The Pitch – Revised

For the last month or so I’ve been telling people about my book–which I’m really excited about–and yet the reactions I’ve been getting to my 20-second pitch haven’t been wielding the overall response I’d hoped for. So I started treating it like a comic testing out new material–let’s see what tweaks I need to make reshape the pitch.

And I think I’ve got it. I realized that the pitch I was giving wasn’t giving the scope of the novel in a way that gives it justice. With this new version, I For the last month or so I’ve been telling people about my book–which I’m really excited about–and yet the reactions I’ve been getting to my 20-second pitch haven’t been wielding the overall response I’d hoped for. So I started treating it like a comic testing out new material–let’s see what tweaks I need to make reshape the pitch.

And I think I’ve got it. I realized that the pitch I was giving wasn’t giving the scope of the novel in a way that gives it justice. With this new version, I think I’ve remedied that, plus, I think the hook works far better.

Here’s the way I’m discussing Finders Keepers now:

What if, in some distant corner of the cosmos, there is a gossipy, Hollywood-like realm devoted solely to development of the Universe? And what if creation of planets, moons, stars and the like require but a few drops of the Universe?s DNA, which is stored in a protective glass jar? In regard to Earth, what if the supervisors assigned to overseeing its construction were unqualified and inexperienced? What if they were also newlyweds, who made love on the job site? And in doing so, what if they accidentally knocked that jar into the still-forming planet below, where it was lost for billions of years?

Fast forward to present day Earth, when wannabe-English teacher Jason Medley, one of the heroes of FINDERS KEEPERS (approximately 120,000 words), is stuck in that netherworld between college and a career. He reluctantly quits his go-nowhere waiter job on Long Island, N.Y., to backpack across Europe. There he meets Theo Karnes, an adventurous New Zealander who has already stumbled upon the hallucination-inducing jar?that won?t open?unaware of what?s actually inside.

As the new friends travel from city to city, trying to outrun their impending adult responsibilities, they encounter Lilly, a young, sultry painter with a secret agenda, a haunted past and a habit for finding trouble. Meanwhile, Earth?s banished galaxy designer and her talking brown Labrador, the newlyweds with a famous friend, and a drag queen with a dream each have designs for Theo?s jar, forcing all involved to decide what really matters to them most, and why.

Traversing Europe, New Zealand and the backbone of Eternity, FINDERS KEEPERS not only tackles friendship, loyalty, sex and desire, but also God, reincarnation?and what really happened to the dinosaurs.

I’m going to be talking a lot more about this revised pitch–it’s really energizing me–but I wanted to get it out there and see how I feel about it. So far, so very good.

More on this very soon …

Old Black and Whites

Since I was sick for the better part of two weeks, I had plenty of time to catch up on a bunch of old movies. Three in particular I’d recommend are:

The Lost Weekend – about an alcoholic who goes on a crazy bender, but it’s about how screwed up he’s finally admitting that he is, rather than it being wild and wacky. And since it was made back in 1945, it was really surprising to see that they dealt with alcoholism as a disease, like we do now. The lead, Ray Milland, won a best Oscar. And it Since I was sick for the better part of two weeks, I had plenty of time to catch up on a bunch of old movies. Three in particular I’d recommend are:

The Lost Weekend – about an alcoholic who goes on a crazy bender, but it’s about how screwed up he’s finally admitting that he is, rather than it being wild and wacky. And since it was made back in 1945, it was really surprising to see that they dealt with alcoholism as a disease, like we do now. The lead, Ray Milland, won a best Oscar. And it was directed by Billy Wilder. Highly recommended.

The Killing – If you like Quentin Tarantino movies, you’ll love this, as it’s Stanley Kubrick, way back in 1956, doing a twisty, hard-boiled crime caper with the kind of grit you see today. Tough, intense. It really knocked me out.

The Killers – Another Oscar winner, it’s a twisy hard-boiled crime caper from 1946, starring a very early Burt Lancaster in a breakout role.

Re:The Departed

I watched The Departed the other day, the first time I’ve seen it since it was in the theaters. I really enjoyed it again, although I still agree that it’s not Scorcese’s best. Fun all the way through–maybe a little too twisty at the end–but still a very entertaining movie, and role that, for me, finally puts Dicaprio up on a level as a great actor, rather than just a movie star. Hopefully he’ll continue to deliver.I watched The Departed the other day, the first time I’ve seen it since it was in the theaters. I really enjoyed it again, although I still agree that it’s not Scorcese’s best. Fun all the way through–maybe a little too twisty at the end–but still a very entertaining movie, and role that, for me, finally puts Dicaprio up on a level as a great actor, rather than just a movie star. Hopefully he’ll continue to deliver.

