On writing my first stage play

As many to none of you know, I’m adapting an old screenplay I wrote about 12 years ago to a stage play. My wife has encouraged me to do it many times over the years, but I’ve always managed to come up with an excuse not to do it. She finally convinced me after we went to a wonderful play in Laguna Beach called The Pianist of Willesden Lane. The play is nothing like my screenplay, mind you. It was just so inspiringly good that I finally saw the possibilities of adapting my work for the stage.

I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know the proper structure of a play, nor do I know the accepted formatting. I’ve searched the internet, but I was surprised to learn that there really is no consensus on what a play should look like in written form. I found myself getting more confused as I researched so I stopped.

Right now I’m just writing, and it has been a blast revisiting these old characters. My adaptation so far includes about 10% of the original material. The dialogue has completely changed. The gender of some of the characters has changed. It’s strange how willing I’ve been to divorce myself from the old material. I honestly feel like I know these characters better now than when I wrote it more than a decade ago. The theme and tone are the same, but other than that it’s basically new material.

In short, I’m having fun. If you have suggestions on the proper way to format a stage play, please feel free to let me know. The Pianist of Willesden Lane is has moved off-Broadway in New York. If you’re in the city, I encourage you to go see it.

I’m Speaking Out Loud

You're damn right I'm speaking out loud.

You’re damn right I’m speaking out loud.

It took some time, but I got my Writers Speaking Out Loud t-shirt, and decided to wear it to my day of art festival hopping in Laguna Beach , California over the July 4th holiday.  My understanding is that the Tea Party backed wing of South Carolina’s Republican party offered a so-called compromise to the state’s higher education funding debacle.  In case you’re not aware, ultra-conservatives in the legislature were outraged that the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina-Upstate included two gay and lesbian themed titles on their required reading lists. These lawmakers were so outraged that they pulled a significant amount of funding from the budgets of the two colleges.

Their attempt to level government sponsored censorship on these two institutions of higher learning was appropriately met with even more outrage by sensible members of the human race.  The GOP-run legislature balked at first and tried to turn a blind-homophobic eye to the protests, but pressure mounted so they decided to put funding back in the budget with a caveat.  The two colleges are required to teach documents about American ideals, including, but not limited to the Constitution.  I’m guessing in their pea-sized brains they saw this as alternate teachings that would thwart the homosexual agenda.

Calling this a compromise, our Tea Party backed governor Nikki Haley signed the legislation.  This is not a compromise.  It is still censorship because they are forcing the colleges to spend funding on a curriculum that is meant to counterbalance what they deem as un-American ideals and even worse, it paints the homosexual lifestyle as something that is not protected by the Constitution.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I grow increasingly weary of the notion that religious ideals trump individual freedoms in this country.  I try to steer away from politics on this blog as much as possible, but I fear the need for me to be more politically active is becoming increasingly more necessary.  I don’t have much of a voice, but I feel a calling to lend what I do have to the principled protests over the religious extremists’ creep of influence into our lives.

A big thank you to Chloe Madigan

1991 Graduate

1991 Graduate

I got so wrapped up in completing The Closeout Kings I totally neglected to give a shout out to Middle Tennessee State University student Chloe Madigan.  She interviewed me for the Collage, a student run magazine of creative arts. It’s for the Spring 2014 edition.  I don’t think it’s available to read yet, but she did send me two advance copies, and I’m happy to say she did an exceptional job.  The toughest part of the interview was finding a picture of me that wouldn’t frighten readers.

Thanks, Chloe!  I loved the article.

I saw Godzilla – (Generic spoilers)

Cool monsters in a confusing movie

Cool monsters in a confusing movie

I needed a good brain washing after figuratively spending a few months in the hills of Tennessee with a bunch of killer hillbillies, so I took in a showing of Godzilla at the nearest multiplex yesterday.  What did you expect me to do, read Hamlet?

I should start out this review by saying I’ve never understood the fascination with Godzilla.  He’s basically a dragon that can’t fly.  The only Godzilla movie I liked as a kid was when he fought King Kong, and we all know why I liked that one.

