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It has been a long time since I last felt I lived in a place with enough space. Ever since leaving home for university, in fact, and thus setting off on a series of dorms and apartments . . . And then there was the house in Massachusetts, but though it certainly should have had enough space (at least technically, at the beginning), there was something so close about it—”cozy” one supposes, which is fine for some, but I need light and air—that I never did feel I had anywhere to go.

Perhaps that is what I mean by “enough space”: having somewhere to go, away from anyone else.

I am an only child, and the two chief houses I grew up in (one from ages 3 to 11, the other from 11 to 18) always had space “enough” for just the three of us. It’s no big effort, I guess, to find a place with at least two bedrooms. The house we lived in when I was older had four bedrooms, only one of which was upstairs, and when my parents got tired of climbing the stairs, they gave that room and its dedicated bathroom and loft area to me. Spoiled? Probably. But everyone in my family is of the temperament that requires a certain amount of time alone to decompress, so the extra large house made it possible for all of us to get along without being on top of one another and fighting all the time.

You see, we all had somewhere to go when we needed to.

Right now there is much unpacking and sorting, and I mostly want to get my office set up, and my little English garden, because these will be my special places when all is said and done. I will go to these spots to write and think and breathe and find quiet. I am very much looking forward to that.

Frankenstein Comes to Dublin (California)

A couple months ago, I got a notification from the National Theatre in London (I and a lot of other people I’m sure) about how the filmed version of their staging of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (two Sherlocks!) would be returning to UK cinemas in June. You see, I’m usually in London in June, but this year I went in April instead because I wanted to avoid all the Jubilee and Olympics hoopla. So I sent them (and their distributor) a note that I would very much like it if they’d send that little reel of theirs over here to San Francisco. (More than one, actually. But less than many.) And they (bless them, and so terribly polite, too) said they’d look into it.

Which they did. And now Frankenstein will be available for viewing at a number of US locations in the first full week of June. I’ll be going on June 6th, and possibly also the 7th because they are, in fact, showing both versions at the Dublin, CA, location nearest me—a different one each night. YOU can see the show, too; just toddle off over here to find out where it will be showing near you.

A Couple (Random) Things

A while back, I did this “Lucky 7” meme but my WIP didn’t have a page 77 yet. Well, now it does, so I’m reposting for this meme. Taken from page 77 of The K-Pro:

“A minute,” David said, though his voice wasn’t loud enough to be heard over the rapping. David pulled open the door to save it from any more abuse and was surprised to find Liz there, though he knew he really shouldn’t be. What surprised David more, however, was the tiny stab of disappointment he felt when he saw his co-star.

Without the elaborate wig and dress, the heavy makeup, and the heeled boots that made her a good three inches taller, David observed there to be something of the “kid sister” in Liz. Her pageboy, freckles, and plimsolls lent her a sporty and almost childish look. But her next move dispelled the notion. As David began to ask what she needed, Liz reached up to draw his face down for a very un-sisterly kiss.

I almost couldn’t have asked for a better seven lines, eh? (I interpreted “lines” as “sentences” as opposed to the physical line breaks on the page.)

In other random news, we’re moving into a new house tomorrow, and not so far from this house (on a road called “Camino Diablo” no less) are these:

Which I think is very cool.

Making My Case

This is why Hollywood should hire me: studies have shown that open systems are more successful overall than closed ones.

By which I mean production companies and studios that keep using the same pool of writers, directors and so forth over and over again will eventually run out of ideas and ways to be innovative. By keeping young talent out—and/or making it difficult for us to “break in” (why should we have to “break” anything?)—these systems are actually doing themselves a great disfavor.

Jonah Lehrer uses the example of pro athletes in his book Imagine. America produces a great number of good athletes. How? Not by narrowing the margins, but by throwing a wide net. Would-be athletes get many, many opportunities to play and perfect their games, their techniques. From the time they are young, they are encouraged to keep trying and repeatedly rewarded for their efforts. When they get scouted in high school and college, they still may be a bit rough, but potential is what counts. Being a pro athlete is like a very long apprenticeship. Scouts and teams are willing to take a few risks on players who may not be quite there yet, but with a little more work have the chance to be stellar.

Another example (also from Lehrer): medical and/or technical research and innovation. Labs and companies that are willing to take more risks have records of having more success. This makes sense; throw a wider net and you’re more likely to catch something worthwhile.

