Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Setting sun, Silverado Trail, Napa Valley, California. 
So I'm writing a lot these days. A lot. Very soon there will be some new news on this front. Of the many projects I'm toiling on, the long-awaited novel that's been in the works for more years than I'd like to admit to, is right in the center. I did a major rewrite over the summer and will be putting pen down shortly.

I'll be posting more in the New Year as well. Hoping to be reacquainted with y'all and make up for the promises I haven't been that good at keeping. Life, ya know?

Here's a taste. This is the second chapter, a new addition from the previous drafts. It introduces the main character.

Please take note (this is not directed at my friends who I love and trust but anyone else who stumbles on this): This is copyrighted material. All rights are reserved to the author. Which is me. You must have permission to reprint or share this material anywhere on the Internets or anywhere else virtually, actually or ... well, don't steal my shit, okay? Thank you!

Christmas Eve, 2011
Santa Monica, California

        There had been worse crime scenes, but this would be the one nobody would forget.
It was so bizarre, the unis who found the body thought it was faked, like a film crew set up a scene for a movie and then everybody got called away suddenly.  And took all their equipment with them. And left the star actress playing dead on a faux polar bear skin rug next to a sliding glass door, in the big room of a rich guy’s house that hung off a cliff over Pacific Coast Highway and had a multi-million-dollar ocean view that would look really cool in 3-D Technicolor.
        Only the body, like the rug, was real and when Perc and his partner walked in past the fancy chrome kitchen and into the largest living room they had ever seen, where the floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree looked like a model for a Norman Rockwell painting, they understood what the unis and CSI techs had been buzzing about outside.  No further explanation was needed.
       The white polar bear rug was still white. There was no blood. Not a drop anywhere.
       Perc had been a step in front of Frank and saw it first but it was Frank who broke the silence. “What the fuck,”  he said it like a statement.  He’d been pulling on his latex gloves and he stopped with the right one on only halfway, the tips of the fingers drooped like a cow’s udder.  “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
     Perc saw it and wanted to say he saw it, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t move.  An old, old bad feeling had suddenly, without hint or warning, bubbled up in his stomach and brought back a terror he had long ago convinced himself he had conquered.  He knew Frank was talking to him, could feel his eyes on him, could imagine the look in those eyes, the virtual switch in his brain that went from “what the fuck is wrong with this crime scene” to “what the fuck is wrong with my partner,” but he was frozen in place.  All he knew was that he was standing in a room with a dead woman who he would later learn had been stabbed 29 times right where she was found and the only red in the room was the leaves of the Poinsettia on the coffee table.  No blood. Not even inside her. 
     Even the coroner wouldn’t be able to explain how he had drained less than a tablespoon out of the body when in the most horrific case of blood loss he’d seen had netted at least three pints.
     There were many explanations for what they saw with their own eyes and what the crime scene techs would later confirm, chiefly that the killer or killers had covered the floor, rugs, couch, even the walls and ceiling with such precision it was as if the entire room had been redone exactly as it was before.  Until they found who did it, and up to this point it remained unsolved, there would only be speculations and guesses and what ifs.
     Even among cops, though, talk about the big cold cases gets played eventually, the conversations turning to other mysteries. Like how homicide Detective Percival Baldwin, one of the city’s best cops and a son of a cop himself, had a secret – a near-debilitating fear of blood. And how walking into a crime scene devoid of any blood at all had set off a phobia he’d kept hidden for more than two decades from everyone who knew him.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Roll Camera!

