Friday, November 29, 2013

Blogging at Dawn: Black Friday Blues

Blogging at Dawn: Black Friday Blues: If you are an author, is it better to write or shop? How about to sell? Black Friday is the best day to do a book signing... or is it? Last ...

Black Friday Blues

If you are an author, is it better to write or shop? How about to sell? Black Friday is the best day to do a book signing... or is it? Last year, I signed my novel Rattlesnake Lawyer at a Barnes and Noble in ABQ and had one of my best days ever. People literally walked by my table, and picked up a book. Presumably they then went over to the cashier and actually paid for it.  

This year, I'm restarting my manuscript for National Novel Month, which I will work on over December. That's a story for another time, but I do my best writing in December.

But back to book signings on Black Friday.... While sales can seem easy, there is a strange energy in the air.  Even in a city like Albuquerque, people are rushing as if to catch a New York subway. Unlike other days, where I would have time to do a thirty second "pitch," shoppers are making their decision in a matter of micro-seconds. It's more about math than manuscript. "X bought me a 14.95 dollar gift last year. This book sells for 14.95. Therefore this book will be the gift equivalent for X."

There is a fundamental difference between Black Friday and other shopping days. People are buying books for others, and not for themselves. That can be a good thing, An author has to adjust their strategy accordingly. It is crucial to ask who the book is for. Make sure that your book is age-appropriate for the intended recipient.

As the Barnes & Noble is at the front of Coronado Center, it is sobering to realize that you are not only competing with the thirty thousand books in the store that also retail for 14.95, you are also competing with the six hundred other merchants in the mall. 

"Doesn't the Best Buy Mobile store have a deal running today, dear?"

If you are an author with a new book, and you can sign on Black Friday, by all means do it. It can boost your sales tremendously, and hopefully you will gain new readers.  Still, at the end of the day you will find yourself just as tired as the clerk at the Best Buy Mobile store...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Writer Says Thanks

Last year was one of my best year's as a writer. I won a national award, I won a state wide award, and I had many exciting book signings. This year? Not so much, but I still have found many things to be thankful for.

The harsh reality is that the publishing business has changed, but it hasn't changed completely. People are buying less books at traditional publishers but they aren't necessarily buying more ebooks, as  I discovered when my first ebook came out a few weeks ago. We have wondered if a tree falls in a forest whether it makes a sound, well, supposed that tree was made of electrons and then those electrons ran down a circuit, and that circuit fell in the forest...well the circuit wouldn't make a sound either.

Speaking of electrons, let's talk about something with more positive energy.This blog has been having incredible success. Every day, dozens if not hundreds of people are reading me every week. I was mentioned in someone's speech. The Southwest Writer's Anthology should be out in the next few weeks, and that will be exciting. I am an editor and only contributed one story, but for the first time I feel part of a team. Go Team GO!

I did a few signings, but my best event by far was in Silver City at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word.  For a few minutes as I talked to sixty people, I remembered why I went into writing in the first place. I felt charged!

Thus, I am optimistic about the future. I have a western and a science fiction manuscript ready to go. Hopefully they will be out by the end of the next year.

I want to thank all of you, my readers. Don't forget a book is the perfect gift!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blogging at Dawn: Keeping up with Katniss in ABQ

Blogging at Dawn: Keeping up with Katniss in ABQ: The Hunger Games  will gross several hundred million over the last few days. Those of you writing your National Novel Writing Month manuscri...

Keeping up with Katniss in ABQ

The Hunger Games will gross several hundred million over the last few days. Those of you writing your National Novel Writing Month manuscripts are certainly thinking about those numbers, but what about us humble ABQ bloggers, what kind of numbers are we looking at? Are the odds ever in our favor?

Well, no. As I approach five figures in hits over the course of this year, I'm very happy with triple digit days, unfortunately, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how many people read this blog in a twenty-four hour span. I am hungry for hunger games numbers.

Or am I?

When I had my column for the Examiner, I would deliberately put in the word "pix" to boost search numbers. For some reason Lindsay Lohan and rehab were always good for a hit or two, or five hundred.  My biggest numbers ever, 10,000 in a day, happened when a football player was accused of murder. For a while, I seemed to be the examiner blog of record in the Amanda Knox case. I was the front lines of a comment war. I don't know if a thousand people a day were reading me, or reading the comments about me. I suppose the apex of my examinerhood was when Good Morning America actually showed a picture of my column online.

Unfortunately it didn't lead to any more hits. I gave up my examiner column, because I just couldn't write about celebrities any more.

If someone writes a column and nobody reads it, is it still a column?  My goal from here on in is to write about issues that I care about, primarily dealing with the creative process. My life affects my writing, my writing affects my life. Hopefully my writing about my writing life will help you write about life.

