Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing in the Streets

You know that summer is the time for dancing in the streets, is it also a time for writing? Not necessarily in the streets of course, but a time for writing the great American novel? For me, generally it is not. I can't write in the light, I'm a bit of a literary vampire who can only write in darkness.

I can blog in the summer. I can edit existing books in the summer, but I can't come up with new ideas for novels when the temperature is over eighty. My mind goes on a Spring Break and doesn't seem to come back until Halloween.

There has been one exception however. I proved I could write in summer, but hopefully I will ever have to do so again.

A few years ago, I was involved in some nasty litigation with another lawyer. To take my mind off the litigation, I worked on my novel Conflict Contract. I came up with an easy structure to write--a judge's daughter has been kidnapped, and a lawyer gets word that one of his clients in the course of a week will help him find the missing girl. He just has to win a case and then someone will give him a clue, almost like the TV reality shows that take over the network each summer.

I loved a summer reality show called Last Comic Standing where the comics had silly tasks to do on each episode in order to win the grand prize. In my novel, the one week time frame of the story allowed me to write five different episodes-- on Monday, he was in Albuquerque for a burglar, Tuesday in Santa Fe for a trafficker...etc... I then went back and at the end of each chapter, I threw in a few clues to the grand kidnap story arc to make it a bit like Last Character Standing.

I was able to crank out 60,000 words in May and June, usually by working an hour or two in the morning. The rest of the day, I wrote briefs back and forth during the litigation. It must have been fate, I wrote the final words of the story on the day I we had prevailed on the case.

The book is not one of my favorites. A few months after I finished it, I started Lawyer Geisha Pink in the winter, and somehow I was back on track. I have never started a book during the summer since then . . . no writing in the streets for me.

Come to think of it, dancing in the streets doesn't sound so bad right now . . .I just won't bring my computer.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Take me to my reader!

As an author of seven novels, I'm having a unique experience--I'm seeing a stranger read all seven books straight through in order. Now, a daily part of my life is going to her building and finding out what she thinks of the latest chapter. She's on book five and so far, so good, although she is mad at me for killing off a major character.

Shhhh....that character is coming back, but I can't tell her. I'm not allowed to talk about any future books. I wonder if JK Rowling or the guy who wrote Game of Thrones could say that.

In order to protect her identity, let's just say she is a receptionist for a large entity that I frequently visit on business in the course of my day job. She was already part of my target demographic which seems to be women over sixty. My target demographic does not include young Hollywood producers unfortunately, but that's a different story.

She knew I had written a new book and had a coupon for amazon.com. "I'm looking for a new series of book to read over the lunch hour," she said. "Where do I start?"
"You might as well start at the beginning," I replied.

She started with Rattlesnake Lawyer and loved it. I was a little worried about my second novel, Crater County, which I considered my sophomore slump novel. She liked it even better than Rattlesnake and soon went onto the third one, Volcano Verdict. When I saw her a few days later, she was shaking her head. "I didn't see that coming," she said, regarding the ending. She had made it through in less than four days. She immediately purchased Book 4, La Bajada Lawyer and had it overnighted....

After Volcano Verdict, her boss moved the receptionists behind a metal detector and an armed guard. I now have to be frisked before I can ask her what she thinks of page 220. As I've said, I am a little worried that I might be detained by security for killing that character off in Book 5.

There are days when I don't bother to go through security and just poke my head into her building. I just give her a look. "Where are you?" I yell.

"They just had the trial scene," she will shout. I nod and then head back out the door.

She told me I had better start writing some new books soon. I will probably let her be the first person to read the manuscript for the science fiction book that won't be out for another year.

She is close to retirement age. If she moves to a retirement home, will I have to go there every day?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Milk, Coffee, Bananas and Books

This Saturday afternoon, I will be doing a book signing at the Triangle Grocery Store in Cedar Crest with two other authors. I can imagine some hapless spouse at the store, staring at a grocery list on his or her phone. Hopefully, books are listed after bananas as something to buy.  Are books in aisle one or aisle two?

Would books be considered meat or dairy?

Books are commodities just like breakfast cereal, but you can't get Cap'n Crunch delivered electronically to your kindle, so groceries will survive, while bookstores are closing every day. Other places like Hastings have shifted from new books to used books. It's not pretty out there. Authors have to get out in public to meet potential readers where the readers are. People buy books on amazon based on the recommendation of their friends and their friends shop at grocery stores like Triangle grocery in Cedar Crest.

I don't know how I was selected to be one of the authors to sign at the store. I'm thinking that since I was one of the authors at the nearby Moriarty Authors for Literacy event, my name was on a poster at the store.  The manager probably got my name that way. I'll have to ask. but it doesn't really matter.

