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Adverse Possession

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So in 2011, as I was getting back into writing, one of my friends suggested I try a short stage play. The result was “Warm Bodies,” which premiered in February 2012 as part Valley Rep’s (now Exit 7) play contest. “Warm Bodies” then went on to be featured in Source Festival’s theatre program that June. And was then picked up by a production company in San Diego and made into a short film they retitled Adverse Possession (because Warm Bodies was already taken).

I say “a production company” because it seems their name is in flux at the moment.

But in any case, they’ve given me permission to share the final result, which you can see here.

The film has been submitted to a couple festivals; we’re waiting to hear if it gets in anywhere. I wasn’t involved at all in the production itself (most screenwriters aren’t, I don’t believe). I did get periodic updates, which I very much appreciated.

The big difference, I think, between having your play staged and having it made into a movie—and if you read this site with any regularity, you may have heard me say this before—is that plays are fluid. They change from production to production, and sometimes from one night to the next in the same production. But once it’s committed to film, it’s static. I don’t have a preference, mind. I just find it an interesting distinction.

In any case, I’m very grateful for the beginner’s luck that landed me all these marvelous opportunities. I hope to continue to be lucky! I do have another script optioned, and two more in the oven. Plus that book of mine coming out in January. So I guess I can’t complain. (Well, okay, but I’ve yet to get another play staged. Humph. Still, I prefer to count my blessings.)

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DFW Con: Social Media

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Okay, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the DFW Con sessions I attended. After the opening remarks, Me Ra Koh came out to give a talk on social media. I’ll admit, I had no idea who she was. Even though I have young ones, Me Ra was not on my radar. But she was energetic, which was a good way to wake up, and she gave some nice, concrete pointers for upping my social media game.

First thing: the Amazon author page. I think I have a pretty nice one, but Me Ra said to add a video to it that gives maybe an inside look at me as an author. So be prepared, because I’ll be making a video tour of Little London soon!

And of course reviews for your books are key, too. Me Ra suggests giving away books to reviewers. Maybe promise signed copies (if you have print books) to the first few people who post a review. (Maybe I’ll give away a copy of Peter when it comes out to the first person to review “Sherlock Holmes and the Monumental Horror”?)

Me Ra said that many authors want to hide. They don’t want to put themselves out there or reveal themselves as real people. This is not a problem I have; I’m a ham. I love attention. But I can agree that it’s hard to put yourselves in the line of fire, by which I mean, it’s difficult to face criticism. And every writer will. No one gets all good reviews all the time because only the lowest common denominator of work is going to please everyone. And I don’t want to be a LCD writer.

Meanwhile, what to blog about? What to put out there as content? It can’t all be about your book. You have to be providing readers with something more than a sales pitch. Me Ra says the key is to figure out what you’re about—what is your life’s theme? She gave us a huge list of possible themes and told us to circle the ones (only as many as three) that jumped out at us.

Sample themes:
Skill versus Strength
Compassion as Heroic
The Mystery of Death
Loss of a Loved One
Betrayal
Social Class
Secrecy
Coming of Age
Pitfalls of Temptation
Dangerous Knowledge
Survival
Pride
Lost Dreams
The Quest
Fate
Death and Rebirth

The list goes on and on, and is not exhaustive. Thing is, I’ve thought about this even before hearing Me Ra’s talk because I do seem to come back to similar themes in my work, and they are the themes that also occupy my real life. Ideas of destiny and “meant to be,” and also proximity to greatness, or “almost but not quite” making it. I’m not sure how I’d turn these themes into regular blog posts or whatever, but I am very aware of their prevalence in my work.

Identity, too, is a major theme for me: discovering and embracing who you really are.