So maybe the odds are indeed ever in our favor, even if the numbers aren't....

Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing on Thanksgiving

For those of you finishing up your National Novel Writing Month projects, you have an interesting issue--Do you write on Thanksgiving? It's on thing to watch football with family as Mom cooks, but can you sneak off into another room and bang out a few thousand words? I would recommend against it. You don't want to get mashed potatoes on your keyboard.

Last year, I was almost done with my science fiction book, but I had a great idea for a scene. I started writing before dawn, and then when I went over to my Mom's house for Thanksgiving dinner, I was still playing with the plot in my head. As this was a science fiction book, should the main character face off against human police or robots in the big showdown on top of the Solar Federation Tower in Albuquerque?

The turkey was perfect, the gravy was savory, but I think I closed my eyes for a moment, halfway through the mail. If the hero faced off against humans, it would be mano to mano and thus more intimate. If he faced off against robots, especially robots with ray guns, it would be more exciting, even if it was less personal. Should the robots be able to fly and should they look like the robots from Battlestar Galactica or should they be more like...

"Are you all right?" My mom asked breaking my reverie.
"Ummm...the turkey was so good, it must have put me to sleep," I said.  I skipped football and wrote some more.

One benefit, was I as able to re-create some dialogue from the dinner and plop it into the manuscript.

When Black Friday game, I found myself drawn to the book store at the mall. I checked out the potential competition's book. I also was inspired by several people I saw in the parking lot. They had fashions that might as well as be from the year 2112.

So my advice to you writers out there. Don't write on Thursday and Friday. Savor your family. You will actually get more ideas from observing than you will from forcing yourself to write. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Blogging at Dawn: The Hunger Games of Books?

Blogging at Dawn: The Hunger Games of Books?: Someone said that I should write something like the Hunger Games. Gee Thanks, right after I finish my Fifty Shades of Gray book featuring H...

The Hunger Games of Books?

Someone said that I should write something like the Hunger Games. Gee Thanks, right after I finish my Fifty Shades of Gray book featuring Harry Potter. I first heard of the Hunger Games series when I was doing a book signing at the old Borders up in Santa Fe. The Community Relations Manager was explaining the concept of the Hunger Games as she set up decorations for a Hunger Games theme party.
"You mean the kids fight to the death?" I asked
She nodded.
"And it's a book for kids?"
"Young adults," she said.
I didn't think it would work. "I don't get it. I am not hungry for the Hunger Games."

I did see the film, and was gripped by it. There was a scene when Jennifer Lawrence was hiding up in the tree and the other kids, armed with knives are looking for her. I can honestly say that that scene was the scariest scene that I have ever witnessed, and the only scene to give me nightmares. It sure didn't feel like a Young Adult story. I could honestly say that at the end of the story, I was indeed hungry for the next installment.

One of my books, Lawyer Geisha Pink, does venture into YA territory, although I will call it Young Adult Adjacent. One of the main characters is seventeen, and she does have a boyfriend her same age. Still the protagonist is in her thirties and a mother. The main character does have magical powers (or she might be mentally ill), so there was an element of empowerment. She was courted by a creepy old billionaire, and she also had to do a trial, and that took the book firmly out of YA territory. I realized something along the way, I can't write young characters very well.

I have thought of a way to do a Lawyer Geisha Pink sequel that would be like the Hunger Games featuring some of the younger characters of the book, give them a love triangle, and cool powers. Unfortunately, I don't think I could write it myself. If you are interested, then drop me a line.

Which brings me to a fundamental question--do we write for ourselves, or do we write for money? I have always written for myself, and generally about situations that I face.  I think my main audience is not a million teenagers all over the world, but it is me.

Perhaps that is why I am still hungry . . .

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Walking Read or Frankenstein in ABQ

You've heard of the Walking Dead? Well, in a few weeks, we'll have the Walking Read! Storyteller's Anthology, a collection of writing from local and celebrity writers is shuffling out of the ground, hungry for your brains. Thus, I will have a book coming out during National Novel Writing Month, it just won't be mine. Have we created a monster?

A few months ago, I was at a Southwest Writer's meeting when I heard  about how a flood ravaged the building. I was about to say the words "Hey kids, let's put on a show!" like they did in the old movies. After looking around at the possible singing and/or dancing talent in the room where the average age was 60, it hit me."Hey kids let's put out a book!"

In about a week or so, we will! And for all you film people looking for something to film, you actors looking for something to act...well chances are that you will be infected by one of the stories in the book and want to bring that to life as well.

