I was really moved by this today–it’s a powerful reminder that life is just too short. After all, when I’m on my death bed, do I want to look back at my life and say, ‘hey, well…I didn’t do what I wanted to, but at least I was safe?’
When you think of it like that, makes you wanna run out and take the risk, doesn’t it?
via DEAN BOWMAN
So what did I do on Cinco de Mayo? I had a great time talking everything from ghosts and Disney Parks to the Norman Mailer Writers Colony and the real reasons behind being a writer with Dawn Short on Uber Radio Network’s P.M. Lites.
The show not only covers the paranormal, but a wide range of other topics. No matter what Dawn’s talking about, P.M. Lites is pure magic! It airs every Thursday from 9 to 10 p.m., and I encourage every listener with eclectic tastes to check it out. For information on the show, click here: http://www.uberradionetwork.com/shows/pmLites.html To listen live, visit http://www.uberradionetwork.com.
The program aired live and Nathan was nice enough to record it, so you can listen right from this blog by clicking the link below:
I don’t usually get upset over the deaths of celebrities—I think the only one that’s ever driven me to a ceremonial toast was Roy Scheider.
Until September 29.
Stephen J. Cannell, who passed away at the age of 69 and with whom I share a birthday (February 5!), had a profound effect on my life. I was a child of the 70s, but a teenager in the 80s, and I watched every single Cannell show there was. In fact, I used to sit in front of the television with a tape recorder and record scenes, so that I could listen to them all week long and get my fix. I have dialogue in many scenes of The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, The A-Team, and Black Sheep Squadron (sometimes called Baa-Baa Black Sheep)—to this day—memorized. And yes, I still have all those cassettes.
Many people will tell you the stuff wasn’t that great. While, yes, we can all say that The A-team wasn’t realistic because of all those explosions and no one ever got hurt (it’s television, get over it), that Riptide had some of the worst acting ever (except for maybe the guy who played Boz), and that Hunter was really just Dirty Harry with a chick, what can’t be argued is that most of them were hits. They were hits because of the distinctive characters, and they were hits because of the conflict between those characters.
Have you forgotten Howlin’ Mad Murdock or Judge “Hardnose” Hardcastle and his former thug-sidekick Mark McCormick? Or that lovable geek Murray Bozinski? Or B.A. Baracus and Baretta? Probably not. That’s because Cannell’s characters were bigger than life and so outlandish that they appealed to the television audience’s broad variety of personalities.
Take, for example, Hannibal Smith and Howlin’ Mad Murdock.
If you take natural leadership, organization, high IQ, and the need to control with little else and mix them all together in one person, you get Hannibal Smith. So, if you identified with Hannibal Smith, it probably wasn’t because you saw yourself as a cigar-smoking, emotionless military strategist who quoted every famous General in the world. It was because you saw yourself as a natural leader. Or you saw yourself as highly organized. Or you saw yourself as a person who is always in control in any given situation.
Similarly, if you identified with Murdock, it probably wasn’t because you considered yourself insane. It was because you considered yourself playful. Or fun-loving. Or loud and garish. Or having a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude toward life.
With each character covering three or four personality types, put four of them together in one television show and you’ve pretty much covered everybody.
And yet the cores of these characters were pretty everyman. DeeDee McCall’s favorite meal was chicken marsala and she was obsessed with keeping her brand-new Dodge Daytona in mint condition; Brownshoe was an accountant with a nagging fiancé; Ralph was a high school English teacher who did everything he could to help his students strive for a better future than hot-wiring cars; Bill Maxwell was always profoundly moved by the death of a friend (which happened on more than a few occasions in The Greatest American Hero, as I recall). I never got the sense that I wasn’t like these people, or that I couldn’t grow up to be one of these people if I so chose.
