Sunday, August 20, 2017

Taipei On a Train

Not that long ago, getting from the airport into the city required either several connections or one long bus or taxi ride. Like a lot of large Asian cities, the airport is nowhere near the city.

Taoyuan International Airport recently underwent some major renovations. Most of it looks cosmetic, as far as I can tell, but one big difference is that now you can take a train directly from the airport into the city. When they built the high speed train line, it never touched the airport, for some reason. To get from one to the other, you had to take a slow and not especially clean shuttle bus. They filled up pretty fast, and waiting for the second or third bus in the rain was never pleasant. There was always the regular bus that went from the airport into the city, but that was always slow and not especially clean.

Some time between my last trip and this one, they connected the airport to the high speed train. That means you can take a single train, with no shuttles, into the city. Since the high speed train system is only about ten years old, I don't see why they didn't do this right from the beginning. There's probably a convoluted political answer.

Ironically, there was a smaller airport right across the river from our hotel. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Hong Kong.

Once you're in the city, Taipei's MRT system is pretty much like Hong Kong's MTR or Tokyo Metro. Taipei has fewer lines in a smaller space, making it pretty simple to navigate. Hong Kong and Tokyo always made it easy to get into the city from the airport.

Something I've always wanted to do is take a train across the United States. Right now, I don't have the time, and I don't live conveniently close. I'd also like to take a bullet train across Japan. That takes less time. Those trains are fast, and Japan is considerably smaller. As it turns out, a Japanese company made the high speed trains that run the length of Taiwan. Taiwan was also nice enough to make itself much smaller than Japan or the United States. It's about the size of Maryland. You can take the high speed train from one end of the country to the other in less than two hours.

From Taipei, the other end is Kaohsiung. I don't know anything about Kaohsiung, but a few people have told me I should go there. It has the largest natural harbor in the country, apparently. And lots of shopping. When you live in Hong Kong, people always tell you about other cities with shopping. I don't get it.

Lily and I took the high speed train from Taipei to Kaohsiung. Not to go to Kaohsiung, and certainly not to go shopping. We wanted to ride the train. The cars have wide windows, so you get a good view of the scenery. Unfortunately, we didn't get much scenery. Taipei had blaring sunlight. Taichung, in the middle of the country, was cloudy and had obviously rained before we got there. South of Taichung, we sped headlong into a storm. The scenery for half the trip was dark and wet.

The end of the line was Kaohsiung, which has its own MRT system to get from the station to more interesting parts of the city. But it was raining heavily and we knew nothing about Kaohsiung. I'm all for exploring new places, but we could do that in Taipei without a cloud in the sky. After lunch at the shopping mall connected to the station, we went back. This time, we left the gloom and rode into the light.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Taipei On a Break

Lily and I went to Taipei for a little weekend getaway. It wasn't technically the weekend, but it was a short trip for no real reason. We picked Taipei because it's a quick flight, a relatively inexpensive city, we don't need visas and I wanted to ride a bicycle.

Someone told me that August is the worst time to go to Taipei. That's when it's the hottest, most humid and it's right in the middle of typhoon season. I'm sure that's all true. But we came from Hong Kong. There were no typhoons while we were there, but it felt slightly less humid. The temperature was probably pretty much the same.

This was my fourth trip to Taipei and Lily's second. We've both stayed at a business hotel in Zhongzheng, which is essentially the capital and a major shopping area. I've also stayed in Xinyi, which is downtown and a major shopping area, and Zhongxiao Fuxing, which is a major shopping area in the Da'an District. It's not that we like shopping. There is more than enough of that in Hong Kong. It's that most of the hotels seem to be in the middle of shopping. That's pretty common in East Asia.

This time, we stayed at the Marriott in Zhongshan. There's a lot I don't know about the history of Taipei, but apparently, Zhongshan used to be the main financial district. Then everything moved away to Xinyi and Songshan, and Zhongshan became a bit of a dump. Recently, they've been doing a lot of renovating. It looks like they're trying to bring back international business with new office buildings and, of course, a large shopping mall. There's even a new Marriott Hotel.

I've stayed in a lot of business hotels, and they all seem pretty much the same to me. This one was no exception. It had everything you'd expect from a business hotel. That must be what business people want. There are always a lot of amenities I don't care about. Usually when I go to a business hotel, it's either conveniently located/priced or I'm in a place where I don't want to take a risk on the local hotels. I'll always choose a small boutique hotel over a Marriott or Hilton, but you have to do more research with the boutique hotels. You never really know what you're going to get until you check in. With a business hotel, you know what you're getting.

Taipei probably has some great boutique hotels, but I didn't feel like looking around too much for this trip. The first time I went to Taipei, I stayed at the Home Hotel. That was a quiet boutique hotel in a loud neighborhood, and the best hotel I've been to in Taipei. So far.

One of the Marriott's amenities that I did care about was the swimming pool. My apartment building has a pool, but it's been under renovation for a while, and public swimming pools are not an option around here. There are plenty of them, but once you've seen people use them as toilets, they're far less attractive. The Marriott's lap pool wasn't big, but it was good for swimming laps. I don't know if people are less likely to soil a swimming pool in a hotel because you get a better class of people in a place where you have to pay more or if it's simply more fashionable to shit in public pools. Either way, the Marriott's pool was clean. It was on the roof, but always protected by shade whenever we went. That's important in a city like Taipei.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 8/8/17

The first draft is finished. The ending made me laugh out loud. Every time I read it, I still think it's funny. That's never a bad thing.

Everything about this story that was in my head is out on paper. Now, the real work begins.

The first draft is always the easy part. You type up the story, plot, characters, character development, incidents and accidents, hints and allegations. Once everything is out there, it gets harder. Now I have to make sure it all makes sense.

Editing usually takes longer. I'll always read bits and pieces while writing the first draft, but you have to really read it during the editing stage. I might just read it all the way through, making minor changes along the way, and then go back and start to work on it in more detail.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 8/7/17

The last chapter takes place over a much longer period of time than most of the other chapters. I knew that a lot of things were going to happen, and the last thing I wanted was to have an enormous final chapter. If it's slightly longer than other chapters, I can live with that. If it's five times longer than any of the others, that would bother me.

So I changed the pace. In other chapters, scenes move from one to the next without any big announcements. In this chapter, time flies. The words “two weeks passed” or “a month later” are nowhere to be found, but it should be clear that time has marched on.

Accelerating the pace of the narrative actually made me type faster. I don't know if having a longer, drawn out chapter makes me type slower, but the faster the action moves, the faster I type. Psychologically, I'm sure it's the other way around.

