Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Words of Wisdom

Not too many this month. Not sure why. Have I really exhausted all the wisdom in the world?

You know how you'll eat ANYTHING when you're starving? Like, you'll go to the grocery store on an empty stomach and just come home with weird stuff you don't need? Yeah. Don't go out into the world with an empty soul. You'll fill up on all kinds of crap. Be sure to nourish yourself first. --Nanea Hoffman

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. --Rachel Carson

When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings. --Dean Jackson

Time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted. --John Lennon

You learn to write the same way you learn to play do it, and you keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn't divinely inspired - it's hard work. --Tom Clancy

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there'll always be better writers than you and there'll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you. --Neil Gaiman

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. --C.S. Lewis

No matter how badly people treat you, never drop down to their level. Remain calm, stay strong and walk away. --Unknown

The morning always has a way of creeping up on me and peeking in my bedroom windows. The sunrise is such a pervert. --Jarod Kintz

Friday, April 28, 2017

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books - Part 3

Hit a few panels, took a few notes.

Michael Connelly in conversation with Daniel Pyne
Pyne is the new showrunner for Connelly's Bosch. He's also a screenwriter (Fracture) and novelist. His new book, Catalina Eddy, sounds fantastic.

Pyne, Connelly
  • How TV changed Connelly's writing: Dialogue. In the books he can be in Bosch's head as much as he wants, but not on TV. Also, on TV he can't have Harry in every scene. Pyne: Action has to be behavioral, not in thought.
  • Pyne: Features have been taken over by tentpoles and Marvel Comics. TV is where adult storytelling is at.
  • This year is the 25th anniversary of the first Harry Bosch novel.
  • Connelly on Bosch's aging in the novels: acknowledged that because he didn't freeze Harry in time age-wise, that it's become a factor. However, in real life retired detectives who are "closers" are still in demand. Connelly said he will continue writing Bosch until he (Connelly) quits writing.
  • Connelly was asked if he's ever considered writing a period piece. Said he loves 1970's Los Angeles. He placed Harry as a rookie cop at the 1974 SLA shootout.

Crime Fiction: Hidden Truths
Gar Anthony Haywood (moderator), Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Stuart Woods, T. Jefferson Parker
  • Lippman's latest novel, Wilde Lake, is a reimagining of To Kill a Mockingbird, set in a different time and location. She was interested in the idea of Atticus Finch being "principled to a fault".  
  • Abbott has joined the writing staff of the upcoming David Simon HBO series The Deuce. When I looked it up on imdb, I discovered Simon is married to Lippman.
  • Parker is friends with a number of military veterans (he lives in Fallbrook, CA, near Camp Pendleton) and stated that the stereotype of the PTSD-afflicted vet unable to cope is largely inaccurate - for every one of those, there are hundreds who grit their teeth and deal with it. He used this issue for his protagonist Wiley Welborn in his latest novel Crazy Blood.
  • On the subject of research: Abbott always uses the same type of gun in all her stories so she doesn't have to worry about learning new specific details. Lippman admitted that she once asked the diminutive Abbott and writer Alison Gaylin what it's like to be short.

Writing and Publishing: Breaking In
Betsy Amster (moderator), Lisa Lucas, Sean McDonald, Oscar Villalon, Bonnie Nadell
  • Nadell: Harder to break in because large publishers aren't taking risks. However, McDonald pointed out that smaller publishing houses that are willing to take risks are popping up all the time (in fact, he just started one called MCD, which plans on publishing about twenty titles per year).
  • Nadell: It seems like the book business perpetually has a "the sky is always falling" mindset, but she doesn't agree. Feels that independent bookstores are stronger than ever.
  • During the Q&A, the panel was asked about the best way for new writers to break in. Nadell: Not looking for experience, looking for the best writing. 

Hooray for Old Hollywood
M.G. Lord (moderator), Karen Maness, Jon Lewis, Kenneth Turan, Glenn Frankel

This was a really great panel. One of the two best I saw last weekend.

