Monday, February 25, 2008

On Writing and Publishing

I'm often asked for advice, so I'm going to write a page with advice, and to make sure that my advice is taken with a grain a salt, the first piece of advice I have to give is that reading is subjective. I may love something, you may hate it. That's true with any art form, visual, music, movies, and the written word. You must be true to yourself--however, if you have a dozen editors tell you that something is a cliche, trite, or overdone, it probably is, and you need to step back and take a look at your work.

Writing can be different for different people. Diaries are something many people keep, and some, especially those written during historic eras, later become best sellers--often after the record keeper is long dead.

So, there is writing for your own pleasure, and there is writing for publication. First up, and this isn't always easy, know what you're writing. Any bookstore has shelves, and certain books go on certain shelves. Often, when I ask someone what they're working on, they'll give me a vague description of many things. This is fine, because I'm your friend, or I'm trying to help you. But when you're trying to publish with a major commercial publisher, they want you to know exactly what you're doing and what your market is going to be.

My next suggestion. If you're going into fiction, write what you love to read. The world is wide open right now. Mysteries, slashers, horror, romance, sci-fi, fantasy--we've reached a point where publishers have discovered that there is a market out there for so many types of fiction. Even "mixed" fiction, or fiction that crosses the lines and appeals to readers of many genres. But know what you're mixing, and always know why you should be writing what you're writing. That doesn't mean that you have to write books with bridges in them if you're an engineer. It's valid to say that you are working on a cozy mystery because you've spent your life reading every possible book of that genre you can find. Or suspense. Or horror. You spent your life watching Hammer films. You lived for Poe, or even more literary authors. Settle in your mind what you want, what your goal is with your writing, and then take steps to reach that goal.

Smart steps. Writers love company. They love the company of other writers. Writers usually know what's going on. They know when a new house has opened. They know when an old house has opened a new line. They even know if a particular editor has a bee in his or her bonnet when it comes to a certain type of fiction, or even a place, or name. In selling, these things can make a difference. If you're far away from any known civilization, there are still dozens of talented and published authors offering courses on the Internet. You can be part of Internet readers groups.
I know people who are successful, published authors who have come from every walk of life, from those who have achieved several doctorates to those who might still be working on their GEDs. Men and women. CEOs and stay-at-home moms. They all have one thing in common--they love to read. They may not spell brilliantly, they may not have the most amazing command of the English language. But they are willing to learn, and they read like crazy. They write, because they have loved so much to read.

They are story tellers.

And on to that particular piece of advice--get your story down. Tell your story from beginning to end. Make it exciting. Don't wear yourself out correcting and re-correcting page one. Once you're told your whole wonderful story and you don't think your first page is or first pages are worthy, go back. But don't make yourself sick of a story before you've told it.

Listen to advice, and throw out advice. When an editor who has the power to buy your story suggests you change something, that's really the time to do it.

Learn to take criticism. Learn to weigh it. What is valuable, and what is someone's opinion that might not be shared by a larger audience, your audience. If you've been reading like crazy, you will know what audience you are striving to gather. Again, all opinions can be valid, but the opinions that matter are the ones that come from those who can buy your book.

Don't try to correct things at first--make sure you do correct them before you send them off. They will not reject an amazing story because of errors, but they will put down a "maybe" story if it's costing them their eyesight. Make sure your manuscript is double-spaced, margined, as free from typos as you can make it, and as clean and neat. That's after you've given your heart to the story.

Buy Writer's Digest Writer's Market. The current issue. Or get it at the library, if every penny counts. You can find out who is buying what, and how they want it submitted. Address your manuscript to the name of the editor at the house you have chosen who is actively purchasing your type of fiction. (Or nonfiction!)

People can be born rich. They are not born published. Sure, sleep with the president, and it will be easy to sell a book. Not always feasible! Nor can everyone be a sports star, movie star, or personality. You may have luck immediately, you may spend time looking. If you're serious, you tell your story and make it wonderful. You learn how to write a great query letter that will tell an editor cleanly what your book is about, why it would fit perfectly with the publishing house, and why you're qualified to write it. You will learn how to write a succinct synopsis that excites an editor. Remember, it must tell the whole story--they do not want a synopsis that ends with, "And you won't believe what happens then!"

