Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Night Baseball

For the last three weeks, I've been taking a boot camp class. While it's very good for my muscles (I can do more pushups than ever!), and I'm having odd-yet-entertaining flashbacks to high school sports (jumping up and down bleachers and running suicides will do that), my knees feel like they were the actual part hit by a boot. I'm going through ice packs the way I usually go through ice cream. (Which brings me back to why I need boot camp. Research says ice cream is addictive, you know.)

Of course, balancing ice packs on my knees requires me to sit, which means watching even more heart-attack inducing baseball games than usual. (The fact I ponied up for MLB Extra Innings means I can watch them ALL.) The Rockies are making me happy lately, but could the Red Sox create any more drama? Coming back from being down 8-2 to make it an 8-7 game at the bottom of the ninth tonight, for the freakin' WILD CARD SPOT?

With one out, Pedroia comes within a couple feet of hitting it out, but it's caught. (No!!!) Ellsbury steals his 67th base of the season to get into scoring position. (Yay!) Martinez walks (Yippee!) Youk gets up with two on...and strikes out looking to end the game (ARGH!)

I know they'll pull it out, but sheesh. I don't need heart palpitations at the same time I'm balancing monster ice packs on my knees.

Tomorrow, my Red Sox. Tomorrow. (Pretty please?)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Turning Off The Light

The summer I turned fifteen, I got my first official job, cleaning an Army bowling alley. I scrubbed chairs, ball return machines, and even the snack bar's floor. It wasn't easy work. The best hour of the day, however, was from 12:30-1:30pm, when the televisions mounted over each lane showed The Young & The Restless. (You're probably surprised that a soap could be bowling alley fare, but this was Germany, and there was only one TV channel in English.)

Those daytime soaps changed my life, for I was quickly sucked into the show's story. I couldn't wait to see each day's episode chronicling the love triangle between Victor, Nikki, and Kevin. All these years later, I still watch, and there's still an on-again, off-again romance between Nikki and Victor.

To me, this is the magic of daytime drama. The writers are masterful at building communities full of complex characters who viewers care about, and then incorporating endless emotional plot twists to keep the story fresh. For years.

As much as I've loved Y&R over the years, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for another CBS soap, Guiding Light, and have tuned in often enough to keep up with the action. The characters are engaging, the storylines deftly plotted. And not only is it the longest-running daytime drama in the United States, it's the longest running broadcast program of any kind, anywhere in the world, having been on air (radio and TV) since January 1937.

I've learned a lot about writing from watching soaps, and many other writers I know have, too. In fact, I've learned so much, I decided it'd be fun to set a book on the set of a soap. I could play with dual storylines of the characters as they appeared on-screen, as well as lives behind the scenes. Unfortunately, as much as I knew about the on-screen lives of characters, I knew squat about what happens behind the scenes.

Thankfully, the phenomenal Jill Lorie Hurst, head writer of Guiding Light, was kind enough to spend a day with me and author Hope Tarr on the New York set of the show. It was one of the most entertaining--and educational--days of my life.

Jill gave us an overview of what it's like to be a writer on a daytime drama, then gave up most of her day to show us around. I was amazed at the efficiencies they'd created to get the show produced for as little money as possible while still maintaining the show's quality. Writers' and producers' offices converted into sets--Jill's office was the "seedy motel", while others worked in the Springfield nail salon and Reva's living room--walls would slide back to reveal the interior of a hospital. On a separate floor, an entire maze of rooms was constructed, with one set leading to another. If Reva stormed out of a restaurant, she might end up--in reality--in Josh's living room or the Spaulding study, even though it'd appear she was headed outside.

I had my photo taken in the Spaulding study...

then I snapped one of Hope a whopping thirty feet away, at the Company restaurant:

We also had the opportunity to meet some of the producers and directors--like the multitalented Ellen Wheeler, who let us hold her beautiful Emmy--and spent a good amount of time with the actors. Frank Dicopoulos hung out with us in the hallway near the actors' dressing rooms, talking about how his character has evolved over the years. His behind-the-scenes stories had us rolling until actor Lawrence Saint-Victor, who plays Remy, came up behind Frank and attempted to refute them all (before telling us he was about to surprise his wife with tickets to see wrestling at Madison Square Garden--he wasn't sure it'd be a good surprise!)