That out of the way, from a writer’s point of view it was meh with a side of confusing.  They skimmed over the science and mythology, and it felt like it.  Some of it didn’t make sense to me at all.  The species of monster the overgrown terrestrial dragon battles is called the Muto.  Godzilla and the Muto come from a time on Earth when the atmosphere was filled with radiation.  As the radiation on the planet subsided, they went deeper and deeper underground and under water to feed on the radiation in the Earth’s core.  Then mankind carelessly started testing nuclear weapons and they decided “Hey, it’s totally cool again.  We can go up top.”   Once they re-surface the Mutos (there were two) cause earthquakes and tsunamis through their ability to generate electromagnetic pulses.  I’m still there with you as far as storyline goes.  It’s science fiction logic to the nth degree, but I get it.

What I don’t get is why Godzilla was so hellbent on finding the Mutos and killing them. At one point the head scientist in charge made the profound statement that “He was hunting them.”  I assumed it was profound because of the astonished look on his face.  But to what end was Godzilla hunting them?  Was he hungry?  If so, he left without eating.  Did he just not like the Muto?  Did they post a nasty tweet about him?  What?  I know it sounds silly, but I need a clear reason why Godzilla chased the Muto from Japan to San Fransisco.  Not knowing that kind of killed the movie for me.

On another front, I need my monsters to be interested in feasting on people.  I kind of like them to be bloodthirsty.  Otherwise they just aren’t that scary.  They’re really only big nuisances that cause collateral damages that result in unfortunate fatalities.  C’mon!  Monsters gotta eat people!

Speaking of damage, I’m also confused why the human population was conflicted about their feelings for Godzilla.  They didn’t know if he was a monster or a hero?  Hello!  He contributed to the destruction of a couple of major population areas, and he personally caused the deaths of what appeared to be tens of thousands of people. Seriously?  Is it really hard to figure out that he’s a huge asshole that was only thinking about himself, and his inexplicable obsession with the Muto?

The good parts – The monsters looked cool.  Bryan Cranston wasn’t in it long enough to ruin his credibility. And, it did wash out my brain.  The hillbillies are basically gone.  I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about Book Seven since I left the theater… scratch that, since about half way through the movie, and I’m getting more and more excited about completing Oz’ journey.

A message from Mom – Repost

Feeling loved!

May 1, 2014 – The third anniversary of my mother’s death came and went without my notice.  The day she left this world holds less significance to me than the days she spent in this world, but I feel duty-bound as her son to pay her homage in some way for the sacrifices she made to give me a fantastic life.  So, here is a message she delivered to me in a dream one year after her passing.   

You shouldn’t be surprised that a writer with horror leanings would write a post featuring a message from his dead mother on Mother’s Day, but you might be surprised that this isn’t a macabre entry. On April 3 of this year I had a very vivid dream involving my mother. For those of you who don’t know, Mom passed on April 29, 2011. Obviously my subconscious was aware of the coming anniversary of her death, even if my conscious mind had blocked it from my memory. I was blissfully unaware of the coming milestone. So, on April 3, 2012, my Mom visited me. Yes, it was a dream. Yes, the dream was obviously influenced by a program I watched on PBS that night featuring Dr. Wayne Dyer where he spent a significant amount of time talking about the afterlife. But, I can honestly say that it was the most vivid dream I have ever had, and it was perhaps a little more than a dream. It was a message, a message that reveals a little bit more of itself everyday whenever I’m confused about how life is supposed to work.

The dream had many elements that had nothing to do with Mom, but towards the end my Dad and I checked into a hotel in Asheville, NC (a fancy hotel – $400/night). I went to the lobby and Mom was there. She looked healthy and happy. I sat down and talked to her, and very early in our conversation I said, “Hey, wait a minute. You’re dead.” She smiled and said she came back because she knew I was worried about her. Here’s what I remember about our conversation in the dream. (BTW – The wording is to the best of my recollection. She said a lot without saying it if that makes sense. It was as if I could feel the meaning of her answers).

Me: How are you feeling?

Mom: I feel loved. There is no fear on my side. There is only love. There is only a sense of belonging. That is the truth.

