Archives / June - July 2005

August 29, 2005

Rock Stars and Writers

On Saturday, I met my pals from Green River Ordinance at the Four-Star Coffee Bar in Fort Worth for a round of good java and good conversation. Jamey Ice contacted me through MySpace awhile back - indies networking with indies - and we've been talking since. I volunteered to write a new bio for the band, especially for their new upcoming web site, and we got together to finalize the wording. I guess I'm pretty good at writing on assignment; maybe I'd be a good reporter. Anyway, Jamey (guitar) his brother Geoff (bass, vocals), and Josh Jenkins (lead vocals and acoustic guitar) met me there, and brought along their manager Paul (didn't get his last name). They were all fine young gentlemen, not at all what one would expect when meeting a rock band. Bright and energetic, they dispelled the stereotype rock performers often carry with pride.

Anyway, we went over the bio copy for final approval...business stuff. We also talked a lot about the worlds of independent music and publishing. I've written about the similarity between these professions in this blog before, but the idea was really driven home as we talked. GRO has a really good attitude about their music; they're not sitting around in disappointment chasing a huge record contract. They realize that such a contract does not necessarily equal fame and fortune. They just want to make their own music and be happy, come what may. They'll release their new CD on October 1.

Some things that I found strikingly similar between the music business and the publishing industry:

  • Record companies take huge percentages of the musicians' profit, leaving little for them. Publishers do the same thing. Writers make pennies on the dollar, like 25 cents a book is the average.
  • Getting a big record contract is no guarantee they will promote you. If they don't promote you, you won't make any money. Publishers do the same thing; they have a lot of books in their catalog, but only enough money to promote a few of them. Those writers not promoted would have been better off printing their books and selling them out of their garage.
  • Corporate goons have the final say over what the music sounds like, what the band looks like, and basically has total control over the band's life during the term of the contract. They'll water down most of the music to fit in to their established formula. Publishers do the same thing; often the writer's vision is lost on about the tenth page.
  • Record companies can own the rights to the music long after the band has faded from the scene. Publishers buy rights, too. They used to give them back to the writer after the book stopped selling, but most of them now keep them indefinitely due to POD and electronic book market.

I'm sure this is true regarding most corporate/artist relationships. I realized it a long time ago, and I'm glad the young fellers of GRO have a nice healthy vision of the world as it is, not as they want it to be.

*****

August 21, 2005

Redemption

I don't often tell jokes. Sure, I think I say funny stuff all the time, but that's different. A joke is a thing: a setup with a punch line. It's a prefabricated funny. I guess I can tell a joke about as good as anybody; it's all in the timing as they say in comedy. Timing is everything. Yeah, okay. But in this world we are sometimes faced with the reality that we must tell a joke. Not a funny, but a joke. This usually happens in social situations where everyone else is telling one, then it's time for us to tell ours. It's expected. It's customary. To not do so tells people that well, you're just not funny. And everyone should be funny, according to society.

Everyone has a few of these they keep in their repertoire, usually cycling these in and out as time goes on, for most jokes are only funny for certain periods of time. For example, a dot.com joke was funny in 1995, but it probably isn't funny any more. I've grown tired of keeping up with this, so about a year ago, I settled on one joke. Just one. I've said it a dozen times in those goofy social situations I just mentioned. And I always get the same response:

Nobody laughs.

So you're probably thinking: the joke just isn't funny. Personally, I thought it was funny. It's kind of the joke to end all jokes. The electromagnetic pulse weapon of jokes; after it is spoken, all other jokes just don't work any more. So you're dying to hear it, I assume. Here it goes:

A priest, a rabbi, a swami and a duck walk into this bar.

The bartender turns around and sees them. He walks over and says,

"What is this; some kind of joke?"

If you're like all the others, you're not laughing.

I suppose telling the same joke over and over again, knowing it will never make people laugh, is kind of masochistic on my part. I guess so. Maybe making people not laugh, to me, anyway, is as fun as making them laugh.

So anyway, I continued to live with the shame of being an unfunny jokester until I picked up the latest issue of Reader's Digest. Inside is an article called THE 50 FUNNIEST JOKES. I decided to read it and maybe add a funny dumb joke to my own repertoire in order to redeem myself. As I was reading, I came across this one:

Two nuns, a penguin, a man with a parrot on his shoulder and a giraffe walk into a bar. The bartender says, "What is this? Some kind of joke?"

Hmmm...meet the new joke; same as the old joke. Out of 25,000 jokes entered into this contest, the comic geniuses of Reader's Digest chose my joke as one of the 50 funniest.

So who's laughing now?