Be Internet savvy. (I'd have given a lot for that talent!) You can do research on the Internet, you can market on the Internet, you can find out about publishers on the Internet.

The path to publication is never the same for any two people. If you're rejected, hopefully it will be with a note. The note will give you advice. See if you can make it work. Send out to a number of houses. Know whether they do or do not accept multiple submissions. You'll now know this because you'll have Writer's Digest Writer's Market, or lots of friends a few steps ahead of you because you've joined a group. A group that you can find on the Internet, such as (key words) Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Horror Writer's of America. There are so many more; most regions have fiction groups, most junior colleges offer creative writing.

Don't do it if you don't love it. Don't write if you don't read--you'll really annoy other writers a whole lot! Sometimes, you'll just write something, you'll find an agent, the agent will love your work, it will go on auction, and someone will give you a zillion dollars. Sometimes. That's not the norm. You'll probably go through trial and error. You'll have to get a rejection letter and smile at your wife or husband, girlfriend/boyfriend, and kids or friends, and pretend like a little piece of you isn't insulted and breaking. A little suffering is good, because it's a tough field, and you need to be tough. And, besides, most of the published people out there have been rejected, and we're human, we want you to suffer a little, too.

Keep at it. If you want it, never say die. Tenacity is nine-tenths of law.

Time . . . .
Working all day? Ten kids? Laundry? A household to support? Yes, it's very hard. But be committed. If it's a page a day, in a year, that's 365 pages. Whatever it is that you give, do it as religiously as you would pump iron if you were trying to be Mr. or Mrs. America. (Or Ms.)
There's some basic advice, and remember, weigh what works for you. Every person out there is different, and that's the beauty of what we do. If you're down, remember J.K. Rowling had been rejected many, many times. Often, you have to find the right home.
Tell a great story. That's the most important. Tell a wonderful story, and while you're shopping it, sit down and tell another wonderful story. Don't ever stop. Don't ever, ever let anyone tell you that it's a pipe dream. Dreams are lost because we believe they can't be reached. Believe in yourself. Think Nike. Just do it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Dog Walk, more than just saving animal lives!

It's amazing how you can have the best intentions for a Saturday morning, then want to cop out when the alarm goes off. But I had agreed that we should do the dog walk. I loathe the concept that animals have to lose homes and often be put to sleep for no other reason than that they might be old, a mix that doesn't appeal, or because they just can't find an owner quickly enough and time is running out for them.

So I crawled out of bed. Bryee and Jess showed up and took the dogs in one car and I followed in the other (so I could head to the audition and get Chynna when it was over.) I couldn't park anywhere near the registration point at Bayfront, so I thought the intelligent thing to do was park at Chynna's school and walk the few blocks to the walk. I mean, the day was a walk, right? But there was construction, so, bizarrely, I was actually blocked from walking in a straight path. Still, a longer walk to the walk, and I was there.

Well, I loved it. Where else but in a flat picture you can see or touch could you possibly see a pair of one pound tea-cup Yorkies next to the biggest Dane known to man? Every possible breed and mix was there, some just in their birth suits, and some with scarves and a few in actual costumes. I didn't see a single dog fight, and people were as friendly as I've ever known. We all had questions, we all had advice. Toto actually got to meet a few other Cairns, and Nikki was able to hob-nob with at least six other huskies. A high point was a huge mix--wolf and husky. Nikki looked like a miniature next to him. He was gorgeous--his actual owner is a serviceman who has been deployed, so the fellow's roommate has now had him for many years. He's calm and sweet, so he must be receiving a lot of love and attention!

There was a group of about six massive Basset hounds, Danes, Greyhounds, you name it. The big and the small, the black, white, tan, and beige.