L to R: Lewis, Turan, Frankel
  • Frankel is a Pulitzer-winning journalist. His latest book, High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, examines how a film revered for its message of the importance of personal integrity was made during the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings. High Noon's screenwriter, Carl Foreman, testified during the filming and was blacklisted for his alleged Communist sympathies. Per Frankel, the book is about half about High Noon and half about the blacklist.
  • Maness is the co-author of The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, a massive coffee table book examining the history of backdrop painting. The audience was thrilled to hear that despite being largely supplanted by technology, historic backdrops have been retained over the years by J.C. Backing, a company founded by the Coakley family, whose roots go back to the early days of MGM. Over the years, as studios divested themselves of property, the Coakleys bought up the backdrops. There will also be also be a scenic art show at Gallery 800 in North Hollywood starting in June. 
  • Lewis (Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles) says he's fascinated by the period between the collapse of the old studio system and the rise of new Hollywood.
  • Turan, the famed L.A. Times film critic, wrote Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film because he loves to spread "the gospel" - the good news - of films he loves. Said that the films in his book aren't necessarily the best films, but more of a desert island suggestion.
  • Lewis was asked about Gary Cooper's politics (he was a staunch conservative and Republican) versus the climate of the HUAC hearings. Per Lewis, Cooper testified very early on as a "friendly witness" and didn't name names. He also wasn't interested in getting in the middle of an ideological struggle and took the role in High Noon simply because he liked the script and needed the work. Politics didn't enter into it.

Writing Short Stories
Libby Flores (moderator), Chanelle Benz, Dana Johnson, Rebecca Schiff, Deb Olin Unferth
  • On writing fiction: Flores: "Slow down where it hurts". As for writing characters, she quoted Kurt Vonnegut: "Make your character want something even if it's only a glass of water." 
  • Benz on her characters: Once they've gone through a gate, it's locked behind them. They can't go back.
  • Johnson: Likes to write about the things that people pretend not to see, hear, or would rather not address.
  • Unferth: There are four levels of conflict: 1) Inner/existential, 2) Local (neighborhood), 3) Global, 4) Philosophical.

Crime Fiction: The Hunter and the Hunted
Lee Goldberg (moderator), Daniel Suarez, Gregg Hurwitz, Christopher Farnsworth, Eric Jerome Dickey

The other exceptionally great panel. Goldberg is always entertaining. We were treated to his impression of his heavily-accented French wife's insistence that no matter how she dies (even if hit by a meteor) the police should investigate him for murder. Crime writer's search histories are never not incriminating. Goldberg acknowledged if that happened, it would look like he'd been planning the crime for years.

L to R: Goldberg, Suarez, Hurwitz, Farnsworth, Dickey
  • Dickey literally moves to wherever he's going to set his next novel and lives there for a period of time. As a result he's lived in London, Argentina, and Odenville, Alabama to name a few. He said that his inspiration to immerse himself in a locale is due to having read a novel years ago that was set in Los Angeles and noticing how much the author got wrong about the city.
  • Hurwitz is famed for immersing himself in activities that his characters will experience, including the use of high-powered firearms. He joked that he once got his ass kicked in martial arts to understand the pain it inflicts.
  • Suarez: Researching is the most social thing he does as a writer.
  • Hurwitz: Writers must get gun details right. If you don't, you will hear about it.
  • During his Diagnosis Murder days, Goldberg suffered two broken arms in an accident. The doctor let him stay awake to observe his operation and fascinated, Lee started asking him questions that lead the doctor to ask, "Are you trying to ask me how to commit murder?" After hearing that, Goldberg's wife suggested writing the medical costs off as research.
  • Hurwitz: The mere suggestion of violence and/or gore goes a long way. He'll often end a chapter just before something horrific is about to happen. Nonetheless, more than once fans have told him they can't believe how gory those "scenes" were.
With that, another FOB is done. I had a great time as usual and am already waiting impatiently for the next one. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2017 - Part 2

Author signatures!!! Including mine!!!

My first panel of the day Saturday was Michael Connelly in conversation with Daniel Pyne. Pyne will be taking over as the showrunner for Bosch beginning Season 4 (Season 3 just debuted on Amazon Friday night). The previous showrunner, Eric Ohlmeyer, has moved over to The Man in the High Castle. Pyne also recently published a novel, Catalina Eddy, which sounds fantastic and is now on my Amazon wish list.