It would be great if the other authors are JK Rowling of Twilight and whoever wrote the Hunger Games, but I'm sure they are other local authors just like me. We are all supportive of each other, but it will be "game on" when we all sit together. It will be like the competition between clerks on who stacks groceries the quickest...

I am really looking forward to this. Cedar Crest is a scenic town in the East Mountains outside Albuquerque. There isn't a book store in the area as far as I know. People in the East Mountains are readers, so I'm glad we are taking the books to them at a place they are going to anyways.

Like it or not, this will be the future of book selling. I sure hope someone says "I'll take a bunch of books please. How much are they a pound?"

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Get Away from Santa Fe


HOW TO GET AWAY FROM SANTA FE

 You’re getting away to Santa Fe this summer. Perhaps you’re in the City Different for the annual Indian Market this August. You do some wheeling and dealing and purchase an incredible piece of Native American art directly from one of the hundreds of vendors lining the ancient plaza. You then go up the adobe lined Canyon Road, past more art galleries per square mile than anywhere else in the world and find something more modern. Unfortunately, this feels more like work than play and it isn’t so different from your daily life. You need to get away from your Santa Fe get away.

Buffalo Thunder resort is only twelve miles north as the buffalo roams, and is a great place to stay near Santa Fe without being stuck in the city. (Buffalothunderresort.com). It is a world class resort complete with a casino, a golf course and the famed Red Sage restaurant created by the owner of the Coyote Cafe. By the time you read this, the resort might already be booked so you might want to check out the nearby Santa Claran casino (santaclaran.org), a seven story hotel in the old New Mexican town of Espanola. Santa Fe can feel like Disneyland, but Espanola is the real New Mexico.

To clear your head the ancient spa of Ojo Caliente, (ojospa.com) in the small village with the same name, about an hour north of Santa Fe.  You can wash away your troubles in several public and private pools filled with healing mineral waters. The arsenic tub is a local favorite. Private tubs are available for couples who don’t necessarily want to mingle. This is one of the oldest spas in America, but its adobe walls have recently been renovated. The resort is a bit rustic, with lodging for the night and the Artesian restaurant is a superb place for lunch or dinner. After a few hours of soaking, you might want to start with the prickly pear lemonade before sampling the local and international selections from the wine bar.

You probably already know that Santa Fe has the world’s largest collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum (okeefemuseum.org).  Why not take the hour drive north to the source of much of O’Keeffe’s inspiration?  O’Keeffe did some of her best work at Ghost Ranch an artist colony, just north of the town of Abiquiu.  It is open to the public. (Ghostranch.org). You can spend the night in one of the cabins in the midst of a spiritual retreat for artists and church groups . There are O’Keeffe tours, but you can explore on your own in a landscape out of an O’Keeffe painting. Check out the popular Chimney Rock trail.

Who knows, perhaps you will be inspired to do create some art of your own . . .  Santa Fe Indian Market runs August 12-18, so book your Santa Fe getaway now. Santafe.org.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Fast and Furious Hangover

The Fast and Furious 6 and the Hangover 3 open this weekend at the theaters. It will be tough to choose between them. If only someone could write a script that combined the action of Fast with the comedy of the Hangover...Actually somebody did...Me. A ninety-five page script called Vegas Valet was never produced, but without it, I would have failed out of film school.

Speaking of fast and furious, I wrote the script in FOUR days. And yes, I did have a hangover afterwards.

I was attending the American Film Institute to get an MFA in Screenwriting. My original idea for a script for the second semester was about the Navajo who was convicted of espionage in Russia. The class suggested that I write something else. During this time, I was doing the final rewrites of Rattlesnake Lawyer, my first novel, before it was publication in June. All my intellectual capital was going into the novel. I then tried to use an old script, but that was a bad idea. I've told that story already in a chapter of my nonfction. called "The Suicide Script,"

The semester was ending and I had to write something...or I would fail out of school or writing a suicide script for real.

After I sent in my final, final draft of Rattlesnake Lawyer, I only had a long weekend before I had to hand something into class. Where to start? Vegas of course...

There's an urban myth in Albuquerque. Some friend of a friend, who was some kind of loser, movers to Vegas become a valet parking cars for a casino and makes over a million a year.  I also wanted car chases thrown in there as well.

I outlined the script on the first day. I came up with the perfect name for the main character, Joe Methany, aka Methane.-- a failed race car driver turned valet. The script pretty much wrote itself from there--car chases like Fast and Furious, comedy in Vegas like the Hangover. This was before either film was written of course. Still, I don't think I could copyright either idea of dumb script with stupid guys and cars....

Was the script any good? It was good enough. My class either loved or hated my writing, for the first time they were unemotional after they read the script.