The thing is, the dogs came in all varieties. So did the people. Some of us were offering our animals water at the pools set up for the animals, and some of us were offering agua. Some of us were black, some white, some yellow, and some were mixed. I heard a fair amount of Russian, French, and German, as well as Spanish and French. We were old, young, and in between.

It was one of those days when I knew why I love living here so much. We are just as varied as all those breeds of dogs, and many of us are good old American mutts. We all knew a good cause when we saw one. And here's one great thing about a good cause. You meet people you have other causes. Or people who have an interest in something else you do. It's a ricochet effect of laughter, fun, and talking, and learning more not just about dogs, but people.

We spent a lot of the morning with Graham and Camille, owners of Completely Canine where Bryee worked for many years. They definitely love animals, and they run a great store. I have had my dog for ten years. He looks at me and ignores me. If Graham whispers the word sit, the dog is all ears. Graham knows how to train animals with infinite patience. There's no cruelty or punishment, just a reward system of caring. I think he's going to have really great kids.

There should have been something negative--something a little off always happens, that's life. But it didn't. Kelly Craig was hosting, and having been interviewed by her a few times, I was glad to see her. She's impressive; she's real. It didn't surprise me that she was out to help the humane society. There was plenty of water for people and pets. I just can't think of anything negative.

Oh, well, there was the walk back to my car. I'm used to the one way streets, the people who all stop at the same time in the same place, the junkies who wander into the road . . . but this thing about walking detours was new. So, okay, by the end, I was hot, tired, and burned. And the walking detour seemed very long. But that was it.

A great experience with Jess, Bryee, Nikki, and Toto, a zillion other Miami pets, and a zillion other Miami people.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Finally confused even myself

Writers tend to be super nice people, published, not published. It's a solitary pursuit, so we make up for it by having groups. I happen to love many types of fiction (and nonfiction) so I belong to lots of groups. Groups have conferences. I now belong happily to RWA, FRW, HWA, MWA, ITW and NINC, and something made me decide this year that I had to go to them all. Except that two of them are on the same weekend, and I registered for both.

They aren't even taking place in the same time zone.

But I am going to both.

I have actually never been to either before. I don't want to give up either. So I an going to both. Ninc has some friends going I really want to see, so I'll head to New York for the first few days. I also have a book coming out that week that takes place in New York, so NYC is a great place to be. But a chance to go to the World Horror Convention, too? No way to resist. I just wish it was easier to get from NYC to Salt Lake City. No matter, I can't wait for either. Yes, I can. There is another college trip first, this one to New Orleans. I love New Orleans, so there's no hardship in going there. And I'm going back near New Orleans to Houma for the Jubilee Jambalaya--Molly Bolden is a key organizer for it, and Molly and Kaye run what is seriously one of the most incredible independent bookstores in the country.

I particularly love Molly's take on people in a bookstore. First off, to know her is to love her. She says it the way it is. I was talking about the fact that it would drive me mad in a Borders or Barnes and Nobles, the way people leave books and magazines all over the table. Employees there will tell you they would rather put the merchandise back themselves, it's always mis-shelved if they don't. But when Molly sees someone just sticking a book back anywhere, it's her shop--she can stop them. So she'll tell someone, "Excuse me, I know you can read, you were just reading that book, and therefore, you know that A comes before B, and B comes before C!" She is amazing. An author goes to an event at her store, not just a signing. A reader will find someone who knows books backwards and forwards. It's not just a store, it's a focal community point. Super special, all the way.

This Saturday, there's another audition for Chynna. And I'm doing the walk for the humane society with Bryee, Nikki, and Toto. A dog social. The weekend after, Sleuthfest. Deerfield Beach, at the Hilton--with amazing mystery writers. People I admire tremendously.

I just keep losing things when I pack. Annoying.

But an easy trade for a brush with some of the talent that is out there.

Tonight, Bryee are I are with Stuart. He just had surgery. He's pretty amazing himself, just out of the hospital, walking, talking, and really fine. But T just left for a long planned trip, and since Stuart had two more surgeries to go, it's good that she got away. I feel like a cheat; she took such good care of me when I needed it, and he's just too easy to take care of! Oh, well, back to pretending that I'm a halfway decent nurse.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Advantures in Auditioning, cont.