The only downside to cramming so much into a single chapter is that it is currently the shortest chapter of the entire book. In an effort to keep it from being the longest, I went in the opposite direction. I don't mind if it stays the shortest. There's nothing wrong with that. But I might have condensed too much.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 8/6/17

I wrote a phone conversation today. That was more interesting than I expected. It's just dialogue, but it's only one side of the conversation. The trick is to give the reader a general idea of the other end of the conversation without spelling it out.

The lazy way would be to have the character say something like, “No, I don't know what color the car was.” Obviously, the unseen character on the other end of the phone asked about a car's color. But how many people would answer like that? “Do you know what color the car was?” “No, I don't know what color the car was.” Who would answer it that way, other than a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie.*

I think it's far more interesting to have characters speak however they would speak. Readers will only get one side of the conversation, but a little common sense should tell you what's being said. If I were writing an internet article, I'd probably have to make it more obvious, but this is for a book. I hope I never see the day when books about adult stories are forced to fit in with the Highlights demographic.

* Quentin Tarantino dialogue is pretty repetitive. Here are the reasons Quentin Tarantino dialogue is repetitive. The first and foremost reason Quentin Tarantino dialogue is repetitive is because he likes to have characters repeat what they just said. The second, though no less important, reason Quentin Tarantino dialogue is repetitive is because he likes the way it sounds when characters repeat what they just said.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 8/2/17

Chapter 19 is almost entirely a single conversation about making a sex tape.

If you made a sex tape to become famous, what would you do with it? The most popular sex tapes are “leaked”, which generates interest, which gets them distributed. But those are from people who are already famous. If one of the Game of Thrones actresses makes a “home movie” that gets “stolen” from her “cell phone”, she won't have to worry about how to get it seen. Everyone will know about it.

If the actress who played Student with Backpack #3 on an episode of a teen comedy TV show wants to get her sex tape out there, what does she do? She's not famous, so her leaked tape isn't going to generate any interest in the tabloids. If she had a good agent or PR team to generate buzz, she wouldn't resort to making a sex tape.

Put it online, you say. That's where sex tapes belong. Ok, but how does that make the woman in them famous? There are millions of not safe for anywhere videos online. There are websites where you can post videos of women changing, taking a shower, having sex or even using the toilet, no questions asked. I don't think the people who run those sites are too concerned about invading anyone's privacy. All that matters to them is traffic to their site. I doubt the people who watch the videos care about any of the names of the people involved or whether or not they agreed to be filmed.

So the question is, if unstable people make sex tapes to become famous, how does it make them famous?





Video Killed the Radio Star
The Buggles

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 8/1/17

There is a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard west of the 405 freeway called Cafe 50's. The name drives me crazy. Since it is a 1950s themed restaurant, with 1950s decorations on the wall, soda fountains and waitresses in ugly diner uniforms, it should be Cafe '50s. The apostrophe before the decade replaces the century – 1950s becomes '50s. Doesn't everyone know that?

No one cares about grammar on Facebook, but this is a business. Not only does the sign over their door read “Cafe 50's”, but so do their menus and everything on their website. They are saying that it belongs to Cafe 50. I really don't think that's what they mean.

I don't know how accurate their '50s theme is. I was born long after, as I'm sure were most of the customers and people who work there. But it's a restaurant, so it doesn't have to be historically accurate. But is it too much to ask that a '50s themed business know the difference between the '50s and 50's?

Sometimes you have to do a lot of research when you write a book. Since this one takes place in Los Angeles, I've had to look up a lot of streets and landmarks. I've been to the city, but the more I look into it, the more I realize how much of it I never knew.

Something I don't have to research are the plays and playwrights I'm mentioning. One of the characters is from New York and is more familiar with Broadway than Sunset. That gives me the chance to drop a few names that don't normally come up.






Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/30/17

Sunset Boulevard, the street and the movie, plays an important role in chapter 18. I wrote a scene that takes place while two of the characters are watching the movie. They start to pay less attention to the movie and concentrate more on what they're doing, but I describe what's happening in the movie while they're doing whatever they're doing.

After I wrote the scene, it occurred to me that I haven't actually watched Sunset Boulevard in a long time. The tiny bits of the movie I described might not happen when I think they do. That could be embarrassing.

There was a time when I could have gone down to Blockbuster and rented Sunset Boulevard. That's not going to work today. Fortunately, there's Youtube. Unfortunately, Youtube users generally don't care about violating copyright laws.

I found the entire movie just sitting out there without any of the people who worked on it earning any money. That worked out for me since I could watch it and make sure I knew what I was talking about. If Billy Wilder were still alive, maybe I'd send him a quarter to make up for the royalties he lost when I watched his movie for free.

In the end, my memory was pretty good. The two scenes that I referenced were in the right order, but they were a lot shorter than I remembered. I also completely forgot that Buster Keaton was in it. His scene is short, but I need to find a way to work him into my story. I already have an idea for Charlie Chaplin. It makes sense to put in a little Buster Keaton.




Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/27/17

I have a few scenes in this story about reality TV shows. I'm not a fan, but some of the characters get involved with a couple of different shows. The first show has someone from one religion live with a family of another religion. The Mormon lives with a Jewish family, the Muslim lives with a Catholic family. The more I type, the stupider it sounds. And it's supposed to. It's reality TV.

The second reality TV show is more conventional. Single people go on three dates. If the person they choose after the three dates also chooses them, they're back for the next round. Any dates that don't choose each other or don't choose anyone are eliminated.

In a lot of ways, that's even worse than the religion show. Going out on a first date is hard enough. No matter how you met the person, the odds of success are remote. Most first dates might not end in hilarious disaster, but they don't lead to a second date. Imagine having a first date in front of a TV crew. The more it's staged, the easier it would be. But if it were actual reality, that would have to be a terrible first date.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/25/17

I wrote a scene about two of the characters trying to make an online video go viral. I guess that answers the question on whether this story should be contemporary or set in the recent past. Did they have viral videos in the 1990s? I'm guessing no.

There are a few other mentions of people using computers, but we had those in the '90s. They were just very different from today's computers. And no one kept them in their pockets or took self portraits with them.

I think I mentioned a cell phone at one point. But that could be any time after the '80s. Cell phones were not nearly as smart in the '90s, but I never wrote anything about anyone taking pictures of their dinner for Facebook. I think I had them talking on the phone as if it was a phone. That sounds more like the past than the present.

I'm pretty much torn at this point. I want the story to take place in the past. The story wants to take place in the present.




Ancient technology

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/24/17

If you're an actress invited to the Golden Globe Awards, what do you wear? I'd be tempted to just pick something out of my closet or, more likely, borrow something from my roommate. But it turns out there are a few rules you're supposed to follow.