After the discussion I headed out to get in line for Mr. Connelly. I brought my brand-spanking new copy of LAst Resort for him to sign. The line wasn't as hellish as I'd feared - I probably only waited about twenty minutes to get to him. I explained that I was in the anthology and that it was the first time I'd been published. He's pretty low-key and not very chatty, but did take the time to write this:

I'm proud to say that I didn't make a bumbling fool of myself in front of him. In fact, I don't think I even stuttered once. It was an awesome experience.

After that, I headed over to the Sisters in Crime Los Angeles booth to say hi and show off my newest treasure. Matt Coyle, my editor, had been signing earlier at the booth, but it was the same time I was seeing Michael Connelly so I thought I'd missed him. Luckily he was still around, so I got to chat with him. He also had me sign a copy of LAst Resort for him - my first book signing!

Sunday, as I mentioned before, I saw L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan at a panel called Hooray For Old Hollywood. After the panel I bought his book Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film and had it signed, along with Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles by Jon Lewis.

Next up: panels!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2017 - Part 1

Another FOB is in the books (heh). Now I have to wait until next April. I swear I'd go every weekend if they had it that often.

As far as bringing home truckloads of books, I actually used a lot of restraint this year:

Yup. This is it.

I got Hard-Boiled Hollywood and Not To Be Missed autographed by the authors. Kenneth Turan is so sweet! We bonded over our love of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which is one of his not to be missed films.

The FOB was officially kicked off by the always awesome Trojan Marching Band. Here they are from my not-so-vantage point in line to see Michael Connelly.

More to come...

Friday, April 21, 2017

I literally cannot keep up with the MasterClass offerings

Because James Patterson, Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes apparently weren't enough, MasterClass has just beefed up their roster with the addition of Pulitzer-winning and Oscar-nominated playwright/screenwriter/director David Mamet to teach dramatic writing.

"You cannot learn how to write drama without writing plays,
putting it on in front of people and getting humiliated."
Do watch the entire clip. The whole thing is incredibly quotable. Spoiler alert: Mamet isn't a fan of French films.

You know the drill by now. Ninety bucks, and David Mamet is your writing instructor. I'm juggling the Patterson class with having just started the Shonda class and that's in addition to the UCLA program. But Mamet's class is definitely on my to-do list, especially after listening to that trailer.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is "The Keepers" our next national viewing obsession?

So apparently if you liked Making a Murderer, you're going to love The Keepers.

The newest true crime series from Netflix doesn't debut until May 19, but you can watch the riveting trailer now.

According to the article, Sister Cathy was a nun murdered in Baltimore in 1969, and her murder was never solved. Twenty-five years later a woman came forward and claimed she had been sexually assaulted by a local priest around the time of Sister Cathy's death, and furthermore that she had confided in the nun. The inference was that Sister was killed to keep her from exposing the priest.

The Keepers follows a pair of amateur detectives as they investigate the case. And if you aren't hooked yet, watch the trailer. Trust me. I've already marked May 19 on my calendar.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When you piss off sports fans, then want their help

I'm not a football fan, but even I know it's sport for a lot of people to disparage New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. For the most part, it seems to reek of jealousy. The guy is hugely successful, and never were his haters thwarted more than last January, when it looked like the Atlanta Falcons were burying the Patriots in the Super Bowl, only to see Brady quarterback the Pats to a comeback for the ages.

Last weekend, at the Boston Marathon, this guy made a sign to encourage the runners, and someone posted it on Twitter:

Then this happened:

Flattering, no?


ESPN has been shedding viewers for a while, pissing off a lot of people by injecting one-sided politics into their programming decisions. And apparently Patriots fans hate them even more for their treatment of Brady. Somewhere along the line maybe ESPN will learn that actions have consequences, and if you're a sports channel, maybe pissing off sports fans isn't the best business model.

The whole exchange, along with hilarious reactions from other Tweeters, can be found here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It's only April, and we have our Father of the Year right here

Sometimes the internet can be used for good.

Take this guy: Ben Sowards is a Cedar City, Utah father of eleven, four of whom were adopted from foster care. And now he's an internet star.

From the article:

On Friday afternoon, Ben's wife, Connie, told him that their 6-year-old daughter, Valerie, had had an "accident" at school. She was crying from embarrassment and saying that she wanted to go home, so of course dear old dad went to pick her up...but not before splashing some water on his pants around the groin area.

When he got to Valerie's school, he asked to use her backpack to cover up his own "accident".