Principal photography begins tonight on our short film, "The Other Dog." So for the next few days, I go from writer to writer/director. It's my second try behind the camera and I'm excited and nervous, more nervous than excited. It's these moments leading up to when the cameras start rolling -- well, recording is the more apropos word these days -- when you worry if you've thought of everything, if you're prepared, if the people who are donating their time to you will show up, if you're not completely fucking insane.
And yes, I realize it's Friday the 13th. I bow to the fates. Be good to me.
Needless to say, I likely won't be posting during the shoot. We're trying to fit a lot of pages on a tight schedule -- it's the way we can shoot this without spending too much money - and every second will count.
But I will stop by when I can.
We've raised $1600 so far and I am humbled and grateful though we could use a bit more to finish this thing. If you can help us out, please consider donating to our campaign. Believe me there will never be a bunch of people so grateful. Just spreading the word about our project is worth a lot to us, though.
At the very least, you can get yourself a t-shirt with this logo on it (drawn by my friend Nicole Kaufman who has some very cool characters on her website). And a portion of what we raise will go to pug rescue. The pug insists.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Putting on a show

In 2006, I shot a short film at my house in Santa Monica call "It's A Boy". I did it in part because I thought it might help me move into directing, which I've wanted to do since I was a kid. It was a last-minute crazy, on-the-fly project that in the end, netted a passable 15-minute comedy that I only show to friends now. The directing gigs I dreamed of never materialized.
And my hope of getting the film into festivals fell by the wayside when the editor got a job and couldn't finish what we started and I didn't have enough money to fix all our mistakes in post-production.
However, my directing dreams have not died. I guess I was just waiting for just the right moment to try again. Or maybe the right inspiration.
Well, this month is gonna be that month.
After several weeks of planning, a few friends and I have managed to assemble a great group of creative people here in wine country and we're going to "put on a show".
You might not be shocked to discover that one of my pugs is in it (I'll post more about the story in a later blog).
I've wanted to shoot something in wine country since I moved here at the end of '06 and have always been blown away by the can-do spirit of the people I've met in my little town. Well, I had no idea how great they were, how creative, how ready for anything until I launched this project. I'm very excited about it.
It's pretty easy to make a movie these days, especially if you surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. But it still costs money which is why we've set out to crowd fund a portion of our modest budget.
Our goal is to get our film into the upcoming Healdsburg International Short Film Festival. But first things first - while we start principal photography on July 14th -- we've begun a fundraising campaign to defray equipment rental costs, to feed my crew and also pay as many of them a small stipend as I can. We're also donating a portion of the funds we raise to a local pug rescue called Pug Savers that is in dire need of funds. I wish I could do more for these folks -- it was through Pug Savers that I got my pugs, first Chamuco and indirectly Ulysses who will have a role in the film.

Our indiegogo campaign is up here. Our website is here. If you can't help us but want to help the pugs, you can donate directly to Pug Savers here.

As time permits, I'm going to blog about our film as it happens. I hope you'll jump on the ride with me. In the meantime, I have a novel to finish. You know the one.

Here's a mockup of the movie poster. It almost feels real. Or should I say reel.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Out to the Edge of the World -- and Back Again

Barely before ink was dry on the previous one, I got a chance to get off the grid and write for a few days. I'd been thinking about it for weeks, ever since I heard about a friend's house on the Northern California coast that he let folks use when he was there. No phone, no Internets, no t.v. Just what a little girl lost needed.
But the day to leave came up so fast, I had second thoughts. Not wanting to hurt my husband's feelings and knowing he needed a break too, I invited him to come along. The dogs came, too.
A day into it, we both realized this wasn't going to work. Off the grid needed to be completely off the grid, away from distractions, from stuff that reminded me of my obligations and certainly I wasn't going to get a lot done if the young pug kept wanting to play.
So, we all got back in the car and drove back home. And then I immediately turned around and drove back. Let's call it a trip interrupted. It was a lovely return drive. I had my music to keep me company and my getting-rickety wheels seemed just stable enough to get me there and back.
Two-thirds of the way, I realized I wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat anymore and my breathing was steady. In, out, in, out. 
I went to work that night and quickly fell into a schedule of rising early, writing over morning coffee (or tea), a light breakfast and then a quick lunch followed by a 20-minute nap, more writing and finishing with a brisk evening walk along the bluffs.
At home it was pushing triple digits but out on the coast, it was sweater weather.  The work was slow at first but slowly, I started to rediscover the feeling of writing well. I realized suddenly late on one of those nights that I had stopped thinking of myself as a writer.
When that happened, I've no idea. But after the first two days there on my own, I felt like I earned the title again.
I didn't finish but I think I found something important out there on what felt like the edge of the world. This morning, I was up by eight, really early for me, and at my desk by 9:30 and writing. I'm going to hang on to this feeling with both hands.
Let me tell you something else that I'm both loathe and bemused to admit: for years, years, my mother has been telling me I need to work on my prose more, I need to concentrate on the novels first and leave all the Hollywood stuff for when you're in between books. I guess a part of me knew she was right but it was so easy to follow the big money in t.v., the work was fun and the rewards were great. And, I told myself, books were so yesterday. I mean who was reading anymore.
Well, Mom, you're right. 
I hope one of you will remind me the next time I question her wisdom.