Heroes Nears the End

I admit, I’ve been liking Heroes overall, but not loving it. But last week’s episode–five years in the future–was great. From my eyes, by far the best episode of the season. Looks like they’re gearing up for a big, big finale, so I’m getting kinda psyched to see how it all pans out.I admit, I’ve been liking Heroes overall, but not loving it. But last week’s episode–five years in the future–was great. From my eyes, by far the best episode of the season. Looks like they’re gearing up for a big, big finale, so I’m getting kinda psyched to see how it all pans out.

The Writer Moment

One of the best parts of being a writer, one of the most thrilling, anyway, is having one of [i]those[/i] moments. A moment where something just comes to me from that part of the ether where things come from, and it works. It just totally works.

It?s awesome.

I had one of those moments yesterday.

It happened in the morning, when I was working on the description for the final character illustration that I?ll be adding to the site. Mike Lunsford, the art student I?ve been working wiOne of the best parts of being a writer, one of the most thrilling, anyway, is having one of [i]those[/i] moments. A moment where something just comes to me from that part of the ether where things come from, and it works. It just totally works.

It?s awesome.

I had one of those moments yesterday.

It happened in the morning, when I was working on the description for the final character illustration that I?ll be adding to the site. Mike Lunsford, the art student I?ve been working with, will be doing an illustration for Finders Keepers of Ira and Howard, the dolphin and blue whale, respectively, who play a small, but important role in the story. And in writing the description for the Web site, I started thinking about how I even came up with those two characters in the first place, which was another one of those moments.

Liz and I were on vacation not long after Sept. 11., on a Caribbean cruise, with two other couples. We were at the gym, on elliptical machines, looking out over the sparkling blue Caribbean waters. And then it happened. From wherever they were, Ira and Howard just presented themselves to me. I had most of the plot worked out at that point, but still had some important holes to fill. Ira and Howard were the final missing pieces I?d been struggling with.

At the time, I had only been taking notes about Finders Keepers; I didn?t start writing my first draft until about a year and a half later. But then and there I had that moment, that absolutely [i]wow [/i]moment that stopped me in mid-elliptical and splashed a grin across my face. I hopped off the machine and took the pencil tied to an event sign-in clipboard, and wrote my notes on the back of a flier promoting a ship event that week. Even as I write this, I feel like I?m right back on that cruise ship, seeing Ira and Howard for the first time.

So yesterday, a few hours after I?d written about this cruise ship moment for the Web site, I went out to lunch at Around the Clock, a little place off of 4th Avenue, still thinking about that great moment. I was sitting by myself, reading Michael Chabon?s [i]The Mysteries of Pittsburgh[/i], and [i]whamo![/i] I had another one of those moments.

Thing is, the idea that came to me isn?t for my next novel, or even the one after that. It?s for what I expect will be my fourth novel, an idea I?ve been kicking around for several years. But no matter. I will write that book, and will include the idea I had today, in one form or another.

It?s been quite a while since I?ve had one of these moments, but man I love it when it happens. It energizes me, it thrills me. It?s one of the best parts of being a writer. Which just inspires me to write even more.

Being a writer isn?t always easy; sometimes it?s downright infuriating. But when it?s great, it?s so great. I just love these moments. I can never get enough.

IKEA: Cold Remedy

After a frustrating two weeks with a lingering chest cold/cough, I?m finally feeling good enough to get back into writing mode. This past weekend, however, was supposed to be a time to just rest and recover, and keep myself distracted with little projects that didn?t require much energy, physically or mentally.

Enter IKEA.

A few ago Liz and I went to the IKEA out in Hicksville, and we picked out some pretty nice bookcases and outdoor furniture for our terrace. After a little bit of a dAfter a frustrating two weeks with a lingering chest cold/cough, I?m finally feeling good enough to get back into writing mode. This past weekend, however, was supposed to be a time to just rest and recover, and keep myself distracted with little projects that didn?t require much energy, physically or mentally.

Enter IKEA.

A few ago Liz and I went to the IKEA out in Hicksville, and we picked out some pretty nice bookcases and outdoor furniture for our terrace. After a little bit of a delivery snafu (a story for another day), we had these monster size boxes in our apartment for a bit of do-it-yourself assembly.

So given that I was home last weekend, had time on my hands and needed something to do, I figured this would be the perfect time to get our new furniture together.

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans.