*****

August 11, 2005

Indies of note

Got contacted by a couple of indy artistes in the last few days, both of which found my books and such online and decided to network with me a bit. The first is a cuz from Ireland by the name of Darryl Sloan. He's a writer of various things as well as a musician. Self-published and self-marketed to great success. Very interesting fellow. Be sure and check out his web site and take a look.

The second contact was via Myspace.com and was from an independent film company called Underdog Productions (gotta love that name) composed of four guys in Dallas whose dream it is to become movie makers. They have a film "in the can" (that's hipcat Gollywood lingo) that will be premiering in Dallas at the Lakewood Theater on September 10 at 6pm. Go to their site and check out a full synopsis of the film and the film makers. I hope I can make it to the screening. If anyone is going, let me know and maybe I can meet you there. Just seeing the Lakewood itself, an art deco masterpiece that has been fully restored, is worth the trip.

A note about Myspace for y'all out there: 22 million members with 2 million added per month. Free. Lots of goofy twenty-somethings and girls calling themselves "Hot Tina" and stuff like that, guys with no shirts on, blah blah. But, it is also a great place to network with other writers if you're interested in that. (Keep in mind, though that the ratio of goofballs to mature writers is about 1,000,000 to 1) The trick is to set up your profile as a "writer" and "networking." Putting that you're married keeps the hook-up seekers away. I've already contacted and been contacted by quite a few other writers, screenwriters, artists, etc. and the network expands exponentially. You'll see after you get on there. I also drive a lot of traffic to this site. There's a free blog feature, too. I use it as a "best of" blog, all directing people to this site. It is well worth it for anyone wanting to expand their network of contacts and meet some interesting folks.

*****

August 9, 2005

Nada

Nothing going on. Got a promotion at work. Very good. Very busy.

No new ink on paper.

Not blogging much.

No movement on the book/screenplay.

Nada.

*****

August 1, 2005

More graphic novel stuff.

I think a few of you might be following my sojourn into the realm of graphic noveling with a bit of interest, so I'll post the latest from artiste Lilliane Grenier, page 3 of our spec script:

My sketch layout:

Now here's Lilliane's rendition:

You likee? I likee.

Here are a few character studies of people from the novel you haven't seen:

Here's Tasha:

Closeup of Tasha:

Yeah, Tasha's kinda hot...if I were SpongeBob Squarepants, I'd be on her like a hobo on a ham sandwich.

Now here's Babcock:

And Jerry:

And Sean (oh, by the way, "Bill" is "Sean" in the screenplay. I changed this after the movie Kill Bill came out. Too many hitmen named "Bill" floating around Gollywood):

Yeah, I know Jerry kinda looks like Jude Law. And Sean like Johnny Depp. But these are character sketches, and the artiste will harden and change them up a bit. To illustrate the change, look at the first rendition of Pandora:

.

You can see the evolution in the spec pages. The color jobs were very quick computer-enhanced colorings Lilliane did just as a sample. The color versions, if any, will be more detailed and clean.

So there you have it.

*****

July 29, 2005

Front door guests are the bests.

I'm expanding my Guest Writers area. Been wanting to do this awhile, but haven't had the time and input needed. My first guest writer that gets the deluxe treatment is Hallie Ruth McGonigal, a person you may or may not have seen me write about here. She has a short essay on the guest page already, so I talked her into contributing some more material. Be sure and check out the mini-site I've created for her and her work. Also, remember that I'm open to doing this for other writers, so keep that in mind...

*****

July 21, 2005

Graphic novel progress.

I got quite a response the last time I updated everyone on the goings-on with my graphic novel project. The artist Liliane Grenier has finished page 2 of the project and sent it to me. Here is my original layout sketch that I sent to her, and her rendering follows:

Those of you who read the novel may not remember this scene; I embellished it for the graphic novel. In the book and screenplay, Dora just throws her script on the ground and leaves; she doesn't knock the director on his ass. The dialogue was in a separate script and doesn't appear on the layout sketch.

So...what do you think? We'll be doing two more pages, and possibly a fifth. What will we do after that? Hell if I know, but I think of something.

*****

July 15, 2005

Time for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Andy Warhol said everyone is famous for fifteen minutes, or something like that. I guess today was my day to be famous. Seems an armored car crashed into the front of my building today. A freak accident of unknown origin, the 10,000 pound behemoth veered off the street and slammed into my building about thirty feet away from my office, which is on the same wall.

But there's one good thing about living in a 43-year-old building; they made them solid back in those days. Kinda like me; I was made the same year. The granite and limestone facade barely cracked. I heard the truck hit, but thought it was just someone slamming a door or something. It wasn't until a few minutes later someone told me of the ruckus outside.