Back to my little sabbatical. When I was writing my first novel, I was writing in a borrowed style, trying to make the words sound like the writers I admired. I didn't yet understand the idea of voice or even that I had could have one that was unique to me. Then one day, at a friend's house, I read Raymond Chandler's short story "Red Wind." Always a fan, I'd never gotten to any of his short stories before and to say it was a seminal moment in my development as a writer is an understatement. I'll never forget those first lines:
"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."
It stuck with me all through the evening and, apparently deep into the night, because in my dreams later, I imagined the opening page of my novel. I woke up, wrote it down as fast as I could and went back to sleep. The next morning, re-reading it, I'd realized I discovered my character's voice. In a way, she was born to me that night and I to her. I never edited those first pages -- they are almost completely as I dreamt them. 
"It rained the day I said good-bye to my best friend; the kind of storm that was packaged in a San Francisco-like cold front. December in Santa Monica could blow in off the Pacific like the draft from a meat locker. Perfect funeral weather."
That kind of magic hasn't happened to me again since. Until Sunday night. I woke up from a half-dream, writing in my head, the words coming so fast they almost caused a pileup in my brain. When I got it all down on paper, I knew I had the ending to my novel. The best part, it was good. Damn good. It's true what they say, that no matter how far you go, you'll never outrun yourself. But I think the bigger problem is learning to get out of your own way.

There's still more work to do -- about one-third of the novel remains to be done -- but I'm determined to see it to the end and for that end to come soon. Days not weeks. No matter what.
That'll be me jumping in. Feet first, cannonball style. 
Don't wish me luck. Wish me pleasant dreams.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's me, readers, are you out there?

I'm back. Again. I keep trying to recommit myself to blogging but life just keeps fucking up everything.
I know I'm laying blame at the feet of the every day as opposed to my horribly inefficient use of time, but I've decided to try again with baby steps. Oh, there will be big, leaping, T-Rex baby steps for sure, but I cannot promise them every day.
I can only try.
Exactly what am I trying at?
I'm not sure how to explain where I am in the world inside my head. Saying "I'm lost" is not accurate, but it's not so far off from the truth. I think perhaps that I am a writer who has filled her brain with too much stuff. It's not bad stuff, which is kind of part of the trouble.
I have always valued my own curiosity for the world and it has served me well, especially for the writing. But often I feel the lure of the "I can do that" and this thing has arms like an octopus, each independent of the other, each yanking me in many directions. Oh, but they are interesting directions, and they fascinate me, endlessly. But like getting lost in the streets of Venice, you can walk off too far, and discover it's almost dark and you have no idea how to get back, you're hungry and your cellphone battery is nearly dead and your Italian, like your sense of direction, is not very good indeed.
And this is where I find myself. I am on a narrow and dark street, its stones echoing under the soles of my shoes, bouncing off the ancient buildings like a tappity-tap of a clock ticking in my head. Like a bad omen.
Work calls from a distance place, somewhere around the right corner, if I could even find it. But, if you'll pardon the stretching of this metaphor, I'll be damned if I know what's around the next corner and even if I can find my way back, it won't be the same way that I got here.
And, really, the point isn't going back, it's moving forward. It's finding the love again, it's tapping into my soul of my soul, my writer's heart, the thing that is me and I it.
So, I guess I'm on a journey now. Looking for me.
I hope I can find her.