There's only one home school on Chynna's list of possibilities--home being the state--and I thought it was a good and intelligent choice. University of Central Florida. Now, I'm almost sure she will wind up in California. Selfishly, I don't want this to happen. It's far, far away. It's a different time zone. Nothing against California, or Californians--some of my favorite people are out in that far, far away state. But there are good things for theater-type folks in Florida, too. It's a joke that people wind up working for Disney. I have had my problems with Disney--as have all Floridians--but it's not such a bad place to work--look at the Disney kids out there who have made it. Notice people paying thousands for a ticket to see Hannah Montana. So, she had Billy Ray Cyrus for a dad. Not only is Disney in the center of the state, so is Universal. And Busch Gardens, and a trillion other venues for talented young people.

So, one audition in the state, Saturday afternoon. Turns out, it's President's Day weekend as well, but there will be no fun out of town trip for whomever in the family wants to go. We have planned a major family dinner. My mother-in-law is now 86, and loves to cook, but it must be done her way, and you must eat it the second it comes off the stove. My aunt and uncle in law--the loveliest people in the world, our "muppet" relatives as I think of them, in the best way--are down. So dinner can be made for fifteen people. The time has been set.

I would not dream of changing the day of her dinner. I would rather face a firing squad.

So this means up on Saturday morning, spend a night, head back down to Nana's house for 2:00.

Honest, when we were all around the table, I couldn't help but think Sopranos!

But first there was the quest to reach the table.

We have a rental car for various reasons at the moment. I actually need to get a new tire, so I opt for the rental car. I made sure to check all the payment refill information on my Sun-pass, but then forget to transfer my sunpass from my car to the rental.

Tolls. Florida now seems to have tolls every five miles. Okay, that's an exaggeration--until you get into the middle of the state. I'm glad I allowed a little extra time. I didn't know the roads heading that way--my school was USF, the other way, toward Tampa. But the directions were pretty good, until you actually got to the school, which is mammoth. But there was another page just for musical theater students--lesson in reading everything first! So, we made it, and in plenty of time.

I admit to being a little startled by a somewhat "we ARE theater" attitude they seemed to have. There is probably not a place more renowned than Juilliard, and they were the friendliest, nicest people in the world, to parents, and to kids. They encouraged the kids to come back for all three opportunities they would be given. They told them if they were serious, it was really a small world, wherever they wound up, they would be a community. Good speech, I loved it. They weren't mean at UCF, they just weren't as open and . . . cool!

The kids were more nervous. They kid of sat apart. At the other auditions I've been to, they all talked, helped one another, and seemed aware that it WAS an audition, but at a certain comfort level with themselves.

I love my state. Passionately. But I did want them to just chill.

First up, dance. Chynna doing a ballroom dance is a vision of beauty. Really. Not just because I'm her mom. Long ago, we made a deal. I always give her my opinion. Opinion. Important word. Any art is suggestive. What I love, you may hate. And your opinion is as valid as mine. But I have sworn to be honest at all times. So, ballroom ,she is great. Dance in general, her weakness--at least, against some of the whizzez at New World. She can sing with amazing ability, and she can act. Dance is her Achilles heel.

But she had a good time, and she felt she did well. They used great music. She told me she was right in the middle--some kids had been amazing, some had been weaker than she felt she was herself. But what was nice--she enjoyed it. She'd been so afraid of it, and she wound up having a great time.

Then, waiting.

The kids changed. "Spritzed the pits!" As one of the teachers said.

And then, the audition was over. So, here we were, our big mother-daugher totally alone evening. We headed to the Dolphin at Disney where we had chosen to stay because she once thought we had owned part of it, we went so often. We thought we'd hop over to Epcot and go somewhere that we never went when the whole family was there. Great Britain for dinner--my choice, and she seemed to like it. Fun waiter, and a nice dinner, pot roast and chicken, explored a few appetizers. She wanted to go and see where we'd once had a doll made for her in Germany. It's expensive. A hundred something, and we'd saved up at the time and it was a big deal. So, we had walked to Epcot, then we walked all around Epcot, and went back. We love the folks at the karaoke at the Swan, and we thought we'd pop in for an hour or so.

