Yes, the warning is still necessary. I’ve had a lot of folks find the blog looking for recipes or Anthony Bourdain or info on CSI: Miami. Apparently, they were quite distressed at what they found. Though why they kept reading, is beyond me.
Well, not really discouraging. I don’t have a thin skin where critics are concerned. I’ve had my work taken apart in live, public forums in Journalism School and a Graduate Writing program. Some of those professors and classmates were bent on being sadistic in the guise of constructive criticism. And recently, bad reviews have actually spurred sales of more than one of my titles. The latest reader review to turn for A Soldier’s Choice was odd to me. It left me nonplussed. The review wasn’t wholly negative, yet the reader gave it a little less than three stars. That actually annoyed me, because it knocked down the number of stars the book has had for over a year. And in the end, the reviewer said readers would have to try the book to judge it for themselves. That’s not actually helpful for a book buyer, and it knocked down my rating. The complaint from that review and one other was that I don’t spend a lot of time delving into the background of the society that is the backdrop for the story. That was not a mistake or an accident. I developed a complete history for Rik and Vincent’s world. I know how the society works. I even have a time line that traces the Delphi Project from Demon Under Glass to the point it becomes the military’s Altered Program. All of that backstory would be relevant if I was writing science fiction. I wasn’t. A Soldier’s Choice and A Soldier’s Fate are erotic romances that happen to be set in a sci-fi story. I do reveal aspects of the society that are relevant to the characters. I chose to tell the story from Rik’s point of view. That limited, in my opinion, what could be told of the world outside of his personal experience or don’t impact his life. Rik’s concerns are simple in both books: keeping Vincent with him, keeping safe from those seeking to harm them and protecting their loved ones. I felt, and still feel, that any other details does not further the plot and would be a distraction from the main story. Jon and I write our scripts the same way. He likes to say that even bit players with one line have their own backstory, and he he’ll tell the actor what that is to help their performance. But otherwise, who cares? It may be interesting in a DVD extra, but it would slow the action in the main narrative. I feel the same way about my novels.
Speaking of the Soldier’s Books, Here’s the new postcard for the advertising blitz planned for next month. The books are still slated to come out by the end of this month.
Cynicism in Tinseltown
An actor friend of mine who has only known me for about a year told me that I was cynical about the business out here. That brought me up short. I grant that the last year has been a rough one personally and professionally, and I can detect a harder edge in me than was there before. Ultimately, I have to disagree. I may be cynical compared to others he knows out here, but the fact that I’m still willing to listen to people who claim they can help us get a film going is evident that I am far from cynical. As way of proof, allow me to share some highlights of meetings we’ve had since moving to LA.
“Let me get this straight, you want to change everything but the title of the script, but still want to say it’s based on a true story.” That was our first meeting in LA that happened the day after we arrived. During that same meeting, the producers wanted us to lie to the couple on whom the script was based. Oh, and the job they promised that prompted our relocation across the country didn’t exist.
“I want you to consider two words that will guarantee success for your film – Kato Kaelin.”
“Okay, I had your actor checked out, and he’s still a murder suspect.” This was a different actor than Mr. Kaelin. That call from my father included an offer of an airline ticket back to Philadelphia.
“Did you know that the Mystery Science Theater book has a whole chapter on Miles O’Keefe? And since when does he do Science Fiction?
“Yes, I noticed the pentagram necklace, it had to be a foot in diameter. I don’t think I can ignore the painting of Satan behind the receptionist. And was that Martin Sheen we almost ran over?” That was one strange evening. Oddly enough, it was one of the more forthright meetings we’ve ever had. They were crooks, but they were absolutely honest about it.
“Just so I understand, you want a four story set made of glass – even the floors so you can shoot through to the top. I suppose all the women are wearing pants. Space bikinis. Well, that makes it better.” Fortunately, Jon was not at that meeting. He has no guile and virtually no inside monologue. As it was, I nearly took that idiot’s head off.
“I’m sorry, but the last actor I think of to play a character inspired by Errol Flynn is Roddy Piper.”
“I really loved all the performances by the Hobbits, but I just don’t see him as the most dangerous pirate captain in the galaxy.”
“I know that your client is about to win an Emmy and an Oscar in the same year. Why in the world would he take a part playing a nearly mute sidekick?” I was right about him winning both awards, and I was also right that he would not take the part though he really loved the script.
Why even listen to casting murder suspects, former wrestlers, Hobbits and whatever Miles O’Keefe is? They usually came bundled up in a package that included funding or distribution that would lead to funding. Typically, we weren’t told about these packages until we were at the meeting. I think the folks trying to pull these stunts with us believed the temptation of funding would be enough for us to swallow any misgivings. Not so far. And why even take all these meetings? There is always the possibility that there will actually be funding offered in a deal that we could live with. Had I not been open minded and followed up what seemed to be an unrealistic e-mail, Demon Under Glass would have fallen apart before one scene was shot. I remain optimistic that things will work out, and we’ll shoot a film. And I continue, even after more than a decade of strange and sometimes infuriating experiences, to go to these meetings with a positive attitude. If nothing else, they make for amusing stories at parties or blogs. I admit I’ve changed since I moved here, but I don’t think anyone whose known me for some time would call me cynical.
Pop Culture Super-Stardom
I forgot to mention that on the very Sunday that I was ranting about CSI: Miami’s new episodes, they received the highest honor in pop culture. CSI: Miami was featured on The Simpsons. I think they did Horatio Cain justice. They couldn’t come up with a goofier story idea than would be on the actual show, and that was the funniest part for me.
More on Robotic Scorpions and Biting Flies
I found the robotic scorpions, so we don’t necessarily need to use a real one. And they also make non-robotic ones that can be smashed with a gun butt. We’ve finally firmed up the location. It has everything we need along with excessive heat and biting flies. (No place is perfect). Now comes the scheduling alchemy of getting several busy people in the same place at the same time for a number of days. If any of the Skirts know a symbol for that, I’m all ears.