Why do I consider the anthology a monster, that is not quite living, not quite dead? Well, the book is an amalgam of the souls of the various writers. We have some big names like David Morrell, who wrote First Blood, the book that became the basis of Rambo. We have work from Anne Hillerman who wrote the sequel to her father Tony's award winning series of books. We have the nice story about the early days in Albuquerque by that nice lady who sits in the back.

The amount of submissions was so overwhelming that not everything made it in. I have a feeling that the submissions that didn't make it in, are somehow connected psychically to the project. They might not make the 90,000 words, but those words will be there in spirit.

I must admit that I'm not quite Dr. Frankenstein on this one. I would be Dr. Frankenstein's resident physician, or the surgeon general of Transylvania, whatever you want to call it. I came up with the idea, went to a few pep rallies, but Peggy Herrington did the actual editing with the help of some friends.  She will be doing the final selection. One of my stories didn't make it by the way....

Much like putting together Frankenstein, the cutting will be the hardest part. The stitching won't be easy either.

At the meeting this week, it did feel like the peasants had stormed the castle with torches and pitchforks. Members of another writing group came and made an announcement for their anthology. With our project literally on the slab, but before coming to life. The members of the other group said that we were welcome to learn their secrets on how to put out a book. It was all meant well. but those pitchforks prodded us to put the final touches on our book and literally raise the dead!

In a few days, the switch will be thrown, and the book will be available to order through amazon. It's alive! It's alive!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blogging Bad in the Old ABQ

Is blogging bad? Instead of writing for National Novel Writing Month, I've been up blogging. The same goes for writing my Breaking Bad spec script (How Saul meets Gus) to get on the Better Call Saul staff. I also have scripts for all those short films about Albuquerque...well you get the idea. Is this silly little blog worth it?

I only have an hour of writing time in the morning, two at the most, so it really is a zero sum game. When I was working on the National Novel Writing Month project, I tried to blog after I wrote. I was hoping that there would be some synergy. I'd write the novel, write about writing the novel, and then that would give me more ideas for the novel, and then more ideas for writing about writing the novel. It sounds good in theory, but when I look at the clock and it's time to get to work, I realized that thinking about thinking about writing about writing doesn't put words on the screen in either place.

One of my faithful readers came up to me and asked me if I ever got in touch with the Breaking Bad people to get on the staff of Better Call Saul. I had indeed come up with a good solid outline. When I lived in LA, it was gospel that to get on staff of a show you need to write a spec script of another show. The idea seemed too easy, and while I was blogging everything just flowed. I blogged about it another few times, but then I realized something, I no longer had script software. I can blog all day, but I can't properly put in character names or Cut To:

That goes for writing the short scripts about Albuquerque. These stories are mainly about job interviews and dates that occurred during my nearly forty years of living here. Several people in the Albuquerque film community have approached me about turning the short stories from the Laws & Loves collection into films we can post on youtube. Needless to say without script software, I've been hesitant. I've been up doing this.

Not only am I blogging instead of writing, I'm checking on my blogs instead of writing. No, I'm not editing, I'm actually checking on the number of hits as if each blog is a stock. It would be one thing if like Facebook or Twitter, and it went up. I keep thinking that the hundred or so people that read me every morning will each recommend me to another hundred of their friends, and I will have Bud Fox take me public.

I would like to think that these blogs have some value of their own. Perhaps the local local publishers will publish a collection of these blogs as a book, and that book will be the basis of an HBO show like "Sex in the City" or God Forbid, Girls. I also have gained experience in coming up with short non-fiction on the fly. Perhaps I can use this as a writing sample for something else.

Still it is too early to tell whether the blogging is been for bad, or whether in the long run, I've been blogging good.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Blogging at Dawn: Film my Novel in Albuquerque! or Art & Artichokes

Blogging at Dawn: Film my Novel in Albuquerque! or Art & Artichokes: If anything I write during National Novel Writing Month or any other month, ever gets optioned by Hollywood, there will be a clause guarante...

Film my Novel in Albuquerque! or Art & Artichokes

If anything I write during National Novel Writing Month or any other month, ever gets optioned by Hollywood, there will be a clause guaranteeing that it be filmed in New Mexico.That is not negotiable. They filmed Breaking Bad here, they will break my words here as well!

I went to a farmer's market yesterday where everything was grown locally. You can get artichokes on one table grown in the South Valley, and honey grown in the North Valley. This is an open letter to the New Mexico film and writing community. To my writing friends, let's write something that we can film here. To my film friends, let's look for local projects from local writers. Just imagine that we are growing artichokes that can entertain for two hours. We need a filmer's market

Yesterday as I drove the five blocks from my office to my home, I saw at least one production with massive trailers and a beehive of people dressed in black setting things up and putting them down. Last night, as we smoked cigars at Imbibe, we saw another group of people talking about the day's shoot.