But we didn't make it. On the walk back, I suddenly realized I'd been up since 6, driven hundreds of miles, walked several miles, and was tired. Before I could say it, Chynna told me, "I suddenly feel . . . exhausted!"

Our big night out. We went to bed at about 9 or 9:30. I didn't even make it for the movie we rented on TV. I fell asleep soon after the credits.

The hotel was crowded. It looked as if was Easter or Thanksgiving, even Christmas, it was so crowded. We decided to hop over to Downtown Disney for breakfast. That all went well. Easy to park, easy to go through the line, and get salads for breakfast and some granola parfait things which seemed like a good choice since we were doing the massive 1000 calorie Italian thing for lunch/dinner.

There's where I messed up. Wasn't sure how to get to Osceola Parkway from downtown, so I decided to take I-4. Okay, East just seemed wrong. I think it was because of the westward trail I'd taken back from UCF. If you get on a road going the wrong way at Disney, you are in trouble. You don't just turn around. You go for miles and miles.

The good thing about Chynna then was that she refrained from saying "I told you so," more than once.

Finally, we wind up back on Osceola Parkway. The turnpike is crowded. Okay, it is winter in Florida. But there was a line for coffee, a line for gas, and a line for the ladies' room.

Still, we were only about 45 minutes late.

And then, the Italian lunch/dinner with the crows of thousands was wonderful, and Graham crawled on the floor, and it was just like . . . .

A poor man's version of the Sopranos! Pasta, pasta, homemade, and absolutely delicious.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

holidays and birthdays

Happy Valentine's Day!

There are different stories on the exact origination of the holiday, but they kind of all gel and this is my favorite version.

St. Valentine lived in the third century beneath the emporer Claudius. During those days, the Romans still had vestiges of their gods and goddesses, and February 14th had been a day to pay homage to Juno. But at this time, Christianity was growing like wildfire. Valentine was a young priest, and while Claudius wanted his populace of young men to remain single so that they could easily join his army for the greater glory of Rome, Valentine was in love with young folks being in love with one another. Ban on marriage or no, he would secretly perform the wedding rites. Naturally, some peeved person--maybe a broken hearted or spurned enemy?--betrayed Valentine, and the soldiers marched in upon him during one of his candlelit and forbidden ceremonies.

St. Valentine was hauled off to prison, tried and convicted, of treason against the state. It was ancient Rome, remember, Claudius could pretty much do so what he wanted. If there was no law to fit a crime, the crime was twisted to fit a law.

Valentine was sentenced to death. On February 14th. Before that day, on it, and after, young people, grateful to the kindly man who so understood the nature of love, brought flowers and candles and honored his existence and his death. And throughout the years, the custom flourished. This is a very cool thing--we tend to get caught up in the bad. Valentine managed to bring out the best of humanity.

Time has been adjusted often throughout the centuries, there is this calendar, and that calendar. So, as Shakespeare might put it--What's in an exact day? Now, Valentine's Day is February 14th, by our calendar, and Hallmark is banking on it!

Last night, we celebrated my nephew, DJ's, birthday. He was born on February 13th. I remember when Vickie was pregnant, we all waited to see if he would be a Valentine's baby, and hm, was that a good thing, or a bad thing? Would his birthday get lost in the holiday?

The question didn't matter. DJ was born on the 13th. Now, the 13th was am important day for my sister and brother-in-law. They'd had a huge church wedding planned for August 14th way back when, and both families were rushing around, my mother was sewing pearls on her dress, by dad had negotiated with the Shriners (he was one) for the hall, and so on, and so on. In the midst of all this, they forgot to get a wedding license. Back then, in the state of Florida, they needed three days. Two late, only two days to go. So, on Friday the 13th, the two of them quickly packed up and jumped on a plane to Georgia. There, the two were married in a civil ceremony, she in a black dress, he in the quickest most decent outfit he could throw to gether. This was so that the priest could marry them in the church the next day, and all the guests could come, the dress could be worn, and the food heading toward the Shriner's hall would not go bad.