Which brings me back to my original point. The news crews got there before anyone; they were shooting a courthouse story across the street already. So, being an indy writer who needs all the exposure he can get, I took advantage of the situation and went outside for the photo op. So here it is, for all my fan...the first paparazzi photo of Mr. Boy:

Yeah, that's me under the yellow arrow. I must say, I cut a fine figure in this one. Very photogenic.

Oh, yeah; no one was hurt in the crash, either inside or outside the building.

*****

July 7, 2005

The Ugly Face of Addiction.

Today I was, I think the vernacular phrase is, Jonesing. I was at work and didn't have any stuff with me. I don't keep the stuff around because I'll use it all in one great act of self-indulgence. I have to limit my access to it.

So today, I didn't have any. I needed to score. Of course, being the day before pay day, I had no cash. Zip. Nada. Nothing. I scrounged through my gym bag in a fit of desperation and found a dollar bill.

Yeah! The candy machine down the hall takes bills.

Plain M&M's were singing their Siren song.

I admit I'm a chocolate addict. M&M's aren't the greatest chocolate in the world, but for commercial-grade candy machine candy, they're my fav. I like to eat my M&M's by the mouthful, stuffing as many of them in there as I can, and crunching them in a great explosion of cocoa delight. People who eat them one at a time are just plain sissies.

Okay, so I head to the candy machine. The machines in the vending area were there when I started working in the building 20 years ago. They were old then; they're ancient now. The selection buttons are written in hieroglyphics. So I plug in my bill and hit the buttons from memory: E8. This is one of those machines that has a spiral thingie that turns and the item on the end falls off. Well, the thing spun and the M&M's fell, but got stuck against the side wall of the machine. Now, this isn't unusual. It happens so often, that the machine is lopsided from so many people rocking it back and forth to dislodge their purchase. So, I rock it pretty hard, only to see that the package is stuck in the seam of the metal: the deadly caught-in-the-seam-hang. No one can get that loose. The best have tried.

But like I said earlier, I was Jonesin'. I rocked that mother hard. Nothing. The only option for this type of hang is to buy another bag and have it push the first one out, or buy a bigger item above it so when it falls, it knocks the M&M's loose. But I didn't have any more money. I was about to walk the 8 blocks to the ATM when I heard a voice. It was my co-worker Rick.

"Something stuck in the machine?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"Was it the M&M's? They always get stuck."

From the look on his face, I knew immediately he was a brother. He saw my pain. He pulled a dollar from his wallet, his last. He knew the drill.

"I came down for some, too. I'll push yours out."

Right on, bro.

He slipped the bill in the machine and hit E8. The second package moved slowly down the spiral, inching the stuck package further and further...until it jammed it completely into the seam.

Now both packs were stuck. Rick started rocking the machine like a rabid ape. He rocked it so hard, the security deputies came and looked into the hall. Seeing it was US and not a couple of winos, they walked away.

"We'd better cool it, man," I told him. His eyes were wild.

We stared sadly at the M&M's for a few minutes. Then I got mad. Mad at this stupid, archaic, Mafia money-laundering piece of shit of a machine. Damn it, this machine was not going to defeat me. Or my brother.

"Hang on a minute," I said as I went back to my office. I tried to bum a dollar from someone. They had nothing. No one else was around. I peered into the coffee room...salvation.

I stole a handful of nickels out of the Coffee Fund can.

Damn it, I was JONESIN'.

I ran back and pushed them into the machine. Rick looked like a little kid. THREE bags of M&M's were about to be ours.

The spiral turned. The third bag pushed forward. The second bag moved. The first bag moved. Then they stopped.

Now THREE bags of M&M's were stuck in the *&!$ing machine. I groaned. I thought I heard a whimper from Rick. We stared at the three bags of M&M's, just millimeters from dropping.

A detective from upstairs came up, spoiling our thoughts of bashing in the glass with the fire axe on the wall.

"What's up?" he asked. We pointed like imbeciles.

"Oh...so y'all are leaving now?" he said with an evil grin. For 70 cents, he was about to get FOUR bags of M&M's.

We just stared. Then in a magical moment, the detective stepped up and gave the machine a gentle tap and the three bags fell to the bottom.

"Beautiful, man," I uttered as I grabbed the bags. Protocol probably dictated that I give one of the bags to the detective for his help, but there was no way. I hauled ass as Rick was comparing the detective to Fonzie.

We divvied up the goodies in the hall and gorged ourselves on M&M's like we were starving, laughing like idiots.

So the moral of this story is...hell, there ain't no moral. It's just an ugly portrait of addiction in the modern city. And yes, I will replace the nickels I stole from the coffee fund.

On pay day.