It was what it was, so to speak and nothing more. The instructor shrugged, but did give me a passing grade.

Will I ever rewrite Vegas Valet and try to sell it? The computer file is long gone, but the script itself is in my trunk. You gotta admit its a simple pitch....Fast and Furious meets the Hangover in Vegas...

I see Vin Diesel as Methane! or should we go with Zach?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Billion Dollar Blog

You've heard that Yahoo bought Tumblr for a billion dollars. Blogging is a billion dollar business, just not for the bloggers themselves. Blogger.com is already owned by Google and was bought for "undisclosed terms"  according to wikipedia. As blogger.com is bigger than Tumblr, I'm sure that that "undisclosed" means at least a billion dollars, maybe more. Am I entitled to a cut?

Several thousand people have read this blog this year. Are Larry and Serge of Google making money off of me? Lord knows that Zuckerberg of Facebook sure is.

Where does that billion dollars of value come from? I'm not exactly an economist, but I'm sure I added a dollar here or there. I'm one of the hundreds of millions or so people in the world writing a blog. I'm not exactly sure how my readers arrive at this page, I would assume through Google or Facebook. If it takes you ten minutes to read this blog, you spend an extra ten minutes on the site, and presumably check out ads or do more searches. If memory serves, keeping people on the site is stickiness. For better or worse, this blog makes things sticky!

Instead of blogging about writing, I should go back to blogging about celebrities like I did for examiner.com. I did get paid for that, especially if I wrote about certain celebrities. What would pay the most? Maybe if I blogged about sex. It sure worked for that Carrie Bradshaw...

Nahhhh....I will keep blogging about what I want to blog about and hopefully you will keep reading. I am blogging for love not money. But still, a billion dollars.....





Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Back to Back to Blogging

Robert Johnson, the blues artist, sold his soul to the devil to make music. I've sold my soul to the chiropractor for my writing. After neglecting my back for so long, I finally started going to the chiropractor for adjustments. I'm not sure what he does exactly, but it seems to be working. I leave the place in alignment. I literally feel two inches taller as I walk out the door.

Unfortunately, when I go back to blogging or working on the new novel, I lose my alignment very quickly. I lose an inch after every blog. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere. I'm not really shrinking, I seem to grow back when I go back to living my life, yet I really do emerge from writing in a bit of localized pain. There is a spot on my back just below my left shoulder which seems like pain central. Some artists reach deep into their souls to put the emotion into their writing. I reach deep into a spot just below my left shoulder.

I do wonder if its my chair at home that is causing this chronic pain. I write in my late father's chair that he had in his office for twenty years as he built a successful insurance practice. My dad was six foot three, so perhaps I not only can't fill his shoes, I can't and shouldn't be trying to fill his chair.

I once went to the "Relax the Back" store in Los Angeles to look for the perfect writing chair. Unfortunately, the perfect writing chair started at two thousand dollars. I asked the salesclerk if he could guarantee a pay or play option deal with Sony. He suggested the three thousand dollar chair for that.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald drank for inspiration. Poe did opium. My own secret place for inspiration is the Brookstone store in the Coronado Mall. They have those vibrating massage chairs. Don't laugh, I was able to relax and outline a chapter or two last week during the fifteen minute massage cycle.

This week, I'm going to crank out a few blogs, and put the final touches on my science fiction novel. My next appointment for the chiropractor is on Friday...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek: Wrath of Jon

The new Star Trek film opens today. I actually took a class on how to write for Star Trek. It didn't work. Or did it?

I watched Star Trek, the Next Generation while I was a public defender in Roswell. Yes, that Roswell. If memory serves, it appeared on Saturdays at 4 in the afternoon.  There was something ironic about watching a show about aliens in the town most famous for inviting them in.
For an hour every week, I felt like I was on a five year mission to boldly get the hell out of town....

I then moved from Roswell to Albuquerque, in the early part of my career as a lawyer. My novel, Rattlesnake Lawyer was optioned at that time by Viacom as a potential TV series, but the book was still a very, very rough draft. I was starting to think about making the jump to Hollywood and I did some research about UCLA-Extension. I saw that they had a one weekend course in the winter on Writing for Star Trek. I had this vision of going out to LA, meeting people in the course, and then getting beamed onto the a writing staff by Monday.

The course was surprisingly good. On the first day, we learned about scripts, and saw the film "Wrath of Khan." At the end we got to meet the screenwriter. He was the first screenwriter I had ever met, and was very approachable. He actually didn't know much about Star Trek, or science fiction, but was drawn to it because of the characters. Someone asked him why the final battle was between two crippled star ships and he said "Because it was cool."

The second day we did meet the executive producer of Star Trek The Next Generation. He looked like how I imagined I would look at fifty. Someone in the class circulated an email list. I deferred my dreams, surely someone from the class would call me.