Here's the cool thing, I don't think the film people I saw in the day were the same people I saw at night!

When Rattlesnake Lawyer was optioned by Fox in the Nineties, I talked to a producer on the phone and asked if they could film it here.  "Why would anyone film something in New Mexico?" he replied with a snarl, as if I talked about filming on the dark side of the moon, the side without tax incentives. Rattlesnake Lawyer went into turnaround hell. I wish it had gone to Tohajiillee instead.

Speaking of the outer space, my first novel was based on my experiences in Roswell. While I was living in Roswell, they were filming something called Silent Tongue with the late River Phoenix. The film tanked. When they filmed the TV show Roswell, no one ever thought of filming it in Roswell.   Perhaps we weren't ready for our close up, we are now.

There is something in LA called the American Film Market, where films are bought and sold out in LA. We need something like that here (if there is already something like that here, it needs to be bigger).

Who knows? At next week's farmer's market, I might get a booth of my own and sell screenplays with Hatch grown green chiles!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blogging at Dawn: Na No Wri Mo: The Next Eleven Months

Blogging at Dawn: Na No Wri Mo: The Next Eleven Months: Last year, I successfully wrote 50,000 words in during National Novel Writing month, but I'm far more proud of what I did over the next ...

Na No Wri Mo: The Next Eleven Months

Last year, I successfully wrote 50,000 words in during National Novel Writing month, but I'm far more proud of what I did over the next eleven months, I turned those 50,000 words into a 90,000 word novel. Here's how you can do it too.

The key to getting through National Novel Writing Month is cranking out about 2,000 words a day. It is also important to know what the 2,001st word will be--when you finish, you have to have a good idea of where you will go next. If you can do that, you can survive the month.

Mario Puzo who wrote the novel, The Godfather, once said" the secret to writing is re-writing." Truman Capote allegedly once told someone "That's not writing, that's type writing." It's no secret that you haven't written a real novel during National Novel Writing Month, you've type written 50,000 words. So how do you re-write those words into a novel?

Start by re-reading what you've already got. Not as good as you thought, is it? So now what? Time to get carded...Some people like using index cards, if you're one of them. Use index cards to outline each scene-- what happens, what characters did in each scene, and how people changed if anything. Does the story flow logically? Does each character progress along their character arc in a logical fashion.

For example, I once had four scenes-- and I had to try several different orders to make them work. In the final version, the hero realizes that he truly loves his girlfriend, his girlfriend betrays him, he goes down to visit a client, and with nothing left to lose, he vows to save his client and thus impress his girlfriend that he is a man. He can't make the vow before he loses the girl or he can't lose the girl before he realizes he loves her.

There are some scenes that don't advance the plot but are so good that they can remain anyway. One of my favorite scenes in cinema is the helicopter raid in Apocalypse Now with the March of the Valkries. Plotwise, it can be taken out of the story. None of the major characters does much in it. However, the scene is just soooo damn good. Let yourself have one and only one scene that doesn't advance the lot, as long as it is that good.

After you play with the order of scenes, it's time to start writing again. You can add some jokes if you want, and take away the jokes that don't work. You can also do "call backs." If you had a good bit of dialogue on page 4, you might want to "call back" to it on page 49, and use that line to indicate how the characters have changed. In Star Wars, there was the whole bit of "I love you" and "I know."

When you get to the ending, you want to avoid what I call a "Scooby Doo" ending where a minor character turns out to be the chief antagonist all along, for reasons that are explained in passing. Is your ending supported by the rest of the story?

See you all on December 1st!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blogging at Dawn: Sleep in the heart of ABQ or Morpheus and the Mort...

Blogging at Dawn: Sleep in the heart of ABQ or Morpheus and the Mort...: Is it good for a writer to be mugged by Morpheus? Morpheus was the Greek God of Dreams as well as Lawrence Fishburne's character in the ...

Blogging at Dawn: Sleep in the heart of ABQ or Morpheus and the Mort...

Blogging at Dawn: Sleep in the heart of ABQ or Morpheus and the Mort...: Is it good for a writer to be mugged by Morpheus? Morpheus was the Greek God of Dreams as well as Lawrence Fishburne's character in the ...

Sleep in the heart of ABQ or Morpheus and the Mortgage.

Is it good for a writer to be mugged by Morpheus? Morpheus was the Greek God of Dreams as well as Lawrence Fishburne's character in the Matrix. Albuquerque might not be the Matrix, but it might as well be the Matrix Adjacent, when you write a novel, where you have to shift between the real and the imaginary. As many of you slog through your National Novel Writing Month novels, today's blog is going to focus on dreaming and writing.