Don?t get me wrong, IKEA is great, in that you can get some really nice stuff at a really nice price. But for all the ease you?re supposed have with those Allan keys …

Turns out that the bookcases we got had like 10 little pieces that required Allan keys?and like 65 that needed a screwdriver! And beyond that, the little pieces were hard, sharp plastic that tore up my fingertips, and the screws themselves weren?t just easy-to-screw-them-in screws. These were need-to-be-hunched-over-in-Twister-like-positions screws that you have to really dig into to get them in place. Multiply this by three, since we?ve put together three bookcases so far; the first two I did by myself, the last one Liz helped me with. So that?s about 200 screws!

Needless to say, my hands are now ripped to shreds with blisters, welts and scratches. And of course there were a few left over pieces, and of course we put the doors on the bookcase incorrectly, had to unscrew all the hinges and then do it all over again?after we?d already lifted the giant bookcase up and wedged it into the corner.

So much for a quiet weekend. I was sweating, struggling, cursing and grunting! Liz was getting annoyed at me; I was getting annoyed at Liz, and all along we were really just annoyed with these friggin bookcases that were SUPPOSED TO BE EASY!

And there?s still one more bookcase to go! After like 10 hours?and countless pulled muscles?over two days, we just ran out of steam. So I?m off to Home Depot this week to buy a super-powered electric screwdriver before I tackle that last bookcase. I don?t think my hands?or patience?can take it.

But at least my energy?s returning and I?m clacking at the keys again. I hated being away this long, but sometimes these things happen.

It?s good to be back.

Spring Cold

Short blog today …

After all this crazy weather, the sick bug finally hit me. I thought I’d make it through unscathed, but …

Nothing too serious, just a head cold and sore throat, but enough to knock me out for a few days. I did manage to squeeze in a few old movies, some good black and whites that were pretty good, actually, but now that the weather is finally starting to get going, and I’m not up to it.

Bummer!

Anyway, just felt like clacking the keys a bit. Been gettinShort blog today …

After all this crazy weather, the sick bug finally hit me. I thought I’d make it through unscathed, but …

Nothing too serious, just a head cold and sore throat, but enough to knock me out for a few days. I did manage to squeeze in a few old movies, some good black and whites that were pretty good, actually, but now that the weather is finally starting to get going, and I’m not up to it.

Bummer!

Anyway, just felt like clacking the keys a bit. Been getting that itch to start really writing again, and it’s coming soon.

Stay tuned …

My Early Management Mishap

Something happened at work the other day that took me back more than a decade, to my first job in Manhattan, and my first management role.

At the time I was working in the production department for a small publishing company near the Flatiron Building. I didn?t like the work: I didn?t like the company. But I was getting paid, and it was a start. Beyond the daily boredom of my job, which primarily involved database management, I operated in a small supervisory capacity, but only now and agaiSomething happened at work the other day that took me back more than a decade, to my first job in Manhattan, and my first management role.

At the time I was working in the production department for a small publishing company near the Flatiron Building. I didn?t like the work: I didn?t like the company. But I was getting paid, and it was a start. Beyond the daily boredom of my job, which primarily involved database management, I operated in a small supervisory capacity, but only now and again. We only needed extra help from time to time, so my supervisory position was inconsistent. But the dynamics of the room I was in created a slightly more complex situation.

My desk was flush against another facing desk, so I shared a mid-sized room with the other guy, who faced me, and about a half-dozen temps. The other guy?who we?ll call Ron?was in a slightly different role, and supervised the temps on a more regular basis, and more directly. But if I needed something done, I had some authority over the temps.

The problem?as it turned out?wasn?t the dynamics of the room. The problem was me. I 25 then, and though I?d been working steady since I was 12?paper route, temping, bartending, waiting tables?and had done my student teaching by then, having been responsible for about 150 students?I had very little experience working in an office, and it showed. Part of it had to do with the fact that I hated the work and it was a lousy company, but mostly it had to with the fact that I was still immature in some regards, and hadn?t learned?or accepted?that the way an office actually worked wasn?t quite the same as how I thought it should work. And I wasn?t particularly adept at making my peace with it.

On this one day, I was deep in the throws of the project I was working on; it was deadline time. It was tedious work, and I had to concentrate. And the work had to get done. Had to. But the room was filled with temps?mostly young college kids?and as was the case on most days, we had the radio playing, and people were chatting and whatnot. On any other day, I wouldn?t have cared. But I had to focus, and the noise was distracting.