If you're going to be walking down the red carpet, someone will send you a list of designers who want their latest collection to be seen. Naturally, there is a hierarchy. Nominees get a longer list than presenters, who get a longer list than A-list invitees, who get a longer list than all those people no one recognizes. If you are a nominee, you get first dibs, and might even get a famous designer to make something specifically for you – assuming everyone expects you to win. The greater your chances of screen time, the more the designers are interested. If your name is Meryl Streep or Jennifer Lawrence, they might even pay you to wear their newest dress.

Once you've decided on a few designers, they will send several options out to you. The higher up you are on the food chain, the more options you have. Once a nominee or presenter has chosen a dress, no one else will ever see it. They've been doing these awards shows for decades. They know how to keep any two people from wearing the same thing. Even if you ignore the designers and pick something out of your closet, you have to clear it with the show before anyone steps on the red carpet.

Sharon Stone wore jeans and a t-shirt to an awards show one year. Not only did that freak a lot of people out, but it pissed off the show's producers because she was scheduled to wear something else. There were no duplicate outfits. No one else showed up in jeans and a t-shirt, but she broke protocol. Coincidentally, she is not as famous as she used to be.


They never dress like this anymore.
It wouldn't get enough Twitter likes.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/23/17

My original plan was to title each chapter with the city or neighborhood in Los Angeles where the chapter takes place. Los Angeles is almost a character in this story, so that makes sense to me. Several chapters will take place in the same location, but there are ways around that. A chapter at UCLA does not have to be called “Westwood” if there is another chapter in Westwood.

But then I wrote chapter 17. There is a Paul Simon song that would be perfect for the chapter title. Not only does the title work, but the character in the song shares a few similar traits with one of the characters in the chapter.

Song titles are not copyrighted. Anyone can use them, as long as they are not trademarked. Most song titles could never be copyrighted even if the songwriter wanted them to be. Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne could never copyright the phrase “Take It Easy”. Some titles are completely unique, like “Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”, but still not copyrighted. Anyone can use that title, unless it's trademarked. If you're a songwriter, you can write a song called “Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”. No one ever does, for obvious reasons. Every single critic in the world would compare your song with the original. That's not a position you want to put yourself in.

Rather than think about other songs for all the other chapters, I'll simply keep my original plan for chapter 17. It's a shame, but I'm sure Paul Simon won't mind.



Take It Easy
Eagles


Stranded In a Limousine
Paul Simon

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/20/17

About 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles, just west of Santa Barbara, is the small town of Solvang. I've never been there, but it's supposed to be a popular place to go Danish. The city, built as a Danish community, is famous for Danish cookies and pastries. It sounds like a tourist trap, but a few thousand people live there.

The funny thing is, if you talk to anyone who lives in Los Angeles, they've been there. It's like asking people in New Jersey if they've ever been to New York. Except Solvang is a million times smaller and not the cultural, artistic and financial center of the country. But everyone goes there, either as a separate trip or on their way up the coast.






Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/19/17

What would you do to be famous? There was a time when people gained notoriety by actually accomplishing something. Explorers were known for discovering new lands and shipping passages. Scientists were known for discovering gravity and planets. Today, people seek fame by posting cellphone videos on Youtube.

But if you're an actor, how do you get people to notice you? The traditional route is to study your craft, work hard, pay your dues and rise through the ranks until you get bigger roles and more recognition. Jack Nicholson's first jobs in front of the camera were soap operas. His first movies were low budget horror and westerns. It was writing screenplays that led to better acting roles. He did Five Easy Pieces 16 years after moving to Hollywood.

Today, everyone wants their first acting job to be the lead role in a giant summer blockbuster that breaks all box office records and wins a million Oscars. If that's your plan, good luck.

A popular route to celebrity for people who want to be famous for the sake of being famous is to make a sex tape. I doubt they're as popular as they used to be, but they worked wonders for great thespians like Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton. Their sex tapes made them household names, and started a wave of copycats.

But I think people forget that Pamela Anderson was already moderately famous before her sex tape. She was also a Playboy model, so I don't know why anyone was excited to see her naked. That's as rare as seeing Lindsay Lohan drunk.

Paris Hilton kind of bothers me. She was born with every advantage, yet she blew it all just to have 15 minutes. If all she wanted was fame, she could have gotten it by using some of that money to do something worthwhile for humanity. I wouldn't expect her to cure cancer, but I'm sure we could all think of a better use of a billion dollars than a camera and hotel room.


Beverly Hills Hotel


Gil Turner's

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/18/17

Where would you throw a Christmas party if you lived in Los Angeles? There are plenty of hotels and event centers, but if you want somewhere with character, Los Angeles has a few options.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach is nice if you're into nautical themes, but I've decided to have a party at Harry Houdini's house in the Hollywood Hills. People disagree on whether or not he actually lived there, and the current building is a reproduction of the original. Even if Houdini lived on the property, he never lived in the house that exists today.

But it's a nice looking place that's available for private parties. The main house looks like a Mediterranean villa and the grounds are ideal for entertaining, with a terraced garden and rock waterfall. Spending the evening outdoors during Christmas might not be a good idea in most of the country, but this is Southern California.


Houdini Estate
Laurel Canyon Blvd

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/17/17

When the idea of setting a story in Los Angeles came to me, I wanted everything to revolve around Santa Monica. I've been there and I know the area more than any other part of Southern California. Originally, the main characters were going to live in Santa Monica and spend most of their time around the beach, pier and Montana Avenue. I even used MGM because I thought they were still in the Colorado Center.

Eventually, it made more sense to put them in the San Fernando Valley. It also opened more opportunities since a lot of people in Los Angeles look down on the Valley. It has some of the richest neighborhoods in the city, but some people ignore the hills and only think about areas like Pacoima, Van Nuys and Panorama City.

But I still wanted someone to live in Santa Monica, at least part time. So I'm putting one of the characters into a house on Palisades Avenue, near 4th Street. It's a nice little neighborhood near the park, with a large beach and ocean just down the cliff. I don't know what it would cost to actually live there, but it's next to Montana Avenue and close to the Third Street Promenade. I'm guessing it's a little pricey.

I wrote a quick scene between two of the characters on the beach that hopefully says a lot about their relationship in a short conversation.


Palisades Park, Santa Monica


Probably not the worst place to live.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/16/17

Stella Adler was one of the founders of method acting in the United States. Most people think about Lee Strasberg when you talk about the method. He was one of the first people to bring Stanislavski's system to the United States. But then Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner broke away from Strasberg when they thought he was focusing too much on parts of Stanislavski's training that Stanislavski himself came to reject.

In the most general terms, Lee Strasberg wanted actors to think about emotional moments from their lives and use that emotion on stage. If your character's father is dying, think about when someone in your family died. Stella Adler wanted actors to imagine the circumstances of the scene. If your character is a banker, go to a bank and learn what they do. Sanford Meisner wanted actors to react with other actors in the moment. Study your character to the point where you know how they would react in any given situation. Each approach is similar, and more or less based on Stanislavski's system. The audience would never be able to tell what the actor was doing, but it's obvious to the actors if their partner is using a different technique.