Me Ra says to blog only a couple times a week but then push those posts out to Facebook and Twitter, and always include a photo. Things to blog about include:

1. Sharing excerpts from your work
2. Personal stories and anecdotes that relate to your theme(s)
3. Extras that don’t make it into the book
4. Anything that inspires you
5. Anything you can teach
6. Talking about your creative process

But DON’T ask your readers for anything. Only post once you’ve personally worked through something and can tell a complete story, rather than dumping on your readers and asking them to deal with your bad day. Avoid negativity or else no one will want to read it.

Me Ra went on to show us some ways to get Facebook to work better for us. I don’t have an author page on FB yet, but I’ll be starting one soon, and I hope you’ll all come like me! (In the meantime you can like my Tarot FB page if you want.) She says to post 8–10 times a day (you can schedule the posts to go up throughout the day) and to share others’ content because if you don’t, Facebook limits your reach. Good to know!

This was the point at which we were out of time. But I think Me Ra gave really good tips, and I appreciate her being able to kind of, sort of wake us up. Next it would be time for me to go pitch . . . The butterflies were winging it through my stomach . . .

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Ever More DFW Con

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I’ve promised I’ll go into more detail about some of the panels and sessions I attended at DFW Con this past weekend, and I will. It’s a lot to process.

The first day was such a high, and the reception on Saturday night was brilliant. Got to chat more with Kevin J. Anderson (excuse me while I geek out: ack!). And Charlaine Harris was amazing, of course, talking about what she “knows” about being a writer. I had to laugh when she said she follows people through department stores, listening to conversations. And yet a large part of the weekend was about learning that even “established” writers have goals they’ve yet to meet. Ms. Harris says she’d love to win an Edgar some day, but it isn’t going to happen. We don’t always get what we want. All we can do is keep producing, keep working, and enjoy the fruits we do get.

I met some great fellow writers at the reception. I also plucked up the courage to talk to another agent and got another request for pages. Or, really, it was more like acquiescence. But I’ll take it!

By comparison, then, Sunday couldn’t help but be a bit . . . Less. It was the end of things, after all, and I was then facing a long afternoon and evening of travel back to California besides. BUT. Sunday at the con was still very informative and wonderful. The synopsis workshop gave me a better sense of how to write an effective one. I got to chat with DL Hammons, who I’ve known online for a while now (Blogger Blitz, Write Club) but never thought I’d have a chance to meet in person. Sergeant Shilo Harris gave a moving keynote. And while I hit some rough air during the workshop of my first two pages, on the whole there was much encouragement. I’m only sorry (a) Kevin J. Anderson left before I could get him to sign a book, and (b) I had to leave before the Gong Show which sounds like a ton of fun.

So. I have a ton of notes, and I will share specifics of all I learned in posts over the coming days. But I have a lot of catching up to do, too, and work as well. Just keep checking back. More is coming.

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DFW Writers Con (cont’d)

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There will be so much more to come, but as I sit at the airport waiting to fly back to California, I have to say that, on the whole, DFW Con was a lot of fun. It was friendly, and the nice thing about a small con is the chance to really meet and spend time with people rather than meeting and immediately losing them in the crowd. Instead you see the same faces over and over and begin forming bonds and connections.

Also, a con like this one has actual workshops meaning there is a concrete element to it that some other conferences lack. Instead of being lectured, there is a fair amount of give and take, being able to have your work read and get feedback on it. Fresh eyes make all the difference.

I will gladly go into detail about all that happened over the course of the weekend, but for now my mind is stuffed full and my body weary. More to come!

DFW Writers Convention

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Here in the Big D (that’s Dallas) for the writing convention and having a lovely time. It’s much smaller than the San Francisco conference, which has its pros and cons. On the pro side, I was able to actually talk to Kevin J. Anderson and Charlaine Harris.

With Kevin J. Anderson . . . And, no, I don't look at all like an insane stalker, right?

With Kevin J. Anderson . . . And, no, I don’t look at all like an insane stalker, right?

On the con side, much more limited class options and only one pitch session is included in the price of admission; there is the option to purchase more pitches, but I’ve done that with screenwriting to very limited results, so I’m not inclined to try it here.