At first, she was stunned, but then she started laughing because she found it so funny and totally forgot about her own troubles.

Pic snicked from the linked article.

One of Soward's older children tweeted the episode, complete with pictures, and you know what happened next: totally viral.

Parents like this really make a difference in a child's life. What started out as a traumatic, mortifying experience for a little girl turned into something she could laugh about. That has to be huge for a child that age, and can't help but shape the person she'll be someday for the better.

Do take the time to check out the whole article, which includes more pics, the original tweet and reactions from Twitter. Spoiler alert: the world loves this guy now.

H/T to Country Living Magazine on FB for the link.

Monday, April 17, 2017

More Bundt pans!

Gotta love Nordic Ware. Well I do. The latest must-have:

The mini-cakes are referred to as "Bundt Charms".  All the different patterns in one pan! So cool, except for the part where I'm seriously running out of storage space. In fact, I was just thinking today how I need my kitchen to be the size of my living room. That would be fantastic.

I still kind of miss cooking school. It was great to have a huge kitchen and the big industrial-sized tables to work on.

I did bake a loaf of no-knead bread today in a dutch oven and it turned out great. Will post pics later.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


This pool is on the 42nd floor of a Houston, Texas apartment building, 500-600 feet above the street below. Prepare to barf.

More info about the Sky Pool here.

Would you?

Monday, April 10, 2017

How not to fly the friendly skies

Add United Airlines to the list of companies that don't know how to customer service.

United overbooked a flight, then asked for volunteers to give up their seats (for a premium, of course) because they had four employees who needed to be "repositioned" for another flight. Unfortunately they didn't get enough volunteers, so chose some poor schmuck at random to be "deplaned". Turns out the poor schmuck didn't want to leave, so he was forcibly removed...and roughed up in the process. And of course there's a video.

The situation was only worsened when United released their official announcement about the fracas, and of course, Twitter got into the act.

With the recent Pepsi Cola fail, the inevitable "hold my drink" tweets started popping up.

#BoycottUnited promptly went into overdrive. Not only is this event going to cost United potential future customers, it's also costing them long-time flyers:

More fun:

Hopefully United can look for the silver lining...

This is really bad. UA is not only going to probably have to pay that guy millions, but it could really impact their business for months if not years to come.

And I agree with the guy who suggested Oscar Munoz update his resume. He should have promptly owned up to how awful this was. Instead he released an anemic PR statement that only exacerbated the fallout.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

At LAst!!!

The release date isn't until April 17th, but Amazon is already shipping LAst Resort. I had preordered and Mom and I received our copies on Thursday. So I'm officially in print for the first time! 

You can (if you're so inclined) order it here.

It's so weird seeing my name in a book. It's also weird seeing the story (Crime Drama/Do Not Cross) in a book as well - I've only seen it printed out on 8x10 paper. It's just so surreal. It's also something I could get very used to.

LAst Resort editors and contributors will be doing author panels at The Last Bookstore in Downtown L.A. on June 17 and at Vroman's in Pasadena on July 8. In addition, Sisters in Crime L.A. always has a booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (April 22-23 this year). My editor, Matt Coyle, will be signing at the SinC LA booth, but I'll probably miss him as I'll be standing in line to get my copy of LAst Resort signed by Michael Connelly during the period Matt is scheduled.

Big thanks to everyone at Sisters in Crime Los Angeles for the opportunity, and to Matt for being such a kickass editor.

Update: Shortly after I posted this, I got an email from SinC LA asking if I would like to participate in an author panel at Santa Monica Public Library in Ocean Park on June 24. Of course, the answer is yes. Other authors on the panel are Craig Faustus Buck, Vanessa A. Ryan and Laurie Stevens. It will be at 2pm. Drop by if you get a chance!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Wrap-up: UCLA Extension TV writing class #1

So I ended up getting an A+ in my first UCLA TV writing class, thanks to my outline for a Better Call Saul spec that everyone in the class, including the instructor, seemed to really like. We get a couple weeks off, then in the next quarter we'll turn our outlines into actual scripts, now that we've got out stories worked out.

I have to admit that I am really pleased with the way the script turned out, especially when you consider the clusterfuck that the class seemed like at the beginning.

The system they use is fantastic. I'll used it for all future TV specs. I wish I'd gotten into this program years ago. I really do recommend it highly.