When I first starting writing in my twenties, I would drink coffee before bed to deliberately force dreams in the middle of the night. Morpheus would talk to me, both awake and asleep, and yes it was in Lawrence Fishburne's baritone voice. Your main character needs to do this, he needs to go here and he needs to fall in love with the female lead on page 38. It felt magical, or even better it felt "matrixal" like it came from a different world.

I might as well have Morpheus at my co-pilot when I'd wake up at five and start cranking  the story for the day. I didn't know where the good ideas came from, but they came from somewhere deep within.

As I grow older, sleep became more of a commodity. Sleep was less just a journey to magical world, sleep became about rejuvenation--about forgetting the day before and planning the day ahead. I had long dreams about work and clients as well paying the mortgage. Paying mortgage dreams are not usually worthy of a great novel. I now get just as many ideas from exercising as I do from dreaming.

But Morpheus isn't quite done with me...

These little blogs come from Morpheus, they come from dreams. I wake up in the middle of the night and come up with a good idea for a little blog. When I get to the computer before dawn, I can usually crank something out from memory.

Or is it something from the Matrix?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Next Year's National Novel Writing Month

Can you really write a novel in thirty days? You can if write it like a screenplay using screenplay structure. In yesterday's column, I talked about how I did much better last year during National Novel Writing Month. Today, I am going to talk about how I will do it for next year. If you want to try to write a novel in a month, read this carefully. For those of you are still cranking away, you can ignore this column.

Before I even begin, I'm going to come up with fundamental questions in my own life. The first question is where am I now? The second question is --where do I want to be? That's going to be the basis of the plot. The main character will go on a journey from Point A to Point B, based on those two questions.

Next I will come up with the three acts--the beginning, the middle and the end. Since a National Novel Writing Month project is 50,000 words, we'll even break it up. In Act I, we will see the hero much the same way that I am right now. We will see him or her in their normal environment. Act I should be short, so we'll spend about 12,000 words there. I'm figuring that I will write about two thousand words a day, so that's six days of writing. I'm going to say that each day is a scene, so there will be six scenes. In the sixth scene, (or is it the sixth sense?), something really bad has to happen to the main character.

The hard part of course is Act II which wI will hit on my seventh day of writing. The hero is going to make a vow to do something and go off on a journey. About halfway through, he will hit rock bottom, or in film version, the inmost cave. I like to think of Indiana Jones facing the snakes in the middle of Raiders of the Lost Ark.The hero will have better things happen to him after that, and almost get his goal at the end of Act II. That should take me to about 38,000 words.

Right around Thanksgiving of next year, I will be ready for Act III I will know the final showdown by then. I want the hero to be confronted with his greatest challenge, but is doing it on his home turf. His normal world that we saw at the beginning, is now under siege and he must rise to the challenge.  That should take the final 12,000 words, with about 1,000 words to set up the sequel.

That's the plan for now. See you next year!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Na No Wri Mo No No No No

Last year, I was able to successfully write sixty thousand words during National Novel Writing Month. When I was finished, I kept on going and successfully finished a ninety thousand word novel. I will be sending that novel out for contests in the next few weeks.  This year I am going down in flames after only eight thousand words. Why did I succeed last year and fail this year?
 Last year, I planned. This year, I did not.

Last year, I had my three act structure already in my head before I wrote a single word.  I had the front of a yellow page of paper completely marked up with notes. I had character sketches scribbled on a second page. After I cranked through the first few thousand words, I was able to keep going because I knew what came next. Most important, I knew what the book was about... it was about a father daughter relationship

This year, I did not finish, and know that I will not finish. I was able to crank out nine thousand words over the first few days. They weren't bad. Then I hit the wall. I did not know what the next scene was. While I had a good idea about Act III, I had no idea about Act II, the middle. I wanted the main character's family to be involved in the story, but I didn't know when they would come in and join the hero. That is not a small concern. It is hard to write a chase scene if you don't know how many people are being chased.

To those of you who are still going, good luck and God Speed.  To those of you who who are giving up, perhaps you should Na No Wri Mo into Na no Out Mo...National Novel Outlining Month.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Few Good Dolphins or Code Red Writing

Did the Dolphin coaches order a "Code Red?" Was the alleged hazing of Jonathan Martin by Richie Incognito a direct order by the Dolphin coaches to toughen Martin up? And what does this have to do with writing critique groups?