Still, my pitch went well, and the editor requested three chapters. I’m going to polish them ’til they shine and then send them off to her.

Me Ra Koh did an informative talk on using social media. In particular, she showed us what to do on Facebook to reach more readers and gave suggestions for what should be on our Amazon author pages.

Kevin J. Anderson (see above) gave a great keynote on the “popcorn theory of success” in which he demonstrated how you never know which kernel might pop next or where it might land. In that way, keep as many kernels in the oil as possible. Don’t just put one kernel in and watch it and wait for it to pop.

There was a panel on asking agents questions, but I didn’t learn much that was new. I think agents get a lot of the same questions over many conferences. I did find it interesting, however, that most of the agents on this panel think “New Adult” is a passing fad that will probably be subsumed by the overall romance genre because most NA books are heavy on the romance angle.

The workshop on understanding rejection letters was really helpful, though. It was a workshop for people who’d queried and even had several requests by agents for their manuscripts only to be ultimately rejected. So where is the disconnect there? I learned that, based on the feedback I’ve received of how well written Peter is, and how much the agents like the story, character, setting, etc., it’s quite possible that they just don’t believe there’s a market for the book. It’s a moot point now, since Peter went to Tirgearr, but it’s nice to know that it [possibly] wasn’t me or my writing. The agents also said that, as a rule, the offer to submit something else to them is a genuine one, not just a courtesy. If an agent says, “Feel free to query me with your next project,” they usually see something in your writing and voice that they like. That makes me feel good, since I’ve had several such responses from agents.

Tonight is Charlaine Harris’ keynote and a reception. Should be fun. And tomorrow another day of workshops, though not as long. I fly home tomorrow evening, too, which means I’ll be wiped out. But so far it’s been a good conference.

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The Big Picture

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Life—and by extension, writing—is a journey, they say, which means we need to take time to observe the scenery rather than just focus on the spot on the map that indicates our destination.

What I mean is, I’ve noticed when I look at things too narrowly—when I focus on the fact that I don’t have an agent or 20 August is still languishing—it’s easy to feel like a failure. Because I haven’t reached that goal, that destination.

But when I step back and look at my journey, well, it’s a completely different picture. I’ve won awards. I have a short film produced and very good prospects for a couple other scripts. And I may not have an agent, but look at my trajectory: from self-published to signed by a small publisher . . . “Agent” may very well be my next stop, should I choose to continue to head that direction. Or maybe I’ll decide “Small Publisher” is a nice place to stay for a while.

As a writer, sometimes the work has to be detail work. Sometimes I have to narrow my vision. But it’s important to remember to step back once in a while, too. If my life and writing career were a tapestry, I would have the choice of picking at this or that thread that doesn’t look quite perfect or standing back to enjoy the whole. And then I might see that a thread that looks wrong up close actually makes the tapestry more beautiful in the wider view.

The King and I

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Yesterday I took my 6-year-old daughter Evie to her first ever theatre experience (excepting her own dance recital): The King and I. She loved it, as I hoped (and deep down knew) she would. Evie loves music, so I was sure a musical was the right thing for her. I explained the story a bit before the show so that she went in with a semi-understanding of what was happening. Evie also showed a fair interest in how the stage work was done: the orchestra pit (behind which we were sitting), the backdrops and set changes . . . I told her a bit about what a “scene” is, and she asked what the actors do when they aren’t on stage. “You’re either in a scene or you’re not,” I explained. “When you’re not you wait until it’s time for you to go on.” We talked about wardrobe and quick costume changes. Evie says she’d love to design costumes for plays and movies. And she is artistic, so maybe she will. But it was just such fun to share my love of theatre with her.

“How do you know so much about it?” Evie asked. I explained that I’d done some of it in college, and had a friend who used to do fashion design (I’d been her model) and had worked in theatre wardrobe departments. That I used to help at a community theatre, that I had been part of an acting troupe. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I started talking about it.