There was also a give and take between these characters and among their peers; they related to each other in ways unique to them, and usually, their polar-opposite personalities caused conflict. Maxwell was career-oriented; Ralph was family-oriented. Sloppy Hunter was going to eat chili dogs in McCall’s car; neat-freak McCall was going to threaten death after she’d cleaned the upholstery. What happened in every episode—no matter which series you watched—was a clash that made cheesy dialogue suddenly witty, exciting, and colorful. The conflict was what made the good story. The conflict is what audiences thrived on, and this is evidenced in the other successful shows of the 1970s and 1980s: Starsky & Hutch, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Simon & Simon, CHiPs, Emergency!, Adam 12, Moonlighting. Although none of these were Cannell (he did do some script work on Adam 12, however), all of these were hits because they mirrored his, as they worked on the same premise that he helped bring to the surface. Characters and conflict were key.
What’s sad is, television shows like those are mostly gone now. The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Monk had these qualities, but all are long off the air. House, Treme, and The Glades all have potential, but they’re missing something. There’s a new show coming out that appears to be about the conflict between a corporate head and an ecomaniac (and I think they’re married) that looks promising, but we’ll see.
So what was Cannell’s secret? I think it was in the way he viewed himself as a writer. Today, I hear many writers talk about how we are the masters of our universes, that we can manipulate our characters and make them do whatever we want. I don’t think Cannell thought of himself that way. In the show Renegade, for example, Cannell wrote himself in as the villain. He was, in essence, not acting as God, creator of worlds, but as Devil—the creator of conflict within those worlds. Perhaps, as writers—of television or otherwise—we’d be wise to shift our focus. Look at ourselves a little differently. It may just lead to more memorable characters, more memorable stories. I know I’m going to give it a shot.
Now to work on the issue of not enough jeeps flipping over anymore…
Writer Jennee Thompson’s Cheap Therapy site has featured Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World.
“I enjoyed propping up my feet and reading these stories that are unlike most of the stories I’ve read,” she wrote.
To read the whole review, head on over to http://www.jenneethompson.com/2010/10/skeletons-in-swimmin-hole-by-kristi.html
MYSTERY WRITER STACY JUBA CALLS SKELETONS “TRULY IMAGINATIVE…MUST-READING FOR ADULT DISNEY PARK FANS”
Mystery writer Stacy Juba, author of the mystery novels Twenty-five Years Ago Today (cool book trailer on her site, but you can also watch it HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyaCXgRzwbA&feature=player_embedded)
And the forthcoming Sink or Swim has given Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole high marks, noting she “read this book in a day and a half, always eager for when I could return to it.”
Her favorites were “All This Furniture and Nowhere to Sit” and “Charlotte’s Family Tree.” I always find it interesting which ones people choose as their favorites.
To read her entire review—and please share it if you like!—visit here:
Many of us who participate in National Novel Writing Month seek balance between the expectations of writing, writing, writing—and all that other mundane stuff, like housework, laundry, the full-time gig, a social life, and eating. But I’ve found over the years that applying some tips I learned during NaNo are useful to me at other times of year—and can even be useful to non-writers just trying to balance their lives.
Here’s my top five:
~ Clean one thing a day. Meaning, vacuum one room, scrub one toilet, dust one shelf of knick-knacks. Doing just one small thing a day will either get you stoked to do more than that—or will just help you feel like your house is under control until you do have the time to clean. You’re less likely to feel overwhelmed.
~ Give yourself fifteen minutes a day to do whatever you want. Playing your fave Facebook game, calling an old friend, watching a couple of stupid things on YouTube, reading five pages of that book you keep meaning to get to. You’ll feel like you always have recreation in your life. And don’t say ‘I don’t have fifteen minutes.’ You do.
~ Stock up. Don’t buy one tube of toothpaste because you’re out. Go buy TWO. When you start the second one, you have PLENTY of time to remember to put it on your list before you get to the bottom of your second tube. In short: buy two of each product next time you run out. This saves so much stress I can’t believe it.
~ Safety pin your socks. I’m totally serious. If you safety pin each sock to its mate, you’ll never lose a sock again in the washer/dryer. When you take them off at night, re-safety pin them together before you put them in the hamper. I haven’t lost a sock in eight years since I started doing this. How does this aid your life? Well, you won’t run out of socks so often unless they get so warn out you have to throw them away. Saves time-saves money.
~ Limit your to-do list to five items. Don’t put too much on your to-do list. Five things is enough. What usually happens is you’ll finish all of them, feel accomplished, and then you’ll want to add just one more thing and finish that. It also keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and like your work never ends. Some days you might finish your five and feel so good you’ll be able to say, ‘the rest of this day is mine.’