The Dolphins play the Bucs tonight, and they will be missing Incognito and Martin. If you Google "Dolphins" and "Code Red" you will find several web reports saying that the hazing was not only condoned, it might have come from the coaching staff. The phrase "Code Red" of course came from the film "A Few Good Men." In the film, Jack Nicholson's character, Colonel Jessup orders some of his Marines to physically punish poor Private Santiago in order to toughen him up, or get him to quit. In his famed cross-examination, Tom Cruise asks Nicholson for the truth, and Nicholson famously responds "You can't handle the truth!"

Which bring us to writing groups...which can be like a football locker room for the literary set. Have you ever been in a writing group where everybody seemed to turn on one person? Have you ever been that person? Do you wonder if like Jonathan Martin, the bad word came from above?

As a writer, I've had a few times where I've felt like I was gang tackled. In film school, I wrote a student film.  It was directed by another student, who came from Korea. After our premiere there was some applause. For one moment, I felt confident that I could make it as a film maker. After the lights came up, the professor then ripped the film to shreds. 

He then asked the audience what they thought. He didn't give a Code Red, but it sure felt that way. Everybody in the audience jumped in, echoing what the Professor had said. Imagine Richie Incognito talking about story structure and dialogue and you can understand how I felt during the next hour.  I don't know the whole story, but the Korean Director had to quit school. I hope that he didn't quit life.

When we met privately later, the Professor was far nicer. Was it all an act? He actually told us "Go and do great things!"

I'm rooting for the Bucs tonight.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jonathan Martin, Superstar or Full Metal Tackle

Full Metal Jacket, a film about Marine boot camp, is the best film about football hazing. Does that make left tackle Jonathan Martin the Marine Private Pyle? In a film about the building of Marines in boot camp, we can see why hazing can work  to make the few and the proud, but also why hazing can literally backfire. As someone who has been hazed himself, I certainly have empathy for Martin, but not in the reasons you might think.

In Full Metal Jacket, a misfit in the Marine corps barracks nicknamed Private Pyle just can't keep up with the other recruits--he's fat, he's weak and he's stupid. He is holding them back.It's not just his drill instructor who torment him,  the other marine recruits beat him mercilessly. It works. In the next montage, the recruits become better and better Marines. Pyle does so along with them, or at least it appears so. Unfortunately in the end of camp, he takes the gun and shoots his drill instructor and then shoots himself. The full metal jacket is emptied.

Hazing worked at first, it did bring the recruits together. They did become Marines willing to die for each other. However ultimately hazing led to, not one but two deaths.

Hazing sunk the Dolphins. I can see why hazing was done in rookie camp and perhaps into the first season. Unfortunately, Martin was hazed well into the second season. That wasn't team building, that was torment.

Whatever Incognito was doing to Martin, it wasn't making him a better player or the Dolphins into a better team. The Dolphins are mediocre at best, and because of the scandal they've lost two good players. Hazing Martin during rookie camp and calling him the Big Weirdo, might have created team spirit. Hazing him for a second year was detrimental to the team and possibly a felony.

Like Pyle, Martin was wearing a Full Metal Jersey. Thankfully, Jonathan Martin left the team and checked into treatment before hurting himself or others. I doubt that Martin will play again, but I do see him being able to lecture coaches and players.

As for my own experiences. I was hazed at the first college I attended. I ended up wrestling a lot of wrestlers and somehow ended up getting thrown into the fountain on campus.  At 150 pounds I was half the size of the Big Wierdo. This continued well into my second year. At first, I thought it was a rite of passage, but those rites kept coming every semester, so it was time to find a new passage. I transferred schools, and made Dean's List at the new place.

What eventually toughened me up? I found that when I wasn't worried about hazing I could concentrate on life. I didn't put myself in bad situations.

Ultimately, I put myself back into the ultimate rowdy locker room. Jail. As a criminal defense attorney, I visit jail several times a month. I am in a "pod" with sixty or so defendants and they do not want to see Attorney Pyle. I would be like Matthew Modine's Private Joker, except that I am all business.

Ironically, going to jail was a voluntary decision. Perhaps the hazing sophomore year toughened me up, but eventually I realized that the people around me wouldn't change, but I could change

Martin knew what he was getting into his rookie year, but when it continued, I think he made the right decision to leave. It would not have gotten better. Perhaps he could have become Jonathan Martin, Superstar had he asked for a trade and played for a more laid back team. Now, we will never know. We do know that the Dolphins won't be in the Superbowl this year.

In the film, I always wonder if Pyle had transferred to another unit, or perhaps to another branch of the military with less demanding standards would he have survived? I'd like to think he would have. He did show some signs of progress at first.

Still,  no one wants to see a film called Half Metal Jacket, even though it might have had a happier ending for the drill instructor and Private Pyle....