Acting with someone who uses Strasberg's method is like acting with a wall. When fully immersed in their own emotional memory, they can block out everyone else around them. Actors who use the Meisner technique are the exact opposite. They pay careful attention to everything their partner says and does. Adler students are closer to Meisner, but not as in the moment.

When I started acting, I thought Strasberg's method was the way to go. It makes sense. If you have to act an emotion, just imagine something in your past that brings out that emotion. But the younger you are, the less likely you'll have a similar experience. Shakespeare as a teenager is very difficult for someone with no life experience.

When I got a teacher who used the Meisner technique, I knew that was the way to go. It made even more sense. Rather than think about yourself, you react to the other characters around you. Ophelia isn't crazy because she has a chemical imbalance. She's crazy because Hamlet drives her crazy.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I found that with Strasberg's method, I could never cry on stage. Thinking about a sad memory never did it for me. As soon as I went Meisner, I could cry on cue. Rather than make myself cry from a buried emotion, I was crying because of the character's situation. It suddenly got very easy. It's also much easier to recover when you're crying based on the scene rather than something terrible in your past.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/13/17

I spent a few chapters hinting and teasing at a film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. In chapter 16, I finally get into the story.

The fictional film is about Émile Armand, but my story is not. One of my characters is an actress who plays one of Émile Armand's lovers in the film. Her mother is also one of Armand's lovers, and one scene in the film explores their little triangle, culminating in a threesome between mother, daughter and their shared lover. It's the kind of twisted situation someone like Bertolucci would film.

I didn't write it just because it's twisted. There are some Oedipal and Electra issues the character has to work out. It's not at all graphic. It's supposed to be more psychological than titillating. In fact, I should mention the character's relationship with her parents more. That might help her.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/12/17

Who are your biggest influences? That's a question you're going to get a lot if you do any kind of acting. My standard answers are Helen Mirren, Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep and Sally Field. More or less.

In having one of the characters answer that question, I chose Jennifer Aniston. There's no real reason. She just seemed like an actress most people probably don't look up to as their acting idol. I'm not mocking Jennifer Aniston. I have nothing against her. She simply popped into my head when I thought about actresses that people probably don't think of as their acting idols.

But it makes sense, in a way. If you grew up with Friends, and you're a big fan, you might think more of Jennifer Aniston as an actress than most people. I first learned about Alan Alda from M*A*S*H. He's done a lot since then, of course. And who knows. Maybe in 50 years, Jennifer Aniston will be universally admired for her work.


The African Queen
Directed by John Huston
© 1951 Horizon Pictures

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/11/17

The new character that I've just introduced is from Alaska. I wanted her to be from somewhere very far away from Los Angeles, but still have a down home Americana feel.

I don't know anything about Alaska. I've seen pictures. It looks very nice. But I probably picture it as the frozen wasteland that most Americans picture of Minnesota. Since I know beyond any doubt that Minnesota is nothing like Antarctica, I have to leave open the possibility that Alaska doesn't match its stereotype either.

Rather than bog myself down in research on Alaska and its community culture, I'm just going to think of this character as being from Iowa. I suppose I could make her from Iowa, but Alaska is more mysterious. To me, at least.

Choosing her hometown was not entirely scientific. I looked at a map of Alaska and picked a coastal town in the middle of nowhere. I wanted her to be from the coast rather than inland to contrast with the Southern California beaches. Alaska has an enormous coastline, so there must be all kinds of beaches. But I'm assuming they're not quite like Venice.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/10/17

Are there any acting schools in Los Angeles? Of course there are. I could have easily had one of the characters go to any anonymous acting school and no one would have ever questioned it. There are probably thousands of schools in Southern California.

But I like to at least picture a place in my head when I'm writing about it. I can write about the 405 freeway and picture a million parked cars, but I don't know of a single acting school anywhere in Los Angeles.

Since there are far too many choices, I picked one near a Mexican restaurant that I remember from my 2014 Los Angeles trip.


Casa Martin
Santa Monica, California

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/9/17

I don't like reality TV shows. I never have. For one thing, they're not very realistic. In the first episode of one of the very first reality TV shows, MTV's The Real World, one of the characters points out that the way they were living in that house had nothing to do with the real world.

Today's reality shows are either game shows – America's Next Top Garbage Collector, American Prep Cook, American Accountant Wars or shows that follow curiosities around – Here Comes Child Services, Newark Shore, Keeping Up with Chlamydia.

It's not that scripted shows are always better. There have been some pretty terrible shows over the years. Remember Manimal or Holmes & Yoyo? Those were not Saturday Night Live sketches. They actually existed. But the entire point of a TV show is to entertain. Is anyone really entertained by watching actors pretend to buy abandoned storage units or people who aren't actors acting like they're buying a house?

In this story, there's a reality TV show that takes someone from one religion and has them live with a family of a different religion. The fake reality show is called Turning the Other Cheek. A conservative Mormon goes to live with a liberal Jewish family, a Muslim lives with a Catholic family. That sort of thing. It sounds like such an absurd idea that I looked around to make sure it didn't already exist. I'm sure it will sooner or later, but for now, I can't find anything like it.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/8/17

I've always heard that Los Angeles is a good place for live theater. I'm naturally skeptical, especially since the history of Los Angeles revolved around the motion picture industry, and movies today are all about computer effects. But you never know. Most Americans have no idea how much theater and live music is available in Minneapolis, so it stands to reason that Los Angeles might exceed my expectations. Plus, the city has 4 million people. Some of them must enjoy the theater.

Los Angeles is no Broadway, but what city is? Maybe London comes close. But they have the Pantages Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre and probably a lot of smaller venues.

And with that, another chapter is finished.

Chapter 15 starts off with some serious career disappointment. One of the main characters is an actress, and the acting world is one disappointment after another. There is a simple rule for actors: if you can't handle rejection, don't go to the audition.

This is an easy character to write. I've been acting off and on for about a dozen years. I've gone to open calls and was immediately told I was too young, too old, too tall or too short. There's a scene in Tootsie when Dustin Hoffman is auditioning for a play and the faceless voice in the dark tells him he's not right for the part. He tries to tell them that he can be whatever they want. The voice tells him they're looking for someone else, someone not him. That's exactly what it's like. Every production is looking for the right people and every actor is looking for work. When the actors outnumber the jobs 1,000 to 1, someone is going to be disappointed.

On the rare occasion you're offered a more important part, but then changes demand that you take a smaller part, you have two options. A lot of actors let their pride take over and they quit. That's not the best way to get work. Some actors swallow their pride and take the smaller part. That's better for your bank account, but it also tells producers and casting directors that you can be pushed around.