No one did.

The teacher had written one episode of Next Generation, and I liked her so much that I would come out to LA in the Spring and enroll in UCLA Extension full time. I moved back to Albuquerque that summer. I would move out to LA to earn an MFA at the American Film Institute. I couldn't finish the book until I went to AFI, but that's another story.

Did Star Trek influence my writing in any way? Actually, I think I've used more of the mythology of Star Wars in my novels rather than Star Trek. Still I can honestly say that a weekend course opened my horizons in my writing.

So when I see the new film this weekend, I will think back to the young lawyer in Roswell. Beam me up, indeed...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writer Monster

I've become a big fan of the show, River Monsters. I haven't fished in my adult life, but I would love to follow the path of English adventurer Jeremy Wade as he paddles up some dangerous river to catch some freshwater Moby Dick. Who knows, maybe my next novel will be about an adventure somewhere.\

One of my favorite books in High School was Heart of Darkness--essentially Marlow goes up the river to meet Kurtz and finds evil. I named a character Marlow after the character in the book. There was also a Judge Kurtz. I loved the film, Apocalypse Now, which was the tale turned sideways.

In the first lines of my non-fiction book, Amarillo in August, I talked about writing a rain forest thriller. I have never been to a rain forest unfortunately.

My own adventures have been rather tame of course. I once lived in Crested Butte for the summer and used to take two hour runs at altitude. I have skied the ridge at Taos, but not from the top. I did do a  rafting trip or two with my family. As for danger, I once got lost in White Sands without water, and had to rough it for a good solid sixteen minutes.

I hear the call of the wild every day. Albuquerque is on the Pan American highway which goes all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, I once had an idea of writing about a journey from the tip of South America to Central Avenue in Albuquerque. That dream was put to rest after seeing an episode of "Locked up Abroad" where someone tried to cross the dangerous Darien Gap in Panama and was kidnapped. The Darien Gap was a gap too wide for me.

Still, I'm not content to sit on my couch the rest of my life. I need a quest. I need my own great white whale to kill. Somebody get Jeremy Wade's people on the phone.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

TV or not TV

I saw myself on television last night. The Bulls-Heat game wasn't particularly interesting, and I was appearing on the Art Talk program so I switched over to channel 27, the local cable access. Honestly, I would rather watch Lebron dunk than watch myself talk.

I once had a show on Channel 27, the Rattlesnake Review show. This was in the days before DVDs and I could easily cue up videos and do movie reviews. I loved it, but with the advent of disks, it became too technically difficult for me to do the program. The people at Channel 27 are great, with one exception. I was terrified of a certain host who gave me a dirty look every time her program was on the same day as mine.

The show was taped in the basement of a building at UNM, but once I sat down and the staff miked me, I felt like I was in Rockefeller Center. Sherri Burr was the host of the Arts Talk program and she has interviewed some big names as they pass through New Mexico. There was studio audience of students who actually prepared questions for me.

After a few moments of stiffness, the twenty-five minutes passed quickly, and I felt like I was on. Hell, I was the Lebron James of legal fiction, or at least the Dwayne Wade as I handle everything that Sherri and her students threw in my direction. Hell, I could have been in Madison Square Garden.

Did anyone see the program? I don't know. Lebron might have had more points than I had viewers. Back in the day, Shaq probably would have made more free throws than I had book sales.

Yet for twenty-five minutes I was a star, still when the show was over, I switched over to the game. Here's the link to my site to see the show.

http://rattlesnakelaw.com/

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blog of Frankenstein

"It's alive, Alive, I say!" Like Victor Von Frankenstein, I feel that my creation has come alive and is now dangerous. Yes, this blog officially has a mind of its own.

In the film, Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein, Igor told Dr. Frankenstein that he obtained a brain from a subject called "Abby Normal" and that enabled the monster to dance and sing. Well, this blog sprung from my own mind, and it is about to dance and sing in the Southwest Writers Contest.

Let me explain. I have won the non-fiction book proposal category of the Southwest Writers contest a few years ago with a collection on of non-fiction short stories. Last year, I entered an updated collection of stories and took second. I think the winner wrote something about sex. This year, I took the first fifty pages of this very blog that you are reading and sent it in to the contest.

Last year, I had to make a trip to Kinko's (excuse me Fed Ex Office. I will always call it Kinkos) and made three copies and then mailed it in, after remembering to write out a check. This year it was all electronic. I went to a website, uploaded the document, and then hit a link to paypal and left-clicked. I indeed felt like Dr. Frankenstein when the connection went through. My blog had left home for the first time.