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thor Throat: or Film the Next Avengers in ABQ!

In Albuquerque, we've all had Breaking Bad encounters, well, I broke bad with Thor himself! Thor almost bought my novel Rattlesnake Lawyer when he filmed the Avengers here in Albuquerque. I was doing a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Coronado Center, and this blond giant was heading out the door. I asked him if he wanted a copy of my book, and he gave me the Thor look. That's the look that stared down Loki in three films. Well, needless to say, he didn't buy the book, but the moment was ...immortal!

We need to get Hollywood to film the next Avengers film in Albuquerque. Our film professionals can compete with anyone in the world. We are ready for the world. The film is currently entitled "The Age of Ultron, " and features the giant robot Ultron and a god of death named Thanos. I saw a guy who looked just like Thanos in Metro Court yesterday and he wasn't wearing make-up. Breaking Bad showed that we could do a good shoot out in New Mexico in Tahijilee. (I'm not going to bother to spell check). Ultron, you better watch your back if you're stuck in traffic at the Paseo del Norte interchange.

During the filming of the last Avengers film, there was a rumor that the Black Widow, Scarlett Johannsen herself, was living in my building. The building has a few units owned by the studios, but usually they house a cranky cinematographer or two...A young woman who did bear a passing resemblance to Scar Jo did indeed live down the hall. This woman always wore a UNM hoodie and sunglasses indoors. It turns out that it was just a sorority girl, but it was fun to live next to someone we thought was famous....

Albuquerque isn't just ready for its close up, we've shown that we've been ready for years. I don't need to mention the films that have come here, Hell Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg have filmed here so many times that Denzel owns property.

By the way, did I mention that Star Wars is alerady scheduled to film here?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNoWriMo Family

We are family, but does family belong in a National Novel Writing Month project?

In the Terminator films, there was the T-2000, the killer robot. Well in National Novel Writing Month, I am the NaNoWriMo 9000, and the robot is breaking down. I've got a good solid 9,000 words into it, I have an outline of a first act, and part of a second. Today might be the first day that I take a break as I figure out what to write next....

I have to make a decision on tone. I have a theme of the book-- a lawyer has to fall back in love with his family and they have to fall back in love with them. There are several ways to get there-- first, the family is in peril and the hero has to save them, proving that he loves them after all. The second one is a little more fun, the hero works together with his family to beat the bad guys.The problem with the second story is that by definition it is more juvenile. I don't write kids very well, they tend to sound like mini-adults. There is the third way where the family rescues the hero. I don't think I could write that at all.

It is easier to write the hero saving the family. The family doesn't have to be as fleshed out. The hero just has to save them and smile like John Wayne in the Searchers.. On the other hand, writing a family novel would be a lot more fun. I have a vision of "The Incredibles" in my head, but could I write something like that?

Which brings us to every writer's dilemma. You are told to write what you know. I've been in a family that had adventures, but I was the kid and not the father. I've never had kids,I've never baby sitted, so I would be faking it if I tried to imagine family life today.

So today, I'me taking some time off from writing to spend it with my imaginary family.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The U in ABQ or Stuck on U

You can't spell Albuquerque without the letter "U." You can't spell "I love you" without the letter u. I learned this on the fifth day of National Novel Writing Month when my keyboard literally got stuck on u. I started typing at dawn, up to 8,000 words. I went to the bathroom and then returned. My computer now asked me for my password, which has two uses of the letter "u." I was unable to get on without u.

When you are typing a novel about Albuquerque and can't type the letter "u," you are fcked. To quote Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing compares to U."

I took the computer to a local computer guru. I don't need to remind u, but you can't type the word computer without the letter "u." You can't type the word "guru" or "without" without a "u" either.

The computer guru told me that he couldn't look at the computer until four and run a diagnostic, but he could just give me a used keyboard for four bucks. (I wasn't even trying and I can event count the times I used the letter u in the last sentence). My livelihood depends on the computer, so I took the keyboard.

My laptop computer is now a monster. There is a keyboard is set up, but I am still using the mousepad on the laptop. It is very awkward. I am going to break down in a few days and get a new computer. Still, I am up at dawn, blogging away. I am unstuck.

On Sesame Street some days were sponsored by the letter u.  I suppose today is one of those days. I never knew how lucky I was, until I lose u.

U, I love U!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Second Act Funk; National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month seems so easy for you. You crank out 50,000 words, 2,000 a day. and set it in Albuquerque. Your acting friends act out the scenes around town and post them on youtube. You should be famous by November 30, for sure....Until you hit the second act funk. Did Vince Gilligan have a second Act Funk while writing his pilot script for Breaking Bad?