We all have our special days. Hallmark just doesn't know about all of them!

At any rate, Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cat people versus dog people

I love animals. Obviously, I have four of them, and a number of other creatures have passed through my home on the way to better places (if you've ever seen this place, you know that's true!) No one seems to have anything much against a skunk--just not too many people have them, so Chloe doesn't come into the discussion.

As to the cats and the dogs. I have had, do have, both, and I love both. I admit, however, to being slightly partial to dogs. I don't know why.

Now, people who are cat people will tell you that they are more intelligent. That may be true. Except that I can actually see my cairn's mind working at times; he looks at me, knows exactly what I'm saying, and chooses to do what he wants anyway. The cat may know that I'm speaking to him--or about him--but if was really intelligent enough to know what was being said, he'd change his ways. We're talking about declawing him.

Nikki, the husky. Well, all right. She is not the sharpest tack in the drawer, knife in the rack, etcetera. She sings, and she slobbers, and she knocks down everything, creature, or person around her with her tail. She's a clunky lover, demanding attention. I don't know how she could have ever possibly been a sled dog--I know that the concept of team work does not come to her at all. She's highly jealous. Maybe she is smarter than she pretends. Maybe. Doubtful. She's like a little kid. Sweet, demanding, but with that kind of absolute love and devotion that she'll always hold that place in my heart. She loves me. She really loves me. Okay, so she loves lots of people. That's okay--I could have been a sled dog. I think I am a team player. Naturally, I like to be one of the lead dogs, but hey, I don't think I'd nip or growl or anything.

The cairn barks like crazy. He will stand up to a Rottweiller. Okay, not so smart. He actually gets a terrible look of humiliation in his eyes when I pick him up. So he may have psychological problem where he thinks he's Great Dane and therefore can stand up to a Rottweiller. He wants to be with you; he just doesn't want you slobbering all over him.

The pets are like children, each with their own personality.

We had Cougar many years ago. He lived to a ripe old age and died in the kids' arms. I loved that cat. He withstood five little people growing up. Bryee put him in doll clothing, stuck him in a doll carriage, and he never bit or scratched, not once. He was the most incredible cat in the world. He was a beige Persian. Next, we had a black Persian. His name was supposed to be Ichabod or Salem or something with a little sophistication. We wound up calling him Tubbs. He was big and . . . tubby. It took me a while. He had attitude. He'd sit somewhere and wait his chance, and when someone least expected it, he'd take a whack at their head. Not to hurt. In the middle of a few horror movies in a darkened room, he managed to bring about quite a few screams. We were stunned when we lost him; he was far too young and died from some kind of internal bleeding--we never found out exactly how or why, though the vet tried.

Now we have Snowy Chloe, Toto--the cairn with the incredibly original name, Nikki, the Siberian husky, and Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy is a bengal. If you're thinking about getting one, be warned. That bit of Asian jungle cat is definitely still in them. He is a lover. He wants to play. When you play, you wind up with teeth marks to the kills and scartch marks that make it look as if you met with a an eight hundred pound lion. He's just a year; he's calming down, but he is a handful.

He's a pain. He scares me to death because he'll hang from the chandelier, he'll suddenly hit me from on top of the refrigerator, and he's continually running the printer by pressing different buttons.

Then he'll find a way to crawl on my lap when there's no room just because he wants to be close to me.

We need the husky, who is eight but thinks she still a puppy, to play with him. They work well together, having enough energy between them to light have the city, could we only harness it.

I think I'm a dog person. But I sure do love cats as well.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Eagerly awaiting to be superimposed!

Once upon a time, a dear friend and wonderful artist, Lynn Sanders, and I were working on posters for an event at RT. Connie had done costumes; they were beyond magnificent. As my daughter and her partner posed, we were like a group of clucking hems, oohing and aahing over the pair. We thought the pictures were so gorgeous, they deserved a book. But this is real life, things happened, and the idea came to half fruition, then wilted onto the back burner.