Dr. Frankenstein lost control of his monster. I feel I have lost control of my own blog. I have a pretty good idea of who reads this every day when I post. There aren't that many of you, unfortunately.

Now, strangers are reading it and are making a determination of whether its any good, without any context. I think the judge is a New York editor who doesn't know the Rattlesnake Lawyer. The blog has to stand on its own two feet as it hopefully marches to the finish line. I do have a vision of the contest judges lining up with torches to burn it down, but I am optimistic. Potentially this blog could march all the way to a big time publisher's desk and out into the world. You've heard of the Bride of Frankenstein, well, I've created the Blog of Frankenstein.

"It's alive. It's alive, I say!"





Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Writing Dead or Zombie or not to be?

You've heard of the Walking Dead? Well, I was a member of the Writing Dead. Zombies are hot this year. Perhaps I should write Rattlesnake Zombie. I now have had a personal experience.

Wasn't the film Day of the Dead the one took place in a shopping mall? I was at a book event featuring around twenty local authors held at an abandoned mall in the wilds of New Mexico. The only open establishment in an entire shopping center was a half empty Subway sandwich shop.

Speaking of hunger, I didn't bring any cash with me when I arrived early to set up my booth. I was hoping to make enough to buy a Chicken Teriyaki sandwich for lunch. I asked the guy at the booth next door if I could munch on one of the little dark chocolate bars on his table. He literally swiped my hand away, "Those are for readers only!" he said.

"There are no readers," I said. "There are more authors than people here."
The twenty authors eyed each other for the first hour. There weren't any readers to be had. We were all getting hungry in more ways than one. As a graduate of the University of Colorado, home of the legendary Alferd Packer Grill, I wondered if we would have to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. (Google Alferd Packer to get the joke).

Speaking of cannibalism, we had all tried to sell each other books, and none of us were buying.
"I'm not buying your book, until I sell one of mine," I said to an author. Or did she say that to me?

I have never had a book signing without a single sale, but no potential readers came the second hour and it was getting uglier for the twenty of us by the minute. That Subway sure smelled good, but it was just out of reach until I had cash. The other authors must have felt the same way. The guy with the chocolate devoured everything in his own bowl. "I thought you were waiting for the readers," I said.

"I can't wait forever," he said. "A man has to do what he can to survive."

At high noon, a slightly overweight guy came into the entrance of the shopping center--he wore a colorful scarf, did he work in an art gallery?. He had an empty satchel with him and a bulge in his back pocket indicating a fat wallet. We all were thinking the same thing...prey! He smiled as he tried to walk through the gauntlet of authors.

Bad move. Instead of zombies mumbling about brains, he passed through twenty authors mumbling about books. By that time, the zombies were probably more articulate.

"I'm just going to Subway," he said after the second author "I'm not interested."

After being manhandled by the next few authors, he literally started running past the authors' tables, grabbed a Meatball sandwich at Subway, and went out the back entrance.

Zombie or not to be? It's better to not to be. I left after that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bookless in Burque?

How do you have a book signing without books? I might learn that today at the Southwest Book Fiesta. You've heard of Sleepless in Seattle? Well, I might be Bookless in Burque. (Or would it be bookless in Bernalillo County? Your choice.)

I've been there before. High Tide in Tucson, is a book by Barbara Kingsolver. I had my own low tide in Tucson that started my career as an author on the road. I was at the Southwest Authors event, and my book, Rattlesnake Lawyer was supposed to be shipped by the distributor. The first day there were no books at all. I had to sit at a table and try to sell people on the concept of my books, without having an actual book to show them.

I gave everyone a pitch regardless. I wasn't selling Florida swampland, I felt like I was selling a book about Florida swampland. People said that they'd "keep my book in mind." Out of sight, out of mind...so I wasn't optimistic.

The people at the booth next to me were selling their self-published book about hypnotism and they weren't doing much better. They couldn't hypnotize anyone into buying their book. We were all getting sleepy by the end of the first day.

On the second day, I went through the first six hours without a book to sell. Finally,with a half hour left in the show, a UPS guy arrived in carrying two packages of books. A cheer went up.

Within moments, my table was crowded and I sold out my books. Maybe they felt sorry for me, maybe I was just a good salesman, but I gained confidence to be able to sell books even when the books aren't there. I suppose selling a book is like selling a stock...

I don't know if I will have books today or tomorrow for the event. Bookless in Burque? No problem!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Death of an Insurance Salesman

I just  thought back to the best speech I ever made in my life. Unfortunately, it was speech I wished I never had to make--my father's eulogy.

In 2008, my Dad had beaten cancer twice and was back to running his insurance agency full time. I had just passed the insurance exam and we were going to go into business together, targeting my colleagues in the legal industry. On Monday in December, the back page of the Bar Bulletin featured our ad with a picture of him sitting in a chair and me with my hand on his shoulder. We had a few calls that week. On Thursday, I met with him that afternoon plotting our future and trying to decide who would go down to Clovis to make a sales call.

