Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

I just saw “National Treasure” with my parents for the first half of our Goodbye-’07 Blowout Celebration, to be completed with a dinner—at 4:30!!—at the local favorite “Ye Lion’s Den.” I particularly love Ye Lion’s Den. It has waiters dressed in “olde English” costumes, a merry Jokester who comes by at completely the wrong time to do card tricks, and a medley of the same Simon & Garfunkel songs (without words) playing over and over, day in and day out. The best part is that the restaurant is downstairs, so you must go through a building entrance to get to the restaurant, and when you open the door a little animatronic person (dressed as a knight, with a bow and arrow he aims at you) says, “Halt! Who goes there? Be ye friend or foe?” Every, every, every time.

I will put up with a lot of nonsense for good food. If they didn’t have good food, no amount of being able to mock something would make up for it.

So “National Treasure” was fun. There was some pretty crappy dialogue, laden with clichés and tired phrases, but hey, it’s an adventure movie, and a sequel, at that. One senses there was nobody going over the script with a fine-tooth comb. (“Fine-tooth comb”: cliché, or tired phrase? Hmm. I’ll go to One of its definitions: a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser, or strong as an ox. [Ah ha, "cliché " and "tired phrase" are the same thing. I knew that, didn't I?] So I guess that “fine-tooth comb” isn’t so much a cliché, because it’s not a phrase, it's an object [and what a pleasant object, at that: a comb one uses to remove lice]. Just a boring, overused metaphor. [I do love parentheticals in my blogs. {Parentheticals within parentheticals are even better, though.} Please forgive the overabundance.]) So, back to my point: no one read through the script and said, “Perhaps you can find another way to express that point.” I don’t have the script in front of me, but the thought hit me several times that I would write those phrases in a first draft of a script as “placeholder dialogue,” what I write down because I know that’s the point I need to make, the structure I need to have in place, in order to get to the next point; but it’s not particularly clever or original and I need to go back to change it to make it clever or original, or at least not so placeholder-y. “National Treasure” was laden with placeholder dialogue.

It’s getting time to leave for our 4:30 dinner reservation. I should note that we as a family are not QUITE that boring; we wanted a reservation for 6:30 but were told we could have 4:30 or 9:00. Even I don’t want to go to dinner at 9:00. So my parents and I will have a raucous New Year’s Eve celebration that lasts until, oh, 6:00 and then return home and make it like any other night. I’ll write on my screenplay and probably do some exercise in front of the TV and maybe even give myself permission to end early and read. Whoo! Somebody will call the cops.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nearing the end...of the year. That's boring.

Hee hee, I've figured out how to add images.

I might point out, to those who would consider me less than brilliant, I was following the same procedure when trying to upload my vacation photos. I wasn't doing anything wrong. It just didn't work.

Perhaps a more productive use of my time would be writing the screenplay I determined to finish on my too-short break from work. (I return to New York on Saturday, the 5th.) I’m on page 80 (and can probably stand to cut that by 10), and aiming for a completed screenplay of 120 pages. But I feel compelled to write just a little something.…

I have sent out numerous copies of my book to reviewers across the internet. The exact list is at work, on my Outlook with its zillions of folders (I know, Gmail, you’re superior because you don’t need folders...but guess what, I like them) marked “personal” and “book” and “marketing” and “publicity” and “review requests,” and I don’t have access here. But I found some things. Trying to write the screenplay, of course, means trying to find ways not to write the screenplay. First on my ever-expanding list of ways to waste time (which includes “watch TV,” “mess with my bad haircut,” “pluck my eyebrows,” and “make toast”) is Google. I Googled myself yesterday and found two reviews that I had requested. It was interesting. One review absolutely loved the book. I mean, loved. She gave a summary of the plot and then, I kid you not, said “I couldn’t put it down,” and “the character development is superb” and, this is the best, “Kathryn Maughan is a master storyteller.” Now, maybe she went a bit too far, but I was excited to read that. Who doesn’t want to stumble upon effusive praise of something you’ve worked on for five years? (Off and on, I remind you, off and on.) This review can be found on, under “recent reviews.”

Now, the second review was not so pleased with me. My book, I should say; they’ve never met me. (A bit too difficult to separate the work from the individual, at least in the individual’s mind.) The second reviewer did enjoy the Jennifer part of the story, and mentioned that he/she was really sucked into her grief and depression, but didn’t agree with my style with the Henry part. He/she…was it a she?...said that Henry’s story was fascinating, but the way I/he told it was not. Henry, for those who haven’t read the book, sits Jennifer down to tell her the story of his life, and the way I wrote it was as if he were actually telling it. He sums up a lot. I did put in a lot of dialogue and tried to liven it up by making it more action-oriented, but underneath it all, he’s just telling a story. Hmm.

The reviewer also took issue with Henry’s grammar. I have wondered if anyone would, but this reviewer didn’t like it for a reason I had never thought of. The reviewer said his/her father is an immigrant and has been successful in business, and an excellent command of English is mandatory in the US for that to happen. Henry’s English, since he is completely self-taught (and not that educated to begin with), is… not excellent. I worked very hard on his grammar, and ended up using mostly Spanish grammar imposed on English sentences (e.g. phrases like “more big” rather than “bigger”). I didn’t want people to get offended that Henry couldn’t speak perfectly, but I also wanted to be true to the character. The reviewer felt he would never have become successful speaking like that.