*****

July 4, 2005

Graphic novel stuff

Some of you have been reading with a little bit of interest about my graphic novel project. In short, I've been looking for an artist to team up with to bring L.A. Stalker to life as a graphic novel. After a long search, I was finally contacted by one Liliane Grenier, a young artiste from Canada who has agreed to help me on the project. Basically, I'm scripting and laying out the novel and she's doing the artwork. She's a talented indy artist who is very enthusiastic about the project; something I've found lacking in every other artist I spoke with about the job.

Creating a graphic novel is far more complex and laborious than I thought. But learning to do something that's fun is not real work, is it? Our plan is to create 4-5 pages of the novel and submit it as a spec script to comic/graphic novel publishers. If someone likes it, they'll pay to have the rest completed. There's no use in creating an entire 100-page graphic novel first. It is better to do something by spec, because the publisher will have input into the final appearance of the work.

Scripting the piece is rather easy, and laying out the frames is not that hard, either. The hard parts are deciding what will go into each of the frames (boxes in a comic, see the numbers in the illustration below) and then drawing them. It is very much like writing a screenplay from a novel; you have to choose very carefully what to omit and what to include.

For our spec, I decided to pull four pages from the last third of the film screenplay. For those of you who have read the book, it is the scene where Pandora is shooting her movie in Las Vegas. The first illustration below is my layout of the first page. Note the stick figures and elementary-school art work. Hey, I'm a writer, not an artist...

After I did this, I emailed it to Liliane with the script. In the script, the scenes are detailed a bit more, frame by frame, and I also sent her a character study that I had done for the L.A. Stalker screenplay. There are a few things I insisted upon, but I basically gave her carte blanche to interpret as she wished. I'm sure as time goes on and she feels more comfortable, Liliane will improvise more. Here is her version of the page, with which I am very pleased:

She's done a good job, huh? I love her interpretation of Dora. The look we are going for in this scene is very dark noir, and I think Liliane captured it well.

Anyway, wish us the best on this new project! If any of my legion of fan has input, be sure and let me know.

*****

July 3, 2005

GRO

Any band that can come up with a cool abbreviation for their name had better be good. And these guys are: Green River Ordinance. An indy band out of my fair burg of Fort Worth, they are well into the struggle toward fame and fortune. The art part of being indy, they have down. A great, "big" sound from a bunch of guys that haven't hit 20 yet. Give them a listen here and help support homegrown talent.

*****

July 2, 2005

Scam of the new century

Back in 1985, I watched the original Live Aid for Africa concert goings-on with some interest. Back then, I was into the study of the geopolitics of the world, with an us-against-the-reds mentality. I made a prediction at that time that pissed off a few people I know, who called me a callous SOB or worse. My prediction was that very little, if any, of the money all the do-gooders around the world sent to this pseudo-charity movement would actually reach the poor people of Africa.

After about six months, the word started coming in from that continent that various dictators, most of them Marxist throwbacks and corrupt despots Mugabe-style, were siphoning off the aid money and supplies being sent over. Certainly, these despots made sure to grant Bono and other eggheads the great photo-op of standing on the bags of grain and such. But as soon as Bono and Geldof flew away into the sunset in their chartered jets, the loot was divvied up to the army and paramilitaries. What wasn't used was sold on the black market or to warlords and criminals in countries like Ethiopia and Somalia.

Yes, Live Aid I was the biggest scam of the 20th Century. Millions of la-la people around the world - most of them dumbass Americans - wrote out a check and slept soundly that night, knowing they saved a poor little Angolan boy from a terrible death. In reality, they purchased a few pounds of rice and beans so a communist paramilitary soldier could survive a few days in the field while he planted bombs and mines, raped villagers into submission, and basically terrorized the countryside.

Low and behold, Geldof and the boys are doing it again. Live 8 is in swing today, a worldwide la-la celebration of joy and music. Now, the official jargon of this "event" is that they don't want your money; they want you to put pressure on the G8 to have them send more money to Africa to help end poverty. In other words, YOUR TAX MONEY. Money that your country needs to use within its own borders.

At least in the first Live Aid scam, the ringleaders tended to dupe suckers out of their money. Now, they're trying to dupe money from all of us, whether we want to contribute or not.

Here's the reality, folks: We could give every man, woman and child on the African continent $50,000 and a Volvo with a full tank of gas, and in a year, a hundred-thousand of them will still be starving to death every day. Personally, I don't want any of my tax money squandered on such a lose-lose situation. Put it to work here in my own country to help my own people. There's only so much to go around, and my people come first - period.

Call me a nationalistic dinosaur if you want.

So here's wishing total failure to Live 8 and the la-la boys who brought it together this time. It's just the same old socialist shit in a different wrapper .

*****

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