He died that Friday morning in an accident at home. The funeral was Sunday. The ad ran again on the back page of the Bar Bulletin on Monday.

I have a copy of my eulogy somewhere on my computer, but I don't have the heart to open it right now. On that cold December Sunday in 2008, I stared out at several hundred faces that expected me to say something profound. When I couldn't start right away, I felt a presence.

Did my Dad tell me to "just do it?"

I don't remember the next ten minutes, I do remember that I made a joke about letting my Dad do the sales call in Clovis. The audience laughed and teared up in all the right places.

Most of all, I knew my Dad would have loved his eulogy.

I've made several speeches since then and when I falter sometimes-- forget my train of thought, tell a joke that doesn't quite work, or look at an audience that doesn't quite get it-- I flash back to that eulogy. My circumstances sure could be a lot worse. . . I think back to my Dad and what he told me that day. I just do it . . . .

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Salma Hayek in Sixty Seconds

With the Southwest Book Fiesta in two days, I can't help but think of my sixty seconds with actress, Salma Hayek. At the Book Fiesta, I'm hoping to meet someone in the industry who can jump start my career. A few years ago, I met Salma Hayek who nearly did.

When I was at the AFI, the school would bring in prominent directors for screenings at the school's small theater. I don't remember the film, but Ed Norton was the director du jour. The film wasn't very good, and all of the students were a bit restless. No was that excited when he went onto the stage.

And then we saw that he had brought his girlfriend . . .

The short Latina in the corner wore very high heels, jeans and a leather jacket and kept glancing at her watch as Ed Norton droned on, and on and on . . .

"That's Salma Freaking Hayek," I whispered to my neighbor. I had written a draft of Rattlesnake Lawyer already, but I was yet to create the Luna Cruz character in Crater County, but I knew one thing. Salma Hayek would be perfect for the part of a screenplay I had yet to write. She had just been in Desperado, and one small film, Mi Vida Loca,  but this was long before Frida.

My friends must have thought the same thing. We might as well have been the orphans in Oliver Twist. "You talk to her," a screenwriting student said, "No, you," said a director.
"I'll talk to her," I said at last. I think I started writing the new novel at that very moment.

After Ed Norton finished, he was mobbed by a few students hoping to get him to produce their screenplays, Salma waited alone in the corner, glancing at her watch yet again. Other than a few male film students, no one recognized, or if they did, she was just another actress.
"You're Salma Hayek," I said when I approached her.
She rolled her eyes. She didn't extend her hand.
"You were Sad Girl in Mi Vida Loca," I said.
She actually smiled. "No one saw that film." 

She then looked over at Ed Norton who was practically giving another lecture to the five students in the corner. She really was a sad girl, feeling abandoned and ignored. She looked at her watch again. I figured I had sixty seconds.

What do I say to her? I haven't started writing my second novel yet, but if it ever becomes a film, you would be perfect for the lead? As I was a little older than the average student, she wondered who I was. The fact that I knew about her first role in an obscure film meant that I was someone with knowledge at the very least. Could I be someone who could help her career?

She expected me to say something more. "Umm...You were great in Desperado," I said.

Wrong thing to say.

"Everybody tells me that," she said. She rolled her eyes again. Ed Norton was finishing up with the last eager film  student. He pushed away the script that the man tried to hand him. He gave her a look that he was on his way over to rescue her.

She gave me one more glance, daring me to say something that would justify another sixty seconds of conversation. She fiddled with her purse. If I said the right thing, she might give me her card. The fate of Luna Cruz rested on the next second of my life.

Every clever idea in my life flashed before me, but I couldn't think of anything. Without another word, she literally turned her back on me and went over to Ed Norton. The two hurried off out of the theater and went to wherever they were going.

I don't know who's going to be at the Southwest Book Fiesta when I talk on Friday. Perhaps there is a film producer looking for new projects. There might be an internet guru who can market my books to the masses. Perhaps even the book reviewer for the New York Times will hear me talk and write a glowing review on the front page of the Times.

I know one person who won't be there-- Salma Hayek.
 Desperado indeed.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hollywood Night

I found my  true love in Albuquerque during a Hollywood night. As many of you know, I had attended film school in LA and for family reasons returned home to New Mexico. I had just started dating Marie, a lawyer in Albuquerque, but I didn't know her well enough to invite her to my film school reunion party. Perhaps I still had left my heart in Hollywood in more ways than one...

