better with the others in this series. No, I didn't write this book in two days. It was literally 16 hellish drafts, many moons ago, that yielded this little forbidden fruit. Adults only, hope you enjoy it.

What next? More stories, of course! Some will be short and scary (yes, like many others, I do start off intending the next one to be a really short story, but somehow (it's the formatting, I tell you!) it gets out of hand and longer. Oh well, more value for your money, I'd guess.

Having spent most of my adult life in pursuit of the sublime, condensed into the essence of the mundane, I'm having fun just writing for the joy of it. Veuve and gusto!