I was recently featured in the Canadian Facebook Group’s Paranormal, Eh? Interview series—Terry Konig interviews a paranormal celebrity or two every couple of weeks. In my interview, I discuss ghost stories (of course), what my fave paranormal shows are, and much more—including some writerly advice for those wanted to get published. You can join their group on FB and check it out here; once he gets a few more people after me, I’ll post the entire interview where everyone can read it for those of you who don’t wish to join his group. Here’s the link:
My short story “Camouflage” was reprinted in the anthology Creepy Things—and it’s on sale for $14.99 from now through October 31st! The anthology is chock-full of stories about bugs, so you need a good freak-out and bugs are the things that do it for you, then don’t miss it!
Creepy Things can be purchased here at the sale price through the Static Movement affiliate store October 31st; it should be available through Amazon shortly:
Toni Logan is a writer based in northern Westchester County, New York. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, Forbes ASAP, Business 2.0 and Wired.
Intuition: Don’t Ignore It
by Toni Logan
After five years of not writing, I was at wit’s end. My long career in California as a technology and business journalist had ended in 2005 (for a variety of valid but depressing reasons) and now I was living with my husband in a rural outpost of Westchester County, New York.
We had a lovely home and good life: freelance editing work, loving family and friends, lively participation in the community, a nearby train station and hourly trains to Grand Central Terminal. City girl at heart, I took advantage of these one-hour rides to New York City for intellectual and cultural stimulation whenever possible.
Still, I was unhappy and felt vaguely lost. I had an idea for a book I’d long wanted to write but couldn’t seem to wrestle pen to paper. The will to shift gears as a writer just wasn’t there. One hot July day in 2009 while out on a country-road stroll, I suddenly thought of an old acquaintance I hadn’t pondered – literally – in eighteen years. Jake was a friend I’d known in San Francisco during my time as a single student. He was an architect, artist, and musician then – a creative powerhouse with the drive and ambition of three average humans. As I walked quietly along the road, a voice in my head said very clearly: “Google him.” The force of it blew me off the blacktop.
This seemed a strange harbinger, a major disconnect from everything else happening in life. Still, I obeyed. The Google search revealed a music web site that sold CDs recorded by Jake’s former rock band. There was a contact link on the site. I shot a two-sentence note to him. He replied. We exchanged email addresses and began a chatty catching-up period that launched a renewed friendship. Jake became my unexpected and very effective creativity coach. This contact, delivered via intuition, changed the course of my writing life.
In addition to architecture, art and music, Jake had written two or three books since I’d seen him – one of which was published. He sent me one of his unpublished manuscripts to read. It inspired me to start writing my own book in a new genre.
I quickly cranked out four chapters of the book I’d been trying to begin for five years. The crushing case of writer’s block mysteriously dissolved.
It’s not that my husband, friends and former colleagues hadn’t TRIED to get me writing again. They had told me many times, “You should write books! You are a natural author!” For some reason I just couldn’t do it until Jake appeared on my cyberspace radar. It’s a mystery, I’m grateful, and I don’t try to figure it out.
One day last fall Jake sent me a note about a fundraising dinner in Manhattan to benefit the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, Mass. I replied: “Sounds wonderful! Wish I could afford to attend and schmooze with A-list authors and editors.” He shot back: “Toni, I think you should apply for a writing residency at the Mailer Colony.” That had not even occurred to me. Sure, I knew writers colonies exist but hadn’t heard of this one (it was fairly new). Also, I didn’t consider colonies an option for someone like me. Nevertheless, I applied, was accepted for April 2010, and spent one glorious month writing and meeting other writers in Provincetown at the Norman Mailer Colony. This summer, I’m going back there for a week-long workshop titled “Historical Narrative” with six other lucky writers who made the cut. The first draft of my book will be finished by early fall.
Treading this new literary path feels so right. My soul has renewed purpose; the universe feels like home. When you get a strong message or hunch like mine on that July day, don’t ignore it. That’s your intuition showing you the correct path. Nurture it. Stay open to both new and renewed friendships. And, of course, just write. You’ve got nothing to lose.