Meanwhile, Hollywood continues to be an insular enclave in which the same actors and directors make the same few movies again and again. Writers and producers borrow from themselves and each other, but it’s all the same stuff. (Steven Moffat ended both Doctor Who and Sherlock with faked deaths, which doesn’t show much fresh thinking on his part; granted, the Sherlock story line was a given due to the source material, but to do it on his other show, too? Really?)

Time to try something new.

So why not with someone like me, who has the education and a smattering of experience but could really use an apprenticeship of some kind to boost my abilities and talents? A mentor, if you will. I’m willing to keep learning, so long as someone will teach me. As far as risks go, I’m not even a long shot. Hollywood needs fresh blood and new ideas, and here I am—me and thousands of others like me—ready and willing, able to serve. If only the system would lay a little money on the table and take a few risks.

After all, the best and brightest know how to make good use of all their resources.

Quiet & Imagine

I recently read (and have mentioned here) Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And now I’m reading Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works. I find them to be a good double billing for those interested in these kinds of subjects. Having studied psychology (and particularly fan psychology, but I find people and the ways they act and think fascinating in general), I am interested in these sorts of studies—and anyway, I sometimes need a break from the fiction I typically read (and write).

What’s especially thought provoking is how Cain and Lehrer use the same kinds of situations and examples to their own purposes, which are not at all opposed—the two authors are looking at two different aspects of personality, but these aspects happen to intersect in a way that causes the authors to cite similar material. And so, reading the books back to back as I have done, these things stand out. Cain uses Steve Wozniak and the Homebrew Computer Club to showcase Woz as an introvert; Lehrer uses the same to point out how cross-pollination of ideas aids in creativity.

Even something as simple as color can be looked at from both angles: extroverts are more drawn to red, which seems to echo and fuel their high levels of energy, while introverts like blue, which they find calming and soothing. Cain points out that extroverts look for stimulation; introverts often feel overstimulated and so search for pockets of quiet. Meanwhile, Lehrer shows how red backgrounds in studies cause people to focus more in a convergent thinking kind of way, while blue backgrounds aided divergent forms of thinking and free association.

It’s no surprise that extroverts and introverts are both creative and in different ways, which is what I take away from reading these two books and mentally compiling the data provided. Lehrer discusses the general idea that many artists turn toward focus-enhancing drugs (Benzedrine, Adderall). If we consider that many such personalities are likely to be introverts, and that they are perhaps given to head-in-the-clouds modes of thought, then when they’ve finally come up with that great idea for a story or poem or song, it makes a little bit of sense that they would then need something to help them zero in and do the job. Meanwhile, an extrovert might turn to a little marijuana to help him loosen up and free-associate more, allowing him to come up with new ideas.

Lehrer points out that creativity is something that can require the right mix of insiders and outsiders; that is, people with a lot of experience in a field and people with only a surface understanding of it. And Cain discusses the careful balance of extroverts to introverts in interactions and how offices should utilize both sets of skills and talents and personality types. Somewhere in this mix, then, is surely a solid equation for the perfect storm of talent, creativity and ability: the right number of extroverts tempered by the right number of introverts, the right number of experts balanced by the right number of newcomers, and the key method for using them all to their fullest potential (time alone to think and come up with ideas + cross-pollination of those ideas + teamwork/experts + newcomers = ???). It’s a tall order—more math than I’m willing to do—but find someone who can and will do it, and you’d have the formula for the perfect workplace.

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time alone, chasing ideas around my own head. And then when I find one, I have to sit down and focus long enough to get it written, edited, &c. All the mechanical bits of my trade. (I’m a writer who doesn’t use Benzedrine or Adderall, just lots of soda and chocolate.) I have to balance this with networking and attending functions, which I usually enjoy but have a difficult time getting excited about because of my painful shyness; a room full of writers is often a room full of people looking sullen and standing around the outskirts, at least until one of them has had enough to drink. Lucky for me I work a bit in theatre, so all the drama types will do the work. And, as pointed out by Cain, even introverts can have meaningful conversations once they open up, but there is a long warm-up period, and as a rule we’re terrible at small talk. In the end, I almost always end up having a good time once I find one or two people to talk to. I only want and need those one or two, though. Then I’m satisfied. More than that and I get tapped out pretty quick.

But as Lehrer explains, these networking events are very important, not only for making those connections, but for stimulating creativity via the cross-pollination method.

To summarize, these two books work together to make one very interesting read. They more or less dovetail into one another and give one a lot to think about.

As if I didn’t have enough to think about already.