After the show was over, Evie said it was too bad there wasn’t a way to go back and meet the actors. I told her sometimes, in some theatres that’s possible. If you know someone, or if you have a special pass, &c. But then, as we were exiting the auditorium, the door to the wings opened and out came Anna and the King! Evie was speechless. I told the actress it was Evie’s first ever visit to the theatre, and she asked Evie how she liked it. Evie said it was wonderful, and then couldn’t find her tongue again. But the whole experience made a big impression on her. She came home singing “Getting to Know You” and talking all about the show and meeting the actress. Now she really wants to see Mary Poppins next summer, too. I do so hope she continues to enjoy the theatre!

If You Ever Get the Chance to Go to Dallas . . .

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By this time next week I will be all but finished with my full day at the DFW Writers Conference. (I’m taking into account Dallas is two hours ahead.) I will have pitched to an editor from Tor (*gulp*) and sat through a slew of sessions and workshops. I’m very much looking forward to it; lately I’ve been feeling a bit lackluster, and going to a conference is like getting an injection of motivation and creativity. It’s exhausting, too, but in a good way.

Plus, I’m going with friends AND I have friends who live in Dallas who I’m hoping to see.

This is also my first “getaway” in almost a year. I’m way overdue.

As ever, I’ll be posting about the conference, too. So check back to see what I’ve learned; I love sharing the wealth!

It’s Here!

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“Sherlock Holmes and the Monumental Horror” releases today, so if you didn’t pre-order you can go buy it here.

And don’t forget you can pick up “Mystery of the Last Line” free through tomorrow, too!

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A Confession

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I’m going to admit something here. Wait for it. Wait . . . Okay, here it is: I can’t be bothered with podcasts.

Yes, I know they’re the latest hip social media thing. There are thousands of them, and some are probably even pretty good. But in the same way I can’t stand audiobooks, podcasts don’t work for me. Listening to one is like having to slow my brain to a snail’s pace. Like, it makes me restless to the point of agitated.

Also, I’m a visual person. I need to see the words not hear them. At uni, I wrote down my professors’ lectures so I could re-read them later in order to study. I needed the words in front of me. (I have that thing where I remember information by picturing where on the page it was written and recalling it visually.)

Best I can tell, podcasts are kind of like YouTube for radio? (Well, for iTunes anyway.) People just record stuff and other people can search for and listen and subscribe and stuff? I don’t know. It’s probably some great thing, but I’ve tried to listen to a few and it just didn’t work for me. My friends all say, “Have you tried this one?” No, I haven’t. But I don’t think finding a good one will make a difference; for me it’s about the way the info or entertainment is delivered.

Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t grow up during the days of radio.

Then again, I did grow up listening to National Lampoon’s Radio Talk Show. And I love that.

So what is it about podcasts?

I get really annoyed when I click on an interesting looking link only to be shunted to a video or podcast. I might watch the video if it isn’t too long. But I’ll pretty much never listen to the podcast. My preference is always to read—yes, an actual article—because I can do that much faster. Also, it’s great to be able to refer back to things in a written piece rather than, what? Rewind if you want to see or hear something again?

Still, I’m aware that podcasts are a key way of connecting with readers. At conferences, writers are told to find podcasts in which they can be interviewed about their books, or even to start podcasts of their own. And that does sound like fun. When my friend Emily and I were young, we used to record ourselves as a faux radio talkshow. Maybe hosting a podcast would be something like that.

Then again, it would hardly be fair of me to expect people to listen to my stuff if I won’t listen to theirs. (But social media seems to be a lot of that anyway—people expecting you to act on what they put out there while they are unwilling to engage in others’ content.)

Never say never. There may yet come a day when I find that Grail of a podcast that wins me over. It hasn’t happened with audiobooks yet (I feel like I can’t absorb the story when I’m hearing it rather than reading it), but . . . Maybe?

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