Now, for a bit of history: in 2002, when I was just getting to the “Henry part,” (for the first time, anyway) I met a successful businessman, who had immigrated from Cuba about 40 years ago, whose English was exactly like that. Indirectly, I based Henry on him—a couple of events of Henry’s life, and all of Henry’s grammar and occasional Spanish interjections. This man, in all of our conversations, never once used the word “but.” Each and every time he wanted to say “but,” he would say “pero.” Since I understand Spanish, I got that he was just mixing the two languages. I assumed that, with context, readers too would understand the interjections, especially in very similar words, such as imagínese. Do people not look at that word and see “imagine” in there? But the reviewer said that a little glossary of terms would have been helpful. I suppose it would have. Hmm.

So it was an interesting day on Google. It brings up some larger questions: was I in too much of a hurry to finish? Should I have taken another year to do really extra-thorough research and written Henry’s story differently, maybe even in third person, to have the reader “live” through it like Jennifer’s? Did I not get enough outside opinions? Will most people agree with the MyShelf reviewer, or the other reviewer, or somewhere in between?

All right, I’ll tell you: the less-than-positive review is on CurledUpWithAGoodBook. I think the exact address is I prefer you go to MyShelf, of course, but…trying to be open and forthcoming etc.

No one loves everything, and nothing is loved by everyone. Of course I know that. (Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, one of my favorite books ever, received a total smackdown review, well after it had (1) gotten numerous raves and (2) become a smash success.) You have to believe in your work, believe there’s an audience, believe you’ve done your best and, not only that, but your best is enough. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, feedback from people I know and trust, and I try to dwell more on that. I know this book has an audience, and I believe I will find it, or my book will find it for me. I know the hard work and tears (literal tears) that went into it, and … hopefully it is enough.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A long time coming

It’s time to update my blog. It’s past time. It’s way, long over time. I almost feel an explanation is necessary. To sum up: I got tired. I had to sleep. I started working in earnest on a new script. Then I had a Christmas party for which I had to make a ton of candy, a holiday tradition that takes a good week and a half of my time—worth it, because I get to keep the leftovers. Worth it even though I burned myself making the fudge.

There is a little bit to report. My grandma loved my book (natch), and started telling people about it. She gave it to a friend to read it, and the friend happens to work at a bookstore called Wisebird Bookery in Ogden, Utah. The friend recommended it to her manager, who asked to meet me. I went there on Friday (oh, yeah, I also flew home and got sick--it was the stale plane air, I’m sure of it--and am recovering from that) and spoke with Jennifer and she now stocks my books at Wisebird. So if you’re a Utahn or, more specifically, an Ogdenite, it is available there under the “Local Author” section. Another local author was in the store promoting her book and offered to trade one of mine for one of hers. The catch: it’s a children’s book. I have no children, I have no nephews or nieces (though this will change in January, this is not soon enough to buy a book without wooden pages), and I didn’t want it. So I didn’t say no, I just turned back to my business with the manager.

I had an interview on the radio the morning after I flew in. I did not want to do it. Not that I didn't want to have an interview, but I was TIRED. Now, we all know that flying has become a uniquely miserable experience for those of us not rich enough to drop $5000 for a cross-country trip. New York to Utah is a particularly child-friendly route, and perhaps someday I will appreciate this, but when you leave at 6:50 am (and the car picked you up at 5:00 am, which means you got up at 4:30 am and still just barely made it through the ONE OPEN LINE in Security) and just want to sleep, you really don’t. Add to this the fact that Delta has installed touch screens on the back of each seat, and no one realizes you can just TOUCH the TOUCH SCREEN in order to get the command through, so you live through this bap bap bap on the back of your head for five hours, and I was not pleased. I had an appointment at 3 pm that afternoon, too, so I didn’t take a nap. At 8 pm I picked up the phone to call my grandma about the Wisebird Bookery appointment, and realized my parents’ phone line was riddled with static. Seriously, there was some big problem somewhere. Mom said, “Oh, that’s been like that for weeks,” and there was nothing they could do. I freaked out. We ended up calling Grandma and I stayed the night there. I awoke at 5:10 am to do the phone interview (scheduled at 5:30) and did some vocalizing in order not to sound like I’d awakened at 5:10 and then snuck downstairs into Grandpa’s office to make the call. I dialed the number—Philadelphia—and got a message that this line does not make long distance calls. Holy crap. I hadn’t thought to ask Grandma if they had long distance, because seriously, who doesn’t have long distance? I tried it again and got the same result. I ran upstairs and grabbed my wallet and tried to make a call on my credit card, but Qwest said they were a local carrier and didn’t even have long distance lines. By this time it was 5:30, the time of my interview. More panic. I’m thinking, do I awaken my 85-year-old grandmother at 5:30 in the morning for this? Argh. I phoned my parents’ home, on the off chance one of them was awake, to see if I could get a calling card number. No answer. I tried desperately to remember the number of the calling card I have lost somewhere—it’s got to be in my bedroom in New York, but I haven’t been able to find it for more than a month—and couldn’t. I am one of the last people in New York over the age of 8 without a cell phone, so I couldn’t go to that. Then the door opened and Grandma stuck her head in, miracle! I said, “Grandma, do you have long distance?” and she got out a printout that was the equivalent of a phone card and I made the call. It was 5:35 by that time, but happily the interview was taped and so it didn’t ruin everything.

So it’s Christmas Eve and the rest of the family is in the other room watching a Brazilian movie for the benefit of my brother’s Brazilian girlfriend. I am pretending to work on my script, which I would like finished (well, the first draft, anyway) by the end of my break. I have just under two weeks. Since we’ve finished the treatment, this should be doable….but only if I actually do it. They have promised me that our next movie will be Jaws, so I had better get to work.