A starlet, the star of a cable TV series who was a Facebook friend, invited me to call her. Perhaps I had laid it on a little thick to her over Facebook messaging, This wasn't just a party of former film students, this was a party of Hollywood players. Rattlesnake Lawyer would get a green light by the second drink.  I had this vision of closing a deal at the party and celebrating over a drink with the starlet.

After flying in and spending the night on my sister's couch, I headed to Beverly Hills. You've heard of Beverly Hills Cop? My life felt like an Albuquerque flop as I drove on the palm lined streets. The party was at the parent's house of a former student. The father was Janet Jackson's lawyer and his home was a cross between Downton Abbey and the Playboy mansion. The home was allegedly across the street from a home of a famous Scientologist actor who in an earlier film had thrown a party with his parents away.  Not going to reveal his identity, because a joke is a joke and a lawsuit is a lawsuit.

After parking in front of the famous actor's home, I crossed the street to the party. The party was hopping, but within seconds of arriving, I felt very much alone. Many of the film students brought their spouses and kids. Damn, I missed Marie. We had just done a trip to Valles Caldera and the Jemez ruins in her jeep. This would have been another fine expedition.

I did the Rattlesnake Lawyer pitch to my former classmates and they weren't catching.  "New Mexico's out this year," someone said. "Lawyers are even outer." Were they talking about Rattlesnake Lawyer, or were they talking about me?

Feeling lonelier, I called Marie a few times and gave her a play by play at this Playboy Mansion Lite. She might have been 800 miles away, but she was with me in spirit. I had far more in common with her than with the Serbian cinematographer.

People at the party must have assumed that I was negotiating a pay or play deal when I talked furiously on my cell phone in the corner. In some ways, I really was negotiating a long term deal, a life time deal. I just didn't know it at the time.

And then the phone clicked. I received a text from the starlet. She was going to be at a popular Beverly Hills watering hole with several of her actress friends. You know how you sometimes see a nerdy guy with a gaggle of starlets and wonder how he got there....I was going to be that guy! Green light indeed...

And yet, I didn't hang up as I stared at the text from the starlet. It was there at that moment in Beverly Hills that I knew I was truly in love with Marie. I didn't text the starlet back.

I soon went to my sister's place and fell asleep on her couch.  I was back in Albuquerque on the six o'clock flight on Southwest. Two years later I was married.

Bob Seeger had sung about the Hollywood Nights in those Hollywood Hills. I knew at that moment in those Hollywood Hills, that I was too far from home.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Irony Man

"Isn't it ironic, don't you think?" Alanis Morrissette.

I am irony man. I just saw Iron Man 3 over the weekend, and can't help but see the irony in Robert Downey's success at this late date in his career. Robert Downey Jr. was a joke at one time and now the joke is on all the people who doubted him. From playing Iron Man in all of his movies as well as the Avengers films, he will probably make more than the combined budgets of all the correctional and rehab facilities he stayed in over the course of his bad years. Isn't it ironic that Downey is now making more than nearly all of his contemporaries put together?

Wikipedia defined irony into three categories. Verbal irony is the incongruity between what is said and what is meant. Dramatic irony is what a character believes to be true and what the reading audience to be true. Situational irony is the real result being incongruous with the result that was intended.

On a now ancient rerun of the Simpson's, the animated family saw Robert Downey Jr. supposedly having a shootout with the police. Isn't it ironic, that such a scene would be verbal, dramatic and situationally ironic? Woody Allen once said that tragedy plus time equals comedy, in Downey Jr.s case, tragedy plus time equals irony.

I'm not even going to go into the ironies in my own life--I became a better lawyer by going to film school for example and I became a better writer by returning to being a lawyer. We'll have to see what the final result will be.

Isn't that ironic?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Booth of Dreams

You've heard of the field of dreams? Next Friday, I will have the booth of dreams. I will be speaking on the main stage of the Southwest Book Fiesta and will maintain a booth there over the weekend. A few years earlier, at the LA Times Book Festival, an author had the most daring gimmick to sell his book and screenplay . . .nothing.

A booth about nothing, sounds like an episode of the old Seinfeld show. Actually the booth was about one thing, selling a dream.

I've told you about the gimmicks authors use at these book events. One international distributor hired the Perfect 10 models from the now defunct magazine Perfect 10 to sign their posters while chatting up authors on how to get their books into Eastern European bookstores for a small fee. It was hard to tell exactly what they were selling--sex or shelf space.

Another author wrote a "Guerilla Guide to something" and had models dressed up like gorillas. One guy told me he spent fifty thousand dollars to create a three minute video that was an apocalyptic loop that ran on a big screen behind his booth to promote a self- published science fiction book. I think both of them got film deals.

Which brings us to the booth of dreams. It was at the LA Times Book festival. One man had rented a booth in the busiest part of the festival, near the food tents where a famous author was cooking up something delicious. I saw one man, and his family, but I didn't see any posters, any sound any anything. They had a single table and a manuscript.