Tootsie
Directed by Sydney Pollack
© 1982 Columbia Pictures

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/7/17

Has anyone ever made a movie about Hugh Hefner? It doesn't really matter. I'm only mentioning it in passing. It will never be as detailed as the Bertolucci movie.

A quick search reveals that Brett Ratner is trying to make a Hefner movie. That makes sense. There's plenty of room for nudity and drugs in that subject. I'm kind of surprised no one has already made it.

Like Bertolucci, Hugh Hefner is not the youngest kid on the block. He could go soon, which is probably why they're trying to make a movie about him. If he dies right before or right after it's released, that would only help ticket sales. That sounds cold, but that's how studio executives operate.

In looking up Hugh Hefner, I've just looked at a website full of naked pictures. I have to say, at least as far as centerfolds go, Playboy is a pretty boring magazine. If you look at them in chronological order, it's just the same thing over and over again. The hairstyles change, both drapes and carpet. Up until it's all hardwood floors. The poses go from teasing T&A to soft focus spread eagle. But essentially, it's just the same thing month after month.

I guess that was exciting when it first came out. How many places could lonely men look at pictures of half naked women in the '50s and '60s? But with the internet, those centerfolds are obsolete. And all that airbrushing is just annoying.

I just realized that if my book happens to come out before any Hefner movie, it will look like I predicted it. That would be funny.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/6/17

Two of the characters are old friends with a history long before the story starts, but I'm not sure if I made that clear when I introduced them. It's obvious that they know each other, but in chapter 14, they have a conversation that casual acquaintances would never have.

Looking back, I really didn't make it obvious. I should either go back later and change that or leave it as it is. It's not really important to explain how they know each other when they're introduced. Won't most people just assume that they must know each other well when they read chapter 14? Or will it read like something's missing? The next time I read it over, I'll see what happens.

What I really don't want to do is spell everything out. Generally speaking, if it's obvious enough to me then it should be obvious enough for the story. But you can't follow that like a rule. Sometimes something is obvious to the author because they're thinking about it when they write it. That doesn't mean the reader will know. And that's reason #32 to always go back and read from start to finish.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/5/17

What are some common street names for cocaine? It turns out, I have no idea. I know what they say in movies, but how accurate is that? I suppose it depends on the movie, the time period and location. Most screenwriters are or were cokeheads, so they should know what it's called.

There are websites for parents that tell them all the latest lingo, but I have to question their accuracy as well. Do today's teenagers really call crack “biscuits” and using methamphetamines “going fast”? It's seems like that would only get confusing.

Driver's Ed Instructor
We're about to merge onto the freeway now. I need you to go fast.

Teenager
Ok, I've got some biscuits in my backpack.

Special note to the NSA: I'm only looking up drug slang on Google for research. Scout's honor.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/4/17

Chapter 13 is finished. It's easily the worst chapter, in terms of pain and suffering. Friendships are torn apart, careers are destroyed, principles are sacrificed. Good stuff.

One of the great things about fiction is that you can turn a character's life upside down without hurting anyone. It's only a fictional character. In non-fiction, there's nothing fun about writing man's inhumanity to man. Sometimes it's harder for the writer than the reader.

Fiction is the opposite. Hopefully, it's harder for the reader. But for the writer, it can be interesting to create a character from scratch, build them up with hope and aspirations for the future and then destroy their life, causing them to question everything they believe.

There are no spoilers here. This is only chapter 13. It's not over yet.

I've also introduced a new character. She's only a minor character who needs to come in, introduce some conflict and then go away. I'm thinking about making it sound like she's going to be an important character, but I haven't decided if I want to toy with readers like that.

The benefit to making her seem like a more important character is that another new character will come in later who is more important. If I bring this one in and take her out quickly, most people will assume I'm going to do the same thing with the next character.

On the other hand, if I misdirect readers, they'll assume I'm doing it again with the next character. Either way, I think people will make that assumption. So there's no real reason to play around. Most people will take little notice of the next character, which is what I want.

Maybe I'm overanalyzing it.

7/4/17

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shooting For Paris 3.0

I lived and worked in Paris for a little while during the spring of 2015. Naturally, I wrote a book about it. I started writing it while I was in Paris and continued long after I came back to Hong Kong.

The first thing any publisher wants to know about your book is word count. They will decide if the story is marketable when they skim through it, and genre only matters if it's not something the publisher usually covers. The first thing they need to know is how long it is. If it's too short, they'll tell you to go back and rewrite it. If it's too long, they'll tell you to cut it to pieces. Word count affects the price, and every publisher wants books that are in that sweet spot of expensive enough to make a profit but not so expensive that no one will buy it.

Shooting For Paris came in at 350,000 words. With most standard formats, that would be over 1,000 pages. According to the publisher I was working with at the time, that was entirely too long. Readers want 300 pages.

So I looked up a few books. Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is over 655,000 words. War and Peace, depending on translation, is between 561,000 and 587,000 words. But would either of those sell well if they were released today? Probably not. I think most publishers would reject them outright.

What about books that might sell today? The Catcher in the Rye is 73,000 words. Nineteen Eighty-Four is 89,000. The Great Gatsby – 47,000, Fahrenheit 451 – 46,000, Lord of the Flies – 60,000. That does not bode well for me.

But those are great works of literature. What about more contemporary books? The first Harry Potter book is about 77,000 words. They gradually get longer. The first Twilight book is 119,000 words, which is actually considered pretty long for a first novel. The first Hunger Games is 99,000 words.

An obvious argument is that Shooting For Paris is not a series of books aimed at the young adult audience. But publishers see numbers. If 80,000 words = giant buckets of money while 150,000+ words = a few sales here and there, what is the average publisher going to say to 350,000 words? I was told to gut it like a fish.

On the one hand, I didn't want to. I felt that the story was as long as it needed to be and that cutting anything would hurt it. On the other hand, every publisher in the world has more experience than I do. They've seen a million books come and go, and they know that longer books are usually longer because they need some serious editing. Writers, especially novice writers, tend to ramble on and on. See this post, for example. None of us are Victor Hugo.

After cutting out more than I wanted, it was down to 290,000. What I cut out could be an entire book, but it was still too long.

Someone came up with the idea of breaking it into two volumes. Series books are popular right now, and the theory was that people would rather buy more than one book to get the complete story than buy a 1,000 page book.

I immediately hated that idea. So I went shopping around for another publisher. No one seemed very excited to publish an expensive book by no one about women who have no magical powers and are never rescued by vampires. My only options were to cut it in two or sit on it and wait around for something to change. The hardest thing you can do after spending so much time on a book is to shelve it. You want it out in the world where people can read it. So I cut it in half. I should have waited.