Upcoming Events

I have two more business-related trips planned for this year. Next month, I’ll be in Washington DC for the Source Festival; my short play “Warm Bodies” is part of the program. I’m going for the weekend of 23 June.

In October I’ll be attending the Austin Film Festival. I won’t be there the entire time, just 18-21 October, but I hope to see a lot of great films and attend some good panels. Also, food. I miss Austin, and I miss my friends there, and I really miss the great food. So if you need to find me while I’m there, check all the Tex-Mex and barbecue restaurants first.

Building Character

“What made you decide to make him gay?”


It took me a minute to understand the question, which was a minute longer than it should have taken, but I sometimes forget not everyone is a writer, and those who aren’t sometimes have strange ideas about how writing is done.

“I didn’t build him out of LEGOs or anything,” I said. “I don’t create characters by using a blueprint. Maybe some writers do, but I don’t.

“For me, creating a character is like meeting someone new. They’re already who they are, complete. They might be blond, they might be short, and they might be gay.

“Peter Stoller is gay because he’s gay. I didn’t ‘decide’ it. That’s just how he is.”

Popularity v Infalibility

I’ve worked with enough high-power types in the industry to have begun noticing an interesting trend: once they become popular or have a popular film or television program, they begin to equate being popular with being right. Infalible. That they can do no wrong. They cease to feel any need to listen to reason and ignore anything and anyone who might even have helpful or constructive criticism.

The issue in large part stems from the fact that the entertainment industry equates popularity with success. Well, popularity is success because popular things make money, and at the end of the day that’s what the biz is all about. And there’s this weird kind of cycle to these things, where once you’ve had a big hit (or a few, but sometimes it only takes the one—really depends on the size of the hit), people begin to pander to you and fawn over you. You start to get what you want pretty much all the time. No one tells you “no.” And you begin to believe their own hype. They want to believe it. Who wouldn’t? That you’re perfect, wonderful, the best thing to ever happen (at least this week or month or season).

It’s one thing to be pleased that people like you and your work. It’s another entirely to be pleased with yourself about it.

And it’s easy to say, “Well, if all these people like me and my work, then the people who are saying otherwise just don’t know what they’re talking about.” But I’ve learned something about this way of thinking. It’s facile and self-serving. Because to be popular really means that you appeal to the lowest common denominator of society. In the entertainment industry, serving these large swaths of patrons is generally a sure way to win success, when success is measured by ratings and box office. BUT . . . The bottom line is, this also means that your potential detractors are probably a tad more sophisticated. So those few people pointing out the flaws and problems in your otherwise “perfect” show or movie or career? They might actually know what they’re talking about. Or at least more than you give them credit for.

Entertainment is a democracy in that popular “votes” (ticket sales, television ratings) win the day. But just look at how well these people manage politics and you’ll see their favor isn’t always a sign you’re as wonderful as you think you are. It’s really the jester on the sidelines—the one who sees the truth behind it all—you should aim to impress.

“Lightning Flashed”: 2nd Annual Flash Fiction Blogfest

Today is the 2nd Annual Flash Fiction Blogfest. Entries must begin with the words “Lightning flashed” and cannot be longer than 300 words. Mine is exactly 300 words:

Lightning flashed and minutes later the rain came in one full curtain, falling straight as hair from clouds to pavement. Annise stood at the tall windows and watched the world turn from color to shades of grey, listened as the leaves on the trees in the park across the street tintinabulated with the patter of a regiment of angels’ tears.

He would never come now.

He would never come in this weather, no, the sidewalk was vacant as all who’d been out sought shelter. The cars parked along the curb remained idle. Nothing moved through the streets.

Though it was mid-afternoon, the street lamps flickered on, set off by the dimness brought by clouds—heavy, but no heavier than Annise’s heart. The angels did not have tears enough for her disappointment.

As if to raise the stakes against her, the rain came harder and the clouds rolled in darker than before. Annise was all at once very aware of the silence of the apartment with just her in it; aside from the low hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen and the steady hiss of rain outside, there was no sound. She could not even hear her own breathing.

Or was she holding her breath?

Annise stared at the park, what she could see of it through the downpour, watched the bright pink and white flowers that lined the fences duck their heads against the weather. Much more of this and they’d lose all their petals, all their hope.

The bright sound of the buzzer cutting through the quiet jarred Annise from her thoughts.

Someone was at the door.

But it wasn’t possible; she’d been watching, hadn’t seen anyone on the pavement.

The buzzer rang again and Annise hurried to the intercom. “Yes?”

“Annise, it’s me.”

She unlatched the door.