"What's that?" I asked one of the kids hustling around. The kid looked like he could be an orphan from Oliver Twist, and spoke with an English accent.
"It's my Dad's manuscript," the kid said. "Are you a publisher, producer or an agent?"
"No, I'm just an author," I said.
"Then we've got nothing for you."
Oliver literally turned his back on me and ran to the next person. He was an agent, so Oliver gave him a manuscript. The agent took the manuscript and left. I noticed that the agent got in line at one of the food tent and dropped the manuscript in the trash in order to get a plate.

It didn't matter, more people took manuscripts from the booth, and not all of them tossed the pages.
Did the booth work?
I have no way of knowing. Still, I have to admire their guts.

Next Friday, at Southwest Book Fiesta I will have no gimmicks, no models, no nothing. It will just be me and my book at the Booth of Dreams. I wrote it and I hope you will come.
Hopefully, it won't amount to nothing

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Examiner Affair

This is not my only column. While this column aspires to be literary, I also write something on the down low-- a monthly celebrity legal issues column for Examiner.com. No, I won't even give you the link.

My Examiner column started with high intentions. A travel writer suggested that I start writing for the Examiner on the side. I wanted to call it Rattlesnake Lawyer, but they suggested Celebrity Legal Issues. I hoped that I could be a straight Perez Hilton with a brain and a bar card.

I had some good moments starting out. A column about a football player who died in  car accident was read by over 10,000 people. At roughly a penny a hit, I made a hundred dollars in a day. During the height of the Amanda Knox trial, my column became on the required reading list and was receiving hundreds of hits a day. I started several comments wars. The highlight of my examiner career was when the site was a feature on ABC's Good Morning America on Examiner. Not on me, but you could clearly see one of my columns in the background.

I expected my numbers to rise to infinity. I was wrong. Soon, I was busting my tail to get a hundred hits or a dollar a day.

Some of the columns for Examiner are superb, and as good as anything you see on Salon or Slate. The authors use their computer skills to make a multimedia package and manage to get linked to the Huffington Post. If you are budding young writer, or an older one with an itch to scratch, I heartily recommend the Examiner.

If you understand computers and internet marketing, you can actually make a living from it.
I don't understand either.

Comments promote discussion and that promotes hits. I considered stopping comments after I discussed a local legal issue in New Mexico and received some posts that were a little bit scary. That was nothing compared to what happened when I posted a column about a certain Canadian singer. I wouldn't say I received death threats, but I didn't like being called a moron in five different languages. I then put comments space clicked on "closed" and kept it there ever since.

I suppose that was the beginning of the end. A column isn't worth dying for.

About once a month, I get an email telling me I haven't written anything so I still crank out a few paragraphs of latest celebrity gossip, quite often about Lindsay Lohan. No one will give you a death threat over Lindsay Lohan.

I don't know how much longer I will keep doing my monthly column for Examiner. I would rather blog about myself than a celebrity.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Justin Timberlake of Myspace

I was the Justin Timberlake of Myspace before Justin Timberlake. Actually, I was better than Justin Timberlake because back then Myspace meant something.

A few years ago, I had a Myspace profile and thousands of "friends." Almost every day I would blog, much like I do now. The difference was that thousands of people read those blogs and left mostly positive comments, sometimes dozens of comments. Many were writers, or wannabe writers.Some were relatively famous people. I even had supermodels leave positive comments on my blogs.

Justin Timberlake can dance, sing and be funny as well. He brought sexy back. All I can do is blog for the most part, but I could be autobiographical, instructional and be funny as well. In some blogs, dare I say it, I was pretty sexy.
 
Why did Myspace decline?  Tila Tequila once had several million friends on Myspace, because she put herself out there. Unfortunately, she put herself out there too much and eventually ended up as a washed up bipolar porn star, unworthy of even being on TMZ. She wasn't a real person any more, just an addiction-- too much tequila and not enough Tila. Even her friends turned away and couldn't bear to look anymore. I suppose that's a metaphor for Myspace.

In The Social Network, Justin said "A million isn't cool. You know what's cool, a billion,"In my case, a thousand was cool, but you know what wasn't cool, a hundred.  You know what's even less cool, wa dozen, which is where I ended up. I made the inevitable switch over to Facebook, and a handful of my Myspace friends are now following me on Facebook. I suppose I should go on twitter as well, but I can't even burp in less than 140 characters.

As most of you know, Justin is now a part owner of Myspace. I've long since forgotten my password to the site. I don't know how the investment is doing, but if you're looking for the next big thing, invest in my blogs. Who knows, maybe I can bring blogging back.