I went to Jerusalem for a little while during the spring of 2016. While I was there, I thought I might end up writing a book about it. But the last thing I wanted to do was write about the trip only to cut most of it out. In Jerusalem, I met someone who worked for a publisher in Europe that was looking for Israeli writers and novels about Israel. I had always intended to write the Jerusalem trip as a non-fiction travelogue, but the more I thought about it as a novel, the better it sounded. My story describes a movie that I didn't write. I didn't like the idea of talking about someone else's story with my name on the cover. If I changed the plot of the movie, I could describe anything I wanted. In non-fiction, you have to describe what happened. There is a little room to use different names and change a few things to protect the guilty, but in fiction, you can do absolutely anything.

Harmony On Spring Hill became a novel and I went with a different publisher. Ordinarily, I would have felt too much loyalty to switch houses, but gutting and dividing the Paris book left a bad taste in my mouth. When they wanted another novel almost immediately, I had nothing to give. For good or bad, I tend to write after I've taken a major trip abroad. The last trip I took was Jerusalem, and that story was taken.

I was never entirely comfortable with cutting Shooting For Paris in half, but I never found a way to shorten it either. But what if it were a novel? As a work of fiction, I could do anything with it. I had no idea how long it would take to turn an epic travelogue into a reasonable novel, but I liked the idea.

It actually took a long time, but that gave the new publisher time to buy out the old publisher. I'm the copyright holder, so I can rewrite whatever I want, but it's licensed to the publisher. They hold the exclusive rights to publish it. No company wants to publish a book that's already available from some other company.

As of right now, Shooting For Paris is only available in novel form. Other than used copies or remainders, the non-fiction version should be out of print and/or unavailable at all retailers. If you bought either volume of the non-fiction version, hold onto it. It might be worth something in a hundred years.

Personally, I like the novel version better. It tells the story I wanted to tell without too much sacrifice on my end. Ironically, it's 220,000 words shorter than the first version. The best part is, it's finished. There will never be a 4.0.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/2/17

Elegance defined illuminating from the Classic Riviera Necklace. Expertly designed with 113 perfectly matched diamonds of 21.13 carats, G-H color, VS1 clarity. Hand crafted against a dazzling background of 18k white gold.

Does that make any sense? It's supposed to be a jewelry shop brochure description of a necklace. It sounds good to me, but is it realistic? I don't know. I don't buy jewelry. So I looked up the real thing.

“A rhythmic beauty of sensational design. Featuring 176 perfectly matching diamonds that weigh approximately 18 carats and are G-H color, VS-SI clarity. Expertly hand crafted in platinum. 17-1/2 inches long.”

That's almost the same thing. Maybe I should write jewelry brochures. I never mentioned the length, but maybe that's a guy thing.

17 1/2 inches? Yeah, right.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/1/17

Here's something I never knew. As a public service, I'll share it with the world.

According to some taxi website, a taxi ride from Chatsworth to the Van Nuys Courthouse is $62.97, and another ride to the impound lot is $10.51. With tips, that's about $80. That sounds high to me.

According to the city of Los Angeles, the standard rate for an impounded car is $124, plus $39 for daily storage, $7 mileage rate, $115 release fee and a 10% city parking tax. If your car is impounded, you have to pay the city for the privilege of parking in their impound lot. That comes to $313.50.

Did you know any of that? I sure didn't. Now we all do.

Did you ever care? Neither did I. They say we learn something new every day, but they never said it would be useful information.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/30/17

Chapter 13 has a lot of that conflict they tell you all drama has to have. Things really start to fall apart for some of the characters. It's wonderfully heartbreaking.

It also forced me to look up pepper spray. I typed the word “mace” and immediately wondered if anyone ever used mace. As it turns out, mace is alarmingly poisonous, so most people and police departments use pepper spray. When the police in their riot gear cheerfully spray something in a protester's face, it's always pepper spray.


Remember this guy?
A court gave him money for psychological pain and suffering.
He got more money than the students he sprayed.


This crowd obviously needed to be contained

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/29/17

One of the characters has to go to Rome. I tried to avoid it, but it's inevitable. The more I want to keep everything in Los Angeles, the more everyone travels around.

I've been to Rome, but I don't want to get into any detailed descriptions of the city. This isn't a travel guide to Rome.

Then I found out where Bernardo Bertolucci lives. It's kind of scary how easy it was to find. Hopefully, that's a former house and he moved. We don't have to go to his house, and I'd never give the address, whether he still lives there or not, but I like the neighborhood. It's a pretty good place to live, which makes sense.

Knowing all of this, and being a firm believer in privacy, I mapped out a route in my head from the Palazzo Navona Hotel to his house. Then I checked a map to see how accurate I was. It turns out, I made a few serious bad turns along the way. So I might keep my route. If anyone actually takes it, they'll never get to his house. The streets and sights are real, but they don't lead to him.

It doesn't really matter, but I chose the Palazzo Navona Hotel at random. I've never been there, but it's in a great location.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/28/17

Does any man in this day and age refer to breasts as “jugs”? I don't know, but the character in question is a jerk, so I'm keeping it. That sounds like something a jerk would say. Jugs, hooters, bazooms.

Obviously, breast is the real word, so a lot of people don't use it. We humans are embarrassed by our own bodies. How many people can't say breast, vagina or penis? We teach our children weird slang words like boobie, hoohoo, peepee, winkie. Humans are strange.

Chapter 12 starts out with a scene that's a callback to chapter 10. They might be too close together. I might want to space them out more, but for now, they are where they are.

In standup comedy, a good callback usually comes at the end of the routine. But they can certainly come in the middle, or anywhere else.

Eddie Murphy's Raw was on HBO the other night. That was unusual in itself. HBO Asia doesn't usually show any of HBO's standup programming. That's a lot harder to translate and most of the jokes wouldn't make much sense to a Chinese audience. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld are completely lost in translation. Eddie Murphy actually mentions people who don't speak English and how they react to his shows.

But Eddie had a lot of callbacks only a few minutes after the setup. And the show ends on a really strange note, at least by today's standards. Maybe it made more sense at the time.

It's also surprisingly sexist, but probably didn't seem that way at the time. Eddie certainly doesn't seem nearly as hateful as today's internet misogynists.

The funniest thing about Raw today is the opening scene. In it is an unknown Samuel Jackson. He's even in a movie that's 90% standup comedy. He really is in everything.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/27/17

I wrote what just might be the most awkward scene I've ever written. I wrote it, read it, said nope and rewrote it. Just for my own reference, it's the cottage scene at the end of chapter 11, or what's chapter 11 at this point.

It's awkward for a couple of reasons. It's supposed to be awkward for the characters, but it got really awkward for me to write. I think I slipped into some kind of Lee Strasberg method of writing for a second, which is funny because I've always been in the Meisner camp.