So I stood up and announced?sternly?that I needed to have quiet. I don?t think I was a jerk about it, but it was clear I wasn?t fooling around. It was work time, and that was that. I saw a few looks of mini-shock, and maybe some annoyance, but everybody did as I asked and kept pretty quiet. Okay. Fair enough. Now I?m working.

And then …

My phone rings. It?s a friend of mine, and he wants to chew the fat and talk about plans for the weekend. I?m already wound up, stressed from my deadlines, and these words are about to come out of my mouth: ?Hey, dude. Love to chat, but I can?t. I?m on a deadline. I?ll call you back tonight.?

If only I?d actually said them.

Instead, in my mind, I thought, hey, everybody was already chatting and listening to music, and I could use a break, so okay. Now?s a good time. I need to let off some steam.

And so I spent the next 20 or 30 minutes blabbering away about this and that?but certainly not working. After my chatting I got right back to it, locked in on what I had to do. It was difficult work, which took another few days, but ultimately it got done.

Fast-forward about a month and Ron comes up to me in the kitchen. I say something about the fact that one of the temps, a young college student I?d been flirting with and had agreed to go out with me, was now blowing me off. He explained why.

Ron told me that during that deadline day a month earlier, when I needed quiet, and was forceful about it, the temps understood. They didn?t like it, but they accepted it, and respected that I needed to do what I needed to do. But once I took that phone call, I lost them. Completely. They hated me after that, even though I hadn?t quite noticed.

I asked Ron why he hadn?t said something to me earlier. Had he pointed it out, I would have owned up to what I had done, and maybe I could have salvaged myself a little. He didn?t say anything just then. Of course, I was looking for someone to blame for my blunder; I was looking for an out.

Still, I thought we were good enough friends that he would have told me that the whole room hated me, and constantly talked about me behind my back, but I guess not. It also cleared up our relationship after that.

My point, however, is that I learned?the hard way?what now seems fairly obvious: If I want to ask?or demand?certain behavior from others, I have to do the same myself. (Why I didn?t already know and practice this is a discussion for another time).

It?s this earlier incident which brings me to just the other day.

We have a pretty nice group at my office overall these days, and at one point or another there?s usually some chatter about sports or movies, and I encourage it. We?re together 40 to 50 hours a week. It can?t all be about work. And I?m an active participant in these chats?when I think the time is right, and in moderation.

So there I was, just a few days ago, and I?m on another deadline. I work in publishing, so deadlines are par for the course. But this is a tough one, as my responsibilities are particularly significant these days?including being upper middle management of a large staff. The clock?s ticking and I really need to focus and concentrate, but from just a few feet away I hear some chit-chat about the Mets and their pitching, and who hit a homer off of who the night before.

Just hearing their voices?and the chatter being about sports; i.e., not work?got my blood boiling. This was work time only?in my mind?and work should have been on everybody?s mind, too. Because of the intense stress I was under, I was pretty humorless just then, and had an impulse to be righteous and indignant about what?s appropriate at work.

But I didn?t.

I reminded myself that, had I not been on deadline, and a brutal one at that, I might very well have been in the middle of that very conversation, just as I had been in a similar conversation earlier that day. And when I thought back to my phone blunder a decade earlier, I knew that I should either ask?respectfully and with explanation?for a little quiet, or else just let it go.

Which I did.

Being in charge of other people is rarely easy. But regardless of the circumstance, I have to always remember that I can?t expect others to just conform to my inner struggles. It?s my job to make good, rational and reasonable decisions at all times, keeping in mind that my problems are just that?my problems. And if I want the ongoing respect of those who report to me, I have to earn it every day. Sure, I get a little wiggle room in the long haul, but ultimately, they?re watching and listening all the time.

The challenge is filtering any of my inner turmoil before I speak or act, remembering that if I make demands of others, I?d better do the same myself. Respect is difficult to gain; it?s easy to lose.

I like to think I?ve come a long way since that telephone day, and I try to treat everyone I supervise with the ongoing goals of helping them succeed at their current projects, while improving overall as professionals.

It?s my favorite part of the job. And also the most difficult.

Re:A-Rod on Block?

Johan Santana is hands down the best pitcher in baseball–by far–and one of the best pitchers to come along in the last 20 years or so. He’s right up there with Pedro, Maddux, Clemens and Johnson in their primes …Johan Santana is hands down the best pitcher in baseball–by far–and one of the best pitchers to come along in the last 20 years or so. He’s right up there with Pedro, Maddux, Clemens and Johnson in their primes …

Re:PAVANO PITCHES – DOESN’T GET HURT !!

So much for Pavano’s healthy streak …So much for Pavano’s healthy streak …

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