One thing made abundantly clear both to me and to Hope was that the cast, crew, and everyone else involved in Guiding Light love their show. They've worked hard to provide viewers with an escape from the stresses of everyday life (you know, the folks stuck cleaning bowling alleys.) They were grateful for the opportunity they'd been given by the network, and by each and every viewer.

I'm sure when the news came (shortly after Hope and I visited) that the show had been cancelled--and that tomorrow, September 18, would be their last day on the air--they were every bit as heartbroken as the viewers. They didn't want to see their stories end, either.

So to everyone at GL (and especially to our tour guide, Jill): Thank you. You've taught hundreds of writers about the art of story, you've entertained millions upon millions of viewers, and you've done it well. You'll be missed. And I know tomorrow's finale will be riveting television.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Party In The U.S.A....Or Schwerinborg

Fan mail is one of the best things about being a writer. I've had thirteen books and two novellas published, but never fail to enjoy the "squee!" moment of opening each day's fan mail.

Lately, however, a huge percentage of my mail has contained various forms of the same question: When will there be a movie based on the Royally Jacked books?

The answer is: I don't know. I am a writer living in Boston, not the head of a movie studio. However, I do have an agent who handles these sorts of things, so you never know! A movie or TV show is always a possibility. And it's definitely fun to think about.

I'm not sure what spurred the recent deluge of When-Is-Val-Going-Onscreen mail (do you know something I don't?), but it's been fun to read all the suggestions you have for casting.

Judging from your e-mails, the number one pick for Valerie is Miley Cyrus. I can see that--she has that clean cut, yet edgy vibe you get with Val. And, of course, there's the whole relationship with her dad (which is a huge part of the Royally Jacked series.) So that gives Billy Ray a role, too.

Miley's not the only name to hit my in-box, however. Here, some of the suggestions that have been made recently:

Valerie Winslow: Ashley Tisdale, Taylor Swift, Shailene Woodley, and Jennette McCurdy (quite a range there!)

Prince Georg: Joe Jonas (LOTS of e-mails for Joe), Daniel Radcliffe, Daren Kagasoff

David Anderson: Chace Crawford (the top suggestion), Jesse McCartney, Jason Earles

Christie Toleski: Taylor Swift (nearly as many e-mails for Taylor to play Christie as for Miley to play Val!), Emily Osment, Dakota Fanning

Jules Jackson: Kristin Stewart, Selena Gomez, Taylor Momsen

Natalie Monschroeder: Demi Lovato, Emma Roberts, Vanessa Hudgens, Miranda Cosgrove

Ulrike: Abigail Breslin, Dakota Fanning

Steffi: Minka Kelly, Nikki Reed

Fun, huh? But the one that made me call my husband to the computer with a "Watch this!" was a YouTube video trailer. Apparently, it's been posted to YouTube for several months, but I only heard about it last week.

(If that's not working, check it out right here.)

So what do you think? Who would you cast? And what about other romantic comedy books--any you're dying to see on-screen?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Favorite Writers

I'm often asked about my favorite writers. I've always put Larry Gelbart near the top of the list, so I was sad to see that he passed away this weekend.

Even if you haven't heard of Larry, you've no doubt seen his work performed on screen or stage. M*A*S*H. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Oh, God! City of Angels. Tootsie. The man possessed an immeasurable wit.

If you want to learn about writing, watch a few episodes of M*A*S*H. Study how Gelbart develops his characters, making you love them, flaws and all. Learn from his brevity. Every word moves his stories forward; nothing is extraneous. I still watch M*A*S*H with an eye to learning the craft from the best in the business.

Thank you, Larry. You'll be missed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Take That, Labor Day Picnic Pounds!

Ha. You can eat all you want on Labor Day and it's HEALTHY for you! Check out this article:

Skinny Thighs Could Spell Your Doom

Okay, maybe not HEALTHY. But not as bad as you'd think. According to Danish researchers, people with the skinniest thighs (you know, the thighs you wish you had), have the highest chance of heart disease.

I'm not sure I believe it. There are skinny thighs that are the result of starvation (many runway models) and skinny thighs that are the result of hard work (Dara Torres.) I'd take the Dara Torres skinny thighs any day of the week over a runway model's. And I can't imagine that Dara has double the risk of heart disease as the result of her workouts. (Seriously...check out her milk ad at whymilk.com.)

All that being said...don't feel quite so guilty about the Labor Day picnic consumption. Maybe your inability to fit into skinny jeans means you'll live longer!