Friday, April 25, 2014

The Busy Life of a Freelancer: What I’ve Been Working On

I know, I know, my posts have been sparse the last couple of weeks. I’m working hard at dozens of things, and there are moments when I have so many deadlines at once that I have to remind myself that this is what I wanted (and it is). I hope I can ultimately hone my productivity skills to allow for regular posts during a crunch, but in the meantime, here’s what’s been distracting me:

  • Preparing for a residency. I mentioned before that I have a writer’s residency coming up, which will allow me time and solitude to work on my book on lost films. It’s only a few days away now, so I’m doing last-minute research in order to be ready to just write, write, write.

  • Interviewing Tippi Hedren. Yes, her. It was an incredible and humbling experience, and I’ll be writing it up for a magazine when I get back from the residency. I can’t wait to tell you more.

  • Blogging for a design retailer. One of my regular gigs now is blogging three times a week on design topics. It’s a lot of fun, and I get to generate my own ideas, like this homage to the Olivetti typewriter

  • Ghostwriting. I’m contractually obligated not to reveal that I’m the writer behind some of my work, but of late, I’ve written style guides for a famous shoe company, created recipes and entertaining ideas for a seafood brand, and written what seems like a million city guides for a glitzy travel destination.

And that’s not all. Heavens, no. But that’s a lot of my writing life lately, and it’s of my own making. Yo ho, yo ho, a freelancer’s life for me.



I’ll be absent for a short while during my residency, so peruse the archive if you need reading material, or visit one of the cool sites listed on my sidebar. I could also use advice on maintaining a blog in the middle of a work avalanche, if you have any to leave.





Monday, April 7, 2014

The Free Bin: Movie Novelizations, Writing Dialogue, and Luxurious Silence



This week’s collection of articles that have captured my attention includes a few longer pieces. If you’re used to bite-sized web articles, it might take some arm twisting to get you to read them, but consider making some time (or sending them to your Kindle for reading later). They’re well worth it.

An assortment of movie novelizations, jammed together unevenly by me. 


  • “The Endangered Art of the Movie Novelization” is the topic of a Random House article that covers a lot of fascinating ground. Before you say “Good riddance,” take a look. There’s some great background on the history of novelizations (including the fact that the first popular one was King Kong). Frequent novelizer Alan Dean Foster weighs in on topics like being privy to script changes, and the fact that when a director decides to change the ending, a re-write on the novel has to happen in a flash.

  • TV Writer may be for those who write teleplays, but they often have advice that transcends the medium. A recent post on writing dialogue addresses some particular annoyances, such as characters who say each other’s names for no good reason. It’s a quick read, so use the extra time to subscribe to the TV Writer feed. It should prove useful to anyone writing just about anything.

  • “Silence has become the ultimate luxury,” says an article in the New Republic, so much so that we’re willing to pay for it. This comprehensive piece covers silence as a commodity, from Amtrak’s silent cars to noiseless appliances, but it also digs deeper into our preoccupation with eliminating noise.

  • When is a joke too soon? Slate looks at humor that follows tragedy and tries to get to the bottom of why some types of humor work while other jokes fall flat. The Onion’s post-911 headlines generated a lot of positive responses, which they say is largely due to the fact that they chose the right targets for their satire. Timing, then, is only part of the equation. 

  • Does reading literature make you a better bully? The Stanford Center for Ethics says it can. A heightened ability to understand human emotions can make one more skilled at manipulation and harassment. While that doesn’t mean that reading automatically makes meanies, the panel disagrees with the notion that reading automatically improves morals, as some have tried to prove.



Have you read any movie novelizations? Made any jokes too soon? Botched your dialogue or been a bully? Let me know. If not, we can all enjoy the silence.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Preview: Upcoming Titles from King, Ellroy, Cronenberg

There aren’t a lot of books I get excited about before they’re even published—my regular readers know that a lot of what I read is 50 years old or more—but there are a few titles on the horizon this year that have me just about peeing my pants. They’re all available for pre-order, so if you’re feeling just as incontinent, go ahead and nab them. They’ll be in your mailbox on publishing day, before all the slugabeds can get them at the bookstore.



James Ellroy’s Perfidia (September 2014)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307956997/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0307956997&linkCode=as2&tag=book0a46-20



It’s been years since a new Ellroy novel has come out (five, if you’re counting), so the announcement of a new title is exciting on its own. What’s even more exciting is the fact that Ellroy is touting Perfidia as the first book in a second L.A. Quartet. That means not only three more upcoming books, but also that they’ll undoubtedly have the scope, historical weirdness, and unflinching brutality of the four previous connected books. In an open letter on his agent’s website, Ellroy says we can expect some of the characters to reappear, too. (Read more/pre-order)



Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes (June 2014)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1476754454/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1476754454&linkCode=as2&tag=book0a46-20


This is one of two books King is releasing in 2014, following two big titles last year (Joyland and Dr. Sleep). While die-hard fans will also want to pre-order Revival, it’s Mr. Mercedes that most intrigues me. I enjoy King the most when he’s focused on real-life fears rather than the supernatural, and this novel seems grounded in reality at its most harsh: a mass murderer with plans to kill again, and the cop trying to prevent another atrocity before it happens. (Read more/pre-order)



David Cronenberg’s Consumed (September 2014)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416596135/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1416596135&linkCode=as2&tag=book0a46-20




Even if you’re not among the coolest people who have seen all of Cronenberg’s early films, you’ve got to appreciate him as a writer. He’s successfully adapted the works of some modern literary greats into original screenplays, taking on Don DeLillo (Cosmopolis), J.G. Ballard (Crash), and William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch). Now he’s written his own novel, and while it’s his first, the premise is not only promising, but also suitably Cronenberg-ish. Check out the description that hooked me in an instant. (Read more/pre-order)


Do you plan to read any of these forthcoming titles? Anything you’re anticipating in 2014?