Me: Your world sounds much better. Why even have two worlds? Why can’t we all just live in your world?

Mom: You have to learn how to appreciate love before you can live in a world that is only love. You can only learn to appreciate love by going through the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that exist on your side.

Me: Are you always with us? (Us being her family)

Mom: I am with you when you feel and express love. And when I’m with you it’s not how you think. I’m not hovering above you taking notes on what you’re doing or influencing the outcome of some event. I am a part of the channel of love. I have no choice but to be there. We’re all there with you during those moments. If you’re experiencing hardship, focus on love. When you do, you can take comfort that not only am I with you, but that everyone on my side is with you. There is no greater power that can influence the outcome of an event because it won’t change the event itself. It will do much more. It will change you and for the better.

Me: What is love?

Mom: Love is/are those moments when you feel like you belong. The more you do to make someone or something feel like they belong, the more you feel like you belong. They feel loved. You feel loved. That is love.

Me: Is there a God?

Mom: Yes, and God is only different from the rest of us on my side by one simple aspect. There was never a time when God did not appreciate love. God has always known that there is no value in love if you do not appreciate it. God feels infinite joy when the rest of us discover the truth, that the only true state of being is love.

That’s it. That’s all I remember about our conversation. At the end, I could see her fading back to her side. I kept questioning her as she drifted away, and I could see her consulting with the others on her side before she answered. She smiled throughout. She was happier than I have ever seen her. I woke up feeling really good about where Mom is, and I’ll never worry about her again.

BTW – The weird thing is that on the one year anniversary of my mother’s death I sat in a motel lobby with my family, and we all gave a toast in her honor.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for the message!

TEDx Postmortem

000000TEDxImage

One of the twins from my fictional tale about publishing. I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. She’s gorgeous.

I did the TEDx event this morning at Pinewood Prep in Summerville, SC.  I had a fantastic time, and I met some great people.  I spoke to a roomful of mostly kids about publishing using a fictional tale of twins exploring separate paths to fame and fortune as authors.  I’m not sure how it went from their perspective, or how long I actually spoke.  I rehearsed several times before going in and came out anywhere between 13 minutes and 25 minutes, so I’m guessing I got close to the required 18 minutes.  I kind of expected a countdown clock in the room to keep me on task, but there was just an old analog clock in the back of the room, and I was too preoccupied to do the necessary math to keep track of time.  I used no notes, but I had prompts in my PowerPoint that triggered facts and figures I needed to tell my story.  I had this whole thing about the honor in failing I wanted to get into, but I got sidetracked.

I got the opportunity to talk to a couple of the kids about writing after the program, and met one young man who has already finished his first novel.  He asked for advice, and I’m afraid I failed to give him anything inspirational.  I have to come up with a better response to that request from young writers.  When I was his age, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to ask an adult about writing.  My hats off to him for being passionate enough to complete a novel at such a young age, and for having the guts to talk about it so openly.  It’s not easy to do.  I know.

The speaker after me was Brian Thomas, a Yale graduate, renowned educator and former Emmy Award winning actor for his role in Fast Break to Glory.  When I heard his credentials, I was convinced they had asked me there as a joke.  He was a super nice guy, and made it a point to tell me that he felt like the kids got a lot out of my presentation.  I don’t know if it’s true, but he made me feel better.  I was up the night before with a stomach bug, so I was still kind of floopy during my presentation.

That’s enough rambling.  Now that TEDx is behind me I’m going to do a feature on the narrator for the audiobook version of Bad Way Out.  His name is Dan Wallace, and he is an incredibly talented voice over actor.  He’s so good I don’t know how I was fortunate enough to get him.  More on that to come.

Conflict

My concept is up in the air right now.

My concept is up in the air right now.

The theme for the TEDx event I will take part in is conflict.  I’ve been asked to address the conflict that exists between traditional publishing and indie publishing.  I think I’ve come up with a way to illustrate the life of a traditionally published author and an indie author that blends actual stories (some that belong to me and some that are ripped from the headlines) set in fictional circumstances.  It will be a bit of a juggling act.  I’m just hoping my talk won’t go viral for the wrong reasons.