The best thing about writing, in my opinion, is that you can do anything you want. With acting, you get to play different people, but there are always limits. You usually can't play every character on stage and you probably have to stick to the script. But when you write, you can play every character, at least in your head. And they can do absolutely anything, as long as it works within the story. If you're playing Desdemona, you can't tell Othello to stop being so gullible.

I think I resolved my own awkwardness in the cottage scene, while still keeping it awkward for the characters. I'll leave it as is for now and get back to it later.


The Woodford Cottage
Things happen here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/26/17

A bouchon is a type of French restaurant that specializes in heavy, fatty foods. Even by French standards. It's more about ambiance than fine dining, like a tavern. You go for the crowd, not the cuisine.

There's a restaurant in Santa Barbara called Bouchon. I think it's more of a trendy place that serves all the right wines rather than a traditional bouchon. They advertise a lot of local ingredients, so I'm not sure how French it is.

There's a restaurant in Los Angeles called Bouchon. It's definitely for the hip people who want to be seen. Their cobb salad doesn't seem very French to me.

The funny thing is, a genuine bouchon would never be popular in California. You don't go to a bouchon if you're on a diet or big on tofu. You're not going to find any bean sprout and walnut pizza at a bouchon.

Looking around Santa Barbara, virtually, I came across the Cheshire Cat Inn, a Victorian B&B on a quiet little street close to the main road that runs through downtown. I mainly chose it because it's an easy walk to Bouchon. The restaurant will be important later on. There are plenty of hotels in the neighborhood, but this one looks nice and has different styles and sizes of rooms.

I've never been to this hotel, or even to Santa Barbara, so I can't recommend it, but the more I look into it, the more I want to actually go there. Their website is a little annoying. It's probably designed more for phones than computers. But it looks like a nice place to spend a quiet weekend.

Looking at restaurants in Santa Barbara, I found a little taco stand on Haley Street. I don't know anything about it, but it's on Haley Street. How can I ignore that?



Cheshire Cat Inn
Santa Barbara, California




See if you can spot the French versus California versions.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/25/17

I want one of the characters to have a weekend getaway. The story takes place almost entirely in Los Angeles, but I want her to go out of town for a while.

This presents a bit of a problem. There are plenty of places near Los Angeles for weekend trips, but I've never been to any of them. It's not impossible to write about places you've never been. I'm sure Robert Heinlein never went to Mars or the Moon, and I doubt Douglas Adams got anywhere close to the end of the universe. But science fiction is different. I like to think I know a little bit about the places I write about and that, just maybe, some of that knowledge comes through sometimes.

I specifically made one of the characters from San Francisco. I was thinking that she might take the weekend getaway. I've been to San Francisco. I'm hardly an expert, but I know what the city feels like. When it became obvious that a different character had to go away, I either had to change the location or change which character is from San Francisco.

So I went with Santa Barbara. I don't know anything about Santa Barbara, other than it's proximity to Los Angeles and Steve Martin likes going there. That doesn't leave me a lot to work with.

I just finished a scene that's mostly dialogue. I like the idea of writing a book that's nothing but dialogue, cover to cover. The reader is told the story through the characters telling the story. There's no omniscient narrator, unreliable narrator or any kind of narrator at all. I suppose it would read like a play, but be structured like a book, with chapters instead of scenes and acts. But that's not happening this time.

The narrator in this book is mostly omniscient, with a little bit of subjective third person thrown in the mix. I doubt it will confuse anyone who's ever read a book. It's been done a million times before, so it's not like I'm revolutionizing the written word here. Hopefully, the narrative voice changes are subtle enough that most people won't even think about it.



I don't know what movie this is from.
This poor bridge gets hit in most of them.


If you read the book, this will make sense.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/24/17

I was reading an article the other day about sex scenes in movies. The article went out of its way to point out that all sex on screen is simulated. It mentioned Game of Thrones a lot. I thought that was strange. Does anyone think the actors are actually having sex?

Then I remembered Bertolucci. He's a very minor character in this book, but his history is relevant to the point at hand. When Last Tango in Paris came out, a lot of people freaked out, especially over the butter scene. The film was censored in more than a few countries, and Bertolucci faced legal problems in Italy. People argued and debated the graphic nature of the film. Even today, there are segments of the internet that still think the sex in that scene was real, though it looks less graphic thanks to HBO.

Maria Schneider had a lot to say about it after the fact. I can see her point of view, but I think she used public ignorance to get more sympathy. She knew that all of the sex was simulated, of course, but she hated the butter scene. By insinuating that it was unsimulated, she could get people to accuse Brando, and mostly Bertolucci, of rape. And that's not right. Bertolucci humiliated her, on purpose, but Brando's penis never went anywhere it should not be.

I suppose it's good that people think sex scenes are real. It means the filmmakers are doing a good job. If the audience knew just how unerotic shooting a sex scene was, they would never get excited about what the characters are doing.

But then you have to wonder, do people think fight scenes are real? When Sean Bean dies onscreen, he doesn't really die. He's very much alive.



Not really doing it.


They're not either.



Nope.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/23/17

What are the odds that a film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci would be canceled just before or during principal photography? It might seem unlikely, considering how much clout he has, but I bet it could happen.

Stanley Kubrick was pretty powerful, but his Napoleon film was canceled for budget reasons.

Ridley Scott wanted to direct an Alien sequel written by James Cameron, but it was canceled so 20th Century Fox could make a bunch of Alien vs. Predator movies. That sounds insane, but it really happened.

Robert Zemeckis was never as powerful, but he had cartoon hits with The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Disney canceled his remake of Yellow Submarine anyway.

I don't think it's ever happened, but theoretically, Bertolucci could get canceled.


Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/22/17

We all know what an unreliable narrator is, right? The more time I spend online, the more I worry about how ineffective subtlety can be. In an age where people get their news from Twitter and entertainment from reality TV, sometimes it takes a baseball bat to make a point.

I'm bringing this up because I just wrote a scene that a 10-year-old might completely misunderstand. They might think the character is crazy. But this isn't a children's book. Anyone who's read an adult book or two should get it, but I've been told that I overestimate the public too often. Personally, I think people are smarter than the publishers, studio executives and networks are giving them credit for, but Twitter and reality TV are working overtime to prove me wrong.

I was also thinking about titles for the fictional Bernardo Bertolucci film, and I wondered what he would call a film about Émile Armand. But I don't know Bertolucci at all. I've seen his movies and I've heard some gossip. That tells me nothing about what's in the man's head.

I could come up with a few titles for a movie about a French anarchist who sleeps around a lot. But it seems to me that Bertolucci might be the kind of filmmaker who uses working titles.

Studios and producers love to keep their movies secret with working titles. Back to the Future was Spaceman From Pluto at one point. Return of the Jedi was called Blue Harvest to keep people in the dark. Annie Hall was famously called Anhedonia.