Well, things rise as they fall, and once again, we're looking at this project. Once- upon-a-later-time, I was talking with my music partner, and he envisioned a book with words and beautiful illustrations and pictures--a Christmas book, with a Christmas CD.

Sounded good, sounded fun.

I happen to have a friend who happens to have a company that specializes in illustrated books. And I work mainly for a company I adore, but who doesn't do this type of book, and thinks it will be fun to see it come to full fruition.

So . . . .

So, this week, we started working again. It was fun, hectic, hard work, and insane. I do mean hard work--even I do not usually crash to sleep at 8:30 at night.

But it was great. Thursday, the troops piled into Miami. En masse, we went to the new Outback in S. Miami. I had warned them, but the wait staff was a bit overwhelmed--my brother-in-law never called me dial-a-party for nothing! But the next morning, we were up, out to Coral Castle where the folks were great, the scenery worked perfectly, and their coffee, much needed, was always flowing. Our tent more or less made a great fitting room; Connie Perry's costume creations were shimmering and beautiful, and the visitors had a good time trying to figure out just what the hell was going on. Sister-in-law-in-law Teresa threw a fantastic barbecue for us all at her house when the day was done, and all was well. But up early, early the next day, and back at it. Two students from Chynna's school were models for two of the main characters; Abdiel--I've seen his growth into a fabulous young actor since he was about 12!--was a magnificent "bad guy." He was a tremendous sport, since the character is photographed falling into a watering trough. Patrick was beloved by the camera. Extras were my aunt, uncle, niece, baby nephew, Graham, and friends, and all went through the long day of dress up, hurry up, and wait, creating a lot of fun and laughter.

I am the evil countess in this thing. So I was running back and forth from the schedule book, doing some of the directing for context, getting the right actors out for the right shots, etc. And there is the schedule book is my favorite line Connie wrote down in the list of actors to appear in the scene.

"Cherif, waiting to be superimposed."

We all laughed. Cherif, the main heroic character--shot already--is not, we're pretty sure, walking around breathlessly waiting to be superimposed. We're imagining he's actually a little busy back in Illinois working--and with his wife and three kids. But it's the kind of vision that can make you smile, yeah, sure, Cherif, sitting there, oh so breathlessly awaiting his super-imposition!

Bobby got to be his stand-in and stunt double. Not a problem--his character is a goner not long after the prologue.

Conveniently, right across the street, are a Subway and a Pizza Hut. Very easy to run over for lunch orders. And the people at Coral Castle are as nice as can be; they snacky stuff is just fine as well, and though we brought ice chests and drinks, they afforded more of an alternative for anyone who wished a different sensation on the tongue. It was hot. But, I still insist, better than the possibility of snow. I had wanted to shoot in Miami--there's just something about Chicago. I have never gone there in winter when I haven't wound up stuck at O'Hare.

Finally, the last shot. The watering trough. We try not to totally soak people until we have to.

Then I, who have lived here my entire life, and insist it's almost impossible to get lost because of the grid, made a wrong turn. I was anxious to tell Teresa that there was another Sonny's to the north, but then I saw the sign for Card Sound Road and wondered how the hell there could be an entrance to it so far north . . . .

Then, of course, I realized I was taking the young men to the Keys, rather than home, and turned around. As we headed back toward the Gables, I saw the streets flooded everywhere and realized that miraculously, we had escaped the rain. A very good omen. I'm so into the whole college thing with Chynna, it was igreat to get to hear Abdiel's journey on the same route.

Connie had made Graham a medieval costume for the shoot. He is the child of the Great Duke Fiorelli and his countess--about to grow up to be the hero. He was supposed to be in the crowd shot.

But one shot came out so incredibly well . . . .