I was in film school at AFI working on a student film. I took a nap on set over lunch. Apparently, I was talking in my sleep, uttering up nonsense words and random stage directions. One of the cameramen woke me, as it was my turn to hold the boom for the shoot. "You looked like you was in a second act funk," he said. He had been a stand-up bass player with a local jazz band, and he looked like the illegitimate son of Miles Davis...and director David Lynch.

"A second act funk?"

"You was trying to figure out what the hell to do with your second act of your script. It was like you were having a nightmare."

I was. Second Acts suck...

I don't know if he made up the term "second act funk," or whether it was originally a jazz term that had been adapted to film, but it sums up the problem of National Novel Writing Month. That ancient Greek hipster, Aristotle created the three act structure of film--beginning, middle and end. Perhaps he also came up with the second act funk while hanging with Plato in the jazz cave below the Acropolis. Beginnings are easy, Here's our main character, here he is in normal life in Kansas where we meet the characters who will be important later. At the end of Act II, we get the call to adventure.

Third Acts are easy as well, the main character has the final showdown with his antagonist and learns a valuable lesson like there's no place like home.

It'ts the second act that gets...well funky...And not in a Rick James "She's a very kinky girl" kinda funky...

In my own NaNoWriMo script, the mild mannered hero is a struggling lawyer who takes a case that goes bad in Albuquerque, and at the end of Act I, he's the prime suspect in an international espionage plot having something to do with the labs. In Act III, he goes to someplace exotic like Hawaii and confronts the femme fatale who set him up and learns the real reason for everything. He learns a valuable lesson as well, there's no place like home. In Act II, well it's so funky, it hasn't been outlined yet. Is the hero being chased, or is he the one doing the chasing? Does he have to go somewhere and do something? And if so, where does he have to go, what does he need to do and who is standing in his way?

Second Act Funk indeed...
Does Prince do script consulting?

To be continued....

Sunday, November 3, 2013

National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo Nightmare

National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) has begun, and I am well on my way on to the 50,000 word goal, 5,000 by day three as a matter of fact. Some of those words are even spelled correctly and arranged in order resembling English. I was able to do it last year and wrote a science fiction legal thriller. This month, I'm going for something more mainstream. Nanowrimo is not fun...

As most of you know, I write best in darkness. I used to start my novels in December. Last year, I started the science fiction book in November, and then had a decent first draft by January. I probably should be going back and revising that one more time, but I am up for the challenge. Or am I?

What am I writing? I'm calling it Rattlesnake Honeymoon so far. It is another book in the Rattlesnake Lawyer series. So I do have my characters down. I've literally been trolling through my old stuff to find characters I want to bring back. Remember Yesenia Ybarra who had a two page scene on page 80 of Rattlesnake Wedding? Dan was able to get her reinstated to probation in three paragraphs and then she never appeared again. I had to look up her name to make sure it had two Rs.

Well, she's now the femme fatale. When writing those three paragraphs about her two years ago, I had no idea that she had an old boyfriend who had worked at Los Alamos and passed on nuclear secrets to her, thus helping her to become a spy working for the Russians.

You also need new blood for these stories. There's a nice bank teller at one of the branches who is hearing impaired. In real life, she's an efficient bank teller who greets every customer with a smile. But in my book, she's now part of billion dollar international scheme where Dan is taking the fall.

I do have the basics of a plot....

In Act I, Attorney Dan Shepard is assaulted near Taos Mountain and left to die on top of Kachina Ridge. It has something to do with one of his clients in his law practice. Dan's client has some connection to the labs--either Los Alamos or Sandia, possibly both, and some important data is missing. Dan soon realizes that he is over his head as people around him start dying...

Act II Dan is suddenly a prime suspect, sort of like Edward Snowden and has to clear his name. Dan goes around New Mexico searching for a missing cell phone with the missing data. Dan will be taken out of his comfort zone and dealing with people who are truly dangerous.It threatens his marriage. By the end of Act II, Dan is working in tandem with his wife Luna and they realize how much they love each other.

Act III. For some reason Dan goes to Hawaii for the final showdown. I want it to take place at the observatory on top of the volcano. Why Hawaii? Why an observatory on top of a volcano? I have about 45,000 words to figure that out before I get there.

I also need a theme for this story. In Rattlesnake Wedding, Dan matures and gets married. In Rattlesnake Honeymoon, Dan learns the value of marriage and how he works better as a team. He also learns to reject the temptations that face him everyday.

Will I be able to get 50,000 words in 30 days? Probably. Will they be any good?
Well, next year, is Nanoedye...National Novel Editing YEAR....