Woody Allen often uses generic working titles like Woody Allen Spring Project. So I'm calling the fictional Bertolucci film Untitled Bernardo Bertolucci Production. I think it adds a little something to the overall sense of confusion that a real title would lack.


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Directed by Steven Spielberg
© 1982 Universal Pictures


Return of the Jedi
Directed by Richard Marquand
© 1983 Lucasfilm Ltd

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/21/17

I finished chapter 9 in record time. I was pretty surprised by how quickly I punched it out. I was almost ready to pat myself on the back. Then I checked the word count. It's currently at 1,891 words. That's incredibly short for a chapter.

Obviously, a lot will change. This is only the first draft, and everything will either get longer or shorter when I get back to it. Some chapters are supposed to be longer than others, but I know from experience that the first draft will look nothing like the final print.

Chapter 10 starts with the scene that gave me the idea for the entire book. I almost started the story here, but it's better if you know the characters a little. It would be more shocking to start here, which makes publishers happy and probably helps sales, but I think there's more of an impact if you know the people involved.

It's like a jump scare in a horror movie versus something that's actually scary. Jump scares sell more tickets at the box office, but the truly scary moments are far more memorable.

This book isn't a horror story, by the way. That was just an example. I'm sure I don't have to point that out, but this is the internet, after all.


The Exorcist
Directed by William Friedkin
© 1973 Warner Brothers

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/20/17

Émile Armand was a French anarchist/pacifist who wrote magazine articles and books about communes and anarchy, mostly between 1900-1930. He was also a big fan of free love, and had some radically liberal views on human sexuality. Even today, some of his ideas would shock a lot of people, especially Americans.

The fictional Bertolucci film in my book is about Émile Armand. He seems like the kind of guy Bertolucci might make a film about. Émile Armand hated the establishment, was a raging atheist, loved the ladies and was a bit of a voyeur. Bertolucci could easily make a controversial film about him with sweeping French countrysides and plenty of wall to wall nudity.

I've made MGM the distributor. Mainly because MGM is all but destitute. I'm going to say some unflattering things about whoever produces the Bertolucci film, so I thought maybe it should be a studio that can't crush me like a grape.

I also love the great MGM musicals. I think it's sad how far that studio has fallen. They were the biggest studio in the world, putting out all the best Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire movies. Now they don't produce anything without another studio helping out.

Also, and I probably shouldn't admit this, I thought their office was in Santa Monica. It turns out they were in Santa Monica for a few years, but then moved to Beverly Hills. Oh, well.



Émile Armand


Monday, June 19, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/19/17

I've dragged Bernardo Bertolucci into this. In the story, one of the characters auditions for an acting part in a movie. I could have created fictional directors and producers, but I decided to use Bertolucci because of his reputation. He's generally considered a great filmmaker and a royal pain in the butt to work with.

If I created a character, it would have been a Bertolucci type. Since the real Bertolucci is mostly a recluse, why not use him? He won't sue me, for several reasons, and I don't have to worry about personally offending him since it's highly unlikely he'll ever know this book exists, and I can almost guarantee that we'll never meet.

Something I only just considered is that he's not exactly a spring chicken. His health has been going downhill since he had a series of botched spinal surgeries. He's in a wheelchair now and rarely leaves his houses in Rome and London. If he dies while I'm writing this, I'll have to change it. Obviously, his death, whenever it occurs, will have far greater consequences than any rewrites I have to make. I know how insensitive that sounds. But he's lived a pretty full life. Whenever he leaves, I think we can all be comforted by the great films he's given us.



The Conformist
© 1970 Paramount Pictures


The Sheltering Sky
© 1990 Warner Brothers

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/18/17

I've finished another chapter. It's pretty short and mostly dialogue, so there will be some changes later.

Dialogue is both the easiest and hardest part to write. As an actress, I'm supposed to know how to read a character and say things the way they would say it. I've played characters who suffered from crippling insecurity, depression, insanity, alcoholism and a wide range of problems I've never had. If you're going to act, you have to play characters that are nothing like yourself.

Reading dialogue in another voice is easy. If I know who the character is, I can imagine how they would say it. The trick is deciding what they should say. Acting doesn't prepare you for that. You can't improvise Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams. Writing dialogue is nothing like reading it.

I've been told that I write good dialogue. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's worth noting that I usually think the dialogue is the worst part of any book I've ever written. People sometimes tell me it's the best part. The main compliment I usually get is that the dialogue fits the character, especially foreign accents. And that's exactly where I think I've failed the most.

The good news is that I'll keep trying to do a better job. The bad news is that there are no foreign characters in this book.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/17/17

Ikea opened a store in Burbank, California a long time ago. That location was surrounded by hotels, a shopping mall and a freeway. So when they wanted to expand, they moved the store a few blocks south, opening the largest Ikea in the United States.

This is the kind of thing I'm learning while researching this book. It's not about Ikea and Ikea doesn't play any significant role, but when I mentioned it in passing, I wondered if there really was an Ikea in the neighborhood. According to Google maps, there were two next to each other. That seemed strange to me, so I looked around and read some articles about how terrible the parking was when the new store opened. It may be the largest Ikea in the country, but apparently, the parking lot can only be accessed by a single side street. On an average day, it probably won't matter. But during that opening weekend, people were really freaking out.


Memorial Day
Santa Monica Beach



All the Things She Said
tATu

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/16/17

Writing, writing and more writing. At this point, I'm concentrating on three characters, but there are more that come and go. Someone somewhere is bound to complain.

Who's the main character?

Does there have to be one?

I'm hardly an expert on writing – or much of anything, for that matter – but I know one of the cardinal rules of doing anything artistic. Someone somewhere is going to complain no matter what you do. Sometimes, that's how you know you've succeeded.

I've also introduced the members of a new, completely fictional, band. Their names are Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Beth plays keyboards, of course. I'm a little worried about those names, for obvious reasons. I don't think it's particularly clever, but they're minor characters. They're women, though I never mention their heights. They have to be called something.


Palos Verdes, California



Queen Bitch
David Bowie

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 6/15/17

I did a local TV commercial when I was in high school. It's not on my resume because it's stupid. And it was a long time ago.

I've used that experience for a scene in this book. Everything's different, from the ages of the people involved, to the product being advertised, but that tedious feeling of shooting a TV commercial is there. The end result might be 30 seconds of non-stop shaky cam and jump cuts, but it takes days of sitting around and waiting for a lot of people to get those 30 seconds.

Someone once asked a filmmaker who just made a movie about making movies, it might have been Robert Altman and The Player, why they didn't show what it was realistically like to make a movie. Altman, or whoever it was, answered that it would bore the hell out of the audience. From the actor's point of view, most of the time on set is downtime. Being in front of a camera is anything but glamorous. Hopefully, I've shown that effectively.