I'm very glad to say that I would personally buy the book for that shot alone!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

luggage has to do with the state of the world

Dennis is in Italy. Dennis is technologically challenged. He's purchased a phone, but gets aggravated with it, especially since he happens to call when no one can pick up, so he winds up leaving messages that end with a sigh.

He was in Italy for Carnivale. He loves it, and it is great. I've gone several times. It can be just fun--the entertainment in St. Mark's Square is free, people are fun, and okay, the Euro is still a killer, but it can be somewhat reasonable. Now, the balls are expensive. Very. Several hundred dollars for a meal ticket, but the costumes are spectacular, the food is . . . I'll get to that! and each ball has entertainment. So, it's cool. Also, the Italian people tend to be warm and generous and giving. I love going to Italy, but right now, I'm in the middle of Chynna's last year in high school and I already travel so much that one might think I was a salesman of old. I will go back--I'm the Scottish/Irish one, but I actually speak some Italian, had to know what my mother-in-law was saying about me! But the point with his travels is another airline woe. He leaves. He gets to London. His next flight is delayed by six hours. In six hours, they couldn't quite get his luggage on the plane. He spent three days in Venice luggage-less. Okay, they do sell toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, underwear, and other essentials. They sell expensive clothing, too. The bewilderment--how come, with a six hour delay, does luggage not make it to the plane?

What disturbs me is that, in businesses where customer service is part of the concept, how do you use tragedy and fear to eliminate the concept of courtesy and service?

On our plane back from New York, even the pilot was surly. I'm not sure I blame him--they kept putting him back in line. You know, we'll be taking off in about three minutes, we're third in line, and then, we'll be taking off in about fifteen minutes, we're now twelfth in line.

A lot of things go into it all, I know. There is the airport. There are the airline employees. There are TSA. There are many positions in the many divisions. Throw in human nature. But I still get annoyed.

My sister worked for Delta for most of her adult life. After 9/11, she and her fellow employees accepted massive salary cuts.

When the money went back up, their paychecks did not. They worked longer hours.

My sister passed away, and I honestly think that her situation at work had a lot to do with the way that her illness spiralled. In my heart, right or wrong, I'll always blame them (along with our medical lack of communication in the US!) But I understand how hard employees work, how hard it might be for them. What I don't understand is how, at the top, something isn't done. Maybe that's why--though I'm very grateful for my own income--I just can't believe in anything that's labeled "trickle down economics." It's not the little guys that get the breaks, it's the big guys--who already know every loop hole in history.

Those who have--keep.

We all have to keep a sense of humor, I guess. It always depends on where you are, though. I had to laugh a bit when Dennis told me about the luggage, but as he worried about his things, I'm sure he didn't think that it was very funny. I think it might have been his bewilderment at how, with so much time, does it not make it from one plane to another.

In the scope of the world, no big deal. None at all. But in the scope of the world, it does bring home some important factors. We do need to make sure that we are all on board when cuts are needed ,and we do need to make sure that the average Joe is also given courtesy and slack again when we're on an even keel.

And as to medicine in the United States and insurance for everyone . . . .

That's why I'm excited about Novemeber. Hope is on the horizon. And I think that all our candidates know that the world, especially our place in it, is in dangerous mode, and that it is a time to create a change for human beings and make it a place where our children have a prayer for a decent future with lives worth living.

Um. Speaking of such . . . .

Italian food. We think of it as lasagna, spaghetti, and great sauces. Well, those do exist. But the "state" dish of Venice is the cutlefish. And every single dish there seems to come with little baby octopi scattered on top of it. I love fish, so Dennis can never understand why I'm not excited about an Adriatic fish I've never heard of covered with little baby octopi.

Actually, some of the food is terrific.

All you have to do if you've grown up on a meat and potatoes Irish American diet is pick off the octopi.

And the Italians--and visitors from around the globe who arrive for Carnivale--are super nice. Even the French. Even when those from other countries watch them where they sit in cafe windows, kind of finding a universal appeal in making fun of the French. Because, of course, they do have the most elegant, striking outfits and everyone is actually envying them! But it's a friendly kind of jealousy/making fun of.

Almost a little United Nations.